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"This is a Cold Putsch Against the Constitution"

by Sahra Wagenknecht Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2013 at 8:44 AM

Sahra Wagenknecht, co-vice president of DIE LINKE (The Left Party) in Germany, is the author of many books and articles on economic justice, the financial transactions tax and creative socialism.

"This Is a Cold Putsch Against the Constitution"
by Sahra Wagenknecht

Bundestag Speech, 29 June 2012

Mr. President! Dear colleagues!

"Billions in taxes have been squandered. Those who bear responsibility revealed themselves to be marionettes. The part of the puppet master was performed by just the type of managers recently spoken of in loftier terms: investment bankers."

What the Handelsblatt wrote about the nationalization of the energy supplier EnBW unfortunately applies also to the European policies of this government: You are acting as marionettes. The puppet masters are the bankers, and the result is treaties in which citizens are short-changed in order to save the wealth of the richest and to keep the financial market casino going. It is telling that the stock markets reacted to yesterday's summit decisions with a display of fireworks.

(Applause from Die Linke)

Europe, may I remind, was once supposed to be a project for peace, democracy, and social welfare, a lesson from the centuries of brutal war and a conscious alternative to that crude capitalism that conjured up the global economic crisis and the bloody fascist dictatorships.

(Heckling from the FDP: Don't forget the communists!)

"To be true to its heirs Europe must embody a new humanism, as a stronghold of human dignity and social justice."

Richard von Weizscker once said this.

(Applause from Die Linke)

The Europe of today that you now want to seal with the second giant bank rescue package and fiscal pact is the exact opposite of this. This Europe is a project for the destruction of democracy and social justice,

(Applause from the Die Linke)

a project for the smashing of employee rights and a project for the reduction of wages and pensions. It is a project of Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley for the plundering of European taxpayers.

You are all collectively responsible that it could come to this. You, Ms. Merkel, and your Black-Yellow coalition (CDU/FDP), for whom obviously no other values exist any longer except those traded on the financial markets and evaluated by the ratings agencies. But also you, ladies and gentlemen of the alleged opposition from the SPD and Greens, who indeed gladly play yourselves up in front of the cameras as critics of the government, but who up to now approved almost every European political outrage of this government -- just as you again have planned for today.

(Applause from Die Linke)

"Please tell me not everything I've learned was in vain," a young woman recently wrote me,

(Heckling from Johannes Kahrs (SPD): Your speech says it!)

who out of enthusiasm for Europe and the European idea spent a year volunteering in Greece and is now returning to Germany. She is appalled by the Greece-bashing, but above all she fears for a country, in which over half of her contemporaries have no job and no prospects, in which pregnant women are turned away from delivery wards if they have no cash, in which retirees grow zucchinis on their balconies because their pensions no longer suffice to provide enough to eat. In the middle of Europe! Yes, Greece had many homemade problems. But the social catastrophe that Greece is suffering through today is not homemade. It is the result of your policies.

(Applause from Die Linke)

Stop clouding reality with lies! You tell us we have a public debt crisis. In fact it is the banking crisis which is driving state debt ever higher, because on the one hand you deploy rescue packages in the billions and erect a giant firewall and on the other hand you refuse to do anything to extinguish the actual source of the fire. This remains a much too extensively deregulated financial sector, which, with the same old irresponsible gambling, always produces further huge losses.

(Applause from Die Linke)

You tell us the crisis in the Southern nations is due to the lack of competitiveness. Spanish industry today actually produces 30 percent less than in 2008. But between 2008 and now Spanish unit labor costs declined by 9 percent. It cannot then be due to this. It is because banks in Spain are ailing and are no longer providing the real economy with credit. It is further due to the fact that for years a brutal program of cutbacks has been underway in Spain that is taking the breathing air out of the economy. We have already experienced exactly the same thing in Greece.

(Applause from Die Linke)

Now, with the fiscal pact, this catastrophic program is to be extended to all of Europe? Do you want to have Greek conditions also in Germany someday? This is madness, Ms. Merkel!

(Applause from Die Linke)

Let's have a look at the numbers. If the fiscal pact is adhered to, in the coming years European states will have to hack over 2,000 billion euros out their budgets, from healthcare, from social services, from education, and from pensions. What then will remain of Europe? Mr. Gabriel (SPD), are you not making yourself laughable, now claiming that it will be counterbalanced in the EU by the extra 10 billion euros for the European Investment Bank and the reallocation of some money?

(Applause from Die Linke)

Whoever wants growth and prosperity in Europe must stop the unspeakable fiscal pact with its dictates for billions in cutbacks. Whoever doesn't do this is pretending. I say this to you very clearly.

(Applause from Die Linke)

There is much to suggest that the planned financial transaction tax will be a sham. Nevertheless Mr. Schuble expects revenue of two billion euros. Just have a look at what the turnover is on the derivative markets. A proper tax would have to generate considerably more.

Ms. Merkel, I also say to you: If you drive European states further into crisis with brutal programs of cutbacks instead of finally making them independent of the usury of the financial markets, with direct credit from the European Central Bank, then you will not go down into history as the Iron Chancellor, but instead as the gravedigger of the euro.

(Applause from Die Linke)

You tell us the fiscal pact will be there to reduce debts. Even this is untrue. If you want to contain the debt explosion, then you must finally stop pumping further billions into the financial sector. But you do not intend that, because parallel to this European austerity pact the Bundestag today will approve the next grave with billions of euros, namely the ESM.

You recently approved a supplementary budget in which 8 billion euros were provided for the first transfer to the large new bank rescue package. I would not want to calculate for you how you could improve the living conditions and educational opportunities of children of Hartz-IV families with this 8 billion. Take a look at the situation in German councils, cities, and communes. Libraries, swimming pools, and elementary schools are being closed due to sums that in comparison to this 8 billion are laughably small. The councils have been without money for years. For the children you have no money. But you obviously have endless billions to rescue the banks. At least stop speaking about saving! You are not at all saving. You are squandering billions.

(Applause from Die Linke)

You take from the one to give to the other. I do not call this saving, but redistribution.

Who actually profits from this redistribution can be clearly seen in Greece. At the start of its supposed rescue, Greece had a debt of 300 billion euros for which banks, hedge funds, and wealthy private investors were liable. Now Greece has a debt of 360 billion euros, but, of this, 300 billion is now the liability of European taxpayers. Incidentally, this example also shows what happened with the alleged aid money. It does not go to Greek pensioners but to the European financial mafia.

Spain is now supposed to receive up to 100 billion euros for its banks. Even this money will not stay in Spain. Deutsche Bank itself has 14 billion euros at stake in Spain. It is naturally quite glad that the German taxpayer once again obediently transfers it over to it.

Mr. Brderle, you just popularly boasted here that Grandma should not be liable for the investment bankers with her savings account. If you are being serious, then you and your faction must decidedly vote against the ESM,

(Applause from Die Linke)

because it represents just what you said, that pensioners, workers, and the unemployed must pay for the gambling of the investment banks.

(Heckling from Rainer Brderle (FDP): Greetings from Erich!)

Whoever transfers such risks to taxpayers -- we are talking here about two gigantic rescue packages with a liability for Germany of 300 billion, eventually of 400 billion, euros -- whoever promotes such risks should be ashamed when they speak of budget consolidation. Take your own sworn principle of liability seriously for once: he who benefits should also bear the loss. Who benefitted? It is not a coincidence that, parallel to state debts, the private fortunes of the top ten thousand Europeans reach continuously new records. Retrieve the money from there. The missing billions are there. You can get it from there without the fiscal pact and without the destruction of democracy.

(Applause from Die Linke)

However you are doing the opposite. You are socializing the debts precisely so the financial wealth of the rich does not devalue. To collect the necessary sums the budget sovereignty of states will be rescinded to the advantage of the Brussels bureaucracy, because naturally they can cut more ruthlessly. This is the truth of what lies behind it. This is the core of your policies. You are not saving the euro but you are saving the millionaires' euros.

(Applause from Die Linke)

At least, then, just be honest and say this to the citizens. Tell them that the socially conscious federal state, mandated by the constitution, is being finished off by the proposed treaties. Tell them that in the future even in Germany they can elect a parliament that will not have much to say because Germany too will belong to the nations whose state indebtedness will extent beyond what the fiscal pact demands. Tell the people that this is a cold putsch against the constitution.

(Applause from Die Linke)

Dear colleagues from the CDU and the CSU, in the postwar period your parties had the slogan "Prosperity for Everyone" written on their banners. Now you are destroying the prosperity of millions.

(Heckling from Rainer Brderle (FDP): Long live socialism!)

You are taking bread from the poor,

(Calls from the CDU/CSU and the FDP: Oh!)

because you are too cowardly to take money from the rich. Do you consider that to be Christian?

(Applause from Die Linke)

Dear colleagues from the Liberals. That a state socializes private losses when those affected are rich and influential enough is anything but liberalism. Do you really want to represent this?

Dear colleagues from the SPD, you have the words "social" and "democracy" in your party name. You have already transgressed this aspiration often enough in the past years: with Agenda 2010, with the deregulation of financial markets, with Hartz-IV, and with the destruction of statutory retirement. If, however, one approves restrictive treaties, with which the welfare state and democracy in Europe are finally pushed into the grave, it means the Agenda policies in Germany are equipped with a guarantee of perpetuity.

(Applause from Die Linke)

With regard to this I must ask: Is this mess of pottage really worth slapping your voters in the face again, just so that you may be allowed after the next election to join, once again, a grand coalition as the junior partner?

(Applause from Die Linke; Heckling from Johannes Kahrs (SPD): Did Oskar write the speech?)

Dear colleagues you were elected according to our constitution. If you still have a conscience -- as democrats and as Europeans -- then I ask you to follow this conscience and vote no today.


(Sustained applause from Die Linke; Heckling by Hubertus Heil (SPD): You cannot deny someone a conscience just because you have another opinion!)

Sahra Wagenknecht is a co-vice-president of the Left party. Translation by Sam Putinja.


"Sympathy for the Luddites," Paul Krugman, June 17, 2013


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