A hundred years ago the First World War started; 25 years later, German fascism organized the Holocaust and unleashed an inferno of terror and murder in Europe. This reminds us how important the idea of a peaceful Europe is. The process of European integration and the development of the European Union were always related to the hope for peace and social progress. The annexation of the Crimea to Russia in violation of international law, as well as the escalating Ukraine policy of the West, tragically highlight the founding motivation of the European unification process.
A look at the origins
The Second World War was in full swing when three men on the Mediterranean island of Ventotene wrote the Ventotene Manifesto, constantly in fear of being discovered. Their passionate plea “For a free and unified Europe”, as it was titled, became the founding document of a socialist European movement. The three authors were the Italian antifascists Altiero Spinelli, Ernesto Rossi and Eugenio Colorni.
Their legacy, and therefore Europe, does mean much more to the political left than the manifold democratic deficits and construction mistakes of a common currency which currently dominates the perception of Europe. If we speak about Europe these days, we shouldn’t forget: The idea of European unification is closely linked with the history of anti-fascism. The European idea has been and will continue to be a profoundly leftist idea.
Take Europe from the rich
Europe, after devastating wars, is a continent where military confrontations have become an exception. A place that for many years brought about an increase in wealth and in which passports are pale memories. However, many only see a bureaucratic entity which is hard to understand: one in which decisions are made in secret, where right-wing extremist parties gain strength and cutback decisions are made. Governments make cuts – in social security, pensions and education.
An EU that ruins entire states with its Troika politics, disempowers parliaments as part of “crisis management”, but simultaneously gives banks and major corporations a license for rampant profit-mongering. This is an EU that still sees countries of the so-called Third World as cheap commodity and sales markets and continually spins the arms race.
They spent 5,100 billion euros!
European governments – especially the German federal government with its neoliberal policy – destroy the vision of a social, democratic and peaceful Europe. If mass unemployment in Europe explodes and young people are particularly affected by this, then it is a direct result of the “European policy” that was essentially thought up in Berlin. In Greece and Spain, more than every second youngster is unemployed, in Italy every third. Still, only six billion euros have been mobilized for a program to combat youth unemployment in the whole of Europe. Remember, they spent 5,100 billion euros to rescue the banks which propelled Europe into the crisis!
We need another Europe. We need a Europe that tames the financial markets, regulates the markets and creates a social union instead of wage and pension cuts or accelerating the destruction of health care and unemployment insurance. We must take Europe from the rich, for example, with the implementation of a millionaire’s fee in the whole of Europe. We must counter the tax dumping race with a common European minimum tax rate in business taxation. Instead of setting Europe on an austerity policy, like Chancellor Merkel – unopposed by the SPD – wants to enforce, we need a social and ecological investment program and must combat unemployment.
More direct democracy
A commitment to good work also means a commitment to a reduction of working time. A first step in this direction can be attempted on a European level: The EU today already has far-reaching competencies in the field of worker protection. In the future, all over Europe, weekly working time should not exceed 40 hours. And we want a Europe of social rights: There should be a minimum pension and sanction-free guaranteed minimum income which, considering local circumstances, protects against poverty.
It is important to reinvent a Europe where the central political decisions are not made in backrooms or secret troika rounds, but are reached by the actual sovereign. Europe’s sovereign – that is, the EU’s population. Fundamental decisions on the realignment of the EU should therefore happen with the help of Europe-wide referendums in all countries on a single day. It’s about time to dare to implement more democracy! Finally: We are not in favor of erecting walls around EU-Europe; the deaths of refugees on the Mediterranean must immediately be stopped and the right to asylum must be guaranteed Europe-wide.
Bring back together the European left
The tradition of Ventotene reaches further, until today. In 1976, Spinelli, who is regarded as the main author of the manifesto, was delegated to the European Parliament and became deputy leader of the parliamentary faction that is regarded as the precursor of today’s GUE/NGL and, therefore, of the faction of which MPs of Die LINKE are members.
Barbara Spinelli, his daughter, together with other Italian intellectuals, has recently signed a text that calls for support for Alexis Tsipras in the European parliament elections. His candidacy has entailed a positive opening of leftist debate in many countries and, for that reason, is of great importance. This applies especially to Italy: As estranged as the left is there, the “Tsipras List” for the elections to the European parliament does not only have good chances to delegate representatives, it is also indicative of new hope to bring back together the Italian left.
The current election campaign, but also the European Blockupy protests, ultimately revolve around the question of whether we leave Europe to the rich, the banks and the major corporations or if we break with the dangerous austerity policy and set the switches of European policy from a neoliberal to a social development path. A decision for the latter, for a Europe of social rights, is the best way to prevent the idea of a free and unified Europe from breaking up on economic, social and political contradictions.
Translation from German.