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Re: <nettime> notes from the DIEM25 launch
Alexander Karschnia on Tue, 16 Feb 2016 21:32:55 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> notes from the DIEM25 launch


   Dear Armin,

   I am afraid that the picture you got from the DiEM meeting was
   incomplete: the second of the three sessions during the day-time
   meeting of the "working group" was about economy. The DiEM initiative
   seems inspired by the "modest proposal" that Varoufakis made last year
   together with Stuart Holland Galbraith and James K. Galbraith: the
   bottom-line is that the existing institutions and contracts do not have
   to be changed, but just used in a different way. This
   bottom-line-sentence was repeated by Varoufakis during the evening. In
   that respect, the proposed change is not radical, but very pragmatic,
   reformist: a kind of PERESTROIKA of the EU. Combined with GLASNOST:
   radical about DiEM is the unconditional demand for transparency. Thus
   more important than his "modest proposal" was Varoufakis role as
   "megaphone of the whistle-blowers" since his legendary interview about
   the eurogroup. It is no coincidence that the most pathos that this day
   generated culminated in the repeated demand: "Asylum for Edward
   Snowden! Free Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning!"

   Is it the economy, stupid?

   What is at stake is to understand economy as political economy: to
   re-politicise economy. To fight for the priority of politcs. Autsterity
   is not a natural consequence of economic "mistakes" (and moral
   misbehaviour or cultural differences), but a political project! In this
   respect I would say: it's not the economy, stupid, it's politics. But
   this was not consensus, some of the participant did insist that it  i
   s  the economy and thus what is needed foremost a new social policy:
   return to the national welfare state or the transformation of the EU
   into a European social state? a European basic income? What impressed
   me the most were the activist-trade unionist RIGHT2CHANGE from Ireland
   who had a clear agenda demanding democracy, equality and justice. For
   this goal they did not only manage to mobilize the street in an
   impressive numbers, but also started a huge educational campaign for
   municipalities and working-class communities. These are trade unions of
   the future that transform themselves into political reforming
   catalysts. Compared to them, Hans-Jürgen Urban, the German
   representative of the trade unions, sounded lame and defensive when he
   spoke of "also economic democracy". In earlier days this would have
   been called "socialism". (But while Bernie Sanders is running an
   amazingly successful grass-roots-movement, not denying to be a
   "democratic socialist".) It is obvious that in Europe we do have
   socialism: a "socialism of the rich" which transfers the burden of debt
   from the banks to the shoulders of the citizens. A "recovering banker"
   reminded us that the idea that all debt has to be paid back was quite
   novel. Bankruptcy is part of the game. Capitalism without bankruptcy
   was like catholicism without sin (it keeps us straight). When the
   British banker heard that Ireland would pay back all their debt, they
   couldn't believe their luck! What happens if you don't do that?
   Nothing! Look at Iceland. When the bankers demanded their money back,
   they said: "We don't have any. We can pay you in fish." And then? A few
   years later, they borrowed them money again. It's just like in a bad
   relationship...

   What was consensus among the economists was that there is an
   investement-crisis in Europe. If there was echoes of the past in the
   city of Berlin, than it was the ghost of deflation: deflation is the
   enemy. Not inflation (which is the nightmare of the German government
   and public). It was deflation that paved the way for Hitler, not
   inflation. Thus the German austerity-politics has been called
   "Brüning-politics" by German critics after the infamous chancellor who
   preceded Hitler: It was the same vicious circle of
   austerity-authority-recession that Varoufakis described for the whole
   of Europe. Germanys investment-rate today is the lowest in 40 years -
   that is a huge political scandal! This was said by Varoufakis, but this
   should have been repeated over and over again, because it did not make
   it into the discussion or the media. And because of this
   investment-crisis, wages are too low throughout Europe. But to change
   that, the European trade-unions must "help Hans" (as a campaign by
   French trade-unions called it a few years ago) to return to a struggle
   for higher wages. It seems to me that this is the really difficult part
   and Hans-Jürgen Urban knows this all too well. But as long as the
   trade-unions in Germany do not insist on their RIGHT2CHANGE and start a
   educational campaign, this will not change. The reactions of the
   workers during last year's "Greece crisis" showed that it takes a
   looong way. Too long, I am afraid. We don't have time for a long march.
   Thus it might be smarter, not to use the word "socialism" and fall in
   all these old traps, but to demand democracy NOW. And thus also to
   reach out to liberals and anarchists alike. Of course, it is the
   economy, but economy always means political economy.

   2016-02-15 11:09 GMT+01:00 Armin Medosch <armin {AT} easynet.co.uk>:

     Â  Â hello,
     Â  Â what this discussion shows sofar is the value of this list, nettime. I
     Â  Â was neither there, nor have I listened in to the stream, but I have the
     Â  Â impression that I have a pretty good idea of this meeting by now,
     Â  Â thanks to everyone.Ã
     Â  Â What strikes me as particularly disappointing is that this high-powered
     Â  Â self-selected elite of saviours of EU-Europe have no other policy
     Â  Â proposal than increased transpareny
     Â  Â It's the economy stupid and to bring about any real change the economic
     Â  Â base needs to change, sorry for my vulgar Marxism.
     Â  Â One very concrete proposal how this could happen would be to change the
     Â  Â way how 'quantitative easing' is done. Currently, the ECB is creating
     Â  Â money and uses it to buy government bonds from investment banks, that
     Â  Â is, about 80% of the 60 Billion Euros created monthly by the ECB is
     Â  Â used in that way. This is based on an orthodoxy in current economic
     Â  Â thinking: the separation of monetary policy and fiscal policy.Ã
     Â  Â Now we all know that since 2008 governments have subscribed (in some
     Â  Â cases not entirely voluntarily) to austerity policies that became
     Â  Â necessary after they saved the banking system from collapse.
 <...>

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