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Navigating to Unity Against Austerity

The call was for ‘Plan B’ but unity was the dominant theme at Compass Wales’ panel debate in Cardiff this week. A fine array of speakers, led by Guardian columnist, John Harris, came together to debate Compass’s ‘Plan B’, their alternative to austerity.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, the Green Party’s Anthony Slaughter and John McInally, vice president of the PCS union all spoke convincingly but it was Mark Drakeford who made the first challenge to the Compass project by claiming there is no alternative. “We are locked into a period of austerity.” His bitter pill was sweetened by agreement that everything must be done to resist and minimise the pain. Devolution and the Welsh Assembly, he said, have qualitatively improved local government in Wales, have initiated an alternative approach to politics and have demonstrated unity over most of the life of the Assembly, first with the Liberals (long before their current treachery) and then with Plaid for the 4-year ‘One Wales’ coalition. Unity is a key element of Welsh politics.

Drakeford’s concluding plea to promote the unique ‘social, environmental and cultural character of Wales’ linked to his strong endorsement of the role of women in those invaluable early years of the Assembly could not have been a more direct pointer to a unity strategy.

Unity, at least in its top-down version, would be very well served by asking Wood and Drakeford to get together to map out an anti-austerity strategy along with new social and economic initiatives for Wales. And both know that ‘bottom-up’ is vital too. Leanne expressed these principles and opened her contribution with a call for unity against the Tories, whilst seeking to bring jobs back to Wales and regenerate the Welsh economy with green manufacturing, community led food production, green banks and credit unions.

But, to use a cliché of the moment, there was an elephant in the room: capitalism, and both Mark and Leanne know and addressed its presence, although perhaps rarely explicitly.

Ten years ago, the mention of ‘capitalism’ caused eyes to roll and withering criticisms of lefties. Now, even bourgeois commentators talk of its failings and weaknesses. The public has seen that capitalism is rotten to the core: a vicious class government led by elitist millionaire toffs launching an ideological offensive against the 99%; newspapers exposed as corrupt; senior police officers resigning for vile cover-ups (Hillsborough, the miners’ strike not to mention again and again during trials of Irish republicans; now it is Muslims); banking and financial systems out of control, gorging themselves on our bail-out money, now being extracted from pensions, the disabled, our health service. Our whole public sector system is destined, if the Tories get their way, to become the weakest in the western world.

The rot that is capitalism has entered popular consciousness: not just austerity and bonuses but the wars, oil, the climate, all sorts. To top it all, the abject squalor of the Savile affair is openly seen to reach into the BBC, the highest levels of government, the very heart of the establishment.

We see it all. And we yearn for a political leadership that says it like it is. John Harris pointed out that everyone, from the Greens to Welsh Labour, supports most of the 10 points of the Compass declaration. But not Labour in Westminster – zero support there. That’s why Wood and Drakeford stand out like beacons. Never, I repeat ‘never’, will there be an opportunity like now to bring together a united Welsh resistance and ambition like that presented by Plaid’s new leadership and clearly expressed at the Compass forum.

But there’s the elephant. Welsh Labour, taking its lead from the two Eds, tends towards tribalism rather than challenging the values of capitalism. A highlight of the last session of the Assembly was Mark Drakeford’s magnificent speech against Trident, when Labour members were whipped to stand by Carwyn Jones’ outrageous and tribal rejection of Plaid’s opposition to Trident in Wales. How easy (and inconsequential) would it have been to join in a clear statement of opposition to weapons of mass destruction in Wales?

There are worrying signs of a Welsh Labour drift away from Rhodri’s modest but nonetheless significant ‘clear red water’ between Wales and Westminster. Perhaps it is best considered by reference to Labour in Scotland, in suicide mode, allying with the Tories and LibDems before the Scottish public, to defend unionism and the austerity project. Labour’s Margaret Curran, on Question Time, patronises her young constituency questioner who fails to comprehend why young people in Glasgow’s tough Easterhouse estate are being charged £33 to play football. It’s the ‘harsh realities of life’, she said; ‘in a world of finite resources, it’s about what you prioritise’. And you young people are going to have to pay to underwrite the bankers, she should have added.

Perversely, this horrid Labour/ Tory cabal is likely to win the 2014 referendum, not because they will win the argument (they probably won’t) but because bourgeois elections and referenda are not won, they are lost. And the SNP is set to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by championing NATO, Trident, the monarchy, Scottish bankers and more, including austerity, to come. These are the issues, along with student fees, prescription charges and the like, that took Scots voters away from Labour.

The SNP is not Plaid, not a patch, and certainly not Leanne Wood’s Plaid. The SNP is an opportunist populist nationalist party given rein solely by Scottish Labour’s shocking betrayal of its socialist heritage. Thanks to Labour, the referendum is likely to further the Scottish electors’ disaffection with politicians and their politics. The bottom line is people want to hear the obvious home truths, not double-speak and spin. A bit of humility thrown in wouldn’t go amiss either. [For those who see a positive side to a Scottish break from the Union, the Scottish left is organising separately in support of the Yes vote. See Radical Independence Conference.]

So here in Wales we should start declaring our hand. Stand up like the PCS union, well represented by John McInally at the meeting. He began to elaborate a programme for unity: no to privatisation; strengthen social security; require childcare from employers. The meeting added pensions, disability and young people. Leanne and Anthony Slaughter for the Green Party had plenty to add about local economies and, not least, giving more public work and jobs to people and companies in Wales. That programme, linked to Mark Drakeford’s social, environmental and cultural Welsh branding are more than enough to forge the anti-austerity unity that the people of Wales and Scotland are crying out for. And the English will be pretty glad to hear it too.

Gordon Gibson

A Manifesto for Socialist Economic Sense

By Michael Roberts

On the day that Bob Diamond, head of Barclays Bank, resigned over the Libor fixing scandal (see my post, A Diamond Standard, 28 June 2012), I received an email from the organisers of the Association of Heterodox Economists, passing on a request from the eminent economics professors Paul Krugman and Lord Richard Layard. They want economists to sign up to their A Manifesto for Economic Sense.  The good professors are really concerned that nothing is being done to stop the ruling governments in the mature capitalist world from advocating and imposing policies of austerity that are destroying growth and driving up unemployment to 1930s levels.

After reading it, I thought I would suggest some small amendments to this worthy Manifesto.  My amendments may not be perfect, but I think they are worth considering. I am convinced that the changes would really improve the professors’ campaign message, although I doubt they would agree.  I leave it to you to judge.

Here is my amended version.

 [The original Krugman and Leyard text, along with access to Michael’s amendments, can be seen here. -Ed.]

More than four years after the financial crisis began, the world’s major advanced economies remain deeply depressed, in a scene all too reminiscent of the 1930s. And the reason is simple: the capitalist mode of production has failed yet again, just as it did in the 1930s. Governments are promoting vulgar ideas, long since disproved, that involve profound untruths both about the causes of the crisis, its nature, and the appropriate response.

These errors have taken deep root in public consciousness and provide the public support for the austerity of current fiscal policies in many countries. So the time is ripe for a Manifesto in which concerned economists offer the public a more socialist analysis of our problems.

The causes.

Many policy makers insist that the crisis was caused by irresponsible public borrowing. This is false. Instead, the conditions for crisis were created by a system of production that goes on strike whenever there are insufficient profits.  This was covered up for a while through excessive private sector borrowing and lending, including by over-leveraged banks. But eventually, profits from credit-fuelled speculation in the stock market and in property, using financial instrument of mass destruction, were no longer realised.  The collapse of this bubble led to massive falls in output and thus in tax revenue. So the large government deficits we see today are a consequence of the crisis, not its cause.

The nature of the crisis.

When real estate bubbles on both sides of the Atlantic burst, many capitalist corporations and banks slashed spending in an attempt to pay down past debts. This was a rational response on their part, but – just like the similar response of the capitalist sector in the 1930s – it proved collectively self-defeating. Profits fell and the capitalist sector stopped investing.  The result of the investment collapse has been an economic depression that has worsened the public debt.

The appropriate response.

At a time when the capitalist sector is engaged in a collective effort to spend less, public policy that preserves this sector cannot and should not act as a stabilizing force, by bailing them out. At the very least we should not be making things worse by big cuts in government spending or big increases in tax rates on ordinary people to pay for the bailout of the banks. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what many governments are now doing.

The big mistake.

After responding to save the banks that caused the economic crisis when it broke, just as they did in the 1930s, conventional policy wisdom deliberately focused on government deficits, which are mainly the result of a crisis-induced plunge in revenue, to argue that the public sector should attempt to reduce its debts in tandem with the private sector. As a result, fiscal policy has ended up reinforcing the dampening effects of capitalist sector spending cuts. At the same time, monetary policy cannot solve the problem.  It’s not just because interest rates are already close to zero, monetary policy – while it should do all it can – cannot do it, when the problem is the profitability of the capitalist sector, not the lack of credit.. Only when the banks are brought into democratic public ownership can credit be directed towards helping investment, jobs and growth and away from speculative gambling that the banks are currently engaged in.

It is not the right policy to propose a medium-term plan for reducing the government deficit based on cuts and tax rises.  That is not just because it is too front-loaded and will be self-defeating by aborting the recovery. A key priority now is to reduce unemployment, before it becomes endemic and that means more investment and growth.  Reducing the government deficit is irrelevant.

How do those who support present policies answer the argument we have just made?  They use two quite different arguments in support of their case.

The confidence argument.

Their first argument is that government deficits will raise interest rates and thus prevent recovery. By contrast, they argue, austerity will increase confidence and thus encourage recovery.  But there is no evidence at all in favour of this argument. First, despite exceptionally high deficits, interest rates today are unprecedentedly low in all major countries because inflation is low and we are close to deflation. This explains why Japan, where the government debt now exceeds 200% of annual GDP and despite past downgrades by the rating agencies, has very low interest rates. Interest rates are high in some Euro countries, because debt is rising and economies are in depression and capitalist lenders fear they will not get their money back.  A central bank can always, if needed, fund deficits and debt, but that still leaves the burden on capitalist profit down the road.

Past experience includes no relevant case where budget cuts have actually generated increased economic activity. The IMF has studied 173 cases of budget cuts in individual countries and found that the consistent result is economic contraction. In the handful of cases in which fiscal consolidation was followed by growth, the main channels were a currency depreciation against a strong world market, not a current possibility. The lesson of the IMF’s study is clear – budget cuts retard recovery. And that is what is happening now – the countries with the biggest budget cuts have experienced the biggest falls in output.  On the other hand, devaluing the currency will also hit average living standards and eventually growth because costs of production will rise and profitability in domestic industry will fall, particularly in small capitalist economies that have low market share.

Companies will only invest when they can foresee enough profit ahead. Austerity discourages investment.  But companies won’t invest either if their profitability is restrained by increased taxation in order to fund rising government spending and deficits.  As long as the capitalist sector is dominant and profit rules, increasing government spending through more taxes and/or more borrowing will restrain capitalist investment.  The real answer is to replace the capitalist system with a plan based on socialised production.

The structural argument.

A second argument against opposing austerity is that output is in fact constrained on the supply side – by structural imbalances. If this theory were right, however, at least some parts of our economies ought to be at full stretch, and so should some occupations. But in most countries that is just not the case. Every major sector of our economies is struggling, and every occupation has higher unemployment than usual. So the problem must be a general lack of spending and demand.  And what causes that lack of demand is the lack of investment and what causes that is a strike by the capitalist sector due to a lack of sufficient profit.

This supply constraint is a product of the failure of capitalist production.  Providing more government spending at a cost to profitability will not do the trick.  Government action should be to replace capitalist investment with public investment.  There is plenty of potential supply but no investment to start it.

___________________

As a result of their vested interest in profit, Western policy-makers are inflicting massive suffering on their peoples. The ideas they espouse about how to handle recessions are still conventional wisdom among most economists and nearly all economists, despite the disasters of the 1930s, accepted the continuance of the capitalist system, especially during the following forty years or so when the West enjoyed an unparalleled period of economic stability and low unemployment.

It is tragic that these pro-capitalist ideas remain rooted. But we should no longer accept a situation where the interests of capitalism weigh more highly with policy-makers than the horrors of mass unemployment.

Better policies will differ between countries and need detailed debate. But they must be based on a correct analysis of the problem. We therefore urge all economists and others who agree with the broad thrust of this amended Manifesto to register their agreement at http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/ and to publicly argue the case for a socialist approach.

The whole world suffers when men and women are silent about what they know is wrong.

Michael Roberts is a Marxist economist who blogs at Michael Roberts Blog, where this article first appeared. Comments should be written there, against the original article, but we would appreciate if they could also be copied here. Thanks.

 

Ireland and Greece: Referenda, elections and self-organisation.

The Irish left is still reeling from defeat in the Euro-austerity referendum on 31st May, and preparing itself for the next assault by the government. Some united left supporters claim they did not expect to defeat the government, while others, including our correspondent, Brendan Young, thought it was just possible – and that everything would depend on voter turnout.

Ireland’s 60:40 vote in favour of the EU Fiscal Stability Treaty was worse than expectations based on the likelihood that a significant number of those who have refused to register or pay the household tax (approx. 50% of households) would vote No – as indicated by opinion poll findings.

The key was voter turnout: middle class voters turned out to vote in much greater numbers than working class voters. There was a sharp class differentiation of the vote, with a big majority of middle class voters saying Yes and a big majority of working class voters saying No. This was the clearly the case in the urban areas.

An exact breakdown of the vote according to area is not available, but we do have indicative data. In one working class area of Dublin, there was a 90% No vote, but on only an 18% turnout. By contrast, in a predominantly middle class area there was a 70% Yes vote, on a 65% turnout.

There was also a clear urban : rural divide, with rural areas voting ‘yes’ in significant majorities – despite evident poverty and low wages in rural areas and small towns.

For the left, the referendum campaign was hard going and fragmented – groups on the left tended to do their own thing as priority, giving united-front work secondary consideration. The invaluable initiative that was the United Left Alliance is rather staggering along as a result – always the same issues, with the left groups continuing to operate in their old ways, unable to see the collective strength in unity. That, of all, is the most disheartening, and why the Europeans, in Greece, Spain, and France provide some comfort and encouragement.

For Irish voters, the fear-factor of exclusion from future bailout funding, generated by the three main parties in government and opposition, the EU, the business organizations and their civil-society supporters, the main farming organizations, all outweighed the arguments of the No campaigners. Although four trade unions came out for a No, they failed to campaign. Meanwhile, the trade union federation ICTU, although not calling for a Yes, allowed their members to be pressured by the Yes campaigns.

Many Yes voters did so reluctantly and unhappily. This was reflected in a complete lack of triumphalism by the government and its supporters: they are aware that they did not win the argument; and that many voted out of fear, rather than commitment. And the 40% No vote – predominantly working class – is a denial to the Labour Party of a mandate from its supporters to implement austerity measures.

The next stage will be the resistance to steps by the government to impose the household tax, and following that, the water tax. There are reports that at the end of June the government will begin to send letters demanding payment, but we have no evidence of that yet.

Over the past week the media has pre-occupied with a tax scandal of one of the members of parliament who has campaigned for non-payment of the household tax. This should blow over in the coming weeks but it is damaging and divisive for the anti-austerity campaigns.

But the absence of the promised ‘stability’ that was supposed to come after the austerity treaty referendum has not been lost on many people. This will impact upon the electorate when the next referendum comes – and it is already being said that Merkel’s ‘closer fiscal union’ will require yet another referendum in Ireland, although the recent successful question gave worrying scope to Irish governments to proceed without further public reference.The yes vote empowered the state to “ratify the treaty on stability co-ordination and governance in the economic and monetary union, done in Brussels on March 2nd, 2012. No provision in this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of the State under that treaty or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by bodies competent under that treaty from having the force of law in the State”.

So the struggle will continue – both day-to-day and in any future referendum.

And a post-script on Greece…

The Greek election result is perhaps the best that could have happened. If Syriza was sincere in carrying through its promises of not implementing the EU-IMF austerity program, they would have to begin local self-organization – with neighborhood and workplace committees beginning to take over the running of the state, exercising control of the activities of the banks, etc. Syriza is not yet in a position to do that. But they can now begin to build that kind of network, based on their mass support, through organizing resistance to the austerity that will be imposed by New Democracy. It remains to be seen if they will – but the opportunity is now there for them. The KKE (Greek Communist Party) will also be examining the results, and the impact on their support of their refusal to participate in united front activity with Syriza. Interesting times!

Fightback! Greek hospital under workers’ control

Greek hospital now under workers' control

Health workers in Kilkis, Greece, have occupied their local hospital and have issued a statement saying it is now fully under workers control.

The general hospital of Kilkis in Greece is now under workers control. The workers at the hospital have declared that the long-lasting problems of the National Health System (ESY) cannot be resolved.

The workers have responded to the regime’s acceleration of unpopular austerity measures by occupying the hospital and outing it under direct and complete control by the workers. All decisions will be made by a ‘workers general assembly’.

The hospital has stated that. “The government is not acquitted of its financial responsibilities, and if their demands are not met, they will turn to the local and wider community for support in every possible way to save the hospital defend free public healthcare, to overthrow the government and every neo-liberal policy.”

From the 6th February, hospital workers will only deal with emergencies until their wages, and monies owed have been paid. They are also demanding a return to wage levels prior to the implementation of austerity measures.

The next general assembly will take place on the 13th, and a related press conference will be given on the 15th.

The following statement has been issued by the workers:

1. We recognize that the current and enduring problems of Ε.Σ.Υ (the national health system) and related organizations cannot be solved with specific and isolated demands or demands serving our special interests, since these problems are a product of a more general anti-popular governmental policy and of the bold global neoliberalism.

2. We recognize, as well, that by insisting in the promotion of that kind of demands we essentially participate in the game of the ruthless authority. That authority which, in order to face its enemy – i.e. the people- weakened and fragmented, wishes to prevent the creation of a universal labour and popular front on a national and global level with common interests and demands against the social impoverishment that the authority’s policies bring.

3. For this reason, we place our special interests inside a general framework of political and economic demands that are posed by a huge portion of the Greek people that today is under the most brutal capitalist attack; demands that in order to be fruitful must be promoted until the end in cooperation with the middle and lower classes of our society.

4. The only way to achieve this is to question, in action, not only its political legitimacy, but also the legality of the arbitrary authoritarian and anti-popular power and hierarchy which is moving towards totalitarianism with accelerating pace.

5. The workers at the General Hospital of Kilkis answer to this totalitarianism with democracy. We occupy the public hospital and put it under our direct and absolute control. The Γ.N. of Kilkis will henceforth be self-governed and the only legitimate means of administrative decision making will be the General Assembly of its workers.

6. The government is not released of its economic obligations of staffing and supplying the hospital, but if they continue to ignore these obligations, we will be forced to inform the public of this and ask the local government but most importantly the society to support us in any way possible for: (a) the survival of our hospital (b) the overall support of the right for public and free healthcare (c) the overthrow, through a common popular struggle, of the current government and any other neoliberal policy, no matter where it comes from (d) a deep and substantial democratization, that is, one that will have society, rather than a third party, responsible for making decisions for its own future.

7. The labour union of the Γ.N. of Kilkis will begin, from 6 February, the retention of work, serving only emergency incidents in our hospital until the complete payment for the hours worked, and the rise of our income to the levels it was before the arrival of the troika (EU-ECB-IMF). Meanwhile, knowing fully well what our social mission and moral obligations are, we will protect the health of the citizens that come to the hospital by providing free healthcare to those in need, accommodating and calling the government to finally accept its responsibilities, overcoming even in the last minute its immoderate social ruthlessness.

8. We decide that a new general assembly will take place, on Monday 13 February in the assembly hall of the new building of the hospital at 11 am, in order to decide the procedures that are needed to efficiently implement the occupation of the administrative services and to successfully realise the self-governance of the hospital, which will start from that day. The general assemblies will take place daily and will be the paramount instrument for decision making regarding the employees and the operation of the hospital.

We ask for the solidarity of the people and workers from all fields, the collaboration of all workers’ unions and progressive organizations, as well as the support from any media organization that chooses to tell the truth. We are determined to continue until the traitors that sell out our country and our people leave. It’s either them or us!
The above decisions will be made public through a news conference to which all the Mass Media (local and national) will be invited on Wednesday 15/2/2012 at 12.30. Our daily assemblies begin on 13 February. We will inform the citizens about every important event taking place in our hospital by means of news releases and conferences. Furthermore, we will use any means available to publicise these events in order to make this mobilization successful.

We call
a) Our fellow citizens to show solidarity to our effort,
b) Every unfairly treated citizen of our country in contestation and opposition, with actions, against his’/her’s oppressors,
c) Our fellow workers from other hospitals to make similar decisions,
d) the employees in other fields of the public and private sector and the participants in labour and progressive organizations to act likewise, in order to help our mobilization take the form of a universal labour and popular resistance and uprising, until our final victory against the economic and political elite that today oppresses our country and the whole world.

This article first appeared here on the working class self organisation’s blog on Feb 5 2012, where comment should be posted – please copy them here too.

Lens on Labour: Taking on the EU.

Len Arthur

Misgivings about whose purpose is really served by the EU have been held widely within the labour movement. It was not until the early 1970’s that Labour in part supported membership and the 1980’s when the TUC started to warm toward the Social Chapter following the ravages of the Thatcher governments.

On the left, many both within and outside of the Labour Party do not support the EU either due to the loss of UK or Parliamentary control – I believe Tony Benn has this view – or because it is simply an organisation to support capitalism.

Others in Labour and on the left accept these concerns but suggest that UK history has never been independent of what happens in Europe. The two world wars of the 20th Century demonstrated this and it is therefore better to be involved to try to influence events than think we can avoid the consequences of decision taken in the rest of Europe.

The EU Treaty is also a reflection of the post war social democratic and corporate settlement. Sovereignty was shared, the conflict between capital and labour reflected in reforms covering work and re-distribution of wealth geographically, and certain key industries such as agriculture were protected. At the same time, economic policy has been about opening up the internal market and improving international competitiveness through reducing the role of state, encouraging competition, standardisation, free labour movement and now with the Maastricht Treaty, restrictions on the use of government spending to encourage economic activity.

Tensions within the EU between the different assumptions that underpin these approaches have been restricted by the expansion to new states and the establishment of the Euro. It is now clear that not addressing these tensions has aided the crisis within the eurozone and they are being resolved by moving away from the social democratic settlement and democracy and toward an attack on the working class across the EU under the guise of ‘austerity’, making us pay for the bankers crisis.

Similarly tensions on the left have come to the surface. Some have argued, that we should leave the EU and it doesn’t matter if the eurozone or the EU falls apart. Others have suggested that the EU has always offered the opportunity for workers unity across Europe and now is the time to act together internationally, to resist the policies of austerity.

It should also be clear that the Tory government is no friend of the social democratic settlement, they are only interested in pulling back powers from the EU to remove the effects of the social chapter in the UK and cut back public spending even harder.

Whilst in Brussels a few weeks ago I drafted the following piece which could act as a motion for meetings; you can see where I come down on the debate – what do you think?

‘United front against the Treaty

People of Europe against austerity and the treaty: for an alternative social and democratic Europe

ETUC statement now seems radical. It is a measure of how far and how fast the EU has gone to the right. We are faced with a spectre the spectre of austerity. The workers of Europe are being expected to the pay the cost of the bankers’ crisis and not only are the representatives of the bankers’ being elected to use the state to solve their problems but in countries like Italy they have been handed the state without an election. In the UK a millionaires’ government intends to cut harder than across the EU and is primarily interested in representing the City of London.

Time is of the essence. We have until March. We can stop the Treaty if we mobilise across Europe: what is essential is a united front of workers organisations and parties to initiate solidarity action around the demand no to the Treaty; no to loss of democracy; yes to a social Europe based on equality; and yes to full democratic control of EU institutions.

We should call upon the TUC and the ETUC to launch an EU wide petition supporting these and more detailed demands looking for the widest possible support internationally. We should also call upon them to launch EU wide demonstration and industrial action culminating in time when the Treaty may be signed.

If they don’t take this action, we should do what we can to launch ourselves using social media.

The EU, Austerity and Resistance to ‘Nationalism’.

Len Arthur 

David Blanchflower argues, in the latest New Statesman, that something very serious happened at the end of August and early September that ‘put the frighteners on UK policymakers’. If he is right, this incident remains a secret. He suspects that a European bank had to be rescued. And he goes on to say that the break-up of the euro zone would be a major risk to the UK economy, possibly as bad as 2008, which saw a 7% or so drop in output. In same edition Pete Wilby points out even more starkly the dangers of such an event.

What is clear is that one way or another EU governments are lining up to make the working class pay for the crisis, under the bland and tendentious euphemism ‘reform’ or the more Dickensian ‘austerity’. Where the right neo-liberals are in control of government – and that seems most of Europe – this fits in with market policies that benefit their rich friends. Even if they are not in control or not bending sufficiently, bond and market pressures are being used to shoe in technocrats that are not elected, such as the new government in Italy where the whole cabinet is now composed of such people.

If this is not enough, ‘The commission’s plans include monitoring of national economies going beyond that meted out to Greece, Portugal and Ireland. In effect, unelected officials would have power to veto national budgets of euro zone members’. If you don’t like my language then take a look a look at this from Left Futures.

It’s very serious: side-lining democracy in order to have the power to attack the working class. Now some people might be tempted to call that fascism, but that would entail arbitrary arrests and the development of a police state, though given what happened to some after the riots, there are indications in this direction. Others, and I include myself, would see a form of a coup d’état, like the coalition in the UK. Whatever the niceties of the language, the rich are gunning for us to solve their problems.

One response has been to turn against the EU altogether. But just look at the Tories who argue this. They are no friends of the trade unions and the working class and only wish to attack UK workers harder than other countries do, with a view to achieving competitive advantage. Another response could be to make links and unite with those under attack across the EU under the call that we will not pay for their crisis. We could argue for a social and workers’ renegotiation of the EU treaties, preserving the right to keep and extend the public sector, an EU living wage and a commitment to full employment. We should argue for the EU parliament to have the ultimate powers to control the commission and appoint ministers. Yet, how do we do this? Answers please, on a postcard to …. or better, on a March and Rally on November 30th.

Len Arthur is a Labour Party Member, Political Education Officer for his Constituency Party, and a former Trade Union Activist and Lecturer.

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