Should Britain sign up for the “euro” — the single European money — in 1999, in 2001 or in 2002? That is, assuming the “euro” goes ahead: even a moderate disturbance in the rickety regime of world capitalism could wreck all the various governments’ careful projections for 1998.
There is not much for workers on either side of this debate. Whether there is one money-unit in Europe, or ten, or twenty, the basic problem remains that the wealthy classes have lots of money and we have very little.
Governments across Europe, including the supposedly left-wing governments of France and Italy, are cutting social security, pensions, and health spending and saying that they do this in order to fit their countries for the single-currency criteria. The process of getting the single currency is not bringing any joy to workers. Fudged and botched as this monetary union looks likely to be, it may also contribute to destructive economic imbalances and crises in future.
The British government’s wish to stay out of monetary union for now — although the bosses’ organisation, the CBI, is broadly in favour of the euro, and the TUC is positively enthusiastic — probably has little to do with such a long-term assessment. More likely, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown do not want to offend Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch, the notorious union-buster and sleaze-merchant, has said he broadly approves of Blair but has doubts on one issue: Europe. Blair and Brown are scared of turning those doubts into open opposition.
Rupert Murdoch did not have a vote in the general election. But he has more say in what the government does than a million, or even ten million, voters… That is modern capitalist democracy. The voters chose a government and Big Money decides what the government does.
As you might expect from a choice pushed by Murdoch, New Labour’s choice to say “not yet” to the euro has not lessened their zeal for “hard choices” at the expense of the poor. None of the main opponents of monetary union in Britain — neither the Europhobe wing of the Tory party, nor Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers — represent anything better for the working class than the Euro-capitalists.
All other things being equal, a single European currency would represent some slight progress over different national currencies. In fact, the current process of creating a single currency, pushed through in the way it is now done by the people who are now doing it, cannot be supported by workers and socialists. Neither can the opposition to the process.
Let the bosses debate among themselves how many currencies they need. Whatever they decide, Europe-wide workers’ unity will be indispensable for resisting them. This unity could be created around demands for social “levelling-up” across Europe, for a shorter working week without loss of pay and with new workers taken on when the hours are cut, for democracy in Europe (control of the European Union by an elected parliament), and for a European workers’ government.