European reactions to the financial crisis

Covering their tracks and distancing themselves from the US

Published on WSWS, by Peter Schwarz, September 26, 2008.

Many European workers who have lost their incomes, jobs or social security in recent years must be rubbing their eyes in surprise: “turbo-capitalism” – the supremacy of finance capital over every aspect of social and personal life – is an exclusively Anglo-American invention, which the governments of Germany and France have opposed for a long time.

There has been a flood of articles arguing this line in the German and French media in reaction to the international financial crisis. Authors who yesterday lectured workers to scale down their wage claims for the good of the finance markets are now outdoing one another in denouncing irresponsible and unscrupulous finance speculators.

The tone for such commentaries has been set by the heads of government themselves …

… The illusion of “regulated capitalism”

The call for a form of “regulated capitalism—that can prevent risky speculative transactions, cutting down to size the power of finance capital and giving priority again to production and trade—runs like a thread through the comments and statements of the press and politicians of all stripes. But it is an illusion.

The clock of history cannot be rewound. The cancer-like growth of finance capital is not simply the result of wrong decisions by individuals. Greed and criminal intentions have certainly contributed, but these are rooted in social conditions that can only be overcome through a revolutionary transformation of society.

The deregulation of the financial markets, which began approximately 30 years ago, was the reaction of the capitalist class worldwide to the economic crises and class warfare of the 1960s and 1970s. The abolition of existing regulations and the development of new forms of speculation served to overcome falling profit rates. They were accompanied by non-stop attacks on the rights and living standards of the working class, and with an aggressive foreign policy that took on an increasingly military direction …

… The 80-year-old Herbert Kremp, a veteran of the Cold War, headlines his comment in Die Welt with the words: “The consequences of the crisis: Europe abandons its old model—the US.” Kremp expresses his regret about this, but considers it to be inevitable. “The temptation will become ever greater to follow the flows of gas and oil instead of pursuing a long-term geo-political strategy which unites liberty and prosperity,” he writes, meaning by the latter the transatlantic alliance.

President Sarkozy, in his rather abstract UN speech, emphasized two concrete points: The desire for a close partnership between Europe and Russia, and the creation of a common European-Russian economic area, as well as an extension of the G8 (the seven leading industrial nations plus Russia) to become the G14, including China, India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil. Both would mean diminishing the power of the US.

There is nothing positive in this demarcation from the US. It will inevitably aggravate the conflicts between the imperialist powers, including setting the European states against each other. A real opposition to the dominance of finance capital can only be developed through the unity of the international working class, including American workers, on the basis of a socialist programme. (full text).

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