Public Services and the Social State – ELSU Session

Manuel Carvalho (Bloco)

We don’t just have a crisis of public debt, we have a full European crisis. There has been an increase in public service indebtedness. Big transfers from the state to capital. The state should not be a violent enforcer of transfers upwards. We need a social state. A renegotation of the debt is a minimum. We have a huge need do to this in the EU. We also need more, we need alternatives for society.

Privitisation relies on “the market ideal” where the market can efficiently supply our needs. Our tradition of political economy suggests alternatives. Caring for human beings is the basis of our economics.

Since the crisis the informal work sector has expanded tremendously, and this has largely been made up of women. Roughly the work external to profit driven approaches are: informal, private household, voluntary, and market orientated non-profit. Rough estimates are that 15% of GDP addition is in informal, 10% in voluntary and 30% in household. It is a feature of domination that all of these activities are invisible to standard economic analysis.

The market ideal is that demand and supply come into equilibrium coordinated through price. No participant can influence price. The market is seen as a spontaneous development, without history or context.

Commodities usually are divided up into public/private goods. Public goods are generally non-rival and non-exclusive. Private goods are both rival and exclusive. Generalised commodity production under capitalism revolves around private goods.

However, there are other rival goods which are not commodities which are not produced for exchange: Land, Labour, Money.

Alsa Sousa (Bloco)

There are currently negotiations going on with the US regarding commerce treaties. This will have serious negative potential. It will have a negative impact on public services. Further, it pretends as though the US is not a hostile country which makes use of spies to subvert the rule of law in Europe.

Last week was fertile. The Snowden revolutions about the NSA made it impossible, at least for a while, to ignore how the US circumvents laws in Europe and invades privacy. Most governments are saying it was not serious. However, millions of EU citizens were spied on, there was large scale corporate IT collusion. Those who were paying attention knew some of this existed, but this brings much greater clarity on scale, method and brings it to a wider audience. EU leaders have denied that they have knowledge.

In an egregious continuation of the US’s manipulation, Maduro was denied landing in several EU countries in violation of international law on the advice of the US and supposed intelligence from an unknown source. This demonstrates how subservient our political leaders are to US power.

Europe is set to approve the commerce treaty. The Green-Left insisted that clarification was needed on the question of US actions before trade negotiations can resume but it will likely continue anyhow. The US has a GDP which is 3/4 of the EU. The process of trade negotiations is designed to further liberalise the EU. Competition is being pushed into public services which increases inequalities. We can not expect a very auspicious future – the treaty will be accepted by the current EU leadership. The cultural exception has been defended, but this is not enough despite being important.

Nobody speaks of public services anymore. The left needs to fill this vacuum. Further, historically the national states have filled this role, but for many things this is the wrong scale. The EU itself should think about public services.

Dora Kalaitzidaki

Water privitisation is coming fast in Greece. We have water and energy privitisation. Berlin serves as an example. Privitisation gives new incentives towards pushing costs into externalities of production. This can mean decreases in quality and safety. Reports on private/public partnership in these services is that they work very poorly. Contracts will be repeatedly broken by the company.

Crisis, is an opportunity for capital. 64% of the public in Greece does not want privitisation and yet it will go ahead anyhow. It is an agresive neoliberal intervention.

The movement wants to save water campaign by working at the neighbourhood level. There is an aim of social control of water. We have estimated that in order to purchase the water systems and put them under social control we would need to pay €136 / pp. The movement is split on this since people have already paid once for the infrastructure through taxes. However, in the end we may have no other choice.

In Greece a referendum infrastructure does not exist, so we have been carrying out a parallel referendum. This will allow us to demonstrate our legitimacy. We can’t simply leave our water to privitisation. Networks were required and we organised in an horizontal manner.


Speaker from the floor: There is a big necessity for public services and the social state. Society does not just loose quality of life but also unity of the public. We have a tremendous need for the distribution and redistribution of wealth. Otherwise we will have a rise of the extreme right and further fragmentation of the class.

Speaker from the floor: What is the way forward regards unpaid labour? Historically, generalised commodity production for exchange value was minor – this is a central feature of capitalism. Economists recognised only capitals circuit as important, however there are things outside this circuit not necessarily progressive in any way, feudalism, slavery, even the lack of autonomy of women without wages. It is possible for capitalism to absorb the reproduction of labour itself. Capitalism wants to internalise profitable activities and externalise costs.

Gabriele Michalitsch

What could a new welfare state look like? Privitisation is utterly backward moving. However, is Keynesianism a model of the future? I think no. Instead we need more thought on what a positive development of the social state would look like.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *