‘Dignified rage’ after ten years of crisis
Take control over finance!
Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, it’s time to tell the story of the global financial crisis from a citizens’ perspective and to propose positive common solutions to put the public interest first in the future. Lehman Brothers became an unforgettable symbol of the failure of a deregulated, liberalized and interconnected financial system. The collapse was the tipping point in an economic and financial crisis that resulted in millions of people losing their jobs, their houses and their access to social protection, such as decent unemployment benefits, pensions and health care.
The reckless strategies, and the irresponsibility to society shown by financial corporations were put on display – as was the passivity or complicity of politicians in the years before the crisis. The big financial corporations had been allowed to run the markets – and the price was staggering.
Since then, we’re expected to believe that lessons have been learned, and that perhaps some sorely needed change would be coming. Instead, despite strong criticism of the ideology of free financial markets voiced by many since the financial crisis started, neoliberalism continues to exert a strong grip over financial policies, rules and institutions. This has led to an outright assault on the quality of our lives and on our dignity. People all over Europe have protested and proposed more effective social solutions to deal with this crisis. We have had significant partial success at local level, but we still need to scale up our efforts. Financial lobbyists continue to have almost unlimited access to policy makers in the European Union, with the result that financial markets are just as dangerously unstable today, if not more so. New regulations are timid and insufficient, and a deregulatory backlash is currently underway.
The risk of another collapse persists, and we could yet again be forced to bail out mega-banks with billions in public money. Millions of new victims could join the ranks of those who are already suffering from the crisis. Even now, millions find themselves impoverished and indebted - a constant reminder that the crisis is still with us.
Central banks mindlessly pump large sums into financial markets, through the so-called quantitative easing (QE) policies. While big banks and corporations enjoy high profits thanks to cheap financing costs – a subsidy of sorts - less and less money is made available for investments in infrastructure, public services, environmental protection and poverty eradication.
Now, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the financial crisis, we are issuing a call to action. The anniversary is an opportunity to create a new space for a public debate on the root causes of the crisis and the future of finance. It is a chance to show our ‘dignified rage’ - we need a socially just solution to existing debt and we need to take a stand for the future. We will not pay for illegitimate debts now, or in the future. We demand that banks and finance serve society. In 2018, we will begin the challenging process of bringing finance under democratic control.
We need to break up big banks, do away with useless speculation, introduce effective and just taxation of the financial sector, and undertake public investment in services and infrastructure that will improve life and create jobs for the many. We must transform the financial system so that it makes productive investments instead of fueling speculative bubbles.
We are standing up against the hugely negative impact of short-termist financial markets, which fuels social inequality, poverty, shortage of public services, and climate change. We embrace a new way of producing and sharing resources and wealth. We will start to take democratic control by joining forces with different people and groups that are affected by the negative impact of finance on society. As a priority, we need to push for political action and rules that put an end to the era of financialisation where society is dominated by the predatory logic of banks and financial markets. Big finance is powerful, but if we come together we can be part of the necessary political action. We need citizens’ groups to join our coalition and make 2018 a turning point – so that the next 10 years will finally be the time where we take control over finance.