The contradictions created by the war in Ukraine keep growing at all levels, bringing up an increasingly bleak future for the whole of Europe.
After Germany refused to relax sanctions in exchange for the unblocking of Ukrainian ports by Russia, the EU “is weighing” whether to launch its military structure and send a war fleet to carry out the Ukrainian grain. The excuse: the danger of famine in third countries. But this is hard to believe: since when is the EU willing to risk open war with Russia for the needs of semi-colonial countries? Wasn’t it going to increase its own exports to alleviate the global price increase? What lies behind the plans for a new “Crimean war”?
NATO is preparing its “2022 strategic concept”. It will be officially presented at the Madrid summit in June. The movements and pressures of the states follow one after the other to outline the “novelties”. The most disturbing of them: a new “Russian front” in the Sahel with strong reverberations and possibilities of destabilization in the Maghreb and the whole of West Africa. Great Britain, Germany and Spain are leading the push that promises to open a new imperialist battle for the control of Africa.
The British government announced yesterday a unilateral review of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The EU has responded immediately with a threat of sanctions. Beneath, the historic breakdown of balances between Northern Irish factions and the prospect of the annexation of Ulster by Ireland. The opening of a period of intra-European trade war could however be the prologue to a new phase of low-intensity wars on the continent.
While the US approves the umpteenth support package to the Ukrainian state, this time of 40 billion euros to sustain the war, France, Germany and behind them Italy and Spain begin to recognize a strategic defeat… vis-à-vis Washington. Growing ideological resentment, political impotence within the EU and the increasingly accepted prospect of breaking the EU in two are expressed. It is not “only political”: the development of the imperialist contradictions within the EU and in relation to the US can only accelerate the offensive of national capitals against the living conditions of the workers.
Predictably, xenophobia is growing with the war and is now also affecting Ukrainian refugees themselves. What is fueling the fear and rejection of refugees?
Macron burst into the proceedings of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” yesterday with a proposal to reform the EU’s constituent treaties which immediately divided the states into two sides. It is the response to a US strategy in Ukraine which, irrespective of its effects on Russia, is increasingly undermining the power enjoyed by the Franco-German-Italian axis within the EU.
Germany’s famous economic powerhouse flounders. Rising rates push the US into recession. Central banks start to look warily at the housing market again. And the “new austerity” is taken for granted so naturally in France and Spain that its implementation depends only on the timetable of the elections.
The European summit and its declaration of Spain and Portugal as an “energy island”, clearly expresses the kind of contradictions stirred up among the imperialist interests of its members by the development of the EU. Contradictions that are fueled both by the growing role of Brussels in the booming war economy, and by the ever greater and more explicit weight of the U.S. in defining its policies. For the bourgeoisies of the European South, a stage of vindication of their “exceptionalities” and the hope of an insularization which will multiply rather than palliate their attack on the basic conditions of the workers is opening up.
The press welcomes the “radical change” brought about by the invasion of Ukraine in the treatment of refugees by the European Union. Even the most xenophobic governments are giving refugee status and facilities of all kinds. But has anything more than outward appearances really changed?
“Food security” is moving to the forefront of the priorities of European states. The agrarian war economy that shaped the EU in the Cold War is back on the immediate agenda. Far beyond sunflower and grains, globally there will come a famine and a new international division of agri-food production; and in Europe a regression of social relations in the countryside and a new push towards the most harmful elements of the agri-food industry. Agri-food production is on the way to becoming war production.
That is where we come in: “sharing the effort and sacrifice” of “paying the price of peace” means renouncing basic needs, accepting worse working conditions and a poverty that will inevitably grow.
Emancipation Statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its consequences.
Last week, Macron took the lead in talks with Russia to the chagrin of Putin as much as Biden; Scholz went in person to Washington to stage his resistance to the closure of NordStream 2 at the White House itself; and on his return, both co-opted and negotiated the Polish position, finally allowing the EU to break NATO’s monolithic stance. Biden, plummeting in the US polls, responded by raising the tone and asserting the imminence of a Russian invasion. But a glance at the world press makes it clear that outside AUKUS, the US is encountering increasing resistance from its former allies around the world, from South Africa to Argentina.
After a year of intense inter-country political battles and between industrial lobbyists and environmentalists, leaked documents from the European Commission now reveal that the proposed “taxonomy of sustainable investments” will include gas and nuclear power as “green energies”. At once Germany, Austria and Spain take a stand against nuclear power – while dodging the gas issue – while France and the 10 countries of the “nuclear bloc” rejoice. What is the real battle underneath all this? What is at stake and how will the outcome affect workers all over Europe?
Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, has been talking about “a new kind of war” for days. The Baltic governments speak of “the biggest security threat in the last 30 years.” EU Council President Michel calls the arrival of a few hundred migrants a “brutal, hybrid, violent and undignified attack.” And the most enthusiastic European press echoes him today: “We are facing a hybrid attack from a clearly hostile neighbor” editorialized El País. But are we really facing a “hybrid war” action? Are a few hundred refugees a threat? To whom?
A thousand refugees and migrants at the border may seem commonplace in Mediterranean countries. But on the eastern borders of the EU this means a full-fledged refugee crisis mobilizing the army and serving as the basis for a brutal nationalist and racist campaign. In a perverse game between the dictator of Belarus and the rulers of Poland, Lithuania, Hungary and Greece, it is serving as a means of ending the few remaining guarantees for refugees and migrants in Europe. “The right of asylum, as laid down in European law, no longer exists throughout Europe,” sentenced Spiegel yesterday.
What is the problem between the EU and Poland? Is the authoritarian drift of Hungary and Poland real or just an excuse? Do the Polish arguments have any basis? Does the PiS (Polish ruling party) want a “Polexit”? Why is this battle so important and why is the European Commission being so blunt now?
Australia breaking its naval contract with France as part of the birth of AUKUS, is just “the tip of the iceberg” according to a senior British Foreign Office official. It is the culmination of President Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” as asserted by the US, recalling that “no matter how much one pretends otherwise it is impossible to pivot to Asia without turning away from other places.” The European ruling classes translate this as the end of a historical period in which they could rely – not without contradictions – on the US to defend their own imperialist interests. The future of Europe is changing.
Yesterday the European Parliament held the State of the Union 2021 debate. In her speech, Ursula von der Leyen skipped central issues and tensions between countries in order to emphasize the constituent tone with which the Commission tries to curtail the memory of the many social disasters it drives and coordinates: from its infamous border and migration policy to the vaccination campaign via the impact of the Green Deal on the electricity bill.
The policy on Afghan refugees puts feminism back in the spotlight. After the Taliban conquest of Kabul, the main EU countries made it clear that they would only provide shelter for a few direct collaborators and the upper echelons of the Afghan bourgeoisie. However, a clear message soon began to become hegemonic among politicians: even within the fortunate group of local elites there would be differences based on gender.
Over the past month EU countries such as Denmark and Lithuania have unabashedly espoused new inhumane, if not criminal, policies towards migrants and refugees seeking asylum. Spiegel’s revelations and the European Parliament’s investigation have shown the involvement of border police in Italy, Malta, Greece and the head of Frontex, an EU agency, in real crimes against humanity. But this time there is no crisis or problem. The true face of an EU that routinely uses “Rule of Law” and “Human Rights” as imperialist propaganda is made visible.
The European Commission presented this week “Fit for 55”, a package of measures aimed at developing the European Climate Law. The stated aim is to reduce by 2030 emissions in the EU countries as a whole to 55% of what they were in 1990. The media linger on the end of cheap flights and the ban on the sale of cars with combustion engines by 2035. But first and foremost it is a way to inflate the speculative emissions market at the cost of higher fuel, heating, transport, food and construction prices.
The impact of the Green Deal on European cities has begun. In Germany, the development of new terraced housing estates is halted in the midst of a general price hike. In Spain, a new ideological campaign charges against urban upgrading projects (“PAU” in Spanish). The EU speaks of a “New European Bauhaus”, but in reality this is the need to accompany the Green Deal in the cities with measures to ensure the profitability of new logistics and energy macro-investments.
The Italian superminister for climate change began his mandate by going against meat and dairy consumption; the Spanish government in its 2050 plan, presented yesterday, endorses Greenpeace’s doctrine and proposes to halve consumption by raising prices; in Germany ending cheap meat is one of the main proposals of the Green party, which is likely to head the next government. Meat, dairy and other high-quality protein foods are well on their way to becoming luxury products. With the Green Deal, the diet of the working class is once again the terrain of class struggle.
The EU’s Porto Social Summit unveils, decades later, its long-promised “social pillar” program. The “Porto Social Commitment” has been triumphantly presented as a shift towards employment and workers, a return to the welfare discourse that would definitively close the door to more precariousness and “austerity”. Nothing could be further from the truth. The commitment will be austerity’s banner.
France and Germany jointly unveiled their recovery plans yesterday. Italy and Spain did not join the ceremony but had agreed on the date with Berlin and Paris and presented them on their own. They were in a hurry.
Yesterday, the EU reached a provisional agreement on the European Climate Law. In case there were any doubts, the objectives are explicit: To provide predictability to investors and to ensure that the transformations generated by the Green Deal in industries and capital markets are irreversible. Moreover, in concrete terms, the European Climate Law represents an acceleration in the speed of change. No one is unaware of the reason behind the rush: U.S. and China at odds for virtually everything else, are about to turn the Biden summit into the staging of a two-way split of the capital markets they hope to revive.
Is Europe moving towards outlawing the extreme right wing? In Germany, the state’s counterinsurgency services have begun a process in the middle of an election year that could well lead to the dissolution of AfD, currently the main opposition party. In France, the government has dissolved one of the most powerful far-right wing youth groups. In Austria they are following the same path. But… Are they trying to take the far right off the board, or are they trying to do something else?
IWD and Covid will be linked for a long time in Spain. One year ago now, prioritizing the liturgy of IWD over the emerging Covid epidemic meant the acceleration of a slaughter that we are still far from getting rid of today and about which we are still being shrouded with dangerous half-truths.
The more contradictory the national interests within the EU, the more incentive Brussels has to try to counter them with more outward protectionism – which inevitably triggers its trade rivals – and new moves forward – such as vaccine centralization – that put the Commission and the interests it represents in a weaker position in the face of interference from those same rival states.
European Commissioner for External Action Josep Borrell landed in Moscow today. The eastern countries and France, but especially the US, are pushing Germany to halt the final section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline works and see the opportunity for the Commission to mutualize the decision by dressing it up as retaliation against Russia. For now, the visit is providing evidence that tensions within the EU and NATO are not smaller than those pitting Germany against Russia.
When we read the business press, capital seems happy. According to Oxfam, the global bourgeoisie has already made up for its wealth losses. The Swiss bank has doubled its profits. And listed companies are heading for a dividend recovery.
EU politicians are right about one thing: delaying vaccination hurts capital and its businesses and above all -even if they try to render it invisible- it costs the lives of workers and the general population. If, as they point out and appears likely, this delay is partly due to a narrow choice of main supplier to create a biotechnological champion, the EU would have shown to what extent the peaceful and civilized European project is capable of the worst crimes to serve the interests of German capital.
The so-called locomotives of the EU, France and Germany, are increasingly divided and confronted with each other. Their attempts to give momentum end up being counterproductive, separating sometimes the East, sometimes the South. At this point it is undeniable that the pandemic and the recession have accelerated the process of implosion of the EU. And there is no let up and no respite.
What lies beneath all this debate about the “rule of law”? Why does it appear precisely in Hungary, Poland and now Spain? Where does it lead to an EU that is only in the early stages of a new recession?
The so-called recovery fund is becoming not only a way to accelerate the transfer of income from labor to capital throughout the continent, aggravating the conditions of exploitation of the vast majority of workers, but also is becoming the way in which Germany conditions the development of Europe.
In a few days, the government parties in Germany went from the scandal of the last denialist demonstration to the celebration of Merkel as the restorer of the post-war political apparatus. In Spain, meanwhile, the German echo is felt.
The low volume of the “recovery” funds turns them into a mere cover of the “austerity” promoted by the EU, with all that it means for the workers as a forced reduction of the general exploitation costs of the labor power: less healthcare services, education, social cohesion, etc. But this “austerity”would remain a mere appetizer for the general offensive against workers’ conditions implied by the “reforms” aimed at by this “recovery fund”.
For the workers of the countries that have been affected, the credits really are cutbacks and the direct aid that they receive will only serve to accelerate the transfer of income from labor to capital. And in the case anyone had hoped that the European Council could serve to prevent the escalation of war in the Mediterranean and the horizon of barbarism that it opens, they were deeply mistaken.
The EU, one of the most contradictory imperialist projects both among its partners and in the global imperialist arena, will probably be one step closer to imploding.
Germany is getting ready toend off, via taxes, cheap meat. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Under the “green deal” comes an accelerated transformation towards “bio” livestock and agriculture that, at least temporarily, would entail non-tariff barriers to imports from outside the EU and a way to attract capital to the countryside. A trend is beginning that will end the era of cheap meat.
Germany wants an empire that will buy its overproduction and generate applications of capital, with a currency subordinated to its logic of accumulation, a Central Bank subordinated to its courts and a well-controlled nuclear army… but also wants to organize everything at a bargain price. No, the scaffolding does not seem to be solid enough for this historic era of economic, political and social tornadoes and hurricanes. But is there anything to be regretted? Are we workers losing something important with the collapse of the “European perspective”?
This evening Macron and Merkel will be presenting their “salvation of the EU”. But in today’s historical conditions, every step forward is one step closer to a zombie structure.
It is more urgent and necessary than ever to affirm the needs of the workers, which are universal human needs, for what is coming is a dogfight in which we are wanted as offal.
The EU cannot resolve its contradictions, only by raising them again and again to a higher level, in the hope that the developing global environment of “economic warfare” will be enough, as external pressure, to precariously hold the structure together.
Even if an agreement on debt mutualization were reached today or in the next few days, what would follow would be a struggle to change rules, protect national sector-based markets and reduce the interdependence among national bourgeoisies. And so the EU would also dry up and the old reactionary dream of the United States of Europe would come to an end, not with a bang but with a whimpe
Winners and losers of the inter-imperialist brawls in the EU have a common objective: “recovery”, in other words, organizing a brutal transfer of income from labor to capital. Once again, as always, as in any imperialist conflict, the main enemy is within the country itself.
If anyone ever believed that the European Union could serve to moderate the appetites of national capitals and put the most basic universal human needs first, they can see their hopes refuted today, once again, with absolute clarity. On the other hand, those who doubted the ability of the working class to stand up to the barbarity of capital across national borders have a palpable demonstration these days of how the working class not only exists as a universal class but that its struggle is the only one capable of affirming the primacy of human needs effectively and across borders.