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Europe – No means No!

John McAnulty

6th June 2005

No sooner have France and Holland delivered a decisive rejection of the new European constitution than the supporters of European capital fill the media with dismissive and disparaging comments meant to negate the democratic outcome.

The no vote is the product of the right wing, they claim, it is a chauvinist rejection of civilisation based on racism. In any case it is a confused vote on local factors, with voters taking the opportunity to punish unpopular administrations without considering the longer term implications. The desperate hope is that an Irish solution can be found and the voters asked to vote again, as Irish voters had to, until they get the right result.

There are some elements of truth in the capitalist analysis, but they are blown out of all proportion to prove a weak case. It is true that the right wing racist element, both in France and Holland, were a noisy minority, but that can’t account for the outcome. In France the right-wing vote, led by the racist Jean-Marie Le Pen, could account for only 15% of the vote. The mainstream right voted solidly for the constitution, so 40% of the ‘No’ came from non-aligned or left voters – a point underlined by the subsequent sacking of Socialist Party deputy leader Laurent Fabius for supporting the No vote.

In Holland the anti-immigrant List Pim Fortuyn (LPF), were portrayed as the leadership of the opposition, but in fact the Balkenende government were leading a savage attack on migrants in a bid to divert attention from growing unemployment and economic crisis. The outcome, and the 16% popularity figure recorded before the election, indicated that playing the racist card hadn’t worked. What was clear however, more so in Holland than in France, was that the growing revolt of workers did not have political expression in a party of the working class. The small left forces involved were sufficient to run a left campaign, but not to represent the mass of workers involved.

The suggestion that the issues involved are local ignores the fact that these local issues are in fact the national expressions of a Europe-wide offensive by capitalism involving cuts in social provision, rising unemployment and increasing privatisation and liberalisation of the economies. The new constitution is the latest stage in an offensive already begun and the votes show working-class awareness of the attacks and a willingness to oppose.

The No vote shows a sharp disjunction between rulers and ruled. What is interesting is that in survey after survey the workers did not reject Europe. They did reject the Europe of capitalist neoliberalism. This confirms the Marxist analysis that the opposition to European capitalism should not confine itself to national platforms, but would have to embrace the idea of a united socialist states of Europe as an alternative to capitalist attacks on workers rights.

Working people have delivered a bloody nose to European capital. Now they need to organise independently to face the coming counter-attack.



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