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Wake-up call to stop right turn in Europe

A European left declaration strengthens opposition to the EU, says JOHN FOSTER

This week 15 communist and left parties from across the European Union issued a joint statement on the reactionary and anti-working class character of the EU.

The signatories include the French, Spanish, Portuguese , Czech and Cypriot communist parties as well as the United Left from Spain and the Left Bloc from Portugal.

Together these parties make up the core of the 35-strong United Left/Nordic Green Left grouping in the European Parliament.

The statement marks a significant shift of position. Previously some of the signatory parties, notably the Spanish, Italian and French, have argued that it was possible to work within the institutions of the EU to secure policies that would at least provide some defence for working people.

Now all these parties have taken the position that the EU is "in its essence neoliberal and militarist" and is therefore "unreformable." It is this analysis that they will take into the EU elections and subsequently into the left/green group in Strasbourg - which is likely to be significantly bigger after next month's European elections.

A number of communist parties, including the Portuguese, the Greek and the British, have always seen the EU in this light - as an imperialist project that serves the interests of its dominant economic powers, Germany, France and, through Britain, the United States.

Now, however, this position is general. "The policy of the EU confirms its ambitions as an imperialist political-military bloc subordinated to Nato and therefore the United States."

The statement lists the anti-working class measures of the last few years that subordinate all EU economies to enforced neoliberal programmes - the Stability and Growth Pact, the 2020 Strategy, the Fiscal Compact and, currently, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The statement continues: "We state a different course is possible for Europe. The first step in this direction is a profound break with the policies of the EU, with neoliberalism, with militarism and with the concentration and centralisation of power in the hands of the directorate of big powers."

What has brought about this change of position? One reason is the sheer depth of the economic and political crisis of the eurozone.

There is now a recognition that it is the EU Treaty rules themselves that are driving the remorseless attack on the democratic and social rights won over the past generation: - the wholesale privatisation of public services, the slashing of public sector jobs and the removal of basic labour safeguards.

In Portugal, the revolutionary 1976 constitution is being amended to strike out the progressive clauses. In France the public sector faces the biggest cuts since the last war.

The second reason is even more urgent. It is rise of the extreme right.

A prime duty of the left, says the statement, is to halt "the resurgence of extreme right-wing and fascist forces that were defeated by the struggle of the peoples in the 20th century."

In France, Hungary, Finland, Austria and Greece fascism is once more regaining a mass base.

To reverse this tide, the true causes of mass impoverishment must be explained. And there needs to be a real alternative that offers hope to the unemployed and marginalised.

Such an alternative cannot exist within the neoliberal rules of the EU. The 2012 Stability Treaty requires the elimination of budget deficits by the end of the decade.

This statement from the 15 parties should be a wake-up call for those on the left in Britain who still believe that the EU offers some form of protection to working people.

Yes, in France and Germany social democratic parties continue to back the EU. But it is precisely such collaboration that is opening the door to the extreme right. Hollande's disastrous performance in France shows that.


And there should be no illusions that Britain is somehow exempt from the worst of the austerity measures. Britain did gain an opt-out from the 2012 Stability Treaty but it was only temporary.

Article 16 specifies that within five years of coming into force on January 2013, its full content must be incorporated into EU Treaty law and apply to all members.

This was why Osborne's budget last month set a zero deficit budget target for 2018 - and, so far, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, we are not halfway through the public sector job cuts required.

This is the challenge we face. Both Tories and right-wing Labour back the EU - and they do so primarily because they are tied to the US alliance whereby US banks use the City of London to penetrate the EU and Britain operates within the EU to firm up the Nato alliance.

The Tories are only too happy to see the destruction of the public sector and, with it, much of the organised force of the trade union movement. And both the Tories and right-wing Labour are playing tricks to conceal their manoeuvres.

Cameron says he will end the interference of the European Court of Human Rights in British law.

The Labour right uses the court's progressive judgements on equalities, gender and race to justify support for "Europe."

Neither explain that the court has got nothing to do with the EU.

Meanwhile, as Labour accepts EU deficit targets, Ukip and even more extreme right forces focus on immigration and are building a base among disillusioned Labour voters.

It is for these reasons that the Communist Party of Britain, one of the signatories to the statement, will be fighting the EU elections as part of the No2EU-Yes2Workers Rights coalition. Led by the RMT union, this will be putting a positive, progressive alternative.

The problem with the EU is not immigration. It is that the EU denies people's democratic right to choose a government that can provide full employment, intervene in the market, take industries into public ownership and pursue an independent and progressive foreign policy.

We need to catch up with the left in the rest of Europe.


John Foster is international secretary of the Communist Party


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