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Debate on Europe (yawn)

Dear Editors,
Your reply to my letter (February Socialist Standard), on the potential political dangers of the euro and any future European nation state, requires response to the questions you raised.
1. My “nightmare scenario” of a possible fascist European state emerging, if the capitalist system became endangered, was deliberate and justified with our knowledge and experiences of Europe's history of the 20th century.
2. While all states do exist “to uphold class rule and production for profit” it is essential to realise that a “democratic” capitalist state is vastly different from an “authoritarian dictatorship” where organising for socialism is not tolerated.
3. Troops sent from other parts of Europe into Britain to quell social unrest are much more likely to use ruthless methods of repression than indigenous forces.
4. “Europe a nation” and “European Union” was the policy first advocated by Sir Oswald Mosley in 1948 as Western Europe's post-war fascist agenda to salvage its aims to defend capitalism and oppose socialist ideas by force.
5. Romano Prodi, European Commission President, has now declared that “the present members of the EU must lose their power to veto EU decisions” (Daily Mail, 12 January). This is further confirmation of the agenda to build a European Superstate and the real dangers for the working class.
LIONEL RICH, London NW6

Reply:
You seem to have been reading the Daily Mail too much, though we don't think even they have come up with the idea of a fascist Europe sending foreign troops to quell social unrest in Britain. We don't accept, either, that fascism in Italy and Germany in between the two world wars of the last century was a response to the capitalist system becoming endangered; at most it was a response to the problems faced by the capitalist class in these two particular states due to them being excluded from a place in the sun (access to markets and raw materials) by the US, Britain and France.

Let's start on the purely factual level. Under the present structure of the EU the power to make EU laws rests not with the Commission (whose role is essentially only to propose legislation) nor with the European Parliament (whose role is still largely consultative) but with the Council of Ministers composed of ministers, varying with the subject, from the (currently) 15 Member-States. Even then the Council of Ministers cannot make laws on all subjects but only on those permitted under various treaties (Rome, Maastricht, Amsterdam, and soon Nice) and which are essentially economic. Some of these decisions require unanimity, i.e. every state has a veto; others are taken by a majority vote, but one which in which the bigger states have more votes than the smaller ones.

When Prodi says that Member States must give up their veto what he is advocating is that the Council of Ministers should take more decisions by majority voting (not, as the Daily Mail imagines, that the Commission should be able to impose its will on Member States). And he is proposing this for practical reasons (to avoid a small insignificant state such as Estonia or Slovenia being able to veto too many decisions when countries from eastern Europe join the EU in a few years time) rather than because he wants to construct a European super-state, still less because he thinks he's Hitler or Napoleon.

Under these circumstances the only way in which your nightmare scenario could come about would be if the governments of all 15 (soon 25) EU Member States were to agree to setting up a centralised super-state, which in turn, since the governments of all these states depend on commanding a majority in an elected parliament, would imply that this is what a majority of people in all of these states wanted. We don't buy it. It's just not a realistic scenario. It's just a scare story put out by those sections of the capitalist class in Britain who want Britain to depend on America rather than the EU. We are surprised that someone like yourself who has some knowledge of socialist ideas should fall for it.

A change of money-tokens, snail-pace political development towards a united Europe, these are not things to get worked up about. They are just superficial changes in the superstructure of capitalism that leave its basis unchanged. Profits before needs, class privilege and exploitation, these are the things that get us worked up, and why we will not drop our single-minded concentration on advocating socialism in favour of defending the pound or British “sovereignty”. When the referendum on the euro comes, we'll be advocating that people write “I want world socialism” across the ballot paper or, alternatively, they could go fishing that day to show that they couldn't care less either way - Editors.

A former Communist writes

Dear Editors,
As a former Communist, I've always felt the SPGB was the political equivalent of Christian fundamentalists who prayed first abstractly for people to change their souls/minds to “end” iniquity –but never advocated anything practical like joining trade unions, voting or taking part in military service. Still a socialist, I still fundamentally disagree with you, but your article on the euro intrigued me with some of its observations.

Twenty-six years ago, at a rally in Hyde Park against EEC entry, I asked a Spartacist what their view was. “It is of no concern to the workers,” he said. “We want a United States of Europe”. “What about the increase in food costs? What about heavier indirect taxation? Doesn't that concern workers?” “Only marginally.” Reflecting that decimalisation was used as an excuse for a rip-off, I suppose the American Spartacist is now “happier” at the prospect of workers being ripped off .
D. SHEPHERD, London NW4

Reply:
We hold no brief for Trotskyism, and certainly not for the cult known as the “Spartacists”, but the person you met in Hyde Park all those years ago was basically right (rare for a Trotskyist) except that workers should be concerned instead with establishing world socialism rather than a United States of Europe.

The introduction of the euro may well provide an excuse for certain shops to put up prices but they can only do this because the currency is being slowly depreciated due to the government over-issuing it, which means that there's a tendency for prices to rise slowly all the time, and with them wages. This is why this is “only marginal”. The same goes for higher food prices and higher indirect taxes: in so far as they increase the cost of living they exert an upward pressure on wages, and the best way to deal with them is to press for higher wages, not take sides in arguments between capitalist groupings as to which trading bloc they should join.

We for our part used to compare the now defunct “Communist” Party to the Catholic Church, with its popes and cardinals who decided what the “line” was (what was in the interests of state-capitalist Russia) and then told their followers what to do and think including lies. While it is true that our members took the very practical stand of refusing to do military “service” (i.e. learn to kill fellow workers), it's a lie that we don't join trade unions (we do) and that we don't vote (we do go and vote, but not for any pro-capitalist or reformist candidates) - Editors.

Marx: A globalisation convert?

Dear Editors,
Marx “would be a vocal advocate for globalization”, so stated The Hon. Michael Costa, MP, on 19 September in his maiden speech to the Legislative Council of the New South Wales State Parliament.

Prior to a parliamentary privileged life Costa was an executive union official with the Labor Council of New South Wales. In his maiden speech he referred to the many Labor Council officers who have represented the workers of the state in the Legislative Council, “an institution that served the workers of this state well” (my observation as an elected workplace union delegate is that “conned” would be a more appropriate word than “served”).

Costa, in a seemingly apologetic phrase, disclosed that he was one “who started off in the far left by accident”. No definition of “far left” was given by Costa, though he did refer to “Marxists”. There followed a diatribe on self-styled followers of Marx, etc and so it went on.

I find it amusing that when some politicians enter parliament they have to atone for previous political thoughts. Is the public purge a requisite for being accepted into the Temple of Reform? Nevertheless a bit of political underwear washing never hurt our accident-prone Costa, for in November he was appointed to a ministerial position – Minister for Police.

One of the New Year announcements by Mr Supreme Plod was the news that more prisons are to be built in NSW. One wonders whether prison building is to accommodate unemployed workers, one way or the other.

As to Costa's informed (?) knowledge of what the resurrected Marx would subscribe to, I quote the offending maiden speech paragraph in full: “I have no doubt that if Marx were alive today he would, given his understanding and interest in economic systems and technological development, support economic policies that promote prosperity and indeed would be a vocal advocate for globalization and in all probability would be a member of the Centre Unity faction of the Labor Party”.

Costa's litany has no doubt earned him a seat on a multinational company board in his post-parliamentary life. I have no doubt that if Marx were alive today he would never condescend to becoming a company director, even of a cigar factory.
“G. BRUNKER”, Sydney, Australia