From Socialist Voice, August 2008

Another Europe is possible

Susan George, We, the Peoples of Europe, London: Pluto Press, 2008 (ISBN 978-0-745-32634-4, €58; paperback 978-0-745-32633-7, €16.50).

“Sit down and read. Educate yourself for the coming conflict”—Mother Jones (1903)
“The aim of this treaty is to be unreadable . . . to be unclear.”—Karel de Gucht, Belgian Foreign Minister (2007)
“Texts which have an impact on our work, our rights and our lives are increasingly indecipherable.”—Susan George (2008)

For those of us who have grave misgivings about the way Europe is becoming a superstate, rather than a union of independent states, this book is an intelligent critique of the Lisbon Treaty and what it entails. More importantly, the author puts forward many credible alternatives that point to the kind of Europe we thought we were part of—a Europe that was a union of independent sovereign states with a goal of mutual co-operation to benefit all their citizens, that would thrive on economic co-operation rather than competition, so that peace and prosperity would be a reality.
     As Mother Jones told the crowds of industrial workers who thronged to hear her speak over a century ago, it is vital that we “sit down and read.” We need to know the facts about what this treaty entails. Not an easy task, as it is long and written in a style that promotes confusion rather than clarity. Many of Mother Jones’s miners and garment workers were illiterate or non-English-speaking, so it was a struggle for them not just to find the time but to understand what labour laws of that time meant for them. This did not deter them, and the struggles of working people at that time, not just in the United States but throughout the industrialised world, are inspirational.
     These days most of us can read and write; and although we have more leisure time than our forebears, in theory at least, we seem to spend most of it queueing in supermarkets, in cars and traffic jams.
     Susan George spoke about what she calls this “well-honed tool of complexity” at the Irish launch of her book We, the Peoples of Europe at the Pearse Centre in Dublin. If we allow ourselves to remain confused about what this treaty means, we are sitting ducks for the hard-hitting realities of what is in store for us and for the coming generations.
     We, the Peoples of Europe has many interesting references to the treaty. It outlines the history of the EU, formerly the EEC, now more commonly referred to simply as “Europe,” all the way back to the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) of 1951.
     The middle part of the book describes how Europe could be—“Plan B and the new Treaty”—much of it the result of intense political debate throughout France in the lead-up to the 2005 referendum on the “Constitutional Treaty.”
     It has a good index, which can facilitate a speed-read to get a handle on the book. It is written in clear English, and there is a coherence in her arguments that makes it easy to engage with. It is divided into six chapters and is less than a hundred pages long. There is a comprehensive notes section at the back, making further reading possible. The author has a frank and engaging style of writing, making this book not only an interesting read but an enjoyable one. It left this reader not only more informed but even fascinated and motivated to read further on the treaty, and even the treaty itself!
     It’s almost a relief to have one’s worst misgivings confirmed, yet thanks to the time Susan George spent listening to the discussions that arose during the heated debate in France there are powerful proposals for another reality. In fact the theme of the whole book could be summed up in the last line: “Another Europe is possible.”

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