Saving Europe’s Bankers, Not Its Workers

When European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi left office last month, he was widely praised for “saving the euro.” But he did this at the expense of working people — exploiting the crisis to impose an ever more unbreakable austerity regime.

By Thomas Fazi and cross-posted from Jacobin Magazine.

Mario Draghi’s eight-year term drew to a close last month, Europe’s rulers lined up to pay near-religious tributes to the outgoing European Central Bank (ECB) president. This elite self-adulation bordered on the comical. French president Emmanuel Macron praised Draghi for “passing onto us the torch of European humanism.” Italian president Sergio Mattarella thanked him for making “the European economic system sounder.” Former International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde — who replaces Draghi as head of the ECB — extolled his success in “bringing about the continued success of the euro area and the well-being of its people.” But above all, they celebrated Draghi for “saving the euro.”

There’s some truth to this last claim. But it’s rather a questionable achievement. Precisely because Draghi “saved” the euro, he’s also the man who blackmailed governments into implementing crippling austerity measures and neoliberal “structural reforms” — and who crushed whoever dared to resist. He is the man chiefly responsible for transforming the eurozone from a dysfunctional but formally democratic monetary union into an unprecedented governance structure in which governments are disciplined and punished.

Through the mechanisms pioneered by Draghi and his “activist” approach to central banking, formal democratic processes have been systematically subverted through financial and monetary blackmail — first and foremost at the hands of the ECB. Under such governance structures, one may reasonably question whether eurozone member states can still be considered democracies, even according to the narrow “bourgeois” understanding of the concept. Ultimately, Draghi symbolizes the dangerous rise to power of the unelected technocrats — “experts” who claim to be untainted by politics, but who in fact embody capital’s desire for unfettered domination

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