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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 1

This collective text (full list of signatories here) initiated by Eric Toussaint, of the CADTM campaign for the abolition of the debt of the global South has been collectively discussed and co-signed by personalities and activists from more than 15 European countries representing a wide range of forces of the radical and anticapitalist Left: Podemos and Izquierda Unida in Spain, the Portuguese Left Bloc, the Left Party, the NPA and Ensemble in France, Popular Unity and Antarsya in Greece, the radical Danish left and activists from countries such as Cyprus, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Hungary. It is signed by MEPs from different parties and countries, by the head of finance of the City of Madrid, by the former president of the Greek Parliament, by a series of members of the Commission For the truth on the Greek debt. All the signatories are involved in the ongoing discussions about a “plan B” for Europe.

The aim of this text is to analyze the balance of power in the European Union and elaborate a series of radical but necessary proposals against austerity, neoliberal policies and for an alternative to the existing form of European integration.

The ten proposals put forward in this text are the outcome of an analysis of the situation in Europe since 2010. It takes into account the experience of the confrontation between Syriza and the Troika in the first half of 2015 and of the defeat that followed, but also the Spanish, Irish or Cypriot experiences. Recent events have clearly demonstrated the need for a left-wing government to have the courage to disobey to the injunctions of European authorities and break decisively with the framework of the founding Treaties of the EU. This must be accompanied by a popular mobilization triggered by the initiatives of the left-wing government and by a series of robust measures to be implemented immediately: organize a debt audit with citizen participation, put in place a control of capital flows, socialize the financial sector and the energy sector, reform radically the tax system. And of course, the inevitable debate on the euro area needs to be publicly conducted, with exit as an option that must be defended at least in some countries.

The cold analysis of the European policies of the recent years invariably leads to this conclusion: only strong sovereign and unilateral self-defense measures will enable any progressive national government and the social forces who back it to break with austerity and neoliberalism and address the issue of the illegitimate debt.

Since May 2010, the question of national debt has become a central concern for Greece and for the rest of the eurozone. The first program of €110 billion, imposed by the troika — comprised of the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — for the purpose of elaborating and executing this program, provoked a brutal increase in Greek public debt. This was also the case in various forms in Ireland (2010), Portugal (2011), Cyprus (2013), and Spain.

This program had the following fundamental objectives:

  • Bail out the private banks with public funds so that they may avoid the damaging consequences of their own private credit bubble, averting a new major international financial crisis.

  • Give to the new public creditors, who replaced the private creditors, enormous coercive powers over the governments and institutions of the peripheral countries in order to impose policies of radical austerity, deregulation (eroding large numbers of labor and welfare benefits), privatizations, and stricter authoritarian controls (see the last point).

  • Preserve the eurozone perimeter (in other words, keep Greece and the other peripheral countries within the eurozone), which is a powerful instrument in the hands of the multinational corporations and the major economies of the zone.

  • Bring neoliberal policies to bear more heavily on Greece, in particular, but also on the other eurozone peripheral countries as an example for all the European populations.

  • Reinforce a Europe-wide (as much for the European Union generally as for each member state) authoritarian form of governance, without resorting to new experiments resembling fascist or Nazi regimes or that of Franco, Salazar, or the Greek colonels (1967-1974). This aspect is insufficiently taken into account because the accent is placed on the economic and social repercussions. The authoritarian tendency within the European Union and the eurozone is a key issue and goal of the European Commission and the big corporations. This touches on executive powers, expeditious voting procedures, limiting or violating many rights, disregarding electors’ choices and, among more, increased repression of dissent.

There are lessons to be learned from the failure of the policies adopted by the government of Alexis Tsipras in 2015 to break the bonds of austerity. It is also necessary to realize the limits of the socialist minority government of Antonio Costa in Portugal.

Alternative policies in the people’s interest must at the same time address austerity, public debt, private banks, the eurozone, and oppose authoritarian tendencies. The experiences in the eurozone over the 2010-16 period clearly show that it is impossible to break with austerity unless responses to at the least the abovementioned problems are put forward. Of course, the climatic and ecological crises must also be addressed. So must we confront the humanitarian crisis caused by Europe’s fortified-borders policy, the Middle East crisis, and the rise of racism and the far right, responsible for the death of so many immigration and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean.

Since the election of Trump, and also since the appearance of the radical movements that gathered around the Bernie Sanders candidacy, now called into the front line of opposition against Trump and his program, the European radical left, trade unions, feminists, and ecologists must create links with the forces of resistance in the United States.

A large part of the radical left forces who have sitting members of parliament had and still have a mistaken idea of what EU integration and the eurozone is. To put it simply, they seem to see more advantages than disadvantages in the European Union. They consider that the European Union, as much as the eurozone, is compatible with a return of social-democratic policies, somewhat less injustice, and a Keynesian-style relaunching of the economy.

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