Monday, June 25, 2012

European unity not present in the auto business

The debates over how to deal with Greek debt is not the only conflict raging in the EU.  These debates reflect the difficulty of integrating separate nation states in to a united economic and political whole as karl Marx explained over 150 years ago.

There is increasing tension over the German auto bosses' refusal to join in a Europe-wide effort to shut unprofitable plants; it turns out that auto production in Europe produces more cars than workers can buy.  We have explained that this crisis of overproduction is due to workers being paid in wages less than the value we create through the Labor process so at some point, the market becomes saturated with too many goods and we know what happens then, shut plants, depressions, slumps.
We should always keep in mind that capitalists destroy production not because people might not need what is produced, but because they can't pay for it. Food is a commodity also, so if you can't buy it, you starve.  Not profitable to produce it? You starve.

Sergio Marchionne, Fiat CEO and president of the European auto lobby wants a Europe-wide plan to shut down plants to combat overcapacity.  Overcapacity in Western European plants "may double to about 2 million vehicles" this year says Bloomberg Business Week. Sales are expected to fall 7% this year for the fifth year in a row but the problem is that overcapacity is most severe in weaker exporting countries.

Export power house Germany is not concerned. China and the US are BMW's two largest markets and German auto plants are operating at more than 90% capacity due to demand there while other EU plants are operating as low as 60% and 75% of capacity.  Fiat and Peugeot are being hard hit losing $10 billion a year "bearing the cost of unneeded factories and workers" BW adds.  "You can't ask Italians to be the only ones who feel the pain of closures. They should go to France, Italy and Germany" says Marchionne. 

"If you do a plan which distributes closures across countries it's easier to sell it" says Marchionne, sounding like a planning minister for a federation of socialist republics.  He wants Europe-wide training of displaced workers along with Europe-wide capital and Labor rules that would also cover plant closings.

The Germans are having none of it, "We do not want to comment on the topic, because we do not have any overcapacities." says Bettina Singhartinger, a Daimler spokesperson. Some EU solidarity there I'll say. 

European unification went further than many of us, particularly socialists, thought it would.  But this problem of the nation state within a world economy will not go away and we can see with examples like auto production that it leads to crisis.  In the past it led to horrific world wars, something regional blocs like the EU were thought to avoid.  The presence of nuclear weapons has limited the ability of the advanced capitalist nations to wage war but further crisis lies ahead as a democratically planned economy across nation states is not possible under capitalism. A democratic socialist plan of production would certainly produce human transportation differently than simply turning out inefficient and environmentally disastrous autos. This competion between capitalists is not our concern "Workers of all countries unite" Marx's famous phrase is as important and valid as it was over 150 years ago.

The solution to this crisis caused by the private ownership of the means of production distribution and exchange of the products we make that sustain human life is collective ownership and management of these forces, liberating them from the present clique and the building of not just a Europe-wide federation but a global federation of democratic socialist states.

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