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THE European Union appears to be heading for another serious crisis over the EU budget, its Covid aid package, democratic rights and national self-government.
The governments of Hungary and Poland are threatening to veto the first two in the name of the third and fourth.
They want to break the linkage between EU fund disbursements and democracy, fearing that they may lose out financially as a result.
In reality, they are demanding the right for Poland and Hungary to continue their turn towards an authoritarianism that threatens judicial and media independence.
Led vocally by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU insists that the package and its strings will not be renegotiated.
No weight should be given to the seemingly conciliatory words of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban that they are “open to new proposals” and that “an agreement can be reached.”
These two right-wing politicians are very unlikely to undermine their core domestic support, even though they are the two biggest net beneficiaries from the EU budget.
Both have been hit hard by the second wave of the coronavirus and, although there are signs of improvement in Poland, deaths are at an all-time high in Hungary with no sign of a downturn.
Public opinion may take a dim view of their leaders preparing to fight the EU to the death of their own citizens.
Not that the politicians and bureaucrats of the EU are the untarnished good guys in this dispute.
For all their moral self-righteousness in defence of democracy, they have never opposed the anti-socialist and anti-communist bans and proscriptions introduced by the governments and parliaments in Warsaw and Budapest.
Communist and workers’ parties and youth leagues have been harassed, dragged before the courts, forced to change their names and statutes, had assets seized, and in some cases been outlawed.
Under its “decommunisation” law, Poland is removing Soviet war memorials. Attempts have been made in both countries to criminalise the display of communist and socialist symbols, including in Hungary the five-pointed red star on cans of Heineken.
In both countries, some constitutional judges and most press barons have been enthusiastic proponents of these repressive measures.
Similar steps have been taken in other ex-socialist EU member states.
While EU institutions have done nothing to impede them, the non-EU European Court of Human Rights has at least provided the legal basis for some resistance.
Not so long ago, we witnessed the grotesque spectacle of the EU Parliament — including most of its Labour MEPs — holding the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany equally responsible for the second world war, equating the criminals running the Nazi extermination camps with the Soviet soldiers who liberated them, and proclaiming a new crusade against the “crimes of communism.”
Naturally, the EU has supported — and even mandated where necessary — sweeping policies of privatisation and deregulation across eastern Europe, to the great cost of millions of people.
German capitalists have led the way in snapping up many of these assets, while the capitalist economies of western Europe have profited hugely from the cheap, skilled migrant labour set in motion by the destruction of socialist ownership and planning.
Now the contradictory chickens are coming home to roost. Neither the EU nor the governments of Poland and Hungary serve the interests of the working class and the people.
They all deserve to be overthrown.
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