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Is EU resistance a right-wing project?

Claims are constantly emerging that the SV is soon the only left-wing party in Europe against the EU. But the fundamental criticism of the EU has always come from the left.


The Social Democratic parties have, to be sure, increasingly put aside what was former EU skepticism. But the most stubborn and stable defenders of the EU project have at all stages been civic center and right-wing parties.

In some countries, right-wing extremists and right-wing populist parties have gathered protest voters on aggressive and often nationalist-based EU criticism. But these parties are useless as witnesses to what the EU really is about.

The Social Democrats are giving up

Most social democratic parties in Western Europe were skeptical of the EU from the start. Most Social Democrats saw European integration as something that served large corporations and as a threat to the opportunity of center-left parties to implement real reforms at the national level.

In the 1980s, most social democratic parties changed their views on the EU. But at the same time, they also changed policy in a neoliberal direction. The "new right", with Thatcher and Reagan as the most aggressive proponents, led many Social Democrats to abandon the Social Democratic project with comprehensive social management of working life and welfare development.

Left criticism is increasing

On the other hand, EU criticism from parties to the left of the Social Democrats has increased both in scope and strength over time. Many European left-wing parties were initially positive or hesitant about the EU project. But most turned in an EU-critical direction when the EU launched the "single market" in 1986, the principled implementation of the four Treaty freedoms of the Treaty of Rome, the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor.

The single market project met no criticism from the right-wing European side. All criticism and opposition came from the left, naturally enough. All major parties to the left of Social Democracy went against this dramatic democratization of economic life. In Denmark, moreover, the Social Democratic Party cast itself on the no-side in the referendum on the single market in 1986.

No debate in 1957

When the EU was put to bed in 1957, there was no real debate in the six original member states. The Communist parties were the only ones to oppose, mostly for foreign policy reasons.

On the other hand, the debate was intense and partly upsetting before three new member states came in around 1972. Four countries applied for membership, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark and Norway, and in all four, EU opposition had its center of gravity on the left.

In Britain, the majority of Labor opposed membership in 1972 and the party forced through a referendum on resignation when the party regained government power in 1974. The swing in the EU-positive direction came only after Margaret Thatcher had torn up all British labor law and emphatically cracked the fighting ability to the trade union movement.

In Ireland, Labor and the trade union movement were the backbone of EU opposition to EU membership. And as is well known, EU opposition in Denmark and Norway was to a great extent characterized by left-wing parties and the left-wing movement and the social democratic parties. This was also the case in Sweden during the registration debate in 1994.

Towards the Maastricht Treaties

It is also difficult to find left-wing parties that supported the Maastricht Treaty when it was debated in 1992. In that case, they are small. The left-wing parties that until then had the most EU-friendly profile, the Spanish Left Alliance (Izquierda Unida), the Italian Rifondazione Comunista and the PDS in Germany, also actively opposed the Maastricht Treaty.

The basis for the left-wing criticism was the two major, offensive projects for which the Maastricht Treaty gave the green light: the development of an "ever closer union" both in terms of the economy and in terms of foreign and security policy.

Against monetary union

From 1990/91, the debate on monetary union EMU has emphatically united the European left parties around a common, principled opposition to this major EU project. The European left parties have also joined forces to develop a Fortress Europe with joint police and army forces and a common sting against people fleeing war and distress.

The European parties to the left of the Social Democrats have therefore never been so united in their criticism and opposition to the EU project as now. Only two left-wing parties ended up in 1998/99 giving their support to the Economic and Monetary Union, the Finnish Vänsterförbundet and the Greek sister party to SV, Synaspismos.

All the left parties in Europe are nevertheless united in their opposition to the "really existing" monetary union. They went against the so-called "convergence requirements" introduced by the Maastricht Treaty as a condition for a country to join the monetary union. They have gone against giving the central bank governors all the power over monetary policy, and they have gone against the EU central bank having the fight against inflation as its only task. This means that all the European left parties have stood together in the political fight against the brutal effects of the convergence demands: cuts in the public sector and rising unemployment.

No to federalism

In April 2000, the European Parliament adopted a statement demanding the work that would lead to a new treaty at the EU summit in Nice in December. The statement called for new, long steps in the federalist direction: more power for the EU institutions, less for the EU governments and national parliaments.

The vast majority of the left-wing socialist group voted against the statement. Only one Greek voted in favor, but used the wrong button during the vote. Nine of the 45 group members abstained from voting, i.a. the four Spaniards and three of the French Trotskyists.

The Danish Social Democrats voted against the statement. Many Social Democrats from Austria, Portugal and Greece did the same. The British and Swedish Social Democrats did not vote. It was the large bourgeois center-right and right-wing parties that secured the majority for the statement.

No to the draft constitution

In the European Parliament, all 17 parties in the Left Group (GUE / NGL) have opposed the draft constitution. Both in Spain, France and the Netherlands, parties on the left were the driving forces on the no side. In Spain, the left was too weak to win. In France and the Netherlands, the left-wing forces were able to dominate the debate with arguments that are well known from the arguments of SV in this country.

In both countries, left-wing forces emphasized that the draft constitution would lock in the market-liberal basis for the EU and the right-wing design of monetary union – and give the green light for the EU to become a supranational state without popular support in important areas.

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