France: the banks, the parties and the debt

Submitted by AWL on 5 December, 2011 - 4:55

By Yvan Lemaitre (NPA)

The question of debt is at the heart of the [presidential] election campaign. How is it analysed and developed by the different candidates?

The development of the public debt crisis places governments in the eye of the storm. Although they are supposed to uphold the general interest, to “protect” (in Sarkozy’s words) their populations, states appear more and more to be on the side of the banks, the speculators, subject to the decisions of their spokesmen, the ratings agencies. This dependency is such, at the national, European and international level, that, whatever they may say, all the institutions have no choice but to bend to the will of their sponsors. That was the only argument that Sarkozy made in the first TV spot of his campaign, joking about the irony of the Socialist Party accepting this golden rule in Spain only to refuse it in France.

Confronted by the increasing discontent of the great majority of the population, the political parties have difficulty in formulating credible answers after having exhausted tired, demagogic denunciations of the excesses of the markets. Good demagogues that they are, incapable of answering concerns, they pander, one way or another, to nationalist prejudices.

Marine Le Pen, who demagogically opposes “bailing out failed states" supports a “return to national currencies”. Such a policy, far from protecting workers, would imprison them within their own borders, at the mercy of their own bosses, and it would worsen economic and social regression. The ‘sovereignist’, Gaullist right is falling in behind the FN fascists.

For his part, Jean-Pierre Chevènement has not chosen between “changing the rules of the euro game” and “a co-ordinated exit should the euro fail to prevent a default by Greece, Ireland, Spain etc.” Bayrou is trotting out hollow generalities: “the Eurozone is a collective which must be a collective of solidarity…”, and Francois Hollande reproaches Sarkozy: “why wait so long to finally take measures which match the seriousness of the situation? If not to protect a banking sector which ought to have been forced to make sacrifices much sooner”. The hypocrite pretends not to realise that the last Brussels summit only annulled part of the Greek debt in order to help the banks to gather back what they had gambled. Fundamentally he is rallying to Sarkozy’s politics: “Europe must be able to dispose of a deep and powerful stabilization fund, simple and rapid to use. It is the only means to discourage the speculaton and to give back stability to states, to the banking system and to businesses.” He doesn’t see any other way of discouraging the speculators, other than… giving in to them. Without forgetting to brandish the Chinese danger before which Sarkozy is supposed to have capitulated!

As for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, he does not intend to cede to the “German conservatives”. “It’s not complicated: we are the second economy on the continent and we will soon be the biggest population. The euro is our currency and it can’t do anything without us. I will find a majority of states to force the European Central Bank to lend directly to states at a reduced rate. After that, it will be time to demand a redoubling of [economic] activity”, as if it were enough to just say it…

Prisoners of existing institutions, neither the liberal left nor the left which calls itself “antiliberal” dares question the legitimacy of the debt in order to oppose the demagogy of the establishment and of the far right. Putting in place radical measures to come out of the crisis, guaranteeing workers’ rights, immediately ceasing payment of the debt, cancelling the debt, the creation of a public banking service – these things demand the intervention and the control of the people. A break with the institutional order.

Translation by Ed Maltby

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