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Austerity, enforced privatisation: what sort of “social Europe” is this?

A Fractured EuropeWe often talk about the EU fantasies peddled by UKIP and the right – and we are right to do so. But sadly, organisations on the left are prone to investing in European myths that are in fact very dangerous.

Most often, we hear of prospects for a “social Europe”. We hear that the EU currently provides its member states and citizens with adequate rights and protections and as well as decent public services. It’s not true – every single one of those rights, protections and services is being attacked by the European Commission. The commission is “modernising” and weakening labour law, and attacking rights to use collective bargaining and industrial action. It fails to deliver justice and equality for its citizens.

John Cryer MP recently described (p.13) the European Court of Justice as “persistently rules on the side of big business”. Even worse, the EU and its commission has revealed its hegemonic and true undemocratic structure and neoliberal zeal by mercilessly attacking universal healthcare and destabilising the future of public education systems across the EU all via its TTIP truncheon.

It eagerly pursues the enforced marketisation of public services and nationalised railways across Europe through its 2006 Services Directive and 4th Railway Package which seeks to make public transport into a free market free for all, whilst making clear (article 36) it does this to “include the abolishment of technical, admistrative and legal obstacles which still impede entry to national railway markets.”

Furthermore, it has also been guilty of far from protecting its citizens, but being a complicit and willing participant in wrecking there lives and economy, teaming up with the European Central Bank and IMF to drive up austerity and EU youth unemployment with particular effect in Spain and Greece. The EU Commissioner for Employment Laszlo Andor even went as far as saying youth joblessness in Europe was closely related to the austerity measures being taken across member states ironically as a product of the enforcement of austerity by the EU itself and the other monolithic troika that collaborate against democracy and EU members.

Example after example can be discussed about whether the EU sides with co-operation, democracy and its citizens or some kind of perverse paternalism mixed with support for the bankers and the bosses. Nowhere was this seen better than after the world financial crash,far from tackling the unfettered banks (EU bans publicly owned banking) with sanctions and regulation.  It instead forced diktats of economic discipline via its Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) to those states who sought an EU bail out through its “corrective arm”, which sanctions members if it fails to meet EU Budget targets and isn’t managing to comply with the EU’s prescribed list of economic shock therapy.

This has led to a growing assertion, in the words of TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, that “if the EU is only about fiscal austerity, open markets and privatisation, then ordinary Europeans will increasingly question its legitimacy – and rightly so”. So the question remains: why does so much of the trade union movement still lend its support to the EU?

This is the second part of a three-part series on Europe and the left by Thomas Butler. The first installment can be read here.



  1. Rod says:

    “The commission is “modernising” and weakening labour law, and attacking rights to use collective bargaining and industrial action. It fails to deliver justice and equality for its citizens.”

    Well said, Thomas.

    My Labour Party membership recently expired. I’ll now be voting UKIP until something better comes along.

    Until a credible People before Profit party comes along there’s no alternative for those who want to protect their rights.

    1. PoundInYourPocket says:

      I thought one of UKIP’s main reasons for wanting to leave the EU was to remove much of the legislation imposed on UK business by the EU. That being the legislation from the social charter that protects citizens and worker’s rights. Voting UKIP will remove many of your rights rather than protect them.

      1. Rod says:

        LibLabCon = three pro-business parties.

        UKIP = pro-business party but with added opposition to the pro-business EU and criticism of the imperialistic and militaristic expansion of the EU.

        Therefore, for those of a People Before Profit orientation, UKIP is the best choice.

        1. PoundInYourPocket says:

          “People Before Profit” would be a good slogan for a socialis party. How have you decuced that UKIP is a “People Before Profit” or socialst party ? They are forthright undiluted capitalists who will always put profit before people. Are you familiar with the effect of a “flat-tax” on the public services and inequality ? Why do UKIP wish to remove the legislation that protects workers rights ? Is that “People before Profit” ?

          1. Rod says:

            It is my orientation that is ‘people before profit’, not UKIP’s. My vote for UKIP is a tactical vote.

            Political parties I will be campaigning for:



        2. Rod says:

          Another plus point for UKIP is their opposition to military intervention as a tool of foreign policy.

          Let’s not forget that Miliband supported the disatrous military intervention in Libya.

  2. James Martin says:

    Yes, UKIP raise some of the correct questions, but provide all of the wrong answers, but hardly surprising for a bunch of racist, nationalist far-right Tories.

    And Rod, what ‘rights’ do you really think UKIP supports? The rights of sick and disabled benefit claimants?, The rights of the unemployed? The rights of workers? The right to strike and for proper health and safety legislation? Well none of those, so what are you actually left with other than a Tory wet dream? Is that really the gutter level you’ve fallen to Rod?

    1. Rod says:


      Labour has promised to be tougher than the Tories on benefits (i.e. benefit claimants). Labour is pro-austerity. Labour’s elite over-ruled a conference vote to renationalise the Royal Mail. Miliband supported the disastrous military intervention in Libya (opposed by UKIP).

      A recent piece by Carolyn Jones, Director of the Institute for Employment Rights offers a perspective on the anti-trade union and anti-employee rights antics of the EU.*

      Labour MP Bob Cryer recently complained about the pro-business orientation of the European Court of Justice.

      But Miliband and his Progress cronies will not oppose the EU. They’ve even dumped the unions following Miliband’s campaign to discredit trade union involvement in politics at Falkirk.

      Wherever there’s a People Before Profit candidate or a National Health Action Party candidate please vote for them. There isn’t one in my area so unfortunately, as I’ve explained to PIYP, I’m having to vote UKIP.


      1. PoundInYourPocket says:

        Nigel Farage, response to Owen Jones in the Independent 19/01/2014
        “Flatter, simpler, fairer taxes lead to an increase in incentives and hopefully fewer of our entrepreneurs seeking tax havens”
        Please, please : UKIP ARE NOT A SOCIALIST PARTY. How can you be wavering between the “People Before Profit” , “National Health Action Party” and UKIP !
        UKIP will introduce a flat-tax , privatise the NHS, decimate the public sector, slash benefits and make the labour force even more “flexible”.
        If you’re a banker and would like to pay less tax, vote UKIP. If you work on a lower salary and are happy to work longer hours, for less and pay for your healthcare then likewise vote UKIP. But please don’t confuse UKIP for a socialist party even though they have a “peoples army” just as the National Soialist Workers Party had in Germany in 1920’s

        1. Rod says:

          Let’s not forget that there are ex-bankers on Labour’s front bench (Reeves and Byrne).

          However, I’m wondering how you expect a vote for the Labour Party to be rewarded. Youth unemployment soaring above 50% in the Labour approved EU? EU driven reductions in employment rights of the sort described Carolyn Jones in the link provided on this thread? Further erosion of employee rights as enforced in Greece by an austerity crazed EU? More lunatic diplomacy from EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton as she blunders about on the world stage, drunk on the destabilisation of Ukraine?

          Of course, there’s no chance of UKIP becoming a party of government. But Labour… well, it’s best not to dwell on what disasters might ensue if today’s pro-business, pro-military intervention, post-trade union, Progress-heavy PLP win in 2015.

          Which brings me to a major consideration: Parliament needs powerful voices to speak out against disastrous military intervention, preferably from politicians elected as opponents of military intervention as a tool of foreign policy. Labour supports military intervention so we won’t find them there.

          Farage deserves votes simply for voicing criticism of the imperialist and militarist character of EU expansion during a high profile TV debate. His message on that matter is one we need to hear more often, particularly now that the undemocratic EU has its own Battlegroup* and paramilitary police force**.


          ** The European Gendarmarie Force:

  3. Lesley says:

    UKIP are the Tory right wing. Use your vote to put pressure on Labour to have a referendum if you want out. Join the party and push for it even. Farage and co are bent over laughing at ex Labour voters, who are voting for a party that will destroy everything they believe in. Only saving grace is that UKIP are more likely to split the Tory vote in the general election, than take in most of us Northerners.

  4. swatantra says:

    Thankfiully there is the ILO, which provides solidarity amongst workers and Trade Unionists. Hopefully they can bring their influence in promoting a more social agenda, and destroy this myth that privatisation works. Its doesn’t.

  5. David Ellis says:

    The only thing that Milliband has got right is his refusal to promise an `in-out’ referendum on the EU which would, in the event of a Labour government, have ripped the labour movement apart within a couple of years of it getting elected. Vote for Labour he seems to be saying and you will be voting for an unequivocally pro-European party. So far so good. Unfortunately that is as far as it goes and as good as it gets because Ed also seems to be using his unequivocal support for the EU to enable New Labour to cling on to the anti-working class neo-liberal economic principles that underpin it but which are also at the same time now starting to destroy it. Ed should be saying that whilst the party is unequivocally pro-EU it is opposed to the current economic paradigms and principles on which it is built. It should say that its intention in power is to re-negotiate the founding treaties of the European Union in accordance with socialist principles such as an EU-wide living wage and an EU-wide regime of full employment which would keep the borders open but put an end to the degrading site of workers chasing eachother around the continent in search of the least-worst wages, welfare and health care. He should further stress that when in power whilst fighting for these changes his government would decline to impelement any anti-working class EU directives and would be re-nationalising privatised services and bringing the health service providers back into social ownership despite the commissioners.

  6. Matty says:

    A supposed socialist like Rod voting for a hard-right party like UKIP is lunacy. Just as anti-working class interests as the Tories and then some.

    1. James Martin says:

      Well it’s the same reason that fascist parties have been able to win over certain sections of workers at various points in history – because, the people in this situation would say, they speak against the establishment or the bankers, they speak for ‘us’ (be that non Jewish or non black etc.), they ‘do something’, they don’t talk don’t to ‘us’ etc. There was a deliberate reason that the name National Socialist was chosen by the German fascists, and that was to try and appeal to German workers (despite tem being ultimately the antithesis of a workers party), just as there is a reason why UKIP put out propaganda that tries to appeal to the British worker at the expense of the immigrant or non-British worker. They are the National Tory party write large…

      1. PoundInYourPocket says:

        When Goebels first went to a rally and heard Hitler he thought that Hitler was a socialst. As attested to by his diary entry for that day. Later he discovered otherwise and immediately re-aligned his views. Are there people out there that really believe UKIP are a socialist party. Sounds impossible but either Rod’s post is a joke or there are some bizarre views outh there.

      2. Rod says:


        It is interesting to note that Marine Le Pen and her Front National are doing well in France – such is the appeal of an anti-austerity, anti-EU party, anti-military intervention party.

        All the causes that mainstream socialist parties should support have been left to the Far Right.

        And of course, it’s not that Farage or Le Pen are brilliant politicians, it just that Miliband and Hollande, along with their parties, are so bloody awful.

    2. Rod says:

      As if voting for the Labour Party is a voting for socialsim! You’re having a laugh.

  7. James Martin says:

    Yes Rod, the failure of social democratic parties has always opened the door for the far-right nationalists and the fascists, in the same way that the failure of the Stalinised secular communist parties in places like the middle east opened the door for the rise of the clerical-fascist Islamic fundamentalists.

    The point though is while you need to recognise the process, you do not then to support the even worse organisations that come through that opened door.

    1. Rod says:

      “you do not then to support the even worse organisations”

      I don’t support the “even worse organisations”. I support the National Health Action Party and People before Profit, if either stood in my region/constituency they’d have my vote and I’d be on the doorstep for them.

      In the meantime, my vote in the EU election will be determined by policy on the EU and responses to EU/NATO expansion into Ukraine.

      It’s the Labour Party supported EU that is lending support to the Kiev government with its neo-Nazi ministers. I note that the Morning Star newspaper reports:

      “Kiev-allied fascists in Odessa, (…) trapped over 40 anti-regime protesters in the trade union headquarters on May 2 and burned them to death.”

      Yes, it’s the EU with its Labour Party member foreign policy chief, the unelected Baroness Ashton, and no doubt the Labour Party elite, who support the Kiev government. So it would be best if you refrained from lecturing me about supporting the worst organisations.

      1. David Ellis says:

        Ahh, Rod was posing as a racist UKIPPER when all along he was a pro-Putin neo-Stalinist and supporter of his fascist militias land-grabbing in East Ukraine.

  8. David Ellis says:

    The Rods of this world only ever saw the Labour Party not as a party that would usher in socialism but that would secure for them, the labour aristocracy, some of the crumbs from the imperialist table. New Labour are no longer delivering on that front so their strategy now is to get into an even cosier relationship with the ruling elites. A race war and the smashing of the socialist left and the non corporate unions they believe would secure for them the higher share of the national income they feel they are entitled to. Of course Hitler promised the same but all he did was send the flower of German youth to their deaths in Russia and import 4 million slavs to work for nothing. Then there was the small matter of the holocaust and the eventual flattening and partitioning of the country.

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