Two events during October, one in Bristol and one in Brussels, give evidence that notwithstanding the capitulation of Greece’s Syriza to the Eurogroup’s shameless intransigence, anti-austerity economics is gaining ground in Europe in tandem with the gathering social movements across the continent. We went to film both events for Money Puzzles, our documentary-in-progress about money, debt and us. In some ways, Bristol’s New Economy Summit and the Citizens Assembly on Debt in Brussels were complementary, and in other ways contrasting. The former was centred on questions of money, and the theory and practice of green economics, including alternative currencies like the Bristol Pound. The focus of the latter was on questions of debt (the other side of the coin, so to speak) which neoliberal policies create at every level, from the household to sovereign states, with disastrous social effects.
What both gatherings shared was an understanding of the destructive nature of the debt-fuelled economy of neoliberalism as it lurches from one crisis to another; condemnation of the social damage and injustice of austerity; the critique of the governing plutocracy and the democratic deficit of established power. Nevertheless they differed in their political drift. The alternative economics represented in Bristol works in the interstices of the economy to promote collective values, without much faith in existing institutions but without directly demanding the overthrow of the system. The citizens assembly approach is more confrontational, closer to the dynamic of the social movements in Spain, for example, which are challenging austerity and debt from the bottom up. Significantly, the Brussels gathering came between mass demonstrations over the TTIP and austerity in the streets of Brussels which brought together protestors from different European countries.
The Bristol meeting worked to expose the absurdity of neoliberal economics and the lie that there is no alternative. Alternatives abound, each offering a path to a future where money and the economy serve people rather than vice versa. The task for Money Puzzles is to introduce these alternatives in a context that allows audiences to make sense of them.
Here’s a glimpse of the demonstration the day after the assembly in Brussels, just one expression of the forms of solidarity that the crisis helps to forge. In this instance, solidarity with les sans-papiers, undocumented immigrants – human beings whom the system refuses to treat as human beings. To show such solidarity is to subvert the Tories’ lie that ‘we’re all in it together’, while insisting that the ‘we’ who comprise the 99% are closer to unregistered immigrants and refugees than to a millionaire government and its cronies in banking and finance.