From Socialist Voice, November 2005

The crisis within the European Union deepens

There are now a number of contradictory processes operating within the European Union that have the potential to create deep fissures, leading to ruptures or even fundamental breaks within the EU structures.
    Firstly, we have the drive by the EU centralisers who wish to build a highly centralised power structure over and above the member-states. These are directly connected to and work to secure the interests of European monopoly capitalism and the big economic and political powers within the European Union. These forces over the last three decades have been working away at establishing the political structures, pushing through the necessary economic and political treaties to bring this about. This course of events is the necessary working out of the logical developments within capitalism, towards monopoly, towards the combining of national units of monopoly capitalism, which, unable to defend their interests separately, need to combine in order to defend and advance their economic and political interests from global competition from such economic powers as Japan and the United States.
    The additional complicating factor was the existence of socialism (weak and underdeveloped as it was) on the European continent. This meant that European monopolies and their political representatives had to make the necessary compromises with the working class in order to buy and secure their continued support. This was facilitated by the influence of social democracy within the working class.
    The defeat of the EU Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands was a major surprise and sent huge shock waves throughout the EU elites. They covered their shock and confusion in the aftermath of this defeat with the call for a “period of reflection”—hoping in the meantime to pull something together.
    Alongside this was the continued application of the Lisbon Agenda, which is about the deregulation of services and the opening up of the public service to competition. Since the dismantling of socialism and the recolonisation of eastern Europe, the European Union has a massive pool of cheap labour at its disposal right on its doorstep. The new eastern European governments were to provide supplies of cheap labour, which would become the battering-ram that would break down the social advances made by western European workers, won over six decades, and undo the concessions that European capitalism was forced to make to the workers. The Bolkestein Directive was to be the means of bringing this about.
    But now European workers have decided that this course of events is not in their interest. Swedish building workers have blocked a Latvian building company from starting a major construction project in Sweden employing Latvian workers at Latvian rates of pay. The resistance of the Swedish building workers forced their government to rescind the contract with the Latvian company. The EU Commission is supporting the position of the Latvian company—with the EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy rowing in behind the company. The Swedish government told McCreevy and the Commission to stop interfering, as they were stirring up anti-EU feelings.
    If they can’t bully the Swedish government and workers into allowing Latvian companies employing Latvian workers into building projects or any other sector of the economy in Sweden at Latvian rates of pay, this drives a coach and horses through the whole EU project.
    If they do force the Swedish government to back down, they are finished. Sweden kept its currency, the kroner, as part of its strong opposition to EU integration. If the Swedes are forced to make a choice between the European Union and their social model, the likelihood is that the European Union will lose. This will send shock waves through Finland, Denmark, and Germany.
    This has further exposed the slavish role played by such bodies as the ETUC, ATTAC, and the remnants of social democracy, who are more concerned about saving the European Union from itself than about defending and advancing workers’ social gains.
    The very process of forcing a single market and the race to the bottom could quite possibly be the undoing of the European Union itself. Roll on the day!

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