Can a strategy for a united Ireland within the EU be a realistic goal while maintaining the three core tenets of socialism and republicanism, namely independence, sovereignty, and democracy?
Not for the first time in Socialist Voice is it argued that, far from being the saviour and moderniser of the Republic, the EU has stripped away our independence, our sovereignty and our democracy, through the adoption of the euro, the EU-directed and government-imposed austerity, and the neo-liberal privatisation agenda of the undemocratic, unelected EU Commission.
We must be alert to this reality and be cautious of those proposing a united Ireland within the EU.
What needs to be struggled for, what all republicans, socialists and communists have fought for down through the centuries, from Tone to Connolly, was an independent united Ireland. We must not be led down a path that seeks only to unite Ireland but maintains its dependence and servitude within an imperialist construct.
From the Treaty of Rome to the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU journey has been a course of eroding people’s democratic, independent and sovereign rights and depositing power and wealth with finance houses, big business, unelected bureaucrats, and industrial lobbyists.
The notion that Ireland can be united and independent while remaining in the EU is false!
The adoption of the euro in place of our own currency attacked our independence; we are dependent and at the mercy of the EU Central Bank. We only need to look at the causes of Ireland’s financial crisis and at the source that gave rise to the property boom and bust. Ireland’s adoption of the euro and the opening up of cheap money for Irish banks profoundly altered the scale and magnitude of the bust and the bail-out. Real interest rates halved overnight, while exchange rate risk was removed.
The European banking system, united under the power and controlling influence of the large EU states, Germany and France, facilitated the initial influx of credit into peripheral countries, such as Ireland. This suited the bloated German economy; however, it unleashed a lending and debt spree in Ireland, which today is still felt with the bitter reality in our housing crisis and homelessness epidemic and the debt burden—some 42 per cent of all of Europe’s debt. While we remain with the euro we will be passive victims of the diktats of the core EU member-states, leaving ourselves at risk from another boom-and-bust cycle.
Our island economy is unique. We have unique and rich resources, which we have never been able to fully develop and expand because of imperialist domination. Monetary policy and the ability of a nation to set interest rates and to print money to suit its particular economic needs is fundamentally linked to independence.
The ideology and adoption of the euro is a general strategy of European imperialism’s attempt to shift power and wealth away from labour and towards capital, and from peripheral to core European states. It has done this by ratifying treaty after treaty to shift the ability of states to control and direct the levers of monetary control.
We must not, therefore, seek to unite our country under the euro but set about breaking with the euro to form an independent all-Ireland currency.
The idea that Ireland can be labelled “sovereign” under EU-directed austerity is farcical. EU-led austerity has stripped us of any semblance of being a sovereign nation while our country’s budgets are determined in Brussels. The euro inflamed Ireland’s debt crisis, and the the aftermath is the government’s inability to have sovereign control over its policy choices, meaning that from now on, burdened by debt, Ireland in the EU will never be sovereign, and a repudiation of the debt would never be tolerated.
The EU, from its inception, was never for the sovereignty of nations and their freedom to live peacefully in a post-war world: it was for pooling the resources of the remnants of continental Europe’s destroyed economies; it was for creating a buffer and an ideological challenge to the expanding socialist current and the communist spectre sweeping Europe and elsewhere around the globe.
Fundamentally, the EU is for accumulating the wealth, power and influence of capital and its benefactors—the owners of capital and their lackeys—just as the British empire essentially did in the centuries before it.
Being a member of the EU and the euro zone does not allow for a country to remain sovereign. The rules and laws that govern member-states cannot be overruled by a democratically elected government seeking alternatives to austerity. This was clearly shown with SYRIZA in Greece and in that party’s capitulation to the EU’s demand for austerity.
The framework and ideology of the EU is the rule of capital over labour—the working people. This was demonstrated in the bank bail-out and the resulting accumulation of what is now sovereign debt. The irony is that the only thing that remains sovereign is our national debt, of which we still owe more than €200 billion.
Our budgets are scrutinised in Brussels before they go to a vote in Dáil Éireann. We have to ask, Is this sovereignty?
If we wanted to build a national health service, free at the point of admission, it would not be allowed, as it contradicts EU neo-liberal economic policy. We ask again, Is this sovereignty?
If we wanted to reverse the ever-encroaching privatisation of public assets and services we would be stopped, as TTIP and CETA demonstrate that control and ownership of our assets is the main agenda of capital in the Western world. We ask, Is this sovereignty?
The EU offers no sanctuary, no respite from imperial domination—on the contrary, it further brings us into the fold of imperialism’s tottering system. We cannot be a sovereign country under any imperialist apparatus, be it British, European, or American. We must not attempt to pull the wool over our people’s eyes, claiming that uniting Ireland under the EU would bring us our sovereignty among the nations of the earth.
The idea that Ireland can be labelled democratic when the majority of our laws are drafted by the EU Commission is fantasy. The Commission—the unelected economic and political policy-makers of Europe—have removed democratic accountability and decision-making, whereby we have been bound into a policy straitjacket.
The very meaning of the word democracy—rule or power of the people—cannot be ascribed to a country whose rules are made by foreign bodies, which are unelected and which represent, in the main, the interests of big business. It is not uncommon for the Commission to adopt policy papers drafted by these large corporate bodies, whose lobbyists have unique and privileged access to members of the Commission.
Who can the citizens of a country hold to account when policy is directed from outside the state? What happens when a government is removed from office only to be replaced by another party that cannot implement a radical shift in policy choice? You simply get more of the same: more debt, more austerity, more pain and suffering for ordinary working people.
Our centuries-long domination by foreign powers has forged a particular style of gombeen political class, who will say and do anything to appease their imperial masters; and unless there is real opposition to imperialism, the gombeen culture in our politics will remain, and the next batch of career politicians will take office and it will be business as usual, boys.
A united Ireland under the dictatorship of the EU Commission would not be the united Ireland that Tone, Connolly and all the fallen heroes of Éirinn fought for. A united Ireland without democratic control and accountability is not a republic that we should strive for. In the context of Brexit, to campaign for a united Ireland under the pretext of the Six Counties rejoining the EU shows the lack of ideological opposition to imperialism.
Without a united Ireland, a socialist republic can never be attained, and so we must remain steadfast in our resolve to end partition. It will be the hard task of all anti-imperialists to debate, discuss and bring forward a vision that can strive for both unity and independence for all the people of Ireland—Catholic, Protestant, and Dissenter.
If we wish to campaign for a united Ireland, then let us campaign for a break with all imperialist unions, and let’s not fool ourselves, and others, that we could ever become a united, sovereign, independent and democratic republic within the European Union.
It would be wise to remember Connolly’s famous statement that without setting about building the socialist republic all our efforts would be in vain. However, our new master would not be Britain but the EU; the EU would still rule us, in fact we would recede further into the past, if a united Ireland within the EU is all that we strive for.