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Debt Tribunal and Green Socialism

by Mario Candeias and Andreas Willnow Wednesday, May. 23, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Qualitative growth, breaking out of the box of quantitative growth, is the key to solving mass unemployment, environmental destruction and trade imbalance. A job in education costs 1/10 what a job in a chemical dye plant costs. The media is part of a system that refuses change.


By Mario Candeias

[This article published December 18, 2011 is translated from the German on the Internet

In 2007, Mario Candeias wrote an important article “The Party is Over.”]

With the intensification of the Maastricht criteria in the so-called EuroPlus pact, neoliberal principles are again fixed institutionally. [1] This has already deepened the crisis in the European periphery and driven Greece into a depression without permanently reducing the debts. Rather the debts grow on account of the shriveling of the economy and tax revenues. As expected, Europe moves into a recession – a failed bailout of Greece could expand into a global financial crisis. Banks and corporations were bailed out at the expense of the general public. The debt- and banking crisis should now again be paid for by those with the least responsibility for this crisis. We (Rosa Luxemburg foundation) have often reported on this in detail.

How can the debt crisis be tackled politically by the left? The debate is mostly abstract and technical. The transactions on the financial markets are hard to understand. Proposals for bailout umbrellas, Eurobonds, capital holding requirements, re-regulation, financial transactions tax, capital- and assets-taxes, separation of normal commercial banking and investment banking, prohibition of short-selling, controls on capital transactions and economic governance are all far removed from everyday understanding. Many detailed initiatives on the re-regulation of the financial markets and the reduction of debts have been presented by the left, for example by the RLS [2], Weed ]3], the Bundestag fraction of Die Linke (the Left Party) [4] and ver.di [5]. AQ politicization must begin outside the box. The protests of the outraged and of Occupy are important.


Must debt service be rendered to those financial institutions still to be rescued by the state? Aren’t these debts illegitimate in large part? [6] A debt tribunal as in Ecuador (or for Iraq in 2003) will discuss this in democratic consultation and decision-making processes.

In 2007 Ecuador established the first official government auditing commission on foreign debts (“Auditoria”). After a very critical report in which many of these debts were termed “illegitimate” and non-payment was urged, the left5ist government of Rafael Correa emphasized their unreasonableness and lowered the debt service from 38 percent of the state budget in 2006 to 11.8 percent in 2010. In a countermove, the social investments and building infrastructure institutions should greatly increase.

Which debts should be paid? How much should be spent on debt service and investments? This is not only a problem of the peripheral states. Isn’t a general debt cut necessary (not only for Greece) comparable to a monetary reform? This goes beyond appeals for solidarity with Greece and immediately joins together common interests. In conjunction with a more just tax policy obligating capital and the well-to-do to finance public necessities more strongly, redistribution could be reversed and possibilities opened up for another policy. A bailout package for a new social security for everyone instead of private care, two-class medicine and child care is necessary in the sense of a comprehensive idea of a social Europe with common minimum standards and transnational social rights. Redistribution is an essential prerequisite of all leftist policy.

A gradual socialization of the investment function is necessary. Who really decides over the use of resources in society? What works are socially necessary? The market is described as the most efficient allocation mechanism for investments. The neoliberal credit- and financial system gathers isolated capital (latent productive money). However the market does not succeed any more in guiding capital to adequate productive investments. Instead it produces the over-accumulation of capital, waves of speculative bubbles followed by destruction of capital and jobs while ever larger areas of social reproduction (for example education, training, environment restoration, fighting hunger, infrastructures and public services) lie fallow or are economized to their ruin.

The investment function must also become a public task with the socialization of system-relevant banks beyond international financial regulation. A network of public banks must be built. Participative budgets must be gradually introduced on all planes. Socialization of participative decisions about investments is a prerequisite of social reorganization. What is the goal of reorganization?


The private economy has failed, especially in the transportation- and energy sectors, in the ecological restructuring of production and employment security. This should be remedied in ecological modernization occurring within the logic of boundless exploitation and growth. A social-ecological transformation of production and the way of life is necessary through maintaining the general and public character of the natural commons and other fundamental reproduction conditions (public goods) and building collective inexpensive or free public services (for example building a free OPV instead of supporting auto companies), not through commodification and privatization of natural resources. No green capitalism! We champion a green socialism that focuses on public necessities, re-communalizes central infrastructures and makes democratic decisions through reconstruction of the modes of production and consumption. Energy democracy is vital, not an energy turn prescribed from above and driven by corporations. De-centralized communal solutions are crucial, not false solutions like Deseretec, CCS, offshore wind-parks etc.

Developing just transitions is urgently necessary so a perspective is offered to those most impacted by the climate crisis and for employees, communities and territories threatened by rising costs (for example of the energy turn)and reconstruction (for example of industrial conversion). Criteria for such just transitions should be discussed on a trial basis. All measures should be evaluated whether they (a) contribute to lowering CO2 emissions, (b) reduce poverty and vulnerability, (c) reduce income and other inequalities, (d) promote employment and good work and (e) promote democratic participation of individuals. The list of criteria could certainly be expanded. However these are central points for a first method of quantities judgment. There can be no transformation without redistribution from top to bottom and from private to more public finances. Conversely, there can be no real improvement of the situation of the lower strata of society throu9gh alms without social-ecological transformation. All this can only happen through strong democratic participation, not in an elitist and authoritarian way.

Reorientation to reproductive needs is central for a social-ecological transformation. This means transforming our growth-oriented capitalist economy into a “reproduction economy” that is limited and at the same time creates new wealth. Reproduction here means on one hand concentrating on building a need-oriented solidarity “care economy,” social infrastructures of public health, care, education, training, research, social services, food (sovereignty) and protection of our natural environment. These are central needs in which deficiencies have been decried for years. These are the only areas in which employment is growing in industrial nations. While 200,000 jobs in the metal- and electronic industries were lost in the crisis (FTD 1/31/2010), 122,000 were created in the health- and social sectors (FTD 2/1/2010). This could be a contribution to the ecologizing of our production method (since work with people involves less environmental destruction), to the resolution of the risks of labor and reproduction and to the emancipative formation of gender relations through the focus on reproductive functions. Thus a green socialism is feminist. With the domestic orientation, the partial tendency to de-globalization and regionalization of the economy would also reduce export-fixation and imbalances of the balance of payments. Keeping these areas public and not abandoning them to the market is crucial. In the medium term, such a reproduction economy means that needs and the economy develop qualitatively and no longer quantitatively in material growth. In the short-term, a just transition means that other branches grow while certain branches must shrivel with relative uncoupling from material growth. Such a qualitative growth is necessary on account of the deficits in many areas of reproduction. This is true above all for countries of the global South. On ideas of growth and modernization, debates around Buen Vivir (the good life) and social and ecological ways of development in the global South go beyond western ways of life.

The public must be developed in the sense of a caring economy by a democratization of the state. The well-meaning paternalistic and patriarchal Fordist welfare state, the authoritarian state socialism and a neoliberal reconstruction of public services to competition and operational efficiency were not emancipative. Thus a leftist state project must expand participative possibilities and transparency (up to absorption of the state in the civil society as Gramsci said). Decisions about budgets and finances must be democratized. Participative budgets, regional councils, participative planning processes and Consultas Populares are practical initiatives. The crisis of representation and legitimation of the political system has much to do with ignoring essential needs of the population and denying their collaboration. Therefore the redefinition and redistribution of socially necessary work is vital (4-in-1-perspective) – not through extension of goods-oriented paid labor but through reduction of gainful working hours and expansion of collective, publically-financed labor oriented in efficiency as a contribution to human development and the wealth of all-round relations and not in the production of surplus value. For what do we want to use our social resources, what do we regard as an indispensable foundation that should be available to everyone free of charge or inexpensively and what must be used communally should be debated and discussed together as near to everyday life as possible.

More than anyone else, members of The Left party (Die Linke) are advocates of forms of direct democracy. Here the feeling of those who are below that foreign opposing powers control them and their strong need for participation join the solidarity libertarian middle class. Real democracy is imperative, not a little green citizen involvement.

The democratization of the economy is crucial, not only the public nature of the state. Politics should largely keep out of the economy, it was said for years. However the “benefits” of management and shareholder value concepts in business management are increasingly questioned in view of short-term thinking, financial crisis, exorbitant manager salaries, tax evasion, bankruptcies and mass layoffs. Classical joint-determination cannot adequately counter the pressure of transnational competition and finance-dominated controls and sometimes falls into entanglements of collaboration and corruption. Redistribution of wealth through stagnating real wages and social benefits favoring corporations and the well-to-do encouraged enormous over-accumulation that led to the financial crisis. Thus it is time for a democratization of the economy going beyond classical joint-determination, for a genuine participation of employees, unions, the population/consumers and other stakeholders in business decisions (along the whole transitional production chain).

Insecurity, short-term orientation and deficient joint conversation block productivity, creativity and development of individuals and society. Inadequate joint conversation makes difficult the conversion of the economy to a social-ecological production method. Only the left wants to advance the democratization of all social areas with economic democracy. Such a society joins freedom and security, a society in which the free development of each person is the condition for the free development of everyone in harmony with ecological conditions.


By Andreas Willnow

[This article published in: Neues Deutschland 10/29/2011 is translated from the German on the Internet. Dr. Andreas Willnow, 34, studied economics and focused on environmental-economic themes. He is a member of the Rosa Luxemburg foundation and has published on the 2007/8 financial crisis.]

Debt cut, Eurobonds and financial market regulation represent an alternative program for the Euro zone. The public discussion on the right way to master the Euro crisis takes an interesting turn. This is the right time to finally reflect on better alternatives.

For several months, the Project of the European Monetary Union has been under pressure. The debt crisis of Greece and other Euro states is in the center of public interest. Thus the German economic weekly “Wirtschaftswoche” wrote already in January 2010: “Increasing debts, lacking will to reform, dwindling competitiveness – the financial crisis reveals the weaknesses of the monetary union. How long can the Euro hold out?

As everybody knows, opinions in politics and academia differ greatly on the causes of the crisis. Hans-Werner Sinn, director of the Munich ifp Institute for Economic Research considers the high indebtedness and the poor budget discipline of southern European countries as the causes of the Euro crisis and therefore describes the crisis as a “crisis of state indebtedness.” Owing to the falling interests and the investment protection expected in the Euro system, a credit-financed upswing occurred in southern European countries in which people lived above their means and became heavily indebted.

Leftist-alternative politicians and economists who charge the neoliberal Lisbon strategy of the EU aiming at growth and competitiveness with the main responsibility for the crisis are nearer reality. Thus Sebastian Dullien, professor at the Academy for Technology and Economy in Berlin, insisted the increasing state indebtedness in the crisis countries is the consequences of other malformations like over-indebtedness in private households and banks and macro-economic imbalances and is not the cause of the Euro crisis.

Correspondingly Germany through its strong export industry is one of the main causal agents of the imbalances and one of the main profiteers of the present financial crisis. With its balance of payments surplus, Germany contributes to other countries like Greece buying German goods and not producing and buying their own goods. The German economy inflicts damage to itself and not only to neighboring European countries so no high aggregate economic growth rates were attained for many years through the export-oriented growth rates. With the collapse of economic growth, this policy contributed to a subsequent rise of indebtedness in the southern European PIGS states (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain).

Politics in the EU states reacts helplessly to the expanding crisis. The resolutions of the heads of state and government in the Euro zone intensify the conditions for Greeks and support an exchange of Greek securities for securities with longer running times and a voluntary creditor waiver on claims against Greece. This policy proves increasingly disastrous. An austerity policy dictated for Greece cannot solve the crisis but only deepens it.


Germany must expand its one-sided growth model based only on export-surpluses and adopt a policy that supports domestic demand. Employees in Germany must share more strongly in the growth of the gross domestic product and in future wage development. Heike Joebges, professor at the Academy for Technology and Economy in Berlin, emphasizes Germany must desist from its strict export orientation. The PIGS states can only drive back their high indebtedness with higher growth rates via demand and economic impulses if Germany reduces its export surpluses.

Firstly, a consistent debt cut is necessary where creditors must cancel 50 to 70 percent of their claims from their books. Greece would not have to pay back any loans any more or pay any interests any more. Funds, insurances, finance corporations and private persons that lend money to the Greek state must contribute to the debt cancellation of the country and bear billions of shortfalls. With such a solution, the Greek state would be free of a large part of its debts in one blow and the economy could redevelop. No 100 percent debt cut is possible since Greek and other European banks with a trifling capital holding would fall into a crisis.

In the past, similar problems were solved through a devaluation of the national currency. However a collapse of the Euro zone cannot be the goal of responsible politics. Cheapening Greek exports and making Greece’s economy more competitive are not possible with restrictions on Greece’s domestic devaluation and on a devaluation of wages and prices around 20 percent in the Euro zone. With an inner devaluation, Greece’s debt burden could rise again because its loans would be in Euros. Nevertheless this could be a possible way while a complete debt cancellation is pursued simultaneously.

The introduction of community loans, the so-called Eurobonds, is not popular in Germany because solvent Euro countries would be burdened and Germany would have to pay higher interests to its creditors. A deepening of the Euro crisis cannot be avoided with introduction of Eurobonds. On the other hand, the approach of tackling debt problems through an “inflationizing” should be excluded since this policy would only burden the little people.

An assets tax on the rich should be demanded since mammoth assets have grown in the Euro zone and not only the state debts. Concretely the state should levy a one-time assets tax to skim off the assets of the top ten thousand and simultaneously remove a part of the state debts to remedy the financial crisis. The state could recover 80 billion Euros annually with a millionaires’ tax of five percent. In addition a stronger regulation and taxation of the financial sector that caused the crisis are vital. But no effective regulation of the financial markets has occurred contrary to all promises. The prohibition of high risk financial businesses, prohibition on all short-selling and strengthening of public banking oversight should be demanded. Politicians of nearly all parties urge introduction of a financial transactions tax. When will this demand be finally carried out?


In the last days, public discussion has taken an interesting turn. Some experts in academic and politics are convinced many banks would fall into a crisis in case of Greece’s bankruptcy on account of momentous capital-holding and solvency problems. The banks must be supported so the debt crisis does not lead to a general conflagration of the banking sector. The assumption that Greece’s bankruptcy is consciously delayed to relieve banks and funds is realistic. Banks and private creditors will be allowed to exchange their claims against Greece for more secure investments instead of carrying out a 50 to 70 percent debt cut in which creditors as owners of Greek securities (including many banks and hedge funds) must accept great asset losses.


The financial branch reacts reserved to the comparatively soft demands of the EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso for a considerably higher capital-holding rate for system-relevant commercial banks. Instead the banking houses agreed to “voluntary creditor participation” resolved at the end of July 2011 in which they would accept a charge of 20 percent on the Greek loans. Retracting 50 percent of the demands promised at the EU summit goes in the right direction. The problem remains that a large part of the toxic/junk securities passes into the public authority. The purchased loss becomes the state’s loss and either the tax increases or cuts in social benefits are shifted to employees, pensioners and unemployed or devaluated via the European Central Bank through inflation.

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