European Union, for peace or capitalism?

This video from Norway says about itself:

Protest against European Union winning the Nobel Peace Prize


1. Wide high angle of demonstration with torches lit
2. Close up of torches being lit
3. Wide of people holding torches at protest
4. Mid of people marching in protest with banner
5. Mid of man chanting “We have right to protest war. By EU countries
6. Close up of man marching with torch, chanting
7. SOUNDBITE (Greek) Dimitris Kodelas, Greek Syriza Party Member: ++TRANSLATED BY INTERVIEWEE++
“I think it is the people in the movements who really want peace and not the European Union, especially Mrs. Merkel and the others who tell us what we should do.”
8. Wide of people marching with torches
9. Close up of man marching with torch
10. SOUNDBITE (English) Elsa Enger, Grandmothers for Peace protester:
“The peace prize was intentionally going to go to people who were not warmongers but [pro-]disarmament, and we cannot say that about the EU. They are about as strong warmongers (as there are) in the world.”
11. Wide of people marching
12. Close up of people marching and arriving at parliament
13. Wide pan of people assembling outside of parliament
14. Zoom out from parliament to people assembled outside


About 200 people protested against the European Union being awarded the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Sunday – a day before the prize-giving ceremony was due to take place in the Norwegian capital.

The protest was organised by the Peace Prize initiative 2012, which includes more than forty national and international organisations who have criticised the award being given to the EU.

The protesters say the fact that the EU member states combined account for a military expenditure that is second only to the US make the union unfit for a peace prize. …

Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland will hand over the prize, worth 1.2 million US dollars, during a ceremony at Oslo City Hall on Monday, followed by a banquet at the Grand Hotel, against a backdrop of demonstrations in the EU-sceptic country that has twice rejected joining the EU.

The decision to award the prize to the EU has sparked harsh criticism, including from three peace laureates – South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland and Adolfo Perez Esquivel from Argentina – who have demanded the prize money not be paid out this year.

They say the bloc contradicts the values associated with the prize because it relies on military force to ensure security.

The EU is being granted the prize as it grapples with a debt crisis that has stirred deep tensions between north and south, caused soaring unemployment and sent hundreds of thousands into the streets to protest austerity measures.

By Steve McGiffen in Britain:

The European project is not about fostering peace – It’s about fostering capitalism

Monday 24th August 2015

Capitalism gives only what we can extract from it – so if they give us a European Parliament which no-one ever asked for, let alone demonstrated for, you should smell a rat, says STEVE McGIFFEN

MY appreciation of Syriza has not really changed since the Greek capitulation to the Brussels-Frankfurt gang.

Syriza used to be Synaspismos, and the majority in that party never did really “get” the European Union, what it is, what it’s for and how those things make it unreformable. No matter. Until 10 years ago I worked alongside them in the European Parliament and they consistently voted against neoliberal proposals.

The same goes for the party I represented on the secretariat of the United European Left, the Socialist Party of the Netherlands (SP), though they were and remain much closer to “getting” the EU.

Others in the group varied in their views, but continued to vote consistently — and to organise — to oppose the increasingly extremist plans coming out of the European Commission.

Yet in the last few years, as criticism of the EU from the radical parliamentary left has become better informed and more acute, a position has developed which sees the honing of “Europe” into a hugely effective weapon of corporate capital as a recent activity. It is no such thing.

The position is based on the dangerously erroneous belief that the “European project” was originally motivated by a desire for peace.

The story goes like this — after the second world war a number of countries in Europe decided to move towards a partial integration of their economies. Hitler and others had tried this at various times in the past, but always by violence. This time democratic countries would co-operate of their own free will.

The goals would be freedom, peace and prosperity. And so, in 1957, with the Treaty of Rome, the European Economic Community (EEC) was born, and a gradual process of economic integration began, accompanied by a cautious political integration.

Everything changed in 1992, with the Maastricht Treaty which established the European Union as a vehicle for a specific form of politics, a neoliberal politics aimed at holding down wages, running down social security and deregulating markets.

Since then democracy has been increasingly revealed as window-dressing, as a series of popular votes against EU plans — France and the Netherlands 2005, Ireland 2008, Greece 2015 — has been ignored, or worse.

The main impulse behind this false view of the European project is a desire to counter the accusation — common enough — that to take an EU-critical position is to be a nationalist.

That’s why I have always described myself as “opposed to this European Union.” To go further than that, however, and to suggest that the EU is a good idea gone bad, is very misleading, perhaps dangerously so.

The EEC was not established to foster peace. This is not to say that there was no impulse to create a peaceful community of nations in place of the warring tribes who had been at each other’s throats, on and off, since time immemorial. This was a widespread feeling among ordinary working-class and middle-class people, but it was not something which particularly motivated the ruling class.

The impulse to economic integration was instead done under pressure from the two post-war superpowers.

On the one hand, fear of the Soviet Union’s appeal to working people in the West — evidenced by mass communist parties in Italy and France — meant that it was imperative that as Europe recovered from war, organised labour got a share of the spoils in the form of rising standards of living, solidly social democratic welfare states and, most importantly, full employment.

On the other, European integration and the creation of accessible markets and opportunities for investment were vital to the post-war programme of the other superpower, the United States.

Indeed, the idea of a Soviet military “threat” to western Europe was largely a US invention. It allowed the US to establish not only the EEC but Nato, a sort of protection racket which would enable it to subordinate former enemies and allies alike.

The European bourgeoisie had no problem with this, as it consolidated its own hold on power.

But as the economy hit the buffers in the 1970s and the rate of profit began to decline, the welfare state could no longer be afforded. Elements which have been retained are either those to which people, including many ordinary Tory voters, are most attached — the NHS, for instance — or those, like the benefit system, which have been retooled as disciplinary mechanisms.

Neoliberalism, a fringe philosophy until then, had come into its own. Capitalism gives only what we can extract from it. Working men and women in many countries died fighting for parliamentary representation. So if they give us a European Parliament which no-one ever asked for, let alone demonstrated for, you should smell a rat.

Only fear of our power has ever made them use their power to give us what we want. That fear has long been at a low ebb. As Thatcher and Reagan successfully stuck the boot into the labour movement, the right went on the attack.

As the Soviet Union collapsed, taking most western communist parties with it, capitalism suddenly found itself without serious organised opposition.

The Maastricht Treaty was the consequence of all of this, and it was indeed a harsher version of neoliberal economic integration than anything which went before.

Yet it is also a logical development. Like the welfare state, it is a tactic to preserve capitalism. This is the EU’s only real function.

Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis approached the Brussels-Frankfurt gang as if they were negotiating with reasonable people who wanted the same as they did — to restore the Greek economy and save people’s lives — but had different ideas about how to achieve it.

In reality they were engaged in class war. To stand on a battlefield convinced you’re a diplomat and not a soldier is unlikely to end at all well. That’s what the Greek government did, and that’s why — for the time being — it lost.

16 thoughts on “European Union, for peace or capitalism?

  1. Wednesday 2nd September 2015

    posted by Will Stone in Britain

    TRADE unionists have branded their anti-corporate and democratic drive for EU withdrawal “the only true campaign” against Britain’s membership.

    Britain’s EU membership came under the spotlight yesterday after Ukip leader Nigel Farage announced his party would launch its own No campaign this week.

    He said he would not be signing his right-wing party up to either of “the two existing” No campaigns, the Westminster-based Business for Britain and the corporate-funded Know campaign.

    But his comments neglected to mention Trade Unionists Against the EU (TUAEU), the only No campaign on the side of British workers.

    TUAEU’s Brian Denny told the Star: “Trade unionists invented democracy and that democracy is being removed by the EU institutions. We can’t have democracy inside the EU.

    “Ukip has a business agenda for leaving the EU, ours is anti-corporate and about protecting workers’ rights.

    “It’s about time the entire trade union movement woke up to the fact that there’s no future inside a corporate EU.”

    He cited the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as a “great example” of how Britain’s EU membership is bad for workers and democracy.

    The dodgy behind-closed-doors deal between the EU and US will give unprecedented powers to private companies, allowing them to sue governments if privatised services are returned to the public sector.

    The TUC officially supports Britain’s EU membership but has hinted its stance could change if workers’ rights and protections are removed in reforms being negotiated by the Tory government.

    These rights include four weeks’ paid holiday, rest breaks and the 48 hours a week working time directive.

    Prime Minister David Cameron meanwhile ditched plans to ask voters to answer Yes or No to continued EU membership after the Electoral Commission warned the question could be perceived as biased.

    The elections watchdog argued a Yes or No choice could give an advantage to campaigners for continued membership.

    Mr Cameron accepted the advice and so voters will now be asked whether they wish to remain in or leave the EU in the referendum, promised by the end of 2017.


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  4. Thursday 21st
    posted by Luke James in Britain

    Hoey and Hopkins lead MPs’ charge on ‘anti-socialist’ bloc

    LABOUR MPs launched a left-wing campaign to leave the “anti-socialist” European Union yesterday by warning that the party’s most popular policies would be banned by Brussels.

    A government headed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would find itself in breach of EU competition laws if it pursued public ownership of railways or energy companies, said Labour Leave.

    In a pamphlet entitled Jez EU Can’t, published to coincide with its London launch, Labour Leave also outlined how ending NHS outsourcing, cracking down on tax avoidance and strengthening workers’ rights would also be outlawed.

    “The EU is anti-democratic, is anti-socialist and is not accountable,” said ex-minister Kate Hoey, one of five MPs to break with party leaders to call for an exit left.

    “The EU commissioners aren’t elected, we can’t get rid of them and I believe the continuing way they have tried to ensure our country has less and less control over what we do is absolutely crucial.”

    Veteran left-wing MP ­Kelvin Hopkins said the situation would be made worse by the EU-US trade deal TTIP, which will give private companies the abilities to sue governments that oppose ­privatisation.

    “TTIP is the final demonstration that the European Union is about looking after the interests of the corporate world — not working people,” said Mr Hopkins.

    “Millions of Labour voters understand that. Thousands of Labour Party members understand that.”

    Former TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, a board member of the Britain Stronger In campaign, claimed the EU had delivered “concrete benefits” for British workers, including rights to paid holiday and protection for part-time and agency workers.

    He claimed that millions of jobs connected to EU trade would be put at risk by a British exit, saying: “Workers, trade union members and hard-working families are stronger in Europe and leaving would be a threat to their security and prosperity.”

    Former Cabinet Office minister Graham Stringer, as well as back-bench MPs Roger Godsiff and Khalid Mahmood, are among other MPs supporting Labour Leave.

    The group is being funded by entrepreneur John Mills, who was agent of the No campaign in the 1975 referendum and is secretary of Labour Leave.

    Jez EU can’t…

    1. An “integrated publicly owned railway network” is illegal under EU law under directive 2012/34/EU.

    2. Removing the private sector from the NHS will be very difficult to reconcile with certain fundamental principles of EU law, including the freedom to provide services, EU public procurement, competition and state aid law.

    3. EU directives (2009/72EU and 2009/73/EU) on the “internal market” constrain the ability of the British government to undertake radical reform of the energy market.

    4. Restrictions on the right to strike under EU law could not be unilaterally repealed by a future Labour government. The European Court of Justice has held that the rights of companies to establish themselves and to provide services in other EU member states have “direct effect” against trade unions.


  5. Thursday 21st January 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Britain

    LABOUR’S support for staying in the European Union is “completely inconsistent” with leader Jeremy Corbyn’s previous positions, MPs said yesterday.

    Kate Hoey pointed out that Mr Corbyn had “always” voted with eurosceptic Labour MPs against further EU integration over the past 20 years.

    Graham Stringer also said he was “surprised” at the party’s position and was going to raise the issue in meeting scheduled with Mr Corbyn yesterday.

    “It wouldn’t surprise me if that changes because it’s completely inconsistent with what Jeremy has done in his time in Parliament,” he said.

    A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “The Labour Party has a united position, which is to support the Remain campaign but at the same time to push an agenda of progressive social change in Europe.

    “We want to work with allies in the EU to see changes across a whole range of things, like liberalisation, privatisation, austerity and jobs, transparency, democratisation and about employment rights.”


  6. Thursday 21st January 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Editorial

    THE Morning Star supports the goal of the Labour Leave group — Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union — because it sees the EU as an irreformable capitalist monolith.

    This is not a recent development. It was wired into the EU prototype, then known as the Common Market, set up in 1956 with six member states and committed to removing all obstacles to the operation of market forces.

    Each successive EU treaty and expansion of the bloc’s borders has preserved that capitalist principle at the heart of the developing superstate.

    Whatever the differences between EU member-state governments, whether supposedly conservative, liberal or social democrat, they are united on this guiding principle.

    Just as Henry Ford promised buyers of his Model T car that a “customer can have a car painted any colour he wants as long as it is black,” citizens of EU member states are free to elect a government of any shade provided that it backs neoliberalism or capitalist austerity.

    Earlier pretences to back a “social Europe” that underpinned workers’ rights, solidarity, welfare and state-guaranteed health provisions — the post-war settlement designed to prevent a return to the bad old days of the 1930s, with economic slumps, mass unemployment, fascism and war — have evaporated.

    The EU crucifixion of Greece to finance the bailout of a reckless and overexposed private banking sector has laid bare the hollowness of such claims.

    The supposedly radical left Syriza government led by Alexis Tsipras talked resistance and practised surrender, accepting previously unseen cuts in wages, pensions, public spending and living standards, higher taxation and widespread privatisation.

    The independent European Central Bank — independent, that is, of democratic accountability — and the unelected and unaccountable European Commission put Greek people through the wringer, ignoring continent-wide pleas for more humanitarian treatment.

    The message was clear to member states’ electorates — don’t think you can change things. This is the way it is.

    For an organisation that parrots the word “democracy” relentlessly, whether in criticising other world powers or preparing the way for another illegal invasion, the EU record on respecting democracy is shaky.

    When voters in countries such as Ireland or France have erred by voting against EU treaties, they have been ordered to try again until they redeem their mistake by getting it right.

    Elected governments in Italy and Greece have been replaced by appointed “technocrats” — effectively bankers and their nominees — to run the show and drive through economic “reforms” that benefit the rich and powerful.

    The balance of income and wealth across the continent has swung from poor to rich as the inevitable consequence of wage freezes, higher unemployment and benefit cuts.

    Even now as the working class is over a barrel, our unelected and unaccountable EU bosses are negotiating the TTIP trade deal with Washington to further distance economic life from democratic accountability.

    Yet pro-EU zealots in Labour and the nationalist parties who affect to oppose austerity talk vaguely of reforming or improving the EU when they must know that there is no mechanism for reversing the pro-market forces code that is central to the bloc’s DNA.

    Labour Leave backers are correct to note that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have understood these basic facts in the past and doubtless still do.

    But they must also appreciate that elected leaders are not as free to speak out against party policy as backbenchers.

    The task of Labour Leave and like-minded others in the labour movement is to avoid personality politics, cut through the sunshine stories of the “social Europe” fairyland and expose the reality of a hard-bitten undemocratic big business bloc.


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