Capital could not just abolish the gains of the postwar period. It was necessary to preserve social peace. The "trick" in the 1970s consisted of using inflation to defuse the emerging conflict between labour and capital over redistribution. The money machine was used to compensate for the loss of income which resulted from the reduction in capital’s contribution to the welfare state… Evidently, that could not last. So from the late 1970s inflation was replaced with public debt, and states borrowed (rather than tax) in order to be able to keep up the level of services. Then, in the 1990s, when states began to worry about the growing weight of debt servicing as part of their budgets, and reduced their spending (and thus social services) we took recourse to private debt. In other words, we made it easier than ever for households to take on debt so that they could preserve their purchasing power, which was being cut back by these budget consolidation measures. And that led us to the 2008 catastrophe.
An economics professor at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, Costas Lapavitsas (born 1961) visited Barcelona last week to present his latest work, Eurozone Failure, German Policies and a New Path for Greece. In this text he advocates Greece leaving the euro, as an instrument for overcoming the country’s crisis. Critical of Alexis Tsipras, Yanis Varoufakis and Syriza (he had been an MP for the party before the third deal with the Troika), Lapavitsas is conscious that his positions regarding the EU and the euro are still in the minority among European progressives. Nonetheless, he believes that "the first step for the Left is to say that the currency union has to end."
Oriol Solé Altimira's interview with Lapavitsas was first published in El Diario. Translated by David Broder.
A year ago you were in Madrid for the presentation of the Plan B for Europe. How do you think that this initiative has developed?
The Madrid discussions were interesting, because a lot of people came and there was a good atmosphere. Nonetheless, they were politically confused, because various ideas were presented on what the Left ought to do about Europe, without any concreteness. People still think that it is possible to change the European Union. One year later, I think that this position has lost supporters. More people have realised that if we want an alternative, a different path or different strategy, we have to take radical steps also with respect to the institutions and the EU.
First published in Le Monde. Translated by David Broder.
No European sovereign, no real budget; no budget, no viable economic policy. As long as Europe does not break out of this dilemma, the Eurozone will remain mired in the vicious circle of stagnation, resentment, and conflicting responsibilities. If a budgetary federalism is out of reach, it is crucial that we can adjust exchange rates in order to give dynamism to growth and employment. And this requires leaving the currency union.
"If I told you eight years ago that America would reverse the great recession, reboot the auto industry, and unleash the greatest stretch of job creation in our history ... you might have said our sights were set a little too high." Thus boasted the former US president Barack Obama in his farewell address. But is the financial crisis really behind us? Has the strategy implemented to save the banks not, on the contrary, created the conditions for the next conflagration? Cédric Durandwrites.
An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the February 2017 Le Monde diplomatique. Translated by David Broder.
Figure 1: GDP growth in the advanced economies
Happy anniversary! On 2 April 2007, New Century Financial Corporation entered into liquidation. The collapse of this US real estate investment company — the second biggest provider of the now-infamous subprime mortgages — fired the starting gun on a financial crisis bigger than any the world had seen since 1929. Ten years on, capitalism is still yet to recover from this major shock. Growth is sluggish, under-employment endemic and the extreme monetary policies implement by central banks are reaching their limits.