CONTRA EUROPAM

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23 April 2016, St George’s Day

CONTRA EUROPAM

A PHILIPPIC IN TWO PARTS AGAINST THE EUROPEAN UNION

“God for Harry! England and Saint George!” 

This clarion call is line 31, scene 1, act 3 of the play Henry V (1599) by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), who died on St George’s Day 400 years ago today.

PREAMBLE

 

Antigone1984 resumes publication with a text on the UK referendum scheduled for 23 June 2016 on British membership of the European Union. Voters will be asked to vote for or against continued British membership of the EU, which at present consists of 28 Member States. The electorate appears evenly divided and the vote could go either way. The UK government favours continued membership, but the ruling Conservative Party is split down the middle. The opposition Labour Party backs continued membership as do the Scottish Nationalists (Scot Nats). The outcome is likely to depend upon to what extent Labour and Scot Nats supporters turn out to vote. Supporters of continued membership are generally referred to as being in the “In” or “Remain” camp. Supporters of withdrawal are described as being in the “Out” or “Brexit” (ie “Britain’s Exit”) camp.

 

However, most commentators seem to have lost track of the fact that the referendum is only advisory: it will not tie the government to one course of action or the other. In the event of an “Out” vote, for example, it is quite possible that the UK government will adopt the democratically questionable procedure pioneered a number of times by other Member States where the result of a referendum has gone against the wishes of the EU establishment, namely to engage in further, normally sham, negotiations, and then hold a second referendum on the grounds that they have now got a better deal to present to the electorate and also in the hope that referendum fatigue will have set in in the meantime discouraging a large turnout and thus weakening the legitimacy of the result. University students and the globe-trotting middle classes appear to be largely in favour of remaining in the EU, while the stay-at-home poorer segments of the electorate tend to be more hard-headed and patriotic as well as less star-struck by foreign entanglements.

 

For Britain to leave the EU, the House of Commons (the lower house of the British parliament) would have to vote to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act , which gave primacy to European law and surrendered much of Britain’s sovereignty to European institutions on the Continent. Because of the parliamentary arithmetic, Antigone1984 thinks that this is unlikely to happen. Regardless of an “Out” vote in the country, half the Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) together with most of the Labour Party’s MPs and virtually all the Scot Nats MPs are likely to oppose withdrawal. So we don’t think that it is going to happen whatever the result of the referendum. The referendum was called by the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron not because he intended to bow to the wishes of the electorate – that would have been the last things on his mind – but in order to allow his party – split down the middle on this issue – to let off steam while at the same time kicking this spiny topic into the long grass for at least another generation. By which time, of course, Mr Cameron himself is likely to be safely ensconced in the House of Lords and supremely unconcerned about the trivia that passes for politics in the lower house.

 

Of course, in any gamble there is the possibility of an upset. As the Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) once wrote, “the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley”.

 We have illustrated our argument with the occasional quotation. Unfortunately, some of the quotations we have used might be thought to have jingoistic connotations. We recognise this and regret it. However, those were the only quotations which came to mind in drafting this text. If readers can suggest appropriate but less chauvinistic quotations, we shall be happy to consider them. 

Another problem with the quotations we have chosen is that they often refer only to England, whereas the referendum is addressed to citizens of the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England. The problem is the same as the one we raised in the last paragraph. Only quotations referring to England came to mind when drafting this text. And there may be a reason for that. It may be that the inhabitants of this kingdom feel a sense of belonging to one of the four ancient nations of which it is constituted rather than to the somewhat abstract notion of the United Kingdom, which, in its present form, only came into existence in 1707, when Scotland was yoked to the other three national constituents. If readers can suggest appropriate quotations referring to the United Kingdom, we shall be happy to consider them.

Close readers of this blog will be aware that Antigone1984 has advocated Britain’s withdrawal from the EU since we first started publishing in 2011. We are not going to change now. Antigone1984 is unabashedly in favour of Brexit. Our reasons are set out at length in this text. Nor do we intend to bend over backwards to point up the virtues, if any there are, of the case now being put by the “In” camp. That is a job for the “In” camp. It is our job to put the “Out” case. This is a polemic, not an academic treatise.

 

This is, admittedly, a blockbuster of a text – the longest we have published on the blog. That reflects the importance of the issue. It is hard to think of a political decision that could be of greater significance for the future of the UK. However, Antigone1984 would not expect non-British readers to accord it the same attention as might be expected from the British electorate. Hence, readers are invited to read the text selectively, should they so, wish and skip any passages that they consider tiresome or abstruse.

 

A technical point. This text was originally drafted in the form of speaking notes for a pro-Brexit speech. The idea was to allow the different sections to be cannibalised at will, depending on the speaking time available and the whim of the speaker. Readers who have not fallen asleep after the first few paragraphs may notice that one or two passages have been repeated at different points in the text. That is because they apply equally to a number of different topics.

 

A personal note. The authors of this diatribe worked for getting on for 20 years within the heart of the  European institutions. The text that follows is the bitter fruit of their day-to-day experience of the realities of the European dream.

Nightmare would be a more exact term.  

 

TEXT

First drink a health, this solemn night,

A health to England, every guest;

That man’s the best cosmopolite,

Who loves his native country best.

This is the first verse of the poem “Hands All Round” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), the Victorian Poet Laureate.

 

Let me put it to you straight.

 

If Britain leaves the EU, tsunamis will sweep across the land bringing sharks and crocodiles into our living rooms, winds of 1000 miles an hour will blow us into the sky, extinct volcanoes will suddenly erupt spewing out mountains of lava, earthquakes will turn our roads into chasms, our skyscrapers will be razed to the ground, plague and disease will ravage the land, people will have no food and no shelter, herds of dinosaurs will roam the streets, the sun will grow dark and permanent night will cover the earth, the planets will explode, the milky way will turn green, the galaxies will cease to exist and the universe will be back where it was 13 billion years ago at the start of the Big Bang.

 

Given half a chance, this is the apocalyptic scenario that the Remain camp would paint to discourage you from voting for Brexit. In fact, they have totally independent statistics from their own Treasury to prove it.

 

The only thing is. It ain’t gunna happen.

 

I have never ever heard such tosh as these doomsday scenarios now being bandied about by the Remain camp.

 

A lot of people have claimed to be able to foretell the future but personally I have yet to meet someone who can actually do it. If anyone finds that they are in fact able to predict what is going to happen, then they might well find it profitable to spend a lot of their time in a betting shop.

 

The fact is that no one knows what is going to happen and that is the end of it.

 

As regards the In/Out campaign, our guess is at least as good as theirs.

 

People talk about risk. From the cradle to the grave, we are surrounded by risk. You cross a road and you take a risk. You get in an aeroplane and you take a risk. In business we are even encouraged to take risks. Innovation depends on it. As far as risk is concerned, there is no getting away from it.

 

So, whether we stay in the EU or get out we can’t avoid being exposed to risk. Risks are intrinsic to human life.

 

So let’s put paid once and for all to the myth that leaving the EU will carry risks, but that staying in will – somehow miraculously – be risk-free.

 

This is bunkum. And they know it.

 

 

The following polemic is divided into two sections:

 

  1. The case against the EU

 

  1. The case against the pro-EU U-turn executed by UK Labour Party leader

Jeremy Corbyn

 

 

  1. THE CASE AGAINST THE EU

 

 

 

MY FRIEND DAVE AND HIS BUSINESS

 

I’ll start by talking about my friend Dave. Dave is not a made-up character. He is a real person and the story I shall tell actually did take place. However, it is a bit of a shaggy dog story, so I hope you will bear with me till I get to the punch-line.

 

Dave was a middle manager in a farming publications business in East Anglia when his firm was bought out by an American company. Middle management was downsized and Dave found himself on the street with a modest redundancy payment and no pension. But Dave did not throw the towel in. He decided to set up a small business in a very tiny niche market. His friends all said he was a lunatic. The niche he had selected was a non-starter and he would lose all his investment. However, Dave ignored these jeremiahs, rolled his sleeves up and buckled down. Within five years he had a company that was one of only four firms in the world that specialized in his particular business. A few years ago he decided to retired and sold the firm to a large conglomerate for around 10 million pounds.

 

Now why have I told you this?

 

Well, I was talking to Dave the other day, as it happens, about the referendum campaign. “So how are you going to vote,” I asked Dave, who is a sensible chap, has his head screwed on and is not particularly interested in politics. “I dunno,” he said. “I can’t make up my mind. However, I suppose that when it comes down to it, I shall support the in camp. Better the devil you know.”

 

“Well,” I replied. “I can see where you’re coming from. What is more you have every right to vote the way you want to. However, there is one point that I would like to make to you.

 

“When you were running your business and turning it into the success that it became, who took the key decisions?”

 

“Well, I did, of course,” he replied. “Who else?”

 

“Well, then, Dave,” said I, “I wonder if you would mind answering another question. “Don’t you think your business might have turned out to be an even greater success if you had done things a bit differently. Suppose that, instead of you taking the decisions yourself on what you thought was the best way forward for the company, suppose that the key decisions in your business were taken by yourself together with 27 other people. Each of these others would have as much right to vote on company decisions as yourself and each of them would have the right to veto any plan that the others put forward?”

 

“Don’t be stupid,” said Dave. “The result would be chaos.”

 

I then pointed out that decisions in the European Council, the EU’s main decision-making body, were taken by all of the 28 heads of government of the 28 EU member states.

 

“Get away,” said Dave. “The result would be chaos.”

 

“I am sorry to have to tell you, Dave,” I told him, “but that is precisely the situation – and you are perfectly right: the result IS chaos.”

 

Dave had a chuckle. I’m happy to be able to tell you that he’s now going to vote for Brexit.

 

The fact is that, in general, less is more and small is beautiful, particularly when taking decisions.

 

In the European Union 28 heads of government have to agree on a course of action, not just one. The result is chaos or stasis or, at best, an infinity of delays before anything can be done.

 

There is no question, therefore, but that Brexit will expedite decision-taking so far as Britain is concerned. No longer will our Prime Minister have to undertake a humiliating milk round of European capitals, begging bowl in hand, as was the case recently when Cameron had to shuttle around the Continent during his sham “negotiations” with the other 27 heads of government.

 

 

Negotiating in the EU is like walking through quicksand. You always get bogged down. Cameron talks of getting rid of red tape and bureaucracy. The answer is simple: Brexit. The larger the organisation, the more difficult it is to get things done.

 

Not only that, but EU decisions affecting EU member states also suffer from the remoteness of the EU bureaucracy. What do they know in Brussels of the situation in Worcester or Carlisle? The answer is diddly-squat. Decisions about local issues are best taken locally, by people who know the terrain, not by Eurocrats sitting in an ivory tower in Brussels.

 

The subsidiarity much vaunted by the EU is, in practice, a dead letter. As Shakespeare said in Hamlet, “it is a custom more honoured in the breach than in the observance”.

 

It is fondly imagined that at least the EU will help out in time of trouble. Oh yes? Tell that to the Greeks. Abetted by Washington, the EU has asset-stripped Greece and hung it out to dry. Is that what we want for us when we are in trouble?

 

 

By leaving the EU, we shall regain our sovereignty. What we have at present is a “watered-down” version of sovereignty. We are only one of 28 in the EU’s decision-making Council. The EU has stripped member governments of their individual right to run their own economies as they see fit in the interests of their own people. Out of the EU, Britain would be once again its own boss, able to take decisions by itself in its own interests. By leaving, we would regain full sovereignty. Let’s go for it. Let’s have the full Monty, not this half-baked bureaucratic muddle that is the EU.

 

Two treaties currently being negotiated in secret will cut back still further our sovereignty.

 

One is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This is a proposed agreement between the USA and the EU that is being negotiated by the European Commission in secret. Why the unelected Commission and not the Member States. Because, under EU law, it is the European Commission alone that has the right to to negotiate commercial agreements between EU Member States and countries outside the EU. Individual EU Member states – Britain, for instance – are not allowed to conduct their own individual trade negotiations.

 

[This transatlantic partnership (the TTIP) parallels the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the USA and twelve Pacific Rim countries (excluding China, of course) that was signed on 4 February 2016 but is not yet in force. It also dovetails neatly with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico that has been in force since 1994.]

 

The other major treaty being negotiated in secret is the global Trade In Services Agreement (TISA). The parties to the negotiation again include the US and the European Commission but also other major trading nations, such as Australia and Canada.

 

The adoption of these treaties will signify the surrender of our democracy to big business. Staffed by company lawyers, the supreme commercial court that is envisaged under the treaties is to be staffed by company lawyers. It will have the power to fine and rule against democratically elected governments that act contrary to the wishes of mammoth global corporations. Democracy is to be overridden by business interests.

 

This is an extract from a letter that was published in the Guardian on 18 April 2016:

 

“…. does anyone believe that Corbyn’s larger reason for remaining – to reform the EU and recalibrate it as a more financially equal, just and caring society – would happen? Could he shift US and EU positions on the TTIP, an item strangely unmentioned in the government postal handout of the “full facts”? So could we end up staying in under the stewardship of Osborne and Cameron with more of the same – renewed austerity and free-market inequity?….”


Graham Aspinall
Sheffield

 

This is another letter that was published in the Guardian on 18 April 2016:

 

MEPs and trade unionists who maintain that it is possible to have an EU-US trade deal (TTIP) that would exclude the NHS and other public services from its reach (Letters, 12 April) are either being disingenuous or do not understand what they are dealing with. TTIP, CETA (EU-Canada) and TISA (Trade in Services Agreement) are all being negotiated in secret by the European commission and in reality have little or nothing to do with trade. They are all binding supranational treaties that will give transnational corporations unprecedented powers to shape domestic legislation for the maximisation of corporate profit without hindrance from elected governments at local, regional or national level. So-called standstill and ratchet clauses will make it impossible for EU member states to re-nationalise any parts of their economy currently undertaken by private capital, lest they run the risk of being sued for tens of millions of euros under investor state mechanisms allowing foreign companies to sue sovereign countries.

 

David Miliband’s outdated, cold-war view of the EU (12 April) cannot disguise that it too is an instrument for corporate hegemony at the expense of local democracy. Nevertheless, in common with the other large UK unions, GMB has opted to support the UK’s continued membership of the European single market and try to change it from within. Only time will tell whether that is a prudent strategy but, in the meantime, we are firmly in line with the TUC policy of outright opposition to trade deals that will be of no benefit to our members or, indeed, the public.”


Bert Schouwenburg
International officer, GM
B

 

Having written a letter making a powerful case for Britain to leave the EU, the GMB’s international officer then lamely says the GMB has decide to support the Remain camp. “Only time will tell whether that is a prudent strategy,” he adds.

 

How long do they want? Britain has been an EU member state for 43 years. During that time the power of trade unions has been severely weakened across the Continent. By contrast, giant private corporations have gone from strength to strength. The fact that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is being discussed at all shows how powerful giant private corporations have become. All the evidence suggests that we should get out of the EU straight away before it is too late – before the EU gets the chance to foist upon us this latest scheme for a further massive extension of the power of Big Business. By its own logic the GMB should recommend pulling out lickety-split. Why is it not doing so? One can only guess. My guess is that the big unions have had their arms twisted by the Labour Party.

 

And now I’ll let you into a secret.

 

It may come as a surprise to some but the European Union is not ultimately about Europe at all. Ultimately, this is a project with global ambitions. The EU is a temporary regional political entity devised essentially to bulldoze into being a regional level playing field for global market forces. These market forces are controlled by mega businesses and banking cartels (many of them American, needless to say) on the grave of national sovereignty, historic regional cultures and economic diversity. But that is not all. The endgame is not Europe at all. The shadowy forces behind the EU, such as the so-called European Movement and the Bilderberg Group, have a bigger target in sight This is nothing less than….the whole world . The EU has been designed as the first stage in the creation, by way of the same homogenizing strategy, of a global level playing field for those self-same mega corporate interests. This is no fantasy. The evidence is crystal clear.

 

You have only to consider the two all-embracing agreements on free trade in goods and services that are currently being negotiated between the US and the European Commission. If you then relate these two agreements to the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the US and twelve Pacific Rim countries and also to the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, you will begin to get the picture. The US is systematically striking bilateral deals with separate regions of the world to eliminate trade barriers in the interests of its mega corporations. The EU is just one of these regions. Latin America is the next target. Why do you think Obama was so keen to cosy up to Cuba, historically one of the main obstacles to a reprochement between the US and Latin America? Once the whole world is carved up into regional economic units serving the interests of US big business, the regions can be abolished and a uniform global economy will come into being administered by and in the interests of guess who? The United States, of course. That is the plan. And the EU is essential to it. Which is why Obama is so keen to prevent Brexit. Britain, more than any other European country, is the eyes and ears of the US in the EU. It is America’s Trojan mule in Brussels. The much bigged-up environmental and social policies of the EU are, in reality, no more than cosmetic light-weight add-ons to the overriding standardizing thrust of the EU’s free-market policies.

 

Let us move on to immigration.

 

Throughout history people in general have tended to die roughly in the same part of the world as that in which they were born. The reason is simple: people prefer to stay put and live in the neighbourhood as their extended family and the friends with which they were brought up and with their families.

 

So why immigration?

 

Immigrants can be divided into two broad categories: economic migrants seeking jobs and refugee migrants fleeing war or persecution.

 

Economic migrants

 

There are about half a million Poles in the UK and about half a million French citizens – to mention only the top two suppliers of immigrants to the UK. We already had unemployment in the UK before these immigrants came. Therefore, they are bound to take jobs from UK citizens. It’s a no-brainer. You cannot put a gallon into a pint pot. It is possible that some additional jobs are created in due course, but that is no consolation to the UK citizen who has lost their job.

 

Immigrants can undercut the wages of UK citizens for three reasons:

 

  1. To save money to send back home, many immigrants to UK live in cheap substandard accommodation and multiple-occupation housing;

 

  1. They tend to come from relatively low-wage economies so that even a low UK wage is better than what they would receive back in their home country;

 

  1. A low wage in UK is better than unemployment in their home countries.

 

The long-term lasting solution is for the world’s rich countries to provide aid and investment to create jobs in the countries from which the economic migrants come.

 

Refugee migrants

 

These are fleeing war or persecution.

 

The long-term solutionis to end wars and oppression.

 

 

Host country attitudes towards immigrants

 

In general, moderate immigration is accepted by native residents of host countries. It is when it gets out of proportion that they resent it and this often results in increased worries about employment and a rise in racism and xenophobia.

 

That is why curbs are often imposed in the host country once immigration has reached a critical mass.

 

This is a letter which was published in the Guardian on 18 April 2016:

 

Your editorial and Martin Kettle’s comments on Jeremy Corbyn’s pro-EU speech (both 15 April) fastidiously avoided addressing its failure to adequately meet the concerns of the majority of Labour voters over the EU’s inability to control the flow of people across its borders. To really keep us in Europe Corbyn needs to persuade voters that he will work with other socialist governments, themselves losing support across Europe because of this issue, to address the democratic concerns of the majority about migration.

Colin Hines
Twickenham, Middlesex

 

The concerns to which Mr Hines refers affect many ordinary people up and down the UK. Migration are of little direct concern to the affluent and complacent metropolitan elite. The latter quite appreciation immigration as it supplies them with a variety of palatable foreign restaurants at which to eat out.

 

“Que la France reste la France, que l’Angleterre reste l’Angleterre, que l’Allemagne reste l’Allemagne, et ainsi de suite.”

“May France remain France, may England remain England, may Germany remain Germany, and so on.”

Sentiment expressed by a eurosceptic Member of the European Parliament

ROOTEDNESS

 

When it comes to immigration, Antigone1984 has always been in favour of multiculturalism – the right of immigrants to hold on to their native culture and language while at the same time picking up the culture and language of the host community. We are in favour of integration, not assimilation.

However, we also recognize the importance of rootedness. People in general, in our opinion, tend to feel the need to belong to one – or more – particular cultures in which they feel at home. The German word “Heimat” – a term laden with deep-seated nostalgic connotations in the Teutonic world – is closely related to rootedness. Its meaning embraces the concepts of home, homeland, native land, native soil and even native region. A related word “Heimweh” is the German term for homesickness – a longing for one’s native land.

It is not surprising, therefore, that concept of rootedness has been thoroughly analysed by a German author. The human need for rootedness was well expressed by the German writer Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803). Here is a paraphrase of two essays on Herder by philosopher Isaiah Berlin in the July and August 1965 numbers of Encounter magazine:

 

Herder was responsible for three major cultural insights. He believed in:

 

  1. Populism: the value of belonging to a group or culture; every individual is inescapably rooted in his own culture, in his own nation. Pity the poor cosmopolitan who has no nation or culture to sustain him. An individual’s native language is the key component in this culture.

 

  1. Expressionism. Human society and art in particular express (or reflect) the personality of an individual or group. Works of art are intimately connected with their makers and cannot be examined in isolation or, as it were, in a vacuum.

 

  1. Pluralism: belief not merely in the multiplicity but in the incommensurability of the values of different cultures and societies and also the incompatibility of equally valid ideals, together with the implied corollary that the classical notions of an ideal man and of an ideal society are intrinsically incoherent and meaningless.

 

Herder believed in patriotism to one’s culture rather than to one’s state.

 

He espoused the age-old notion of society as an organism (witness Aristotle, John of Salisbury, Hooker, Pascal and Burke).

 

Common cultural traditions, realized in the unique language of each community, are the basis of that community (the nation). Compare the organic community of the past championed by English critic F. R. Leavis.

 

“…Wildly differing societies and their ideals are not commensurable. Such questions as which of them is the best, or even which one would prefer, which one would judge to be nearer to the universal human ideal….are, therefore, for a thinker of this type, meaningless,“ says Berlin.

 

The ideas of different societies are often incompatible. This is as true of the past as it is of the present. Thus, “if we choose to emulate the Greeks, we cannot also emulate the Hebrews….”

 

There is a property, not capable of being abstracted and articulated – that which is German in the Germans – which permeates the heterogeneous activities of the Nation’s life. Moreover, “the specific quality which each type of activity will show forth, will have more in common with generically different activities of the same culture than with specifically similar actions of another culture…In other words, what German epic poetry has in common with German family life or German legislation or German grammar… runs through them more deeply…than that which German poetry has in common with Hindu or Hebrew poetry.”

 

“A German exiled from the milieu of his fellow Germans, perhaps a Saxon or a Prussian forced to live elsewhere, will not feel at home there; and whoever does not feel at home, cannot create naturally, freely, generously, unselfconsciously.” Herder believes that you have to be where you belong. For Herder, the individual is inescapably a member of some group; consequently, all that he does must express, consciously or unconsciously, the aspirations of his group.”

 

We must seek to be true to ourselves.

 

“Let us be characteristic of our nation, language, scene…[We must] find our own centre of gravity…or that of the group – nation, region, community – to which we belong. Without such belonging there is no true creation, no true realisation of human goals. Hence, to foist alien values on a Nation (as missionaries were doing, for example, in India) is both ineffective and harmful. Worst of all are those who have no group, because they are exiled or self-exiled, physically or spiritually…and so doomed to sterility. As a social psychologist, Herder rose above his generation; more clearly than any other writer, he conceived and cast light upon the crucially important social function of ‘belonging’ – on what it is to belong to a group, culture, a movement, a form of life.”

 

 

Now we address fleetingly some of the unfulfilled promises of the EU:

  1.   The EU was supposed to make us prosperous. So why do we stumble on from one economic crisis to another? We have been a member of the EU for over 40 years, so why are we still mired in economic austerity? The fact is that we were sold a pup. It was all talk. The supposedly wonderful eurozone, on which we are currently dependent for trade, is sinking below the weight of its own bureaucracy. Whatever they do, however much money the ECB pumps into the EU, the economy continues to flat-line. Alas, mesmerized by siren voices from across the Channel, we abandoned our historic trading links with the Commonwealth – links which provided us in my lifetime with wholesome butter and lamb that did not cost an arm and a leg. Those links should be revived once we extricate ourselves from the morass of the European Union.
  2. Alongside its much-vaunted promises of economic prowess, the EU was supposed to turn Europe into a major military and diplomatic power on the world stage. It didn’t happen. The mighty European Union is completely dependent on the United States for its security and its diplomatic clout. It is a truth universally acknowledged that independent nations put their own interests first. Let me ask you this. Do you really think that, in the event of a major stand-off with another nuclear power, when US cities were not directly threatened, do you believe that the United States would press the nuclear button to defend a ragbag of European states against outside aggression? Maybe you do. But I can tell you this: it didn’t happen when Russia invaded the Ukraine just over a year ago (in 2014). We heard lots of fine words from the White House, but no boots on the ground. And so it will be again. If you want security, you have to provide it for yourself. No one else will do it for you. We were told when we joined the European Economic Community in 1973 that by signing up we would punch above our weight in the world. How hollow those words sound now! In terms of foreign and military policy, the states of the EU are nothing more than lickspittle lackeys of the United States.

And, of course, within the EU, we are just one of 28 Member States. Outside the EU, we would be free to make our own treaties and conclude our own alliances with whomsoever we chose. We would be an independent state again.

 

Barack Obama has popped into London on the occasion of the Queen’s 90th birthday but his main purpose, with the referendum in mind, is to ram home the message that Britain should stay put in the EU. Well, of course, he would, wouldn’t he? In the EU Britain is America’s Trojan mule, the ears and eyes of the United States. Why wouldn’t he want us to stay?

 

Speaking 19 April 2016, pro-Brexit MP Liam Fox said: “When the US has an open border with Mexico, a Supreme Court in Toronto and the US budget set by a pan-American committee then his views might hold greater weight.”

 

On 22 April 2016 the Guardian quotes another pro-Brexit MP, Iain Duncan Smith, as saying that by backing the Remain campaign[as Obama has in fact done] the US President would be asking British citizens to accept a surrender of sovereignty that Americans would never be willing to contemplate.

 

“I have a huge amount of respect for America’s unrelenting commitment to the patriotic principle of self-governance,” said Mr Duncan Smith. “President Obama and every one of his predecessors have ferociously protected the sovereignty of the USA – and I only wish we could say the same of our leaders.”

 

The United States is never going to submit its own institutions to oversight by an alien bureaucracy.

 

People often confuse the EU with Europe. We supporters of Brexit are not against Europe. We are against a particular type of Europe, the Europe that wears the straitjacket of the European Union. We are in favour of a different kind of Europe, a Europe of Nation States – Nation States that manage their own economies independently but still trade amicably with each other – in whichever sector both parties consider such commerce to be in their mutual interests – and free from the one-size-fits-all corset imposed by Brussels on all states subjected to the diktats of the European Union.

 

Any suggestion to the contrary is simply scaremongering.

 

If we leave the EU, our world is not going to end. We are not going to be swallowed up into a great black hole. Nor will we immediately start a war with those who have chosen to remain Member States of the EU. The UK will negotiate new relationships in peace and amity, as we have done countless times in our bulldog history. King Offa of Mercia, who built the dyke, signed a commercial treaty with the European Emperor Charlemagne as far back as 796. Our history since medieval times is peppered with commercial treaties between our country and the Continent. We shall conclude treaties and cut deals as we have always done. After Brexit, however, we shall do so freely without the need to kowtow to pen-pushing panjandrums from Brussels.

 

Peaceful relations between the nations of Europe outside the European Union are easy to envisage. The EU is not the only kid on the block. There are other ways of managing interstate relations. Nations can conclude treaties with other nations or groups of nations on an ad hoc basis, as the need arises, without needing to be confined by the strait-jacket of the EU and its “one-size-fits-all” policies.

 

The Rhine Navigation Treaty, in place since 1815, has regulated the Rhine artery for over two centuries, smoothly and efficiently and to the quiet satisfaction of the riverine states, but bereft of all the ballyhoo and red tape intrinsic to any dealings with the EU.

 

So it can be done.

 

We should be working with our allies in Europe, not abandoning them, the Remain camp says. Michael Gove (speaking 19 April 2016): A British exit from the EU could spark “the liberation of a whole continent” as other members followed suit. He compared the EU with its “mock parliament” to sprawling and ultimately unsustainable regimes throughout history, from the Ottoman empire to tsarist Russia.

 

In any case, Britain has a perfect right to leave the EU if it wants to. This right is specifically set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union: “Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.” This article also provides for negotiations to take place between the withdrawing state and the EU to determine future relations. So Brexit is a perfectly legitimate procedure provided for under EU law. In any club, if a member decides that they no longer want to belong, they are entitled to resign. What, therefore, is all the fuss about?

 

Regardless of the crumbs that Cameron brought home from the EU table after his sham negotiations, the aim is still a federal free market that provides an ever-expanding homogeneous base for the activities of giant global corporations. But not for small businesses or ordinary hard-working families. Oh no! With the aim of standardizing the market and ironing out its idiosyncracies, the EU steam-roller is systematically destroying national and regional cultures, national and regional customs and traditions, national and regional styles of running an economy. Again it is to Germany that we can turn for a word that precisely describes this procrustean homogenisation of political, economc and cultural differences – Gleichschaltung.

 

In the second series of the Paris Review “Writers at Work” series, the American poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972), spoke of “the struggle to keep the value of a local and particular culture in this awful maelstrom, this awful avalanche [in the modern world] toward uniformity.”

If the harmonizing bureaucrats of the EU had their way, cultural diversity, which is clearly an impediment to the free play of market forces, would be reduced to Morris dancing round a Maypole.

 

In Spain the traditional afternoon siesta is fast being phased out as it does not suit the management style of global foreign businesses that have invested there. And yet in a country where the temperature can reach 45° at midday during the summer the afternoon break or siesta is a sensible method of adapting production to local conditions.

 

The EU, however, represents the uncritical acceptance of global market forces. The EU’s mantra is a free market that has displaced the gods of religion as the deity to be worshipped. The EU treaties are openly described as the Eurocrats’ “Bible”. Environmental and social policies are just afterthoughts bolted on to the almighty market.

 

And now I’ll let you into a secret.

 

It may come as a surprise to some but the European Union is not ultimately about Europe at all. Ultimately, this is a project with global ambitions. The EU is merely a temporary regional political entity devised essentially to bulldoze into being a regional level playing field for global market forces. These market forces are controlled by mega businesses and banking cartels (many of them American, needless to say) on the grave of national sovereignty, historic regional cultures and economic diversity. But that is not all. The endgame is not Europe at all. The shadowy forces behind the EU, such as the so-called European Movement and the Bilderberg Group, have a bigger target in sight This is nothing less than….the whole world . The EU has been designed as the first stage in the creation, by way of the same homogenizing strategy, of a global level playing field for those self-same mega corporate interests. This is no fantasy. The evidence is crystal clear.

 

You have only to consider the two all-embracing agreements on free trade in goods and services that are currently being negotiated between the US and the European Commission. If you then relate these two agreements to the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the US and twelve Pacific Rim countries and also to the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, you will begin to get the picture. The US is systematically striking bilateral deals with separate regions of the world to eliminate trade barriers in the interests of its mega corporations. The EU is just one of these regions. Latin America is the next target. Why do you think Obama was so keen to cosy up to Cuba, historically one of the main obstacles to a reprochement between the US and Latin America? Once the whole world is carved up into regional economic units serving the interests of US big business, the regions can be abolished and a uniform global economy will come into being administered by and in the interests of guess who? The United States, of course. That is the plan. And the EU is essential to it. Which is why Obama is so keen to prevent Brexit. Britain, more than any other European country, is the eyes and ears of the US in the EU. It is America’s Trojan mule in Brussels. The much bigged-up environmental and social policies of the EU are, in reality, no more than cosmetic light-weight add-ons to the overriding standardizing thrust of the EU’s free-market policies.

 

 

MY FRIEND GILL AND HER BUSINESS

 

I’ll finish by talking about my friend Gill . Gill is a real person and what I describe is actually the case, although I have tweaked a few details.

 

Gill is an architect. She took her undergraduate degree in architecture at Cambridge and won the prize for best student in her year. Gill took a further degree in architecture at Princeton and then worked for a prominent architecture firm in New York. Later, back in London, she did various stints in the offices of well-known UK architects. Subsequently, recruiting two other Cambridge contemporaries she set up her own boutique practice in the East End. The business has been around now for some seven or eight years, has won a sheaf of awards and is steadily gaining contracs and prominence.

 

However, pay for architects is relatively low, particularly so in view of the nine years they have to spend training. Architects generally get 10 % of the total project price but this is paid in dribs and drabs and must be enough, in any case, to cover all overheads, including rent and salaries.

 

So Gill is not exactly flush with cash despite the firm’s success. Nor, being self-employed, does she have a company pension.

 

So I asked her one day whether she would not prefer to be working as an employee on a full-time contract with a big architectural firm where her monthly income would be higher than at present and where she would also have a guaranteed pension.

 

Her answer was: “No way”.

 

True, her current financial situation would immediately be improved by such a move. However, the downside would be intolerable.

 

Here she was her own boss, she took her own decisions, she managed her own affairs. What’s not to like!

 

Money, she pointed out, is not everything. What about job satisfaction?

 

In her present set-up she had job satisfaction in spades. So why would she toss it up to become a humble middle-ranking employee being ordered about in someone else’s hierarchy?

 

And so it is too with national economies.

 

So what if our GDP is not the maximum it could possibly be.

 

So what if, for a time, we have a bit of a rough ride economically.

 

Bhutan is not one of the locomotives of the world economy. Its GDP is invisible compared with that of the United States. Yet year after year Bhutan comes out tops in the hit parade of states with the happiest populations.

 

So money isn’t everything.

 

If we leave the EU we shall have the freedom to run our country precisely as we want to without being bossed about by Brussels bureaucrats or Luxembourg judges.

 

Like Gill, we shall be our own boss again.

 

We shall regain our freedom and our sovereignty.

 

For better or worse, we shall be once again masters of our own destiny.

 

If that requires a bit of risk-taking, bring it on. It’s a price worth paying to regain our liberty.

 

Let us throw away our crutches.

 

Let us display once again the bulldog spirit for which this country was once famous.

 

Let us become a nation once again.

 

 

 

 

  1. THE CASE AGAINST THE PRO-EU U-TURN EXECUTED BY UK LABOUR PARTY LEADER JEREMY CORBYN

 

The following is the text of a letter sent to various newspapers following the pro-EU speech made by Jeremy Corbyn in London on 14 April 2016:

 

Pity the poor Corbynistas who voted in their thousands to elect lifelong leftie Jeremy Corbyn last autumn as Labour Party leader on the basis of the prospectus that this was a decent straight-talking bloke who had nailed his colours to the mast and would not climb down. You got what was written on the tin. Or so they thought. However, Corbyn’s appointment of a dyed-in-the-wool Blairite shadow cabinet two days after his election should have given pause for thought. And now he has “come out” as an EU patsy. Those voting for Corbyn must surely, when voting, have taken cognizance of his inveterate euroscepticism. They must be somewhat nonplussed, therefore, to find that their hero, having at last acceded to a position of power after three decades as an obscure backbencher, has suddenly jettisoned his erstwhile convictions and surrendered, in the time-honoured tradition of Labour leaders, to the dictates of the Westminster elite. It didn’t take long. One thinks inevitably of Lord Acton. Moreover, now that Corbyn has sullied the reputation for integrity that is his unique selling point, his support among Labour radicals – once the scales have fallen from their eyes – is bound to wane. His party opponents must be sharpening their knives. It is all so sad. Passing up a historic chance to extricate this country from the tentacles of the EU octopus, this ostensibly sea-green incorruptible has caved in lock, stock and barrel to the blandishments of the europhiliac consensus. In Corbyn we have our very own Alexis Tsipras.

 

That was the letter.

 

This is what prompted it.

 

In a major speech on 14 April 2016 – to the delight of the Blairites and their claque on the Guardian – Corbyn, the veteran eurosceptic, confirmed his shift into the pro-EU camp.

According to a BBC report that day, he said:

“Over the years I have been critical of many decisions taken by the EU, and I remain critical of its shortcomings from its lack of democratic accountability to the institutional pressure to deregulate or privatise public services. So Europe needs to change. But that change can only come from working with our allies in the EU. It’s perfectly possible to be critical and still be convinced we need to remain a member.”

 

He argued that there was “a strong socialist case for staying in the European Union, just as there is also a powerful socialist case for reform and progressive change in Europe”.

 

Asked why he had been converted to the EU cause, after speaking against it so many times in the past and voting to come out in the 1975 referendum, he said the Labour Party and trade unions had “overwhelmingly” decided to back EU membership “and that’s the party I lead and that’s the position I am putting forward”.

 

However, in the past the previously eurosceptic Mr Corbyn has happily ignored the party line when it suited him. Principles do not stand a chance, it seems, when you get a sniff at power.

 

But wait a minute.

 

The Labour Party has also decided to back Britain’s colossally expensive “independent” nuclear deterrent – “independent” in the sense that it can only function with the approval and technical collaboration of the United States.

 

Yet Mr Corbyn, following his election as leader of the party, made a big song and dance in the House of Commons vociferating – quite sensibly – his opposition to weaponry whose cost is way beyond the pockets of a small austerity-strapped island – weaponry, moreover, which, if used in war, can only lead to mutually assured destruction (abbreviation “MAD”) in the event of retaliation by a nuclear-armed opponent.

 

So , when it suits him, Mr Corbyn is quite happy to lead a party whose policy he opposes!

 

However, given his volte-face on EU membership, only a fool would bet on Corbyn sticking to his guns so far as the rejection of nuclear arms is concerned. Qui a bu boira. Having sold the pass to the apaches – the party’s rightwing Blairite faction – in the preeminently important case of EU membership, which has ramifications that embrace the political system as a whole, he can no longer be relied to do the right thing as regards the important but lesser single-issue question of nuclear aggression.

 

In the same speech, Mr Corbyn told an audience of Labour supporters: “You cannot build a better world unless you engage with the world, build allies and deliver change. The EU, warts and all, has proved itself to be a crucial international framework to do that. That is why I will be am backing Britain to remain in Europe and I hope you will too.”

 

The implication of this tendentious assertion is that the pro-Brexit camp do not want to engage with the world. But nothing could be further from the truth. Brexiteers intend to engage enthusiastically with like-minded nations throughout the world once they are freed from the shackles of the EU. It is a travesty to suggest otherwise.

 

According to the BBC report on 14 April, Labour MP Kate Hoey, who is campaigning for an out vote, said that many Labour voters shared her view and would “see through” Mr Corbyn’s speech.

 

“We know first of all, that he doesn’t really mean it, no matter how much he tries to pretend he does, and secondly, that it is not in the interest of the Labour movement,” she told the BBC News channel.

 

According to a report of Corbyn’s speech in the Guardian the next day, 15 April 2016, he said:

 

“The Labour Party is overwhelmingly for staying in because we believe the EU has brought investment, jobs and protection for workers, consumers and the environment, and offers the best chance of meeting the challenges we face in the 21st century.

 

Comment: this is the speak-your-weight machine talking. The globalized free market economy at the heart of EU ideology has, on the contrary, destroyed jobs, casualised labour, weakened trade unions and opened the floodgates to zero-hours jobs (where workers must remain on permanent standby to take any work that is offered but have no guarantee that such work will materialise). As to investment, this will be encouraged just as much after Brexit as it is at present. Having regard to his past form as a committed socialist, it is hard not to believe that Corbyn is perfectly well aware of this – but chooses, for tricky-dicky political reasons, to say precisely the opposite. The word “sell-out” springs to mind.

 

“We need to make the case for reform in Europe – the reform David Cameron’s government has no interest in, but plenty of others [in] Europe do. That means democratic reform to make the EU more accountable…economic reform to end self-defeating austerity and put jobs and sustainable growth at the centre of European policy, labour market reform to strengthen and extend workers’ rights…and new rights for governments and elected authorities to support public enterprise and halt the pressure to privatise services.”

 

Yes, and Motherhood and Apple Pie as well!

 

All the goals that Corbyn wishes to achieve in his grand reform of the EU are diametrically at variance with the main thrust of EU economic policy and ideology. In the EU, it is a case of “the market rules, OK?” Some minor tinkering in a more socially liberal direction is possible – a few crumbs of comfort are thrown to dissenters to keep discontent manageable – but that is as far as it goes.

 

To think the contrary is to display breath-taking naivety about the balance of forces inside the European Union.

 

According to the Guardian report , Corbyn said he wanted to forge alliances with leftwing parties across Europe in order to reform it and promised that a Labour Government would cooperate with is socialist allies to halt the “race to the bottom”

 

Who are these socialist allies Corbyn is going to cooperate with?

 

Anyone with the slightest inkling of the European political scene is perfectly well aware that there is not a single socialist party in Europe that is socialist. François Hollande in France? You must be joking. Matteo Renzi in Italy? Forget it. In Germany the picture is bleaker still. The German Social Democrats led by Sigmar Gabriel are actually in coalition with the rightwing Christian Democrats led by Angela Merkel. It is as if the Labour Party was in coalition with the Conservative Party in Britain. Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament, with whom Corbyn has been hobnobbing in Brussels, is a member of the German Social Democratic Party. And so it goes on.

 

It is more than ironic that Corbyn has outed himself as as Euroconformist precisely at a time when the anti-austerity programme that he is advocating has proved itself an out-and-out non-starter elsewhere in the European Union.

Has he not heard about the Greek tragedy?

In Greece a political party (Syriza) with an anti-austerity platform virtually identical to Corbyn’s won parliamentary elections in January 2015. Rebelling against the European Union as it stood, these naive optimists  immediately set about negotiating with their (imaginary, it turned out) European allies to reform the Union in a manner that would benefit ordinary Greeks – and, moreover, set an example for similar improvements in the lot of European citizens throughout the Continent.

Their aspirations were in fact identical to those being voiced by Jeremy Corbyn in Britain today.

What happened to Syriza?  Well, if Corbyn doesn’t know, he should get out more.

In the first place, contrary to expectation, it turned out that the Greeks did not have any allies at all in the EU. Not a single one among their 27 “partner” states.

Why?

Well, the European Union is a fundamentalist market-based organisation where mammoth free-wheeling corporations lord it every time over the needs of the Continent’s ordinary citizens.  The other 27 EU member states, therefore, simply looked the other way when the Greeks came begging that the straitjacket of austerity be eased. And for good reason. The other EU governments – for example, in Spain, Portugal and Ireland – have been hell-bent on sticking it to their own citizens with the truncheon of austerity.

Why should they want to give some slack to Greece?

In the second place, the small-fry Greeks of Syriza were unrealistically sanguine about the chances of “negotiating” on equal terms with the big boys of the European Union.

If Syriza had been a genuinely party of the far left, it would have leapt at the chance to throw down the gauntlet once and for all to the privateering European establishment and, in doing so, set an example for other similar parties the length and breadth of the continent. But no. They decided that they were going to remain with the EU and stay tied to the apron strings of the euro. Like Corbyn, they were going to negotiate “firmly but politely” with whoever would talk to them in the Eurocrat establishment…

Negotiations with the Eurocrats? They will smother you with open arms. These guys are past masters of negotiation. They could negotiate the hind legs off a donkey. It will be like wading through treacle. At best they will dance circles round you, at worst they will tear you to pieces. And so, alas, it came to pass. As members of a new party from a peripheral country with little experience of government, Syriza’s negotiators were like minnows in a pond of piranhas.

The Syriza government seemed to believe that it would be welcomed with open arms at the negotiating table. They had only to talk to the Eurocrats, demonstrate what good Europeans they were (by not wanting to leave the EU or abandon the euro). Lying through their teeth, they had only to explain that, like any orthodox EU state, they were enthusiastic supporters of market-based economic growth – and the Eurocrats would be bowled over with admiration and would give them whatever they wanted….

This was naïve in the extreme.

On 13 July 2015, Black Monday, the Greek government, elected on a similar anti-austerity platform to that advocated by Corbyn, was forced to its knees by the triad – the Brussel-based European Commission, the German-based European Central Bank and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund. Compelled to eat humble pie, the Greeks had to jettison the entire reform manifesto on the basis of which they had been elected and implement a massive privatization drive, cutting public sector jobs and salaries, decimating pensions and selling off a vast panoply of the country’s national assets to foreign capitalists. As the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, told the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis: “Elections cannot be allowed to change existing economic policy.

The principle aim of the dominant rightwing current in today’s EU is to achieve a balance or surplus in the public accounts and to achieve this, where necessary, by slashing public spending, privatising state assets and “reforming” labour relations by outsourcing public services, cutting benefits, making it easier for employers to sack workers, reducing pensions and raising the pension age.

Syriza swept to power in Greece as a result of promises to the electorate that, in many respects, it would do the direct opposite: give free electricity to the poor, re-employ sacked workers, halt privatizations, and increase pensions and the minimum wage.

It is an indisputable fact that such humanitarian proposals are anathema to the penny-pinching capitalist politicians that are running the EU on behalf of international big business.

So why did Syriza expect the red carpet to be rolled out for it when its representatives rocked up in Brussels or other European capitals?”

And why today is Jeremy Corbyn setting out on the same road?

It is true that Britain is a big hitter, economically and politically, when compared to Greece, which at best accounts for only 2 per cent of EU output. However, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. None of the 28 EU states is strong enough to beard the massed ranks of the other 27 members. It is an unequal struggle which can have only one outcome.

That is why Corbyn’s new-found Europhilia is sad as well as being misguided.

The European Union is a centralized market-subservient economic organization with some add-on environmental and social policies. The latter are in any case are being rapidly watered down as the tightening corset of a meddling EU removes the need to pay lip-service to non-market interests.

Witness the secret ongoing negotiations, backed by all 28 EU governments despite widespread popular opposition, to forge a free trade agreement – the notorious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)– between the EU and the USA – the USA being the instigator of the talks, the dominant partner and the likely chief beneficiary. The aim is to tip the balance away from democratic regulation of markets by sovereign governments and towards a giant intercontinental economy dominated not by small firms – the key business model in Greece and other EU Member States – but by giant global mega-corporations. Disputes between democratically elected governments and corporate behemoths will be decided by special supranational business courts biased towards the unregulated private market.

Rather than rush headlong towards the creation of a homogenized Europe-wide market of generic chain stores owned by opaque global mega-corporations, better the disintegration of the EU and the Eurozone – both fundamentally capitalist constructions – and its replacement by a loose grouping of fully sovereign nation states free to trade with one another as the whim takes them but with the power both to direct their own economies as they see fit and to take political decisions in the interest of their own citizens without fear of interference from a homogenizing Eurocratic elite holed up out of touch in its Belgian ivory tower.

A radical leftwing party could not fail to seize this historic opportunity to break free and reclaim full national sovereignty in an economy based on cooperation, deprivatization, the egalitarian distribution of wealth and income, patriotic industrial protectionism and participative democratic decision-making.

As to Jeremy Corbyn and his “allies”, whoever they may be, “renegotiating” the fundamentals of European policy, consider the position adopted by Syriza’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Rena Doulou, on the eve of the Greek elections in June 2012. In an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde around that time, she said she wanted the Greek people to become “a model of resistance to financial capitalism”. The party, she said, wanted to put the accent on a spirit of public and cooperative enterprise with a view to sustainable growth and the satisfaction of social needs. Syriza would reform public finance, provide incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises, and create jobs (particularly in hospitals and schools). As a result, “instead of being Europe’s guinea-pig,” Greek society would become a new model for the people of Europe – “a model which resists the logic of financial capitalism”.

Dream on, babe!

At that time, like Corbyn today, Syriza seemed blissfully unaware that every country that joins the European Union must agree to run a free-market economy (see Articles 101 to 105 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). The market economy is the bedrock upon which the European Union rests. Even if transitional arrangements allowing temporary state intervention are permitted (see Articles 106 to 109 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union), in the long term the state (representing the people) must hand over the running of its economy to private businesses. That is why, throughout Europe today, successful state-run railways, postal services and utilities are currently being surrendered, often at bargain-basement prices, to private firms.

It seems as if Corbyn is blissfully unaware of the black hole into which the hopes of the Greek people have sunk without trace.

If so, he should get out more. Preferably beyond the cramped precincts of his Islington constituency.

Unfortunately, one cannot rule out the hypothesis that this erstwhile firebrand just doesn’t want to know – his judgement shot to pieces perhaps as a result of the bombardment of shameless flattery now raining down on him from erstwhile enemies both in the media and on the reactionary pro-EU wing of the Labour Party.

 

Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour:

England hath need of thee: she is a fen

Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,

Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,

Have forfeited their ancient English dower

Of inward happiness……

O raise us up, return to us again,

And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power!

This is an invocation to John Milton (1608-1674), author of the poems “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained”, by the English poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

 

———-

 

You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. 5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Labour radical “comes out” as EU patsy

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

29 July 2015 [article updated subsequently]

Per me si va nella città dolente;

per me si va nell’ eterno dolore;

per me si va tra la gente perduta….

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’ entrate!

This is the way to the city of mourning,

This the way to eternal suffering,

This the way to the company of the damned….

Abandon all hope, ye that enter!

Canto III, lines 1 to 3 and line 9 of the Inferno by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). This is the introit the poet nails over the Gate to Hell. However, it still works if you substitute Brussels for Hell.

Labour radical “comes out” as EU patsy

 

Corr, Blimey! Who would have thunk it?

Jeremy Corbyn, the only leftwing candidate for the empty seat at the top of Britain’s moribund so-called “Labour” Party has “come out” as a supporter of the European Union.

What a let-down!

Corbyn is currently polling pole position to become the party’s next leader, the other three candidates being dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries who have no interest for us.

The result of the leadership election ballot will be announced  in mid-September. Previous leader Ed “gawk” Miliband fell on his sword after leading the party to its waterloo in the UK parliamentary election on 7 May 2015, when the governing Tory Party swept back into power with an overall majority.

As a main plank of its programme while in office, the Tory government is to negotiate with its 27 EU partner governments with a view to securing a relaxation of EU restrictions that currently hamper Britain’s desire to do whatever it wants regardless of EU club rules. Following the negotations, an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union is to be held by the end of 2017.

In a bombshell statement published in the UK Guardian newspaper yesterday 28 July 2015 in response to demands from Labour Party members that he come clean about his attitude to the European Union, Jeremy Corbyn declared:

“Labour should set out its own clear position to influence negotiations, working with our European allies to set out a reform agenda to benefit ordinary Europeans across the continent. We cannot be content with the state of the EU as it stands. But that does not mean walking away, but staying to fight together for a better Europe.”

According to a Guardian report interpreting this statement, Corbyn was making it clear that he has no plans to abandon Britain’s membership of the EU but intends to campaign for reform from within.

It is more than ironic that Corbyn has outed himself as as Euroconformist precisely at a time when the entryism that he is advocating has proved itself an out-and-out non-starter elsewhere in the European Union.

Has he not heard about the Greek tragedy?

In Greece a political party (Syriza) with an anti-austerity platform virtually identical to Corbyn’s won parliamentary elections in January 2015. Not content with the European Union as it stood, these naive optimists  immediately set about negotiating with their [imaginary, it turned out] European allies to reform the union in a manner that would benefit ordinary Greeks and thereby set an example for similar improvements in the lot of European citizens throughout the continent. [Compare Corbyn’s statement above]

What happened to Syriza?  Well, if Corbyn doesn’t know, he should get out more.

In the first place, contrary to expectation, it turned out that the Greeks did not have any allies. Not a single one among their 27 “partner” states.

Why?

Well, the European Union is a fundamentalist market-based organisation where mammoth free-wheeling corporations lord it every time over the needs of the continent’s ordinary citizens.  The other 27 EU member states, therefore, simply looked the other way when the Greeks came begging for the straitjacket of austerity to be eased. And for good reason. The other EU governments – eg in Spain, Portugal and Ireland – have been hell-bent on screwing their own citizens. Why should they want to give some slack to Greece?

In the second place, the small-fry Greeks were unrealistically sanguine about the chances of “negotiating” on equal terms with the big boys of the European Union.

This is what we said in our post of 23 February 2015 Η ελπίδα δέν έρχεται on the failure of four weeks of Greek negotiations with the European institutions (and the International Monetary Fund):

“…..the greenhorn negotiators of Syriza – the party has only existed since 2004 – were too callow to be a match for the wily and experienced bureaucrats of “the [European] institutions”.

Antigone1984 predicted as much in our post Soon you’ll be able to hope again  (Η ελπίδα έρχεται) published on 24 January 2015 [on the eve of the Greek parliamentary elections in which Syriza triumphed]:

‘If Syriza were a genuinely party of the far left, would it not leap at the chance to throw down the gauntlet once and for all to the privateering European establishment and, in doing so, set an example for other similar parties the length and breadth of the continent?

But no. They are going to remain within the EU, they are going to remain within the eurozone, and they are going to negotiate “firmly but politely” with whoever will talk to them in the Eurocrat establishment…

Negotiations with the Eurocrats? They will smother you with open arms. These guys are the past masters of negotiations. They could negotiate the hind legs off a donkey. It will be like wading through treacle. As members of a new party from a peripheral country with no experience of government, Syriza’s negotiators will be like minnows in a pond of piranhas. At best they will dance circles round you, at worst they will tear you to pieces. Good luck!’

And so, alas, it came to pass.

…..the Syriza government seemed to believe that it would be welcomed with open arms at the negotiating table. They had only to talk to the eurocrats, demonstrate what good Europeans they were (by not wanting to leave the EU or abandon the euro), explain that, like any orthodox EU state, they were enthusiastic supporters of market-based economic growth – and the eurocrats would be bowled over with admiration and would give them whatever they wanted….

This was naïve in the extreme.

The principle aim of the dominant rightwing current in today’s EU is to achieve a balance or surplus in the public accounts and to achieve this, where necessary, by slashing public spending, privatising state assets and “reforming” labour relations by outsourcing public services, cutting benefits, making it easier for employers to sack workers, reducing pensions and raising the pension age.

Syriza swept to power in Greece as a result of promises to the electorate that, in many respects, it would do the direct opposite: give free electricity to the poor, re-employ sacked workers, halt privatizations, and increase pensions and the minimum wage.

It is an indisputable fact that such humanitarian proposals are anathema to the penny-pinching capitalist politicians that are running the EU on behalf of international big business.

So why did Syriza expect the red carpet to be rolled out for it when its representatives rocked up in Brussels or other European capitals?”

And why today is Jeremy Corbyn setting out on the same road?

It is true that Britain is a big hitter, economically and politically, when compared to Greece, which at best accounts for only 2 per cent of EU output. However, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. None of the 28 EU states is strong enough to beard the massed ranks of the other 27 members. It is an unequal struggle which can have only one outcome.

That is why Corbyn’s new-found Europhilia is sad as well as being misguided.

He had so much going for him.

According to Wikipedia, Jeremy Bernard Corbyn (born 26 May 1949) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for the London constituency of Islington North since 1983. He is also a member of the Socialist Campaign Group, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Amnesty International, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Stop the War Coalition. Sponsored in parliament by several trades unions, he is also in favour of animal rights.

In fact, there can hardly be a progressive movement in Britain to which this politician has not given his public support over the years.

Here’s Wikipedia again:

“Corbyn is a self-described socialist and anti-poverty campaigner. He has campaigned strongly against tuition fees in England, the creation of academies and private finance initiative schemes. He supports the renationalisation of railways, the introduction of a living wage, a higher rate of income tax for the wealthiest in society, and an increase in corporation tax to fund public services such as free higher education.”

He als0 wants Britain to be a republic and is in favour of reforming the UK parliament by abolishing the House of Lords (the unelected upper chamber) and ensuring equal representation of men and women in the House of Commons (the elected lower chamber).

Corbyn campaigned against apartheid in South Africa and is opposed to what he regards as apartheid – involving discrimination against the Arab minority – in Israel. He is a long-standing supporter of a United Ireland. He has spoken in favour of the radical “Bolivarian” government in Venezuela and called for the late dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, to be put on trial. Corbyn is also said to favour dialogue between the UK and Argentina in respect of the disputed sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, over which both countries went to war in 1982.

He has also argued that the former inhabitants of the Chagos Islands,  British Indian Ocean territory, should have the right to return to their homeland. They were forcibly expelled by the UK Government around 1970 to allow the United States to set up a strategic military base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the islands.

Still according to Wikipedia, inn April last year Corbyn wrote an article supporting Russia’s positions on NATO and the crisis in Ukraine and asserting that the “root of the crisis” lay in “the US drive to expand eastwards”. He described Russia’s actions as “not unprovoked”.

He has also opposed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He supports refugees, travellers and dalits (members of the lowest caste in India) and has campaigned against racism, fascism and imperialism.

With views like these, so at variance with the reactionary politics of the Labour Party establishment, it is hardly surprising – and entirely praiseworthy – that Corbyn has had frequent run-ins with the Labour Whips (parliamentary thought police whose job is to ‘whip’ dissidents into line) during his 32 years as a Member of Parliament for that increasingly rightwing non-socialist party.

What’s not to like? As far as Antigone1984 is concerned, Corbyn ticks all the boxes.

The fact that his candidacy is conspued by the usual suspects is definitive proof that this guy is good.

For example, the money-grubbing former Labour Party leader Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (UK Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007) has said that Labour supporters whose hearts were telling them to vote for Corbyn needed a heart transplant. Blair is commonly referred to as “Son of Thatcher”, so zealously did he continue the rightward shift in British politics started by Margaret Thatcher, the reactionary “Iron Lady”, who was Tory Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990.

Lord Neil Kinnock, leader of the Labour Party from 1983 to 1992, the man who helped Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher knock the stuffing out of the country’s mineworkers  in the great strike of 1984-1985, has come out in support of Andy Burnham, a rightwing cipher, as next Labour leader, warning that “the Trotkyite left and the Telegraph right. which he alleges have”malign purposes”, are seeking to infiltrate the contest in Corbyn’s favour.

Another Lord, Peter Mandelson, an arch-crony of Blair’s, has echoed his master’s putdown of Corbyn.

With enemies like these, who needs friends?

As to be expected, the Financial Times (which has just sold itself to the Japanese), is none too keen on Corbyn either. Commentator John Lloyd, writing in “the pink’un” on 30 July 2015, said: “Mr Blair was right to say last week that Mr Corbyn would be a disaster. As a candidate for high office, he would be politically and economically eviscerated, both at home and abroad.”

Nor is it to be wondered that hackette Polly Toynbee, a slavering cheerleader for the Labour Party establishment, also slagged off Corbyn in an article published in the Guardian newspaper on 4 August 2015.

As my late father used to say, “What can you expect from a pig but a grunt?”

Antigone1984 prefers the assessment by Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union: “We think that it is time for a change for Labour. The grip of the Blairites and inviduals like Peter Mandelson [a notoriously rightwing Blair acolyte] must now be loosened once and for all. There is a virus within the Labour Party, and Jeremy Corbyn is the antidote.”

Our only quibble – and it is a big one – is to ask why Corbyn and his ilk did not leave the Labour Party yonks ago and form their own genuinely leftwing party? The handful of dissidents (including Corbyn) in the parliamentary Labour Party has regularly clashed with party bosses – but have achieved diddly-squat. The little dogs barked but the party caravan barrelled on. The rebels were allowed to have their say – if they could find an audience – but nothing of any substance that they said was taken up by the party politburo.

While the Corbyn campaign is currently building up a head of steam, the candidate may or may not emerge as party leader when the result of the ballot is announced on 12 September. If he is not elected, too bad. He will most likely sink back into the relative obscurity from which he has just escaped. However, if, in a turn-up for the books, he does win the crown, he will have metamorphised from disregarded trouble-maker into the party’s big kahuna – with considerable freedom to shape party policy in line with his long-held principles.

Hence the tragedy of his cave-in to the European Union. As party leader, he will have exchanged his party strait-jacket for an even tighter one manufactured in Brussels.

Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’ entrate!

You can say that again, mate!

We see another danger looming for Corbyn in the event that he is elected Labour Party leader. It seems from press reports that Corbyn wants his shadow cabinet to form an “inclusive” team and so will revive the former tradition of allowing Labour Members of Parliament to elect the shadow cabinet.

Antigone1984 is always in favour of elections – it is one of our core themes – but we believe that, if the shadow cabinet is to be elected, then the electorate should consist of all party members,  not the tiny contituency represented by existing Members of Parliament (MPs). These MPs were selected as candidates before the parliamentary election on 7 May when the rightwing dominated the party. As a result,  they are likely, on the whole, to take an establishment standpoint. Any such election limited to the ranks of the party’s MPs will provide a golden opportunity for the party’s rightwing, miffed at losing the leadership contest, to stuff the shadow cabinet with Corbyn opponents who will stop at nothing to stymie the party’s leftward shift.

A man with views not entirely dissimilar to those of Corbyn, Michael Foot, who was Labour Leader from 1980 to 1983, also wanted his shadow advisers to form a inclusive “big tent”. He included within his shadow cabinet big beasts of the Labour right, including Denis Healey and – yes, it’s him again – Neil Kinnock. When Foot resigned as leader in 1983 after Labour lost the parliamentary election that year, Kinnock took over as leader and immediately set about expunging leftwing members and ideas from the party – a process later completed by none other than Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

As we have pointed out above, both Kinnock and Blair, not surprisingly, are visceral opponents of Corbyn.

The writing is on the wall, Mr Corbyn.

You have been warned.

Antigone1984:

Europe again! Oh dear! Always cropping up like a bad halfpenny when you least want it.

In response to yesterday’s dramatic admission by Corbyn that he intends to toe the line on Europe, tugging his forelock piously to the gods of the Brussels Pantheon, here are three three observations from our previous posts.

The following is an extract from our post published in Athens on 24 January 2015 Soon you’ll be able to hope again(“Η ελπίδα έρχεται”) on the eve of the last Greek parliamentary elections :

“The European Union is a centralized market-subservient economic organization with some add-on environmental and social policies, which in any case are being rapidly watered down as the tightening strait-jacket of “ever closer union” removes the need to pay lip-service to non-market interests. Witness the ongoing negotiations, backed by all 28 EU governments despite widespread popular opposition, to forge a free trade agreement – the notorious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – between the EU and the USA (the instigator of the talks, the dominant partner and the likely chief beneficiary). The aim is to tip the balance away from democratic regulation of markets by sovereign governments and towards a giant intercontinental economy dominated not by small firms (the key business model in Greece) but by giant global mega-corporations. Disputes between democratically elected governments and corporate behemoths would be decided by special supranational business courts biased towards the unregulated private market.”

 The following extract comes from our post Gary Cooper and the Sheriff of Athens published on 9 February 2015.

“…Antigone1984 is very much opposed to the realization of a scenario that would lead to the creation of a United States of Europe. Quite the contrary. We have consistently argued in favour of the disintegration of the European Union as well as of the eurozone within it and for the reversion to a group of fully sovereign European nation states free to trade with one another as the whim takes them but with the power to direct their own economies as they see fit and to take their own political decisions in the interest of their own citizens without fear of interference from a power-crazed empire-building Eurocratic elite holed up out of touch in its Belgian ivory tower.

It is for this reason that  (Hélas Hellas!) we regard Syriza, the political party which now dominates the new coalition government in Greece, as simply a progressive social democratic party and not – despite its partly Marxist origins and its naive cheerleaders among leftwing groups elsewhere in Europe – a radical leftwing anti-capitalist anti-market party. Instead of “negotiating” to remain organically within the supposed comfort zone of the European Union and the euro-currency bloc, both fundamentally capitalist constructions, a radical leftwing party could not have failed to seize this historic opportunity to break free and reclaim full national sovereignty in an economy based on cooperation, deprivatization, the egalitarian distribution of wealth and income, patriotic industrial protectionism and participative democratic decision-making. 

As to Jeremy Corbyn and his “allies”, whoever they may be, “renegotiating” the fundamentals of European policy, try replacing “Syriza” with “UK Labour Party” in this extract from our post Felipe Gonzalez published in Athens on 10 June 2012 in the midst of the previous Greek parliamentary elections:

“In a recent interview with Le Monde,  Syriza’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Rena Doulou, said she wants the Greek people to become “a model of resistance to financial capitalism”. The party, she said, wants to put the accent on a spirit of public and cooperative enterprise with a view to sustainable growth and the satisfaction of social needs. Syriza will reform public finance, provide incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises, and create jobs (particularly in hospitals and schools). As a result, “instead of being Europe’s guinea-pig,” she believes that Greek society would become a new model for the people of Europe – “a model which resists the logic of financial capitalism”.

Syriza seems to be blissfully unaware that every country that joins the European Union must agree to run a free-market economy. The market economy is the bedrock upon which the European Union rests. Even if transitional arrangements allowing temporary state intervention are permitted, in the long term the state (representing the people) must hand over the running of its economy to private businesses. That is why, throughout Europe today, successful state-run railways, postal services and utilities are currently being handed over, often at bargain-basement prices, to private firms.”

It seems as if Corbyn is blissfully unaware of the black hole into which Syriza and its negotiators have disappeared.

As we said above, he should get out more.

 ——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. 5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Architecture, Europe, Greece, Politics, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Anyone for Uruguay?

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

25 May 2015

CONTRA SPEM

Tout le malheur des hommes vient de l’espérance.”

Assertion by Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-born French writer and Nobel literature laureate, in his disquisition on rebellion and revolution (“L’Homme révolté”, 1951).

“Antigone1984… is very much opposed to political optimism for which there is no basis in fact. One gets a whiff of this in the recourse of the Italian Communist theoretician Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) to “optimism of the will” when faced with “pessimism of the intellect”. The sainted British Labour Party leftwinger Tony Benn (1925-2014) was another notorious exponent of culpable optimism. We remember him telling a meeting in Brussels during the catastrophic 1984-1985 UK mineworkers’ strike that “we [the left] have won” when it was already blindingly obvious that we had lost big-time. Think also of the legendary prediction by Spanish Communist leader Dolores Ibárruri (1895-1989) at the start of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939): “¡No pasarán! [They shall not get through!] she said of the advancing forces of the rightist insurgent Francisco Franco. To which the subsequently victorious Franco is said to have retorted: ¡Ya hemos pasado! [We have already got through!]. At Antigone1984 we prefer to call a spade a spade, not a shovel.”

The above is an extract from our blog “H ελπίδα έρχεται”   (“Soon you’ll be able to hope again”) published in Athens on 24 January 2015. It was with this over-optimistic slogan that the left-leaning Syriza party headed into the Greek general election exactly four months ago today. Sadly, as we predicted at the time, despite Syriza’s victory at the polls, it took only a week for those hopes to be dashed as the party’s raggle-taggle army of naïve greenhorns locked horns to their cost with the ruthless bean-counters of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Greece today is even more of an economic basket-case than it was before the election.

The profession of unblinking optimism, whatever the circumstances, was a key duty of party apparatchiki schooled in Marxist-Leninist doctrine at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. The good comrade, indoctrinated to believe in the “scientific” inevitability that the proletariat will ultimately triumph, was trained always to look on the bright side.

The idea is that morale will crumble if party members are allowed to indulge in the “bourgeois” luxury of seeing things as they are.

Antigone1984 adopts a different position. Opposed to wishful thinking, we do our best to analyse the political situation as it actually is and not on the basis of how we would prefer things to be. If our analysis provides grounds for optimism, then we are optimistic. If it does not, then we tell it like it is.

The light at the end of the tunnel may be the light of the oncoming train.

We take the view that it is deceitful to fake an optimism for which you do not believe there is evidence. In trying to convince people that there are grounds for hope when you do not believe this to be the case you are doing them no service.

It is a version of that old chestnut of immorality: “the end justifies the means”:  we can maintain a cavalier attitude towards the truth because our ultimate aims are laudable.

Bullshit.

Hope-mongers are already at work on the British left following the triumph of the reactionary Tory Party in the parliamentary election on 7 May 2015 (covered in our last four blogs).

Since the catastrophic defeat of the Labour and Liberal Democratic parties in that election, waste-of-breath voices are being heard on the left commending our vacuous old friend “hope”. A paid-up member of the hope-mongering tendency is commentator Owen Jones, a star “leftie” hack on the Guardian newspaper and, paradoxically, a supporter of the non-socialist Labour Party to boot. On 8 May, the day after the election, Jones cobbled together an article entitled “A nightmarish result – but a politics of hope could arise from these ashes”. Here we go again. It is no accident that Jones is a torch-bearer for the late Tony Benn (mentioned in our opening paragraph above) whose name was a byword for pathological optimism.

After lamenting the rightward drift of the Labour Party in the outgoing parliament, Owen concludes:

“There will be a big debate now over the future of the Labour party, and what the left does next. This country desperately needs a politics of hope that answers people’s everyday problems on living standards, job security, housing, public services and the future of their children. What is needed is a movement rooted in the lives of working-class people and their communities. The future of millions of people depends on it.”

The country may “need” a politics of hope, whatever that means, but it is not going to get it. Nor is there any evidence to suggest the emergence any time soon – or indeed ever – of a movement rooted in the lives of working-class people and their communities. At least not if the Labour Party has anything to do with it. No sooner were the catastrophic election results announced, than the party elite unanimously blamed the disaster on the fact that the party had not moved far enough to the right. As we have repeatedly emphasized, despite its name the Labour Party is a market-subservient party of the right, not the left, and it is moving further to the right at a rate of knots. A big debate over the future of the Labour Party. That is the last thing that party apparatchiki want. But if there were to be a debate it would not be about moving back in the direction of the historic left-inclined roots of the party, but about how far and how fast the party could move in the opposite direction.

So not many grounds for hope there then.

A letter in the Guardian newspaper on 16 May 2015 from Emeritus Professor Roger Carpenter of Cambridge University refers to the infighting among the right-wing epigoni of the Labour Party elite who are now scrabbling to succeed the fallen party leader Edward “Loser” Miliband:

“When the ambitious little apparatchiks come out of their woodwork and vie with each other in support of  ‘aspiration’ (greed and selfishness) and Tory values generally, is it not time for those who care about creating a society that is fair, civilised, compassionate, and protected from the power of the big corporations to agree that this terminally corrupted and aimless organisation, the Labour party, should be left to die quietly? Is it not time to start again?”

The fact is that the Labour Party has long been a spent force. The recent election gave it the coup de grâce. The loss of all but one of its Scottish seats means that it is unlikely, in the foreseeable future, if ever,  to be able to win enough seats in any subsequent election to form a majority government. It has often been argued that if Labour lost its Scottish seats the Tories could be in power permanently. Forthcoming changes in constituency boundaries are also likely to reinforce the Tory advantage.

Nor is there any sign of the emergence in Britain of any other significant movement aspiring to don the leftwing mantle that has been cast off by Labour. There is no counterpart here of the new social democratic parties in Europe, such as Syriza in Greece or Podemos in Spain. Leftwing grouplets (such as Left Unity or the Socialist Workers’ Party) do exist, of course, but their membership is minute, their policies are unoriginal and unimaginative and they have no political traction. Moreover, because of its socialist origins, as long as the Labour Party exists, there will be gullible people who will continue to support it in the misguided belief that what it was once it still is. As long as that remains the case, the Labour Party will continue to monopolise the space that could otherwise be occupied by more left-leaning groups. The Labour Party is the elephant in the room. That is why the demise of the Labour Party, the sooner the better, is a pre-condition for the emergence of genuine opposition to rightwing politics. In Greece it was the implosion of the country’s discredited socialist party (PASOK), which had sold out like the Labour Party in Britain, that gave Syriza its chance. However, the death of the Labour Party, if it happens, is likely to be a long drawn-out affair. There is no sign that it will happen any day now.

The immediate outlook, then, in the period between now and the May 2020 deadline for the next parliamentary election is – as former London mayor Ken Livingstone said in our last blog on 18 May – “five more years of pure evil”.

Vicisti, Galilaee!

In these circumstances, with the electorate having given the green light to the most reactionary government since the 18th century, what is the leftwing activist to do?

Что делать? What is to be done?

  1. Opting out of the political arena, on the assumption that no progress is currently possible, one can sit at home and cultivate one’s garden. This was the solution proposed by the Greek philosopher Epicurus of Samos (d. 270 BC) to deal with the plight of the isolated individual freeman of his day. Unlike in the heyday of the “polis” city-state, which gave direct democratic rights to all citizens, the Hellenistic commoner had no political importance in the vast cosmopolis brought into being by the conquests of Alexander the Great (d. 323 BC). French philosopher and gardener Voltaire (d. 1778 AD) also advocated retiring from the world to cultivate one’s garden. Cultivating one’s garden need not be taken literally. It can mean turning away from the world to spend time developing one’s intellect and talents. Confucian civil servants in imperial China, when they left or lost office, often withdrew to their provincial estates where, parlayed into Taoists, they communed with nature and wrote poetry.

2.The other option, for those who can, is to emigrate to more hospitable climes.

In “Exile’s Return” (1934) the US critic Malcolm Cowley (d. 1989) chronicled the flight to Europe of talented young Americans escaping the philistine post-war USA of Presidents Harding and Coolidge: “Harold Stearns (d.1943), editor of the pessimistic “Civilization in the United States”, wrote an article for the Freeman in the early 1920s called “What should a young man do?” …his answer was simple and uncompromising. A young man had no future in this country of hypocrisy and repression. He should take ship for Europe, where people know how to live. Early in July 1921, just after finishing his Preface and delivering the completed manuscript to the publisher, Mr Stearns left this country, perhaps forever. His was no ordinary departure: he was Alexander marching into Persia and Byron shaking the dust of England from his feet. Reporters came to the gangplank to jot down his last words. Everywhere young men [including Cowley] were preparing to follow his example.”

Following the electoral triumph of the Tories in Britain this month, progressive Britons face the same imperative. Reaction has triumphed. There is no place for liberals in a country where the candle of liberty has been snuffed out. Even as we write these lines, arch-repressive Home Secretary Theresa “Fangs” May is fast-tracking a bill which threatens to categorise all opponents of the government as criminal extremists.

Our advice is stark: get out if you can while you can.

But where to?

In our globalised homogenised marketised world, where diversity is repressed and conformity dictated, there are few hiding places for the free spirit. Certainly not America with its permanent war culture, its judicial executions and its reactionary timocratic politics. Not Europe either with its bankster economy and its foreign and defence policies outsourced to Washington. Obviously not Russia or China – both dictatorships – either.

It seems to us that there are currently only two countries in the world which might offer a modicum of freedom to the political exile.

One is Iceland (330 000 inhabitants) with its progressive attitude towards asylum and free speech.

According to Wikipedia, Iceland generally has a free-market economy tempered by capital controls. It also has “relatively low taxes compared to other OECD countries. It maintains a Nordic social welfare system that provides universal health care and tertiary education for its citizens. Iceland ranks highly in economic, political and social stability and equality. In 2013 it was ranked as the 13th most developed country in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index.”

However, Iceland might perhaps be a tad on the cold side for softies from more southerly climes.

The other possible bolt-hole is Uruguay with its 3.3 million inhabitants. Not exactly round the corner, but then again nothing’s perfect.

This is an extract from Wikipedia’s entry for Uruguay:

“Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of living, e-government, and equally first in South America when it comes to press freedom, size of the middle class, prosperity and security. On a per capita basis, Uruguay contributes more troops to United Nations peace-keeping missions than any other country. It ranks second in the region on economic freedom, income equality, per capita income and inflows of FDI. Uruguay is the third best country on the continent in terms of HDI, GDP growth, innovation and infrastructure. It’s regarded as a high-income country (top group) by the UN, the only one in Latin America. Uruguay is also the 3rd best ranked in the world in e-participation. The Economist named Uruguay “country of the year” in 2013, acknowledging the innovative policy of legalising the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. Same-sex marriage and abortion are also legal, leading Uruguay to be regarded as one of the most liberal nations in the world, and one of the most socially developed, outstanding regionally and performing well globally on personal rights, tolerance and inclusion issues.

Drawing on Switzerland and its use of the initiative, the Uruguayan Constitution also allows citizens to repeal laws or to change the constitution by popular initiative, which culminates in a nationwide referendum. This method has been used several times over the past 15 years…to stop privatization of public utilities companies; to defend pensioners’ incomes; and to protect water resources. A 2010 Latinobarómetro poll found that, within Latin America, Uruguayans are among the most supportive of democracy and by far the most satisfied with the way democracy works in their country.”

Maybe someone can suggest other bolt-holes.

In any case, good luck to y’all.

And will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights.

——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in China, Europe, Iceland, Politics, Russia, UK, UN, Uruguay, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five more years of pure evil

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

18 May 2015

“FIVE MORE YEARS OF PURE EVIL”

Mindful of the fact that predictions are necessarily tentative, let us look into our crystal ball and try to glimpse what the implications of the UK parliamentary elections on 7 May 2015 are for those Britons that are not card-carrying members of the elite.

The omens are ominous.

Having failed to snag an overall majority in the last parliamentary election in May 2010, the viscerally rightwing Tory Party has had to govern for the past five years in coalition with the pro-free-market Liberal Democratic Party, its junior partner, which supposedly exercised a moderating influence. Now, however, the brakes are off. Provided that they retain their overall majority in votes in parliament, the Tories have carte blanche to do their worst.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone of the Labour Party did not mince his words. It will mean “five more years of pure evil”, he said (as quoted in the Guardian newspaper two days after the electoral debacle).

Spot on, Ken!

By contrast, on 8 May, after briefing Queen Elizabeth II on the good news at Buck House, the newly elected Tory Prime Minister David Cameron returned to his offices at 10 Downing Street to announce that the Conservatives (Tories) would govern as “a party of one nation” (Financial Times 9/10 May).

If you believe that, you need your head testing.

In fact, he will govern exclusively in the interests of the corporate interests that, wielding their financial muscle and exploiting their control of the media, returned him to power.

During the last six months before the election, the door-bell to 10 Downing Street never stopped ringing as the country’s most egregious financial kleptocrats vied with each other to hand over shedloads of ackers for the Tories’ electoral war-chest.

They made their investment. Their ship came in. Now they want the dividend.

In an article in the Financial Times on 9/10 May, Jonathan Guthrie said: “Company bosses, some of whom backed the Tories in an open letter, now hope for payback from a party on whose donor lists hedge funds are heavily represented”.

According to Guthrie, the chief executive of a big outsourcing company was hopeful the Conservatives would “open up” the UK’s National Health Service by handing over routine administration to private contractors.

Of the City of London, the UK’s financial hub, Guthrie says: “Viscerally and tribally its sympathies are with the Conservative party. A surprise electoral majority for the Tories was therefore greeted with jubilation – albeit mostly in private – and a more visible surge in stocks…The benchmark FTSE 100 index jumped 2.3 per cent…Somewhere in the City, braying bankers were surely sloshing Champagne around.”

Liam Frawley, a recruitment consultant interviewed in a pub near the Bank of England, told the Financial Times: “The Conservatives support business, so there’ll be more jobs for me to fill and I can go on holiday to the Bahamas.”

Private Eye’s post-election edition (no. 1392) also documented the good news:

“It was no shock that the stock market welcomed the arrival of a Conservative majority government…Outsourcing companies [private firms to which the government outsources public services for loadsamoney] rocketed, including miscreants G4S and Serco, whose share prices rose 7.35 and 5.95 per cent respectively….Capita fared well too, improving 6.72 per cent. Defence outsourcer Babcock, which is involved in upgrading Trident [Britain’s redundant fleet of nuclear war submarines], surged 9.4 per cent…The outsourcers’ joy was exceeded only by that of the estate agents, especially in the capital. London agency Foxtons rose 8.99 per cent and Savills 9.81 per cent. So the markets’ view of the election result? Accelerated selling of public services and more jam at the pricey end of the property market. Business pretty much as usual, then.”

Did anyone say “pork barrel”?

The following, in the view of Antigone1984, is the best-case scenario as the lights go out and Britain returns to the Dark Ages of unfettered capitalism red in tooth and claw:

1. The very first thing that Cameron announced once the scale of his success had become apparent was the government’s intention to abolish the 1998 Human Rights Act, which transposed the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. The Tories hate the fact that a non-UK body, the European Court of Human Rights, is the final court of appeal where interpretation of the convention is concerned. This ties in, of course, with the hatred of large sections of the Tory Party for anything remotely connected with European integration. The government apparently wants to replace the Human Rights Act with a “British Bill of Rights”. However, human rights, if they mean anything, apply by definition to all human beings. The Tories appear to believe that British human rights can somehow be differentiated from from universal human rights as if Britons were somehow not entirely human and therefore not entitled to benefit from the rights applicable to all other human beings. This is, of course, a doctrine dearly loved by dictatorial regimes the world over: “We have our own human rights. We don’t need yours.” It is more than ironic that the Tories are proposing to dispense with universal human rights in a year that marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, the foundation stone of our civil liberties, which was signed under duress at Runnymede by England’s bad King John on 15 June 1215.

2. Savage privatization will continue and accelerate. The ongoing sell-off of the National Health Service to the private sector and foreign medical giants will be expedited. Ditto the postal service (the Royal Mail). Ditto the prisons and the probation service. Ditto the employment offices. And so on ad infinitum. All publicly owned organizations will have to draft plans for privatization. The government’s supporters (“friends”) and financial backers will, of course, get first bite at the cherry. The ultimate aim is to abolish the public sector altogether, the government’s role being reduced to light administration of the private businesses earmarked to replace it. The speed of the revolving door between the civil service and private businesses will be ramped up.

3. Public spending will be slashed. Central government is proposing to expand dramatically the already savage cutbacks in spending on benefits for the poor and the jobless. Following its swingeing reduction in benefits during the last five years, the Department for Work and Pensions has already got the green light to prune a further colossal £12 billion from the benefits bill. Local authorities will also be in the firing-line as their grants from central government are pared to the bone. As a result, local services will be mangled at best or abolished outright. Think refuse collection, health and safety, food inspection, traffic regulation, street lighting, care for the disabled and the elderly, etc. A spate of suicides will ensue as social derelicts chuck in the towel.

4. The deep security apparatus within the British state will be brought out of the shadows and mainstreamed. Secret surveillance of all citizens’ actions and communications (emails, telephone calls, private conversations inside one’s home) will become routine and bugging will be universal. The remnants of judicial restraint on police action will be removed. If that does not cow opposition, then emergency powers will be invoked. Dissent will be suppressed by zero-tolerance policing, recusants being thrown into jail with the slavering cooperation of the judiciary (the merciless judicial crackdown on rioters in London in August 2011 is a portent of things to come). Should this come to pass, the representatives of what remains of the token official opposition – the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, etc – will, of course, give their full backing to the government not only for fear of being thought limp-wristed and insufficiently macho but also because, as rightwing parties despite the moniker, they fully endorse the gadarene rush towards undiluted capitalism.

5. No time will be lost in attacking the handful of moderately independent media organizations that have survived so far. Thus, albeit centrist and market-supportive, the Guardian newspaper is likely to have a more difficult time as it finds itself in the cross-hairs of government snipers. However, the main focus of Tory ire will be the BBC, long a Conservative bugbear. Although by any standards, the BBC is a cautious conventional middle-of-the road media organization, it is still theoretically independent of government and this is what rankles. Moves are already afoot to slash its budget.

6. In addition to the £12 billion of further welfare cuts mentioned above, the new government is planning to lop a further £13 billion off departmental budgets. Culture, the arts and heritage are expected to be among areas hard hit.  Since the coalition of Tories and Liberal Democrats took power in 2010, arts budgets have been slashed. Sajid Javid, a person with no apparent cultural qualifications whatever, was appointed Secretary of State for Culture. While school budgets are supposed to be ring-fenced against the new cuts, government interference in school governance and curricula will continue unabated: the rush to privatize education, removing schools from local authority supervision will go on and the government will pursue its philistine crusade to purge from school curricula those subjects (such as art) which do not contribute directly per se to economic growth.

And so on…..

A letter from reader Olive Townsley published in the Guardian newspaper on 13 May following the electoral nakba on 7 May made a connection with celebrations held the next day to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day – 8 May 1945 – marking the end of the Second World War in Europe as Germany surrendered to Allied Forces:

“Among all the tributes paid to the generation that endured, fought and won the second world war, one is conspicuously absent. This was also the generation that voted out Churchill and his Conservatives and gave us the Labour landslide of 1945. Attlee’s government [Clement Attlee, Labour Prime Minister 1945-1951, defeated Churchill as the war ended] remains unique in carrying out what it had promised – the NHS, free education for all up to university level, nationalisation of the railways, the coal and steel industries, etc. The present electorate of the UK has now given the Tories the opportunity they have long desired – to complete the dismantling of the welfare state. Shame on us!”

Antigone1984:

Looking ahead, we can do no better than refer to the spine-chilling prophecy made by Welsh Labour MP Neil Kinnock, Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Science, in a speech made at Bridgend, Glamorgan, on Tuesday 7 June 1983.

This was two days before a UK parliamentary election at which Labour was resoundingly defeated. Margaret Thatcher – aka the Iron Lady or Attila the Hen – was re-elected Prime Minister and hence was enabled to forge ahead with her root-and-branch marketisation of the British economy.

Kinnock himself was elected Labour Party leader in October 1983. Disowning his leftist past, he shifted the party to the right, setting his face against the epic coal strike of 1984-85 and paving the way for the party’s subsequent abandonment of socialism under “son-0f-Thatcher” Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (Labour Party leader from 1994 to 1997 and Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007).

This is the prediction Kinnock made at Bridgend. It is as valid today, following Cameron’s victory, as it was Thatcher’s time.

“If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday, I warn you.

I warn you that you will have pain–when healing and relief depend upon payment.

I warn you that you will have ignorance–when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.

I warn you that you will have poverty–when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay.

I warn you that you will be cold–when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.

I warn you that you must not expect work–when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.

I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.

I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.

I warn you that you will have defence of a sort–with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.

I warn you that you will be home-bound–when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.

I warn you that you will borrow less–when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.

If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday–

– I warn you not to be ordinary

– I warn you not to be young

– I warn you not to fall ill

– I warn you not to get old.”

 

——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The people have spoken, the bastards!

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

17 May 2015

“The people have spoken, the bastards!”

These are the immortal words of Dick Tuck (b. 1924), an aspirant for nomination as Democratic Party candidate for the 1966 election to the California State Senate, on learning that he had lost to George Danielson.

However, they provide one way of looking at the triumph of the British Conservative (Tory) Party in the UK parliamentary election on 7 May 2015 in which the Tories, snatching an overall majority against the odds, confounded pollster predictions of a hung parliament by winning a slender overall majority of seats (see our post of 8 May 2015 Refuseniks).

This is how Janan Ganesh summed up the Tory victory in the Financial Times on 9/10 May:

“Mr Cameron has electoral success to savour, and the right has something more precious and lasting: ideological encouragement. Governments that cut public spending upset voters, which is why they tend not to do it. So when a Tory party led by men of infuriating privilege hacks away at the state for five years and ends up with even more seats than it had to begin with, history will take note. This election is a precedent to be invoked by fiscal hawks and free-marketeers for decades to come.”

Yes, after centuries of supposed democratic reform the rank-and-file electors of this tiny insular third-rank kingdom have voted for the party of the bankers, hedge fundsters, big business, big money, inherited wealth, hierarchy and privilege.

The puppet masters at the summit of the party – the Conservatives are nicknamed “Tories” after a small island off the coast of Northern Ireland that was allegedly a haunt of pirates – come almost to a man from an exclusive privately educated money-bags elite of inter-connected families and businesses that claim a right to govern as their birthright.

The party’s big kahuna, David “Dave” Cameron, of stockbroker stock, trained for his role in society at Eton College, the UK’s most prestigious private school conveniently situated under the walls of the royal palace of Windsor Castle. He is himself a lineal descendant of William IV, who was king from 1830 to 1837.

Yet this is what the “little people” voted for – an Eton boot boy and a party of toffs.

The Tories are also often referred to as the “nasty” party. It is easy to see why.

The just treatment of minorities, including the poor and the disabled, is generally regarded as the hallmark of a civilised society.

By this touchstone the outgoing Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition produced a government that was the diametrical opposite of civilised.

When the allegedly indestructible all-singing all-dancing capitalist economy hit the buffers in 2007-2010 as a result of mafia banksters passing off dud bonds as blue-chip securities, the political response was to bail out the banks with public money – stuffing the shysters’ mouths with gold – and then, in Europe at least, to recoup this largesse by imposing savage austerity in the form of public spending cutbacks on the population at large. As was well said at the time, it was “socialism for rich banksters and capitalism for everyone else”.

In Britain, however, austerity was especially focused on one particular segment of the population after the Tory/Liberal Democratic coalition came to power in 2010, namely the poor and disabled who, for want of decent jobs owing to the recession caused by the failure of the global banking system, depended on state benefits to which they were fully entitled under the safety net devised precisely for this purpose by earlier governments of every political persuasion.

During their five years in office – May 2010 to May 2015 – the UK coalition government made it a priority to cut away the safety net providing minimal subsistence for the most vulnerable sectors of the population. The result was to drive millions of poor Britons, including thousands of families with children, into destitution and homelessness. Families were broken up and dispersed into sleazy “bed-and-breakfast” ghettos around the country. The disabled poor fared no better. The halt had their crutches kicked from under them: government-commissioned overseers ordered them to walk the streets in search of non-existent jobs. Nor was deafness or blindness an excuse for not seeking a job (even though the recession, combined with globalisation and unrestricted immigration, had dramatically reduced the number of jobs available). For many suicide was the remedy of last resort.

It is precisely for political parties that formed a government with this appalling record of inhumanity that millions of Britons voted in parliamentary elections on 7 May 2015.

How to explain this?

Firstly, there is the obvious answer. Nasty governments are voted into power by nasty citizens. History is littered with examples of electorates that have given the thumbs-up to vicious scape-goating tyrants. One cannot turn a blind eye to the possibility that the electors in question, smug and self-satisfied, derive a vicarious sadistic pleasure from witnessing the sufferings imposed by the state on those to whom the hand of destiny has dealt a losing number in the lottery of life. In the Middle Ages, when miscreants were publicly exposed in the stocks, upright citizens would pelt them with stones. Schadenfreude they call it in Germany – and the Germans know what they are talking about.

Others may not be sadistic, but are simply selfish and self-interested. They put No. 1 first, second and third and have no interest in or sympathy with the fate of their fellow human beings. When they vote, they vote solely for whatever outcome they think will most benefit themselves, any benefit being seen invariably in crude financial terms.

Another category of electors involves those whose personal and political attitudes diverge widely. Such people often show great personal kindness to those with whom they personally come into contact but at the same time find it in no way a contradiction to support, theoretically and at the ballot box, the most vicious of political ideologies. We have known rabid racists, for instance, who subscribe to the most repugnant racist theories but who are quite happy, for instance, to accept invitations to the weddings of members of ethnic groups who are personally known to them. These people – and they are by no means all at the bottom of the social scale – seem oblivious to the need for a common thread between how they behave towards individuals they know personally and the stance they take in respect of political generalizations of the same ilk.

Then again there are others who are frankly not interested in politics and, as a result, lack an informed acquaintance with political developments. Such people may easily be taken in by the last item of propaganda they have heard on television or read in a newspaper. Unlike rocket science or string theory, politics is not complicated or difficult but you do need to know something about it in order to make an informed choice between the alternatives on offer.

The newly elected UK government, for instance, is proposing to redefine human rights to chime with its national party-political ideology. Politically speaking, human rights are of mega-importance. Support for human rights is the bedrock of any civilised state. However, if your main interest is golf or bridge, spinning vinyl or going to the cinema or if you are completely tied up with the time-consuming business of earning a living, human rights may not seem all that relevant to your life and you might be inclined to leave them to the government to sort out. Highly imprudent, in our view, and politically irresponsible – politicians should at all times be held to account for their actions – but understandable in the circumstances.

In this context, the media plays a role of primordial importance. In most of the world, including the so-called western democracies, the media are owned either by the state or by individual private businesses. They will invariably support the owner’s views. Facts or opinions at variance with those views will not receive coverage. In Britain the press, mostly owned by business groups, largely back the establishment, particularly at election time. The needs of the poor or disabled do not figure prominently in their calculations. If they are mentioned at all, it will usually be in the context of a story about fraudulent benefit claims, however unrepresentative these may be. Understandably, people without a fair knowledge of politics or of how the media operates can easily be bamboozled.

Finally, there are the tribal voters. These people vote for a particular party regardless of specific policies either because this is what they have always done or because it is what their families before them have always done. As a US elector once said, “If Governor Walters is right, I shall vote for him because he is right. If Governor Walters is wrong, I shall vote for him because he is a Republican.”

In any case, in the UK the electors have spoken, the die is cast and the fat will soon hit the pan.

It goes without saying, of course, that the first-past-the-post single-seat-constitutency voting system is rigged egregiously in favour of the two biggest parties. The number of seats won fails – deliberately – to reflect the proportion of votes cast country-wide for each party contesting the election.

It can be argued, therefore, that the system is unfair and the result open to question.

It should also be borne in mind that the Tories won the election despite garnering the votes of less than a quarter (24.4%) of the electorate.

Democracy? Hardly.

Antigone1984:

This is what Giles Fraser, former Vicar of Putney, said in his “Loose canon” column in the   Guardian newspaper on 9 May:

“Right now I feel ashamed to be English. Ashamed to belong to a country that has clearly identified itself as insular, self-absorbed and apparently caring so little for the most vulnerable people among us. Why did a million people visiting food banks make such a minimal difference? Did we just vote for our own narrow concerns and sod the rest? Maybe that’s why the pollsters got it so badly wrong: we are not so much a nation of shy voters as of ashamed voters, people who want to present to the nice polling man as socially inclusive, but who, in the privacy of the booth, tick the box of our own self-interest.”

Just so.

 

——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Germany, Ireland, Politics, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Refuseniks

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

8 May 2015

The abstentionist bloc in the British electorate registered a resounding success in the UK parliamentary elections yesterday 7 May.

Politically, this is of primordial importance since a good turnout by the abstentionists cocks a snook at the electoral system and undermines the crumbling f0undations of the democratic facade.

Thus, 15,738,205 people – at 33.9% just over a third of the UK electorate – boycotted the poll.

This is a far higher larger percentage of the electorate than supported any of the political parties taking part in the poll.

A total of 11,334,920 people – only 24.4% of the electorate – backed the victorious Conservative (Tory) Party.

The runner-up Labour Party was backed by 9,347,326 voters – only 20.1% of the electorate.

The third most popular party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), had the support of 3,881,129 voters – 8.4% of the electorate.

The fourth most popular party, the Liberal Democrats, appealed to 2,415,888 voters – 5.2% of the electorate.

Next (fifth) came the Scottish National Party (SNP) with 1,454,436 voters – 3.1% of the electorate.

The Green Party (sixth), the only other party that scored over a million votes, was supported by 1,157,613 voters – 2.5% of the electorate.

[A technical point:

Share of the vote means the percentage of total votes actually cast in the poll (ie excluding abstainers) that have been won by a particular party. Proportion of the electorate refers to the percentage of the total number of those eligible to vote, ie it includes both those who have actually cast their votes and those who have abstained.]

On the basis of these figures, those stalwart citizens who boycotted the poll, standing firm against self-interested special pleading by party hacks and the media claque, turn out to represent the views of the largest proportion of the British electorate involved in the poll.

At this point, simple-minded observers with an axe to grind will claim that those who abstained will have done so for a variety of reasons – that there is no consistency in the views they may hold.

Right on. Just so!

Precisely the situation that obtains in every political party.

All political parties are a coalition of views, some members wanting to prevent the passage of a new railway across their back garden, others wanting to save humanity from hunger and want.

So it is too with the noble band of abstentionists.

Like Antigone1984, many will, rightly, take the view, that there is no point in taking part in the ballot because it will have no effect: “If voting changed anything, it would not be allowed.”

Others – sometimes the same people – will refuse to take party because the voting procedure is not democratic. Yes, you heard right. In our so-called democracy what we lack is democracy. Particularly and above all when it comes to the ballot box.

Take the party which gained the third largest number of votes in yesterday’s ballot – the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

The Labour Party was backed by 9,347,326 voters – 20.1% of the electorate. It gained 232 seats in yesterday’s election.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP), had the support of 3,881,129 voters – 8.4% of the electorate. Yet it gained – believe it or not – only one seat in parliament.

The Liberal Democrats (8 seats gained) and the Greens (only one seat) also singularly failed to gain seats in proportion to the number of people who voted for them.

By contrast, with 1,454,436 voters, only 3.1% of the electorate, the Scottish National Party scooped up 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

Bully for them! The SNP’s policies are, in our view, more or less right on.

But it is hardly democracy.

For a comprehensive tally of the results you could do worse than check out the BBC table at UK election parliamentary election results 2015 (BBC).

The following account of the results is largely based on a summary by the BBC on 8 May, the day after the election.

The Conservatives have 331 seats – five more than are needed  (326 ) for a majority in the 650-seat  House of Commons (the lower and most important chamber of parliament).

 Mr Cameron’s rivals Ed Miliband (Labour Party), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democratic Party) and Nigel Farage (UKIP – UK Independence Party) have all resigned as party leaders following their parties’ failure to gain enough seats .

Many of the big beasts in the outgoing parliament lost their seats.

 With all 650 seats declared, the Conservatives have ended up with 331 seats in the House of Commons – 24 more than at the last parliamentary election in May 2010.

 Labour have ended up with 232 seats, the Liberal Democrats 8, the Scottish National Party (SNP) 56, Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalist party) 3, UKIP 1, the Greens 1 and others 19.

The Conservatives snagged a 36.9% share of the UK national vote (ie the total number of votes actually cast in the election), Labour 30.4%, UKIP 12.6%, the Liberal Democrats 7.9%, the SNP 4.7%, the Green Party 3.8% and Plaid Cymru 0.6%.

 Turnout was 66.1%, marginally up on 2010 and the highest since 1997.

The victory by the Conservatives, who depended on the support of their junior coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, in the outgoing government, means they will be able to govern without the need for a coalition or a formal agreement with other parties.

George Osborne, who is expected to remain chancellor, said the Conservatives had been “given a mandate to get on with the work we started five years ago” and would follow the “clear instructions” of the British public.

Antigone1984:

Ominous!

 ——–

You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Politics, UK, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

None of the above

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

6 May 2015

NONE OF THE ABOVE

With the UK parliamentary elections due to take place tomorrow 7 May 2015, today we respond to the question to which the entire UK electorate, the press and media, politicians and political pundits have been agog to know the answer for the past six months: how will Antigone1984 vote?

The key parties coveting power in these elections in England are the viciously rightwing Conservative “Tory” Party (currently the dominant party in a coalition government), the viciously rightwing Labour Party (which has promised the electorate that if it wins the election it will be at least as rightwing as the Conservatives), the viciously rightwing Liberal Democratic Party (currently the junior partner in the coalition government), the UK Independence Party (which, rightly, wants Britain to secede from the European Union but which, in other respects, is to the right of the Conservative Party) and the Green Party (which has a batch of humane policies but has failed to demonstrate that it will not sell out to the establishment, as green parties have consistently done in other countries, if ever it were to get a sniff at power).

In these circumstances, so far as assiduous readers of this blog are concerned, the long-awaited answer to the question of how Antigone1984 will vote tomorrow is a no-brainer.

It is “none of the above” – political shorthand for the decision by an elector to reject all parties on the ballot paper and to boycott the poll.

Antigone1984 does not support any of the parties mentioned above and so will not be taking part in the ballot.

The aim is to detract from the legitimacy of the outcome.

The larger the proportion of the electorate that abstains, the less legitimate the result of the election.

It is to be hoped that the percentage of abstentionists will be larger than the percentage of votes for any of the key parties mentioned above. Fingers crossed. If that turns out to be the case, it can be argued that the abstentionists have won the day, representing the largest body of opinion among the electorate.

If Antigone1984 were to have voted, we would have voted in England as that is where we are registered on the electoral roll. However, these elections are for the parliament of the United Kingdom (aka Britain), which also includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The key parties in the Province of Northern Ireland are the rightwing, historically reactionary Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the left-leaning republican Sinn Fein Party. Both parties are uneasy bedfellows in a coalition provincial government. If Antigone1984 had a vote in Northern Ireland, we would certainly not support the DUP but we are not certain that we would plump for Sinn Fein either given its violent past and a gut feeling that its leadership is devious and untrustworthy. We might well boycott the election as we are doing in England.

The key parties in Scotland are the left-leaning Scottish National Party (SNP), which currently dominates the Scottish regional parliament, the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. In Scotland we would vote for the SNP, for which the polls are predicting a landslide victory.

In Wales the Conservative and Labour Parties are fighting it out together with the small leftwing nationalist party Plaid Cymru. In Wales we would vote for Plaid Cymru.

Antigone1984:

We have revealed above how we view the various parties contending for power in tomorrow’s election in the United Kingdom.

However, in line with our mission statement when this blog was launched in 2011, we want to make it crystal-clear that this is a personal view based on our experience of politics and our assessment of the current political situation in Britain today. In particular, we are not making any recommendations. In a democracy it is for each elector to make up their own mind on the basis of their own experience and their assessment of the political situation.

For our general view of politics in the west, readers who have not yet done so might usefully check out our blogpost of 20 July 2102 Partitocracy v. Democracy . This puts our view of tomorrow’s election in context. It may be summed up in the dictum: “If elections changed anything, they wouldn’t be allowed.” The post also gives our take on the political class. Generally speaking, in our view, public service is a euphemism for opportunism and self-seeking. Our countries are governed not by the best elements in society but by the worst. The scum of the earth is a phrase that comes immediately to mind.

We are also often asked why, as a leftwing blog, we will under no circumstances support the UK Labour Party. For the answer to this question we refer to our blogpost of 7 December 2013 “New comet or damp squib?”.

In that post we argued that for any genuine leftwing party to become a force to be reckoned with on the hustings, there is no alternative but to mount a full-on no-holds-barred attack on that wolf in sheep’s clothing – the Labour Party.

We take the view that until the Labour Party is driven from the political stage the chances for socialism in this country are precisely nil.

The Labour Party has not been a socialist party since Keir Hardie died in 1915.

The Labour Party has ceased to be a progressive party since the Attlee Government fell in 1951.

For decades the Labour Party has been a rightwing conservative party with policies virtually indistinguishable from those of the Tories.

None the less, even as it slithers ceaselessly towards the right, the Labour Party is still seen – by many activists as well as by much wider a-political swathes of the population – as the sole possible channel for progressive politics in this country.

As long as the Labour Party can continue to exploit its historical reserve of leftish goodwill, it will hoodwink enough of our citizens to prevent any threat to the red-blooded capitalism that it now espouses.

In the teeth of decade upon decade of evidence to the contrary, it is an illusion to believe that the politically bankrupt principle-free Labour Party is, somehow or other, going to pull a socialist rabbit out of its capitalist hat. It is not going to happen.

That is why we believe that a key activity of any leftwing grouping today must be to mount against the Labour Party a full-spectrum all-out onslaught with the ultimate aim of driving it out of existence.

Only with the demise of the Labour Party – only then – will an opportunity arise for the development of progressive politics in this country.  Then and only then will it be possible to tap into the popular support that undoubtedly exists for the creation of a just and fair society in this our country.”

——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012) 
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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