EU – The Big Bogey Man of Right and Left


EU flag

Looking at the websites of several of the minor political parties putting up candidates for the June 4th EU elections in the UK (I’ve given up on the three major parties since they have such similar policies), I notice how the EU has become the scapegoat/whipping boy of far left and far right parties, blamed for every ill in our society today.

Let’s try to set the record straight by examining the claims one by one:

The far right claim the EU is responsible for uncontrolled immigration. Well yes and no. There is indeed free movement of people within the EU (with some temporary restrictions), but immigration from outside the EU is still controlled.

There is indeed a problem with cheap labor coming in from Eastern and Central Europe and taking jobs from British workers. But this can easily be resolved by raising the minimum wage, by imposing it strictly in all cases, and also by strengthening the trade union movement and re-introducing the closed shop in many industries and services. This latter solution would mean nobody could get a job unless they joined a trade union, and got paid union rates for the job. Thus British workers would compete with others on a level playing field.

Another criticism from both far left and right political parties, is about the free movement of capital within the EU and the power of the banks. This, however, is not restricted to the EU. With globalization there is free movement of capital everywhere, and many jobs have been exported to places in Asia where labor is dirt cheap. This is how capitalism exploits the workers of the developing world. To a lesser extent jobs have been exported to the cheap labor markets of Eastern/Central Europe. But essentially, whether we are in the EU or not, it would make little difference to this constant capitalist quest for maximum profits. The only answer is Socialism.

This brings me to the next criticism from Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party and other far left groups: that the EU is a capitalist club of nations. Well, this may well be true at present, but it is not necessarily true for all time. They also accuse the EU of being bureaucratic and undemocratic, but are totally opposed to moving towards a federal Europe or a United States of Europe.

They really can’t have it both ways. The reason why the European Parliament and institutions are bureaucratic and not as democratic as they should be is because we have not moved to a fully federal constitution, such as the United States of America has. This would establish a fully democratic federal government, and also devolve strong powers to member states.

As to being a capitalist club and a barrier to Socialism, I would argue the opposite. Many EU countries have very strong Socialist and Communist traditions, including all of Eastern and Central Europe, Greece, Cyprus, France and Italy among others. Eastern Germany was also Socialist for over 40 years, and many there have nostalgia for the old GDR. France and Italy had huge Communist parties. Scandinavia also has good public services, their form of Socialism. So in a federal Europe we’d actually be more likely to get a Socialist government, than if the UK were to leave the EU.

Then both far right and left complain about bureaucratic dictats coming down from Brussels. Well by and large, the legislation passed down has been progressive, and have dragged the UK kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Human rights legislation guaranteeing equal rights and no discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, age, etc. for instance. Next I hope they include religion/atheism/agnosticism, so that the Church of England, Bishops in the House of Lords and the Christian Head of State (monarch) can be disestablished.

Another accusation, from the far left, is that Brussels has encouraged privatization of industries and services. In actual fact it was of course Margaret Thatcher who inaugurated this policy, continued by the Major, Blair and Brown governments. Nothing to do with the EU at all, in fact they’ve just followed Britain’s lead. The collapse of Socialism in the former Soviet Union and the other Socialist countries also led to mass privatization. The World Bank, WTO and IMF also dictate privatization as a condition for loans to under-developed countries.

However, there is no EU legislation which bans public ownership or cooperatives. There is therefore nothing to stop Britain or any other EU state from taking industries and services into some form of public or cooperative ownership and control.

If several EU states were to adopt Socialism, then they could always break away from the EU and form their own European Socialist Union (ESU), a sort of democratic successor to the USSR/Soviet Union. But in this day and age it is not practical for countries like Britain to be isolated and alone in the world. The trend is towards bigger federations, confederations and super-states.

It was a tragedy that the Soviet Union, the Yugoslav federation and Czechoslovakia all broke up into supposedly independent states, many of whom are now either EU members or clamoring to join. They realize they can’t survive in the modern world on their own.

Let’s not make the mistake of leaving or jettisoning the EU, like they did with these Socialist federations. The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia could easily have been reformed and made more efficient and democratic, and similarly the EU can be reformed and made more efficient and democratic.

We had terrible wars in Europe twice in the last century, this is another important reason European states are bound together in a close political union. It is a step towards a World Government, which is the only way to secure permanent peace.

In any democratic federal or confederal system member states have considerable autonomy. Each state of the USA has its Capitol with a Senate and House of Representatives, and their own laws. We see it already within the UK, with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having their own Assemblies or Parliaments, with separate policies and legislation from England. A federal EU would be much more democratic than the present fudge, with clearly defined areas of responsibility for state governments and the federal government. Voters in individual member states would, as at present, elect their own state governments, preferably under the system of proportional representation, multi-round elections or alternative transferable voting rather than the undemocratic first-past-the-post system so they truly reflected the wishes of the people and every vote counted.

The Euro is the currency of the EU, and the sooner Britain and Northern Ireland adopt it the better. I want to be able to travel freely around the EU as an EU citizen, without having to show my passport, and using the same currency, the Euro, everywhere. That is not to say we won’t protect our English, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Irish heritage. We will retain our national flags and culture, but join with the other nations of Europe in a united continent, free from the fear of past wars.

I am proud to be an EU citizen. I would stand up for the EU anthem and respect the EU flag. It is a new country in the process of being born. It will not always be capitalist, it will change as the political climate changes, bowing to the will of the European people.

All member states have the right to leave the Union of course, but hopefully they will not do so singly. Individual states will find it difficult to survive on their own. If ever England or the other British/Irish nations leave the EU I hope they join another federation, such as a European Socialist Union. For now our future is in the European Union we know today, the United States of Europe of tomorrow.

Possible ESU flag

Muddling Through As Always

In most countries, take the United States for instance, things are well-ordered. They have a written Constitution, and each of the 50 states in the Union has a legislature. Also postal addresses are quite clear. If you live in Louisiana, for example, your postal address will be Louisiana (or La in its abbreviated format).

Here in the UK, everything is in a total state of chaos and disorder. We have no written Constitution for a start, and devolution has left England without a national Parliament or state legislature. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have either Parliaments or Assemblies, but these need to be regularized so that each country has a legislative authority with the same powers. Imagine the uproar if Texas had a State Capitol but poor old Louisiana next door only had a State Assembly with less powers, and New York State was governed directly by Washington, D.C.!

The counties of England have been messed about so much in the past 50 years or so, that nobody knows where they live anymore. Bournemouth jumped from Hampshire to Dorset, Sussex and Yorkshire were divided up, the Isle of Wight became a county in its own right, and many towns and cities have no county at all, being administrative authorities in their own right.

The postal addresses often bear very little resemblance to political reality, thus we have places like Harrow, Wembley, Barnet, Romford, Ilford, Bromley, Croydon, Kingston-upon-Thames, etc. with postal addresses in the counties of Middlesex (which hasn’t even existed for decades), Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent and Surrey. In actual fact none of these places are in those counties, and haven’t been since the Greater London Council was established, later superceded by the Greater London Assembly. All these places are in the metropolitan administrative area of Greater London, and so should have London postal districts allocated to them. Snobbery plays a large part in the reason why Wembley is not given a London NW postal district, or Romford a London E postal address, and Bromley a London SE postal code. People living in these London suburbs like to pretend they are living in the rural Home Counties.

London has always been an administrative nightmare. In the 1950s I lived in Wood Green, North London. The postal address was London N22 (there was no second part to the post code at that time), but it was in the county of Middlesex. The London County Council only covered the Inner London boroughs.

We need to get ourselves in order, because one day we are going to be part of a federal European Union, and in most other countries of the EU they are much better organized than we are. Federalism is alien to the UK, but it is here in all but name with devolution, though England misses out by not having a national legislature.

A written Constitution could include a Bill of Rights and put some order into the national and local legislatures and authorities. Personally I’d want a republic with an elected Head of State, and most certainly a Parliament or State legislature for England, and an upgrading of the Welsh National Assembly.

Federalism works very well in the United States and other countries because it is clearly defined where powers lie, and this will be essential if the EU becomes a federal union, as is bound to happen eventually.

For years London, the capital of the UK, had no cohesive government at all because Maggie Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council and put nothing in its place. So we had 32 separate London boroughs all responsible for different parts of the metropolis. This is so typical of the muddle in local government within the UK over the decades. What we need is some order and consistency.

We need to consider whether there is even a need for the UK or a republican equivalent anymore. England, Scotland and Wales could be part of the EU as separate states. As for Northern Ireland, well quite obviously, since it has never been part of Great Britain (note the official title of the UK – United Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland), so should be reunited with the rest of Ireland.

The status of the various off-shore islands also needs to be regulated – the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man for instance, which are not part of the UK yet come under the Crown. Gibraltar is another anomaly whose status needs to be clarified, likewise the two Spanish enclaves on the North African coast.

And the written Constitution should definitely include a more democratic and representative voting system than ‘first-past-the-post’ which effectively disenfranchises many citizens. Only those living in marginal constituencies really have a vote which counts under this system, also in use in the United States but in few other democracies.

I hate muddle, and every time I have to write ‘Middlesex’ on a West or Northwest London address my head rebels, since I know that the blasted county hasn’t existed for years, and also that, whether they like it or not, the residents of places like Bromley, Croydon, Romford and Ilford are all living in Outer London suburbs. Much like the people of Wolverhampton and adjoining towns/cities are all living in the West Midlands conurbation, or Greater Birmingham, which is the biggest city in that urban metropolis.

And have pity for the poor people of Rutland who were a county, weren’t a county, and now I believe are a county again. Is Greater London a county or not? I assume it’s a metropolitan authority, so if that is so let’s reorganize local government into counties and metropolitan authorities.

Some smaller towns opted out of the county system since they didn’t want ‘three-tier’ government, again this is inconsistent. In London we have a three-tier system, and what’s good enough for us is good enough for the rest of the country.

Let’s make the three-tier system of local government consistent by having boroughs (replacing existing boroughs, urban and rural districts), then counties (which would include the metropolitan authorities) and the states which make up the UK with their national legislatures.

And Royal Mail/Post Office, please get your houses in order and allocate London postal districts to all areas within the Greater London boundary, possibly removing it from the one place outside Greater London which has the postal district of E4! Either that or revise the boundaries of Greater London, which should now probably include joined up towns like Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Woking and if the Thames Corridor is to be built up, East as far as Southend-on-Sea. And give them all London postal districts if they are designated part of the London metropolitan area.