Tony Benn: The case against the EU is its lack of Democracy

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The Greek crisis has finally brought the lack of democracy in the structures of European Union to the forefront.  Tony Benn explains why the left has (and should) oppose the EU.  (Unfortunately, this video clip has been posted by Ukip who are the new boys on the block in terms of euroscepticism.)

Uploaded on Sep 26, 2007

Tony Benn talks about the ‘big issue’ of the the EU constitutional treaty at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth

 

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The Changing Face Of Europe – as Greece says NO, what will we say?

Red Labour must address the elephant in the room

 

The Changing Face of Europe – As Greece says NO, what will we say?

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The Changing Face of Europe – and The World

Socialists differ from nationalists in that their concern for the welfare of others is not confined to arbitrary boundaries of nations and states. In modern times, as transport and technology has advanced, so the time , scope and range of communication and trade has expanded. One world, one community, one people is a possibility. But the reality is that it is not national boundaries which define and divide us, but wealth, class and property. And above all – power.

(1) In April 1970, during the 1970 general election, Edward Heath said that further European integration would not happen “except with the full-hearted consent of the Parliaments and Peoples of the new member countries.” However, no referendum was held when Britain agreed to an accession treaty on 22 January 1972 with the EEC states, Denmark, Ireland and Norway, or when the European Communities Act 1972 went through the legislative process. Britain joined the European Economic Community on 1 January 1973, with Denmark and Ireland. This later became the European Union.Ted Heath’s Conservative government entered the Common market in 1972. At the time many felt that was unconstitutional, and even questioned the legality. ( See (2) Vernon Coleman’s comments)

 Clearly external pressures were being exerted on Heath’s government. Britain and American intelligence services supported Britain’s entry into EEC to oppose the Communist bloc. Funding was put in place to influence public support.

The Cambridge Clarion (3) describes how the MI6 pushed Britain to join Europe.

“A secretly-funded Foreign Office unit used public money to mount a covert propaganda operation aimed at ensuring Britain joined the European Community.

British and American intelligence services had traditionally supported Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community us a bulwark against the Communist Eastern bloc.

The CIA funded the European Movement, the most prominent extra-governmental group, seeking to influence public opinion for a European Community. Between 1949 and 1953, it was subsidised by the CIA to the tune of £330,000. In June 1970 Edward Heath’s Conservative government had been elected with a pro-European manifesto. But public and parliamentary support for Europe was slipping and Britain’s entry was in doubt. Although the Cabinet was dominated by pro-Europeans, Heath presided over a party that was deeply ambivalent about the “Common Market”.

Later that year, a meeting of senior information officers in Whitehall was convened to discuss what could be done. An official present at that meeting says the only department that seemed capable of achieving something effective was the Foreign Office’s Information Research Department. IRD had been set up in 1948 by Christopher Mayhew, then Foreign Minister, to place covert anti-Communist propaganda throughout the world and was funded by the intelligence budget – the secret vote. IRD was closely linked with MI6 and shared many officers – including at one time the double agent Guy Burgess. By the late Sixties, IRD had more than 400 people occupying River-walk House opposite the Tate Gallery and undercover officers in embassies all over the globe.

The civil servant who ran the covert pro-Europe campaign was Norman Reddaway, Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, with a brief covering IRD and other FO information services.

Mr Reddaway, who later became ambassador to Poland, and is now retired, set up a special IRD unit to propagandise in favour of British entry and counter those who opposed it. In an unpublished interview, Mr Reddaway says: “The researchers were extremely good at researching the facts about going into Europe”

The unit worked closely with a number of pro-European politicians to rebut anti-EEC arguments. IRD wrote and brokered articles which were placed in the press “There was no shortage of MPs who were pleased to see something published under their name in The Times and elsewhere,” a former insider said.”

The Labour party were split on the issue, with many grassroots opposing remaining in Europe and Wilson called a referendum on the issue of whether to remain:  The Common Market Referendum on 6th June 1975.  (4) At that time, I voted “No”, feeling that it was a treaty backing private business and had little to offer working people. The No campaign included the left wing of the Labour Party, including the cabinet ministers Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Peter Shore, Eric Varley, and Barbara Castle. Some Labour “No” supporters, including Varley, were on the right wing of the party, but most were from the left.

The funding supporting European Entry clearly was effective, and even the Daily Mirror attacked those opposing the entry as lunatics and extremists.

Much of the “Yes” campaign focussed on the credentials of its opponents. According to Alastair McAlpine, “The whole thrust of our campaign was to depict the anti-Marketeers as unreliable people – dangerous people who would lead you down the wrong path … It wasn’t so much that it was sensible to stay in, but that anybody who proposed that we came out was off their rocker or virtually Marxist.”.[ Tony Benn controversially claimed “Half a million jobs lost in Britain and a huge increase in food prices as a direct result of our entry into the Common market“, using his position as Industry Minister as an authority. His claims were ridiculed by the “Yes” campaign and ministers; the Daily Mirror labelled Benn the “Minister of Fear” and other newspapers were similarly derisive. Ultimately, the “No” campaign lacked a popular, moderate figure to play the public leadership role for their campaign that Jenkins and Wilson fulfilled in the “Yes” campaign.

The establishment control of the press has been effective at attacking those using democratic means as extremists. Michael Foot, Tony Benn, and Neil Kinnock were neither loony, extreme-left, dangerous  nor undemocratic. Later, at the time of their deaths, when they could no longer challenge the establishment, Michael Foot and Tony Benn were admired and appreciated as men with intelligence and courage. The strength of that courage is precisely why the press attacked them, and continue to attack anyone who questions the status quo. That is the reason we have plunged blindly into neoliberalism, with a Labour Party impotent and fearful of the media.

The No campaign also included a large number of Labour backbenchers; upon the division on a pro-EEC White Paper about the renegotiation, 148 Labour MPs opposed their own government’s measure, whereas only 138 supported it and 32 abstained.

The Guardian (6) reported the outcome of the 1975 referendum with a smiling Margaret Thatcher . thatcher europe 

…and reported that Wilson needed to take on the opposition from the Left.

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Certainly, I can recall that within Labour meetings, more positive aspects of being more closely allied within Europe began to emerge. It is a long time ago, I wonder how many others can recall how opposition to Europe from the Left began to crumble, as there was talk of a Social Contract, treaties supporting workers’ rights and a renewed solidarity across Europe? As socialists, the fraternal support of the left across Europe seemed a positive force – the idea of “united we stand, divided we fall” and so on. The greatest influence, was no doubt the danger at home – an extreme, right-wing reactionary government with Thatcher privatising everything in sight with Reagan encouraging  her from across the ocean.

Our own Labour Party of the 80s and 90s no longer opposed the neoliberalism game. Enthusiasm for Europe and monetarism was pursued by a Labour Party led by John Smith and later Tony Blair. Labour had joined the race and power for Blair was an addiction, and the Left voice against Europe was silenced – gagged even.

Europe seemed the friend and the US the enemy.

The truth was very different, in that the US was always the driving force of the European Community.  As previously mentioned, the US was involved in the instigation of a Europe wide force from the beginning, and has continued throughout. Their intervention was opposed as long ago as 1950s and 60s by De Gaulle, The American Challenge Le Défi Américain, published in 1967 by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, and referred to by Bill Mitchell’s blog  Europe’s EU imported Nightmare. (7)

Because of a technology-gap, the US would achieve a hold on Europe. Servan-Schreiber’s main predictions were based around three main points

1. The flow of profits out of Europe to the US-owned firms.

2. The colonisation in an economic sense of Europe by US firms.

3. The cultural invasion.

And so it has come to pass. The power of a US led neofeudalist plutocracy (8) is now so great that treaties such as TTIP are being readily signed by politicians with arms held behind their backs.  Our NHS of 67 years now may be privatised, in such a form we could not repeal legislation because governments can be sued?  What democracy exists at all? (9)

The real crisis now in Greece (10) was inevitable in hindsight, as far from a united people in Europe, some were very much stronger than others.The most powerful economy in the Eurozone was Germany, and so served its own interests. Weaker countries such as Greece struggled, and neighbours withheld aid as the global financial crisis struck. Greece has been abandoned, and even when Greece democratically elected a party opposed to austerity measures, the financial power base of the ECB pressures those people against their democratic will.

If we take a look at Spain, (11) where gagging laws have been compared to the days of Franco’s dictatorship, we see  another example where democratic expression becomes a sham. There is a limit to  freedom of speech and curbing the right to peacefully protest with the introduction of fines ranging between €100 ($111) and €600,000.

1) Fines for protesting Under the new law, anyone who organizes or takes part in an “unauthorized protest” could be fined between €30,000 and €600,000 if the protest takes part near institutions such as the Spanish parliament.

2) Disrupting public events Disrupting events such as public speeches, sports events or religious ceremonies could face fines of between €600 and €300,000.

3) Botellón The Spanish tradition of getting together with mates for outdoor drinking sessions looks to be officially over – drinking in public will be hit with fines of €600 under the new law. And teenagers won’t escape – Parents will be held responsible for the payment of their offsprings’ fines.

4) Social media activism Using Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to call on people to protest will be fined under the new law, an attempt to put paid to the spontaneous protests that have proved very powerful in building the indignado movement.

5) Photographing police People will be fined for taking unauthorized photographs of the police, a measure introduced with the argument that being publicly identified could put officers and their families in danger.

6) Smoking weed It puts an end to the laissez-faire attitude that has seen Spain become a nation with one of the largest potsmoking populations in Europe. But from now on lighting up a joint in bars or on public transport could result in a fine of between €600 and €30,000.

7) Leaving furniture in the street It is a tradition that has existed in Spain long before the current upcycling trend but from now on dumping unwanted furniture in the street could come with a penalty. Those caught obstructing streets with old furniture, cars or other unwanted items will be fined.

8) Trying to stop an eviction People trying to stop an eviction from taking place could be fined between €600 and €300,000. The number of evictions in Spain has skyrocketed since the beginning of the economic crisis.

9) Not having your ID

Spaniards who are asked to show their ID card and do not have it on their person could be in trouble under the new law. If they cannot immediately locate it at home and have failed to report it missing, they are liable to be fined.

10)  Disrespecting a police officer Showing a “lack of respect” to those in uniform or failing to assist security forces in the prevention of public disturbances could result in an individual fine of  between €600 and €30,000.

Is Big Brother watching us? Undoubtedly. How many recall the passing of 1984, and thought of Orwell’s predictions of Big Brother? The Orwellian world in which we now find ourselves is more terrifying than the books we read at school. There again, it cannot be long before the books  disappear and history rewritten, so when those who can remember have gone nothing else remains.

It is not that everything in Europe is bad news for Britain, or vice versa. It is right that we continue to travel, to befriend, to trade with and support those across Europe and the world. But what is wrong, is to continue to play the game, like counters in a game of Risk, pushing people to despair, withholding their livelihoods in the name of a European Economic Community. The European Union is both anti socialist and anti democratic.(12) It is not for the Labour Party, founded to protect working people to continue to pursue policies which blackmail states and their democratically elected representatives.

This is why, while I will not walk away from Europe,  or turn my back on people in need in Europe, the world, or next door – when the next  referendum comes I will vote “No” again.

  1. Wikipedia Referendum 1975 
  2. Vernon Coleman “Did Heath’s government enter the common market illegally?
  3. Cambridge Clarion: How MI6 pushed Britain to join Europe using public money to mount a covert propaganda operation.
  4. BBC On this Day: Referendum 1975
  5. New Statesman : 1975 Referendum on Europe
  6. How the Guardian reported referendum in 1975
  7. Bill Mitchell “Europe’s EU imported Nightmare”
  8. Capitalism, NeoLiberalism, Plutonomy and Neofeudalism
  9. Are we already in the post democratic era?
  10. Bryan Gould – the Real Greek Crisis
  11. Spain – the ten most repressive points of Spain’s gagging law
  12. Kelvin Hopkins: The EU is Anti Socialist and Undemocratic

The Real Greek Crisis, – Bryan Gould

The Real Greek Crisis

By Bryan Gould

Most people will feel that they don’t need to look far for an explanation as to what lies behind the Greek crisis. Lazy reporting and racial stereotyping will persuade them that the Greeks – a feckless lot, no doubt – have spent more than they should, got into debt, taken out loans from the hard-working Germans and now won’t repay the loans because they refuse to tighten their belts.

But there is another narrative that tells a somewhat different story. That story is one of a powerful economy enforcing its will on its weaker neighbours and refusing to acknowledge that it has thereby made it impossible for them to dig themselves out of a hole.

The story begins at the turn of the century when the Greeks, along with many others, were persuaded that being part of Europe required them to give up their own currency and accept the euro. A single currency meant a single monetary policy and a single central bank – and guess who decided what that policy should be and what the central bank should do?

Germany, by far the most powerful economy in the euro zone, ran it to serve its own interests, but life wasn’t so easy for the weaker countries. The Greeks, for example, with their smaller and less developed economy, had no chance of surviving the competition from efficient German manufacturing. We do not need the benefits of hindsight to make this point, since many commentators, myself included, foresaw the inevitability of this outcome at the time.

As things began to go wrong, and they had to borrow to keep their heads above water, the Greeks were assured that they could look to the Germans and others to help them out. But this was in the days of cheap and plentiful credit; when the Global Financial Crisis struck and the cheap credit dried up, the creditors who had happily lent to the Greeks wanted their money back.

The Greeks didn’t have the money. But the price they had to pay for borrowing yet more from the IMF and the European Central Bank was to accept a programme of savage austerity. The cuts they have already been forced to make have meant that 25% of the Greek economy has simply closed down and 60% of young people are without a job. Again, as some commentators observed at the time, it was impossible to see how the Greeks could ever – from an already weak economy that is now so much smaller and still going backwards – find the resources needed to repay their debts.

And so it has proved. The price that creditors insist upon for a continued bail-out is yet more austerity which can only mean yet more closures and unemployment. Leaked papers show that the creditor institutions themselves recognise that more austerity will make it even less possible for the Greeks to pay back their debts.

So why are the Germans and other creditors determined to force the Greeks into such a damaging dead end? The answer is that they care little for the travails of the Greek people. Their focus is on those countries that are watching the Greek situation closely – countries like Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, even Italy, that have faced similar problems, and suffered similar penalties, but that have not yet been compelled by pressure from their populations to resist a further descent into even more austerity.

The fear from the financial establishment and from the Germans in particular is that the Greeks might find a way to demonstrate to other similarly afflicted countries in the euro zone that there is a way out – and that those other countries would then follow a similar course. The rational course for the Greeks to take, after all, would be to leave the euro zone, restore their own currency and then print the drachmas needed, as monetarily sovereign countries are able and entitled to do, and repay their debts in devalued drachmas.

The difficulty that Greek Prime Minister Tsipras faces is that he has committed to resist austerity but also to retain the euro. It is doubtful that he can achieve both. In the forthcoming referendum, no one can be sure whether the dislike of austerity or the fear of leaving the euro zone will prevail. The poor and the unemployed – those who have suffered most from austerity – will vote to reject the new bail-out offer; the holders of assets and the pensioners will vote to stay with the euro.

Either way, the outlook for the euro looks bleak. In the long run, the attempt by the financial establishment to over-ride the wishes and interests of ordinary people and to negate the power of a democratic government to protect them will fail. The only question is as to how many more crises there will be and how much more suffering has to be endured before common sense prevails.

Bryan Gould 

“I once contested the Labour party’s leadership myself. The answers to the dilemmas facing British politicians today seem to me to be more clear-cut than was the case in 1992. It is easier now, with a longer perspective on the orthodoxy that has prevailed for so long, to see what has gone wrong, and to see what is needed to put it right. What is needed now is to unlock the intellectual straitjacket in which Labour has been shackled for too long. Where is the leader to deliver that?” Since Bryan Gould wrote these words,  Jeremy Corbyn agreed to stand as leader, and there is hope for a change from the intellectual straitjacket Bryan speaks of.

The Real Benefit Cheats of a Twisted Welfare System

The Twisted Welfare System

Who are The Real Benefit Cheats of a Twisted Welfare System?

In a topsy-turvey world  workers suffer on  low pay subsidise Big Businesss

This is the Hidden Welfare State

From John Dutton

Businesses collectively are, by far, the biggest benefit scroungers in Britain! In fact, the biggest retail chains and many other large and small British businesses could well afford to pay their low paid employees higher wages!

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Instead, their executives prefer to inflate the profits of their owners and line their own and top colleagues’ pockets with huge bonuses! Meanwhile the ordinary British taxpayer picks up the bill and hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have their benefits cut!

The following benefit scroungers’ latest annual subsidies from taxpayers are:
£67m, Next
£364m, Tesco
£221m, Asda
£182m, Sainsbury’s.

That’s a total taxpayer subsidy, for just FOUR companies, alone, of £734 million!
Some of these figures are even higher than the total amount of corporation tax the companies paid. It may provoke some to reconsider who the real “scroungers” are when it comes to the welfare system?

To add to the lunacy, taxpayers are hit a second time, for housing benefit, as the low-paid struggle to afford sky-high rents. Buy-to-let landlords, like many large employers, are among the biggest beneficiaries of this twisted welfare system.

Tax credits also explain, in part, Britain’s “productivity puzzle”. Why invest in plant and machinery when there is an endless supply of workers available on miserable wages, subsidised by tax credits? It is claimed that £5bn of the tax credit bill alone goes to migrants who fill minimum-wage jobs in Britain.

But the solution is not, as we are likely to see on Wednesday, just to slash the entitlements. Instead we need a phased reduction of tax credits hand-in-hand with a phased major increase in the minimum wage. Citizens UK estimates that aligning the minimum wage with the living wage – £9.15 an hour in London and £7.85 for the rest of the UK – will reduce the need for in-work benefits by £6.7bn a year, which would make a massive dent in the £12bn reduction in welfare spending which the Conservatives say is necessary.

We need a phased reduction of tax credits hand-in-hand with a phased major increase in the minimum wage.

A high minimum wage will destroy jobs, say right-wing, neo-con and libertarian economists, although they peddled that line before the start of the minimum wage, and were wrong then. Arguably, if some jobs disappear because of a higher minimum wage and lower tax credits, they weren’t real jobs anyway. Many employers pay for labour at the lowest price they can, not the price they would pay if wages were higher. And Britain will survive if Tesco or Next open fewer stores staffed by the ultra low-paid.