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Three Objectives for the Left in Europe

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25 researchers and political organisers from France, Greece, Spain, Germany, Italy and Belgium have put their names to this collective text, following the international conference France and Europe after Brexit. The conference was staged in Paris on 2 and 3 December 2016 by the Europe-wide EReNSEP network. Translated by David Broder. 



Europe has entered a critical period. It is evident that the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) has irrevocably failed. The economies on the periphery are suffering severe crisis, and the economies of the centre are stagnating. The single currency has become an instrument of German capitalism as it seeks to impose a mercantilist economic policy through wage dumping as well as to dictate "structural reforms" (and it is supported, in this, by the other economies at the centre of the EMU).

These "reforms" bring economic stagnation, poverty and unemployment. Big companies and the promoters of neoliberalism are exploiting the crisis to intensify their offensive against the social and democratic advances won in the twentieth century. Syriza’s capitulation in Greece has shown that the EMU and the EU constitute major obstacles to any attempt to alter the neoliberal agenda that dominates Europe. Combined with austerity, neoliberalism, and free-trade policies, the European institutions’ disdain for democracy and basic rights has led to an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy in the EU.

We can take as a case in point the results of the last three referendums related to the European question. In Greece on 5 July 2015 a large majority of voters decided to reject the conditions attached to the third Memorandum proposed by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. In the United Kingdom on 23 June 2016 a majority voted to leave the European Union, thus de facto insisting on the reversibility of the European integration process. In the Italian referendum of 4 December 2016 a large majority rejected an anti-democratic constitutional reform favouring the financial markets, notwithstanding the European institutions’ unanimous declarations of support for this reform. This vote forced the pro-EU prime minister Matteo Renzi to resign. There has never been such clear rejection of the European institutions within the EU’s member states.  

Anger and indignation are mounting without relent among workers across Europe. Unfortunately, thus far it has been growing xenophobia, the far Right and even fascism that have benefited from this. The European Left is paying the price for its ill-advised support for the EMU, as well as its taboo over breaking with the EU as a governance structure and its neoliberal means of integrating its member states. If we do not want Europe’s future to be dominated by neoliberalism and the far Right, we have to free ourselves — locally, nationally and internationally — from the steel cage of the policies and treaties imposed by the European institutions.

What should the Left do?

Based on the proposals discussed during the EReNSEP network’s second international conference 1, and building on the last Internationalist Summit for a Plan B in Europe 2, we think that the Left should pursue these three main objectives in today’s Europe:

1. The top priority is to put an end to austerity and create quality employment. This must be the heart of the Left’s economic policy. Nonetheless, we will not succeed in persuading people of our capacity to achieve these objectives unless we are able to present a concrete strategy allowing us to resolve the major imbalances between the economies of Europe’s different countries, thus opening up the possibility of an ecological and democratic transformation of industry and agriculture. We will not be able to respond to Europe’s peoples’ social needs and confront the environmental challenges facing the continent unless we have a clear and realistic strategy in this regard. Implementing a mass public investment programme to stimulate demand and take power back from big business and the banks is a key priority. That is how we will be able to lay the foundations on which to rebuild and expand public services and social protection.

2. Such radical economic policies require monetary sovereignty. The straitjacket of the European treaties, as well as the directives and mechanisms of the EMU, was built with a view to blocking any strategy other than that of austerity and economic liberalisation. To break with austerity we have to take back democratic control over the money supply and the banks. Any left-wing government in Europe must begin by disobeying the European treaties and preparing for a lasting confrontation with the European authorities. To this end, it must implement a coherent strategy for handling this conflict. The Left must prepare itself for the creation of new currencies. It must not be afraid of cancelling public debt — for this is both politically legitimate and economically necessary. The Left must propose the nationalisation and socialisation of the banks, in order to take back democratic control over the economy. The Left must also propose a new framework for controlling capital flows in Europe and regulating exchange rates, as well as the trade deficits and surpluses between European countries. These measures are very much realisable, and the Left must confidently stand up for them. What is essential is that we elaborate a strategy allowing us to break with austerity and strengthen the solidarity among the social movements in the different countries, anchored in each national context, at the same time as proposing alternatives at the collective level. If we are not prepared to put such measures into effect, basing ourselves on national realities and the support of an alliance of left-wing forces across the different countries, then we will not be able to free ourselves of austerity and neoliberalism.

3. These radical economic policies are also inseparable from the need for popular sovereignty and democracy. The EU’s institutions have never been democratic or at the service of the peoples of Europe. They make up part of a political machine conceived with the goal of imposing an economic order favourable to multinational companies, the systematic privatisation of public services and other public property, and eroding social protection. The neoliberal free-trade regime promoted by the EU renders any form of popular sovereignty impossible. We need to break with the free-trade deals and the treaties imposed on the EU’s member states. Confronting the EMU institutions and refusing to apply neoliberal directives and the European treaties constitute the necessary means for putting progressive economic policies into effect and winning back democratic control over the economy. These measures are also indispensable stages in developing the new form of political cooperation we today need in Europe: one based on social justice, international solidarity, democracy and environmental sustainability. We must support constituent processes, thereby building authentically democratic political systems. We must also encourage popular self-organisation and popular mobilisation.

The clouds are gathering over Europe. But if the Left can find its political courage again, there is still time for it to take control of where events head next. The Left must renew its economic, social and political proposals. It must remember that it draws its strength from its stand for democracy, popular sovereignty, and the interests of workers and the oppressed. And it must prepare for a radical break with the neoliberal straitjacket imposed by the European Union’s treaties and the Economic and Monetary Union. 

http://www.erensep.org/index.php/en/

Notes:

1. The EReNSEP network’s second international conference, ‘France and Europe after Brexit’, took place in Paris on 2 and 3 December 2016 (see here)

2. Click here for the ‘Statement for a standing Plan B in Europe’, issued following the third internationalist summit for a Plan B in Europe, which took place in Copenhagen on 19 and 20 November 2016. The next such Plan B summit will take place in Rome on 11 and 12 March 2017.

Signatories:

Josep Maria Antentas (Sociology professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain)

Jeanne Chevalier (Parti de gauche, France, national secretary for economics)

Eric Coquerel (Parti de Gauche, France, political coordinator)

Alexis Cukier (Ensemble !, France, national organising team)

Fabio De Masi (Die Linke, Germany, MEP)

Sergi Cutillas (Economics researcher at the Ekona Research Center, member of the Platform for a Citizen Debt Audit, Spain)

Cédric Durand (Economics lecturer, Université Paris XIII, France)

Guillaume Etiévant (Parti de gauche, France, former national secretary for economics)

Stefano Fassina (Sinistra Italiana, Italy, member of the Italian parliament)

Heiner Flassbeck (Honorary economics and political science professor, Hamburg University, Germany)

Constantinos Gavrielides (Regional councillor and member of the Western region economic commission, Greece)

Marlène Grangé (Ensemble!, France)

Sabina Issehnane (Economics lecturer, Université de Rennes 2, France)

Costas Lapavitsas (Economics professor at the University of London, former MP for Syriza, Greece)

Moreno Pasquinelli (Programma 101, Italie)

Jean-François Pellissier (Ensemble!, France, spokesperson)

Laura Raim (independent journalist, France)

Patrick Saurin (Sud BPCE, spokesperson, CADTM, France)

Eric Toussaint (CADTM, international spokesperson, Belgium)

Aurélie Trouvé (Economics lecturer, Agrosup Dijon, France)

Miguel Urbán (Podemos, Spain, MEP)

Christophe Ventura (International relations researcher, member of Chapitre 2, France)

Frédéric Viale (doctor of law, member of Chapitre 2, France)

Sébastien Villemot (economist, OFCE, France)

Grigoris Zarotiadis (Associate professor at the School of Economics and Political Sciences at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)