TACKLING THE EU EMPIRE
Basic critical facts on the EU/Eurozone
A handbook for Europe’s democrats, whether politically Left, Right or Centre
“Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organization of empire. We have the dimension of empire.” – EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, 2007
Readers are invited to use or adapt this document in whole or in part for their own purposes, including changing its title if desired, and to circulate it to others without any need of reference to or acknowledgement of its source.
- The EU’s myth of origin
- EU ideology: supranationalism v. internationalism
- A spin-off of the Cold War
- The euro as a response to German reunification
- The intoxication of Big Powerdom
- EU expansion from six to 28; “Brexit”
- The economic basis of the EU
- The succession of EU treaties: the 1957 Treaty ofRome
- The 1987 Single European Act (SEA)
- The 1992 Maastricht Treaty on European Union
- The 1998 Amsterdam Treaty
- The 2001 Nice Treaty
- The 2009 Lisbon Treaty: the EU’s Constitution
- EU Powers and National Powers
- The “doctrine of the occupied field”; Subsidiarity
- More voting power for the Big States under the Lisbon Treaty
- How the EU is run: the Brussels Commission
- The Council of Ministers
- The European Council
- The European Parliament
- The Court of Justice (ECJ) as a Constitution-maker
- The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
- The extent of EU laws
- Is Another Europe, a Social Europe, possible?
- How the EU is financed
- Why national politicians surrender powers to the EU
- The EU’s assault on national democracy
- EU Justice, “Home Affairs” and Crime; Migration, Schengen
- The Common Foreign and Security policy: EU militarization
- The euro: from EU to Eurozone federalism
- The euro, the bank crisis and the sovereign debt crisis
- Two treaties for the Eurozone: The Fiscal Compact and the ESM Treaty
- No European people or demos to provide a basis for an EU democracy
- How the Eurozone prevents the “PIIGS” countries overcoming the economic crisis
- The benefits of restoring national currencies
- Contrast Iceland
- Tackling the EU Leviathan
- Democrats on Centre, Left and Right for national independence and democracy
- Conclusion: Europe’s Future
- Ireland’s EU membership
- Abolishing the punt and adopting the euro
- Ireland’s experience of an independent currency 1993-1999
- The 2008 bank guarantee and the 2010 Eurozone bailout
- Reestablishing an independent Irish currency
- Some political consequences of Ireland’s EU membership
- An independent democratic future
- Useful sources of information on the EU
- Reference Notes
- An invitation
THE EU’S MYTH OF ORIGIN: All States and aspiring States have their “myth of origin” – that is, a story, true or false, of how they came into being. The myth of origin of the European Union is that it is essentially a peace project to prevent wars between Germany and France, as if a collective tendency to go to war were somehow genetically inherited. In reality the EU’s origins lie in war preparations – at the start of the Cold War which followed the end of World War 2 and the possibility of that developing into a “hot war”, a real military conflict between the two victorious post-war superpowers, the USA and USSR.
Filed under: A detailed guide, EU & Democracy, EU Army, EU Economy, EU Enlargement & Integration, EU Foreign Policy, EU Police Powers, EU Superstate, EU Taxes, Euro / Monetary Union, Migration, Myths & Misrepresentations, Referendum | Clibeanna: basic facts, Brexit, eu empire, uk referendum | Leave a comment »
The article below, dated 29 February, was written by Professor Danny Nicol, Professor of Public Law at the University of Westminster
by Professor Danny Nicol
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
It speaks volumes that Syriza, a party implementing austerity at the EU’s behest, is accorded star billing in this supposedly anti-neoliberal venture.
THE LEFT AND EUROPE by Anthony Coughlan, September issue, Village Magazine, Dublin
The political Left, whether social democratic, communist or trotskyist, has always found the European Union problematic. This is because superanational EU “integration” poses the issue of national independence and national democracy so acutely, which many on the Left find embarrassing. They prefer to concentrate on economic issues, for on political ones like national independence they fear being found on the same side as the Right. Their political sectarianism makes that hard for them to cope with.
The EU shifts a myriad of government functions from the national level, where they have traditionally been under the control of democratically elected parliaments and governments, to the supranational, where the bureaucrats of the EU Commission have the monopoly of legislative initiative and where technocracy rules. Should the Left oppose or support this process?
The classical socialist position is clear. It is that Leftwingers should eschew “economism” and should seek to give a lead on democratic political questions as well as economic ones. They thereby put themselves in the best position to win political hegemony in their respective countries and to implement leftwing economic measures in due course when their peoples desire these.
Marx and Engels took it for granted that socialism could only be achieved in independent national States. In the Communist Manifesto of 1848 they wrote: “Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.” They supported Irish independence from Britain. Engels wrote to his friend Kugelman: “There are two oppressed peoples in Europe, the Irish and the Poles, who are never more international than when they are most national.”
Their Irish follower, James Connolly, showed by his political practice in allying himself with the radical democrats of the IRB in the 1916 Easter Rising that he regarded the establishment of a fully independent Irish State as the prerequisite of being able to achieve the socialist measures that he advocated. While awaiting execution he speculated on how the international socialist press would interpret the Dublin rebellion: “They will never understand why I am here. They will all forget I am an Irishman.”
Outside Europe the proposition that the Left should be the foremost advocates of national sovereignty would be taken as self-evident. The strength of communism in Asian countries like China and Vietnam rests on its identification with nationalism. The appeal of the Left in Latin America is largely based on its opposition to Yankee imperialism. Only in Europe do so many Leftwingers regard the defence of national independence in face of EU integration as “right-wing” and therefore by definition reactionary.
This is primarily due to the fact that the main countries of Western Europe – France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy etc. – were all imperial powers in their day and historically their mainstream Labour Movements identified with that imperialism and its colonial accompaniments. With honourable if marginal exceptions, the national Labour Movements in these countries supported their respective national bourgeoisies in going to war with one another in World Wars 1 and 2.
In the second half of the 20th century transnational capital became predominant over national capital in the advanced industrial world. In Europe continental social democrats now shifted to backing European-based transnational capital in supporting its main political project, the construction of a supranational power, the EU/Eurozone, in which the classical principles of capitalist laissez faire – free movement of goods, services, capital and labour – would for the first time in history have the force of constitutional law.
In Britain and Ireland Labour initially dissented. The political tradition in Britain is that all the main issues of national policy are decided inside the Tory Party, with the rest of society having bit parts. Joining the EEC became the central goal of Conservative policy from 1961. The Labour Left originally opposed this, as indeed in this country the Irish Labour Party opposed Irish membership of the EEC in our 1972 Accession referendum. Under Michael Foot’s leadership British Labour advocated the UK’s withdrawal from the EEC in the 1983 general election.
Then in 1988, with Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, Commission President Jacques Delors, a French socialist, wooed the British TUC at Blackpool and Ireland’s ICTU at Malahide and promised them labour-friendly legislation from Brussels which they would never get at home. The Trade Union leaders embraced “social Europe” and much of the Labour Left followed them, in some cases becoming missionaries for the grand “project”. As the downside of the EU/Eurozone became clear in recent years, Euro-scepticism began to grow on the political Right. Now some on the Left are starting to follow the Right in that too, in Southern Europe and maybe in Britain.
In France and Italy the central role of communists in the war-time Resistance and their consequent appeal to national sentiment gave these countries mass communist parties for three decades after World War 2. A key factor in the subsequent decline of these parties was their embrace of the EC/EU in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the tenets of “Eurocommunism”.
In France this volte-face was necessary to allow Communist Ministers join Francois Mitterand’s socialist government in 1981. I recall the labour historian Desmond Greaves remarking at the time; “This will revive fascism in France.” That was before anyone had heard of Le Pen.The French CP, which had one-quarter of the seats in France’s National Assembly in 1956, has 2% there today. Many former French workingclass communist voters now vote for the National Front.
Leftwingers in the trotskyist tradition tend to be upholders of EU supranationalism as “objectively progressive”, while stigmatising concern for national independence as nationalism and “rightwing”. This goes back to Trotsky’s famous dispute with Stalin in the 1920s over whether it was possible to build socialism in one country – that being Stalin’s view – or whether it required a more general transformation, world revolution, as Trotsky thought. The EU is assumed to provide a more favourable field for socialism because it is at once bigger and it is trans-national, although it is hard to see how socialist-type restrictions on capital can come from a body one of whose constitutional principles is free movement of capital.
The EU institutions and their national extensions are populated with people who were on the trotskyist Left in their youth and who feel no qualms at the EU’s assaults on national democracy. Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Portuguese Commission President J.M. Barroso are among those with such a background who have advanced supranationalism. Left-sounding arguments for the EU go down well in circles where “socialism” is no way a realistic danger, but where “nationalism” very much is – that is, the nationalism which resists losing national independence and democracy.
Leftist rhetoric, radical-sounding, has helped grease many a lucrative EU career path.
Leftist Europhilia of this kind has been influential in the ideological collapse of Greece’s Syriza, which made its leadership adopt policies the opposite of what they were elected on. While loud against “austerity” Messrs Tsipris, Varoufakis and Tsakalotos continually proclaimed themselves believers in the EU, which they seemed to think could be transformed into a force for cross-national solidarity and Euro-Keynesianism by dint of rhetorical argument.
When it came to the crunch they lacked the courage to go for a “Grexit”, a repudiation of Greece’s mountainous debts and a devaluation of a restored drachma. Yet only such a policy can revive Greece’s lost competititiveness, stimulate its home demand and bring back economic growth, for Greece’s third bailout will not work.
The dissenters in Syriza are now advocating such a course, as are the Greek communists and others. The Syriza collapse is educational for Leftwingers everywhere. It illustrates the old truth that the establishment or re-establishment of national independence – which means a State having its own currency and with it control of either its interest rate or its exchange rate – must be central to any meaningful campaign against neoliberalism and banker-imposed austerity, not to mind “socialism”, however one might define that.
(Anthony Coughlan is Associate Professor Emeritus of Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin)