The European Union is often celebrated in the liberal commonsense discourse as a pacifistic project that finally brought peace, prosperity and brotherhood to modern Europe after centuries of wars between European nations or states. Furthermore, the EU is celebrated as a democratic project: immediately after the Second World War, at the very onset of European integration, the main ideological momentum of ‘democracy’ was antifascism; however, after the defeat of real socialism, the main ideological focus of the EU turned against ‘totalitarianism’ in an attempt to equate socialism with fascism.
The notion of the EU as an anti-totalitarian organisation reveals the purpose of contemporary European integration. In its opposition to both fascism and socialism, it betrays its liberal, more precisely, neoliberal bias spearheaded mainly against any kind of socialist or even Keynesian reforms. Mechanisms of preventing socialist ‘totalitarianism’ are constituent parts of the EU treaties (such as the Maastricht Treaty, the Lisbon Treaty), projects (the single currency project and the common market), pacts (such as the Growth and Stability Pact, the Six Pack) and the institutional framework notorious for its democratic deficit.
The crisis exposed the antisocialist and therefore antisocial bias of this kind of ‘union’. The common market policies are disabling the member states to compete in the common market in any other way than by suppressing the working classes. The single currency outsourced the monetary policies of the member states to the European Central Bank, which is not willing to play the role of lender in last resort whose main goal is to lower inflation, and thus pushes the member states into the cold hands of private financial markets. Its treaties and pacts are imposing a ‘straightjacket’ on member states. They are imposing fiscal rules on the one hand, while on the other they don’t provide fiscal transfers to guarantee convergence between the member states. And last but not least, the technocratic and authoritarian character of supranational institutions, which don’t even correspond to bourgeois democratic standards, are disabling the people and progressive forces to even slightly change these mechanisms. The dictatorship of the capitalist élites is perfected in this institutional framework.
The results of this kind of integration are of course no less than devastating. In the Union that pushed its member states into ruthless competition the wages of its working classes are being suppressed, its welfare state decomposed and once sacred social rights denied. Furthermore, the Union’s periphery, which was unable to catch up with far more advanced industrial production of the core, experienced drastic erosion of the productive base and finally fell into a debt trap. The expected miracle of the free market policies turned into a nightmare. States are diverging rather than converging, the tensions between the core and periphery are escalating, and the working classes are thrown into brutal exploitation and misery. The only profiteer in this story is – naturally – the European bourgeoisie.
Therefore, the EU is no less than a project of European capitalist élites aimed at imposing neoliberalism masked as ‘European integration’. To us, the anticapitalist left, this poses the following riddle: if the bias of the really existing European integration is neoliberal, how can we respond? Is it possible to change the institutional framework to function in favour of the working classes? Is a ‘good euro’ possible and if so, under which circumstances? And if it is impossible, how risky would it be to exit the euro zone and the EU? And finally: is a socialist Europe possible?