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The resistible rise of German imperialism

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The Grand Coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to press forward to the formation of a European imperialist bloc under the leadership of Germany and France. Here Martin Suchanek looks at the threat of a resurgent imperialist power

For German imperialism, the double presidency of the EU and of the G8 is both a major challenge and an opportunity. The government sees the coming months and years as a chance to improve Germany's standing as global imperialist power, by creating a strong bloc in the European Union under its joint leadership with France.

It does so against a backdrop of major cracks in US imperialism’s hegemony, caused by the resistance of the Iraqi people, the defeat of the Israeli attack on Lebanon, and the coming to power of anti-US governments in Latin America, themselves the result of mass movements challenging imperialist rule of the continent. In other words, it does so at a time when the USA’s capacity to block the further cohesion of the European Union is relatively limited, as Bush and co have to seek good terms with their “partners” in “old Europe”.

In the following article, we will first present the major goals that the German EU and G8 presidency and government have set out for themselves in the coming period.

As we have stated repeatedly, Germany, France and other more minor continental powers in the European Union face major obstacles in building up a successful challenge to the US as an imperialist rival - not only on the economic, but also on the political and military fronts.

The European Union has already gone a long way towards creating a common market, a common currency, a common central bank, a whole range of transnational institutions, common borders, and a series of embryonic (and in some cases not so embryonic) European institutions to co-ordinate policy and to exercise powers usually associated with state institutions (European courts, police, Frontex, etc.)
However, whilst about two-thirds of all legislation in Germany is passed by European institutions, the EU is still far from being a homogeneous bloc. It remains a bloc of the major national states, a number of them long-standing imperialist powers, some minor imperialist countries and, particularly since the enlargement towards the East, a broad range of semi-colonies.

Certainly, the EU is not a pan-European federal state. However, Germany and France (backed by their closest allies in the EU, like Belgium) want to turn the EU into a homogeneous bloc under their leadership, where existing national bourgeoisies will “voluntarily” hand over formal state powers to the European institutions, which will remain dominated by the “great powers”. The semi-colonies in Eastern Europe, of course, have little will and even less power to resist this drive. The major obstacles are the US and Britain. If the EU continues to cohere into a bloc able to challenge the US, a break with Britain - or a u-turn in British politics – will be on the agenda.

So there are a whole series of inter-related contradictions between the ruling classes, inside the ruling classes and between the major imperialist states in the EU which need to be overcome.

In the meantime, a more immediate and just as important question for Germany, France and their allies, like Italy, will be how to overcome the stalling of the EU project after the rejection of the constitution by the French and Dutch referendums, and how to ensure that the Franco-German “axis” will itself become more stable and more of a driving force.

Since the creation of the EU goes hand in hand with a massive drive to make the large European multinationals more competitive, premier league players on the world market, there is a constant drive to boost productivity, as international competition sharpens.

The most obvious obstacle to this is resistance from the working class and the oppressed – against the neoliberal agenda of the EU; against the further attacks on bourgeois democratic rights; against the increased militarisation of the union; and against its racist character. The rejection of European constitution by large numbers of the population epitomises this resistance.

The German presidency quite consciously tries to address these problems of further imperialist bloc-building (albeit in less aggressive, “diplomatic” language), in its six-month plan, Europe – succeeding together. The plan falls into two major, interrelate parts:

a) stabilisation and homogenisation of the EU itself under German/French hegemony
b) increasing the competitiveness and strength of European capital and its formation.

Renaming the constitution
The rejection of the Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands has opened a deep political crisis across the European Union, and for French and German ambitions, in particular. The treaty had been presented as a major step to overcome the political weaknesses of the European Union, to create and legitimise pan-European institutions, to provide the framework for a common foreign and defence policy.

This included the creation of the post of EU foreign minister, the obligation of all member states to step up their military spending, and the further obligation of all member states not to come out against agreed EU policies and objectives. And it also included the reduction of powers of individual states to block EU decisions, the abolition of veto previously afforded to each and every single members state, and it weighted the influence of each country within EU bodies according to its size.

Last but not least it delegated more executive powers and continuity to the “governing” institutions of the EU (e.g. Council of Ministers) and gave its constitutional blessing to already established institutions, like the European Central Bank, or treaties which regulated economic life, like the Maastricht treaty.

The German government, the EU commission and all the forces pushing for a stronger, more unified European imperialist bloc are well aware that simply to put the treaty on the agenda again is almost doomed to failure. That is why most of the German and French bourgeoisie sided with Nicolas Sarkozy in the French elections – at least on the question of the EU constitution. Ségolène Royal and François Bayou had promised to place the constitution before another referendum, whilst Sarkozy criticised such tactics as “adventurist”. He proposed to focus on the actual content of the constitution being adopted, albeit in the less glorious form of a “treaty”.

That is also the path the German presidency wants to follow. This shall be done via a series of consultations until June, when Angela Merkel and Frank-Walter Steinmeier will propose a plan for the further development of the European Union.

A major step towards this was the Declaration on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the signature of the Treaties of Rome, which was signed by EU ministers on 25 March 2007:

“With European unification a dream of earlier generations has become a reality. Our history reminds us that we must protect this for the good of future generations. For that reason we must always renew the political shape of Europe in keeping with the times. That is why today, 50 years after the signing of the Treaties of Rome, we are united in our aim of placing the European Union on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009.”

Of course there exists the danger for the German government and its allies of getting its plan adopted in June, and then the successive presidency downgrading or even dumping it. This scenario reflects a more general problem of the EU, that is, to ensure the continuity of an agreed common imperialist policy and strategy – an objective which the constitution tried to tackle.

However, the European imperialists have not just let time pass after their setback in May-June 2005. They have introduced a proviso, which shall ensure more continuity in their objectives. In September 2006 the Council of the European Union laid down the following in its amended Rules of Procedure: “Every 18 months, the three Presidencies due to hold office shall prepare, in close cooperation with the Commission, and after appropriate consultations, a draft programme of Council activities for that period.”

Germany together with Portugal and Slovenia, the following two holders of the Presidency, therefore submitted a joint programme for the coming 18 months, drawn up in accordance with the Rules of Procedure to the General Affairs Council in December 2006:

“The aim of this cooperation is to enhance the continuity of the Council’s work and to make the initiatives dealt with in the Council more sustainable. The central issues of the trio programme are the continuation of the EU’s reform and constitutional process, implementation of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Employment, as well as further progress towards the completion of the European area of freedom, security and justice. Not least, our aim is to step up cooperation in the sphere of the European Union’s joint action on foreign policy.

“As well as drafting the trio programme, the trio partners have also agreed to work closer together during the coming 18 months in order to foster the implementation of the joint aims and projects named. This applies in particular to issues which will be treated as priorities by all three Presidencies.” (http://www.eu2007.de/en/The_Council_Presidency/trio/index.html)

This enables German imperialism to determine the EU’s agenda for 18, rather than six months. Portugal has a long tradition of close relations with German imperialism and often supported the Franco-German alliance in the EU. Slovenia is probably the East European state most closely allied to and heavily dominated by German capital and its political advisors.

Just as the German and other European imperialists have responded to the rejection of the EU constitution with this provisional arrangement to strengthen the building of the EU, so have they progressed in a similar way on the questions of foreign and defence policy. The EU has started to play a more pro-active role in international political affairs. It is – together with Russia, the United Nations and the US – a recognised “partner” in the Middle East “peace” talks. Since the appointment of the EU secretary of foreign affairs, Javier Solana , the EU has gradually stepped up to become a much more interventionist force on the world stage.

This was demonstrated both in Congo in 2006, where the United Nations mandated the EU to oversee the democratic character of the election (i.e. to fraudulently place office its chosen local ally, Joseph Kabila, in office) and by the fact that the EU has taken over the mandates of occupation in Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia. The latter is of strategic importance to the further strengthening and stabilisation of the EU under German/French hegemony. No wonder, that solving the question of “Western Balkans” is a major objective the German presidency has set for the 18 months:

“Within the European neighbourhood the main focus of the Presidency’s commitment will be on stabilising the Western Balkans in accordance with the European Security Strategy adopted by the European Council on 12 December 2003, particularly by supporting the Kosovo status negotiations or implementing the outcome if an agreement has been reached by then. To achieve this the EU will conduct its largest civilian European Security and Defence Policy mission to date, concentrating on justice and the police.

“The stabilisation of the Balkans depends heavily on upholding and concretising the prospect of EU accession through the stabilisation and association process, while adhering strictly to the criteria of the Commission’s four-stage plan and taking account of the EU’s capacity to absorb new members. This applies particularly to Serbia in view of the expected political change in Kosovo and Montenegro’s attainment of independence. The negotiations on the EU’s Stabilisation and Association Agreement with Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina could be concluded during Germany’s Presidency.” (Programme of the Presidency, p21, www.eu2007.de)

The reason for this prioritisation is clear. German imperialism hopes to use the current conjuncture to “order” the Balkans in its own interests, and reduce US (and Russian) influence in the region. Behind this lies the whole recognition that Eastern Europe – EU enlargement – provides German capital in particular with a semi-colonial area of more than 100 million people, an important market for German goods, a central area for investment and takeovers by German companies, and a huge labour market of relatively cheap and well trained workers.

The other area where the European Union has made important steps forward in building a more homogeneous bloc, which is also capable to act as an imperialist power, is the military front. In the “European Defence Paper”, the European Union has set out and, to a large extent, put in place a number of multinational intervention forces – a 60.000-strong rapid deployment force and 12-14 smaller so-called “battle groups” of around 1500 each.

The German army – built up as an army for a land war against the Soviet Union – has been restructured according to these needs. Today, there are also 10,000 German army, navy and air force troops operating as an integral part of the occupations of Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Balkans, taking part in the “war against terrorism” on the Horn of Africa, or acting as military advisors to the Ethiopian regime.

In its recent defence plan, the German government set out to build up an intervention force of up to 100,000 troops that can be deployed at any one time, 35,000 so-called intervention forces or “peace enforcements”, as German imperialist call wars nowadays, plus 70,000 “stabilising” troops for operations of “middle or low intensity”. Obviously, it will take some time – not to mention a fight – to turn these plans into reality. But there is no doubt that the German government – and the ruling class it governs for – will try to quicken the tempo on this front.

Accompanying the militarisation of the EU goes the concerted policy to support Europe’s military industry. This has been pushed forward by the creation of the “European Defence Agency” in 2004. Its task is to co-ordinate military projects throughout the EU, to subsidise European research and investment in major military projects, and to assist the export of arms. The latter is certainly very successful, since, according to the Stockholm-based research institute, SIPRI, the EU became the largest exporter of arms in 2005 and 2006.

Despite this overt building up of the EU’s military capacities. a clear sign of it trying to bridge the gap with the US, Merkel’s government is often considered pro-American. Sarkozy likewise is portrayed as an Atlanticist. However, particularly with regard to Germany, one must not get carried away by journalists’ rhetoric.

Of course, there is a certain break with Gerhard Schröder’s (and for that matter Jacques Chirac’s) policy when the Iraq war started. Schröder and his government openly rejected participation in the war – even though they, just like Chirac and the French government, did nothing to inhibit the US and British war machine.

However, the German government under Schröder declared a “strategic partnership” with Russia, a major objective of German and, as far as it is possible, EU policy. At the same time, foreign minister Joschka Fischer tried to “inspire” the formation of the EU by talk about the core of Europe, a Europe of “two tempos” – which, rather than inspiring anyone, led to much suspicion about Germany’s own interests. Compared to this the Merkel government is remarkably “non-visionary” and pragmatic and the US is again portrayed as the “closest ally” and “friend”.

However, this policy goes hand in hand with a quite “business-like” pursuit of real goals. The enormous influence and control over East European economies by German capital and, increasingly, the politics of these states by German imperialism has continued to grow, without much need for spelling it out à la Fischer. Indeed, the remarkable fact is that Merkel has come out from time to time much more openly about Germany and the EU’s mid to long term goals, without facing any quarrel from the US or other imperialist rivals. For example, at the end of March, Merkel spoke of the need to “create a European army” in the tabloid Bild-Zeitung.

In fact, there is a strong continuity running through German imperialist policy from the early 1990s onwards, which should not be overlooked. Merkel is following the same line of march as Schröder’s government, not least in her choice of foreign minister, Steinmeier. He was already a member of Schröder’s government, a state secretary in the Chancellor’s office, and one of Schröder’s key foreign policy advisors. Schröder himself is far from out of the picture, either. He sits, as chairman, on the supervisory board of Russian giant, Gazprom, which itself has close links with German multinationals, such as BASF and E.ON, and banks (who are the major suppliers of credit for the Russian gas and oil giants).

Whilst Merkel has half-distanced herself from her predecessors’ Russophilia and is not openly pursuing the policy of “strategic partnership” (in order to calm the worries of Poland and other Eastern European states), the question of relations with Russia remains a central one for German imperialism.

The fact that rivalry between the US and the EU’s core powers, France and Germany, has not abated, can be seen from a different angle as well. The US push to station Nato missiles in the Czech republic and other Eastern European states, whilst not officially directed against Russia, obviously also has the objective of spoiling EU-Russian relations and of making the formation of a future German/French/Russian alliance more difficult.

It is obviously in the USA’s interests to keep a foothold in the European Union. However, if the German and French governments and their closest allies in the EU succeed in getting the essential elements of the constitution back on track, the major conflict they are heading towards is one with British imperialism. The current role that Britain plays is to balance between the US and the EU, to benefit from its position in between the two power blocs. It is sustainable only because of the fact that, before French and German imperialism can successfully transform the EU into an imperialist bloc, their project will face further internal obstacles. The French rejection of the constitution, for example, allowed Blair to manoeuvre around questions like the constitution and the Euro quite successfully.

But the more the EU overcomes such problems, and the more British imperialism loses allies within the EU, the more the British capitalists will be put to a choice between the EU and the US.

Selling the constitution
The rejection of the draft constitution in France and the Netherlands, and the widespread discontent those votes expressed have led to another major shift in policy by the German government and, indeed, in a number of other countries.

Helmut Kohl and Schröder always tried to push through European treaties, such as Maastricht, the introduction of the Euro, or the constitution with as little public debate as possible. After the French Non, the German government and many other major imperialist strategists in Europe recognised that a “European imperialism” under their leadership also needs the backing not just from the ruling élite, but also from sections of the petit-bourgeoisie, the middle strata, and substantial parts of the working class, i.e. the broader masses of society.

This approach can be illustrated by a speech of German foreign minister Steinmeier at the conference on Europe of the socialist fraction in the European parliament on the 6 November 2006:

“In China, India, Russia, as well as central Asia and Latin America, approximately three billion people are on their way to acquiring a similar level of prosperity to that which we and the entire western world enjoys – naturally, the same is true in the Islamic world. (...) The fight for ever scarcer raw materials and resources makes the possibility for conflict substantial. (...) Global competition... threatens European social standards... what are our answers to it, ladies and gentlemen? First of all, I believe we must work on our internal strength, in particular. And this has, at the same time, also an impact on foreign policy. Because I am firmly convinced that Europe can only become and then remain a force for peace, if we put the appropriate political, economic and – within limits – also military might on the scales.”

Here one can see a number of the major elements that Germany has hyped onto the agenda of the European Union through a massive public campaign over the last months. At the EU summit held in Berlin, hundreds of thousands of small information pamphlets were distributed to the people, presenting the EU as an area of peace, cooperation and relatively high social security (our “social standards”) in an increasingly brutal world.

These gains, the story goes on, are under threat – not, in the first place by the German, French and other European capitalists, but by the poor and impoverished world outside of Europe and by the US which has no “social standard” and does not keep peace. This is why Europe’s borders need to be sealed off and migration “regulated” (i.e. racist laws be hardened), and therefore “we” must take part in the war on terror, but in a “reasonable”, “European”, not an American way. In order to maintain peace and its role as a “force for peace”, Europe, Steinmeier concludes, has to arm itself.

For these goals, the German government and the European imperialists insist, the working class and the poor in Europe have to pay a certain price, an endless series of “reforms”. But, Merkel, Sarkozy and the others promise, they are worth it, since they are there to preserve European “social standards” and to keep manufacturing jobs in Europe, by making them more competitive, by increasing productivity by deregulating workplace regimes and extending the amount of time spent at work.

Attacks on jobs, wages, conditions
The truth of the matter is very different. For the working class, there is no light at the end of the tunnel of neoliberal reforms in Europe in sight.

In order to strengthen the EU’s role as an economic power, the European council of minister agreed the so-called Lisbon agenda in March 2000. This has served as the “textbook” for a number of neoliberal attacks by the European Commission and by the governments of member states, e.g. the Bolkestein directive to deregulate jobs in the service sector, or Agenda 2010 in Germany. The declared objective of the Lisbon agenda was to make the European Union the largest, most dynamic and strongest economic area by 2010.

Obviously, the union is far from having achieved this aim. No wonder that the German presidency calls for more neoliberal attacks: further marketisation in more branches of industry, further privatisation of public services (postal services, education, health, pensions, water and communications), removing obstacles for the centralisation of capital across borders. Further flexibilisation of the labour market – or, as the bourgeois newspeak calls it, “increasing employees’ mobility” – is the other side of the coin of these developments, even if it is hidden behind a smokescreen about the “social component” of the EU.

These policies signal a continuation of the attacks already launched in previous years on the existing gains and safeguards for the working class: attacks on legal protections against redundancies, so-called “hire and fire”, attempts to extend the working day, like Sarkozy’s plan to abolish the maximum 35 hour week in France, pushing up the age of retirement, as carried out by the German government at the beginning of year.

All these measures aim to further increase the rate of exploitation across the European Union, primarily by increasing the production of absolute surplus value, i.e. increasing the amount of time the worker has to labour, rather than the amount of value the worker can produce in a given amount of time.

At the same time, the European Union supports measures aimed at reducing transaction costs (and thereby aiming to counter the increase of the organic composition of capital), measures to shorten the turn-over time of capital, etc. These policies are designed to boost the rate of profit for the bosses.

Monopolisation in Europe
However, there is something about how Steinmeier, Merkel and others present the European Union, which may allow for a certain integration of sections of the labour aristocracy and the labour bureaucracy into an essentially social-chauvinist project.

Thatcherism in Britain led not only to the wholesale shredding of workers’ rights and a strategic defeat for the Labour movement, but also to a massive destruction of British industry. The German and French imperialists, on the other contrary, want to raise the rate of exploitation, and destroy a whole raft of workers’ rights, while keeping core parts of European industry intact. This economic base they consider to be strategic for their objective of becoming a world power. They also hope that it could provide a safe haven, if a severe crisis hits the world economy, or if the current co-operation between the imperialist blocs break down.

Increasing competitiveness goes hand in hand with a conscious policy to facilitate the creation of European monopolies or to defend and improve their global positions.

At the end of 2005 177 of the largest 500 companies of the world – with a turnover of 40 per cent of the top 500 – were based in countries of the EU (189 were located in the Nafta region, 70 in Japan). However, this impressive number of European multinationals has to be balanced against the fragility of the EU bloc. Apart from some important exceptions, like EADS, we speak of large multinational capitals rooted in one particular European state, not simply of a “European capital”.

In order to create of a truly pan-European capitalism, existing large scale companies in the major imperialist countries will be assisted to become “European” and “global” champions in their respective branches of industry. This will not simply be done via market take-overs, but will be promoted and directed by the EU, with mutual agreement worked out by the most important imperialist states. One can see the fault lines in the EU quite clearly, if one looks at the conflicts around the take-over of Spanish Edessa (energy and water), or at the difficulties balancing French and German interests in EADS.

In addition, the “opening” of the markets has to be done in such a way as to ensure that US capital and funds will not block the creation of European monopolies, and that the lion’s share of take-overs of privatised public services in Eastern Europe will aggrandise Western European companies.

The German government quite openly addresses this problem in its EU plan by extending working groups, and starting to impose policies to promote and subsidise the European industries based on “technologies of the future”, which happen to be existing central parts of European capitals, such as the car, rail, aircraft and aerospace industries. A major emphasis is placed on “securing European supplies of raw materials” and natural resources in an “energy dialogue” with Russia and the US.

This very same agenda will also be at the centre of the G8: the securing of energy resources and “sustainability” as a contribution to addressing climate change, the further opening of markets in the Third World as way to “help the poor” by stimulating investment.

The EU and “social Europe”
As we have said above, in order to push the formation of an imperialist bloc forward, the imperialist governments have to promote European Union. And they increasingly do so – for example, by taking up some of the criticism of the European Union, like the bloodless and bureaucratic character of Brussels, as if the much larger and powerful state apparatuses in Berlin, Paris or anywhere else were more “caring”.

In the popular propaganda promoted by the European governments and the EU, the imperialist bloc is presented as a haven of peace on an increasingly barbaric planet. The EU and its predecessors are presented as if they secured peace, social security and wellbeing for more than half a century. The pamphlets that were distributed in the streets of Berlin during the EU summit finished thus:

“In 1957 a new Europe was born with the ‘European treaties’. It was the birth of the European Union. It is a big gain for us Germans:

• Never before in European history has there been such a long lasting period of peace. For 50 years the members states of the European Union have solved conflicts with peaceful means. Peace – this is our biggest gain.
• Without the EU we would not be the world’s leading exporter. We export commodities worth of 500 billion Euros to other EU states. This maintains millions of jobs.
• Without the EU many things would be more expensive. For example, because of competition in the EU, telephone calls are cheaper than ever.
• Without the EU, education, studying and working abroad would be much more complicated. A Europe without frontiers offers fantastic possibilities, particularly for young people.”

The cold war against the Soviet Union and the other degenerated workers’ states, the support for the Vietnam war, the aggressive arms race inaugurated by Nato against the Warsaw pact... all “peace enforcement” missions? Plus the war against Yugoslavia, just eight years ago, not a European war? The European states were not been so “peaceful”, when the British and Spanish states forcefully denied the right to self-determination to the Basque and Irish people.

German capital, the “export” champion of Europe, has achieved this accolade on the back of the massive exploitation of an ever leaner workforce, and the appropriation of huge super-profits from the Eastern Europe and the Third World. Prices got cheaper (if at all) mainly by “cheapening” labour costs, slashing our wages and worsening our conditions, whilst the large private companies still garner huge monopoly profits in energy, water and other industries.

The biggest joke is the “freedom of movement” which ends at the borders of fortress Europe, meaning deportation and possibly death for migrants from Africa and Asia. It conveniently allows for the super-exploitation of “illegal” migrants or workers from Eastern Europe, who are denied full access to the labour market.

The lies of the imperialists are obvious and easy to refute. Their strength, however, not only lies in the might of a state machine and the billionaire media celebrating these deceptions, and rewriting history in the interest of the ruling classes. They gain “credit”, because they are echoed and backed by “enlightened” bourgeois public figures, backed by former left-wingers like Fischer or Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and, most importantly, by the reformist led labour movement, particularly in Germany.

The social democratic parties have often enough written the textbooks of the latest round of pro-EU propaganda. Similarly trade union leaders – and those of the German trade union federation, the DGB, in particular – argue the same line. In September 2006, the DGB presented a whole set of demands on the German EU presidency, which culminated in a call on the German government to “strengthen Europe within globalisation” and to “bring forward the adoption of the EU constitutional treaty” (DGB-Bundesvorstand, Anforderungen des DGB an die deutsche EU-Präsidentschaft, September 2006).

Their sole reservation is that the latter should be improved and the “European social model be strengthened.” But apart from this the DGB is not worried about the EU. On the contrary: “within its borders the EU secures peace, democracy and citizens’ rights as never before in European history”. Faced with such an opposition, you don’t really need supporters.

This act of betrayal, justifying the EU in a social chauvinist way and deceiving the working class of its real content, makes it easer for social democracy to sell EU to its social base. The maintenance of core industries in Europe and the creation of large monopolies across the continent also provide a material basis for a smaller, highly productive (and highly exploited and worse off) labour aristocracy.

All this is combined with an overt, virulent racism, as pushed by fascists and right wing bourgeois politicians like Sarkozy, or by the more or less “hidden” racism of mainstream bourgeois politics. Of course, this racism, too, has a purpose. The ruling class expects its attacks to meet with resistance. For them the crucial question is not, whether it will happen or not. It is, rather, whether they can isolate the struggles, be it of sections of industrial workers, or of the poor and marginalised, like the racially oppressed youth in the Parisian banlieues. The ruling class expects a fight, despite all its plans of incorporation and the renewal –expansion even – of corporatism on “new” terms, i.e. the diminishing of the political influence of trade union bureaucracy, and the extension of forms of workplace based “partnership” (Betriebsräte).

Therefore, all talk of a “social Europe” by European Social Forum leaders, e.g. ATTAC, is not only futile and utopian, it also plays in hands of imperialist bourgeoisie. Indeed it is as an ideological position that allows for the formation for popular frontist blocs, ranging from the liberal and social democratic sections of the bourgeoisie through to the mainstream reformist parties of the Second International and the former Stalinists of the European Left Party. The Prodi government and the Italian situation present a clear warning of a “model” the ruling class can use in other countries to derail resistance and to get backing to push through an imperialist constitutional treaty with a “European social model”.

Our tasks
Certainly, this shows that a major task for revolutionaries, communists and internationalists is to expose the reactionary, anti-working and social-chauvinist class character of the social democrats, the trade union bureaucracy, the European Left Party and their petit-bourgeois ideologues, like those in Attac. It means exposing every form of class collaboration and any attempt to portray the imperialist states in the European Union a “lesser” evil to US imperialism.

The struggle against a nascent European imperialism under German and French dominance, however, must not mean counterposing to it a return to “independent” capitalist states. Such a policy only leads to subordination to a section of the national bourgeoisie. It is a reactionary, backward-looking answer to the development of European industry and trade, to the development of the productive forces.

The real point is that the unification of Europe under the rule of German, French and other smaller imperialisms can only be a reactionary unification. It can only mean a unification in order to jointly raise the rate of exploitation of their “own” working class and to subordinate the people of the semi-colonial countries in the EU and the people of the Third World. It will be the unity of thieves, joining against the exploited and oppressed, and against other thieves like the US, ultimately preparing for a re-division of the world between the imperialist powers.

All the attacks on the working class in Europe, the onslaught against democratic and social rights, the pre-emptive strikes against workers’ resistance, the increasing repression in Europe – all are directed towards this goal.

Therefore the tasks of revolutionaries in Germany and in the European Union are threefold:

• Fighting and assisting in the building of co-ordinations of struggle against the attacks on the working class, against imperialist interventions, wars and occupations, and against the racist attacks on refugees and migrants.
• Presenting a clear alternative to the programme of the reformists and bureaucrats, a programme of transitional demands, linking the struggles against the capitalists’ offensive to the struggle for a Socialist United States of Europe as part of the struggle for world revolution.
• Creating the political tools on the basis of such a programme: the struggle for a new workers’ party in Germany and other European states, and the struggle for a new, fifth International, a new world party of socialist revolution.