Paper delivered on behalf of the Communist Party of Ireland to a seminar jointly organised by the Communist Party of Britain and Labour Party Campaign for Socialism (Scotland) as part of the G8 Summit meetings.
It is clear that the EU Constitution is dead; but that does not mean that the guardians of the interests of European monopoly capitalism have given up on their dream of complete and untrammelled power. This constitution was a grab for power by the elites, to free themselves from any further democratic control or accountability, with its “escalator” clauses and greater powers to the European Court of Justice, one of the jost Euro-federalist institutions within the EU bureaucracy.
It is clear that they have begun their efforts to co-opt, in the form of “consultations,” those forces that they feel can be placated. Organisations such as the ETUC — a creature of the EU bureaucracy and heavily funded by them — is increasingly a major conduit to ensure compliance within safe and agreed parameters, that is, within the status quo. They will and are attempting to induce some of the forces who opposed the constitution on the No side to come on board.
It is jost likely that we may get this constitution piecemeal, bit by bit. Tony Blair said as much when he stated that we should implement what we can through parliament, without having recourse to national referendums. One of the key architects of the constitution, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, after the defeat in France stated that it is not possible to understand “the full text,” and that copies of the constitution should not have been distributed to the public before the referendum. This is despite the fact that that books in relation to the EU Constitution were in the top ten French best-sellers’ list after Christmas, and that 10 per cent of voters had read the Constitution.
THEY ARE PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE:
The European leaders have attempted to present, and continue to present, the image that the process is still on track and unstoppable and that it is ultimately futile to think about changing its direction or even stopping it. This was very clearly illustrated at the meeting of heads of governments of member-states in mid-June. At that recent meeting they presented a budget (not adopted) that clearly indicates their strategy and what they are thinking. They want to put in place the financial means for this constitution’s ultimate implementation. The Commission’s proposal for the financial perspectives for 2007–2013 place the emphasis on competition, security, and militarisation.
The outlined budgetary plans go further to make allocations for justice, home affairs, and the common security and foreign policy. What is not budgeted for are their plans to promote economic and social cohesion, employment, and sustainable development.
We need to remember what they have already in place.
• They have two Foreign Ministers; they are building an army; they have extended qualified majority voting, and co-ordinated foreign policy.
This present crisis cannot be resolved by tricks or special deals or protocols devised to get the process back on track. This crisis can only be resolved by the complete abandonment of the whole constitutional process, a slowing down of the integration process, the opening up of a real debate about what we want from European co-operation and what direction the EU should take in the future.
Much of the debate around possible demands and solutions coming from organisation’s like the ETUC and ATTAC in many cases is little more than economism, and their demands are removed from the political context — whose interests does the EU serve, and which forces would benefit, or what immediate political priorities left and democratic forces should raise.
We are of the opinion that they are aimed more at saving the EU as it currently is than pressing home the political advantage that now exists, to advance the interests of the working class and to make political, economic and social decisions more amenable to national class struggle. To re-establish equality among the nations who are now members, to share those areas of economic and political life that advance the interests of working people and the environment and restrict the power of monopoly capitalism.
Two examples of the role of the ETUC:
One: The Executive of the ETUC supported the Constitution before the heads of governments did so in June 2004. That is before it had been finalised or without consultation with national trade union federations had even read or discussed it.
Two: John Monks, former General Secretary of the British TUC and current General Secretary of the ETUC who attend the Bi-Annual Delegate Conference of the ICTU in late June in Belfast, informed delegates that the French and Dutch No votes was the result of right wing nationalism, which is clearly untrue. He was championing and spinning the line of the European elites.
This coming period will provide us, we believe, with the opportunity we need to develop our peoples’ understanding of the very nature of the EU process itself. The working class and its allies have taken a small but significant step away from the ideological hegemony of the European elites, and there now appears to be a growing understanding of the class character of that process and the forces who benefit. It is clear that the debate and struggle around the EU Constitution have taken on class characteristics.
The current situation poses certain challenges for us.
• Can we make common cause with those forces that may be willing to co-operate with the EU who see solutions within the EU political box but opposed to neo-liberalism?
• What strategic positions should we be adopting in the coming period?
It is clear that what the people objected to within the constitution cannot be delivered if the current situation prevails. Clearly, we believe that the smothering of democracy was and is the Achilles heel of the European elites. They have come unstuck in relation to their strategic thrust to free themselves of democratic accountability. We need to exploit these contradictions in relation to democracy and democratic accountability.
The defence of the “European Social Model” is crucial, the social advances which workers have secured, were won over many decades of hard and difficult struggle not just by Social Democrats, but also by socialist, communist, trade unionist, other radical forces and jost importantly the very existence of the Soviet Union and the other socialist states. These gains were result of bitter struggles and as life and history shows that you only retain gains if you organise to defend them. Life also confirms that the ruling elites never give anything without a struggle.
The struggle at this time should take two forms.
• To continue to champion the cause of democracy; that the French and Dutch votes must be respected and that the rejection by these peoples is the end of the process. But we know that we need to prepare our forces to fight any attempt to push this constitution onwards.
• To show solidarity and give support to those peoples whose governments continue to push ratification of the constitution. We also need to maximise co-operation and share experiences in the coming period. We believe this should include those forces which have taken a step away from complete acceptance of the EU and critical of the direction it is taking.
What the victory in France and Holland has created is an opening up of the political space from which we can begin to engage with the wider European labour movement about the future of our continent. Once again I think it has proved correct those forces that have been saying all along that the process inherent within the EU itself would lead us to this impasse.
The demand to change the course of European development away from neo-liberalism and centralised undemocratic control by the Eurocrats is one which would appeal to many Europeans — those who voted No or who would vote No if they got the chance.
As we have seen, the defence of the social gains of the working class is part of this. The massive demonstration on Saturday [2 July in Edinburgh] also shows that the predatory imperialistic foreign trade policy of the EU does not have the endorsement of the people.
Communists and other left and democratic forces have a responsibility to address these two constituencies at a level of clarity and understanding which is clearly lacking. I don’t mean to imply that we already have this level of understanding ourselves, for there are many individuals and groups that we can learn from, and a sectarian approach would defeat all our good intentions.
We in Ireland have taken the initial steps to open up the debate within the labour movement about the future of Europe. We have moved within various organisations a call for activists within the trade union movement to organise meetings and promote discussion about “neo-liberalism and the EU process,” because we feel that we need to engage those who are pro-EU but against neo-liberalism. It is the contradictions of the European elite that we have to exploit — not to solve those contradictions in favour of the elites but in the interests of our working class. We need involved the maximum forces in this debate.
As the development of human society has shown the bourgeoisie called the masses to its aid in its struggle for power against feudal forces and structures and to assume to itself the nation, that their class interests and that of the nation were one and the same. They mobilised those same forces to build their empires and capture new markets, to continue their plunder and exploitation.
Today in Europe they have abandoned national democracy and adopted international forms and structures to protect their class interests, and we are once again being encouraged to follow their call, to take an internationalist approach. The price has always been that working people, small farmers and peasants are the losers when they follow the elites.
Life always poses questions, and we should never stop asking “Why?” At the same time we must have the political strength and the courage of our beliefs, and our own vision of the future and to pose the question “Why not?”
We need to apply our materialism to the material world rather to idealism, in which the world is other than what it is.