Anger rises in Germany as the economy falls. Trade unions and globalization-critical protesters are planning demonstrations in Berlin and Frankfurt under the banner: “We’re not paying for your crisis.” Alexis Passadakis, 31, an activist from the group Attac, tells SPIEGEL what’s wrong with the system.
SPIEGEL: What do you mean with your battle cry, “We’re not paying for your crisis”? Don’t you want to pay taxes anymore?
Passadakis: We believe that the cost of the economic crisis should be footed by those who profited most from globalization.
SPIEGEL: As a leading exporter, Germany too has profited.
Passadakis: No, the majority of people have not earned much from the boom — instead they have had to deal with restraint in their wage agreements. The rich, on the other hand, have seen strong increases in their wealth. So it is only fair that they should pay extra duties.
SPIEGEL: You want to fleece the Aldi brothers and the Klatten and Otto families (Germany’s richest people) among others?
Passadakis: Yes, they in particular should be ordered to come to the check out. We are calling for the rich to pay out between 5 and 20 percent of their wealth.
SPIEGEL: And by doing so, they should provide enough money to finance the economic stimulus packages?
Passadakis: The German government has now pledged €480 billion ($613 billion) in guarantees and cash injections for banks. In the year 2002 alone, private assets in Germany increased by almost €800 billion. There is lots to draw on. We just can’t keep going on as we have been until now.
SPIEGEL: Why not?
Passadakis: The European Commission estimates in a secret paper that the banks are still sitting on toxic assets worth several trillions of euros. To guarantee such sums would be beyond the means of any public fund. Instead, it would be better to let the banks go bankrupt in a controlled fashion, then put them under public control and then recapitalize them. Then the billions of taxes would be used in a sensible way.
SPIEGEL: Do you think many people will participate in your protest?
Passadakis: The crisis is still very abstract for many people. But still our membership numbers are rising fast. After the protests in France we are holding demos in Germany on March 28, shortly before the global finance summit in London.