Europe’s crisis

Published on WSWS, by Peter Schwarz, July 23, 2011.

Not since the adoption of the Treaty of Rome 54 years ago has the European Union and its precursors stood so close to the abyss as in the past week. Experts agreed that should the heads of government from the euro-zone countries fail to find an answer to the debt crisis at their emergency summit on Thursday, it would mean the end of the euro and the European Union.

The consequences of such a failure would not be confined to the economic sphere. Ever since the Thirty Years War in the 17th century, Europe has been repeatedly ravaged by wars, culminating in the two world wars of 1914 and 1939. Since then, the EU and the organizations that preceded it have constituted the most important mechanism for preventing new armed clashes between the European powers. It was no accident, therefore, that before the summit, for many of the senior politicians who spoke out, Europe—as Spiegel Online put it—“was still a question of war and peace—instead of euros and cents.” They forcefully warned against a failure of the Brussels emergency summit. 

The summit has not solved the crisis but merely postponed it. It has even exacerbated the underlying problems … //

… Above all the “left” bourgeois parties—the Social Democrats, Greens and ex-Stalinists—are insisting on further attacks against working people. They parade themselves as the saviours of European unity, although their conception of “saving Europe” is synonymous with unending austerity.

In Greece, the victory of the social democratic PASOK party was a prerequisite for an austerity programme that will lower the living standards of workers and pensioners by 40 percent by 2015. In Italy, the 86-year-old President Giorgio Napolitano, an old cadre of the Stalinist Communist Party, is now ensuring that the centre-left opposition supports the recent austerity programme of the Berlusconi government, which is directed almost exclusively against those of middle and lower incomes.

In Germany, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) has offered its support to the Merkel government in order to pass unpopular measures to deal with the euro crisis. And in Spiegel Online, Green Party leader Cem Özdemir praised Greek Prime Minister Papandreou because he had introduced his austerity measures against popular resistance.

In the 1920s, Leon Trotsky stressed that the European bourgeoisie was incapable of uniting Europe in the interests of its people. The capitalist system, based on private property, exploitation, personal gain and national interests, was unable to guarantee the harmonious coexistence and solidarity of the European peoples. This assessment is being dramatically confirmed today.

The debate between the right and “left” bourgeois parties regarding a way out of crisis swings between blatant nationalism, on the one hand, and “saving Europe” through the ruin of its people, on the other. As in the 1930s, both roads lead to social decline, dictatorship and war.

The working class cannot subordinate itself to either of these camps; it must fight for its own response to the crisis—the reorganization of Europe on a socialist basis. The large financial conglomerates must be expropriated and placed under democratic control; the assets of the super-rich must be heavily taxed or confiscated. On this basis, it will be possible to resolve the current crisis, to overcome the social divide in Europe and to use its vast resources in the interests of society as a whole.

The alternative to the Balkanization of Europe into warring nation-states and the dictatorship of finance capital and its institutions in Brussels is the United Socialist States of Europe. (full text).

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