YCL General Secretary spoke in Toulouse recently to the Mouvement Jeunes Communistes de France (MJCF) in June at a debate entitled ‘Europe: What Solidarity? Speech to the Youth‘. Representatives from the Unión de Juventudes Comunistas de España (UJCE) were also present to represent their views on the European Union. Here is a transcript of the speech delivered on behalf of the YCL:
The position of the YCL has always been against the European Union. Not just Britain’s membership but the organisation’s existence altogether. The EU is a bulwark of neoliberal capitalism which enacts imperialism on a global scale as well as working against the proletariat within the EU itself. In this speech I shall outline why we are, and have always been against the EU and its previous incarnations.
It has always been the opinion of the YCL in our analysis that the EU is inherently anti-socialist. Its beginnings stemmed from the USA’s Marshall Plan (also known as the European Recovery Programme) which also acted as a precursor to NATO. This plan required of its members commitments to free trade, agreements to US imports and removal of communist and socialist parties from prominence in western European countries that were widespread at the end of the Second World War, as you will know this had a significant effect in France. This formed part of the economic offensive against socialism in Eastern Europe, namely the USSR. This embryonic plan snowballed and consolidated itself into the EEC and subsequently the EU we know today. Since the EU’s basis is in anti-socialism leaving the EU gives a nation the option, to implement socialism. For example key features that would be needed for a socialist economy are prevented under EU law. If Britain wanted to create a nationalised economy including energy, transport, manufacture then that would be prevented by EU legislation –the Growth and Stability Pact requires large reductions in state spending on social services (of 20% in the case of most countries). As we see starkly in Greece, Ireland and Portugal and elsewhere the EU directs austerity measures forcing governments to privatise industry for the benefit of private capital and loss for the workers. Causing loss of jobs, healthcare, living standards and increases in homelessness and poverty.
‘Social Europe’ further compounds these problems. The EU manipulates the economies of poorer EU states by enacting austerity measures which increase unemployment, especially among the youth, to create a mobile and flexible labour force able to move to other countries to provide cheap labour for the capitalist classes. The EU has committed itself to achieving a ‘fully flexible’ labour force and a reduction in social wages and pensions by 2020. This sucks the vitality from those countries such as Portugal, Spain and many in eastern Europe and helps to undermine the position of workers in the richer northern countries such as France, Germany and the UK. Overall this drops the standards for the working class across the whole of Europe initiating a ‘race to the bottom’. EU law forbids the use of trade union bargaining to prevent cross-border wage cutting. This free movement of labour is only the freedom of the bosses to drag the workers to wherever they want them. This faux-freedom is a popular idea amongst the youth of Britain despite the poor employment opportunities as well as low numbers of Brits actually moving to work in the EU.
The EU does not stop at its own borders. It is a major cause of western imperialism as well as partaking in inter-imperialist fighting. A force for globalism rather than internationalism. From providing avenues for European monopolies to extract wealth from the third world to war-mongering against Russia over the Ukraine and Syria to ‘Fortress Europe’ policies against tackling the refugee crisis. Courting fascists in Ukraine as well as the Ukrainian government that has banned the Communist Party of Ukraine and involvement with NATO. There are no good reasons to support the EU’s international policies.
So what is the way forward? The EU is an anti-democratic organisation at its core. The EU does not tolerate alternative views within its structure. Look at the way the people of Ireland and France voted against accepting the Lisbon treaty but were then made by the EU to vote again until they accepted such a financial straightjacket. The only way the EU will be reformed is in an even further neoliberal direction. Therefore the only option for those interested in pursuing socialism is to leave the EU.
The situation in Britain: The government made a huge gamble when they gave the British people the option to vote to leave the EU. Brexit was a failure for the government. Although of course displeasing to international capitalists domestic capital does see opportunities. For the left now there is the opportunity to be free of the EU’s restrictions. Even now Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is running a successful election campaign with social-democratic policies that would now actually be able to enact which would not be possible within the EU. There is now the immediate opportunity to increase the state sector economy. Although the YCL is supportive of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership there is much more work to be done beyond social-democratic reforms and we must be frank; despite running a left-wing platform encouraging people to vote against the EU there is no ignoring the amount of racism and xenophobia that has influenced public opinion. On the one hand the EU supports fascism and on the other fascist and racist groups in Britain were asking people to also leave the EU. Large parts of the working class, multicultural areas in post-industrial towns voted strongly against the EU so the picture needs a nuanced understanding. It has also been difficult for us to debate with other sections of the left who see the EU as being a complete force for good and the guardian of all their rights who accused us of being secret racists because of our EU stance. The primary issue for us now is to forget the past divisions within the left and work towards a socialist Britain. As ever it is the working class that will drive change and now we have entered a new phase of struggle it is up to us to be in the vanguard of that change which will require clear-cut analysis to identify how to advance and exploit the fissures in the capitalist class.