Putting people before profits: opening speech for EA4

Enlazando Alternativas summit, Madrid, 14 May 2010
27 မေလ 2010

"The banks are ours!" Public money was used to bail out the banks, and now they are lending back to the public at interest, while governments ignore the social and environmental crises that confront society. It is time to demand real solutions that will work not only for the sake of the economy but for the lives and conditions of people on whom it depends.


"The banks are ours!"

Susan George addressed the assembly of the Enlazando Alternativas (Linking Alternatives) summit in Madrid, that ran in parallel to the European Union-Latin America and the Caribbean (EU-LAC) summit over trade.

"...[W]e've been telling the governments that we won't pay for your crisis, and we've been saying put the people and the planet first, before profits. And the governments, and the G-20 and of course the banks have replied, 'Oh yes you'll pay for our crisis, you will pay, not us, and we put put profits before people and the planet, so wait til we fix the banks..."

The "official" summit led to the signing of free trade agreements with LAC nations, leading the way for European corporations to more intensively exploit the natural resources and poor labour conditions across the Atlantic; but the alternative summit demonstrated the consolidated determination of civil society and peoples' movements not be deterred in their fight for social and environmental justice.

Here is an excerpt from Susan's opening address:

"The banks are ours! [And] its true; because any bank that has received public money has received our money, from our taxes; it doesn't fall out of the sky; and those banks have been saved because of us and now they are speculating against us; they are making money every time the Euro drops or rises - they are making money. So enough is enough; and I think this has to be our first demand. It is politically feasible...

"...Credit should be a public good... credit should be accessible particularly to small and medium enterprise and to households that have a green or social project.

"There is no reason that democracy should stop at the door of the economy. The economy needs to be entirely democratized and we should be supporting companies that are trying to do business in a social or cooperative way, because it is small or medium enterprise that provide 90 percent of the employment in Europe.

"We must force open the tax havens... The G-20 said they would do something about that: they have done nothing...

"We must get the European Central Bank under control which means fighting against the present system which is mandated by the Lisbon Treaty.  The European Central Bank lends to banks at 1 percent interest, it does not lend to states. States then have to borrow from the financial markets, so the banks that receive money at 1 percent, lend it out at 4 or 5 or 6 or more percent to governments that are in a state where they have to borrow...

"You don't have to be a genius to make money when you can borrow at 1 percent and lend at 4, 5, 6 or 10.

"We have to change the entire tax system... The very rich do not pay their fair share of taxes, this has got to stop..."

"...None of what is needed to be done is going to happen without constant popular pressure, and strong alliances, between all of our groups: whether we are famers, trade unionists, whether we are from Latin America, or from Europe, whether we are women, men, or ecologists, or whatever our main interest, we must come together because it is when the people speak with one voice that the politicians are obliged to do something. Nobody can win alone, but together we can win."