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Implausibility of a “Social Europe”

EU_RulesAndRegsBEven the dogs on the streets know that David Cameron’s EU “reforms” are pitiful.  Indeed, even he no longer mentions them.  So why assume that reforming the EU into a “real Social Europe” is any more feasible?   It’s when one examines the constitutional obstacles to reform that one realises that the whole idea just doesn’t stack up.

  • A Social Europe should exclude the TTIP. It is hardly necessary to repeat the arguments against the TTIP and how it will accord companies the right to sue governments to invalidate measures which harm their profitability.  Let us assume TTIP is ratified before we secure a Labour government.  The EU Treaties contain no provision for denouncing the EU’s agreements with non-EU countries. How, if at all, TTIP may be terminated will depend on TTIP’s own detailed terms. In all likelihood, remaining in the EU means having TTIP for good.
  • A Social Europe should respect trade unionism. EU law prohibits industrial action which “disproportionately” obstructs the free movement of goods, services, capital and workers – see the Viking and Rüffert rulings of the EU’s Court of Justice. Overriding these rulings would require Treaty amendment, needing common accord of all Member States.
  • A Social Europe should permit state aid.  Thankfully Labour is now an anti-austerity party. As part of its public investment programme, Labour should be able to support domestic industries in order to promote full employment and greater equality. However, EU Treaty provisions mean that the European Commission must approve all state aids for their compatibility with the single market.  This includes state aids to the public sector.  The system also allows corporations to challenge grants of state aid on competition grounds.  Reforming the state aids regime would require Treaty amendment, needing common accord of all Member States.
  • A Social Europe should respect public ownership.  Member States should determine the size of their own public sectors.  However, EU legislation consolidates privatisation.  Nationalising sectors such as gas, electricity, telecommunications and postal services is unequivocally forbidden by EU liberalising directives, which accord rights of market access to corporations.  New public enterprises have to compete with private firms in a capitalist market.  Similar legislation on railways is presently going through the EU institutions.  Repealing these directives would require a proposal by the Commission – the very instigators of EU “liberalisation”.
  • Any such Commission proposal would require unanimous approval by the EU Council and the consent of the European Parliament. Furthermore EU Treaty provisions grant companies the right of freedom of establishment – they have the right to establish branches and subsidiaries in other Member States.  The EU Court of Justice would almost certainly deem nationalisation of branches and subsidiaries of companies based in other Member States a disproportionate limitation on freedom of establishment. For good measure the Treaties also give corporations the right to sue governments whenever any public monopoly infringes EU competition rules – including within the NHS.  These Treaty provisions could only be repealed by common accord of all Member States.
  • A Social Europe should permit non-racist immigration policies.  The EU free movement of persons discriminates against non-whites.  EU citizens, overwhelmingly white, enjoy a constitutional right of free movement: non-EU citizens don’t. The refugee crisis shows this systemic discrimination in action.  Reform would necessitate Treaty change, requiring the common accord of all Member States.
  • A Social Europe should allow Labour Party democracy.  The supremacy of EU law, first proclaimed by the EEC’s Court of Justice in 1964, remains its foremost constitutional principle.   The doctrine means national courts and tribunals must give priority to EU law, setting aside any incompatible national measure however framed.   Supremacy drives a coach and horses through Labour party democracy: any policy decisions of Conference which contravene EU law (such as renationalisation for example) may as well be thrown in the bin.  To overturn supremacy would require Treaty amendment, and therefore the common accord of all Member States.

To sum up, EU Treaties provide no means of discarding the TTIP; and the other reforms would require a complete absence of neoliberal governments throughout the EU.  Sadly these policies are so heavily protected against repeal that a “Social Europe” is in practise impossible to achieve.  No doubt “another Europe is possible” – but outside the European Union.

Danny Nicol was Assistant Secretary of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.  He is Professor of Public Law at the University of Westminster and author of The Constitutional Protection of Capitalism (Hart, 2010).

39 Comments

  1. Karl Stewart says:

    Logical, step-by-step analysis, which completely dismantles the ‘left-remain’ case.

    But you forgot to mention that leaving the EU will cause storms of locusts, a nazi coup, and people being eaten by lions.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      I fear you have another lesson in basic Marxism due, Karl. All in good time.

    2. John Penney says:

      Yes, very good article . A simply stated but powerful rejoinder to those on the Left who seriously think fundamental reform of the EU is possible – and the cowardly TUC bureaucrats who mask their own utter passivity in the face of the Tory Austerity Offensive by hiding behind the myth of the EU as “guarantor of our basic working conditions rights”.

      The Morning Star had a good article yesterday pointing out that, almost unbelievably, the European Parliament has just agreed that by 2019 all rail services across the EU will have to be put out to competitive tender ! This legislation appears to have had pretty much universal agreement across all the political spectrum – presumably on the basis of ludicrous claims about “lower fares and greater efficiency”.

      I still believe that a radical left , or even mildly Left, UK (or any other state) government would not be able to stay within the neoliberal enforcement straightjacket of the EU for long before either selling out (like Tsipras’s Syriza Party), or being crushed.

      However it is clear to me that, purely tactically, it is currently pointless to actively line up with the overwhelmingly xenophobic, uber neoliberal (and equally pro TTIP as Cameron) , Tory and radical populist Right forces totally dominating the “Out” campaign and wider public narrative. I still think though, despite the now almost deafening crescendo of “Project Fear” Stay in propaganda, that (mainly for all the most anti immigrant, petty nationalist reasons unfortunately) the “Leave” campaign could still win it by a whisker.

      The result seems likely to be so close in either direction that the aftermath just could have dramatic long term effects on the current structure of party politics in the UK – which could split both the Tory and Labour Parties. The bad feeling generated in the Tory Party anyway seems likely to damage its effectiveness somewhat in the entire period up to the 2020 Election.

      One thing seems clear, the current entirely , unreformable neoliberal EU, and the likes of TTIP, may well be seen by future history as the high water mark of the 30 year neoliberal triumph of the 1% – with a long period of massive world-wide political and social dislocation and turmoil coming in its wake – which will provide both terrible dangers , but also huge opportunities for radical progressive advance.

  2. C MacMackin says:

    This is a good summary of why I lean towards leaving the EU, with some extra pieces of information thrown in that I was not aware of. However, I am still not clear to what extent nationalisation is forbidden. Danny Nicol seems to think the prohibition is very strong, while others think there isn’t one. I would like to hear from someone (preferably without political associations) as to what is the case. I know that some of the competition laws make it more difficult to have integrated state monopolies, such as in the electricity sector. I certainly would prefer not to have such provisions but, given that Britain may well vote to remain and it would then be hard for a Left-wing government to justifying leaving anytime soon, I think it is important to understand what wiggle room we have.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t the treaties only require that the market ALLOW competition, rather than actually require competition. If that is the case, then there could be ways to effectively ensure a public monopoly. For example, could regulations be applied which affect domestic and European corporations equally but which, in practice, would be impossible for any private enterprise to allow? These could include regulations of price, requirements for worker and public representation on boards, etc. Would these violate competition laws? Are there any precedents here? Could such an approach at least slow down any challenge to nationalization?

    That aside, I heartily agree with Danny Nicol about the difficulty in reforming Europe. As I’ve mentioned, I’m from Canada which is a federation consisting of 10 provinces. Similar to the EU, there are various things in our current constitution which require the approval of every province in order to change. In the more than 30 years since this document was adopted, none of these things have EVER been changed, even though there is broad agreement that some of them probably should be. Why? Because every province has their own pet issues which they want to see involved in any changes, some of which are mutually exclusive, and without the inclusion of which they won’t agree to anything else. This is in a country with a broadly uniform culture and a fairly unified national identity (with the exception of Quebec, which is, admittedly, a bit part of these problems). In an institution as culturally diverse as the EU, these challenges would be many times worse. You can argue that we should build a united European workers’ movement and I agree, but that will take at least a decade to pull off, but which time Britain’s chance at Corbynism will have come and gone.

    Danny Nicol also pointed out that to get a social Europe would require anti-neoliberal governments in all countries. Let’s be optimistic and say that just getting them in the biggest ones (say, the biggest 10) would be enough. Looking at Canada again, to my knowledge we have never had all provincial governments consisting of the same party, certainly not in recent memory. Furthermore, 70 years after the first social democratic government in North America was formed in Saskatchewan, three provinces exist which have never had a social democratic government and three others have only ever had them for a single term. Again, this is a country which is much closer to having a single national identity than the EU, and even we can’t pull off the sort of thing that would be needed if the EU is to be reformed.

  3. Jim Denham says:

    Comrades may have heard enough from me on this subject (though I can’t promise you won’t hear more), so here’s Andrew Coates over at ‘Tendance Coatesy’:

    Scenes from British Political Confusionism.

    “How different too it is turning out from what some predicted would be a ‘carnival of reaction’ ahead of the Euro referendum.”

    Counterfire. April 2016.

    Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, claims that Barack Obama’s “part Kenyan ancestry” has resulted in anti-British sentiment. So intense is this dislike that the US President removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. This slight on the Manes of Albion was compounded by the President’s support for the European Union. The EU, it appears, makes 60% of our laws. Bludgeoning home the Brexiter message, Johnson complained that America would never dream of sharing its sovereignty over anything.” (Guardian. 23.4.16)

    Sovereigntism, the belief that all went wrong when Parliament pooled its decision-making powers in areas related to the single market, is an ideology shared by Tories in the Leave campaign, and a large part (if anything in this alliance would be called ‘large’) of the ‘left’ quit camp, Lexit. For UKIP and the rest of the hard right, making the running in the referendum debate, hysteria about migration and about such as topics as Obama’s ungrateful memories of British rule in Africa, is mobilised to gain backing for this principle. Left efforts to “keep racism out of the Referendum”, notably from those who underline the principle of sovereignty, have had no effect whatsoever.

    The ‘left’ case is obscured by the suggestion, voiced by Counterfire, the “Tories crisis is our opportunity”. That the removal of Cameron by a victorious vote in the poll will result in opportunities, apparently not just for Johnson and his allies, but also for the labour movement most of which, and not least the Leader of the Labour Party, supports the Stay side. It is to be suspected that the latest Boris outburst has left a nasty taste in many people’s mouths. So, if it has weakened the Leave camp, is the converse true: that a Stay win will mean a defeat for the left, including the vast majority which advocates it?

    Complaints about EU ‘neo-liberalism’ remain rhetoric unless there is a basis for policy. The anti-EU left believes that increased control over national decision-making power will enable a fight against capitalist globalisation. How exactly the UK will detach itself from global capital flows, financial markets, on the basis of rule by Westminster, perhaps split with Holyrood, is hard to grasp.

    If the Lexiters propose regulation to control markets and capital then surely a large area, let’s call it Europe, is a better place to begin with. If they propose socialisation then what could be more ‘social’ than a number of different societies getting together, from places, let’s call them the Continent and its adjacent Islands, to form an economic bloc sufficiently large to stand up to international markets and capital? If they wish to remain internationalists then what better place to begin to practice inter-country and cross national solidarity then with the people next door to this one? If they wish political co-operation, well we can co-operate in a common organisation, Since it would begin with Europe, the first part of its name is obvious, and, perhaps, as we are on the left, the next bit, a Union, comes naturally.

    Imagine that the left is on the road to power in Britain. The prospect of a way out of neo-liberal capitalism, helped by the “rising wave of protest”, “growing struggles” (Counterfire) is on the horizon. Fantastic! Until the next Brexit outburst…..

    1. C MacMackin says:

      You make much of the fact that there are unpleasant people in the Leave campaign, including those who claim to be coming from the Left. I certainly don’t deny that and, given the state of politics, I would find it very difficult if not impossible to campaign to leave. However, none of that has any effect on whether or not Danny Nicol’s arguments are true.

      Yes, it would undoubtedly be very difficult for Britain on its own to confront global capitalism. It would be much easier if Europe as a whole were to do this. However, the point of this article was to demonstrate that it is nigh on impossible to actually make the EU do this. At the end of the day, much of the disagreement between the leave and remain camps on this website comes down to a disagreement about that. Those of us who think it would be impossible to turn the EU into something which could confront capitalism think leaving would be better because surely difficult is preferable to impossible.

    2. C MacMackin says:

      I should add that I wholeheartedly support having a social Europe. I would go so far as wanting European federalism with a parliamentary democracy and tax-raising powers. However, I honestly don’t believe that the EU can ever be transformed into such a thing or that, if by some miracle it were, it would have a constitution that was so neoliberal as to make the whole thing pointless. I think that any attempt to build such a social and democratic Europe will require a break with the EU. The problem with the Brexit campaign is that it is framed in such right wing terms that neither outcome will advance this cause.

      1. James Martin says:

        There are nasty reactionaries in both camps, but the issue is not personalities but what, for socialists, creates the better ground to fight on. Social Europe is long dead, just ask the Greek working class. TTIP is a cert in the EU, but something that can be fought outside of it. Nationalisation of rail and utilities by a socialist government is not possible inside the EU, be can be fought for outside of it. The EU bosses club acts as a dead weight against class struggle and genuine internationalism, not as a boost to it, and that is why my Vote Labour and Vote Leave posters are next to each other in my window without any contradiction between them.

  4. Peter Rowlands says:

    The article, surprisingly for an academic, gives no references, and as CMac has said others have questioned Danny Nicol’s assertions about the difficulties of reform. ( The point on immigration is just silly. It implies that until the racial composition of the EU proportionally matches that of the world then the EU is racist!).
    But all of this is beside the point. The argument against Brexit is NOT because the treaties cannot be unscrambled. For example, if there were clauses in all the treaties that provided for simple revision, on a majority basis, would Danny then support Remain? I fancy not, because the argument against Remain, demolished in the excellent piece from ‘Coatesy’, thanks Jim, is that it opens up great opportunities for left advance in the UK.That, as I and others have argued, is a fallacy, and the reverse is likely to be the case. Brexit would represent a victory for the Tory right and UKIP, and could help the disintegration of the EU which would only benefit the populist right and the neo fascists. Marine le Pen for next French President?
    The EU must be reformed along the lines advocated by Corbyn. If a majority of the larger states of the EU were to elect parties committed to such reforms then they would be carried out, even if that meant all such states sinultaneously leaving the old EU and agreeing a new set of treaties for a new one. Until that happy day dawns we have to keep campaigning for it alongside our fellow socialists in the EU. For the left, Brexit would be a disaster, but it is not being advocated for the reasons given in Danny’s article.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      To be clear, I only questioned his assertions about prohibitions on nationalisation. I did not question his assertions on the difficulty in reforming the EU treaties. I also have doubts about the viability of reform by getting progressive governments in a sufficient number of EU states. I don’t think that a government would be able to maintain momentum within the strictures of the EU for long enough to survive in a progressive form until allies can be elected. As I mentioned, we haven’t managed to elect progressive governments in more than a handful of Canadian provinces at a time, despite the fact that such governments are in some ways less hamstrung by the federal government than are member states by the EU and despite the fact that Canada has a much more unified collective identity than the EU.

  5. Dave C. says:

    This article gives all the compelling reasons for Brexit. The only way labour stand to form a future government with Jeremy Corbyn, is if he goes back to his lifelong ambition (until last September) to free the UK of the EU.
    I don’t need to say anything more as I think the article makes a very good case for Brexit

  6. Verity says:

    These constitutional constraints have emerged after years of thought about EU design as a bulwark against Socialists and the Left going back decades. Although we have to accept that some, very light and marginally effective, baselines have been offered to Social Democrat anxious for some crumbs to show for their loyalty.

    There are however some who will continue to be satisfied by an argument that implausibility still leaves scope since it does not constitute impossibility. Some still hold out faith that the working class across Europe will, in the mid future, emerge as a cohesive class against their oppressor-leaders. That the struggles will become generalised, despite the distinct issues and the conditions of their own nations. That the tiers of institutions will somehow begin to act in harmony despite some really reactionary representation from Eastern Europe (and quite possibly increasing). That democratic change can emerge in the face of, ‘The Five President’s Report: Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union’ and the need for even closer consolidation of the least democratic features. That TTIP can be sidelined or effectively parked.

    We do have to accept though that the Left has failed to convince sufficiently to develop a mass alternative campaign. In general, Labour and most Trade Unions have become almost irrelevant in the debate. Part of the problem probably emerged when our ‘hero – leaders’ (Corbyn and McDonnell) became trapped beneath the dominance of Social Democratic and liberal opponents.

    Leave or remain, the marginalization of the Labour Left in Britain will have reached a new low level. If the UK remains, we will be tied to an endless new series of struggles sapping opportunities for more positive policy and campaign developments. We take a step back to more defensive campaigns. If we leave, it will be difficult to argue that the Labour Left offered a consistent defence for those alienated by the remoteness and detachment that the EU has for their concerns and demands. Personally, I have found an organisational form that satisfies me sufficiently to continue trying for a (Labour) leave vote, but I recognise that this has not been for everyone.

    In my opinion the failure of the Labour Left strategy has to be addressed as soon after the referendum result. The form that it takes of course depends upon the outcome.

  7. Jim Denham says:

    Regardless of the little England fantasies of the “left exit” fantasists, the real leaders of the anti-EU movement, the xenophobes, have stepped their anti-EU campign in earnest. Boris Johnson’s racist attack on Barack Obama in the Sun gives us a taste of what to expect: denunciations of migrants, demands for stricter border controls and thinly-disguised racism.

    It’s time for the left to get real: the anti-EU movement is of necessity nationalist, xenophobic and border-line racist. No matter how much idiots like the Morning Star, the SWP and the Socialist Party try to dress up their anti-EU rhetoric with the word “socialism” and dire warnings about the evils of international capitalism and the “bosses’ Europe” they cannot escape the reactionary logic of their anti-EU stance.

    Yet for decades now most of the British left — and the left in a few other European countries, such as Denmark — has agitated “against the EU”. The agitation has suggested, though rarely said openly, we should welcome and promote every pulling-apart of the EU, up to and including the full re-erection of barriers between nation-states.

    Yet the possibility of a serious unravelling of the patchwork, bureaucratic semi-unification of Europe, slowly developed over the last sixty years, is more real today than ever before. The decisive push for unravelling comes from from the nationalist and populist right.

    And that calls the bluff of a whole swathe of the British left.

    For decades, most of the British left has been “anti-EU” as a matter of faith. In Britain’s 1975 referendum on withdrawing from the EU, almost the whole left, outside AWL’s forerunner Workers’ Fight, campaigned for withdrawal. Since then the left has hesitated explicitly to demand withdrawal. It has limited itself to “no to bosses’ Europe” agitation, implying but not spelling out a demand for the EU to be broken up.

    The agitation has allowed the left to eat its cake and have it. The left can chime in with populist-nationalist “anti-Europe” feeling, which is stronger in Britain than in any other EU country. It can also cover itself by suggesting that it is not really anti-European, but only dislikes the “bosses’” character of the EU.

    As if a confederation of capitalist states could be anything other than capitalist! As if the cross-Europe policy of a collection of neo-liberal governments could be anything other than neo-liberal!

    As if the material force behind neo-liberal cuts has been the relatively flimsy Brussels bureaucracy, rather than the mighty bureaucratic-military-industrial complexes of member states. As if the answer is to oppose confederation and cross-Europeanism as such, rather than the capitalist, neo-liberal, bureaucratic character of both member states and the EU.

    As if the EU is somehow more sharply capitalist, anti-worker, and neo-liberal than the member states. In Britain more than any other country we have seen successive national governments, both Tory and New Labour, repeatedly objecting to EU policy as too soft, too “social”, too likely to entrench too many workers’ rights.

    As if the answer is to pit nations against Europe, rather than workers against bosses and bankers. The anti-EU left loves to gloatingly remind us of the EU leaders’ appalling treatment of Greece and Tsipras’s capitulation – despite the fact that while in Greece and Southern Europe the EU has indeed been a force for neoliberal austerity, in the UK no-one can point to a single attack on the working class that has originated with the EU against the will of a British government: indeed the EU has forced reluctant UK governments to enact limited but real pro-worker legislation (despite the Morning Star‘s dishonest claims to the contrary, the EU has been responsible for real pro-working class reforms such as the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, the Agency Workers Regulations and the Working Time Regulations – none of which are at any immediate risk as a result of Cameron’s “renegotiation”).

    When Socialist Worker, in a Q&A piece, posed itself the question, “wouldn’t things be better for workers if Britain pulled out of the EU?”, it answered itself with a mumbling “yes, but” rather than a ringing “yes”.

    “Socialist Worker is against Britain being part of a bosses’ Europe”. Oh? And against Britain being part of a capitalist world, too?

    Britain would be better off in outer space? Or walled off from the world North-Korea-style? “But withdrawing from the EU wouldn’t guarantee workers’ rights — the Tories remain committed to attacking us”. Indeed. And just as much so as the EU leaders, no?

    A few years ago the Socialist Party threw itself into a electoral coalition called No2EU. Every week in its “Where We Stand” it declaims: “No to the bosses’ neo-liberal European Union!”, though that theme rarely appears in its big headlines.

    Even the demand for withdrawal is a soft-soap, “tactical” gambit. In principle Britain could quit the EU without disrupting much. It could be like Norway, Iceland, Switzerland: pledged to obey all the EU’s “Single Market” rules (i.e. all the neo-liberal stuff) though opting out of a say in deciding the rules; exempt from contributing to the EU budget but also opting out from receiving EU structural and regional funds.

    That is not what the no-to-EU-ers want. They want Britain completely out. They want all the other member-states out too. A speech by RMT president Alex Gordon featured on the No2EU website spells it out: “Imperialist, supranational bodies such as the EU seek to roll back democratic advances achieved in previous centuries… Progressive forces must respond to this threat by defending and restoring national democracy. Ultimately, national independence is required for democracy to flourish…”

    But does the left really want the EU broken up? What would happen?

    The freedom for workers to move across Europe would be lost. “Foreign” workers in each country from other ex-EU states would face disapproval at best.

    There would be a big reduction in the productive capacities of the separate states, cut off from broader economic arenas.

    Governments and employers in each state would be weaker in capitalist world-market competition, and thus would be pushed towards crude cost-cutting, in the same way that small capitalist businesses, more fragile in competition, use cruder cost-cutting than the bigger employers.

    There would be more slumps and depression, in the same way that the raising of economic barriers between states in the 1930s lengthened and deepened the slump then.

    Nationalist and far-right forces, already the leaders of anti-EU political discourse everywhere, would be “vindicated” and boosted. Democracy would shrink, not expand. The economically-weaker states in Europe, cut off from the EU aid which has helped them narrow the gap a bit, would suffer worst, and probably some would fall to military dictatorships.

    Before long the economic tensions between the different nations competing elbow-to-elbow in Europe’s narrow cockpit would lead to war, as they did repeatedly for centuries, and especially in 1914 and 1939.

    The left should fight, not to go backwards from the current bureaucratic, neo-liberal European Union, but forward, towards workers’ unity across Europe, a democratic United States of Europe, and a socialist United States of Europe.

    It’s time for the anti-EU left to get real, face facts and pull back from its disastrous de facto alliance with some of the most reactionary forces in British politics.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      …and there’ll be a nazi coup, with every ‘foreigner’ being forced out of the UK at gunpoint, and birds will stop flying and JimD’s head will explode…

      1. Jim Denham says:

        Are you aware of what Boris Johnson (backed up by Nigel Farage) has just written about Obama, Karl? Does it not concern you? Are you *seriously* that the mainstream anti-EU campaign (for whom the “left” exiters are merely minor bag-carriers and lackeys) is not profoundly and intensely xenophobic at best, and downright racist, at worst? Do you not recognise that immigration is already proving to be the key issue in this debate? And you try to turn these concerns inti a silly joke? As I’ve said before, people like you are not just wrong: politically, from the perspective of working class unity, you are criminally irresponsible.

        1. James Martin says:

          “…for whom the “left” exiters are merely minor bag-carriers and lackeys” unlike you and your Alliance for Workers Liberty right-wing sect who are lackeys for the EU bosses club, NATO, US occupation of Iraq and Zionist colonial settlers in Palestine of course. Do you ever wonder what went so wrong in your little grouplet Jim that you and it now lines up consistently with reaction the world over?

          1. Jim Denham says:

            At least we don’t line up with Farage, Johnson and Gove.

          2. Jim Denham says:

            …or with the anti-semites on the so-called “left”.

  8. David Pavett says:

    That there is a lot of bad legislation in the EU is not really in dispute. What is in dispute is whether we would reasonably expect to be under better legislation by leaving. On that Danny Nicol makes no argument. Secondly what is in dispute is whether reform is possible in the EU. Danny Nicol says that it is not because it would require unanimous approval in the Council of Ministers. In fact reforms have been implemented. So, for example, the European Parliament has significantly increased its legislative powers since it was created. These things therefore need to be argued out in detail and not on the basis of peremptory assertions.

    1. TTIP is a monster. We all agree about that. It is implicit in Danny Nicol’s piece that Brexit would remove us from its clutches. There are good arguments explaining why this is not the case but he doesn’t consider them. He also doesn’t take into account that our government has been one of its strongest supporters and would therefore be likely to sign us up to something worse (i.e. including ISDS or its equivalent).

    2. Danny Nicol want “respect” for trade unionism and suggests that none exists in the EU on the basis of his claim about the way it prohibits industrial action which interferes with the free movement of goods. I don’t know the details and he doesn’t provide any. However, I didn’t notice it swinging into action when French strikers block ports. Moreover it is surely somewhat one-sided to claim that there is no “respect” for unions in the EU. John Hendy is a left Brexiter but even so he wrote “European workers, especially UK workers, have a lot to thank the EU for”

    3. We are told that all state aid must be approved by the EU Commission with the implication being that this makes it virtually impossible. Again there are no references and no alternative interpretations are considered. In practice things are not so clear. For example a BBC report on state aid to steel has the following on helping companies out with energy costs

    The government says it has paid £37m so far this year and expects to have paid £81m by the end of the year. That includes £34m going to steel companies.

    The TUC says that the steel industry reckons it is still paying about 70% of the additional costs while some competitors in other European countries are having all of the additional costs covered.

    4. “A Social Europe should respect public ownership”. The implication is that it does not do so but it is not at all clear what Danny Nicol understands by “respect”. In fact there are some very powerful state industries in the EU and as we know some of them even operate in the UK. Again there is no consideration of counter arguments.

    Sam Fowles in a response to an earlier paper by Danny Nicol rejected his claims about the EU as based on a confusion between constitutional law and power. He also had a Huffington Post piece on the same subject: Nationalisation Is Not Against EU Law.

    5. The argument that the EU is racist because its free movement applies to European citizens who are mostly white does not require a response save to say that it is like claiming that regulations concerning school children are ageist because they only apply to people under the age of 19. European regulations apply to Europeans irrespective of their biological or ethnic backgrounds. It is bizarre to claim that this is, say, anti-Chinese because it does not equally apply to all Chinese people.

    6. The argument about the EU not allowing Labour Party democracy clearly doesn’t hold up and is an attempt to rehash point 4.

    Danny Nicol writes about the EU as a reactionary monolith with no nuances. I think that it is better to treat it as a battle ground in which for the moment right-wing parties are dominant in the same way that we treat our own Parliament. I also think that Ralph Miliband was right when he wrote in his last book (Socialism for a Sceptical Age)”Left parties cannot retreat into a national bunker; and a socialist government would not leave the Union of its own volition, but would rather seek to find allies in its attempts to overcome unacceptable constraints.” I understand that to mean that it is better to stay and to challenge the EU from inside, seeking support from across the continent, when it is desired to conduct left policies which run counter to EU rules. Better to force the issue when it arises rather than to opt out now on the grounds that when such a challenge arises it is bound to be defeated. If we have learned anything from the last 30/40 years of politics it should be that the future is not predictable in that way.

    I agree with Peter Rowlands that it is strange for an academic with all the resources for providing evidence of his claims to give no sources at all. Beyond that, the opening sentence rather sets the tone of a piece that makes a lot of assertions and ignores counter-arguments. There are intelligent people on both sides of this debate and it can only be properly conducted by recognising that and dealing with the best of the arguments from the opposite side. As Gramsci once said, in ideological warfare, unlike military warfare, success comes from taking your opponents on at their strongest positions.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      I don’t think Danny Nicol is necessarily arguing that things would immediately be better under UK law than under European law. As I understood it, he was arguing that under UK law we have more opportunities to make things better than under EU law. For example, while the Tories may quickly sign onto TTIP, it would be much easier for a Corbyn government to pull out of it from outside of the EEA than from inside.

      The article around nationalization was a good read and did clarify some points. If confirms that there is, indeed, wiggle room within the treaties. This is important information and may well prove useful for a radical government. However, I still am not pleased with the idea of having to live within the wiggle room. The article essentially was saying that nationalization is okay as long as it isn’t complete nationalization. Well, I want complete nationalization. Furthermore, being bound by the EU’s rules on compensation could be very expensive. I’d prefer if we could use justifications such as the industries having been privatised below their actual value in order to renationalise them without full compensation (although I admit that is a demand which borders on the revolutionary).

      My understanding of the point around immigration (which, I admit, was not the strongest) was essentially saying that free movement within the EU has been accompanied by stricter controls for immigrants from outside (“Fortress Europe”). I don’t know whether or not this argument holds up to historical examination, but it is at least in principle coherent.

      State aid does seem to be allowed, at least to some extent, but my concern there is how the Commission would react to a socialist government. I have similar concerns regarding nationalization. I would not be at all surprised if things which were considered fine for a neoliberal government were challenged if they were being done by a left wing government. If the Commission wanted to be obstructive, as I suspect they would given the likely makeup of Europe by the time Corbyn could be elected, then they have to tools to do so.

      In principle, yes, the EU can be reformed. However, I still consider this a Herculian if not an impossible task for the reasons I have outlined in previous posts. The example of the expanding role of the parliament doesn’t impress me that much, to be honest. For one thing, the parliament is still insufficiently powerful. Without legislative initiative, tax raising powers, and an executive which is either directly elected or drawn from the parliament, I do not consider the parliament acceptably democratic. I think it is far far far more difficult to achieve genuinely antineoliberal gains in the EU than to get a bit more power for a still largely ineffective institution which is bound by neoliberal treaties.

      All of that said, you seemed to indicate that if the UK had to choose between neoliberalism or getting expelled from the EU, you’d opt for thee latter. If you are serious in that position, then I can certainly see the sense in it. My only objection then would be whether a Left government would feel able to leave (or allow themselves to be kicked out of) the EU if, 5-10 years earlier, the population had voted to remain.

      1. David Pavett says:

        Thanks for your response.

        As I understood it, he was arguing that under UK law we have more opportunities to make things better than under EU law. For example, while the Tories may quickly sign onto TTIP, it would be much easier for a Corbyn government to pull out of it from outside of the EEA than from inside.

        I am not sure that is true even on its own terms but I think this should be put in the context of Scottish independence being given a major boost by Brexit. The English Tory majority would then weigh heavily on us for some time.

        The article [by Sam Fowles?] essentially was saying that nationalization is okay as long as it isn’t complete nationalization. Well, I want complete nationalization. Furthermore, being bound by the EU’s rules on compensation could be very expensive. I’d prefer if we could use justifications such as the industries having been privatised below their actual value in order to renationalise them without full compensation…

        I am with you on the need to change fundamental property relations of the means of production. Whether the most desirable manner of doing this is through making the state the owner on behalf of the people is still an open question, for me at least. I think that this calls for a discussion about transition to a socialist economy which has not yet taken place.

        My understanding of the point around immigration (which, I admit, was not the strongest) was essentially saying that free movement within the EU has been accompanied by stricter controls for immigrants from outside (“Fortress Europe”). I don’t know whether or not this argument holds up to historical examination, but it is at least in principle coherent.

        I don’t say that Danny Nicol’s is incoherent on this point but merely that his argument lacks reference to reality. The idea of a planned economy for the needs of the people is clearly incompatible with uncontrolled movements of population. This seems to be a hard point for many on the left to take on board. I guess the reason is that they are afraid of saying something that might coincide on some points with the political right. That is not a good criterion for critical judgement. The right would not have the political traction that it does if it made no contact with reality at any point.

        State aid does seem to be allowed, at least to some extent, but my concern there is how the Commission would react to a socialist government. I have similar concerns regarding nationalization.

        I share your concerns – with the proviso that we may perhaps have to think about social ownership in more varied ways than nationalisation.

        In principle, yes, the EU can be reformed. However, I still consider this a Herculian if not an impossible task for the reasons I have outlined in previous posts.

        Herculean, probably. Impossible, no. The same applies to the transition from capitalism to socialism EU or no EU. I agree with your points about the limitations of the European Parliament except that I think you should grant some significance to reforms that have given it more powers.

        All of that said, you seemed to indicate that if the UK had to choose between neoliberalism or getting expelled from the EU, you’d opt for thee latter.

        Yes.

        My only objection then would be whether a Left government would feel able to leave (or allow themselves to be kicked out of) the EU if, 5-10 years earlier, the population had voted to remain.

        If it came to that point it would require widespread campaigning and political involvement of large numbers of people. It would be naive to imagine that socialist change can occur in any other way. There is an underlying dissatisfaction of very broad sections of the population across Europe for the old style of elitist, secretive politics leading to ever greater inequality. This dissatisfaction can take a right or a left-wing form. In the situation of a clash with the EU which could not produce a wave of solidarity and/or similar actions across the continent we would certainly be in difficulty either in or out of the EU. I think that “internationalism” which has, in the past, tended to a kind of moral gesture of good will to all peoples would in those circumstances become a pressing political necessity.

        1. John Penney says:

          You raise a massively significant point in this paragraph, David – one I and others have also raised during this debate – with a surprising lack of any response from other posters, namely :

          “The idea of a planned economy for the needs of the people is clearly incompatible with uncontrolled movements of population. This seems to be a hard point for many on the left to take on board. I guess the reason is that they are afraid of saying something that might coincide on some points with the political right. That is not a good criterion for critical judgement. The right would not have the political traction that it does if it made no contact with reality at any point.”

          It is the supreme irony of the entire “migration debate/controversy” that none of the Right Tory, or even UKIP, supposed “anti unlimited migrant worker right of entry ” Brexit supporters would actually ever really restrict entry of an unlimited “free” (of production cost to the UK) labour supply to the UK. This unlimited labour supply is simply too fundamental to the overall operation of a neoliberal capitalist economy. And of course this unlimited labour supply was always a key, unstated, policy pillar of the entire Blairite/Brown New Labour economic strategy – at least as important as completely “unshackling” the financial sector from any effective regulation, and creeping privatisation.

          Only a UK economy run within a comprehensive National Economic Regeneration Plan by a radical Left Government – which , as you correctly say , would have to prioritise the maximum possible employment of our indigenous citizenry (regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc, of course) , before additional labour resources were sourced from other areas, would the undoubted widespread current desire by the UK electorate to reduce the volume and rapidity of increase of inward migration, be achieved.

          The Left generally simply cannot even address this key issue – toxically intimately intertwined as it is with the xenophobia and racism and cynical scapegoatism of the Right. The fact remains that unlimited migration does , through the most basic supply and demand economics, undercut the ability of trades unionism to maintain wage levels, particularly in unskilled jobs, and the sheer scale of current migration is putting tremendous strains on the social cohesion of many communities. Simply accusing those most effected , almost entirely in working class areas, of “racism” for objecting to this unprecedented pace of change is a cop out for us on the Left in getting to grips with the entire issue of unlimited labour supply – versus the need for a socialist planned economy – in which both capital AND labour supply movement would have to be controlled within the needs of the Plan priorities.

          Unfortunately the entire central importance of comprehensive economic Planning itself – to a Left-oriented mixed economy serving the needs of all its citizens, never mind its absolute centrality for a socialist economy – seems to have been forgotten by too many people who consider themselves ” radical socialists”. Instead the ideology of neoliberalism has actually seeped in to pollute sections of the Left – with an adoption of all the “shrink the State – anarchistic” garbage, a fear of even sensible sustainable economic growth, and neoliberal-sourced nonsense like “Citizens Income”.

          As someone who helped write Left Unity’s Economic Development Strategy some time ago , I was gobsmacked that, without my intervention, the requirement for a comprehensive National Economic Plan wouldn’t even have been included – alongside endless straightforward direct nickings of all the usual Green agenda stuff from the thoroughly non-socialist Green Party policy bundle , from where many of Left Unity’s then new membership hailed.

          1. Jim Denham says:

            John Penney writes: ““The idea of a planned economy for the needs of the people is clearly incompatible with uncontrolled movements of population. This seems to be a hard point for many on the left to take on board. I guess the reason is that they are afraid of saying something that might coincide on some points with the political right. That is not a good criterion for critical judgement. The right would not have the political traction that it does if it made no contact with reality at any point.”

            Now, at least we’re getting somewhere: the “left” case against the EU. is indeed based upon opposition to immigration. At last, someone has admitted it. N ow we can finally have a proper debate.

          2. John Penney says:

            Jim, You are apparently always doomed to misunderstand any position that doesn’t match your selected simplistic personal viewpoint on every issue aren’t you. This is the perennial bugbear of so many on the Left. Everything is an un-nuanced “Black v white” issue – with the arguments of your opponents constantly misrepresented, simplified, demonised, and reduced to “Straw Man” positions.

            I am not “anti-immigration” at all. I fully recognise the positive role of immigration throughout the UK’s history. The issue today is the central role of absolutely unlimited labour supply within the EU to the neoliberal structure of the capitalist economy.

            The Left actually has in its core historical “political/economic solutions toolbag” a real alternative to absolutely unlimited free labour supply – which is the democratically agreed Comprehensive Economic Development Plan of a radical Left Government. An economy operating under such a Plan might well have major levels of inward temporary and permanent labour migration, but this would be in the context of a revived and legally unshackled domestic trades union movement, strictly enforced minimum wage laws, and a commitment to a cradle to grave education and training programme to ensure that existing UK citizens, regardless of gender or ethnicity, were the first priority in securing the jobs and opportunities within this nation state. That very different set up to the currently massively unpopular chaotic unlimited labour entry situation today,would , if the result of a democratically agreed National Plan, have the huge advantage of being the outcome of positive mass UK citizen agreement and involvement – rather than result of a profoundly unjust, profit-maximising neoliberal market .

            You Jim, are in the luxurious position of so many on the Left who adopt over-idealistic, absolutist , postures – in that you are quite safe in the knowledge that you will never have to sell this to a real electorate – or put your posture into practice. Hence the absolutist “absolutely everyone in the EU (maybe in the world ?) is welcome to come and live and work in the UK” is lovely in 5th form schoolboy debate. What a prince of generosity you are for your offer ! Unfortunately the position is operational nonsense in the real world – and can clearly be seen as such by any UK citizen outside of your comfy ideological bubble.

            I say YES to continued worker migration (and indeed the offer of shelter to refugees), – but for us on the Left we have to make a believable “policy offer” alongside this position , in the context of a rational Economic Plan – which actually equates labour supply with the wellbeing of the overall UK economy and its citizens.

            Sorry you find it so hard to deal with these real world ,nuanced, complexities on big problem areas , Jim, but that is your problem.

        2. C MacMackin says:

          I think we have to be very careful about how we discuss immigration. It is obvious to anyone who thinks about it that no country can have completely open borders right now. However, I would still maintain that this is a valid long-term goal. It would be VERY long term, mind you; it probably couldn’t happen until the world has a much more even level of economic development and, possibly, some degree of a global governance structure. That said, I don’t really have an issue with the free movement within the EU. I don’t have any statistics to back me up, but my impression is that, by and large, it doesn’t pose serious problems. Ideally I’d also like to see bilateral free movement treaties with countries where there would be relatively even numbers going in each direction (e.g. Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, maybe the US).

          Let’s also be clear. A planned economy (whether mixed or otherwise) would require some controls on immigration, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be tough. Perhaps they could end up allowing more immigrants in than there are now. In fact, in many countries (especially in northern Europe) demographic trends would make immigration essential to maintain healthcare and senior-care services. Furthermore, since a planned economy would, hopefully, eliminate unemployment, housing shortages, and the like, I strongly suspect that attitudes towards immigrants would soften and integration would become much easier.

          1. John Penney says:

            I think you are creating yet another of your Straw Men representations of the Left Brexit position , Jim. The Left argument for leaving the EU definitely Doesn’t hinge on “opposition to immigration” at all. There are a huge range of issues around the entire undemocratic, neoliberalism enforcing , and unreformable, nature of the EU to justify Leaving – as you well know. Also, who is “against immigration” on the Left for Leaving side ? Nobody at all. Actually, is even the UKIP and Tory Right “against immigration” per se ? I think not. In fact the Tory Right and UKIP hostility to “immigration” is entirely bogus – as neither of these groups would ever actually interfere with the cornerstone of neoliberalism, an unlimited labour supply – matched with complete freedom for the movement of capital – regardless of their rabble-rousing dog whistle racist rhetoric.

            The point from the Left is that in the case of a democratically elected radical Left government – committed to the betterment of the majority of its citizen’s opportunities and living standards , a democratically constructed comprehensive National Economic Plan should take into account the actual democratically expressed wishes of the voting citizens as to the number and rate of increase of emigrant workers entering that sovereign nation state. That is what democracy means. There is no socialist tradition that views completely open , utterly unlimited labour entry into a state as a fundamental objective. Why should it be ? It is physically impossible to sustain in a relatively small land mass like the UK, and is impossible to match up with the needs of a planned mixed or socialist economic Plan.

            The Left are so often reacting to the racism and bigotry implicit in the anti migrant rhetoric of the Right with an understandable but grossly simplistic anti racist counter proposition – of ” Absolutely everyone is welcome here” – and has done for 50 years or so. I’ve been part of that tradition for 40 years myself. The trouble is that such a demand merely ends up driving masses of working class people who are being branded wholesale undifferentiatedly as “racist bigots” (and many may be – but many others are actually just genuinely concerned at valid issues of labour market competition and the sheer social cohesion shattering pace and volume of current migration ), into the arms of UKIP and the Far Right.

            The Left, in my opinion needs to return to some basic propositions – one being the need for a radical Left transformational government which will better the life chances and employment opportunities and living standards of every citizen in the UK – with comprehensive National Economic planning as a key instrument of this transformation. Such a Planning process must involve the planning of resource allocation – ie, including limits and direction of and on the free movement of both capital and labour resources. This doesn’t actually imply a “ban” on migration at all – but a structuring of entry in line with a democratically agreed National Plan that first prioritises the needs and opportunities of indigenous citizens. The Left generally may find this a stupendously “reactionary” idea, but then the irony is that in aiming to fight racism it is the Left which is the most enthusiastic defender of one of the core pillars of neoliberalism – unlimited labour supply. A policy which immediately alienates us and our Left strategies from masses of working class people who otherwise could be won wholesale to support a radical Left political and economic strategy.

          2. C MacMackin says:

            I think that one of the issues which many people on the Left have with this sort of position, John Penny, is that poor people often use immigration as a means to try to better their lot. Now, obviously it would be better if we could better the lot of workers in all countries, so that people only had to immigrate if they wanted to, but that doesn’t change the fact that many of us feel a great deal of sympathy for immigrants and are thus deeply uncomfortable with any language which criticizes immigration. I think another issue with using this sort of language is that it can end up treating immigrants as pawns of capital, while ignoring their potential for their participation in class struggle. I’m not saying that you intend to imply any of this, but these are sensitive issues.

          3. Karl Stewart says:

            (Response to JimD 5.06pm 24.04)

            Jim, the quote you’ve referenced about ‘immigration’ was made by David Pavett, who is arguing for ‘remain’.

            John Penney quotes Pavett’s anti-immigration point in order to argue against him.

            JimD, in your first comment on this thread you suggested that people might have heard enough from you. We’ve certainly all had enough of your lies and hysterical smears.

          4. Jim Denham says:

            So John Penney is *not* manti-immigration, Karl? He says this:

            “The point from the Left is that in the case of a democratically elected radical Left government – committed to the betterment of the majority of its citizen’s opportunities and living standards , a democratically constructed comprehensive National Economic Plan should take into account the actual democratically expressed wishes of the voting citizens as to the number and rate of increase of emigrant workers entering that sovereign nation state. That is what democracy means. There is no socialist tradition that views completely open , utterly unlimited labour entry into a state as a fundamental objective. Why should it be ? It is physically impossible to sustain in a relatively small land mass like the UK, and is impossible to match up with the needs of a planned mixed or socialist economic Plan”.

            Now Karl (and I’ll try mto explain this simply, so that even you can understand):that’s an anti-immigration position. Now, it may be right or it may be wrong … but it’s anti immigration. Now do you understand?

    2. Verity says:

      Treaties are surely something more than, just ‘bad legislation’. They cannot be amended or adjusted to suit as you might wish for a national law in a national parliament as circumstances change. They are the constitutional framework within which legislation takes place and rules are drawn up. Changing such things is not a minor matter, especially when they are mutually reinforcing causing a major overhaul. It is this sense that I see the EU institutions as a part of a carefully constructed design to constrain. As Juncker was reported as saying in relation to the Greek vote, treaties are not for overturning by democracy.

      1. David Pavett says:

        I think that there is a lot in what you say. Did I say “bad legislation”? If I did then it was an inadequate expression.

        As you say there are framework agreements (treaties) and then measures agreed, or not, within that framework.

        Changing treaties, again as you say, is not a minor matter. But here we are, I think, discussing whether or not the EU would inhibit socialist advances more than would be the case outside of the EU. In all cases such advances would definitely not be a minor matter. So what we need to consider is the complex balance of forces across the continent (whether we are in the EU or not) and how this would impact on a national move in the direction of socialism. This has to be based on an intense and detailed analysis of these forces, their likely development and how all this effects fighting battles at a national and a transnational level. It’s complex but the idea that we can think about this in purely national terms (whether in the EU or not) is an illusion.

        1. Verity says:

          So my argument would be to pursue internationally supported campaigns as we always should be doing as difficult as they may be given the absence of correspondence in timings that disputes arise. The EU surely has nothing to do with that. Acting within the EU (treaties) framework does not add to these possibilities for solidarity. Indeed since that constitutional framework will interfere at different stages in different countries the treaties just acts as an antagonist sufficiently long for one dispute to have lost momentum long before that of another gains the initiative. The delay between one national dispute against another allows for playing off of one nation against another not the generalisation of disputes.

  9. Jim Denham says:

    A straightfoward argument from Unite (first published in Saturday’s Morning Satr): I defy anyone with any pretentions to being on the “left” to tell this comrade she’s wrong:

    Leaving the EU may fatally weaken workers’ rights

    By Kathryne Albanese: regional legal and affiliated services co-ordinator for Unite South-West.
    ***

    If you’re anything like me you’ll believe that there is an awful lot of bluff and bluster over the EU In and Out debate but I personally don’t feel that any of our real questions are being addressed by the establishment millionaires in the Out campaign groups.

    From a worker’s perspective, the Out groups seem quite happy to gamble with our NHS, with our jobs, our public services and our homes with no thought to the ramifications that this will have across our communities and workforces.

    Likewise, the In campaign needs to ensure it continues to address these fundamental issues as well.

    What I want to see is an outcome that can provide working people in Britain with a strong economic foundation for British industry to grow.

    EU membership has assisted us in our fight for rights and freedoms in the workplace. What Unite members want to know is how the Out groups intend to protect these hard-earned rights?

    Our fear is that they won’t but instead will use Brexit to strip them back to worthlessness, leaving our workplaces impoverished.

    The bosses in the Out camps are also curiously silent when it comes to the financial chaos that will ensue once the dust has settled should Britain decide to leave the EU.

    Make no mistake, workers will be the first to suffer as bosses scramble to hedge their bets in unchartered waters.

    The Out campaign groups have no answers to questions that concern workers.

    Our movement is built on collectivism but this doesn’t stop at the factory gate.

    As members of the EU we are partners in peace and security. Yes, we need a reformed Europe so that its prosperity is more fairly shared but we can only reform it from within.

    So while the Out campaign groups may scream about “sovereignty,” what is their answer to south-west based Unite members who work in the aerospace sector, such as Airbus or GKN? Will they be honest with them and admit that their livelihoods are at risk if Britain votes to leave the European Union?

    I’d also like to know how the Out campaign groups expect farm workers in the south-west to be able to provide for their families if Britain were to leave the EU given the enormous benefit of subsidies currently from Europe.

    Ultimately, the British people will decide but I’m not willing to gamble my members’ futures on a high-risk poker game where working peoples livelihoods are at stake.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      She’s completely wrong.

      1. Jim Denham says:

        Try explaining why, Karl.

  10. Bazza says:

    The EC was originally set up by top downers (some from the centre/left, centre, soft European right) to counter the then perceived threat of the USSR, to promote capitalism in Europe, and to give Europe a greater voice in the World against US hegemony.
    As an article a while back in the brilliant New Left Review argued De Gaulle of France was originally against the UK joining as he felt it would act as a Trojan Horse for the US (which eventually happened) and the dollar was soon to dominate and hence I would argue the desire for some for the Euro.
    So if this is why some argue it was set up (top down) by the centre/left, centre, and some on the soft right, is it really impossible for us (in a bottom up approach) to redesign it from the left and to transform it?
    They did it but we can’t?
    So should we just give up and walk away?
    It is interesting that some on the left who want out seem to offer no global alternative vision.
    It could be argued that those of us who want to stay and fight for reform from the left at least have a narrative.
    Of course capital knows which side its bread is buttered on and will want to stay in the EC as will TNCs, the City of London etc. but in the EC we can battle them and Big Business and Finance capital at a European wide level.
    Capital is now international and perhaps labour needs to cooperate at this level too?
    Of course we can dismiss the top down bourgeois socialists of the Communiist Party, SWP, Socialist Party etc. who must criticise as they believe socialism can only be won under their top down leaderships (and often only through their ready made programmes).
    Top down socialism FOR and not a left wing, grassroots, bottom up, participatory, democratic socialism WITH.
    So I am all for staying in and fighting to transform the EC, and to kick Neo-Liberalism out, from the left, and I believe we can win a better World at a European level (whilst cooperating better with the rest of the World) but you would need to be in it to win it!
    It may be a left wing working class democratic socialist thing but some of us believe we need international ambition for working class/working people.
    Yours comradely.

  11. Jim Denham says:

    Stand up for Your Homeland: Brexiters Follow Lead of Austrian Anti-Immigration Far-Right.

    Brexit is only way to control immigration, campaigners claim

    Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove try to turn referendum debate back in leave side’s favour after Barack Obama intervention.

    This stands out,

    Duncan Smith said: “You cannot reject anybody unless you can demonstrate categorically that they pose an immediate threat to the life and livelihood of the UK.

    “The reality is that we have to accept people, even criminals. There are a number of cases of people who have got criminal records, then come over here and commit crimes, and we can’t even get rid of them without permission of the European court of justice.

    “We would have a policy to have controlled migration, it’s not an end of migration. It means you want people to come in here where there are needs for them – software engineers, engineers generally, skills that are required.”

    The Financial Times reports,

    Michael Gove, justice secretary, said Britain would be subject to a migration “free for all” as the next wave of EU applicants joined the club, a reference to countries including Serbia, Albania and ultimately Turkey.

    Mr Gove claimed in the Times that the NHS faced “unquantifiable strain” if Britain remained in the EU.

    The Brexiters’ campaign immediately follows the success’of the far-right in Sunday’s Austrian Presidential Election..

    The British far-right daily, the Express, gleefully reports,

    Norbert Hofer, the candidate for Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party, won 36.4% of the vote, and will face an independent candidate in the final vote next month.

    It was the Freedom Party’s best result in a national election after a campaign that focused on the impact of the migrant crisis.

    More than 100,000 migrants have arrived in Austria since last summer.

    The migrant crisis has divided the country and in a major U-turn the government, who initially backed German chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy, shut Austria’s borders.

    Mr Hofer, who has run an anti-immigrant and anti-Europe campaign will now go head-to-head with environmentalist and pro-refugee Alexander van der Bellen Van Der Bellen on May 22 for the post, which is largely a ceremonial role.

    The Austrian results saw the collapse of the Social Democrats’ (SPÖ) vote in their historic heartland, Vienna.

    They got just 12,31% for their candidate, Rudolf Hundstorfer, in the Capital. The far-right Hofer got 29,28%, and the Greens’ ally, Griss obtained 18,71%. (Wikipedia).

    For more see: Grün-blau oder: Das Ende des roten Wien.

    Apart from its anti-immigration programme the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ (Freedom Party, Wikipedia) offers an extreme cultural version of national ‘sovereigntism’.

    From the mid-1980s, the concept of Heimat (a word meaning both “the homeland” and a more general notion of cultural identity) has been central to the ideology of the FPÖ, although its application has slightly changed with time. Initially, Heimat indicated the feeling of national belonging influenced by a pan-Germanic vision; the party assured voters in 1985 that “the overwhelming majority of Austrians belong to the German ethnic and cultural community.” Although it was noted then that Austria was the mother country which held the national traditions, this would later be favoured more explicitly over the pan-German concept. In 1995 Haider declared an end to pan-Germanism in the party, and in the 1997 party manifesto the former community of “German people” was replaced with the “Austrian people”. Under the leadership of Strache, the concept of Heimat has been promoted and developed more deeply than it had been previously. After his reelection as chairman in 2011, the German aspects of the party’s programme were formally reintroduced.

  12. 4cities says:

    There appears to be an implication that an alternative ‘social Britain’ is on the agenda, achievable by reform. All these criteria, home or away, GB or EU, are not what anyone on the left anticipates without major national or international upheavals. So why conclude we are better out?
    Gordon Gibson (my blog title isn’t much relevant for this purpose)

  13. Jim Denham says:

    I see Frank Field is making an anti-EU speech today, concentrating on immigration. Is he considered part of the mighty “Exit Left” movement?

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