New strategy needed for working class in European Union
As leaders of the European Union gather for their summit in Cardiff, thousands of working class partisans are also making their voices felt. Opposing the attacks on workers embodied in the Maastricht criteria, demonstrators are demanding a fight to defend jobs, services and democracy.
They are standing on the shoulders of last year’s outstanding European march for jobs, which saw workers from most EU countries joining forces to oppose their governments’ schemes to eat into living standards. Hundreds of marchers and thousands of supporters converged on Amsterdam in June 1997 under the slogan, ‘Single currency? Not at our expense!’
The Maastricht criteria stipulate that countries joining the European Monetary Union in the first wave must ensure that their own currencies are shored up so as not to drag down the euro. Central to this is the requirement that state borrowing must not exceed three percent of each county’s gross domestic product. Not wishing to increase taxation, governments have looked to make big inroads into spending. But with unemployment high across Europe, this has proved to be no easy task and has provoked working class opposition, particularly as it is welfare and services in the firing line.
Ironically the British economy - for the moment one of the strongest in the world - is well placed for entry. But, much as Blair and co would love to place themselves at the head of European convergence, they are still held back by the legacy of Thatcherite ultra-chauvinistic ‘defence of the pound’. Having committed his government to a referendum before joining the single currency, Blair is patiently working to undo the ideological legacy of the Thatcher years. He knows that European capital really has no alternative but to push ahead. If capitalist Europe is to compete with the USA and Japan, its separate economies must move towards a closer integration - and monetary union is a central part of this.
Workers must build an alternative vision. Most demonstrators in Cardiff this weekend, like the Euromarchers last year, do not support the inane call to ‘pull out of Europe’. This was a key position of the opportunists who used to lead the CPGB and their British road to ‘socialism’. Today it finds its echo in Arthur Scargill’s SLP.
No, we have no preference for a life of wage slavery under British capital rather than at the hands of ‘European’ rulers. Nor do we see our job as defeating only the British state. We are international, not national, socialists. We cannot defeat capitalism in one country alone. Inasmuch as the capitalists organise a pan-European state so for workers it becomes the main enemy: not something to withdraw from but something to overthrow through united action.
Rather than looking to ally ourselves with the most backward elements of British capital who want to preserve their own narrow interests through turning back the clock, we must build working class links across the continent. European integration strengthens capital. But it has its progressive side, in that it creates the objective necessity for workers to come together too.
We must meet that necessity. In opposition to the European Union of bosses, workers must build EU-wide trade unions. In opposition to the European Union of unelected bureaucrats and commissioners, we must fight to maximise democracy within and across the EU - beginning with a constituent assembly of the EU. In opposition to a European Union of capital, we must fight for a Communist Party of the EU. We need to develop a new strategy, new slogans, to inspire the 350 millions who live in the European Union.