Tag Archive for EU

Apple taxes: rotten to the core

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland
30 August 2016

The EU commissioner for competition has found that the Irish state gave preferential treatment to Apple over other companies, so that Apple must now pay €13 billion in back tax, plus interest from 2003 to 2014.
This windfall tax should be put immediately into the National Pension Fund to guarantee future workers’ pensions.
Apple, which made a profit of €16 billion in 2011, paid tax at the rate of 0.05 per cent: that is, for every million in profits it paid €500 in tax. In 2014 it paid only a tenth of this, 0.005 per cent, or €50 per million in profits.
Apple was declaring the profits at its head office in the Irish state, a head office with no employees. There is simply no head office.
The Irish state has in effect been turned into a vehicle for tax avoidance and is now little more than a tax haven. Its economic and social policy has been shaped to meet the needs of global monopoly capital. Ireland’s recorded GDP increased to 26 per cent, largely as an indirect result of various “tax-efficient” schemes. Recent research has shown that the real corporation tax paid by American transnational corporations based in the Irish state is between 2.2 and 6.9 per cent.
While the Irish people have been forced into debt servitude, the Irish state, at the behest of the European Union, willingly took responsibility for the massive speculative banking debt incurred by both Irish and European banks and finance houses, which resulted in savage austerity. At the same time the Irish state and the Irish ruling class were securing sweetheart deals with transnational corporations.
The European Union is no friend to either the Irish or the European working class. The Irish elite are committed to the creation of a very precarious economic base, totally dependent on transnational monopoly capital, resulting in widespread precarious employment.

The left and immigration

Nicola Lawlor – http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/sv/05-immigration.html

The left must embrace the debate about immigration from a working-class viewpoint and not run away from it, or shout over it, or ignorantly paint all workers who have fears and concerns as racists.

The recent British referendum has revealed a number of serious weaknesses of the left, and consequently a lot of working-class anger and frustration is expressed though right-wing groups.

The social-democratic left jumped to the defence of the European Union, a regional political, economic and social structure of monopoly capital, largely Franco-German, while the self-proclaimed “radical” left spent much time calling for “open borders” as a counter to the anti-immigration rhetoric of the leading Leave campaign groups. There were, of course, exceptions to this, in the RMT Union, NIPSA, the Communist Party of Britain, and the daily Morning Star.

The social-democratic position has obviously failed workers, and humanity, in that it allies itself with the very forces exploiting and abusing workers, creating increasingly violent and uncontrolled divisions and wrecking the environmental system that we require to sustain our lives. It seeks to defend the free movement of labour, which in reality is the freedom to exploit. It is the creation of an internal EU reserve army of labour, which drives down wages and divides working-class organisations.

But the “radical” left position is equally destructive to working-class unity and to building an actual working-class movement in opposition to capitalism.

“Open border” policies when monopoly capitalism remains the dominant social order will only benefit monopoly capital, economically in its greater access to cheaper labour within core economies but also politically, when inevitably workers will be further divided along racial lines and racism will be used to manipulate, control and disrupt organised fight-back.

It will be different when monopoly capitalism is being challenged seriously by socialist states, with military back-up, and by socialist international structures. But that is not, sadly, the present balance of class forces. The socialist policies of transformation and struggle towards socialism have to be very different from the socialist policies of a socialist hegemonic, or near-hegemonic, order.

Samir Amin, quite rightly, sees the movement we must build as being both anti-imperialist and anti-liberal.

Our task is to give new life to workers’ internationalism. Workers and working people ought to unite at all levels, both within their countries and across borders, and stop competing with each other. This can only happen on an anti-imperialist basis, working with an anti-liberal strategy.

The cornerstone of liberalism as an ideology, and also of monopoly capitalism as practised through a managed technocratic system within the EU, and dominant globally, is the free movement of capital, goods, services, and labour. An anti-imperialist and anti-liberal strategy needs to challenge all four of these points, at both the national and the international level, by progressive movements but also progressive states, where the workers’ movement has gained hegemony within a state or even become the ruling class within a state.

While Marx favoured free trade and the growth of capitalism, that was in the context of breaking down old feudal structures and ideology, when capitalism was still in its progressive phase. It has now, of course, moved well beyond that, and so our policies must too.

Again, Samir Amin sees this strategy based within national boundaries but with an obvious international dialectic.

     A precondition is to restore priority to national policies over international ones. Nations need self-determination—not just for cultural reasons, nor because they are black or white, Christian or Muslim, but because of their political history. A high degree of national independence is necessary to reduce inequalities between nations in the world today. That’s how we must define working-class unity.

     This debate must come from the grass roots. I see no contradiction between national and international levels, but I think that no progress will ever be made on the international level as long as there is no progress on the national level. Things always start to happen through a bottom-up process, and essentially this means on the national level.

While it is fair to say that the media and establishment politicians wanted the Brexit debate centred around immigration and not democracy, public services, the environment, war, workers’ rights, or real economic sovereignty, the left still failed to engage in that immigration debate from a solidly anti-imperialist and anti-liberal standpoint.

Workers have fears, concerns, and worries. Some are perceptions, some are based on ignorance, some are manufactured; but some are legitimate, and the roots of these views are real. This talk of Leave voters from some on the left as being racists or misled is itself deeply ignorant as well as being politically arrogant and obnoxious enough to turn people off the left altogether, which indeed it does.

This argument was brilliantly espoused in a post-Brexit article headed “The demonisation of the working class shames our nation” by Paul Embery, regional secretary of the Fire Brigades Union in Britain, published in Huffington Post, where he wrote:

A group of people, the most exploited within our society, are under attack . . . Few among the political class really understand them. These people live in modest homes in the grittier parts of the country. They work in factories, call centres and on building sites . . . They like football and watch Coronation Street . . .

     They are the people who tipped the balance to lead us through the EU’s exit door. They are the new scapegoats. They are the working class . . .

     The sneering contempt displayed towards these and all 17 million who voted Leave by the resentful new alliance of metropolitan liberals, know-all academics, no-mark “celebrities” and know-nothing-yet students should trouble us all . . .

     The opprobrium heaped on working-class voters post referendum demonstrates just how little their critics know of their lives . . . They considered their own lives, the perpetual strains they were under, the financial hardships, the impact of near decade-long austerity, the lack of affordable housing, the ravages of deindustrialisation, the challenges of mass and unrestricted immigration in their communities and its resultant pressure on wages and local services, and they concluded that the elite in neither Brussels nor Westminster gave a fig for their predicament . . .

     So the backbone of the nation, the people upon whose labour we rely, the section of society which creates the wealth, stands condemned, vilified by the pro-EU liberal intelligentsia, voiceless and without a political party it can truly recognise as its own.

A recent survey showed that only 35 per cent voted leave on the basis of immigration issues or concerns. But for this 35 per cent, do we write them off, or do we engage in a real conversation and with a solidly based position on immigration and borders that can help to educate but also be a fundamental principle of internationalism and national sovereignty?

Firstly, we should listen. Brexit has shown that the social-democratic left and many trade unions are largely out of touch with and irrelevant to most of the working class. They are not the political influencers or leaders of our class in Britain, and the same can be said for Ireland.

Capitalism is a barbaric and inhumane system that remains hegemonic because it is based on a political and media structure that creates division, sows hatred and fear, and does not always present the working class or the left with simple questions, or questions as we would like them presented. While Rosa Luxemburg’s proposition, “socialism or barbarism?” is ultimately correct, that is not the immediate political question.

So we must face questions like Brexit in a form and a way presented to us by the establishment. We have to tackle questions such as immigration in the context of a barbaric system and how it creates these contradictions. As Julian Jones wrote in the Morning Star:

The grim economic reality behind this free movement is in essence a free exploitation of a primarily young European work force with no job security and no prospects . . . Quite simply, those at the bottom of the pile are more likely to have witnessed the basic principle that if a boss can use a cheaper foreign work force, they will do so.

The economic structure of monopoly capitalism today includes an openness of borders within politically defined areas for the purpose of the exploitation of working people, cultivation of a bigger, more mobile reserve army of labour and driving a race to the bottom as well as a closed approach to borders for defined areas “outside,” where immigration policy can pick and choose as a form of brain drain from peripheral regions within the global economic order.

Indeed Marx noted that the English bourgeoisie “exploited the Irish poverty to keep down the working class in England by forced immigration of poor Irishmen . . . Ireland constantly sends her own surplus to the English labour market, and thus forces down wages and lowers the material and moral position of the English working class . . .”

The policies we must put forward on immigration during the struggle for socialism are different from the absolute policies that would be pursued under socialism. It is the right of all sovereign states, and an essential part of the transition to socialism, to control their borders as regards capital, labour, goods, and services.

This is a vital distinction. If the political left doesn’t realise it soon it will move further and further away from the working class and hand influence and the leadership of our class to the right, with all the dangers this presents.

Another Europe is possible—another EU is not

The Communist Party of Ireland expresses its solidarity with and welcomes the decision of the British electorate, with working people having played a decisive factor to vote to leave the European Union. 
The decision of the people is a victory over Project Fear, unleashed by big business, global banks and financial institutions, with the EU and the ruling elite throughout the EU, including the Irish government, playing back-up. We congratulate those in the north-east of Ireland who had the opportunity to vote in the referendum and voted to leave. 
We call for a new referendum here in the Republic on continued membership, coupled with a halt to any further or deeper integration within the EU. We need to reassert national democracy and sovereignty. Also required is an end to the secret negotiations by the institutions of the EU and the United States regarding TTIP. 
The working people of Britain have sent a resounding message to London and Brussels, that they have had enough of the bullying, enough of permanent austerity, enough of putting the interests of big business above those of the people. This is also significant rejection of the straitjacket economics of the EU. The political and economic strategy of the EU is an affront to democracy and the ability of people to democratically decide their countries’ economic and social priorities and possible alternative direction. 
Throughout the EU, millions of workers will welcome this vote to leave, which may well mark the beginning of the end of the EU itself. Project Fear, masterminded by the EU, has been used to bully the Greek, Spanish, Italian, Cypriot and Irish people into accepting debt slavery, that there was no alternative but to bail out the banks and speculators over the rights of the people. But not only them: this strategy has been used against all working people right throughout the EU, using fear to impose the feeling that there is no alternative, using it to mask savage attacks on workers’ rights and conditions, and the further erosion of democracy and national sovereignty. 
The cycle of fear has now been broken. Working people need to take the opportunity now presented to assert their own demands throughout the EU, to assert themselves and build unity of action against these massive assaults. 
Now is the time for the mobilisation of working people to assert that there is a progressive left democratic alternative to the the plans and strategies being imposed big business through the institutions of the EU.

The Brexit debate and the left

Letter in the Irish Times http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/letters/the-brexit-debate-and-the-left-1.2674376

Sir, – Many people will have been repelled by the selective xenophobia of the Brexit campaign, concluding there is little option than to vote to Remain in the EU for fear of being tarred with the same brush. However, we would all do well to consider the membership of the “Remain Club” – the combined forces of international capitalism, including the World Bank, IMF, multinationals, the US and, of course, the European Central Bank itself.

As a result of the Brexit campaign, the idea that a country might retain a degree of sovereignty and border control has been rendered toxic and even racist. This despite the fact that it is commonplace around the non-EU world! Nor can it be in the interests of countries to see large numbers of their working population leave, many never to return.

The postwar democratic consensus of full employment, public ownership and a welfare state has been systematically dismantled. In the event of a vote to Remain we will see a continuing attack on the public sector and privatisation of services as the EU moves towards federalism.

The next step is TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), an agreement with the most far-reaching consequences to date. In essence this elevates a multinational company to have the same status as national governments, will erode further the right of a state to protect its citizens, and force states to go to a third party to justify its actions if a company deems these to have eaten into its profits!

Tell the people of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland that the EU has equality as a priority. When equality has come up against the interests of employers, the latter have won (check the Viking Line and Laval judgments).

There are those in the trade union and labour movement who argue that membership of the EU will protect our members’ rights and conditions. What have they got to say about Greece, with the destruction of wages, pensions, jobs, healthcare and the forced sale of public assets and enterprise on the insistence of the EU? Or France, where the social democratic president’s decision to proceed with legislation to remove the legal protection for working hours and wages at the insistence of the EU, despite political opposition, widespread protests and national strikes? Or Ireland, where the EU insistence that no more than 2 per cent can be spent on social initiatives or infrastructure to alleviate the effects of austerity, which was caused by irresponsible behaviour of world and European banks, irrespective of GDP growth?

Britain does pay in more to the EU than it receives. The common fisheries policy has decimated the local fishing industry. There is endemic waste through the common agricultural policy. There is a trade imbalance which other countries will be loath to lose after a vote to leave. Of course, we are under no illusions that money no longer spent on EU membership will used to replace current funding, which will in any event stop as other regions take precedence. We would have to fight hard to achieve this. The point is though we would be able to do so, a capacity we will lose if the vote is to Remain.

The consensus on the impact of Brexit on Ireland is that a “Border with attitude” is unlikely and even far-fetched. There are precedents for relaxed borders between member and non-member countries.

The headline debate reflects a disagreement about the way ahead for British capitalism, and we are under no illusions regarding the anti-working class credentials of the Brexit Tories. However, a vote to Remain will further erode the capacity to defend living standards, the public sector and in particular the NHS.

The Communist Party of Ireland has opposed the “European project” in all its guises, and we take no pleasure in saying that what we predicted has happened. We support a left exit campaign – a Lexit! – Yours, etc,

LYNDA WALKER,

Northern Area

Committee,

Communist Party of Ireland,

Belfast.

Why #Brexit?

The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre

24 Crawford Avenue
Dublin 9
Tel.: 01-8305792
Thursday 21 April 2016
 
Dear Sinn Fein Friends
                                    Lost Opportunities?
For Sinn Fein to embrace the European Union at its Ard Fheis on the very centenary weekend of the Easter Rising, behind a rhetoric of working to turn the EU into a ‘Social Europe’ – with Ireland’s 1% EU Council vote? –  and to commit itself to ‘campaigning vigorously against Brexit’ in the UK’s June referendum on the EU, is assuredly deeply ironical.
It would be so partly because Sinn Fein has opposed handing over Irish sovereignty to the EU in every EU referendum from that on the original EEC Accession Treaty in 1972, through those on the Single European Act 1987, the Maastricht Treaty 1992, the Amsterdam Treaty 1998, the Nice Treaty 2001 and 2002, the Lisbon Treaty 2008 and 2009, up to the Fiscal Stability Treaty of 2012 … And partly because the EU is in such a mess these days – and getting messier, with the euro-currency crisis, the migration crisis and the ‘Brexit’ crisis.

I make these points in this ‘open letter’ to you and your Sinn Fein colleagues as a lifelong Left Republican who was involved in setting up the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in 1967 and who took part in the 1968/9 Northern civil rights marches before ever Provisional Sinn Fein was established, and as someone who has had no party political involvement since my student days and who has supported the ‘peace process’ over the years.

By taking such a course, with seemingly minimal discussion among the party’s members, the Sinn Fein leadership, behind a screen of leftist rhetoric, would be moving decisively down the same road as the erstwhile ‘Stickies’, using similar slogans and demands as they did in their time, and abandoning the possibility of offering a genuinely alternative course for the Irish people on the principal issue of the day in our part of the world – the issue of national independence and democracy vis-a-vis the EU.
Sinn Fein would be throwing away two political opportunities by this development.
The only way to bring about a United Ireland over time is to win over a section of current Unionist opininion to that position, however long that may take, so as to bring about eventually a majority in the North for ending Partition.  For if the Unionists are Irish – as they are – that should in principle be possible.
If Sinn Fein supported ‘Brexit’ it would enable Republicans to side with such Unionists as the DUP against the mainstream policy of the British Government and Prime Minister David Cameron. The latter is being supported by the most reactionary forces in Europe and the USA, from Goldman Sachs* and Wall Street to the German and other EU Governments, the American Government, the Brussels Commission, and EU-based High Finance and Transnational Capital against those people on the Left, Right and Centre of British politics who want to get back the right to decide their own laws and international policies.
If Sinn Fein had adopted such a course it would open other opportunities for influencing hard-line Unionist opinion in a more progressive direction over time.
Instead Sinn Fein seems set on siding with the Goldman Sachses and Prime Minister Camerons of this world – something which Bobby Sands and his H-Block comrades would surely never have credited could happen!
I am well aware that for Sinn Fein to advocate ‘Brexit’ would be politically tricky in presentational terms, but it could be done.   Of course it would not be so tricky if the Sinn Fein leadership had carried out a sustained campaign of education in the party’s own ranks and amongst the wider Irish public on the reactionary and anti-democratic character of the EU over the years: building on its record of referendum opposition to the successive EU Treaties.  But the Sinn Fein leadership has not been telling people that.
For anyone who looks objectively at the facts, Irish membership of the EU/Eurozone is the very opposite of ‘the unfettered control of Irish destinies’, the genuinely independent Irish Republic, which the men and women of 1916 set out to establish a hundred years ago.
The second opportunity being thrown away by this policy volte-face on the part of the Sinn Fein leadership is the maintenance of a significant policy distinction between Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail.  For once Sinn Fein embraces the EU there is no objective basis for Irish voters to prefer Fianna Fail ‘Lite’ as against Fianna Fail ‘Heavy’.  By removing the one significant distinction between real political Republicanism on the one hand and  bogus Fianna Fail Republicanism on the other, Sinn Fein is copper-fastening objectively the revival of Fianna Fail.
That great Socialist Republican Peadar O’Donnell used often say that Republicanism was the most ‘left-wing’ thing in Ireland until the country had attained real national independence and unity.  By that he meant that any ‘leftist’ or radical-sounding talk that does not give priority to establishing real national independence is just so much codology, meant to deceive the gullible.
At the present time the EU’s euro-currency and migration crises are making the ‘national question’,  the issue of national independence and democracy, the big issue of politics right across the EU – including for former imperial countries like Britain, Germany and France which for generations caused national problems for others.
This is happening as these different nations discover the drawbacks of having their laws made for them by people they do not elect, and as citizens everywhere begin to react against how their mainstream politicians have allowed their Nation States to be hollowed out by means of successive EU Treaties – all of which Sinn Fein opposed over the years.
This is not a time when Sinn Fein should effectively abandon Republicanism behind a rhetoric of advocating a so-called ‘Social Europe’ and ‘leading the Left’.  It is not a time when sensible Republicans should abandon the one significant feature that had hitherto differentiated them from Fianna Fail and all the other parties in the Dail – namely criticism of and opposition to the EU/Eurozone – that being the one policy feature which objectively justifies Sinn Fein’s claim to be offering the Irish people a genuinely alternative course of national policy.
Of course one can pretend that talk about ‘leading the Left’, standing for ‘a Republic of Equals’ and advocacy of more radically redistributive tax and spend policies, provide a real policy alternative to the Irish people; but they do not.  Labour in opposition, Fianna Fail in opposition, the Social Democrats, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and the rest will all be doing the same thing in the coming period, with minor variations between them, while at the same time they support Irish membership of the EU/Eurozone and all that necessarily goes with that.
I send you three items below in support of the points made in this letter. The document ‘Tackling the EU Empire’, which gives the basic facts about the EU/Eurozone and what it is all about, has already been sent to you by letter post.
The first item below is ten points on why Irish people in Britain and the North should vote ‘Leave’ in June.The second is an article, originally published in Village Magazine, which shows how the EU, by  eroding national independence and democracy, is the very opposite of the independent Republic that the men and women of 1916 whom we commemorate on this centenary weekend set out to achieve.  And the third  is an article on what the EU/Eurozone policy of a genuine political Left rather than a bogus one should be.
That would be a Left in the James Connolly tradition which gives political primacy to achieving real national independence and unity as against the national sell-out policy of the Social Democrat and neo-Trotskyite parties of one kind or another, all of which embrace the EU and submit to its laws and rules while using Left-sounding slogans and rhetoric to cover their accommodation to it.
Syriza’s former Finance Minister Janis Varoufakis is currently a prime example of this as he campaigns alongside David Cameron, Goldman Sachs, the City of London and the most reactionary economic and political forces in the Western world against those British democrats on the political Left and Right who who seek to regain their national democracy and independence by supporting ‘Brexit’.
And is Sinn Fein now set to join the anti-democratic side?
Yours faithfully
Anthony Coughlan
Director
 
* On 22 January the Financial Times reported that Goldman Sachs on Wall Street was donating £500,000 towards the anti-Brexit campaign in Britain. This is the same Goldman Sachs as is behind the threatened Tyrrelstown evictions in Dublin.

Is Another Europe possible?

Danny Nicol: Is Another Europe possible?

Taken from https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2016/02/29/danny-nicol-is-another-europe-possible/

Is the European Union an empty vessel into which any political content may be poured? Can it accommodate not just neoliberal conservatism but also Keynesian social democracy, hard-line greenery and even pro-nationalisation democratic socialism? A new UK campaign, “Another Europe is Possible”, would have us believe this, and is touting for votes in the EU referendum on the basis that the Union can be changed into a more socialistic entity, “not [by] a network of politicians but grassroots activists across the UK”. The same optimism is apparent in the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM 2025) in which Mr Yanis Varoufakis looms large. With the ferocity of tigers protecting their young, these progressives attack those who single out the EU as a hotbed of neoliberalism. ‘Can you name an institution not dominated by neoliberalism?’ argued Marina Prentoulis of Syriza UK at the launch of “Another Europe”: ‘National governments are pushing a neoliberal agenda too’.

It speaks volumes that Syriza, a party implementing austerity at the EU’s behest, is accorded star billing in this supposedly anti-neoliberal venture. Overlooked are theconstitutional differences between the EU and most European states. The possibilities for progressive or socialistic advance in any political community depend to a significant extent on the constitutional structure of that entity. If those seeking such advance are serious about achieving a more equal society, they need carefully to weigh up the institutional potential of any given polity. In fact in the context of the European Union there has been no such debate on the British Left. This is hardly surprising. The long record of failure of British socialists may be attributed at least in part to a perennial unwillingness to engage seriously in questions of strategy.

Yet outside the fairyland inhabited by “Another Europe is Possible”, constitutions domatter. Take the USA for example: a country with a constitution which is difficult to amend, save by judicial reinterpretation. Its system of government is famously one of checks and balances, though with normally no check on the Supreme Court beyond its sense of self-restraint. As a result progressivism has been constantly placed at a disadvantage. The New Deal, public healthcare and gun control have all in turn been dogged and retarded by various aspects of the American constitution. However, the US system of government shines as almost a beacon of hope by comparison with EU structures.

Treaty revision

This is because the EU Treaties not only contain procedural protections for capitalism, as is the case in the US Constitution: they also entrench substantive policies which correspond to the basic tenets of neoliberalism.  Let me give a few examples. First, Articles 107-8 TFEU empower the European Commission to vet state aids for their compatibility with the single market. This includes state aids to the public sector. The system also allows private corporations to challenge grants of state aid on competition grounds. Secondly, free movement provisions of the Treaties have been interpreted by the Court of Justice as prohibiting industrial action which “disproportionately” obstructs the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers – see the Viking and Rüffertrulings of the EU’s Court of Justice. Thirdly Article 49 TFEU grants companies the right of freedom of establishment. This includes the right to establish branches and subsidiaries in other Member States. It is difficult to imagine how nationalisation of branches and subsidiaries of companies based in other Member States would constitute a lawful limitation on freedom of establishment. For good measure Article 106 TFEU gives corporations the right to sue governments whenever any public monopoly infringes EU competition rules – including within the NHS.

None of this would matter very much if these provisions were easy to amend or repeal. However, being Treaty provisions, these policies may only be changed by agreement of all Member States. The methods of Treaty amendment are laid down in Article 48 TEU. Under the ordinary revision procedure the Member States must agree by common accord the amendments to be made to the Treaties. Under the simplified revision procedures (used to revise Union policies) the European Council shall act by unanimity. In each case the changes must be confirmed by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. Crucially, irrespective of which procedure is used, it only takes a single national government to veto treaty change. One would have to await a complete absence of neoliberal governments in order to change the Treaties in a socialistic direction. Such is the stuff of fantasy.

EU legislation and the TTIP

It might be thought that outside the realm of Treaty revision, life for progressives might be easier. With friends in the European Parliament and some in the Council, EU secondary legislation might somehow provide a means of socialistic advance. I am not so confident.

Take the privatisation of public utilities. The socialist position would surely be that Member States should determine the size of their own public sectors. However, the EU liberalisation legislation tends to consolidate privatisation. Nationalising sectors such as gas, electricity, telecommunications and postal services is forbidden by giving rights of market access to corporations.   This prohibits the sort of extension of public ownership brought in by the 1945 Labour government. New public enterprises have to compete with private firms in a capitalist market. But this arrangement is not socialist: it equates to the “competitive public ownership” craved by Anthony Crosland in his efforts to wean the Labour Party onto capitalism after the 1945 era (See C.A. Crosland, The Future of Socialism, London: Constable, 2006).   Publicly owned companies are thereby compelled to act more as if they were private companies, particular when the Treaty provisions on state aids are taken into account. Similar legislation on railways is presently going through the EU institutions.

It might be argued that liberalisation legislation is the product of EU democracy and could be repealed by democratic means. However the Council and European Parliament do not operate in an ideologically-impartial constitutional environment. Whilst the liberalisation measures were enacted by qualified majority voting on the Council, their repeal would be harder to achieve, because of the complication of identifying the correct legal base for any such legislation. Imagine that a national government sought to introduce EU legislation to allow all Member States a free choice over the public or private ownership of their energy, postal, telecommunications and rail sectors. It would have to rely on the Commission – the very architect of EU liberalisation – putting forward a proposal to the Council and Parliament. Furthermore the only legal base which is in any way credible would be Article 352 TFEU which requires the Council to act unanimously. We are back to square one: a single national government can veto socialistic advance.

Another measure which animates socialist circles is the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated with the USA. There is concern that TTIP will enable companies to sue governments where state measures harm profits.   Assuming TTIP is agreed before the next UK general election, the prospects of the EU discarding it rely on even more outlandish fantasies. Assuming withdrawal is permissible, there is no provision in the TEU and TFEU specifying how the EU goes about withdrawing from a treaty. Would one have to fall back on Article 352 TFEU, with its unanimity requirement, once again allowing a single neoliberal government to save the EU’s adhesion to the TTIP? It may be that the only way to discard TTIP is – horror of horrors – to violate international law, something far easier for a state to undertake than for the EU.

Conclusion

There have always been parts of the British Left which have elected to deny the significance of constitutional provisions in making their strategic choices. Instead they have clung to a belief in spontaneous combustion. With the zeal of born-again evangelistic sects (with whom they have much in common), they convince themselves that the people will somehow rise up from below and sweep aside all obstacles to social justice, including constitutional ones. The passage of decades, even centuries, when this doesn’t happen does nothing to dampen their faith.

Against this backdrop whilst there can be no objection to people pressing to make the EU more left-wing, such campaigners bear the responsibility of explaining how they will achieve their objectives in the face of the requirements of unanimity and common accord. As it presently stands, these requirements make substantial socialistic advance virtually impossible to achieve. Unless those who seek such change face up to the constitutional obstacle that confronts them, the only progressive reforms to materialise will be confined to the realms of their own minds.

Danny Nicol is Professor of Public Law at the University of Westminster.

Whose Europe? Theirs or ours?

Taken from http://rs21.org.uk/2016/03/29/whose-europe-theirs-or-ours/

Socialists do not have the luxury of choosing the conditions in which we fight; however unfavourable the current balance of forces, our task it to argue for an exit from the un-reformable EU on left terms, write Jen Wilkinson and Paul O’Connell.

I. Introduction:

The referendum on whether or not Britain should remain within the European Union (EU) is now fully underway. This debate confronts socialists with a series of pressing tactical and strategic challenges, the two key questions being: (i) should socialists intervene in this debate and (ii) if so, what position(s) should we advance. The position defended here is that, in all the circumstances, individuals and groups committed to the fundamental transformation of society have to come out strongly against Britain’s continued membership of the EU. We should do this on the basis of our commitments to democracy, genuine egalitarianism, solidarity and anti-racist internationalism. The Brexit debate provides an entry point for the bigger contest between defenders of a Europe in the service of capital, and the protagonists of a radically different Europe for the Twenty-First Century.

II. Dirtying Our Hands:

It is undeniably true that issues of immigration have, so far, dominated the referendum debate in the UK, and that the dominant narratives are, for all intents and purposes, slight variations on shared xenophobic and racist themes. In this sense, then, the choice between voting to stay in with Cameron or leave with Johnson/Farage is an empty choice between competing strands of racism that many people are not willing to engage in any substantial way. There is, of course, a section of the left (centred around the Labour Party/Green Party and certain trade unions) that are also making the case to stay in the EU, on the basis that voting to leave would jeopardise various legal rights guaranteed to workers and migrants by the EU.

Given the constrained character of the debate so far, many socialists in Britain have adopted one, or a combination, of the following positions: this is a fight between different factions of the Tory party, and not something that socialists should expend energy and resources on; the debate is unmistakably and irredeemably framed in racist terms, therefore socialists should not get involved in arguing for one or other side of the racist coin; whatever its limitations, the EU has provided important legal protections for the rights of workers and migrants and we should not campaign or argue for a position that would lead to a loss of such rights; and in the event that Britain does leave the EU, we will be confronted by a triumphant and fundamentally unconstrained Tory government, which will accelerate its attacks on workers’ rights and on migrants and refugees.

Each of these arguments or reservations reflects legitimate concerns about the current political conjuncture in Britain, and Europe more broadly, but they are not sufficient arguments against socialist intervention in the debate. A concern for many on the left is that the Brexit campaign has been launched to appease the more reactionary wing of the Tory party; consequently, the dominant discourses on either side of the In/Out-Stay/Leave debate are irredeemably racist. As a result the entire debate on the issue has become toxic, and it is impossible for socialists to make a meaningful, principled, anti-racist and pro-migrant intervention into the debate, because the populist howling of the reactionaries on both sides will drown it out. The problem with this argument is that ultimately it is a counsel of despair, and invites a level of resignation that socialists simply cannot afford.

Reframed slightly, the argument runs as follows: the narrative is controlled by the reactionary forces of the establishment, and whatever the outcome it will be interpreted by them (and spun by their media) in a way which reinforces their narrative. This of course is true, but if we accept this as an invitation to sit out this particular fight, then we may as well hang up our gloves entirely. The simple reality is that in modern capitalist democracies, with the various complex means of producing and reproducing consent and control, establishment forces will invariably set the terms of almost every debate. The onus, then, is on us to intervene in spite of their rhetoric, their mystifications and their lies, and to set out principled, revolutionary arguments as to why, in the instant case, we should stay in or leave the EU.

Choosing, instead, to concede the terrain of battle before the fight has even begun is an abdication of our responsibility as individuals and organisations committed to the radical and fundamental transformation of society. In the midst of the biggest crisis in world capitalism since the 1930s, we cannot abandon working people to the demagoguery of the right. As recent election results in France, Germany and Slovakia (and the large numbers of people voting for UKIP in the last UK general elections) show, reactionary and racist right wing movements are benefiting from the dislocation and frustration that many people feel as a result of the crises of capitalism. If we take the high ground and refuse to engage in the Brexit debate because we see it as an inter-racist turf war, we also abandon working people at a time at which the intervention of socialists is most sorely needed. And if we fail to engage, this, in turn, does not weaken the right, but rather gives them a free run to spread their noxious easy answers. Daniel Singer offers an instructive and timely warning on this point in Their Millennium or Ours (94): ‘if frustrated people see no progressive solution and have no rational explanations for their fate, they opt for irrationality and the search for scapegoats’.

Refusing to engage in this debate because it has, so far, been dominated by reactionary and racist positions does not, in any way, undermine the reactionaries and racists; rather it allows them to operate freely, at a time at which they should be fought for every inch of ground on the ideological and political terrain. The plight of refugees in Calais and elsewhere in Europe, or migrants facing racism in the UK is not in anyway improved by socialists sitting this fight out; if anything, it will likely make their position worse. As Singer (276) warned, ‘politics abhors a void. If the left fails to provide rational, progressive solutions to the growing economic and social traumas, the extreme right will come up with reactionary and irrational ones, playing on the fears aroused by globalization and on prejudices reinforced by apprehension’. All we have is the conjuncture before us, and we have to enter the fray. We do not have the luxury of waiting for more propitious circumstances of our own choosing before acting to make our own history.

III. Politics Without Illusions:

Whatever the arguments of the various segments of the right in the Brexit debate, what is crucial is that socialists advance their own principled arguments about the EU. The argument here is quite simple: the prospects for the radical, necessary changes to combat the crises of capitalism within Britain and Europe more broadly are dramatically inhibited by the existence of the EU. Therefore, we should seek a fundamental rupture with the institutions of the EU, so as to free up the potential to develop more radical politics grounded in genuine internationalism, not the truncated solidarity that the project of European capital offers. To make this intervention, we have to address three key arguments from those on the left who argue we should stay within the EU: (i) the EU guarantees numerous rights for workers, migrants and others that we should defend; (ii) whatever the shortcomings of the EU, Britain should remain a member state and socialists should fight within the existing structures to pursue ‘another Europe’; and (iii) even if we accept that leaving the EU might be necessary in the long run, now is not the right time because the right in Britain (and across Europe) is on the rise, while working people and the political left seem ill-prepared to resist them.

(i) Rights and Struggle

One of the central arguments for remaining within the EU is that membership of the EU has led to the development of substantial protection of workers rights, as well as the rights of consumers and the environment. This argument has been advanced in the current debate by, among others, the TUC and Jeremy Corbyn. A further element to this argument is that, as Corbyn says, ‘the Tories would use a vote to leave as the chance for a bonfire of rights in its aftermath’. There are three key responses to this line of argument. The first is that the rights protected by EU law are not the result of a gift from Jacques Delors and the benevolent institutions of ‘Social Europe’. Rather, the most important workers’ rights protected by the EU were won through the struggles of working people across Europe throughout the early- and mid-twentieth century. The legal structures of the EU, like all legal structures, reflect the crystallisation of particular struggles and conflicts, and the key workers, migrant and consumer rights protected by the EU were wrested from European capital by the collective action of working people.

This leads to a second, crucial point, which is that these formal legal guarantees were conceded at a point in time when European capitalism could afford to commit to such rights, and European workers were strong enough to demand such rights. The current conjuncture in Europe, in contrast, is one in which capital is on the offensive, and is necessarily seeking to break down all barriers to the pursuit of profit. In line with this, it is a period where the logic of neoliberalism has, since at least the mid-1980s, been encoded into the DNA of the EUs constitutional architecture. The last eight years of austerity have seen a dramatic acceleration in the undermining of workers’ rights and the living standards of working people. As Asbjørn Wahl notes:

In several EU countries—the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Hungary—wages, working conditions, and pensions have been severely weakened. Pensions have been cut 15–20 percent in many countries, while wages in the public sector have been reduced from 5 percent in Spain to over 40 percent in the Baltic. In Greece, the number of public employees has already been reduced by more than 20 percent. And still more is demanded: in Spain only one in every ten vacant positions in the public sector is filled, one in every five in Italy, and one in every two in France. In Germany 10,000 public-sector jobs have already been cut, and in the United Kingdom it has been decided to cut close to half a million jobs, which in effect will involve about the same number of jobs in the private sector.

Such has been the assault on workers rights and living standards, that both the Council of Europe(separate from the EU, but with responsibility for monitoring human rights protection across Europe), and the European Parliament have published reports documenting how the policies of the EU have led to the dramatic erosion of the entire corpus of rights.

Coupled with these developments, the highest court in the EU, the European Court of Justice (even before the onset of the economic crisis) has issued a series of judgments, starting with theViking and Laval cases, which dramatically undermine the right to strike, so as to protect the rights of companies. That these judgments pre-date the economic crisis is important. The accelerated assault on workers rights in the era of austerity is not an aberration, or a break with some mythical ‘social Europe’; rather it is the opportunistic intensification of tendencies inherent in the era of neoliberal capitalism. Neoliberalism is a response to the crises of capitalism. It is, first and foremost, a political project to reassert the interests of capital and capitalists worldwide. For this reason, the rights of workers were being systematically hollowed out prior to the US housing bubble bursting in 2008 and the assault on these rights has been facilitated, not restrained, by the institutions of the EU. This tendency can be seen further in the ongoing negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and US, which will further weaken workers rights in the interests of capital. In short: given the trajectory of global capitalism, the EU is more likely to facilitate the undermining of fundamental rights, than act as a bulwark against their erosion.

This leads to a final point on this issue. The concern that leaving the EU would lead to an unrestrained Tory party engaging in a bonfire of rights is based on two flawed premises: the first is that formal legal guarantees effectively protect people from the vicissitudes of capitalism and the second is that the working class in Britain is unable or at least unlikely to mobilise to defend their rights. As to the first point, reference by proponents of the ‘remain’ side in the debate to the much-vaunted Working Time Directive (which is by no means unimportant) conveniently ignore the fact that British employees are allowed to negotiate with (read pressure”) their workers to opt out of the protections provided by this law, and thousands of workers do so annually. Furthermore, many British workers are faced, in the current crisis, not with being forced to work too many hours, but with having too few hours. A recent report shows that more than 800,000British workers are on zero-hour contracts, with all the insecurity, working poverty and precarity that that brings. The existing legal regime is virtually silent on this matter.

It is interesting to note that in New Zealand, such contracts have recently been outlawed, not as a result of some benevolent regional integration regime, but because of the sustained struggle of working class people there. In recent years in the UK, teachers, nurses, transport workers, junior doctors, migrants, refugees and their communities and supporters have come out in their tens thousands to assert and defend their rights. The loss of faith by some on the left in the capacity of the working class in Britain to fight to defend their rights, and the rights of migrants and refugees, ignores the history of struggle here, and the potential of ongoing struggles. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, the Tories and their ilk will continue to wage war on working people and migrants; the challenge is to be part of these struggles, and to trust in the capacity of people to fight to defend their interests, as the only real guarantee of the rights we have.

(ii) Reform or Revolution

It may well be that the rigid binaries of the early-twentieth century do not quite hold at the dawn of a new millennium, but there is, on the left, a sharp distinction between those who argue that we can and should remain within the EU to fight to make ‘another Europe possible’, and those who argue that commitment to socialist principles require us to break with the EU. The former position is represented well by the foundation of the Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM25), which leads with the tagline that the ‘European Union will be democratise or it will disintegrate!’. Led by Yanis Varoufakis and others, DiEM25 argues, correctly, that the EU as constituted is fundamentally undemocratic, and that it needs a ‘surge of democracy’ to save it from a steady slide into disintegration. In the same way, many on the left in Britain argue that while the EU has its faults, we should nonetheless stay and fight to reform it from within. Another Europe, they argue, is possible, and the EU’s democratic shortcomings can be overcome piecemeal.

It is interesting, given events in Europe over the last five years that a former Greek Finance Minister should be to the fore in a movement that claims the EU can be salvaged through democratisation. If anything, the treatment of the Greek people at the hands of the Troika provides a signal lesson, if one were needed, of the inherent antagonism between democracy and the functioning of the EU. In 2015, having suffered under some of the worst (EU-sponsored) austerity policies of the last decade, it appeared as if the Greek people would vote in a Syriza government to reject the economic and social policy prescriptions of the Troika. In response to this, the President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned the Greek people that

To suggest that everything is going to change because there’s a new government in Athens is to mistake dreams for reality … There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.

The fact that Juncker invoked the treaties on which the EU is founded in his contemptuous dismissal of democracy is instructive. Since at least the Maastricht Treaty, the EU’s constitutional arrangements have been revised to do two crucial things: (i) lock in the economic logic of neoliberalism and (ii) insulate the real decision making bodies with the EU from democratic control and accountability.

The most powerful actors within the EU, the European Commission and European Central Bank, are also the least accountable. This is not accidental, but the product of intentional choices to constitutionally lock-in the logic of neoliberalism to advance the interests of capital, and make it virtually impossible for the public at large to meaningfully impact on the decision-making processes at the heart of the EU. It is for this reason that mainstream law and political science journals are now replete with articles that characterise the EU project as an example of authoritarian statism or authoritarian liberalism. The contemptuous treatment of the Greek people in 2015 is just the most brutal, recent example of tendencies latent within the EU, and manifested in the discarding of the initial decisions of the Irish people on the Nice and Lisbon Treaties and of the French and Dutch people after they rejected the proposed constitution for Europe.

The EU is constitutionally undemocratic, and intentionally so. The calls to democratise the EU, though laudable, fundamentally misunderstand the character of the project. It is not the case that the dream of social Europe has been captured and derailed by evil technocrats in Brussels. Rather, the crises of capitalism necessitate a break for the ruling class with the post-War consensus in terms of social policy, and a rupture with the inhibiting limitations of democracy. These imperatives have been encoded into the constitutional architecture of the EU over the last twenty years. These constitutional arrangements constrain national governments that might wish to pursue some modest social democratic reforms (let alone institute radical social change); they make the functioning and operation of the leading EU institutions opaque and unaccountable; and, through the principle of unanimity enshrined in Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union, make it virtually impossible to revise (or democratise) these arrangements. The upshot of this is, as Wahl notes, is that ‘the possibility of changing any of the EU treaties in a progressive direction through ordinary political processes is virtually nonexistent. One right-wing government in one member state can prevent this’.

The recognition by DiEM25 and others that the EU is fundamentally undemocratic is correct, but the belief that it can be democratised, in any meaningful sense, is fundamentally mistaken. You cannot use a flame thrower to put out a fire: the EU has been transformed over the last 20 years to lock-in the victories of capital over workers, and to constitutionalise Margaret Thatcher’s idea that There Is No Alternative. On this point, Samir Amin cuts through all of the sophistry when he writes that ‘the European Union can be nothing else than what it is, and as such is unviable’. Another Europe may well be possible, but another EU is not. A Europe committed to democracy, solidarity, egalitarianism and genuine internationalism will only be brought about in spite of, not through, the EU.

(iii) Bringing the War Home

The final objection to deal with here is the idea that even if we accept that the EU is flawed, perhaps fundamentally so, voting to leave now would be a retreat into narrow nationalism at a time at which the right in Britain, and across Europe, is ascendant and there is little prospect of a coherent, left alternative to it. This whole argument turns on matters of faith: on the one hand it reflects a misplaced faith in the possibility and potential of transformative, transnational politics and on the other it represents a loss of faith in the capacity of working people, and of the political left, to genuinely transform the political and social landscape. The first sort of faith is reflected, again, in the DiEM25 initiative, which wants to build a ‘Europe of Peoples’ beyond the nation state, and has as one of its medium-term aims the convening of a Constitutional Assembly to develop ideas and institutions to govern the peoples of Europe. Such transnationalism, a form of liberal cosmopolitanism, counter-poses its own progressive character with the spectre of retreating into ‘the cocoons’ of narrow nationalism.

There are a number of problems with this argument. The first is that (notwithstanding the rhetoric of popular participation) it seeks, unwittingly perhaps, to substitute the top-down rule of one set of technocrats for another. The premise behind this line of argument is that the EU, as such, was positive and progressive to start with, until the bad, neoliberal technocrats captured it. It can be salvaged by the good, social democratic technocrats leading the peoples of Europe, from above, into the light of a more enlightened set of social and economic policies. This is ironic, yes, but also fundamentally problematic. It seeks to put the cart before the horse, and develop a Europe of peoples through the agency of a few prominent personages. Charismatic, top-down leadership geared towards salvaging the EU is not a break or rupture with the logic of neoliberalism capitalism, but a variation on it – and as such, will be riddled with the same shortcomings and contradictions.

The only alternative to the EU, with its neoliberal and fundamentally undemocratic character, is the self-organisation and mobilisation of working people in Europe (in all of their variety). Such a movement cannot be conjured up at the transnational level, but must begin at the local level. AsSinger (210) succinctly put it, ‘the nation-state is still the ground on which the movement begins, power is seized, and the radical transformation of society is initiated’. Notwithstanding the delusions of post-nationalists (whether of the neoliberal or social democratic variety), movements for fundamental social change have to be built at the local level, and the nation state remains the basic unit of political action in this regard. In this respect, the EU, again, acts more as a restraint than an aid. As Wahl puts it, ‘the European Union itself creates a number of impediments, not only for economic and social development in Europe, but also for the social struggle’. Faith in the institutions of the EU and the possibilities of transnational politics to bring about the changes that are needed is misplaced. At present, the ‘working class, the trade unions, and other popular forces are now facing a brutal power struggle, which was started from above’.This assault has been facilitated by the institutions of the EU. The fight back against it will, of necessity, be mounted at the domestic level (while also building and relying on internationalist solidarity) and in this context the need to rupture with the institutions of the EU will become increasingly apparent.

Finally, then, is the loss of faith in the capacity of the working class in Britain and of the political left to develop the sort of politics necessary to confront the rise of the right and the crises of capitalism. There is not space enough here to deal with every aspect of this issue, but it can be one of the positive upshots of the Brexit debate if it forces socialists in Britain to face up to the organisational and political malaise which they now find themselves in. It is patently true that in Britain, and elsewhere around Europe, the working class and the political left are in bad shape, and the biggest crisis in capitalism since the 1930s has not, yet, produced a dramatic change in fortunes in this regard. It is understandable that such a vista could induce a degree of melancholy, resignation and defeatism amongst socialists, even while they continue to espouse the slogans they inherited from the Twentieth century. But the Brexit debate is an invitation to break with this malaise. In much the same way as the referendum about Scottish independence in 2014 became a thoroughgoing debate about what sort of Scotland, and what sort of future people wanted, the Brexit debate can provide a space in which socialists advance principled, revolutionary arguments about the nature of capitalism and the EU and invite working people to become the active protagonists in the construction of a different future.

We can turn away in dismay at the number of votes that went to UKIP in the last general election, or we can focus on the fact that a recent study shows that a majority of people in Britain have recently said they prefer socialism to capitalism. Focus on the fact that crises in capitalism can open up space for political developments that seemed impossible not long before. The choice confronting us now is between two distinct approaches to politics. We can, as Samir Amin argues, approach the current conjuncture as opportunists, who understand politics as ‘the art ofbenefiting from the balance of power, such as it is’, or we approach it as principled socialists, for whom politics is ‘the art of transforming the balance of power’. In a similar vein, Marta Harneckerargues that ‘for revolutionaries politics is the art of making the impossible possible, not from some voluntarist urge to change things but because our efforts should be realistically focused on changing the current balance of power so that what appears to be impossible today becomes possible tomorrow’. Entering the fray and arguing, on principled, anti-racist lines, for Britain to exit the EU and seeking to clarify the real issues facing working people is the crucial role of socialists in this conjuncture.

IV. Conclusions

If we could choose our own battles—or to paraphrase, choose the conditions in which we are called upon to make our own history—then many socialists would not put a debate about Britain’s continued membership of the EU top of their list. But that is the fight before us now. It may well be that this debate has its origins in Tory civil war politics, and that the mainstream debate will be dominated by racist, economistic and other misplaced narratives, but none of that absolves us of the responsibility to set out a principled socialist position on the debate. We can and must engage people and make clear that: (i) the EU now does as much to undermine peoples rights and living conditions as it does to protect them; (ii) the entire edifice is constitutionally and irredeemably undemocratic and neoliberal; and (iii) the thousands of dead men, women and children at the bottom of the Aegean and the despicable deal recently struck between the EU and Turkey are not an aberration, not a breach with mythical European values – instead they reflect Europe and the EU as it is. As such, we can and should break with the EU. If we do so there are no guarantees of what will come next: we do not get guarantees. But there are opportunities to imagine and fight for an entirely different Europe; that’s our challenge and we must prove ourselves worthy of it

Vote for withdrawing from the European Union

Starry Plough

Statement by the Communist Party of Ireland

1 March 2016

The Communist Party of Ireland expresses its solidarity with all progressive forces in Britain, and in particular with the Communist Party of Britain, in the forthcoming campaign for Britain to withdraw from the European Union. In particular we call on working people in the north-east of our country to vote for leaving the EU.

A vote to leave can be a vote for a different way forward, a vote against the deepening global militarisation of which the EU is one of the driving forces—not alone within the wider European continent but around the world.

A vote to leave would also call into question the southern Irish state’s continuing membership of the EU and reopen opportunities for working-class struggle on the national level.

We should not be distracted by the fact that very reactionary and chauvinist forces, nostalgic for the days of the British Empire, are also opposed to the European Union. We support the demand for withdrawal not on some narrow nationalist grounds but rather from a working-class internationalist position. There is a need to break the unity of the European monopolies, to break the unity of the European employers’ network of control, by dividing them, which can only weaken the whole. A withdrawal by Britain could well trigger a response from working people in other member-states to campaign also for withdrawal. It would break the fear that the EU has so successfully propagated, that outside the EU lies economic disaster.

The deal worked out between the British state and the EU institutions is a further attack on the rights of workers throughout Europe, especially migrant workers, the most vulnerable section of the working class.

The struggle against the European Union is essentially a struggle for democracy and sovereignty. It is an anti-imperialist struggle, one that some formerly anti-EU forces in the north-east of our country have walked away from, retreating into an idealised “critical engagement” with imperialism.

We reject the illusions being peddled in support of these arguments. They undermine the potential for bringing unity to our people on a progressive basis. It is wrong to present the idea that the EU is a potential bulwark against attacks on workers and environmental rights. These are false arguments. The EU and the treaties since the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 have been for institutionalising austerity, consolidating the interests, influence and power of the big European monopolies specifically but also monopoly capitalism in general.

The attacks on workers in all Ireland will continue, inside or outside the European Union. Membership does not guarantee protection from attacks on workers’ rights and conditions—far from it: all the central institutions are above democratic control and are accountable to no-one, as designed by treaty.

The EU Central Bank, which is the central institution for imposing EU economic and monetary policy, is run by and for finance houses and big banks. The EU Commission is the guardian of conformity with the fiscal, political and military strategy of the EU. Attacks on workers, fiscal control and the primacy of the “market” above all else are hot-wired into the EU.

We do not accept that the EU is the source of, or has the potential for, progressive social and economic change, either at a transnational or the national level. EU laws, directives and institutions are designed to prevent and block change at the European and the national level. The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 consolidated the power and ideological influence of big business over the policies and the institutions of the EU. It enshrined the primacy of EU directives (i.e. laws) over national laws, in effect making illegal any progressive alternative economic or social policies. As far as the EU is concerned, there will be no way back to any serious democracy at the national level.

The anti-democratic nature of the EU and the absolute power of European big business over it will be further consolidated with the adoption of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The Communist Party of Ireland calls for the broadest coalition of progressive forces to campaign for British and also for Irish withdrawal from the European Union.

The “Democracy in Europe Movement, 2015”: Old wine in new bottles

As working people throughout the European Union are beginning to question its role and even its very nature, and whose interests it serves, another new grouping emerges to sow confusion and throw sand in their eyes.
The “Democracy in Europe Movement, 2015,” the latest grouping to parade itself as the people’s saviour, has sparked interest by the attendance of a representative of Right2Change at its founding meeting in Berlin on 9 February. On 13 February the Right2Change conference in Dublin will be addressed by video link by one of its founders, the former Greek minister of finance, Varoufakis. He will also be travelling to a number of peripheral states to promote this new group.
“Democracy in Europe Movement” is a gathering of individuals and failed politicians from the social-democratic (Labour Party) tradition. Varoufakis is not the only former minister involved: another prominent founder-member is Arnaud Montebourg, a former minister in the French government, also vice-president of the Habitat chain stores and a member of the strategic orientation committee of the Talan company (France).
Before the formal launch in Berlin the group issued a manifesto in which they declared that the movement’s aim or strategy is to “democratise” the European Union. They pose this “democratisation” against two “dreadful options”: a retreat into the cocoon of the nation-state, or surrendering to the Brussels democracy-free zone.
Their initial demands call for full transparency in decision-making, with live streaming of meetings of the EU Council, the Council of Finance Ministers, and the Euro Group, full disclosure of trade negotiations, minutes of the EU Central Bank, etc. While it would be useful to know what they are planning, we know from experience that the real and important decisions are made off stage: on the golf course, in expensive restaurants, or in the corridors of parliaments patrolled by the corporate lobbyists.
This latest grouping wants the existing EU institutions to target resources and implement policies to address the crises of debt, banking, investment, poverty, jobs, and migration. Firstly, this programme implies that these institutions make “bad” decisions because they operate behind closed doors or negotiate in secret, rather than the simple fact that these institutions represent, reflect and work in the interests of real economic forces. They are not neutral, nor above serving class interests.
These institutions and the individuals who populate them did not make bad decisions: they made the correct decisions for advancing the interests of the big corporations and finance houses. These structures were developed, and are constantly being refined, to ensure control and compliance with whatever strategy is required at any given time for the ruling elite while presenting a formal democratic appearance.
“Democracy in Europe” also want to convene “a constitutional assembly where Europeans will deliberate on how to bring forward, by 2025, a fully fledged European democracy, featuring a sovereign EU parliament that respects national self-determination and shares power with national parliaments, regional assemblies and municipal councils.” The long-term goal, in other words, is “to bring about a fully democratic, functional Europe by 2025.”
What does this democratic-sounding people-empowering, dressed in such fanciful language, really mean? They want a European “parliament” with “sovereign” powers: so what they are calling for is for all fiscal, monetary, economic and social decisions to rest in this enhanced “parliament.” They want all power to be given to this new parliament while at the same time “sharing” power and “respecting” national parliaments and regional assemblies.
What exactly would they be “sharing” with national parliament? Clearly, if you have a “genuine” and democratically legitimate European Parliament then you must have a “European Government” to give expression to this new democratic institution. They want a “left” federalist integration strategy, which they prefer to the existing process of intergovernmentalism, where representatives from the member-states’ governments make decisions.
So the Irish people could vote for whoever they wished at the national level but would be unable to effect change at that level, because all the real power and decision-making, according to this group, would be decided in this new “democratic” European parliament.
Significant policy decisions are already out of the hands of member-states, and we already have a form of “European government,” where small circles of a politico-economic elite—such as the European Round Table of Industrialists—decide what needs to be done; so in this group’s view it’s just a matter of democratising this process.
Here we need to draw upon the recent experience of the debt burden imposed upon the Irish people by the ECB and EU Commission, as well as the “Programme for Ireland,” requiring the privatisation of public assets, including water and public companies.
This is a false presentation, under the guise of supposedly greater democracy, that some sort of enhanced EU Parliament is better than the present rule by an economic elite and its technocratic bureaucracy, which indeed it would be unlikely to challenge, even if it could.
Even if we took this idea at face value, there is simply no possibility that it would have legitimate support from the people in order for them to accept a majority vote in a revamped EU Parliament in a way similar to the existing position within independent states, where the people allow themselves to be governed by majority decisions taken by national parliaments.
If the existing balance of political representation in the EU Parliament were to emerge in this proposed rebooted parliament, where the majority Christian Democrats and other conservative parties are backed up by a social-democratic minority, which shares their outlook on fiscal and economic policy, they could “democratically” vote in austerity and impose the massive corporate debt upon us.
Does “Democracy in Europe” seriously believe that in a rebooted EU Parliament such policies would be more acceptable to the working people of Greece, Spain, Portugal, or Ireland? Like the establishments throughout Europe, they wish to depoliticise democracy, to depoliticise economic and fiscal decisions, in fact to depoliticise the nation-state itself, claiming that nothing can be done at the nation-state level any more, that nation-states are redundant as regards fiscal, economic and social policy.
It is simply impossible for a parliamentary form of EU government to gain popular acceptance, for a number of reasons. The different sizes and economic strengths of the member-states, and the heterogeneous make-up of national populations, make this impossible.
The EU parliament, as it stands, is a façade, a pretence of democracy, which serves to hide the undemocratic workings of the system. It serves also as propaganda for a “European identity” as a disguise for the neo-colonial relationship that exists between the powerful core states and the periphery. This is a lesson that many nations seeking separation from existing multinational states, such as Scotland, Catalunya, and the Basque Country, need to learn. There is simply no independence to be found within the EU.
The proposals of “Democracy in Europe,” increasing the apparent powers of the parliament, would only redecorate the façade and would do nothing to alter the imperialist character of the EU, both internally and externally.
This demand or strategy for further integration, even with some sort of enhanced electoral-representative component, is not the same as more people’s control. It is not for a fundamental shift in power from the corporate board rooms and finance houses to working people, as it simply ignores, or fails to understand, the nature of political and economic power, the nature of the state and the institutions of governance and control.
The hollowing out of representative democracy following from the adoption of the many EU treaties would be further advanced if and when TTIP is adopted. The EU treaties were for removing all fiscal, economic and social policy decisions away from the national level to ensure that they could not be influenced by national class struggles, to permanently ensure that a progressive government elected at the national level would be severely restricted in what it could do. The fiscal and economic straitjacket is firmly tied.
The ruling elite, particularly at the EU level, have depoliticised fiscal and economic decisions to mere technical matters. This also applies to the depoliticisation of the individual states. Just like the ruling elite, “Democracy in Europe” claim that problems cannot be solved at the national level: they can only be solved at an international level, conveniently letting the Irish ruling class off any responsibility and denying the possibility of change.
The handing over of sovereign powers from the national to the international structures by national ruling classes can only be understood as part of the process of rolling back democratic, economic and social gains won by working people from their own ruling class.
What Varoufakis and others like him are advocating is a form of democracy without the people, a further erosion of national sovereignty and national democracy, and the erection of new obstacles to any possible radical transformation of economic and social structures at the national level.
Individuals like Varoufakis and groups like “Democracy in Europe” are just the latest in a long line of those who have attempted to put a human face on an inhuman system and its institutions of control, such as those of the European Union. In this they are emulating the successful campaign of SYRIZA in Greece, which mobilised popular forces in order to lead them to defeat and disillusionment. That is the mission of Varoufakis, now on the European stage.
What is being offered is simply more of the same: just old wine in new bottles. There is a growing need for much more radical surgery if we wish to build and live in a decent society, where solidarity and economic justice between people is the cornerstone, a society where the “market” must be subjected to the people, rather than as it is now, where the people are subjected to the “market.”

Communist Party of Ireland

Rupture with EU needed

Thirty years after Portugal joined the EEC

by Albano Nunes,

Member of the Secretariat of the CC of the Portuguese Communist Party

Portugal became an EEC member , by the hand of the PS and the PSD, allies in the capitalist recuperation policy, in January 1986. A political and ideological operation, of a great dimension, and that introduced “Europe” as the El Dorado, that ought to bring a new prosperity era to thePortuguese. Upon thirty years, the result is so negative, that even those who have defended Portugal’s participation in the European capitalist integration process, the alpha and omega of the right-wing policy, are able to underline an ephemeris, unless in a shy and defensive manner. And what has to be said? A simple idea but with plenty political meaning: that life has given and carries on giving reason to the PCP, that here, one holds a very valuable patrimony, that gives out confidence and strength to our progressive and revolutionary struggle.

The very serious consequences regarding Portugal, towards its productive structure’s destruction, the people’s impoverishment, the democracy amputation, the subjection situation towards the great transnational capital and the great powers, are therefore, a proof. Together with this “union” own nature, presented as “ social cohesion”, “humanism”, solidarity” is to be confronted with the – labour exploitation policies and national oppression, barriers from a “fortress Europe” unto the dramatic refugee waves, the brutal attacks to fundamental freedoms and rights in the name of “security”, the militarist aggression escalade against other peoples, under the pretext of “war to terrorism”, the concerning xenophobia and fascism growth – its real class and imperialist block nature. Revisiting on how the PCP warned and previewed on the EEC /European Union adhesion, one ought to remark how this party, deeply rooted within the Portuguese reality and guided by a scientific and revolutionary conception of the world, always elevated itself above the conjuncture contingences and appearances, never allowing, even when rowing practically on its own against the tide, of the “single thinking”, of defending Portugal and the Portuguese interests, choosing to lose votes, by proclaiming the truth, than by lying towards the Portuguese .

Thus, this is a PCP’s great merit, a historical merit, situated on the decisive field of the class struggle, where many(long ago) great communist parties hesitated and, gave up /abandoned clearly anti-monopolist and anti-imperialist positions, and ended up by adopting an opportunist “left-wing Europeanism” and theorizations on the “ national territory exhaustion” within the social change process, allowing the right-wing to hold the patriotism banner, used as reactionary nationalism, and spreading throughout Europe. And when this widely recognized merit, namely when the PCP places as a central issue the struggle against external embarrassments to the country’s development? Not for yet, although more and more, are those who approach the PCP positions concerning debt renegotiation or even Portugal’s preparation for the Euro exit. But they are but a few who deny the deep crisis in which the EU is emerged.

Portugal’s entry to the EEC was a political operation with the objective to stop and defeat the Portuguese Revolution. The success is an evidence concerning the latter. Therefore, a policy following April values and the Constitution demands a rupture with the European capitalist integration process and the whole recuperation for the Portuguese and the right to follow their own destiny. The presidential elections is a major issue and Edgar Silva, the candidate supported by the PCP, is the one with the most authority to deserve the Portuguese trust.