Core Europe and the American Empire as a stumbling bloc

 

The whole history of capitalism shows that alliances among states can only be built if there is a clear leading force. This is even more true if this alliance is to go further and result in a new supra-state structure. This explains the slow development of EU integration, already underway for five decades.

To put it bluntly: imperialist Europe will be unified around Germany and France or it will not be unified at all. These are the strongest and most European powers. While Britain is the third strongest power - at least economically if not militarily - its ruling class is deeply split over the future of Britain in Europe.

An important sector, the City and the big multi-nationals like BP or Shell, have interests in regions of the world where the EU has no influence but the US has a lot. This sector, therefore, favours an alliance with the USA rather than with Germany and France. As long as the British bourgeoisie has not resolved this split the British bourgeoisie can slow down the integration process but not become a driving, leading force.

But the problem of leadership is not only the lack of “natural” dominance of the Germans and French. It is increased by the active and conscious intervention of US imperialism. The USA has a natural interest in deepening divisions inside the EU and, as was stated in Bush’s National Security Strategy in 2002, preventing the EU from becoming a challenge to its imperial interests. The deep division inside the EU over the Iraq war and the participation in the subsequent occupation have underscored this.

The Madrid train bombings triggered a political earthquake in Spain. The defeat of Bush’s Spanish poodle Aznar and the election of a pro-European Socialist Party government could speed up the adoption of the new constitution. But it is too early to say if this will open a lasting re-orientation of the Spanish bourgeoisie away from Washington and towards Berlin and Paris.

In the end, the strategic question is simple: Has the US empire enough plunder to share with other junior imperialist allies? Is US imperialism in a position to deliver more to Italian, Spanish or British capital than a unified EU could give them, with its vast internal market and the promise of a unified foreign policy?

What are the key issues that will decide the fate of the project to unify Europe into a coherent imperialist bloc?

● The degree of success of the European rulers against their working class (privatisation, flexibilisation of the labour market, attacks of pension, health and other social services, and a general weakening of the unions and the reformist forces);

● The character of the coming European constitution and if it allows for the necessary degree of centralisation, i.e. clear domination by the big powers (mainly the Franco-German bloc) over the rest;

● Related to this the question of how much the Franco-German bloc succeeds in re-integrating (i.e. subordinating) the “new Europe”, i.e. Spain, Italy and new Eastern European EU-member states;

In the end, these are all questions which cannot decided in advance but which will be decided in the arena of world-wide struggles between the classes. The EU bourgeoisie has to, and will, attack the working class on a massive scale. As we have stated repeatedly, raising the rate of exploitation is the condition sine qua non for any successful imperialist project for the EU as a global challenger to US imperialism.

These attacks can be expected to create mass struggles, even pre-revolutionary crises. Indeed, to reverse these processes fundamentally would necessitate a major upheaval of class struggle including challenging the existing political powers i.e. a full-blown revolutionary situation. Yet a terrible crisis of leadership exists in the workers’ movement. Its right-wing leaders are permeated with neo-liberal prejudices, while the left-reformists and centrists lack courage and clear ideas on how to defeat the rightist traitors in our midst. Above all, we lack a strong revolutionary party. Correcting these defects in the near future is a difficult task, but far from impossible.

A huge wave of resistance to the coming attacks can derail the centralising plans of our rulers. Similarly, one must not underestimate the degree of intra-imperialist conflict inside the European Union, particularly between Germany-France on the one hand and Italy, Spain and Britain (with its own internal divisions) on the other.

We can state the following “law”: The more successful the European bourgeoisie is in attacking and defeating the working class, the easier the creation of a unified European imperialist bloc and state structure (under a Franco-German leadership) will be for them. Equally, if the working class resistance is too strong, and attempts to raise the rate of exploitation sufficiently fail, then subsequent attempts by the Franco-German bloc to subordinate the rest will also fail. From this flows the strategic importance of the German and French working classes since they are situated in the heart of the European beast.

Slowing down the integration process could lead to the formation of a “two-speed Europe”, i.e. a differentiation inside the EU with the formation of a “core Europe” around France and Germany. The other imperialist powers like Britain, Spain and Italy would in this case rally as junior powers around the United States.

It goes without saying that these are the two poles of the range of possible outcomes. There are many possible shades in between and it has to be born in mind that European unification is likely to be a process that will see both leaps forward and setbacks.

Similarly, the relationship between the USA and Europe will be characterised by conflicts and manoeuvres but not open clashes. The EU is simply too weak to entertain open war. The stronger the ruling class gets inside the Union, at the cost of its working class, the more self-confident it will be towards Washington. Another factor in this equation is the future of the national liberation struggles, particularly of the Iraqi and the Palestinian people. The more blows the US and its Zionist ally receive on this front the more the EU will distance itself from the “greedy and arrogant Yankee”.

Various developments in the relationship between US and European imperialism are possible. However, for the next few years, the hegemony of US imperialism will be unchallenged. True, there are enormous contradictions and difficulties for US imperialism but they are a result of the general crisis of global capitalism and, therefore, they do not only affect the USA but also all other capitalist powers.

To be in a position to challenge the USA, the European bourgeoisies have to smash their working classes and go ahead with their unification project. If the European bosses fail, an imperialist Europe in agony lies ahead, like the declining British empire in the 1950s and 1960s.

In short, Europe’s rulers have to challenge the United States if they desire a greater share of world plunder but they can only do this by becoming more like their rival, “Americanise - or fail”, those are the alternatives.

However, Europe’s rulers face a stiffer challenge than their US counterparts did because they face a much stronger and more politicised working class and anti-capitalist movement and they do not posses either an already unified state apparatus or a real supra-national capital.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is clear: Europe will undergo major transformations in the years ahead. One way or another, Europe will look very different 10 years from now. We are entering a period of major class struggles, full of dangers, certainly, but also opportunities. The LFI is ready to meet them.

 

Footnotes 

(1) ILO: A Fair Globalization: Creating Opportunities For All (2004), p. 36

(2) Minqi Li, “After Neoliberalism: Empire, Social Democracy or Socialism?”, Monthly Review, Vol. 55, No 8, January 2004, http://www.monthlyreview.org/0104li.htm

(3) Andrea Boltho, “What’s wrong with Europe?”, New Left Review, July-August 2003, p.17

(4) See Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy, The Economics of U.S. Imperialism at the Turn of the 21st Century, www.cepremap.ens.fr/~levy/biblioa.htm

(5) Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy, Neoliberal Dynamics: A New Phase?, 2004, www.cepremap.ens.fr/~levy/biblioa.htm

(6) ibid

(7) ibid.

(8) EUROSTAT, Porträt der Wirtschaft der Europäischen Union 2002, p.57; International Herald Tribune 4 March.2004, p4; www.census.gov/

(9) EUROSTAT, Die Europäische Union und ihre Stellung in der Welt, p16; www.eu-datashop.de/download/DE/sonstige/thema1/yb03_1de.pdf

(10) “The BusinessWeek Global 1000”, Business Week, 14 July 2003

(11) see Robert Brenner, The Boom and the Bubble. The US in the World Economy, London/New York 2002, p.47

(12) EUROSTATAT, Die Europäische Union und ihre Stellung in der Welt, p.26, http://www.eu-datashop.de/download/DE/sonstige/thema1/yb03_1de.pdf

(13) see Richard B. Du Boff, Notes on the American Dream, 27 October 2003, www.musictravel.free.fr/political/political41.htm

(14) Andrea Boltho, op cit, p.17

(15) See Eva Belabed, “Angriffe auf die Lebens- und Arbeitsbedingungen”, Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitische Zeitschrift WISO, Oktober 2003, Linz/Austria, p.24

(16) Richard B. Du Boff: Notes on the American Dream, 27 October, 2003, http://musictravel.free.fr/political/political41.htm

(17) Fred Mosley: The United States Economy at the Turn of the Century: Entering a new Era of Prosperity? In: Capital & Class 67 (Spring 1999), pp. 25-26

(18) Robert Brenner: Towards the precipice; in: London Review of Books, February 6 2003, http://www.lrb.co.uk/v25/n03/bren01_.html

(19) See Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy, The Neoliberal (Counter-)Revolution, op. cit.

(20) Figures from Kevin Phillips, Wealth and Democracy. A political history of the American Rich, 2002, taken from the German translation “Die amerikanische Geldaristorkratie”, 2003, p. 160 and 174

(21) Niall Ferguson, “Why America Outpaces Europe (Clue: The God Factor)”, New York Times, 8 June, 2003

(22) Danielle Checci and Claudio Lucifora: Unions and Labour Market institutions in Europe (2002), S. 379; http://www.ires.ucl.ac.be/IRESnet/Research/Axe4/Checchi.pdf; Figures for USA: http://www.jil.go.jp/english/estatis/eshuyo/200312/e0702.htm, http://www.demographia.com/lm-unn99.htm

(23) Niall Ferguson, “Why America Outpaces Europe (Clue: The God Factor)”, New York Times, 8 June, 2003

(24) WTO: World trade developments in 2002 and prospects for 2003, S. 16, http://www.wto.org/english/res_e/statis_e/its2003_e/its03_general_overview_e.pdf

(25) EUROSTAT: Porträt der Wirtschaft der Europäischen Union 2002, p. 71

(26) For more details see Martin Suchanek, “German Imperialism: Waking up to the US threat”, Fifth International 1, November 2003, p63-66

(27) See Keith Harvey, “Maastricht and beyond: a capitalist United States of Europe?”, Trotskyist International No.10, January-April 1993.

(28) All quotes from: EUROPÄISCHER KONVENT, Entwurf eines Vertrags über eine Verfassung für Europa (Entwurf 18.7), european-convention.eu.int/docs/ Treaty/cv00850. de03.pdf; in English: THE EUROPEAN CONVENTION: Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, www.register.consilium.eu.int/pdf/en/03/cv00/cv00850en03.pdf

(29) Comments by EU High Representative, Javier Solana at the National Forum on Europe, Dublin Castle, 8 January 2004.

(30) Karl-Heinz Kamp, “Vorbeugende Militäreinsätze (Preemptive Strikes). Eine neue sicherheitspolitische Realität?” Arbeitspapier Nr. 120/2004, herausgegeben von der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Januar 2004

(31) “Enorme Unterschiede bei den Arbeitskosten in der EU”, Wiener Zeitung 19 March 2004