John Hilary – Social Europe is dead, Global EU lives

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John Hilary – Social Europe is dead, Global EU lives

 

This appallingly dishonest referendum campaign has reduced any debate down to frightening economic projections vs frightening xenophobic immigration statistics.  It is no wonder that most people say ‘that none of them can be trusted’; the exception being perhaps, the ‘reluctant’ 7.5% remainer, Jeremy Corbyn.

The most gaping omission has been the lack of focus on the institutions of the EU.

Laura Cartwright writes:

The absence of any discussion on neoliberalism in the referendum debate smacks of wilful ignorance from both camps, meaning that voters are left completely missing the bigger picture. The ‘Remain’ side is failing to question or critique the EU’s deep commitment to an increasingly discredited ideology which is continuing to increase inequality and stifle inter-generational mobility. The ‘Leave’ side is apportioning blame for our social, economic and political problems in the wrong place and seeking to retreat into a pre-globalised world of nation-state supremacy which no longer exists.

Unless we as citizens begin to ‘join the dots’ and start to question the cogency of a political economic doctrine which is preventing young people across Europe from reaching their full potential, discussions about being ‘in’ or ‘out’ are meaningless. As Irvine Welsh recently argued, whatever the outcome of the referendum the elites will ultimately win. Neoliberalism looks and feels the same, whether it’s imposed by those in power in the UK or the EU.

 http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/the-eu-debate-young-people-and-neoliberalism/?utm_content=buffer2f33f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Paul Mason puts it succinctly:

The EU is not – and cannot become – a democracy. Instead, it provides the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax-dodging elites and organised crime. It has an executive so powerful it could crush the leftwing government of Greece; a legislature so weak that it cannot effectively determine laws or control its own civil service. A judiciary that, in the Laval and Viking judgments, subordinated workers’ right to strike to an employer’s right do business freely.

http://hurryupharry.org/2016/06/20/why-i-am-voting-leave-by-professor-alan-johnson/

John Hilary in the video clip remedies the omission.

We on the left, need to understand the imperative to stick together.  We share a very different vision of society from this most rightwing of Conservative governments, and the direction of travel of the current EU.  Whether we decide to vote remain, lexit or abstain, our differences lie in what we believe to be the best strategy for change and not in the outcome that we wish to achieve.  To succeed ‘Solidarity’ has to be our rule.

In Defence of Greece – and Six Myths Busted

The following article was  originally posted prior to the Greek referendum on Sunday. The mainstream media has put the blame on the shoulders of the Greek nation. This article looks closely at the myths which are commonly used as propaganda .

In Defence of Greece – Six Myths Busted

By Joseph Leigh, Lewis Bassett & Michael Walker,

Previously published here

Events in Greece are coming to a head. Over the weekend the leadership of Syriza offered the Greek people a referendum on whether to accept austerity measures – including cuts to pensions and public sector spending, and labour market de-regulation – as the conditions for obtaining funds with which to service its debt repayments. However, by all accounts Greece may be forced to leave the Eurozone before the end of the week. As Syriza has been consistently represented in the mainstream media as an irresponsible and ideologically-driven leftist government, it is important to unpack the seemingly common sense arguments against Syriza.

1. ‘People have to pay their debts. Why shouldn’t Greece?’

When someone lends money to someone else with the intention of making a profit, they take on a risk, as does the person borrowing the money. Because both sides take on a risk with the hope of some future gain, they ought to share responsibility for the outcome. This is why debtor-prisons – common in the 18th and 19th centuries – were abolished: they unfairly punish one party for a scenario created by both lender and borrower. However, neither Europe’s banks which took on risky debts, nor the political institutions which made the policies that encouraged unsound financial practices, are willing to accept any responsibility for the current situation. Vital public services are being destroyed while the Greek economy shrinks because no one apart from Greece is shouldering responsibility for what is a shared failure.

Second, 90% of the bailout money was spent on bailing out the banks, not on Greek spending. The majority of Greece’s national debt (78%) is owed to the ‘Troika’ – the IMF, the EU Commission and the European Central Bank. These institutions lent money to the Pasok government so they could pay back Greek and foreign banks who had recklessly lent money to all European countries before the global financial crisis of 2008-9. When it became obvious that the banks’ predictions about the economic growth of countries like Greece and Ireland were wrong, they immediately demanded their money back. This is what sparked the debt crisis, and led Greece to request bailout loans. The money Greece owes to the Troika was used to bailout bankers who’d got their sums wrong. Only 10% of the loans Greece received from the Troika have reached ordinary Greek people.

Third, if the aim is for Greece to pay back its debts, the Troika’s current policies make no economic sense. If it is to be able to pay back some of its debts Greece’s economy needs to grow, but the consequence of Troika’s policies has been the opposite. As the Syriza government have been arguing: Greece needs to invest to grow its way out of recession, just like Germany did in 1953 after its foreign debts were cancelled and its repayments tied to economic growth.

2. ‘Greece shouldn’t have borrowed to begin with.’

This idea ignores the structural reasons for Greece’s borrowing. All countries borrow money to invest in their economies and compete in the world economy. By 2009 the smaller Eurozone economies – Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain – were all burdened with massive debts because their borrowing failed to make them more competitive. As Costas Lapavitsas has shown, the reason for this is simple: the German government froze wages so as to out-compete countries like Greece. Given its superior economic and technological starting point, Germany was always going to win if its wages were low enough. Greece therefore built up a big trade deficit which was proportional to the German trade surplus. So Greek borrowing was actively encouraged by Germany which is now demanding Greece shoulder the blame for what was a failure of the entire Eurozone.

3. ‘Greece should just accept the terms offered.’

The deal offered by the creditors would have condemned to years of austerity a country which, since the first bailout in 2010, has seen years of recession, wages shrink by 25% and unemployment skyrocket. Spending cuts and economic uncertainty have been linked to a spike in suicide rates.

The conditions imposed by the Troika are the same as the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) which the IMF has been imposing on debt-stricken countries (primarily in the global south) since the 1980s. In Greece, as in those other countries which have accepted IMF loans, the vast majority of the money provided by the IMF will go straight back into the coffers of multinational banks. As per the Greek case, SAPs demand wholesale privatisations, financial and market liberalisation, government austerity, and the destruction of labour rights. These are the exact opposite policies which the Greek population voted for by electing Syriza.

The conditions attached to IMF loans should be an anathema to the left. Yet insiders too, such as Joseph Stiglitz – former Chief Economist at the World Bank – argue the effect of the IMF’s conditional loans has only been to enrich global financial institutions. Even right wing economists who historically approve of the IMF’s behaviour are coming out in opposition of the terms being imposed on Greece by the Troika. This is because whereas the IMF would usually force investors to take a significant debt haircut – i.e. cancel some of the debt owed by the debtor country in return for structural adjustment – the pressure from Eurozone governments and a desire to crush progressive movements in Europe meant Greece was not offered such restructuring.

4. ‘Why can’t they sort it out themselves?’

In a globalised world, economies are interdependent. A trade surplus in an exporting country implies a trade deficit in an importing one, if, as was the case with Greece and the rest of the Eurozone, the exporting countries adopt policies to diminish the economic potential of their rivals. Economic crises therefore require collective solutions rather than the beggar-my-neighbour policies Germany and the Troika are opting for at present.

At the moment the Troika is actively preventing Greece from sorting out its economy by enforcing austerity, which is having a negative effect on growth rates. Because Greece doesn’t have its own central bank it can’t use monetary policy to escape recession, so what the government has been asking for in negotiations with the Troika is debt relief which would allow it to invest in economic growth. But the Eurozone as a whole has rejected these standard Keynesian policies in favour of harsh cuts to investment and public services.

5. ‘Shouldn’t Syriza have tried everything it could to stay in the Eurozone?’

It did. Syriza is widely portrayed by the media as having turned its back on the Eurozone, yet the situation is the exact opposite. At the start of this year Syriza was elected with a mandate both to de-escalate the effects of austerity while remaining within the Euro. Despite some voices inside the party arguing against the so-called ‘good Euro strategy’, Syriza’s leadership have tried relentlessly in negotiations to balance their popular anti-austerity electoral mandate against the will of the creditors.

As recently as Thursday last week it appeared that Syriza’s leadership was willing to accept compromises in the form of further austerity in order to obtain further bailout funds. Negotiations broke down when, late in the day, the final deal offered by the institutions contained neither debt relief nor investment funds, and so if accepted would draw Greece into seemingly endless depression.

6. ‘This doesn’t matter to me.’

Syriza’s negotiations with the Troika have fulfilled a pedagogical role of showing the unwillingness of undemocratic institutions such as the EU and IMF to respect the democratic will of sovereign nation states. Moreover, the unwillingness of the Troika to tie debt repayments to economic growth demonstrates the need to produce political and economic strategies that suggest ways out of the neoliberal economic paradigm.

Greece being allowed to go to the rocks is an outcome that will restrict democratic movements throughout Europe. It will represent the defeat of the first serious democratic challenge to a technocratic neoliberal order in Europe. There is only one party in Greece which will gain from such a scenario: Golden Dawn.

This article first appeared on Novara Wire. 

It is reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution Licence 4

It’s up to Europe’s Leaders now -Bryan Gould

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It’s Up to Europe’s Leaders Now

From Bryan Gould, previously published here: 

Like so many others, I long ago got used to being pilloried as “anti-European” for daring to say that the “Europe” we were urged to sign up to was no such thing, but was a particular arrangement cooked up by the powerful and foisted on the people of that often benighted continent without bothering either to consult them or to take count of their wishes.

As the Greek crisis unfolds, and as it strips bare the pretensions of those powerful forces who talk with less and less conviction of the European ideal and of democratic rights, we can surely no longer be in any doubt. The “Europe” in whose service so much sacrifice is now demanded is a cartel of bankers, financiers and right-wing politicians who have no interest in democracy, or jobs, or the living standards of ordinary people. As the Greek people suffer, and plead “no more”, it is not the travails of the Greeks – or, for that matter, the Spanish, or the Portuguese, or the Italians – that weigh with Europe’s powerful; their sights are fixed on maintaining austerity and discipline, on adhering to ideology and doctrine.

Above all, they are determined to protect the euro, because it is the one weapon that ensures that there can be no backsliding. The euro was put in place so that, whatever temptations – or even imperatives – there may be, there can be no going back. The grim and unrelenting disciplines of neo-classical economics demand nothing less.

For many of us, this imposition of a single monetary policy and discipline on a hugely diverse European economy was always destined to fail. There was no way that small and underdeveloped economies like Greece could survive competition from a powerful German economy, especially when it was the Germans who had the power to decide on the monetary policy that should be put in place – and no prizes for guessing whose interests that policy turned out to serve.

The irony is that is those powerful interests – represented by the IMF, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission and obliged to follow the dictates of the German Finance Minister – who now find that, despite the disparity in power between them and a bankrupt and demoralised Greece, it is they – and not the supposedly feckless Greeks – who have the responsibility for saving the euro.

With the power of the referendum result behind him, Prime Minister Tsipras can now say that there is nothing more he can do. Ravaged by austerity, Greece has no resources left. Unless they are helped by a bail-out package that does not drive them deeper into collapse but instead gives them a chance, over time, to begin to grow again, they will be forced – since there is no other option – to leave the euro and seek their own salvation.

The Greeks have, in other words, taken their decision. There is nothing left for them to decide. The ball is now in the court of Europe’s leaders. It is not for them to give up entrenched positions. It is up to them to decide whether to refuse to help, with the result that Greece will have to leave the euro whether they like it or not, simply to survive, or to relent and offer a more acceptable and realistic package that will keep Greece afloat and allow them to stay in a re-shaped common currency.

We know what they want to do. They have stuck to the current stance in the hope that the Greek government will fall and “regime change” will be brought about. There has even been talk of a government imposed on the Greek people from outside or of a government of “technocrats” that will do the bidding of the financial establishment. The referendum result, though, seems to have put paid, for the time being at least, to that disgraceful objective.

But, for a brief period, the Greek crisis has given us a glimpse of the mailed fist and doctrinaire rigidity behind the “European” ideal. Rarely can there have been such a stark demonstration of the inherently undemocratic nature of the European power structure and of the interests it truly serves.

It may be that the Greeks, by forcing an “agonising re-appraisal”, will end up having done the true adherents of a united Europe a favour. It may be that, at long last, we will begin to contemplate a Europe based on agreement freely given by the continent’s governments and peoples, an agreement to build a Europe by learning from each other how to work together and to cooperate more closely, a functional Europe that will do those things that are best done together rather than separately, a “bottom-up” Europe that will develop as a result of, but not getting ahead of, a growing sense of European identity and the wishes of its peoples.

We need a Europe, in other words, that is not just a vehicle for advancing powerful interests, and riding roughshod over everyone else, but that understands that the Greek poor and unemployed are just as important, and just as essential, to Europe’s future, and that enabling them and millions like them to live a better life is both a united Europe’s true purpose and its only real chance of success.

Bryan Gould 

Related:

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