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Freedom of movement and the rights of labour: A reply to David Pavett 

David Pavett’s attack on the newly-formed Labour Campaign for Free Movement wrongly argues that support for the right of migrants to freedom of movement is the same as support for the free movement of capital. The implication he draws from this association is that in curbing the right of people to move freely we would also be restraining the domination of capital.

Supporters of the new LCFM take pretty well the opposite view on this point: in the world of actually-existing capitalism the gains that have been won for the rights of people to move across the world as migrants have to be counted as advances – limited and partial though they might be – for the working class. It is because capital has the right to move so freely that the right of wage earners to move within labour markets to position themselves for the available job opportunities has always been fundamental to the socialist cause. 

The modern working class emerged in the 18th and 19th century in struggles that pitched migrants escaping from rural poverty against laws that penalised the poor and the unemployed for the crime of vagabondage. The congregation of these masses of people in city tenements and the factories and workshops during the age of the Industrial Revolution was seen as the opportunity to bring about sweeping, progressive change in the world and to bring to an end the bonds of feudalism that tied the servant and the tradesperson to the master.

Pavett claims that supporters of  free movement will not have heard of the notion of the ‘reserve army of the unemployed’, which he believes British workers need to be protected against. Of course the existence of the reserve army has been a feature of socialist analysis since its earliest times and was used to very powerfully to explain how the capitalist social and economic order came into existence.

However, as far as I am aware, no significant figure engaged in this pioneering work responded to this challenge by saying that those who were being dispossessed of their livelihoods in rural areas should be confined to the parishes of their birth in order that their counterparts in towns and cities might benefit from this artificially induced shortage of labour. On the contrary, socialism distinguished itself by appealing to the interests of the entire class of working people and calling on all toilers to transcend sectional interests and instead strive for the unity of all wage slaves.

Yet the opponents of freedom of movement are urging the rejection of this class-based socialist response.  Freedom of movement means that working people who find themselves living in regions of chronic disadvantage and high unemployment are able to move to places where they would be able to find work and improve their lot. The denial of rights to this one group of workers in order to support the privileges of another is inimical to any form of socialism which has the emancipation of the working class as its objective. This is a principle that ought to guide us as we think about the issues that confront us in the modern world.

The critical insight being offered by supporters of LCFM, entirely missed by Pavett, is that fifty years of neoliberal economic polices across the world have created labour markets in which the workers of different countries have been obliged to compete with one another in order to have access to a decent standard of living. This has come about not merely through the effects of migration, but as a consequence of access gained to labour markets abroad through strategies that hinge on the outsourcing of jobs, foreign direct investment and other approaches that aim at getting access to the labour of workers across the world.

The operation of a ‘reserve army of unemployed’ effect is achieved in the modern world not only through immigration, but in the demand which capitalism places on all workers to make their labour available at wage levels that bear comparison with those paid in Bangladesh, China and Indonesia. No migration is needed to make the impact of this reserve army felt on the living standards of British workers: the effect can be felt just as powerfully as when they remain exploited in manufacturing  and outsourced back-office service jobs in Dhaka, Shenzen or Java.

From this perspective, the right of free movement is a redress which labour can use to counter the predations of capital. It provides a response to the damage done by highly mobile businesses which run supply chains that extend across the planet by insisting on a right to free movement for labour which is the equal to that claimed by capital.

For sure a labour movement that supports freedom of movement will need to do more than simply proclaim a right to cross borders.  It will need to create an environment and a culture within its own class organisations that welcomes the newcomers and provides them with the tools and resources they will need to resist the forms of exploitation to which migrants are particularly vulnerable.

The plain fact is that the labour movement in Britain is only at the very beginning of organising itself for this task and much work needs to be done if we are to forge unity out of the current strands of diversity.  The Labour Campaign for Free Movement has been explicit on this point, making it clear in its founding statement that it stands for strong trade unions and massive investment in council housing, public services and infrastructure. Our vision is of migrant and UK – born workers fighting alongside side each other to make this happen, rather than one group allegedly prospering from the other’s lack of access to rights and opportunities to play a full role in society.

The discussions which have led to the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement have concerned themselves with exactly this task of strengthening the labour movement so that it is better equipped for the battles of the 21st century. David Pavett prefers to sell us the idea that migrant workers are nothing more than agents of the neoliberal capitalism system. His desire to promote the most grievous and deep divisions between the working class puts him on the side of the most reactionary elements of global capitalism, choosing to defend national privileges whilst having nothing to say about global exploitation.

Don Flynn, a former Director of the Migrants Rights Network


  1. JohnP says:

    It is very strange that Don Flynn claims his proposal for world-wide freedom of movement of labour across all state boundaries – chasing after the work provided by ever-more mobile globalised capitalism , is in line with “a class- based socialist response” to, presumably, the tyranny of capitalism.

    Because ,historically, socialists have offered a radically different , comprehensive, political response to the anarchic tyranny of the capitalist marketplace. And this hasn’t been, as Don does, just to ACCEPT the eternal power of globalised market forces to move the productive resources , and labour, around the globe , purely driven by the search for the lowest cost base.

    Socialists have always been in the vanguard of working class struggle to oppose, ameliorate and when possible, direct and restrict the capitalist freedom to move money and physical capital and its related jobs around the globe, via, firstly, defensive trades union organisation and struggle . Secondly, via mass political organisation and struggle , armed with a completely different socialist vision for initially a set of socialist states, and eventually a socialist world order , run on completely different, non capitalist, democratically planned lines – beyond the profit-seeking capitalist marketplace.

    At present almost all political struggle is still, unfortunately, carried out on the basis of individual nation states. The struggle within each nation state for socialism, or even serious pro working class Left social democracy , in which the capitalist market, in a mixed economy, is constrained and directed within a democratic national plan, vitally presupposes a state with a Left government seeking to break from the power of the globalised capitalist markets, must be able to manage and plan , both flows and uses of capital, but also the labour supply within its borders – so as to safeguard its citizens from precisely the “uberisation” or casualization, of the labour market which we see in the UK today in the dreadful labour practices of employers like Sports Direct , etc, – able to do as they wish on wages and conditions because of strong anti trades union laws and an unlimited EU-wide labour supply.

    Don Flynn likes to fling about occasional verbiage about “socialism” , and posture his unlimited sympathy for migrant labour – although he seems to see nothing wrong with the working classes of the world having to constantly uproot themselves from their communities to pursue ever more mobile capital’s job markets all over the globe ! This is not any sort of “freedom” , Don, but the most coercive oppressive power of the capitalist market – reducing humans to a globally mobile factor of production.

    Very noticeably, Don never has anything concrete to offer as a system-wide alternative to the globalised capitalist market . And why not ? Because, despite his throwaway flagging up of the word “socialist” occasionally, Don is actually just another sentimental liberal, completely lacking any vision of a society beyond the marketplace. He completely accepts the currently dominant neoliberal model of a permanent capitalist market dominated world – a world in which a tiny class of share-interconnected superrich capitalists own and control most of the planet’s resources, and in which the world’s vastly more numerous working classes have only the “freedom” to work for wages for this tiny class of exploiters.

    So strip away all the liberal tear-stained sympathy about the migrant workers of the world that Don has hawked around the gullible liberal and leftish mass media for decades, and what you have is a liberal ideologue unprepared to challenge in any way the neoliberal dynamics of a globalised capitalist system which demands the ability to move the productive resources of any society anywhere in the world it wants, with no regard for local communities left without work – unless they can trek across entire oceans to work in the new temporary home of this productive capital – but at a half or less of their previous wage.

    Don is a true neoliberal ideologue, hiding his complete acceptance of the fundamental rights of Capital, behind a bogus concern for the “freedom” of workers to work anywhere — a “freedom” which is actually to be dragged all over the globe to be exploited for their labour power. A “freedom” which will also find the communities assigned by capital to receive vast new inputs of labour supply, without the required pre-planned housing and health and other infrastructure resources required to support hugely increased populations. I’m afraid Don’s claim that his group campaigns for strong trades unionism and a massive increase in council house building and infrastructure , is pure sophistry . No they don’t; they are just pursuing an obsession with international unrestricted freedom of movement. It is logically impossible anyway for the UK, or any state, to even guestimate how many council houses, or hospitals , or any other resource would be required under a situation of complete freedom of movement – because by its very nature , unplanned freedom of movement is wildly unpredictable – flowing entirely at the profit seeking whims of globalised Capitalism. So Don’s addition of this “demand” is pure hogwash , to try and cover up the complete inoperable nonsense that the demand for a global right of population movement into the UK, or any other state, represents .

    That so many of the self-identifying “Left” liberals in the UK have fallen for this unworkable, neoliberalism-assisting, neoliberal dogma , concealed within the pious , virtue signalling, do-goodery, of “freedom of Movement”, is a testament to the decline of socialist knowledge and theory during the last 30 years of neoliberal ideological hegemony in the UK.

  2. Imran Khan says:

    Can I cut through this and enquire if freedom of movement in this instance means open borders?

    1. JohnP says:

      Yes, it means completely open borders to the entire world population , but only for the UK – our citizens would have no similarly open borders to go anywhere (not even to the EU once we have the EU).

      1. JohnP says:

        Oops, that should have concluded .. “once we LEAVE the EU”.

    2. Peter Rowlands says:

      Yes, this question is crucial, and I hope that Don can now clarify the issue. If what is meant is a continuation of freedom of movement only between the EU and the UK after we have left, can it be explained how this is not advocacy of a racist immigration policy. If what is meant is open borders can it be explained how the millions that would arrive would be provided for.

      1. Jim Denham says:

        I am in favour of the abolition of all immigration controls, but accept that this is a very advanced, long-term aim. In the meanwhile I fail to see how appeasing the anti-immigration right by ending freedom of movement with (and within) the EU would benefit non-EU migrants and would-be migrants in any way. All it does (like Brexit as a whole) is to encourage racism, nativism and little-Britain insularity.

      2. DonF says:

        Peter – it is a strange argument for progress that says inequalities have to be addressed by leveling everything down to the conditions of the most abject and oppressed. You think that because we can’t immediately offer free movement rights to Africans and Asians that it would be equitable to take them away from Poles and Italians?

        Yes, freedom of movement as it currently exists needs to be criticised for its failure, after more than 40 years of operation, to still being limited to citizens of EU states and members of their families. What we should take from this experience is the fact that, contrary to the viewpoint of right wing nationalists, immigration even on a large scale has not been a one-way ticket to hell and the the working class, acting though trade unions and community-based organisations, have the means to build solidarity out of diversity and push back against neoliberal capitalism.

        With this built into its fundamental outlook, the working class would be well-placed to tackle the limitation of free movement to EU nationals. A whole programme opens up that would call for it to be extended to people fleeing violence and persecution, allowing them to move to any part of Europe where they would be best placed to make a life for themselves.

        A right to move could be further extended to citizens of countries which have entered into cooperation and partnership agreements with the EU. This would create rights for people across the Balkans, Turkey, across North Africa, and, through the EU-AU agreements, to all citizens of African countries. The reality of politics in the modern world would mean that progress on this agenda would undoubtedly unfold over the space of years and would not be the ‘big bang’ sudden opening of borders which nationalists hold up as the supposedly absurd alternative to their state socialism.

        Addressing each phase of the battles that have to fought to extend free movement would require the working class movement to take on and defeat the sort of racism which thinks that it ridiculous that British workers should ever give a hoot about wage earners in other countries as long as there are council houses to be built and hospitals to be repaired in this country. Rather than acquiesce to racism, as you seem to suggest, the fight to defend freedom of movement against its critics requires that a consistent and militant anti-racism has to be revived and taken to its next level.

        1. Stewart says:

          You ask: “…because we can’t immediately offer free movement rights to Africans and Asians that it would be equitable to take them away from Poles and Italians?”

          John has answered your question very clearly by stating that this so-called “free movement”is nothing but “…working classes of the world having to constantly uproot themselves from their communities to pursue ever more mobile capital’s job markets all over the globe ! This is not any sort of “freedom” …”.

          Unless if you don’t agree with John’s definition. In which case, you are most welcome to offer us your definition, then we will take it from there.

        2. James Martin says:

          Don, you are talking liberal nonsense, although I suspect most Lib-Dims would actually see the daftness of what you are arguing.

          Open borders may appeal to some of the idealistic the middle classes, but most workers and trade unionists have more nous.

          Yes, it is something that would be achieved with a world socialist/communist society, but before then it is a weapon of the bosses against workers and is used to undercut wages and weaken collective power. Marx understood that well enough when it came to Irish immigrants, despite being a supporter for Irish liberation from British colonialism.

          And today socialist Cuba, one of the most internationalist of nations that selflessly exports healthcare and emergency disaster support to the poor around the globe, does not have open boarders. In fact anything beyond a tourist visa is very hard to get and for good reason when it comes to their need to protect the resources they have and prevent destabalisation (including of the deliberately hostile sort).

          And when you rubbish state socalism, you also rubbish by default any realistic method of building socialism against capitalism, as unless you are a secret member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain we are not going to get, as if by magic, socialism occurring around the world all at once, are we? Instead socialist governments who find themselves in power will immediately be under attack and will need to defend their programmes from hostile international capitalist assaults (including what John McDonnell raised recently with the run on the pound etc.). In that situation national state power is going to be key even for the most ardent internationalist government.

          And to argue as you do that the British working class would be fine with unlimited immigration so long as jobs, housing and services kept up is laughable. At what stage would you think that there would be a big problem doing this? 10 million? 20? 30?, 40 million which is entirely possible from increasing drought affected areas of Africa? Where would even a socialist government house this number do you think?

          And while I realise that you currently support what is a racist EU free movement policy where very nearly all white populations can come here but black and brown ones can’t, your plea that if you could you would let anyone in the world come and live here if they wanted is just farcical rather than racist.

          John P destroyed your position in his first response, exposed your fake socialism and your underlying liberalism. I notice that you have actually failed to respond to that, why is that?

        3. Peter Rowlands says:

          By implication, Don, although you haven’t spelt it out, my suppostion was correct, that free movement would continue to apply to EU countries after we had left but not the rest of the world. And you then accuse me of acquiescing to racism. This is Orwellian doublespeak.When free movement is no longer required what you are advocating is discriminatory and effectively racist.

  3. Martin Rudland says:

    John , so far I have read DonF’s convoluted, casuistic verbiage that struggled to give a semblance of valid postulations that supported his nonsense. It was a struggle, but I thought I’d give it a go at reading it to the end just to check that he was capable of pouring out so much , uhm drivel . He was !!!
    But thank you John for your shooting down of that stuff from Donf, and doing so in such a controlled manner.
    Your reply gives me hope, and I note others have used words like nonsense to catalogue Donf’s stuff. So I might continue reading, but saving my sanity by skipping over the Donf .
    Thanks John , Stewart and James Martin.

  4. DonF says:

    Okay – I understand where you are going with this. Because the LCFM is not in a position to extend the right of free movement to everyone in the world at the point when Brexit happens then it should not feel too bad about seeing this extinguished for the 500 million who happen to be citizens of EU countries. And all that for the reason that we need to be opposed to racism. Perhaps you can explain how it will then positively benefit the people of Africa in relation to their freedom of movement to see this right stripped away from the people of Poland, Italy, Spain, etc.

    Btw – you are wrong to imply that the benefits EU free movement law devolve exclusively on EU nationals, and even more so it you think that EU nationals of African, Asian, Latin American heritage don’t also gain. Years of campaigning and legal street fighting have extended free movement and residence rights to at least some third country nationals, as you might know if you had participated in any anti-racist campaign work yourself over the years. But hell, why bother ourselves with what has been won for Chen, Baumbast, Zambrano, Surinder Singh cases when we can make asinine points about how all the peoples of the world can’t immediately enjoy rights to move freely?

  5. David Pavett says:

    I have written a response to Don’s article which:

    (1) misrepresents what I wrote (I did not argue that the argument for the free movement of labour is the same as that for the free movement of capital);

    (2) advances a series of demonstrably poor arguments (e.g. that opponents of free movement reject a class-based approach);

    (3) omits considerations which should concern all socialists (e.g. that there can be an overall negative impact of migration on the donor countries);

    (4) resorts to abuse by imputing motives to me for which he can have no justification i.e. that I have a “desire to promote the most grievous and deep divisions between the working class”.

    I trust that Left Futures will give me the space to respond to these arguments and accusations.

    1. JohnP says:

      Well said, David. Don Flynn’s profoundly lightweight article , exhibiting an extraordinary acceptance of the current capitalist, indeed neoliberal capitalist, status quo, and with nothing to suggest he holds to any socialist vision for a alternative socio-economic order, is a masterwork of Straw Man arguments and deliberately scurrilous misrepresentation of your oft stated positions on this important topic.

      I’m sure we all look forward to reading your rebuttal article timeously on Left Futures.

  6. Lyn E says:

    I find little to disagree with in the LCFM statement and support the anti-racist motivation that has led many to endorse it. In the end, I decided not to sign, not because of what it says but because of what it leaves out. Free movement is a worthy aspiration, not just within the EU but beyond, with refugees a current priority. But I also believe in collective agreements and in defending rights and living standards that have been gained over two centuries of struggle.

    Control over the supply of labour power has always been central to advancing workers’ interests, from the very earliest days of proto-trade unionism. Sacrificing this control in the interests of freedom of movement will benefit capital rather than labour. The challenge for us is to maximise the opportunities free movement offers without destroying acquired rights. DonF says himself in reply to Peter Rowlands, “it is a strange argument for progress that says inequalities have to be addressed by levelling everything down to the conditions of the most abject and oppressed”, and the implications of that need to be thought through.

    One reason I did not sign up to LCFM is the abstract nature of the case made for free movement. Any understanding of the economic impact of migration has to look at the detail. Don Flynn argues that “No migration is needed to make the impact of this reserve army felt on the living standards of British workers: the effect can be felt just as powerfully as when they remain exploited in manufacturing and outsourced back-office service jobs”. This is not true for sectors of the economy where production has to take place on-shore, such as hospitality or construction. Here migration is essential for a global surplus of labour power to impact on UK employment. It is not accidental that such sectors, notorious for casual and insecure work, now employ a large number of migrant workers.

    Extending and enforcing rights at work, raising wages, and effective collective bargaining are essential if freedom of movement is not to be used as a tool for employers to force down pay and conditions. In sectors where the weak negotiating position of workers makes them vulnerable to exploitation, there is a case for a registration scheme to manage the supply of labour. Such steps will need the backing of a Labour government.

    Talking about strong unions will not bring them into existence. Having been a union activist in an industry that experienced a large influx of sub-contracted transitory labour, I saw how that undermined what had been effective workplace organisation. This was not because of race, language or culture but simply because the union, focused on bargaining with our employer, had very little to offer to those working here temporarily on different contracts for a different employer. Making it easier for migrants to claim their rights and to settle will help integration into workplaces, communities and organisations. Unions are learning to broader their offer but have always struggled to win those whose vision is to return home.

    Inward migration has much to offer the UK. It brings new experiences, new ideas and sometimes new skills. I am glad we no longer live in the cultural straightjacket of the 1950s. But we have to recognise that a society has an absorption capacity, and migration levels that stretch that will provoke a reaction. That capacity is not fixed. With anti-austerity spending, and the right policies for the labour market, housing and public services, combined with a conscious effort to combat racism and encourage integration, then recent levels of migration need not have caused problems. But without such measures, proclaiming a moral case for free movement will not win mass support.

  7. Bazza says:

    Yes I support John and David’s points when I am able to post.
    Oh some Right Wing Labour MPs commenting when Labour MPs suspended – isn’t this subjudece? Innocent until proven guilty and quite rightly JC as Leader can’t comment.
    Funny have been different charges against 6 Labour MPs in last month or so and all Left Wing?
    I work with a Domestic Violence Team now and again in my city and was not happy when 100 or so Labour MPs I would argue were perpetrating domestic violence – verbal and mental abuse against Jeremy in recent years – remember this in the days to come.

  8. Jim Denham says:

    Perhaps should have made something clear to you reformists and Stalinists:

    Us Marxists value above all, working class unity, over and above the bourgeois legality that you prioritise.

    It is our class – united, across borders – that will bring about socialism, and all other considerations are secondary.

    That’s our objection to the reformist/Stalinist anti-EU position, although (obviously) the racism brought about by the Leave vote is also part of it, and I hope you Stalinists and reformists are proud of your filthy handiwork on that front.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      David argued for a Remain position, despite his criticisms of free movement.

      Tell me, what are the steps involved in the working class bringing about socialism. Presumably you concede that there probably won’t be a single global revolution? So, what is your strategy? Will it involve economic planning at any time?

      1. Jim Denham says:

        The transitional Programme, brought up to date, and a workers’ government.

        1. C MacMackin says:

          “Brought up to date” leaves a lot of room for interpretation. After all, Blair felt that he was bringing socialism “up to date”.

          In any case, the Transitional Programme says that “The Fourth International demands employment and decent living conditions for all.” You have not addressed our concerns that this would not be possible with open borders.

    2. James Martin says:

      But oddly you forgot the part where you believe that ‘workers unity’ is achieved by supporting NATO bombing, supporting US occupation of the middle east and supporting the racist apartheid Zionist state Jim, after all, they are all things that you and your rotten AWL pro-imperialist sect have argued for, aren’t they?

  9. Jim Denham says:

    This is really a response to a previous debate on the EU, against the Little-Britain Stalinist/reformist pseudo-“left”, but still:

    The Labour Party’s 2017 election manifesto made the following commitments:

    “Across the world, countries are taking public utilities back into public ownership. Labour will learn from these experiences and bring key utilities back into public ownership to deliver lower prices, more accountability and a more sustainable economy. We will:

    Bring private rail companies back into public ownership as their franchises expire.

    Regain control of energy supply networks through the alteration of operator licence conditions, and transition to a publicly owned, decentralised energy system.

    Replace our dysfunctional water system with a network of regional publicly-owned water companies.

    Reverse the privatisation of Royal Mail at the earliest opportunity.”


    As a cursory glance at state-owned railways all over Europe will confirm, ownership is not a problem. Most European countries have state-owned railways. The UK is the exception, not the rule. It is true that EU law requires that infrastructure (rails, stations, etc.) be separate from the train services using them, but both can be publicly-owned or controlled, as they are in many EU countries. Railway companies from other EU countries, such as those operating services between Ireland and Northern Ireland or to and from the continent through the Channel Tunnel, are also entitled to offer services within the UK if they meet certain conditions. There is no reason why the UK could not bring private rail companies back into public ownership as their franchises expire.

    Energy and Water

    Energy supply networks can be publicly-owned and decentralised. That is the situation in many EU countries. It is also the case for water distribution. A big row erupted in Germany and Austria a few years ago when the EU considered opening water distribution concessions to a public tendering process. In those countries, and probably elsewhere, water distribution is handled by municipal bodies.

    The Commission was accused of privatising water, a resource to which people have a natural or God-given right (depending on your point of view). The EU replied that it was not asking anyone to privatise anything. A state or city can distribute water itself or set up an entity for the purpose, but if it grants a concession, the European Commission thought it should allow others to make a bid. To cut a long story short, facing massive protests and petitions, the Commission gave in and excluded water from its legislative proposal on concessions. There is no reason why a network of regional publicly-owned water companies could not be created or recreated in the UK.

    Royal Mail

    Renationalisation of Royal Mail by the compulsory purchase of privately held shares at market prices is a matter for the British Government. In many EU countries the state is the majority shareholder in the Royal Mail’s counterpart.

    State aid rules

    EU state aid rules have existed since the 1950s to prevent unfair competition. They have been in the European treaties since the very beginning, long before the UK joined. Subsidies and tax breaks have continued to be granted as part of industrial strategies, to attract investment or save failing companies. They have to be justified under EU law if they affect trade with other Member States. Governments of left and right have lived with the EU rules, complained about them and even praised them, particularly when applied to another country.

    There is nothing in the Labour manifesto which breaches EU state aid law. Individual measures would have to be approved. Rescue aid for companies in difficulty would require a credible restructuring plan to secure approval. Perhaps the best way to understand the challenge facing a socialist Government in the EU is to look back to the early years of François Mitterrand’s Presidency in France. Elected in 1981 on a political programme which makes Corbyn’s Labour Party look palely social-democratic, the Government included Communist ministers and set about nationalising banks and large industrial companies. Social protection policies were strengthened.

    Industrial policies were instituted to dynamise the French economy in key sectors. Some aspects of this were a continuation of statist Gaullism, others were more genuinely socialist in inspiration. Did Europe stop this happening? No, and when a choice had to be made between staying in the common market and going it alone, it was a French decision to choose the former.

    The grounds for doing so included internationalism and geopolitical interests and also the conviction that nationalisation and state-driven industrial policies did not require protectionism to succeed. Mitterrand’s Finance Minister, Jacques Delors, went on as President of the European Commission to turn that common market into a single market with the support of Mitterrand, Kohl and Thatcher. France chose open borders and continued European integration over some form of socialist autarky in one country. That choice survives in France to this today, having been challenged repeatedly from left and right.

    The history of the last few decades shows that Britain has the astute politicians, dedicated civil servants and clever lawyers to succeed in influencing the EU agenda. It may not have always been appreciated in Britain itself, but that is certainly the way it looked in many other European countries. There is no reason why a determined British social democratic Government of the type Corbyn proposes, could not be persuasive in promoting policies already, as we have seen, legally possible and politically plausible, as well as implementing them at home.

    Remaining a Member State would of course make that task much easier, but another status involving membership of or very close association with the EU’s single market should not make it unattainable.

    Rights at Work

    The 2017 Labour Manifesto sets out a firm commitment to strengthening and protecting rights at work. EU employment law is the backbone of many essential workplace rights in the UK today: working time, equal pay, protection of temporary and part-time workers, to name but a few. The UK has played an important role in shaping these rules and UK workers have benefited from the direct effect of EU rules in UK employment tribunals. The world of work is changing and the EU is currently looking at ways to strengthen its employment rules by modernising worker protection to deal with new forms of employment and promoting gender equality by proposing paid parental and paternity leave. An amendment to the Posted Workers Directive has been proposed to deal with concerns that workers from other EU countries are used to undercut national pay rates and protections. French President Macron has been very vocal on that issue. It would make sense for a Labour Government to work together with other European countries to shape and improve common employment protection standards.

    In conclusion, Corbyn’s social democratic agenda is entirely compatible with the EU’s social market economy and single market, and people who say it isn’t arte usually either Tories who simply oppose social democracy but want to blame the EU, or Stalinists who have an anachronistic enmity based upon a loyalty to the phantom of the USSR and their accompanying wet dream of “socialism in one country”.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      Here we go again…

      There is a “reason why the UK could not bring private rail companies back into public ownership as their franchises expire”. The Fourth Railway Package requires either open competition on the railways or a tendering process (if a route requires a subsidy). If we opt for open competition then how do you get rid of the incumbent franchise holder? If you opt for the tendering process (which is likely, given that most rail needs at least some subsidy) then you’re back to the current system, except with a British state operator now bidding alongside German, Dutch, French, etc. state operators. This is equivalent to Ed Miliband’s rail policy. Did you consider that nationalisation?

      Yes, the manifesto’s commitments on energy could be achieved within the single market. The question is, should we be satisfied with those commitments? It is not enough to own the “energy supply network” (i.e. the grid). That would still leave generation and retail in the private sector. Certainly we could create state actors in these parts of the sector, but they would have to behave like private companies and compete along-side existing companies. This is not what people normally envisage when you say “nationalisation”. More importantly, all of this would necessitate the continued operation of the energy market, which is a major impediment to the long-term planning we need to decarbonise our energy system. This fragmentation of the sector also prevents economies of scale and leads to wasteful duplication, which contribute to higher energy costs.

      You are correct on water, although there aren’t many people who claim the EU would prevent nationalising it.

      You are also correct on the Royal Mail. However, surely we should be looking beyond just nationalising it, towards fully restoring its monopoly in the postal sector. EU directives require the opening of post up to competition, with competitors able to take advantage of the Royal Mail’s infrastructure. This, of course, produces pressure on workers’ wages. The competitor often aren’t available for individual customers, only companies. They effectively divert the most profitable business away from Royal Mail, resulting in higher rates for everyone else.

      Yes, some state aid is possible, but it has to be done in a competitive environment. This means that any state enterprises would have to compete against private ones to receive the aid. Meanwhile, the state enterprises would have to invest in the same manner as would a private company. This may be compatible with Corbyn’s manifesto, but it is not what people would normally think of as a particularly left wing policy.

      Your account of the Mitterand government is frankly bizarre. First of all, the EU did not exist in its current form at that time. Whatever the EEC’s problems, it was not as neoliberal as the EU treaties and it did not have the liberalisation directives for transport and utilities which now exist. More importantly, the Mitterand government is largely seen as a failure! After his infamous U-turn, Mitterand cut social spending and denationalised a number of companies. I hope that is something you’d oppose. However, that was the cost of staying in the common market, not because the EEC explicitly required it, but because it was what capital demanded. Without the ability to establish capital controls (prohibited in the EEC) Mitterand could not stop capital flight and was at capital’s mercy. The fact that Mitterand teamed up with conservatives like Kohl and Thatcher to turn the common market into the single market must surely give is reason to pause.

      Certainly, Britain has worked to steer the EU to the right. However, plenty of that has happened without our help! The Eurozone has adopted plenty of reactionary policies without and contribution from Britain, for example. There is no reason to think that Britain having a left wing government would fundamentally alter the neoliberal trajectory of the EU, although I concede that it may make it slightly less right-wing.

    2. Peter Rowlands says:

      The position is, as CMac has pointed out, that while EU regulations are not incompatible with many actions that a left government would want to take, ultimately major change involving state ownership and planning are increasingly likely to be in conflict with EU rules.
      There are two responses to this, unless you believe that there is no problem at all with implementing a left wing programme within the EU, which I think clearly flies in the face of the facts.
      One is to claim that the EU is effectively unreformable because of the complex ways in which neoliberalism is ingrained within the EU and the difficulty of achieving agreement for reform.There is no doubt that achieving reform would be difficult, but I would not dismiss it out of hand.
      The other is to seek to indicate the type of reforms that are needed if EU membership is to be compatible with a left government’s implementation of its programme. This seems to me to be a promising avenue to explore, rather than seeing no problem with membership or no possibility of reform, both of which I think questionable.I hope that this issue can continue to be debated on Left Futures or elsewhere, although as someone has pointed out it has nothing to do with the article under consideration.

  10. JohnP says:

    Still no sign of David Pavett’s recently submitted reply to this scurrilously article by that liberal masquerading as a socialist, Don Flynn, on Left Futures. Surely the dishonest vilification of David’s actual position in Flynn’s disingenuous rant merits a right of reply ?

    So far, after the mysterious nearly month long hiatus in publishing articles , Left Futures has only published two – both from pro neoliberal capitalism advocates lightly masquerading as being “on the Left”, O’Leary and Flynn ! Anyone who thinks this is being unfair to Flynn, just have a look back at a previous discussion a while ago on his Freedom of Movement position on Left Futures, where every statement from socialist posters on the need for a Left government to impose restrictions on the unfettered free play of market forces through nationalisation and comprehensive state-led planning, provoked extraordinary Daily Mail-style Straw Man rants from Flynn about this leading to soviet style gulags and internal passport systems !

    This really isn’t a good look for a discussion forum which has always advertised itself as offering a fearlessly broad platform for Left debate . Looks like Left Debate , and any political debate within Momentum too, is “no longer need on voyage” as far as Left Futures and Momentum LTD’s sole proprietor, Jon Lansman, and his tiny fatally inward-looking old Labour Left and ex-CPB Stalinist claque around Jeremy are concerned ?

    1. JohnP says:

      For instance see this classic throwaway line from the entirely non-socialist Don Flynn as part of a comment on David Pavett’s September 13th article “a Spectacular own Goal”

      “… Isn’t all that jazz about “planned mixed economy” just the hogwash of our time, with not a scrap of evidence to show that sovereign nations have showed any propensity or interest to step any significant way in achieving this pipedream outcome ?”


      “…The comprehensive failure of the only alternative to neoliberalism in the second half of the 20th century – the sort of Stalinist regimes that you seem to favour – ought to mean that the left takes seriously the social and economic forces that have been assembled within world markets and as the question if they provide a point of resistance to the rule of capitalism…”

      That so many people have been fooled by this transparent , though concealed, long term advocate for globalised neoliberalism, who has used their laudable concern for the migrant workers of our current neoliberal world order, to actually promote the ACCEPTANCE of and campaigning for that neoliberal tyranny , rather than campaigning to replace it with socialist state-led planning, is deeply tragic.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        JohnP’s absolutely right, this site’s turning more and more “Blairite” judging by the very right-wing politics if the last two articles.

        Tom O’Leary, Don Flynn and Jim Denham – basically all Blairite Liberal Democrats.

        Whatever happened to Socialism?

        At least we’ve got the good sense from people like JohnP, and James Martin.

        1. DannyN says:

          Indeed. The Left-liberalism of the Corbynistas is fast turning into neoliberalism if the few recent blog posts on “Left” Futures are anything to go by. Most socialist contributions have been censored.

          Which leaves me wondering whether to vote for the “Left” slate for those three new positions on the NEC. I would have thought it a good idea if the three comrades who are standing would let us know if they agree with Tom O’Leary and Don Flynn or, if not, what kind of socialist programme they actually support, as well as how they would vote on the NEC on key issues like mandatory reselection and NPF abolition.

          If they don’t dissociate themselves from the neoliberalism which this blog site now seems to have embraced, I can’t quite be bothered to vote for them.

  11. R.McDonald says:

    Strategic engineered migration is a weapon wielded by neoliberal globalists to weaken nation states. The vast majority of working class people in Britain oppose open borders. So by supporting this idea you are not only going against those you claim to represent you are also acting as a patsy for the 1%.

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