Injustice and racism across Europe: thanks to capitalism and neo liberalism

Europe has witnessed an increasing privatization process, coupled with a dismantling of the welfare state, which started for over two decades. These processes have been accelerated since the beginning of the financial crisis in September 2008. The logical result of the financial crisis should have been a reassessment of the alleged “positive effects” of the society of capitalism by the masses and the governments. Great hopes rose among many comrades to maybe put an end to the capitalist ideology and change profoundly the economic system. The terrible consequences of neo liberal policies on societies were shown everywhere and were more than clear: people losing their homes, jobs, savings, etc… The rule of the free market has proven to be a failure. The finance-driven economy has brought the economic crisis and has had terrible consequences on the vast majority of the masses who suffered – and are still suffering – enormously from it. The theory that the market could regulate itself was finally proved to be completely wrong, for those who did know it yet, and a change of the economic system was therefore expected.  This was unfortunately the theory: however, quite on the opposite, we have been witnessing a rise of neo-liberal policies across Europe from either right-wing or so called leftist governments. The result is catastrophic all over Europe: social rights are going backwards, while some basic democratic rights are being violated, and at the same time, we can observe a rise in racism in European societies.

First of all, let’s come back to evidence that is never pointed out. The responsible of the crisis, the financial system headed by the banks, was not sanctioned or did not have to compensate the society for the social consequences of its own actions, quite on the opposite they received government assistance and are now back with their billions of benefits. The neo liberals’ supporters used the Keynesian tools and policy by assisting through billions of dollars the banks in order to save and comfort its own liberal system, the State becoming de facto a pivotal actor supporting neo liberalism which it definitely should not be. The Keynesian ideology actually should have made the State the main employer through public investments.  The Banking system and neo liberal supporters were in addition able to suppress any kind of regulation initiatives promoted in the beginning by certain States towards the financial system in order not to prevent economic growth. Therefore, the roots and the causes of the crisis have not been treated, quite on the opposite they have been reinforced, and everything is back on track.   
The burden of the crisis and its costs were not charged on the banks as we observed it, but on the people and the welfare state. Attacks on both actors have therefore been the rule all over Europe. These measures have been linked to rising racism and xenophobia around Europe. One should understand that all these issues, which might seem separated, are linked and reinforce each other. This, in my opinion, can be traced back to the roots of the capitalist system which generates a mad pursuit for profit that governs the system. Let me give you an overview of the neo liberal policies being undertaken in different countries.
In the UK,  Chancellor of the Exquecher George Osborne announced that some 490 000 civil service posts will be suppressed, relying on the private sector to replace those suppressed jobs, something many economists doubt. Unemployment has already reached 7.8% in England. Attacks were also made against higher education. Cuts in higher education would actually have harsh consequences on students if they should come into effect in 2012, with the fee threshold moving to £6,000 with some institutions able to charge £9,000 in ‘exceptional circumstances’. This is a three-fold increase on the current limit of £3,290-a-year and means fees for a three-year degree could hit £27,000. Students could face total debts of £40,000 once living costs are included. The State is actually resigning of its role to deliver education to all; creating a system where only the most privileged would have access to higher education. They also want to assess each department and branches of education to observe their economic profitability, and if a department is not, it should be suppressed or greatly diminish. Education is not only no longer considered as a public good and a human right, but is gauged on its economic profitability. Anyway, what could we expect from a government which is composed of 22 millionaires on 29 ministers, claiming the hand on the heart that “we are all together facing the cuts”. I am quite sure they are not feeling the cuts in public services and education the same way than the British people, but it’s just a feeling… Other financial resources are as well ignored by the government such as the tax area where the firm Vodafone has let off a potential £6bn tax bill.
France, which is now governed by the most right wing government since the Second World War, has been the theatre of increased offensives on social and individual rights. The pension reforms, presented as inevitable by the French government, have brought millions of people to the streets, refusing to see their social rights under attack. The French government claims that postponing the retirement age is the only way to reduce the debt and bring it back to normal. This argument is actually far from the reality and many options are available. Firstly, the French government has taken this decision under the pressure of international financial institutions which hold an important amount of the French debt, which makes the sovereignty of France policy greatly reduced and in certain ways controlled by foreign actors. This is basically what happened all over Europe in countries such as Spain, Greece, Portugal and others, which were forced by Foreign International institutions, very often banks, possessing an important amount of their debts, to practice austerity policy. In the example of Greece, 70% of the debt was in the hands of foreign financial institutions. The result is catastrophic for the people. In Spain, the “socialist” government of Zapatero decided to freeze the pensions, as well as to drop 5% of civil servants salaries, a drop of 37% in public investment and the labor market was reformed disadvantaging workers, while the Spanish Minister, Elena Salgado declaring that the people must expect more sacrifices very soon. In Ireland, the civil servants suffered of a drop of 20% of their salary, while family allocations were reduced of 10%, as well as similar amputation of other social benefits. Many countries have undergone similar cuts in social benefits such as Switzerland where a recent vote weakened and lowered the benefits from the unemployment insurance.
An option for France and the other countries could be to nationalize the debt in order to implement theirown reform policy, far from pressures of financial institutions which threaten them to weaken their rank from AAA to something else on financial markets. Japan’s ratio for instance reaches 200% of the GDP in 2010, whereas Greece had 113%, but the main difference is that 95% of the Japanese debt is held by Japanese themselves. The country is therefore not subordinate to the market and foreign financial institutions. Other solutions are also available, such as broadening the social contribution of dividends and other profit distribution ,which has no impact on costs and hence competitiveness.  This concern over competitiveness is actually the argument often raised by companies, with no basis whatsoever as taxing dividends will only affect them and not investment capacity. Many other solutions are available and could be suggested without attacking people social rights and the welfare state.
A misfortune never coming alone, those attacks on the social rights of the people and the welfare state have been coupled with a rise of racism and xenophobia across Europe. This increase in racism is definitely linked to the rise of precariousness of the populations and the attacks on the welfare state.  In Germany for example, where 4 millions “working poors” are accounted for and where the percentage of workers earning less than two-thirds of the median wage increased from 15.0% to 22.2% from 1995 to 2006, there have been charges against the “multicultural society”, with Angela Merkel dubbing it a failure, while the racist book of Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the SDP, a supposed socio democrat and a former board member of the Bundesbank, believes that Germany is “brutalized” under the burden of Muslim immigrants. An anti Islam campaign was also launched by Horst Seehofer, president of the CSU. In Switzerland, after the vote banning the construction of new minarets, a clear discriminative law against the Muslim community, a new vote is being held at the end of the month to expel foreign criminals from Switzerland. Another discriminative act: for the same crime you are actually condemned differently depending on your nationality. In France, the government decided to expel Roms in total violation of Human Rights Law, as well as against the right for citizens of European Union to circulate freely across Europe.
The attacks on social rights and the welfare state, as well as the rise of racism and xenophobia are consequences of the financial crisis and capitalism. These phenomena also show the failure of the left or so called leftist political parties to present itself as a credible alternative. When populist movements attack foreign communities accusing them of systematically abusing the welfare system or that they are creating insecurity and they are roots of it, where is the left? So called socialist parties could enter the debate in connecting these issues through socio economic reasons and pointing out the injustices impacting such communities. They are absent in many ways. In Germany and France, the SDP and Socialist party are not suggesting any economic alternative platform to the current government. In England, the Labour Party, which is highly discredited, nearly has the same political program as the Tories. Ed Miliband will not change this situation as we can observe it through his own words :  “we must get rid of old ways of thinking and being on the side of those who believe that life does not amount to economic efficiency”. Austerity policy damaging social rights and the welfare state were taken by socio democrat political parties in Greece and Spain.
This dark picture of the so called socialist or socio democrat parties in Europe show how they became heavy and uncreative institutions not producing any new way of thinking to resist the capitalist discourse. The masses and smaller leftist movements nevertheless took the lead to resist neo liberal policies, notably in France where the movement of protestation is very important and strong.  The protesters were actually able to convince the majority of the French population of the rightness of their cause, last surveys showing 70% of support to the strikes in France. In England resistance is starting in Universities and in public services against the cuts, we can now observe gathering between Unions of Workers and Students. 50 000 persons, in great majority students from all over the UK, gathered on the 10th of November to protest against the rise in university fees and the government’s policy more generally. In the other countries also the resistance is organizing and won’t just accept the attacks on their rights. Different sectors of the society are linking their force together creating important social and anti racist movement to protect a welfare, democratic and pluralist state.

In conclusion, another world is possible, as well as another discourse, and I am sorry to tell Professor Fukuyama supporters that this is not the end of History, Neo liberalism is not the end of History. Education, health, work and many other social benefits are RIGHTS AND NOT PRIVILEGES. These latter’s are public goods which should not be assessed in relation to their economic profitability. Nationalization of key sectors of the economy should definitely be on the agenda as a first path to socialism. Europe is entering a dangerous path and we should resist neo liberal policy harming the masses and society as whole, while enriching more few already privileged. Another system is possible, South American has been a model these past few years. In Venezuela, since the arrival to power of Hugo Chavez, poverty has been reduced by half, l real social spending per capita more than tripled, and millions of people now have medical coverage. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that inequality has declined much faster than the rest of the region so that Venezuela is today regarded as the country most egalitarian Latin American. Similar accounts can be made by leftists’ governments in South America demonstrating us that another system is possible. There is an alternative, let’s fight for it.

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