Sunday, March 13, 2016

A return to the bad old days

Does anyone really believe the European Union has anything to do with real internationalism? 

Europeanism is based upon the notion that Europeans have a common heritage which sets them apart from ‘others’. It is this which gives them rights in the EU – most importantly, the right of residence. For EU proponents, a shared European identity and the imagined benefits it brings, is seen as vital for successful political integration. In truth the EU looks more and more like a gilded cage. They hope to increase popular identification with the EU and to induce consent to decisions taken through the bodies such as the European Commission. But this notion rests upon the idea of fundamental differences between ‘Europeans’ and ‘non-Europeans’, and upon the proposition that the latter have no rights in the EU. It is on this basis that people who wish to enter EU states are excluded. Poor and vulnerable people, notably refugees, are depicted as opportunists seeking to exploit the benefits of life within the Union. The effect is to weaken solidarities between workers of Europe and others worldwide. 

The EU has nothing to do with internationalism. ‘Fortress Europe’ has encouraged xenophobia in general and helped to provide rationales for the right-wing with the idea of securing Europe against ‘threats’ from without. EU states have recently been focused upon removing migrants deemed ‘bogus’, ‘clandestine’ or ‘illegal’. Although not a nation state, the EU is already mimicking one and we can speak of a ‘European policy’ despite the problems faced by local capitalisms, and despite the resentments, rivalries and chaos associated with economic, commercial and financial strategy. Euro-politicians warn of the need to secure the EU against new global threats such as the drive northwards of tens of millions of desperate people from wars and climate change. Eastern Europe joined the EU to receive benefits, not obligations and is veering toward nationalism and xenophobia. First we had the Hungarian government declaring its opposition to the democratic values of Europe. Then we had Poland voting for an anti-European and authoritarian party that is against homosexual and 'anti-christian values' of Europe. And all over Eastern Europe, we have a clear tide of revolt against the  values of solidarity, democracy, participation, social inclusion. In every single election in the last few years, the right wing parties have been consolidating. A pro-Nazi party obtained 14 seats in the Slovak elections. There is no single European country where nationalist and xenophobic parties have not grown and they are now often the tipping point in national parliaments. With coming elections, a shift will happen all over Europe. The shift will be to the right, even in countries that have a reputation of tolerance and inclusion, like the Nordic countries. The winning argument is about a better yesteryears. “Let us go back to the time when we were powerful and rich…let us eliminate all those treaties which have reduced my power as a nation, and made me dependent on external banks, bureaucrats and values”…Donald Trump? Not at all but the Prime Minister of Poland

Europe appears to be now just a collection of 28 countries, each one with its own national agenda as a priority. Individually, they have resorted to a number of illegal measures, like building walls and barbed wire containment, without any European agreement. Some countries, like Hungary and the Czech Republic, have announced a referendum on the issue of accepting refugees. Clearly an illegal move, as the decisions of the Council of Ministers, once democratically taken, are binding for all members. Austria has gone so far as to see if it can resurrect the old Austro-Hungarian empire, calling for an alliance between its old member countries, and the Balkans, with the exception of Greece, this last being currently and de facto the most involved in the subject of migration. The sad episode of refugees trying to cross the border with Macedonia border, only to be repelled by a volley of tear gas grenades, was viewed with relief in Austria. And while individually every country tried to duck the issue of refugees, collectively they have made a deal with Turkey which has itself been condemned by the United Nations and legal experts. This deal occurred just a few days after Prime Minister Erdogan, sensing that Europe would have as priority her own comfort, would ignore his last attempt to take full control of Turkey, by taking over the largest daily newspaper, Zeman. He already controls the judiciary, the legislature, and the central bank, in an economy that is clearly run by his cronies. Yet Europe has accepted to reopen the process of admission of Turkey to the EU, a country which was formerly considered too removed from European values, and that was before Erdogan’s rise to authoritarianism.

The EU is a capitalist economic bloc, displaying all the vices and irrationalities of capitalism. We are against it. We are equally against the alternative of ‘independent’ capitalist nation-states. Our alternative to both is the fight for world socialism and for international working class unity and solidarity.  British workers either stay in the EU as wage slaves or they exit the EU, still as wage slaves. Profits know no nationality, no borders. British capital goes where it can, joins whom it may. The existence of the EU is proof that European capital recognises the need for co-operation between themselves. There are contradictions within the capitalist class, itself, the resolution of which can have far-reaching repercussions such as the consequences of staying within the EU or leaving. Europe has bent its rules to accommodate the UK’s David Cameron’s request to be an exception, in order to convince British citizens to remain in Europe. It is far from clear if that manoeuvre will succeed. And Cameron has declared that he will no longer recognise the European Court of Justice. He does not recognise either Europe as competent to assign refugees to the UK. The concessions to Great Britain would open a massive precedent that other members might be tempted to follow.


Socialists maintain that workers must free themselves of patriotism and national superiority in their own interests, for without discarding these aspects of the prevailing ruling class ideas they will never themselves be free. Fortress Europe has class walls. The vast majority of those denied entry are poor and vulnerable; those with wealth and privilege are invariably welcomed. Crisis plays into the hands of the right, as history tells us. Nationalism and xenophobia are returning.

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