Europe’s military drift and the attack on social services

By Manuel Raposo

Lisbon, Portugal

Raposo is a Marxist analyst and editor of the Portuguese web periodical found at, where this article was published on Dec. 16, 2023. Translation: John Catalinotto.

Demonstration in Lisbon, February 2023. For a fair life, not a penny more for NATO.

Judging by recent events, the U.S. seems to be trying to shift the main burden of military and financial support for Ukraine onto Europeans. The increase in the war industry that the European Union has undertaken, together with Berlin’s announced intention to take the lead in this effort, point in this direction. 

This new direction has been taken even at the risk of a strong division among EU member states, as can be seen as expressed by the opposition of the Hungarian government. 

This apparent retreat of Washington from the front line of support for Zelensky can only be seen as temporary. It aims to lessen the penalty for U.S. President Joe Biden and the Democrats, now embroiled in a losing war, in the upcoming elections, and seeks to buy time to resolve internal disputes dividing the U.S. regime. 

Alongside this maneuver, a sort of division of labor is taking place with regard to the two wars underway in Ukraine and Palestine. The U.S. is focusing its main commitment on the Middle East, where it doesn’t want to lose its footing. This choice has been shown by the effective support Washington is giving to Israel’s crimes, alongside worthless moralizing.

The additional burden of war that European states are now willing to take on will not be reversed and will have heavy consequences for the people of Europe. The first victim will be the so-called welfare state.

The huge sums that the European states are proposing to invest will have to be taken from the funds currently earmarked for social support. A sign of this is that people are already discussing “What kind of state do we want?” The commentators adopted this formula to warn public opinion that something will have to change.

The alternative is clear. Either you bet on “security” (i.e. the military option), or you keep the social benefits. You can’t have both. 

Add to this the fact that the EU economy, and Europe in general, has a bleak future. Europe’s economy is in recession, with no prospect of improvement on the horizon. The certainty is greater that workers across the continent will be penalized. 

It won’t be enough, therefore, in a context like this, for the workers’ movement to simply demand better wages, as if capitalist business was following its “normal” course. 

When economic reality is marked by continuous depression and the inability of the government power to put an end to it; when the political reality is marked by war and preparations for more wars — this is a sign that major changes are taking place. The powers that be can no longer govern as they used to, and the people no longer want to live as they do.

Alongside all the demands for a better life, the mobilization of workers needs to be based on an understanding of the political reality that surrounds and penalizes them. 

It’s not just a “bad distribution of wealth” that’s at stake. The calls to “produce more” in order to “distribute more” are empty. Capitalist decline, visible in capitalism’s inability to generate progress, leads the political choices of the bourgeoisies towards the superexploitation of labor. Precarious employment, low wages, wages below the level of survival, the enslavement of immigrants, the progressive liquidation of social benefits — all are the fruits of this political path. 

On the other hand, to attack this program opens the way to a new world of possibilities for workers to intervene in collective life and in the future of society.

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