99 comments on “What has Europe ever done for us?

  1. John Grimshaw on said:

    As I have said before elsewhere I am personally in favour of abstaining. The reality of the referendum is that it is a debate between two contending sections of the British bourgeoisie, who are currently appearing in all sorts of media in their various types. So for example the ex-head of MI6 appeared on the radio yesterday to warn us of the dangers of visa-less travel for Turks. The Cameronites and mainstream Labour are constantly reminding us of the dangers to the (their?) economy if Brexit happens. Thus a CEO of Lloyds on Radio 4 this AM. The referendum came about because Cameron thought he was on safe ground and that it was going to deal with UKIP (which at the time seemed likely be much more electorally successful than it in fact became) and his own right wing. Of course it may very well be much closer than he anticipated.

    Whither the Left? Obviously the CPB/SWP/Counterfire/SP? are taking a position of vote out, whereas LU/SR/AWL are voting stay. But are either of these two positions credible? I don’t think anyone in the general public at large will listen to either of these two positions. In effect they will become little known appendages of the official camapigns. I know comrades will argue that they are not the same as the official campaigns but will anybody be able to tell the difference? According to at least one vote analysing company featured on the radio this morning, in their first general public focus group not one person knew the names of the official leave/stay campaigns let alone what the tiny British Left stands for. Nor did initial analysis show that anybody knew or cared what “benefits” Cameron had negotiated for them. Sadly the main issue was indeed immigration. On the other hand 47% of British people said that they thought the EU was good for them compared to 30% in Germany which I found quite surprising. If that’s the case why are we having the referendum? In the final analysis I suspect Which side wins will be decided by the battle between older people outside London nostalgic for the 1950s and younger people are pro-EU but who may not bother to vote or indeed have effectively been excluded from voting.

  2. Seeing George Osborne, Ed Balls and Vince Cable sharing a platform in a Ryanair hangar to warn of the economic risks of Brexit gave me a bad flashback.

    Joke prediction based on the Scottish precedent: Remain wins narrowly and UKIP takes every Labour seat in England.

  3. John Grimshaw on said:

    John there is of course a problem with this Usdaw flyer. Many of the claims it makes for the EU are on paper only. There is a great difference bewteen what’s supposed to happen and what really does happen. There often isn’t equal pay between men and woman doing the same or similar work (what’s similar?). Lots of workers work longer than 48 hours. There are easy ways for your boss to pressurise you into working more. Teachers on average work between 54 and 60 hours a week. Women do have the right to take upto a year off work but they’re not paid for it. This thing about all different types of workers getting the same conditions is simply not true. For example I don’t know of any supply teacher who after twelve weeks in the same job (excluding holidays) then got the same pay as a teacher on a contract. Many workers are forced to sign the so called Swedish derogation. In my view where workers have got these rights it is because workers and their unions have fought for them. Maybe Usdaw is doing its self a disservice. Maybe it should have a flyer saying how it has got these things?

  4. Vanya on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    You may well be right, but essentially the same can be said for a left abstentionist position. Will your abstention be seen any differently from a failure to vote as a result of not not being arsed?

    What we’re ultimately left with is a vote with two options. There won’t be the option to vote for a United Socialist States of Europe, or for an independent Socialist Britain, or “I don’t care one way or another”.

    In any case, I personally see an abstention as a vote for the status quo.

    As for the unions, sadly most are supporting the remain position, including my own. However, not all of them:

    http://www.rmt.org.uk/news/rmt-sets-out-six-key-reasons-for-leaving-the-eu/

  5. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya,

    You are right Vanya there is no provision for “I don’t care” or “a United Socialist States of Europe” or whatever so I will just have to make something up. This is of course a problem with the way the referendum has been framed, deliberately so. The question is a complex one and not served by the simple in/out question. But then that is the problem with referenda.

    You may be right that not voting is effectively a vote for the Status Quo but as I said above we don’t know which way the vote will go. If I vote stay I am publicly supporting Cameron et al and if I vote leave I am supporting the alternative reactionary (and racist) position. I wonder which way Status Quo will vote? I recknon I can guess.

  6. John Grimshaw on said:

    There are some silly positions that the Left have adopted also. The SWP seem to be arguing that a vote for Leave will sound the imminent death knell of British Imperialism. Or that at least it will cause Cameron a lot of bother. In the same way that they argued for a Yes to Scottish independence and effectively ending up siding with Scottish Nationalism.

  7. Vanya on said:

    #3 Absolutely.

    I mean, why bother with unions when things are so rosy?

    By the way, equal pay may be legislated for by EU rules, but in Britain it was Made in Dagenham (by women members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union). The Equal Pay Act was introduced three years before Britain joined the then EEC.

    And has membership of the EU done anything to reverse the laws that were brought in by the Thatcher government (or try and stop them in the first place for that matter)? Or to prevent the then Con-Dem government doubling the qualifying period for taking an unfair dismissal claim to an Employment Tribunal and introducing prohibitive fees (which apply to discrimination claims by the way)? Or to prevent the prevalence of zero-hour contracts?

    Has it stopped the huge attacks on the benefits of disabled people and others?

    It wasn’t an official of the EU, but a Brazilian official of the UN who condemned the Bedroom Tax (something else the EU failed to prevent).

    Union and Labour enthusiasm for the EU was born of desperation at the attacks and defeats suffered during the 80s. It is as much a product of those times as the demise of Clause 4.

  8. John on said:

    Vanya: has membership of the EU done anything to reverse the laws that were brought in by the Thatcher government (or try and stop them in the first place for that matter)? Or to prevent the then Con-Dem government doubling the qualifying period for taking an unfair dismissal claim to an Employment Tribunal and introducing prohibitive fees (which apply to discrimination claims by the way)? Or to prevent the prevalence of zero-hour contracts?

    Has it stopped the huge attacks on the benefits of disabled people and others?

    Was it the EU that was responsible for those things, or a British Tory government that will still be the government regardless of the result on June 23rd? Given your stance, you will presumably proclaim Brexit a victory for the working class despite the fact that their lives will not have changed or improved one iota. In fact, you will proclaim Brexit as a victory even though it will result in a full on assault on what little protection they currently have as a result of EU legislation.

    How can members of the CPB seriously argue for Brexit when just two years ago they were arguing against Scottish independence? This is rank hypocrisy. The Yes campaign in Scotland were making the very same arguments against Westminster as you are now making against Brussels, yet you opposed them.

    Are we to believe that Scottish nationalism is regressive but British nationalism progressive?

  9. Vanya on said:

    #8 This is so confused.

    We no more campaigned on the basis of “British nationalism” than you or George Galloway did.

    And the difference between the EU and the British state is that the latter represents the reality of the existence of a nation state which at least has the semblance of (bourgeois) democracy which has been created in no small part by the struggle of the working class.

    That is not the case with the EU.

    The struggle to prevent all the nations of Europe being subsumed into an undemocratic supra national imperialist leviathan run by the ruling classes of the dominant nations (including our’s) is not reactionary nationalism. It has to be fought in every nation in Europe.

    And we can only do it here where a vote is taking place.

  10. John on said:

    Vanya: And the difference between the EU and the British state is that the latter represents the reality of the existence of a nation state

    Not just any nation state but a nation state unlike any other in Europe – i.e. an imperialist state whose crimes, in the words of James Connolly, would shame all the devils in hell.

    Are we now to defend the sovereignty of this state? Is it anything that the left should be defending?

    Ask the people living on the Falls Road about the British nation state. See how they feel about defending the sanctity of British sovereignty.

    I’m sure they would have something to say about that.

  11. Vanya on said:

    “Was it the EU that was responsible for those things, or a British Tory government that will still be the government regardless of the result on June 23rd?”

    But that’s not what I’m arguing.

    The premise of the pro-EU argument you quote from USDAW is that the EU has protected or created rights that would have otherwise not have existed or would have been removed.

    I am pointing out the limitations of that argument. I am also pointing out that it is generally the struggles of working people in Britain and domestic legislation that we can thank for what we have.

    If the EU is as much the friend of the working class and oppressed as is being suggested then Tory governments would have been stopped from doing the things I mentioned. But it hasn’t because it isn’t and isn’t capable of being.

    A Different Europe is Possible. A Different EU is Not!

  12. Vanya on said:

    #10 They would if the CPB organised in the 6 counties or supported partition and the incorporation of the North in the British state.

    We do neither.

    The Communist Party of Ireland organises on an all Ireland basis and its national chair lives in the North.

    Your argument here by the way was used by many left nationalists and Republicans in both Scotland and Ireland to support a Yes vote in the Scottish referendum. Were they wrong?

  13. George Hallam on said:

    Ken MacLeod:

    Joke prediction based on the Scottish precedent: Remain wins narrowly and UKIP takes every Labour seat in England.

    There’s many a true word spoken in jest.

    As a rule of thumb anti-EU people are more committed than pro-EUers.

    If the result is ‘Remain’ and at all close then there will be incredible bitterness. Pro-EUers could be branded as Quislings.

  14. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya: By the way, equal pay may be legislated for by EU rules, but in Britain it was Made in Dagenham (by women members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union). The Equal Pay Act was introduced three years before Britain joined the then EEC.

    Made in Dagenham by workers! But I agree.

    Vanya: And has membership of the EU done anything to reverse the laws that were brought in by the Thatcher government (or try and stop them in the first place for that matter)?

    You miss the point. It was never designed to. You can’t blame the EU for something that was never it’s fault in the first place. We all know the EU is not the “United Socialists State of Europe”. What this does underline, and here I agree with John, is that voting leave under these conditions is potentially problematical. Your insistence that “independence for the UK” will allow radical “stuff” to happen doesn’t ring true to me. The last thing on the minds of the majority of Brexiters is rights for workers.

    Vanya: Union and Labour enthusiasm for the EU was born of desperation at the attacks and defeats suffered during the 80s. It is as much a product of those times as the demise of Clause 4.

    I see that.

  15. Vanya on said:

    John Grimshaw: You miss the point. It was never designed to. You can’t blame the EU for something that was never it’s fault in the first place.

    Again, that isn’t my point here. My actual point is aimed at those who portray the EU as a protector of the rights of the working class and oppressed.

    You’re right, you can’t “blame” something for doing what’s in its nature or not doing something which isn’t.

  16. Vanya on said:

    To quote a representative of the French CGT union federation from the article above in today’s Morning Star:

    “After showing contempt for the many protesters demonstrating for months against the draft El Khomri law and contempt for the 74 per cent of French voters who reject these socially destructive proposals, the French government reveals itself as the loyal servant of dictats from Brussels and of the boss class by resorting to Article 49.3.”

    There is an issue of sovereignty in France (in spite of French colonial oppression in Algeria, Vietnam etc) or for that matter in Portugal (in spite of Portugese colonial oppression in Angola, Mozambique etc).

    There is an issue of sovereignty in virtually every country in the EU. Peoples of Europe, RIse up!

  17. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya: Again, that isn’t my point here. My actual point is aimed at those who portray the EU as a protector of the rights of the working class and oppressed.

    You’re right, you can’t “blame” something for doing what’s in its nature or not doing something which isn’t.

    True

  18. John Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya: “After showing contempt for the many protesters demonstrating for months against the draft El Khomri law and contempt for the 74 per cent of French voters who reject these socially destructive proposals,

    I’m not entirely familiar with this law. I would be grateful comrade if you would give me more info. Although I am sure you are right.

    Vanya: There is an issue of sovereignty in France (in spite of French colonial oppression in Algeria, Vietnam etc) or for that matter in Portugal (in spite of Portugese colonial oppression in Angola, Mozambique etc).

    Indeed.

    Vanya: There is an issue of sovereignty in virtually every country in the EU. Peoples of Europe, RIse up!

    I think comrades Trotsky and Lenin may have had a lot to say about this. But maybe Stalin much less so!

  19. John Grimshaw on said:

    John Grimshaw: I’m not entirely familiar with this law.

    Oh I see. Me being stupid. didn’t realise this is what it was called. I must be a “Little Englander”. Smash the law. Organise. Clearly, these are the things that need to be defeated but as you say no amount of compromise with the EU bourgeoisie will change anything. But then no amount of compromise with our nation state bourgeoisie will change anything. suggestions anyone?

  20. jock mctrousers on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    @#3 Very good! You nailed it there.

    John Grimshaw: But then no amount of compromise with our nation state bourgeoisie will change anything. suggestions anyone?

    Suggestions? Only a simultaneous worldwide rising of the working class will do. Until this happens we must prepare by attending lectures on dialectical materialism and the history of the Trotskyist movement. Pass the heroin.

  21. The unholy alliance between the banks, big business and the top state bureaucrats with sections of the labour movement is, on one hand an exercise in cynicism and on the other, self delusion.

    Is it likely that the decisive sections of our ruling class, the IMF, the ECB, the World Bank, the CBI are deluding themselves about their class interests and that membership of the EU is really the foundation of future working class advance?

    If the EU is responsible for all the things USDAW (and other labour movement advocates of remaining in the EU) say then what is the point of USDAW (or any other union)?

  22. John on said:

    Nick Wright: Is it likely that the decisive sections of our ruling class, the IMF, the ECB, the World Bank, the CBI are deluding themselves about their class interests and that membership of the EU is really the foundation of future working class advance?

    On that basis, are we to understand that when those same institutions warned of the perils of Scottish independence they were deluding themselves about their class interests, given that you and your organisation opposed it?

  23. john Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers,

    I think you are deliberately missing the point Jock. You are so playful! But I would stay off the heroin though I wouldn’t want you doing anything illegal.

  24. John Palmer on said:

    What an odd discussion this has developed into. The referendum issue is surely not about whether to trust in the actual or potential progressive qualities of either the UKanian state or the European Union. It is – or should be – about which provides the best environment within which to fight not only to defend the limited (but important) reforms won at European level in the past over trade union negotiating rights, working hours, women’s rights, environment protection etc but also to mobilise the social and political forces to press for more fundamental change. In some ways the left faces a replay of the arguments of the German social democratic party in the 19th century about German unification. This was fiercely opposed by many radical democrats in the more “liberal” Princely and other states. But Marx and Engels argued for unification – in spite of the fact it was initially driven by the Prussian royalist military regime – as being essential give the German working class and the wider democratic movement the potential for organisation on an all-German basis.
    In our case today, do the left Bexiteers believe that the potential for a European wide socialist movement for system change would be positively impacted by a victory for the Tory hard right and their allies in UKIP and the wider anti-immigrant racist currents?

  25. Vanya on said:

    #26 Strange argument John.

    The democratic task of German unification into a nation state can hardly be compared with the process by which most of the nations of Europe are having their sovereignty eroded in an entirely undemocratic fashion by a supra-national entity.

    And the necessity of completing that democratic task was integral to Marx and Engels’ position. It was as important as the need to unite the German working class, and it was their view that the working class should lead the struggle at the head of a democratic movement.

    Also integral to their position was the need to liberate Poland from the empires of Russia, Prussia and Austria, and re-create a Polish nation state.

    There isn’t a “European working class” in any meaningful sense, just as there isn’t a European nation. Which is why a European nation state cannot be created, and one of the reasons that what is being created is a caricature of democracy.

    Ironically the most likely forms of united working class action across Europe will be against the EU. Again, Peoples of Europe, Unite.

    There is of course a British working class, and the desire not to divide it is the main reason people like the CPB, George Galloway – and our own John Wight- were in favour of a no vote in Scotland.

    Scottish people vote for MPs, MSPs and Euro MPs.

    The former two participate in legislative bodies that have real power and that represent them directly (albeit limited by the very limited nature of bourgeois democracy). The latter participate in a structure that is no more than a very expensive talking shop that does not (and never can have) any real power whatsoever.

    The irony of the “nationalist” position in Scotland was that for so many, the implicit desire was to be free of the domination by a Westminster Parliament with a majority they did not vote for, but to be under the subjugation of Brussels officials that nobody votes for.

  26. Nick Wright: If the EU is responsible for all the things USDAW (and other labour movement advocates of remaining in the EU) say then what is the point of USDAW (or any other union)?

    Absolutely. What’s more, why even bother with any of these campaigns to reform the EU, for “another Europe” or a “social Europe”? The EU is clearly fine as it is. The future is transnational corporate capitalism, it already guarantees workers’ rights, and everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. We can all sit back, secure in the knowledge that our masters know what is best for us.

  27. Andy Newman on said:

    Nick Wright: If the EU is responsible for all the things USDAW (and other labour movement advocates of remaining in the EU) say then what is the point of USDAW (or any other union)?

    “What is the point of USDAW”, a very good question given the current partnership proclivities and industrial policies of that union.

    However, USDAW is not the only union to be seeking a “remain” vote.

    For example, GMB’s position is not to praise the EU, but rather to recognise its failings but still nevertheless argue that taking a balanced view there are various positive things have come from the EU, alongside some less positive; and that continued membership of the EU at this conjuncture provides a better economic and political context than withdrawal.

    The whole argument becomes a bit surreal if we don’t acknowledge that the UK government is hardly an innocent bystander with regard to the EU, and successive UK governments have advocated within the EU the watering down of the social agenda; for example it was a Labour government that sought derogations of the Agency Worker Regulations to allow workers in the UK to remain exploited and exempt from protections that other EU states provided.

    The question is whether organised labour, on both the industrial and political fronts, are advantaged or disadvantaged by engagemet with the EU or not; given that the EU will continue to exist whether or not UK is a member of it.

    A particular difficulty is that the centre left and its potential allies have not enjoyed a political majority in the EU for many a long year.

    Would the EU be a potential obstacle to a future socialist government in the UK? Probably so, but the crucial missing factor here for us is not an EU sympathetic to a socialist government, but the lack of that socialist government.

    Of course an EU seeking to constrain a UK socialist government might reignite the issue of EU membership in an entirely different context, but even in that case, that possible future socialist government should not abandon the battleground lightly of fighting its ground within the political institutions of the EU. Because of course were the EU to fall over, then we would want it to fail in such a way that benefitted the left, not the right.

  28. John on said:

    Vanya: The democratic task of German unification into a nation state can hardly be compared with the process by which most of the nations of Europe are having their sovereignty eroded in an entirely undemocratic fashion by a supra-national entity.

    1. What is this erosion of sovereignty you claim? In what form has it manifested itself?

    2. As per my previous response to this point, on what basis are socialists and progressive living in a major imperialist state campaigning on the issue of protecting British sovereignty? In whose benefit? Do you realise the full implications of this argument, both historically and currently?

    This is British nationalism/loyalism being presented as socialism. Come out with this line in any pub along the Shankhill and I guarantee you wouldn’t have to put your hand in your pocket all night. Do so along the Falls Road and your feet wouldn’t touch the ground, they’d have you thrown out of there so fast.

    Is this progressive to you?

  29. Andy Newman on said:

    John Palmer: The referendum issue is surely not about whether to trust in the actual or potential progressive qualities of either the UKanian state or the European Union. It is – or should be – about which provides the best environment within which to fight not only to defend the limited (but important) reforms won at European level in the past over trade union negotiating rights, working hours, women’s rights, environment protection etc but also to mobilise the social and political forces to press for more fundamental change.

    This sentance from JOhn, before his digression into German history, is exactly correct

  30. Andy Newman on said:

    Vanya: The democratic task of German unification into a nation state can hardly be compared with the process by which most of the nations of Europe are having their sovereignty eroded in an entirely undemocratic fashion by a supra-national entity.

    There is a lot going on in that sentance: nations, soverignty and democracy.

    With regard to the UK, soverignty resides not with the people but with the Crown in parliament, and it is a particularly old-fashioned Whiggish conceit (shared by Enoch Powell and Tony Benn, for example) to confuse soverignty with democracy.

    If we look at our own constitution, the indivisiblity of the sovereignty of the English parliament has been constrained not only by EU membership, but by devolution, by various international treaties of which the obligations to the EU are not alone, and by the building of an edifice of government by cabinet and its attendant institutions of state; the democratic accountablity of which is often nominal.

    So the British state is largely and often unaccountable, and the emphasis on sovereignty has shifted more and more from parliamant to the Crown.

    If you think that the most diehard and entrenched opposition to progressive legislation and social justice comes from the other side of the channel, then you haven’t been paying attention.

    What is more, while you are correct that there meaningfully is a British nation, at the time when the Uk was established, there wasn’t one. Britain was originally an elite project in which the English, Scottish and Welsh labouring classes were only its tenants, and sometimes its victims. British national consciousness and political nationalism arose through the joint project of Empire and the crafting of British national institutions; it is the loss of colonies and the dismantling of so many British institutions that has weakened the glue.

    So don’t expect me to get dewy eyed about British democracy and soverignty

  31. Andy Newman on said:

    Vanya: There isn’t a “European working class” in any meaningful sense, just as there isn’t a European nation.

    It is an interesting question. If we leave aside the more eccentic followers of Oswald Mosley, there are few who argue that Europe actually is a nation. However, there are clearly those on the far-right – such as the counter-Jihad movement, and perhaps the Generation Identity – who increasingly define common European values as being central to the various national identities of the nations within Europe; and that is also true of some of the right-wing admirers of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

    At a more common sense level, despite the bickering between the European states about the refugee crisis, there is an acceptance by both the political elites and by popular opinion, that there is an inside and an outside to the EU; and different obligations to fellow Europeans than to outsiders.

    What is more, for the hundreds of thosands of migrant workers in the UK from Eastern Europe in particular, is not their residency and employment in the UK due to their status as being European workers? Is not the Europhilia of the Kiev government and its supporters not indicative that European identity, as well as perceived practical benefits of EU membership, are strong motivating factors?

    It is a flimsy foundation, but a real one.

  32. Vanya on said:

    #30 John, I’m getting bored with this line of argument.

    I’ll say it again, I do not accept British sovereignty over the 6 Counties. My Party doesn’t either.

    Just as I wouldn’t have accepted French sovereignty over Algeria etc and didn’t accept Portugese sovereignty over Mozambique.

    It’s a red herring. Just as it was when those left nationalists in Scotland used it to back their argument for independence. As I asked you before, do you think they were wrong? Was it a manifestation of Brit chauvinism to oppose a yes vote in the referendum in Scotland?

  33. Vanya on said:

    #32 Clearly democracy and sovereignty are not the same thing.

    But the former is not realisable in a meaningful way without the latter.

    Britain would be more democratic if we had a republican constitution.

    Portugal is more democratic because it has. And many of the rights enshrined in that constitution are under constant threat of erosion by the EU which is one of the reasons that the PCP has sovereignty as one of its central slogans.

  34. John on said:

    Vanya: I’ll say it again, I do not accept British sovereignty over the 6 Counties. My Party doesn’t either.

    So you say, but you are making the basis of your anti EU argument one of sovereignty, as is UKIP, as is the DUP. I suggest Sinn Fein has a much more nuanced and persuasive case for supporting Remain, based not on something as spurious and ugly as British sovereignty but on the very real impact Brexit would have on rural communities in the North re the loss of EU subsidies. It would also have a deleterious impact on the wider economy, given the over half our exports are to the EU.

    These are facts that can’t and shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.

    Vanya: Was it a manifestation of Brit chauvinism to oppose a yes vote in the referendum in Scotland?

    But my arguments against Yes in that referendum, as you can see just by referring to the many articles I wrote at the time, was not based on support for British sovereignty. It was based on the concrete reality of neoliberalism and how it would spark a race to the bottom for workers on either side of the border. It was also based on the ugly recrudescence of Scottish nationalism as a dead end, involving leftists seeking a constitutional escape hatch from the verities of the free market. It was delusional just as Brexit offers the illusion of a progressive alternative to those who believe that the EU is the impediment to socialism in Britain, when it is not and never has been.

  35. George Hallam on said:

    John: I suggest Sinn Fein has a much more nuanced and persuasive case for supporting Remain, based not on something as spurious and ugly as British sovereignty but on the very real impact Brexit would have on rural communities in the North re the loss of EU subsidies.

    That is ‘nuanced’ as in ‘a subtle difference in or shade of meaning’? Or is it ‘nuanced’ as in ‘very complicated and difficult to understand’?

  36. Vanya on said:

    John: So you say

    I say it for a simple reason- it’s the truth.

    John: but you are making the basis of your anti EU argument one of sovereignty,

    There is no but, the CPB does not recognise British rule in the 6 Counties, does not organise there and has relations with a sister Party which organises on an all Ireland basis. And I fully agree with that.

    And I am not making the question of sovereignty the basis of my argument.

    However, the treatment of a number of countries in Europe in recent years shows that the question has raised its own head fairly prominently.

    Interference in Italy, in Greece, in Portugal, in France (read the article in the Morning Star that I linked to) etc. And this isn’t an abstract question devoid of class content, the target of such interference is invariably the rights and living standards of the working class and the non working poor.

  37. Andy Newman on said:

    Vanya: Britain would be more democratic if we had a republican constitution.

    Arguably in most meaningful senses The UK does have a republican constitution, in that it is a parliamentary liberal democracy, where citizens have rights, and where there is a general commitment to the rule of law.

    Naturally, despite its Ruritanian pagentry, the monarchy remains both legally and ideologically the backstop of the state, but it would be foolish to assume that a deep commitment to maintaining power and privilege by the state is only the property of monarchies; and it is worth reminding ourselves that in 1981 King Carlos effectively defused a coup d’etat in Spain, and that at least one socialist state (Grenada) briefly kept the monarchy.

    the issue is a side-show, and I wonder what meaningful extension of popular democracy would really be entailed by having an elected president instead. President Thatcher, President Blair? I’d rather stick with Liz.

  38. Andy Newman on said:

    Vanya: Portugal is more democratic because it has.

    Is Portugal meaningfully more democratic than Spain? Is France meaningfully more democratic than Holland?

  39. Andy Newman on said:

    Vanya: Relevance?

    Well you are arguing that the UK is having its democracy and sovereignty undermined by its participation in the EU, I am arguing that life is a lot more complicated than that because the aspects of the British state that actually underpin its sovereign independence are not actually particularly democratic in the first place, and the British state has been entirely and deliberately complicit in pushing the EU into the neo-liberal path it has taken.

    It is not therefore a question of the naughty EU constraining the mother of parliaments from pursuing the path of moral rectitude; it is the case of venal vested interests of wealth and privilege in the UK and in the rest of the major European powers collaborating together, and indeed where the British state and British corporations have done more than most to frustrate the social aspects of the EU.

    When summing up some of the more negative aspects of the EU, it is worth observing that these are often derogations that the British state have fought for.

    For the left to campaign to let the most reactionary Tories and Kippers take us out of the EU would be making the same mistake that B’rer Fox made when he threw B’rer Rabbit into the briar patch.

    The reverence of the monarchy is that you argued that the Uk would be more democratic with a republican constitution, in my mind this was relevant because it reflects the degree to which some left Brexiteers fetishise secondary and superficial constitutional arguments without subordinating those arguments to the more important issue of whether leaving the EU would creat a more or less favourable political and economic context for the left and organised labour.

    Brexit wil lead to economic uncertainty, job losses, a bonfire of employment rights, demonisation of migrants and a more confident and aggressive right wing political environment. The Tories will be even less constrained in pursuing the anglo-saxon model of deregulated capitaliam than they are now.

    What possible “gains” can you point to that would offset that?

  40. brianthedog on said:

    Andy Newman: Brexit wil lead to economic uncertainty, job losses, a bonfire of employment rights, demonisation of migrants and a more confident and aggressive right wing political environment. The Tories will be even less constrained in pursuing the anglo-saxon model of deregulated capitaliam than they are now.

    Unrestricted free movement of labour (with an ever expanding EU) with ordinary people having no democratic say on this (but feel its impact most in the low pay economy) helps fuel demonization of migrants. The EU has given us the Swedish Derogation, Viking and Laval rulings which are a bonfire on employment rights and fuel social dumping. As for the Tories the majority of them (include its two most senior leaders) are in favour of staying in the EU. Why is that?

  41. John on said:

    brianthedog: Unrestricted free movement of labour (with an ever expanding EU) with ordinary people having no democratic say on this (but feel its impact most in the low pay economy) helps fuel demonization of migrants.

    This is a symptom of the free movement of capital, which has a deleterious impact on peripheral economies, leading to people seeking better prospects elsewhere. It is their human and natural right to do so.

    As I said previously, anybody on the left who stands with those on the far right campaigning to stop them exercising this right is a scab.

  42. The EU only offers free movement within the EU though. People from the really poor areas of the globe are kept out as before, while capital from those areas is, of course, allowed in. Is the left remain camp going to argue for the removal of all immigration controls, not only from within but also beyond the EU? It would be a consistent and principled stand, although it might make the product harder to sell.

  43. John on said:

    Francis King: It would be a consistent and principled stand, although it might make the product harder to sell.

    Principles should take precedence over difficulty, so on this basis yes. The problem the left has had is that it has engaged on this issue on the terms set out by the right – i.e. focusing on migration rather than its primary economic cause. This needs to change, else we remain in lockstep with the right down what is a political cut de sac.

  44. brianthedog on said:

    John: As I said previously, anybody on the left who stands with those on the far right campaigning to stop them exercising this right is a scab.

    Wow ultra left nonsense topped off with abuse. As Francis King stated why not call for a removal of all immigration controls and you just did. Its not right wing to allow people to have a democratic say and sovereign control over immigration. I think you are confusing principles and difficulty with principles and reality and you are a gift for the ever growing emergence of the far right in EUrope. Its like the Socialist Unity website has morphed into Shiraz Socialist.

  45. Noah on said:

    Andy Newman: The Tories will be even less constrained in pursuing the anglo-saxon model of deregulated capitaliam than they are now

    The EU has actually served as a mechanism for rolling out the anglo-saxon capitalist market model throughout Europe. For example the 4th Railway Package, currently being finalised between the Commission and the EU Parliament, will impose the UK’s model of fragmentation and competitive tendering, creating significant obstacles to the retention of public ownership in the industry.

  46. George Hallam on said:

    Noah: The EU has actually served as a mechanism for rolling out the anglo-saxon capitalist market model throughout Europe.

    Yes, in a way, though “anglo-saxon capitalist market model” is a bit misleading.

    The Treaty of Rome (Common Market, EU, et al) is based on neoliberalism. And neoliberalism is as much European as it is “Anglo-Saxon”.

  47. George Hallam on said:

    In Article 3 of the Treaty of Rome (1957) is a commitment to the creation of a “common market free from distortions to competition”.

  48. John on said:

    George Hallam:
    In Article 3 of the Treaty of Rome (1957)is a commitment to the creation of a “common market free from distortions to competition”.

    Article 345 of the 1958 Treaty of the Functioning of the EU (TEFU): ‘The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.’

  49. Noah on said:

    John: Article 345 of the 1958 Treaty of the Functioning of the EU (TEFU): ‘The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.’

    Except that, if a state takes a firm into the public sector, it then has to run it exactly as a capitalist investor would- which kind of defeats the object:

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=P-2011-010146&language=EN

    Parliamentary Questions
    November 24, 2011
    P-010146/2011
    Answer given by Mr Almunia on behalf of the Commission

    According to Article 345 of operation Treaty of the European Union (TFEU), the treaties do not prejudice the system of property ownership in the Member States. Therefore, there is no Community provision prohibiting the principle of nationalization (or regionalization) of a company.

    It should be noted that in such a case, the public authority making the nationalization (or regionalization) should behave like a private investor in a market economy both as regards the purchase price that the management of ‘business. Otherwise, the provisions of the TFEU (Articles 107 and 108) in the field of State aid would apply.

    The Commission is concerned about the social and economic impact following the closing of the site Liège Arcelor-Mittal. She met with representatives of the Walloon Region and the company to examine the conditions in which the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) could provide assistance to displaced workers. Nevertheless, the Commission recalls that it is in Belgium to submit an EGF application if it considers it appropriate.

    (using Google translate but you get the gist).

  50. John on said:

    Noah: Except that, if a state takes a firm into the public sector, it then has to run it exactly as a capitalist investor would- which kind of defeats the object:

    May I direct you to a 2012 report – Rebuilding Rail – from the think tank Transport for Quality for Life. http://www.transportforqualityoflife.com/u/files/120630_Rebuilding_Rail_Final_Report_print_version.pdf

    Endorsed and sponsored by the major unions, including the RMT and TSSA, page 38 of the report leaves no doubt that public ownership is not probibilited under existing EU legislation.

  51. Noah on said:

    It should be added that there are exceptions which allow the possibility of nationalisations in which the relationship between that state and the firm does not purely mimic that of the private investor in the capitalist marketplace. However there are strict conditions for this and the EU Commission needs to agree to it.

    The nationalisation of Northern Rock by the UK government in 2007 was one such case. The government had to apply to the Commission to be allowed to do this; it was agreed as a ‘rescue’ due to the situation being an emergency, and after 6 months the government had to reapply to have the nationalisation package continue as a ‘restructuring’.

    Press reports in 2009 suggested that the EU resisted proposals by the UK government to use its ownership of Northern Rock to positively influence the mortgage market:

    http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-northernrock-eu-idUKTRE50M1BK20090123

    Somehow, I suspect that nationalising the banking system in order to plan the economy, as part of a move towards constructing a socialist society, would not necessarily be agreed by the EU commission.

  52. Noah on said:

    John: page 38 of the report leaves no doubt that public ownership is not probibilited under existing EU legislation.

    The report says: “Despite arguments made at the time of UK rail privatisation, European legislation does not dictate that railways must be fully privatised.”

    The operative words being ‘railways’ (a special case along with healthcare) and ‘fully’.

  53. Noah: Somehow, I suspect that nationalising the banking system in order to plan the economy, as part of a move towards constructing a socialist society, would not necessarily be agreed by the EU commission.

    That is why, were we to have a socialist government intent on such a programme, then that government would have to have a confrontation with the EU, and would probably have to threaten to, or actually leave.

    That is not the conjuncture that we are currently in, nor the context which the current referrendum is being fought.

  54. John on said:

    Noah: The operative words being ‘railways’ (a special case along with healthcare) and ‘fully’.

    You’re clutching here. We are not on the cusp of 1945. An inch of action is worth more than a ton of theory.

    Do you believe that any British governement would be able to take the entire British banking system into public ownership? What do you think the international response to such an endeavor would be?

    A state bank, competing against private banks, is a far more realistic proposition.

  55. brianthedog: Unrestricted free movement of labour (with an ever expanding EU) with ordinary people having no democratic say on this (but feel its impact most in the low pay economy) helps fuel demonization of migrants.

    I don’t disagree, and I am no enthusiast for the EU.

    However, there is a contradiction here, because the free movement of labour is a condition not only of EU membership, but of membership of the single market.

    There is certainly no consensus among the Brexiteers over whether they are proposing to leave the single market; and the voices suggesting that we should are on the margins.

    Staying in the single market while leaving he EU would mean that the UK continues to accept free movement of labour, but loses its potential veto on future EU expansion, and loses its seat at the table for us to campaign for the reversal of Viking and Laval, and for reform of the Posted Workers Directive.

  56. John: As I said previously, anybody on the left who stands with those on the far right campaigning to stop them exercising this right is a scab.

    You have said it a couple of times, but it isn’t helpful.

    It open up the countercharge about people blind to the degree to which EU immigration has depressed wages and in some cases weakened organisation among the very poorest sectors of the UK economy, and the insults that could be thrown at them.

    In truth, no-one is a scab, people just disagree.

  57. Francis King: Is the left remain camp going to argue for the removal of all immigration controls, not only from within but also beyond the EU?

    That assumes that there is only one strand of argument among “left remainers”.

    To be fair to John, while I think he is wrong to place the emphasis he does on this, he is arguing a position on immigration that is not – from what I have seen – very different to say Socialist Action; or indeed to some left exiteers like Kevin Ovenden.

  58. John on said:

    Andy Newman: people blind to the degree to which EU immigration has depressed wages and in some cases weakened organisation among the very poorest sectors of the UK economy, and the insults that could be thrown at them

    But this is factually incorrect. Employers and bosses reduce wages not workers. What you identify is the weakness of the trade union movement in combatting it not the perfidy of foreign workers. It is a myth continually propagated that lets employers and the economic system completely off the hook.

  59. John: But this is factually incorrect. Employers and bosses reduce wages not workers.

    We live in a market economy where labour is sold as a commodity. There was a book written about this by some German chap.

    The price of labour is determined by market forces, though the value of labour is determined by the historically contingent cost of reproducing the living standards of the workers who bear the capability to do that work.

    Trade unions exist to allow workers to combine to sell their commodity at a higher price, and the political and industrial push from the labour movement is to raise the cultural and social expectations for the working class.

    Employers do not push down wages due to their being bad people, but because they cannot compete with other employers if they pay over the market price for labour, which would mean that they are creating commodities with higher than the socially necessary value of labour, which impacts either their price competitiveness, or alternatively their rate of return on investment. Employers are no more able to buck the market for the price of labour than they are for the price of electricity or coffee beans

    Wage competition -particularly at the low skilled and unskilled end of the market, simply does reduce the price, based upon the principles of supply and demand.

    Similarly, immigrants often accept lower standards of living, particularly in accommodation; thus in the short term reducing the value of unskilled labour as a commodity (BTW, I have worked in Hungary and Poland, and I fully understand why working even a sweat shop in the Uk seems preferable to many migrants from there)

  60. John: It is a myth continually propagated that lets employers and the economic system completely off the hook.

    But most of the time, the labour movement is seeking to leverage bargaining power within the economic system that a actually exists, not explaining why the economic system is wrong. Otherwise you end us as a pure propagandist.

  61. John: What you identify is the weakness of the trade union movement in combatting it not the perfidy of foreign workers

    well yes, we have to live with the labour movement as it actually is as our starting point, which engages with the actually existing working class. No one has suggested that EU migrants are perfidious, just that EU migration has impacted upon the price of labour, as without it there would have been labour shortages that would have pushed up the price of labour, which would have provided a more favourable context for expanding trade union organisation.

    Nor is it a question of perfidy that some migrant workforces pose significant, and in some cases insurmountable, challenges for trade union organisation.

  62. John on said:

    Andy Newman: But most of the time, the labour movement is seeking to leverage bargaining power within the economic system that a actually exists, not explaining why the economic system is wrong. Otherwise you end us as a pure propagandist.

    The problem is the movement spends all, if not most of its energies bargaining for gains within the status quo than educating its members and workers on the need to replace or at least radically reform the status quo.

    There is a distinct lack of politics within the trade union movement, with very few exceptions, which has contributed largely to the mess we are in over the free movement of labour.

    You may have guessed by now that, unlike you, I am not an unfailing supporter of the British trade union movement. it has proved a brake as well as a spur when it comes to advancing the interests and needs of working people throughout its history.

    Too much acceptance of the status quo for my liking. You see the result of this with Nick Wright’s dismissal of the plight of the unemployed in Jobcentres. Decades of involvement in politics and this is the end result.

    Deplorable.

  63. John: There is a distinct lack of politics within the trade union movement, with very few exceptions, which has contributed largely to the mess we are in over the free movement of labour.

    A “crisis of leadership”?

  64. John on said:

    Andy Newman: A “crisis of leadership”?

    Is this not self evident? You think there is not? How so? On what grounds do you consider the trade union movement to constitute the glowing success you clearly believe it is?

    Sir Paul Kenny? Really?

  65. John: Is this not self evident?

    No it is not self-evident, because it is a Trotskyite conceit that the highly complex legacy of circumstances that have led us to where we are today can be resolved by changing the leaders at the top.

    Nor in the shifting sands of the British labour market is it clear what criteria of success should the unions should be using.

    There is no merit in having a leadership that cannot keep the army together

  66. John on said:

    Andy Newman: No it is not self-evident, because it is a Trotskyite conceit that the highly complex legacy of circumstances that have led us to where we are today can be resolved by changing the leaders at the top.

    I am no Trot, as you well know, but there is no doubt that existing leadership both reflects and impacts on the level of class and political consiousness in society at a given period.

    You think that Scargill’s leadership of the NUM played no part in the level of militancy and fight within that union? Or that his militancy was not influenced on his understanding of what needed to be done rather than an acceptance of the status quo and the priority of lowering expectations rather than raising them among the members?

    Andy Newman: There is no merit in having a leadership that cannot keep the army together

    Neither is there merit in having an army but refusing to fight. The wreckage of working class lives in the course of Tory austerity leaves no doubt that history will not be kind of on those who subscribe to the concept of trade unionism as a monument rather than a movement. Proponents of the former end up with knighthoods and the embrace of the establishment, while the latter are chastised by the establishment their entire lives.

    What would you prefer?

  67. John: Neither is there merit in having an army but refusing to fight. The wreckage of working class lives in the course of Tory austerity leaves no doubt that history will not be kind of on those who subscribe to the concept of trade unionism as a monument rather than a movement.

    John.this isn’t a subject where you have the necessary grasp of the facts, or of the contemporary discussions within the unions or even what the specific challenges are that we face, and the different strategies being advocated for how we seek to overcome them.

    The fact that you use Scargill as your example of a trade unionist you admire, for events that occurred over 30 years ago, is revealing. Especially as the miners didn’t even win!

  68. brianthedog on said:

    John: The wreckage of working class lives in the course of Tory austerity leaves no doubt that history will not be kind of on those who subscribe to the concept of trade unionism as a monument rather than a movement.

    Is it just me that finds it ironic that John Wight uses an USDAW leaflet to put forward his passion for remaining in the EU. USDAW is a trade union not widely know for its militancy, or organizing its members to take strike action or left wing politics but they do have an open Conservative Trade Unionist (www.toryworkers.co.uk) on their executive. As Andy Newman mentioned this isn’t your subject where you necessarily have the grasp of the facts.

  69. John: You see the result of this with Nick Wright’s dismissal of the plight of the unemployed in Jobcentres

    John, this is offensive. To point out that state employees, who administer a repressive and exploitative system of labour discipline (for that is what the benefit system is); experience a specific form of exploitation; are oppressed in specific ways and whose alienation is conditioned by their particular relationship to the means of production and by their social position is not dismissing ‘the plight of the unemployed in job centres’.

    It is part of an attempt at analysing and understanding how capital;ism in 21st century neo liberal Britain works, the better to find ways to assemble the class and social forces that can overthrow it.
    My point is, not to valorise the behaviour of some state employees or to defend the social security and benefit system but to find ways to change it and that must entail a strategy for organising state employees in their own interests and in their wider class interests.

    If we are serious about socialism we must be serious about the state. It is precisely because of the moral, political and class condtradictions that arise for state employees working within a repressive institution that there exists a material and ideological basis for winning them to a class alliance. The prospects for this rest substantially on the tactics employed by the labour movement as a whole towards them.

    .

  70. John on said:

    Nick Wright: To point out that state employees, who administer a repressive and exploitative system of labour discipline (for that is what the benefit system is); experience a specific form of exploitation; are oppressed in specific ways and whose alienation is conditioned by their particular relationship to the means of production and by their social position is not dismissing ‘the plight of the unemployed in job centres’.

    This strikes me as theory being worshipped as an end in itself with nothing, not one suggestion, as to how the status quo can be resisted.

    There is nothing abtract, I can assure you, about being on the receiving end of the cooperation of these state employees with this policy.

  71. john,
    There is nothing abstract about the Marxist Leninist conception of the state as an instrument of class rule.
    The testament of Vaclav Havel is a good illustration. Unlike capitalism where the maintenance of a pool of unemployed is a vital instrument of state policy Czechoslovak socialism insisted that the rentier son of a dispossessed landlord be gainfully employed – as state policy was to use the full range of human talents.
    Under socialism Havel was found employment as a stoker in a central heating boiler room.
    You see. The state as an instrument of class rule.

  72. John: This strikes me as theory being worshipped as an end in itself with nothing, not one suggestion, as to how the status quo can be resisted.

    In contrast to the strategy worthy of Baldrick himself, of advising Job Centre workers to join the ranks of the unemployed themselves by refusing a “reasonable management request” to carry out the work they are employed to do; and what is more, the implemnation of this master strategy is via a left wing blog that vanishingly few job centre workers will even have heard of?

    How is what Nick is suggesting doing any less than you are?

    In actual fact, the labour movement picks the fights it can, or occasionally that the employers force upon us. Most trade union members, most of the time, have a very instrumental view of their relationship to the union, and need to be persuaded that their own best interests are served by acting collectively, and also convinced of the the quite separate issue of whether on not they believe that the union’s strategy is likely to win.

    The absolutely indispensable first lesson of real world trade unionism is not to stand between your members and money.
    Individual workers need to pay the rent, and put food on the table, and their relationship to their work colleagues and the union will almost always come second to that.

    The second thing is that most of the time, the employer enjoys the power in the workplace. Gradually readdressing that balance is hard graft, over a protracted period, where experienced trade unionists make judgments about what small gains can be made,and at what risk. Every trade union issue has within it the possibility of defeat as well as victory, where I measure victory as what leaves organisation stronger.

    The third thing is that each workplace and each workforce also exists within the broader political and social context, and in the particular example of job centres, I am sure that there is a conflicting mixture where some of the common sense demonisation of benefits culture jostles uneasily with the fact that job centre workers will have friends, relatives and neighbours who themseves suffer from the invidious sanctioning.

    Added to which, in the case of the union for Job Centre workers, the PCS have been at the brunt of bruising attacks from the government which would have been a challenge for any trade union, and have not found an effective response, and their go to inclination for industrial militancy is not an easy sell to their membership.

    Frankly, even if the PCS did want to lead a campaign against benefit sanctions, I very much doubt whether they would be able to deliver it, for all of the above reasons.

  73. Nick Wright: You see. The state as an instrument of class rule.

    This is a very good point, I see that there is yet another best selling book doing the rounds about the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, written by a Chinese woman from a middle class familly

    Now I would certainly hesitate to gloss over some of the terrible things that happened, and how some individuals suffered, but it is clear that the perspective that has become common both in the West, and among China’s own elites now, is coloured by the fact that the bad things happened to people who Graham Green described as not being from the “torturable classes”. Some truly terrible atrocities happened, but broadly the experience was that many middle class people suddenly experienced life without their privileges, and some of the expectations that they had of a more comfortable life than most Chinese people enjoyed were thwarted.

    For the avoidance of doubt, I am not saying that the GPCR was a “good thing”, but it was something that happened in particular historical and cultural circumstances where the government was not entirely in control of the situation it found itself in.

  74. John on said:

    Andy Newman: a “reasonable management request”

    Of such material Eichmann’s are made. I draw your attention to the work of Erich Fromm on the dangers of the ‘bureaucratic attitude’.

    ‘Once the living human being is reduced to a number, the true bureacrats can commit acts of utter cruelty, not because they are driven by cruelty of a magnitude commensurate to their deeds, but because they feel no human bond to their subjects. While less vile than the sadists, the bureaucrats are more dangerous, because in them there is not even a conflict between conscience and duty; their conscience is doing their duty; human beings as objects of empathy and compassion do not exist for them.’

    Erich Fromm, To Have Or To Be?, (Bloomsbury, 2015), p. 162

  75. John: Of such material Eichmann’s are made.

    No John. The requirement to follow “reasonable management requests” is the bread and butter reality of paid employment; and protecting trade union members from jeopardising their livelihood by refusing such a reasonable management request is prudent advice for any labour movement activist.

  76. John, it strikes me that there are two conceptions which lie behind your position, both of which I think lead to passivity and political impasse. Firstly, you substitute the trade union for the role of the revolutionary party. Trade unions only do what they can do and this is determined by the actual level of class and political consciousness of their members and, because they aspire to embrace the whole class with its differeing levels of consciousness, this is always determined, in the last instance, by what is possible in a given society in which the contradictions inherent in capitalism have developed to a given level.

    Thus, for instance, the revolutionary trade union movement of Czechoslovakia played an important part in taking state power. The balance of forces must be favourable and workers have to accumulate a very big body of experience and organisation and political leadership of a very high level before they are ready for tasks of this magnitude. This would have been impossible at any preceding time in Czechoslovakia’s history and was only possible in 1948 because of the circumstances at the time.

    The other question concerns what appears to be an undialectical and determinist conception of the human subject. No individual, even a state bureaucrat, is a one-sided personality defined exclusively by their social position. This is why theory and ideological struggle, in the workplace including in the trade union, is so important and why an approach to state functionaries which fails to differentiate them according to the actual institutional power they wield and which imposes upon them unrealistic goals is bound to fail.

  77. Nick Wright: Trade unions only do what they can do and this is determined by the actual level of class and political consciousness of their members and, because they aspire to embrace the whole class with its differeing levels of consciousness, this is always determined, in the last instance, by what is possible in a given society in which the contradictions inherent in capitalism have developed to a given level.

    Yes indeed, and I am sure that in making what I think is a necessary correction to John you have placed the right emphasis upon the constraints. However we shouldn’t throw the baby away with the bathwater, in the sense that while there are very real limitations to what unions can achieve, it is also true that what unions can achieve is also partially determined by the limits of politics, organisation, consciousness and experience within the unions.

    That is however complex, and we have all grown old listening to verbal militancy in union meetings from people who talk a good fight, but cant deliver; while some of the less romantic trade unionists that John derides can and do turn up the pressure on management when the situation demands, and often by imaginative means.

    The process of effective trade unionism also contributes to a shift in the scope of what is and is not possible; but from my experience some of those most resistant to learning from best practice are those who have made a shibboleth out of how we used to fight 40 years ago.

  78. Noah on said:

    John: Do you believe that any British governement would be able to take the entire British banking system into public ownership? What do you think the international response to such an endeavor would be?

    I seem to recall that, following the financial crash, the British government found that it had to go quite some way towards such a position. And I also remember that people on the left at that time were proposing that this ‘windfall’ should be used to achieve social and economic aims, rather than merely having the state behave like a private investor in a market economy in the management of the business.

    It is paradoxical that, as the possibility of being in government has suddenly become imaginable for the left, the ambitions of many on the left in terms of what a Labour government could and should do seem to have shrunk.

  79. Noah on said:

    Andy Newman: were we to have a socialist government intent on such a programme, then that government would have to have a confrontation with the EU, and would probably have to threaten to, or actually leave.

    The Labour Movement’s current pro-EU campaign would be a much healthier one (though perhaps less effective in delivering ‘in’ votes) if it raised such an eventuality, alongside the view that now is not the right time to leave the EU.

    What is unfortunately absent in the ‘debate’ (such as it is) within the left on the EU membership issue is a consideration of how and when the EU could or would become a brake on the ability of a Labour government to act in the interests of the majority of the population.

    For example, how would the EU Commission respond to proposed renationalisation of the energy industries? (and I don’t mean purely in order that the state would then behave like a capitalist investor).

    The language of Labour Party spokespersons on the steel industry (‘temporary nationalisation’, and banging on about ‘Chinese dumping’ rather than the negative outcomes of the capitalist market) suggest that the limitations imposed by EU membership are already affecting what we propose, in terms of merely how we manage the immediate effects of capitalism let alone any ideas about developing the economy in the interests of the majority of people.

    Another example- is it expected that the Commission would agree to the UK government implementing capital controls should those become necessary?

    If we are serious about having a Labour government that achieves something for the ‘99%’ in Britain, such questions need to be raised and thought about.

  80. Andy Newman: in the sense that while there are very real limitations to what unions can achieve, it is also true that what unions can achieve is also partially determined by the limits of politics, organisation, consciousness and experience within the unions.

    Precisely, and this is why it is necessary to organise the left within industries, sectors of the economy and in the unions that correspond to this structures.

  81. John on said:

    Andy Newman: Yes indeed, and I am sure that in making what I think is a necessary correction to John you have placed the right emphasis upon the constraints.

    Sir Andrew Newman. I can see it now.

    Andy Newman: while there are very real limitations to what unions can achieve, it is also true that what unions can achieve is also partially determined by the limits of politics, organisation, consciousness and experience within the unions.

    Or officials who, in the words of Trotsky, refuse to ‘worship the accomplished fact.’

    He wasn’t wrong about everything you know.

  82. jock mctrousers on said:

    John,

    Thank you for using the method of dialectical materialism to give us an objectively correct assessment of the U.K. Trade unions. Trouble is they’re all we’ve got. Or are you in some revolutionary party that’s organising migrants directly for revolution? Many takers? And please stop crying racist.

  83. Vanya on said:

    #72 You will have a big argument with Arthur (as you would be having with Bob Crow) on the subject of the EU.

    Panderers to racism?

  84. John on said:

    Vanya:
    #72 You will have a big argument with Arthur (as you would be having with Bob Crow) on the subject of the EU.

    Panderers to racism?

    I’ll argue my position with anybody. I don’t do idolatry.

  85. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman,

    @87/91 (johns reply) I think you and John are splitting hairs on this. You are both right at the same time in my experience.