How can Schäuble lecture us on Europe while, behind the pro-European rhetoric, austerity is really tearing the continent and its people ever further apart?
WE ARE ALL P.I.I.G.S.
On Wednesday at 7.15pm, the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble will come to the European University Institute in Florence, Italy to give a lecture on “Europe – economic and institutional perspectives”. Schäuble is one of the main protagonists of the neoliberal right that is imposing the logic of austerity and cuts on the whole of Europe – and particularly on Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain – as a supposed solution to the Eurozone crisis.
As researchers and workers of the EUI, a European institution in every sense, we cannot stand quietly by in the presence of one of the architects of the social butchery currently destroying the lives of millions of European citizens. We are now seeing the mechanisms of this destruction: cuts to education, health and welfare; attacks on workers’ rights; the limitation of democratic sovereignty and the passing over of parliaments in deference to the will of financial institutions.
How can Schäuble lecture us on Europe and its “perspectives”, while austerity, behind the pro-European rhetoric, is in reality tearing the continent and its people further apart, in a race to the bottom that makes us Europeans poorer and weaker?
Since 2008, Europe has been facing a crisis that is undermining what is left of its social model and of our chance of a future, while the so-called solutions imposed by European and international institutions and national governments have been making things worse and worse. In terms of effects on our everyday lives, it has even become difficult for us Europeans to distinguish between the crisis on the one hand, and the austerity which is supposed to solve the crisis on the other.
Who is making our friends and families lose their jobs? Who is cutting our funds for research and knowledge? Who is emptying representative institutions of any democratic character? Is it the crisis or is it the supposed solution to the crisis?
We know that there is no difference, because the crisis is not a natural fact, but the result of political choices: this crisis is the crisis of neoliberalism, and therefore neoliberal austerity cannot be the solution. Austerity, in reality, is not the solution to the crisis, but an attempt to make a profit out of it: the same banks and transnational financial elites that generated the crisis are now earning profits on the Greek and Irish “bailouts”, on the Italian bonds, on every supposed “rescue package” that the ECB and IMF put in place.
Furthermore, the crisis and austerity provide a good frame through which to justify an unprecedented attack on what is left of the European social model. This is something that the neoliberal right and the transnational financial elites have been waiting for for decades: the chance to make socially acceptable the kinds of extreme anti-social measures that in other circumstances would be seen as the pipe dreams of fringe ideologues. Things like banning deficit spending in national constitutions, demolishing collective bargaining, and privatising education, health and welfare.
We will welcome Schäuble with a peaceful and determined protest, making visible in the EUI the opposition and resistance to austerity that millions of Europeans have been engaging in in city streets and squares across the continent over the past year. We, as researchers and workers of the EUI, feel compelled to denounce what is happening and to exploit the privilege of personally facing one of Europe’s butchers in order to tell him what millions of Europeans would like to tell him.
We do not accept the blackmail of austerity: we are all PIIGS, we are all Portuguese, all Irish, all Italian, all Greek, all Spanish, and all brothers and sisters of every human being who loses their job, income and rights because of policies that are guided not by the public interest, but by the profit margins of big finance.
We refuse the ‘TINA’ narrative and its increasingly breathless mantra that “There Is No Alternative!”, we denounce neoliberal austerity as not neutral, but socially, politically and nationally partisan, and we claim the right and duty, as part of an academic community of social scientists, to engage in the collective task of finding alternative routes to a future based on social justice, democracy and equality, and to participate in the global struggle against the zombie neoliberalism that seeks to turn crisis into its own opportunity.