What Stand to Take on the European Union
In the context of the Referendum as to whether Britain should remain in or leave the European Union, we are reprinting the following which originally appeared in four parts in the series Readers’ Forum in Workers’ Daily Internet Edition in 2000.
Q: I am unambiguously socialist and I am firmly pro-European Union. Could you inform me as to whether my views are incompatible with the beliefs of this party as I don’t believe my views on Europe will change. Could you explain to me why you consider this to be an anti-Communist standpoint as it has always been my belief that a united Europe is the key to radical socialism becoming the main political force throughout the continent.
A: We thank the reader for raising this question in a serious manner. We think the question of what stand to take on the European Union is a very serious issue. Like any serious question, discussion should be deepened on it, people drawn into the discussion, and the matter fully investigated. Of course, the proviso in doing this is that the aim must be for a stand to be taken in favour of the people, particularly the working class who have the historical role of leading society out of the crisis.
It is with this orientation in mind, which we also take to be that of the reader, that we state our position.
The first point to draw out is that when the question is put in this way, it is not really a matter of “beliefs” of our Party on the European Union. The reader may not have meant to use this word, which is more appropriate to religious faith or matters of conscience. But we would just like to emphasise that the starting point must be the world as it is. To discuss about this world is a crucial activity, not from the point of view of making it a matter of interpretation, but in order to counter preconceptions, combat one-sidedness, get closer to the world as it really is, engage in the cut and thrust of ideas, and ultimately to change the situation in accordance with the demands of progress and to bring about a world fit for human beings. Again, we think we would be at one with the sentiments of the reader on this matter.
The second point which it may be best to get out of the way is that we are sure the questioner is not an anti-communist. We do not start from the position that if someone were to take issue with our arguments and stands, that would justify us in labelling that person “anti-communist”. Rather, anti-communism is a conscious policy and activity of those forces who wish to put a block on the further development of society, and commit any crime against humanity just so long as people do not become enlightened or are deprived of the possibility of deciding their own affairs.
All that being said, we would like to begin by succinctly stating our stand, and then dealing more specifically with the questions that the reader has posed. The stand of RCPB(ML) on this, as on other political questions, arises from the need of the working class and people to adopt a fighting programme which will lead society out of its crisis and resolve the problems that face the people day after day. Such a pro-social programme has as its starting point that the inviolable rights of all human beings be recognised. That being so, it is a crucial element of such a programme that it demands that the people be able to exercise their sovereignty. Therefore our Party holds that all economic, political and military alliances based on big power domination be ended, because such blocs and alliances stand in opposition to the exercise of this inviolable right. In particular, our Party calls for British withdrawal from the European Union and NATO, and for their dismantling. The right of all peoples of the world to live according to the social system of their choice must be recognised.
Having stated our stand, and before moving on to the question of what is key to bringing about socialism, and whether the strengthening of the European Union would assist in this, we would like to underline two things about the EU.
One is that it can be accurately described as a Europe of the monopolies. In our view, the facts demonstrate that from its origin through to the present its aim has been to benefit the monopoly capitalists and has been dominated by them. This is the case whether one looks at the European Union as a whole, or whether the individual countries of Europe are considered. One could sum up this development by saying that the aim of the monopolies has been their drive for maximum capitalist profit on the one hand, and on the other to place a block on the advance of the working class and communist movement and the aim of that movement to establish socialist states. What is more, the strengthening of the EU as first an economic bloc and then a political bloc and the continuation of this as a military bloc has also a geo-political aim. In the situation where the old equilibrium between the spheres of influence of the two superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union collapsed at the beginning of the 1990s, to dominate Europe is seen as crucial by US imperialism, as well as by the European monopolies. The issue as to who should control the Balkans must be seen in this light, as should the enlargement of the EU and its expansion eastwards. Other factors are now entering the equation, such as the increasing economic and political significance of both South and East Asia. However, the geo-political truth for the big powers that the control of Europe is a precondition for their contention for global hegemony still holds good. This is a very dangerous and increasingly tense situation, and is only flimsily covered over by the many statements of good intentions from the US and European leaders.
The second point to bring out is that it would be wrong to equate the European Union with a “united Europe”. Not only are there serious contradictions between the big powers and the different monopoly interests within the EU, such as Britain, France and Germany, but the political structure is being consolidated to ensure that in an enlarged EU, it is these big powers that dominate. The EU has never had any interest in the principle that all countries, big or small, should participate in international affairs with an equal voice.
As the new millennium dawned, the transnational companies through the mouths of their spokespeople were emphasising a new age of globalisation, and that everything must be subordinated to the unfettered power of the monopolies to penetrate and control markets and that success in the global marketplace was the be-all and end-all of life. In this context, a “New Direction for Europe” has been put on the agenda by the EU powers. This represents a “new direction” only in the sense that, as in the individual countries, the aims of the monopolies to counter the falling rate of profit has led to the dismantling of the social welfare state and increasingly to the policies of neo-liberalism. These policies are synonymous with cut-backs in social programmes and the gearing of all areas of the life of society to enriching the financial oligarchy. For the EU as a bloc, this translates into how to make the Europe of the monopolies better equipped to compete in the global market, to intensify its rivalry with the US and others, and how to facilitate the penetration of the big monopolies into the Balkan countries, Russia and Asia, as well as how to incorporate the Balkan and eastern European countries into “mainstream Europe”. Measures are being taken to remove barriers to the development of a single market and to allow ever greater privatisation.
All this is being carried on to the detriment of national economies, to the welfare of the people and to the recognition of their rights. At the same time, an ideological offensive is being carried out to try and convince the working class and people that this is “progressive governance”, and in the interests of all. This offensive could also be said to include the promotion that the worst effects of neo-liberalism and globalisation can be opposed by “social partnership” nationally and fighting to make the EU a “People’s Europe”. This must be considered a cruel illusion.
In the first two parts of the reply to the reader who was raising the issue as to what stand to take on the European Union, we gave our position in a nutshell, as well as very briefly underlining our analysis of the direction the EU is heading.
The reader states that it has always been my belief that a united Europe is the key to radical socialism becoming the main political force throughout the continent.
We would first of all like to stress that we stand firmly for the unity of the peoples of Europe, as we stand for the unity of the peoples of the whole world. The peoples everywhere have the aspiration for a new world free from the exploitation of persons by persons. Our Party, as a contingent of the international Marxist-Leninist communist movement in Britain, regards it as its proletarian internationalist duty to organise for socialist revolution in this country, and to support and build unity with all those forces engaged in the same struggle throughout the world.
At the same time, we hold that the basis of accomplishing the unity of everyone in the realisation of their deepest aspiration is the development and flourishing of each and every people and nation. This is an important conception that the 20th century has given rise to as the imperialist monopolies have sought to eliminate the right of nations to self-determination and negate the right of peoples to develop their cultures, languages, and so forth. The breaking down of national barriers by monopoly capitalism under the signboard of “globalisation”, a “People’s Europe”, “interdependence”, or any other such pretext, in fact stands as an obstruction to the development of the Internationale as the human race. This is because through such means the big powers have sought to impose their dictate, their own values, on the broad masses of the people on the world scale, whereas to uphold the right of a people to exercise its sovereignty is to take a stand against imperialist domination and contribute to the emancipation of the working class and all of humanity on a world scale.
It is not possible to achieve a “united Europe”, a Europe of the people, socialism throughout the continent, through working for or through the Europe of the monopolies. Each working class must settle scores with its own bourgeoisie in a nation-building project, in unity with the working class of other countries. Only through such a path is such an entity as a Union of Socialist States of Europe a possibility.
The actual situation at this time at the beginning of the 21st century is that the reactionary bourgeoisie tries to suggest that the notion of national self-determination or national sovereignty is a thing of the past or is of limited application. The Europe of the monopolies, as well as Anglo-American imperialism, is now based on the values which are enshrined in the “Charter of Paris for a New Europe”, signed towards the close of 1990. It represents 19th century liberal conceptions and values which the international financial oligarchy is trying to impose on the whole world. It takes the form of the demand that every country must have a free market economy, a multiparty system and “human rights” based on private property. It is a declaration that any country which does not follow the Paris Charter will become an international pariah. It is not a declaration which is or could have been made by sovereign peoples and nation states, and can only be imposed on them by the power of the monopolies. It is being presented as something new and modern, but it stands against what is new and modern. It is causing and deepening the profound crisis throughout the EU and wherever these big powers try to impose these same values. It has to be opposed by the peoples affirming their right to determine their own path of economic, political and social development.
If one analyses the struggles that are going on in society, one is led to the conclusion that on every front the struggle is between on the one side the crisis caused by what is moribund and holding society back, and on the other the movement to sweep away everything that is anti-human and to fundamentally renovate society. It is in this context that the big powers of the European Union are pushing for the EU to be strengthened as an economic/political/military bloc. At the same time they are pushing the values of globalisation and the free market economy, as if they were something modern, while in reality they represent the anachronistic and obsolescent “solutions” of the 19th century, which transformed themselves into factors for the imperialist first world war. Why are they being pushed? Because these big powers stand for the old relations of production. They stand against the principle of the independence of nations, of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, of the peaceful coexistence between different social systems.
Thus, in our view, it is neither working for a united Europe, nor spearheading all the people’s struggles against the European Union, that is the primary task facing the working class in Britain. The primary task is to consciously and in an organised fashion strike out on the line of march to a new society. How to do this is not an abstract or empty question. It is both a practical political question and a theoretical question. The fighting programme of the working class within which this line of march will take shape includes the demand for the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union and the dismantling of the EU. Theoretical considerations show that it is the working class which must take the lead in this struggle for a new society.
No problem facing the people in Britain will be victoriously resolved without at the same time the working class engaging in its project to constitute itself the nation, and going for socialism in Britain. To engage in this project and bring it to fruition, the working class has to be prepared to withstand all the activities of the reactionary bourgeoisie to wreck the new. These wrecking activities come not only from the big monopolies of the European Union, but also from the reactionary bourgeoisie in this country, especially from them. Indeed, one of the fundamental ways the bourgeoisie tries to prevent the emergence of the new basis in society is to deny to the working class its independent and leading role. The job of everyone in the communist and workers’ movement must be to pro-actively foster and develop, insist on, the independent programme of the working class and its leading role in extricating society from the crisis which the bourgeoisie’s insistence on the status quo is deepening and broadening.
One point we think should not be overlooked is that the European Union is a further factor compromising the sovereignty of the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England. Just as in the wider context of peoples fighting to exercise their sovereignty against the programme of the big powers of the European Union to impose their will, so in the context of Britain, the peoples of Scotland, Wales and England must fight against the unitary state which denies this right to them. If in the context of this struggle for sovereign states on a new basis, the working class and peoples voluntarily decide on a free and equal union which will put the English bourgeoisie in its place, then this is all to the good. It can also be said that should the countries of Europe under the leading role of their respective working classes be victorious in establishing modern sovereign socialist states, their internationalist unity against the world bourgeoisie can also be strengthened, without in the least limiting their own sovereignty.
In conclusion, we would like to re-emphasise the importance of all human persons formulating their own stands, and affirming their individual and collective rights. For our part, we advocate that the agenda, the programme, that the Party is putting forward should be given serious consideration, not as something which is of benefit to ourselves, but as conclusions which have been drawn from the experience of the working class and communist movement as a whole. In this respect, we believe they embody what is new and consistent with the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and all humanity. We do not put forward the fighting programme for adoption by the working class as a set of demands which we campaign that the government should accept, and that will be the end of the matter. There can be no illusions that any force other than the working class can lead society out of the present crisis and open up the way to a new and socialist society. Rather we advocate the adoption of the fighting programme of the working class to bring into play the human factor/social consciousness so as to build a revolutionary movement of a mass character which will give rise to the revolutionary transformation of society to socialism.