- NationStates: An investigation of the sense of ‘others’, and the nonsenses of nationalism.
- Peace or Revolution?: Commentary on Ireland, the peace process, and what’s in it for who.
- Which Way Ireland?: Major feature and interview with Organise!-IWA, Irish anarcho-syndicalist movement, on the prospects for them and Irish people.
- Conditions of Freedom: Short essay redefining the cornerstone of libertarian thought - the dual concepts of ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom for’.
- EMU Steps Out: Detailed analysis of the real reasons why European leaders need to make monetary union work - will they have their cake and eat it, and how much will we suffer in the process?
‘Statism, however camouflaged, can never be an instrument for human liberation and, on the contrary, will always be the creator of new monopolies and privileges.’ (SF-IWA Principles of Revolutionary Syndicalism.)
Nationalism, in any form, is totally incompatible with anarcho-syndicalism.
As is often stated, national boundaries are flukes of history and geography.
More specifically, they are the results of political machinations by robber barons throughout the last millennium or so, who use and abuse ordinary people in their search for glory, power and wealth.
The nation can be seen as the gangster’s turf, an area marked by bloody skirmishes, in which the real beneficiaries rarely take part. There are some obvious exceptions to this, notably in those areas of the world where the European rulers deemed it their right of conquest to divvy up the land as they saw fit. How many boundaries between two areas? Exactly the same as the number of people you ask to draw them. An appeal to the nation is an appeal to an abstract idea that is used to cover up the fact that we are expected to support one (our) ruling oppressor over another.
The call to nationalism is a call to create an ‘other’ that is not ‘one of us’ based on the dictates of history and political expediency of the leaders. Nationalism is not about a cultural identity, it is not about a sense of place, or of a nostalgia for home - though these will all be used in attempts to develop these ‘others’ (outsiders, foreigners, inferiors..).
If being an anarcho-syndicalist is about anything, it is about recognising the humanity of everyone. You cannot create a libertarian communist society in one country surrounded by other systems and accept that as a stable situation. To have borders, to have foreigners that are defined by their situation in another geo-political unit is to define ourselves by what we are not and to define them by what they are not. They are not ‘us’; they are ‘other’ - this denies people the right to define themselves. Nationalism is the wholesale degradation of people by the defining of them as ‘other’; as inferior.
On what basis is this definition of ‘foreign’ drawn up? I will seek to address this through the use of an example close to home, that of Welsh Nationalism. For many people, Welsh Nationalism is an almost benign form of opposition to the Westminster Government and, as such, it has proved attractive to socialists and libertarians. Now, it would be wrong to claim that many of those who are skirting around the rim of Welsh Nationalism are actively hostile to non-Welsh, I would just maintain that they are mistaken in what they are doing. What does it mean to be Welsh? How do they define what it is to be Welsh? Is someone who moves from England to Wales, who lives there, works there and makes their life there not as affected by decisions of the Westminster Parliament which affect the ‘Welsh’? If not, what is the position of the immigrant from the West Indies, from the Indian sub-continent? I know the answer of the BNP. Here, I am not talking about state decisions which seek to suppress the culture of colonised regions/states/continents. Such ethnic cleansing, whoever advocates it and on whatever grounds or level, is wrong.
So it follows, obviously, any attempts to suppress the speaking of the Welsh language should be opposed, but I am not here concerned about the long term survival of the Welsh culture and language other than its part in an evolving and developing society. If languages and cultures develop, it is up to those who are interested in them and who practise them to keep them relevant and alive. As a libertarian, it would be wrong to tell someone that in order to live in England they must speak English, as it would for an anarcho-syndicalist in Wales to insist that someone living in Wales speaks Welsh. Again, it is self-evident that if you move to an area where the language is different, it makes sense to learn the one spoken there if possible; it does greatly aid communication.
Many of the social issues which are addressed by these groups which seek a friendly nationalism, are not issues of nationalism at all. The issues of holiday homes is a problem in the Lake District, in Cornwall, in areas of the Yorkshire Dales, and I am sure elsewhere as well. It is not the imposition of the English per se, but of a certain class of wealthy middle-class, seeking an improvement in their already privileged life-style at the expense of the housing possibilities of those who live in the area. The problems of the imposition of rule from an unaccountable Government based in Westminster is true throughout the UK. To make it a view of English Government vs. Welsh people is to play with very dangerous ideas. The unscrupulous politician can stir up hatred based on semi-fabled stories from hundreds of years ago in an attempt to grasp power - all they need is the right environment. It serves those who would call themselves socialist and libertarians badly to contribute to this environment.
At a slight tangent, I would like to address the issue of xenophobia. The excuse often given for xenophobes is that evolutionary biology is part of our basic make up. The idea is that it is common in higher apes to be actively and pro-actively hostile to other troops of apes. It has been shown that chimpanzees form raiding parties to attack individuals from neighbouring groups. Similar things are known in other primates, including baboons, and other species throughout nature. The comparison has been drawn to with earlier human societies, where inter-group rivalry was characterised by ongoing low level warfare, with occasional intensifications of the fighting.
Those who have something to gain use this as an excuse for the necessity of the nation state. This denies one important fact; that we have the capacity to learn, to consider and to make decisions based on our understanding, not only of our experience, but of the experience of others; both those we know and those throughout history. We have the ability to understand that we are no longer living in small groups, primarily of extended families, with a large amount of common genetic material. We have moved beyond the need for base genetic propagation. We have developed other things which we may wish to propagate; ideas, such as solidarity, mutual aid and compassion.
Fear of the unknown may well be part of the human make up; it would seem sensible in this dangerous world. I have no problem with accepting this, in fact I see it as a further reason for the importance of the ideas. The fact that we may once have been xenophobic apes means we have to work all the harder to develop our ideas in overcoming any lingering tendencies in this direction.
Indeed, these xenophobic apes and early humans also practised a great deal more in terms of co-operation. If you want to live in a society where you are not the one on the receiving end of xenophobic aggression, work with the part of human nature that seeks solidarity and co-operation, the part that is still relevant today - not with the part that seeks to form fights over patches of earth.
If nothing else, getting all heated over a patch of mud usually means some cozy fat bastards are about to send you and your children to work or to war for their profit.
On a final point, we do live in a world where states exist, and where differing governments interpret their job of control in different ways. It is sensible to take these states into account when seeking to defend people and promote the ideas of libertarian communism. But it seems to me not only dangerous, but patently absurd, to pretend that nationalistic rhetoric, ‘however camouflaged’, can ever be beneficial or progressive. When you use the Nationalistic argument, you choose to set out to identify and to denigrate the ‘foreign’, the ‘other’. And when that happens, it is usually the powerful who get the last say over who the ‘others’ really are.
Peace or Revolution?
The Northern Ireland peace agreement is now accepted in referenda north and south of the border. It introduces a Northern Ireland Assembly, North-South bodies, and a British-Irish council.
Where is the peace process going, and what does it mean for the traditional beneficiaries of sectarian violence - the politicians?
Northern Irish politics have hitherto been fought on the basis that a gain for one side is a loss for the other. So, getting Loyalists and Republicans to accept this deal has been greeted as the achievement of the impossible. Countless column inches have sung the praises of the politicians involved - we’ve read of "Blair the peacemaker", of Trimble’s "great statesmanship", even of the "pragmatic" Sinn Féin leadership.
DA refuses to go along with this hype. We remember Trimble and Major stalling at every opportunity during the first IRA cease-fire, when first its "permanence", then "decommissioning" of weapons, became excuses to delay talks and eventually led to the cease-fire breaking down. We remember the long line of sanctimonious politicians refusing to talk to "the men of violence", not accepting that peace would have to include those who were at war. We remember the long years it has taken for it to dawn on the Republican movement that a million unionists were not going to be forced into a united Ireland, or that the British army was not going to be driven back across the Irish Sea. We remember politicians, some of whom are now saluted for their great vision, whipping up sectarianism whenever it suited their purpose.
For us, therefore, peace has been held back by incompetent, stubborn, and downright sectarian political parties and politicians who, with their predecessors, must share the blame for agreement not being reached after the August 1994 IRA cease-fire, if not earlier. This point has been ignored amongst all the back-slapping.
Back to the so-called miracle. The apparent unionist/nationalist harmony is the result of a massive fudge that allows some Loyalist parties to portray the agreement as strengthening the Union with Britain, while Sinn Féin can simultaneously paint it as a step forward for Irish unity. But herein lies a potential hurdle - what happens when either the Union or Irish unity appears to be under threat? However before we reach that particular pass, there are many more rivers to cross.
The Protestant King William of Orange crossed the River Boyne in 1690 to defeat the Catholic King James II. This is commemorated all over Northern Ireland by the Orange Order every 12th of July at parades which celebrate "Protestant" supremacy over the "defeated" Catholics. Where parades pass through nationalist areas, the population is forced to endure a torrent of sectarian abuse and threats. In recent years, Drumcree, where Portadown’s Orange Lodges exercise their "God-given" right to march along the nationalist Garvaghy Road, has become a Loyalist rallying point. This 12th of July, "Drumcree 4", promises to be a focus for all those Loyalist groupings for whom the agreement is yet another concession to the IRA - Paisley’s DUP, the Orange Order, and the paramilitary Loyalist Volunteer Force among them. The LVF is based in Portadown, and its opposition to the agreement has already resulted in the random murders of Catholics. Little wonder then that Portadown has been dubbed "Ireland’s most bigoted town".
The Easter Rising of 1916, when a small force of Irish Republicans occupied key buildings in Dublin, declaring independence from the British Empire, is celebrated every Easter. This year’s commemoration followed the agreement by 2 days. Since then, the Republican movement has split. There is a new political grouping, The 32 County Sovereignty Committee, and an armed wing, the Dissident/Real/True/Anti-Agreement/Anti-Treaty (delete as appropriate) IRA. This, among the three Republican paramilitaries now opposed to the agreement, seems the most serious threat. They, along with the INLA and Continuity IRA, are wedded to the mistaken idea that the border can be bombed and shot out of existence. They see Sinn Féin’s recognition of partition, and the changing of Articles 2 & 3 of the Irish Republic’s constitution as selling-out those who died in 1916, as well as the more recent "martyrs", whose memory is aroused by the presence of Bernadette Sands-McKevitt in The 32 County Sovereignty Committee.
The existence of this unholy, if unrecognised, alliance of Loyalist and Republican groups threatens the agreement’s chances of long term survival. Add this to the potential strife of prisoner releases, decommissioning, policing reforms, let alone getting the assembly and the North-South council to work, all in a continuing sectarian atmosphere, then it’s easy to be cynical about those survival chances.
anarchism and republicanism
There has been a small tendency within anarchism to view the IRA’s armed struggle as somehow revolutionary. This may result, on one hand, from confusing Irish Republicanism’s enmity for the British government for a kind of anti-statism. On the other hand, it may be accounted for by the love common to many anarchists for things that go bang in the night. Either way, they are mistaken in viewing the Republican movement, or any particular faction of it, as revolutionary. Merely changing British rulers for "better" Irish ones, as Republicans intend, is not anarchism - nowhere near it.
Having said that, we do agree that the partitioning of Ireland is anti-working class. It has divided the working class north from south, and has further deepened the sectarianism that already existed between the "nationalist" and "unionist" working class in the north. However, the border is a reality and cannot be wished, or bombed, out of existence. For anarcho-syndicalists, the ending of partition must be part of a strategy aimed at winning working class minds away from sectarianism, a strategy that fights all attempts to divide the working class, be it worker against worker, employed against unemployed, man against woman, Protestant against Catholic, or northerner against southerner.
Just maybe the peace agreement will take the gun out of Northern Irish politics, or at least limit its impact. A sectarian political scene without guns will be preferable to one with guns. Perhaps this is the best we can hope for from this agreement. Nevertheless, it is of more use to Irish anarchists than armed struggle. It would therefore be more helpful if anarchists outside Ireland, who feel they have a contribution to make, were to help their Irish comrades than to get embroiled in Republican in-fighting. As for SF, we will continue to give our unconditional support to Organise!-IWA, our sister organisation in Ireland.
Which Way Ireland?
Organise! - Irish sister organisation to Solidarity Federation - have a membership which spans the sectarian divide, and which includes people from both the north and south. DA asked them to comment on Irish politics, the peace process, and prospects for the future.
about Organise! and Irish history
Could you please briefly outline who Organise! is and give a brief history of your development?
ORGANISE!: Organise! are an Anarcho-Syndicalist propaganda group and the Irish section of the International Workers Association. Our history is closely related to that of our publication ‘Organise! - The Voice of Anarcho-Syndicalism’, which goes back to August 1986, when the first issue was produced by the now defunct Ballymena and Antrim Anarchist Group. In the Spring of 1992, ‘Organise! Irish Anarchist Bulletin’ appeared. This bulletin was produced by a more broadly based ‘class struggle’ anarchist group with members from across the north, including one of the members of the original Ballymena group. Over a period of time, discussion led to the re-adoption of Anarcho-Syndicalism and the name of the publication, which became a magazine in the autumn of 1995.
The survival of a small Anarcho-Syndicalist group over this period has been precarious. In the north, especially in periods of heightened sectarian tension, it often seemed that it was all we could do to hold onto our identity and small membership. However, we are now starting to grow as an organisation.
Members of Organise! are ordinary working class people who are spread across Ireland and who, in the north, come from both ‘sides’ of the community, who have come together to help create an alternative to the capitalist exploitation, sectarianism and oppression which is destroying the lives of working class people in Ireland.
We have been involved in various campaigns in the past few years, including the Campaign Against Nuclear Testing, the Liverpool Dockers and Families Support Group, Anti-Job Seekers Allowance work and opposition to the ‘New Deal’, as well as the important work we did in support of the Montupet strikers last year. Members of Organise! are also involved in struggles in their workplaces and communities, areas where we wish to increase our activity and bring the relevance of Anarcho-Syndicalism to bear on people’s everyday lives.
In doing this, we continue to support strikers when and wherever we can. We also see the possibility of an opening for Anarcho-Syndicalist politics and methods developing in the increasing move towards wildcat action in workplace struggles. We need to do a lot more groundwork if we are to be in a position to be able to take advantage of these developments and are working in the meantime towards establishing ourselves as an effective alternative to the conservative Trade Union movement. This will be a long and hard process but, as a step in this direction, we are working toward the setting up of a solidarity centre in Belfast. Providing access to resources and information, a space where militant workers can meet to discuss and begin to set their own agendas, with solidarity and mutual aid as its cornerstones, are some of the things we would like to develop with the opening of a Local in Belfast. In a city which is divided along sectarian lines, it would also provide a neutral venue in which workers from different parts of the city could meet and begin to break down barriers. The main obstacle is of course finance, and we have sent out an international appeal to help raise much needed funds.
We are also working with other Anarchists throughout Ireland to promote our ideas and, although differences exist between different Anarchist groups across the country, we are working together to help build a broad libertarian movement in our country. Some effective steps were taken towards this at the recent ‘Ideas and Action’ conference hosted by the WSM in Dublin. A similar event is to be hosted by Organise! in Belfast next year.
You recently joined the IWA; what made you join?
ORGANISE!: We, along with six other sections (from Portugal, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Russia, Chile, and Nigeria), affiliated to the International Workers Association at the 20th Congress in December 1996. At the time, we saw this as the natural next step for an Anarcho-Syndicalist organisation such as ourselves. The IWA, its aims, statutes and principles represented the ideological ‘home’ for Organise! on an international basis. As workers, we exist as a class across national boundaries and we must organise across these boundaries if we are to be effective in our struggle against capitalism. Although work at a local level - the building of an effective Anarcho-Syndicalist movement in Ireland, based in the realities of our situation both at work and in our communities - is our main concern, the international bond of solidarity that is the IWA is of great importance to us. We also believe that it is the work on the ground, the building of strong Anarcho-Syndicalist sections across the globe, that will lead to the IWA becoming a more powerful and effective international.
Syndicalism has roots in Ireland which go back a long way. Can you briefly outline some of the major milestones?
ORGANISE!: While Anarchism has little history or tradition in Ireland beyond the last couple of decades, Syndicalism has had a sometimes pivotal influence on the development of the working class movement. Most significantly are the Syndicalist influences which were at work in the early ITGWU (Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union), set up at a period in which revolutionary and Anarcho-Syndicalism were to the fore of the revolutionary labour movement. Although there was no self professed ‘Syndicalist’ organisation, the ITGWU borrowed much of its organisational strategy and ideological vision from the American IWW (Industrial Workers of the World). The union regarded itself as the Irish One Big Union, organised by industry and had a, perhaps somewhat vague, vision of the ‘Industrial Commonwealth’ as an alternative to capitalism.
Connolly and Larkin’s visions and methods were greatly influenced by Syndicalism. Connolly had been active in the IWW during his years in the USA; Larkin spoke at the funeral of IWW organiser Joe Hill.
It is also important to note that many Irish workers became involved in revolutionary or Anarcho-Syndicalist unions outside Ireland. Capt. Jack White, who trained the Irish Citizen Army (the militia formed in 1913 to defend the Irish labour movement and made up of members of the ITGWU), went to Spain with the International Brigades to fight fascism. In Spain, he was much impressed with the work of the CNT and the Anarchist militias, so much so that he became an Anarchist and left the International Brigades to both train members of the militias in the use of arms and raise money for arms for the CNT abroad.
the peace process
While the politicians are now lining up to pat themselves on the back over the peace talks, what about the general mood among the people of the north - are they optimistic, cynical or confused?
ORGANISE!: People are generally hopeful that there can be a better future created for themselves, their children and their grandchildren in the north. This was shown in the exceptionally high turnout for the referenda. There is also a certain amount of uncertainty, many are uneasy about various aspects of the Agreement, and there are of course those who are intent on wrecking any possibility of ‘stability’ (in relation to sectarian politics) in the north. There is also a cynicism about the ability of the sectarian politicians to deliver, about the intentions of gunmen, and those of government on demilitarization. Different considerations weigh differently for different people.
It must be pointed out that while 71% voted yes for the ‘Agreement’, there is precious little agreement in our places of work, as the recent wildcat action in NIR (Northern Ireland Railways) in the north and throughout the health board in the south has shown. The result, in terms of the wishes of the majority of people in the north, must be seen as a desire for change.
How far is it possible for Organise! to have an impact, given that people must be generally cynical about politics, especially in the north?
ORGANISE!: People may well be cynical of the politicians’ ability to deliver some semblance of peace, but it must also be remembered that politics here goes far deeper than casting a vote every few years for many people. The ‘constitutional question’ is still a big consideration, and a lot of the ‘political mindset’ is conservative and communal on both sides. It is the sectarian nature of our politics which, more than cynicism, makes our job all the harder.
How far we have an impact cannot be blamed on other people’s cynicism, it is more related to our small size and limited resources. We need to start the slow process of building a credible alternative. As this develops, and is seen to be gaining at least some results, then we will start to make an impact.
DA: Would you like to guess how the public is likely to view developments in the peace process? How might it affect the communities in the longer term?
ORGANISE!: We cannot really predict what reactions to developments in the peace process will be, simply because we are not sure what those developments will be. Sectarianism has not been eradicated, and the marching season is going to see an escalation in sectarian tensions and clashes. An amount of goodwill may help steer it clear of the more major incidents of the past but this doesn’t really appear to be a realistic aspiration.
In the longer term, we may indeed see the breaking down of some of the sectarian barriers in our society. This may initially be seen through the emergence of a reformist labour party in the north, coupled with co-operation between working class loyalist and republican parties on issues such as education, jobs and housing - nothing too radical though. But really it is too early to say and things are still far too delicate for any speculation to be more than a shot in the dark.
How do Organise! members in the south feel the process is viewed by working class people there?
ORGANISE!: In the south 94.4%, in a turn out of 56%, voted in favour of the ‘Agreement’. This shows a sentiment in the south that there should be ‘peace’ in the north. It is perhaps a sentiment which was largely driven by media and politicians with little real consideration of the politics or parties involved.
The south is not the nationalist place it once was. As long as the RUC isn’t beating shit out of Catholics on the TV, or the Provo’s blowing up English children, most people are happy. The peace process is viewed as an extremely positive development. Only the ‘extremist’ minorities - the republicans and the pro-unionist ‘West Brits’ - are very concerned with events north of the border. For the majority, apart from the occasional emotional outburst of ‘give peace a chance’ or ‘a nation once again’, we have our own problems to be concerned with. As with the working class people of England, Scotland and Wales (or elsewhere), ‘its got little to do with us’ is the prevailing sentiment - and hope for ‘peace’.
Is ‘The Agreement’ likely to work? How far do you support it? What would you like to see come out of the current process?
ORGANISE!: This Summers ‘Marching Season’ will be the first big test of the ‘Agreement’, and one which will make or break it. Whether or not it works depends largely on the political will present to make it work coupled with the degree to which people are prepared to compromise. The ‘Agreement’ does not go any way towards dealing with sectarianism as this would undermine the respective power bases of the parties who will make up the Assembly. It may well work after a fashion, so long as the ‘No’ men are further marginalised by events and are not allowed to destabilise the entire process.
The degree of support for the ‘Agreement’ as a social democratic, or rather a sectarian political initiative has not been uncontroversial for Organise! The ‘Agreement’ does after all institutionalise sectarianism; it is about choosing the form of government which will have an active role in the oppression of working class people well into the next century. Anarchists from the Workers Solidarity Movement adopted an abstentionist position on the referenda; it is a position which some members of Organise! support. Other members of Organise!, like many working class people, voted yes to the ‘Agreement’, not because they in any way support sectarianism, or want anything to do with choosing the form of government which oppresses us, but because of a simple desire to see the guns removed from the sectarian politics in the north.
Sectarian politicians agreeing a format in which to argue is better than the prospect of continued or worsening sectarian violence being counted in the lives, maiming and imprisonment of working class people.
Organise! has in the past criticised the British government for not moving on the issue of prisoners, both Loyalist and Republican; it was clear that only with the release of political prisoners could there be any hope of the cease-fires being maintained. That remains our position, no matter how emotive the issue, there could have been no progress whatsoever without at least the beginning of a process of release. We have also pointed to the issue of decommissioning, used as a stick to beat the ‘representatives’ of, or those with an ‘insight into the thinking of’, paramilitaries, and have stated that any decommissioning can only be practicable within the context of a complete demilitarization of the situation - that means security force’s guns must be included.
These positions have been based on the desire to see guns taken out of sectarian politics - this is the most that can be expected from the ‘Agreement’. Social issues, the position of workers and the unemployed at the bottom of society, etc., will not and cannot be tackled through this agreement - but surely at least a vast reduction in sectarian violence must be welcomed. Beyond this, we may also see the development of an atmosphere in which anti-sectarian working class politics may be given some room to develop.
It must be remembered that those opposed to the ‘Agreement’ had precious little to offer. The likely outcome of a successful No campaign would have seen a continuation of direct Westminster rule with Dublin involvement. This is a set up which neither people nor the political and/or paramilitary players in the north would have been happy with.
‘No’ campaigners on the Republican/Nationalist side see the Agreement as a sell-out. They are called on people to vote no and, as one poster puts it, ‘Smash British rule’. This is a sentiment with which Anarchists (if we couple it with the smashing of Irish rule) should have very little problem, except when we look at it in the harsh reality of the north. This is a call to continue the war, one which quite conveniently fails to address the fact that nearly one million people who live in the north consider themselves British.
As for the Unionist No campaigners, they also talk the language of continued confrontation and aggression. They claim to see the agreement as undermining the union, but what these people really want is a military solution all of their own. Paisley and McCartney will only be happy when the British state moves to ‘eradicate’ republican terrorism. Of course, any such move would only lead to an escalation of the conflict, not an end. Their views on loyalist terrorism are of course more ambivalent. The DUP claim to be ‘embarrassed’ by the LVF claiming to be ‘Paisleyites’ - strange when they supported Billy Wright in his early days, and have shared platforms on various occasions.
There are also those on the left who called for a No vote. These people preach about how the Assembly will not end sectarianism - anyone who ever thought an agreement reached by sectarian politicians could achieve this has precious little grip on reality. We are told that sectarian violence will not disappear, and the CIRA, INLA, LVF and ‘Real’ IRA are pointed to, often almost with relish, as proof of this. Recently, the LVF declared a cease-fire to allow people the opportunity to vote no. As to whether they return to violence after the referendum, they claim they will respect the decision of the majority of people in northern Ireland but want history to know that they were never a part of the ‘sell-out’.
How long the other ‘dissident’ paramilitaries can continue their campaigns after a ‘Yes’ vote is far from clear. The longer the cease-fires remain, the less support there is for sectarian warfare, and pressure may also be brought to bear from former ‘comrades in arms’.
Of course, if the Assembly was to fall apart at any point, if it proved unworkable, paramilitary violence could well return with a vengeance to fill the political vacuum. This is not something to be looked forward to.
It must also be pointed out that socialism at present is not an alternative to the Agreement, nor is Anarcho-Syndicalism. We are not in the position to carry out a social revolution, we must deal with the situation honestly, while trying to build the type of organisation which can one day offer a REAL alternative to working class people throughout Ireland and Britain.
The Protestant communities appear pretty split - or is it just the political parties? What is the root of the split and how may it develop?
ORGANISE!: The ‘Protestant community’ has always been much more diverse than many people have given it credit for. This is becoming more apparent as the working class loyalist parties give expression to ideas and aspirations outside the traditional concerns of the Unionist establishment, and distinct from the pseudo-religious rantings of the Free Presbyterian ‘Paisleyites’.
There have been many ‘splits’ in the ‘Protestant community’. The ‘conservative force’ loyalism of the LVF opposed the ‘leftward’ trends of the PUP and ‘Belfast based’ UVF leadership to continue a sectarian murder campaign. The split in the Unionist Party prior to the referendum over the form of the ‘Agreement’ was, to a large extent, indicative of a ‘split’ in the ‘Protestant community’ or, to use a more accurate term, ‘grass roots Unionism’.
‘No’ campaigners on the unionist side ludicrously claimed that the 28.88% no vote represented the ‘majority of pro-union people’, as the hours after the referendum went by, their assertions increasingly looked like blind desperation. It is estimated that a narrow majority of the unionists who voted, voted yes -around 55% according to one poll.
That is not to say that all the unionist no voters were rabid Paisleyites, there was a great deal of concern about the issue of prisoner release, ‘terrorists’ entering government, law and order and ‘democracy’, the undermining of the RUC, etc. As to the idea of an Assembly restoring ‘democracy’ to the north, there is precious little opposition to this. The majority of unionist no voters felt they could not vote Yes to the package in its entirety. The danger that the ‘No’ parties, the DUP and the UKUP, could present in the future is to successfully discredit the entire ‘Agreement’ in the hope of chipping away at the confidence of those who had expressed a will for change. Of course they are past masters at this sort of thing - and the rabble rousing which goes hand in hand with it.
The difference now lies in the commitment of a great many unionists to making things work and the emergence of the working class loyalist parties. They do not appear in a hurry to allow some dissident Unionist Party members, the DUP, or McCartney's UKUP to plunge them back into a conflict in which they have the experience of going to jail, of killing and being killed, while middle class unionists shit-stir, remaining cosily out of harms way. The loyalists do not look likely to act as stooges for what it is to be hoped are the representatives of ‘has been’ unionism.
The IRA and various strands of republicanism have apparently moved a long way in the talks process - why? What do they expect to gain?
ORGANISE!: There are of course those on the republican side, and many on the left, who see Sinn Fein’s position as one of ‘sell out’. To those who cannot contemplate compromise there may be something in this, but not much. Sinn Fein’s recent political career started during the Hunger Strikes, which saw them adopting an electoral strategy. In the north, they failed to make any real inroads into the SDLP vote, while in the south they were effectively marginalised as a ‘single issue’ Brits out party. At the same time, we saw the defeat of various ‘third world’ national liberation movements and the collapse of the Berlin wall heralding the end of ‘communism’ in the east. This created a different international scene to that of ‘68 - ‘72, when the Provo’s arose.
The subsequent development of Sinn Fein, and its pan-nationalist strategy, went hand in hand with a growing recognition that the ‘long war’ was not working. The armed campaign was not going to get any better. It must also be remembered that the strategy of the ‘long war of attrition’, which was designed to sap the British government’s will to stay was to have negotiations as its natural outcome. There could be no military ‘solution’. It is also true that they could not be defeated militarily by the British state, at least not without hugely escalating the conflict. The only option presented in the face of this was negotiations and ultimately a place in the ‘talks process’, which has led us to where we are today.
They have not moved that far, they have simply dropped all the pseudo-radicalism and socialist pretensions. No more talk of neo-colonialism, economic imperialism or American imperialism, no more vilification of the Dublin establishment. Sinn Fein are on the verge of ‘respectability’ and international statesmanship, in bed with the multinationals and southern politicians. Sinn Fein are still an Irish Nationalist party, only its means have changed, and it has thrown out some of the old socialist baggage in order to better pursue its political intrigues.
It is very important to remember that Sinn Fein’s role in the peace process is completely leadership driven - they run the show lock, stock and barrel, and are almost worshipped by the rank and file. A huge cult of personality has arisen around the travelling salesmen of the ‘Agreement’, such as Adams. Ironically, or perhaps inevitably, this is in stark contrast to one of the arguments for the development of Sinn Fein in the early ‘80s, i.e., the need to overcome ‘spectator politics’, whereby the average republican’s involvement was to hear of IRA activity through the media and cheer.
As to what they expect to gain, they have been promised demilitarization at some point in the future, release of prisoners, some form of policing reform, cross border bodies dealing with such things as ‘welfare’ fraud and fisheries, and that most important of considerations for politicians; power in the new Assembly, along with a commitment from the British government to withdraw when the majority want it. All of these concessions are dependant on stability and unionist acquiescence. One would imagine they hoped for more, but their lack of real success in the peace process points out the abject failure of armed struggle and the simple reality of a well-armed unionist majority in the north.
While many still see the problem solely in terms of British occupation and jurisdiction, others recognise that they cannot ‘force’ these people into a united Ireland, that it is unlikely that Sinn Fein will ever convince them that a united Ireland is in their interests, and they want to see the British government itself become the persuaders of unionism.
There is a belief that as the nationalist vote and Sinn Fein’s share of it gradually increases, and as cross border links are strengthened, we will find ourselves with a nationalist majority and only a few adjustments will be necessary in order to unite Ireland. Realistically, if they ever want to achieve a united Ireland within the framework of the ‘Agreement’, it will be about ‘demographics’, about substituting the ‘long wait’ for the ‘long war’, or the papes outbreeding the prods - not particularly progressive. Nor realistic
What is in the peace process for the British and Irish governments?
ORGANISE!: Stability is their main concern, that and the possibility of investment, which will be of benefit to both economies. The Irish government would also be quite happy for prospective German or American tourists not to hear the word Ireland linked with the word violence. The leadership of Fianna Fail also have the nationalistic sentiments of their grass roots to contend with, so on occasion it suits them to give the appearance of wrapping themselves in a (light) green flag.
On the British side, it must be noted that it is hardly coincidental that the opening of secret communications with the republican movement in 1990 followed the onset of the Provo’s bombing offensive in England. This undoubtedly pushed ‘Northern Ireland’ much higher up the British government's agenda.
The appeal of playing ‘saviour’ (one which seems particularly close to Tony Blair’s heart) and international statesman should not be underestimated. This can distract attention from domestic politics and win votes.
conclusion - the future
Where do you see Organise! being in terms of developing an Anarcho-Syndicalist movement in Ireland in 2 years, in 5 years, and beyond?
ORGANISE!: ‘Our’ politicians may well have come to some sort of ‘Agreement’ on Good Friday, one which may even lead to a very welcome reduction in paramilitary violence, but for the North’s working class, ‘unity’ seems as elusive as ever. The goal of a united Ireland or maintaining the union with Britain are of course nothing to do with the sort of unity we are talking about in Organise!
Our communities are still sectarian ghettoes and, with perhaps the most segregated education system in the world, how can we ever hope to break down barriers of mistrust, bitterness and suspicion?
The one hope for our future, for the future development of Anarcho-Syndicalism in Ireland, surely lies in the fostering and development of ‘workers unity’. We must draw lessons and inspiration from the united struggles of the Montupet strikers, of DSS workers opposing LVF and INLA death threats, of the railway workers of NIR and of southern healthworkers using ‘wildcat’ action to make an effective stand for our rights. This is not something which can be demanded or called upon by placard waving lefties, it is something which must be built. It is built in very concrete ways around the common problems workers face at their workplaces and in their communities. It is something which occurs naturally when workers as workers are faced with a new attack from their bosses, it is built around the response to ‘bread and butter’ issues.
Such a task is never easy - why do you think it is called class struggle? It is because it is exactly that, a struggle which must be fought long and hard for and must be won.
We have no rigid 2 or 5 year plans, but we do have short and medium term goals which we are striving to achieve. These are aimed at making our ideas and activity relevant to the realities of working class life in Ireland. More than anything else, it is about putting in the effort and hard work which, when people are more ready for real change, will stand us in good stead as a credible, revolutionary alternative to the bosses, and the nationalist and sectarian crap workers here have had to endure for too long.
For info/contact, and to send money for their community local fund, write to:
Organise!-IWA, PO Box 505, Belfast, BT12 6BQ, N Ireland.
Conditions of Freedom
Throughout history, people have fought and died for "freedom", often only to exchange one form of slavery and oppression for another.
Yet, freedom is a goal we continue to strive for. It is fundamental to our very humanity. Its opposite, oppression, stunts and distorts human nature and restrains, if not prevents, progress. That we don’t have a society in which freedom is fully realised arises as much from confusion as to exactly what freedom is, as from the effectiveness of repression.
There are two aspects to what we call "freedom", a negative one and a positive one - a "freedom from" and a "freedom for". There is also the nature of the individual or people seeking freedom. These factors are mutually dependent. Because our history has been one of struggle against tyranny, freedom is usually only conceived of in the negative sense, namely the absence or minimising of such tyranny. However, "freedom from" some restriction must be in order to achieve "freedom to do or to be". Freedom does not produce a vacuum.
It could be said that the degree to which one person interferes with another’s activity is a measure of the amount of freedom someone has. Political freedom, therefore, is viewed as people living how they choose, unobstructed by others. However, because we live in society, this must be qualified. If the well-being of everyone in society is to be assured, then it is not acceptable that the psychopath, for example, be "free" to exploit, use or bully others. Therefore, freedom is value-laden, and entails responsibilities towards others. This implies that the cultural values of the society as well as the nature of the individual enter the equation.
Beyond a certain point, preventing people from doing what they would choose is coercion, the deliberate interference by the powerful in the activities of those within that power. In modern society, based on an ideology of power, overt coercion limits people’s "freedom". However, imposing the will of the dominant does not merely depend on overt coercion alone, for this would promote rebellion among the coerced. Rather, compliance is sought through "legitimacy", through inducing people to believe that authority is necessary "for their own good". Once this is indoctrinated in people’s minds, they can contribute to their own repression. In a capitalist society, where the privilege of the ruling class is based upon the exploitation of labour, this is the all-important factor for its continuation. People are made to believe they are already free within the confines of a social necessity.
John Stuart Mill, in his famous work "On Liberty", recognised that there must exist an area of personal freedom which on no account must be violated. Such violation restricts the development of the individual’s natural faculties, which make it possible to conceive of and pursue the ends which humans hold to be good and necessary for their well-being.
Those who justify such violation claim that legal restraints are necessary due to the evil that is basic to human nature. This myth, originally proposed by the English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, upholds the interests of the privileged. Such reactionary thinkers argue that, if we are not to resort to "the law of the jungle", we must be controlled by the law of government. This becomes ironic considering the slaughter that has been perpetrated by governments and how they preside over a system that threatens all life on the planet. Furthermore, those who govern are not ethically different to those who are governed. In fact, due to their privileged position they are often more corrupt.
Libertarians do not advocate licence, that is, freedom at the expense of others. This is a feature of today’s society, where the values are those of robbery and domination, where getting the better of someone else is a virtue, where the greatest liberty is limited to the fewest number. Furthermore, such behaviour, as exhibited by our "betters", is emulated by the so-called "lower classes" through daily indoctrination by the media and advertising.
Economic slavery has, during this century, given rise to the idea of economic freedom. Freedom to possess bread is pointless if people lack the economic freedom to buy it. This inability to obtain the necessities of life by means other than those authorised by law has resulted in widespread deprivation, poverty and insecurity among working class people. It makes freedom under capitalist constraints an illusion and a mockery, considering that capitalism produces commodities that many are not free to obtain. Through a set of unfair arrangements and relationships the ruling elite has been able to plan, impose, and maintain this status quo.
This, however, is not to advocate a society of mediocrity, but one of increasing diversity. What we have now is a society which threatens people with deprivation and persecution, unless they submit to a lifestyle that withers their capacities and the contribution which their uniqueness as an individual could enable them to make, a society which results in hidebound individuals, cramped and warped in their relationships with each other. For human society to thrive, there must be respect for one another’s rights and freedoms, based on equality, which certainly isn’t the case in a society based upon privilege, exploitation and domination. A society built around its people’s needs would see greater experimentation in lifestyles. This concept is sometimes called "permanent revolution", an on-going, ever-developing society in which people are not restricted by conformity in order to survive. In such an open and free society, mutual respect would naturally evolve, because there would be no privilege to be gained at the expense of others.
Every plea we make for civil liberties and individual rights; every protest against exploitation, humiliation and oppression; every rebellion against the encroachments of authority, springs from this evaluation of human beings. Libertarians have always stressed freedom to create, freedom to achieve, freedom of self-determination, freedom to participate in the decisions affecting our lives, freedom to add colour and diversity to life.
So what is this condition we call freedom, this horizon which constantly eludes us? Fundamentally it is the capacity to be your own master, to determine your own destiny, to have your life and the decisions affecting it firmly in your own hands. It is the right to be a person, not an object or statistic or tool to be used or abused, discarded or destroyed. It is the ability to be a rational creature, responding to rational argument, exhibiting compassion, formulating conscious rational purposes, and not simply responding to outside causes. It is the facility to be a unique individual, yet with the ability to co-operate for the mutual benefit of all, and not to be considered as a thing, animal or wage slave incapable of such rational behaviour. For it is this rationality which distinguishes us from other species.
We can think and behave in rational, social ways. We are responsible for the choices we make, and can refer to knowledge and experience to explain them. We can reach consensus with our fellows. As Michael Bakunin once said, "No man is good enough to be another man’s master".
EMU Steps Out
Emu is all set for take-off. Will it spread its wings and fly, or crash-land predictably? More importantly, what dark secrets lurk behind emu's innocent façade?
Despite widespread scepticism that the project was doomed to fail, it is now certain that the European single currency, the Euro, will be launched next January.
The fact that European monetary union (emu) has got this far, is itself a tribute to the combined political will of European leaders.
The politicians’ road to emu has been a tortuous one. The struggle to meet the arbitrary conversion criteria has caused mass unemployment. At the same time, the whole convergence process descended to the level of farce, most notably when the German government attempted to re-value its gold reserve, only for the move to be blocked by the Bundesbank. At the final hour, most countries only met the conversion criteria by resorting to a large dollop of highly imaginative creative accounting.
Undeterred, the leaders of 11 European countries have driven the whole project forward, often against the wishes of their own electorate. However, when politicians go to such lengths and are prepared to take such risks with their own careers and reputations, a healthy dose of scepticism is called for. We have to question just what they are up to - just why are European leaders prepared to push so hard?
Unfortunately, we cannot hope to find the answer in what passes for the debate in Britain. The debate here has been dominated by crude nationalism. Emu has been portrayed as little more than an attempt by "Johnny foreigner" to rob Britain of her sovereignty. This nasty racist approach has been encouraged by a Labour Party fearful of losing support by appearing unpatriotic.
It is no surprise that the level of debate in Britain has been so moronic. Behind the ‘free market’ thinking, which sadly now underpins all the mainstream parties’ policies, all are deeply divided on the issue of emu. Being undecided, they are unable to take part in any real debate. The result has been a descent into little more than a squabble among academics and various factions among Britain’s elites - a squabble often motivated more by petty self-interest rather than logic. Thus, we have seen senior mandarins within the Foreign office, fearful of becoming isolated from Europe, pushing for Britain to join, while the bank of England, fearful of being reduced to merely a branch of the new European central bank, have been campaigning against entry.
The failure of free market ideas to give a clear lead is an important point. In principle, free market orthodoxy favours the setting up of broad currency zones such as that intended under the Euro. This not only reduces the cost of exchanging money, it also tends to lead to lower interest and inflation rates. The issue that has divided the free market camp, is not whether there are gains to be had from emu (there is broad agreement that there are), but the key point of difference is whether emu is feasible within the European union.
Free market orthodoxy argues that, for a currency zone to work, there have to be a number of social and economic conditions present. For example, there should be no cultural, linguistic or legal barriers to hinder labour mobility across frontiers. On this, and almost all the other conditions, the EU fails to qualify as a candidate for a new currency zone.
This has led to a war of words breaking out amongst economists within the academic world over the viability of emu. Amidst all this petty squabbling, the real issue of what is on offer from emu has been largely lost. This is a pity, because on closer inspection of what free market orthodoxy claims can be gained from emu, it quickly becomes clear that it is risky, the sums do not add up, and emu should not go ahead.
healthy wealthy emu?
According to market theory, the main prize to be had from emu is low inflation and interest rates. However, viewing these supposed gains from the perspective of the prime instigator of emu, Germany, it immediately becomes clear that there is no logic in its favour. Germany has enjoyed both low inflation and low interest rates for many years.
Far from gaining economic stability, entering emu with unstable economies, such as Spain and Italy, is in fact putting Germany’s cherished post war prosperity at risk. For what reason? To reap the saving gained from doing away with the cost of exchanging money? The European Commission estimates these savings will amount to no more than 0.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Is it really feasible that Germany’s leaders are abandoning their precious mark to gain 0.5% of GDP? Let’s be serious. The truth is that the answer as to why Germany is pushing ahead with emu cannot be found within the narrow confines of free market economics.
So, we need to look beyond Britain’s free market pre-occupations for a moment, and examine the issue with a somewhat broader economic and political outlook. However, this does present a problem. Free market ideas now exercise such a stranglehold on Britain’s political life, it has become hard to discern even a squeak of an alternative view. One of the few examples of such commentators is William Hutton, editor of "The Observer", who has been mounting a rear guard action against free market orthodoxy. Through his paper, Hutton has not only railed against Britain’s jingoistic approach to the single currency debate, he has also presented a much more plausible argument as to why the Euro is going ahead from a social market perspective.
Hutton’s thesis is that emu is being introduced in order to establish a European super-state, powerful enough to challenge the political and economic power of the USA. He argues that a challenge to the US’s "world leader" status is needed because the political power currently wielded by the US no longer bears any relation to its economic strength. Furthermore, the US uses this disproportionate political power to make up for its economic failings - to the cost of European and world stability.
emu-boxing the $
Thus, US political power is maintained by the status of the dollar as the world’s trading currency. The US uses the dollar strength both as a lever to exercise political power over dollar-dependent nations and to insulate its economy from the rigours of the free market. This enables the US to devalue the dollar at will, making US goods cheap, free from the fear of speculative attack and the need to raise interest rates. In effect, the US is using cheap money to export unemployment to Europe, while ignoring its structural trade deficit by simply printing dollars to pay for expensive imports.
Hutton goes on to argue that these two advantages are the reason the US blocks any moves to introduce regulation of the world’s volatile currency markets. Regulation would mean pegging the value of the dollar, making US exports expensive, which would mean the spectre of US recession. Equally, regulation would restrict the ability of US financiers to move capital around the world, thus threatening their dominance of the financial markets.
Following this logic, the introduction of the Euro will provide a competitor to the dollar, bringing to an end the many advantages the US gains by the dollars near-monopoly position as the world’s trading currency. Countries who are currently forced to accept US "leadership" through their dollar-dependency, would be able to switch their foreign currency reserves away from dollars into Euro’s, as well as starting to trade in Euro’s. This would lead to dollars being exchanged for the Euro, imposing market discipline on the US economy and opening it up to speculative attack. The result? Regulation of the currency market suddenly becomes in the US interest, which then ends the economic instability caused by speculation.
Thus, in Hutton’s view there is much to be gained from emu. The Euro will reduce US political power to a level into line with its declining economic power, bringing stability to the world currency markets in the process. Conversely, European political power will increase proportionately with its growing economic power, enabling Europe to pursue its own independent global strategy, leading to the opening up of the world’s markets to European exports. In short, emu will turn Europe into a new economic and political superpower capable of competing with the US.
Heady stuff indeed. If Hutton is right, not only will emu restore worldwide economic stability, it will ensure an economic boom that will allow Europe to maintain its social market base, which is now under threat as a result of the long European recession. From this viewpoint, it is easy to understand why Germany is willing to sacrifice its mark to ensure a wider European currency zone is established. However, a look at Hutton’s ideas from a revolutionary perspective exposes flaws in his thinking, and also offers us some more real reasons for emu going ahead.
Short history lesson - are you reading attentively? The US emerges from the Second World War with its economy intact and the long battle for economic supremacy with Britain and Germany won. By 1950, the US economy accounts for 47.8% of total world production. Everyone wants dollars, both to purchase better quality and cheaper US goods, and as a safe haven for their currency reserves. The dollar becomes the world’s trading currency, as enshrined in the Bretton Woods agreement (the dollar was given a fixed gold value, with the world’s currencies in turn being fixed to the dollar). A system of fixed exchange rates is established.
However, as modern technology rebuilds the war-torn German and Japanese economies, the US economic and technological dominance begins to falter, leaving it with a major dilemma. In order to compete, US goods must be made cheaper by devaluing the dollar, but devaluation risks the dollar’s world currency status. A compromise is sought. The dollar is to be gradually devalued, in an attempt to retain market confidence, ensuring retention of world dollar-dominance. But slow devaluation, by its very nature, implied the ending of the fixed exchange system.
Finally, in 1971, the dollar’s link to gold is suspended, in effect floating the dollar on the world’s currency markets, and bringing a flexible, market based exchange rate system.
free market stability and other myths
It is here that we part company with Hutton and with social democracy in general. Hutton’s argument is that the US attempt to engineer a "soft landing" for the dollar, through gradual devaluation, succeeded. This apparently threw the currency market out of equilibrium, resulting in too many dollars being in circulation, giving the US an unfair advantage. He argues that the introduction of the Euro will restore competition, bringing market forces back into play, and so breaking the dollar’s near-monopoly position.
With the market forces back in operation, it is then only a question of European and US governments bringing in regulation for currency order to be restored. This reflects Hutton’s social market view that, although the free market system is flawed, it remains the only option for economic organisation, and that it can be made to function through state regulation.
Hutton’s belief that restoring market forces will lead to currency stability is wishful thinking. The reality is the exact opposite. Capitalist economic stability can only be maintained when market forces are excluded from the process of currency exchange by a fixed rate system. Here, currencies remain stable for long periods of time, allowing less room for speculative activity. For 18 years, between 1949-67, the value of the pound against the dollar remained unchanged.
However, for a fixed exchange system to function it has to be underpinned by a single dominant economy, ensuring the presence of a dominant currency, against which all other currencies are fixed - as during much of the post-war period. But under capitalism, economic supremacy is not indefinite - at some point a competitor will emerge to challenge the dominant economy, leading to the breakdown of the fixed exchange system, and an increase in speculative activity as currency speculators make money, by "betting" on currencies losing their value. The example here is the late 1960’s onwards, as the German and Japanese economies increasingly came to challenge US economic dominance.
Currency speculation is only a symptom of the real cause of instability; the market-led flexible exchange rate system. When a flexible exchange rate system is in operation, speculative activity cannot be regulated. The power of currency speculators is too great. Order will only be restored when a dominant economy once again emerges and a fixed exchange rate system can once again operate.
The reason why social democratic commentators, whether free market or otherwise, have difficulty in accepting this argument is that to do so would mean accepting that capitalism is itself fatally flawed. For, as we have seen, under capitalism, a fixed exchange system is the only one that offers the desired stability; but competition ensures that, at some point, a challenger will emerge, throwing the currency markets into chaos.
beyond "free" markets
There are two ways to bring this process to an end and ensure long term economic stability. Either establish a worldwide economy, based on a single global currency, or bring capitalism to an end and replace it with a system based on co-operation. Needless to say, neither will ever be accepted by social democratic commentators, which is why the world still awaits a social democratic solution to the current currency chaos.
the real emu-agenda
Returning to emu, we can now see it as the start of a bid by Europe, led by Germany, to become the world’s dominant economic and political power and make the Euro the world’s trading currency. It has been apparent for sometime that the German economy is too small to begin to challenge US dominance, and that, to be successful, it would have to broaden its economic base. This is what is now occurring through emu and this is why Germany is willing to risk its post war stability to ensure emu succeeds.
That there should be a challenge to US dominance at this time is no coincidence. German unification alarmed the rest of Europe, fearful that an already dominant Germany would become even more dominant. France, in particular, has pushed for emu as a way of exercising broader European control of German political and economic decision making. An even more important factor is the collapse of the Soviet Empire.
After the war, the threat of Soviet power led countries to accept US dominance, as they relied on the support of its massive military arsenal. It is very doubtful that emu would be going ahead if the Soviet army remained camped on Germany’s doorstep. Now the Soviet threat has gone, we are seeing a return to the normal state of play under capitalism of competing economies vying for economic dominance.
emu - not the people’s friend
Europe’s bid for world leader status will have severe repercussions for Europe’s working class, already paying the price of emu in the form of a fresh wave of mass unemployment.
Uneven economic development will remain, ensuring the continued existence of national economies within the broader Euro currency zone. However, in the past, weaker European economies could maintain competitiveness through devaluation of their currencies, whereas in future this will not be possible. Instead, weaker economies will have to resort to trying to extract more value from workers by making them work harder for less.
This will not be possible if Europe’s labour markets remain restricted through regulation. As emu proceeds, the pressure to deregulate Europe’s labour market will grow, leading to falling wages and ever-increasing cuts to welfare spending.
trade union wrongs
This perspective sheds some light on the British trade unions’ backing of emu. It highlights the fact that they have accepted as irreversible the deregulation of the British labour market. It also shows that they are hoping to gain from the competitive advantage the unregulated British economy would gain, in the short term, over a regulated Europe. In so doing, they are undermining any attempt by European organised labour to fight off deregulation. In short, a disgraceful act of betrayal.
However, the implications of European economics go much further than the effects on Europe. The creation of three super-state trading blocks, based on the US, German and Japanese economies, are beginning to struggle with each other for economic supremacy. If past experience is anything to go by, this economic struggle will, at some point, turn into a struggle of the more physical kind; a terrifying prospect. Indeed, a prospect that takes the issue of emu well beyond the petty squabble about British sovereignty, which is all our party politicians seem to have managed to produce on our TV screens. This emu is a big one. It is no white elephant, and it is of concern to us all. Watch the growing pains carefully.
Libcom note: Content from old Direct Action site via archive.org Waybackmachine