Thursday, 29 October 2015

Greens And The EU Referendum - Time to Re-assess? By Steven Durrant

Greens And The EU Referendum - Time to Re-assess? By Steven Durrant
The “3 Yeses” Green Party policy on an EU referendum, launched nearly 3 years ago, risks looking increasingly flawed. 
The first "yes" called for a referendum and is to be met, so it's arguably redundant.

The second "yes" to progressive reform, is a laudable aspiration but has little hope of being any more than that in the foreseeable future.

The third "yes" is to continued membership of the EU. 
A Green recommendation for "yes" should only be on the basis of fact or likely fact, so it would be disingenuous to link the second and third components of the policy. The vote will not be based on a fantasy projection of the EU we would like, but the EU as it is, or worse - as it will be should TTIP be passed.
The record of anti-democratic neo liberalism demanded by the EU didn't start last week in Portugal, or with the vile bullying of Greece, or when bankster technocrats were imposed on Italy. Even in the recent era it includes the flouting of the expressed wills of the people of France, Netherlands and Ireland; and other supremely disingenuous behaviour on the constitution, along with the neoliberal Treaty Of Lisbon.
The EU is second only to the US as a political entity run in the interests of corporate power via lobbyists -a phenomenon excellently detailed in this film, “The Brussels Business”.  (Trigger warning: Contains Leon Brittan).

To endorse such an institution flies in the face of too much of Green philosophy, yet most Green and left movements across Europe continue to advocate continued membership.

A generation or 2 ago, the EU seemed a pretty solid model for centre-left, internationalist aspirations. We were sold a vision of Europe based on harmony and unity, founded at least partly on post-war peace building and acting cross continentally on appropriate issues.

This was a Europe where flexible possibilities like subsidiarity, and a 2 speed Europe, were talked about as if they would actually happen. They didn’t. It was a Europe that did much to guarantee rights for people and protection for the planet, but these trends are very much on the wane. This vote is about the EU as it is and will be, not as it once was or aspired to be. UK politicians have played more than their proportionate part in this sharp right turn, nonetheless the union is now captured by the “end of history” lie and the corrupt money-junkie elite.

The expansion of the union, chiefly bringing in the former Eastern Bloc nations, had a distinct ring of suiting NATO and economic imperialism. Fiscal and monetary concerns became dominant in the union. Gordon Brown maybe a war criminal, but keeping us out of the Euro was probably his most important move in any role.

None of those in The Green Party advancing the 3rd  "yes"  are likely to deny much of the above, so is there anything in the culture of the party, beyond residual good feeling for the promise of the past, that explains undue pro EU attitudes?

Whenever we debate Europe as a party (through Green World articles or at conference panels for example) it makes sense to feature someone with EU experience, (past and present MEPs or those who’ve worked closely with them.) They love their jobs and are good at them. Working closely with so many European Greens must give a positive impression of the place. A bias towards the institution, even with it's faults, becomes almost inevitable in these circumstances, and that cascades outward to help form a culture (and this isn’t meant to seem insulting) of pro EU sentiment in the party that can be almost at LibDem levels.

With my earlier points in mind, attitudes among some greens/leftists have shifted of late, from overtly pro EU towards arguments more on lines of "well, they may be dreadful but they are less reactionary than the average UK government"  or “Well yes it’s appalling, but let’s stay in.”

Individuals may be entitled to such assessments, but should the party as a whole endorse membership of a neo liberal, anti-democratic entity which continues to travel in the wrong direction, with TTIP as the ultimate betrayal?

Isn’t there a point where a party should stop falling over itself to defend the indefensible for the sake of a faded nostalgic dream?

It’s important to understand that not doing so doesn’t and shouldn’t equate with voting to leave.

There may be a solid leftist anti EU case to be made, but it is likely to be drowned out by fraudulent rightist froth. Ironically, the likes of UKIP will probably alienate many people the anti EU case. For better or worse, the efforts of the anti EU left (such as No2EU) haven’t added up to much, to side with the wanton xenophobes and reactionary bigots seeming to dominate the case for “Brexit” would be a step too far for many people.

The coming debate is likely to have a very low heat:light ratio, and Chicken Licken will play a leading role in both campaigns, but Bankers Britain v Bankers Europe is no real choice to speak of. Why take sides in either intellectually redundant camp?

Here’s a radical suggestion: How about encouraging people to think for themselves, (I warned it was radical), and to not be sidelined by the shallow arguments and guesswork from both sides? We could state an individual preference, but why tie the party to either of such problematic sides?

This need not be third position abstentionism, but a principled lead in trumpeting the real issues facing us at home and internationally while predictable grey establishment politicians traipse out their predictable arguments, and in doing so, probably distracting from the range of other horrors being imposed on us and the planet.

The EU is an elitist and capitalist institution There may not be a solid enough case for leaving, but there is certainly not a solid enough case for staying in. If that is the case, then The Green Party should be bold enough, perhaps uniquely, to say so.

(NB:This is a contribution to a debate within GPEW and GL not an 'official' GL position,(PM)) 


Jonathan Clatworthy said...

I sympathise with your reasons, but I want to ask about the alternative. As it happens I read this post after returning from a Compass meeting, where an MEP (Theresa Griffin) and others patiently listened to me lamenting how unelected EU officers overrode the Government of Greece and eventually forced it to capitulate to their demands in the interests of the moneylenders. However the point was made that if we leave the EU we'll have to have alternative international treaties. Does it make sense to vote in favour of leaving, when we don't know what we'll get instead? Unless we're choosing between two known options, the referendum will be equivalent to a general election where we choose between having the Tories and not having the Tories.

John said...

In my discussions with people who avidly support the EU it is clear that most of them see it as a staging post along the route to true World Government. There is an excellent review of this tendency at The pro-EU Argument.

Jonathan Clatworthy said...

I read that article and wondered whether it was a bit out of date. Unlike John it's a long time since I've heard anyone enthusing about world government. That was much more common in the 60s and 70s, and of course both Stalin and Hitler were working towards it. As I see it we've lost the idea of elected national governments working together on social engineering projects under international umbrellas like United Nations, and replaced it with market forces doing whatever people with lots of money want to do. The market system would have been better than top-down social engineering at allowing diversity of lifestyles, if only everybody had equal access to it (i.e. equal wealth) but that's the last thing its supporters want. Also, the idea of an international free market is itself a system of world government, and TTIP et al are designed to make national governments more and more irrelevant.
Yesterday's Commons vote illustrates how much we need international organisations, not to promote markets but to stop governments doing what they want at the expense of others - both ISIS and Britain.
At present the EU is doing all the wrong things, and I'm tempted to vote out for two reasons: to spite Cameron and encourage him to resign, and to support Greece which has been so appallingly treated.
However, if you ask me whether Britain would be better off out, I just don't know. Even if we could agree a definition of 'better', I wouldn't know and neither would anyone else. Referendums are okay when there's a single moral issue - like assisted dying - but not with stuff like this.