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Political Committee, 21 June 2015
1. Britain will hold a referendum on whether to stay in or leave the European Union by the end of 2017. For revolutionary socialists the task of the day is to create a campaign of effective opposition to the racist and chauvinist No campaigners but equally to the pro-capitalist/neoliberal Yes campaigners, especially at a time when Greece is being martyred by the capitalists and politicians of the EU. Within the ranks of the workers’ movement we need to expose and oppose both the campaigners for a pro-capitalist Labour ‘Yes’ and the reformist and centrist ‘No2EU’ ‘No’ bloc.
2. The European Union is an imperialist bloc, completely at the service of finance capital. Originating in the first Cold War as an economic foundation for the US-led “western alliance” its overlap with Nato makes it an instrument for the domination and exploitation of semi-colonial countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, driven in the 21st Century primarily by the US ruling seeking to shore up its diminishing global hegemony.
3. European governments – whilst not overtly espousing the more doctrinaire prescriptions of Anglo-Saxon neoliberalism – have nevertheless adopted policies through the European Central Bank (ECB) and the IMF that impose austerity within most countries of the Union. They are running down the welfare state as an overhead no longer affordable by a capitalism mired in low profits rates and a prolonged tendency to stagnation. In such conditions it is an absolute utopia to imagine that the EU can be peacefully transformed into a ‘Social Europe’ by a process of reform or democratisation.
4. But it is equally utopian and actually reactionary to imagine that it is in the interest of any working class in Europe (or the rest of the world) if the states which compose the EU were to revert to separate national economies. The idea spread by some who call themselves revolutionary socialists that breaking up imperialist states or federations “weakens imperialism” and thereby strengthens the working class is sheer idiocy; reactionary nationalism is the natural, immediate and poisonous corollary of any move to national independence where this is not a mechanism to throw off the chains of national oppression.
5. The productive forces of capitalism have long outgrown the state borders of Europe and to transform, socialise and plan them in a way that takes humanity forward requires a continental (and eventually world) scale. This has been the position of revolutionary Marxists for over 100 years. The perspective that such “independence” aids the creation of socialism in single countries is even more reactionary now that it was when Stalin proclaimed this doctrine.
6. Cramping the productive forces back into national states, reimposing border controls and customs barriers, severing ties of economic and cultural exchange, increasing interstate rivalries, dividing yet further the working classes of these states in the name of a bogus national independence can only foster economic collapse and imperialist war.
7. Nevertheless, the crisis which has wracked the EU since 2008 shows that the capitalist classes of the continent are unable to perform the historically progressive task of unifying the continent. The dominant powers of the continent – especially the re-unified Germany – have proved unable to transcend their national capitalist egoism. As the fate of Greece and to a lesser degree Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland shows, the imperialist centre has, via the Euro, subjected the periphery to trade domination and debt bondage. If not overcome, this domination will inevitably lead to revolt and fracturing of the Union. Even if David Cameron returns with concessions from the EU, this should not change our view; it only reinforces the point that the competition and maneouvring of national capitalisms will continue to obstruct the historically progressive task that faces us.
8. The task of unifying Europe – a task communists realised was necessary a century ago, before the carnage of the two world wars exterminated millions of European workers, peasants, oppressed nations and “races”, – falls to the working class. The means by which it can achieve this is the Europe-wide revolution.
9. The actuality of this revolution, i.e. its potential to be realised by European workers and its objective necessity to avoid the material and human destruction of crisis and war – was already clear in all the great general crises of the twentieth century. These dangers and this potential solution both exist today.
10. Capitalism is mired in a long depression and a US imperialist drive to weaken its new imperialist rivals, and strengthen its domination over Europe (increasing the threat of war). Therefore revolutionaries across Europe must reject the idea of retreating into independent national capitalist states with their borders and tariff barriers, even if they see these as the arena for national reform or revolutions.
11. Revolutionaries cannot support for one minute the European Union as it is with its institutions like the European Commission, the European Central Bank with its Euro, and the rules that underpin them – the bludgeoning of southern European states into austerity. Nor can we support its military and diplomatic aid for the US-led adventure in Ukraine, its wars in the Middle East, its racist Fortress Europe policy on immigration.
12. But at the same time we say the answer to all these is not exit from the EU or for that states that are in the common currency zone to voluntarily abandon the Euro. Instead we must champion the fight against all these policies and institutions as the common cause of all the workers and oppressed people of Europe.
13. Revolutionary Marxists will as Lenin said, “Other conditions being equal…always stand for the larger state.” Likewise Trotsky considered that if German imperialism were to succeed in imposing some sort of union on continental Europe then “the proletariat will in this case have to fight not for the return to “autonomous” national states, but for the conversion of the imperialist state trust into a Republican European Federation.”
14. The main case where things might not be equal would be in the case of national oppression; at the moment this is not the case. Marxists no more favour the break up of large states or semi-state confederations than they would support the breaking up of giant companies or banks into smaller capitalist units. With states, as with the economic units of capital, our road is through socialisation to a planned economy under democratic workers’ control and management.
15. The obstacles standing in the way of such a perspective are not objective ones but lie in the divisions of the European working class, its bureaucratic and bourgeois trade union and parliamentary leaderships. Nevertheless, a Europe-wide movement of resistance to austerity, the destruction of the welfare state and trade union rights, the opposition to the imperialist war drive – all necessitate political coordination and as soon as possible the founding a new international party of the working class – a Fifth International.
16. Therefore our slogan is not exit from the EU – back to an independent (capitalist) United Kingdom but forward to a united socialist Europe – a federation of workers’ states, established by a continent-wide social revolution.
17. This does not mean that we are indifferent to any serious partial or democratic changes to the EU (e.g. abandonment of austerity, democratic and workers’ control over the ECB and the national banking systems, repeal of all the pro-privatisation measures in the EU treaties). We advocate a strategy of continent-wide action, general strikes etc., spread from the national flashpoints though solidarity action in the other states.
18. In the debate around the referendum we declare that:
- We are for opening the borders of Europe to migrants and refugees fleeing poverty, persecution and war. We are for their right to full citizenship and equal access to social security, healthcare and education. We are for the release of all detainees and an end to the persecution of “illegals”.
- We are against the policies of austerity and privatisation which dismantle the welfare state, weaken labour protection, human and trade union rights, and that promote environmental degradation.
- We are against the undemocratic institutions of the EU – the Council, Commission, Central Bank and the powerless parliament. We are for their replacement by bodies under the control of the democratic organisations of the working people of the continent.
- We are for the immediate dissolution of Nato and the disbanding of the standing armies of the various states, replacing them with workers’ militia.
- We are for elections by proportional representation with no percentage threshold, by all people resident in Europe over the age of sixteen, of a Constituent Assembly to establish the legal basis of the Union.
- We are for a charter of democratic and social rights including the rights to assembly, free speech, equal access to and democratic control of the mass media, women’s rights (equal pay, control of fertility, socialisation of childcare and housework), workers’ rights (to strike, to join a trade union, etc.).
- We are for a planned management of the natural environment, including the planned elimination of the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power, to combat the climate change caused by capitalism and to overcome the hypertrophy of urban centres and rural depopulation due to lack of infrastructure and resources.
- We are for the expropriation of private property in all the large scale means of production, distribution, communications and banking under workers’ control and management.
- We are for the right of all states, whose peoples have freely and democratically chosen to do so, to join the European Union.
- We are for a Socialist United States of Europe based on the common ownership of the means of production and exchange, of universal free provision housing, of welfare, education healthcare and care of the young, the old, the disabled and the sick.
19. To fully realise this programme requires a Europe-wide struggle led by the working class and its allies – all the socially and nationally oppressed groups and layers of present day society. It requires both national and a European revolution. The first stage is for workers across Europe to come to the aid of their Greek brothers and sisters and demand the total cancellation of the Greek debt and the abandonment of all attempts to impose further austerity in Greece or any other country.
20. Important as internationalist and anti-racist propaganda by the left is as an antidote to the chauvinist poison it will be totally inadequate on its own. Ruling class ideas are always hegemonic wherever the masses do not have the direct experience of action to defend their own vital interests – in short, where the class struggle is not growing and mobilising working people, youth, the more progressive middle classes against their enemies. In the next eighteen months the crucial battles against the Tory attacks – on social housing, welfare, health and education, anti-trade union and anti-immigration laws – will be fought.
21. If they can be fought on a basis of real class solidarity and the organisations of the labour movement rebuilt, including the foundations of a new working class, socialist party, then at least the vanguard of the working class can purge the poison of nationalism from within its ranks. A vital part of this process will be building solidarity action with workers in Europe – in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and everywhere that our class confronts the dictatorship of capital.
Red Flag is a
socialist organisation campaigning within Labour for a democratically planned
and owned economy. We campaign for grassroots democracy in the labour movement,
militant defence of the oppressed and an anticapitalist programme for the
Labour Party. Against Brexit, for free movement. Anticapitalist and
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