Europe is in crisis. And all the decisions about the crisis are being taken not by the people tormented, baffled, and troubled by it, but by a tiny elite of government leaders.
Both the majority decision of the 9 December Euro-summit, and the veto stance of David Cameron, were irrelevant or harmful for the crisis. The leaders saw no way of dealing with the crisis other than to make the people pay, by cuts, or, for Cameron, cuts plus special protection for the bankers of the City of London.
And no-one got a vote, except in the very indirect way of having voted in national elections from which, in one way or another, the government leaders who met in Brussels on 8-9 December emerged at the top.
No-one was consulted, not even Britain’s deputy prime minister. Nobody gets a say now, except maybe a “take it or leave it” vote on a new treaty, if that emerges.
In Italy and Greece, Monti and Papademos have been installed as heads of government explicitly on the grounds that they are immune to democratic pressure: they are not elected and will not seek re-election.
In December 2010, the elected European Parliament called for a “system of eurobonds” to ease the euro debt crisis — in other words, for the EU’s richer states to provide credit guarantees which will enable troubled governments to borrow in financial markets at affordable rates.
It insisted that eurobonds “should serve to restore sustainable growth and not be achieved at the expense of the most vulnerable and therefore should not equate to lowering minimum incomes and aggravating poverty and inequalities”.
Looking at the EU’s actions a year later, in November 2011, elected Members of the European Parliament protested at the “lack of democratic legitimacy as a result of the Commission’s insistence on the need for stronger budgetary discipline and surveillance“.
These were weak decisions, by a weak parliament that has made no effort to assert itself. We could get stronger decisions if the peoples of Europe knew about these decisions by their elected representatives at a European level, and expected the elected representatives to control what happens.
In Germany, the liberal (once Marxist) philosopher Jürgen Habermas has created a major public debate with a pamphlet protesting at the way European undemocracy has mushroomed in the crisis as fast as debt overhangs and cuts budgets. “All signs indicate that they [Merkel, Sarkozy, and the rest] would both like to transform the executive federalism enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty into an intergovernmental supremacy of the European Council [the cabal of heads of government]... We are actually experiencing a dismantling of democracy”.
In Britain, the public debate is poorer. It is dominated by the nonsensical nationalist bluster of the Tories and papers like the Daily Mail.
They talk and write as if the last sixty, or even the last hundred, years never happened. Mentally, they still live in the days of the British Empire and of only-loosely-connected national economies.
In real life, national economies in Europe are closely interwoven, and could be disentangled and separated out only at the cost of huge economic regression (and, probably, military conflict).
“Little England” (or little Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland...) is a myth. An attempt at it would be a step backwards. Either we fight for and win cross-border democratic control over those economic interweavings; or they mechanically dominate us, through the brutal arbitration of market forces; or, as now, we are subjected to inept attempts to tackle those interweavings by government leaders acting without control or mandate.
The leaders act on the principle that important economic matters are too vital and too complex to be put under democratic control; and, themselves, as slaves to neoliberal superstition.
The crisis calls for a Constituent Assembly of Europe — a renewed European Parliament, elected democratically, and with rights to reshape the whole construction, rather than feebly advising the government leaders.
It calls for a labour movement united across Europe, with a programme of thoroughgoing democratic and economic reconstruction in the interests of the working classes.
It calls for resistance, now, to the cuts enforced across the continent, and the building of links and cross-border unity through solidarity in the struggle.