Thinking of EU

12074852_10152984938566199_6005428597992036798_nAs a socialist and a yesser, I’ve often been puzzled at the hostility of the Scottish far left, towards the EU and I can’t see that hostility dimming now we know that the remain campaign will be headed by three former prime ministers, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, none of whom are fondly remembered by many yessers, especially not Blair and Brown. With a name like Britain Stronger Together, the remain campaign is beginning to feel uneasily familiar.

David Cameron will likely announce the date of the referendum, once the outcome of his current negotiations with other EU leaders becomes clear. He has outlined four key demands, two of which are already in place, one basically meaningless, leaving one demand, a system for scrapping EU laws, the so called Red Card system, either significant or not depending on the details, which we don’t know because they are secret. This neatly encapsulates two problems with the EU, one about the perception that it is irrelevant to our lives and the other that it is opaque, sometimes even secretive. The neurotic levels of secrecy surrounding the negotiations with the US over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a good example.

However, for a large chunk of the far left, the main problem with the EU is the idea that it is a sinister neo-liberal conspiracy, a cosy club in which capital can freely move at the expense of labour. Frequent denunciations abound and there are routine quotes from the likes of the RMT union, and the SWP that the EU is anti-worker, pro-corporate and against democracy and these voices have only grown louder in the era of austerity. It will be interesting to see what Scotland’s latest left wing project RISE, has to say about the upcoming referendum. I know from my time in the SSP, that there was a deep suspicion of the EU. There was even the suggestion at one stage that party candidates, if elected to the European Parliament, (aye right!) should not take their seats. This hostility might not be as prevalent with a bigger, younger membership unused to the old trots and their strange ways.

The far left seems on solid ground, when attacking the austerity policies, and the democratic deficit within the EU. The Scottish Independence movement is after all a democracy movement and there is a massive lack of democracy at the heart of the EU project, what the Electoral Reform Society calls a structural democratic deficit. This is largely due to the fact that is there is no mechanism for directly holding the executive to account, in this case is the EU Commissioners, who have a similar job to the UK cabinet. It is the commissioners who propose legislation and their staff who act as the civil service. There is no direct way we in the UK or people from any member state can initiate laws, worse still, it is likely according to the ERS, that directly electing a presidential administration would make things worse.

However, we are on shakier ground when we say that the EU is anti-worker. Equal pay was a direct result of the original Treaty of Rome, the minimum wage started as an EU directive and the working time directive, which has been outrageously blamed for all sorts of cuts to local services, gives us four weeks holidays a year, maternity leave and adequate rest between shifts.

As a socialist and a yesser, I don’t want to be part of a pro EU campaign with Blair Brown and Major, but what’s the alternative, Farage and the Britain First types? I don’t think so. I think that we as progressives ought to take up the Electoral Reform Society’s perfectly sensible programme for increased democracy within the EU, because I think that in spite of the attacks on sovereign democracy, the austerity imposed on Greece and Spain, the slavish devotion to US foreign policy, the massive democratic deficit, the language and cultural differences, the drift to EU federalism and all the other problems with the EU, not least that we don’t really have a European identity. The fact is that we are now closer than we have ever and that we have not fought with each other since 1945. As democrats and progressives we must celebrate that and look forward to an EU that is more democratic, accountable and representative. I think my comrades in the SWP, the Morning Star, No2EU and the SSP are wrong, I think the EU is flawed, but worth saving.


Comments (31)

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  1. Mary MacCallum Sullivan says:

    I’m in to supporting Europe within the context of the Electoral Reform Society’s ‘perfectly sensible programme for increased democracy within the EU’.

    I think we lose sight of the benefit of being a member of ‘Europe’ at our peril, and at a potential great loss to the stability of the world. I’m for a renewed commitment to a New Enlightenment that may act out of hope, not fear, as is currently the case. The Scottish Independence Referendum campaign demonstrated the possibilities of acting out of hope – let’s seek to communicate that positivity in relation to this next Referendum.

  2. bringiton says:

    The Westminster establishment view the European Parliament in the same way as they view the Scottish parliament (a talking shop with limited powers).
    They have done everything they can over the years to prevent democracy taking hold at EU level and demanded that representation must be retained at state level where affairs can be conducted in secret behind closed doors.
    This is in the DNA of Westminster and has always been their modus operandi which isn’t going to change whether we vote to stay in or out of the EU.
    Westminster does not believe in democracy.

  3. Scott Macdonald says:

    I wish to correct the author on a point of note. The SSP has not taken an anti-European Union stance. It is (presently) pro-EU. This is a rather good summary of the thinking.

    The national co-spokesperson, Colin Fox, recently wrote a pamphlet on Europe, rejecting Farage and his UKIP xenophobic filth – which included several pages arguing why leaving the EU would be a poor choice for the working class in Scotland.

    It is fair to say that the party has been grappling with the grave concerns emerging from Europe. The economic waterboarding of Greece, TTIP, backing an openly fascist coup in Ukraine, the grave lack of democracy in the power structures of Europe.

    To address these and to argue the way forward, the SSP will hold a full meeting on Europe later this year, or early in 2016.

  4. dunderheid says:

    Independence in Europe!!…I seem to remember that campaign cry. Didn’t hear very much of it when it became clear what that really meant for the Irish and Greeks

  5. Hugh thomson says:

    We should never mention Blair/brown,in any comment ,keep our comments on SNP standards alone!

  6. Hugh thomson says:

    We should never mention Blair/brown in any of our comments,stick to SNP comments only,don’t play into there hands !

  7. Donald McBean says:

    the uk as governed by the tories is to the right of the vast majority of EU states, indeed the tories wish to share ground with the republicans in the US. The EU is a bulwark against the right wing tendencies of the tories and what that entails for the poor, vulnerable and working people. So I see the right wing danger coming from the uk, not the EU. It should be evident to all that tory cuts are not to balance the books, tory cuts are to reduce the welfare state including NHS, drive down wages and introduce the market wholesale in the public sector.

    The renegotiations are a sham, you are either in a club or not, pick and mix won’t work, why would others disadvantage themselves to benefit the uk and create precedence for others to change the rules at a later date, etc.

    Unions, as a life long supporters of unions I am deeply disappointed and disgusted that maintaining jobs is a valid reason in union leaders view to maintain trident, sidestepping the moral issues, including freeing up finance for hard pressed public services. Would Len McLuskey push the button?

    Greece was treated very shabbily, however some of the problems were self inflicted such as not collecting taxes and living vastly beyond their means, as always it will be the poorest that pay the price.

    The SNP and left in Scotland should not campaign under a union flag! The lessons of labour and tories working together is a lesson learned. Campaign under fairness and equality for Scotland by remaining in the EU. gordon brown and john major are comical figures with no following, brown is the man who constantly cries wolf, he has no credibility left, except in bbc Scotland.

    Lastly this is a chance for Scotland to showcase a pro EU stance. This will go a long way to helping overcome the BS stirred up by labour and tories with EU heads of state and the EU commission during Scotland’s referendum and paving the way Scotland’s continued membership should England vote to take us out and we vote to leave uk in Ind Ref 2.

  8. My Cocaine says:

    “However, we are on shakier ground when we say that the EU is anti-worker. Equal pay was a direct result of the original Treaty of Rome, the minimum wage started as an EU directive and the working time directive, which has been outrageously blamed for all sorts of cuts to local services, gives us four weeks holidays a year, maternity leave and adequate rest between shifts.”

    Any British government could have done this if the will had been there from the electorate to see these things implemented.

    Anyway, never mind the left’s view of the EU, here’s my centre-right view of the EU:

    As far as I’m concerned, the EU is a corrupt racket. The secret negotiations over TTIP, the shameful treatment of Greece, turning a blind eye to the toppling of a democratically elected Ukrainian government, and its previous record on referenda (who could forget what happened to Ireland) is irrefutable evidence that the EU is a menace to democracy.

    The SNP’s stance on the EU is equally bizarre. If Scotland becomes independent, and I hope to God it happens in my lifetime, then we have just won our sovereignty from Westminster, only to hand it back to Brussels…

    I believe that indy Scotland would be better with the Norway/Switzerland route, rather than being part of something that seems to be run for the benefit of Germany.

    And for the record, I’m not anti-Europe. I’m all in favour of free trade, but ultimately, each individual nation should have the final say on its sovereignty, rather than surrender the decision making ability to faceless pen pushers in Belgium.

    1. Jeff says:

      “Equal pay was a direct result of the original Treaty of Rome, the minimum wage started as an EU directive and the working time directive, which has been outrageously blamed for all sorts of cuts to local services, gives us four weeks holidays a year, maternity leave and adequate rest between shifts.”
      My Cocaine – “Any British government could have done this if the will had been there from the electorate to see these things implemented”

      Pardon? Are you saying ‘the electorate’ don’t want working people to have basic rights?

      1. My Cocaine says:

        No, I’m saying any British government could have implemented this. The EU doesn’t have a monopoly on improving workers’ rights.

        A popular movement for change could also have forced the government to implement these things.

    2. punklin says:

      “The SNP’s stance on the EU is equally bizarre. If Scotland becomes independent, and I hope to God it happens in my lifetime, then we have just won our sovereignty from Westminster, only to hand it back to Brussels…”

      Sorry, Mr C this is a misreading: we can determine our sovereignty. Being part of the EU is completely different from our position in relation to the UK.

      1. toonpaddymal says:

        You’re ‘sovereignty’ is not different within the EU than it is the British Union. To say otherwise is pure fantasy. If an independent Scotland joins the EU, the Scottish electorate, promised independence, will have been ripped off in the most profound way by the democratic spoofers of ‘Yes’.

    3. toonpaddymal says:

      Well said. The question for you now is: if the SNP are going to take Scotland into an EU that is manifestly un – if not outright, anti -democratic, where national ‘independence, autonomy and self-determination’ are eroded to the status of political regions, how the hell can the SNP, or their supporters, then claim to the Scottish people that they are delivering independence? Is not such a claim a transparent fraud? Are not the Scottish people being lied too in the most shameful way? It will be interesting to see if Scotland has a single patriot with the personal character, independence of mind, and democratic backbone to stand up and say so. All the fucking endless noise Yes has been giving about being the “best wee democracy in world”. Europe is the real democratic test.

  9. Lenny says:

    If anyone is interested in what RISE has to say then click on this link.

    1. Frank says:

      As someone who has managed to end up on a Rise email list I thought this was laugh out loud funny.

  10. catriona grigg says:

    Stay in and work with Greece to make a fairer EU. It’s already been said but it’s because of the EU that we have many workers benefits – minimum wage, working time directive, equal pay. Would we have had these if we hadn’t been part of the EU? I doubt it.

  11. Juteman says:

    I don’t think the SNP should take a position on this. I’m in favour of a free vote, with each MSP/MP able to make their own choice.

  12. Mike Fenwick says:

    Thoughts as they arose:

    Will Spain exercise a veto?

    Will we be happy adopting the Euro?

    Would be happy accepting the EU version of Austerity?

    What exactly will TTIP enforce – both positive and negative?

    What started as a free trade area, then moved onto to become an ever larger EU, and given the Euro debacle perhaps the next move will be a United States of Europe, with all that may entail – are we sure what the future shape of Europe will be – say 10/15 years from now?

    I could list more such questions – and it worries me that I don’t know the answers.

    Maybe – Scotland should attain its independence – and stay that way until we know some of the answers?

  13. Kenny Smith says:

    I have to be honest I was pro EU and very much up for an Indy Scotland being part of it until recently. The issues that have already been stated do trouble me ie Greece, the Euro and TITP deal. I totally agree that we have had more social justice from Brussels than we would ever have got from Westminster but the type of reform I want to see is the more democratically accountable type of reform. We are probably the most ill informed electorate in Europe as to the workings and the dealings of the EU, it makes it easy to say as a population we are apathetic but we don’t hear enough of what it does or achieves unless its daft stuff you read in a rag moaning that the EU have ruled the UK,s bananas are too straight or some other nonsense. I take the point of if you vote to leave your on the side of Farage but I’m not all that comfortable being on Major, Blair or Brown’s side. Ultimately I will be voting to stay in. There is a little piece of me that hopes Scotland does vote to stay by a fair distance and rUK votes to leave so we can end the Union there and then. Once we are independent we can then have our own referendum as a sovereign country.

  14. Andrew Morton says:

    The EU in its original form of the European Coal and Steel community was conceived by Jean Monnet as a means of making European war impossible. Everything else was pretty much secondary.

    Undoubtedly it has succeded in that aim and we should look to reform it rather than spurn it.

  15. GreatBigHoo says:

    My experience is that the Separatist position in the EU is a schizophrenic one.

    On one day the EU is a benign, benevolent organisation, the bearer and protector of rights, freedoms, welfare, social justice etc. There are no downsides, at all.

    Anyone who says there are is an corrupt Unionist Westminster shill, who hates freedom and our Scottish freedom. The same evil right wing neoliberal shills are going to drag us out of the EU against our will, and must be stopped, by force if necessary. (What fate awaits the 35- 45% of Scots who are going to have the temerity to vote for leaving the EU, goodness knows).

    On another day (often when Greece or ‘refugees’ are involved, or just depending which way the wind is blowing), the EU is an evil neoliberal corrupt racket who’s sole purpose is to establish a corporatist laissez-faire capitalist pan-continental funfair. they are part of the conspiracy to deny us our freedom.

    It’s all so confusing.

    1. John B Dick says:

      Just like the most dangerous woman in Britan, further left than Trotsky, in cahoots with the Tories in the third session and with no progressive fiscal policies, who leads a party that if it had held the balance of power would have forced a weak Milliband-led government into a communist dictatorship.

      Or so they said.

  16. Para Handy says:

    It’s an interesting debate in many ways; not least given Scotland’s recent referendum. I wonder if the question had been, “Remain a member of the United Kingdom” or “Leave the United Kingdom” would it have made any difference?

  17. Lawrence Anderson Burley says:

    I am very conflicted on the EU. Like many here, i have been instinctively pro-EU most of my adult life. I think the freedoms of movement of people around the continent have done a huge service to developing a sense of community in Europe. But as others have mentioned, the brutal treatment meted out to Greece, the conspiratorial approach to TTIP negotiations, the disregard of referenda, really worry me.

    We absolutely need another campaign than the one championed by dodgy former PMs. Not only they, it’s worse. The Executive Director, Will Straw’s, main qualification as pointed out by Craig Murray is that his father is a war criminal. On top of which he is a rabid Zionist and Atlanticist. And what the hell are Mandelson and Danny Alexander doing there?? Do those names inspire anyone with confidence?

  18. willie says:

    The EU has been the instigator of much social protection legislation and workers have much to thank the EU for.

    The EU is a crucially important trading bloc too.

    Yes there may be complaints about some aspects, and especially so by right wing Britisher agitators of the right.

    But resoundingly overall, the EU is a good thing and we should strive to keep it.

    An independent Scotland fully participating in Europe, is for me, and for the majority of Scots the way forward.

  19. Johnny says:

    People mention the workers’ rights and things that the EU has brought about and that’s fair enough. It has also long been expected that the Tories would remove these things if they could, also acknowledged. However, can anyone safely say (given the secrecy around it) that TTIP won’t wash all these rights away anyway? Rock and a hard place and I don’t know why the need for secrecy around TTIP if it was not going to be for the benefit of big corps at the expense of the general populace.

  20. Johnny says:

    Another thing is: I wonder why it is always assumed that leaving the EU HAS TO mean the closing of borders etc? It does not. Not that I am delusional as to what the UKIPs of this world might want, but there’s no law says that a Britain outside the EU could not still welcome incomers if it so desired.

    As to TTIP again, it really does seem like the neolibs way of ensuring they get to keep moving their money about easily (as the status quo for them remains) while they change the rules on the many. There’s a debate to be had here, and we are all needing a bit more education. Laughably, some insisted there was ‘not enough info’ during the indyref. This time it could actually be true, as I am not sure we are ever going to be properly educated about the EU’s past and continuing benefits OR it’s intentions going forward.

    1. Duncan McIntosh says:

      Johnie – you appear to view the world through british/ uk eyes.

      Consensus on here appears to be the EU has done more good for people’s rights, equality and the environment than the uk. As a consequence is better place to defend gains made.

      Conversely, the uk is busy taking from the poor and giving to the rich, brown nosing Saudis / China and would have the country laid waste (bar Home Counties) to fracking in a second.

      When independent we can decide what clubs Scotland joins, until that point, it gets decided for us irrespective of how we vote.

      1. Johnny says:

        I really don’t view things through the UK eyes. I am expressing the view that the EU, as with Westminster, is not to be trusted too much.

        I do wholly accept that we are likely to have the remain or leave choice foisted on us regardless, though.

        I just believe that it appears (though I stand to be educated on this as I said….if either the ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ campaigns can be bothered) that the EU might be about to undo some of the good work that you rightly point out it has done re workers’ rights if TTIP is adopted. If that were the case, then one of the reasons for being thankful for the EU disappears.

        I don’t see how acknowledging that fact is seeing things through ‘UK eyes’. Instead it is about another decision forced upon us by a government far from where we live, so my perspective is very Scottish as I don’t see things as ‘you must either think the EU is good or Westminster is good’. It’s about what both plan to impose on Scotland.

  21. Cloggins says:

    Pulling up Greece and Spain to underscore the point forgets that both countries are within the Euro and must follow the rules set for stability of the currency. But not all EU countries have the Euro – some wisely rejected the unwielding character of it which seriously impairs the possibilities to take the measures needed to keep the economy up and running. If Greece had had the opportunity of devaluing its currency the whole crisis would not have occurred.

    It is also not quite just to pooh-pooh the democratic deficit away and embrace it just because you have – as you perceive it – no more than 2 options. Meanwhile there is a large and growing movement to get out of Europe in Finland, Greece, Germany, Holland and Austria.

    The European Commission just made a treaty with the Ukraine, a country financially worse of than Greece, to allow unrestricted travel in the EU and financial support costing many billions. The people of Europe have not been consulted whether or not they want to associate with a country engaged in civil war. The same people were also not consulted on TTIP, details of which have not even been released. And commissioner Malmberg just said that she has no obligation to the people of the EU.

    If you want to replace the dictates of Westminster by the dictates of Brussels, think again. And by all means, speak to the neighbours.

  22. willie says:

    From all of the comments it seems that the vast majority of folks consider the EU to have delivered much much more good than bad.

    But we should not through out the baby with the bathwater because of TTIP.

    There are most very certainly aspects of TTIP that concern. However without the EU who would there be to do trade deals with the might US.

    The neo Liberal Tory government in Westminster would most certainly not act in our interest – and by way of example the UK has the right to have exuded national interest issues like the NHS but haven’t.

    Exactly how the US are playing the game is not known either. They most certainly are a World dominant force to be reckoned with and in the absence of the EU which individual EU country could resist the US. But the RU can.

    But transparency or the lack of it is a big issue, as is the secret courts. We need to get behind that but with a fifth columnist neo liberal Tory Westminster I suspect the UK position is out of line with the majority of the left leaning countries of the EU.

    And so, I don’t think we should be throwing the baby out with the bathwater – but who are we to say when we elected a right wing Tory government.

    And look after us suckers they will. That’s for sure.

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