Is the European Union socialist

A socialist Europe?

The European Union has developed into a detached elite process in the last few decades. Democracy and its European institutions only appear to have been strengthened. Participation in the "European project" was refused or - where this was not possible, as in France, the Netherlands or Ireland - the results were simply ignored. The passive frustration, distance and criticism of the people of this Europe is growing and reviving the myths of the nation state.

In the European left, the controversy over Europe has always been bitter. The positions range from the "smashing of the centralist-imperialist structure", as demanded by the Greek communists, to the demand for a "United States of Europe" as represented in parts of the German Left, the Greens or some Social Democrats. The left-wing debate about Europe, of course, has its own, often ignored history.

Well before 1848 the debate began as to whether Europe should be just one continent or more. No standard work on the history of the European Union and its predecessors can do without a quote from Victor Hugo. "A day will come ..." began his speech at the Paris Peace Congress in August 1849. His vision was a peaceful, social and democratic Europe as a federal state ("the United States of Europe"). This could at least contain the danger of military conflicts to the extent that hundreds of thousands no longer remained on the battlefields of Europe - around 1848/49 Europe was downright under a haze of sulfur; bourgeois revolutions were bloodily suppressed everywhere. Hugo recognized the opportunities that the ever faster developing industry and the means of transport presented for the living conditions of the people and the growing together of peoples.

And his speech contained a warning: "A day will come when there will be no more battlefields than the markets that open to trade and the spirit that opens to ideas". Would Hugo still have been so euphoric if he had known what destructive force "the markets" would one day assume?

These ideas find many supporters, especially in the growing labor movement: Kautsky, Ledebour, Lenin, Luxemburg and Trotsky have grappled with the European question. The same applies later to Spinelli, Rossi, Siemsen, Abendroth, Huffschmid and Habermas, who as politicians or intellectuals influenced the discussion about the model of a peaceful, social and democratic Europe. They are named here as examples for several generations of leftists - socialists, communists, social democrats - who, due to exploitation, fascism and war, thought and fought for a different social model for Europe.

Karl Kautsky argued (1911) that a united Europe would be strong enough to force all non-member states to abolish their armies and thus ensure lasting peace. A European army would then be obsolete. He had concrete ideas of what this Europe could look like: with parliament, government and a common trade policy. The positions met with massive opposition: Rosa Luxemburg castigated Kautsky's ideas as "anti-social democratic," Lenin considered them politically correct, but economically wrong. Luxemburg argued that the demand for a united Europe was plausible, but "utopian" Luxemburg 1911). She feared an imperialist "economic whole" which would have to be a racist project in times of colonization of half the world by European states.

Kautsky is making the same demands that have been brought into the debate by "the bourgeoisie [...] with a reactionary tendency". This made Luxembourg both visionary and unfair. Visionary, because a capitalistically organized Europe based exclusively on economic unity is doomed to failure. Injustice, because Kautsky had just asked for something else: he assumed that only a European revolution, a socialist Europe, could implement his idea. He is as far removed from Luxemburg's accusation as his idea of ​​Europe is from today's EU.

Lenin considered the unification of Europe from an economic point of view "under capitalist conditions" to be "either impossible or reactionary." In view of the divided world among the great powers, a union under the European flag could only lead to more exploitation. An "even growth in the economic development of individual economies and individual states" is "impossible" under capitalist conditions. A united Europe must be linked to socialism. Of course, Lenin saw the possibility of socialism in a country from which world socialism in the struggle "against the backward", that is, capitalist, states
should be achieved.

Peace, Socialism - Europe?

After the First World War, the question arose again of how to ensure peaceful development in Europe. A revolution had triumphed in Russia, millions of people had died. Trotsky took up the question of a united Europe and put the question of peace back at the center of the debate (1923). He puts it in relation to the capitalist system: In times of over-accumulation of capital, be it crises or wars that lead to a temporary balance. Only a European federation could prevent such a way out. The conflicting interests between the European powers, as reflected in the Versailles restrictions (economic restrictions, reparations and customs barriers), would stand in the way of an economic recovery in Europe. Unlike Luxembourg, he regarded Europe as an "internally closely linked economic unit". The demand for a world federation would be correct, but too abstract.

In this early phase, the ideas are rather sketchy and convey the notions of democratization and participation that were relevant at the time. Fascism and World War reignited the debate - concrete proposals and objectives were developed.

In 1941, the Italian communist Altiero Spinelli, together with Ernesto Rossi, Eugenio Colorni and Ursula Hirschmann, developed concrete ideas of a united Europe under socialist domination. In view of the trail of devastation through Europe and after years in fascist imprisonment on the Italian prison island of Ventotene, they drew the model of a socialist federal state of Europe: education, fair distribution of the wealth that is steadily increasing through industrialization, abolition of class society and free trade unions: »The border between progressive and reactionary parties therefore no longer follows the formal line of their greater or lesser democracy or the extent of the socialism to be introduced. The break is taking place between those who still have the old ultimate goal of conquering national political power in mind, and thereby, even if it is involuntary, aiding the reactionary forces by freezing the glowing lava of popular enthusiasm in its old forms , and the others who care about the creation of a stable international state and who steer the forces of the people in this direction. "

Socialist Europe should clearly set itself apart from Soviet-style communism. They relied on regulated competition instead of monopolies and social security systems that could correct undesirable economic developments. The manifesto itself includes the demand for an unconditional basic income.

After the end of the Second World War, "Europe" was subjected to the new systemic confrontation and functionalized in the block confrontation. The left European idea was "not only compelled to adopt global politics in just one direction, but necessarily under the auspices of anti-Bolshevik ideas" (Abendroth 1951). They want to "destroy the drives of radical social democracy" and make any progressive pan-European development impossible.

In the western, capitalist part of Europe, the idea of ​​a partially united Europe was taken up - but under different circumstances. Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet suggested that first certain branches of the economy should act together (coal and steel union), later a common market, even later the political union should emerge. Essentially, it remained a "government Europe" whose political rationale was the bloc confrontation. In the "Treaty of Rome" of 1957, in addition to the emphasis on economic interests and the emphasis on a "social market economy," there were at most trace elements of leftist ideas, such as the commitment of all member states to the principle of "equal pay for equal work."

Anna Siemsen, the former social democratic member of the Reichstag who fled the fascists in Switzerland, wrote: "If a unified and free Europe comes, with it (...) comes the full citizenship of all Europeans." to work for a federal, peaceful, social and democratic Europe, because only then would the rights of women in all European countries be equated with those of men.

A solidary and humane society is only feasible without competition and oppression by capitalism and a united Europe would be a good part of the way to a socialist world federation. In fact, however, the trade union, communist and social-democratic left played no real political or conceptual role in the integration steps of the following decades.

The ordoliberal way

Since the late seventies, a neoliberal way of thinking prevailed over intensified capitalist crises, which had competition as a doctrine both in the economy and among the states in Europe. Solidary and cooperative ideas, a left, progressive social idea had had their day - especially after the collapse of the socialist states in Eastern and Central Europe. There was a relatively stable, "organic" power structure that formed a bloc economically, intellectually, and morally across national borders. Only in the last few years did the left-wing European debate regain its strength. As chairman of the SPD, Oskar Lafontaine pleads for an internal reform of the EU, which must go hand in hand with a strengthening of the European Parliament. Political union is the goal of a united Europe.

Jürgen Habermas poses the question of democracy. It is not the people who are hostile to European unification. The mutual blockade of the member states among themselves is responsible for the legitimation crisis of Europe. He aims to democratize politics in the EU, to involve the people. In view of the worldwide developments it is necessary to understand the European unification as a step towards the world community and thus to promote a global "pacifization".

Jörg Huffschmid had criticized the »socio-political tragedy« in the draft EU constitution and the Lisbon Treaty, which left little of solidarity and social issues. An alternative would have to “be based on three cornerstones: First, a fully developed democracy that gives the European Parliament full sovereignty over European legislation and at the same time safeguards the rights of the member states (for example by converting the Council of Ministers into a second legislative chamber). Second, an economic and social policy concept that is not primarily geared towards the goal of international competitiveness, but makes full employment, social security, justice and ecological sustainability its orientation points and, for this purpose, also intervenes in market processes and a sensible relationship between the public and private sectors established. Thirdly, a conception of international relations that spends much more energy and money on peaceful and cooperative cooperation and development aid than on market opening and military operations «.

The real development, however, is going in the other direction: authoritarian dismantling of democracy. As a post-democratic form of authoritarian financial market capitalism, in which the democratic institutions are devalued by a mixture of sophisticated political techniques of the elites and the escalating political lobbying power of transnational corporations, Europe has no democratic future.

Left option

The left has not yet succeeded in converting its vote for another Europe into a concise and divided idea and policy for a peaceful, social and democratic Europe. The European crisis policy wants to optimize the ruling system and almost exclusively puts the interests of the business elites and location logics first. A reactive criticism of the "rescue packages", summit results and social atrocities, on the other hand, is not enough.

It is about the - demanding - task of formulating a joint European alternative project: "How do we want to work and live in the future?" What is required is a conception for a cooperative, solidarity-based Europe with good work, high social standards and security and the medium-term goal equivalent living conditions. Essential elements of an alternative Europe are the strict re-regulation of the financial markets and social control over large financial market players. Europe needs a coordinated wage policy, a system of cooperative stability with the strengthening of the internal markets. The public sectors need to be developed and social ownership increased. Europe needs a red and green industrial and economic policy and real democratization through the strengthening of democratic institutions, the creation of economic democratic structures and direct citizen participation at all levels.

Thomas Handel is a member of the Left in the European Parliament, Frank Puskarev is an employee of Thomas Handel. This text first appeared in LUXEMBOURG - Journal for Social Analysis and Left Practice, Issue 2/2012, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung, Berlin and was again included in a brochure with European policy texts, edited by the members of the European Parliament Cornelia Ernst, Thomas Handel, Jürgen Klute, Martina Michels, Helmut Scholz, Gabriele Zimmer.

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