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The EU is squeezing democracy out of politics

ROBERT GRIFFITHS on how the EU sets peoples and countries against one another

TIME appears to be accelerating. Capitalism hurtles towards global warming, climate chaos, ever more deadly pandemics and a state of continuous rearmament and war, while long-standing social inequalities and injustices persist and fester.

Big business power — economic, social, cultural and political — strives to negate democracy in the real sense of the term, namely, rule by the people: the possession of real power in the hands of the working class and therefore of the mass of the people.

For monopoly capitalism, the democratic rights that people have fought for and won represent a challenge: how to ensure that those freedoms are not mobilised to challenge the vested interests of capitalism? How to restrict the ability of trade unions, social movements and political parties of the left to bring about real change in the interests of the working class?

The European Union’s basic treaties enshrine the freedom of capitalist monopolies to shunt capital, labour, goods and services around the continent, to set monetarist and militarist policies in concrete, to make nationalisation all but illegal, to guarantee the independence of the European Central Bank and the anti-trade union European Court of Justice from any democratic influence or control, to restrict the power to initiate legislation to a powerful and unelected European Commission, while all the time sustaining the pretext of parliamentary democracy in the charade played out between Brussels and Strasbourg. 

The European Union — backed as it is by most of big business and the City of London — is doing its utmost to squeeze real democracy out of politics, to restrict the economic and financial options of elected national governments, while all the while the EU’s “free market” — freedom, that is for the monopolies to exploit labour and every other commodity — sets peoples and countries against one another.

The free movement of capital and the “flexible labour market” are just twin aspects of the capitalist jungle. Whether dressed up as “social partnership” or a “social Europe,” they offer nothing to working people.

Trade unions were established and maintained by workers without any assistance from the EU, which has never blocked any of the anti-union laws that we still need to overthrow here in Britain. 

The basis and framework of our welfare state, the statutory minimum wage, equal pay for women, health and safety at work and — such as it is in practice — the right to strike without victimisation were won by our labour and progressive movements, in struggle, against the capitalist class, and with no assistance from the EU.

In fact, here and across the world — as the semi-secret Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership discussions with the US confirm — the EU spearheads the global drive to monopoly domination, privatisation and the super-exploitation of labour. 

That’s why the Communist Party of Britain remains consistent and principled in its opposition to the EU, on the same basis as the 14 other communist and left parties in Europe which signed the joint declaration in April this year, that the EU is reactionary, anti-democratic and unreformable. 

Ed Miliband should stop being a cheerleader for the EU, stand up for popular sovereignty and commit the next Labour government to holding a referendum on Britain’s membership.

Withdrawal from the EU and Nato is an essential step not only towards shaping a genuinely independent foreign and defence policy for Britain, but also towards popular sovereignty — towards making the working class and the people sovereign over the economic power which at the moment controls the most essential conditions of their existence. 

The consequences of EU and Nato expansionism have revealed themselves yet again — as previously seen in the former Yugoslavia and then in Georgia — in chaos and war, this time in Ukraine.

Alongside the communists of the Russian Federation, we have no illusions in President Vladimir Putin. He is a reactionary who represents the predominant section of the capitalist oligarchy in that country, those thieves and gangsters who — in league with elements in the old state apparatus — stole the economic assets which once belonged to the Soviet people collectively.

But we also recognise a coup incited, financed and shaped by the US, Germany and other Western powers when we see it, such as the one which overthrew the democratically elected government in Kiev and replaced it with a pro-EU, pro-Nato regime riddled with right-wing nationalists and fascists.

There are plenty of grounds on which the Putin regime can be condemned. But accepting the clear will of the Crimean people to rejoin Russia is not one of them. Neither is assisting the people of eastern Ukraine to withstand a brutal military assault from Kiev troops and fascist irregulars.

Above all, we refuse to swallow the propaganda of Western powers which have the blood of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans on their hands as the result of bombing and invading those countries, creating the chaos in which the brutal reactionaries of Isis can prosper.

Nor will we forget that had Britain’s Tory government and its little Lib Dem helpers had their way last year, Isis would be in power in Damascus today, murdering Syria’s ethnic and religious minorities, slaughtering communists and progressives and enslaving women.

British and US governments laid the basis for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism when they trained and funded jihadists in the 1970s and early ’80s to overthrow the progressive, communist-led government in Afghanistan. Western military intervention to topple the Assad regime would have had similar consequences today.

Again, this does not make us cheerleaders for the Assad dynasty. But like the two Syrian communist parties which took opposing positions on the character of that regime, we support the struggle of the Syrian armed forces and the country’s allies to maintain a secular society against the fundamentalists.

There is no imperialist intervention to assist the Palestinian people. Israel remains free to oppress, dispossess and massacre the Palestinians rather than engage in discussions to end its illegal occupation and bring about a two-state solution based on UN resolutions and international law.

Unless and until Israel enters meaningful negotiations with the elected representatives of the Palestinian people, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign should be intensified. 

The drive to win recognition for Palestinian statehood goes on, not least here in Britain where public opinion has finally seen through the smokescreen of Israeli lies to the bloody reality laid bare in Gaza this summer.


Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain. This article is an edited extract from his speech delivered to the 53rd Communist Congress at the weekend. Part two, appearing tomorrow, will focus on home affairs.


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