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Interview with Eugene McCartan, general secretary, CPI, for the Communist Party of Turkey’s news portal “Sol” and the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet

What does EU aim with the Lisbon Treaty? Do you think some of the European countries want to take the power in their hands with this treaty?
     The Lisbon Treaty is the present stage of a strategy adopted many decades ago, to concentrate power in the hands of an unelected Commission, whose activities are influenced and determined by the big member-states on behalf of European transnational capital. The European Union itself is part of the Cold War architecture of western Europe, set up as a bulwark against the advance of socialism in Europe and as a means of rehabilitating and rebuilding the power base of the European bourgeoisie, which had been weakened and was confronted by a militant working class, led in many cases by Communist Parties.
     The Lisbon Treaty is about the concentration of power in an unelected group that has the monopoly of decision-making and law-making. The European Union itself, if the treaty is finally adopted, will be reconstituted and will be superior to its constituent members, that is, the member-states.
     For example, the European Union is not represented in the United Nations, as it is not a state; but after the Lisbon Treaty it will have all the trappings of a state: its own army, currency, president, and foreign minister, its own foreign policy and diplomatic corps. Member-states at the United Nations will have to stand aside and support the European Union, it will be able to speak on its own behalf, and member-states must cede it the right to speak on their behalf.
     What this means in effect is that any independent foreign and security policy is ended for the small member-states. The European Union will also be able to speak at WTO talks and in other international institutions with one voice, giving greater weight to the forces of imperialism at the global level.

How does the treaty restrict the sovereignty of states?
     The Lisbon Treaty carves in stone the economic and social policy of the European Union in constitutional law. In most bourgeois democracies, economic and social policies are contested by contending political forces—while in practice we know that the state is there to ensure and to protect the interests of the ruling class and its allies.
     To enshrine the treaty in constitutional law means that we would have to get treaty changes to allow for any alternative economic and social policies. It also reinforces the primacy of the market. It makes human rights subject to market forces and the priority of the market. Under the Nice Treaty, and now under the Lisbon Treaty, more and more areas of policy and areas of competence have been ceded from the separate states to the European Union—in other words, to the Commission.
     More and more policy areas will be decided by “weighted” majority voting, which ensures that power is heavily loaded in favour of the big states. For example, Germany will have 18 per cent of the votes, while Ireland will have 0.8 per cent. It is also structured in such a way that there is a built-in blocking minority (based on population size). Three of the larger countries would have enough votes to block any measures they oppose.

What is the meaning of “European integration” or “European federal state” for toiling masses?
     The European Union has been extremely clever in how it has developed over the last few decades. At each stage of the process the people have been presented with a fait accompli. It has carefully engineered the outcome before the people have realised it, and they are denied the opportunity to express an opinion or even have a vote on it. Everything is presented as inevitable and the only possible way forward. Even changes of name, from European Economic Community to European Communities to European Union, as well as its flag and anthem, were all brought into use, making the people accustomed to them, before they had been legally established.
     What is being constructed is a superstate, with institutions above and beyond democratic control and accountability. They are attempting to remove all economic, social and foreign policy from national democratic pressure—that is, to remove the potential of national class struggle to bring about change at the national level.
     At present the Irish Government’s economic and budgetary policy is determined by the European Central Bank, which in effect means Germany. They have decided how we should deal with our banking crisis and growing national debt, and when and how we should repay the debts accumulated from the reckless lending by Irish banks. The Irish state has just taken on itself all the bad debts of six banking institutions, paying far more than the present market value of these liabilities and plunging the state into a massive debt of nearly €70 billion. If interest rates go up, this debt will become unpayable.
     All this has been decided by the European Central Bank. It has now instructed the Irish Government to have its ratio of borrowing to GDP conforming to EU rules by 2013. The French government, on the other hand, has announced that it will schedule its debt repayment up to 2020.
     Following from the ECB bullying, our people will now face massive cuts in public spending on education, health, unemployment benefit, and pensions.

Why did some of the Irish people change their mind? What are the major factors that made people vote for “yes” in your opinion?
     Our people were bullied into voting not on the treaty and its contents but for or against our continued membership of the European Union. The economic collapse was used to frighten people into believing that there was no alternative and that if we voted No we would be punished and that the end of the world was nigh.
     Millions of euros flowed in from Brussels to its many front organisations. This is a lesson they learnt very effectively from all the colour-coded “revolutions” by so-called civic organisations in eastern Europe. Manipulation on a scale we have not witnessed before was the order of the day. The mass media abandoned all their pretence of being balanced and threw their full weight behind the Yes side.
     Such bodies as the American-Irish Chamber of Commerce—the mouthpiece of American transnationals based here in Ireland—campaigned for a Yes vote. A large Irish company, Ryanair, spent €500,000 on advertising calling for a Yes vote. It also provided free flights from Brussels to Dublin for any employees of the European Union who wanted to fly to Dublin to campaign for a Yes vote. In Germany, free flights were offered to the estimated 30,000 Irish people who live there to come home and vote Yes. Intel, the giant computer chip manufacturer, also announced that it would be spending €500,000 on the Yes vote. The Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation, the body that represents the big employers, sent a letter to each of its member-organisations for them to distribute among all their employees, making the case that workers had no choice but to vote Yes.

Do you think the process before the second referendum was democratic? What kind of pressure did EU used in Ireland?
     The EU Commission interfered almost daily in the Irish referendum, with constant statements challenging the No campaign. It organised a series of public “information” meetings—not on the Lisbon Treaty but on how good the European Union has been for Ireland. This dovetailed into the strategy of the Government in turning the referendum into a vote on membership of the European Union rather than on the contents of the treaty. The Commission also placed advertisements in newspapers and had large advertisements on hoardings throughout the country.
     Another feature of the state’s campaign was an attempt to use the far right in its scare campaign. During the first referendum campaign they attempted to encourage the neo-fascist La Pen to come to Ireland and speak against the treaty, until it was revealed that it was the main bourgeois newspaper, the “Irish Times,” that was behind the invitation, and they had to drop it.
     This time they chose the British-chauvinist UK Independence Party as the preferred party for claiming that only racists and other right extremists opposed the Lisbon Treaty. UKIP duly obliged them, and the Government organised a public debate between themselves and UKIP in one of the main hotels in Dublin. The trap was set, and they fell into it. UKIP also interfered in the process by distributing a leaflet to every home through the national postal system, carrying the spectre of “If you vote Yes, Turkey would be next to join the EU.” This use of racism played into the hands of the European Union and the state and reinforced the view presented by all the establishment commentators and mass media that only extremists would oppose the Lisbon Treaty.
     They also secured a number of former prominent No voices to speak out for a Yes.
     Another method that was used to channel money into the Yes campaign was through the EU parliamentary groups. All the Irish establishment parties received large sums of money for producing posters and leaflets, for paying commercial companies to put up their posters and deliver their leaflets to every door, paid for by the EU Parliament.

Can you explain the structure and components of the “No vote” campaign? Which parts of the society supported the campaign? Do you have support from international organizations and parties?
     There were a number of organisations on the No side. The main one that the Communist Party supported was the People’s Movement. There was also Cóir (“Justice”), which is a group with an extensive network throughout the country, some of whom, though not all, have strong religious beliefs. There was another grouping called Campaign Against the EU Constitution, which was mainly a leftist gathering.
     The People’s Movement is an organisation of the Popular Front type, which includes communists, greens, and members of the Labour Party and Sinn Féin (though not officially), and many independent activists. It fought on the grounds of defence of workers’ rights, of national sovereignty and democracy. Also, two major trade unions called for a No vote, though the national trade union leadership called for a Yes vote.
     The working class, small and medium farmers and the fishing communities came out and voted No.
     During the campaign a joint appeal calling for support for the Irish No vote was issued by our party and our Greek comrades. Twenty-seven communist and workers’ parties signed the appeal. This was an important initiative, as it showed that working-class forces throughout Europe, both inside and outside the European Union, understood the nature of the struggle and its importance to the future struggles of the working class. It was a good restatement of the principle of working-class solidarity and exposed the carefully manicured front constructed by the European Union itself, that all working-class forces had succumbed to the EU steamroller and its sham democracy.
     What we had over the period of the referendum campaign was intense class struggle, will all the establishment forces lined up for the Yes side and with the No forces representing the great mass of the dispossessed of the country.
     Slightly more than 55 per cent of the people eligible to vote took part, with 35 per cent of these voting No, while more than 40 per cent did not bother to vote at all. If you combine the No vote with those who did not vote we have a very large section of the Irish people—mainly working people—completely alienated from the political system and no longer believing that this society works in their interests.

Do you think EU and the “yes” campaign can keep the promises they made?
     No. The Irish people were promised jobs and economic recovery. This will not happen, as I have explained. The jobs will not come, and the policies being imposed by the European Union and European Central Bank will only deepen and prolong the recession and create further unemployment. The priority of the European Central Bank still remains price stability, not job creation or the elimination of poverty or inequality.
     We will be dragged further into the military build-up of the European Union and also of NATO. At a time of massive cuts in public spending we will be obliged to spend more on our military forces to keep them up to date and comparable to those of other EU member-states—that is, compatible with NATO. We will also have to contribute to the growing arms industry in the form of the European Defence Agency.

In Turkish media, the statements of Irish businessman Declan Ganley drew attention. What do you think about his position?
     Ireland is no exception to the rest of the world. The ruling elite are not all united on the way forward. Ganley articulated the view of some Irish business people. He argued on grounds of the defence of national democracy. His role this time, however, was marginal compared with the previous referendum campaign.

What do you think about the opposition of Czech president Václav Klaus against the treaty?
     While much of what Klaus says is reactionary, and he is viciously anti-communist, nevertheless the objections he has raised are clearly concerns that many of us would agree with. As in other social struggles or processes, those for social progress and those opposed do not always stand face to face on the battlefield. Many contradictions are thrown up in the course of struggle that we have to cope with. The contradictions within the social forces that Klaus represents are their contradictions, not ours. We approach the same question from a different class understanding; but that does not mean that, because some people whom we may strongly disagree with have a similar position on this particular question, we should not take a principled stand. We will deal with Klaus and his like at another stage in the battle against imperialism.

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