UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 16 May 2011

ETUC holds Congress as Social Europe falls apart at the seams

The ETUC Congress, which is held every 4 years, opens today in Athens. Proceedings will be dominated by the austerity measures implemented by Governments across Europe which are all, regardless of their notional differences as conservatives, liberals or social democrats, committed to neo liberal policy prescriptions of draconian cuts in public services, pay, pensions and social security: http://www.etuc.org/a/8588

The tide is out on the ETUC’s much vaunted Social Europe. However some delusions die hard. As argued by US academics Michael Hudson and Jeffrey Sommers in their recent article in spectrezine (the on line radical journal of the European Left) the financial press and neoliberal policymakers have used the economic crisis to counterattack ‘using the “Baltic Tigers” as an exemplary battering ram to counter Keynesian spending policies and the Social Europe model envisioned by Jacques Delors’:

‘The basic problem is whether it is desirable for economies to sacrifice their growth and impose depression – and lower living standards – to benefit creditors. Rarely in history has this been the case – except in a context of intensifying class warfare. So what will Latvians, Greeks, Irish, Spaniards and other Europeans do as their labor is crucified by “internal devaluation” to shift purchasing power to pay foreign creditors?

What is needed is a reset button on the EU’s economic and fiscal philosophy. How Europe handles this crisis may determine whether its history follows the peaceful path of mutual gain and prosperity that economics textbooks envision, or the downward spiral of austerity that has made IMF planners so unpopular in debtor economies.

Is this the path that Europe will embark on? Is it the fate of the Jacques Delors’ project of a Social Europe? Was it what Europe’s citizens expected when they adopted the euro?

There is an alternative, of course. It is for creditors at the top of the economic pyramid to take a loss. That would restore the intensifying GINI income and wealth (equality) coefficients back to their lower levels of a decade or two ago. Failure to do this would lock in a new kind of international financial class extracting tribute much like Europe’s Viking invaders did a thousand years ago in seizing its land and imposing tribute in the form of land. Today, they impose financial charges as a post-modern neoserfdom that threatens to return Europe to its pre-modern state.’