Publikation Ungleichheit / Soziale Kämpfe - Soziale Bewegungen / Organisierung - International / Transnational Beyond the European Union: A Global Perspective for the European Left

Ein Diskussionsangebot für die Konferenz „Europa neu gründen?“ von GUE/NGL und Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung vom 9. bis 11. März 2007.





Kees van der Pijl,


März 2007


Nur online verfügbar

Ein Diskussionsangebot für die Konferenz „Europa neu gründen?“ von GUE/NGL und Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung vom 9. bis 11. März 2007.

by Kees van der Pijl

The European Left today is a force in retreat. With only a few exceptions and with no real programme, the political formations to the left of mainstream Social Democracy in the European Union have become a loose array of remnants and fragments of parties whose past is far more impressive than their current impact. The Communist parties of Europe have dwindled and split; the protest vote in many countries has been picked up by xenophobic or neo-fascist alternatives. Pacifist and radical socialist and environmentalist parties have likewise lost ground, and if there are one or two doing well, this is usually more an indicator of the degree to which mainstream Social Democrats have betrayed the trust of their following, than of the quality of their own political strategy. A few militant trade unions too have held their ground, but often by lowering their political profile in matters other than direct interest representation. Marxism precariously survives only in university departments, not unlike the philosophy of classical antiquity did in the monasteries of the Dark Ages.

The European Left therefore will have to reinvent itself, sooner rather than later. If it does not do this quickly enough, the forces of change in our contemporary world will shape themselves without a European contribution. For let there be no mistake: there are powerful movements all across the globe which have begun to find their voice in protest against the exhaustive effects of neoliberal capitalism on society and nature; just as there is a groundswell of resistance to Western imperialism, articulated largely in Islamic countries and their overseas diasporas.

In both these arenas, the European Left has a vital role to play, and if it plays it well, it will once again place itself in the front line of the global forces struggling against the destructive forces of global capitalism and imperialism, headquartered in the English-speaking West and the EU. This is not a matter of going back to old slogans and theories, although no past experience can be discarded, no insight that was once valid abandoned without carefully assessing what its current value might still be. But we have to re-think the present first of all, and with ‘globalisation’ the catch-phrase of the day, it would be remarkable indeed if this concept and all that it implies, would not also be a core concept in the thinking of the Left. That in turn means that a European Left cannot allow itself to be ‘locked up’ within the narrow confines of the EU, but must look beyond it. This does not imply that the specific European circumstances and opportunities are to be ignored or that an ‘anti-European’ posture should be adopted. Rather, the Left should develop its own perspective on the EU from a global angle, taking into account the world balance of forces, the problems of the planet’s biosphere, the globe’s demographic evolution and migratory flows, and so on.

In this light it would be more than a waste of time to try and help re-write a second version of a European Constitution after its first edition was voted down in referenda in France and the Netherlands. What is the point of submitting pious wishes that Europe must be democratic, forward-looking, environmentally sound, and so on and so forth? Worse, supplying harmless feel-good phrases to a potentially harmful document would have the real effect of committing the Left to its legitimacy and effectiveness, and hence to the current neoliberal orientation of the EU. It would further demobilise the Left as a political force, and with it, weaken the forces for progressive change on a global scale.

Let us see how the Left has fared in the broader process of Western European unity and where the opportunities for reviving the political fortunes of the European Left can be found, building on the achievements and opportunities created by the process of European integration itself.

European Integration and the Left

European integration is not the process that propaganda brochures from Brussels routinely trace back to Charlemagne and which then progressed just by mutual goodwill and dedication to peace. True, there have always been ideas about achieving a pacified Western Christianity. Pierre Dubois formulated such a vision in the thirteenth century; just as Immanuel Kant at the time of the French Revolution argued for a peaceful union on the basis of republicanism. In the interwar years of the twentieth century, the horrors of the First World War inspired another round of thinking in this spirit, although by now, a second powerful motivation was added to the quest for Franco-German peace: the attempt to shield bourgeois society in Western Europe from the Russian revolution.

Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich was of course cast in this ‘anti-Bolshevik’ perspective already, but the Nazi state and empire contradicted a key requirement of integration under capitalist conditions, liberalism. Indeed only after the Second World War did integration as we know it, begin in Western Europe. It was meant to address, a) the need to consolidate bourgeois class rule in France and Italy in the face of powerful Left forces backed by the USSR; in combination with b) the need to channel the inevitable resurgence of West German economic power and political sovereignty into a structure of ongoing negotiation, avoiding serious conflict. Finally it was aimed at synchronising state functions to facilitate the transnational movement of capital (c).

In other words, European integration in at least two respects (a and b) was based on circumstances uniquely part of the Cold War configuration of post-war Europe and the partition of occupied Germany. If today’s EU is characterised by a range of ‘European’ institutions in addition to a common market per se, it owes this to the Cold War and to the need to gradually allow West Germany to regain its sovereignty, with each step made part of some structure of collective decision-making. In principle, capitalist integration can do without such an institutional edifice. Outside Europe, one will not find a quasi-executive Commission, a High Court, or a Parliament as in the EU; neither do NAFTA, Mercosur, ASEAN, and other forms of non-European integration have their own employers’ organisations, farmers’ unions, trade unions etc. Only the third aspect, facilitating the free movement of capital, is characteristic of all forms of international integration.

Even market liberalisation was introduced in Western Europe well before capitalist integration elsewhere in the world. It was based on ‘Fordism’, a mass production economy of consumer durables named after Henry Ford, the automaker. Its rapid introduction would allow working class aspirations to be geared from political demands in the context of national reconstruction policies, to economic demands in a wider European setting. Fordism can easily digest wage demands by productivity hikes making consumer durables more profitable for capital, ad it provides the workers with the consumption fund to pay for them—up to a point. But this required a larger, integrated market, safely embedded in an Atlantic bloc against the state-socialist East.

The Left in the sense of the historic labour movement originally split over the decision to join the war effort in 1914. Bitter divisions erupted also over the nature and orientation of the Russian revolution, the Stalinist regime and the command economy. But the divide over the Marshall Plan by which the United States in 1947 intervened in Europe must be ranked as equally important in maintaining the divide. Social Democracy at this juncture abandoned its commitment to a change of society. It rather became the party of Fordist class compromise, signing up to the Cold War and the neo-colonial restructuring of former empires in exchange for collective bargaining and welfare state arrangements. It was in this perspective that the mainstream Socialist parties committed themselves early on to those steps towards European integration necessary for a transition to a Fordist economy. Creating regulatory regimes for the coal and steel industries, as well as for agriculture and for imports from the neo-colonial sphere of influence through the Association policy, were all part of securing stable and low-cost inputs for the mass production/consumption society on which the first stage of European integration was based. Social Democracy and Christian Democracy were the pillars of the class compromise with organised labour on which the process unifying the economies of the ‘Six’ was based. Liberals were not part of the class compromise and remained wary of regulation; Communists were kept outside of it altogether.

France all along played a key role in shaping the actual course of the integration process. The country had come out of the Second World War committed to a planning approach to modernise its economy. Jean Monnet, a pre-war international investment banker with excellent connections in Washington, was entrusted with the planning effort. He also brought his experience as the organiser of the Allied logistic infrastructure in two world wars, as well as a talented group of collaborators brought together in wartime London. Through the various twists and turns of the integration process, Monnet and his group tried to lock West German resurgence into a negotiated arrangement—read, European institutions—through which France would keep a lid on German aspirations, or at least a voice in negotiating their further realisation. Monnet like nobody else knew where France’s strengths lay and it was in these areas that he sought to lock in West Germany—first, steel and atomic energy. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, and the US wanted to enlist a strong military contribution from the Federal Republic, Monnet through his former collaborator, René Pleven, used the same method to prevent all-out West-German rearmament.

It would take too far here to go over the entire history of European integration, but the figure (until long after Monnet had left the scene) of France making a proposal to keep at least a say, in the form of some European arrangement, in what otherwise would have been a straightforward world market development and/or US-German agreement, can be observed throughout. From the Coal and Steel Community via the Association and the Common Agricultural policies, to Economic and Monetary Union in 1991, we can see a French initiative sealing the balance of forces prevailing at the time, transforming a straightforward resurgence of German world market power and political autonomy into a ‘European’ compromise in which France reserved the right to negotiate its further evolution.

As I argued above, Social Democracy all through was a staunch supporter of the integration process. To their left, the main contestants for the allegiance of the working class were the Communist parties. They began their ‘European’ career as defenders of national sovereignty, committed to the Soviet theory that the national state constitutes the terrain on which world capital can be defeated. By using parliamentary means, the strength of militant trade unions, and nationalist sentiment, the Communists hoped to build coalitions with the landed population and small business (‘national capital’) threatened by creeping liberalisation and market enlargement. The doctrine of State Monopoly Capitalism held that this bloc of forces could advance by parliamentary means. The French Communist Party from the late 1960s articulated this argument in its theory of ‘Advanced Democracy’, which aimed for an electoral bloc of the Left on a programme of nationalisations. In Italy, the Pinochet coup in Chile in combination with the specific configuration of national political forces led the Communist party to develop the strategy of the ‘Historic Compromise’ with Christian Democracy. In 1976-77, this policy began to effectively destabilise the Right; within the DC, the so-called ‘Mediterranean’ faction estimated that a conciliatory approach might take the sting out of Communism, or at least gain time. Meanwhile in Spain, the underground Communist party and its strong trade union arm, the Comissiones Obreras, was propounding theses which equally seemed to chart a course reorienting the party to parliamentary democracy and distance from the Soviet bloc.

All this to a very significant degree was a response to the crisis of the post-war order that earlier had led to the social explosion of May 1968, the Vietnam movement, and what seemed at the time a real revolution in the classical mould, the Carnation Revolution in Portugal. The convergence between the Communist parties of France, Italy, and Spain, for all their remaining differences, on a ‘Eurocommunist’ platform of acceptance of the geopolitical division of Europe, parliamentary coalition politics, and step-wise reform of the existing capitalist economy, represents, in hindsight, the one moment in which a meaningful balance between ‘European’ and national-democratic commitments of the Left was achieved. It could only gain credence by the simultaneous upsurge of the Third World revolt and the weakening of the West in the global balance of forces. Was this, then, the Left alternative to European integration?

The second half of the 1970s would become the crunch-time for the Left upsurge and the beginning of its demise. On the waves of the utopian socialist impulses generated by the May 1968 movement, and bolstered by tight labour markets and growing bargaining strength of the working class, there occurred a convergence between southern European Social Democracy and the Eurocommunist parties. This provoked a broad array of responses seeking to derail the apparent trend to a repeat of the 1930s Popular Front experience. Within Europe, the SPD in particular used its influence (directly and through the Friedrich Ebertstiftung and the trade unions), to try and wean the French Socialists away from their rapprochement with the Communists. The French Left responded by mounting a campaign against the Berufsverbote in the Federal Republic. In the aftermath of the overthrow of the fascist Portuguese state by the army in 1974, the investment made by the SPD in Mario Soares and his Social Democratic alternative to what appeared at the time as evolving into a socialist revolution, paid off when Soares proved willing to subject Portugal to IMF dictates and even enter into a coalition with the ultra-right CDS. In Spain, the grooming by the SPD of a comparable young moderniser, Felipe Gonzales, in addition facilitated the inflow of German capital after the demise of the Franco regime.

The directly elected European Parliament, proposed in the 1976 report of former Belgian prime minister Tindemans, as so often served to express the democratic wave and at the same time contain it. With a European Parliament with its guaranteed Social Democratic/Christian Democratic majority in place, any breakaway from the Euro-Atlantic security and economic structures under Communist influence in France or Italy might henceforth be met by ‘European’ decisions taken with a democratic seal of approval. Of course there was also a darker side to the attempts to block the rise of the Left in the 1970s. This involved activating various undercover networks, both official secret services and the more shadowy world of volunteer Rightists, such as the ‘Gladio’ stay-behind cells. As I have argued in my book Global Rivalries from the Cold War to Iraq, the ‘strategy of tension’ was developed with a focus on Italy because there the threat was most acute, but it was confined to it. In 1979, the NATO decision to trigger a new round in the arms race and even more importantly, the step of raising the real interest rate on the US dollar that threw the world into the abyss of the debt crisis, took the strategy of tension into the international domain.

European integration too would be affected by this momentous turn of events. The turnabout of 1979 terminated the post-war period of class and international compromise (even the East-West divide by then had been bridged by détente). Within a decade, historic defeats were inflicted on the labour movement in the West, the Third World coalition behind the project for a New International Economic Order, as well as the USSR and the Soviet bloc. When in 1991, the Soviet Union disintegrated with a little help from the West, and Germany was reunified (with a little help from Gorbachev), European integration, too, was recast—as a neoliberal project. American and British ideas about reducing the role of the socially protective state and restoring the full sovereignty of capital, gained a hold on the integration process; in tandem with NATO expansion, the EU embarked on a course of widening to include the former Soviet bloc states. The complex structures and practices associated with the earlier integration process began to wither and often were no longer applied fully to new member states.

As the post-war class compromise with organised labour was abrogated, the EU under the influence of neoliberal business (notably the companies organised in the European Round Table of Industrialists), shifted gear to exploiting cheap labour in Eastern Europe. Workers in the ‘Old’ Europe would then be forced to accept the erosion of their wages and working conditions. The European Constitution is meant to streamline EU decision-making mechanisms whilst securing the private property regime and its anchorage in the North Atlantic bloc. In practice, the EU has been transformed into a civil-political framework for what is in essence a dominance of German capital in Europe, in which capitals from the other countries can profit if they are large enough. Sarkozy’s election in France fits into the picture. From the days of Monnet, France not only has tried to lock Germany into European arrangements; ever since De Gaulle took power in 1958, it also had to raise its competitive game vis-à-vis Germany at each step in the integration process. An authoritarian president committed to raising the rate of exploitation whilst tightening political control over society at large, therefore is not new. The novelty this time is that Sarkozy will also try to align France on the Anglo-American War on Terror and join the anti-Arab front around Israel. The Sarkozy programme is a reminder that exploitation of labour by capital and Western imperialism are part of a single complex of forces, and that therefore the response of the Left should cover both.

A European Perspective for the Left

A Left strategy must necessarily deal with the attack on labour first. The policy of deepening exploitation of labour has taken a range of forms, most under the heading of the flexibilisation of work. By removing price compensation, undermining collective bargaining, replacing permanent employment by fixed-term contracts, introducing part-time work, whilst lengthening working days and working lives, a steady decline of the share of wage income in national income has taken place since the mid-1980s; although the percentage of those in wage employment has risen. By subjecting companies, state institutions, insurance schemes and pension funds to ‘market rules’ and expose them to speculative capital movements, stock valuations, and predatory property incomes, the decreased income share of labour is made even more precarious. At the same time, property incomes have been insulated from tax or other measures that might negatively affect the class of owners.

This economic policy of deepening exploitation and inequality is not pursued in a political vacuum. It is covered by a range of policies which have the effect, intentionally or not, of channelling discontent among those suffering the ill effects of neoliberalism, against immigrants or resident foreigners generally. The War on Terror is merely the umbrella under which xenophobia and mutual distrust are spreading. In this respect the rulers of the West are playing their last card; the effect of a terror scare is to say to the population, However much you may loathe us, there is one thing on which we agree: nobody wants to be blown up. You have therefore no choice but to accept your current governments as the only ones who can provide protection against ‘evil’. That this ‘evil’ happens to have its centre in the oil-rich Middle East, or perhaps again in Moscow one of these days, is a reminder of the connection between xenophobia and imperialism.

If an alternative to neoliberalism is to be developed, it must take its point of departure in the combination of deep exploitation and the issue of ‘difference’ among groups of people considering each other foreign. Neoliberalism after all is not just an economic policy. It is based on a philosophy and an anthropology: that of the lone human being calculating the optimum outcome of his/her actions in every domain, from private life to economic activity and political choice. It implies that everybody is in competition with everybody else, which in practice works out (given that the generalised protection by the state is withdrawn under neoliberal prescription) as a throwback to group loyalties, ‘tribal’ loyalties even.

The European Left has a chance to begin to attack this fatal conflation of forces because it finds itself in a situation where nationalities have not yet abandoned their formally separate existence as states; each nation-state is struggling, by force of circumstance, to try to integrate substantial minorities. The alternative to neoliberalism, then, would also have to be rooted in a philosophy and an anthropology. This would have to be one of recognition of difference, which would enrich the straightforward ‘economic’ claim for social equality by mutual respect.

As a political strategy, the European Left might begin to develop this alternative in the following way. Within each EU member state and where this is feasible, between different member states, those forces convinced of the need to change course in matters of social policy should be encouraged to begin to debate the possibilities for implementing a European minimum wage and to try and connect collective bargaining practices and opportunities in different countries into a common strategy. This debate should specifically aim at building bridges with those states outside the EU which today suffer from its protectionist agricultural policy and the dumping practices associated with it. After all, the nominal exclusivity of the EU should not make us forget that its impact is world-wide. Its impact is comprehensive on those states aspiring to membership and seeking to implement the catalogue of liberalisation measure already on the European statute books, the acquis communautaire; selective, on all other states such as potential exporters finding access for their goods or people closed.

In looking beyond the ‘European’ boundaries, the Left would be able to develop the integrationist side of its strategy. Let me take Turkey as an example. The government of Turkey aspires to take the country into the EU, and if we just think of how the current ‘War on Terror’ effectively criminalises Islamic people by placing them under collective suspicion, it would of course be of momentous importance if this were to happen. Clearly the conservative forces in Europe, from the Catholic church and Protestant fundamentalists to anti-immigrant populists and neo-fascists, are coming out in force to prevent a Turkish accession. All of these formations are thus facilitating, intentionally or unintentionally, the neoliberal programme by raising the level of mutual distrust and general feeling of competition and threat among different communities.

A Left alternative raising the issue of a collective minimum wage and interlocking bargaining practices, might involve the trade union federations and Left parties of countries with substantive Turkish immigrant communities, such as Germany and the Netherlands. The Turkish immigrant community is of course also divided politically between conservatives of various inspiration and progressives, and it would obviously be the latter who may be expected to respond positively to an invitation to discuss an issue like a European minimum wage and its extension to countries like Turkey. But there would in my view be a premium on adopting a broad, unprejudiced approach in this matter; it might well be that given the community structures of the Turkish immigrant populations, certain forces associated with local mosques might be among those willing to discuss matters of this nature. This dialogue alone, which is not risk-free, would open up new channels of communication to find out about each other’s life-world, concerns, and aspirations for the future. At all times the ‘indigenous’ trade unionists and Left politicians should adopt a carefully maintained approach of true comradely interest and broad-mindedness, not as a tactic but because acquiring a genuine equality among the communities involved is at the root of an alternative to neoliberalism. I am convinced this is not different for those groups on the other side of the ethnic divide who are ultimately willing to engage in such a dialogue and who can be helpful in bringing in from their own community those for whom this initially does not seem a viable route to go. This is about confidence-building, reciprocity, and true equality among people who are different in certain respects, but who have common interests in other areas.

The eventual aim of a dialogue between (in this example) Dutch and German trade unionists and Left politicians and those within their immigrant Turkish communities willing to accept the invitation (or extending such an invitation themselves), is to bring in the Turkish homeland into the equation. With the Turkish trade unions and progressives, the issue of a European minimum wage and the related matters I mentioned earlier, could then be discussed in a context in which the prior discussions with immigrant Turks have already created a basis for mutual trust and respect. Again this is not just a matter of form, politeness and friendliness. It goes to the heart of the matter as it rules out or at least minimises, in my view, a role of the EU Left as the helper of what is basically an imperialist design of the EU, which in many cases is just what happens and in the Cold War was often the rule. There is of course a host of issues which might come up to complicate the idyllic picture of progressive brother-and-sisterhood I have been evoking: What if the Kurdish issue comes up, already in the ‘domestic’ phase of the negotiations? What if the thorny question of Armenian minority rights in past and present play up?

Here ‘triangular’ discussions about labour relations spill over directly into a reflection on imperialism and violence. After all, the Kurdish issue cannot be divorced from the Western aggression in the Middle East, nor can the Armenian issue be seen in isolation from the policies and responsibilities of those who invested (economically and politically) in the Tsarist autocracy (French and Belgian capitalists among others) and the Ottoman empire, a target for German capital. These entanglements drew Russia and the Turks into World War One; in turn the Ottoman high command ordered the removal of the Armenians from the frontline with Russia, an order that eventually entailed the death of around a million of the deportees. However we label it, there is no way this event can be denied. But how about the responsibilities of the Western interests in Russia and the Ottoman empire—are they not part of this complex of events, too? These matters can be discussed in a spirit of equality and mutual respect too, even if it is in the end an agreement to disagree that is the best that can be reached for the time being.

Let me raise an even more delicate case, that of the successor states of former Yugoslavia. Here the Yugoslav immigrant and refugee communities in the various EU countries (Germany, Austria, and others), are the obvious interlocutors for the Left to engage. It is clear today that Serbia is the target of Western pressure, because it resists taking orders from the West either in its economic policy or in matters of its territorial make-up. What concerns me here is how the Left should relate to one demand consistently made by the West, the surrender of the Bosnian Serb leaders responsible for the massacre of several thousand Bosnian Muslim men in Srebrenica during the civil war. This was outright mass murder, shameful and cowardly as it was committed against unarmed captives. However, the concern of the West to have General Mladic and his political superior, Karadzic, extradited to the Yugoslavia Tribunal in The Hague, is not just a matter of seeking justice. It is inextricably bound up with an implicit right of the West to administer justice (of course in the name of ‘the international community’) over others whilst placing itself above the law. For all too often it has been forgotten that EU and Western involvement in the wars in Yugoslavia, and specifically the NATO interventions against Serbia over Bosnia and over Kosovo, themselves can fill a catalogue of illegal acts. The secessions of Slovenia and Croatia from the federation were recognised, by a unilateral move on the part of reunified Germany, without requiring these new states to have a robust system of protective minorities’ rights in place; the United States, not to be excluded from the process of redrawing the borders in this part of the world, then precipitately recognised an independent Muslim Bosnia, thus triggering the carnage there; whilst the NATO actions were undertaken without a UN mandate, and in the case of Kosovo, effectively as air cover for the Kosovo Liberation Army and as punitive destruction wrought on Serbia. This crippled its economy and humiliated the country by having its elected leader handed over to the Yugoslavia Tribunal in The Hague where he died in his cell. Certainly Milosevic had a lot to answer for, but why could he not have been tried in Serbia-Montenegro proper? It was a pro-Western government which had him arrested, why not put him before a court in Belgrade? The political profile of those currently riding high in Serbia cannot be seen in isolation from these earlier events.

The position of the European Left in these matters cannot be one of simply subscribing to the demand to extradite Mladic and Karadzic as long as Clinton, Blair and those other leaders who unleashed a criminal attack on Serbia proper are free to go where they like. However, if imperialist aggression and economic warfare, which inevitably elicit violence and excesses on the other side as well, are to be confronted and prevented, the Left must base itself on a clear-cut case of aggression, and Iraq offers that case.

Unprovoked war was identified and made part of the UN codex of international law at the time of the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership as ‘crimes against the peace’; in addition, the Nazi leadership was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Since then, ‘crimes against the peace’ have been effectively sidelined by the notion of humanitarian intervention, a new form of ‘holy war’; whilst in the war over Kosovo, it became clear that the West could not be indicted for war crimes either. However, since the Anglo-American aggression against Iraq was based on proven (and avowed) lies about an immediate threat, the decision to invade is a clear-cut case of a crime against the peace, and by throwing Iraq into an abyss of endless death and destruction, the other crimes apply too. No claim about the criminal aspects of Saddam Hussein’s regime can suspend the criminality of the act of aggression, no counting of his victims blot out the fact of hundreds of thousands killed in Iraq and millions displaced. The debates in the UN Security Council only highlighted that the US and the UK took action against the will of the ‘international community’ which they habitually claim to represent themselves.

Concretely, then, the European Left should undertake consultations with progressive legal scholars on ways to have Tony Blair indicted for crimes against the peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, before the International Criminal Court. The same, or criminal complicity in these three areas, for those members of his cabinet directly involved in the decision to invade Iraq such as Jack Straw, and those other European heads of government who supported the war (Berlusconi, Aznár, Balkenende…). Since the US and Israel do not accept the ICC’s jurisdiction, justice has become a European affair in this matter, and it should be acted on. This is concrete anti-imperialism. There is massive disgust about the Iraq war in the entire world, including in the US, and certainly in Europe (including the UK).

The EU has not been willing to develop an alternative to the Bush-Blair policy of military aggression. French opposition to the war has been shelved now that Sarkozy has been elected president; his predecessor already accepted that the UN rubber-stamped the Anglo-American presence in Iraq and the Gulf. The European Parliament on the other hand deserves credit for various investigations into illegal American and NATO activities. However watered down in the end, its reports on the ‘Echelon’ signal intelligence activities (spying on telephone and e-mail traffic) and on the CIA torture flights under the aegis of the War on Terror, demonstrate a willingness to use its investigative possibilities to cut through the web of deceit on which imperialism is premised. The European Left should build on these achievements and carefully prepare an indictment of Blair c.s. This would not be an act of vengeance against a person but a necessary step to make visible that wars of aggression are a capital crime, even if committed by ‘us’. It would certainly be a timely alternative to the constitutionalisation of private property rights and market economy that are at the heart of the European Constitution.

The core idea is that the European Left should not allow itself to be drawn into rewriting a Constitution clearly rejected by populations eager to cast a vote of no-confidence in current social policy. Instead the Left should begin to work on a two-track strategy of stemming the further impoverishment and raising living standards of an increasingly over-exploited working population; and overcoming distrust among ethnic communities within the EU, and between the EU and the homelands of these communities. This also applies to other non-European countries with which special possibilities for communication exist. The French connection with North Africa and the francophone black African states; Italy’s with Libya and Eritrea; Spain’s with Latin America, Portugal’s with Brazil, Angola and Mozambique, and all other combinations one can think of, all offer combinations from which the triangular discussions seeking to obtain the aforementioned dual objective can be started. Of course this can only be the work of those who fundamentally reject the atomising, divisive effects of neoliberalism and the conservative, nationalist, and xenophobic consequences they entail. Yet this in my view is the only side from which the EU Left can hope to develop an alternative to the socially destructive neoliberal policies currently being applied. Indeed this, and not a handful of feel-good clauses in the existing Giscard constitution, would be the Left alternative constitution, a constitution of a social Europe that radically breaks with neoliberalism, with chauvinism, and with imperialism. ‘Europe’ could then become a beacon for a world in which humanity can survive rather than a territorial marker of a zone of relative prosperity in an exhausted world.