The transitory view of the current inflation episode is getting more support from the evidence.…
The Europhile dreamers are out in force
It appears that the Brexit process in Britain will now stall. My understanding of the Referendum was the majority of British people who voted wanted to leave the EU and that the politicians from all sides of politics unambiguously stated they would honour the outcome, whichever way the vote fell. That is what democracies are about. A lot of people are disappointed by vote outcomes. They have to grin and bear it. But in the case of the Brexit vote, the Remainers have never accepted the outcome and have used various means – foul or otherwise – to undermine the choice of the majority. There have been regional strains involved and social class strains (cosmopolitans and the rest) involved. There have been nasty imputations that those who voted to Leave were ignorant, racist or otherwise not entitled to cast an opinion. The Europhile Left had conniptions because their dream looked like evaporating. I use the term ‘dream’ deliberately – as in, not ground in reality. As the incompetence of the Tory government in managing the exit process reaches new heights – embarrassing heights – the Europhile Left has become emboldened and are now reasserting their claims that the British Labour Party should articulate a clear Remain position and push to reform the prevailing European treaties, which embed neoliberalism in their core. Talk about dreaming.
British Labour’s crazy position
When the British Labour Party re-affirmed its demand as part of the Brexit shenanigans that Britain should remain in the Single Market by dint of a customs union arrangement all the Europhile Left Remainers cheered them on – knowing, probably, that that decision would sink any chance of a successful compromise with the Tories.
Their cherished dream to subvert the democratic choice of 52 per cent of the voters at the June 2016 Referendum – who emphatically voted to LEAVE – which, the polity, in turn, vowed to honour – was nearing fruition.
The amazing thing about all this is that there has been very little attention given within progressive circles to how Labour’s Brexit position runs contrary to its 2017 Electoral Manifesto – For the Many not the Few.
In that Manifesto, Labour stated it would:
– Bring private rail companies back into public ownership as their franchises expire.
– Regain control of energy supply networks through the alteration of operator license conditions, and transition to a publicly owned, decentralised energy system.
– Replace our dysfunctional water system with a network of regional publicly-owned water companies.
– Reverse the privatisation of Royal ail at the earliest opportunity.
That statement is pretty categorical and laudable.
As they go on to state:
Public ownership will benefit consumers, ensuring that their interests are put first and that there is democratic accountability for the service.
The question then has always been whether they could do that while remaining fully paid-up members of the European Union.
All sorts of opinions have been offered and examples proferred to claim these goals were consistent with EU membership.
Remember back to 2017, when the French Finance Minister (Bruno Le Maire) intervened in negotiations between the South Korean group STX, which held control of the shipyards in Saint-Nazaire but had gone filed for bankruptcy in 2016, and the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri about the terms of the private takeover of the shipyards by the Italian company.
The Minister reneged on an agreement signed between the two nations on April 12, 2017, which the Italian company sould take control of the Saint-Nazaire shipyards.
Instead, he ‘temporarily’ nationalised STX to deny Fincantieri a controlling interest in the shipyards (see story in Le Monde on Spetember 9, 2017 – Bruno Le Maire à Rome pour déminer le dossier STX – for more detail).
This action was then rushed into the British Brexit debate by zealots looking for every angle on which to undermine the Leave position.
For example, the UK Guardian (aka Remain-lying Central) published the article (October 1, 2017) – Labour Leavers’ claims that EU blocks state takeovers are rejected by experts.
Its headline tells the story.
Reader were assailed with assertions that membership of the EU does not compromise British Labour’s Manifesto, which includes the nationalisation of “water, energy and rail industries”.
The article cited the French decision to nationalise the Saint-Nazaire as being evidence that the EU allows such state interventions.
Yet these views seemed to have not read the Minister’s statements very clearly.
He emphasised that:
Ce constat est d’autant plus vrai que dans l’esprit du gouvernement français, la nationalisation des chantiers de Saint-Nazaire ne saurait être que provisoire.
“ne saurait être que provisoire” – can only be temporary.
In other words, the French were holding out for a better deal from the Italian takeover. It was nothing at all to do with the French government asserting their rights to nationalise and operate the infrastructure on an on-going basis.
Fast track to March 1, 2019, and the French Finance Minister announced at a Franco-Italian business conference in Versailles that the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri will be allowed to merge with STX France, after several years of wrangling about the terms of the privatisation (takeover) (Source).
Moreover, using this as an example to shore up the Remain justification was fraught because the shipyards produced military equipment which is outside the ambit of the Single Market and competition rules of the EU anyway.
See Article 346 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – for the exemptions for military purposes.
The point is fairly clear.
If you read the – Railways Act 1993 – which was introduced by the Tory government as part of the privatisation or outsourcing under franchise of British Rail – and its subsequent amended versions (including the Railways Act 2005 – which the Labour Party claims it will repeal if elected, one gets the strong impression of déjà vu.
How? Go to the EU’s Fourth Railway Package – which is part of the Trans-European Transport policy (TEN-T) policy to increase private corporation access to profit from transport operations.
The EU states that:
… the proposed 4th railway package will help create a more competitive rail sector.
It makes it clear that “anyone would be able to bid to compete on a commercially viable EU rail network from 2020 … [and] … From 2026 private companies would also be able to bid for public service contracts that are awarded by governments on lines that are not as profitable” (Source).
In the House of Commons Briefing Paper (Number CBP 7992, July 27, 2017) – Rail structures, ownership and reform – it is clear that the Chinese and Indian models of traditional “Fully integrated, publicly-owned monopoly” railways is prohibited under EU competition policy.
The point often made by Remainers is that the ongoing operations of German Deutsche Bahn and French SNCF rail systems prove that state-owned railways can continue to function under EU rules.
The point is, however, irrelevant in assessing the plans of British Labour.
The EU prohibits a monopoly being reestablished once privatisation or vertical separation (between rail and track) has occurred. If the French government started to break up SNCF then it, too, would be prevented from reversing those decisions and recreating a vertically integrated monopoly.
So Labour might be able to bring some increased public ownership to the railways system but would have to keep strict separations between segments and maintain competitive tendering on infrastructure.
They might claim this is a renationalisation. But, everybody would know it is not and would still incur the massive (wasted) costs of separation.
The so-called Right-wing conspiracy
The other recurring theme is that the progressive Left should eschew support for Brexit because it is a Right-wing driven agenda.
Recently, the Remain-cheer-leader, the UK Guardian published an article (April 6, 2019), from Labour MP Owen Smith – Face the facts, Labour leftwingers: Lexit is dead .
Owen Smith seems to think he has a divine right to the leadership of the British Labour Party except hasn’t found the numbers to confirm that view despite trying.
After the June 2016 Referendum voted to Leave, he wanted another vote.
In his Guardian article, Smith wrote that:
We should have been more passionate in the fight against a leave campaign that was always a project of the right, for the right and by the right.
He also showed an amazing lack of conviction or understanding of what it means to be government in a currency-issuing nation when he denied that there was ever going to be:
… a leftwing version of Brexit … The truth is there can be no leftwing Brexit. It is an oxymoron. It’s irreconcilable with those values of freedom and equality that are at the heart of what we stand for … a leftwing Brexit could never have been born; to me, Lexit is now dead.
So what would a British Labour government do, if Britain was outside the EU? Continue to inflict neoliberalism? That seems the logic that Smith is presenting here.
How is Britain free when its laws are given to it by the unaccountable European Commission and enforced by the unelected European Court of Justice?
And his take on the nationalisation story was that:
In supporting a customs union and a single market alignment, our party leadership is saying it would bind the UK to the very rules the Lexiters are against.
And when the Labour leadership made that explicit a few weeks ago I thought it would probably rank as the single most ridiculous position for a Labour Party to take since Callaghan and Healey duped the voters in their IMF scam in the mid-1970s.
That was the first major step towards neoliberalism, which saw Thatcher then Blair follow.
By tying their fortunes to the neoliberalism of the EU they perpetuate that sell-out of the great Labour traditions.
Owen Smith also wrote that:
Lexit is dead. Democracy is alive. Labour is waking up.
Democracy decreed that Britain leave the European Union. Anything less is a denial of democracy.
But in what way was the Brexit vote a Right-wing project?
Didn’t the Remainers include notable Tories and characters from the Thatcher period Michael Heseltine?
This article by Josh Jackson (April 12, 2019) – Owen Smith’s Mistakes: Lexit Lives On – is worth reading on this issue.
It notes that:
As even a child can see, big business – banks, corporations, financiers, etc – are the most vociferous supporters of the EU.
For a Left Brexit to be dead, the socialist movement itself would have to be dead.
And that movement, in my view, does not include weak-kneed Fabians like Owen Smith.
And then we get the reform argument
The most extraordinary mistake that the Left continues to make, not just in the context of the Brexit debate, but, in terms of the EU as a whole, is that while the EU is clearly problematic, it can be reformed along progressive lines and fulfill the grand desires of an internationalised Left.
We discussed that hope in detail in – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, 2017).
On April 9, 2019, the New Statesman, which has become a defender of neoliberalism, despite its self-styling to the contrary, published an article by Paul Mason – A new Brexit extension is the moment for Labour to finally champion Remain.
It is about as lame as you could imagine.
It claims that the British Labour Party:
… can no longer be bound by the referendum of 2016 – it must fight for a transformed Europe from within.
That’s right, cosmos, deny the democratic intent of the Referendum and fall back to the usual position that the EU is reformable along progressive lines.
It was written before the final European Council meeting in Brussels on April 10, 2019, and its predictions about what would happen at that meeting with respect to the Brexit extension turned out to be completely wrong.
But in anticipation of the outcomes, Mason wanted the British Labour Party leadership to:
1. Beg (“plead”) the EU to be nice to Britain – yes, Britain gets down on its knees to the neoliberal cabal in Brussels and begs.
2. Force the Government to extend beyond June 30, 2019 and fully participate in the upcoming “European parliamentary election”.
3. Support a long extension even if it means the UK no longer has a “vote over budgets” in the EU.
This is a Surrender Manifesto not a progressive vision.
According to Mason, this would give “internationalists and progressives inside Labour and beyond” time to support a “three-point plan”:
1. “Remain, reform and a rewrite of the Lisbon Treaty”.
2. “Commit the Labour Party …to a Remain-reform strategy”.
3. “Labour would campaign to stay in the EU in order to fight its neoliberal strictures” at a general election.
Apparently, British Labour is:
… not, and have never been, a “Leave party”.
I found that a curious claim given that the relationship between the British Labour party and ‘Europe’ has swung back and forth many times.
In the early period of the Common Market, Labour certainly didn’t champion membership.
European ‘membership’ became a British ambition under the Conservatives after the Suez catastrophe in 1956, which most historians believe finally ended Britain’s pretensions to being a ‘superpower’.
This BBC story (July 24, 2006) – Suez” End of Empire – provides some factual background.
With the demise of Prime Minister Anthony Eden as a result of his stand on Suez, his successor, Harold Macmillan sought to join the Common Market in 1963, only to rebuffed by the French because Charles De Gaulle didn’t want to dilute France’s own ambitions (vis-a-vis Germany) to dominate any inter-governmental arrangements that would strengthen Brussels.
Harold Wilson’s Labour government became pro-Europe in 1967 and it was the Tories (Edward Heath) who took Britain in once De Gaulle was gone.
But Labour was firmly split in the second Wilson government about Europe and the Left of the party were clearly anti-EU membership and reflected the dominant majority in the Labour membership.
It was only the likes of Healey and Callaghan, who had become besotted with neoliberalism, that pushed the Parliamentary line that Labour was pro-EU.
When Labour was defeated resoundingly in the 1979 general election, the new leader Michael Foot turned the Labour Party firmly against EU membership.
If you read the famous – Labour Party Manifesto – which they took into the 1983 election and which has been described as “The longest suicide note in history” (Source) – it is clear:
… the European Economic Community, which does not even include the whole of Western Europe, was never devised to suit us, and our experience as a member of it has made it more difficult for us to deal with our economic and industrial problems. It has sometimes weakened our ability to achieve the objectives of Labour’s international policy.
The next Labour government, committed to radical, socialist policies for reviving the British economy, is bound to find continued membership a most serious obstacle to the fulfillment of those policies. In particular the rules of the Treaty of Rome are bound to conflict with our strategy for economic growth and full employment, our proposals on industrial policy and for increasing trade, and our need to restore exchange controls and to regulate direct overseas investment. Moreover, by preventing us from buying food from the best sources of world supply, they would run counter to our plans to control prices and inflation.
For all these reasons, British withdrawal from the Community is the right policy for Britain – to be completed well within the lifetime of the parliament. That is our commitment. But we are also committed to bring about withdrawal in an amicable and orderly way, so that we do not prejudice employment or the prospect of increased political and economic co-operation with the whole of Europe.
We emphasise that our decision to bring about withdrawal in no sense represents any weakening of our commitment to internationalism and international co operation. We are not ‘withdrawing from Europe’. We are seeking to extricate ourselves from the Treaty of Rome and other Community treaties which place political burdens on Britain. Indeed, we believe our withdrawal will allow us to pursue a more dynamic and positive international policy – one which recognises the true political and geographical spread of international problems and interests …
On taking office we will open preliminary negotiations with the other EEC member states to establish a timetable for withdrawal; and we will publish the results of these negotiations in a White Paper.
Where does that fit with Mason’s claim that British Labour has “never been a Leave party”.
Clearly, under the Third Way neoliberalism of Tony Blair, the Labour Party was firmly pro-Europe.
But the grand tradition of the Labour Left in Britain has not been so enamoured.
Mason also justifies his claim that Labour cannot be “bound by the referendum of 2016” because “Leaving was forced on us by a referendum result”.
The people are invoked to vote for two options – Leave or Remain.
The clear majority vote to Leave.
But here is a member of one of the major political parties in Britain saying that that clear majority “forced” their will on the Party and so they are not bound by the result.
Isn’t that what democracy for all its foibles is about?
Finally, what about the “remain, reform” hopes?
This is the dream sequence that the Europhile Left rehearse on a daily basis to get them through the day.
It is a dream.
The EU have evolved into a core neoliberal institution. Its legal structures embed (Single Market etc) embed neoliberalism in the Treaties.
So we are not talking about a simple change to accession arrangements. The progressive Left would require root-and-branch treaty revision if the resulting structures were expunge the neoliberal, corporatism that is embedded.
The process of changing the Treaties that apply (Treaty on European Union, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union) is onerous.
This analysis (October 2010) from the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) – How to Change the EU Treaties – provides a factual account of how difficult it is to instigate root-and-branch change to the Treaties.
There are different ways to achieve reform, depending on the nature of the reform being sought.
The sort of reforms Paul Mason might be desiring come under the “ordinary revision procedure (ORP)” specified in the 2010 Treaty of Lisbon.
This procedure applies when “a significant reform to EU Treaties is required”.
But the reality is that even if a proposal gets through the Council, then the European Council, then the European Commission, then the European Parliament (and its Parliamentary Committees), then, if pertaining to monetary policy and, possibly, fiscal policy, the European Central Bank, and then, back again to the European Council, it still has go to an Intergovernmental Convention.
The IGCs are dominated by the President of the European Council – agenda setting, scope of debate, etc.
In some cases, the European Council can bypass an IGC but the scope of the reform sought by the likes of Paul Mason would preclude this short-cut.
And then, ladies and gentlemen, if Europe finally gets the reforms on the table at an IGC a consensus has to be achieved.
And then they have to be ratified by all National governments “in accordance with their domestic procedures”.
Can you ever imagine, in the foreseeable future, the so-called New Hanseatic League, combining with the Benelux states (yes, the Netherlands is in both groupings), to approve a reform motion from British Labour advocating the embedding of the 2017 Labour Manifesto in a reformed Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union?
I cannot. It is pure fantasy stuff.
There was an interesting article by Johannes Jarlebring – Taking stock of the European Convention: What added value does the Convention bring to the process of treaty revision? – which appeared in the German Law Journal (No. 8, 2003. pp. 785-799).
It analysed the experience with treaty revision to date and concluded that while the reform processes have a semblance (“at first sight” of being consistent with Article 6 of the Treaty on European Union that the EU is “founded on the principle of democracy”, the reality is quite different.
He analyses the “Convention” process and concludes the “decision-making procedures” suffer from “serious flaws”, which seriously” undermine “the Union’s democratic credentials”.
These procedures are “characterised by the dominating role of the presidium and the vagueness of the decision-making rules” and:
In sum, the Convention’s qualities in terms of rule by the people are largely reduced by its decision-making procedures. In fact, it is practically impossible to hold the Convention members accountable for the output of the Convention since it is unclear who actually made the final decisions and, therefore, was responsible for them.
He also notes that the IGCs “tend to finish in the middle of the night, under fairly chaotic forms and extreme time pressures” because it is extremely difficult to “reach common accord among governments” who “feel little incentive to engage in negotiations during most of the IGC”.
I remain a supporter of a no-deal Brexit.
Britain has all the currency capacity it needs to attenuate the negative (short-term) outcomes that would arise from that stance.
And, it gives a truly progressive British Labour the necessary scope to introduce its transformative Manifesto, after it ditches its neoliberal Fiscal Credibility Rule.
At present, the Labour Party is claiming to represent the progressive position but at the same time defends the neoliberal central aspects of the EU.
A crazy position to be in – that is, no-where!
Please support the activists that are staging events in May in Britain to support the expansion of MMT awareness in that nation.
Details are available from my Events page.
That is enough for today!
(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.
This Post Has 43 Comments
“This analysis (Ocotber 2010) from the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) – How to Change the EU Treaties ”
This link is to the German Law Journal article by Johannes Jarlebring.
Once again an informative and useful article. Maybe worth noting just who owns Britain’s train operators https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/70-of-uk-rail-routes-now-owned-by-foreign-states/
But I daresay that bunch have more interest in the needs of their customers than the water owners: http://www.dieterhelm.co.uk/natural-capital/water/who-owns-the-water-companies/ (though I disagree with Helm’s conclusion)
The Parliamentary Labour Party in the UK hasn’t provided left leadership since that Manifesto in 1983. That’s 36 years of short-term thinking rather than long term thinking, educating and leadership.
They do not seem aware of the inherent contradictions in what they say. David Lammy compared Brexiteers to the Nazis by confusing the call for the restoration of democratic sovereignty in established national states with undemocratic Nazi supra-nationalism.
Calling for true democracy and accountability is not even a right wing aspiration as the Communist party and Marxists are the most pro-Brexit of all the parties in the UK. The Nazis hated democracy and they hated nationalism just like Lammy. The Nazis after all were the first government in the world to initiate a ban on smoking in public places. How progressive was that at the time?
David Lammy and most remainers are classical totalitarians in that their central message is TINA to everything. There is no alternative to memembership of the EU. There is no alternative to Neoliberalism, privatisation, cutting of benefits, pensions and public services etc. They will all claim to be most unhappy to have to implement such Neoliberal policies when the time inevitably comes time and time again, but unfortunately there are no viable economic alternatives. There is alternative to Neoliberal capitalism because the markets will punish any socialist leaning government which tried to implement its policies etc.
TINA is the absolute central tenet of all philosophies of totalitarianism and authoritarianism. It should be noted that since 2003 and the invasion of Iraq there is no alternative anywhere in the world to Neoliberalism and this has led to millions of deaths in the wars to liberate the oil fields of the middle east from socialist governments for exploitation my western corporations. It has moved on from the Nazi dream of European domination to that of a globalist Neoliberal TINA hegemony which ironically takes place as a process of democratising the Middle East and South America when they have already thrown democracy out in principle in order to subject the world to rule by Supranational bodies.
It is the progressives such as David Lammy who are in fact the new Nazis hiding in plain sight and they can be plainly seen inciting hatred in the population by trying to paint true democrats who believe in genuine political choices as being of the far right whilst they position themselves as moderates who just happen to hold totalitarian viewpoints. Other than the holocaust then there is very little that David Lammy would disagree with the Nazis on. There is a strong similarity that the main target of hatred of the progressive Neo-Nazis has transformed the original Nazi hatred they created by developing popular resentment of an elite racial group of capitalists, bankers and money lenders, and has extended and developed the scope of the neo-hatred to the general category of the patriarchal ‘White Male’ (excluding Semites obviously) and especially the white working class male.
I have just be watching, as much as I could stomach of, a video on BNE of Janis Varufakis telling his audience that the EU cannot be ‘Reformed’, but that he, and no doubt DIEM25, will instead ‘Transform’ it. Are we expected to be totally fooled by such pathetic semantics?
It seems that Paul Mason is not alone in his dream world.
Dear Wilfred Whattam (at 2019/04/15 at 5:39 pm)
Yanis is playing with words. To reform or transform the EU the Treaties have to be changed. So far none of the ‘Europhiles’ have outlined exactly how they will get all the nations to agree to root-and-branch progressive reform and how they will bypass the power of the Presidium, that calls the shots on IGCs.
There are millions of dreamers. That is the problem and why the EU continues to get away with it. What the progressives should be is threatening the existence of the EU per se. As in Brexit!
The MMT-angst seems to be getting real in Germany, too. Second big article on MMT in “die ZEIT” (this time by Mark Schieritz who succeeds in making a mess of it) and that is really saying something. Nevermind the fact, the authory fails to differentiate between a Eurozone government and an actual money sovereign. I call this progress.
Seems that we are slowly arriving at the “… then they fight you…” phase in Germany.
I have a question in regards of a post-exit scenario. Not exclusively Brexit, but in general:
Say, for example, Italy or Spain actually leave the Eurozone and face a more than rough start due to the years of austerity, the broken industry and the external pressure that is sure to follow as “punishment” for their insubordination. How can such a country secure itself the best possible post-Euro position?
I guess it would probably have to include capital controls/extensive banking oversight and import substitution policies, wouldn’t it? I’m also curious about wether there is a method or guiding lines in regards of those substitution policies or if this is something that is actually fit for “the free market” to figure out.
Dear Simon Hodges (at 2019/04/15 at 4:59 pm)
Lammy should be sacked then deselected and sent to the oblivion he deserves.
It is a total disgrace for him to parade as a progressive.
Their is evidence emerging that David Cameron was shunted to the side by his controllers, when the Brexit referendum did not supply the ‘correct’ Remain result.
Consternation among the controllers ensued and a plan was hatched to disrupt and prevent Brexit. Teresa may was ‘installed’ to frustrate the Leave result and her cabinet packed with Remainers. It took 7 months to issue Article 50 leaving document ,while the EU had time to create a Remain strategy,
Teresa May in the mean time has further embroiled the UK in the tentacles of Europe by secretly signing several military agreements to build a EU Integrated Defence Force,including a unified Weapons & Equipment Complex, unknown to the electorate.
Teresa May is but a puppet of Globalist power.
The likelihood of a real No Deal Brexit is fading fast and we will be fed a watered down version that is a pretend construct.
Only removal of both main parties from Westmonster can alter this.
Teresa May has sounded the death knell of the Tory Party and Yvette Cooper has terminally damaged Labour by stopping a No Deal Brexit departure.
I haven’t read the whole article yet – sorry – but as someone who voted Leave twice I now think the situation has gone too crazy for Labour to hold the position you suggest, if it ever could have after last year’s conference. I think a confirmatory vote once an agreement is reached in parliament is the correct position, because it is true that things were never as simple as they appeared to voters in 2016. It has reached this position purely because there’s a hung parliament. I still think the most likely outcome is that May will get her deal through and the numbers are simply not there for a confirmatory vote. The important thing for Labour is to win the next election, which they are on course to do and it’s better for them to keep the membership on board. Hopefully we can turn round John McDonnell by then.
What’s interesting is that there seems to be no formally designated process (either through the Simplified or Ordinary Revision Procedures under Article 48) to *reduce* EU competency. It simply isn’t mentioned in the Lisbon Treaty.
Am I missing something?
Whilst your motives for desiring Brexit and indeed the collapse of the whole ‘European project’ are honourable, I think we need to acknowledge that most of the 52% had different motives that certainly included xenophobia.
I would love to believe the 52% understood MMT! But I do see that the vote (and trump etc) is a reaction to what you refer to as neoliberal policies.
Prof Richard Murphy has also fallen foul of this magical thinking. He appears to have blocked me from commenting on his blog now I’m afraid, but if anyone else fancies asking him how he thinks the EU can be reformed, his (misguided and blinkered) blog from today would be a good one as it’s very much on topic:
[Bill deleted link to Murphy’s site – I do not wish to promote his writing. His representation of MMT is invalid]
As I’ve commented here before I’ve written to all sorts of Remain and Reform types, including Another Europe Is(nt) Possible, Labour Against Brexit, Labour for a Socialist Europe, Caroline Lucas MP, Clive Lewis MP, Labour Against Brexit, Paul Mason and dozens of others (even Billy Bragg FFS) asking for more details of how this reform can get passed, who specifically are our potential allies, how are they doing at home and in the Euro Parliament, what can we do about the corporate capture etc.
Only DiEM have given anything like an adequate reply – a kind of remain and obstruct – and that’s already been debunked here and elsewhere.
I tend to agree with you that Theresa May might still get her “deal” through.
I am less sure though of the advisability of a “confirmatory vote”. For a start, what would be the question or questions on the ballot paper? And what if the result was as close as, or closer than, last time?
I think that a (properly) “planned No Deal” might have worked, but it would have taken a leader other than Theresa May to achieve it.
I still think that the most likely outcome will be that Brexit won’t now happen at all, even BRINO.
I fear there are issues using the term ‘Progressive’ in that it means different things to different people. When Blair switched the LP to Neoliberalism and Neoconservatism, he was seen as progressively modernising the party even though he was essentially returning to the politics and economic of the late nineteenth century and if anything it was a regressive step. The progressive imperialism foreign policy of the US exercised from 1890 – 1920 has very much been replicated by US and UK foreign policy since 2003 when Blair converted labour into supporting the Project for the New American Century.
I would identify ‘Progressives’ as being the Neoliberal Pro-EU, identity politics driven wings of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Parties. Corbyn is being referred to as a Marxist and Neo-Marxist, but in my book he just a traditional social democrat and a pretty confused one at that.
In these respects I don’t feel that the term ‘Progressive’ is particularly useful going forward in terms of MMT and any radical critique. Similarly one has to be careful about referencing the ‘Europhile Left’. Anyone being pro-Brexit and anti-EU has to consistently state that being anti-EU does not equate with being anti European and that we very much like all the European nations. We just think they would all be better off outside the EU.
@Mike, the question would be The Deal or Remain – simple majority. I believe if it’s current deal it wouldn’t get through. It’s not going to happen though.
His programme is much less radical than that of Clement Attlee in 1945.
(Check out the “Jobs for All” section. Sound familiar?)
I think of myself as a “Europe-phile” (I feel much closer culturally to Europe than I do to the USA for example), but the word does not trip off the tongue.
Most Guardian writers (with the exception of Larry Elliott) and seemingly most Guardian readers (judging by the letters column) are unreservedly and unquestioningly pro-EU and do not seem to admit that there is a Leftist argument for Brexit. It’s sad that people like Paul Mason dismiss it entirely – this is not consistent with some of his earlier writing. In fact he seems inconsistent in many ways, and I don’t take him very seriously these days.
I suspect that most Guardianistas are pro-EU for cultural reasons, rather than economic or even political ones (as I used to be, if I am honest). They probably know very little of the economics of the EU; they just know that “£350million per week to spend on the NHS” was at best, a creative fib, and believe what they have been told endlessly: that a No-Deal-Brexit will mean the end of the world as we know it. They sip their latte’s (to borrow a Bill-ism) as they plan their next anti-Brexit march, and scratch their heads over whether they will still be able to afford maintenance on their holiday home in The Dordogne, in the event that Brexit really does come off, and whether those cases of fine wine in the back of the 4X4 will attract customs duty on the way back from their next continental holiday.
You accuse Brexiteers of xenophobia (hatred of foreigners). If you’re going to accuse anyone of “hating” anyone else, wouldn’t it be good manners to provide FIRST CLASS evidence to back your accusation?
My personal experience is that Brexiteers are just as happy to go abroad for holidays as Remainers, not something they’d do if they really did “hated foreigners”.
SImon, I agree.
I say “Pro-Europe therefore Anti-EU”. The Europhile left (arguably but not sure, ut certainly not the way Bill uses it, I could consider myself to be part of) includes some Lexiters, both hard and soft.
Similarly “progressive” is often a misleading label. I consider myself a radical progressive social democrat and that neither the Labour leadership – getting the band back together for one last gig
– “Corbynites” nor Third Way Labour “Blairites” are. I would say the former are regressive democratic socialists – noting that their policies are far more popular than the authoritarian behaviour of the leadership – and the latter are “social neoliberals”, hopefully more obvious, at least to reader of this log. IMV no-one in Parliament represents any sensible progressive and social democratic position.
Single term labels seem to be losing all meaning to highlight useful distinctions, at a minimum we are forced to use qualified labels.
I remember Roy Hattersley, in the days when Blairism was riding high, proudly describing himself as a Democratic Socialist (and not as a Social Democrat). He used to say that he’d always been regarded as being on the right of the party, but that while he had not changed his stance, the party had moved to the right, around him, as it were, and so he now found himself on the left (relatively speaking). Having said that, even people like Callaghan and Healey, for all their flirtation with Monetarism, were probably well to the left (in most respects) of Tony Blair. (And while Bill may regard Healey as a Monetarist, I’m not sure that he would have recognised himself as one, bearing in mind that he used to describe Thatcher’s policies (influenced by Friedman) as “Sadomonetarism”).
Hi Simon Hodges
Names/labels are problematic because the opponents are always trying to demonise, pervert, belittle or steal. Should we give in to this and accept their use? No, because names are very useful. Why should progressive be linked with fairness in respect of various social relations but not in respect of the most divisive one, and where least progress has been made: financial relations
Some people of course are not content to steal a name but join a party to which they clearly shouldn’t belong according to its historic purpose, represented by its name – The Labour Party,
I don’t know how often it has to be said, but MMT is a theory to help understand the economy as it is now as well as to understand the possibilities and limits of what is possible if other policies were enacted. It is not therefore Progressive in the sense that has come to be used in terms of a morally justified politics, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t progressive in another sense. Native speakers can identify this difference in use when they understand the context.
The SNP are the same
The Growth Comission produced by the SNP is a blue print to join the Euro and the SNP have tried to overturn democracy from day one. I’ll NEVER vote for them again.
They are using Brexit to try and steal remain Lib Dems and Labour voters in their ” Indy at all costs ” approach. It’s hilarious and utter stupidity as they sleep walk Scotland into a “soft Indy” or “indy in name only” as they hand the keys to Scotland to Brussels. They see Ireland as the largest tax haven in Europe that uses the Euro as a perfect model for Scotland to emulate.
The Think Tanks that support the SNP are a bunch of fools who think it can all be sorted out later after independence and who think they control the SNP. Who rush to make ammendments for the SNP conference that Brussels would laugh at. These Think Tanks have deluded themselves by their own echo chambers and actually believe they would have the upper hand when it comes to negotiating with the EU. As if it would be them sitting across the table for the EU and not the SNP who want to be at the heart of Europe. Who will fully sign up Scotland to both the customs union and the single market with a view to using the Euro in the future. A ship of fools flowing on a sea of shite.
I now have nobody to vote for. I’m a statistic with no voice as I want true Scottish independence free from Brussels. The narrative within the Indy movement has to be controlled by a bunch of control freaks who has chosen the wrong strategy and the narrative has to be small. No discussion no debate stealing Labour and Lib Dem voters is far more important. A strategy that will cost Scotland true independence.
“All hail the EU” -The SNP and their think tanks can lie, cheat and fraud the Scottish people across the winning line to a faux independence all they like. Keep calling a spade a shovel to steal votes which in my book makes them no better than the establishment parties – Liars ! and I don’t deal with liars I want nothing to do with them.
Once you go down that route of deceit you sell your soul a little bit at a time. Which reminds me of the film the Rainmaker a book by John Grisham about lawyers.
“Every lawyer, at least once in every case, feels himself crossing a line that he doesn’t really mean to cross… it just happens… And if you cross it enough times it disappears forever. And then you’re nothin but another lawyer joke. Just another shark in the dirty water. “Don’t compromise yourself – you’re all you have. ”
Well not me never in a million years. That line has been staring me in the face for months now. I thought about crossing it. I even came up with ways to cross it that would save a little bit of my soul. However, in the end it was so much easier staying true to myself and staying true to MMT. Easily live with myself moving forwards and forever call a spade a spade. Otherwise everytime I looked in the mirror I wouldn’t recognise who or what was staring back at me.
From now on. I will do everything I can to stop the SNP and their merry band of amatuers from leading Scotland into the neoliberal globalist sess pit known as the EU. They’ll NEVER again be allowed to use the MMT Scotland advisory board to futher their “indy at all costs – lie, cheat and deceive and we will clear it up later ” approach.
So Australia suggests deporting Aborigines. The reason I bring this up is it seems the view of Mr Mitchell is that Labour would win the next election and proceed on a progressive path possibly incorporating MMT Ideas. Labour’s economic manifesto suggests balancing the budget in 5 years? A Tory government being elected is also very likely. Then definitely we will have neoliberal austerity on steroids. The Tory pro-Brexit supporters are also lovingly autocratic and profess libertarian ideals not MMT goals and analysis. You can be correct about possible economic policy. But given UK governments have already deported members of Windrush and right wing leaders support harsh solutions for non-white and non-Christian UK born citizens.
David Lammy is a neoliberal? Huh?
A key factor in me being a soft lexiter is that I see no sign that we have a potential government that could possibly manage hard brexit successfully, theoretically yes but pragmatically and realistically no. Labour with its leadership will fail, even if they understood MMT and developed coherent policies with that framework. Whilst their policies are anyway undeniably superior to the Tories, that is low bar to overcome. I have zero faith in that leadership to be effective, they can’t even manage their own internal disciplinary processes effectively.
The prime motivation for Owen Smith and his ilk is to ensure the party regresses back to a Blairite neoliberal state as soon as possible, no matter what it takes. Brexit in of itself is just one of many sticks to beat the current leadership with. A second referendum with Remain on the ballot would in my honest opinion be electoral suicide for Corbyn, which is precisely why Smith et al are trying to force it on the leadership. The absolute last thing any of those Labour MP’s want is a Labour government under Corbyn and Momentum, astonishing though it may be to write those words. I have to check myself for a tin foil hat when i consider this point, but the evidence is there in plain sight.
You had MP’s distancing themselves from the leadership at the last election in 2017, and openly criticising it and it’s policies *during* an election campaign. Some were actively saying they did not want a Labour government under Corbyn. So not only did Corbyn have the print press, TV, media, commentariat, and opposition parties all arrayed against him, he also had most of his own MP’s, most of whom 9 months earlier had launched a chicken coup to try to get rid of him. I’m not even that big a fan of either Corbyn or Mcdonnell, but even i can see they are a step in the right direction, albeit clearly not MMT friendly at all.
As for Paul Mason, he’s all over the place – he was always a bit flaky, with a tendency to voice platitudes and scriptural Marxism instead of coherent thought and argument. However he seems to have taken it to a new level recently, probably not a coincidence that he has a new book out soon. He’s flip flopped all over the place on Brexit – i don’t deny people are allowed to change their minds, but its just a stream of consciousness from him – his Twitter feed contradicts itself from tweet to tweet, sentence to sentence. It’s just empty bilge mostly, virtue signalling to hardcore remainers with obscurantism. He rather marked his card recently when challenged on his anti-MMT stance that he’d been following it for 10 years but had clearly confused it with Positive Money – e.g he knew next to nothing about what MMT exactly is but he was definitely against it ! He’s just another bluffer and a chancer in the media – quelle surprise.
@Patrick b – and I notice a Gaurdian article.last.night where the author assures us the EU is not neoliberal at.all and that portraying.as such is a.false.construct. I.stopped.reading at that point so I dont know if he went on to attempt.to.re-define the meaning of the term (in a similar manner to.the way on which full employment has been re-defined.to.mean something else.entirely) but I guess he would have at.least.given it a go. Framing is so important when spreading propaganda.
@Mike, I believe it was William Keegan in Observer who coined the term ‘sadomonetarism’. I don’t recall Healey using it.
I agree the evidence is overwhelming that the EU is one of the most advanced neoliberal projects to date. I cannot help but see extremist remainers as supporting the neoliberal status quo and are neoliberals or useful idiots. It does look to me like anyone who is pushing to remain, left or right are neoliberal. The puzzle is those on the left who claim to be against neoliberalism who are remainers. They in particular take umbrage when I point out they are supporting neoliberalism.
One position is TINA and that the UK is neoliberal too – remain is the lesser of two evils. Still it is TINA that we seek to undermine. If they accept TARA over not TINA, then it is just a discussion of pragmatics. I know a few who fully agree with an MMT analysis of the EU yet voted remain because of pragmatic concerns – difficult to argue with them given the huge mess of our politics, but my own pragmatic solution of Efta/EEA I argue is superior and unifying in the way in which remain or hard leave is not.
Another position which also accepts the EU is neoliberal focuses on other factors, specifically the danger of fascism. Since I hold that the EU is reproducing the dangerous political currents it was designed to prevent, I argue these as evidence of the proximate consequence of the EU, that the EU is not the solution but the problem.
However with positions denying that the EU is neoliberal at alI, I find those holding that to be very dubious. A surprising number fail to comprehend this argument. They mostly focus on the EU as a defense against the neoliberalism of the UK. I find this actually the most troubling position as this gives license to all the discussion destroying fallacies.
@Carol, You are right about William Keegan coining it, but I definitely remember Dennis Healey using it, and this is supported by various online sources. I won’t give a link, but googling “sadomonetarism Healey” should find them. (But to be fair to Bill, Healey did practice a form of Monetarism himself, if not perhaps to the extent of the Thatcher period). (Just found in google books, one by Keegan called “Nine Crises”, in which he credits Healey with the term “Punk-Monetarism”, and claims credit for “Sadomonetarism”).
It makes me intensely sad to say it but, for the second time in my life, I despair today of Britain and fear for her future.
I never thought I would again see the day when a coterie of self-obsessed lunatics – fanatics might be nearer the mark – would have the arrogance to appoint themselves arbiters over whether (in what we like to think of as our – however imperfect – parliamentary democracy) the express will of the majority shall be allowed to be implemented.
They have the impertinence to propose that the matter be settled by a so-called “people’s vote”. They know full well that that was what we already had, in June 2016. And they know full what the outcome was. Ever since, they have been intent on overturning that “people’s vote”.
So now they want another one. What then? Another, to overturn the second …? If not, why not? If one “people’s vote” doesn’t settle the issue when they don’t agree with its outcome, why should another the outcome of which they do agree with be accepted as valid by those who don’t sgree with that one? When if ever does the issue get finally decided? And HOW? By force?
The first time I despaired (as many did then) was in the late ‘sixties. That time the coterie which had arrogated to itself the right to rule the country *by extra-parliamentary means* was an extreme left-wing faction which had secured the real reins of power within the established trade unions, both at shop-floor level and (in some unions, eg the Mineworkers, the Boilermakers, the Electricians,…) in the leadership. It culminated in “the winter of discontent” (1959-60), and was swiftly followed by the victory of the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher in 1961, the miners’ strike, and the ushering-in of the subsequent four decades and more of unbroken neoliberal dominance, under both parties.
Today it’s again a faction – much less clearly-defined but nonetheless clearly identifiable by the vocabulary they all (sheep-like) employ – of self-identified “progressive”, “left-leaning”, Momentum-besotted, idiots (sorry, but no other word will do) for which Paul Mason can stand as prototype – which threatens the nation’s future as a parliamentary democracy. And saddest of all, the parliamentariens themselves are helping towards the destruction of the democratic institutions which they have each and every one of them pledged themselves to uphold and defend – by bringing them into contempt.
Historically, when that has happened (across a whole raft of examples, from the first glorious phase of the French revolution to the not dissimilar phase of the Russian one, and dozens in between) it has ended in revolution, bloodshed and – almost always – tyrrany.
Have we passed the point where any resumption of sanity, moderation and respect for constitutional democratic norms is any longer possible? I wonder.
Dear robertH (at 2019/04/16 at 6:49 pm)
Your dates are a decade out. Thatcher was elected in May 1979. The Winter of Discontent was 1978-79. And so on.
You got your years wrong!
This reminds me of the old joke in the States “Republicans are the party that argues that government does not work and when they get elected, prove it!”
We could say here “Neoliberalism is the thesis that democracy does not work, and when elected, they prove it!”
I’m indebted to you for your correction. I dashed-off my post in such feverish haste that I didn’t pause to double-check as I should have. Mea culpa.
Best regards (and keep up your amazing tempo!)
I looked through other old Labour Party Manifestos on the website I referred to in an earlier post. The one from 1983 is interesting. This was when Michael Foot was leader. Nowadays he might be considered by the political mainstream as “hard left”. However, he would be more accurately described as one of those old world Labour politicians who “owed more to Methodism than to Marxism”. He was rightly proud of the achievements of the 1945 Labour government, but talking about this didn’t always play well with audiences of the 1980s and later, who saw it as being backward-looking. This manifesto was described by Labour MP Gerald Kaufmann as “The longest suicide note in history”.
I won’t give a link, (it can be worked out from my previous link), but this section, on The Common Market, is interesting, considering what is going on at the moment:
Whilst the Tories can hardly be said to have covered themselves with glory (and whilst their record in office going back to 2010 is contemptible IMO) I regard the behaviour in regard to Brexit of the current Labour opposition as having been even more deplorable. At least Teresa May (a lukewarm “Remain” supporter – or loyalist cabinet-member as she then was) has since she succeeded Cameron genuinely (IMO) and strenuously *tried* to keep her promise to “deliver Brexit”. The trouble is that the Brexit she sees herself as delivering is compromised to the extent of being a “bad deal” and that accordingly (judged against her own criteria) “no deal” becomes the preferable choice.
Meanwhile despite making an identical promise Corbyn has turned himself inside-out feigning to do so whilst in actuality sabotaging Brexit every step of the way. To me that seems despicable.
All the more so when one bears in mind that throughout his entire political career Corbyn has positioned himself on the extreme left of the Labour Party (aka the Bennite wing), and that starting immediately from when the Tory government under Harold Macmillan first adopted as its policy to seek to join “the Common Market” that wing passionately, consistently, opposed it. No one who has followed British politics could have doubted for one moment that Corbyn as a back-bench MP was in permanent revolt against his own front-bench’s policy, in that regard as in virtually all others, right up to (and beyond) his own election as party leader. Yet now he professes to espouse a customs union, as well as close adherence to the (neoliberal to the core) single market’s requirements, as his preferred version of Brexit knowing full well that that is a travesty of what he pledged himself and his party to “deliver” (as well as of what if he were honest he would confess to have been opposing throughout his entire time as an MP).
The Labour Party is (as usual under Corbyn) trying to have its cake and eat it in a bid to be all things to all people.
In truth the Labour Party is split down the middle on the EU question. The Party leadership are Eurosceptic but the back benches are instinctively remain. The majority of Labour voters voted remain but many of its MPs represent leave voting constituencies that Labour has to retain if it has any chance of forming a government.
The fundamental reality is that the vote to leave was motivated by 30 years of regional neglect in labour’s heartland. That neglect can only be addressed by resurrecting the interventionist spirit Labour displayed in the 60s (Wilson for all his faults was a Dirigiste at heart) and the 70s (when Labour formulated the Alternative Economic Strategy).
The only way to do that is to leave the EU.
Europhile dreamers or rather idiots are in denial. Even in Germany basic infrastructure are severely decaying because of EU:s insane economic model, artificial bookkeeping columns are more important than the real economy. Cultural heritage is decaying because imagery “balanced” budgets are adulated.
Even without the present fire the Notre Dame was in severe decay because of neglected maintenance and needed restoration works.
The Europhile left are totally lost about EU and the core economic model that are its constitution, it’s not “reformable”.
In Sweden there where two parties that was wholeheartedly against EU membership, the “former” communists and the far-right wingers. Both have turned 180 degree and are for “change from within”. Money talks as they say, a position in EU are personally very lucrative.
Thatcher was spot on here:
Not for the “right” reason, but she wanted to keep power and control to drive her right-wing agenda. And she did. You can not change a country, right or left, if you don’t control the economy.
Are the Europhile left in the business to really want to change society in another direction?
Thatcher was spot on here:
[forgot the Youtube link]
I have just read this article and all of the comments. The word ‘Ireland’ is mentioned but once, and that in relation to the SNP.
I think that the major reason that Brexit is proving to be difficult in practice is because of the Irish border. The Good Friday agreement (which is an internationally recognised treaty) provided for subsequent relaxation of border controls on the island of Ireland. The Irish border would be extremely challenging to police effectively. In order for the UK, to ‘take back control’ it would have to police its only land border, and also the EU would require a border to preserve the integrity of the Single Market. So, we need to both have an open border and a controlled border simultaneously. This is a difficult conundrum.
I believe that were Great Britain not bound to Northern Ireland politically then Brexit would be much easier to implement, and could be feasible as a concept.
I further believe that had the UK had mandatory identity cards, or such, then the UK could have had similar implementation of freedom of movement, as practised in many countries of Europe (a three month allowance to find work, and then a mandatory return to country of origin). The libertarian wing of the Conservative party objects to identity cards, so we necessarily have unrestrained freedom of movement, which I believe lay behind many voters unhappiness with the EU.
I did not mention economics, since I think that the practicalities render the discussion moot for now.
We’ve had a Common Travel Area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland for years, which long predates the EU. We already had freedom of movement. No passports needed. Irish people could, and can, vote in UK elections. Northern Irish citizens can choose to have British citizenship, Irish citizenship, or both. And even some EU sources have admitted that even with a “no deal” Brexit, the Irish border needn’t have been that big a problem. This molehill of a “problem” was artificially blown up to be a mountain, in order to slow down, and ultimately halt progress on Brexit. From Project Fear to Reverse Gear in one long slow movement.
“I believe that were Great Britain not bound to Northern Ireland politically then Brexit would be much easier to implement, and could be feasible as a concept.”
True but Great Britain is bound to Northern Ireland politically and will be until the Unionist population in Ulster are in a minority. The fact is, the EU is insisting on a hard border between Ulster and the republic and it is getting away with it.
“I further believe that had the UK had mandatory identity cards, or such, then the UK could have had similar implementation of freedom of movement, as practised in many countries of Europe (a three month allowance to find work, and then a mandatory return to country of origin). The libertarian wing of the Conservative party objects to identity cards, so we necessarily have unrestrained freedom of movement, which I believe lay behind many voters unhappiness with the EU.”
Again membership of the EU makes mandatory identity cards a necessity to check freedom of movement. Mandatory identity cards may be common on the mainland but they are politically unacceptable in the UK.
It’s membership of the EU that poisoning British politics.
PhilipR said:- “It’s membership of the EU that (is) poisoning British politics”.
A truer word was never spoken.
“In order for the UK, to ‘take back control’ it would have to police its only land border”,
Mike Ellwood’s post conclusively disposes of that argument. In *strictly practical* terms there’s not the slightest need for Britain to need to reintroduce border-controls or customs posts between NI and the ROI. It has been the EU which has insisted upon the necessity for that (in the event of no Withdrawal Agreement being reached).
For public consumption (= PR lying) the EU has piously appointed itself chief guardian of the GFA and champion of probity. Transparently, they have simply been using that pretext as a bargaining tactic – a highly-effective means of turning-up the pressure on the opponent (Britain) to concede victory to them.
Note:- “highly effective” only because of the fifth column within Britain, consisting of Remainers (of all political persuasions – I won’t use the word “loyalties” because those no longer exist) hell-bent on overturning the “leave” majority-vote by any means fair or foul.
Reforming the EU Treaties along democratic socialist lines is clearly unrealistic.
But can an EU member state unilaterally exempt itself from a selection of treaty provisions? Is it possible for a member state to lodge reservations to specific provisions of a treaty – to notify its fellow members that it accepts the treaty but won’t be enacting some of the provisions?
Excellent food for thought, Bill. Shared your post on the Facebook group “Labour for Democratic Socialism” [-}