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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.
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.
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:
- Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
- Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
- The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
- Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
- 5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
- A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
- A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
- Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.