The meaning of Austerity

Austerity – our governments claim – is unavoidable: we need to repay the national deficit following the global economic meltdown, or our economies will never recover. But that deficit was accumulated by bailing out the banks – the very same banks and bankers that caused the meltdown.

Austerity is not unavoidable, something that we all have to suffer through; it’s a political choice taken by the EU and many member state governments. And any leaders who choose not to follow the EU’s prescribed medicine are removed and replaced with more compliant politicians – or technocrats who won’t ask questions.

But what does austerity mean – how do our governments plan to pay off the national debt? Is it through recouping our losses from the banks that caused this mess; taxing risky financial transactions such as currency speculation; increasing taxes on the economic elites who were not only responsible for the crisis but also handsomely profited from it? No, instead governments are going to slash public spending and increase taxes in a way that hits the poorest hardest.

Austerity is already impacting our every day lives. While the degree of austerity may differ across Europe, the cuts are being felt everywhere. Forced from the EU level and supported by national governments, cuts are being imposed in nearly every sector that matters to ordinary people. They are cutting welfare benefits, health care, education; privatising our common goods in the name of paying off the debt, dismantling labour and social rights in the name of making our corporations more competitive so our economy can recover. The very same corporations avoiding tax and undermining the recovery.

Since the crisis hit in 2009, our economic and political elites have been working on different means and mechanism to impose their austerity policies on us while undermining the democratic means we have available to change the course of such policies.

ESM, Six Pack, Fiscal Compact, European Semester, Two Pack, Contractual Agreements, Memorandums. These are all fancy names of those different mechanisms of austerity in Europe.

“For a European Spring” is another important step forward in the building of a Pan-European movement to stop the EU’s austerity drive and change the course of events entirely. Our massive numbers on the streets and in the squares alone will not stop them: we also have to understand how these policies are imposed; which governments and at what level are involved; which interest is behind promoting austerity further; and what more have they got planned.

Below are a number of links to articles that try to answer these questions, providing important information in a straight forward way that can help everyone see the true nature of the EU’s austerity drive.

Background reading on the EU austerity drive