May 2012        

Permanent Austerity Treaty—no way! Vote No

On 31 May the people of this state will be asked to vote on the “Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union”—what can only be called the Permanent Austerity Treaty. While the public debate is focused on this treaty, the Government is quietly pushing through the Dáil its sister, the “Treaty on the European Stability Mechanism” (ESM). They are twins; they cannot be separated.
     The Permanent Austerity Treaty is being presented as the means of bringing stability to the euro and the EU. As in all cases, treaties and national laws are but congealed politics. Those who have economic power and thereby political power will ensure that laws reflect their fundamental interests. They don’t care too much about the frilly stuff as long as it does not interfere with their power structures and profit-making.
     What this treaty is about is removing the ability of national governments—never mind the people—to determine what the economic and social priorities should be. In our case the priority is paying the corporate debt turned into “sovereign debt.” To achieve this, balancing the books becomes the priority, and part of the budget must be the repayment, plus interest, of this corporate debt.
     As is always the case in our society, we have to look at the underlying politics, and here is laid bare what this all means for working people, not just here in Ireland but throughout the European Union. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has said: “The debt brakes [Treaty rules] will be binding and valid fore ver. Never will you be able to change them through a parliamentary majority.”
     This can only lead to a situation whereby, if there is only so much money in the Government’s kitty, money will be made available to service the debt, and only whatever is left will be made available to meet the needs of the people. So when the cost of servicing the debt rises, the amount available to the people will be reduced—not the other way round—because we will have to operate within constitutionally determined controls.
     The Treaty on the ESM is an even greater assault on national democracy. Under this treaty a Board of Governors is being established to “supervise” the stability fund—a board made up of bankers. The Irish Government will have to contribute nearly €11 billion, which it will have to borrow in order to give it to the fund.
     The ESM constitutes an even greater assault on democracy and the transfer of even more powers to a body outside this state and beyond the influence of the people.
     It is for this reason that the case taken by Thomas Pringle TD to the High Court, where he is arguing that, because of the provisions in the ESM Treaty it must be put to the people, needs to be supported.
     Under the provisions of the ESM, the “governors” and their agents will be above all national laws and unaccountable. None of its documents and papers can be interfered with or intercepted by national governments or any other body. Governments will have to submit budgetary provisions for their supervision. If the governors consider it necessary they can demand additional funds from governments, which they have to respond to within seven days—no ifs or buts. National governments will have to submit to their demands and priorities.
     The principal drafters of this treaty were Goldman Sachs—international corporate financiers. This is a virtual coup d’état by finance capital. Why? Because democracy is increasingly becoming an obstacle to decision-making: it’s too slow and cumbersome in their world of instant movement of money and investment strategies. Their virtual world runs much more smoothly, unencumbered by having to consult people.
     The peripheral countries will in effect become protectorates of the dominant economic powers, with constant transfers of wealth on a long-term structural basis as a result of the massive corporate debt imposed upon the people. Once again, debt repayment is the primary role for governments. The elite wish to keep working people in an unbreakable “debt trap.”
     The Irish Government and, unfortunately, some trade union leaders appear to believe that democracy and sovereignty can be traded as some sort of bargaining chips in the hope of obtaining some relief on the debt burden. The decision by four trade unions—Mandate, TEEU, CPSU, and Unite—to come out and call for a No vote is therefore to be welcomed. This is significant new development and marks a possible move away from the deadening impact of “social partnership.”
     Democracy and sovereignty are not negotiating chips to be given away for some crumbs of relief. We have to stand up for ourselves, reject this imposed debt, and demand
• that we end the destruction of our health service
• that patients not be lying on trolleys in hospitals
• that the cut-backs in education be cancelled, so that our children can get the schools they deserve
• that public services and public enterprises not be privatised
• that work be provided for the unemployed
• that our children do not have to have to emigrate
• that we take back under public control our rich natural resources
• that we repudiate the corporate debt shackled on our people.
     The EU is not a vehicle for change but instead is the main vehicle for debt-slavery and corporate control. It is the vehicle of choice of the ruling class and the big monopolies throughout Europe for defending and advancing their economic and political interests.
     Democracy and sovereignty are the very tools we need to tackle the deep economic, social, cultural and moral crisis that our country is mired in and in which it is sinking fast.
     All the establishment talk about the forthcoming treaties is just waffle and spin to get us to accept the chains of debt around our necks. They tell us we might need another bail-out, and so the treaties are an insurance policy. The problem is that we can't afford the price of the first bail-out as it is, never mind a second or a third one. All that means is that we borrow more money from the very people to whom we already owe a mountain of debt, and give it back to them at high interest.
     A No vote is a vote against the debt trap and a vote to defend democracy. [EMC]

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