Archive article from The Socialist Issue 398
What we think
Summit rows intensify EU crisis
THE FAILURE of the EU summit marked a deepening of the crises of the European ruling classes. It followed on from the 'no' vote in France and the Netherlands against the EU constitution.
These were primarily votes of the working class against the brutal neo-liberal policies of capitalism. The determination of the French working class in particular, to defy their media, politicians and ruling classes has plunged Europe into turmoil.
Politicians fighting for a 'yes' vote attacked the 'no' camp as 'little Francers' and 'little Netherlanders'. Now these same politicians are trying to restore their popularity by playing the nationalist card. This was the immediate cause of the Summit spat. But they have failed.
Blair received more 'yah, yahs' than normal from the Tory back benches but remains a fundamentally damaged prime minister. Meanwhile, French President Chirac has plunged in the polls to a 70% disapproval rating! Schroeder, the German Chancellor, is still languishing in the polls, facing the prospect of decisive election defeat in September.
However, the underlying causes of the Summit disagreement run far deeper than the desire of individual politicians to restore their popularity. They are three-fold and interconnected.
First is capitalism's inability to take Europe forward. The economy as a whole is stagnating and a number of countries - Italy and Portugal in particular - are suffering serious economic crises.
Second is the EU's enormous difficulties in holding together a body of countries with conflicting and diverging economic, social and political interests.
In the past, huge subsidies - including the CAP and the British EU budget rebate - were used to paper over national conflicts of interest. Now economic difficulties, and particularly the expansion of the EU, mean that there is major objective pressure to cut the EU budget, exposing underlying tensions.
When the Euro was launched there was euphoria amongst the European ruling classes and widespread illusions that this was a step towards a politically unified Europe. At the time the socialist argued that, on a capitalist basis, the barriers created by the different nation states would never be fully overcome and that, at a certain stage, the process towards integration would be pushed into reverse.
Pushed into reverse
The need to compete with the US, and increasingly China, means that the pressure for further integration will remain. Nonetheless, the European ruling classes are now beginning to face the prospect that one day their dream could unravel.
The Financial Times accurately explained that: "All large-country monetary unions that did not turn into political unions eventually collapsed." (8 June). While this is unlikely to be posed immediately, national tensions will continue to develop and, particularly during a world recession, could intensify dramatically.
Thirdly, the European ruling classes face ongoing resistance from the working class to the continual drive to increase profits through lower wages, increased hours and cuts in social spending. This is despite the current lack of mass workers' parties and the supine nature of the majority of their union leaders.
Chirac is no less 'neo-liberal' than the Anglo-Saxon leaders. The only real difference is the determined opposition he is facing from the French working class.
The 'no' votes marked a qualitative change in the situation. They demonstrated the working classes' will to resist. They have profoundly shaken the confidence of the European ruling classes and significantly increased the confidence of the working class, particularly in France and the Netherlands, to struggle.
And they have also shown where workers and their trade unions should stand in the debates in Britain on the EU. No to the bosses' European Union and the euro. For solidarity with the European working class in our joint struggle against privatisation, cuts and worsening working and living conditions. For a socialist Europe.
to the streets! Join the G8 protests youth camp forces occupy Sheffield rows intensify EU crisis in Africa: How imperialism condemns millions to poverty