Concerning the Development of
Corporatism on the EU Level

by Johan Petter Andresen Oversikt over e-post-adresser

Andresen is trade union secretary for the Workers' Communist Party of Norway (AKP).
An earlier version of this paper was presented at a seminar in Bruxelles in March 2000.
More articles in English are listed here. This article in French: In French

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Corporatism is a central trait in the development of the class dictatorship in most of Europe in the age of imperialism. It takes on many forms on both enterprise, local, national and international levels.

With the development of the EU, corporatism is now reaching a new stage, where the tripartite discussions on the EU level are playing an increasingly important role, and will play the leading role in the development of the class dictatorships in EU dominated Europe.

The general tendency in the EU dominated area today is to undermine bourgeois democratic rights, including union rights, and strengthening corporatism. As we know from history, there is no contradiction between corporatism and fascism. On the contrary, it was Mussolini's Italy that "purified" corporatism.

A little history:

The corporative system is formalised in articles 136 (earlier 117) to 145 (earlier 123) of the EU Treaty. The articles were introduced into the treaty in 1997.

The EU commission organises 5 committees including members of the EFTU (the European Federation of Trade Unions, one of the trade union internationals in Europe), UNICE (the employers' organisation at the European level for the private sector) and CEEP (the employers' organisation at the European level in the public sector) based on these subjects: social security for migrating labour; the European social fund; occupational education; security, health and hygiene at the workplace; equal opportunity for women and men.

The commission has also decided to develop a new framework for the "social dialogue" at the sector level. The aim is to have functioning sectoral dialogue committees for all sectors. Organisations that are allowed to participate in these sector committees must meet certain requirements: they must be acknowledged social partners at the national level, they must have powers to negotiate collective agreements, and they must be representative for all member states as far as possible and have structures that ensure effective participation in the consultative process.

The Committee for Social Dialogue is according to the EU Commission the most active committee at the general level. Here the members are EFTU, UNICE and CEEP.

The way the "social dialogue" works, is that the EFTU and UNICE (and/or CEEP) have talks and agree upon a minimum agreement. This agreement is then converted to a directive by the EU-commission. The directives stand above national law. Minimum agreements that have been converted into directives are e.g the agreement on part time work and the agreement on parental leave.

The agreements are reached through talks where the use of force - strike or lock out - are excluded. The talks are based on the assumption of common interest in strengthening the competitiveness of the EU. In the general article concerning the Social Dialogue, competitiveness is stated explicitly as a goal (article 136, second chapter). These corporative talks will not only be on the general level, but also on the sector level. We can therefore expect directives based on talks for the individual sectors in the years to come.

As we know, the corporative system of "social pacts" has become widespread in the EU-dominated countries the last 20 years. A common denominator is that "wage moderation" is connected to the strengthening of competitiveness, which again is meant to lead to a decrease in unemployment. Of course the only part of the "social contract" that is fulfilled is the part about "wage moderation".

There are some implications connected to the regression of bourgeois democracy with this development at EU-level:

A trend in Norway, that we expect is general for the whole of the EU, is that the national parliaments are willingly undermining their own power. Formerly laws for protecting the welfare and workers' security could be detailed and in some ways functioned to better the general social, working and living conditions. These are now being changed into minimum laws, where conditions above the biological minimum are left to be decided by negotiations between unions and employers (where there are unions, that is).

Secondly the EU produces laws that are binding for the national parliaments.

Thirdly there is the general trend that "there are too many laws and regulations" The content of this campaign is to do away with laws that protect the interests of common people.

More and more, the parliament leaves the real content of laws to be decided by standing committees where the national TUC and the biggest employers' organisation have control.

On the one hand corporatism is being strengthened, on the other hand the labour laws are being changed to undermine union rights. Suggestions have been put forward in Norway. I also know of suggestions in Sweden. On May 1st I heard about the negative tendencies in Belgium. The tendency to undermine trade union rights is a part of the americanisation of Europe. Tony Blair is the main importer with his introduction of the new laws called "Fairness at work".

These two tendencies, to strengthen corporatism and to undermine trade union rights, do not contradict each other, but have the same content: to strengthen the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, so as to increase exploitation.

We must partake in the struggle against the social dialogue and for democratic rights, not only in each EU dominated country, but also on the EU level, showing the relationship between the two levels and the tendency to use the EU social dialogue as an instrument in building an EU superstate, a state that cannot be democratic.

Economically, three tendencies, that are interrelated are developing simultaneously: firstly the need to increase exploitation, secondly the need to expand into new sectors also at home (privatisation), and thirdly the need to integrate the economies in the EU area so as to build a supernational state: a United States of Europe.

In this way the monopolies of Europe will have to trample down the nation states in a situation where they also have to undermine democratic rights in order to make it more difficult for the working class to fight back.

And they are building down the public welfare systems and privatising these, so that these questions will not become a task for the EU state, but instead a task for the free market, like in the USA.

It is a central question for the working class in the EU to have as its aim the dissolution of the EU. We must support the peoples that fight to keep out of or break out of the EU or the EES. We must support and partake actively in the united fronts against the undermining of democratic rights and against the undermining of the bourgeois nation-states when they are being marginalized by the EU super-state.

If we do not raise the national question in the political struggle in the EU area, we will leave this area open to the national chauvinists, the racists and other forces that want to use discontent in the working class and the working people to divide the working class.

With the development of the EU and the integration of the EU economies it is central that we develop our international co-operation. Not only must the communist parties develop their co-operation. But we must also work to develop the international co-operation between the unions, first and foremost on the grassroots level. This co-operation must be directed against the development of the anti-social "social dialogue". We must base our international trade union work on strengthening the "class struggle"-line in the union movement. In this work we have many friends outside our own ranks.

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