Fight for a workers’ Europe

As militant workers and trade unionists converge on Amsterdam this Saturday, the bosses’ plans for monetary union are coming unstuck. But if we let them, they will resolve their problems at our expense

January 1 1999 was meant to be the start of a new era in modern European history. On that day the single currency is due to spring into life and all the national borders come down. As conceived, the European Monetary Union system lays the foundations for a European ‘superstate’ - or, to use media language, a federal Europe.

These plans are looking increasingly utopian in character. Last week saw the German Bundesbank openly rebel against the plans of the finance minister, Theo Waigel, to revalue Germany’s gold reserves and use the profits to plug the gaping hole in the budget deficit, and hence meet the Maastricht criteria. This bankers’ rebellion was quickly followed by the election of a ‘socialist’ government in France, demanding a “reorientation” towards Maastricht and a ‘softening’ of the Emu criteria.

For that section of the bourgeoisie which wants a strong Euro to hit the streets on January1 1999, events have only got worse. On Monday the new French government of Lionel Jospin got cold feet and refused to endorse the so-called “stability pact” - a key measure in the drive to limit national budget deficits - unless it was matched by a European-wide drive to boost employment and ‘growth’. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French economy minister, stated that an “agreement to put employment at the heart of policy-making would ensure greater credibility for monetary union”.

The German government was dismayed by the words of Strauss- Kahn. The unfortunate Theo Waigel, who designed the stability pact, said that it “can no longer be put up for negotiation”. The pact, which will inflict semi-automatic fines on EU member states which fail to maintain fiscal rectitude, is due to be rubber-stamped by an EU heads-of-government meeting next week at Amsterdam. To rewrite the rules, or even abandon them, at such a late stage would represent an enormous setback for monetary union.

Robin Cook has already thrown his ‘1999’-sceptic hat into the ring, attacking Jospin’s moves to ease Maastricht criteria and introduce a ‘softer’ criteria. Cook said recent events had “raised doubts” about the single currency train leaving the station on time.

Tony Blair was even stronger in his language. In an address last week to the Congress of European Socialists in Malmo, he declared that “Emu cannot work if it is set up on the basis of a fudge” and how he was not “satisfied” with Europe. Getting almost evangelical, he informed the ‘socialist’ leaders that they must “modernise or die”, accept the “need for flexible labour markets” and understand that the free market was the “only way to create jobs” - lambasting the “statist policies of the old left” along the way. Blair’s unashamedly Thatcherite tone provoked the Daily Telegraph to comment, with some sarcasm: “Our new prime minister deserves an alpha for rhetoric, and an alpha for his shameless conversion to Conservative policy. As a domestic political manoeuvre his speeches cannot be faulted” (June 7).

Blair’s Malmo speech gives the lie to those on the revolutionary left who prattle on about a ‘crisis of expectations’ amongst the working class. He attacked the “besetting sin” of previous ‘left’ governments, which “has been to come to power on a wave of enthusiasm and then to dash the high expectations, and leave behind disillusion”. Blair will not allow this to happen - he has guaranteed that there are no expectations of his administration. He has got his ‘betrayals’ in first.

The revolutionary left must respond to these events positively, and provide its own internationalist answers. Unfortunately we detect very little evidence of this. Indeed, we get a blinkered isolationist reaction from some, a purely negative reflex. For instance, the Socialist Party has openly stated that if, or when, there is a referendum on the single currency, it will urge a ‘no’ vote - placing it in the dubious company of Le Pen, Bill Cash, Dennis Skinner and, possibly, Tony Blair. The Socialist Labour Party leadership also wants to vote ‘no’ with the SP. An unholy alliance if ever there was one.

Communists and revolutionary socialists must provide an alternative vision of Europe- a vision which will horrify the Eurosceptics, ‘Little Englanders’, national socialists and national chauvinists alike. A workers’ Europe where national boundaries, borders and divisions have been eradicated, a workers’ Europe which becomes a granite foundation stone in a workers’ world.

Eddie Ford