jump to navigation

About Europe January 23, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.

This may have got lost in the news before Christmas, but the People’s Movement had an interesting poll run on their behalf by RedC on attitudes towards the European Union. Commissioned by the EU Democrats it had two major findings.

Patricia McKenna said it was notable that despite two referendum campaigns 69% of Irish people were still unaware of the most significant political change introduced by the Lisbon Treaty – which is that voting in the all powerful EU Council of Ministers will move to a population- based system giving a huge increase in voting power to the big states at the expense of small states like Ireland. In 2014 Ireland will see its vote more than halved to less than 1% while Germany will see its vote doubled to 16%.


[the] finding that 72% of Irish people would be resistant to any cuts in pay, social welfare or pensions to ensure the survival of the euro currency should provide a strong health warning to any further plans by government for continued austerity measures. It is significant to note that despite Irish people’s current attachment to the euro a large majority will resist any further pain to ensure its survival. Clearly Irish people’s generosity will only stretch so far. The Irish taxpayer has already paid a high price for the euro’s survival. It is now a well known fact that in order to protect the euro
project the EU and ECB put pressure on the Irish government to provided the infamous 2008 blanket guarantee for all loans by Irish banks thus ensuring that these debts were transferred onto the backs of the Irish taxpayer.


People’s Movement member Kevin McCorry pointed out that while Irish public opinion appears polarised in terms how concerned they believe the ECB is with Irish interests, the findings overall show a slight majority (52%) of people have little or no confidence in the ECB’s ability to take account of Irish interests. He said this is a significant finding, in that the main EU institution controlling the economies of all euro-zone countries including Ireland attracts little public confidence from Irish people. Furthermore, it highlights yet again the serious democratic deficit at the heart of the EU structure because even if 100% of people distrusted the ECB it would be irrelevant as there is no mechanism to hold this vital decision- making institution to account.

It’s interesting to contextualise that with the following from the avowedly pro-EU European Movement poll by RedC run last year about attitudes to EU membership itself:

The large majority of the Irish Population believe that Ireland should remain as part of the EU (85%) , and on balance believe that Ireland has benefited from being a member of the EU (83%).

Clearly, given the polling data referenced above that latter isn’t an unnuanced view where the Irish population simply takes as read that all things EU are positive. Indeed there’s one other finding from the EM poll which is worth considering:

Almost half of all adults in Ireland claim that they think of themselves as both Irish and European, with a further 6% stating they see themselves as European only. However the remainder 47% see themselves as Irish Only.

Looking at the figures a slightly different story emerges. The actual figures are 45% consider themselves Irish and European, 47% Irish alone and 6% as European. Close enough to 50/50. In a way such a blunt delineation of identity is curious.

By the way, the PM’s publication “People’s News” is available here and contains the following:

Peoples News issue no. 97 Date: 12 – 1 – 14
Table of Contents
P 1 . Peoples Movement/ Red C poll – lack of public awareness of changes in EU decision making process and strong public resistance to pay more for survival of Euro
P  2.  A Gallup survey published las week shows that affection for the EU has slumped in Ireland. 
P 3 . Chopra’s lessons; It is unfair to impose the burden of supporting banks on taxpayers when senior bondholders get paid out. Euro zone partners stopped the Irish from imposing haircuts on senior bondholders.
P  3. Conclusions of the European Council (19/20 December 2013) – Welcome to NATO!!
P  3. Will Irish troops support French ambitions in Africa?
P  5. A campaign for the European Union to become a “United States of Europe” will be the “best weapon against the Eurocritics,” according to Viviane Reding, vice president of the European Commission.
P 5 . Latvians less than pleased! On January 1st last, Latvia became the eighteenth country to join the euro zone. 
P  6. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian-Social Union (CSU), plans to call for fewer EU commissioners and less new EU legislation in next year’s European Parliament elections.
P  7. German arms manufacturers paid millions in bribes to induce Athens to purchase German weaponry, worth several billion Euros.
P  8. How the security industry is shaping EU legislation – lobbyists in action!

THE PEOPLE’S NEWS contains comment on developments in the EU from an Irish and democratic perspective 

Back issues of the newsletter are available from the website http://www.people.ie
The Peoples Movement blog http://www.irishreferendum.org


1. Gewerkschaftler - January 23, 2014

All very good analysis on the militarism and deliberate erosion of what little democratic process exists. But…

… Sigh – yet more of the ‘get out of the Euro and all will be well’ meme from those who self-identify as the left. Which echoes the same meme from the nationalist and (neo)fascist right.

Frankly the poll questions were extremely tendentious to the point of weirdness – austerity is only very tangentially being imposed to save the Euro. It’s the other way around as far as I can see – the Euro is one of the mechanisms for looting and/or destroying what remains of social (more accurately state-owned) wealth in the ‘debtor’ countries, but far from the most important one.

The most important cause, in the case of Ireland, is the local super-rich and their political henchmen. The ‘blame it on Europe / Euro’ is a classic distraction maneuver, which the Left should be very wary of reinforcing. And one which the local elites have successfully propagated since their commercial property speculation / tax avoidance schemes went south in 2006-2010.

Those who advocate withdrawal from the Euro grossly underestimate the extent to which disaster capitalists will use the transition for further looting.


ejh - January 23, 2014

austerity is only very tangentially being imposed to save the Euro

Mmm. Without disagreeing with your other points necesarily. I’m not sure this one is right.


WorldbyStorm - January 23, 2014

One thing that strikes me, and that’s why I included the EM stuff, is that there is no serious support for departure from either euro or EU and while I’d be deeply critical of both it doesn’t appear to me feasible, or even appropriate, to argue for either though I’d understand why many differ in that regard.

I would tend to agree with ejh that while not necessarily an issue of saving it does seem to be more central in regards supporting the euro. Though there’s little doubt that austerity also being used as an excuse in the UK (where the euro isn’t even a consideration obviously) and further afield as seen expedient.


Liberius - January 23, 2014

Surely what undermines Euroscepticism is the momentum that the EU and European integration have acquired, once the 2004 expansion happened the scale of the EU had created something of a geopolitical black hole pulling in everything around it. Ultimately Ireland, if it were to leave the EU, would be subject to its decisions in the same way the Norwegians are but without the large oil reserves providing an economic bulwark against which we could defend the productive capacity of our economy. For all the pretence of sovereignty, I would wonder whether being on the outside wouldn’t actually accelerate the marketisation of our economy by forcing us to comply with the rules of Europe’s single market while being unable to influence to any degree its design.

I know it might not appeal to minds conditioned to belief in the nation state but I’d argue that any effort exerted in Eurosceptic endeavours is effort wasted when it could have been used to build a pan-European socialist movement that would have a much better chance at altering the social and economic nature of Europe both inside and outside the EU; independence is worth nothing when your internal policy is dictated by the economic strategy of those you interact with. Of course autarky is always the other option…


Gewerkschaftler - January 24, 2014

And the current best chance, for at least the parliamentary section of such a pan-European movement, lies in European Left, to which Syriza and die Linke are currently the biggest contributors, but has a wide range of European parties outside the Anglophone areas of Europe.

Web site here complete with it’s lamentable English translations – anglo it ain’t!.

But such is the deliberate erosion of democracy in Europe at all levels as part of the neo-liberal project, that much of the work has to be extra-parliamentary.

BTW – even though European Left has no member parties in Ireland that doesn’t stop people becoming individually active in Ireland.


Liberius - January 24, 2014

What would make me apprehensive about Syriza and Die Linke is that they appear to be potentially too heavily focused on parliamentary action as the medium through which those changes could be made. There isn’t existentially anything wrong with assuming that you could make the changes necessary through parliaments although it does come with the severe danger of getting sidetracked by the arcane attitudes and practises which are the hallmark of the reverence liberal democracy places on parliament. Labour(GB) fell into that trap quite spectacularly during it’s various tenures in government, Ramsay McDonald and Philip Snowden taking the biscuit there for the most deference shown to parliamentary procedure; though Atlee’s government really was the epitome of the problem given that it came to power with a strong mandate and could really have transformed the UK if it had had the will to actually act in accordance with it’s socialist grass roots rather than the liberalism presented to it by parliament and the professional civil service.


Gewerkschaftler - January 26, 2014

What would make me apprehensive about Syriza and Die Linke is that they appear to be potentially too heavily focused on parliamentary action as the medium through which those changes could be made.

That’s a good point, but I don’t think it reflects the views of activists in either elements of European Left. My impression of people in Die Linke is that they are very well aware of the limits of parlimentary and judicial actions, which is why they support a number of extra-parliamentary movements.

On the Syriza side, the coming election is very important for them to build momentum and get a good result, hopefully getting the biggest vote. But they don’t expect much leverage within the European institutions, given the anti-democrat nature of EU structures. After the elections I assume they will be concentrating on extra-parliamentary work to try to be in a position to form the next Greek government.

That’s when things will get really interesting, and if it happens, and if they don’t compromise on they issue of debt and austerity and thereby present a serious challenge within EU institutions I suggest that they will need the support of people of the left throughout Europe.


Gewerkschaftler - January 24, 2014

ejh – you have a point, there.

Written somewhat in haste yesterday I downplayed the function of the Euro in facilitating and motivating the imposition of austerity.

Facilitating – through the associated treaties, motivating in that the mercantilist core has an interest in maintaining low exchange rates by turning the periphery into economic basket cases.

However I still think, as WBS points out, that privatisation and cuts in social spending is being imposed as a result of much more general economic forces and ideologies.


Johnny Forty Coats - January 23, 2014

Goodness gracious me! It echoes the “nationalist and (neo)fascist right” does it? We certainly can’t have that, can we?

Here’s an interesting passage I came across recently:

“For many centuries past Europe has been torn by the wars of its peoples. Actually there have never been any long periods of peace on our Continent. An unfortunate policy of coalitions resulted in the European peoples taking up arms against one another and mutually slaughtering the flower of their youth at frequent intervals. An end must be put to that now and an end can be put to it.

Europe is no longer today the uncontested centre of world power as it was a century ago. Vast power complexes have developed outside Europe in Russia, in the United States and also in Asia. Were the peoples of Europe to continue annihilating one another, they would in turn finally fall an easy prey to these powers outside Europe. Until now there has not been any real opportunity to put an end to these internal European wars because the destiny of whole continents outside of Europe also depended upon their outcome. Today the situation is simply that either Europe unites in combating these extra-European power complexes or that it is gradually undermined country by country and destroyed by them. “Hereditary enmities” dating from former centuries cannot and must not be of any importance in view of this world situation.

In former epochs nobody would have believed that a time would come in which one town would no longer fight against another and one small principality against another. It did nevertheless come about on the formation of the various national states in Europe. Today we are faced by the necessity of reaching the next stage, that of the unification of Europe.”

Anybody recognise the source of the above? I’ll provide the answer in a later post …


CL - January 23, 2014

Nazi propaganda?


Johnny Forty Coats - January 24, 2014

Full marks to Genosse CL!

The quotation is from the English-language edition of “Signal”, a German propaganda magazine which appeared fortnightly from April 1940 to March 1945. Circulation peaked at 2.5 million copies per issue in 1943 and it was published in 20 different languages at one point.

My source is: S.L. Mayer, “The Best of Signal: Hitler’s Wartime Picture Magazine” (London, 1984). I made one small change to the text in order to confuse the issue, substituting “Russia” for “the Soviet Union”.

So whenever we hear establishment politicians advocating the unification of Europe, it is essential that we realise they are merely echoing the “nationalist and fascist right” of the 1940s.

Well, no actually. Damning by association is a technique that can only influence the very gullible. It has no place in rational debate.


Pasionario - January 24, 2014

Nice one JFG; I think you also just about avoid flouting Godwin’s Law since it was Gewerkschaflter who brought up the “neo-fascist right” in the first place.

A united socialist Europe is the kind of place I definitely wouldn’t mind hanging out. However, it takes an extraordinary leap of imagination to convince oneself that Die Linke and Melenchon are about to come storming into power and will then set about amending the entire architecture of the EU (and successfully ratifying such changes in 28 member states) in order to make this happen. This is why I shelve such ideas firmly in the wishful thinking department.

Someone brings up the case of MacDonald and Snowden. What really scuppered their government was not deference to parliamentary procedure but their insistance on maintaining the Gold Standard. Consequently they brought in spending cuts and tax increases when the opposite were required. At the time, orthodoxy insisted that, without the Gold Standard, all hell would break lose and Snowden was duly cowed.

For “Gold Standard”, read the Euro today. An independent currency is certainly no guarantee of enlightened economic policies, but in the absence of an unlikely seachange in Brussels, Berlin, and Frankfurt, it is a a necessary but not sufficient condition of implementing even modest social democratic measures.

The contrasting fortunes of Iceland and Ireland post-2008 seem to bear this out.


Liberius - January 24, 2014

My intent had nothing to do with currencies but with the potential pitfalls of taking the parliamentary route without the acknowledgement of the need for a clear pre-designed plan of action that can be implemented quickly and without the co-operation of parliament, the civil service and the opposition. Surely it would only be reasonable to recognise that the policies acted on were the result of a limited set of influences engendered by a belief in the inherent ‘respectability’ of being a ‘responsible’ government? I’d say that the legacy of those who when into parliament believing in it’s loftiness is much more important to the issues at hand than some inessential argument about the parallels between the gold standard and the euro; ephemeral policies are only the symptom of the cancer and not the cancer it’s self.


Jim Monaghan - January 24, 2014

Marx and Engels were for German unification in 1848. Bismarck got half way and Hitler succeeded. Unification meant different things to all 4. Your stuff above is on a similar planet.


Liberius - January 24, 2014

Of course unification doesn’t have a particular alignment itself, which is something I find many eurosceptics on the left seem to forget amid all those thoughts of anti-imperialist struggle. Circular thinking on the virtues of national independence often blinds people to the practical consequences of that independence; the inertia of existing on the outskirts of a large bloc that we are forced to interact with out of economic necessity would inevitably suck us and any periphery state back into the EU or at the very least back into compliance with the economic policies espoused by Europe’s elite.

*Substitute itself for it’s self in my previous comment.


Gewerkschaftler - January 24, 2014

JFC – My point was not that tactical policies espoused by the left can’t have any congruence with those promoted by the nationalist right.

My point is that it’s a trap and a massive distraction to allow the (anglophone) right to set the agenda.

This is unfortunately happening in Die Linke, with the Flassbeck/Lafontaine current arguing that withdrawal from the Euro would the be the ‘lesser of two evils’ for many countries whose local elites have succeeded in turning private debt into unending tribute obligations from the poor. And so the membership occupies itself with this question rather than building European-scale alternatives.

If you read Flassbecks Paper here (PDF link warning) you would come away with the impression that exit from the Euro was a technical matter which would quickly lead to stabilisation through devaluation and monetary autonomy.

That ignores the massive flight of remaining capital and the fact the the tribute would still be due in Euros. It ignores the fact that these small currencies would become playthings for large and powerful private financial entities. Luckily wiser heads have prevailed in Syriza and they have explicitly said that they do not intend to initiate a withdrawal from the Euro.

I would be more convinced of a co-ordinated withdrawal by those countries on the receiving end of German/Dutch/Finnish mercantalism and their refusal to recycle their surpluses, in favour of joining a ‘Southern Euro’ with democratic control over the Central Bank. A remote possibility given the state of national politics in these countries.

All of which is not to say that the Euro is not probably doomed anyway, given the policy of the current German government, and the refusal of peripheral governments to stand up to them in a coordinated manner.


Johnny Forty Coats - January 24, 2014

This comment about allowing “the (anglophone) right to set the agenda” is another use of the rhetoric of “damning by association” – but with Nigel Farage substituted for the ghost of Benito Mussolini. If I were inclined to use the same tactic, I might smear the supporters of EU integration by associating them with the far-right gangsters on the streets of Kiev who are trying to provoke a civil war in Ukraine. Indeed, such an allegation would be a lot closer to the truth because Brussels really has been stirring the pot in Ukraine and it is very hard not to see its activities there as part of a wider strategy to isolate and encircle Russia.

I am a regular visitor the the People’s Movement website and I have never detected any ideological indebtedness to UKIP. Their closest external link seems to be with the Danish “People’s Movement against the EU” (http://www.int.folkebevaegelsen.dk/). But I suppose a warning about allowing “the Danophone centre-left to set the agenda” wouldn’t sent a shiver down the spines of many CLR regulars …

The most important fact about the EU is that its commitment to neo-liberalism is essential rather than incidental. It is not the result of a temporary right-wing majority in the parliament or commission than can be reversed by left-wing successes at the polls. Quite the opposite: it is built into treaties that can only be altered by unanimous agreement of the member states; for all practical purposes, meaningful reform of the EU is therefore impossible.

I have given my views on the euro at some length here recently and I don’t have time to reiterate them in full at present. In brief, I would not advocate immediate unilateral withdrawal from the euro zone, but I would advocate building support for withdrawal at the first opportune occasion: I suspect that may occur when Italy hits the buffers.


2. Joe - January 23, 2014

I’m guessing Patricia McKenna will be a People’s Movement candidate in the Euros in Dublin, or an independent backed by the PM.
An interesting candidate. Remember how she came out of nowhere to win the seat for the Greens way back when? She/they were the first to use bigger posters on the poles, iirc. And that was their campaign really, bigger posters (but not too many) placed strategically at crossroads across the city. And again iirc, the posters looked homemade and recyclable as against the plasicky look of the other parties’ efforts. Anyway it worked and she got the “plague on all your houses” vote.
Can’t see her winning a seat this time but it will be interesting and her transfers will be important.


Johnny Forty Coats - January 23, 2014

I’m keeping my fingers crossed!


Liberius - January 23, 2014

4.31% in 2009. Sure there is plausibility of significant improvement on that without Joe Higgins and with a declining Labour vote; but is it all that much of a chance? I wouldn’t exactly be rating it higher than Paul Murphy retaining the seat myself. Which I suppose raises the same question posed about Brid Smith; would it be only a wreckers gambit?


Johnny Forty Coats - January 24, 2014

When McKenna lost her seat in 2004, despite winning 9.6% of the first-preference vote, Higgins had 5.5% on the first count.

Having been elected in 2009, Higgins couldn’t be bothered to complete his term as an MEP and repatriated himself to Leinster House at the first opportunity.

So who’s the wrecker?


Liberius - January 24, 2014

Surely you’d be willing to recognise that my comment was erring towards the technical rather than the partisan. Wrecker in this case is just my attempt to draw parallels with the controversy created by the SWP running Brid Smith; I neither am interested nor care about the idea of doing any form of damage to McKenna, although I would concede that I have no interest giving her a first preference if she were to run.


Ceannaire - January 24, 2014

I’m no fan of Joe Higgins, but when he was asked on radio when running for the EP he said in crystal clear terms that he intended to stand for the Dáil during his term.


Johnny Forty Coats - January 24, 2014

Ceannaire, what you say is quite true. However, the idea that the vote won by Higgins represented a vote for the Socialist Party and that it will transfer in a disciplined fashion to his anointed successor is groundless. It was a personal vote, he resigned his seat, and his personal vote is up for grabs.

The SP had no qualms about running against McKenna in 2004 when she was an elected incumbent with a fighting chance of being re-elected, so I am at a loss to understand why she would be considered a “wrecker” if she stands in 2014.


Liberius - January 24, 2014

Its a parallel not an indictment; I suspect most of CLR’s readers would have understood that.


Jack Jameson - January 23, 2014

Some of Patricia McKenna’s performances since leaving the Greens would have done her no favours amongst those voters old enough to have maybe once voted for her, and her dropping out of politics for a good while has seen her profile plummet.

Can’t see her pulling too many votes at all let alone come anywhere near challenging the front runners.


Johnny Forty Coats - January 24, 2014

I have no idea what “performances” you have in mind. As for predicting the future, if I wanted to pick a certain winner I’d plump for Fine Gael. In reality, I am much more influenced by a candidate’s policies than by his/her standing in the polls.


richotto - January 24, 2014

I’ve no idea how it stacks up that McKennas “performances since leaving the Greens would have done her no favours”. She featured in the Senate referendum recently on the pro-abolition side and whatever view you took seemed to be on top of the subject as usual with no spoofing. Her call on the Greens in government was vindicated and she’s the only politicion left from that viewpoint who stands any chance. Her biggest handicap is nothing to do with her qualities- lack of funds and party backing.


Gewerkschaftler - January 24, 2014

Perhaps what she really needs is some guest speakers from the Kingdom of Bavaria’s very own CSU – see the last ‘People’s News’.

Naive? Somewhat.


Johnny Forty Coats - January 24, 2014

This is more of the “damning by association” tactic that is used regularly by Gewerkschaftler.

Nothing in the news item suggests that any political links exist between the People’s Movement and the Bavarian CSU. The article can be read on page 6 here:

The report simply indicates that both the CSU and the new leader of the FDP have called for the size of the European Commission to be reduced.

Political anoraks will recall that the loss or retention of the Irish commissioner became a significant issue in EU referendums here. I imagine that is why the positions of the CSU and FDP were noted.


WorldbyStorm - January 24, 2014

I don’t think that’s entirely fair to Gwerkschaftler, I was a bit taken aback myself to see the CSU mentioned and the logo reproduced. I know that the intention wasn’t to indicate any like mindedness, but it does strike a dissonant chord. And to be honest I haven’t seen any evidence that Gewerkschaftler has done any ‘damning by association’ previously.


Johnny Forty Coats - January 24, 2014

I was a bit taken aback myself to see Brendan McGahon mentioned and his photograph reproduced on this website. That was very dissonant altogether; are you trying to make the lefties quit?

Here are earlier examples of the “damning by association” approach from the current thread:

“… Sigh – yet more of the ‘get out of the Euro and all will be well’ meme from those who self-identify as the left. Which echoes the same meme from the nationalist and (neo)fascist right.”

“My point is that it’s a trap and a massive distraction to allow the (anglophone) right to set the agenda.”

But the fact that the Pontine marshes were drained by Mussolini does not imply that they should have been left to infect the local population with malaria.


WorldbyStorm - January 25, 2014

Love of God, it’s one thread JFC? I thought you meant weeks or months of sinister (to borrow a word from the other thread on BICO) associations. If G was doing it every day I might have a problem…. but one thread?


3. CL - January 23, 2014

Austerity derives from the triumph of the neoliberal ideological position. When Hollande came to power there was hope that he would be a social democratic counterweight but he has now declared himself to be a believer in Say’s law. A few years ago he would be viewed as a crack-pot.


4. Gewerkschaftler - January 24, 2014

Austerity derives from the triumph of the neoliberal ideological position.


One would like to think that Hollande signals the end of the road for PS in France and hope that le Pen doesn’t pick up to many of the disillusioned.


CL - January 24, 2014

Although le Pen’s popularity rating is higher than Hollande’s her attempts to sanitize the NF is not going very well.
‘ Anna Rosso-Roig, who had migrated from the Communist Party to become an NF municipal candidate in Marseille, resigned describing her new party as “anti-Muslim”, “brutal” and “sexist”.’


Sawas - January 31, 2014

Front National is doing well. They are growing strong in all areas that used to vote communist before. Now these working class areas are Front National.

Socialists still say the banker and the capitalist do not care about the worker and act against the worker. Then they tell any worker who says why people like Sutherland or Boris Johnson or Ken Clarke are so pro unlimited immigration that you are racist and to ask is to demand a holocaust. Boris Johnson working class hero or else.

Be having no doubts that Front National will continue to grow because Socialists who say fight bankers but support their policies make it easy to grow.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: