Interview mit Fabio in der griechischen Tageszeitung "Epohi"

Oct 13th, 2014

Fabio De Masi im Interview mit Dimitris Givisis in der griechischen Tageszeitung Epohi zur Eurokrise, der europäischen Austeritätspolitik und die neue europäische Linksfraktion. Das Interview ist in englischer Sprache.

Διαγραφή του χρέους και φορολόγηση του πλούτου

The voices against Merkelʼs politics have become more and more, recently. How do you think this situation will develop?

Merkel is still quite unimpressed by economic depression. She wants to "starve the beast" as the iron lady Margaret Thatcher once said. The crisis is welcome to break the back of trade unions and to destroy the welfare state. Merkel will only back down if she faces political opposition. If social democracy continues to accept Merkel's lead on austerity as in Germany and now even in France they will be destroyed as in Greece. However, while in Greece an alternative to austerity has developed with Syriza, in France the right wing is on the rise.

The crisis in the Eurozone is deepening. Big countries like France and Italy face huge problems. What are your thoughts about that?

I am not surprised. You don't need to be an economist to understand what is happening in Europe. Private households try to deleverage their debts and the state is imposing austerity. Confronted with a widespread lack of demand businesses will not invest. As the economy collapses, public debt to GDP levels increase and even more households and companies default on their loans. We need public investment to break this vicious cycle. The ECB could finance public investment as opposed to simply pumping liquidity into banks. The latter do not lend to the real economy due to the bad economic prospects and the toxic assets in their balance sheets. The money for those much needed investments should not come from ever more spending cuts, but from fair taxes on skyrocketing fortunes of the wealthy. European millionaires together hold 17 trillion euros, far more than the total public debt of all 28 EU member states of around 11 trillion euros.

The German economy is also facing problems because of low demand. How can this problem be encountered?

Germany is no economic miracle. Our growth rate was 0.4 per cent last year and recently we slipped into recession. Germany needs higher wages and also more public investment. Our universities, roads and public transport are in dire shape. Such a programme would benefit the majority of people in Germany and hence enjoy public support. It would be a win-win situation since the rest of Europe would benefit as well from German imports. At the same time, it would give Southern European countries the necessary breathing space to develop a sovereign industrial policy beyond housing and tourism.

Everybody says that the target is to put Europe in a recovery perspective. However, a lot of European economies are bound to the debt. What would you say about this?

Some economists argue that debt is not a problem per se, as every euro of debt is also somebody's wealth. I disagree. It makes a huge difference whether the Greek nurse has to service the debt and hence cut back on private consumption or the family Onassis. Debt becomes a problem if you owe too much debt to foreigners. Greece simply couldn't tax the German or French banks and wealthy. It gets worse if your central bank - the ECB - behaves like a foreign central bank and is not willing to service debts. Hence, for countries such as Greece there is no alternative to get rid of illegitimate debt. However, we should be aware that debt restructuring needs international mechanisms and central bank support in order to avoid punishment from capital markets. Further, the Greek debt is not anymore held by German and French banks but by European taxpayers. Hence, we can only win public support if we complement debt restructuring with taxation of the oligarchy.

How do you see the dynamic/perspective of GUE/NGL after the elections?

The left has a common struggle to fight across Europe. I feel the diversity of GUE/NGL - from the communist party of Portugal, Spanish Podemos to Syriza and Nordic Green parties - is a strength not a weakness. We have different conditions in member states. GUE/NGL may contribute to a competition of best practices among the left.

How can a strong block against neoliberalism be formed, at a European level? What kind of strategy should the European Left have towards this direction?

We have to do both. Our struggles are still domestic struggles since we cannot afford to buy train tickets to Brussels if the deals are made in Berlin, Paris and London. However, if Syriza will govern in Greece the political and economic elites will strike back and try to punish the electorate. They want to teach the people of Europe a lesson that they shouldn't bank on the left. This is why we need networks of solidarity and support. We started to organise young migrants from Southern Europe in Germany. We also need common campaigns such as against austerity and for a European wealth levy.

Das Interview erschien am 13.Oktober 2014 in der griechischen Tageszeitung Epohi