This piece by Boyd Tonkin, originally entitled ‘Ignore the xenophobic hysteria and welcome our EU neighbours’, appeared in last Friday’s Independent. It deserves to be as widely disseminated and read as possible. Today – the first day of so-called “open borders” for Bulgarian and Romanian workers coming to Britain - seems as good a time as any to draw it to your attention:
This may surprise alarmed observers in Sofia and Bucharest – or even in Westminster. But one of the best-loved British books of 2013 takes the form of a fervent and heartfelt tribute to the peoples of Bulgaria and Romania. War hero, writer and traveller Patrick Leigh Fermor died in 2011 before he could publish the third volume of memoirs about his “Great Trudge” though Europe in the mid-1930s. The Broken Road, which appeared posthumously in the autumn, takes the young literary vagabond from the “Iron Gates” on the Danube across both countries to the Black Sea coast.
Everywhere he walks, Leigh Fermor relishes the landscapes and the languages. He admires the culture and the customs. Above all, he comes to love the people of the Balkan peaks and plains: always hospitable and welcoming, forever willing even in the poorest backwater to greet this penniless young Englishman with unstinting generosity, feed him, shelter him and send him on his way with blessings – and with lunch.
Now, what would happen to a late-teenage Bulgarian or Romanian, without lodging, employment or any ready cash, who started to walk, say, from Dover to Glasgow in the spring of 2014? On the evidence of British public life just now, the result would not be a glorious trek across a land of smiles, fondly remembered from a ripe old age.
The Economist magazine has already issued its number-crunched fiat in their favour. Still, this column may count as an early squeak in the almost inaudible chorus of welcome for visitors or migrants to the UK from Bulgaria and Romania. More than a few of us belong to the open-hearted country of Paddy Leigh Fermor rather than the tight little island of Godfrey Bloom. If you wish to, fellow EU citizens, I hope that you will come. Should you choose, quite legitimately, to seek work here, then I hope that you prosper for as long as you stay. And most of all, I hope against hope that our morally bankrupt political class and ruthlessly cynical media will one day start to address the underlying reasons for home-grown fears: the living-standards crisis, deep-seated job insecurity, yawning chasms in wealth and opportunity, the greed and arrogance of a pampered “super-class”, and a chronic lack of decent homes for non-millionaires. Instead, they have set out on yet another sordid scapegoat hunt. Patrick Leigh Fermor
The grievances are genuine. But the actual culprits have got clean away. A useful watchword for 2014 might run: lay the blame where it belongs. August Bebel, a wise German social democrat at the turn of the 20th century, popularised the idea that “anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools”. A century on, the quarry may have changed, but not the toxic rhetoric, nor the squalid logic of victimisation. As all the 28 million people in the so-called “A2” accession countries of the EU must understand, this lather of dread has been whipped into a perfect storm by the confluence of cannily inflammatory media and the blind funk of a shaky governing party. As a result, if you’re looking for fraudulent crystal-ball predictions, outrageously deceitful hucksterism and a brisk trade in ideological scrap and junk, there’s no need to visit some mythical gypsy encampment. You can find all that and more via any visit to Westminster, TV studios and newsrooms – plus a detour, of course, to the Ukip HQ. Read the rest of this entry »
This sort of thing just isn’t supposed to happen…
… according to the Tories, the Daily Mail and Farage. The anti-EU idiot left is just as nonplussed, as today’s Morning Star demonstrates, as it struggles between attempting to give an accurate report (eg Putin’s threat of trade sanctions, and the “violent police attacks”), and a nudge-nudge/dog-whistle suggestion to its readers that the protesters and opposition leaders like Lutsenko are dodgy characters (ie: the stuff about Lutsenko quitting the Socialist Party and being a “prominent figure in the 2004 Orange Revolution”); the closing statement that “Mr Yanukovych condemned the brutality and pledged to punish those responsible” is, of course, simply laughable:
100,000 defy ban to rally for EU deal
By Our Foreign Desk
MORE than 100,000 Ukrainians defied a ban on protests yesterday to rally in Kiev’s Independence Square over the president’s refusal to sign a deal with the European Union.
The crowd was the biggest yet since President Viktor Yanukovych’s surprise eastward turn last Sunday.
Police allowed the rally to proceed peacefully but broke out tear gas and truncheons when thousands of protesters tried to storm the presidential offices with a front loader.
Several hundred demonstrators also burst into the Kiev city council building and occupied it despite police attempts to drive them back with tear gas.
Opposition leaders called for a general strike and the setting up of a protest camp.
Yuriy Lutsenko, a prominent figure in the 2004 orange Revolution who quit the Socialist Party when it began coalition talks with the communists, said: “Our plan is clear — it’s not a demonstration, its not a reaction. Its a revolution.”
The protesters are furious that Mr Yanukovych backed away from a dal establishing free trade with the EU and greater political co-operation.
Mr Yanukovych said Ukraine couldn’t afford to break ties with Russia — a view shared by a third of the public, while 45 per cent want more EU integration.
Moscow had threatened trade sanctions if the EU deal — which was meant to be signed by Friday — went ahead.
Yesterday’s protests followed violent police attacks on Saturday’s demonstration.
Mr Yanukovych condemned the brutality and pledged to punish those responsible.
Ordinarily, we don’t republish articles from the bourgeois press, as you can read them for yourself. But this one, from John Palmer (a leading IS member in the early 1970′s) in the Graun, is so good and so important that we’re making an exception. The idiot-left such as the the Morning Star and Bob Crow, who intends to squander RMT members’ dues on a useless, reactionary campaign, should take note:
Above: John Palmer
The rise of far right parties across Europe is a chilling echo of the 1930s
Since the global banking crisis in 2007, commentators across the political spectrum have confidently predicted not only the imminent collapse of the euro, but sooner or later an unavoidable implosion of the European Union itself. None of this has come to pass. But the European project, launched after the devastation of the second world war, faces the most serious threat in its history. That threat was chillingly prefigured this week by the launch of a pan-European alliance of far-right parties, led by the French National Front and the Dutch Freedom party headed by Geert Wilders, vowing to slay “the monster in Brussels”.
Of course, the growth in support for far-right, anti-European, anti-immigrant parties has been fed by the worst world recession since at least the 1930s – mass unemployment and falling living standards, made worse by the self-defeating austerity obsession of European leaders. Parties that skulked in the shadows, playingdown their sympathies with fascism and Nazism are re-emerging, having given themselves a PR facelift. Marine Le Pen, leader of the French NF, plays down the antisemitic record of her party. The Dutch far-right leader has ploughed a slightly different furrow, mobilising fear and hostility not against Jews but Muslim immigrants. Like Le Pen, Wilders focuses on the alleged cosmopolitan threat to national identity from the European Union. It is a chorus echoed in other countries by the Danish People’s party, the Finns party and the Flemish Vlaams Belang, among others.
For now, the French and Dutch populists are carefully keeping their distance from openly neo-Nazi parties such as Golden Dawn, whose paramilitary Sturmabteilung has terrorised refugees and immigrants in Greece, and the swaggering Hungarian Jobbik, which targets the Roma minority.
According to some pollsters, the far right might win as many as a third of European parliament seats in elections next May. That would still leave the centre parties – Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Liberals – with many more members. But for the European parliament to form a credible majority, all of these parties might well be forced much closer together than is good for democracy.
Such a situation would be unsettlingly reminiscent of 1936, when the centre and the left – notably in France – temporarily halted the swing to fascism but formed an unprincipled and ineffective coalition. Its collapse on the eve of the second world war accelerated the advent of Phillippe Petain’s Nazi-collaborating regime. History does not normally repeat itself in an automatic fashion, but it would be foolish to take the risk.
More worrying than the growth of the far right are the temporising gestures to the racists and anti-immigrants now coming from mainstream Conservative and even Liberal Democrat politicians and from some of the new “Blue Labour” ideologues. The warning from the likes of David Blunkett that hostility to Roma immigrants might lead to a popular “explosion” is reminiscent of Enoch Powell’s rhetoric.
An antidote to the far right requires that the European left articulates and pursues a comprehensive alternative to economic stagnation, an ever-widening income and wealth gap and the degradation of our social standards, civil liberties and democratic rights. But that alternative has to be fought for at European as well as national and local levels, and will require more, not less, European integration.
Time is running out, not only for the European Social Democrats, but also for the wider socialist left and the greens, to show they can create a counterbalance to the rightward drift of the centre. Without that, the new far-right alliance may only have to hold together and wait for its hour to strike.
The Guardian has caught UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom on film, denouncing aid to ‘Bongo Bongo Land,’ complaining about the European Court of Human Rights, and calling for the return of the death penalty (he’d be willing to do the deed himself, of course).
Despite Farage’s protestations of non-racism (and, in fairness, UKIP are saying they’re “discussing” this matter “at the highest level”), this is the true face of UKIP. And, idiot-left please note: it’s the true, logical, face of the entire ‘No to the EU’ movement.
To slightly misquote PG Wodehouse:
“Loon is calling to loon like mastodons bellowing across primaeval swamps”…
The ad above appears in today’s Daily Telegraph: a good choice as, together with the Mail and Express, it’s become more or less the unofficial mouthpiece of Ukip. Today’s edition also carries the following:
The real impact of ‘loongate’, says James Kirkup, is to expose the “running sore” within the Tory party over core ideals.
With reports of Tory party activists already beginning to defect to Ukip over the comments, which have been attributed to an unnamed close ally of Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Political Editor James Kirkup said the story exposed “a running sore” within the Conservative ranks.
Emerging at the same time a Tory grassroots backlash over gay marriage proposals and following on from the Parliamentary infighting over an EU referendum, the Telegraph reporter said the continued Conservative unrest was making life easy for Ukip.
“Everyday is Christmas if you’re Nigel Farage,” he said.
“Each week that comes by the Tories find a way of splitting, dividing, essentially underlining that strategic fracture that they have on the issues where Nigel Farage harvests votes.”
We’ve argued many times here at Shiraz, that the mainstream hard-left’s traditional hostility to the EU (and its predecessors) has been ignorant, short-sighted and counter-productive. It is based upon a fundamental misconception: that British workers’ difficulties stem from Brussels rather than from capitalism itself, and that getting out of the EU would somehow, magically, remove – or, even, lessen- capitalist exploitation.
The present issue of Solidarity (paper of the AWL, the one far-left group with a consistent record of talking sense on this question), lambasts the attempts of idiots like Bob Crow, to delude our movement into imagining that there is a “left-wing” case for agitating against EU membership:
“Britain already has harsher anti-union laws and weaker social provision in most areas than the main EU states. It has resisted the Social Charter, the Working Time Directive, and the Agency Workers’ Directive. Given free rein, British governments would reverse their limited implementation of those EU provisions, and scrap other limited measures of worker protection such as TUPE.
“In the meantime, the workers’ movement would have been weakened by the nationalist demagogy accompanying EU exit – the nonsensical claims that British workers’ difficulties are due not to our capitalist bosses but to this or that official in Brussels – the replacement of worker-versus-boss agitation by Britain-versus-Brussels.
“Crow claims to set out a ‘left-wing, pro-worker case’. But when Crow, with the Socialist Party, ran a ‘No2EU’ slate in the 2009 euro-election, that slate denounced ‘the so-called freedom of movement of labour’ in the EU – in fact, the real, and welcome, freedom for workers in the EU to work and live where they wish.
“Another phrase it used to denounce EU migrant workers was ‘the social dumping of exploited foreign workers in Britain’. It was only a phraseological variant of the right-wing Ukip’s rants against Bulgarian and Rumanian workers”… (read the full article here).
But now the argument within the labour movement and Labour Party isn’t only about principles (crucial as they are): it’s also about tactics and pragmatism. With the Tories tearing themselves apart over Europe, Cameron aides denouncing the grassroots as “swivel-eyed loons” and Geoffrey Howe saying the Europe debate has reduced the party to “a new, almost farcical, low”, Miliband and Labour would have to be mad to come to the aid of the Tories by endorsing the call for a referendum on Europe.
Miliband would be well advised to say little on the subject, and watch the Tories self-destruct.
The EU, despite the unrelenting propaganda of the right wing press, is by no means as unpopular as the Tory-Ukip hard-right likes to make out. And even amongst those voters who express hostility to it, the EU ranks about 10th in their list of priorities.
So leave the swivel-eyed Tory-Ukip fanatics to it, Ed, and concentrate on jobs, housing and economic growth.
As for the fake-”democratic” argument (as touted by the Tory right, Ukip and -on the “left”- the likes of Crow and Seumas Milne) for a referendum: what’s wrong with offering all those who want to get out of Europe a real democratic choice: to vote for Ukip or the Tories at the next general election?
Nigel Farage is used to getting an easy ride. Most of the British press fawn over him and even political opponents (including Labour) have evidently decided to avoid direct attacks and criticism.
So the heckling and minor jostling he and his supporters received on Thursday in an Edinburgh pub, and some mildly critical remarks from a BBC Radio Scotland interviewer, seemed to come as a terrible shock: the saloon bar loudmouth suddenly turned into a priggish prima donna and left Scotland in a frightful huff.
I don’t know who the people who organised the Edinburgh protest are. They have been described as “left wing nationalists” so I suspect I for one wouldn’t agree with them on Scottish independence. But their representative on last night’s Newsnight came over as quite reasonable, and another organiser, Liam O’Hare is quoted in today’s Graun saying: “The people who demonstrated were internationalist. We opposed Nigel Farage coming as we believe in a society that welcomes immigrants, that welcomes people from all walks of life, wherever they come from, but doesn’t welcome racists like Nigel Farage.”
Farage and Ukip are not (quite) fascists. But they are thoroughgoing racists and general-purpose ultra-reactionaries. The nearest recent UK precedent would be Enoch Powell and the semi-official movement he built round himself in the late sixties and early seventies. The left didn’t pussy-foot about when it came to Powell: so why are most of us so polite when it comes to Farage and Ukip?
P.S: Check out Mr Galloway’s craven comments, here.
It’s always worth listening to what intelligent members of the class enemy have to say. Just like serious shop stewards read the Financial Times. We’ve done it before, here at Shiraz Socialist, but intend to do it more regularly, using the heading Enemy Intelligence. Here’s some wise inside info from Benedict Brogan of the Daily Telegraph, on the Tories’ disarray on Europe. Anyone who thinks Labour should meet Ukip half-way, or that there’s a “left wing” case for EU withdrawal (as espoused by the moronic Bob Crow), should read this:
The Tory party’s gone crazy over Europe, and it’s Cameron’s fault
By Benedict Brogan
For a while yesterday, the European flag flew proudly over Michael Gove’s office. The Education Secretary’s vote of no confidence in the EU the day before had made no difference. Whatever others in Whitehall might say, it seemed, the Department for Education remained happily collegiate in matters continental. It had accepted a request to show the flag for Europe Day last week, which was why the circle of gold stars on a deep blue background proclaiming the penetration of Brussels deep into the workings of British governance could be seen flapping erratically in the breeze at the top of Sanctuary Buildings in Great Smith Street. No one raced for the halyards when Mr Gove appeared on television on Sunday morning to announce that he would vote to leave the EU if he could, and it was only at lunchtime yesterday, when the flag’s presence was drawn to the boss’s attention, that his ideological preferences were brought to bear and it was hastily lowered.
The waving of a flag tells us nothing about the Government’s European policy, of course, save perhaps that the EU is more deeply embedded in the fabric of the state than we would like to admit. The speed with which it was whisked off the DfE’s flagpole once it was detected by those who understand the power of symbols tells us plenty, however, about how twitchy the Conservative Party has become since the latest flare-up of its Euro neuralgia. Over the past few days it has, with a troubling degree of deliberation, thrown away the small but growing political advantage it had given itself in recent weeks in order to indulge in another of those interminable arguments about the nature of our relationship with the EU. In the space of a fortnight the Tories have gone from leading a national conversation about Labour’s unsuitability to govern a changing Britain, to staging a public family feud about who emptied the dishwasher last time and where they should go for the holidays. Read the rest of this entry »
As the ultra-right within the Tory Party increase their campaign to get Britain out of the EU, it should by now be obvious to everyone that the anti-EU cause is by its very nature, the preserve of the racist, anti-working class and thoroughly reactionary forces within British society. However you dress it up in “anti-capitalist” rhetoric, this is a right-wing cause and those deluded souls on the anti-EU idiot-left, need to wake up and smell the latte.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:
“RMT’s position is clear, not only should there be an early in/out referendum but also we are calling unequivocally for British withdrawal.
“Across Europe, and specifically in Spain and Greece which are at the eye of the storm, it is the working class who are suffering the most as democracy is ripped apart and the EU and the central bank demand cuts to jobs, wages and pensions and wholesale privatisation of public assets.
“RMT will not sit back and allow this debate to be dominated by UKIP and the right wing of the Tory Party. Ministers like Michael Gove are now only raising the issue of withdrawal out of pure political opportunism. He could not care less about the rates of youth unemployment across Europe, the only concern of these Tory “Johnny Come Lately’s” is saving their own political skins.
“RMT will continue to set out the left wing, pro-worker case for British withdrawal from the EU that puts jobs, standards of living, democracy and public services centre stage. The truth is that you cannot be pro-EU and anti-austerity when the whole structure of the European project is dominated by the interests of bankers and big business, the driving forces behind the imposition of austerity measures across the Continent.”
Union calls for withdrawal from EU
Letter to the Morning Star: