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Monday, 3 August 2015

The European Project; Is it 'Game Over'?

The ideal governance structure is said to be separate but co-dependent institutions of legislature, executive (civil service) and judiciary. To prevent one or the other becoming too dominant and taking over the state or organisation in their own sectarian interest..

Two major institutions have all three functions inside themselves. The Chinese Communist Party and the European Commission. We know the CCP is above and outside the law but so, it appears, is the EC.

Despite decades long struggles, the European Parliament has been unable to wrest significant legislative authority from the executive of the EC. 

Legal disputes can take 15+ years to wind their way through the European Court of Justice. A challenge (on the grounds of illegal state aid) by private business representatives to a government coop support programme in Italy in the early 1990s was not resolved until 15 years later. In the meantime local and national governments took the position that favouring cooperative specific development support was probably illegal. 

While everyone was ignoring the tax billions being paid as 'in work benefits' to low paid employees of corporations because their wages were too low to exist on. Thus inflating those corporations profits. This is clearly illegal state aid to those corporations. In short the European Union legal system doesn't work. 

The powers of commissioners are quite extraordinary. They are 'little gods' acting outside any democratic control whatsoever. Handing down their decisions to us mortals. A Greek playwright should write a satire comparing them to the squabbling deities atop Mt. Olympus.

Records show that the commission has been largely captured by corporate capital lobbyists. They outnumber other lobbyists many times over in terms of numbers and contacts. So we get the probably illegal 'in secret' negotiations on the TTIP for example. Largely in the interest of corporate capital. Other interests, i.e. 'us', cannot win this battle. Corporate capital will have its way, one way or another. Because they have the resources to fight for as long as is necessary, and we do not. We may derail TTIP only to find the commission has agreed similar rules by another route.

Originally the European project was not meant to be like this. It was designed as a three legged stool with three social partners. Organised Business (as Employers), Organised Labour and Elected Governments. The original architects hoped that like the ideal governance structure ( They were European governance scholars) , these three social partners would be sufficiently independent but co-dependent to keep the stool upright. Of course this all depended on each partner playing the social democratic game i.e. not playing to win ( the UK/USA ideal) but playing to keep the game going for all (the European ideal).

Organised Business got its act together quickly and set up industrial scale lobbying, especially the members representing corporate interests ( small businesses and public sector employers got left behind).

ETUC the European Trades Union Confederation seems to have given up the fight. They act as if the social democratic model were still the bedrock of Europe. After the 1980s and 90s when basic employee rights were harmonised across the community, ETUC has not progressed. They have no more answer to the predation of corporate financial capital across Europe than Arthur Scargill had to the death of the British coal industry. Glorious flag waving defeat or dereliction of duty in the face of the enemy?

And elected government representatives across Europe have been taken over by (neo liberal) corporate interest lobbying. Or bullied into submission to those interests like Syriza.

So one leg has withered and the other two have effectively become one. How is this stool still upright?

The power of the Commission, made up of government ( neo liberals mainly) representatives is growing not declining. They no longer feel the need to abide by agreed treaties, whether negotiating trade treaties in secret (TTIP) or negotiating with member states.

Yanis Varoufakis says he questioned the legality of the Eurogroup which was officially negotiating with Greece but in reality was dictating terms at the whim of the chairman. Officials agreed with him. It was an informal gathering of various European bureaucrats and government representatives, with no legal basis nor any formal authority to dictate terms to a member state. Because it had no constitutional status, no minutes are taken, there are no rights to know what is discussed or who is present.  

They can act in defiance of European treaties or national constitutions, as they did in relation to Greece. And because most EU states (except perhaps Germany) are as, or even more indebted, than Greece (the total UK debt - private, business, government and financial is a greater % of GDP than Greece's equivalent), they can do it to any of the eurozone states at will.

As Varoufakis says, this Eurogroup holds the power to make life hell for millions of European citizens who have no comeback whatsoever, except to escape to an alternative economic space. Which is what many Greeks are busy doing.

Now that the neo-liberal and corporate capital capture of the EU has become so clear, the question is should we still support it? Have we lost the game? Should we, like the Greeks, be building escape routes from this fiscal and legal prison being prepared for us.













Sunday, 2 August 2015

Debt; The New Universal Weapon

Went to a very interesting talk by Spyros Marchetos a Greek professor today at Bradford's 1 in 12 club (30 years of anarchism and going strong, a brilliant institution).

The amount of debt in the world vastly exceeds the amount of real value ( as produced by the global GDP) by a huge factor.  This debt which exists as electronic information in between banks and other financial institutions can be used as a weapon against any country that steps out of line.   Because elected governments are now allowed to convert private debt ( especially losses made by banks) into public debt (which we the public have to repay).  How was this slight of hand allowed to become 'normal' practice?

Because every country is 'in debt' this can happen at any time anywhere.  The total UK debt if you total private domestic, business, financial services and government debt is far higher than Greece's debt. It could be 'called in' at any time eg when Jeremy Corbyn is elected as Prime Minister (I started watching A Very British Coup (1988) which hypothesises a Left Wing labour government winning an election in the 1990s, recently and couldn't continue, too raw to take.)

In Greece the constitution is clear that the loans imposed by the IMF are illegal and should not be repaid.  Much like Wonga were forced to write off their more irresponsible lending.  The UK has no constitution, there wouldn't even be a constitutional objection here.

Marchetos said the EU is now totally in the grip of the bankers and German bankers specifically who wield the debt weapon without any democratic control whatever.

Almost none of the 'loans' made to Greece by the IMF or Eurozone actually went to Greece. Most effectively never left Germany but Greeks are being told to pay them back.

I asked if the rise of alternative currencies and economies in Greece will be an effective defence against this debt/money weapon and he said they weren't significant. They might enable people to keep themselves alive but will not present an effective national alternative. On this I disagree because internet enabled economies are embryonic but showing great potential.

We cannot play in this capital debt game. The cards, the odds, the field is stacked against us. We have to play a different guerilla game where the B52s of the IMF and ECB cannot find us to bomb us back into submission.