Posts Tagged ‘TTIP’

Pinochet, Hillary Clinton, and Theresa May’s Proposal for Worker Directors

July 30, 2016

I found this very interesting paragraph in a piece by Michael Hudson ‘Obama Said Hillary Will Continue His Legacy. And She Will!’ in this weekend’s collection of Counterpunch articles:

Obama’s brilliant demagogy left many eyes glazed over in admiration. Nobody is better at false sincerity while misrepresenting reality so shamelessly. Probably few caught the threatening hint he dropped about Hillary’s plan for corporations to share their profits with their workers. This sounds to me like the Pinochet plan to privatize Social Security by turning it into exploitative ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Programs). The idea is that wage withholding would be steered to buy into the company’s stock – bidding it up in the process. Employees then would end up holding an empty bag, as occurred recently with the Chicago Tribune. That seems to be the great “reform” to “save” Social Security that her Wall Street patrons are thinking up.

Hudson’s article is a sustained demolition of the liberal image Shrillary and the rest of the establishment Democrat Party have promoted. She is not remotely on the side of the increasingly impoverished Middle and working classes, but a neoliberal corporatist concerned with promoting the profits of her donors in Wall Street and Big Business at the expense of ordinary Americans. She stands for more austerity, further cuts to education and welfare programmes, including Medicare, and the TTP and TTIP free trade agreements, that threaten to outsource more American jobs.

She’s also an extremely militaristic hawk, who has supported a series of bloody interventions from Iraq, Libya, and Syria to Honduras. She promises a further escalation of American military action around the globe. To divert attention from the corrupt machinations in her favour by the Democrat party machine, headed by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she has attacked Putin for supposedly hacking into the Democrat’s computer, which held details of these underhand deals. She’s also using Trump’s friendship with the Russian leader to attack him, in which Hudson sees as a return to the Red-baiting antics of the McCarthy era. He describes how she has appealed to Republic voters against those of Bernie Sanders and the progressive Left. And how Bernie Sanders has also ill-served his own supporters by endorsing her, despite the fact that she stands for everything he opposes.

Hudson also makes the wider point that many, if not most of the policy positions Hillary adopts are exactly the same as Obama. Obama was no radical: he described himself as a ‘moderate Republican’. The only radical feature about him was his ethnicity. He was Black, and this constituted a liberal point in his favour, just as Shrillary’s biological femininity is a point in hers. But Hudson makes the point that Shrillary’s biological gender is irrelevant to her politics. She does not embody the traditional female characteristics of empathy, but a very masculine aggressive militarism, in which she is ‘one of the boys’ with the other army hawks.

See http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/29/obama-said-hillary-will-continue-his-legacy-and-indeed-she-will/

There is much here that parallels the political situation over here in Blighty. Owen Smith and the Blairites in Labour are also neoliberals, standing for austerity, welfare cuts, aggressive militarism and pursuing the aims and enrichment of the super-rich at the expense of the poor. It’s not even remotely surprising, as Blair modelled his New Labour project on Bill Clinton’s New Democrats. And both parties based their electoral strategy on trying to win over Conservative voters through the adoption of corporatist, anti-working class policies.

But the piece also indicated very strong parallels with Theresa May’s Conservatives. They’re even more corporatist than New Labour, but May announced when she entered No 10 that she was in favour of workers on companies’ boards of directors. This is a radical socialist policy. It’s one so radical, that leftwing Labour MPs like Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone were ruthlessly pilloried for endorsing it in the 1970s and 1980s. Now May, an arch capitalist, says she’s in favour of it.

She clearly isn’t, at least as far as it is conventionally considered. It may well be, as I’ve said before, just rhetoric, a piece of left-wing guff to make her sound more progressive than she actually is. David Cameron, her predecessor, did the same before he became prime minister. He and Ian Duncan Smith opposed New Labour’s welfare cuts, including the privatisation of the NHS, and made noises about supporting Green policies. Cameron’s political mentor, Anthony Blonde, claimed that neoliberalism had failed, and that the Tory party would support pro-worker policies in his book, Red Tory. He even made approving noises about the great 19th century Russian Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin.

Except that it was all rubbish. Once in power, the Green policies were swiftly jettisoned and fracking and nuclear power wholeheartedly endorsed. Neoliberalism was declared to be the only way forward. And he made deeper cuts under his austerity campaign than Labour, and, if anything, stepped up the privatisation of the NHS.

It looks like May is repeating that strategy: first appear a bit left, then, when your position has been consolidated, get rid of it all and carry on as normal.

But it may be that she does mean something about worker directors. If she does, it won’t be for the welfare of the working class. Hudson states that Hillary’s call for profit-sharing sounds like Pinochet’s attempts to privatise social security through turning it into a employee share scheme. Something like this is also likely over here with May’s worker directors. The Tory party has already tried to promote one scheme, by which workers were able to acquire shares in their company, if they signed away their employment rights. It looks very much to me that May will try something similar under the pretense of introducing industrial democracy. If she ever does anything like that at all in the first place, that is.

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Kipper Insurance Firm Moves Jobs to South Africa

June 4, 2015

Okay, I really I’ve been away from blogging for over a week or so now. I got sidetracked doing other things after the Tories won the election. As I said in my previous blog about the Tory victory, I was just so angry and upset that I simply couldn’t face blogging.

Well, I’m back. And I couldn’t let this story up, because it affects my home town, Bristol. According to Hope Not Hate and the local paper, the Bristol Post, Aaron Banks, the founder of the insurance company, Go Skippy, has decided to outsource its 150 jobs to South Africa. The staff at their headquarters in Cribbs Causeway were greeted on Monday by company representive, who read from a script and told them to pack their bags and clear the office.

Banks himself, who comes from Thornbury, a small town just north of Bristol, made the news last year, when he gave £1 million to Farage’s stormtroopers. He was originally only going to give £100, 000, but increased the amount after William Hague sneered at him as ‘someone we haven’t heard of’. Before that, like so many of the Kippers’ backers, he had been a Tory donor.

The Post stated that they had seen a letter from the company, which says

“The most robust and prudent way for the company to test this new way of working is to divert all live functions in its entirety to South Africa for the period of this trial.

“This will ultimately establish if this proposal can succeed against rigorous and demanding service level agreements that will be scrutinised over the coming weeks.”

The Post’s article states that the letter goes on to say it will “significantly reduce” the workforce in the UK if the trial is successful, and that it was taking this measure after the poor results of the insurance business in 2014. It also states that during the trial period, departments in Bristol affected by the trial will be closed down.

The article reports the shocked reactions of some of the workers, one of whom nicely summed up the situation. One woman said ” I think it’s quite ironic that he (Mr Banks) is a UKIP supporter and yet is taking his business to South Africa”.

It is, but it’s part of the party’s deep hypocrisy and highly misleading and mendacious attitude towards British nationalism and the European Union. While Farage and the others tried to get working class votes by playing on fears about immigrants taking British jobs, and British industry supposedly being stifled by Brussels bureaucracy, in actual facts they are deeply hostile to workers’ rights and all in favour of globalisation. As so many blogs have pointed out, ad nauseam, the Kippers want to get rid of basic rights like paid holidays, sick pay and maternity leave. This last is part of their highly reactionary and grossly sexist attitude towards women. Like the Daily Fail, they seem to have the attitude that employing women is a particular burden to companies, as they have to be supported and their jobs kept open when they become pregnant and take the necessary time off to bring junior into the world.

Much of their hostility to the EU comes partly from nostalgia for the time when Britain could command the resources of an entire Empire, and the standard Tory resentment to the European Union because of the provisions protecting workers in the Social Charter. Way back in the 1990s and the first decade of this century, there were noises from the transatlantic Right – American Republicans and some sections of the Tory party, that Britain should leave the EU and join NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Area. Years ago there was an article in Lobster that covered the history of calls from the Conservative party for Britain to join America as the 51st state. It’s a bizarre, and unrealistic dream, but it resurfaces every so often because the Tories in this country like and admire the country’s cut-throat capitalism and corporate power. Hence the way some of the Tories on the extreme Right over here, like the Tory MEP for Dorset, Daniel Hannan, go on about the ‘Anglosphere’ – the English-speaking world in preference to links with the continent.

As far as jobs go, they have absolutely no objection to outsourcing them if they think they can make a quick buck out of it. And they have definitely not raised any objections to the TTIP, the transatlantic trade agreement that would allow corporations to sue national governments for legislation that damages their profits. As so many bloggers have pointed out, this is a danger as it would cement in place the Tories’ creeping privatisation of the NHS.

UKIP have now gone into something of an eclipse, having failed to get any MPs except Douglas Carswell elected. The Fuhrage’s fake resignation, which has been compared to that of Stalin’s own threat of resignation in order to force the rest of the Politburo to endorse him, has led to the party currently being riven by a leadership contest. Nevertheless, they’re still about, and just might make a come-back. So, it’s worth making it even harder for them.

And this story is relevant far beyond UKIP. They’re actually putting into practice, and saying what the Tory Right also believes and says. Cameron and co are just more subtle about, and better at hiding it all behind spurious pretexts and outright lies.

Never mind their verbiage about the EU – this incident shows what the kippers and the Tories really think about ‘British jobs for British workers’.

And quite frankly, they don’t care two hoots.

The Bristol Post story is at http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/150-staff-Bristol-insurance-company-Skippy-told/story-26621857-detail/story.html#ixzz3c7OEcSTg.

The Hope Not Hate story is at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/news/home/article/3784/jobs-of-150-staff-at-bristol-insurance-company-founded-by-ukip-donor-could-go-to-south-africa

John Brunner on the 1979 SF Book Show, Time Out Of Mind

May 4, 2015

‘I have seen the future, and it doesn’t work!’

I found this edition of the BBC series, Time Out of Mind, over on Youtube. Broadcast in 1979, the series looked at four SF authors, who were either British, in the case of Ann McCaffrey, an American based in Ireland. Apart from John Brunner and McCaffrey, the other authors featured were Arthur C. Clarke, and Michael Moorcock and M. John Harrison. The fifth and final programme in the series was on that year’s SF convention in Brighton.

I vaguely remembered the series from the trailers running earlier in the evening, though I never watched it myself as I was probably too young. I’ve got a feeling it was broadcast long after my bed time.

Stand On Zanzibar

Brunner’s particularly interesting, as he’s known for writing very dystopian, near-future SF, such as his books The Shockwave Rider, The Sheep Look Up and Stand on Zanzibar. All of these are rightly classics of the genre, and I think Stand On Zanzibar has been republished under the Gollancz colophon as an ‘SF Masterwork’. It is indeed, though I think it’s also one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. It’s very much a product of its time, which was the late 1960s-’70s concern about the ‘population bomb’ and the massive problems faced by an overpopulated world. It’s set in a near future, c. 2020, if I remember properly, in a massively overcrowded world, where living space is in short supply. The result is endemic domestic terrorist violence, and ‘muckers’ – frenzied spree killers. These are ordinary citizens, who’ve finally snapped under the strain of such oppressive conditions. They’ve taken their name from quite literally ‘running amok’.

In order to curb the population explosion, the government has passed eugenic legislation preventing those with genetic defects or inheritable diseases, like haemophilia, from having children. Recreational cannabis, on the other hand, is legal, but still vulnerable to the interest of organised crime.

Far more sinisterly are the attempts by the various government to find ways to control the population using genetic engineering. This includes the research of an Indonesian scientist, who the Americans send a special agent to extract.

Brunner, CND and Environmentalism

Brunner was politically active for a time in his life. He was a member of CND and attended their meetings and marches. The programme shows how he even took part in an exhibition of the horrors created by the bomb, and how this influenced him. He states on the programme that when he turned to writing near future SF, he didn’t have to do much research. While it was harder to write than stories set in the far future, where the imagination could run freely, he found that much of the nightmarish conditions he describes in his works have already happened. This includes the dangers of chemical pollution on the environment and agriculture in The Sheep Look Up.

The ‘New Wave’ and Literary Modernism

Brunner’s like Moorcock and the other members of the British ‘New Wave’, in incorporating the techniques of literary modernism into his work. Moorcock in the programme dedicated to him said he wanted to use the techniques of such avant-garde literary authors as James Joyce. He was bitterly disappointed when his literary aspirations were rejected by the rest of the SF milieu, who considered these models to be pseudo-intellectuals.

Brunner acknowledges that in creating the background for the world on Stand On Zanzibar, he took John Dos Passos as his model, and included clippings from newspapers, even poetry. These clippings also show how rooted the book was in present-day reality. Several of the clippings explaining the ‘muckers’, for example, are taking from 1960s reports of real spree killers. As for the ‘partisans’ and their terrorist campaigns in America, this looks like it was based very much on the urban terrorists that emerged in the late 1960s and ’70s, like the various paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the various French Maoist rebels and the Weathermen, Black Panthers and Symbionese Liberation Front in America.

America as Dystopia

The show also makes the point that although Brunner’s British, he’s popular in America, partly because he speaks with a mid-Atlantic voice. Brunner is shown talking to friends and his publisher in the US. But Brunner was also very critical of the US. He says that he took America as his model for the dystopias he created, as much of what he describes in his books has already happened there. He follows this with the statement I’ve quoted at the top of this piece ‘I have seen the future, and it doesn’t work’.

Folk Music and Dancing

I also found the episode interesting, as Brunner was a folkie, who lived in the small town of South Petherton in Somerset. He and his wife were the organisers of the town’s folk festival. I found it rather incongruous that an author, who was concerned with the future and the problems that it would throw up, should also be a fan of, among other things, such very traditionally English pastimes as, um, Morris dancing. Brunner and his wife are shown opening the festival, and watching a group of Morris men dancing with the white flannels, handkerchiefs and bells.

Here’s the video:

Population Explosion or Population Crash?

While Stand On Zanzibar is a classic, it’s also somewhat dated. Europe and America don’t have the teeming, claustrophobically overcrowded cities of books like Stand On Zanzibar, or Harry Harrison’s depiction of similarly terribly overpopulated world, Make Room! Make Room!, filmed as Soylent Green. Indeed, birth rates around the world are falling, and in some parts of the West, China and Japan they’re actually below replacement level. Some demographers are talking of a ‘population crash’, and the problems this will cause. This in its turn has created its dystopian prophetic fiction in the film Children of Men, with Clive Owen and Thandie Newton. This imagines a world where humanity has become sterile. No children have been born for 18 years. The result is political instability, violence and ruthless control by a Fascist state. The only hope in this dystopia is presented by an immigrant woman, who has become pregnant.

Spree Killers and Religious Violence

We also don’t have intelligent, supercomputers cooled in liquid helium, like Shalmaneser. Other predictions are so accurate, as to be actually prosaic, such as influence of the media and the emergence of the pop video. Unfortunately, so are the ‘muckers’ – such as the maniacs, who walk into schools, restaurants or cinemas with guns and begin shooting. The book’s also accurate in that some of the crazed killers are religious fanatics. In the book the religious violence is carried out by Christians. This is true of part of the American extreme Right, as shown in the Militia movement and their fears of an atheist government, which will begin sending Christians to death camps run by FEMA as part of the establishment of a one-world global dictatorship.

The Pieds-Noirs and the Legacy of Algeria

Other predictions look dated, but contain a kernel of truth that has been subsequently hidden, but still remains a powerful influence in contemporary politics. Two of the characters, for example, are a brother and sister, Pieds-Noirs – former French-Algerian settlers, who have been forced out of the colony after independence. Despite the decades that have passed since France lost its war against its former colony, Pieds-Noirs still suffer from considerable stigmatisation because of the atrocities the former colonial overlord committed. Now, nearly five decades or so later, there is little special shame attached to the Algerian War. Nevertheless, it has influenced French politics in that many of the Arab, Muslim population of France are the descendants of Algerians, who chose to emigrate to the former colonial power. These have formed an immigrant underclass, who have suffered racism and discrimination. Much of the political disaffection French Muslims come from this background of emigration, dislocation and resentment by the host society.

The Corporate Take-Over of the Nation State

One of the most extreme of the novels predictions, and one which mercifully hasn’t occurred yet, it the literal corporate takeover of entire states. Another of the characters is the president of a small, west African nation. Unable to improve conditions for his people through normal politics and democracy, he literally signs it away to an American corporation. In return, that company promises to invest in his nation, develop it economically, and provide jobs and training for its people. It also, as Brunner makes clear, condemns them to corporate slavery.

This hasn’t quite happened like that yet, but there are some close parallels. The Socialist government of Alfredo Benz in Guatemala in the 1950s was overthrown by a CIA-backed coup, after Benz nationalised the banana plantations of the United Fruit company, an American corporation. Similarly, Mahmud Mossadeq, the Prime Minister of Iran, was overthrown by the Americans in the 1950s after his government nationalised the oil industry, including British-Persian Oil, which then became BP.

And the TTIP, if launched, will allow multinationals to sue national governments if they dare to pass legislation, which threatens to harm their business. Veolia has used similar legislation to sue the Egyptian government, after it raised the minimum wage for Egyptian workers.

The Psychological Legacy of Slavery and the Experience of Black Politicians

Another part of Brunner’s novel, that still retains its contemporary relevance, is that one of his characters is a Black American politician. This isn’t quite so novel as it was when the book was written, coming when Blacks in America were still very much fighting for their civil rights. America now has its first Black president in Obama. Nevertheless, the issues of racism, Black alienation from what they see as White power structures, and the psychological legacy of slavery, still remain a powerful presence. Although physically fit and able-bodied, the Black politician suffers from a psychological weakness in one of his arms, due to being told about how one of his slave ancestors had his amputated as a punishment by his owners. The organiser of a recent campaign against an exhibition on the White exhibition of Africans as subhuman others, staged a year or so ago by one of the Museums, stated that amongst her reasons for opposing it was a concern for the psychological health of Black people. She pointed to studies of young western Blacks, who have suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder through material showing or discussing the sufferings of their slave ancestors.

Ambiguous Endings and Political Message

Brian Aldiss, discussing Brunner’s work in his study of the history of SF, The Trillion Year Spree, criticises him for failing to take an explicit stance. Despite being a very political novel, Brunner doesn’t take a party-political stance. There’s one incident, for example, in which an elderly lady is forcibly moved out of the home she has lived in for most of her life by the local authorities. This can be read in two ways. It can be seen as council busybodies, enforcing bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation, regardless of the harmful effect this has on the lives of ordinary people. Or it can be read in the opposite view, as local authorities blindly committed to corporate interests and commercial redevelopment.

Brunner also leaves the final results of his characters’ actions on the wider society ambiguous. One of the last sections of Stand On Zanzibar is entitled ‘And See Which Seed Will Grow’, taken from the line in MacBeth which about peering into the sands of time. He hints at their being two possibilities for the world and its millions: either pacification through specially engineered food introduced into its peoples’ diet. Or the possibility of genetically engineering humans themselves, as presented by the Indonesian biologist.

At the end of The Shockwave Rider, the authorities organise a plebiscite, which will hopefully liberate humanity from tyranny. This asks them to vote between two statements. These seem to offer strikingly different alternatives, but when read closely, don’t actually mean very much, and actually say pretty much the same thing. The book then concludes ‘Which way did you vote?’

Again, as in Stand On Zanzibar, the final result, the choice made by humanity, is never shown. There’s the possibility of hope, or a little more hope. But it doesn’t end with a total solution that will automatically improve everything, and the outcome is decidedly mixed.

Warning: 70’s Fashions on Display

I think Brunner died a little while ago. This documentary gives provides an insight into the life and views of one of Britain’s great writers of dystopian SF. As I said, his book’s don’t make an explicit party-political statement, but in his anti-nuclear activism, environmentalism and critiques of corporate power, Brunner does share many of the concerns of the Left.

You should be warned, however, that as the documentary was made in 1979, it shows it in some truly horrendous ’70s fashions.

Kipper Councillor Says Bristol Elected Mayor ‘Looks Like Scruffy Little Asylum Seeker’

May 4, 2015

I found this story in today’s Bristol Post , ‘UKIP councillor claims George Ferguson looks like a ‘scruffy little asylum seeker’ through the Hope Not Hate site. Michael Frost, who became UKIP’s first ever councillor in Bristol, representing Hengrove, made the remark when speaking on community radio. He was on BCfm radio’s Politics Show.

He apparently said that “I think the way he presents himself, to dignitaries and places that he has to go and people he has to see, he looks like a scruffy little asylum seeker, who’s got dressed in a pound shop. I’m appalled by his appearance.”

Ferguson himself laughed off the remark, but observed that it was insulting to asylum seekers. He also said that Frost should ask himself, if foreign heads of state really thought he was that scruffy, why he got such good feedback.

Tim Malnick, a Green councillor, who was on the show with Frost, was also offended by the comment. He said he was sorry, but the metaphor of an asylum seeker as scruffy was ‘stereotypical’.

Frost apparently has responded in turn, by describing Malnick as ‘looking like an asylum seeker’.

The story can be read at: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/UKIP-councillor-slams-George-Ferguson-looks-like/story-26438061-detail/story.html

Frost, according to the article, is also a candidate in the parliamentary elections for UKIP for north-west Bristol. Let’s hope the people there have the good sense not to elect him. He sounds utterly crass and charmless. He makes a comment he should realise would be inflammatory and seen as racist, and when he’s criticised for it, he makes the insult again.

As it stands, a lot of people in Bristol do think Ferguson is scruffy. Ferguson strides about in red trousers, including for funerals, when he adopts a ‘dark claret’ pair. Many of the people I know, especially the older generation, feel that this especially shows a lack of respect, and Ferguson should wear a more conservative colour.

The elected mayor is also far from my favourite local politician. He’s a former Lib Dem, who suddenly decided he was an independent, when it came to standing in the elections for mayor. He seems to be a supporter of all the neo-liberal twaddle about cuts, and last Christmas pushed through £90m of them. He denied that they would have much of an impact, however, and told Bristolians that we ‘shouldn’t be afraid of them.’

However I or anybody feel about Ferguson and his wardrobe, Frost was wrong to compare him to an asylum seeker. It shows the contempt for immigrants and the global poor characteristic of the Kippers. And it also shows the party’s contempt for their opponent’s views and general insensitivity when Frost repeated the insult about the Green councillor. It both shows that Frost doesn’t think he’s said anything wrong, and that he just doesn’t care if he has and has no reservations whatsoever about showing his contempt for those who do.

The ward he represents, Hengrove, is just down the road from me. It’s like Stockwood, the other area of south Bristol that John Langley, the porn star, hopes to win for the Kippers. Both areas are normal suburbs. Their populations are mostly White, but there are some Black and Asian people there.

I raised the issue of the large numbers of people voting for the Kippers in Hengrove, when Mike and I met the local Labour candidates for my part of Bristol. I was worried, as this has never been an area, which showed much support for the NF or other goons from the Fascist right. She said that from her experience of talking to people on doorsteps, the driving motivation for them voting for the kippers was job insecurity.

Presumably, the people there have, or had, bought into all that nonsense UKIP had spouted about not being like ‘LibLabCon’, and having some alternative economic views. This has led a lot of their prospective supporters to imagine that they were somehow a centrist party. I’ve even reblogged material from the Angry Yorkshireman, that showed that most of their members were almost as left-wing as Labour regarding nationalisation and state intervention.

Except that the party isn’t. It’s been described as ‘the Tories on steroids’. They are even more committed to deregulation and privatisation, including the NHS, as the Tories. They are also very firmly in favour of destroying the remaining shreds of the welfare state and basic workers’ rights like sick pay, paid maternity leave and paid holidays.

As for international relations, while they object to immigration and the EU, they have no objection to international agreements like the TTIP, which would be used to lock in the privatisation of the NHS, and allow big business to sue national governments if they pass legislation harming their profits.

Like Veolia did a few years ago when they used a similar trade agreement to sue the Egyptian government, when it raised the minimum wage for its people.

The Kippers don’t represent the workers, and they don’t represent the small businesspeople, who would lose trade if we were taken out of European Union. Any trade we did then, would have to go through the tariff barriers intended to stop the EU being flooded with cheaper produce from elsewhere in the world. Which would then also mean us.

No, the Kippers stand solely for big business, as well as racial bigotry, Islamophobia, anti-feminism and a bitter hatred of gays. And the people of Bristol are very well aware of it. I was talking to one of my uncles today about the election, and he described Farage as ‘that Britain for the Whites guy.’

Exactly. And Michael Frost’s comments bear out this image of racial hatred and intolerance. Bristol is a large, multicultural city, and hopefully the Kippers and their intolerance will not find much support on Thursday. Frost’s comments show you why they, and not asylum seekers, should be kept out.

Vox Political: Socialist Euro MEPs Reject Corporate Power in TTIP System

March 11, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this piece, MEP group rejects controversial TTIP trade dispute system – almost unanimously, reporting that Labour MEPs convinced the other members of the Socialist and Democrat group within the European parliament to reject the provisions in the TTIP that allow private businesses to sue national governments if they pass legislation that damages them. It begins

The Labour Party has been instrumental in ensuring that a large group in the European Parliament has rejected any use of the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in trade deals with both the US (TTIP) and Canada (CETA).

The Socialist and Democrats Group in the European Parliament adopted almost unanimously a position paper drafted by a working group headed by UK Labour Party MEPs including David Martin (chair), Jude Kirton-Darling (spokesperson on TTIP and CETA) and Richard Corbett (Labour’s Deputy Leader in the European Parliament).

The proposal was supported by 78 votes to five against.

“We have always been opposed to ISDS as a group, although we didn’t have a chance to adopt a formal decision on this matter since the last European elections in 2014,” said Mr Martin. “In doing so today, we are responding to the thousands of constituents and the many civil society organisations that have asked us to clarify our position.”

Jude Kirton-Darling added: “This decision … will prove to be a real game-changer, not only in the negotiations between the EU and the US but also with respect to the ratification of the Canada agreement.

The European Commission and Europe’s Conservatives will need our support in the end if they want to see TTIP through. Today, we are sending them a loud and clear message that we can only contemplate support if our conditions are met. One such condition is we do not accept the need to have private tribunals in TTIP.”

And Richard Corbett said: “Today the Labour Party has demonstrated that engaging with our neighbours across the EU yields tangible results in the interest of the general public. Labour were instrumental in securing this outcome, and this is a tribute to the hard work, commitment and resolve of Labour MEPs.”

The TTIP has been fiercely criticised because its provision of special tribunals to allow private industry to sue national governments in particular threatens to lock in place the Conservatives’ back-door privatisation of the NHS. There have already been demonstrations up and down the country earlier this month against the Treaty, and the various internet petitioning organisation have also been active collecting signatures against it.

The ISDS is particularly loathsome in that it has been used by western companies to sue governments around the world for damages when they have passed legislation to improve conditions for their own workers. I posted a piece the other week about the way a British waste management firm had sued the Egyptian government under the ISDS after they passed laws raising the minimum wage for Egyptian workers. The anti-Islam sites on the web themselves admit that part of the reason for the social and political unrest in Egypt is due to the poor state of the country’s economy, with mass unemployment. Many Egyptians are living at or below the breadline, unable to afford many staple foods. It is utterly despicable that a rich, western corporation should attempt to punish the Egyptian government for damaging its profits by trying to improve conditions for its own desperately poor people.

And that example sums up the grasping, exploitative mindset of the people and groups behind the trade deal. It’s the same type of mentality as the people behind the ‘vulture funds’, that buy up the debts from poor, developing nations, and then squeeze them for millions, often tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, which these nations can ill-afford. The ISDS may only be used on poor nations, whose lack of industrial development makes them weak and vulnerable to such coercion at the moment. But if it got through and was incorporated into the TTIP, then it would be used on us. The ordinary British worker would be ground down even further to further enrich powerful multinationals.

As Mike points out, this rejection of the ISDS by the Euro-Socialists following Britain’s Labour party shows that the Labour party itself is not as Neo-Liberal as its critics have alleged, and shows the strong opposition to and determination to stop the ISDS.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/07/mep-group-rejects-controversial-ttip-trade-dispute-system-almost-unanimously/

New Organisation, Same Old Nazis: The Speakers at the Pegida Rally in Newcastle

March 1, 2015

Yesterday when 38 Degrees members and supporters elsewhere in the country were organisation petitions and campaigns against the TTIP, Pegida UK were holding a demo against the Islamisation of Europe in Newcastle. Hope Not Hate have published an article, Interesting line up for Pegida rally… pointing out the Far Right backgrounds of a few of their candidates.

They include Nick Griffin, the former Fuhrer of the BNP and Paul Weston of Liberty GB. Weston’s a leading anti-Islam campaigner. He founded Liberty GB as the political wing of the English Defence League. Also on the line-up was Emma Scott, who likes and puts up stickers for the British Movement, another Nazi organisation.

The article’s at http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/blog/insider/interesting-line-up-for-pegida-rally-4292.

The Anti-EDL website, EDL News, has also posted an article on Pegida UK’s links with the EDL and racist extreme Right, Pegida in Newcastle: Matt Popes claims that his demo is not racist are undermined with racist links. They point out that apart from Nick Griffin, Steve Hewitt, the north-west regional organiser of the EDL and Alan Spence, formerly a candidate for the BNP, have also been offering their help and support to the demo’s organisers. The article also discusses the vicious anti-Semitism and Hitler worship on the Pegida UK website, with posters using coded language based on the number 14 disguise their admiration for the Fuhrer.

The article also provides background information on when Pegida was formed in Britain, who it’s founder is, and why they targeted Newcastle. It’s at

http://edlnews.co.uk/2015/02/27/pegida-in-newcastle-matt-popes-claims-the-demo-is-not-racist-are-undermined-with-racist-links/

Anti-TTIP Protest in Bristol Today to Defend NHS

February 28, 2015

The internet petitioning organisation, 38 Degrees, is organising a protest in Bristol today against the TTIP and the privatisation of the NHS. The TTIP is the proposed international trade agreement, which would give businesses the right to sue national governments if they passed legislation that harmed their profits. It is feared that this will be used to lock in Cameron’s continuing privatisation of the NHS.

This is a real threat, as the Independent revealed last week that one of the big American healthcare giants wanted to expand into the UK. The BBC also received leaked documents showing that the NHS has not been excluded from the TTIP.

38 Degrees are meeting to encourage people to sign a petition requesting that MPs oppose the TTIP. The protests are being held in two locations. These are

– Under the awning of Asda’s main entrance in East Street, Bedminster.

– At St. Peter’s Church, a ruined church reduced to a bombed-out shell during the Blitz, at Castle Park.

The protests start at 11.00.

I’m going, and I intend to take piccies and let you know a bit more about what’s happening.

We cannot let the NHS, one of the most precious of British institutions, be dismantled.

Get Cameron and the TTIP out now!

Update

Okay, I went along this morning with my mother, who also wanted to give her signature and support to the protest. When we got to Castle Park, there was absolutely no sign of anyone. Not one person.

I really don’t know what happened. I knew about the event because I was emailed by 38 Degrees after signing the petition against it. I’ll try and check around to see what happened. In the meantime, if anybody else has been on a protest today against it, please let me know about it in the comments below. I want to publicise this issue as much as possible.

***

Okay, I’ve done a bit more checking to see where everyone was. It seems that according to yesterday’s evening post, the protests in Bristol were to be outside Boots in the Galleries in Broadmead, and not St. Peter’s Church, although that was what was stated in the email. The others were to be held outside Henleaze Library and the Kingschase Shopping Centre in Kingswood, according to an article in the Bristol Post. So may be we simply missed it by going to the wrong place.

The same article states that the 38 Degrees people managed to get 2,500 people to sign a petition calling on all the candidates for the election in Bristol West to protect the NHS from privatisation, keep it out of the TTIP trade deal, and make sure it is properly funded. Here’s the article’s address:

http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Bristol-area-host-Save-NHS-rallies-weekend/story-26096775-detail/story.html

Vox Political: Syriza Will Attempt to Block TTIP Deal

February 2, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece about the Syriza government in Greece making it very clear that they object to and will not sign the TTIP. The deputy minister for administrative reform and former MEP, Georgios Katrougkalos, told the EurActiv site shortly before the Greek elections last month that the Syriza government would do everything it could do destroy the treaty, at least in its present form.

Mike’s article is at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/02/syriza-led-greek-parliament-will-never-ratify-ttip/. The article contains a link to the original story on EurActiv.

This is welcome news for just about everyone on the European left, worried that this will leave multinational corporations free to sue national governments for legislation that may harm their domestic industries. This is particularly worrying in Britain as it will cement in the Coalition’s privatisation of the NHS.

I blogged earlier about how nasty the TTIP was likely to be in a piece about the British waste company, Veolia, which is now suing the Egyptian government. The company is using another, similar piece of legislation prosecute them for raising the minimum wage for Egyptian workers. If the TTIP go through, it won’t be long before we see similar legal actions here.

With their firm rejection of austerity, neo-liberalism and the TTIP, I wonder how long it will be before there’s a covert attempt to unseat them and replace them with someone much more pliable.

What You Can Expect from TTIP: Veolia Sues Egyptian Government over Wages

January 28, 2015

Mike and the other left-wing blogs have been warning for some time now about the dire consequences for British working people if the government passes the TTIP. This is the international trade agreement between the US and Europe, which would give rich multinationals the power to sue national governments for the effects of legislation. Left-wing critics warn that if this goes ahead, then it will effectively cement in place the government’s privatisation of the NHS, as the private healthcare providers could sue the British government if it tried to renationalise health care in the UK.

And a particular malign example of what we can expect from the deal was provided by Private Eye two years ago in the article, ‘Peter Mandelson: Global Reach’ in their issue for the 15th – 28th November 2013. This reported the former Labour Minister and spin doctor, Peter Mandelson’s support for TTIP, and lists the various companies, for whom he is now lobbying. The Eye also reports that according to the TUC, the waste management company, Veolia, was using a similar trade deal, the ISDS, to sue the Egyptian government for increasing wages for its country’s workers.

How mean and despicable can you get?

One of the reasons for the political instability in Egypt and the rest of Middle East has been the decline in incomes due to economic stagnation. Political analysts point to the economic slump in Algeria in the 1990s as one of the causes of the victory for the Islamist FLN at the elections there. The result was a military coup by the arm in order to save Algeria as a secular state, and several years of brutal civil war. In Egypt many people are at or below the breadline, unable to buy staple foods. It is absolutely disgusting that a poor nation should be pushed further into poverty, simply so western multinationals can boost their dividends.

And with examples of exploitation like that, it’s no wonder that some in the Arab world hate us.

What Veolia did yesterday with the Egyptians, other companies will do tomorrow with the TTIP. We cannot let the Mandelsons and Camerons of the world pass it.

Marx was right: Working people of all countries, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

The TTIP and Corporate Power in Europe: Europe Inc.

January 16, 2014

One of the posts I put up to do way on Lobster’s review of a book analysing the structure of the EU and the way it is influenced and controlled by large corporations with little democratic accountability. I did so in order to provide a bit more information to Mike’s excellent post over at Vox Political on the TTIP and the way this will leave democratically elected national governments at the mercy of multinational corporations, and result in further dismantling of the British welfare state and the final privatisation of the NHS. In addition to the short book review I blogged about earlier, I found a much longer review of a book by the same organisation in Lobster 34, Winter 1998, which provides a little more information on the corporate and corporatist interests at the very heart of the EU. These are the organisations pressing for the destruction of the welfare state and the privatisation of nationalised industries across the European Union.

Europe Inc: Dangerous Liaison Between EU Institutions and Industry was the first publication of the Corporate Europe Observatory, a foundation based in Amsterdam set up to ‘monitor and report on the activities of European corporations and their lobby groups. They were also beginning to publish a quarterly newsletter, Corporate Europe Observer, with its first issue being published in October 1998. The newsletter cost about £10 a year in hardcopy, but was emailed free. The CEO could be contacted at ceo@xs4all.nl or at PO Box 92066, 1090 AB Amsterdam. They also had a website at http://www.xs4all.nl/~ceo/.

The main EU organisation representing the interests of transnational corporations (TNCs) and promoting economic policies that favour them is the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT). It is the ERT and the multinationals it was set up to serve that are behind the EU’s plans for ‘completing the internal market’ through the liberalisation and deregulation of a number of industries, such as energy, telecommunications, and transport, as well as the EU’s aim of promoting global free trade. They are also behind the use of ‘benchmarking’ as a tool used by EU decision-makers for comparing European industries with their competitors in the rest of the world. This is done by comparing wages, taxes, infrastructure and potentially all other areas. The ERT in general simply outlines general policy.

The formulation of detailed legislation favouring the multinationals is done by UNICE (the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe) through its highly efficient lobbyists. This affects every aspect of European legislation.

The ERT has also produced a number of offshoots to tackle additional problems where necessary. In 1994, after the ERT had successfully placed the Trans-European Network infrastructure programme on the EU’s political agenda, it created the European Centre for Infrastructure Studies (ECIS). This has had an almost symbiotic relationship from its very beginning with the European Commission, with both aiming for the completion of the TENs programme.

The ERT has also become highly influential through the establishment of various EU working groups, which have often been set up by the EU on the ERT’s own recommendation. These include the Competitiveness Advisory Group (CAG), which also has official EU status, and which effectively doubles the ERT’s influence, and the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD). The ERT was also the parent organisation of the Association for the Monetary Union of Europe (AMUE). This was the organisation behind European Monetary Union and the single currency.

The book also notes that there are thousands of other lobbying firms and organisations in the EU, of which the ERT, UNICE, ECIS and AMUE are merely four of the most powerful. One of the other lobbying organisations is EuropaBio, which campaigns for the abolition of restrictions on biotechnology. Another is the World Business Council of Sustainable Development (WBCSD), whose membership overlaps considerably with the ERT. It, however, describes itself as one of the world’s most influential green business networks.

The ERT and UNICE are responsible for influencing the EU’s Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) process. This has the goals of strengthening the powers of the European Council and Commission, and their ‘ability to act’, ensuring that the EU adheres to the schedules for the adoption of the single currency and the expansion into central and eastern Europe and for establishing global free trade. They are also responsible for combatting any revision of the EU treaties that might undermine their goals of promoting EU global competitiveness through the introduction of environmental or social legislation.

Small and Medium-sized businesses are also represented in the EU through a number of organisations, one of which is the European Union of Craftsmen and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (UEAPME). Although this is represented in a number of EU advisory bodies, it is excluded from the most influential of these, such as the Social Dialogue and the Competitiveness Advisory Group (CAG).

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) is also represented in the Social Dialogue advisory body, along with UNICE and CEEP, which represents the public sector. The Social Charter states that ETUC has to be consulted, but globalisation and the creation of the internal market have undermined the trade unions national position. The employers’ bodies ensure that commitments to the Social Chapter are kept to an absolute minimum. There is thus very little that the trade unions both in the EU and at the level of the member states can do to force the employers to accept legislation aimed at improving pay and conditions for the workers.

The green lobby similarly has problems being properly represented in the EU, as it lacks the necessary financial clout and organisation. They also have difficulties getting access to the major officials formulating and developing EU policies and legislation, particularly in the European Commission. They have had greater success gaining access to the European Parliament. Industry is, however, far better represented here through giving MEPs job, assistants and presents. The green movement, at least when the book was produced in 1998, was strongest at the local and national level.

There is a group set up to promote dialogue between social and environmental groups, industry and public organisations, European Partners for the Environment (EPE). This has organised meetings on a variety of topics at the request of the European Commission, but has made no attempt to alter the EU’s development model, so that it will not immensely damage the environment or the EU’s peoples.

It was corporate lobbying that was behind the establishment of the Phare and Tacis aid programmes, set up to assist western multinationals wishing to expand into the countries of central and eastern Europe. Europe Inc ends with the conclusion

‘It is not enough to look at the democratic gaps in the EU decision-making structure to explain why corporate lobby groups have gained such a strong foothold in the apparatus. The strong grip of TNCs on European economies, which is a direct consequence of the creation of the Internal Market and increasing globalisation, must be challenged. Economic dependency upon TNCs leaves governments with little option but to adapt to the agenda proposed by corporate lobby groups. To effectively reduce the political influence of TNCs, European economies must be weaned from their dependence upon these corporations’.

Lobster has ceased publication in hardcopy, but is still very much alive on-line, including an archive of its back issues.

So there it is. The mass privatisation of public industries and utilities across Europe, the single currency, and the reduction in wages and working and living conditions for workers in the name of global competitiveness, are all the result of lobbying by multinationals and their organisations, like ERT. The TTIP is merely another step in this larger economic programme, specifically that of the TABD, but one that would have massively detrimental effects for national economies and working conditions right across Europe. It also struck me reading Lobster’s review of the book how much ERT’s aims resembled that of the authors of Britannia Unchained, who also demanded a reduction in British workers’ pay and conditions in order to make us compete with India and China.