Europe, the left and anti-capitalism
The focus for the anti-capitalist movement shifts to Genoa this weekend where the G8 meeting will bring together the leaders of eight major world powers. The United States, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Britain and an indebted but still militarily dangerous Russia.
Between them these national states play a vital role in upholding the universal system of capital. The notion that nowadays the state is powerless, or irrelevant, is a fallacy pushed equally by the neo-liberal right and the anarchistic left.
In fact capital operates as a metabolism of production and reproduction on two contradictory but necessary levels. The global and the state. No transnational company commands an army or an airforce in any meaningful sense. Nor do people willingly, even enthusiastically, die for ?their? employer. Yet literally millions have done that for ?their? country. To ignore or downplay the role of the state in guaranteeing the conditions for capitalist exploitation is not only to make a fundamental theoretical mistake. It is to abandon the struggle against capitalism and to merely concern oneself with effects, not causes.
Over 100,000 are expected to gather in Genoa to protest against the G8. Numbers will be swollen by the mobilisation of sections of the working class in Italy. Under billionaire prime minister Silvio Berlusconi the Italian government is promising to unleash a whole raft of regressive attacks. The post-World War II social democratic settlement in Italy and its attendant politics have all but disintegrated. Both the ?official? Communist Party and the Christian Democrats have melted away to almost nothing. The passing of their bipolar system of politics has given way to a highly fractured but distinct shift to the right. The gains won by the working class after the fall of fascism are now perceived as an obstacle to capital accumulation. That means class war.
That Italian trade unionists will be demonstrating provides a welcome boost to the anti-capitalist movement. The only other mobilisations of comparative size - in Nice and Seattle - were also notable for the fact that they had heavy backing from the organised working class, which, however much it might look fondly to a mythical past, is compelled by its very conditions of existence to fight for the future.
This fact alone should provide ammunition to those who argue that the way to concretise the anti-capitalist mood amongst radicalised layers of young people is to decisively turn to the only consistent anti-capitalist force in society.
Leading up to Genoa the political establishment has continued its twin-track strategy of talking tough on the one hand and attempting to incorporate the ?softer? elements on the other. Gordon Brown and Claire Short have spoken of their sympathy for some demonstrators. The rightwing Italian government was insisting that it would simply seal off Genoa. It also steadfastly refused to negotiate with the Genoa Social Forum - an alliance of 750 bodies involved in the protests. When, however, it became clear that this was not going to stop big demonstrations taking place the Berlusconi government changed tack. Now it insists that peaceful protestors are ?welcome?.
The plans it has made are anything but welcoming, however. Two different zones will cover the majority of central Genoa. In the ?red? zone entry is prohibited. In the buffer or ?yellow? zone demonstrations are allowed with police permission.
The bourgeois media have been busy justifying the complete suspension of normal life in ?red? and ?yellow? Genoa. Rumours of anarchist bomb plots have been manufactured by the score; they originate not with the Italian government but the ?leftwing? Genoa administration too. Anarchist and other such hotheads are admittedly a problem that our side ought to firmly deal with. In the meantime the Italian state is more than willing to use their lumpen antics as an excuse to employ blanket repression. There have also been stories circulating about terrorist air strikes. Thus The Daily Telegraph seriously reported that European and US intelligence agencies were conducting a ?manhunt for Algerian terrorists funded by Osama bin Laden amid fears they are planning to attack the G8 summit? (July 13). Batteries of anti-aircraft missiles stand ready. All of which goes to create a febrile atmosphere in which police violence can be legitimised.
Europe, more specifically the European Union, is central to any viable anti-capitalist strategy. Half the members of the G8 belong to the EU: a trading bloc which overshadows the giant economies of both the USA and Japan. More importantly the working class movement historically originates and is still deeply rooted in the soil of Europe. The millions of trade unionists and class conscious workers of Europe have the traditions and current organisation which enables them to deliver a decisive blow against the system of capital. The spark might well come from elsewhere. To survive it would rely on Japan and North America quickly following. But a real beginning can be made in Europe. However, that requires a clear organisational plan - and frankly we lag far behind the class enemy.
The EU might have begun as a loose trading bloc. Nowadays, however, it is a proto-superstate in all but name. Where Napoleon and Hitler failed, the modern parliamentary princes look set to succeed. The EU already has its own legal system, parliament and bureaucracy. Next year it will have its own fully-fledged currency, backed by a powerful central bank. A European army is already in the making in the form of the Rapid Reaction Force. The Schengen accord - though it is frequently suspended - allows for free movement of labour between EU countries. For worst paid and highly skilled labour there is a single EU market.
Developing a correct orientation towards the emerging EU superstate is vital. The EU is a capitalist club run by an appointed bureaucracy. From the point of view of socialism it is therefore reactionary. However, it is incorrect to call for the break-up of the EU and seek a future based on independence, sovereignty, etc. If we wish to conquer the future, the working class movement must organise, contest and engage. Those who simply say ?no? to the institutions of capitalism are doomed to the futile politics of gesture. Hence, where others say smash the IMF, WTO, World Bank, etc, we communists and leftwing socialists must develop a set of far-reaching demands to be crowned by the take-over of these institutions of the world economy. Our perspective must be a future where humanity brings the product of its labour back under social control.
We need to adopt a similar attitude towards the EU. While a working class revolution would seek to disperse, or smash, the oppressive organs of the state - ie, the armed forces, secret services and police of the EU - there is every reason to seek to give new content to existing democratic forms as well as developing new ones.
For a start we must reorganise our own forces. Where the governments and capitalists of the EU have by and large successfully striven for integration, the trade unions of Europe remain fragmented and distinctly parochial. Hence the CPGB says we must as a matter of urgency leave behind the ideological, religious and national trade union centres that characterise and cripple the labour movement in Europe. Industrial unions organised on an all-EU basis represent the way forward. Maintain national sections, but end national sectionalism. Put a stop to the competition between the workers of Europe to be the cheapest and the most flexible. Halt the erosion of wages and conditions. Fight to raise the lowest to the highest. That is our programme.
Communists and leftwing socialists ought to reorganise as well. The Socialist Alliance and the Scottish Socialist Party in Britain should be seen as an embryo in terms of spirit, or ethos, of what is needed. Immediate moves must be made to stand a common left slate in the 2003 Euro elections. Let us fight in every country and in every constituency on a principled working class manifesto.
Our MEPs should be pledged to operate in the EU parliament not as constructive critics, but as class warriors. Make propaganda for socialism. Use the EU parliament as a platform to protest against every violation of democracy, every act of injustice. MEPs must also take no more than the average skilled worker?s wage and be subject to instant recall. A brilliant contrast to the time-servers, careerists and place-fillers.
Such a bold move would provide a powerful stimulus towards what is really needed. To the extent that the EU emerges as a superstate, the communist, leftwing socialist and working class forces of Europe are obliged to come together in a single democratic and centralised party. Life now demands such unity.
Those who cannot countenance such a course have yet to overcome nationalism, albeit of a socialist variety. We resolutely oppose those elements who under the banner of socialism call for the withdrawal of this or that country from the EU. Such a course runs counter to the course of history and the interests of the working class. National isolation or defence of the national currency offers no solution for the working class. Any such victories that are scored are entirely Pyrrhic. The 20th century is certainly littered with experiments in national socialism. Such partial negations of capitalism robbed the working class of all democratic rights and cost the lives of countless millions. Never again!
Socialism must be international. Socialism is democratic or it is anti-socialism. Socialism is an act of human self-liberation not a new form of slavery. Socialism marks the dawn of real history.
A Socialist Alliance of the EU can fulfil its duty to the working class only by fighting for consistent democracy. That means a programme of extreme democracy, a democracy that can technically be met within the bounds of commodity production but is openly challenging the logic of the market and its actual workings. That is why we say:
- Abolish the Schengen accords. Immigration is historically progressive. End all immigration controls. For the free movement of people. There must be the right to leave the EU and the right to enter the EU. If the product is free to move, so too should be the worker. Citizenship rights for all that have resided in an EU country for three months. For the right to use one?s mother tongue. For the right to assimilate.
- For an EU minimum wage and social and unemployment benefits. A maximum 35-hour week.
- For EU industrial unions. All officials to be elected and accountable. No state interference in the internal affairs of unions.
- Neither advocate the euro nor defend the pound, crown, mark, lira or drachma.
- Not a penny or a cent, not a man or a woman for the EU?s armed forces.
- Abolish the council of minister and the EU commission.
- For a democratic EU. Elect a constituent assembly of the EU on the basis of universal suffrage and proportional representation.