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4 May 2015 Edition

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Against the reactionary core of the European project

• Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams TD with now-Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of SYRIZA at Leinster House last year

Treaties such as Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon have entrenched the power of the dominant countries like Germany

AS the dominant figures in the European Union harden their stance against Greek democracy – with a Greek exit from the Euro looking increasingly inevitable and with questions even being posed about continued Greek membership of the EU itself – the reactionary core at the heart of the European project is being laid bare.

As Sinn Féin, along with other Left and republican parties, said back in 1972 during Ireland’s referendum on EEC membership, the EU is a rich man’s club; and subsequent treaties such as Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon have entrenched the power of the dominant countries like Germany.

These treaties have also made any form of socialism ‘unconstitutional’ because state development of the economy is specifically outlawed. This reality means that the alternative vision of Europe, that of a social Europe, is hamstrung by the terms of the treaties. No wonder Sinn Féin opposed them.

The fact is that the EU is not a neutral arbitrator seeking to uphold the rights of the weak against the powerful but an instrument of the powerful’s might.

The Greek crisis has exposed this quite clearly, with the EU refusing to redress the injustice done to Greece by the terms of the various bailouts, instead demanding strict adherence to austerity so that international investors can be repaid no matter what cost is caused to the Greek people.

Whatever illusions some in SYRIZA might have had about EU goodwill helping to bring about a fair solution to Greece’s crisis have now been shattered by the determination to drive Greece out of the euro rather than reshape it to protect the rights of workers.

Forcing Greece out of the euro will, of course, have negative consequences for the currency because it tells investors that euro membership is conditional on compliance with German rules and German diktats.

This is not because the euro was a positive development. Far from it. From the very beginning its setting of interest and exchange rates was done in accordance with the needs primarily of Germany’s economy, and Ireland’s needs were totally ignored.

So, as the housing bubble which ended in such catastrophe took hold, we needed higher interest rates to curb the prices that speculators were demanding. Instead, interest rates were kept artificially low and the prices went out of control leaving thousands now facing eviction because they cannot service these inflated debts.

And the policies of the EU and the Eurozone have since forced the Irish people to carry a burden far out of proportion to the our economic size, so that Europe’s banking system (and the profits of German banks in particular) would be protected at all costs.

The pusillanimity of successive Irish governments reflects the abandonment of the aim of economic self-sufficiency by the Irish middle class. It no longer believes in the possibility of true independence, and the Establishment here sees its role as that of junior partners to foreign capital.

In other words, their vision (if such a word can be used in their regard) is that of being local managers of foreign firms, and as consultants in law, accountancy and similar professional services.

The one remnant of the inheritance of the fight against British imperialism is an inchoate reaching out for More Brussels and Less Britain.

This is fine in itself, but pales into a paltry gesture when set beside Connolly’s ringing declaration “We Serve Neither King Nor Kaiser” that was hung over Liberty Hall before the Rising.

Connolly’s stance is one that would recognise the big capitalist powers of Europe as our natural enemies. We don’t need to choose which set of imperialists to support; instead, we can and should assert our national sovereignty, together with those who want a different type of Europe, working to undo the reactionary character of the existing European Union.

In practical terms this means giving full support to the demands of the Greek Government for a fair deal with Europe, and backing up especially the Left Platform in SYRIZA which would prefer a fair deal with Europe but is willing to break with them completely rather than impose austerity on their own people.

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