Merkel’s Neo-Liberal Dream for Europe Will Be Crushed

Austerity is wrong, so much we know and have repeated to each other countless times. We actively remind each other that austerity is destroying public services, massifying poverty and unemployment and imploding the economy, all this while failing to deliver on its promise of solid public or private finances.

In all countries, bail-out programmes have failed miserably, on every parameter and by every standard, doing immeasureable and irreversible damage to these economies. We now know that the academic paper backing the vile economic experiment of austerity was technically flawed. We know austerity to be a successful offensive by the global neo-liberal oligarchy to push forward a massive civilizational retreat towards low-payed, precarious jobs and an inert State.

We know it has led to monumental shifts in the distribution of wealth in society, from the poorest to the wealthiest, but also from the youngest to the oldest. Across the West, the money taken away from public employees, pensioners and the unemployed has been driven in truckloads to the back doors of banks, in the form of loans, recapitalisation and usurous and highly speculative interest on debt.

All this is important, but cannot be taken outside of its context. It is the political context which surrounds austerity which makes it scarier. The hubris displayed by Merkel and her cronies is simply unbearable and obviously antidemocratic. Let us consider a few examples.

Back in November 2011, Van Rompuy travelled to Florence to tell Italy it needed “reforms, not elections”. It was around this time that the Greek Prime Minister’s intentions to hold a referendum were thwarted after huge international pressure. Papandreou, then Prime Minister, was called “disloyal” by then leader of the Euro-Group, Jean-Claude Juncker, had all financing frozen and was threatened with getting the boot from the Euro and perhaps the EU.

More recently, Angela Merkel told Cyprus not to ‘exhaust the patience of eurozone partners’, in what was really meant as a warning to the Cypriot government that it’s either her way or the high way. Unafraid of neither hypocrisy nor controversy, Wolfgang Schäuble, German Minister of Finance, called it ‘irresponsible’ that the Greek people should want some compensation for the €164 billion (£140 billion) that Germany owes to them in war reparations and forced war loans.

As if all that wasn’t enough, yesterday (22nd April), Angela Merkel spoke once more about her plans to dominate Europe, asking euro zone member-countries to prepare to cede sovereignty and accept Europe’s word as the last word, even if it is an opressing word. It is her will that all other European states become protectorates of Brussels, or perhaps Berlin.

It is quite clear to me that the surging popular resistance to austerity is scaring them. By ordering the South of Europe into poverty, Merkel has broken the key bond of solidarity which held together an ample consensus for integration across Europe. That consensus is now broken.

It is now unacceptable to accept further integration, which is needed, under the premise that one day we can transform it to be beneficial to the average Joe and Jane. Further European integration needs to benefit ordinary Europeans, not just European bankers and bureaucrats on the gravy train. But alack, that is not the kind of integration being offered by Merkel. Yesterday’s statements remove all doubts that the integration she intends for Europe is imperialistic. The unity she wishes to craft in Europe is through force and fear. So far she has succeeded.

The biggest obstacle to finding an alternative to austerity is not the actual economics, which are nevertheless complicated, but making it credible before the prevalent collective hysteria. We’re afraid to stand up – to the bond markets, to the rating agencies, to the EU – when they deliberately seek to harm and impoverish us. We’re afraid of the repercussions of an alternative, progressive strategy. We’re afraid that we might be kicked out of the Euro or the EU, placing our economies under even greater strain. The greatest task ahead for the European Left to free Europe from the neo-liberal project is none other than to unshackle the people of Europe from the chains of fear. Our priority task is to lead Europe to a cathartic exclamation of ‘Yes, We Can’!

The neo-liberal project is self-destructing, by turning Europe against the Europeans. As Napoleon and the Roman Empire before him learned, violence – economic as well as military – is no way to unite an Empire, specially not in Europe. We can see it in the marching masses of Athens, Madrid and Lisbon. This is our opportunity to reclaim the dream of a Social Europe, so eloquently shared by Jacques Delors 30 years ago. The European neo-liberal dream will be crushed. The only question is when and at what cost.

Miguel Costa Matos is former National Student Coordinator and current member of the National Arbitration Committee of the Portuguese Young Socialists.