CAEF AGM 2012 Resolution
Social Europe is a Con
European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi recently told the Wall Street Journal that the so-called ‘European social model’ was dead.
“The European social model has already gone when we see the youth unemployment rates prevailing in some countries,” he said.
Some in Labour Movement circles across Europe have long claimed that the vague ‘European social model’ would bring full employment and decent public services in return for supporting European Union treaties and directives with little empirical evidence that this would happen.
The current economic crisis has starkly exposed the reality that EU structures do not protect workers or public services.
The escalating Eurozone crisis reveal the most powerful member states protecting their debt-laden banks by demanding vicious austerity measures in the eurozone states starting with Ireland, Greece and Portugal and spreading rapidly across the entire EU.
Jacques Delors evangelised for ‘Social Europe’ when he became president of the European Commission in 1985. He made a famous speech at the 1988 TUC, claiming that the completion of the Single European Market would deliver a social model compatible to trade union aspirations in Britain. Trade union leaders largely accepted this untested and unfounded mantra.
Yet under the ‘Social Europe’ model proposed by Delors, the post-war Keynesian Welfare State model focussed on full employment and stimulating demand was gradually dismantled and replaced with an alternative that prioritised price stability over jobs and focused on wage moderation and labour market ‘reform’ as the main route to maintain competiveness.
In some cases, such as in Italy and in Germany, this change in direction was pursued using the corporatist arrangements of ‘social partnership’. In other cases, most notably Britain, change came via direct confrontation between organised labour and the state. Yet, common to all was the use made of ‘Europe’ as the route via which the social bonds and obligations of the Keynesian consensus was given up.
The ‘Social Europe’ agenda in Germany and the Netherlands show exactly how these countries in reality used ‘anti-social growth models’. The German government used ‘social partnership’ to secure wage moderation from unions in its export industries, which was critical to the country’s economic success since the end of the downturn of the early 2000s. Similar policies were pursued in the Netherlands, the country with the lowest unemployment in Europe, but also with the highest proportion of workers on fixed (i.e. not permanent) term contracts.
This anti-social growth model has propped up the Eurozone’s average annual GDP figures but created conflicts between member states able to achieve such internal competitive devaluations and others, in the Eurozone’s periphery (e.g. Ireland), where credit-fuelled growth led to wage inflation.
The project of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) was a conscious extension of anti-social Europe, preventing countries from using currency devaluation to regain competiveness all pressure for adaptation was transferred to labour market factors.
As EU austerity policies destroy whole economies and lead to mass unemployment, protests have exploded across Europe. At the same time policymaking at the EU level, isolated from the protests and complaints of national populations, has intensified.
Any evidence of ‘Social Europe’ is being rapidly replaced by a distinctly ‘anti-Social Europe’ characterised less by social partnership than by social dumping as EU rules and ECJ judgements drive a race to the bottom in terms of jobs, wages and conditions.
As even the pro-EU European TUC general secretary Bernadette Segol admitted in June 2011: “cuts in salaries, cuts in public services and weakening collective bargaining rights are all on the agenda”.
As a result resistance is appearing across Europe against the EU’s corporate agenda and there a growing level of unease among working people to EU rules that shift the balance of power massively to the employer and big business and away from elected parliaments.
Millions of workers’ are finding the confidence to say no to ‘social dumping’ and yes to protecting national standards.
In order to protect jobs and our industrial base the labour movement must demand that the government invests in manufacturing, training, research and development.
Manufacturing could create the wealth required to finance and develop the welfare state including a public health service that is free at the point of use, education and decent pensions.
All governments must have the democratic powers to control the flow of capital, jobs and people even if it offends neo-liberal EU rules, laws and directives designed to favour corporate capital. These are the fundamental rights of any modern, democratic independent nation.
CAEF resolves to campaign to disseminate information about the realities of the EU’s bogus ‘Social Europe’ agenda and expose the anti-social, anti-people agenda that hides behind it.