This time last year, Cyprus was preparing to take over the “presidency” of the European Union (a grand term, signifying only self-importance and the right to organise junketing). Now Cyprus has been taken over by the EU. From farce to tragedy in 12 short months. Having allowed its economy to be dominated by financial services, Cyprus now finds it has none. Anyone fancy putting money in a Cypriot bank now?
All this to satisfy German capital. But it was ever thus with the EU. One of the lynchpins of the EU is the free movement of capital (along with goods and people). It turns out there is something in the small print to the effect of “except when Germany objects”. The freedoms of the EU are meant only for capitalism. For the peoples of Europe, they are tools of oppression.
Only recently elected on a platform of support for the euro, the Cypriot government has had to submit to the dictates of the unholy trinity of EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. The word humiliation doesn’t even begin to cover what has happened to Cyprus. Too late, the people of Cyprus are waking up to discover that the dream is a real-life nightmare. Devastation awaits.
The leader of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, Chrysostomos II, said during one of the many rounds of bailout talks, “It is certain that [the euro] will not last in the long term, and the best is to think about how to escape it.” But there is only one sure escape route, for Cyprus and for all in the EU – to leave not just the currency, but also the political union that gave it birth.
Among the ironies of this debacle is that Cypriots fought, literally, long and hard for their independence from foreign (British) rule. Then – like Ireland, with an even greater history of struggle – they gave it all away to be part of the EU and its lethal currency.
Cyprus and Ireland also have in common that imperialism divided their islands in an attempt to halt the liberation struggle. Something for all the people of Britain to think about as the Scots prepare for their referendum in September 2014.
We urgently need national debates on our EU membership and also on the prospect of the break-up of our country. Especially, our trade unions need to debate these vital matters. We are not “three nations” but one; not three working classes but one.
A Scottish breakaway would split the working class, create separate trade unions – and smaller is weaker – and strengthen capital. It would straightaway deliver Scotland over to the clutches of the EU and the euro, and weaken the rest of Britain in our fight against the EU.
“Unity is strength” is classic working class thinking. So is “United we stand, divided we fall”. The whole working class of Britain must unite against the forces of capital and its EU. ■