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France, presidential elections : ten proposals to beat the European Union

It is again clear from the current election campaign in France that a large proportion of the population wants left-wing radical solutions to exit the crisis. The impressive number of people attending Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s rallies and joining his movement La France Insoumise is evidence enough as well as poll survey results on voting intentions. This is indeed good reason to rejoice. Such upsurge of support for left-wing radical proposals to turn away from European treaties is a positive signal. Two other left-wing candidates, Philippe Poutou and Nathalie Arthaud, also benefit from a large-scale sympathy. Philippe Poutou’s attack on François Fillon and Marine Le Pen during the 4 April 2017 television debate also prompted a lot of interest, in and outside France.

by Eric Toussaint , Teresa Rodríguez , Miguel Urbán Crespo , Angela Klein , Stathis Kouvelakis , Costas Lapavitsas , Zoe Konstantopoulou , Marina Albiol , Olivier Besancenot , Rommy Arce

Part 3

To avoid what we saw in Greece in 2015, here are ten proposals for social mobilization and actions to be taken immediately and simultaneously by any government that is truly operating in the interests of the people.

1. A left-wing government must disobey the European Commission in a very transparent manner and in line with its prior commitments.

The party or coalition of parties (the example of Spain comes to mind) that claim to govern should from the outset refuse to conform to austerity measures, and pledge to refuse measures aiming solely at balancing the budget. They should announce: “We will not yield to the European treaties’ diktat of a balanced budget because we want to increase public expenditures to fight anti-social and austerity measures and embark on the ecological transition.

Therefore, the first step is to begin disobeying in a clear and determined way. The Greek capitulation has shown us why we must shed the illusion that the EC and other European governments respect the popular mandate. This illusion can only lead to disaster. We must disobey.

2. Call for popular mobilization both at the national and the European level.

In 2015, such an initiative proved unsuccessful in Greece and elsewhere in Europe. It is obvious that the European social movements did not achieve great success in calling for demonstrations, which did take place but were not at the level required by the need for solidarity with the Greek people.

However, it is also true that Syriza’s strategy did not include calls for popular mobilization in Europe, or even in Greece. And when the Tsipras government did call for mobilization by means of the referendum of July 5, 2015, the will of the 61.5 percent of Greeks who refused to accept the creditors’ demands was not respected.

Let’s remember that starting in late February 2015 and up until the end of June 2015, Yanis Varoufakis and Alexis Tsipras made statements aimed at convincing public opinion that an agreement was in sight and that the situation was improving.

Imagine that instead, after each important negotiation, they had explained what was at stake through press releases, statements to the media, and declarations in public places — in front of the headquarters of the European institutions in Brussels and elsewhere. Imagine that they had revealed what was really going on. It would have led to gatherings of thousands or tens of thousands of people, and the social networks would have relayed this alternative discourse to hundreds of thousands or millions of citizens.

3. Launch a debt audit with citizens’ participation.

The situations in the twenty-eight EU countries, and of course within the eurozone, are diverse. In some European countries — as in Greece — it is a matter of utmost necessity and priority to suspend debt repayments, in order to make the satisfaction of social needs and basic human rights an absolute priority. It is also a key element of a self-defense strategy.

In Spain, in Portugal, in Cyprus, and in Ireland, such a move depends on the balance of power and the current economic picture. In other countries, it is possible to carry out the audit first and then decide on the suspension of repayments. The specific situation of each country must be weighed before implementing these measures.

4. Establish control of capital flows.

We must clarify what this means. It does not mean that people cannot transfer a few hundred euros abroad. Obviously international financial transactions would be allowed up to a certain amount. On the other hand, it is important to enforce strict control over capital flows beyond a certain threshold.

5. Socialize the financial sector and the energy sector.

Socializing the financial sector does not merely mean developing a public banking hub. It implies decreeing a public monopoly on the financial sector, i.e. the banks, building societies and insurance companies. That is, a socialization of the financial sector under citizen control; turning the financial sector into a public service. Of course, socializing the energy sector will also be a priority during the ecological transition. Ecological transition cannot take place without a public monopoly over the energy sector, both in terms of production and distribution.

6. Create a complementary, non-convertible currency and defend the right to leave the eurozone.

Whether it is a case of exiting the eurozone or remaining in it, it is necessary to create a non-convertible complementary currency. In other words, a currency that is used locally, for exchanges within the country — for example, for paying increased pensions, salary increases for civil servants, taxes, public services, etc. The use of a complementary currency enables partial relief from the dictatorship of the euro and the European Central Bank.

Of course, we cannot avoid the debate on the eurozone. In several countries, exiting the eurozone is an option that must be defended by political parties, trade unions, and other social movements. Several eurozone countries will not be able to truly break away from austerity and launch an ecosocialist transition without leaving the eurozone. A redistributive monetary reform, or the levying of a special progressive tax on incomes above €200,000, should be implemented in the case of an exit. That proposal would apply only to cash assets, and not to personal property (principal residence, etc.).

By applying a progressive exchange rate when moving from the euro to the new currency, the amount of cash in the hands of the wealthiest 1 percent would be reduced and wealth redistributed to households.

7. Implement radical tax reform.

Remove VAT on basic consumer goods and services, such as food, electricity, and water (up to a certain level of consumption per individual), as well as other basic utilities. On the other hand, increase VAT on luxury goods and services, etc. We also need to increase the taxes on corporate profits and incomes above a certain level — in other words, a progressive tax on income, wealth, and luxury residences. The reform of taxation must produce immediate effects: a very significant decrease in indirect and direct taxes for the majority of the population and a very significant increase for the wealthiest 10 percent and for major corporations. Also, strict new measures will be taken against fraud and tax evasion.

8. Deprivatize — “buy back” — privatized companies for a symbolic euro.

Paying no more than a symbolic euro to those who have benefited from privatizations would be an appropriate gesture and would strengthen and extend public services under citizen control.

9. Implement a broad emergency plan for creating socially useful jobs and for economic justice.

Reduce working hours with no reduction in wages. Repeal antisocial laws and adopt laws to remedy the situation of abusive mortgage debt; countries such as Spain, Ireland, Greece, etc. are the most concerned. This could well be fixed by adopting adequate legislation, to avoid court actions (since many households have to face legal action requested by banks).

For example, a parliament could pass a law to cancel mortgage debts below €150,000 and thus bring such cases to an end. A vast program of public expenditure would be implemented in order to stimulate employment and socially useful activity by encouraging circuits of local production and distribution.

10. Initiate a genuine constituent process.

This does not imply constitutional changes within the framework of the existing parliamentary institutions. It involves dissolving the parliament and electing a constituent assembly by direct vote.


These are ten basic proposals for discussion. But one thing is certain: the measures to be taken must go to the root of the problems, and must be applied simultaneously, since a coherent program is needed. Breaking away from austerity policies cannot be achieved if, from the very start, radical measures against big capital are not taken.

Those who want us to believe that it’s possible to achieve this objective without going down that road just create confusion and block any real progress. The architecture of Europe and the magnitude of the capitalist crisis leave no room for neo-Keynesian or productivist politics. Ecosocialism must be put at the heart of the debate, not left aside. Immediate and concrete proposals must emerge. We must carry out the anti-austerity struggle and embark on the path of an ecosocialist transition. It is an absolute and urgent necessity.

***

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