Out-of-touch Euro-phobic Elites

Sunday, 31st January 2016

I love Europe, its peoples, its cuisines, its landscapes, its architecture, its music, its literature, its languages and its philosophers. Call me a nostalgic but I don’t want the French to become German, the Germans to become English, the English to become Polish, the Italians to be Swedish or the Swedes to become Moroccan. I’m quite happy with the French being French and the Swedes being Swedish, just as long they do not impose their ways on everyone else. Now if the Swedes acquire a taste for Italian or Catalan cuisine, while the Portuguese hire Danish engineers to teach them how to build wind turbines, that’s also fine by me. I think we could all learn a good deal from each other, as long as we can choose which bits of other people’s culture and technology to adopt.

I truly, though rather naively, wish the best aspects of European culture could have been exported to the rest of the world through more peaceful and reciprocally beneficial means. Some European countries have held vast empires in other continents, often supplanting much of the indigenous population. The 19th and 20th centuries also saw some very dark chapters in European history, as rival imperial powers fought murderous wars to impose their economic and cultural supremacy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all these disparate peoples could come together in a new club to resolve their differences and build a new shared future. The European Union would seem to have been created with the best of intentions, until you take a closer look at which vested interests its remote leadership really defends.

The Italians consider heaven to be a place where lovers are Italian, cooks are French, mechanics are German, police officers are English and it is all coordinated by the Swiss. By contrast hell is a place where lovers are Swiss, cooks are English, mechanics are French, police officers are German and the Italians coordinate it all. If we set aside national stereotypes, the European Union is beginning to resemble this satirical version of hell, except Europe’s new rulers don’t really like Europeans, at least not those who choose to stay in their own country and prefer their own national or regional culture.

Today Labour’s mysterious shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, gave us an insight into the thinking of policymakers by claiming borders between countries will become irrelevant by the end of the century.

That gives us just 84 years to solve all the planet’s social, environmental and economic imbalances, something we’ve been unable to accomplish since the agrarian revolution ten to fifteen thousand years ago. Without borders and local governments in some way accountable to their citizens, people will inevitably just follow the money and relocate to the most prosperous regions. This would turn the whole world into a giant version of London, but with much greater extremes of rich and poor. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party merely offers a more naive and idealistic version of the Blairite dream of one-world government via intermediary stages like the misnamed European Union. They may pretend to oppose bombing or support a radical redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, but they are much more concerned with opposing any attempts to regain greater national sovereignty. As British steelworkers see their jobs outsourced to China and unemployed young Britons face growing competition from a never-ending stream of cheap migrant labour, Jeremy Corbyn chose to spend last weekend with migrants at the infamous Calais Jungle asylum seeker camp. In urging the government to accept more refugees, Jeremy Corbyn enjoyed the support of the BBC (who hosted Songs of Praise there in August last year), the Guardian, Independent, numerous NGOs such as George Soros' Open Society Foundation, David Miliband (now working for Rescue International, a refugee charity) and incredibly, Tony Blair, who as we know is a mere spokesperson for global banking and energy cartels.

Whether your tribal sympathies lie with the notional left or right, across Europe’s diverse national communities one trend is clearly coming to the fore. Political elites, whether left or right, are ideologically committed to a process of gradual global convergence and will pursue these objectives irrespective of their electors' wishes. Some policies seem quite benign, e.g. promoting English language teaching to help youngsters compete in a global economy (though often undermining national languages). Other policies are often welcomed by progressive campaigners, e.g. enacting gender equality laws or enforcing new environmental and safety regulations, but lack any real grassroots support. However, some policies may attract wide-scale opposition and thus need to be carefully managed or simply explained as a necessary compromise for membership of the European Union. Millions of Southern Europeans working in small family-run cottage industries have found themselves out-competed as national governments have been forced to remove protectionist tariffs for traditional products. It comes as little surprise the two avowedly globalist British trade commissioners, Leon Brittan and Peter Mandelson, negotiated free trade deals on behalf of the European Union. They may have belonged to the British Conservative and Labour parties, but their policies did not serve the long-term interests of either British or continental European workers, but rather those of banks and multinational companies traded on the London Stock Exchange.

A quick perusal of the Guardian newspaper’s job section soon reveals a plethora of relatively well-paid vacancies for transnational organisations (charities, NGOs, large corporations, consultancies, legal firms etc.) concerned with global governance, a concept which trumps traditional territorial institutions. One seriously has to wonder why so many well-funded NGOs actively promote mass migration as a solution to all known social, economic and environmental problems. To wit, if people flee destabilised war-torn regions, rather than oppose those responsible for funding rival militias or expose the sheer mendacity of our corporate media over the true causes of these conflicts, global progressives will just urge us to welcome more refugees and blame recalcitrant local leaders for all bloodshed. Over the last 20 years we’ve witnessed successive bogeymen in the guise of Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Muammar Gadafi and more recently Bashar Assad. Whether these leaders were really as bad as our mainstream made out is immaterial as their power pales in comparison with that of the world largest banks and commercial concerns. They were all very local phenomena involved in complex regional conflicts, whose outcome inevitably empowered global institutions and led to more displacement of local communities.

Back in 1975 my father, a card-carrying member of the Labour party, campaigned for Britain to leave the European Economic Community joining many others of on the left of Labour movement from Tony Benn to Barbara Castle and Peter Shore. I seem to recall trade unions advocating import controls and supporting the Buy British campaign. Now the other politically active members of my extended family are all steadfastly pro-EU as are the leaderships of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the Cameronite wing of the un-Conservative Party. Many on the left mistakenly view the EU as a progressive force for good on issues such as workers' rights and environmental protection. They suggest the only reason anyone could be opposed to the EU is because they hate Europe, are intolerant of migrants and want to leave poor UK residents at the mercy of a nasty Tory government intent on undoing everything good the EU has ever done. The EU is certainly fairly good at marketing its projects and achievements. I regularly see placards by car parks, historical buildings and playgrounds proclaiming the role of EU grants in their construction or restoration. Countless NGOs and research institutes also depend on EU grants. So not only do we let the EU decide how to spend our money, but much of it serves to promote the EU itself.

One would naively imagine the EU reflects the wishes of different European countries, some sort of compromise between the needs of Italian textile manufacturers, French wine growers, German carmakers, Polish coal miners, Spanish farmers and British media workers. Alas it’s nothing of the sort. European regulations have prevented governments from defending the interests of their own electors and forced them to open up markets and even public tenders to all and sundry. The main beneficiaries of the EU are large corporations who need a dynamic, malleable and mobile workforce and an expanding consumer market. Moreover, Europe’s elites do not even trust other Europeans. They seem hell-bent on managing a massive movement of people both within and from outside the current borders of the EU as well as expanding their megastate to Turkey and the Ukraine. If you love Europe, you should oppose unaccountable superstates. As the EU’s dream of culturally homogenised brave new world order evaporates, we should build a new alliance of independent peoples, trading fairly where it makes sense, sharing ideas and technology, but also never forgetting the little native people who thrive in culturally cohesive communities.

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