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Wanted: a democratic alternative to Merkel and Cameron

The choice between living in a European so-called “super state”, as advocated by German chancellor Angela Merkel, or an independent, “sovereign” state, as viewed by prime minister David Cameron is, in reality, no choice at all.
Merkel is in no position to enforce a complete political and economic integration of the 17 countries that make up the ill-fated eurozone, let alone the entire European Union. And Cameron is simply playing the nationalist card when he says his government will always put “British interests” first.

The driving force behind the comments made by Merkel and Cameron in Berlin yesterday is an economic crisis that has swung wildly out of control, gathering a momentum that overwhelms conventional politics as well as underming the European Union project itself.

Launching the euro in 1999 was viewed as a step towards the harmonisation of the European economy. Within a few years, it became the world’s second largest reserve currency after the dollar. Now it is on its back, brought down by debt mountains across the continent.

But Merkel is mistaken if she thinks that total integration of fiscal and monetary policy under a single European state would save the euro and/or prevent this from happening again. Leaving aside the political impossibility of her ambition, the real problem lies in the cause of the crisis itself.

Debt, as we have pointed out many times, is actually the product of far deeper problems inherent within the capitalist system, and not the source of the global crisis. The amassing of household, corporate and government debt was necessary to fund and fuel the expansion of the economy in the period of intense globalisation.

When consumers were maxed out on credit and the economy began to slow in the earlier part of this century, the banks were caught holding worthless, so-called toxic assets. They stopped lending, several went under and the world was plunged into recession. Tax revenues fell and sovereign debt soared.

The contraction is deepening. Italy’s industrial output fell a staggering 9.2% in April, it was revealed today. Spain is bankrupt and is reported to be planning to formally ask for an EU bail-out over the weekend. China’s economy has slowed rapidly, dashing the hopes of those who thought it would take up the slack.

Under these conditions, integrating the EU states into a single entity – even if this were a realistic possibility – is meaningless because the problem lies within the nature of the capitalist system itself, not political will. Naturally, neither Merkel nor Cameron can or will address this as they are ruling class politicians who endorse the status quo of globalised capitalism.

A European capitalist “super state” is an ugly and dangerous concept, as World War II demonstrated in practice. British nationalism is an equally nasty prospect, whether it is in the hands of Cameron, UKIP or the Labour leader Ed Miliband, whose reactionary speech on Scottish independence yesterday left him wrapped in the flag of St George.

There is an alternative, however. An equal partnership, even a federation, of European states committed to a joint, sustainable future is possible as well as necessary. That has to be driven by the aspirations of ordinary people themselves and not the ruling elites. If it is made part of a project to liberate ourselves from the grip of corporations and banks, a democratically-run Europe is worth struggling for.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
8 June 2012

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