[Marxism] Negri urged yes vote on EU constitution

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 30 14:18:14 MDT 2005


Toni Negri: against the Empire ... for a capitalist Europe!
By Roberto Sarti

In the run up to the referendum a very popular intellectual, Toni Negri, 
decided to weigh in for the debate. Negri has now put himself on the same 
side as Chirac and Raffarin, the French bosses and the worst social 
democratic reformists, and come out in favour of a "yes" vote.

The explanation for this is quite simple. After the collapse of his theory 
of "the Empire" (see the Di Nardo article), a result of the outbreak of the 
war in Iraq, Negri argued that the US had performed a U-turn and had 
executed a "coup" against the Empire in order to push its own particular 
interests. This idea of a US coup against the Empire itself contradicts the 
theory of Empire, because it is clearly stated in "Empire" that the nation 
state was no longer politically relevant.

At the beginning of the war, in a desperate attempt to deny that what was 
happening in Iraq was an imperialist intervention, Negri actually tried to 
justify the invasion, when he said of the US protectorate in Iraq that "We 
are not facing an administration of a colonial type, but a classical 
process of "nation building", that is to say a transformation with a 
democratic sense" (Clarin, 26-10-2003).

He then changed his position again: the Empire suddenly became the US, and 
Europe became the counterweight to the Empire by standing against the 
invasion of Iraq. He declared that Europe could be a brake on the 
reactionary ideology of "economic unilateralism". The fact that the 
proposed EU constitution is reactionary "isn't the point" because it is 
only "a passage to the abolition of the nation state", which is the "ugly 
beast". If France scraps the constitution, according to Negri, the whole 
structure will collapse, leaving the nation state as the only opposition to 
Empire. Negri sums this up by saying, "To not be in Europe equates to not 
doing politics."

European imperialism is no better than US imperialism. France has deployed 
troops to defend its interests in Central and Western Africa as the 
Americans did in Iraq. France and Germany were opposed to the invasion of 
Iraq precisely to defend their imperialist interests there against the US, 
not because of some opposition to imperialism. The welfare state in Western 
Europe was estabilished thanks to the struggles and the enormous power of 
the working class after the Second World War. These achievements, which 
make Europe a better place to live compared to other parts of the world, 
are precisely what the new constitution wishes to destroy.

Negri the "revolutionary" has stumbled to the classic reformist position of 
the "lesser evil". When your starting point is a false theory, this is the 
inevitable result. Negri, throughout his political history, has always 
zigzagged from one extreme to another. In the 1970s he was known as a 
"workerist", i.e. he held the position that only the blue-collar workers 
could form the revolutionary class that would overthrow capitalism. With 
the defeat of the working class movement in the 1980s and a weakening of 
the weight and strength of that particular sector of the working class, the 
Italian philosopher came to the conclusion (and a very original one!) that 
the working class no longer existed!

The working class doesn't need bad "teachers" like Negri. Negri's theory of 
Empire has led not only to the support of a reactionary constitution, but 
to the support of reactionary European imperialism. Negri has led his 
supporters and any workers that follow him (if there are any) down a blind 
alley. The Marxists have consistently called for a "no" vote in the 
referendums on the European constitution. We have consistently explained 
that European imperialism is fundamentally no different, and no better than 
US imperialism. To call for the support of the EU constitution amounts to 
supporting attacks on all the gains and victories of the past 50 years. To 
call for the support of the EU constitution submits the interests of the 
working class to those of the bosses and supports a reactionary Europe. 
What is needed is independent class politics. The working class must 
counter pose their own interests to those of the bosses. The working class 
must struggle, not for a united capitalist Europe, but for a united 
socialist Europe. In order to truly unify Europe, to preserve and extend 
the social gains of the past 50 years, to create an equal society of 
prosperity and abundance, to guarantee peace, to build socialism and to 
abolish the nation state, what is needed is not a reactionary capitalist 
Europe, but the socialist transformation of society and the establishment 
of a Socialist Federation of Europe.

30th May 2005

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