Against the crisis in Europe, towards a European social movement

( A motion passed by EuroAnarkismo conference which met in London (UK) in February 2011.

I. Analysis of the current situation

Already a few months ago, we were told about the end of the economic crisis. What happened in Greece was said to be only an unfortunate episode, soon to be overcome by the generosity of Greece’s European “partners”. But catastrophist announcements are falling like rain again all over Europe, and new recovery plans, by the EU or the IMF, are being prepared. Unsurprisingly, they are in fact austerity plans which unfortunately are very similar to the Structural Adjustment Programs imposed on some developing countries by the IMF in the 1980s and 1990s. For capitalists, the current situation of budget crisis is an opportunity to impose their neo-liberal agenda on the people, as was the case with the crisis in Argentina in 1998.

As a matter of fact, these austerity plans are not at all aimed at facilitating economic recovery, but quite the contrary. The way European leaders are dealing with the current crisis can only lead to entrapment in a vicious circle of recession: repeated austerity measures enforced in the different countries contribute to slowing down the economy a little more by creating an even stronger contraction of demand. Yet, in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, governments rather announced recovery plans based on a Keynesian approach quite distant from the neo- liberal orthodoxy which structures the economic convergence policy of the states of the Euro- zone through the Stability Pact (which imposes extremely strict budget austerity criteria: 3% of GDP for public deficit and 60% of GDP for public debt).

1. When governments follow the rule of financial markets

So why have the States abruptly moved from recovery plans to austerity policies which cancel their effects? Very simply because governments today follow the rule of the financial markets, which see in the explosion of States’ debts the risk of default (the impossibility to pay back debt) which would make them lose a lot of money. As a consequence, it is necessary to cut the budget of the States, particularly in those domains that do not compromise the profits of private companies: social security, public services, etc. Austerity plans in Europe are all the same, since they follow the requirements of the same financial agents. Apart from eliminating the risk of default (immediately that is, since it is quite a different story in the long term), austerity plans have a collateral advantage: they open entire sectors of the economy to private investors, opening new and very profitable speculative perspectives to the agents of the financial markets.

There is nothing new in the enslavement of governments to financial markets; it dates back to the end of the 1980s when governments, faced with the liberal imperative of “less state”, decided to privilege financing through loans on the financial markets rather than through taxes. And this radical shift was not only supported by conservative governments, but sometimes also by social-democrat governments: in France for example, a socialist government operated this change in 1986.

Nevertheless, the European states are now in a situation of weakness that gives an opportunity to financial institutions, who own the credit of the over-indebted States, to assert their power.

The current situation is characterised by the States giving up even more of their sovereignty to the financial markets. The EU organises this surrender of political and economic sovereignty: besides the Stability Pact, which imposes constraints on the States’ budget policies, the independence of the European Central Bank amounts to withdrawing the conduct of monetary policies from the States’ sovereignty. And even though this sovereignty has never been the people’s sovereignty, it was for a time in close enough contact with the social movements to have to submit to them. The shift from the national scale to the European scale is already an obstacle in itself, since there is no social movement on the same scale (see below). But, moreover, capitalism today takes the form of financial institutions which are quite different from the traditional class enemies of the working classes: the State and employers. Social movements today do not have a strategy to fight outsourced financial institutions or even more abstract “financial markets”. This makes it more difficult to fight in the workplace while managers are thousands of miles away, a problem that has been encountered for quite a long time already.

2. The necessity of a European social movement

Faced with this situation, the reaction of the people is generally quite clear-sighted. The slogan “We won’t pay for their crisis” has continued to circulate, showing that people know very well who is responsible for the crisis: capitalists. This also means a multiplication of struggles everywhere in Europe over recent months: in Greece, Ireland, England, Italy, Portugal, France… Yet, while these struggles often take into account the question of the economic crisis through slogans, they remain rooted in the local reality: the reform of pensions in France, of universities in Italy, austerity plans in Greece, the increase of university fees in England and Ireland, etc. This is not a defect as such, because struggles have to be rooted in the immediate concerns of the working classes, but it reveals nevertheless a powerlessness to act directly against the effects of the crisis and its agents.

This is due to the fact that social movements still suffer from a structural insufficiency, that of convergence on the European scale. Actually, we have never really been able to respond to the transnational power of financial markets, even though efforts are made by the Union Syndicale Solidaire in France or the CGT in Spain, for instance, to coordinate alternative trade-unionism in Europe and respond better to the necessities of the current situation.

Yet, a response on the European scale is more than ever necessary if the street is to reclaim the political sovereignty which is being more and more totally taken away from us, to question the iniquitous decisions of the EU, later presented as insurmountable and inevitable, and to fight the transnational power of financial markets. We need a social movement on the European scale.

3. Uniting around a common objective: the refusal to pay the debt.

We also need to gather around common and unifying objectives, the most urgent of which today is denouncing debt (unconditional refusal to pay on the part of the debtor). Actually, it is because they own the debt of the States that financial companies control them and can impose whatever they want on them, threatening to cut off the money supply or to increase the interest rate. This is why, today, the slogan “We won’t pay for their crisis” has to become “We won’t pay for their debts”. This deals a blow to the power of financial markets, since if the States no longer have debts, they will not have any power either, and so it becomes possible for the social counter- powers to reclaim politics. This demand has two other advantages: to circulate the idea that the explosion of debt today is a direct result of the crisis and that the responsibility for it lies with capitalists, and to achieve a huge redistribution of wealth towards the working classes since debts are widely owned, in fine, by the savings of the ruling class and the cancellation of debts would enable to reclaim public service and social security.

The crisis of the banking sector and financial markets which would ensue from such an exposure of debt would provide at last an opportunity to impose the redirection of the financing of the economy towards the satisfaction of the real needs of the peoples of Europe. The objective of reclaiming money from the banks can be upheld today, given the low popularity rate among the population of these financial agents. But it can be meaningful only if we make it clear that the money seized has to be redirected into socially useful activities, the exact opposite of the financial distribution achieved on financial markets.

II. Suggestion for a campaign: “For a European social movement”

Faced with the above-mentioned insufficiency, our current of thought has to do its best with its limited means to encourage the emergence of a European social movement by contributing to building a network of alternative trade-unionism strong enough to initiate struggles (see the motion “European trade-unionisms”) and also by promoting the convergence of all the struggles in which our activists are involved (illegal immigrants, feminist struggles, etc.). This is why we suggest a campaign in this direction, with a public side and an internal side.

1. Public expression of the libertarian communist network

Our current has to express itself publicly on this question which, if it emerges within social movements in the wake of various austerity plans which affect several European peoples, often remains limited to necessary but insufficient manifestations of solidarity.

  1. Our expression on this matter could take the form of a common call and a common poster (like last year’s campaign “Freedom of circulation”).
  2. To be constructive, our expression must offer unifying objectives to the emerging social movement. These objectives, in the current situation, could be those of the above-mentioned refusal to pay the debt and of the re-appropriation of the wealth, synthesised in the slogan “We won’t pay for their crisis nor their debts, let’s get our wealth back”. The text introducing the campaign will mention the requisitioning and the self-management of the means of production, which are unavoidable in an anarchist-communist campain.
  3. But our expression should also be enriched by exchanges of articles between our different papers, by common struggles and situations in which our activists are involved, and by advertising attempts to build union unity on a European or international scale. These exchanges already exist, but we have to do them more regularly and not only on the general situation of different countries but also on national or local struggles which we see as exemplary and symbolic. These exchanges must not only be useful for our propaganda, but also in our analysis of the situation which can only be made more relevant if we take into account in an accurate way the situation in other countries.
  4. Some international meetings will be organised in some cities in Europe, so far as we can.

2. Developing a common internal work towards strategic convergence in the social movement

  1. Building our network must be aimed at developing a common expression, but equally and rapidly at working together to build a common strategy in the sectors where we are involved. The first step in this direction must be the development of exchanges between activists in specific fields of intervention. A blatant example in a time when the question of immigration is seen in terms of “Fortress Europe” is that of the struggles of migrants: even if we led a campaign on this theme last year, it did not result in actual exchanges between activists. This could lead to writing texts offering a common strategy to uphold the internationalist dimension in social movements and to work towards concrete convergence. Obviously, concrete, technical and linguistic obstacles remain to achieve this objective.
  2. This work should give us an opportunity not only to build common strategic directions but also to contribute to a greater recognition of the internationalist dimension within our own organisations (directly in our libertarian communist organisations, but also in trade-unions where our activists are involved), beyond the delegation of the international question to those people who are given a mandate on the question. Indeed, the fact that the international question is not or little taken into account by organisations is one of the obstacles to the constitution of a European social movement. This is why we have to do our best to make sure the greatest number of activists takes part in this internal approach to be able to intervene concretely in the internationalist struggle externally.
  3. In order to raise awareness of the activities of other affiliates amongst the lay membership of our organisations, organisations will endeavour to part-sponsor activist exchanges, where activists from one group will stay for a period with activists of another group, learning about that groups activities. Priority should be given to activists not previously involved in international work and those who would gain most from such a trip.



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