Just when you thought it was safe to go back to politics as usual, another bloody referendum is now upon us. This time it is the good old socially progressive, socialist dream of the good old United States of Europe. Are you in or out?
To begin it would appear, we are in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. The question as always is this, what is the best outcome for the working class as a whole. The forming of a federation of European Socialist States must be on the wish list of every Socialist everywhere, so can the EU deliver that dream.
But I start with this statement below, which is re-stated again further on, but in context (I liked it so much I had to say it twice).
“The sole purpose of the EU, is for the ultimate liberalisation of all finance and corporate power. It is in fact Anarcho-Capitalism. Where the free market is given complete free reign, has no regulation and where Government and public services are reduced to nothing.”
So, in the blue corner the ruling elite, the Tory’s, the SNP, some Labour, Libdems, Greens, global corporate finance and big business, telling us to stay in. Jobs, immigration, environment etc
In the even bluer corner the right wing of the Tory’s, UKiP and various loony right factions, telling us to get out because all those bloody migrants are poised on our border, to come here to steal our jobs, sponge off our welfare, kill us in our beds and use our NHS for free, etc, etc. The usual right wing lunacy that pitches worker against worker.
In the red corner we have Socialists who are telling me, we need to show strength and solidarity with our European working class neighbours and to reform the EU from within. (Strangely last year some of them were all in favour of breaking up the UK working class solidarity, because you cannot possibly reform Westminster)
They also tell me we now have Health and Safety, Holidays, shorter working hours, equal pay and human rights because of the good old EU. So we need to stay in because the Tory’s will destroy all this and destroy what is left of our Unions power.
In the other red corner, we have the Socialists who see the EU as no more than a bosses club, it is undemocratic and is totally un-reformable.
I will obviously be dismissing anything said by the blue or bluer corner. As I have no interest or agreement with their arguments. Which only leaves the red corners.
Now I must admit I come to this from a totally biased set of conclusions. To explain. Four and a bit years ago when I was looking for a political home, I had 3 main requirements for a party.
1. Theory, outlook and policy as close to Anarchist Communism as possible.
2. Against any form of nationalism, (no matter how the nationalism is disguised)
3. Must oppose the EU.
So I made my choice and joined the CPB, who have always campaigned against the EU. Possibly not for the exact same reasons as me, but close enough. So therefore, I have always been against the EU and therefore biased.
So to the arguments:
The EU gave us a shorter working week.
Eight Hours’ Labour, Eight Hours’ Recreation, Eight Hours’ Rest, was been the mantra of the working class since Robert Owen. The 8 hour day was won by organised and unionised workers, who fought for and in some cases died for that cause.
Our present May Day holiday is based on the organised fight for an 8 hour working day. Where in the leaders of the socialist Second International called for an international day of protest to be held at the beginning of May 1890. This was in order to commemorate the 4 May 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago.
The 1919 Glasgow strikes were for a 40 hour working week.
I started work in 1979 and was on a 40 hour contract, as were nearly all other factories and industries at the time.
The EU implemented the Working time Directive, that limits working to 48 hours. I would say that is a backward step, they fought in Glasgow in 1919 to reduce the working week from 48 to 40. Strangely Henry Ford was one of the first who actually initiated the 8 hour day in his factories. Now he is not exactly known for his socialist leanings, in fact he was a raving right wing loony.
What to remember here is that the UK opted out. The first thing people are asked to sign when the join a company like Amazon, is a form excepting themselves from the Working Time directive, even though we are in the EU.
Holidays: Again fought for by organised and unionised workers. In 1871, the Bank Holiday Act gave workers a few paid holidays each year – four new public holidays were introduced.
Workers and their Unions fought for paid holidays and they increased as the 20th century unfolded. When I started my apprenticeship in 1979 I had 20 days plus 6 bank holidays, this was actually less than most other factories and industries within the country (I had a very stingy employer), all without the help of the EU.
The EU Working Time Directive stipulating four weeks’ annual leave was agreed on 23 November 1993. That is only 20 days.
Health and Safety: Again from 1900 on-wards Health and Safety regulations were fought for and won by organised and unionised workers.
The 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act which is still the basis for all our H&S regulations, again before any EU regulations. When I started work in 1979, H&S inspectors would regularly turn up unannounced and inspect factories and building sites etc. How often do they do that now? Health and Safety in the UK is being decimated, whilst we are still within the EU. The EU itself is continually reducing the “red tape” around Health and Safety.
Equality etc: The Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970 (although still not fully implemented), The Sexual Discrimination Act of 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, all prior to EU and again fought for by organised and Unionised workers.
Certainly the EU has enhanced these with, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation), Regulations 2003, the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, the Equality Act 2006, Part 2, the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, Equality Act 2010.
Who is to say that these would not have been introduced anyway, who knows?
Working hours, holidays, equality and H&S have all been augmented and I will agree, sometimes enhanced by the EU. But to say that we only have these because of the EU is being disingenuous to the workers before us who organised and won these rights.
I stand by my comments on holidays, working hours, Health and Safety and equalities. These laws were not given to us by the EU, or any UK government. They were fought for and won by the organised, unionised working class, through strikes, civil disobedience and long years of campaigning. These rights were not given they were taken by the working class. No Government has ever freely given any benefits to the working class, without a major struggle by the working class first.
Currently the UK Government is undermining all these rights whilst still within the EU, so therefore the EU is not a brake on the undermining of all our working terms and conditions. In fact across the EU as a whole, with the “cutting of red tape” is gaining ground. TTiP, CETA along with TPP and TISA will only serve to accelerate the decline in these rights.
As for Union power and Union rights. We are in the EU and have the most draconian anti Unions laws in Europe. The TU Bill will be enacted whilst we are in the EU. The EU is proving itself to be no defense for our Unions or for the working class.
Cameron is campaigning to remain in the EU, why? Because he has assurances that he will get the reforms on “cutting red tape” for big business that he so desires. This is the main issue we face, everyone is scared about what we will be faced with if we leave, whilst I am just as concerned over what we face with Cameron’s new deal. He is already eroding all Union rights at the moment; the increase in precarious working, zero or 8 hour contracts is all part of this plan, with no comeback or help from the EU.
So it would appear we are faced with continued erosion of these rights whether we remain or leave.
The common market as a construct was in essence created to allow for easier buying and selling between the various nations. The current EU was created by Neo-Liberal dogma. Once the US and the EU finalise their “Free Trade” agreements, we will see the culmination in Neo-Liberal Capitalism being implemented throughout Europe, North America, the Pacific and beyond.
The free market will reign supreme and Governments will become no more than an extension of the board room.
And now to the main issues. Since Thatcher and Reagan introduced Neo-Liberal policies to the UK and USA, in the 80’s, the EU has been consumed by this ideology.
The EU’s origins are from The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was an international organisation serving to unify European countries after World War II. It then became and the European Economic Community (EEC). The European Union was formally established when the Maastricht Treaty came into force on 1 November 1993. The EU is in reality a construct and one of the three main reasons that NATO stated in its founding.
Its main mantra and raison d’être is, for the free movement of goods, labour, services and capital. Which happens to be the raison d’être of Neo-Liberal Capitalism and NATO.
This is the sole purpose of the EU, it is for the ultimate liberalisation of all finance and corporate power. It is in fact Anarcho-Capitalism. Where the free market is given complete free reign and has no regulation and where Government and public services are reduced to cash cows for trans national corporations.
Case in point. I worked as Operations Manager for a company in Northern Ireland and when I started was a family owned business. Within 2 years it was bought by an American corporation. Within a year this corporation was taken over by an even bigger corporation. Who at the time bought a few more companies in Scotland. These Scottish companies were closed and all the machinery and work was relocated to Hungary. I left this company and 2 years later I was contacted to see if I wanted to go and work in Hungary for a year, as they had closed the company in Northern Ireland and yes, you guessed it, moved all the work to Hungary. This is the free movement of services and capital in action.
This free movement is to allow corporations to move their services (that’s jobs and industry to me and you) and capital to a country where the wages and taxes fit their corporate outlook. (That’s lower wages, less tax and less regulation to you and me)
The free movement of capital is where companies like Starbucks, Google, Vodaphone, Facebook and Amazon can have headquarters and pay tax anywhere it is most favourable for them. Where spivs in the city can move money all over the continents to maximise investor profit and enhance their bonuses.
The free movement of labour is the opposite of the free movement of services. Where a service is moved to a country with lower overheads (lower wages, taxes and regulations). The free movement of labour is designed to move cheaper labour to countries with higher wages, higher taxes and greater regulation. This is designed to force down the wages, terms and conditions within these countries.
The whole process drives a race to the bottom for all working class communities across the whole EU.
As socialists we must want Nationalised industry, transport, energy and banking. If the EU is such a wonderful social construct why were the railways privatised? Why were the Northern Ferries privatised? Why was Calmac put up for privatisation? Why won’t we nationalise the steel industry, or Grangemouth or even North Sea Oil.
Well according to our Governments it is because under Article 106, the EU prohibits public monopolies exercising exclusive rights where this violates EU competition rules.
In other words it is Neo-Liberal free market ideology that states that nationalised industry cannot be allowed in a free market economy. It is nothing to do with efficiency or cost. It is purely to do with the fact that the free market cannot allow nationalised industries or services. There is no dividend for their investors after all.
You only need to look at Greece and France at the moment, for the true face of the EU. What is the price the Greek and French working class have to pay, to remain a part of that great socially just institution of the EU.
In Greece the culling of their public services with the forced privatisation of public industry, transport and services. Crippling debts and even more austerity. What was their crime? Electing a social democratic government, that’s all. Not electing a socialist government, no. SYRIZA is nowhere even close to a socialist government, they are a social democratic construct only. Imagine the fate that will befall a truly socialist government.
The French working class are fighting for and defending against the reduction of all their terms and conditions. Add in what has been perpetuated by the EU in Ireland and Spain. Is the EU really protecting workers rights and the working class?
I haven’t really even mentioned TTiP, CETA and TISA. The ultimate Anarcho-Capitalist wet dreams, the culmination of the free market, when combined with TPP, will exclude the BRICS nations from this so called free market. Because the EU free market is only for the NATO allies and those who NATO deems to be friendly.
So stay in and good luck with the reformation programme. But remember this, the only reforms they will enact in the EU will be the ones the Tory’s and the ruling classes want and not the ones the working class need.
Can the EU be reformed to become a socially just grouping; personally I can’t see it happening. The current EU structure is way too far down the free market, Neo-Liberal road to turn off. What we want is a new Europe, not an un-reformable EU.
I agree that currently a British withdrawal is being pushed forwards on a right-wing, free market agenda. That is why a left exit strategy is a must. This needs to be constructed and the left will need to, dare I say it, unite to combat the right wing drive to force through their preferred changes. I personally and I don’t think that anyone on the left who is advocating leaving, is under any illusions of the task we will face.
I am asked all the time “What genuine prospects will the people of Britain have for an ‘anti-austerity’ government in that political climate?”
I can only reply with the same question of remaining in the EU. After what has happened to Greece and what is happening in France. Anti-Austerity Governments cannot and will not be allowed in the EU. You only need to look at Ireland, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece. It is toe the line or be punished.
My contention is that we face even worse by remaining within this ultimate capitalist construct. Catch 22 possibly?