Those who are accustomed to think of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, cofounder and copresident of the Parti de Gauche in France, as a rabble-rousing demagogue may be surprised both by the calm tone and the careful deliberation of his remarks in this excerpt from a Sept. 18, 2012, speech to parliamentary representatives of the Democratic and Republican Left group in France's Assemblée Nationale. -- Mélenchon's subject: the historically radical destruction of popular sovereignty by the European Stability Mechanism. -- The ESM, which completed its ratification process on Sept. 27, 2012, and which will commence operations after an opening meeting in Luxembourg on Oct. 8, 2012, with lending activity expected to begin by the end of October, requires that national budgets be submitted to the European Commission for its approval even before any discussion of them by national parliaments. -- The ESM was designed to be put in place without any referendums, hence the charge that it is radically anti-democratic in character and lacks political legitimacy. -- Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a member of the European Parliament since 2009 who obtained 11% of the vote in the first round of France's presidential elections earlier this year, has been campaigning for a referendum in France, but so far to no avail....
ON THE EUROPEAN STABILITY MECHANISM AS AN INSTRUMENT OF TYRANNY
By Jean-Luc Mélenchon
Journées parlementaires du Front de Gauche
September 18, 2012
One way or another, what is at stake today is, quite profoundly, the question of popular sovereignty, because a threshold has been passed.
Our fellow citizens cannot be aware, at this stage (except as a development that they sense, but not in as specific a way as should be the case for a free people), of the amplitude of what is in the process of taking shape.
Every nation, including our own, which was the first to make a revolution in order to control its budget (I am recalling the origin of our nation), which was the first to refuse that an authority should tower above -- at the time, it was a question of the Louis XVI's veto power -- that an authority tower above the deliberation of the general will. Our people, which was the first to refuse the veto power, today finds itself subject to a new veto power of a violence greater than the one to which the king laid claim, since the Commission is to decide before the National Assembly has been in a position to acquaint itself with the budget. The mechanism of this European EMS [European Stability Mechanism -- in French, MES (Mécanisme Européen de Stabilité]) submits for the consideration of the Commission the content of the budget, before any discussion, for its approval.
I say "approval" because in this matter I want to get rid of the hypocrisy that encumbers it. Imagine that the Commission says that some budget is not acceptable. What would happen at once if the government in question did not immediately comply? Obviously, interest rates would spike immediately, since these are freely determined by the market, as you know, and since these decision can have enormous effects on countries' budget costs.
The budgetary pact is going to put into place a new tourniquet that many do not realize will not concern the budget of the state alone. The conditionality that triggers the intervention of the so-called solidarity operations of the European mechanism does not extend only to questions of budgetary operations. Europe's control mechanisms at this stage, as they appear in the pact, are not limited to the question of the state's budgetary deficit.
A few minutes ago we took a close look at this. They extend to public accounts as a whole, including social budgets and the budgets of local collectivities. This is why I think that our sessions, as André Chassaigne [the PC député who is president of the Gauche démocrate et républicaine group in France's National Assembly] said earlier, should be able to call out to elected local officials.
I am not sure, and we are not sure in this room, that everyone has really understood that the budgetary pact will also apply to local budgetary deliberations -- that is, of communes, departments, and regions.
The tourniquet mechanism will take very different forms, but we all know the most simple form. This is that from now on, no longer having the freedom to determine by themselves the revenues, through taxation, the local collectivities depend essentially on global grants for operations and investment that come from the state.
And through a transfer mechanism of the control of public spending, these grants will be conditional upon respecting the central elements that are contained in the budgetary pact to which the nation itself must submit itself. What therefore will be true for the case of the state budget will be true for all budgets.
Not a single French commune will, in the final analysis, be able to set its own budget if the European Commission thinks that the decisions taken are not in conformity with the general directions that have been set, whatever the mechanism may be that brings down this political police from the level of Europe to that of one of our country's 36,000 communes.
In these conditions, more than ever our duty to alert comes to the fore.
Senators, députés, political activists -- it is our fervent duty to go to our fellow citizens and say to them: You can, if you wish, choose this policy option. The worst thing would be if you didn't know what we are choosing for you.
I think that the falsification of the democratic mechanism always comes at a cost. Our people, our institutions, the idea public liberties in France have never recovered from the rape represented by the "No" vote to the Constitutional Treaty followed by the Congress at Versailles acting as if it had been "Yes."
Since that date, something is rotten in our democracy, and each of us feels it. Public speech is no longer trusted. The organization of public powers made itself suspect, even though the men and women who exercise them do all that they can to maintain the dignity and spread the sharing of power.
I said a moment ago that the conditionality mechanisms that Europe -- the European Commission -- imposes on the nation-states were not satisfied with taking aim at the matter of state deficits. I'll give an example, perhaps, to give you an idea of this.
You are always hearing about, we all are always hearing about the commitments that we are asking Greece to respect. I'll read you a few passages that will enable you to see the level of tyranny to which the presence in a country of what they call the Troika leads.
When the representatives of the European Central Bank, the IMF, and the Commission arrive, here's the result.
The ninth austerity plan inflicted upon Greece, which has already lost 20% of its economic capacity to produce wealth, which entered into recession more than three years ago now, without austerity policies ever allowing the slightest glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel inside of which Greece has been shut up.
In the commitments of the ninth austerity there is: 22% reduction in salaries; the minimum salary has to be lowered to 480 euros a month; lowering youths' salaries by 33%; capping unemployment payments at 313 euros a month; suppression of work contracts without a fixed termination date; abrogation of branch salary conventions; lowering health and social welfare payments; firing of 150,000 civil servants, at the state's expense; privatization of water, electricity, and energy.
You see, from hearing this list, that it is not a question, in the budget pact, of simply regulating the receipts and expenditures of the state. It's a question of globally reformatting the entire financial, social, and political organization of the state when this falls under the hand of the European Stability Mechanism.
--Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447