EL Summer University 2014: The transformation has to be done in two levels, the national and the European one
The Summer University of the Party of the European Left started with a working day on the issue of Austerity, struggles and left alternatives. Steffen Lehndorff, from Transform! Europe, was in charge of introducing the conference “The impact of crisis and austerity on the European countries”, with a diagnosis of the situation in order to open the debate in different seminars and workshops which took place during the whole afternoon. The diagnosis stressed the base of the illness in “this model of construction of the European Union, with a European currency based on competitiveness, as enterprises, instead of solidarity”.
Steffen Lehndorff argued that in 2010 there were two options to go out of the crisis: the continuation of the the old economic model of competitiveness or the revision of that model. And that last one is the only option for the Left: to shift this currency union in the direction of the solidary union instead of competitiveness. But for that is necessary a powerful Left, working with the trade unions, social movements and the social democracy, which is trapped into the old growth model, the German economist said.
But the neoliberalism of the European Union bet for the austerity with a “silent revolution” based on two pillars: the authoritarian policy and reforms aimed to the deregulation of the markets and the increase of competitiveness. At this point Lehnodorff underlined that no austerity measures would have been implemented if the national governments wouldn´t have supported them. “Greek and Spanish governments have done all the counter-reforms they wanted to implement but they would have been unable to do it on their own. Although Spanish and Greek governments blame Brussels and Germany of the implementation of the austerity in their countries, they have not been victims but willing contributors to that austerity policy”.
Nowadays only Germany and France economies are growing up. But this not applied for the rest of them. The stronger austerity is, the stronger is the crisis and bigger is the debt. If GDP decreases, debt increases. And it provokes a chained reaction with more unemployment, cutting of investment in social services, loosing of rights, of health care, more privatizations…
Spain and Portugal are two representative examples of the dramatic consequences of austerity. Cristina Andrade, from the Bloco de Esquerda, exposed the result of the counter-revolution implemented in Portugal: every day 80 families lose their houses, homeless people increases, incomes decreases, retired people lost 20% of their incomes, citizens have to pay 20 euros when going to hospital, hunger grows by the time stopped with breakfast in schools, electricity rose 10%, university tax rose to 5.000 euros, salaries of public service employees have been cut and people has to migrate. But it is not only a loose of social and working rights: women go back home to care of their families “no as a personal decision but pushed by the austerity”, and the domestic violence advances as also does the conservative thinking.
The Portuguese organised two general strikes and some big mobilisations, but after getting no result people went down under a feeling of resignation. “We need to thing how to fight against this dangerous resignation as the resignation is the strategy to domain countries.”
From the social movement of 15-M, first in Spain, now from Berlin, were she lives Maia García presented an example of how is possible to build up citizen initiatives at the European level. After the ultraconservative Spanish government proposal of law to finish with women right of free abortion, from Berlin they built up a network to allow Spaniards people to have free abortion in different cities of Europe with a network of voluntaries taking care of housing, hospital, transport, etc. in a solidarity alternative. The initiative is a good prove of how movement is able to become more international.
But the austerity policies is not something exclusive of the poorer countries of Southern Europe, nor only of EU countries. Denmark is an example of how the government decided to implement austerity measures in the country. In Sweden they are privatizing the public sector and in Norway they are also applying regressive reforms. Inger V. Johanser, from the Red-Green Alliance of Denmark, explained that the origins of this counter-reform is not in the current crisis, but that they come from the 1990s when these countries tried to adapt to the criteria and the expectations of the European Union. The result is that the Welfare State and the idea of distribution of wealth does no longer exist, sentenced.
The transformation as Steffen Lehnodorff concluded has to be done in two levels, the national one and the European one. In order t achieve this, it is necessary the coordination of struggles and the Summer University is a great place to work towards it.
The Trade´s Union struggles in Europe was one of the seminars of the afternoon, sharing the Spanish, Greek and German experiences among other and looking forward to the way of organizing the European struggle in despite of the difference of situations and union policies in the different countries.
Other seminars were focused on feminist alternatives, economic alternatives and the danger of the transatlantic trade, the TTIP, the consequences in health, services, working rights, agriculture, industry… and the need of launching a strong campaign at European level against it. The alternatives were discussed from the feminist side, as well as the economic one.
If the working day started by a diagnosis of the problem, it ended with a treatment to heal the illness of the liberal system that is running the EU, a treatment based in the new forms of resistance, with the experiences of the indignados in Spain, and the Blockupy in Germany, among others and the paths for coordinating the struggles among social movements, trades union and left parties, but also in the European level.