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News from the debt crisis in Spain and the rise of a global response

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21 de Mar 2013
Krisis? Germany at the centre of economic turbulence
The latest German unemployment figures, the lowest in 20 years, prompt us to consider the attributes of an accumulation model that has allowed the country to so far avoid the worst impact of the crisis.
Isidro López, member of Madrid´s Metropolitan Observatory 
Translated by
Esther Ortiz Vázquez & Juan Martin Rodriguez
Many aspects of the Euro crisis have their roots in deep political changes in the post-unified Germany. The traditional structures of the corporatist capitalism in the Rhineland consisted of both domestic industrial and financial schemes. These schemes, although controlled by the German industrial elite, also incorporated the very-powerful German Fordist unions. However, this establishment no longer exists.
The German industrial capitalists had been trying since the early ´60s to "bypass" the financial-industrial credit networks by seeking finance from the eurodollar markets in London. For these industrial elites, the Fordist social pact allowed them to contain the working class struggle at manageable levels but was also widely seen as an obstacle to maximizing profits.
The key political move was the 2010 Agenda from the Socialdemocracy of Shroder and, look out, the Green Party. Between them they have gone about breaking up these Fordist holdings through fiscal reforms and capital deregulations. The process involves transnational financial institutions pressurising to create "open" financial structures that they are then able to enter, generate profits and exit. These kind of structures diametrically oppose those that connected the network of middle-men and elites with productive territories and economic sectors in a stable and organized manner.
From the destruction of this second type of financial structure come two kinds of interrelated results. On the one hand, a large mass of capital linked to local manufacturing cycles is released, estimated at one billion euros
–approximately the Spanish GDP-, to be invested in financial markets.
Thereby an elite consisting of globalized financial yuppies is born
with a social typology which is quite different to the “Rhineland
capitalist, an industrial captain who takes positions within the
political system. On the other hand, and less well-known, in this
very movement, Germany loses control of its more strategic productive hubs while transnational financial capital, American “hedge funds” in particular, take over 50% of the more important DAX companies (the Spanish IBEX counterpart) imposing a strict income discipline; the so-called “shareholder value”. In brief, if you have to fire 40,000 workers to save your dividend you do it. That is to say, during this process Germany loses control of its higher quality assets as well as its ability to rule over its labor-capital relationship.
The gross amount released during this process will end up in two places. Firstly, it is going to be invested en masse in property market bubbles both in Spain and in the USA, especially in subprime-lending, which is the root cause of the huge banking crisis Germany is currently passing through (currently in stand-by mode). And secondly, it goes towards acceleration of the outsourcing process to Eastern countries, taking advantage of investment channels and exploiting the cheap labour created by the brutal shock-therapy policies carried out by the European Union and the IMF in the 90s. From now on, assisted by the traditional State policy support given by the major unions, a savage assault on the German workforce is going to be launched. Germany is the only OECD country where real wages have been going down for seven consecutive years (2000-07) while its customary productivity has plummeted due to, amongst other things, the establishment of longer working days, at the same salary levels (with union consent), without a corresponding increase in technological power. As was to be expected, the result has been the loss of three million from union membership in a decade. 
The banking crisis alongside the budding social crisis are two good explanations for the strategic alliance forged between Germany and the financial powers which is designed to politically manage the euro crisis in exchange for the opportunity for Germany to fund itself at a low price in the markets. The aftermath is obvious, postponing the banking adjustment and holding back, through public expenditure, the collapse of the colossal fordist German middle-class.
In conclusion, we are not talking about exonerating Germany of blame for its European policies, whose goal have always been to avoid taking charge of any responsibility related to wealth redistribution at a continental level (a level at which they have sought to control the accumulation of capital), but rather the rebuilding of the chain of command imposed by the financial powers to better combat them.
17 de Dic 2012

By Francesco Raparelli (Dinamopress)

The scenario is very uncertain, yet it is worth to try and guess some developments. Uncertain, because the financial markets attack on Italian bonds has not fully unfolded yet. Within hours, we will hear how dramatically our yield spread over Germany has widened. But there is one thing we can be sure of: the markets stand for Monti – and if not for him, for continuity with his policies. Same desire, same hooliganism, from the ECB and the IMF. At its World Policy Conference in Cannes, the IMF wondered how come Italy had not yet requested Europe’s financial assistance, negotiating and signing that agreement that would place Italian governments under external control for the next 10 years.

Monti knows he’s desired by many, especially amongst those who count. That's why, as soon as he got back from Cannes, he offered his resignation and declared himself "free" to play his own game. If, as it seems, he’ll be the new leader of the centre, the road will be clear for a coalition of progressives and moderates. If this won’t happen, given the situation and with the old tycoon just round the corner, it will not be impossible for the Democratic Party (PD) and the Christian Democrats (UDC) to reach an agreement before the elections even take place.

However it goes, the PD leader Bersani will likely become prime minister, in a scenario resembling the 2005-2009 Grosse Koalition in Germany and Papademos government in Greece. It comes as non surprise that – in his latest book written with Mep Sylvie Goulard on (!) democracy in Europe – Monti praises the grand coalition political model as the ideal for current times. The only model that can ensure the superiority of technocracy over politics, and deliver structural (neoliberal) reforms thanks to the neo-corporatist docility of trade unions. In the very likely case of Bersani as Prime Minister, Monti will be Super-Minister of the Economy. The Italian paradox will also see, amongst the left-outs, the neo-populists of Grillo side by side with Mr B and the Northern League.

It’s from the Italian paradox that we have to start, if we are to understand the relation between the national and European mobilisations of the autumn and the collapse of the Italian government. Up until September, Monti seemed undefeatable. The only blatantly neoliberal European leader deeply loved by the left. The only one who could destroy public pensions, national collective bargaining, health care, schools, and precarious and young people in general, without Italian’s major trade union, the CGIL, blinking an eye. It took the ETUC and the proclamation of general strikes in Spain, Portugal and Greece, for the CGIL to at last call a 4 hours-only strike. A strike, on 14n, then generalised and strengthened by the students and youth movements virtually alone.

In that sense, 14n opened a crack that initiated a new phase. Italians no longer seem to fancy the technocrats. The youth in the streets is being joined by metalworkers (national strike 6 Dec), healthcare workers (national strike 11 Dec) and many others. But of course the neoliberal management of the sovereign debt crisis requires the full involvement of progressive forces and of the CGIL at government level. The confederation is desperate to put its hands on the Labour Ministry, while the progressives are boldly eager to play the 'responsible guys' as usual. And 'leftist' Vendola (SEL) might hope to conquer some low-budget Ministry for himself. Amen.

It is in such a context that the constituent and European challenge becomes more ambitious and needed for movements. We will have to be smart, if we don’t want the Italian winter to turn into a freezing electoral vortex. We need to relaunch the political initiative at continental level (in mid-march in Brussels and everywhere in Europe), enhance the accumulation of recent youth rebellions and prepare new ones. The relationship between revolts and autonomous institutions cannot but be immanent and recursive at the same time. The karst nature of movements should not be seen as a barrier, but as an opportunity to locally root the conflicts (the wave of occupations on #6D in Rome is one example), while extending social and political relations beyond national borders.

From cities to Europe and return, that’s the 'permanent transition' we should go for. Knowing that the bosses will hit us hard and in many cases – as seen on 14N in Rome – very violently. And knowing that the European and world crisis will get deeper and deeper, and the savagery of original accumulation can only be opposed by a rebellion of constituent nature.

[This article was originally published on December 12th, 2012]

03 de Dic 2012

By Ter García and Pablo Elorduy / Translated by Esther Ortiz Vázquez, Susana Macías Pascua & Rob Dyas

Democracy, debt and human rights were the central themes of the Agora 99 meeting in Madrid, which was conceived to unify answers and demands against the shock policy being imposed by the EU. Despite the very ambitious goals, it was understood from the beginning that none of the European movements problems would be solved overnight. “Come down to earth and don’t tense up”, suggested one of the moderators. Calmly but with an intense schedule, due to the urgent situation of the European citizenship, for four days Madrid became the meeting point of more than two hundred activists from different Greek, Slovenian, German, French, British and Italian social movements which came to take part in Agora99.

The meeting took place in May during Frankfurt’s Blockupy workshop. Under the aim of coordinating a common European strategy for demonstrations around debt, social rights and democracy, the work meetings took place at Madrid´s Patio Maravillas (occupied social centre) thanks to technology such as Munble and other electronic chat tools. This threefold approach permeated the twenty meetings, tackling issues ranging from education, housing and health to joint water management, communication, and participative democracy.

“You are not a loan”

What kind of tools do we have to fight the debt model? The central one remains that of default. “This can be either managed from the top, by the debt owners, or from the bottom, democratically”, stated Isidro López, member of the Observatorio Metropolitano during the round table workshops.

Yorgos Mitralias, who forms part of the Greek Citizen Committee against Debt (CADTM), participated in the debt panels where the austerity measures imposed by the Troika on the peripheral Euro countries were analyzed in depth. In this workshop, tax resistance to the debt payment was suggested as a concrete response that might be given by the European citizenship. Moreover, the debt team highlighted the need of being pedagogic, coordinating and unifying the message at an international level so as to confront the blind alley that management of the debt as a shock tool inevitably leads to.

The work carried out by the different debt audit networks, especially in Greece, contrasted with the heterogeneous variety coming from the rights area. Here several movements spent hours sharing both experiences and information, with civil disobedience being the common denominator.

Occupy to stop repossessions

“There is a strong presence in the neighbourhoods in Spain. In Milan the movement is growing quietly, but it is taking shape and, in the last evictions we’ve had, the presence in the neighbourhood was also strong.” says Gonzalo Mosquiera of the Cantiere Social Centre, having just watched a video of a stoppage of a repossession in Madrid. Taking the lead from one of the tools that another housing group tried to put in place, Mosquiera’s collective have created a mobile app that allows users to view a map of notifications of evictions that might be taking place in Milan. He is quick to point out that there the campaign named Occupy Sfitto (Occupy the Empty) is more concentrated on preventing evictions of squats and the opening up of new squats for those without a home in a city that, he points out, has more that 80,000 empty dwellings owned privately and a further 4,500 empty public buildings. They have already forced the council to create a body that assesses each case individually.

“The situation in Germany is very different because we don’t have the same problems with mortgages”, confirms Hanno, a German activist, who also states however that the prevailing environment of fear is exploited by the landlords to increase rents, most notably in Hamburg. “In Berlin a short time ago locals managed for the first time to prevent a family being evicted, following the example of the Stop Desahucios (Stop Evictions) campaign in Spain and next week there is a protest being held for the right to a home”, explains Hanno.

A little later in the recently opened La Morada social centre, one of the Greek activists of Agora99 is speaking in a workshop about self-management and civil disobedience. He describes how, in Athens, the workers of a clinic occupied it in order to maintain the right to healthcare despite the proposed cuts.

Nearly 30 people attended the debate workshop to define and design a list of basic common rights. “In Paris we are working on the minimum wage. I think we need to fight for this on a European level and get it included on a list of European rights”, says Sophie Banasiak of Real Democracy Now Paris and other workers collectives. Sophie announced that on the 1st December there are protests organised based around these social rights and invited the other groups that were present to participate in order to make a Europe-wide mobilisation.

The removal process, that is the demand that the dominating powers resign, began more than a year and a half ago and will continue to be a key part of the European agenda. The commencement of a constituent process was one of the things that most inspired the participants. Roughly one hundred people worked throughout the Saturday afternoon to formalise the proposal, unifying the demands for direct, participative democracy through texts and communal events. Raúl Sánchez, one of the energizers of the axis of democracy, admitted during the morning session that the constituent debate does not have the same intensity in all the PIIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) in spite of the fact that the “commission dictatorship” of the Troika has attempted to block democracy from Lisbon to Athens.

Saturday evening proposals

During Saturday evening, sheltered from the rain, the three central themes of debt, democracy and rights were being settled so that the proposals could be transferred to the meeting the following Sunday. It wasn’t easy: exhaustion, the difficulty of dealing with some concepts at the same time in Italian, Spanish and English, and the specific urgent matters from each country, weighed down the progress of the three meetings. However, there were several proposals before the proceedings were brought to a close, both regarding agreement on future dates and common approaches that bring forward a new agenda of actions, mainly as regards to communications, which started last 14N.

The meeting on Sunday, which initially was to take place in Puerta del Sol, was in the end held in the EKO community centre. For more than six hours, participants of each working party presented their conclusions and proposals and, although the meeting did not finally produce any definitive decision, several actions have been brought to the table. “Why are dates so important?” wondered Aitor from Barcelona, “we are supposed to establish a horizon to know what we want and how we want it done”. His intervention questioned the emphasis in establishing an overly prescriptive agenda for the movement, which, nevertheless, has declared a few dates, some of them in connection with the pace of the different nodes, and others purely reactive, like the call to “hack” the forthcoming meeting of the Council of Europe in Brussels next March 2013.

“The meeting of the European movements in Madrid has been a qualitative leap”, states Dario Lovaglio from Universidad Nómada (“Small open political laboratory and in process that enables the collective production of new theoretical paradigms”- taken from its web site). “On the one hand, for being an ambitious project: a step forward to reinvent European democracy; on the other, for its inclusive and plural capacity”. To Lovaglio, Agora99 is the first step towards the construction of another European political framework, which feeds on the actual experiences of the participant movements that cope with the crisis. “It is there, where the crisis is lived out everyday, that new ways can be thought up of democratically re-appropriating common property and social, collectively produced wealth, both material and immaterial”, concludes Lovaglio. Working to revert the general state of shock and convene another meeting in the near future is the next step for Agora99, a public and open round table for the 99%.

A device within the network for the spread of information

The urgent need to configure a communications tool to coordinate and communicate to the different European movements (and many others) was suggested during the weekend in Agora99. “It is very complicated to build such a tool, there must be a group of hackers -people who work in participatory processes - who think of how to generate it also through other developed experiences like the ones in Brazil or Bolivia, explained Guillermo from Patio Maravillas (an occupied social centre in Madrid). At present what exists is an email list and a willingness to facilitate a fundamental tool that will help put to work the plans of the meeting towards a new network, which should be set in the coming months.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on November 9th 2012]

17 de Nov 2012

By Giuseppe Bottazzi (Milan) / Translated by Esther Ortiz Vázquez

The main EU “anti-crisis weapon” threatens to reproduce the damaging aftermath caused by the Troika in Greece

On October 8th in Luxembourg the media premiere being presented was up to its billing: the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) was named as the “main anti-crisis weapon in the hands of the Union”, as announced with fanfare by the leaders of the continent. However the promised solution to the sovereign debt crisis within Europe has run into its first obstacle: the summit held in Brussels the past 18th and 19th October. There, the Spanish bailout –the ESM’s real guinea pig- was debated at length by the different European Heads of State. While Mario Monti and François Hollande were saying “perhaps” and Angela Merkel “nein”, the mechanism revealed its true nature: it is simply another tool to carry out the same kind of “rescues” already witnessed in Greece, Portugal and Ireland. The next time Madrid saves, once again, its banks, the bill will be charged to the public debt. In these times of neoliberal policies this can only mean more blood, sweat and tears.

What is the ESM?

The ESM is the new bailout fund within the European Union. It replaces the two existing temporary EU funding programmes: the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the European Financial Stabilization Mechanism (EFSM) that were applied in the intervention on Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Both new and old mechanisms are financial institutions located in Luxembourg. The main difference between them is their capitalisation package and their temporality (the ESM is permanent whilst the older two were always temporary). Whilst the EFSM financed solely through bond issues, the ESM has already collected €80 billion in capital from the State members. Chaired by the German Klaus Regling, this new fund has a €200 billion initial loan capacity which will increase up to €500 billion within the next 18 months. In addition, the combination of both the EFSM and the ESM will mean the total sum at the disposal of the Luxembourg entity will reach €700 billion.

In truth, we are dealing here with really quite irrelevant modifications in the entities to justify the proposed “change of course” pledged by Brussels. In fact, in its inception there was apparently a substantial difference between the ESM and the previous bailout funds inasmuch as when the new body was announced by the European leaders at the end of last June, it seemed to be free of the control of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The new bailouts taking place in the Eurozone, starting with the Spanish one, -at least this was the promise- were going to be different from Greece’s ordeal. Brussels’ solution at hand was to bypass the IMF’s so-called men in black with their pernicious reputation after decades of intervening all over the world. Unfortunately, the body planned in the drafts bears little comparison to the ESM’s final version and so, in the end, the Troika will be the one in charge along with the European Commission and the ECB.

The “automatic firewall”

The new permanent fund that will manage future national bailouts though aid will be available from March 2013 once the Euro countries have ratified the fiscal pact that forces them to include the “golden rule” –a limit to the yearly structural deficit- within their national legislations just as Spain did in September 2011. Additionally, they will have to sign a memorandum that states they will accept the conditions dictated by the Troika, exactly as Mariano Rajoy’s Government did in June. The outcome is a far cry from what the European leaders had promised. This is especially notable in the case of Mario Monti’s who had insisted on the need for an “automatic firewall” to deal with speculation on peripheral countries’ debt. After so many cuts –this was the reasoning of the Italian PM- the risk premium on bonds kept going through the roof, thus there was a need for a mechanism to manage the buying of sovereign debt to dampen the effects of speculation when a certain differential was reached.

There is however nothing automatic in the ESM; what is more, during the last European meeting, another ray of hope generated by the prospect of a new bailout fund was extinguished by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor: namely that the recapitalisation needed to save Spanish banks should be pumped directly into the struggling entities without impacting on the public account.

Angela Merkel’s delay until 2014 of the creation of a European Banking Union has ended any hope held by Mariano Rajoy about the retrospective application of the measures in Spain. Berlin’s “nein” means the addition of €40 billion –the whole bailout amount- to the sovereign debt. According to rumours, informal negotiations continue between the different EU institutions to reach a new agreement to split the cost of the banks’ recapitalisation between the ESM and the member states. Everything seems to be back to square one.

Berlin´s “nein” means Spain’s bank bailout has added €40 billion to its sovereign debt As in the nineteenth-century Sicily depicted by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in “The Leopard”, in today’s Europe “if we want everything to stay as it is, everything will have to change”. Once again the Governments that are in trouble will be forced back to the negotiating table, always clear in their minds that now it is the so-called Troika which is calling the shots.

The outline of the bad bank

Sareb: A brick warehouse. On 16th November the “bad bank” called Sareb is due to be inaugurated. It is this entity into which the commercial banks will pour their toxic assets, mainly houses. Sareb will have assets totaling some €90 billion.

Millionaire wages. Sareb’s board will be recruited by the executive firm Spencer Stuart and the future CEO is due to earn up to €500,000 a year. According to, the seven directors will earn an annual €2 million.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on October 31th, 2012]

17 de Sep 2012

By Isidro López (Madrilonia) / Translated by Sarah Pilar Iacobucci and Juan Martín Rodríguez

The announcement from Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), about the plans for huge purchases of Spanish (and Italian) bonds has resulted in a rapid fall in the average interest rate that the Spanish Treasury must pay to finance itself. Pending confirmation of the details, the Spanish risk premium declined substantially to just under 400 points. The measure will not however be ‘free of charge’ for Spain.

Contrary to the information being published in the Anglo-Saxon and German media, the reduction of public expenditure has been a key policy in Spain since May of 2010, when the spread between the 10-year Spanish bond and the 10-year German bond exceeded 100 points. On August 3rd of 2012, the Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy confirmed an economic adjustment program of approximately 102 billion euros from 2012 to 2014 based on expenditure cuts and revenue increases. The cuts in the Healthcare and Education sectors, which depend on the regional budgets rather than the central government, are highly controversial given the dramatic consequences of the absence of certain hospital services and the dismissal of schoolteachers.

Meanwhile, the threat of a second bailout remains though the first bailout fund has not been completely paid out. Rajoy said he will decide whether to seek help or not only after the regional election in the Basque Country and Galicia, scheduled for October 21st. The contentious debates he wishes to postpone relate to the potential cuts to pensions and unemployment benefits. After massive protests led by public workers in July, the peoples’ reaction will be tested again on the labour unions’ demonstration on September 15th and the planned mass protest at the Congress of Deputies on September 25th.

The ECB is the key institution in the neoliberalisation project within the European Union (EU). It is worth remembering that this process has always been based around the creation of a transnational authority (the so-called troika: European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) which has imposed a series of economic conditions without any opportunity for democratic debate. Obviously, the social conflict resulting from these tough measures and their democratic illegitimacy takes place in the local arena of every EU nation-state, decreasing the support of the national governments in many cases (Papandreou, Zapatero, Berlusconi, Sarkozy, etc.) but never challenging the economic commands imposed by the troika, with its slogan “there is no alternative”. This dynamic is in fact the result of a fierce political battle that occurred in the early 80’s: the views of the British Thatcherite neoliberal and German ordoliberal alliance were imposed at the very inception of the federalist concept led by Jacques Delors, who was in favour of deepening the Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and corporatist values that shaped the EEC until the 80’s.

The ECB represents the culmination of this process, which itself has developed almost entirely within the construct of the European Monetary System, the euro. The ECB, designed according to the tight monetary dogmas of Milton Friedman’s school of economics, has a mandate for price stability (inflation control) and an emphasis on independence and insulation from political interference, the latter being a euphemism for the European electorate. In other words, it is the perfect institution to manage the European economy since it avoids democratic interference. The main objective before the creation of the ECB was to avoid it becoming a lender of last resort; an authority, linked to the financial crisis, responsible for providing large sums of fresh-printed money to stabilize the falling prices of financial assets.

On the other hand, according to the post-Keynesian economist Hyman Mynsk the central bank has to act as a lender of last resort in order to prevent economic depressions. This view is therefore contradicted by the neoliberal dogma of market self-regulation. In addition, the central bank, ruling as a lender of last resort and consequently absorbing the debt of the financial players by money printing, should be backed by a state (or a productive social entity with a clearly-defined political status) that answers for the debt issued. Specifically, this last point is exactly what Germany is determined to avoid in the construction of the euro-area, which the ECB is reorganizing in the absence of a formally constituted power. The wealthy and not-so-wealthy country members are being shuffled through the back door, leaving the implicit guarantee of intervention in the hands of the German government. The Maastricht treaty and the Euro Stability Plan are the consequences of this approach which, despite being managed by Germany, France and England, has also integrated most of the elites in the continent into a single political project.

However, reality is very stubborn opponent and it seems that after all, old Hyman Mynsky was right. The ECB has acted as a lender of last resort almost exclusively since the beginning of the crisis, though always remarking its temporary nature rather than accepting this status definitely. Specifically, it started purchasing national debt in secondary markets from 2010 until the beginning of 2012. This program, relatively effective in stabilizing the risk premium, might even be successful in keeping the national debt interest rates at the level desired by the ECB, in other words, the rates the people of the EU need. In fact, the dramatic increase of the national-debt interest during the last months coincides with a suspension of debt purchases by the ECB. This being a disciplinary measure to push both Spain and Italy to accept the political requirements of the bailout, which will be arranged over the coming years.

Germany, maintaining its position, is reluctant to accept this policy in order to reinforce its political position. If Germany guarantees the neutralization of the debt by money-printing, the market pressure will cease in Spain, Italy and other targeted countries. Therefore, the political requirements, the privatizations and the budget cuts demanded from the “neutral” European elite would not be necessary. This would be the failure of the neoliberal flagship, which is the creation of the transnational European domain where “economic necessity” rules. The not-so-wealthy member states accept these mandates and contain the resulting social conflicts within their own borders. Besides being the government that supports the neoliberal system in Europe, Germany maintains many economic advantages. For example, it finances itself at a much lower cost than other countries targeted by financial agents, and subsequently avoids the political cost of a social crisis. This is the situation before the renewal of debt purchases by the ECB.

The question then is: what does this have to do with us? The conclusion is that the ECB is the seed of a future European state. This is of course not to say that a European state is a certainty but simply that the ECB is a money issuing entity that, in terms of classical political economy, is the representation of the European productive forces articulated through a social and territorial division of labour that transcends the national borders of every member state. The financial players and their political allies see it as a threat not only for the current model of obtaining profits from the national debt interest but also for the neoliberal regime itself.

Today’s nations, and also the would-be state of the ECB, are just the result of class struggle - those who do not like this term may say social conflicts. If the European leaders (representing the national elites) are risking starting a process that could threaten, or at least call into question, the almost absolute power they have over their territory and population, they do so because they know that social conflict may increase substantially in the near future. The consequences of this increasing struggle, whether the non-payment of debt or a popular open challenge to the political class, might jeopardise their power more profoundly. Thus, the elites’ “desperate” strategy is to sacrifice parts of their constitutional principles at the European level in order to avoid unpredictable effects at the national level. They expect that these measures will remain in the technical sphere, expecting the people not to understand their political significance for a while.

With regards to the financial powers, they try to keep them satisfied by emphasising the provisional nature of the measures and their subordination to the opening up of profitable national assets (privatizations and austerity cuts). At the same time, they raise the spectre of a potential national default when necessary. Naturally, our responsibility is to extend the conflict, pushing to refuse the debt and call into question the political representation. These should be our goals until the ’making-the-best-of-a-bad-job’ EU guarantees the democratic rights that would force Europe to assume its redistributive responsibilities.

[This article was originally published in Spanish on September 7th, 2012]

16 de Jun 2012

By F. Fatale / Translated by Susana Macías Pascua and Esther Ortiz

The Greek activist Yorgos Mitralias, member of a committee against sovereign debt, on tour around Spain, states the need for a European movement against debt and austerity policies.

"Soon the struggle will be synchronized", thought aloud Yorgos Mitralias, the anti-debt Greek activist at ten sharp on Saturday June 9 while casseroles were clanging opposite the Madrid’s Puerta del Sol as a result of the Spanish bailout perpetrated by the Eurogroup acting in collusion with the IMF. With just a few days before the second Greek general election, Mitralias has begun a journey travelling across several European cities -especially those located in the Iberian Peninsula- as part of a Citizens’ Debt Audit Platform action.

Having the polls in Syriza’s favor, the anti-austerity radical left-wing coalition in whose foundation he has participated, Mitralias’ message is an upbeat one: conveying the momentous importance of the Greek elections and their consequences on other countries. He was interviewed when passing by Madrid after a round table held in Plaza del Carmen, the Sol Economy Working Group’s hangout, about the euro’s role.

DIAGONAL: Now that your journey is almost over, what are your impressions?

YORGOS MITRALIAS: It’s a miracle I am alive. I have been in Belgium, then in seven Portuguese cities and finally in five more in Spain during my three-week European journey. I have met with trade unionist besides anti-capitalism socialists and anarchists fellows; I have been interviewed many times… My viewpoint is that something it’s moving on in Europe. The great news is that in the forthcoming Dutch elections, the emblematic triple-A country, the SP, a socialist radical party, is leading the polls while the two main parties are expected to drop dramatically. The other feeling I have is that the citizen’s audit movement is luring many intelligent, skilled and enthusiastic people. This is the first time that the chances of starting something big, possibly a huge unitary mass movement, are for real.

D.: At this time what is the Greek message to convey?

Y. M.: Greece is going to report the historic importance of the forthcoming events as well as the consequences that the Greek elections are going to have in other countries, under the form of a European political homogenization rather than an economic one. Faced with a Syriza’s victory within a fragile European system, the UE is panicking and the chain is activated.

D: Which are the expectations regarding the elections on June the 17th in Greece?

Y.M.: We are optimistic. Even the rightist Greek is coming to terms with Syriza’s victory, with its possibility to achieve the absolute majority. There is an extreme polarization between Syriza and the Right, but Syriza keeps a huge stock of votes. For example, in big cities it enjoys an absolute hegemony. The chance of its victory must be seriously taken. If not, it would be very irresponsible. But there aren’t certainties. Everything is to be tried again.

D: Although Syriza has stated that it does not oppose leaving the eurozone, Is it compatible to be against austerity while remining in the eurozone?

Y. M.: 80% of the Greeks is against austerity and 80% is in favor of staying in the Euro. I don’t think this is a contradiction. On the contrary, we should not seek the solution to the crisis in the isolation within national borders, which would bring us as a result the impossibility of carrying out a common struggle with German workers. On the horns of a dilemma of the euro, in or out, the important thing is that this debate does not split up the movement.

D: How did it come to be that KKE, the Greek Communist Party, didn’t support Syriza after the elections in May the 6th?

Y. M.: The first thing Tsipras did was to call Aleka Papariga, KKE’s secretary general, to come to an agreement on three or four matters: debt, memorandum, austerity, NATO, audit… She didn’t reply, which makes us think they are collaborating with the worst enemies of the working class.

D: In view of this new setting, what seems to be the risks?

Y. M.: Violence is the principal hazard. A bomb planted in Athens’ underground or Alexis Tsipras’ assassination. We consider every possibility. They have already said they would use all means at their disposal.

D: Important international meetings are approaching; a European demonstration in solidarity with Greek people among them.

Y. M.: This is a total war. It is not an accident. The Joint Social Conference, unions and European social movements association, has lately endorsed my political declaration for a European popular movement in solidarity with the Greeks and active resistance against austerity policies. A great mobilization of all social movement has been convened for next fall 2012, with no exclusion, bringing together unions, indignants, occupy, feminists, NGOs, anti-globalization… The movement of our dreams is starting out.

D: Your visit to Madrid has coinciced with the Spanish bailout. What do you suggest?

Y. M.: My piece of advice is to withstand and organize yourselves in a horizontal and international net. The Spanish State may reach interesting situations, in a social and political way, avoiding the Greek stages.

[This interview was originally published in Spanish on June 14th 2012]


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