What's wrong with the EU?
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Jon Teunon



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 12:46 pm    Post subject: What's wrong with the EU?  Reply with quote
I think our recent discussions over the EU have reached an impasse. Any consensus we share appears to be an acknowledgement that Britain's departure would not further socialism here (with some believing that on the contrary this action would make such an outcome even less likely). Around this there are other points of detail which are in disput but which I don't think will be resolved by a continuing of the debate from where it is now.

So I propose looking at the issues from another angle: why is the EU becoming increasing unpopular across most of the continent as well as the UK? According to a Eurobarometer survey this year more people in the EU disagree with the statement: "My voice counts in the EU" than agree with it. In the Eurozone over %60 disagreed, while only just over %25 agreed. (And as the survey underlines this increasing antipathy to the EU is not confined to the Eurozone of course).

Why have anti-immigration parties managed to thrive on anti-EU platforms in even countries like the Netherlands that once saw themselves as an integral part of the European 'project'? And even if we attribute this to austerity measures and a general shift in economoic policies to the right the unpalatable truth for pro-Europeans is that this has happened within the very EU they support!

And how do those on the left who support the EU respond to the charge that the EU has always been run by technocrats - in fact that this was the original direction it took from its very beginnings as the ESSC as a concerted effort to stop another World War and popular support for Fascism and Communism. In short how much of the democratic deficit has contributed to the rise of ultra nationalism, xenophobia and racism which appears to be in evidence across Europe and what should be the response of the left in general?
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WolfySmith



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I guess the easy answer is first its undemocratic nature and that the bureaucrats and technocrats in Brussels and Frankfurt have more political and economic power than the elected representatives in Strasbourg, but then that’s true of all nation states in or out of the European Union in our globalized capitalist world to a greater or lesser degree. Ultimately political and economic power is held by1% of the world’s population the capitalist class.

So why is the EU less popular in France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain etc. than it used to be?

Most probably that it’s been following the Anglo/American ideology of neo-liberalism for at least the last decade and the result is increasing inequality and insecurity made worse by the crisis of global finance capital which has intensified the neo-liberal and neo-conservative project of the capitalist classes since 2007.

This then answers the question why neo-fascist parties are gaining support just as they did in the 1930’s. Fear of unemployment, losing one’s home, of health bills, feeding ones family, these all lead to a feeling that one’s life is out of your own control. These things aren’t symptomatic of the European Union they are symptoms of the nature of capitalism which increases alienation and estrangement when the economic downturn comes and insecurity increases.          

The left response to the crisis of capitalism and its anti-democratic nature which is more obvious in times of economic and political crisis has to be the call for more democratic accountability. This is why privatization of health care, education, pensions, welfare, energy, water and public transport are all at the heart of a socialist response to the crisis caused by international finance capital since the crash of 2007 and the general crisis caused by the pursuit of economic growth and profits from the surplus-value of labour.

Railway recast signals bad news for integrated public rail companies - 16/11/2011

GUE/NGL MEP Sabine Wils said today's European Parliament vote on the establishment of a single European rail area ‘‘paves the way for private profiteering in Europe's railway sector’’.

With possibilities opened up for privatization of marshalling yards, maintenance facilities, operating services and subcontracting, the notion of integrated public railway companies where safety rules are paramount has been destroyed.

‘‘Although the practice in the UK already shows that this is the wrong policy, the further liberalization of the railway sector and the further separation of rail and operating services to the detriment of employees, passengers and safety measures is now being implemented in Europe,’’ said Wils.

‘‘Fortunately, a parliamentary majority was found to defeat the Commission's proposal to introduce ‘‘minimum service’’ rules during strikes. Had this passed, the right to strike would have been severely damaged in Europe. The GUE/NGL group fought from the beginning, together with the trade unions, against the erosion of this right" added Wils.
The Commission has announced that in 2012, it will propose further ‘‘unbundling" of railway companies. ‘‘Again we will stand firmly with the trade unions to resist this’’ said Wils.

http://www.guengl.eu/showPage.php?ID=10139

The Left have to fight privatization and the marketization of society which puts profits before human need. For the Left in Britain it’s a case of reconnecting with the basics of the class struggle as understood by activist such as Nye Bevan and Willie Gallacher, fighting poverty, hunger, unemployment and capitalism. It’s about power, without political and economic power all the theory in the world is useless, that’s why I always come back to unity in my political analysis of theory and practice and the need for economic and political power in the hands of the working classes.

It’s why social-democracy failed and its why the Soviet Union failed neither gave the economic and political power to the people.
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Lee



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I havent tracked polls about the EU over time. I may be wrong, but I imagine that the unpopularity of the EU with the public has spiked with the recession, and the crises in EU member countries. In those countries having to do the bail-out, the reason for unpopularity is pretty obvious: why should we have to use our relative prosperity to help those who cant take care of their own affairs. Among the suffering countries, there is deep resentment about the controls and conditions levied for the bail-outs... the EU has brought the IMF into their heartland.

It is hard to tease out of such surveys the real significance of current opinions and what they mean for the EU. As Jon has said, much of the resentment towards the EU is hardly noble: such as the right-wing Tory anger at EU insistence that we follow normal decent civil rights and due process. Or the Glasman railing about Polish worker migration, which when Ireland and Britain needed it, was a salvation. There is so much hypocrisy and self-interest tied up in many of these attitudes, that I wouldnt myself regard these surveys as reliable or valid from a policy angle. Almost none of the popular anger has anything to do with the fact that the EU is a neo-liberal structure. To presume that would be giving far too much credit to those polled.

The one possibility that seems pretty strong and I guess obvious, is that if there had not been a common currency, many of the problems the EU has experienced would probably not have happened. So we should differentiate the anger towards the consequences of the euro versus attitudes to the EU as such. And even without the Euro, I am not sure the Greek and Irish crises would have been substantially different. They are certainly not of the EU's making.
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Jon Teunon



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wolfy and Lee: much of the opposition to the EU is of course not only 'far from noble' it is in cases verging on and tipping over into outright Fascism. But what I am trying to ascertain is what us behind this alarming shift.

And while I find it entirely justified to cite deepening poverty and a growing sense of insecurity as key factors behind the general growing hostility to the EU I think we should be careful not ignore other factors which we might find unpalatable from our perspective. So here are some points to consider:

1) I share Lee's hesistancy to rely on surveys: but this one appears to be backed by concrete electoral results which have led to the general rise in prominence of: Geert Wilder's Freedom Party in the Netherlands, the Danish People's Party, the Sweden Democrats, the True Finns, The National Front in France, Vlaams Belang, Italy's Northern League and Hungary's Jobbik. Some of these like those in Scandanavia are primarily anti-immgration parties whereas others like Jobbik are openly fascist. And both Wilders and Marine Le Pen have become adept at 'playing the game' in order to become more influential.

2) Unlike the 1930s the emphasis of the anti-establishment support has been almost exclusively to the right (there is no parallel with the increased popularity of the pre-war communists). Why is this case and what should the left response be?

3) I think the Euro - and perhaps more significantly the way it has been both imposed and orchestrated have contributed to the economic crisis. By being members of it countries like Ireland and Greece were able to secure credit far too easily in relation to their economies and are now paying a very heavy price.

4) Likewise I think the democratic deficit also is a contributory factor behind the general sense of hostility towards the EU as a whole. Consider, the way that the Constitution was imposed on an unwilling population. If we include its initial rejection by the Netherlands (by %62 to %38 ), and the first rejections of its replacement (i.e. same plan different guise), the Lisbon Treaty by both Ireland and France, the Constitution has failed three out of six referendums - that is of course where governments have actually delivered on their promises to hold them! The other ten governments 'overcame' the obstacle (of popular opinion) by simply withdrawing their offer - i.e. they broke their promises. The irony of course is that the entire process was proposed as a way of increasing the democratic legitimacy of the EU!

I think that all of the above demonstrates that you don't have to be a xenophobic right-winger to realise how undemocratic the EU is. What I am trying to do is here to separate the legimtimate grievances of people across Europe from their responses (which as we all agree has been very reactionary in too many cases).

So this is why I think that the left needs to take the un/anti-democratic dimension of the EU very seriously indeed. And not just because of the effect it has on growing resentment throughout Europe: if the ruling elite have been shown to hold popular opinion in contempt, what are the prospects of calling a halt on their project to make sure the EU serves their interest rather than that of the people - let alone reversing this ongoing trend?
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WolfySmith



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Jon, obviously people are aware of the errors made in the name of socialism and the fairly recent demise of the Soviet Union and whilst many in the former East European socialist states will be worse off than before others gained and wouldn’t readily choose to return to the drabness of pre-1990. On the other hand the Fascist era is much longer ago and can more easily be romanticised by images of power and control over one’s own destiny.

This is why I argue that whilst the EU is undemocratic as are most bourgeois democracies if we examine them closely, if Britain or any other European and Scandinavian nation state withdrew they would still be bound by the undemocratic dictates of the WTO, IMF and World Bank unless they are going to withdraw from the international institutions of global governance like North Korea.      

I agree that the imposition of the Lisbon Treaty which has at the heart of its protocols and directives anti-democratic privatisation and marketization which are falling in line with the rules and regulations imposed by the WTO. We can blame the EU but these directives and protocols have their origin in Washington not Brussels and Frankfurt.

I don’t know how we get the message across to the general public if most of the broad left don’t understand that if they withdrew from the EU they would still be bound by WTO directives to introduce the market and competition through privatization into health care, education, energy, and the railways.

This is why I argue that whilst the EU is undemocratic, if Britain or any other European and Scandinavian nation state withdrew they would still be bound by the undemocratic dictates of the WTO, IMF and World Bank unless they are going to withdraw from the international institutions of global governance like North Korea.  
 
It’s why I argue that only through the unity of a European and Scandinavian bloc can the Left have any chances of resisting the rules and dictates of the WTO, IMF and World Bank which are basically the dictates of global capitalism.

I agree totally that democracy is a fundamental issue for the Left, but that the only way to oppose the undemocratic global institutions and the nation state are through organizing the national and international economic and political fightback.

As I’ve said on the thread ‘‘European Union and the British Left’’ it’s my view that this is the only credible response as a narrow national response cannot resist the forces of global capital. But as both the Marxist and non-Marxist Left in Britain are so tied historically to withdrawal from the EU it would appear there isn’t much chance of this. Comrades in the CPB accuse me of ‘‘putting forward diversionary and defeatist ideas’’ and of ‘‘disarming the movement’’ so I am at a loss as to what more can be done.
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WolfySmith



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Sorry think Ive repeated my thought processes somewhat when I reread this Embarassed
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Dugsie



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
You're lucky to be able to remember them.
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Lee



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Jon: I agree with much of your summary. But it is worth stressing that the EU is not less democratic than the British government over decades that has been consummate at ignoring the British people. Neither Wolfie nor I have ever said that the way the EU operates is acceptable. We have just been asking (and have received no hint of an answer): what does the anti-EU left imagine would happen in Britain if the UK withdrew from the EU ? What is it they are expecting ?
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Dugsie



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 9:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Who are the anti-EU Left ? Why should they be expecting anything ? The questions around the future of British policy have to be resolved within the UK, with its very limited democratic opportunities. Democracy within the EU seems to barely to exist at all. Why lay one largely undemocratic system on top of another ?
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Michele



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 16, 2011 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Hi.... aaahhhh.. The EU! I will be voting for the PCF candidate at the next Presidential elections in France in 2012.

I don't think the UK should leave the EU nor anyone else who is in the EU currently. Democracy needs to be restored ..  That is what the left alternative should be working to achieve. I have to say that currently the French Communist Party candidate is very open about all of this in the media in France as far as I can tell and really calling for this transformation while explaining why his position is narrowly interpreted as 'anti-EU'.... But effectively, it is also very much trying to 'inject' the will to reclaim the power of the European parliament, which would certainly mean a new treaty, one which would have to overthrow the neo-liberal hegemony embossed into EU institutions with the Lisbon Treaty.

The EU like the rest of 'our governments' are all serving the financial markets and we are being held to ransom by a measly 3 credit rating agencies. So, there are very good reasons to be 'anti-EU' at this moment...(but)..

In fact, it is the EU commission which, last June, increased the powers of the credit rating agencies, giving them the right to rate ALL financials titles/instruments issued in the EU. At the same time, it also managed to relinquish its power to debate and influence the methods used by these rating agencies... Currently we are witnessing a 'descent into hell' the growing authoritarian rule of the institutions of finance capital, whether the EU or in the UK government..

The EU Parliament's democratic power is almost non-existent. It might need some form of 'insurrection' to overturn this... this is what is required.. So leaving is not the thing to do, standing and protesting and calling for a democratic EU.. and a new treaty... working at it.

Socialist parties are guilty of letting the right implants itself back into government, whether it is the Pasok in Greece (which should be excluded from having a right to participate in a socialist international because of that.. and those who want to stay would have to distanciate themselves clearly from such actions).

Now Wolfie...

Quote:
if Britain or any other European and Scandinavian nation state withdrew they would still be bound by the undemocratic dictates of the WTO, IMF and World Bank unless they are going to withdraw from the international institutions of global governance like North Korea.


Well, may be I am a bit light-headed tonight (not drunk or anything ... I wish...but just fed up with all this mess and wanting to 'kick the skye')..... we need to work hard to put ourselves on the way to reclaiming the EU parliament as a force to drive a left alternative with a new treaty. This would likely bring more weight to create an entity able to withdraw from global governance?

After all we are all going on about the Greek debt... in reality it is probably only up to 2% of the wealth created in the EU.. and really most of the sovereign debts, once audited properly, could probably be declared as being totally illegitimate... all just number on papers.. a puff of smoke, comrades! Very Happy

I hope I make sense... I am not as tidy as any of you in my thinking process tonight, I a so exasperated by the current climate.

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