EU is Thatcherism

Margaret Thatcher may have passed on, but Thatcherism is alive and destroying public services across the European Union, writes RMT general secretary Bob Crow


The Thatcherite cult of monetarist economics is enshrined in EU treaties. A major part of this cult believes that cutting budget deficits and imposing harsh austerity is an end in itself and mass unemployment and economic decline are a ‘price worth paying’ for curbing democracy and trade union power.

Unemployment in the euro zone is at a record 12 per cent, and the Eurozone economy is shrinking. But all EU member state governments stick with endless austerity.

This means wage cuts and dismantling public services before handing them to the private sector that created the economic mess in the first place. The fact that it doesn’t work is irrelevant to the EU austerity cult.

Even the International Monetary Fund admits that spending cuts in deeply depressed economies actually accelerates economic decline.

It is clear that Greece, Spain, Cyprus and the rest need investment not more austerity and savage cuts to essential public services but, locked in the Eurozone, their only option is exactly that.

What’s more the EU sees this as the perfect opportunity to speed up the privatisation drive.  This process of firing off diktats demanding mass privatisation with no public mandate whatsoever is not confined to the transport sector where EU transport commissioner, Siim Kallas is demanding the break up of all publicly owned railways.

Across the EU health care, education and every other public service face the same EU business model of privatisation.

So what happened to ‘Social Europe’? For years certain leaders of the labour movement claimed that Europe would deliver everything from full employment, decent public services, improved pensions to even better weather, but it turned out to be a fairy tale.

General secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, Bernadette Ségol, has said that present EU policies have failed.

Addressing the theme of Social Europe, she points out that “policies that are being implemented are attacking industrial relations system, are putting pressure on wages, are weakening public services and weakening social protection.

“These are the core aspects of the social model,” confirming the view of many observers that the model is now dead – if indeed it was ever alive at all.

The Lisbon Treaty and all the other EU treaties are a manifesto for ‘free-market’ capitalism, which deliberately rule out any other economic system. They are designed by an alliance of transnational corporations without any inconvenient hindrances of real democracy, since the EU’s institutions are entirely undemocratic.

This constitution now has spin offs including the Stability Mechanism and Fiscal Pact to hand tax and public policy to private capital so that exploitation can be increased whilst binning employment conditions, collective bargaining, pensions, social protection and accountability.

But Parliaments and governments do not have to carry out policies dictated by Brussels. Instead, they could carry out measures on behalf of those who elect them.

The only rational way in which genuinely popular, democratic policies could be implemented however, is if democratically-elected governments vote to leave the EU to take control of their own currency, taxation and public procurement policies and to exercise their power to decide on behalf of the peoples of that country including the right to decent public services.