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.