Creating a pan-European capital
Substantially raising the rate of exploitation is the essential pre-condition for any strengthening of the European bourgeoisie on the economic, political and military field. But it is only a pre-condition, not sufficient in itself.
As we have shown above, European monopoly capital is far behind its US competitor in the world arena. True, there has been a significant process of centralisation and concentration of capital in Europe. As a result, the monopolies increased their weight in the EU. Furthermore, German and French corporations have grown at the expense of the British and Italians. Together, the German and French monopolies make up for more than 58 per cent of the turnover of the top 100 corporations. (26)
However, European capital is still much weaker than US and this is because there is still no pan-European capital. Capital is still defined as “German”, “French” and so on rather than “European”.
We identified this problem for the European bourgeoisie in the early 1990s. (27) Since then there has been no general progress. The partial exception is the European air and defence industry where the imperialist states have agreed to cooperate and together built the Airbus, Eurofighter and other projects.
This points to an important conclusion. The process of European unification cannot be a “spontaneous” process - either on the political or on the economic level. Left to the market there will be no spontaneous emergence of a pan-European capital. We do not live in a period of rising capitalism where nation states are formed and capital first and foremost expands with them. We live in the era of globalisation and neo-liberalism. Left to the market, the process of Europeanisation of capital would be constantly disrupted and negated by mergers and acquisitions carried out by Japanese or US companies.
Today, in the imperialist epoch, under the conditions of global capitalism with its enormous competition and rivalry, any organic formation of trans-national capital is an illusion. Let’s not forget: the most multinational capital blocs are those of the leading world powers - the Americans and, on a smaller scale, the British, as the former leading world power, who were able to open the markets with their huge combined economic, political and military power. Such a process is impossible inside the European union. No power is strong enough to enforce its will and subordinate the others.
So, European unification and the creation of pan-European capital have to be the result of a conscious intervention by a pan-European imperialist state apparatus. However, that, too, has first to be created and since, unlike any other state, it will not be the political instrument of an already existing ruling class, rooted in a national society, its creation can only result from the conscious decision of the existing imperialist states within the EU. That requires at least the major powers to each accept that its own interest lies in ceding power to the higher, pan-European body. Only the certainty that the alternative would be economic ruin could force them to this decision and, thus, it is precisely the overwhelming superiority of the US, by comparison with any individual European power, which is the principal unifying force in European politics.
The need for a unified political EU state apparatus becomes even more evident if one looks at the meagre role Europe plays in world politics, not to mention its inability to play any role as a world policeman or to impose its interests around the globe.
Formation of an imperialist EU state apparatus – the new Constitution
For all these reasons, the more far-sighted of the European ruling classes are forced to try to create a unified European state apparatus, to lead the EU as an alternative superpower, and to push through their attacks on the working class. The draft constitution is a central tool for laying the framework for the coming bosses’ attacks.
The draft constitution makes clear that neo-liberal doctrine is the economic policy framework of the EU: “Member States and the Union shall act in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition.” (28)
It forms the legal basis for a European state structure above the national states. It leaves no doubt as to where power will lie in future. Article 1.10 reads: “The Constitution and the law adopted by the institutions of the Union exercising the competences that have been conferred on it shall have primacy over the law of the Member States.”
All the national legislatures and constitutions, all the national labour codes, collective bargaining agreements etc. would therefore be subordinated to EU directives.
In addition, every member state will be bound by any international agreement signed by the European Union with the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organisation: “The Union is granted a judicial personality” (article I-6.)
And again in article 1-9 and 1-10 the constitution declares as one of its “fundamental principles”, the “principle of subsidiarity” which means not that measures will be enacted at the lowest level of the political structure commensurate with their purpose but that: “The Member States take all general or particular measures to ensure the execution of the obligations brought about by the Constitution or resulting from the Union’s Institutions’ acts”.
Now, what lies within the competence of the EU and what is in the competence of the national member states? The draft Constitution defines what is called “exclusive competence” for which only the EU “can make laws and adopt acts that are judicially binding, Member States being able to do so by themselves only if so empowered by the Union for the implementation of acts adopted by the Union” (article I-11) This concerns “the monetary policy for the Member States which have adopted the euro, common commercial policy, customs union, the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy.” and “concluding an international agreement” (article I-12)
Then there is the category of “shared competence” for which “Member States exercise their competence which does not refer to areas referred to in articles 12 and 16”. These concern “internal market, the area of freedom, security and justice, agriculture and fisheries excluding the conservation of the marine biological resources, transports and transeuropean networks, energy, social policy defined in part III, economic, social and territorial cohesion, environment, consumer protection, common safety concerns in public health matters” (article I-13)
Add to this the EU task of “coordination of social and employment policy” and foreign policy and defence: “The Union’s competence in matters of common foreign and security policy and all questions relating to the Union’s security including the progressive framing of a common defence policy which might lead to a common defence. Member States shall actively and unreservedly support the Union’s foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty (...) They shall refrain from actions contrary to the Union’s intents or likely to impair its effectiveness” (article I - 15)
What remain as competence areas for members states are, we quote article I-5, the “State’s fundamental functions, essentially those for ensuring the territorial integrity of the state, for maintaining public order and safeguarding internal security”. In other words, national states would shrink to the sole function of domestic repression.
The breakdown, in December 2003, of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) was caused by differences about the share of seats in the Council of Ministers. This deflected public attention from the much more fundamental policy coup. We are not dealing with a simple transfer of political power from national states to a new European state structure. The draft constitution represents de facto a “supranational Bonapartist project”.
The new power centre of the EU state apparatus is to be the European Commission (EC): “European laws and European framework laws shall be adopted on the Commission’s proposal, jointly by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.” (Article I-33) Article I-25 makes it explicit: “A Union legislative act can be adopted only on the basis of a Commission proposal.”
To be absolutely clear: it is the European Commission and no one else which is to be empowered to present draft legislation to the European Parliament. This makes the power of this parliament closer to that of the Russian Duma under the Czar than to a modern bourgeois parliament. The only exception to this is that, “If they gather one million signatures from different countries, the citizens of the Union will have the right to ask the Commission to write a European bill.”!
In effect this means that, with the new constitution, there will be a massive concentration of power in the European Commission. The European “Parliament” then only has the right to agree or disagree with it. However, here again, one has to take into account the general framework of the constitution which has already established the framework for a neo-liberal and militaristic policy.
Now, how is this EC established? “The European Council (...) shall put to the European Parliament its proposed candidate for presidency of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European parliament by a majority of its members.”(Article I-26). Then the president of the Commission appoints 13 commissioners, chosen from a list of 75 devised by the Member States as well as other commissioners.
Under whose control will the European Commission be? The draft constitution is unambiguous: “In carrying out its responsibilities, the Commission shall be completely independent. In the discharge of their duties, the European Commissioners and Commission shall neither seek nor take instructions from any government or other body.” (Article I-25). While “the European parliament can adopt a censorship motion of the Commission” for such a motion to be adopted “the motion of censure [must be] carried by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast” (article III-243)
So, in effect, the new Constitution creates an imperialist EU state apparatus on the basis of bourgeois parliamentarism but with a strong Bonapartist element in the form of the European Commission.
While the Constitution and the new EU structures will not entirely overcome the national states. Inside the Commission, the Council and the parliament there will still be a tug-of-war over national interests but it represents, nevertheless, a substantial step forward in the formation of a supra-national European state apparatus.