NCP of the Netherlands: statement on the British EU referendum

Majority of Britons reject EU membership and choose Brexit

The New Communist Party of the Netherlands congratulates the British working class and the Communist Party of Britain on the referendum result. The UK's Brexit camp has won the referendum by 52% of the vote. Popular rejection of the so-called EU elite, and the expectation of being better off with a Brexit, has turned out greater than expected in ruling-class circles. However, the confrontation with the British ruling class will soon turn it into an illusion. It remains to be seen how the result will impact all the different European countries, but it is clear that European capital is doing everything in its power to protect its interests.

The apparent blow to the stability of "Fortress Europe" is of the utmost political significance. Brexit could be the first step in the unravelling of the capitalist EU project. The reduction of the EU from 28 to 27 countries - a historical first - is also extremely important. The British decision will accelerate the disintegration of an EU that is already being questioned from many different sides. It will also strengthen the anti-EU movement in the Netherlands. The next Dutch elections, in 2017, will be dominated by European issues, even including discussions about a Nexit. Financial and business circles were in shock, both within and outside of the UK. The representatives of the ruling class speak words of comfort in order to prevent the panic; but the internal capitalist contradictions are massive by necessity, and they are growing and becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile. In particular, the contradictions between the big bourgeoisie and the petite bourgeoisie are increasing, and it is the latter group that decided the referendum and is increasingly making its voice heard in the Western world.

The big companies pulling the strings in Brussels and the City of London, united in the European Round Table (ERT), recently took an unambiguous stand against Brexit, as did US capital. In these circles, a Brexit was clearly not desired. Now, capital is mainly concerned about the prospect of an adversarial divorce with unpredictable consequences. The ruling class will now do everything in its power to reach the broadest consensus possible in the two-year period before the finalisation of Brexit. However, these efforts are made practically impossible by the capitalist crisis.

Large sections of the peoples of Europe, especially the middle strata, are growing restless. At this point, resistance to the capitalist project is still mainly emotional, politically undirected, divided, and of a nationalist nature. There is a very real possibility that the anger and unrest will translate to a lurch to the right. Politicians like Wilders and Le Pen are already preparing to reap the rewards. At the same time, it also creates opportunities for the left. The revulsion towards the elite must be turned into resistance against the capitalist system. Those enriching themselves should no longer be attacked on an individual basis, but as an inseparable part of the capitalist system. It has to be demonstrated that we are not merely dealing with a political, financial, and economic elite that refuses to listen to the people, but with a system in a deep economic, financial, and moral crisis; a system that needs to be replaced by another system, a socialist one. The working class in all European countries should orient themselves towards an anti-capitalist agenda, with the struggle for a socialist Europe being the first item on that agenda, even if forms of struggle are developed on the national level.

The EU is an anti-democratic institution. Besides the Council of Ministers, its most powerful organs include the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The European Commission designs and executes EU legislation, and has the power to enforce fines on national governments. It has to share some powers with the ECB, which also controls the central banks and interest rates. There is no political control on the ECB; it owes responsibility to nobody, and it is an instrument of Europe's most powerful economic and financial powers.

The fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the EU is also demonstrated by its refusal to recognise the results of national referenda on new treaty proposals: those in Denmark (on the Maastricht Treaty in 1992) and Ireland (on the Treaty of Nice in 2001 and the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008) were repeated in order to obtain a pro-EU result. After the rejection of the European Constitution by France and the Netherlands (in 2005), referenda in the UK and other member states were cancelled, while the proposals of the Constitution were added to the Lisbon Treaty. When the Irish rejected that treaty in 2008, in the only referendum held on the matter, the Irish people were bribed and pressured to reverse their decision.

The EU and its predecessors were created after the Second World War in order to rebuild the major capitalist businesses of Western Europe behind the walls of import restrictions, and without internal limits to trade and takeovers. The Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (Treaty of Rome) determined that there should be one internal market with "the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital" guaranteed (article 26). This is the cornerstone of the original Treaty of Rome (1957) that meant the foundation of the European Economic Community. The present-day EU is a club of big business. At the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the EU sets the tone in policies aimed at opening the borders of other countries to investment by European monopoly capital. The EU has greatly benefited big business. In the last 60 years, the multinationals profited especially. The EU is responsible for 16% of worldwide import and export and has trade agreements with a great number of countries.

The EU is an anti-socialist institution. The EU's free-market policies prevent national governments from independently planning their economic development by regulating the movement of capital, goods, services, and labour across the borders, and even within their own borders. Planned economic development for the benefit of the working class has been made practically impossible by law due to article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (providing for "a highly competitive social market economy") and articles 119, 120, and 127 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. They demand that all EU member states should adhere to "an open market economy with free competition". The Stability and Growth Pact places limits on the government deficit (3% of GDP) and debt (60% of GDP) and prescribes balanced or positive budgets to member states.

All national governments have to submit an annual budgetary plan, outlining their strategies in reducing the deficit. According to article 123 of the TFEU, it is also explicitly forbidden for a member state to use its own central bank to purchase government bonds. Government support or any other form of advantage or protection of specific companies or key industries - both private and public - is strictly prohibited.

An ideology praising the advantages of market forces and liberalisation has cleared the way for the organised attack on nationalised (public utility) companies and services, and for the privatisation of power, rails, and postal services. EU funds were used for "rescue operations" demanding radical privatisation as a condition for loans to member states with large debts to German, French, and British banks. The large companies, united in the ERT, ceaselessly lobby the European Commission and the European Parliament in order to influence European politics, going as far as directly writing legislation.

The illusion of a "Social Europe", fostered by capital to weaken the opposition of the labour movement against a European market, is increasingly getting caught up by reality. After 1992, most social programmes within the EU were actually cut. The different austerity plans have led to dramatically increased unemployment, tax raises, large-scale privatisation, and cuts to pensions and benefits for the people of many European countries. Business has used the "free movement of labour" to evade the working conditions fought for by the trade unions, including wages and working hours. Experience with this EU policy (usually implemented by reactionary governments) has caused large sections of the labour movement and the left in Europe to take a more critical view towards the Eurozone and the EU in general.

The labour movement must break down the internal capitalist market and strengthen national democratic developments, in order to work towards social policy in the service of the living standards of the people, rather than for the accumulation of profit for the few. It must cut off attempts by the likes of Wilders' PVV to exploit the growing unrest for its own political goals.

The EU as an imperialist project must be replaced by the cooperation of democratic states, where the peoples can influence policy, based on social goals. In these countries, there should be an unrestrained discussion on the need for a socialist future. Down with the capitalist EU, towards a socialist Europe.

NCPN, June 26th, 2016

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