GUE/NGL study days in Athens 2th – 4th June
Tuesday, June 2nd “Periphery Debts: Causes, consequences and solutions”
3rd panel: “Standing with the Greeks for a European Alternative”
Barbara Spinelli’s speech (Versione italiana)
Ever since the crisis has affected Europe we got used to say that the Union has utilised Greece as a guinea-pig. (This is perhaps the reason why the term “Pig-countries” is used…) The guinea-pig needed to be subjected to an intensive therapy of austerity measures and the treatment had to be administered by a powerful oligarch – the trojka – which presented itself as a European entity, even federal, despite its inter-national nature due to the inclusion of the Monetary Fund. The existence of a “Greek laboratory” has been fully confirmed by the negotiations that started between Syriza on one side and the Union and the Monetary Fund on the other side, since the party won the elections on January 25.
Now it is time to examine in depth the current situation. We need to understand the root causes that generated this five-year “experimentation”, its purpose and what it can tell us about Europe. The aim of the experiment is getting clearer: a technical-political oligarchy is currently using Greece to enhance its own disciplinary power in the Union, by testing a specific – de-constitutionalised and de-parliamentarised – model of democracy. I would like to focus on this de-constitutionalisation, in order to understand why these experimenters continue to support not only the need, but the effectiveness of their test, while being aware of the fact that the effectiveness of the cure is more than dubious and that the Union is actually falling apart. In 2013 the Monetary Fund for the first time confessed that its estimates regarding the effects of austerity on growth and occupation were wrong, and yet the IMF too is sticking to its doctrines.
From the point of view of EU authorities, the experiment has been successful since it reached its primary target. Democracies and national constitutions are gradually eroded and, most important, universal suffrage is becoming an annoying variable that can be bypassed or sacrificed. In the hierarchy of priorities, effectiveness and governability are replacing representativeness, and this coup de main is made possible by the identification of national sovereignty with popular sovereignty. As a consequence, the ever-increasing loss of national sovereignties since the two world wars drags citizens’ sovereignty into the abyss. This collapse of national sovereignties is generally presented as a precondition for a federal development of the Union, but a Federation is far from being a reality. Therefore, sovereignty simply evaporates and the powers which rule globalisation – hastily called markets – prevail.
In a truly federal union, the negotiations between Athens and the European Union would rest on a totally different basis. In an European “agorà”, the arguments presented by the Greek government would count, and prevail on the power of each single State. In a Federation, a Member State would not be punished for its debt by way of its exclusion from the federal institutions and their currency. Federations do exist in order to avoid precisely this risk.
The fact is that Europe is experiencing an extraordinary regression and this is the real ongoing experiment. The Greek case is used in order to question the post-war idea that Europe could prevail on the old balance of nationalist powers – a balance of power which caused the world wars of the last century – in two ways: first, by creating a permanent solidarity bond among the States, while preserving popular sovereignty as the basis of constitutional democracies and, second, by turning the fight against poverty (Welfare) into the cornerstone of the new Community. The new oligarchic Europe, which is flourishing through the crisis, is led by a “postnational federalism of the executives” – quoting Habermas – and this Directory is responsible for the entropy we are facing: Parliaments are progressively disempowered and European unity is gradually losing its political dimension, if not disappearing.
The entropy of the European Union is not a new condition. It started in the 70’s, when the Trilateral Commission entrusted three political analysts with the task of drafting the vademecum of the de-constitutionalised democracy in order to make democracy “governable”. I am speaking about the report written in 1975 by Michel Crozier, Samuel Huntington e Joji Watanuki, titled «The crisis of democracy ». Today there is much debate on managed democracy, talking about Putin’s autocracy. The truth is that we ourselves are living under forced administration. What we are facing is a revival – that’s the reason why I spoke about an “extraordinary regression” – of the nineteenth-century aggression against universal suffrage which raged when Great Britain decided to gradually extend the right to vote. Such extension was the enemy to destroy, since it jeopardised the old establishment. Approximately at that time, the same approach was adopted against the first hesitant attempts aimed at introducing Welfare rules which ought to stem social damages created by the industrial liberal revolution. Both enfranchisement and welfare did represent a threat for the “protected” élite and, consequently, for the authority of governments.
The Greek case reveals that Europe is not in construction but, on the contrary, in de-construction. The orthodoxy on which the de-construction is grounded remains untouched, since it represents a political theology: no single element of the dogma can be be questioned without contesting the power apparatus which enunciated it. The infallibility of the dogma is intrinsically linked to the permanence of that power apparatus. For this reason, something is rotten in the State of Europe.
Finally, something is rotten in the creation and management of the euro too. And once again we find the same mistake: Europe decides to unify an important sector – the currency, or one day the defence – without creating at first a political unity as well as a democratic constitution which allow citizens to exercise control over the newly deployed super-national sovereignties. Despite its ongoing failure, the model is proposed over and over again by Europe, which deems it the most “pragmatic” hence the most effective. It is actually the most destructive model, as already stated in 1971 by the economist Nicholas Kaldor – repeatedly quoted by Yanis Varoufakis – when speaking about the economic and monetary union (the so-called Werner Plan) proposed at that time. His words are prophetic: «Some day the nations of Europe may be ready to merge their national identities and create a new European Union – the United States of Europe. (…) This will involve the creation of a “full economic and monetary union”. But it is a dangerous error to believe that monetary and economic union can precede a political union or that it will act – in the words of the Werner report – ‘as a leaven for the evolvement of a political union which in the long run it will in any case be unable to do without’. For if the creation of a monetary union and Community control over national budgets generates pressures which lead to a breakdown of the whole system it will prevent the development of a political union, not promote it».
His words should be reminded to those who like to imagine the future European “governance” while congratulating themselves for the current political choices. I would like to mention in this context the speech delivered on March 26 by Mario Draghi at the Italian Parliament. Quite rightly, he asserts that the original flaw of the common currency has consisted in the creation, as a first step, of rules – economic and financial, fatally ignored as he says by the majority – instead of common institutions (I assume federal institutions). Hence his wish: “replace a system grounded on rules with a different system based on stronger institutions”.
At first sight, his wish echoes Kaldor’s words. Actually, it doesn’t echo them at all. For the ECB President, the economic and financial rules did in no way cause the “breakdown of the whole system” as predicted by Kaldor; in fact, he still has an extremely high opinion of them. That’s why he concludes his speech by stating that if we want a more political union “we must, in the first place, abide by the rules currently in force”. Here is the vicious circle that preserves the status quo. The “stronger” institutions are apparently supposed to legitimise and glorify rules whose effects have already and in the most conspicuous way proved catastrophic: «Only by respecting rules – in the words of Draghi – we can build the necessary mutual trust for establishing future institutions». The relationship between Greece and Europe has extensively proven that such vision of things is not so much delusional as it is deceitful.