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.

left paper eec

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.

Faith, Hope and Charity – Contemplating Contradictions

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Contemplating the Contradictions of Charity within Socialism

Concerns about the rights and wrongs of charity often stimulate debate. Is there a difference between the natural desire to help others and organised, impersonal charities? Think Left’s recent blog about philanthropy and democracy addressed this.

Sue Fairweather, a socialist and a Christian ponders whether there is a congruency or conflict between these with regard to “charity”. She shares her thoughts here.

Thinking more about these justifiable concerns about ‘charity’ when this video appeared on my Community page.

A training weekend for the Volunteer Action for Peace organisation. https://vimeo.com/131963750

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Every year for more than 40 years we have had VAPs from all over the world working in our Community for a period of two to three weeks. Othona, is  a charity,  which welcomes different charitable workers from afar. Without doubt ‘we’ are very glad to welcome the ‘administration’. Would I, or ‘we’, hold out the same hand of friendship to let’s say the Bill Gates Foundation?

I am reminded of a documentary discussion where a member Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) challenged a CEO of the aforementioned BGF as to their philanthropic works in the early days of conflict in war torn Libya. The doctor had two objections; the formation of a ‘safe corridor’ for the fleeing refugees of war which in fact left them as easy targets; that the ‘aid’ provided, despite being ample for much humanitarian need, was selective (some would say in the manipulators’ hands) and should be directed to, and more importantly, by the ‘troops’ on the ground like the MSF.

There is a difference in the perspectives of these two organisations. I would suggest that the ‘wealth’ of MSF’s difference comes with their direct humanitarian aid to the people from the people of all nations. Where the Bill Gates’ Foundation functional aid worth millions of dollars goes to is unclear. It comes from ‘on high’ (not quite ‘high’ enough for a spiritual sounding me) and appears to run a manipulative path. I have no time for an entrepreneur, Bill Gates, who openly lectures that he can reduce (present tense) the world population by his inoculation programmes and health programmes. There are children in many developing nations who are left disabled, sometimes dying, having been the recipients of such ‘charity’.

Building a world where worth and not wealth is the primary function of society can be the only way forward. Work is a natural by-product of that aim…more about that much later. I have mentioned earlier my faith and political grounding for anything I write (somewhat reluctantly for it is difficult for me to marry my brain as holistically as my being) which leads me to the two JCs.

JC1 gives us ‘the greatest of all is Love’.

JC2, Jeremy Corbyn, busier as us humans are, says this in answer to a question of where his optimism is based, “In the fundamental good in people, and [a belief] that you can create a society where people do feel valued, do feel involved and can make a contribution”.

It was with joy that our discussions led me through ‘war and peace’ to a closer definition of Charity, albeit a necessary biblical definition for me. Wrongly I gave three WW2 Spitfires as bearing the nicknames of Faith, Hope and Charity’…the names were right but the plane was wrong. You cannot imagine how I feel presently that these craft were in fact three Gloster Gladiators that were unpacked and assembled as the only original air defence in the bombardment of the home of my youth, Malta. My cup runneth over. The use of the word Charity has inbuilt memories of benevolence and malevolent situations. Nothing changes, or does it?

rainbow

Yesterday I consulted more than one bible in my search for the meaning of that elusive word ‘charity’. I knew the exact text where it was coupled with faith and hope. My surprise came that my usual modern version gave faith, hope and…Love. I’m rather saddened, being a conceptual dinosaur, that the loving name of charity has been left behind with King James!

Now to stretch between the spiritual and the political. A wise councillor once told me of the limitations of our language. Greeks, and we must all spare another moments thought for them here, had several different words for love. If I remember correctly the anglicised three were Eros (well we know where that one’s going!), Charisma (of the Spirit), and Agape...the most important perhaps for our purpose…the love between all people. Using the same procedure Greeks had a second set for that simple item, the chair. The first you could see, the second you could measure, the third, the one where both my faith and my politics reside, is the one that ‘we know you can sit in’ and bear your weight! The chair will support you, the choice is yours when you’re doing the window shopping of ‘looking and measuring’.

Mine is assured by both JCs but so that I’m not ‘too heavenly minded to be of no earthly good’ (a favourite concern for a Christian) my vote is to be cast for Jeremy Corbyn and no other on the voting slip.

Is the whisper of the People heard through “Democracy” looking down on them? @Corbyn4Leader

Democracy or Philanthropy? How can we combat poverty and injustice?

The Collective Voice of Labour

Think tanks, philanthropists, charities, celebrities  and  lobbyists are shouting from the wings the answers to an impoverished world.  Joseph Rowntree, Barrow  Cadbury, Bill Gates, Russell Brand, Oxfam, and NSPCC are just a few. All these are undoubtedly good deeds and with the best intentions, and yet poverty prevails. We can go on, but where where is the place for charity and philanthropy in a democratic society? Do we have a real democracy at all?  Why is Russell Brand’s voice any more valid or interesting than yours or mine?

 For whom do the rich and powerful  speak, and should they?

When rich people make a decision to spend money on supposed good deeds, they abuse power. The media abuses power. Is charity  a quick fix to alleviate stresses in a crisis? Do they address the injustices or reinforce them? It is a quandary which I have struggled with and blogged about. In a true democracy each vote should be equal. Whoever we elect, it seems that the resultant politicians abuse that power we give them.

Caring deeds are admirable, helping one another out on a day-to-day basis comes naturally, and the spirit of ’45 is something our society needs to recapture. That caring  society is exactly what Thatcher denied existed, and that has been eroded. On the other hand having to depend on charity is degrading and humiliating. I think this is why people become suspicious of one another, and fear anyone who’s different to them. We need to learn to trust again. We need honesty, not smoke and mirrors.

What is wrong with everything is capitalism, competing consumers clambering over one another and anything to get to the top of the pile – whatever that is. To throw crumbs from above (philanthropy) cannot justify the means taken to get there. When we build a society whitch satisfies everyone’s needs, and eliminates poverty, spend time alongside one another we have society. Tony Benn believed in a real democratic movement. He said Labour should say what we mean and mean what we say. Tony Benn encouraged me, and now Jeremy Corbyn stands to encourage new generations and rejuvenate our Labour movement. Jeremy Corbyn also stands apart in that belief. With Greece, where democracy was born, now on its knees, is our species doomed?  

It is the collective voice of Labour which must be heard and formulate policies for Labour – a leader needs to facilitate and encourage this voice to be heard.

Every voice matters, but that does not take away the responsibility for education, and we should use our influence to change minds and put the Labour Party back at the heart of the people.  The party should be formulating policy through a renewed internal democracy. First we must put in place a clear statement of our aims and objectives. These must be SMART and agreed by the party. We should be brave and honest. If we are not, no one else will be.  

Straight talking Labour is what we need to be.

From “In Place of Fear” , Ch.2, Aneurin Bevan (1)

“As we fumble with outworn categories our political vitality is sucked away and we stumble from one situation to another, without chart, without compass, and with the steering wheel lashed to a course we are no longer following. This is the real point of danger for a political party and for the leaders and thinkers who inspire it. For if they are out of touch with reality, the masses are not. Indeed, they are reality. For them their daily work is an escapable imperative. While those who are supposed to be doing the theorising for them are adrift like passengers in an escaped balloon, the workers are tied to reality by the nature of their work. In the absence of clear theoretical guidance, they make empirical adaptions and formulate practical categories. So far as these are incomplete, and therefore unsatisfactory, the first result is a distrust for those who have demonstrably failed them.”

We  failed as destruction and divisions of the Labour Party over the last three decades has left an impotent voice, where Labour politicians  are frightened to speak out in the media or alongside workers taking industrial action against austerity, and  yet continue to  agree with policies cutting public services. Our public services should not be available for breaking up for pickings for profit seekers. It is scandalous that a Labour government supported private finance initiatives breaking up our health and education – echoing the Tories. Is it any wonder people did not back Labour?

This is why we have to recapture a true democratic socialist movement. The Labour Party, and our politicians should stand alongside ordinary people who call for justice on picket lines, and marches.  Together we must defend  human rights, and our  trade unions and fight austerity. We must call for tighter control on banks, oppose TTIP and other supposed “free trade treaties”. We must support renationalisation – of the railways, energy, utilities – and democratic control of money, as a tool. All this is what ordinary people know and call for. Why aren’t our politicians?

Our politicians should not be frightened to stand with us against all these injustices and above all expose the truth about capitalism which is driving the world in a downwards spiral, and to stand up for the collective good for all which can be brought about by socialism.

I am backing Jeremy Corbyn to lead the Labour Party, and the people’s democracy.