The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.62/No.4           February 2, 1998 
The Looming Crisis In Europe  
The working class is becoming more restless in Europe. In France thousands have occupied government offices and many more are marching in the streets for jobs and living benefits for the unemployed. In Germany, where joblessness has also reached record high levels, protests by hundreds of thousands of students swept the country late last year and steelworkers in the East - which the German boa constrictor has been unable to digest in its capitalist belly - came within a hair's breadth of another major strike.

This is a reflection of the looming crisis in Europe, before which the collapse of the "Asian miracle" will pale.

Wall Street is getting concerned. "While investors and money managers remain transfixed by the Asian disintegration, an occasional glance at Europe - now less than a year from adopting a single currency - also is warranted," said the January 12 issue of the U.S. financial weekly Barron's. "The outlook is not encouraging... It's not Indonesia - but it ain't pretty."

It's not an accident that working-class protests have begun unfolding in France and Germany. Bonn and Paris are the two main capitalist powers in the European Union driving toward launching the common currency, the "euro." The goal of the French, German, and other bourgeoisies, however, is not a unified, border-free Europe. Even if this new currency comes into being, it will not lead to some "ultra-imperialism" and the dissolution of the bourgeois nation states. Each ruling class has as its starting point the desire to gain the best position for its own national capital, denominated in its own currency, and defended by its own army against its competitors.

The drive toward the euro is accelerating, not softening, the conflicts between international capital's most powerful, armed nation states on the continent and between them and their competitors in the United States and Japan. This is shown by how capitalists in France and Germany have used the "mad cow disease" to deal sharp blows to British beef and by the decade- long conflict between agribusinesses in EU countries and U.S. grain exporters over the soy bean trade. Most recently, frictions between Paris and Washington - the number one power in Europe militarily and economically - over policy toward Iraq have also become clearer.

The Bonn-led march toward the euro is another form of the various shifting blocs each of these bourgeoisies enters into against their rivals in Washington and Tokyo and against each other.

Each ruling class is also using the criteria for the monetary union as a pretext to demand much deeper sacrifices from working people. In doing so, the German and French rulers are sharpening polarization and boosting ultraright forces in each country - like Le Pen's National Front, which is railing against the "Europeanists" and is winning support among not only middle class layers but also among some workers with its France First demagogy.

German chancellor Helmut Kohl has declared that the alternative to the European monetary union is war. But the advent of the euro will mean nothing but renewed conflict and the possibility of a crisis akin to the Great Depression that preceded World War II.

That is the nature of imperialist system, which Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin aptly described at the dawn of the 20th century as the highest and final stage of capitalism and the eve of the social revolution of the proletariat.

Working people the world over should rejoice that the capitalist rulers in Europe have been unable to inflict defeats on the working class and its allies - working farmers and other independent commodity producers. Since the 1995 strike wave in France, there is ample evidence that the retreat of the working class has bottomed out. This has been clearly registered in the election of social-democratic bourgeois regimes in France and the United Kingdom last year and the more recent working-class and student protests. When the government in Germany or France says, "If you don't tighten your belt the national currency will go down the drain and we won't be able to join the euro," workers in growing numbers respond, "So what - that's your problem, not ours."

These economic and social struggles offer a way forward for working people. Through them increasing numbers of youth and workers can draw the conclusion that the only way to move toward a united Europe free of borders, national conflicts, chauvinism, and class exploitation is to organize and fight to take state power out of the hands of the warmakers in each country. Building proletarian parties today that can provide confident leadership in the coming revolutionary struggles will determine the future of humanity - either fascist victories and capitalist barbarism or the triumph of the proletariat and the advance of the world struggle for socialism.  
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