Europe for the workers

‘‘French poll blow to EMU,” “Bundesbank ‘nuclear blast’ sets back single currency”, “Euro in peril over German bank battle,” “Poll raises spectre of a Eurosceptic France”. These are just a few of the alarmist headlines that have littered the newspapers over the last week. Clearly the capitalists’ plans are going badly awry.

The first cause for alarm was the near sensational attack on Chancellor Kohl by Omar Issing, chief economist to the Bundesbank. He accused Kohl of engaging in “creative accounting” - warning him that a plan by finance minister, Theo Waigel, to revalue the gold reserves in order to plug the budget deficit was a threat to the bank’s independence. Kohl retaliated, bullishly declaring that he would by-pass the Bundesbank opposition, only to bid a humiliating retreat, sparking off a mini-crisis in the process.

The Kohl government is certainly going hell for leather in order to meet the Maastricht criteria, which requires a budget deficit of no more than three percent of GDP. ‘EMU at any cost’, seems to be the rallying cry of Kohl and Waigel, whose scheme would provide windfall profits of more than £14.3 billion and help Germany meet the qualifying criteria for the single currency. In the caustic view of the Bundesbank, better to have an “honest” 3.2% budget deficit than a “creative” 2.9%. In other words, Kohl should postpone the starting date for the EMU.

Jacques Chirac also hit the rocks over Maastricht and EMU. His decision to call a snap election ended up handing victory on a plate to the Socialist Party. Like Kohl’s current conflict with the Bundesbank, Chirac predicated his election campaign on an aggressively ‘pro-EMU’ stance, not conceding an inch to critics of the EMU criteria. ‘Maastricht 1999 or nothing’ demanded Chirac. The French electorate rejected his uncompromising message. Lionel Jospin, leader of the SP and now the prime minister in-waiting, has already called for a “reorientation” of the European project. Specifically, he wants a ‘softening’ of the Maastricht criteria.

Clearly, the march towards a single currency and European integration has faltered heavily - with the chance of it ‘taking off’ in 1999 as originally planned now looking less likely. France and Germany are meant to be the power houses behind the Emu, yet even they do not look in a fit state to join the ‘first wave’. Larry Elliot of The Guardian was in no doubt:

“There is absolutely no chance that the Euro will come into force as planned. The choice is between the most blatant fudging of the criteria for entry, a rewriting of the Maastricht terms to suit the French socialists, delay to ensure that countries qualify as originally stipulated, or a total collapse” (June 2).

Some might be tempted to find this a source of comfort, if not a cause for rejoicing. The “total collapse” of the Emu is certainly the aim of Le Pen’s Front National in France. The number one election issue for the FN was the preservation of the French nation, which according to FN propaganda is threatened with extinction at the hands of a European ‘super-state’. For Le Pen this is such a determining issue that he even called for FN supporters to vote for a ‘left’ candidate - including those of the French Communist Party - where there was no FN candidate, on the eminently logical grounds that the Socialist Party/Communist Party are a little less ‘pro-European’ than the mainstream parties of the right.

This conjures up the odd, if not disturbing, spectacle of fascists voting for ‘communists’. Unsurprisingly, Le Pen’s ‘vote left’ message scandalised a large section of his party, which almost erupted into civil war over the issue. But the fact that such a political configuration could come into play at all indicates graphically how the spectre of Maastricht is dislocating French politics and society in general. The same story, to a greater or lesser degree, will be repeated throughout the whole of Europe.

In many respects, Le Pen’s tactical orientation - the embrace of the viper - to the PCF when it comes to Europe says far more about the ‘communists’ than about the fascists. True, the PCF has not adopted the undiluted national socialism of the Socialist Labour Party leadership, with its calls for Britain to ‘get out’ of Europe. But the PCF long ago abandoned even the ritualised vestiges of international socialism and Marxism-Leninism, and has no answers for the working class, no programme for revolution and socialism. Headless, the PCF leadership does not see European integration as the basis for socialism but only as the saviour of its backward looking utopian vision of ‘friendly’ social democratic capitalism.

It has to be emphasised strongly that no section of the bourgeoisie has an answer to the crisis which is building up over Maastricht and the emergence of the global economy. As the nation state becomes increasingly anachronistic and inefficient, and is patently seen to be so, so the bourgeoisie becomes more frantic - and more brain dead. Larry Elliot, in the same Guardian article, tries to convince us that British bourgeois politicians are wiser than their French and German counterparts: “The wait-and-see policy adopted by both parties in the election campaign is looking ever more sensible as the days roll by”.

Similarly, The Observer raises a patriotic cheer for British farsightedness: “The wait-and-see approach on the single currency - with which John Major tried to hold the Conservative Party together - looks more and more vindicated”. Fantastically, it goes on to state that if the “European left can keep up the pressure, there is a real chance of creating a ... millennial boom” (my emphasis, June 1).

Here is the pipe-dream par excellence of capitalism and its prophets: the “millennial boom” is just around the Maastricht comer if we just “wait-and-see” for a bit, and then a bit more, and then perhaps ...

Communists reject out of hand the ‘Maastrichtophilia’ of Kohl and Chirac, the ‘Europhobia’ of the SLP’s policy documents, or the timid “wait-and-see-ism’ of the so-called “European left”. We positively welcome the inexorable coming together of Europe, and the world, into a common economy - this can only objectively advance the cause of real, scientific socialism. Therefore, the erosion of the nation state is something we view with pleasure.

However, we condemn the reactionary consequences of Maastricht and the ravages of capitalist integration, with its savage austerity plans and vicious attacks on the working class. Kohl, Chirac and co want to see a Europe of bankers, businessmen, state bureaucrats and ‘experts’, which rules over the working class. We want, on the other hand, a democratic Europe run by workers for workers. Nothing else is good enough.

Eddie Ford