Lectures by Eric Toussaint on 16 and 17 september 2015
22 September 2015 by Lucien Perpette
Slovenia, 17. 11. 2007.
Slovenia seceded from Yugoslavia and became independent on 25 June 1991. With two million inhabitants, it has been a member of the European Union since 1 May 2004, joining the Eurozone, then the Schengen area in 2007.
On Wednesday 16 September Eric Toussaint gave a lecture to an audience of about 100, a majority of whom were young people, in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana. The lecture was supported by the two main trade union confederations in Slovenia. The presidents of the two TU, Dušan Semolič for the ZSSS |1| and Branimir Štrukelj for the SVIZ |2| pointed out the harmful social consequences of debt repayments and the need to find a way of countering such constraints. The session was chaired by Miha Andric, a member of the Institute for Labour Studies in Ljubljana (Institut za Delavske Studije).
Ms. Maja Breznik, a sociologist specializing in cultural history, had been the event’s main organizer. Maja Breznik also prefaced the Slovenian translation of AAA, Audit, Annulation, Alternative that Eric Toussaint co-authored with Damien Millet (published by the Sofia publishing house in 2014 http://www.zalozba-sophia.si/katalog/2014/aaa). She recently co-edited, with Rastko Mocnik, a collection entitled La dette publique: Qui est redevable? (CF publishing house), which examines the public debt of Greece, Portugal, Spain, Argentina, France and Slovenia. In her talk she stressed the damaging consequences of Slovenian public debt. Sašo Furlan, a Marxist author of the Institut za delavske studije, |3| and Franček Drenovec, |4| economist, lecturer and author of books on the financial crisis, spoke next in the same spirit. Sašo Furlan presented a quick survey of the development of private debt from 2004 to 2008 and of the subsequent development of public debt as a consequence of recapitalization Recapitalization Reconstituting or increasing a company’s share capital to reinforce its equity after losses. When the banks were bailed out by the European States, they were most often recapitalized with no conditions attached and without the States having the decision-making power their participation in the banks’ capital should have given them. of private banks.
Eric Toussaint laid out the CADTM’s perspectives on the relations of dominance imposed by the Centre on the periphery within the EU, and on the wholesale offensive against common people by those who control transnational companies hand in hand with national governments and EU institutions. He showed that public debt is used as a pretext for this offensive. Next he focused on an explanation of the Greek debt. He explained how the Greek PM Alexis Tsipras had trapped himself when he did not suspend debt repayment in February 2015. The Troika
Troika: IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank, which together impose austerity measures through the conditions tied to loans to countries in difficulty.
IMF : https://www.ecb.europa.eu/home/html/index.en.html maintained its demands and eventually, in spite of 62% of voters had refused the new austerity measures in a referendum held on 5 July 2015, the creditors’ conditions were forced onto the population.
Q&A time brought out many questions and objections to a policy that consists of abiding by creditors’ demands, whatever the consequences. Such a position accounts for the heavy programme of privatizations launched by the current Slovenian government led by PM Cerar, who in his election campaign had promised the end of corruption and more transparency in the management of public affairs. We are a far cry from such promises and in the current situation nobody knows how the Slovenian debt can be accounted for or can tell what its consequences will be.
Noticed among the audience were Socialist MPs (Socialni demokrati), Jan Škoberne and Janko Veber (former defence minister) as well as the young charismatic leader of the United Left, Luka Mesec |5|. Uroš Prikl (Desus), who chairs the parliamentary committee on social affairs, was there too. A majority of young people were to be noted among the many listeners. This part of the population has been the most badly hit by the neoliberal policies carried out by the successive Slovenian governments since Slovenia became independent. The situation of young people and the social crisis Slovenia is going through underscore the need to know what lies behind the current austerity policies.
It was thus decided to organize a workshop on debt issues in the country in Ljubljana in 2016. Eric Toussaint said the CADTM could contribute to this workshop in which we hope many will participate.
On the next day, Thursday 17 September, Eric Toussaint was invited as a keynote speaker in an international conference on Centre/Periphery relationships in the European Union in Maribor, the second largest city in the country. He shared the first panel with Rastko Mochnik. Next he had 6 interviews with Slovenian television and a number of newspapers.
Translation : Christine Pagnoulle, Vicki Briault
|1| The ZSSS TU has most members in Slovenia. It forced the right-wing government to give up on a ‘flat tax’ that was most favourable to private investors and would have shifted more of the tax load onto a majority of the population. A demonstration of 30 to 40,000 people signified the end of this project.
Another demonstration organized by ZSSS two years later brought all TU organizations together. The objective and outcome was to stop the attempts at dismantling the social protection system. Close to 80,000 people were in the streets, which says a lot about the impact of the TU movement in a country with 2 million inhabitants.
|2| The SVIZ is the main teachers’ union. Built up from scratch by its current president Branimir Strukelj, this particularly dynamic trade union managed to retain decent salary levels for teachers. During the 2012-2013 winter a huge strike of Slovenian teachers countered the measures of the Jansa government that would have resulted in social regression and forced the PM to resign. The strike was organized in the wake of major demonstrations against the same government. The SVIZ is part of a larger confederation of public service workers.
|3| Sašo Furlan is co-author with Maja Breznik of the chapter “Where does Slovenia stand in the world-wide debt crisis?” in the collection published by CF http://www.zalozbacf.si/index.php/javni-dolg-kdo-komu-dolguje.html
|4| Franček Drenovec is the author of the chapter “Genesis of the public debt” in the book Public Debt: who owes who.
|5| Luka Mesec (https://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luka_Mesec) is one of the six MPs for the United Left. The emergence of a new left-wing party can be seen as a consequence of the 2012-2013 strikes. They expressed the outrage of young people forced into either unemployment or precarious jobs. So the United List had as many votes and as many MPs as the Socialist Party. See http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/historic-victory-united-left-slovenia-6-seats/. Eric Toussaint and Luka Mesec had already had an opportunity to discuss the debt issue on November 2014 in Sarajevo, Bosnia (see http://cadtm.org/Sarajevo-Hope-and-Social-Rebellion).