Europe: restarting growth but on new ground

Are we forgetful, clumsy, or what? Of course growth in Europe has to be restarted and the wild adjustment policies that have been being implemented are suicidal. Who can possibly fire 20.000 teachers in Spain arguing lack of resources and in the same day allocate 29.500 million dollars to avoid Bankia’s bankruptcy, a private bank until then directed by a former International Monetary Fund Director and previous Minister of Economy who had offered the world and his own country prescriptions on how to administer finances and manage development. Is it necessary to outline again the disasters those adjustment policies have generated in Greece, Spain, England, Italy and almost every other European country? What happens in the streets and the well guarded governmental decision centers should finish convincing everyone that Europe needs to rectify its course. Just as it is headed now, the present course leads not to an abyss for all but for its large population majorities; financial speculators will manage to profit from the crisis and emerge from it even wealthier and stronger.

What is painful and indignant is that during the crisis, in the course of adjustments and also while restarting the proposed growth, the concentration process will not stop but conversely it will keep strengthening. It is true that in a context of growth the situation of majorities will undergo certain improvements but, let us not be mistaken, if the type of growth that prevails will do nothing but restore the pre-crisis situation, we will only temporarily exit one hell to head further on to the same destination.

The matter is that if we restore and not transform those mechanisms that lead to the crisis, we will again generate imbalances, inequity and systemic instability. Those effects could be held back for a while if countries are able to effectively implement compensatory measures oriented to restrain the worst consequences of the restored course. It would be a way to reinstate the type of social-democratic trajectory that made way for societies with greater equity and sustainability but that were then nonetheless swept into the crisis by the tremendous concentrative dynamic which burst over the accomplished progress, choking it. An even more painful experience is Latin America and Africa’s, where severe adjustments with disastrous consequences were applied. Only when they were able to dramatically change course did those countries enter a period of prosperity as they had never experienced before.

Let us speak clearly. The wild adjustment practiced in Europe is not a product of ignorant or insane minds, nor are those who intend to carry it out idiots. Far from it, those are policies dictated by privileged sectors that are determined to protect the privileges they hold.

In the decades previous to this global crisis, those sectors knew how to keep the privileges they got from the tremendous concentration process that accompanied the vertiginous globalization process. Concentration of a scale never seen before [[The fortune of the three wealthiest people in the United States amounts to the gross domestic product of fifty countries of the developing world: three people alone have more wealth than millions of human beings have as a whole!]] which compromises the planet and the rights of mankind; the fact is it carries conditions of systemic and recurrent social and economic instability in its DNA. Then, once the crisis burst, they again manage to protect their interests making its cost fall upon the workers, the middle sectors and the small and medium size companies (in essence, the outcome of the practiced unbridled adjustment). Of course if hegemonic sectors could perpetuate these adjustment policies, they would keep on protecting their interests in such manner. But if, conversely, popular reaction and political circumstances force changes upon the adjustment such as it is imposed in Europe, no doubt those hegemonic sectors will have the ability to insert themselves into the measures to restart growth as to keep preserving their privileges.

If those privileges did not affect vast population majorities of the world, that inequity would be less costly than it really is. But widespread inequity is not only a consequence of the concentration process but it also sustains its reproduction over time: those who possess more resources and effectively manage them, always have greater capacity to seize opportunities and evade difficulties; they consequently grow at higher and more constant rates than others, deepening differences and shifting the economy even further away from an organic growth.

There are hundreds of cases confirming that concentration has accelerated in almost all countries of the world; one of the most resounding is Gina Rinehart, Australian mining magnate that in just one year, 2011, managed to triple her fortune to over 28 billion dollars and is becoming one of the wealthiest persons on Earth. Similar cases are those of Carlos Slim in México with a fortune of 69 billion dollars, Bill Gates with 61 billion and other India, China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa multimillionaires, to only name a few countries where wealth has concentrated in a more than alarming way. What happens is that wealth and power concentration has not only spread but it has also accelerated along with globalization and today there is no corner of the world where this is not verified. In fact, this is not a natural or an inevitable phenomenon; instead it derives from a specific way of functioning that has succeeded in imposing itself as hegemonic. This concentration process, its genesis, its dynamic and its implications, have been analyzed and made explicit in several reports and documents [[Among many others, in Opinion Sur’s book Collection: [Adjusting the course, getting out of the crisis towards a sustainable development->] (available in Spanish and English) and [Global crisis: adjustment or transformation->,1095] (only available in Spanish).]] , always disseminated in homeopathic doses because those in control of media and main publishing houses have been careful not to give them a massive diffusion.

Today we need to alert about this phase of restarting growth that seems will impose itself in what is left of the decade. Development is necessary but it is not accomplished with any kind of growth. If concentrative growth were to be restored, as it could happen if strong reactions do not mediate, the rope smothering popular sectors would loosen and we would return without greater questioning, and paradoxically even with certain relief, to the pre-crisis situation. That ‘certain relief’ adds drama to the struggle of restoring concentrative growth since, disguised in temporary improvement, the same seeds are sowed that then blossom into new crisis and recurrent pain and punishments. That is why we say yes to growth, but no longer to a growth that reproduces privilege and concentration which slowly kill us and destroy the planet.

The new prophets of growth will preach their stuff and they will appear as saviors from the oppression we now suffer; but the opportunity we should not let slip, the challenge we better undertake, is not to grow as ‘before’ but to grow in a new context of sustainable development; growing in a non concentrated way, equitably, without sliding into irresponsible consumerism, looking after others and protecting our mother Earth which has sustained us in this lengthy old march.

Sustainable development has variants and modalities, some known and some not yet visited and waiting to be discovered. They are part of a future worth building and living. There is enough determination, talent and ability to attain it but also obstacles and interests that block the new options and seek to confuse, alienate and deviate. We stand before a critical crossroads and we can, we must choose. A decision for the brave, for our leaders, but also for the common citizen: it is about, nothing more and nothing less, than adjusting the course and transforming the way of functioning as to regain the identity, independence, equity and meaning that has been swept away from us.

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