The so-called refugee crisis in Europe and the wars of NATO

But what crisis is that, exactly? How is it that “we cannot deal with all of the misery of the world” but we can provoke misery, and deepen it behind the frontiers? Let’s not forget the NATO wars of late, with the participation of our [Western] States of Right and Democracy: Yugoslavia 1999, Afghanistan from 2001 till now, Iraq from 1993 till now, Libya 2011, and Syria from 2011 till now.


Where are the millions of refugees and displaced persons coming from? They escaped ethnic cleansing, and now the war on terror, conducted by NATO – a war opening a Pandora box of terrorist groups, each more barbarian and nihilistic than before. NATO dismembered entire States, destroying therefore the life-supporting infrastructures of millions upon millions. Along with this, what was trashed was the social, economic and cultural conquests of the most advanced countries of North Africa and Near East, like Libya, Syria and Iraq.

The flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees swells the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of people smashed by other wars. After Afghanistan, there was Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Slovenia. The displaced peoples of the Balkans had stayed rather trapped because imperialism had categorised their countries as ‘safe’.

There is no difference between ‘economic migrants’ and ‘war refugees’!

The fleeing populations do not abandon their countries lightly. They flee because the NATO wars ruined their countries militarily and economically, and because capitalism feeds on rapine. The crisis of the capitalist system is such that it cannot finance any project for social peace. It is only a few crumbs that it throws at the workers of the United States and the major European countries, because the situation for the majority there is one of mass unemployment, precariousness and regression – economic, social and cultural.

Whether people are ‘economic migrants’ or ‘war refugees’, their arrival anywhere creates resentment. Inevitably, the settled populations see the newcomers as  competitors on the labour market. But there are immigrants amongst those already settled. There are people recently integrated amongst them, or from elsewhere in the European Union. The employers, small or big, local or multinational, benefit from this state of things, aided as they are by the social and juridical deregulations put in place by European governments more and more keen on social dumping.

The big European employers seek out the ‘good refugees’ from the others. ‘Good’ are the Syrians and the Iraqis, because they have diplomas and good formations; now they will have a job for a wage three or four times inferior to the going rate, for any number of working hours, without safety and in dangerous conditions. In Germany last summer, the Merkel government pretended to be generously welcoming almost 1,000,000 refugees. When other refugees from the Balkans decided to follow behind the Syrians and the Iraqis, the German frontiers were closed, and so were those of the other EU countries neighbouring the Balkans. The new-comers were no longer of interest to German capitalism which had already super-exploited the gastarbeiters that had come earlier from Yugoslav, Albania and Turkey.

The right to asylum and the right to the free movement of people had been foundation pillars to the Treaties of the EEC and of the Europe of the 28. But the same leaders who planted those pillars are now those who question them, and indeed violate them. These are mainly Christian Democrats and Liberals, expressing the actual depth of the crisis of the big bourgeoisie that leads Europe.


The right to asylum was supposedly sacred when it was a matter of welcoming the ‘victims of communism’ like the dissidents from the socialist countries, from Eastern Europe and from the USSR. After the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) however, and the change of regime in the countries of Eastern Europe, the latter were declared ‘secure’ or drawn into the European Union. This done, the right of asylum stopped being a principle for the Western governments. European democracy let its mask fall as it saw little ‘good’ in the refugees from Libya and Afghanistan, and now those from Syria and Iraq.

And the governments of the European Union to declare that they cannot deal with all the misery of the world, and to adopt antidemocratic measures instead! They militarise the police along the European frontiers. They take over the Mediterranean militarily. Their civilian rescue operations through FRONTEX[1] are increasingly indistinguishable from their military ones through Eunavfor Med[2] in the pursuit of people’s traffickers and the destruction of their boats.

The growing militarisation of the EU police and surveillance operations in the Mediterranean

The growing militarisation of the EU activities in the Mediterranean leads it to merge with the NATO war preparations. NATO itself admits this. The operation TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2015[3] which it started in the Mediterranean is the most important deployment of joint EU airborne and naval forces since the end of the Second World War. Portugal, Spain, and Italy are used for the launching of missions “in defence of the Eastern and Southern flank of NATO”. NATO partners collaborate, like Israel, Morocco and Lebanon. This is a long way away from the salvation of migrants!

Warships at the service of the EU are also at the service of NATO. They search the seas logistically and against clandestine traffickers. The ministers of the European governments who kept meeting for months “to share the refugee burden between them all” are the same who attend the NATO meetings and monitor its actions. It is NATO that stands behind the international coalition against Daesh in Syria and Iraq!

To the refugees: Welcome!

Sept 2015 -1

It is not the ordinary folk who repulse the refugees. Those who do this are the governments of the European Union. At this point, capitalism has no need of all this mass of people to depress the labour market and the working conditions of those still employed. The official media and the right-wing parties do their best to instil a fear of the immigrant in parts of the population. They brandish the bogey of the extreme right, and pretend that the fascists in Germany, Hungary and France amount to multitudes. They amplify deliberately the significance of any isolated incident, dispute or aggression that can be blamed on some migrant.

Much to the reverse of this, however, there are very important manifestations of solidarity with the refugees. Thousands of them were saved from drowning in the Mediterranean thanks to the outcry of the populations. People are now organising on a massive scale to supply the refugees with material, blankets, clothing, food and tents. People give what they can spare to make up for what the local and national authorities are not doing. Of course this solidarity cannot replace the radical changes required. In one of his plays, Bertold Brecht makes the point in a play that when Saint Martin cut his coat in two to help a freezing man, they both died of cold…

Poor populations are already the majority on the European continent: from the North to the South, they too are suffering from the consequences of this capitalist crisis which they have not caused. And they are not responsible either for the wars driven by their leaders, and the use these leaders make of NATO. The struggles in each country of the European Union must be linked together to force their governments to stop supporting the wars of NATO. To force them to stop taking part in those wars. To demand that the money dedicated to war must be used to stop the misery, the poverty of the unemployed, the destitution of those without houses or addresses – which includes the refugees.

One must defend at all costs the social and cultural conquests already won by the working class everywhere. A counter-power needs to be built across Europe through the Left parties, the trade unions and the peace movements – and let the capitalists pay for their own crisis.


[1] FRONTEX was set up in 2004 to control the maritime, terrestrial and celestial frontiers of the European Union. Between 2007 and 2013, it spent €2 billion to shore up the frontiers – and €7 million to accommodate refugees.

[2] Eunavfor Med is the name of a military operation started in the Mediterranean by the EU on 22 June 2015. It identifies, captures and neutralises the ships and the means used – or suspected to be used – by people traffickers. In its third and latest operation, it will intervene directly in the Libyan territorial waters to carry out this task

[3] TRIDENT JUNCTURE 2015 is the name of a NATO exercise involving 36,000 soldiers from 30 countries members or partners of NATO. Within the framework of the “NATO response Force” (NRF), they train as a rapid deployment Force with land, sea and air units aiming at joint action. This way, NATO tests its capacity “to confront any security threat coming from either the East or the South”, as general secretary J. Stoltenberg puts it.

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