Socialist Party: Euro confusion reigns
Harley Filben reports from a Socialism 2012 session on Europe and the euro
politics around Europe and the European Union have more than once
drifted into pretty dubious territory (cough, cough, No2EU), and a
Socialism session on the euro zone crisis brought out many of the
problems SPEW has on the issue.
in a fairly straightforward manner by Lynn Walsh, SPEW/Militant
veteran and editor of Socialism Today, the group’s
theoretical magazine, the central analysis goes something like this.
There are those on the left who consider the EU progressive, in that
it undermines outdated national boundaries. There are others who
consider it reactionary: a ‘bosses’ club’.
comrade Walsh, the first of these arguments is fundamentally false -
because the EU is utopian. Capitalism as a mode of production is
unable to transcend the nation-state. All attempts to do so without a
move to socialism will end in disaster. The euro crisis is simply a
particular form of this impossibility. (Much of his talk consisted of
laying out in considerable detail just how dire the situation is for
the single currency.)
about Marx’s attitude to German unification, he asked? The analogy
simply does not hold. The petty German statelets were at least united
by a common national culture and language. Capitalism, in its
ascendant and progressive phase, was able to turn such an
agglomeration into a nation. The EU, however, consists of tens of
different language groups. Basic economic practices like accounting
and banking vary widely from one country to the next. Capitalism
simply cannot overcome such incoherence.
explicit link was made between this analysis and the implied
political demand for withdrawal from the EU. Comrade Walsh had
not been prepared to advocate the withdrawal of Greece around the
spring elections, but only because the Greek working class was too
far behind such a “radical” demand. In other situations,
presumably he would.
does this differ from the Europhobia of the right, one might ask? The
Socialist Party would always combine a call for withdrawal with
demands for nationalisation of the banks and the commanding heights
of the economy, and unspecified solidarity with those at the sharp
end of the euro zone’s convulsions. What is the difference between
that and the Europhobia of Stalinism and left social
democracy? Answers on a postcard, please ...
debate that followed consisted of a great deal of ‘What if...?’
questions. I intervened early, criticising the implication that the
nation-state is the natural political basis for capitalism. Even the
UK is not a nation-state, but a multinational state. The failure of
the EU to produce more convergence is only partly a matter of capital
in the abstract; the fact is that Britain’s role in it has been to
undermine the EU’s internal cohesion, keeping it as far as possible
as a free trade bloc, in the interests of the USA. Capital is
fundamentally international in nature, and erodes borders just as
much as it throws them up.
Matt Dobson of Socialist Party Scotland seemed to object to this last
part, saying that the internationalisation of capital was a
phenomenon of the last 20 years of ‘globalisation’. When I
objected with the point that the first capitalist states were
mercantile and therefore international by nature, he clarified his
argument to the effect that there had been a particular period of the
building up of free trade zones, etc, in the last two decades, which
is now coming to an end.
more reasonable, but that leaves the fundamental point - that capital
is not tied to the nation-state - untouched. Most of the rest of the
contributions reasserted the necessity of this link, with the
exception of SPEW comrade Allan Coote, who directly questioned it,
and comrade Lucy Parker of Platypus, who wondered whether the left
was strong enough to fully assert its demands.
more interesting thread was raised by comrade Dobson - the apparent
trend for decomposition in European states. A Scottish
independence demonstration in Edinburgh had received Catalan, Basque
and even Venetian separatist contingents. It was difficult to gauge
the attitude of the SPEW comrades to this development - they did not
sound too enthusiastic, but their adoption of a substantively
left-nationalist line in Scotland rather problematises this. It seems
that the CWI as a whole is happy to interpret separatist movements as
anti-austerity in thrust, and attempts to give the campaigns a
‘socialist’ coloration - a pretty economistic line, all told. I
may be putting words in their mouths, but this is certainly the
approach adopted by the Scots contingent.
up, comrade Walsh was a little more nuanced. He acknowledged that
there was a fundamental contradiction between the international
nature of capital and the existence of the nation-state - and
conceded that it would be better to call such states ‘territorial’
rather than ‘national’. Still, that contradiction was
insuperable. Replying to comrade Parker, he “would put it a little
differently” - the working class is strong, as can be seen from
militancy in Greece, Spain and elsewhere. What is lacking is
leadership (the off-the-peg, pat Trotskyist answer to everything).
the meeting, chair Glenn Kelly specifically thanked those who had
raised disagreements for helping his organisation clarify its ideas.
A very positive attitude - but a shame there is such a dying need for