Scottish Left Leave was formed last week – and it has a fight on its hands to convince Scots of the true nature of the European Union, writes Tommy Morrison.
LAST week in Glasgow 50 trade unionists and leftwingers gathered to launch Scottish Left Leave.
This new organisation calls for a future outside the European Union in which governments are free to redevelop the welfare state, safeguard public services, extend public ownership and protect the working class from austerity.
Its founding statement opposes TTIP in its entirety, offers solidarity to the refugees fleeing imperialist-inspired wars and stands with workers in Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Spain and Italy who are resisting EU demands for privatisation and cuts in wages, pensions and services.
The political classes and the media would have you believe that the majority of Scots support the EU and that, if Britain voted to leave, this would spark demands for another referendum on Scottish independence.
Unfortunately there may be some truth in this.
Anecdotal evidence through talking to workers suggests a belief that the EU is progressive, has given workers some rights and has kept the peace in Europe. They compare this with the racist right-wing rhetoric coming from Ukip and the Tory ultra-right.
These opinions are not surprising given that the case for a left exit from the neoliberal EU is not given houseroom by the capitalist media and the political classes.
But the argument is there to be made and is directly linked to the most pressing challenges now facing the trade union movement in Scotland.
Massive cuts to public-sector jobs and services have taken place in Scotland and are ongoing, especially in local government.
Unison Scotland says that by 2020 expenditure on public services will be 12.5 per cent lower in real terms. This is on top of the £2.5 billion cuts since 2010.
This next round of cuts will mean another 15,000 job losses for local councils.
In total, of the 50,000 jobs lost in devolved public services so far, 40,000 have been in councils.
So what is the connection between the EU as a driver for privatisation and the cuts experienced?
For anyone who cares to read, it is the document issued by the EU Council dated May 13 2015 on the Convergence Programme of the United Kingdom.
This notes that “the UK is currently in the corrective arm of the Stability and Growth Pact,” and that the council decided “in accordance with Article 126 (8) TFEU [Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union] that the UK had not taken effective action in response to the council recommendation under the excessive deficit recommendation of December 2 2009.”
In this context Britain is asked “to take action to ensure effective action under the excessive deficit procedure ... to correct the excessive deficit in a durable manner by 2016-2017.”
This is where the pressure comes from for council cuts and cuts throughout the public sector.
Many in the labour movement still believe the EU offers protection with trade union rights and job security.
On this subject they should read the material recently issued by the Labour Leave Campaign.
This identifies six actions by the EU and the European Court of Justice attacking workers in Britain and across the EU:
1. Zero-hours contracts being forced through under new EU Flexible Labour Market rules
2. Collective bargaining suspended in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Romania as an EU bailout condition
3. The Viking-Line case in the ECJ prevents unions from stopping British employers hiring Polish and other foreign workers on their countries’ minimum wage rather than the British rate
4. The EU’s free movement of labour rules are exploiting workers by allowing unscrupulous employers to import cheap labour forcing down British wage rates
5. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated in secret by the EU would block a Corbyn-led government taking back control of privatised NHS and rail facilities
6. From 2019 EU Commission law forces compulsory competitive tendering of all railway networks.
Meanwhile tax dodging trans­national corporations benefit from the ECJ enforcing the right of EU states to act as tax havens, outlawing any attempt by Britain to crack down on tax cheats.
A forthcoming pamphlet from the Communist Party will lay bare how the EU is structured to support big business and attack organised labour.
The assumption of the 1986 Single European Act was that of neoliberal economics — that unemployment would again become the regulator for the economy as it had been before 1945.
During the post-war years European governments intervened, on Keynesian lines, to boost demand whenever economic growth slackened.
The 1992 Maastricht Treaty blocked such intervention.
Annual deficits had to be held below 3 per cent of GDP and overall national debt to 60 per cent. The assumptions were those of the 1930s.
Unemployment should be allowed to rise unhindered. The economy would rebalance itself automatically as wages fell and provided business with the incentive to reinvest.
Directives stemming from the Single European Act in the 1990s and 2000s required:
- An end to the public ownership of basic utilities such as rail and road transport, postal services, communications, energy and banks
- An end to state aid for industry
- The introduction of compulsory competitive tendering in the public sector
- An end to local government direct labour schemes
- Introduction of private pension schemes
- Ultimately the opening of public services such as education and health to the private sector.
However, even on its own terms, the assumptions of the single market were fatally flawed. Hence the current crisis of the EU and euro.