The political structures of the European Union exemplifies how badly the bourgeoisie “does democracy” when they are under no pressure from a confident working-class political organisation.
European political structures — the elected European Parliament, the European Council made up of heads of government and the Commission with member-state appointees — are all bureaucratic and dominated by obscure political horse-trading by member states.
This EU elitism is part of the reason why Euro-sceptic parties (including the British Conservative Party) strike a chord among European workers.
But David Cameron’s attempt to veto the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker to head the European Commission is no stance against elitism, nor an attempt to make EU institutions more democratic. Within the highly-limited standards of EU democracy it is the exact opposite.
Juncker is the preferred candidate of the conservative political bloc which won the largest chunk of popular votes in May’s European election. But Cameron isn’t bothered by the tally of the popular vote. He prefers “back room methods”, arm twisting and nationalistic special pleading. Cameron, with an eye on his UKIP rivals, wants to be seen to be “fighting for Britain”. No matter that there is no great difference on economic policies between Juncker and the British Tory party.
It would be a whole lot better if the political semi-union of Europe, which Cameron choses out of political expediency to object to, were more democratic, more transparent and were not tied to a drive to make workers pay for the crisis.
But it is still a big step forward for working-class people around Europe that barriers between nations have been drastically reduced.
At a time when migrants are being scapegoated we need those barriers to stay down.
The semi-dissolution of the barriers has made it easier to fight the class struggle across Europe. If the labour movement leaders of Europe had any imagination they could run powerful Europe-wide campaigns. For instance they could organise a Europe-wide struggle for a decent Living Wage, one which would could generalise much needed solidarity to existing struggles of low-paid workers.
Unfortunately there are some on the left in Europe who oppose the existence of the political union of the EU (in the UK it is the No2EU campaign). The logic of their campaign is to advocate the resurrection of national barriers. In this way they add to the increasing toxic nationalism of UKIP and Cameron. The Labour Party has also joined the clamour against Juncker for the sake of the UK’s “national interest”.
The workers’ movements of Europe need to forge working-class unity across borders, based on demands to oppose austerity and an alternative political programme. That could include:
• Europe-wide public ownership of all the big banks, and democratic control of credit and monetary policy.
• For a Republican United States of Europe! Scrap the existing bureaucratic structures and replace them with a sovereign elected European Parliament with full control over all EU affairs.
• Fight to level up working class living standards and conditions. For a common campaign for a legal 35 hour week and a decent European minimum wage.