Eurozone crisis–the history and socialist solutions

tnBehind the EU Crisis is a new pamphlet from Socialist Resistance  (£1.50, 40 pages) and combines an analysis of the current crisis of the Eurozone, which broke in full force in 2011, with a history of European integration from the early days of the Coal and Steel Community of 1951 to the European Union (EU) of today with its 27 member states and 500 million inhabitants. It offers both an analysis of the class character of the EU and of its consequent political role and evolution. The text was agreed by the Socialist Resistance National Committee in March 2012.

It traces European integration from the original common customs union into an increasingly political entity through the Single European Act of 1986, the Maastricht Treaty of 1991, the Amsterdam and Nice Treaties of 1997 and 2001, and the single European currency introduced in 2002. This, it argues were an evolution towards a European super-state, based on neo-liberal politics, which could compete more effectively with its international rivals in Asia and North America.

This reactionary agenda met with massive resistance across Europe. This took the form of mass mobilisations against the introduction of the Maastricht Treaty, the neo-liberal agenda, and the single currency, in the 1990s. There was also huge opposition to the proposed EU treaty, in the early years of the 21st century, which was defeated in controversial referenda in France, Holland and Ireland.

European integration was, from the outset, a project with a fatal contradiction within it—which would become more acute and destabilising with deeper integration and expansion to the East—and which is central to the Eurozone crisis today. This was and is the attempt to force divergent and unequal economies, with separate political systems and no common economic cycle, into a common and ridged monetary structure.

The pamphlet traces various attempts by the European élites to overcome this contradiction from the so-called ‘snake’ in 1972 to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) of 1978—which led to Black Wednesday and Britain’s disastrous ejection from the ERM— to the Growth and Stability Pact, which was famously breached by its architects, France and Germany, in 2003.

Mass impoverishment

The banking crisis of 2008 threw both the EU and the Eurozone into a crisis, which directly threatened their continued existence—and to which they have absolutely no answer. By the end of the 2009 Greece was facing imminent bankruptcy and other so-called peripheral countries, such as Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy, were on the brink. The answer of the EU elites was ever more austerity and deeper integration.

In October 2011 the EU Commission appointed the Troika (representatives from the ECB, the EU, and the IMF) to demand terms from Greece, which would impoverish big sections of its population. This would include a 22% cut in the minimum wage—axing 150,000 public sector jobs and reducing pensions by 15%. Unemployment was already above 20% and a staggering 48% amongst 18-26 year olds.

The pamphlet argues that the key to a fight back in Greece and elsewhere is debt audit and debt repudiation —the refusal by the working class to take any responsible for a debt that it did not create. It does not call directly for Greece’s exit from the Eurozone but argues that in order to advocate debt repudiation you have to prepare for exit (or expulsion) from the Eurozone as a probable consequence. It insists that you cannot pursue an effective demand for debit repudiation if you advocate staying in the Eurozone.

It argues that the class nature of the EU is clear. It was and is an anti-working class project designed to more effectively exploit the European working class: a supra-national construct designed to support the individual member states in more effectively taking on their own working class. It argues that the Euro was never simply a currency but a political instrument designed to cuts wages and destroy welfare systems— in other words create a bosses Europe.

It proposes that the EU cannot be reformed but has to be confronted. The long-term democratic deficit is not only profound but has been getting worse. Every treaty since the Single European Act of 1986 has degraded it further. The European Parliament was established to give the impression of a democratic structure that did not exist. Power in the EU lies with the Council of Ministers and the Commission, neither of which are elected bodies. They are dominated by the biggest and most powerful countries, meet in private, and cannot be challenged through the structures of the EU.

Pro-European internationalism

The power to make changes, therefore, remains with the national states since they control the Council of Ministers. In any case the idea that the nation state has been superseded the by the EU as claimed by the Tory right, has never made sense. Moreover, the class struggle still takes place overwhelmingly at the national level. Whilst many attacks are organised by the EU they are implemented by the national governments. The legislature, the military, the police, the courts and the budgets all operate at the level of the nation state.

The task, therefore, is to wage the class struggle as effectively as possible at the national level whilst striving for the maximum international solidarity thorough the construction of links between both trade unions and social movements across Europe and beyond.

Our critique of the Euro and of the EU itself is fundamentally different from that of the rightwing forces in Britain or elsewhere, who advance a nationalist xenophobic and racist objection to them. We oppose their view at every stage and advance instead a working class and a socialist critique of the EU designed to challenge it neoliberal core and anti-working class structures.

This pamphlet argues for pro-European internationalism. It calls for the repeal of the Maastricht and Nice treaties, which institutionalise the neoliberal agenda. It calls for a different Europe, a Europe of the workers and the peoples. This would be a Europe free from the structures and restrictions of the EU. This would allow the working class of each country to challenge their own ruling classes more effectively than they can under the current framework of the EU, which supports big business and serve their interests at every stage.

The pamphlet ends with a section about a working class response to the crisis, which recognises its dual nature as a crisis of both the economy and of the ecology of the planet. The starting point it advocates is the rejection of all cuts and austerity, for working in every country across Europe to maximise resistance on the broadest possible basis. The overarching alternative is for investment not cuts to meet the crisis. It calls for massive investments by governments in public works programmes to create large numbers of new green jobs designed to construct an environmentally sustainable society.

To achieve this it calls for radical change in the way the wealth of society is distributed: for a highly progressive tax systems and for the imposition of much higher taxes on the rich and on big business. It calls for the bonuses of the bankers to be abolished, for the wages of the mass of workers to be increased, and for precarious work conditions to be abolished.

There is more than one position in the Fourth International on the EU and our precise attitude to it. Whilst the views expressed in this pamphlet represent a big majority within SR this is not the case within the FI as a whole where they would be in a minority. This is clear from the writings of Özlem Onaran, who is a member of SR and Catherine Samary from the NPA in France who have chapters in Capitalism: Crisis and Alternatives published by Socialist Resistance in February 2012, where debate on this can be found.

To order the pamphlet send £2.00 including UK postage (email for other rates) via to pay
by cheque to Resistance, PO Box 62732, London SW2 9GQ.

    • Great Allan. Please post it when and if available. To mangle a quote from the movie “The Graduate”

      “Boy, I’ve got one word to say to you about your future…e-readers!”

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