Ninety-six years ago the great revolutionary socialist republican James Connolly was executed by firing squad for daring to stand up to the might of Empire and fight for the right of small nations and their peoples to be free.
For Connolly resistance to empire was predicated upon the principle that the ownership of Ireland, both moral and material, is vested of right in the people of Ireland. As the Irish Citizen Army declared, this principle was its ‘first and last principle’. As such, Connolly and the Volunteers of the Citizen Army were mortal enemies of empire. It was for this reason that they took the glorious stand they did in Easter Week 1916. As inheritors of the standard of revolutionary socialist republicanism we too for the very same reason are implacable enemies of empire, and therefore, are duty bound to resist the empires and empire-builders of today.
It is in this context that we approach the whole question of the European Union and the treaty presently before us. Let us not be under any misapprehension that the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union that will be voted on in a referendum in the Twenty-Six Counties on May 31st is ultimately about anything other than protecting the process of capitalist empire-building.
This treaty is in fact very much about the furtherance of an agenda that was written into the founding document of the European Union project. At the heart of this project since its inception has been the goal of the creation of a neo-liberal European super-state where power and wealth is firmly within the locus of control of Europe’s economic and political elite. The Schuman Declaration of 1950 which founded the European Coal and Steel Community explicitly stated that its intention was to facilitate measures that would act, to quote the document, “as a first step in the federation of Europe”.
The objective of a capitalist federation of Europe has been advanced through every subsequent EU treaty since that time and remains at the heart of the European Union project today. The European Union’s political elite has been remarkably frank at times about its intentions in this regard. Indeed, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso was very clear about the empire-building nature of the European Union when he declared in 2007 how he sometimes liked to“compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire”. In the same statement he noted that the EU has “the dimensions of an empire”. Only last week ECB President Mario Draghi stated how, “If we want to have a fiscal union, we have to accept the delegation of fiscal sovereignty from the national governments to some form of central body.”
The Austerity Treaty, as it should more properly be known, is certainly not at root, as is being stated by those in favour, about sensible economics, the ‘balancing of budgets’ and the creation of jobs – in neo-liberal capitalism the principle of profit-making is paramount – the creation of jobs and all other such-like lofty considerations are secondary and incidental.
What this treaty is really about is the European elite attempting to rescue the capitalist system from under from the crushing weight of its own contradictions, thereby making the European Union once again ‘open for business’.
This task is impossible without first addressing the fiscal deficits of member states. And this is where the Austerity Treaty comes in. Either a regime of permanent austerity measures in the form of cuts to services, welfare and working and living conditions is enforced to ‘balance the books’, or governments would have no recourse but to look elsewhere for the funds to sustain current levels of spending on public services. Not to reduce deficits would necessitate going after the wealth in society, and this is of course not to be countenanced at all. That would be to interfere in the workings of the so-called ‘free market’ and would, needless to say, be bad for business.
Creating and maintaining a good climate for business is after all the primary role of governments under capitalism. As Connolly and Marx correctly observed, “governments in capitalist society are but committees of the rich to manage the affairs of the capitalist class”. Indeed, in line with the grand design for an EU super-state underlying this and all other EU treaties, the limited control that national governments retain at present over their respective economic policies will be surrendered under the terms of the Austerity Treaty to the nascent European Union unelected government-in-waiting that is the European Commission. It is for this reason that Angela Merkel could so boldly declare in January of this year that “the debt brakes (or treaty rules) will be binding and valid forever. Never will you be able to change them through a parliamentary majority.”
It is in the context of the EU-as-Empire that all current talk of growth must be understood. This talk of growth is of course designed to make the bitter pill of voting for permanent austerity somewhat more palatable.
This growth and prosperity “such as they speak of”is as Connolly noted in his times, “purely capitalistic prosperity – that is to say, prosperity gauged merely by the volume of wealth produced, and entirely ignoring of the manner in which the wealth is distributed amongst the workers who produce it.”
It is growth to benefit the elites of the ‘core’ European powers of Germany, France and Britain, and their lackeys in the so-called ‘peripheral’ PIIGS countries of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Greece that the establishment here and in Europe are really speaking of.
Just as the growth that occurs in times of boom is not for the benefit of the workers who produce it, so too is it certainly not for the benefit of the working peoples of these countries that ‘austerity’ is being enforced. And yet we are actually meant to swallow this gargantuan lie that the profound damage which is being done to the social fabric of whole societies is being done for the so-called ‘common good’.
The truth of the matter is that all talk of prosperity and growth is a priori predicated upon a fundamental acceptance of the principle that the rights and welfare of the people are subservient to the pursuit of privately-owned wealth.
Under the economic model at the heart of the EU it is profits and markets and not citizens that are sovereign.
This is the background against which we must consider every proposal that emanates from the European Union and its servants in this and its other client-states.
It is against this background that we must consider the intent and likely impact of the Austerity Treaty.
And so, let it be stated very clearly, as we do in our campaign leaflet, that this treaty is bad for you, your family, your community, your country and Europe.
Again, this treaty it aims to permanently embed neo-liberal fiscal policy into the very heart of Europe. Austerity measures, of the type which we are currently being inflicted upon us, are very much to the fore of those neo-liberal economic policies. The demand for balanced budgets arrived at through massive cuts in public and social spending, as opposed to governments appropriating some of the enormous privately-held wealth in society, is what has necessitated the set of rules governing fiscal rectitude contained in the Austerity Treaty.
Governments will no longer be able to run budget deficits of more than 0.5%. Those that do will be subject to fines by the ECJ and automatic measures to correct this breach of the Treaty’s rules (that is, they will need to make the requisite cuts to services and public spending to bring the deficit in line with the 0.5% prescription).
Governments whose debt to GDP ratio exceeds 60% will be forced to make cuts in borrowing and repay debt in order to bring the ratio back down to 60% or below, again enforceable under the Treaty by the EU Commission and ECJ.
The type of austerity that will be required to bring the Twenty-Six Counties into line with these requirements will necessitate cuts in the order of €5.7billion when they become enforceable in 2015.
Figures produced by the European Commission itself estimate that in 2013 18 out of 25 countries subject to these rules will have a structural deficit greater than 0.5%, (on the deficit across these countries is estimated to come to average at 2.6%. It is estimated that a staggering €166 billion in cuts to services and extra taxes for working people will be required to ‘balance the books’ under the requirements of this Austerity Treaty. This, in the face of an increasing recognition on behalf of the bourgeoisie itself that austerity is not and cannot work, is a recipe for economic meltdown and continent-wide depression.
A resounding No vote will help avert economic meltdown and continent-wide depression and send a very strong signal to ‘the Establishment’ that the people of this country are going to look to their own interests and those of the peoples of Europe ahead of the interests of the banks and the Troika.
It is of the utmost importance that the people of this state send a clear message to the Troika on May 31st – our sovereignty is not for sale!
We serve neither Capital nor EU Empire, but Ireland!
For Community and Country, and a free European federation of free peoples – Vote No on May 31st!