The Reformist Pipe Dream of a “Socialist” European Union (Part 2)




Is “Neoliberal Globalization a Lesser Evil”?




In this article we want to limit ourselves to two new arguments, or rather, more explicitly articulated arguments which the RF/L5I comrades are advancing in defense for their pro-EU position. First, they openly state now that they consider protectionism as “worse” than neoliberal globalization:


Neoliberal globalisation was a phase in the imperialist epoch in which its principal powers sought to create and administer a rules-based international order based on nominally free trade in which the US and its allies were dominant. That rested on the rule of a coalition of centre-right neoliberal politicians who lost their electoral base after the effect of the 2008 crisis finally filtered through, allowing rightwing populists to win mass support around a new programme of protectionism and economic nationalism. That is Trump. And that is Brexit. What we are talking about is not a progressive challenge to neoliberal globalisation, but its decay and collapse into something even worse, into the nationalism of ‘America First’ and the dystopian project of a Hard Brexit complete with tariffs, price hikes, job losses, deportations and heightened rivalry between states as the ideologues of nationalism look for someone to blame for the disasters their own policies bring.” (our emphasize)


This outrageous statement comes as no surprise to us. We have already warned in our past critique that the logic of their arguments forces the L5I to “critically” support all forms of transnational imperialism compared with the nation-state. “The same opportunistic logic would then also lead the L5I to support the various free trade agreements between the EU and the US (TTIP), between the EU and Canada (CETA), between the US and several Asian and Latin American countries (TPP), or between China and a number of Asian countries (RCEP) – of course extremely "critical" support and naturally in conjunction with their call for "international class struggle." [1]


The latest article of RF/L5I proves that our warning was absolutely justified. We repeat that Marxists must not fight against imperialist protectionism and nationalism by “critically” supporting imperialist globalization and imperialist supra-national institutions like the EU, WTO, IMF, etc. Both represent reactionary forms of imperialist exploitation. How can the RF/L5I comrades ignore the fact that imperialist globalization has created the socio-economic conditions which, in turn, generated the climate for right-wing nationalists to spread their chauvinist poison?! Do they really believe that siding with the pro-EU liberal urban middle class and the majority of the big bourgeoisie supporting membership in the EU can advance the struggle and the consciousness of the working class by an single inch?!


Imperialist nationalism is only one form of the inherent drive to expansion of imperialist monopoly capital. Imperialist globalization and creating of empires (like the EU) is another form. But socialists can not lend support (not even super-cccritical) to any of these forms of imperialist expansionism. Supporting Brexit or Remain is equivalent to supporting one of these two forms of imperialist political rule. Both are impermissible for revolutionaries. This is why the RCIT has always advocated a revolutionary, independent, defeatist position directed against both political forms of imperialist rule.




Can a “Socialist Government” Transform the EU?




The second, to put it mildly, “unorthodox” argument of the RF/L5I comrades is that they not only “critically” prefer membership in the EU compared to leaving it. They also claim now that even a “socialist government” should have no desire to leave the imperialist European Union! It would rather, according to the new pro-EU gospel of the RF/L5I, try to transform the EU!


A socialist government would swiftly set out a programme of nationalisations, taxes on the rich and controls on capital that would enable a massive redistribution of wealth. It would immediately be attacked by capitalists at home and abroad. That would definitely include attacks from the imperialist ruling class in Britain and the imperialist ruling class in the EU.


The EU would of course rush to point to various treaties and rules against expropriations and state aid – not just EU rules, by the way, but pretty much every one of Britain’s 110 bilateral investment treaties and of course also – dun dun daaaaaa – the WTO’s rules. So, we’d have a choice. Comply or defy. We could comply like Syriza did in Greece and end up administering horrible austerity and cuts. Or we could defy.


We propose the latter course. Defy all these rules and fight. Appeal to the working class movement in the EU and every other country. Say ‘look, this is what the rules are designed to do, let’s rise up and defy them together.’ Build an international movement around an international programme of socialist measures and international defiance of the capitalists.


What could the EU do then? Well, they could sue us in the EU courts. So what, we could still defy. They could try to expel us. But guess what. There is no expulsion mechanism provision in the treaty, no Article X that says ‘Get Out’.


So they’d be left with their only weapon: renegotiate the treaty and impose trade restrictions on us. They’d need a unanimous vote of all member states, including all the Belgian regional parliaments, some of which are controlled by the left. But it’d be a real threat. Remember, trade embargos are what have impoverished Cuba, and are causing chaos in Venezuela today. Remember: the early Soviet Republic fought for years precisely to secure trade agreements with other countries against a world embargo.


Er – so why on earth would we want to walk out of a trade bloc. Why make it easier for the bosses to embargo us? Syriza’s mistake was not that they stayed in, it’s that they *caved* in and carried out austerity.


We don’t propose giving in. We propose staying in and fighting. Fighting alongside the victims of austerity in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and yes Greece. Fighting not to break it up and walk out one by one into a hell of competing national capitalist blocs, nor for some milquetoast programme of ‘reforming’ the EU, but fighting together to OVERTHROW the Commission, the Council of Ministers and the institutions of the EU *and the Member States* and to replace them with a Socialist United States of Europe.




An Opportunist Pipe Dream!




This is certainly one of the most bizarre statements of the L5I in the last years! Basically, the comrades transform the classic Marxist conception of seizing power by the working class into a legalistic vision of wrangling inside the EU in order to abolish the EU institutions and to transform it into a Socialist United States of Europe.


As a matter of fact, a socialist government can not expropriate the bourgeoisie in a peaceful way. Marxists have always insisted that this will trigger a violent response from the ruling class and open a civil war. The imperialist bourgeoisie – both in Britain (or any other state) as well as in the EU – will resort to all political, economic and military means in order to defeat the insurrectional working class. A socialist government can not help but to closely control the border so that it knows who wants to enter the country. It can not help but to impose a foreign trade monopoly in order to stop imperialist attempts of economic sabotage. It can not help but to mobilize its Red Army in order to fight back the imperialist invaders (or to support insurrections of the workers and oppressed abroad).


The leading Marxist theoreticians of the 20th century have been unambiguously clear on this issue as we have elaborated many times. [2] Let us, at this point, give just one quote from Trotsky in which he dealt with the revolutionary strategy for Britain:


In preparing to take state power it is thus necessary to prepare for all the consequences that flow from the inevitable resistance of the possessing classes. It must be firmly understood: if a truly workers’ government came to power in Britain even in an ultra-democratic way, civil war would become unavoidable. The workers’ government would be forced to suppress the resistance of the privileged classes. To do this by means of the old state apparatus, the old police, the old courts, the old army would be impossible. A workers’ government created by parliamentary means would be forced to construct new revolutionary organs for itself, resting upon the trade unions and working-class organizations in general. This would lead to an exceptional growth in the activity and initiative of the working masses. On the basis of a direct struggle against the exploiting classes the trade unions would actively draw closer together not only in their top layers but at the bottom levels as well, and would arrive at the necessity of creating local delegate meetings, i.e. councils (Soviets) of workers’ deputies. A truly Labour government, that is to say, a government dedicated to the end to the interests of the proletariat would find itself in this way compelled to smash the old state apparatus as the instrument of the possessing classes and oppose it with workers’ councils. That means that the democratic origin of the Labour government – even had this proved possible – would lead to the necessity of counterposing revolutionary class force to the reactionary opposition.[3]


Needless to say, that one can find hundreds of such statements in the writings of the revolutionary Communist International and later the Fourth International. Only stubborn right-wing centrists like the Peter Taffees’ CWI or Alan Woods’ IMT have always claimed that a peaceful road to socialism would be possible. It seems that the ex-revolutionary L5I is adapting to such revisionist nonsense. Could this be related to the fact that they are now already entrenching themselves inside the reformist Labour Party for more than three years?!


How is it possible to imagine such a silly scenario like the one outlined by RF/L5I in which a socialist state would not decisively break with the imperialist states which are waging economic or military war against it?! No, such a pacifist pipe dream is impossible in real life! It is unavoidable for a socialist Britain (or any other European state) to break with the imperialist EU!


Unfortunately, the RF/L5I is trapped in its new centrist method and “forgets” all this fundamental truth of Marxism. Instead it starts silly reformist speculations about defying the EU while remaining part of it. It claims that the EU would have basically no means to bring down a socialist government! You see, the expropriation of the capitalist class, can be a simple affair: When the EU wants to destroy the socialist government, just “defy all these rules and fight. (…) What could the EU do then? Well, they could sue us in the EU courts. So what, we could still defy. They could try to expel us. But guess what. There is no expulsion mechanism provision in the treaty, no Article X that says ‘Get Out’. So they’d be left with their only weapon: renegotiate the treaty and impose trade restrictions on us.


How silly were we orthodox Marxists when we imagined the expropriation of the capitalist class as a violent affair! No, according to the new theory of RF/L5I, it is simply a question of putting pressure on the imperialists and entering negotiations because the EU has no legal mechanism to expel a socialist member state! Meanwhile, one could undisturbed appeal to the working class inside the EU and to help bringing one socialist government after the other into power!


At the recent UN General Assembly, Iran’s Rouhani (rightly) accused Trump of a “weakness of intellect”. Unfortunately, Trump seems not to be the only one with such a deficit!


No, this new theory is nothing but a reformist pipe dream of the RF/L5I! A socialist Britain and an imperialist EU are antagonistic entities with diametrically opposed class interests. The working class in power must immediately break with the imperialist institutions (like the EU, the WTO, the IMF, etc.) in order to cut all political, economic or military means which could be utilized by the imperialists to sabotage and defeat the working class in power! The imperialist ruling class – both in Britain as well as in the EU – will always find ways to throw its might against the insurrectional working class. They will do so irrespectively if this is legally allowed by the EU de-facto constitution (the so-called Treaty of Lisbon) or not.


The iron logic of opportunist adaption to the liberal pro EU middle class (inside and outside the Labour Party) pushes the RF/L5I deeper and deeper into the direction of social-imperialism. Initially, they “only” advocated a “critical vote” for Britain remaining in the EU. Later they claimed that the EU would represent “bourgeois democratic progress” and that it would objectively help in the "development of productive forces and of the international consciousness of the working class." Now, they claim that imperialist protectionism is “worse” than imperialist neoliberal globalization, i.e. indicating that they would “critically” defend all institutions representing imperialist globalization against the threat of protectionism. And they fantasize about a socialist government in Britain which would stay inside the imperialist EU, block their counterrevolutionary attempts (as the latter supposedly lacks legal means for this) and transform it into a Socialist United States of Europe.


[1] Michael Pröbsting: Marxism, the European Union and Brexit. The L5I and the European Union: A Right Turn away from Marxism. On these free trade agreements see e.g. RCIT: Advancing Counterrevolution and Acceleration of Class Contradictions Mark the Opening of a New Political Phase. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries (January 2016), chapter IV.1,

[2] See e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Five days that shook Britain but didn’t wake up the left. The bankruptcy of the left during the August uprising of the oppressed in Britain: Its features, its roots and the way forward, 01.09.2011, Chapter: Socialist Party / Committee for a Workers International,

[3] Leon Trotsky: Where is Britain Going? (1925),