In the run-up to the May elections, the full measure of the reactionary character of the European Union is clear to see.
In addition to imposing draconian austerity measures across the continent, in Ukraine, the EU is neck-deep in US-led provocations against Russia. On the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One, Europe once again stands on the brink of disaster.
The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and our German co-thinkers in the Partei für Soziale Gleichheit (PSG) are standing in these elections to mobilise working people against the destruction of their livelihoods and the war danger.
These events signal the systemic failure of the profit system. Six years on from the financial crash of 2008 we stand at a turning point in world history comparable to the first decades of the 20th century, with all its implications.
The contradiction between the globally integrated nature of capitalism as a world system and the nation-state structures within which it is historically rooted are destroying the basis for international coordination and stability between the capitalist powers, leading to the re-emergence of virulent nationalism and inter-imperialist antagonisms. A new period of wars and revolutions has begun.
There is no peaceful or easy way out of this crisis. No reformist palliatives will suffice. Only the mobilisation of the international working class to overthrow capitalism can provide a way forward.
What is lacking is a party that calls things by their name, throws down the gauntlet to the ruling class and provides the growing opposition to the attacks of big business and its political representatives with a clear socialist and international orientation. Our campaign is focused on the building of such a party, with sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International throughout Europe.
Our aim is the establishment of the United Socialist States of Europe. Only the formation of workers’ governments in every country and the unification of Europe on a socialist basis can prevent the decline of Europe into nationalism and war, and create the conditions for utilizing and developing its extensive resources and productive forces in the interests of society as a whole.
We reject the European Union and all its undemocratic institutions, including the European Parliament. We stand against every form of anti-immigrant chauvinism, racism and nationalism, including the advocacy of separatism in Scotland, Catalonia, Northern Italy and Belgium, that only sows further divisions between workers at a time when united struggle against the common enemy is essential.
The crisis of world capitalism
Today a grasping financial oligarchy dictates all aspects of social, economic and political life. This criminal elite is responsible for the greatest looting operation the world has ever seen.
In autumn 2008, the investment banks and hedge funds brought the world financial system to the brink of ruin. Governments that had sanctioned unbridled speculation responded by pumping billions into the financial sector—with Europe’s banks receiving €1.6 trillion, according to the European Commission. In reality, much more has been made available, with Britain’s banks alone receiving over £1.1 trillion.
The price is being paid by Europe’s workers, as every government imposes savage cuts in jobs, wages, and essential social services.
This new “Age of Austerity” is the product of a social counter-revolution aimed at plunging millions into abject misery, imposing the untrammelled rule of the banks and major corporations. It finds political expression in the dictatorial actions of the “Troika”—the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
The policy of deliberate mass impoverishment proves that the EU does not represent the unity of the European peoples, but rather the dictatorship of the most powerful economic and financial interests over Europe. It forms the framework in which the European powers organise their attacks on the working class, carry out their conflicts, and plan their wars.
The fate of workers across the continent is anticipated in Greece, where conditions not seen since the Nazi occupation are re-emerging. Faced with mass unemployment, the collapse of health and education provision and levels of poverty that have left hundreds of thousands dependent on soup kitchens, the ruling elite sadistically demand even greater “sacrifice” on the part of the working population.
Such conditions are by no means confined to Greece or the other so-called PIIGS that includes Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain. Rather, these countries set the benchmark for a brutal transformation in the conditions of life for working people that is being affected throughout Europe.
In Britain, the ruling elite continue to hand out billions in so-called “cheap money” to the banks and stock market; some £375 billion and rising. While the rich get even richer, working people are seeing their living standards decimated.
Having implemented more than £150 billion in spending cuts, the biggest since the 1930s, the government is demanding even more. The cap on welfare and housing benefits that is driving many further into poverty, are part of a generalised offensive against the working class that have seen real wages fall for 40 consecutive months, the gutting of health and social provision and a major assault on education. The younger generation face a future of unemployment or as cheap labour.
Even in Europe’s largest economy, Germany, one in three now works in precarious conditions. One in six is at risk of poverty, and almost a quarter of the population and a third of those aged 15 to 24 years are without a full-time job.
The threat of war and dictatorship
Workers must take warning from the open embrace of far-right and fascistic forces in Ukraine by the EU. After decades in which Europe’s governments proclaimed that the continent would “never again” witness the rule of the swastika and the jack boot, the modern equivalent of the Nazis are a growing danger.
Opinion polls predict that right wing parties, stretching from the fascist National Front in France to the anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), will make considerable gains in the European elections. These parties utilise the slavish defence of the EU by the so-called “left” parties to divert hostility to its attacks into reactionary channels.
The scapegoating of immigrants for the social crisis caused by capitalism is especially grotesque, given the abuse refugees suffer at the hands of Europe’s ruling elite. Since 1990, 25,000 people have lost their lives trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean. In October 2013, more than twice as many people died in one day off the Italian island of Lampedusa than the total number of deaths at the Berlin Wall in the 28 years of its existence.
Those that reach European soil are denied all basic rights, interned in camps, or exploited as slave labour. Intra-European migrants fleeing the consequences of EU austerity policies are forced to work for starvation wages or, like the Roma, subject to state-sponsored racist campaigns.
Anti-immigrant rhetoric is employed only as a means of preparing the way for attacks against the entire working class. The bourgeoisie is preparing authoritarian forms of rule by increasing the powers of the security apparatus, stepping up mass surveillance and destroying democratic rights.
Thanks to the courageous actions of Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, Europe’s workers and youth have been made aware of brutal war crimes and the existence of a surveillance state apparatus prying into the lives of every man, woman and child in the world. Such an apparatus has nothing to do with fighting “terrorism.” It is a mechanism to facilitate the brutal repression of domestic political and social opposition.
The stench of police state dictatorship is chilling in a continent that has seen two world wars, and the Holocaust, in which 100 million people lost their lives in the space of just three decades.
Today growing international tensions, conflicts over trade and currencies, and aggressive imperialist policies lend the world situation an ever more explosive character. The US is deploying its massive military machinery in order to compensate for its economic decline, and to divert abroad the explosive social tensions at home. After wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and the provoking of civil war in Syria, Washington is turning against Russia and China in order to assert its world hegemony.
The European powers are throwing themselves into the struggle for spheres of influence, markets and resources. Since the Iraq war, Britain has again proved to be Washington’s partner in crime. France is falling upon its old colonies in Africa and the Middle East. And Germany, which, following the crimes of the Nazis was forced to abstain from international military operations, is reasserting itself as a global power by pushing into eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Under these circumstances, a tiny spark would again suffice—as in the 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo—to turn a regional conflict into a global conflagration.
The building of a new workers party
The reactionary policies of the ruling class are unleashing outrage and opposition everywhere. But this resistance finds no political expression.
All those parties that once professed to reform capitalism in the interests of workers have become the ruthless exponents of social devastation and militarism. In France, the Socialist Party heads a regime that is despised for its attacks on working people. In Germany the Social Democratic Party has joined a coalition in order to keep Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in power. In Britain, Ed Miliband’s Labour Party is committed to continuing austerity should it win office next year.
The same applies to the Greens. In Germany they have voted for military combat operations and implemented austerity measures. In Brighton, the Green Party administration has cut jobs and imposed cuts.
The trade unions are no longer workers’ organisations, but privileged bureaucratic apparatuses. Their officials are handsomely paid to sell-out workers. Today, every dismissal, wage cut and plant closure bears their signature. When they cannot completely prevent protests and strikes, the bureaucracy ensures that they lead nowhere.
An especially repugnant role is played by those such as the Left Party in Germany, the Front de Gauche in France, SYRIZA in Greece —all of which provide a role model for various fake left groupings in the UK. These employ “left” phrases to deceive the working class, while at the same time defending capitalism and the EU.
They represent better-off layers of the upper-middle class who see the crisis as an opportunity to further their own careers and to gain lucrative posts in government, the state apparatus and the union bureaucracy. These organisations vehemently oppose a revolutionary perspective, work closely with state security organs in many countries and play a key role in the attacks on the working class.
Wherever they enter into government, they attack the working class with the same vigour as all other capitalist parties. The German Left Party has shown this in many state and local governments. The chair of SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, who heads the European Left Party, secured this role by travelling to Washington in order to assure the leaders of world imperialism that they have nothing to fear from a SYRIZA government.
The events in Egypt contain vital lessons. Mass revolutionary uprisings led to the ousting of the dictator Hosni Mubarak and later the Muslim Brotherhood. Nevertheless, the military junta was able to return to power in large part because the Revolutionary Socialists (RS) opposed the building of a revolutionary workers’ party and allied itself with the most reactionary forces.
A new workers’ party can only be built in a struggle against the corrupt bourgeois parties and their pseudo-left hangers-on. The SEP and PSG differ from them in every way. Our strength is our programme, our principles and our unbroken tradition. We stand in the continuity of the great revolutionary Marxists—Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg
Our international movement, the Fourth International, is rooted in the struggle of the Trotskyist Left Opposition against Stalinism.
Stalin headed a privileged bureaucracy, which suppressed workers’ democracy, murdered the Bolshevik leaders of the October Revolution, and was responsible for the greatest international defeats of the working class. It proved to be the grave-digger of the first workers’ state established by the October Revolution of 1917. Its counter-revolution reached its high point in 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the reintroduction of capitalism and rule of a criminal oligarchy.
The bitterest price has been paid by the workers of eastern Europe, who have been reduced to paupers—a source of cheap labour for European corporations who, as with Bulgaria and Romania, are witch-hunted and scapegoated for the mass unemployment, wage cuts and social devastation produced by capitalism.
Stalinism’s efforts to destroy the Marxist leadership, socialist culture and political consciousness of the working class has been essential in enabling the bourgeoisie to vastly enrich themselves, without unleashing mass revolutionary struggles. But resistance is growing, and many, above all young workers, are now seeking a new perspective and leadership.
They will find this in the ICFI, the world Trotskyist movement. It alone embodies the historic traditions of the struggle waged by the Left Opposition and the Fourth International to defend the programme and perspective of world socialist revolution against Stalinism’s crimes. It alone offers a way forward based upon a renewal of socialist internationalism and the building of new and genuinely socialist parties—sections of the ICFI—throughout Europe.
We appeal to all those who agree with our statement to support our campaign practically and financially, vote for our candidates, contact the SEP, and join our party.