Press Conference with Lothar Bisky, Alexis Tsipras and Graziella Mascia after the conclusion of the EL Executive Board meeting in Athens
Following the Executive Board meeting of the European Left Party, which took place in Athens on 11 and 12 October 2008, Lothar Bisky, Chairperson of the European Left and Chair of Die Linke, Alexis Tsipras, President of Synaspismos, and Graziella Mascia, Vice-chair of the European Left, held a press conference about the current financial crisis and proposals discussed within the EL to face the economic insecurity and find solutions to the precarious working and living conditions of the people in the world.
Bisky declared: “We have repeatedly stressed that we are against the Lisbon Treaty. Today somebody said that the European governments should be happy about Ireland’s NO vote, because article 100 of the Treaty mentions that the states should not intervene in the private economy. Now all states violate this principle.
The Party of the European Left is very active and has launched the “Campaign against Precarity” analyzing the fact that many people in Europe cannot live on what they earn.
The economic crisis was a main topic of discussion during our meeting. We decided on a common text, where we describe the position of the Party of the European Left with regard to the economic crisis, although we do not have sufficient information from the banks on the development of facts.
In Germany, in any case, analysts say that the end of the crisis will not come at an early stage. The Cosa Nostra of European banks is seriously responsible for this crisis and accountable for its decisions; so are the European governments and the EU institutions. The European governments authorized the speculations and did not listen to those who warned that these policies were wrong. As a consequence citizens are now called to pay billions of Euros. And that after in Germany for instance all proposals of the Left to give more money to the “ordinary people” were refused because there was no money, as they said. The European governments mislead the people. Since 1999 Oskar Lafontaine has been saying that financial markets should be controlled, and for this position he was called “the most dangerous man in Europe”. Today he is justified.
The European Left Party will continue the discussion on the economic crisis as well as on other issues and will present a final platform at the electoral conference in Berlin, in November 2008. All parties of the European Left, independent from their national positions, their political programs and opinions, will agree on a common electoral platform that will be presented in Berlin. With this platform we want to make the European Left visible in Europe. And we want to give it a face.”
“Yesterday’s and today’s discussions within the Executive Board of the European Left Party and with our comrades in Europe were very important considering the historical developments regarding the financial crisis,” Alexis Tsipras declared. “The first conclusion from this in-depth debate is the fact that the political discussion goes back to ideological terms and that we seek again the political analysis as a basis and starting point of our common ideology. After being elected president of Synaspismos, I went with a delegation of Synaspismos to Berlin to meet the chairman of our party, Lothar Bisky. Lothar gave me a gift, the German publication of the "Capital" of Marx. I could not imagine that in such a short time this gift would be so useful and that we – as well as our opponents – would re-examine Marx’ analysis to understand what’s happening in today’s world. In fact, we are in a historical moment, a very important turning-point. However, we should not be optimistic; if there are no movements in the restructuring period of political balance and powers both at a national and international level, including the European level, we cannot be optimistic that what follows will be better than what we had up until now.
The powerful of the planet, the G8 members, met a few days ago in the US, and so do the 15 Euro countries today in an extraordinary meeting, in order to try to solve the crisis. We believe that the crisis cannot be faced without any structural change. The crisis cannot be faced with state intervention in favour of the rich and powerful. The latest crisis gave a signal for the need of a radical inversion of the basic rules, i.e. the neoliberal doctrine followed by the governments in Europe and in the world. According to these rules the state should not intervene in the market. At the same time the state should not make high public investments and pay out returns in social structures. When these rules are reversed by those who established them, a critical question comes up: How can the state intervene in favour of the rich and not intervene in favour of the poor?
Today again the 15 (16 with Slovakia entering the Euro zone on 1 January 2009) EU leaders have proven to be invalid in front of the economic crisis. They prove that we cannot discuss the problem when it is not clear who really holds the future of the people in Europe: is it the leading governments, the Summit of leaders, or Mr Trichet and the European Central Bank? We cannot stay calm when we know that these people are co-responsible for the current tragedy and collapse of the EU institutions. And of course we know that again they seek consent from the European right and the social-democrats.
The Stability Pact, a pact that deterred the national governments from making public investments and supporting the social state, does not exist today, so that the high risks of bankers can be beard by the states. I would like to repeat once again, that this critical moment is the hour of a counter-attack of socialist ideas, socialist values that should make it into in our discussion. We call for a different future of Europe and the world, for a future where social needs will be more important than economic markets and where people will mean more than profit.
In this period of crisis we have to decide with whom we ally and which way we strike, keeping in mind that the sheep cannot ally with the wolf when the wolf is hungry.
The rearrangement of the economic structure in Europe, in our countries and in the world is our priority. In this sense, we think that the efforts made to build bridges of communication with the movements and our comrades in Latin America are particularly important, because we must see the global dimension of the economic process. This dialogue has enriched our perspective and convinced us that it is time for the counter-attack of the European Left and for direct action. On 25 October we organise a big demonstration in Brussels against precarity and against the economic crisis, which we do not want to be a crisis for the majority of people and for the workforce but to be a crisis that will have to be paid and solved by the responsible individuals and institutions. We also think about extending this action to Frankfurt, and aiming to the seat of the ECB. For sure we have decided that all forces that comprise the Party of the European Left go ahead together.”
Answering to questions from journalists, Lothar Bisky underlined that the Left in Germany had called for non privatisation of the health and education sectors. How is it possible that the German state could not support the education sector and is able to support the bankers? Moreover, in Germany the number of low-income workers has increased; their salaries have decreased, but simultaneously the high-income workers earn more and more. Without any state regulation this tendency is becoming more and more critical.
With regard to the prospective of the Left in Europe, Bisky was confident that the Left will gain forces if it presents alternative solutions and if it learns from its errors. The German Left, he stressed, should explain to the citizens the causes of the economic crisis and be sincere. The Left should truly make clear errors of the neoliberal doctrine, which has deep roots.
Bisky declared himself optimist for the raise of the Left forces, being certain that participation in the European elections will be higher than in previous years, because the European citizens no longer believe in the lies of their governments.
Tsipras pointed out again that nothing is set, but that this crisis can be an important historical occasion and the European elections can constitute a turning-point for a change of balance of power. He also stressed that "for us nationalisation does not automatically mean intervention in favour of social forces, because we see nationalisation can be losses and gain of private profits."
Graziella Mascia gave the example of Italy, where nationalisation often means making private profits while socialising the losses. Those who are responsible for the destruction of big enterprises, such as Alitalia, don't pay for the damages and don't give any explanations either. The responsible for the economic crisis are also the managers. The European citizens are now resolute about transparency.
Mascia concluded by pointing out that in Europe there is a lack of democracy. The European Union is an undemocratic institution, and for this we should criticise the Lisbon Treaty and the role of the European Central Bank. The economy and finance ministers of the EU decided the creation of a common fund for the confrontation of the economic crisis, but there aren't any democratic institutions that can manage this fund.