Corruption or democracy?

European Union

The second half of the 20th century has seen the start of the long process of coming together of European governments whose logic points to a united European capitalist state.

The successful establishment of the euro on January 1 as a common currency of 11 of the wealthiest European countries was an important step in this process. In three years’ time Euro notes and coins will replace the national currency in participating countries.

Euro-federalists intend this to be followed by political union, with a strong central government. At present the EU is run by an unelected commission and a weak parliament with limited authority over the national governments.

Elections to the parliament in June will give us an opportunity to place the issue of democracy before the working class. The United Socialists initiative, bringing together left groups in Britain, allows us to pose a working class alternative to the bourgeois parties - Tory, Liberal, Labour, Green, and Scottish and Welsh nationalists - all of which are for a capitalist Europe. We want the Communist Party of the EU.

The working class can best fight the state which oppresses it by building the maximum organisational unity throughout the whole of its territory. To the extent that the bourgeoisie’s European convergence takes state form, to that extent the working class must also unite on a Europe-wide basis to oppose it. The CPGB will therefore aim to work with other comrades in the United Socialists to build links with socialists and workers’ organisations throughout Europe.

In Britain a significant factor holding up convergence is the strength of national chauvinism. This has been most felt within the Tory Party - divided between the pragmatic pro-European wing, representing the real material interests of capital, and the Eurosceptic wing, which both reflects and promulgates a repulsive, narrow, union jack-waving little Englandism. This ultra-reactionary majority sees anti-European nationalism as a vote winner, and a way of distinguishing themselves from New Labour.

The national chauvinist press has taken full advantage of the revelations of corruption inside the 20-strong European commission, and of the failure of the European parliament to get rid of the most corrupt bureaucrats. Unfortunately for the tabloids the corruption does not seem to have involved any sexual scandals to keep their readers interested. But they did their best to play up stories of commissioner Edith Cresson awarding contracts to her friends and cronies, and of financial irregularities in the humanitarian aid budget administered by Commissioner Manuel Marin. The parliament caved in to threats by commission president Jacques Santer to disrupt the bureaucracy by resigning himself if the parliament voted to sack either of these corrupt commissioners.

As we have seen in the case of Peter Mandelson, and even more so in the sleaze which characterised the Tory government under John Major, corruption and anti-corruption is endemic to capitalist politics. Every capitalist wants to gain an advantage over competitors - by fair means or foul - yet needs a stable overall framework which of necessity outlaws corrupt practice. In some European countries - for example Italy - the ruling class has tolerated a high level of corruption among bourgeois politicians. This occurred as a consequence of the distortions deliberately incorporated into the process of bourgeois democracy in order to prevent communist parties gaining office after World War II. Elsewhere - for example West Germany, where the Communist Party has never been strong enough to pose a threat - the bourgeois establishment has preferred to root out its most corrupt and dishonest members to safeguard the credibility of the system.

Capitalist politics will, however, always throw up people like Edith Cresson or Nick Hamilton willing to break the rules for their own gain. The level of corruption tends to be inversely proportional to the degree of democratic accountability.

As internationalists we do not react to such scandals SLP-style, with inane calls to ‘get out of Europe’. The demand must be for an EU constituent assembly to promote the democratic interests of the European masses.

Mary Godwin