Monday, October 8, 2012

The euro: an inhuman project

Here we go again. The Greek government has "agreed" - at gunpoint, let's be frank - to cut another 13.5 billion euros from public spending. And it's still not enough for the tyrannical troika.

Olivier Blanchard, chief economist and clairvoyant for one of these tyrants, the International Monetary Fund, is now telling us that the difficult times will last for at least six more years. This is the latest public comment from a man who outed himself as a sadist in March, when he described the pain being inflicted on Greece as "fair".

Blanchard maintained that "shared sacrifices" are being made between Greece and its lenders. It would take someone with a twisted sense of humour to contend that German banks are suffering as much as the elderly or jobless in Athens and Thessaloniki.

I don't buy the explanation from EU and IMF officials that the economic situation leaves them with no alternative than to demand austerity measures with devastating consequences. The reason why I don't buy the explanation is that I have been studying the history of the euro and discovered that plans now being implemented have been under discussion by the currency's "architects" for some time.

The most important thing I have learned is that the euro always was an inhuman project. Looking at who laid the foundations for the euro, it could not have been anything else.

Sniffing an opportunity

In 1987, the Association for the Monetary Union of Europe (AMUE) was officially formed. According to the official narrative, it was the brainchild of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president, and Helmut Schmidt, the former German chancellor. Only a moist-eyed federalist could believe that version of events. A document held by the French national archives indicates that the steering committee for the association was set up in 1986. Far from being a response to a polite request from two statesmen, the AMUE was comprised of corporations that sniffed an opportunity to fight and ultimately win a class war.

The membership of the AMUE hailed exclusively from the owners of industry. Headquartered in the eight arrondissement of Paris, the association was composed of 400 private firms or trade associations. They included Goldman Sachs (of course), Deutsche Bank, Total, Siemens, Volkswagen and British American Tobacco. The employers' confederation UNICE (now called BusinessEurope) was there, too.

In 1988 the association came forward with an action plan for monetary union. Many of its points were recycled by Jacques Delors, then the European Commission, when he presented his "vision" on this topic the following year. Delors' call for the complete liberalisation of capital movements read like an answer to a banker's prayer. And that is exactly what it was.

Right until it eventually decided that its mission had been accomplished and to dissolve itself in October 2001 - a few months before euro notes and coins started filling cash registers - the AMUE engaged in a process of what the propagandist Walter Lippman called "manufacturing consent". On average, it organised 250 conferences per year at which the advantages of a single currency were accentuated and the pitfalls - as far as I can gather - ignored. A significant amount of this "public relations" (a more polite term for propaganda) was funded by grants from the European Commission - in order words, by the taxpayer.

Spawning a monster

Several of the association's staff members continue to dispense their "wisdom" at various forums. As its director of research, Stefan Collignon appears to have been the most prolific analyst in the AMUE. A few years after leaving that post, he wrote a 2002 paper for Harvard University in the US. In it, he advocated giving the European Commission the power to instruct national governments what their budgets should contain.

Collignon does not deserve any kudos for prescience or for individual thought. He was proposing ways of ensuring that the euro project helped the people it was always supposed to help: the bankers. And the fact he was talking about these ideas a decade ago illustrates that Herman van Rompuy, the EU's unelected president, was less than candid when he claimed earlier this year that responding to the euro crisis was like "building a life-boat at sea". The more plausible truth is that it involved embarking on a voyage that had long been pre-planned.

Collignon has lately been hired to advise the European Parliament on "competitiveness" (another concept originating with corporate lobbyists). His 2012 study for the Parliament concludes that there should be a "much more aggressive debate" about economic governance. The focus of this debate should be on wage restraint, he adds. Despite the turgid nature of his prose, the essence of his argument is clear: economic policy must primarily serve the interests of capital, not of workers. Class war is being waged, with the euro's architects stoutly defending the class we have come to know as the 1%.

Etienne Davignon, the Belgian politician turned banker, served as the AMUE's chairman at one stage. Last year Davignon stated that George Papandreou, then the Greek prime minister, had responded sensibly to the economic crisis but "ended that course of action by calling a referendum".

Those few words reveal everything. The euro was conceived by an unaccountable elite. The elite spawned a monster that stomps around Europe, robbing pensioners, workers and welfare recipients wherever it goes. "Sensible" politicians are told to keep mum as the monster devours the last vestiges of democracy.

•First published by New Europe, 7-13 October 2012.

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