Sawel ap Harri
A 6-meter wall, bristling with barbed wire. Abusive border guards stripping migrants and beating them.
People dying. Some, from lacerations inflicted by barbed wire, some from internal bleeding from beatings, others from drowning trying to reach a better life.
Yet this isn’t the USA’s wall, devised by the openly fascistic Trump. This is the reality in Melilla, Spain and Röszke, Hungary. This is the European Union, imperialism with a human face.
The European Union is seen by its supporters as a bastion of liberalism in a desert of intolerance yet the reality is that the EU upholds global inequality, using imperialist policies both within and outside of its borders.
The European project of internal ‘harmony’ is premised first and foremost on the exclusion of others, namely those from the global south, those with non-white skin and those with different religions.
Internal freedom of movement, possibly the EU’s most celebrated attribute, has been accompanied by the hardening of the common external border against migrants from outside the continent.
The EU, a block of 28 states, all of which, demographically are predominantly white and culturally are predominantly Christian or post-Christian.
There are three indisputable geographically European states that do not fit this description; Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo. Not a single one of these states are members of the EU.
We’ve seen this liberal arrogance towards other cultures and peoples by the supposed saviour of Liberalism, Emmanuel Macron.
He has stated in the past that Africa has a civilizational problem, without mentioning the imperialist meddling of Europe in Africa.
It seems that liberalism at home and imperialism abroad go hand in hand in fortress Europe.
The European Union is sold as a way of transcending nationalism, yet the reality is that it is a vehicle for the larger European capitalist states to pursue their interest.
Imperialism is a system of exploitation that not only occurs in brutal forms through guns and conquering territory.
It also has subtler forms; loans, food aid, blackmail and it is through these subtler forms, we can best understand EU imperialism.
We see the EUs imperialist nature in its promotion of neoliberalism, through its expansionism in Central and Eastern Europe, its policies towards neighbouring countries, such as giving the fascistic Turkish state a Free Trade Agreement in return for buffering the migration of immigrants, and through its disciplinary mechanism which enforce austerity.
The EU internally reproduces the structured unevenness of the capitalist system whereby the dominant members such as Germany and France determine the fate of the weaker.
The Troika’s surveillance of states such as Greece and Portugal shows how the Union has used the chequebook, rather than the bullet to export the worldview of neoliberal capitalism.
Yet, the internal unevenness of the EU doesn’t stop it from presenting a unified imperialist face to the Global South both economically, and geopolitically.
According to the EU’s own website, Economic Partnership Agreements between themselves and African states are designed to contribute “to sustainable development and poverty reduction”.
In Capitalist society, “the need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.”
This is the backdrop to the EU’s re-conquest of Africa through its Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA).
EPA’s are designed to open up all of Africa for EU exports, exposing African producers to competition from vampiric transnationals that overwhelm local production.
Imperialist domination can be seen clearly in the exportation of coffee and cocoa. In 2014, all of Africa earned £1.5 billion from coffee. Germany, a processor of coffee, earned double that.
The EU’s imperialist trade agreements place a 7.5% tariff on roasted coffee, yet green (or unroasted coffee is exempt). Similarly, processed cocoa products such as chocolate, has a 30% tariff whereas unrefined cocoa is tariff-free.
This means that EU states reap the reward of the value-added products whilst not contributing at all to the cultivation of the natural commodity.
The EU keeps Africa poor, taking away all incentive for technological innovation and industrial development in Africa.
According to the World Bank, there are 300% more Africans in extreme poverty today than in 1981.
The EUs imperialist policies of dependency are doing nothing to help the struggle for African liberation, they are actively and purposely hindering African development through their trade policies.
Ernesto Guevara explained imperialist economic exploitation in 1971: “We, politely referred to as ‘underdeveloped’, in truth are colonial, semi-colonial or dependent countries.
“We are countries whose economies have been distorted by imperialism, which has abnormally developed those branches of industry or agriculture needed to complement its complex economy.
“‘Underdevelopment’, or distorted development, brings a dangerous specialization in raw materials, inherent in which is the threat of hunger for all our peoples.
“We, the ‘underdeveloped’, are also those with the single crop, the single product, the single market.
“A single product whose uncertain sale depends on a single market imposing and fixing conditions. That is the great formula for imperialist economic domination.”
Reformism cannot be a solution to these problems. Many on the Welsh nationalist centre-left seem to think that capitalism, and the EU, can be reformed.
That if we, and all other EU states were more like the Scandinavian states, the EU would be better.
This is the idea that the EU, and capitalism are not inherently, institutionally bad, but actors make it so.
Yet social cohesiveness in these states, as everywhere in developed nations, is dependent upon exploitation of others.
Sweden, known for its peace and political neutrality is the third largest per-capita arms exporter in the world, is arming the bastions of liberalism Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Norway dropped 588 bombs on Libya. The Swedish clothing company H&M exploits the Global South, keeping only 95cents of the profits of a t-shirt made in Bangladesh in the country.
Western nations capture most of the profit while it is the poor workers of oppressed nations that have the most input in terms of labour and resources. The same imperialism with better PR.
The EU, a lackey of capitalism, can never be reformed into something that improves the lives of the working classes both within the EU states and outside.
When liberals fight for the EU, they fight for freedoms at home and exploitation and imperialism abroad.
Some may have voted leave for the wrong reasons, but the inherent class character of the EU means that it must be destroyed.
Only then, can true internationalism, whereby the wealthiest states, made rich through their exploitation of others, will help the Global South, not through tokenistic gestures, but as equals on the international stage.