Smash the EU - David Swanson | An Spréach

Membership of the European Union remains a polarising topic which continues to split opinions within the continent’s left, often to the detriment of unity and ideological clarity. Confusion is particularly rife in Ireland, with many of the EU’s most crucial aspects under-reported or indeed misrepresented by liberals and centrists eager to promote a progressive haven of integrity. Marxists should unapologetically challenge this narrative and remain resolute in our criticisms. The European Union is nothing more than an imperialist empire which protects capitalism’s right to exploit workers in a centralised, authoritarian hub. Those who don’t fit racist and profitable standards both inside and outside its borders are treated deplorably as gigantic corporations are given free rein to exploit Europe’s most profitable labour. Under the watchful eye of Brussels, capitalism is vociferously championed in a project that cannot be reformed; only a class-conscious revolution spearheaded by the working class can restore the continent to its full potential of cooperation and implement socialism.

Economic dominance remains one of its most unsavoury principles. Far from the equality of outcome that Marxists seek, EU legislation gives workers no choice but to comply to exploitative legislation formulated by privileged billionaires. Employment conditions and production locations dictated by EU bureaucracy allow the project’s hierarchy to exert totalitarian control over its member states, herding European workers at will in a cash cow which priorities financial growth over those at the heart of production. Crippling sanctions are authorised for those who dare to challenge these corrupt norms; the rejection of EU protocol by the radical left in Greece (Syriza) was brutally crushed by implementing huge levels of austerity onto the population and reinforcing neo-liberalism. Ousting an elected socialist government and creating markets directly subordinate to Brussels’ authoritarianism was not only a tactic intent on crushing Greek spirit; a clear message was sent to other member states that a class-conscious revolution against European capital would not be tolerated. Closer to home, Ireland also remains no stranger to Europe’s bully-boy economic tactics. 2009’s Lisbon Treaty remains a significant point of contention that brutally exposes the European Union’s domination of this island. Granting Brussels the legal authority to control immigration and judicial matters was rejected three times by Ireland’s southern government before the threat of losing EU subsidies proved too costly for the right-wing Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil coalition to bear. Well aware that Ireland is reliant on the financial intervention of European capital whilst a member of the project, EU bureaucrats used their financial clout and dominant status to successfully implement the treaty and tighten their grip around the island’s production lines and resources. 

Socially too, the European Union’s record is appalling. Despite its persistent use of progressive rhetoric, it has become one of the most dangerous regimes that the world has seen in modern times. Fortress Europe is more than a nickname; the project’s humanitarian record is blotted at best, saturated in both racist stereotypes and hypocritical double standards. Many of those who defend the project’s legitimacy consistently overlook its treatment of non-member states, particularly those of so-called ‘developing’ status. The EU-funded wall between Turkey and Syria remains a particularly nauseating example of just how far European ruling classes will go to preserve profit over the lives of ordinary people. Built upon the taxes of compliant member-states in a project that Donald Trump could only dream of, it is specifically designed to keep Syrian refugees from taking the easiest route into Europe as their situation becomes more and more desperate. Further influxes of so-called ‘unskilled migrants’ would destabilise the profits and gains of a centralised hierarchy and as such are treated deplorably and encouraged to risk life and limb via difficult routes in an effort to keep them out, highlighting the incessant greed of a capitalist fortress. Despite presenting the wall as a statement against Turkish EU involvement because of Erdogan’s human rights record, the mask slips when capitalist society is intrinsically analysed. Its treatment of non-member states is also highly hypocritical. Despite its barbaric treatment of Syrians and other stigmatised nationalities, its relationship with Israel couldn’t be more different – highlighting a further corruption of the capitalist project. The EU grants Zionists special trades deals, particularly within the arms industry, despite not being a member state and rewards this profitable venture with relaxed visa entry requirements into Europe – a painful injustice when compared to Syria’s hardships. 

More than that, the European Union kills thousands of non-Europeans regularly, in an ongoing trait which affects the Irish proletariat in more ways than is often realised. Buddying up with fellow bureaucrats in United Nations offices, ‘peace-keeping forces’ armed with imperialist ammunition and weaponry are used to promote ‘western values’ and enforce capitalism in an arrangement that forces indigenous populations to conform to western markets and neo-liberal agendas. The Irish Defence Forces (IDF) play a leading role in this campaign; recent missions in the Congo, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon have done nothing to strengthen working-class solidarity or improve conditions for the international proletariat. Led by bureaucratic generals and European mandates, ordinary Irish citizens are herded around the globe to protect the status-quo in a cause that is not their own. This arrangement will only become more structured with Ireland becoming the latest EU member-state to join the Permanent Structured Co-Operation (PESCO), a militarised European force commanded directly from Brussels which further destabilises the campaign for national sovereignty in the form of a workers’ republic. These are dangerous times in which the rank-and-file of the IDF should be encouraged to agitate and organise in the vision of Marx and Connolly, rebelling against the Irish aristocracy who send them to reinforce a world order which is structured to protect capitalist interests to the detriment of the international working class.

The EU referendum presented a unique opportunity for the proletariat of the North of Ireland to unite in class solidarity, striking at the heart of European capitalism. This opportunity was missed, with many influenced by the polarising messages of the leading parties within the Stormont Executive. The reactionary rhetoric of anti-immigration mixed with British chauvinism which emerged from DUP Vote Leave representatives distorted Marxist justifications for leaving the European Union and heavily impacted on the narrative leading up to the referendum. The DUP’s actions also highlighted the ideological haziness of the Orange and Green divide; Sinn Féin rejected their lifelong criticisms of European imperialism, embarking on a questionable U-turn in favour of further Irish involvement. Guilty of distorting the project into a progressive haven of caring values in a move which mirrors their more recent shift to the political centre, questions should be asked as to whether they can acceptably claim to represent working-class communities in the North. These two factors contributed towards a messy and demoralising debate, with little to no Marxist analysis. In an unusual and bitterly disappointing twist of fate, the objective of leaving the European Union was stolen and championed by the political right, impacting on individual perceptions and voting intentions. Faced with the galling prospect of voting with the DUP’s immigrant-bashing utopia, many were driven to align themselves with a campaign spearheaded by the likes of Tony Blair and Theresa May in a carnival of reaction which led to the North eventually voting to remain. 

Even in these unfortunate circumstances, the Irish working class can influence proceedings and form a united front against the EU’s incessant domination. Whilst Guardianistas and middle-class publications decry that the British working-class who carried a Leave majority across the sea are nothing more than racist demagogues in their efforts to cool the growing embers of proletariat awakening, we hold an important bargaining chip to influence proceedings and ensure a Marxist exit from the European Union. The British establishment’s imposed border in Ireland has become a key feature of negotiations with the EU post referendum, offering a second chance to influence international class-solidarity. The British ruling class’s rigid insistence to deny voters their legitimacy in the EU referendum has produced a radical current willing to bypass parliamentary representatives and reactionary careerists. This is relevant in both Ireland and Britain; our agitation against the implementation of a hard border will encourage working-class comrades in Britain to continue their campaign for a worker’s Brexit amidst a ‘People’s Vote’ opposition hell-bent on securing a second EU referendum. In a show of resilience which will strengthen relations between the Irish and British proletariat against respective master-classes and bureaucratic dominance, a spark can be found which has the potential to form cracks in the European Union itself. 

Pushing these aims to fruition is essential to weaken the EU’s dominance in Ireland. With the ongoing suspension of the Stormont Executive and rising proletariat ambitions across the continent in the form of the Yellow Vests movement, we now have a unique and perhaps life-changing opportunity to crack European capitalism and formulate a new Irish state in the vision of Connolly and Garland which will guarantee equality of outcome for all citizens. More still, as the EU continues to weaken, a truly progressive Europe can be realised. Where Syriza failed, we shall avenge them through international solidarity; the successful implementation of our demands will see the workers and youth of today able to take control of their own destinies, sparking a consciousness which will lead to a revolutionary struggle in each individual member state of the EU. The subsequent merger of these upheavals into a general European revolution will ensure that capitalism will be abolished, and those who ruled over us in the past will become a distant memory. 

There can be no debate that our goal as Marxists is to fully sever ties with the European Union. Its economic dominance and socially abhorrent record has not only severed the legitimacy of Irish sovereignty, but allowed European capitalists to tighten their grip on those at the heart of production. As we continue to agitate for an Irish withdrawal, we should also remain fully committed to strengthening international working-class solidarity across the continent to not only leave the project, but strike at the heart of capitalism and create a progressive Europe embedded in Marxist values. We should remain unapologetically devoted to agitating and organising for a better future in which corruption and despotism will become a distant memory. The EU must go, on the say-so of the international workers of the world. 

From Issue 3 of An Spréach Magazine, Jan - Mar 2019