D. Rayner O’Connor Lysaght (Socialist Democracy, Dublin) welcomes the Declaration, but also highlights some of its weaknesses.
On 10-11 November 2003, the European Anti-Capitalist Left in the European Social Forum produced a Resolution challenging the various reformist parties’ hegemony over the working class and left wing forces of the ‘subcontinent’. In itself, it is a welcome exposure of the draft European Union Constitution. It reveals the document’s regressive nature economically and politically. On the latter, the comrades of Socialist Democracy (Ireland) are particularly pleased to see the Resolution accepts their decades long opposition to fixed and immutable state frontiers, denying self-determination for such as the Basques, the Wends and the Celtic peoples (as well as the Kurds and Armenians, if Turkey joins the EU).
There are however serious defects. Exposing them does not involve us in any necessary dissociation from the Anti-Capitalist Left; any more than Marx and Engels Critiques of the Gotha Programme meant their authors’ dissociation from their contemporary German Social Democrats. Instead it involves strengthening the Anti-Capitalist Left’s analysis, which is not qualitatively any stronger than that of the denounced reformists, when it comes to guiding the working peoples of Europe towards victory. Inevitably, since the Resolution is centred on this year’s Euro-elections, it puts success therein above the need to develop consciousness beyond the level that has fuelled the various World Social Forums. The result is akin to the manifestos of the old Popular Fronts headed by the official Communist Parties.
The weaknesses can be grouped together under three classifications:-
1. Anti-capitalist, not socialist
Up to the penultimate paragraph it pussyfoots away from the word ‘Socialism’. ‘Anti-Capitalism’ is no substitute. It is possible to oppose capitalism on an analysis more opposed to Socialism than capitalism itself.
It could be claimed that the draftees’ position within the ‘social left’ must deter neo-feudal dreamers (e.g. some religious fundamentalists), but this does no more than emphasise the draftees’ evasive approach. For, after all, how do they differ from the rest of the ‘social left’? Is it not that they are Socialists? Such equivocation will be used against them by the enemy.
2. No imperialist critique
More importantly, it repeats more subtly a major illusion that led to the degeneration of the old European Social Democracy. The draftees take pride in being part of
a huge oppositional, internationalist, anti-capitalist milieu… on a world scale. They accept this emerges
to different extents in different countries. Yet they do not analyse or even state simply how the countries of Europe (and North America) are related to the countries of the rest of the world. There is no suggestion in this document that Europe, particularly western and central Europe, is an imperial metropolis.
Neo-liberalism has made this worse, particularly in Africa. That continent exports 30% more today than in 1980, while it receives 40% less income from those exports. Sub-Saharan Africa pays $40 million per week to service its debt.
This loot is not shared among the Europeans with even a gloss of equality. The lion’s share is taken by the bosses and their conglomerates, while their employees get a smaller and ever decreasing proportion. For all that, it has provided a cushion against the most extreme effects of neo-liberal policies. Worse still, it maintains amongst the exploited expectations of dependence based on perceived economic superiority in their racist opposition to those super-exploited who try to share in it. In eastern Europe, such illusions have influenced the failed Stalinites to collude in the Gulf War. They have to be opposed as a source of corruption in the European Social milieu and, it seems, even within the Anti- Capitalist Left.
More positively, today’s youth are more mobile and internationally minded than their parents or grandparents. Solidarity with the semi-colonial world is a major force amongst the brightest and the best. This however seems cultural rather than class based. Nonetheless it is for Socialists to put this interest in its proper context. There is a need to warn, on the one hand, against relying on the piecemeal answer of aid politics and, on the other, against romanticising the backwardness that our system perpetuates. If we do not do this, then, as in the sixties, too many political cadres will end up demoralised, committed only to supplying the next food parcel or just squatting, smoking pot in third world caves.
The point, correct in itself, about the need to acknowledge immigrants’ citizenship of the countries that they have entered must be extended to deal with the need to end European countries’ overseas policies that drive people from their oppressed lands.
The tone of the Resolution is over-triumphalist. The world is emerging from a twenty five year Dark Age, yet victory is no more assured than it was in the sixties and seventies. In particular,appealing to trade unions per se against the Social Democrats and old Stalinites, avoids the fact that the said reformists dominate the leadership of these unions.
The magnificent demonstrations of 15th February 2003, could not stop the Gulf War. In the Republic of Ireland, the EU’s Nice Treaty referendum rejection was itself rejected. The EU Constitution will need more than mobilisations, let alone mobilisations geared to put bureaucrats on the platforms, to defeat it. Nor will such a defeat, let alone Euro-election gains, be more than an episode, albeit an important one, in the struggle. This is not apparent from the wording of the Resolution. As it stands it is likely to contribute to demoralisation once the truth is outed.
Our aim is to achieve a Confederation of Workers’ Republics, as a stepping stone to the full democracy of Socialism. To achieve it will take all our skills, honed on those of our predecessors. In this we can benefit from the euphoria of the new militancy, but our task is to guide it.