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Guglielmo Carchedi - For Another Europe: A Class Analysis of European Economic Integration

Guglielmo Carchedi - For Another Europe: A Class Analysis of European Economic Integration

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Published by Stipe Ćurković

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Published by: Stipe Ćurković on Apr 20, 2012
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Books on the economics of the European Union abound. Yet almost all of them share the same theoretical matrices: they are inspired either by neo-classical or by Keynesian economics. This book argues that neither of thesetwo approaches can provide a satisfactory account of the origin anddevelopment of the European Union. Only a work based on the productionand distribution of value as the economy’s bedrock, and thus on socialclasses as the basic unit of social life, can throw light on those internalcontradictions which are the real source and motor of the process of European economic integration. Two specific features emerge from thisapproach. On the one hand, those topics usually dealt with in textbookson the European Union (competition and social policies, the Economicand Monetary Union, the Common Agricultural Policy, etc.) are treated in what follows in a manner that challenges the received view. On the other,subject matters ignored in those textbooks (development and underdevel-opment, the economics of the Common Defence Policy, the role of interest groups in the Union’s decision-making process, etc.) are shown to be of fundamental importance for a complete analysis and understanding of theeconomics of the European Union. As a result, this book is not only anintroduction to, but also a radical critique of, European economicintegration.The theme around which this work revolves is that the European Unionis not, or at least is not only, a heterogeneous collection of states with widely divergent economic and political power. But neither is it a homoge-neous economic and political entity. The degree of economic, political,social and cultural heterogeneity among its fifteen member states isundoubtedly greater than that of its two major rivals (the United States and Japan). This is certainly one of the major causes of the Union’s weaknessin terms of that grand project which is the construction of a new super-power. However, in the course of the past four decades, the EuropeanUnion has emerged as an entity of its own; it has been forging features which cannot be reduced to the simple summation or combination of those of its member states. It is on these distinctive aspects that this workfocuses, rather than on what demarcates the member states. The basicthesis is that three coordinates both delimit and inform Europe’s economicintegration and thus unification process.First, this process has been fuelled by European oligopolies under theleadership of German oligopolies. As a result, the European Union has
reproduced within itself some of the features of both old and new imperi-alism. Second, the same process has resulted in the emergence of a newpowerful economic bloc with its own imperialist ambitions towards non-member countries. This will necessarily lead to increasing confrontations with the other two economic leaders, the US and Japan. However, asmatters stand now, the Union is still a ‘weak superpower’ due to its internalpolitical and cultural heterogeneity and its almost total dependence uponUS military might. Third, the European working class has been locked out as much as possible from the construction of the European Union. But thisdoes not mean that its presence has not been felt. On the contrary, the whole project has been shaped by the need either to appease it (see theCommon Agricultural Policy) or to make it pay for the process of integra-tion (see the Economic and Monetary Union). Moreover, certain phases of this process have been stalled by European labour, as in the case of thefirst attempt to launch the Economic and Monetary Union in 1969–74.European economic integration is the outcome of the interplay amongthese three interrelated forces. A few words on the organization of the book are in order. Chapter 1(‘History, Institutions and Enlargements’) carries the message that, fromthe very beginning, the EU project had two interrelated aspects. On theone hand, it was conceived as an economic power (possibly to result in aunified, federalist, European state) able to compete with the worldhegemony of the US. On the other, it bore the imprint of an anti-socialist project. This in a double sense. A united Europe was meant to contain andto destroy the Soviet bloc. At the same time, the same project was part andparcel of the post-war fight against the growing influence of Europeancommunist parties and social movements.Europe has thus been from the very beginning capital’s Europe. It hasbeen said that in the conscious construction of European integration,labour has been always there, as the enemy to be reckoned with andneutralized. As a result, the European institutions – including the Commis-sion, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers – could not but containand express these anti-democratic, anti-socialist features. Chapter 1 intro-duces the major European institutions as well as their transformationthrough the years, and thus at the same time it introduces the class content of these institutions and thus of the construction of a unified Europe. It provides the framework within which to analyse (in the following chapters)the specificity of the imperialist nature and class content of the different aspects of European economic integration.But chapter 1 has also another, equally important, function. Europeandecision-making institutions not only express but also mediate betweendifferent and often contradictory interests. Even though the focus of thisbook is on the economic aspects, a proper understanding of these aspectsrequires at least an acquaintance with the institutional setting emanatingfrom those economic policies. For these reasons, chapter 1 is basic for aproper understanding of the EU.Chapter 2 (‘The Ideology of Economic Integration’) would seem to fall
 without a narrowly defined work on European economic integration. Yet it is of vital importance. One of the book’s key themes is that mainstreameconomics cannot explain the process of European unification. This chap-ter’s task is that of proving this point. More specifically, texts on Europeaneconomic integration not only deal with more or less the same topics but also do so from the same perspective, mainstream neo-classical or Keynes-ian economics. The aim of this book is that of providing (a) an introductionto the same topics (as well as to other themes) from a Marxist perspectiveand (b) at the same time a topic-by-topic critique and refutation of themainstream approach. The ideal reader will compare approaches, and theexplanatory validity, for each of the topics dealt with. This holds also forthe usual chapter on the ‘pure’ theory of economic integration that opensstandard texts. To refute this theory, the reader is asked to take on thebasics of mainstream economics. However, the task is facilitated by the fact that no concepts are taken for granted and that they are explained as theneed arises. By debunking the neo-classical approach to economic integra-tion, chapter 2 opens the way to an alternative, Marxist, approach.Chapters 3 and 4 inquire into the relationship between different levelsof technological development, the appropriation of international value, theformation of international prices, international trade, and the crystalliza-tion of the world economy into two major economic blocs. Chapter 3 (‘A  Value Theory of European Economic Integration’) starts with a Marxist theory of capitalist production, based on the production of value andsurplus value. This is the basis upon which both a theory of economic crisesand cycles and a theory of international prices are built. Particularlimportant is a theory of exchange rates which stresses that exchange rates,far from being only a technical arrangement for the conversion of different currencies, are a mechanism rewarding the technological leaders andpunishing the technological laggards. From the point of view of valueappropriation, devaluations and revaluations have not only (un)favourableeffects on importers and exporters. They also make possible internationalstreams (appropriation) of value from the technological laggards to thetechnological leaders. This appropriation of value is one of the basic lawsof movement of the capitalist system. This all provides the framework within which to analyse stock exchange and international monetary crises.Economic integration is placed against this background. It is shown that itsmotive force has nothing to do with the achievement of comparativeadvantages. Rather, it is the need for capitals to realize the highest rate of profit (if need be abroad) which propels both international trade andeconomic integration.Chapter 4 (‘The Economic and Monetary Union’) is the logical sequelof the previous chapter. It argues for the primary importance of technolog-ical competitiveness and for the advantages deriving from it to the Euro-pean Union as one of the major economic blocs. The EMU is seen as thefirst real threat posed by the EU to the United States and thus as the first real threat posed by EU imperialism to US imperialism. This calls for adiscussion of different types of imperialism, on the specificity of EU

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