First Thoughts on the EU elections

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By Prue Plumridge

The UKIP campaigned on an anti-europe ticket.

My question is:

If they are anti-europe why have they not declared their position on the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership currently being negotiated behind closed doors?

They have been surprisingly quiet on the issue.  Now why could this be?  It would have been a powerful weapon in their campaign against the EU.

Let’s remember that Nigel Farage’s great hero is Thatcher.

Her pursuit of the neoliberal ideologies of deregulation, privatisation and trade liberalisation have left behind a destructive legacy which we are now more than ever reaping the consequences of.  Time will prove (I am certain) Farage’s hypocrisy and deception.

We should be clear that the UKIP are libertarians who believe in free market economics and this is the economic model currently being promoted by an unelected, undemocratic cabal of EU commissioners who are negotiating a trade deal with the US that will favour globalisation and the continuing ascendancy and undemocratic power of the big corporations.  

Clearly there is a dissonance between what Ukip supporters believe the party stands for and reality.

Whether they are in denial or their support is a protest against the established parties it matters not.  There will be tears before bed-time if we continue to think of this party as a group of fruitcakes or loonies or purely a focus for protest.  They are cleverly dissimulating their real agenda and the next few months will be interesting as surely they will have to nail their colours to the wall.

It may seem to some that I am expressing anti-EU sentiment.  I hasten to add that I am not.  I believe that our future lies within the EU.  Not the current austerity imposing neoliberal juggernaut which is bringing Europe to its knees but a properly democratic EU which is socially just, acts for the benefit of its citizens and ultimately remembers its history. 

I wrote an article, in May last year, for Think Left. ( https://think-left.org/2013/05/04/on-fascism-and-facts-ukip-the-strategic-adversary/).  A year on I stand by it.  The rise of the right throughout Europe is, whether we like it or not, an articulation of the fear being expressed by its citizens over continuing uncertainty and fear for the future.  Citizens, however have not woken up yet, to the fact that the Right including UKIP are only offering more of the same.

The Left need now to rise to the challenge and show there is another fairer and more socially just way.

The European Union is anti-socialist, anti-democratic and failing economically.

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The European Union and the Eurozone:  No Road to Socialism or Democracy

First published in Campaign Briefing (CLPD) Autumn 2013

by Kelvin Hopkins MP

The European 
Union (EU) is 
anti-socialist, 
anti-democratic 
and failing economically.  It is 
surprising therefore that some
 good socialists
 and trade unionists still have EU
 sympathies.  Even 
more surprising,
 is that many right wing neo-liberal Tories oppose the EU.  Big businesses, neo-liberal conservatives elsewhere in Europe and the political class across the continent are committed to the European project, the abandonment of effective borders between European countries and the neutering of democratic member state governments in order to give total power to the market and the corporate world.

The process has been continuing by degrees, and occasional leaps, since and even before the 1957 Treaty of Rome established the original Common Market.  Yes, the clue is in the title.  Its objective has been to roll back the democratic socialist and social democratic world established across Western Europe after 1945.  Marketisation, liberalisation and privatisation are what the Common Market, the EEC and now the EU have been about.

The 1980s Single European Act was the EU’s “Great Leap Forward”, with Maastricht, Lisbon and, of course, the Euro following from it.  Gordon Brown, perhaps surprisingly, fought Blair to keep Britain out of the Euro and won.  The Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) disaster of 1990-92 effectively destroyed the creditability of the Tories for a generation, and joining the Euro would have done the same for Labour.

Guardian economist Larry Elliott recently wrote a darkly amusing piece suggesting that had Britain joined the Euro, our economy would now have been wrecked – a kind of Greece writ large – and that we would have crashed out of the Euro, bringing down the whole single currency edifice with Nigel Farage seriously challenging to be Prime Minister!

The Eurozone economic crisis is deepening by the month, with unemployment over 12% and rising.  Things in Greece and Spain are much worse, such that if we had the same levels of unemployment in Britain there would be eight million on the dole, not two and a half million, and over half of those under 25 would be jobless.  It is now acknowledged that Greece will never be able to pay its debts and the allegedly socialist party PASOK is locked in a deadly coalition embrace with the New Democracy conservatives, inflicting appalling austerity and poverty on the Greek people.  Greece and Portugal are being forced to implement fire sales of public assets while the anti-socialist conspirators across Europe quietly rub their hands in glee.

Other Eurozone countries are in crisis, with Italy looking to a possible bale out – quite a different order than those for smaller EU members.  Even more significant is France, which is in increasing economic difficulty. France indeed may be the crumbling keystone which could see the whole Eurozone fall apart.

So what should happen?

The establishment of national currencies adjusted to realistic international parities and with member states setting their own economically appropriate interest rates would be an immediate priority.  Greece, for example, with a new drachma would devalue substantially making imports more expensive and channeling demand into its domestic economy.  Greek holidays would become cheaper, boosting the tourist trade and giving a kick-start to recovery.

When the rest of the Eurozone states have their own national currencies they will all be able to reflate their own economies, to begin to grow and create jobs.  As employment returns, governments will have more tax revenues and be able to rebuild their public services and welfare states.

If this is not done, more pain will be inflicted on working people, and, if the left does not fight their corner, the fascist right may step in.

Who would now bet against Marine le Pen being the next President of France?

http://www.leftfutures.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/campaign-briefing-77.pdf

On Fascism and Facts – UKIP – The Strategic Adversary?

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Fascism – the Strategic Adversary?

From Prue Plumridge

‘The strategic adversary is fascism … the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour.  The fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.’

Michel Foucault.

Alex Andreou wrote in the New Statesman’ ‘The danger with extremism is that, when filtered through eyes and minds of reasonable people, it appears ridiculous. The reasonable assumption is that others will view it through the same filter and find it equally ridiculous. But, while The Reasonable laugh, support for extremist views creeps up. Because what The Reasonable fail to notice is that fear and insecurity have a way of robbing others of reason.  Instead, if you find yourself nodding in agreement with a couple of items on Ukip’s long list of empty promises, remember all the other things you will also be signing up for. They represent a particularly insidious brand of extremist; Bigotry Light, if you will – all the hatred of normal bigotry, but none of the calories.’

In the days prior to the local elections there was a lot of media attention given to UKIP aiming at discrediting their ideas and policies. If I am cynical I imagine this attack originating in the corridors of power in the Conservative party and right wing media in an attempt to woo back wavering supporters.  In the aftermath there are those who are saying  that the subsequent swing towards UKIP in the elections is simply a protest vote against the coalition or, in these difficult times, as support for its policies on immigration and the EU which have become the whipping boys for all the country’s ailments.  However, we would do well to look beyond UKIP’s rhetoric and dreams of  a return to a glorious past, a time of empire, Judeo-Christian values and so called Britishness.  Behind the fluffy and ill-thought out policies presented by Farage and his party hides something much more unpleasant which senior UKIP members take great pains to try and deny.

farage images

It is time that the public woke up to the problem of right wing extremism which is lurking underneath that very reasonableness.  I imagine that in pre-war Germany Hitler’s economic promises seemed very reasonable to a people who had been crushed by the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles after the first world war, and those who were willing to turn a blind idea to some of his crazy ideas about the Jews and Roma peoples, the disabled and mentally sick and the creation of a pure Aryan race.

Apart from the fact that the party opposes gay marriage because apparently it undermines the rights of Churches and Faiths (but obviously not the rights of gay people to be treated equally) various candidates have soiled the UKIP copybook with a variety of extreme and nasty comments:  women should resign from their jobs if they want to have a baby;  women of child bearing age should not be employed because maternity rights are too draconian; there should be compulsory abortion when a foetus has been detected with Downs Syndrome or Spina Bifida; the unemployed should not be allowed to vote; physical exercise in schools can prevent homosexuality; Dr Julia Gasper was reported as saying in the Daily Mail that there were links between homosexuality and paedophilia;  Winston McKenzie (the Culture spokesperson) likened adoption by same sex couples as child abuse; Kim Gandy, a former UKIP activist, joked on Facebook that elderly people should be euthanised when  they became a burden; Maggie Chapman said ‘muslims have sex with camels’ and that pakis go home for Christmas and spread Christmas cheer with her ‘egg-nog for nig nogs.’  And let’s not forget that nazi salute!

What is even more disturbing is that the Party is a member of the Europe Freedom and Democracy group which has links to far right parties.  Nigel Farage is co-president of the group along with  Francesco Speroni a member of the Lega Nord in Italy who described the multiple murderer Anders Breivik as someone whose ‘ideas are in defence of western civilisation.  It matters not that sometimes the party has distanced itself from such comments. What matters is that there are such people  within the party who have expressed such disgusting views at all within what seems to be becoming more than just the fringe ‘clowns and fruitcakes’ party described by David Cameron and Ken Clark.

It is shocking that following the local elections it seems that some people in their voting choices have moved even more to the right than the Conservatives. I ask myself whether they are aware of some of the extreme opinions that have been expressed by members of the party or indeed do they actually  know what UKIP stands for (apart from their views on immigration and the EU)?    They might be surprised.  Just a brief look shows an ill thought out political agenda which has little substance and seems more like something jotted down on the back of a fag packet whilst in the pub.   Even one of their own MEPs  has suggested  that it might be better to buy a set of ‘off the shelf’ policies to fill the manifesto vacuum.

How about their proposals for: 

  • A flat tax rate of 25% which would give a 14% tax cut to the wealthiest whilst costing the treasury billions
  • An increase of 40% in defence spending including the purchase of new aircraft carriers, fighter jets and nuclear missiles.
  • A prison building programme (to house a rising population of criminals) which again would cost billions (and the scrapping of the Human Rights Act.)

And where, in this age of austerity, is this money to be magicked up from – well apparently it will all be paid for when we leave the EU freeing up £8-9 billion but which, in actual fact, would barely cover half the proposed defence spending let alone fund the Party’s other crazy spending ideas.

And speaking of the EU, UKIP’s promise to exit the EU holds great attraction for those who ask the question ‘what did the Union ever do for us?’   So much rubbish has been spouted about bendy bananas, curved cucumbers and chunky carrots that we fail to see the wider picture. Apart from a wide ranging programme which includes regional economic funding,  employment, public health, health and safety, equal opportunities and environmental legislation, over 50% of trade worth £450bn a year is done in Europe and 3.5 million jobs are reliant on the EU.  Over 100,000 businesses  export to the EU, 94,000 of which are SME’s .  Over 80% believe that the market delivers significant benefits to them.  A recent poll of British businesses showed that 90% of them favour continued membership.   The UK has also benefited substantially from 45 free trade agreements with countries outside Europe which have been negotiated by the EU and if we were to exit the UK would have to renegotiate on a country by country basis.  Over 50% of companies investing in the UK cite EU membership as a reason.  Of course the EU is not perfect and reform must come if it is to have a future but UKIP harks back to a glorious Great Britain existing still in some other time warp ready to be re-invented, without even considering the effects of such an exit on our economy.   On a more personal note Farage might well rejoice at what the Union has done for him since he openly boasts that he has claimed £2million in expenses whilst bemoaning the amount of tax-payers money going to the EU.

The party is sceptical about climate change, rejects scientific opinion on the issue and is inconsistent in its pronouncements.  It opposes efforts to combat climate change, supports coal fired and nuclear energy along with shale gas extraction and fracking whilst opposing wind power and other renewables. Its intention will be to scrap all subsidies for renewable energy and cancel all wind farm developments.  And yet, despite stressing the need for clean technology in coal fired power stations, it opposes the EU’s directive to close polluting coal fired stations claiming that ‘it won’t make a scrap of difference to global emissions of greenhouse gases’.  As a party they have the worst attendance, voting and work performance of any political party across the EU according to figures for the last three years to July 2012.  And despite lots of fine words and support for legislation against fishing discards,  when it came to it Nigel Farage did not vote and the rest of the UKIP MEPs abstained.  To end on a wacky note they also want to ban the showing of Al Gores ‘An Inconvenient Truth in schools.  It seems that if they don’t believe in it then no-one else should hear about it and make up their own minds.

In education UKIP intend to bring back grammar schools and operate a voucher system which parents can spend in the state or private sector whilst in the NHS it  plans to franchise out key services including hospitals and GP surgeries to companies and charities and create a voucher system to allow people to opt out of the NHS system entirely.  It is also proposing to reduce employment rights, bring public expenditure down to 1997 levels by making cuts of £77 billion with a loss of 2 million jobs, scrap employers’ NI with the revenue to be recouped from Corporation Tax, VAT or reduced welfare.  All of these policies can be seen as creating more division, reducing the safety net and further impoverishing some of the most vulnerable in society.

And yet more worryingly with their views on immigration (whilst refuting  the charges of closet racism) they have nonetheless tapped into a reservoir of hate which appeals to some people’s fears about an uncertain future.

They ignore the valuable contribution made to the UK economy by immigrants and the fact that they are less likely to claim benefits than those who were born here.   UKIP intend to end the active promotion of the doctrine of multi-culturalism which it claims has divided society and has also spoken of forced repatriation or assimilation – a policy which shadows that of the far right BNP.  The idea that there is something that might be defined as a homogenous British culture is misleading – our culture has over centuries been an amalgam of influences from the  Romans, Danes, Angles and Saxons, and Normans, to India and modern Europe more recently.  It is not static but a fluid affair not to be defined by a bundle of old fashioned stereotypes which figures bulldogs, Winston Churchill,  god, queen and country. Our ability to live together and respect each other has come a long way in the last few decades and whilst there is still much to do the idea that we can impose something defined as British culture or values is a mistaken one.

Some may say that these are reasonable policies and we may laugh on the other hand, as Alex Andreou says, at the open expression of such extreme ideas and put them aside as simply unwise.

But we should not forget Martin Luther King’s words ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter’.  Fascism will creep up on us and when we least expect it, when our defences are down,  it will pounce upon us with disastrous consequences.

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