We thank our hosts, the delegation of the KKE to the European Parliament, for organising this seminar.
One hundred years ago, in the midst of the Great Imperialist War, Comrade V.I. Lenin made clear the correct proletarian internationalist approach to the question of the United States of Europe. Emphasising the class character of the question and pointing out that capital had become international and monopolist he noted that, “From the standpoint of the economic conditions of imperialism – i.e., the export of capital and the division of the world by the ‘advanced’ and ‘civilised’ colonial powers – a United States of Europe, under capitalism, is either impossible or reactionary.” Despite all the changes over the last century in politics, economy and society, that analysis remains fundamentally correct: it remains fundamentally correct because the class nature of society has not fundamentally changed. The conflict between capital and labour remains the key determinant of political, social and economic conditions. It is the task of Communist and Workers’ parties to combat any illusions about the nature of a capitalist united Europe; about the European Union; about the continuing competition between the imperialist powers and the possibility those contradictions may erupt violently; and about the only basis for genuine unity between the peoples of Europe – socialism.
The European Union and the project of “ever-closer union” have received a severe blow this year with the decision by the electorate of the United Kingdom to exit the European Union. In Northern Ireland, which is constitutionally part of the UK, we in the Workers’ Party of Ireland campaigned on strong, principled socialist grounds for a vote to leave the European Union while recognising that withdrawal from the EU will not, of itself, solve the problems of the working class if the state continues to follow a capitalist development path. We did so on the basis of our socialist analysis of the EU, the increasing militarisation of the EU, the EU’s role in limiting the rights of workers and facilitating the interests of capital through labour and competition laws, and driving the impetus for liberalisation and privatisation while restricting and prohibiting the possibilities for public ownership and the creation of conditions which enable workers to create a society where they may live a secure, dignified and prosperous life.
In the referendum on the EU, our Party stood for the socialist alternative, for democracy and genuine cooperation among the peoples of Europe on the basis of class solidarity and mutual advantage. We stood against both the capitalist interests represented by the European Union and the reactionary, xenophobic, racist nationalism represented by the right as exemplified by the United Kingdom Independence Party.
The prominence given to the likes of Farrage by the bourgeois press has helped obscure many of the most important reasons why traditionally working-class areas of the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU. Rather than being simply the result of racism and hostility to immigration, as the bourgeois media suggests, the vote to leave the EU in areas that were formerly the sites of heavy industry such as mining and steel-making was a response to the abandonment of even the limited aims of traditional social democracy by the British Labour Party over the last thirty years, and the actions of successive governments, both right wing and social-democratic, in worsening living conditions for working people and by destroying the fabric of their lives, aggravated by the effects of so-called austerity, begun by Gordon Brown’s Labour government and then implemented enthusiastically by the Conservative-led governments that have been in power since 2010. The vote to leave the EU was in many important respects a vote against the attacks on the working class and its standard of living that began with the monetarist policies of Thatcher and have continued, without stopping, ever since.
Since the so-called “bailout” of 2010, workers in the Republic of Ireland have experienced the inherently reactionary nature of the EU. Forced by the Troika and its local administrators in the various Irish governments to shoulder tens of billions of euro of debt accumulated by the capitalist class, Irish workers have seen public services cut, wages slashed, working conditions become harsher, the cost of living grow quickly, and the return of mass emigration, something that had been thought a thing of the past. In Northern Ireland, there have also been many cuts to public expenditure, implemented by the Democratic Unionist Party – Sinn Féin coalition. Despite what they like to claim, a huge proportion of these cuts are the result of these parties’ decision to seek a reduction in the rate of corporation tax. As a result, jobs in the public sector are being cut with the aim of replacing them with low-paid, non-unionised call centres so that multi-national corporations can increase their profits. As here in Greece and in the other countries where the workers have been punished to protect the profits of international capital, Ireland’s social-democrats (old and new) and members of the so-called “radical left” in Ireland have played an active role sacrificing the interests of workers to those of the capitalist class.
This, of course, is only to be expected, and serves as a further reminder about any illusions of a Social Europe, and further proof that Lenin was right: international cooperation under capitalism is either impossible or reactionary.
We live in a dangerous period where inter-imperialist contradictions and competition are sharpening. As Putin’s Russia seeks to assert its own imperialist interests, we see the increasing beating of the war drums within the EU, and especially within the UK. The support of the EU for a government in Kiev that gives prominent places in the state and security apparatus to openly fascist elements who idolise Nazi collaborators is one sign of how the contradictions are sharpening. The pressure for increased NATO action in Syria and larger NATO forces in the Baltic, and for increased military spending by EU member states and the strengthening of its military institutions are other sinister indications. The imperialist character of the EU is ever more obvious.
The rise of fascist parties in many parts of Europe is another sign of the crisis of capitalism, and the predictability of capital’s response. While this happens, the EU seeks to criminalise Communists, those who played the greatest role in defeating fascism. Anti-communism is, unsurprisingly, an ever-present ideological and political device in the hands of an imperialist alliance.
This meeting is a symbol of our adherence to the internationalist, anti-imperialist and communist politics expressed in Lenin’s On the Slogan for a United States of Europe. Events are proving every day just how correct Lenin was in his analysis. We recall his words: “Of course, temporary agreements are possible between capitalists and between states. In this sense a United States of Europe is possible as an agreement between the European capitalists ... but to what end? Only for the purpose of jointly suppressing socialism in Europe …”
We know that the only means for genuine cooperation in the interests of the workers of Europe lies in proletarian internationalism. As disillusionment with the European Union spreads, as the far right seeks to promote its reactionary message, we have both an opportunity and the duty to spread Lenin’s message, to expose the reality of imperialism in our world today, to acknowledge that the abolition of classes is impossible without establishing workers’ power, and to promote the socialist alternative and the construction of a better, more human society in Europe and across the world.
Workers of the world, unite.
Thank you, comrades.