Serge Halimi | Europe’s wakeup call

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Serge Halimi in Le Monde Diplomatique | Europe’s wakeup call

The economic, and democratic, crisis in Europe raises questions. Why were policies that were bound to fail adopted and applied with exceptional ferocity in Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Greece? Are those responsible for pursuing these policies mad, doubling the dose every time their medicine predictably fails to work? How is it that in a democratic system, the people forced to accept cuts and austerity simply replace one failed government with another just as dedicated to the same shock treatment? Is there any alternative?

The answer to the first two questions is clear, once we forget the propaganda about the “public interest”, Europe’s “shared values” and being “all in this together”. The policies are rational and on the whole are achieving their objective. But that objective is not to end the economic and financial crisis but to reap its rich rewards. The crisis means that hundreds of thousands of civil service jobs can be cut (in Greece, nine out of ten civil servants will not be replaced on retirement), salaries and paid leave reduced, tranches of the economy sold off for the benefit of private interests, labour laws questioned, indirect taxes (the most regressive) increased, the cost of public services raised, reimbursement of health care charges reduced. The crisis is heaven-sent for neoliberals, who would have had to fight long and hard for any of these measures, and now get them all. Why should they want to see the end of a tunnel that is a fast track to paradise?