EU riot cop

The very lack of democracy at the heart of the European Union together with the way it has treated the people of Greece are reasons enough as to why the radical left should oppose the EU writes Chris Bambery

The response of the elite which runs the European Union has been drearily predictable. As with previous referendums in France, the Netherlands and Ireland, when voters rejected EU Treaties, they simply ignore the people’s decision and move on according to the neo-liberal template they work too rigidly to.

Perhaps less predictable is that the “hard cop” role is being played by Social Democratic politicians. The Financial Time’s Wolfgang Mṻnchau points out: “Some of the most aggressive comments come from the leadership of the SPD, Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner, until recently a moderating influence in German politics. They are now a leading pro-Grexit force because they see an opportunity to mark out a populist political territory as their own.” (Financial Times, 6 July 2015)

Martin Schulz is the German Social Democrat who is current President of the European Parliament, and heads the centre left parliamentary group, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. As the polls closed in Athens on Sunday night he issued a public statement stating that Greece’s No on the referendum put it at odds with “18 other members” of the Eurozone. He also said it was “up to the Greek government to make proposals that would convince the Eurozone and the institutions in Brussels that it is necessary, possible, and even effective, to renegotiate.” (Politico 6 June 2015-07-07)

Germany’s Deputy Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, told local media that renewed negotiations with Greece were “difficult to imagine” and that Mr Tsipras had “torn down the bridges” between Greece and Europe. Gabriel is head of the Social Democratic Party.

In the build up to the referendum The Guardian reported: “Gabriel was the first leading European politician to voice what many think and say privately about Tsipras – that the Greek leader represents a threat to the European order, that his radicalism is directed at the politics of mainstream Europe and that he wants to force everyone else to rewrite the rules underpinning the single currency…The unspoken message was that Tsipras is a dangerous man on a mission…Standing alongside his boss, Angela Merkel, as if to send a joint nonpartisan national signal from Germany, Gabriel said that if the Greek people vote no on Sunday, they would be voting ‘against remaining in the euro’.” (The Guardian, 29 June 2015)

Ingrid Arndt-Brauer, an SPD MP, who chairs the German parliamentary finance committee warned in an interview that: “The Greek people have been misled. Do they think this ‘No’ vote now obliges the rest of Europe to follow new orders from the Greek government? No way. The reality looks different. Right now, the only thing stopping Greece from tipping over the edge into chaos is the ECB.” (Nasdaq, 14 June 2015)

The German Social Democrats want to prove their loyalty to their coalition partner, Angela Merkel, and also to the whole neo-liberal project presided over by Merkel and her ultra-zealous finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Martin Schulz is very much part of the EU elite. He’s unusual in that he is elected, unlike those who make up the European Commission (part of the Troika demanding more austerity on Greece, along with the equally unelected European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund). But democracy does not go very far in the European Parliament where business is controlled by a cartel of Schultz, his opposite number leading the main centre right group and the European Commission.

The very lack of democracy at the heart of the European Union together with the way it has treated the people of Greece are reasons enough as to why the radical left should oppose the EU. But there is something in the reaction to the Greek referendum which sets that apart from the way the European Commission dismissed previous referendums.

It is absolutely clear that the Troika and their cheerleaders on the Centre Left want to crush and humiliate Syriza and the government of Alexis Tsipras – in large part to warn voters in Spain and elsewhere that they must not dare vote for similar radical left parties.

Could be worse of course! In 1967 the Greek military took over the country in a military coup. Greece was a NATO member and the coup was backed by the USA and Western European states. Something not forgotten in Greece. Military rule lasted until 1974.

Such hard power is not an option today (to the regret of Sigmar Gabriel, I suspect). But every ounce of soft power the EU elite could muster was used to try and get the “right” result last Sunday. Their anger following the Greek people shrugging off their threats is profound.

Clearly our first job is to build solidarity with the people of Greece and that centres on building opposition to austerity at home. But we also need to reject the EU. It is an instrument of capital. If, like me, you want a Europe of solidarity, peace and welfare, we must realise that that can never be achieved within the EU. We need to build anew on a totally different basis.

That’s why I’ll vote No in the referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

You can watch Tariq Ali and Chris Bambery discuss this at the recent Dangerous Times Festival in London.

Chris Bambery

Chris Bambery is an author, political activist and commentator, and a supporter of Rise, the radical left wing coalition in Scotland. His books include A People's History of Scotland and The Second World War: A Marxist Analysis.