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Democrat March-April 2014 (Number 140)

The collapse of the left in Britain in face of the capitalist economic crisis

Part 2 [see part 1]

Second part of a paper delivered by John Boyd, CAEF Secretary, at 25th Desmond Greaves Annual School 2013 in Dublin, Ireland


To summarise the implications of the EU

1. It takes away all forms of democracy, formal, practical and informal. The EU is the antithesis of democracy.

2. At the same time it removes the powers of the nation-state and centralises them with a government in Brussels that can't be removed by the electorate.

3. In a nutshell, as Greaves pointed out, the EU undoes the French Revolution. It also undoes the American Revolution for independence establishing the right to self-determination of nation-states and undoes the English half-revolution of the 17th century to put an end to the divine right of monarchs to rule.

4. The role of austerity is common across EU as a further means:

5. to exploit and hand everything to the transnationals and private sector.

6. to apply every pressure, including legislation, to work longer and harder in order to compete and improve efficiency ie 'workers of the world compete' to increase the surplus value and profits. That is why the size of the work force can be, and is, being reduced.

7. And, has for many even taken away the ability to earn a living.

Current form of capitalism

The EU should be set in the current form of capitalism which is dressed up as benign globalisation:

1. The real role of globalisation is a cover for crypto-imperialism (this is a term suggested by Desmond Greaves).

2. The EU has developed a European Army including rapid reaction forces to carry out the EU's foreign policy on behalf of the former empires.

3. The impression given is of a global village – some village! In which there is one large pool of money floating around in which we all have to compete where nation-states are irrelevant.

4. The next stage of arranging matters is now with us and takes the form of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). These FTAs are to extend principles of "free movement" across the globe. There is on the table the EU-India FTA, US-EU FTA and FTAs being drafted for former European colonies.

Why then has the left failed?

The left remains split over support for and against the EU super-state. This is as serious as the split over the First World War where socialists ended up as cannon fodder fighting and killing each other in the trenches. That neatly brings us back to James Connolly, the General Post Office and Pearse Street.

Some on the left mistakenly will not work with the right and the right do not understand the left or labour movement.

Failure of the left:

1. The left has failed to recognise the true nature of the EU and capitalism today where transnational corporations and banks have no further use of national democracy or nation-states.

2. The left has failed to appreciate the importance of the national question and in particular key importance and role of nation-states today as the only means to control private capital.

3. The left has failed to protect communities.

4. The left has failed to understand that internationalism depends on respect for nation-states and requires national independence and democracy 5. The left has failed to mount a campaign in Britain to rescind anti-trade union legislation

6. The left has failed to expose austerity as a common EU policy that shifts wealth and yet more control into the hands of big private capital where governments do not care a damn about the social consequences. The procedure involving sovereign debts is like a revolving scythe. Bail-out loans with huge interest, are made by banks. The government concerned applies austerity cuts and taxes on the population. These draconian policies are stipulated by the IMF, Commission, ECB and banks. The loans are then paid back to the banks. The banks then make another bail-out loan, more austerity is applied and the scythes continues once more. The people are impoverished, the economy stalls and privateers join in harvesting financial resources and capital.

7. The left has failed to unravel racism, immigration and free movement of labour which has been mixed up with misunderstanding of real internationalism and solidarity.

8.The left has failed to expose as untrue the claim that the Single European Market provides jobs where it is said that three million jobs in Britain depend on the Single Market and there is no future alone outside the EU.

9.The left has failed to elaborate and explain EU factors and policies which impinge on many areas of economic life such as those Directives which privatise state controlled and nationalised industries and services. In Britain the exception to this is the RMT union over railways compared to postal services union where the leadership denies the relevant EU Directive and has now been privatised.

10.Up to and into the economic crisis we on the left simply haven't worked hard enough.

The alternative

The alternative which the left must develop as a matter of dire urgency requires different policies to include the following:

1. A call by the left for an increase in wages, a reduction in hours and a lowering of the retirement age to replace austerity. This would reduce unemployment and challenge the transnationals.

2. The left has to develop a viable and acceptable alternative policy to EU membership and reject advice given by transnational corporations and the US that Britain stay in the EU.

3. The left has to show there is life outside the EU and to develop a viable alternative with an economy based on manufacturing, the creation of wealth and trade across the world including EU Member States. Otherwise what is the working class going to do?

4. Nation states must take control of their national borders and control the movement of capital, goods, services and labour.

5. Britain should cease paying into the EU to the tune of nearly £12.2 billion nett annually plus £1.4 billion to the European Investment Bank to prop up the eurozone. It is not for me to say but surely Ireland should stop paying into the ECB and default on the sovereign debt.

6. The left must further emphasise the role and powers of the nation-state as the only means to control private capital and to default on the sovereign debts as Iceland has done.

7. To achieve a better understanding of the national question, nationalism and internationalism. This must be the focus of political action. In other words to overcome what has for too long been a serious blind spot and have a revolution against the EU and capitalism or suffer barbarity. 8. Finally the left must shout loud and clear that to achieve the right to self determination, including the right to have socialism if the peoples so decide, a nation-state must have the pre-requisite of national democracy and independence. The left should and must be in the leadership of an anti-monopoly alliance against the EU which must include trade unions. This requires a large measure of unity which does not exist on the left in Britain. The legacy of James Connolly and Desmond Greaves still stands for getting Britain and Ireland out of the EU and for Britain to withdraw from the six counties of Northern Ireland.

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