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The Only Truly Realistic Solution Now Is To Break With the Existing System

Translated Monday 5 December 2011, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Roger Martelli is co-editor in chief of the monthly Regards

Will Europe be allowed to sink hopelessly deeper into the crisis and into recession?

Europe is standing on its head. What has brought about the current crisis? For over thirty years, growth has been pinned on financial markets that speculate on debts instead of investing. The share of wages in the national income has been held down, which has torn society apart and hampered the growth of useful goods and services. The economy has been financed not by public monetary creation but by sums collected from the private sector. As a result, after swelling inordinately, the world of finance is getting nervous; the threat of bankruptcy is hovering over the States.

Now what are our national and European leaders doing? They are leaving it to improbable rating agencies to assess the States’ reliability. They fret at the sheer announcement of a referendum. They claim they can stimulate growth by giving austerity a turn of the screw, which cannot fail to slow down growth even further.

In short our national and European leaders tirelessly do the very opposite of what common sense suggests. In so doing, they quite simply show that they have failed. The time has come to proclaim that they must go and others must make different choices and use different methods. Contrary to what is often repeated, there is ample room for manoeuvre. France is indeed a major power within the Union. Its decisions one way or the other are not taken lightly. It cannot be so easily imposed upon if it is determined not to have its policy dictated.

Determination is precisely what the country lacks right now: in 2007, Sarkozy claimed that with him the State would be back at the steering-wheel. Instead he has capitulated to the markets, the banks, and Angela Merkel. The French Left should pick up the challenge and declare itself determined. In the current crisis, a Leftist government worthy of the name could immediately proceed in the following way:

First it would inform its European partners that a moratorium on the payment of the public debt is suspended until it is publicly audited, to determine what part of it can be considered as legitimate (loans for legally defined public expenses) and what part must he considered as illegitimate (as being the result of speculative operations).

Parallel to this, the government would solemnly announce that France will no longer observe the dispositions of the Lisbon treaty that contradict the possibility of a real stimulation. This mainly concerns the stipulations of the stability pact, which in the name of budgetary balancing and the fight against inflation, forbid national companies and the European Bank to grant direct loans to States.

Thirdly, it would propose that the Union allow the ECB to buy back the States’ debt bonds. It would immediately ask the French central bank itself to do the same. In order to curb the onus of private agencies in the financing of Union activities, it would also, together with Parliament, initiate a process aimed at giving public agencies the mastery of their choices by working towards the setting up of a public banking and financial sector, which requires the nationalization of banks.

Fourth, it would propose that the Union decide as quickly as possible to take measures aimed at controlling capital flows and throttle speculation. There are quite a few technical means available to achieve that. For the time being, the EU norm set up in 1980 prohibits recourse to them. What was done at the time can be undone today. If the Union wavers, France can decide to grapple with the problem and so set an example. England in its time was able to force through the conversion to ultra-liberalism: why shouldn’t France do the very opposite?

Five, the crisis shows up the inadequacy in the long term of the Union’s institutional framework. It is necessary to re-found the treaties drastically, but this cannot be done by making the current situation even worse: for instance, within the current framework of the European governance, the federalist method can only further dispossess European peoples and citizens. If new paths are to be blazed, we must not surrender the principles of subsidiarity and popular sovereignty. The primacy given to social rights, the prevalence of citizens’ rights generally, the superiority of the public norm and the wider participation of citizens must become the linchpins of the Union. In any case, France will officially propose that the Union re-found the base of the Union by means of a popular constitutional process, the end-result of which will be ratified by referendum in each member State.

There are times when a break with the existing system is the only truly realistic solution. Europe has been suffering for too long, Union-wide and in each member State, from having been put under the crushing tutelage of neo-liberal and technocratic principles. Nothing is more urgent than to begin to break free from them, and so from the double yoke of “free” competition and of “good governance”. We have no need of governance; democracy is what we need, and democracy, in order to be strong and confident, must be social, economic, ecological and political all together.

When decision-makers are no longer legitimate, nothing is more urgent than to resort to civil disobedience. France would increase its stature across Europe if it did so, and suffering as it does from its excessive obedience to the markets, the Union would do itself a lot of good if it accepted this refusal as valid.

It does not diminish the chances of the Left to point out that in the presidential competition, only the Left Front is likely to propose this responsible and sensible line. Or to suggest that so far the Socialist Party and its candidate have steered clear and wide from it. It is just a way of once more pointing out that citizens are entitled to demand that political organizations, the Socialist party included, should choose the option of a rupture. It is a way of saying that it is never too late to do well.

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