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


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

‘Brinkmanship’ and the Euro Crisis.


Making sense of what is happening in the Euro crisis from simply listening to the BBC and the headline media reporting is scarcely possible.  Contradictions are hardly called into question; statements are confidently asserted as definitive; dubious assumptions are left unchallenged; and every new development is described incoherently.  Economic journalists even openly admit to being confused.  It seems, however, that it is the over-riding intent of the global power elites to utilize whatever drama, real or devised, to ruthlessly maintain, advance and lock-in the Washington consensus in perpetuity.  To paraphrase Bertoldt Brecht  after WW2 – is this where all the ‘fascists’ went?                          

In recent days, we have what Charles Moore describes as ‘the strange spectacle of British ministers saying almost opposite things, sometimes on the very same day’.

They say (D Cameron, Thursday) that the idea of European political union is “nonsense”, yet they urge Germany (also D Cameron, also Thursday) to lead the eurozone into a fiscal union and a banking union, which would be a political union in all but name. Our leaders demand that others do what they proudly boast we would not dream of doing.  (1)

Furthermore, even within their own terms, none of the solutions which have come out of the many Euro crisis talks, address the immediate and specific national problems of the banking crisis or tackle the Bond market hikes in interest rates.  So the banks and Bond markets carry on ‘business as usual’ secure in the knowledge that their losses will be socialized, and that repayment of debts will be prioritized, regardless of whatever is the suffering of EU citizens.

However, the contradictions are not restricted to just the utterances of the Tory high command or the EU troika.

As John C Dyer indicates (2),  that ‘through its involvement in the IMF’, the US has been promoting fiscal austerity in the Eurozone whilst having taken a more Keynesian approach itself (such as that adopted and advocated by Gordon Brown 2008-10).  This contradiction was ratcheted up on the 8th June, when Barack Obama cautioned that Europe faces a “downwards spiral” unless it acts now to recapitalise its banks and stimulate growth.

The US president warned too much fiscal austerity would mean a stark future for Europe, and urged governments not to rein in spending on long term projects and infrastructure…. (3)

Only two weeks earlier, the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, said that she shivered when she looked back at the UK’s deficit in May 2010 and imagined there being no plan to reduce it.  Lagarde not only backed George Osborne’s “policy mix” of austerity measures, but also said that the choice between deficit reduction and growth was a false one.  She called on Europe to boost growth by structural reforms, not by spending more. (4)

The irreconciliablity of Obama’s domestic policy and apparent EU position, with the neo-liberal free trade agenda of the IMF, is all the more stark because the IMF was effectively created to impose US global interests. Since the US has a veto over key decisions, it is within the power of the US to demand a growth agenda as a condition of IMF ‘bail-outs’ in the EU.   As John C Dyer writes:

What are we doing, President Obama?

We have aligned our nation with those who replace  democratically elected leaders with functionary “colonial governors.”  These functionaries enforce (for a Eurozone and IMF led by social conservatives) odious loan terms of draconian austerity, despite that austerity’s failure to achieve its stated purpose and despite the US public position Europe should turn its attention to growth. (5)

Furthermore, John Dyer suggests that ‘The last thing the US needs is for Europe and the UK to one day conclude that the US sandbagged their economies in order to preserve its own.’  (2)

So, we have Angela Merkel, the Eurocrats and the IMF insisting on unjust, harsh cut backs in government spending which cannot possibly succeed in solving the banking crisis; promoting long-term solutions which would take at least 5-10y to implement; and which do not address the very immediate problems of Greece and Spain, and risk worsening, or even risk a catastrophic meltdown, of the euro crisis.

We have an ‘austerity’ government which has Cameron and George Osborne calling for the eurozone to move towards fiscal union, including eurobonds, and for the ECB to effectively start the printing presses.  As the Telegraph says Eurobonds and cheap money create huge incentives for more spending, which is exactly what the Coalition is arguing against at home, and feel awfully like solving a debt crisis with more debt.(6)

Meanwhile, Obama urges EU governments not to rein in spending on long term projects and infrastructure whilst allowing its proxy, the IMF, to impose the opposite conditions.

Clearly, there are some deeper agendas being played out, and the truth of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine/disaster capitalism seems once again to be extremely relevant and powerful.

In the pursuit of enormous profits, those running the global economy intentionally exploit terrible catastrophes, or even create them, to take things for themselves that only shocked and traumatized populations would give up. This ambulance-chasing strategy of those in power is defined as the “shock doctrine,” and “disaster capitalism”, alternatively known as “neoliberalism” is the dominant social paradigm it has created.’

The most obvious explanation for Mrs Merkel’s position is an extremely risky ‘brinkmanship’.  Larry Elliott writes:

The world’s biggest ever game of chicken. That’s one way of looking at the noises coming out of Brussels and Frankfurt on Wednesday, suggesting that each eurozone country is drawing up contingency plans for a Greek exit from the single currency, that such an eventuality would actually be no big deal, and that Athens might be offered a €50bn (£40bn) sweetener if it decides to call it a day and bring back the drachma. (7)

But upping the stakes, Mrs Merkel ‘now clearly intends to use her position to persuade Member States to cede further powers to the EU and she believes the European Commission ought to function more as a European government, with the Council of Ministers acting as a ‘second chamber’ alongside a strengthened European Parliament.’ (8)

Merkel’s push is consistent with the choice, set out by Marco d’Eramo, as being between the dismantling of the Euro and the democratic rights of the ordinary people of the Eurozone who will be ‘at the mercy of an imposed but highly unbalanced and divided Franco-German duumvirate’ (9)

The double-bind for the Tories is clear to the Telegraph:

‘While the collapse of the euro would drag us down with it, the federalism and fiscal union that Cameron and Osborne want would also spell doom for Britain.’ (10)

However, John Rentoul speculates on the reasoning of Osborne and Cameron:

I can see that it would not be polite for Cameron to lecture the eurozone on why it needs to dismantle its currency. But it does seem remarkable that he and Osborne pretend to be so enthusiastic about creating a core European superstate on our doorstep.

The only way to make sense of this, I think, is that Cameron and Osborne expect the Germans to realise that the euro must break up, and to organise it, so that floating exchange rates will restore prosperity again. But they fear that Germany will insist on trying to make it work, pouring money into Spain, Greece and then Italy and others, and acting as a brake on growth for the indefinite future.

It does seem strange, though, that they should be encouraging Angela Merkel to do the wrong thing in the hope that she will decide by herself that it is not going to work.

When it comes to accounting for Obama’s apparent ‘sandbagging’ of Europe, there are historical, geographical and election-year perspectives to consider.

A major difference between the US and the UK/Europe is in the provision of public services.  As has been discussed many times on Think Left, the Tory/LD government has redefined the banking crisis to be the result of ‘the Labour government’s overspending’ (11).  The mantra of ‘debt reduction’ has been utilized to justify, under the guise of fiscal austerity, implementing their ideological long-term plans to ‘shrink the state’ and sell off public services.  Ann Pettifor compiles the evidence against this hugely significant lie on her blog . (12) The IMF as part of the Troika is making just such demands as part of any bail-out package in Ireland, Greece and now Spain.

In 2008, Gordon Brown announced the end of the Washington Consensus but he significantly underestimated the determination of the transnational corporations, international finance and the super-rich (13).  It seems that, like Margaret Thatcher in the 80s, wrecking the economy of the UK and creating mass unemployment is a price worth paying in order to dismantle the post-war consensus once and for all.

However, no such consideration pertains in the US because privatization and marketisation of their ‘public services’ is fully implemented.  In fact, it was the complaint of US private health providers that because of UK and European ‘public services’, there was no level ‘playing field’ for them, when the World Trade Organisation was created in 1995 to guarantee global free trade with a common set of binding international rules.   In other words, the priority for Wall Street and the transnational corporations has been to strengthen the US economy; whereas in the UK, the priority has been to open up public services to privatisation.

In any event, the focus of the US is no longer on Europe, as Hilary Clinton made clear in her speech last October on America’s Pacific Century:

President Obama has led a multifaceted and persistent effort to embrace fully our irreplaceable role in the Pacific, spanning the entire U.S. government…. We are also making progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will bring together economies from across the Pacific — developed and developing alike — into a single trading community. Our goal is to create not just more growth, but better growth. We believe trade agreements need to include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation. They should also promote the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology, as well as the coherence of our regulatory system and the efficiency of supply chains. (14)

David Harvey has emphasized the significance of the US’s geographical position in its global hegemony because it can face both east towards the EU trading block and west across the Pacific to the other trading block of Australasia. It seems possible, therefore, that another reason for the inconsistency of position between the US economic strategy and the IMF, is that having the power of the EU trading block somewhat diminished is not entirely a disadvantage… in other words ‘sandbagged’.

However, the US would certainly not want the EU to implode.  Not only is it an important trading partner but they are terrified that the calling in of insurance policies on the loans to EU governments would trigger another devastating credit crunch.   Mrs Merkel’s ‘brinkmanship’ is now clearly frightening the US and UK governments alike.

Benedict Brogan characterizes the ‘the mood among ministers and officials confronted with the euro crisis and our teetering economy is to imitate Munch’s The Scream: hands to head, mouth opened in a howl of despair. Certainly behind the scenes the feeling of worry, bordering on fear, is palpable. The prospect of an economic cataclysm terrifies the upper reaches of the Government.’ (15)

Furthermore, such fears lie behind the flying visit to the EU finance ministers meeting this Friday from a worried US Treasury Secretary. (16)

So to sum up.

As Larry Elliott puts the situation, ‘One tentative conclusion that can be drawn from the events of the past half-decade is that in the West we have been experiencing a genuine crisis of capitalism of the sort that Marx talked about.’ (17)

Michael Wayne writing in Tribune goes further:

Marx understood how the apparent freedom of contractual exchange in the market masked unequal power relations and violence. Much of Das Kapital was devoted to deconstructing the appearance of consent, and showing that there was nothing free and equal when one side owns the means of production (including financial resources) and those on the other side have only their labour power to sell. The “proletarianisation” and immiseration of an entire country by outside forces, in the case of Greece, has rarely been this rapid or brutal. If this is rational, then it is rationality devoid of reason.

The political crisis now gripping Europe predates 2008. The hollowing out of democracy took the form of the elimination of ideological choices at the ballot box, the massive increase in perception management (spin), the haemorrhaging of trust in politicians, rising levels of abstention from the political process, and a gradual blurring of the boundaries between the political and economic elites.

The economic crisis now gripping Europe also predates 2008.  I recall a common discussion on the left in the late 1980s. After Thatcher had deregulated the City in the “Big Bang”, we pondered how long finance capital, now uncoupled from the real economy, could keep going without crashing and burning. Twenty years might seem like a long time in the answering, and indeed many on the left during that time abandoned the conversation altogether and resigned themselves to the “new paradigm”. (18)

The reality is that the Euro crisis is only a crisis if there is a determination to maintain the present political-financial-corporate paradigm.  In fact, the most serious problems that actually face the world are climate warming, resource depletion and environmental degradation .. all the products of unrestrained neoliberal/neofeudal capitalism.

All the measures needed to address these real threats would necessitate creating jobs, and as John Maynard Keynes said, “look after unemployment and the budget will look after itself.”

Richard Murphy has written a very neat piece about how the Euro area might get out of the mess it is in… but as he says:

It’s a choice then: nationalised banks and a viable central bank for Europe or a failure of our democracies and all they represent….It’s not really a choice…. But there are those who refuse to embrace it. (19)

Unfortunately, those who refuse to embrace it seem to be holding the ‘levers of power’ and we, the ordinary people, will continue to be exploited unless we wake-up to what is happening.  If we do not then the dystopia of Soylent Green might well represent our future. (20)





















Related Think Left posts:

Democracy in the Euro-zone is under threat

As Michael Hudson predicted – The Euro-Reality of Austerity.