First, there was the credit crunch, and governments around the world stepped in to bail out the banks. The sequel to that debacle is the sovereign debt crisis, which has hit the eurozone hard. The hour has come to pay the piper, and ordinary citizens across Europe are growing to realize that socialism for the wealthy means punching a few new holes in their already-tightened belts.
Building on his work as a leading member of the renowned Research on Money and Finance group, Costas Lapavitsas argues that European austerity is counterproductive. Cutbacks in public spending will mean a longer, deeper recession, worsen the burden of debt, further imperil banks, and may soon spell the end of monetary union itself.
Crisis in the Eurozone charts a cautious path between political economy and radical economics to envisage a restructuring reliant on the forces of organized labour and civil society. The clear-headed rationalism at the heart of this book conveys a controversial message, unwelcome in many quarters but soon to be echoed across the continent: impoverished states have to quit the euro and cut their losses or worse hardship will ensue.
The political economist and author of Buying Time argues that 'the unified capitalist economy is destroying European diversity' and that in order to save this ideal, 'the monster of monetary union must be unravelled'.
If everything goes well, then what has been happening before our eyes in the last few days is the beginning of the end of the European monetary union. ‘If the Euro collapses, then so does Europe,’ said Chancellor Merkel, when it was a question of selling to the electors one of the horrendous ‘rescue packages’ for the European banks. Now we have the very opposite. The Euro is in the process of destroying Europe. If the Euro collapses – and let it be soon! – it may be that Europe actually doesn’t collapse. The outcome is certainly not clear; the wounds that monetary union has inflicted are too deep.
Last week Jacobin published an interview with Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas, by Verso senior editor Sebastian Budgen. In this comprehensive discussion of the situation in Greece, Yanis Varoufakis's self-proclaimed "erratic Marxism", and the "Grexit", Lapavitsas reflected on the Greek social movements and the international Left's part to play.
Sebastian Budgen: A question then about forced exit and its consequences: the Plan B that you describe in some detail with Flassbeck seems quite statist. Would it be enough to withstand the shock of devaluation and autarchy?
If not, what are the Greek movements and Syriza doing to develop what we can call a Plan C — a plan of resilience, of commons, of solidarity, that would organize social reproduction where the state cannot satisfy people’s needs? What role would such strategies play in fending off the temptations of authoritarianism?
Costas Lapavitsas: That is part of Plan B. That is very much part of Plan B. Plan B — the way we’re talking about it, the way I’ve talked about it and Flassbeck and so on — is obviously a plan that happens and should happen at the level of high politics in the first instance, because that’s where the crisis is. And we need intervention at the level of high politics and the level of state.
Of course, any kind of strategy that is in the interests of working people — any kind of transitional strategy — must incorporate precisely what you called Plan C. And when we talk about the public and the state and so on, what I’ve got in mind is the collective and the public sector generally. The idea of the state taking everything over is an old-fashioned idea that died a death with the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. That’s not really in the cards anymore.
What we’re talking about is public and collective solutions. Yes indeed we need the commons. Yes indeed we need activity from below. Yes indeed we need contributions and actions by the communities. But first we’ve got to sort the macro questions out, sort the state questions out. Unfortunately communities cannot do it at that level.