For a Capitalist United States of Europe

The short article below is a review of Alan Thornett’s pamphlet Behind the EU Crisis by Roy Wall.

Alan asked me to write this review whilst knowing that I am fundamentally opposed to his basic analysis of the roots of European integration. In addition, I am fundamentally opposed to what I consider to be a left-sectarian response to the crisis in Europe, expressed by Alan in the pamphlet.

European integration is being driven by basic, economic needs. The two world wars of the twentieth century started as European wars, with Germany each time attempting to unite Europe by force. Today, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the help of the IMF, is at present making yet another attempt to unite Europe under single-power control.

From its inception, the nation state has been a brake on economic development. The economic development of Europe continues to suffer from a system of individual nation-states as compared to the USA, China and India, that each have a single, federal state with power over semi-autonomous local states or republics. The economic benefits of removing border controls, customs, and currency conversions are significant enough to constantly drive towards a political solution for Europe that reflects its level of economic integration.

The move to a United States of Europe, i.e., with a single, federal state, is historically progressive and therefore constitutes a political and social reform that should be supported by revolutionaries, but of course not uncritically.

Opposed to this understanding, Alan, in his pamphlet, uses the method of deriving his line by simply opposing the plans of the bourgeoisie, namely further steps to European integration. This simple method is attractive in its simplicity, but wrong.

Besides getting our basic attitude to European integration wrong, Alan ends his pamphlet with a section entitled “nationalisation under workers control”. This is an attractive-sounding phrase, but is confused and incorrect as a generalizable formula.

In the Russian revolution, soviets appeared well before workers control. However, in the German revolution of 1918-9, its was the other way round. In other words, we just cannot prescribe in advance, this formula. Similarly, we should not prescribe one national program to be applied in each national, European section of the FI., as Alan does. Each section has to develop demands and slogans that take into account national peculiarites, etc.

Both “soviets” and “workers control” are slogans. Nationalisation, on the other hand, is a demand. Alan lists both slogans and demands in his program at the back of the pamphlet. His confusion as to their correct meaning is demonstrated by his desire to simply “advance demands”, even if some of them are actually slogans, for example, workers control. What we should do is to place demands on governments, whereas we should address slogans directly to the mass of workers and oppressed. We do not simply “advance demands” in thin air.

Alan’s formula of “nationalisation under workers control” inappropriately combines a demand with a slogan. In Britain today, we should raise the demands for the re-nationalization of the railways, and for the nationalisation of the utility suppliers of electricity, gas and water, without insisting about workers control, which we can take up in propaganda. These are very popular demands among the population of Britain. But it is more difficult to raise the slogan of workers control because it is more appropriate to a pre-revolutionary situation of the future than to present conditions in Britain today. But it is an inportant propaganda slogan even now.

To some extent, concrete demands for nationalization can be generalized across Europe in opposition to the IMF-led demand that European national governments should privatize all utilities, etc., as part of the general austerity offensive

To emphasize: we place political and economic demands even on the most reactionary governments. For example, the Bolsheviks placed the demand for an 8-hour day on the reactionary tsarist governments of Nicolas II.

We should place demands on the embryonic European federal government of Merkel and co. and not pretend that it simply shouldn’t exist, and/or is too reactionary to place demands on, as Alan implies, anachistically trying to ignore it, in effect hoping it will go away.

Similarly, when we are in a position of relative weakness – as we are now because we are, understandably, not a mass party — we must relate positively to the European Parliament since we are not strong enough to boycott it. After the defeat of the 1905 revolution, the Bolsheviks took seriously the elections to the wretched, second Duma (parliament) of the tsar. It had little representation for workers, and had no real powers. In other words, we must work in the most reactionary of parliaments.

Of course, in Britain we also must relate to the reactionary Coalition Government. We must place demands on it (including re-nationalistions) and also support campaigns for improving democracy by demands for recallability of MPs, full election of the second house, election of the head of state, proportional representation, etc. We do this despite our eventual aim of overthrowing this and every other pro-capitalist government. Our appraoch to the proto-European government must also follow this approach.

Alan mirrors the “left-wing Communists” that Lenin criticized for not working with reactionary trade unions. Alan is guilty of left-wing Trotskyism because, in his pamphlet, he refuses to take work with reactionary governments seriously.

Economic requirements have forced the European bourgeoisie, dominated by finance capital, to take what, for them, are dangerous steps towards changing the system of states in Europe. The economic crisis that started in 2008 has made this process more hazardous, for example, creating the present near-pre-revolutionary situation in Greece. The move to the Eurozone single currency before having constructed sufficient elements of a federal state and government, was a mistake from the standpoint of the European bourgeoisie. A breakup of the EU and Eurozone, if it happens, will place European war on the agenda again.


  1. A few points on Roy’s critique:

    * Roy argues, essentially, for a reorganization of European capital – in the form of a capitalist united states of Euro – in order to compete more effectively with the USA, China and India. This, he says, would be politically and socially progressive and should be supported by revolutionaries! This, in my view is a fundamentally mistaken approach and a fundamentally mistaken conclusion. In fact is lacks class analysis and even coincides with the objectives of the EU elites themselves.

    The EU elites, of course, do have a class analysis. They have constructed the EU as a mechanism to more effectively exploit the European working class, not only by creating the free movement of capital in a neo-liberal framework, but by destroying the gains made by the working class in the post war period including (in fact in particular) the welfare state. This makes the EU an anti-working class project which revolutionaries cannot and should not support.

    * I am not against standing for the European Parliament. I supported the LCR when it stood and won positions and I was a part of the Respect team running the election intervention in 2004.

    * Nor am I against putting demands on the European institutions, though there are limitations in putting demands on institutions which lack the power to implement them even if the argument was won within them. In fact the action programme at the end of my pamphlet contains demands on the EU as well as demands on the member states.

    * Roy argues that the demand for the nationalisation under workers’ or popular control is ultra-left in the current period! I strongly disagree on this. When the crisis broke in 2008 and a series of banks were nationalised with control left in private hands and massive bonuses still being paid this issue came right to the fore. The left had a golden opportunity to discuss nationalisation (and not just of the banks, as a main stream issue and popularise the demands of workers’ or popular control but failed to rise to it. In fact without raising the issue of control it is difficult to defend and advocate nationalisation.

    * Roy argues that the EU is a bulwark against war in Europe! He even argues that: “A breakup of the EU and Eurozone, if it happens, will place European war on the agenda again.” This, in my view, this buys directly into the illusions peddled by the architects of the Common Market in the 1950s. The idea that trading relations between capitalist nations, or treaties between them, or even federal arrangements, prevents wars between them not only defies historical fact but seriously misunderstands what drive capitalism to war.

    Imperialist expansion is driven by economic forces which require ever-expanding markets and opportunities for investments as individual imperialist states compete for hegemony. Ernest Mandel in his book The Meaning of the Second World War (1986) puts it this way: ‘In the final analysis imperialist expansion (and therefore war) expresses an insatiable thirst for surplus value, its production and realisation – the snowball dynamic of capital accumulation.’
    It was this drive which shaped the development of the EU after the Single European Act of 1986 and the Maastricht Treaty on 1991. Such a drive – to generate far greater profits than the home market can yield – is in the nature of every imperialist country. The EU, moreover, is an imperialist (and expansionist) project with competing imperialist states inside it – many of which retain powerful interests from their colonial past. The idea, therefore, that imperialist powers within the EU have given up these ambitions, or are no longer imperialist powers, or are likely to become a single imperialist power, is a dangerous mistake. The British ruling class, for example, remains deeply divided between its role in the EU and its world role as an imperialist power. These forces could blow the EU apart at any time if conflicts arose.
    In any case if the EU is such a force for peace it might also be asked as to how come its more powerful member states, sometimes with the support of the EU itself (or NATO acting with EU approval) have been so keen to wage war, and commit mass murder, on counties outside of the EU – Iraq and Afghanistan are obvious examples. In the ex-Yugoslavia they were prepared to do wage war in a region which they were already planning to incorporate into the EU itself.
    Alan T

  2. Roy raises some interesting points, and a web page isn’t the best place for the discussion.

    Many folk argue that a single state removes a layer of nationalist obstacles. However, the reality is that the EU isn’t a single state. Firstly, it’s an additional state layered above the nation state. It doesn’t remove the national reality of politics in Europe. Second, it’s one state amongst many in the world. Socialists have opposed tarifs and taxes on trade, since they create a material basis for the exclusion of the working class of some countries. But the EU, far from being a free trade zone, is the most massively protected market. It spells ruination for the countries of Africa and Asia which need to develop fair trade relations with Europe.

    The EU is an obstacle to fair trade, and should be opposed.

  3. [Below, I have used UPPERCASE as italics for emphasis]

    Alan argues that my analysis “… even coincides with the objectives of the EU elites themselves.” But he finds himself in the same camp as UKIP and the majority of the Tory-Party membership with his “little Englander” position of being left to defend the wretched British state against federal encroachments from Europe. This defence of the status quo by Alan, is a thoroughly reactionary position.

    As I have previously argued, “Workers control” is not a DEMAND, it is a SLOGAN. We don’t place demands on the working class and the oppressed, but on GOVERNMENTS. One cannot place the slogan of workers control on a government because it is a task for the working class itself. That is why it is called a slogan, and not a demand.

    Alan’s interpretation of his so-called demand for “nationalistaion under workers control” is that we should wait around until a government nationalises a bank, or similar, and then demand that the relevant workers implement workers control after hearing our propaganda FOR this alleged demand.

    I direct readers to study one of the PATHFINDER editions (1974, but preferably 1977) of the FI’s “TRANSITIONAL PROGRAM”, which contains articles covering discussions with Leon Trotsky as to just how transitional demands must be patiently fought for and established within the consciousness of workers over a period of time. I was personally involved in doing this when I worked for a nationalised service-industry in civil-air-transport in the ’70s. It is labourious, agitational work done from the inside and not by placing propagandistic demands on workers from outside of their place of work.

    As I have already stated, “nationalisation under workers control” is a phrase that confusedly tries to combine a slogan and a demand. Attempting to “place” this “demand” by means of propaganda, in situations that are neither pre-revolutinary or revolutionary, is according to Leon Trotsky, to be guilty of “REVOLUTIONARY PHRASEMONGERING”.

    Alan THREATENS to explain to us his understanding of the causes of war, but doesn’t do so. I direct readers to study the theses WAR AND THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL, adopted by the IS of our party in 1934. (The theses are in the 1933-4 Trotsky “year book”). Here it is argued that the national-state framework, in conflict with the world’s productive forces, is the second most important conflict of the entire world economic and political whole, i.e., of the world imperialist system. Apparently, Alan thinks otherwise.

    If Alan were consistent, he would be in favour of organizing a mass, single-issue campaign based on the slogan “Britain Out Of Europe”. He would be obliged to invite the membership of UKIP and of the Tory Party, who agree with him on this demand, to join him in this reactionary project.

    Moreover, Alan effectively desires that we raise a similar slogan in EVERY STATE OF PRESENT-DAY EUROPE, i.e., that the FI in Europe should follow both the Second and Third Internationals by similarly degenerating into national socialism by adopting social-chauvinistic positions.

    Since Alan is against a federal Europe, we can only assume that his real position (he fails to develop his own logic) is for the breakup of all EXISTING federal states, e.g. China. Instead of this reactionary position, we place the demand for THE RIGHT OF NATIONS TO POLITICAL SELF-DETERMINATION on the Chinese government, with our particular eye on the Tibetan question. This is a correct use of the demand for the right to political self-determination. This particular demand is placed on an existing, federal GOVERNMENT, and not on thin air as a meaningless moral appeal, which is unfortunately so common on the left

    Instead, Alan effectively argues for the BALKANISATION of all multinational states. He effectively wants, for example, the USA divided into 50 separate national states, each with their own customs posts, passport controls, import and export duties, currencies, standing armies, etc.

    Alan falsely argues that history is on his side, but he is wrong. For example, the breakup of India into two states in 1947: Pakistan and India, should never have happened. It resulted in the death of millions.

  4. PS: The theses “War and the Fourth International” is easily found online by means of a Google search. The Pathfinder book “The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution” 1977, is still in print, I believe. It is particularly the accompanying discussion articles included that I was referring to above.

  5. Here is a quote from thesis 15 of “War And The Fourth International”:

    “15. Having used the nation for its development, capitalism has nowhere, in no single corner of the world, solved fully the national problem. The borders of the Europe of Versailles are carved out of the living body of the nations. The idea of recarving capitalist Europe to make state boundaries coincide with national boundaries is the sheerest kind of utopia. No government will cede an inch of its ground by peaceful means. A new war would carve Europe anew in accordance with the war map and not in correspondence to the boundaries of nations. The task of complete national determination and peaceful co-operation of all peoples of Europe can be solved Only on the basis of the economic unification of Europe, purged of bourgeois rule. The slogan of the UNITED STATES OF EUROPE is a slogan not only for the salvation of the Balkan and Danubian peoples but for the salvation of the peoples of Germany and France as well.”

    One must remember that this is the official position of our party, the FI, World Party Of Socialist Revolution. Alan wants to revise this position, to turn it on it’s head.

  6. Roy isn’t quite dealing with this in the most helpful way. The question can’t resolved by pointing whether or not that slogan was adopted in 1934, but whether that demand today is in the interests of working people and their allies. Materially, or ideologically, does it move us generally forward to backwards? That’s the question to answer.

    “War And The Fourth International” was adopted by the international secretariat of the Movement for the Fourth International. It was adopted before the founded of the FI, and by a meeting of the secretariat rather than by an international congress. But the question has been discussed by a world congress of the Communist International. Prior to 1928, revolutionary stood for the “Socialist United States of Europe”, and the Fourth International has repeatedly used that form of words since its foundation, and in particular since 1992.

    There is a key difference between what a slogan meant eighty years ago, when there was no European state, and what is has meant over the last twenty years, when a European state has been developing. In the 1930s, the demand for a united Europe cut totally against the ruling classes which were preparing for war. The only possible united Europe was one which had smashed the capitalist state. Clearly that is not the case now. A whole series of political cycles have closed: the cycle of 1917, of 1945 and of 1968. Now the demand for a united Europe is a bourgeois demand since it equates to the expansion of a neo-liberal state which works as a mechanism to undermine fair trade.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.