All supporters of the Europe of capital, on the right and left, have used the chaos of Brexit and the threat of the institutional far-right as the great arguments to re-legitimize the EU and present it as a factor of stability and progress and as a democratic stronghold. They have completed this scam by presenting the elections as a tool through which European peoples can decide the fate of the EU.
By IWL-FI European Secretariat
This reasoning is a complete fraud. The Brexit chaos is due, first of all, to Corbyn’s abandonment of his pledge to lead a left Brexit and begin the socialist transformation of the country. The institutional far-right, in its turn, is an organic component and the lawful son of an EU dedicated heart and soul to impose austerity on workers and the European peoples. An EU whose immigration policy in the mainland is nothing different from Salvini’s in Italy.
As for the European Parliament, it is an ornamental institution that does not decide anything and that, if it exists, is above all to hide an undemocratic institutional framework where all the important decisions are taken by the big multinationals, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and governments, especially the German and French. The European Parliament and its scandalous sinecures are also a privileged means for the corruption of parliamentarians and parties.
Having said that and even recognizing that the electoral results are an extremely distorted expression of reality, it is convenient to study them to draw conclusions about Europe today and how to continue the struggle to destroy this EU and to build a socialist Europe of workers and peoples.
A general crisis of traditional parties
Different analyses of the results reckon the deep crisis affecting the major parties that since the war and for decades have supported capitalist domination in each country and the EU project itself. They are the same rightist or social-democratic parties that formed the governments of austerity after the 2008 crisis.
Among the traditional parties of the right, the Republican in France, heirs of Gaullism, has become a marginal force. In Great Britain, the Tories barely gained 8.8 percent of the vote. Other parties of the European right, although in clear decline, have managed to endure. This is the case in Germany (CDU-CSU), Austria or Portugal. In Greece, New Democracy has been reborn, relying on the collapse of Syriza, which went from being the hero of the new reformist parties until 2015 to become a puppet government of the Troika to implement its brutal austerity policy. Some changeovers have happened as well, such as Macron’s party, that took advantage of the bourgeoisie’s tactical vote in France and the revival of the British Liberals that grew out of the Tories’ crisis.
The crisis of the social-democratic parties
The crisis of European social-democracy, turned into a social-liberal force many years ago, is even deeper. The French SP is, since Hollande’s administration, a marginal force. The German SPD, Merkel’s government partner, has been sinking for years after every ballot. On this occasion, it has received another big blow. It gained 15.8 percent of the vote, its worst results since WWII, and dropped below the Greens.
There are unevennesses, though, inside this general decadence, because the parties of the Southern countries, especially the Portuguese SP and the Spanish PSOE, have endured the onslaught. In the Portuguese case, with a turnout of only 30 percent, the SP (whose government has maintained all the structural setbacks of its predecessor) has benefited from the still alive memory of the austerity plans of Passos Coelho and, on the other hand, of the support gigen by the Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) and the Portuguese CP.
Something similar happened to the PSOE. Despite having failed to fulfill the electoral promises with which he arrived at the government less than a year ago after a no-confidence motion, it has also been endorsed by Podemos and has capitalized the “tactical vote” presenting itself as the great bulwark against the far-right Vox. Four years ago it was in the intensive care unit (ICU). Today, with the help of Podemos, it is the great winner, while Podemos collapsed.
The Green parties
The strong rise of the Greens deserves special attention. They were the big winners in Germany (20.7%), outscoring the SPD and becoming the second party in the country. Also in France, it got an important triumph (13.5%). Something similar happened in the United Kingdom, where it beat the Conservative Party and was only two points behind Labour. In Portugal, they also gained a seat.
Some of these Green parties, like the Germans, have long been part of the establishment and are part of many state governments, be it allied with Merkel’s CDU or the SPD. Now they are preparing for a future national coalition government with the CDU. In France, they are far from being a consolidated force, but they have already made clear their compatibility with the capitalist regime and the EU.
The Green parties seem called to play a growing role as government actors due to the crisis of traditional parties. They are capitalizing, at the same time, on the social preoccupation of a large sector of young people before an environment that is being brutally destroyed by capitalism thirsting for profit. However, their pro-capitalist programs of green liberalism are unable to stop the environmental catastrophe, something only possible by socializing the energy sector and hiting the foundations of capitalism and the EU itself.
The institutional far-right
It is true that the institutional far-right has not achieved the goals that were set. It shrank in the Spanish State, Holland, and Austria; it was hindered in Germany; it has not achieved the number of MPs it was pursuing and has not managed to create a single parliamentary group. But this should not make us forget that it made important advances in countries like France, Italy, the United Kingdom or Hungary.
In France, Marine Le Pen’s party, RN, managed to concentrate the “tactical vote” against Macron and the EU and was the most voted (23.3 percent of the vote), followed by Macron’s party (22.4 percent).
In Italy, Salvini’s xenophobic, racist and chauvinist speech managed to drag 34 percent of the vote blaming immigrants for social disasters whose responsibility falls on big capital and the government itself. The Five Stars Movement of Grillo-Di Maio lost more than six million votes it had previously obtained by promising measures in favor of the poor and unemployed workers, which were, indeed, nothing more than electoral promises. Now it is the second party in the coalition government, which is not stable while facing a growing movement of teachers, women, anti-fascists and young people who want to save the environment.
Orban has also won in Hungary with a xenophobic speech and nationalist boasts that do not harmonize with a government that delivers the country to German multinationals and brutally deteriorates the conditions of the working class. In the British case, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party (30.74%) was the main beneficiary of the rejection of the pathetic spectacle of Conservatives and Labour by the people.
The parties of the European institutional far-right are presented by the media as an anti-EU force, but this is not the case. Their confrontation with the EU is above all rhetorical. None of them advocates breaking with the EU or the euro. They have long since abandoned all pretense in this regard. They only look for more room for political maneuvering and better conditions for the middle bourgeoisie in their countries, as opposed to the financial capital and the German-French ruling.
The lessons of France
The outcome in France has special relevance because of the importance of the country, its crisis and the mobilization of the Yellow Vests, which lasts for six months.
Undoubtedly, the most serious fact is that, despite the fact that the demands and the fighting dynamics of the Yellow Vests openly clash with the RN program, it has been Marine Le Pen’s party that capitalized on the “tactical vote” of the working people against Macron and the EU.
The left appeared scattered, marginal and without any working-class alternative before the confrontation Macron-Le Pen. The most important thing is the collapse of Mélenchon’s France Insoumise. In just two years since the last presidential elections, this neo-reformist force dropped from 7 million votes (20 percent) to 1.4 million (6.3 percent). The fundamental reason for its failure is the abandonment of its radicalism against the regime and the renunciation of its direct confrontation with the EU, the banner it left in the hands of RN. The electoral campaign of its candidate, Manon Aubry, was barely distinguished from the empty speeches of the rest of the left on “social Europe”, “climate justice” or “fiscal harmonization”. In addition, instead of defending the Yellow Vests and their main demands, it has given shallow support.
As for the organizations that claim Trotskyism in France, the NPA did not campaign and gave its support to Lutte Ouvrière (LO), that gained 0.78 percent of the vote, in a politically disastrous campaign. For LO, the EU is simply “a distraction” and the problem is “capitalism” in general, as if the EU were alien to French capitalism and not, on the contrary, a fundamental piece to sustain its domination and to keep on exercising, in the shadow of Germany, its declining imperialist role in the world. Instead of developing a social and political program, LO, in a caricature of itself, called to “bear witness” in favor of an abstract social revolution. As for the Yellow Vests, all its concern was to distance itself from this movement.
The electoral defeat of France Insoumise and other leftist forces drove the historical NPA leadership to come out in defense of “political construction work” to unite all the French left. Of course, no one can object to the urgency of promoting the united action of the left, based on practical measures of unitary struggle against the anti-social and antidemocratic offensive of Macron and the xenophobic and racist RN. But the united action is not equivalent, as the historical NPA leadership thinks, to the abandonment of an anti-capitalist program and the construction of an internationalist revolutionary force, an alternative to the reformist parties with which it seeks “permanent coordination.” Even more, in a moment when there is huge pressure to remake a new “Union de Gauche” (Left Union), now in its eco-social-liberal and pro-UE version.
But if the elections in France have shown anything is the failure of a left that has not been linked to the struggle and the demands of the Yellow Vests, nor has it relied on the militant trade union rank and file against its bureaucracy, nor has it presented a radical working-class program against the French imperialist capitalism, Macron, and the EU.
The crumbling of Podemos and the decline of the new reformist parties
Podemos became the great international reference of the new reformist parties after the sinister U-turn of Syriza in 2015, but its fate has been very bitter.
The May 26 elections (which included European, municipal and autonomous regions in Spain) marked the collapse of Podemos, which happened at breakneck speed. In just five years, it has gone from challenging the PSOE in a coma to collapsing and decaying.
Podemos leaders appeared as the apostles of a “new politics” that would substitute the conflict between “people and caste” for the outmoded struggle between the classes and the “deepening of democracy” for the socialist revolution.
Equipped with this rhetoric, they deactivated the powerful response that emerged from the movement of the outraged (movimiento de los indignados – 15M) against austerity, institutionalized and integrated it into the regime. In this process, increasingly to the right and more “top-down” led, Podemos ended up becoming the left wing of the Spanish monarchy and, in the end, reduced to a mere auxiliary force of the PSOE. Pablo Iglesias’ last electoral campaign agenda was begging for a position in the next PSOE government and championing the defense of the 1978 Constitution, the same that enshrined the impunity of the old Francoist state apparatuses. With a campaign like that, what was the point of voting for Podemos if one could vote for PSOE?
The only neo-reformist party that emerged well from the European elections was the Portuguese Bloco de Esquerda (BE – Left Bloc) (9.8 percent), which surpassed the Portuguese CP (6.9 percent) and is now the third party in Portugal. The BE campaign was based on defending the Geringonça government (a pact of support for Costa’s government, also signed by the PCP) and on claiming that the good things of the Government were due to its work. The BE tried to benefit from the popularity that the Costa government still maintains and linked its destiny to that of the Socialist Party (PS).
The BE, in fact, is already part of the Portuguese regime. It is not by chance that its leader, Francisco Louçã, a leading representative of the United Secretariat (USec), has a seat in the Council of State. The BE does not question the EU or the euro and its main electoral demand has been to enter, after the next general elections, into a coalition government headed by Antonio Costa.
Those who for years have vindicated Syriza and Podemos are mourning. Some of them now cling to the Portuguese BE as a lifeline, forgetting that its major goal is exactly the same as Podemos’: to enter the PS government. Its final destination will be similar.
Life has shown that there are no illusory solutions, based on the construction of electoral machines and ephemeral triumphs. That nobody will save us the daily work of building a revolutionary force rooted in the working class and the youth. A force for whom participation in elections and bourgeois institutions is only a means to serve the building of struggles and the dissemination of a revolutionary program.
The EU crisis
The European elections have not destabilized the EU, as some feared. But they have not solved only one of its problems. Its structural crisis remains intact, sustained by a decade-long economic depression and its declining role in the world division of labor, while US imperialism confronts Chinese capitalism and Trump threatens German exports and encourages the disintegration of the EU. And a forthcoming recession threatening the global economy.
Germany fails to discipline its partners or unify its project with French capitalism, its main partner and competitor in the EU. The warnings to the Italian and Spanish governments demanding new benefit cuts set the agenda of the EU. In the same way, the European Parliament, against the most elementary democratic principles, has refused to allow elected Catalan political prisoners or in exile hold their seats.
Build the IWL and its sections in Europe
We want, in the first place, to express our satisfaction with the campaign carried out by Corriente Roja in the European elections. A humble but courageous campaign put at the service of the struggles and carried out by comrades who were at their head. Candidates who raised a fighting program and called for rebellion and the end of the EU. The party got around 10,000 votes meaning an incentive in the fight to build Corriente Roja in the Spanish State.
We also want to vindicate the Manifesto subscribed also by comrades of Tendance Claire of the NPA, that defended an anti-capitalist and socialist transformation program, incompatible, by its very nature, with the EU and the euro.
Finally, we call the fighting workers and youth to join us to build together the IWL-FI and its national parties, organizing to give answers to the concrete struggles and, in that way, open the perspective of the revolutionary struggle for the Socialist United States of Europe.
International Workers League-Fourth International – IWL-FI