European Union, drones and economic crises – capitalism is melting away

There has been justifiable outrage over the recent revelations that the American National Security Agency (NSA) has been conducting massive surveillance and spying of online data, emails, social networks, and collecting information from various private companies to spy on the activities of millions of people. The perceptive American commentator Glenn Greenwald has been extensively documenting the ‘bulk spying’ activities of the NSA. Greenwald, like other writers, draws the conclusion that all this surveillance of online communication is contributing to the construction of a police state. We must redouble our efforts to prevent such a martial-law state from occurring, as our civil liberties are undermined in the midst of the worst economic crisis of capitalism since the 1930s Great Depression.

However, it appears that the European Union is drawing different conclusions from the deteriorating economic circumstances. Russia Today reports that the level of government debt in the EU zone has reached an all-time high of $11.4 trillion. This has occurred in spite of the stated purpose of the austerity measures to lift struggling European economies out of the capitalist crisis. As the Russia Today article explains:

Greece has 160.5 percent debt, and Italy, the block’s fourth largest economy, is burdened by 130.3 percent in debt. Portugal has 127.2 percent and Belgium’s debt climbed to 104.5 percent of GDP.

‘Bail-out’ states, those which have, or are currently receiving financial aid from the European Commission and International Monetary Fund to rebuild their economies, have some of the highest debt.

Europe has remained mired in recession, and Germany and Austria were the only two countries to not shrink economically in the first quarter of 2013. While the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are contemplating further cutbacks to social spending and slashing workers’ wages, there is one area where the European states and banks are willing to spend, in order to boost profitability; drone warfare and spy satellites.

The European Commission is currently considering a proposal to buy up a fleet of spy drones, satellites and the full panoply of spying machinery to boost its capacity to surveil and respond to what the European powers regard as threats to their power. As Russia Today reported, the European Union wants to acquire the full range of spying and defence capabilities provided by drones, a course of action documented in the proposal called “A New Deal for European Defence.” In the foreword written by European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani states, Europe is undergoing a serious economic crisis, and thus needs to adopt new strategies to meet the new challenges of the future.

The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, stated back in September 2012 that:

The world needs a Europe that is capable of deploying military missions to help stabilise the situation in crisis areas…

Barroso went on to frame this mission to deploy as part of an overall ‘humanitarian’ project, to bring human rights, and fair play into regions of the world that need it according to the European imperialist states.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

The European Commission presents its proposals to the European Council meeting which then deliberates on matters of European security. This is not the first time that the European Union has been considering buying drones and spy satellites; the European Commission has put together a number of proposals to produce as well as acquire drones and satellites. Russia Today quotes from a report that the European Commission drafted back in 2012 that evaluated the options for deploying spy drones, or what they call remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) across Europe:

“The European Commission has long identified the potential of this emerging technology and supported the market by investing in research and innovation relevant for RPAS through the Framework Programme for Research. A broad stakeholders’ consultation has demonstrated the necessity for action at EU level, setting as priorities the further development of RPAS civil applications and the integration of the systems into the European air space as soon as possible…”

The discussion in the European Commission centres on whether Europe should manufacture its own drones, or buy them from other countries, or perhaps adopt both measures.

These proposals are all being justified as a response to the revelations by former NSA employee Edward Snowden that the United States has engaged in massive internet surveillance and collection of data. European officials surmise that the Edward Snowden revelations demonstrate that what is needed is not greater transparency and accountability, but that Europe needs its own autonomous security and spy networks. What is not explained is how the existence of extensive spying by one power, the United States, can be countered by escalating the scope and range of spying and surveillance by other imperialist powers. Surely the scaffolding of a police state is being erected by the European Union to provide greater propensity for the ruling classes to attack the living standards and conditions of workers across Europe.

The European powers are no strangers to mass surveillance. Germany was operating closely with the NSA, providing data and access to the NSA to gather information on its citizens. However, the German authorities realised that they, along with other European nations, were themselves the targets of NSA spying, and scaled back their cooperation. Now, Europe is intent on building and acquiring its own mechanisms for state spying. The acquisition of drones indicates that the European imperialist states are not only intending to spy on their own citizens, but are also contemplating expanding their global ambitions to intervene in their former colonies in Africa and the Middle East. The Europeans have long bristled with anger as the United States has invaded other countries and imposed its economic priorities in areas once considered a haven of European influence.

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a French version of a neoconservative – sent French troops to quietly and decisively intervene in the former French colony of the Ivory Coast to topple the government of that country. France has never really let go of the Cote d’Ivoire since formal independence in 1960. Current French President Francois Hollande adopted his neoconservative political direction by sending French troops into the former French colony of Mali in January 2013. Using the tired old canard of ‘humanitarian intervention’, Hollande sought to portray the French invasion not as an assertion of French colonialism, but as a rescue mission to save a failing state from takeover by enemy militias. As Roger Annis explained the background to the Mali intervention:

The public relations version of the French et al invasion is a familiar refrain. “Islamic terrorists” and “jihadists” have taken control of northern Mali and are a threat to international security and to the wellbeing of the local population. Terrible atrocities against the local populace are alleged and given wide publicity by corporate media. Similar myths were peddled by the war makers when they invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

It is true that Islamic fundamentalists have ruled northern Mali with an iron hand since taking over in 2012. But the reasons for this latest intervention lie in the determination of the world’s imperial powers to keep the human and natural resources of poor regions of the world as preserves for capitalist profits. West Africa is a region of great resource wealth, including gold, oil and uranium.

France has never forgotten its “Francafrique” ambitions, maintaining a systematic and complex network of relations with its former colonies. This political and economic conglomerate is becoming ever more indispensable as the French economy crumbles under the impact of the ongoing capitalist economic crisis. Acquiring drones and spy satellites is part of the escalating overseas ambitions of European colonialism to re-establish itself as a military power in its own right and assert its control over the resources and markets of Africa and the Middle East.

Make no mistake – in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, the European powers were prepared to inject billions of euros into the failing financial system, the banks and the bank accounts of the financial speculators, in order to keep the decrepit capitalist system going. Shifting the cost of the crisis onto the working people, exerting downward pressure on wages and removing the social gains of the past decades – this is the strategy of the European bourgeoisie. Restructuring the whole of society for the benefit of a financial aristocracy in Europe is on the cards. The destruction of social services and benefits for workers is accompanied by ramped-up militarism overseas and ever-intrusive surveillance and spying domestically. We must ask ourselves if this is the path that we wish to take.

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