Trying to change the way we think

This excellent piece by Christopher Booker has also been published in Derek Bennett’s Euro Realist newsletter and is reproduced with permission 

It can be downloaded as a pdf here

The metric system – love it or loathe it, this is the strange story of how it was imposed on Britain over several decades, by stealth, deception and downright lies.

In recent days, as television news has brought us non-stop reporting on the terrible floods, we have yet again seen evidence of one of the odder things to have happened to Britain in our lifetime. An official of the Environment Agency tells us that some river has burst its banks because it has risen by ‘5.2 metres’, only for a shocked local to tell us that it is ’17 feet higher than normal’.

Some hapless BBC reporter interviewing a flood victim outside his house solemnly informs us that the water is ‘300 millimetres deep’. But only when the homeowner tells us ‘it’s a foot deep in our living
room’ do most of us have an idea of what they are talking about.

What this illustrates us how we now have side by side two quite different systems of weights and measures in this country – one invariably used by government officials and the BBC, the other still used by millions of people because, for most everyday purposes, it seems to be much more sensible and easily comprehensible.

And part of the reason why so many of us now live in two different worlds like this, on something which touches almost every aspect of our lives, lies in a strange saga which has never been properly told.

In the year just ending, anniversaries of glorious events in our island story have come thick and fast – Magna Carta 1215, Agincourt 1415, Waterloo 1815, victory in the Second World War 1945.

But 2015 has also marked two anniversaries from a much less glorious story – one I have been following for 50 years as one of the murkiest episodes in the history of our supposed parliamentary democracy.

This is the story of how politicians worked to replace our old system of weights and measures with the ‘much more sensible’ and ‘rational’ metric system.

I am not here concerned with the pros and cons of the two systems – although I shall touch on that later
– but with the peculiarly dishonest tactics our politicians devised to bring about such a huge change in our British way of life without ever needing to consult our wishes. Precisely because the politicians knew that such a far-reaching move would be highly controversial, they wanted to introduce it without ever allowing it to be debated or voted on by Parliament.

They sought instead to impose it on us, at every stage, by stealth, deception and downright lies. The story began 50 years ago when, in 1965, a Labour government used a Written Answer buried at the back of Hansard to announces its intention to replace the weights and measures used in Britain since the time of the Roman empire (it was after this, not the British empire, that it was known as the ‘imperial system’).

The first lie was a pretence that the switch to metric was to be made in response to the wishes of British ‘industry’. When years later I managed to unearth the relevant documents, it turned out that ‘industry’ had said nothing of the kind. Under pressure from a small group of shadowy bureaucrats, the chief trade body representing businesses had certainly expressed interest in the possibility of such a change, since it
would affect all its members. But it merely said that many were ‘concerned’ by its implications.

In 1968 came the second lie when, as the then technology minister Tony Benn gabbled to MPs a list of his plans for the future, he slipped in his wish to see Britain ‘fully metric’ by 1975.

But this change, he insisted, would be entirely voluntary. ‘Compulsion’, he twice promised, ‘is not part of the process’ (hence no need for parliamentary debate). Within months this was given the lie when his government issued a statutory diktat – the first of many – making it a criminal offence to sell drugs except in metric.

In 1969 it set up a ‘Metrication Board’ to ‘co-ordinate the process’ and ruled that, after 1975, It would become illegal for anything but the metric system to be taught in schools. During the 1970 election campaign, when I first revealed all this in a magazine article, one reader was so incensed that she badgered her would-be Tory MP into promising that Parliament would, for the first time, debate the subject.

It was only a short debate (which I attended). But when other Tory backbenchers heard of what was going on, they were furious that such an immense change to British life was being smuggled in by stealth,

In 1972, when Edward Heath was taking us into the European Common Market, he learned that Brussels planned a directive to ensure that all its members must use the metric system. He pleaded that this be kept under wraps until Britain was safely in.

But in 1973, after we had entered, Heath issued a Metrication White Paper, based onthe wholly fictitious claim that Britain was onlyadopting the metric system in response to ‘two polls’ of industry. No such polls had ever taken place.

By 1978, under Margaret Thatcher, the Tories were pledged to have no more of it. No sooner was she elected in 1979 than she scrapped the Metrication Board. In 1980 Brussels hit back by at last issuing its long-planned directive requiring all members of the ‘European Community’ to use the metric system (all except Britain and Ireland already did).

In 1985 the Thatcher government responded with a new Weights and Measures Act, confirming that the ‘imperial’ system would continue to be legal. In 1989, Brussels issued a new directive designed to whip Britain into line – although, to soften the pill, this still allowed us to continue for a time using miles on road signs and pints (but only for beer, cider and milk).

It was this directive which 20 years ago in 1995 – our second anniversary – led to the Major government issuing a swathe of new statutory instruments making it a criminal offence to sell goods of any kind, including fruit and veg, except in metric.

Indeed the government went much further than the directive envisaged, by requiring the metrication of every aspect of British life, from evidence given in courtrooms to speed limits on our canals, along with thousands of local bylaws. When some of us pointed out that this all resulted from Brussels directives, the minister who signed most of these diktats into British law, Michael Heseltine, insisted that they had ‘nothing to do with Europe’. This had been British policy, he said, ‘since the Sixties’. But the very documents he signed were being put into law under the 1972 European Communities Act – again without Parliament being given the chance to discuss them.

When I was interviewed by a young BBC presenter at this time, he scornfully suggested that no one under the age of 40 had any idea what feet and inches were. When I asked him how tall he was, he replied ‘five feet, 10 inches’. That bit of the interview hit the cutting room floor.

Nothing angered many British people more than when, in 2000, these laws made it illegal for market traders to sell fruit and veg by the old weights which most of their customers preferred – and this came to a head when a Sunderland stallholder Steve Thoburn was charged with the criminal offence of selling a ‘pound of bananas’.

He and four other ‘Metric Martyrs’ took their case to the Court of Appeal, arguing that since, under the ancient rule that no Act of Parliament can be overruled by one passed previously, the 1985 Weights and Measures Act could not be negated by an edict issued under the European Communities Act of 1972.

To get round this argument, Lord Justice Laws craftily devised a wholly new legal principle. He ruled that the European Communities Act was a ‘constitutional statute’, so important that it could not be overturned by anything which came after it. Many larger businesses, such as those making tinned foods, welcomed the confusion created by the new laws, as they reduced the contents of their old ‘1lb’ tins (454 grams) to 400 grams, hoping customers charged the same price would not notice.

Many other manufacturers, such as those making sweets and chocolate, played the same trick – even though the only reason why weights and measure legislation was backed by the criminal law was that this was to prevent customers being sold ‘short measure’.

At least it still remained legal for shopkeepers forced to sell in metric to print the ‘imperial’ equivalent next to it. But in 2002 Brussels issued a new directive designed to make even this illegal, and again the UK dutifully complied. It would become a crime for retailers to make any mention of the old weights and measures at all.

The new laws continued to throw up ever more anomalies until, in 2007, many giant US corporations, such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard, were warned by a clever pressure group, the British Weights and Measures Association, that this new EU law would make it illegal for them to export anything to the EU unless its packaging, sales literature and much else was given only in metric. It would even become illegal for them to refer to a ’42-inch’ television screen.

The US firms protested so loudly – estimating that it could cost them billions of dollars – that Brussels at last backed down. Not only did it scrap its demand relating to US goods, it also withdrew its law banning any mention of non-metric measures within the EU itself.

So embarrassed was Brussels by the anger its metrication laws had aroused in Britain that its trade commissioner issued a remarkable statement. He wanted the British to know that ‘imperial measures’, such as the mile and the pint, were ‘the very essence of the Britishness that Europeans know and love’. The British could continue using imperial equivalents alongside metric weights and measures as long as they wished.

On this last, carefully phrased fudge, 40 years of deceit and chicanery more or less came to an end. Never again, it seemed, would a greengrocer be charged with a criminal offence for shouting ‘lovely toms, a pound a pound’ to customers who hadn’t a clue what was meant by ‘half a kilo’.

But one legacy of this bid to impose metrication on the British people without ever consulting their wishes is that we are left with a strange hybrid system which is sometimes one thing and sometimes another. Fervent supporters of metric scornfully insist that it is so much more ‘rational’ than that
ridiculously antiquated system rightly consigned to the dustbin of history.

They try to overlook that the most modern and successful economy in the world, the USA, which landed a man on the moon in feet and inches, still somehow manages to survive with the imperial system.

And how many realise that the official EU definition of a metre is that it is ‘the length equal to 1,650,763 wavelengths in vacuum of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the levels 2p(10) and 5d(5) of the krypton atom’ You can’t get more ‘rational’ than that.

In truth the only way metric is more user-friendly than imperial is simply that it divides and multiplies by 10, But one thing I have learned from 50 years of observing all this is how, for everyday practical purposes, such as cooking or carpentry or measuring out a carpet, imperial wins every time.

We see this, as I said at the start, whenever reporters from the rigorously-metricated BBC come up against members of the public, as when they interview flood victims. The reporter may dutifully tell us that the floodwater in someone’s house has reached a depth of ‘300 millimetres’. But only when the victim tells us ‘it’s a foot deep’ do we really have a picture of what is meant – just as when we are told that some new-born royal baby weighs ‘6 pounds, 8 ounces’, rather than ‘2.72 kilograms’ or even ‘2720 grams’.

Despite half a century of trying to change the way we think, I suspect that, for practical purposes, those dear old pounds, feet and inches will be with us for a long time yet.

Photo by eamoncurry123

World government – the EU’s objective

By Professor Alan Sked.

How a secretive elite created the EU to build a world government

Voters in Britain’s referendum need to understand that the European Union was about building a federal superstate from day one

Alan Sked is the original founder of Ukip and professor of International History at the London School of Economics. He is presently collecting material for a book he hopes to publish on Britain’s experience of the EU

As the debate over the forthcoming EU referendum gears up, it would be wise perhaps to remember how Britain was led into membership in the first place. It seems to me that most people have little idea why one of the victors of the Second World War should have become almost desperate to join this “club”.That’s a shame, because answering that question is key to understanding why the EU has gone so wrong.Most students seem to think that Britain was in dire economic straits, and that the European Economic Community – as it was then called – provided an economic engine which could revitalise our economy. Others seem to believe that after the Second World War Britain needed to recast her geopolitical position away from empire, and towards a more realistic one at the heart of Europe. Neither of these arguments, however, makes any sense at all.The EEC in the 1960s and 1970s was in no position to regenerate anyone’s economy. It spent most of its meagre resources on agriculture and fisheries and had no means or policies to generate economic growth.

When growth did happen, it did not come from the EU. From Ludwig Erhard’s supply-side reforms in West Germany in 1948 to Thatcher’s privatisation of nationalised industry in the Eighties, European growth came from reforms introduced by individual countries which were were copied elsewhere. EU policy has always been either irrelevant or positively detrimental (as was the case with the euro).

Nor did British growth ever really lag behind Europe’s. Sometimes it surged ahead. In the 1950s Western Europe had a growth rate of 3.5 per cent; in the 1960s, it was 4.5 per cent. But in 1959, when Harold Macmillan took office, the real annual growth rate of British GDP, according to the Office of National Statistics, was almost 6 per cent. It was again almost 6 per cent when de Gaulle vetoed our first application to join the EEC in 1963.

In 1973, when we entered the EEC, our annual national growth rate in real terms was a record 7.4 per cent. The present Chancellor would die for such figures. So the economic basket-case argument doesn’t work.

What about geopolitics? What argument in the cold light of hindsight could have been so compelling as to make us kick our Second-World-War Commonwealth allies in the teeth to join a combination of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany and Italy?

Four of these countries held no international weight whatsoever. Germany was occupied and divided. France, meanwhile, had lost one colonial war in Vietnam and another in Algeria. De Gaulle had come to power to save the country from civil war. Most realists must surely have regarded these states as a bunch of losers. De Gaulle, himself a supreme realist, pointed out that Britain had democratic political institutions, world trade links, cheap food from the Commonwealth, and was a global power. Why would it want to enter the EEC?

The answer is that Harold Macmillan and his closest advisers were part of an intellectual tradition that saw the salvation of the world in some form of world government based on regional federations. He was also a close acquaintance of Jean Monnet, who believed the same. It was therefore Macmillan who became the representative of the European federalist movement in the British cabinet.

In a speech in the House of Commons he even advocated a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) before the real thing had been announced. He later arranged for a Treaty of Association to be signed between the UK and the ECSC, and it was he who ensured that a British representative was sent to the Brussels negotiations following the Messina Conference, which gave birth to the EEC.

In the late 1950s he pushed negotiations concerning a European Free Trade Association towards membership of the EEC. Then, when General de Gaulle began to turn the EEC into a less federalist body, he took the risk of submitting a full British membership application in the hope of frustrating Gaullist ambitions.

His aim, in alliance with US and European proponents of a federalist world order, was to frustrate the emerging Franco-German alliance which was seen as one of French and German nationalism.

Jean Monnet, (1888 – 1979), who in 1956 was appointed president of the Action Committee for the United States of Europe. met secretly with Heath and Macmillan on innumerable occasions to facilitate British entry. Indeed, he was informed before the British Parliament of the terms in which the British approach to Europe would be framed.

Despite advice from the Lord Chancellor, Lord Kilmuir, that membership would mean the end of British parliamentary sovereignty, Macmillan deliberately misled the House of Commons — and practically everyone else, from Commonwealth statesmen to cabinet colleagues and the public — that merely minor commercial negotiations were involved. He even tried to deceive de Gaulle that he was an anti-federalist and a close friend who would arrange for France, like Britain, to receive Polaris missiles from the Americans. De Gaulle saw completely through him and vetoed the British bid to enter.

Macmillan left Edward Heath to take matters forward, and Heath, along with Douglas Hurd, arranged — according to the Monnet papers — for the Tory Party to become a (secret) corporate member of Monnet’s Action Committee for a United States of Europe.

According to Monnet’s chief aide and biographer, Francois Duchene, both the Labour and Liberal Parties later did the same. Meanwhile the Earl of Gosford, one of Macmillan’s foreign policy ministers in the House of Lords, actually informed the House that the aim of the government’s foreign policy was world government.”The Anglo-American establishment was now committed to the creation of a federal United States of Europe”.

Monnet’s Action Committee was also given financial backing by the CIA and the US State Department. The Anglo-American establishment was now committed to the creation of a federal United States of Europe.

Today, this is still the case. Powerful international lobbies are already at work attempting to prove that any return to democratic self-government on the part of Britain will spell doom. American officials have already been primed to state that such a Britain would be excluded from any free trade deal with the USA and that the world needs the TTIP trade treaty which is predicated on the survival of the EU.

Fortunately, Republican candidates in the USA are becoming Eurosceptics and magazines there like The National Interest are publishing the case for Brexit. The international coalition behind Macmillan and Heath will find things a lot more difficult this time round — especially given the obvious difficulties of the Eurozone, the failure of EU migration policy and the lack of any coherent EU security policy.

Most importantly, having been fooled once, the British public will be much more difficult to fool again.

The original article appeared in the Daily Telegraph. With thanks to Robert Henderson.

Photo by The National Archives UK

Prussia and the EU

Jean-Claude Juncker comes from Luxembourg – a tiny state only the size of Hampshire! Yet he is leading a German European Empire, larger than Bismarck’s Empire, maybe even larger than Charlemagne’s.  He heads up the European Commission, a  totalitarian, unelected and corporatist body that was designed to be the motor for the creation of a political superstate. How did this unwanted atate of affairs arise?  – and how was Britain enslaved into joining a political and customs union?

Prussia

History has much to teach us. We could do worse than begin with the largest and most powerful state than came to dominate a united Germany. Prussia built up a customs union, a Zollverein, in a 40-year period beginning in 1819. The developing and highly efficient Prussian civil service learnt how to cajole and bully the smaller states, letting them think that they were keeping their sovereign rights. This was the same tactic used by Heath and all subsequent UK political leaders – including David Cameron.

Within the customs union, the Prussian weights and measure system became the standard, just as the Metric system was introduced into the UK in the 1970s.

Prussia also enforced a common currency, the Prussian Thaler, just as the EU has tried to do with the Euro. It brought in uniform legislation on the regulation of workers and industry. The EU now has similar Regulations and Directives and these are usually introduced into the UK quietly as Statutory Instruments without the UK Parliament noticing. Certainly, the people are ignored and are ignorant of what transpires. It all sounds horribly familiar.

Good Reads

I would recommend the works of Lindsay Jenkins. Her first book, Britain held hostage, was  written in 1997 and she personally gave me a copy on 16th March of that year. My eyes began to open about Disappearing Britain, the title of the third book in 2005. Yet only now, 10 years later, are the people of the UK finally awakening to their fate. See also Rodney Atkinson referred to below.

WW1 and WW2 and Lisbon

The concept of Germany economic hegemony of Europe never died out after the first World War; it was continued and developed further during the second. Walter Hallstein, the founding father and first President of the EEC springs to mind. The idea was continued by both the Nazi and Fascist elements in the German Foreign Office and in the post-war Intelligence Services.  This is all clearly exposed by Rodney Atkinson’s book And into the Fire. It is an easy but fearsome read yet utterly absorbing. The death knell for democracy and liberty is foretold with deathly clarity. Great cheer for the corporatists and federalists who, like all supporters of the Lisbon Treaty and of the Sovereign Constitution of the EU, despise democracy and the people of all 28 Member States.

A corporatist society is one run by the state for the interests of corporatists (large unions, big business, unelected supranational powers, professional interest groups, media manipulators by way of example). Corporatism is the socialist form of capitalism and it holds sway in most western “capitalist ” countries. It is completely incompatible with democracy and nationhood.

The project to destroy liberal free trade capitalists and the democratic rights revered for centuries in the UK was thus German in origin. This corporatist plan was launched with totally undemocratic structure of the European Iron and Steel community. This set the precedent and skeleton for the EEC/EU.

Thus, as Atkinson says on p44, ”…the European Union is precisely that combination of German ethnic and political imperialism on the one hand and European Fascism on the other, which the UK, together with the USA and their allies had fought to have vanquished in 1945.” These founders of the EEC/EU adopted a non-democratic structure from the very beginning as the basis of thier project.

The essence of the EU is that it is a tyranny by the unelected and un-dismissible. The EU parliament, the one elected body, has no power over fiscal matters nor can it originate or repeal laws. The executive power is beyond its reach. It is impotent and bovine and so expensive that soon the Commission will be rid of it, but not before the destruction of the nation states of the EU has been accomplished.

The Lisbon Treaty destroyed key aspects of our sovereignty. It destroyed the sovereign power of our Supreme Court and of the Queen in Parliament. Juncker, as President of the Commission, proposes and the poor Queen in Parliament at Westminster dutifully disposes. The peoples of Britain dutifully obey – or maybe not so dutifully, as the prospect of escaping the EU’s clutches in the forthcoming referendum is looking a distinct possibility.

More trade and Better off with Brexit

Professor Alan Sked writes “Most students seem to think that Britain was in dire economic straits, and that the European Economic Community – as it was then called – provided an economic engine which could revitalise our economy. Others seem to believe that after the Second World War Britain needed to recast her geopolitical position away from empire, and towards a more realistic one at the heart of Europe. Neither of these arguments, however, makes any sense at all. The EEC in the 1960s and 1970s was in no position to regenerate anyone’s economy. It spent most of its meagre resources on agriculture and fisheries and had no means or policies to generate economic growth.” It was clear therefore that the EEC had to arrange to steal all the UK Fisheries in the days just before the Heath finalised his “negotiations”. They were not negotiations. Heath told the Foreign Office to accept it all and accept it quickly. Likewise the Common Agricultural Policy was swallowed. It has been a disaster for the UK too. “In 1973, when we entered the EEC, our annual national growth rate in real terms was a record 7.4 per cent. The present Chancellor would die for such figures. So the economic basket-case argument doesn’t work” says Professor Sked. Furthermore, from the 1980s until 2008, the UK out-performed countries that adopted the Euro and our economy began to recover far sooner after the recession.

The UK needs to to maintain its access to the EU’s single market, but this can be achieved from outside the EU by re-joining EFTA. At the same time, we need to take steps to loosen ourselves from the EU’s control of our trading arrangements with the rest of the world, as this is where the growth is happening. Demographics alone point to the EU become less important to us as a trading partner, with exports to the EU likely to fall still further from the current figure of 37% of total UK exports  ( or 7% of UK GDP) Furthermore, the design faults of the single currency look likely to condemn the southern members to an ever-deepening depression as  they pay the price of the inflexible failed Euro experiment.

In summary, there is no future for the UK in the EU. It is pointless calling for the EU to reform. It is holed below the waterline The UK is better off out.

Photo by woody1778a

The Left and Europe

By Anthony Coughlan

The political Left, whether social democratic, communist or Trotskyist, has always found the European Union problematic. This is because supranational EU “integration” poses the issue of national independence and national democracy so acutely, which many on the Left find embarrassing. They prefer to concentrate on economic issues, for, on political ones like national independence, they fear being found on the same side as the Right. Their political sectarianism makes that hard for them to cope with.

The EU shifts a myriad of government functions from the national level, where they have traditionally been under the control of democratically elected parliaments and governments, to the supranational, where the bureaucrats of the EU Commission have the monopoly of legislative initiative and where technocracy rules. Should the Left oppose or support this process?

The classical socialist position is clear. It is that Leftwingers should eschew “economism” and should seek to give a lead on democratic political questions as well as economic ones. They thereby put themselves in the best position to win political hegemony in their respective countries and to implement left wing economic measures in due course when their peoples desire these.

Marx and Engels took it for granted that socialism could only be achieved in independent national States. In the Communist Manifesto of 1848 they wrote: “Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.” They supported Irish independence from Britain. Engels wrote to his friend Kugelman: “There are two oppressed peoples in Europe, the Irish and the Poles, who are never more international than when they are most national.”

Their Irish follower, James Connolly, showed by his political practice in allying himself with the radical democrats of the IRB in the 1916 Easter Rising that he regarded the establishment of a fully independent Irish State as the prerequisite of being able to achieve the socialist measures that he advocated. While awaiting execution he speculated on how the international socialist press would interpret the Dublin rebellion: “They will never understand why I am here. They will all forget I am an Irishman.”

Outside Europe the proposition that the Left should be the foremost advocates of national sovereignty would be taken as self-evident. The strength of communism in Asian countries like China and Vietnam rests on its identification with nationalism. The appeal of the Left in Latin America is largely based on its opposition to Yankee imperialism. Only in Europe do so many Left wingers regard the defence of national independence in face of EU integration as “right-wing” and therefore by definition reactionary.

This is primarily due to the fact that the main countries of Western Europe – France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Italy etc. – were all imperial powers in their day and historically their mainstream Labour Movements identified with that imperialism and its colonial accompaniments. With honourable if marginal exceptions, the national Labour Movements in these countries supported their respective national bourgeoisies in going to war with one another in World Wars 1 and 2.

In the second half of the 20th century transnational capital became predominant over national capital in the advanced industrial world. In Europe continental social democrats now shifted to backing European-based transnational capital in supporting its main political project, the construction of a supranational power, the EU/Eurozone, in which the classical principles of capitalist laissez faire – free movement of goods, services, capital and labour – would for the first time in history have the force of constitutional law.

In Britain and Ireland, Labour initially dissented. The political tradition in Britain is that all the main issues of national policy are decided inside the Tory Party, with the rest of society having bit parts. Joining the EEC became the central goal of Conservative policy from 1961. The Labour Left originally opposed this, as indeed in this country the Irish Labour Party opposed Irish membership of the EEC in our 1972 Accession referendum. Under Michael Foot’s leadership British Labour advocated the UK’s withdrawal from the EEC in the 1983 general election.

Then in 1988, with Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, Commission President Jacques Delors, a French socialist, wooed the British TUC at Blackpool and Ireland’s ICTU at Malahide and promised them labour-friendly legislation from Brussels which they would never get at home. The Trade Union leaders embraced “social Europe” and much of the Labour Left followed them, in some cases becoming missionaries for the grand “project”. As the downside of the EU/Eurozone became clear in recent years, Euroscepticism began to grow on the political Right. Now some on the Left are starting to follow the Right in that too, in Southern Europe and maybe in Britain.

In France and Italy the central role of communists in the war-time Resistance and their consequent appeal to national sentiment gave these countries mass communist parties for three decades after World War 2. A key factor in the subsequent decline of these parties was their embrace of the EC/EU in the 1970s and 1980s as one of the tenets of “Eurocommunism”.

In France this volte-face was necessary to allow Communist Ministers join Francois Mitterand’s socialist government in 1981. I recall the labour historian Desmond Greaves remarking at the time; “This will revive fascism in France.” That was before anyone had heard of le Pen. The French Communist Party, which had one-quarter of the seats in France’s National Assembly in 1956, has 2% there today. Many former French working class communist voters now vote for the National Front.

Left wingers in the Trotskyist tradition tend to be upholders of EU supranationalism as “objectively progressive”, while stigmatising concern for national independence as nationalism and “rightwing”. This goes back to Trotsky’s famous dispute with Stalin in the 1920s over whether it was possible to build socialism in one country – that being Stalin’s view – or whether it required a more general transformation, world revolution, as Trotsky thought. The EU is assumed to provide a more favourable field for socialism because it is at once bigger and it is trans-national, although it is hard to see how socialist-type restrictions on capital can come from a body one of whose constitutional principles is free movement of capital.

The EU institutions and their national extensions are populated with people who were on the Trotskyist Left in their youth and who feel no qualms at the EU’s assaults on national democracy. Former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Portuguese Commission President José Manuel Barroso are among those with such a background who have advanced supranationalism. Left-sounding arguments for the EU go down well in circles where “socialism” is no way a realistic danger, but where “nationalism” very much is – that is, the nationalism which resists losing national independence and democracy. Leftist rhetoric, radical-sounding, has helped grease many a lucrative EU career path.

Leftist Europhilia of this kind has been influential in the ideological collapse of Greece’s Syriza, which made its leadership adopt policies the opposite of what they were elected on. While loud against “austerity” Messrs Tsipris, Varoufakis and Tsakalotos continually proclaimed themselves believers in the EU, which they seemed to think could be transformed into a force for cross-national solidarity and Euro-Keynesianism by dint of rhetorical argument.

When it came to the crunch they lacked the courage to go for a “Grexit”, a repudiation of Greece’s mountainous debts and a devaluation of a restored drachma. Yet only such a policy can revive Greece’s lost competititiveness, stimulate its home demand and bring back economic growth, for Greece’s third bailout will not work.

The dissenters in Syriza are now advocating such a course, as are the Greek communists and others. The Syriza collapse is educational for Leftwingers everywhere. It illustrates the old truth that the establishment or re-establishment of national independence – which means a State having its own currency and with it control of either its interest rate or its exchange rate – must be central to any meaningful campaign against neoliberalism and banker-imposed austerity, not to mind “socialism”, however one might define that.

(Anthony Coughlan is Associate Professor Emeritus of Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin. This article first appeared in the September 2015 edition of the Village Magazine, Dublin)

Photo by ell brown

The CIA agents with a conscience

One of our supporters, Mr Peter Farrell, has recently sent us a link to a most interesting article, which first appeared in the EU Observer magazine in 2001. Although this is now 14 years ago, few people are aware, even now. of the degree to which the US intelligence agency played its part in clandestinely supporting the European Movement, which in its turn played a key part both in securing the UK’s accession to the EEC (As it was) in 1973 and ensuring we didn’t regain our independence in the 1975 referendum. The piece quotes extensively from CIB’s former vice-president Sir Richard (Dick) Body MP. At least a couple of CIA agents appeared to have been most uncomfortable about the CIA’s covert operation. Sadly, since the inception of the EEC, they have been very much the exception rather than the norm as far as the US government and its intelligence services are concerned.  Given President Obama’s recent utterances in support of the UK remaining in the EU, it is hard to have any degree of confidence that US intelligence agencies will keep their nose out of the forthcoming referendum.

Here is the article:-

It has long been rumoured that the CIA played an important role in the campaign to “keep Britain in Europe”, which the Yes side ran up to the 1975 referendum about Britisk EU membership. But now, irrefutable documents are available to the public, according to Sir Richard Body, who gives his version of the facts in his recent book, “England for the English”.
“After I became joint chairman of the Get Britain Out Council two Americans came to see me in 1975 with a large bundle of papers. They were, they claimed, CIA agents who deplored their country’s methods in interfering in the affairs of a good ally. What they had brought were copies of documents which showed that a dedicated federalist, Cord Meyer, jnr. was to become head of a CIA station in London for the duration of the Referendum “to do what it takes” to secure a “Yes” vote in favour of Britain remaining in the EEC. The papers showed that the CIA had already given the European Movement considerable sums of money, but now multinational corporations which had been assisted by the CIA were to be persuaded to fund the “Yes” campaign through indirect channels.

 

I hoped that at least one newspaper would agree to take up the story, but they were all strongly in favour of the EEC, and each one refused. Eventually, in the last few days of the campaign, Time Out agreed to publish the story. But it was then a mere fledgling with a small circulation, som only a few hundred Londoners would have read it.
Other people treated my account of the interview with disbelief, and I gave up speaking of the episode. However, the original documents are now filed in Georgetown University. Dr. Richard J. Aldrich, an academic of Nottingham University, has examined them and written a research paper about the CIA in Britain based upon the originals as well as a book”.
Documentation can be found in: OSS, CIA and European Unity in Diplomacy and Statecraft, vol. 8 no 1, March 1997 andRichard J. Adrich, The Hidden Hand; John Murray, 2001.

Photo by theglobalpanorama

The EU: A Corporatist Racket

 

EU a Corporatist Racket

By Dave Barnby

A review by Edward Spalton

Many books have covered the ideological origins of what is now the EU. This book describes the manoeuvres of the the principal post war actors whose guile, determination and deceit contrived progressively to deprive our country of its constitution and liberty whilst pretending to engage in mere facilitation of trade ( “The Common Market”) and international co-operation. It is a thorough job, backed by detailed research with frequent facsimile documents from public archives.

From the early post war years, it traces the growth of the European Movement, saved from bankruptcy by substantial CIA funds and by American corporate money. Whilst the subjects will be familiar to most independence campaigners, the author’s angle of approach is refreshingly different.

The first part (of 11 chapters) begins with the lie of “no essential loss of sovereignty” and covers the conversion of the civil service from its politically impartial role to an agency of “government against the people”. In a role reversal, the Foreign Office devoted much of its energy to promoting the foreign European project to the British people whilst using public money to frustrate and discredit those campaigners, who knew what was really at stake.

Drawing on official records, the author makes a strong case on the balance of probabilities that Britain’s abandonment of the Black Arrow satellite launcher was part of the price of entry to the EEC, giving the French a monopoly in the European space programme. He also covers the subversion of the apparently innocent business of town twinning into a scripted process, requiring participating towns to declare allegiance to the European project.

The second part ( 9 chapters) “European Integration, the broader picture 1948 -2014” begins with a review of the ACUE (American Committee for a United Europe – funded by corporate donations) and the European Movement. It includes an in depth study of the 1975 referendum, how the process was skewed and was certainly open to electoral manipulation. Whilst this is informed conjecture, similar complaints by those taking part in later Irish referendums should alert any independence campaigner. There is an extremely interesting piece on “85 Frampton Street” , the media centre for Britain in Europe which the author visited in 2003 when a referendum on the euro currency was in the air. Campaigners should know of the scale of publicity machine available to our foes and its cosy existing relationship with the media. Bilderberg is covered in a matter-of-fact sort of way and the attempts within the Conservative party to discredit their Eurosceptic MPs.

The endpiece, entitled “The Rats” makes some proposals to break the power of the supranational corporations in the supranational state but the author has not yet fully developed his ideas. Few who experienced the reality of nationalised industries would wish to revisit them.

In the meantime, this highly original account will be extremely useful both as a readable record and as a mine of verified quotations for anyone speaking or writing on how our country came to its present state.

ISBN 978-0-9569815-8-5 Paperback 185 pages

Price £9.99 plus postage and packing £2.00

Available from David Barnby
64 New Yatt Road
Witney
OX28 1PA
Tel 01993 704421
Email davebarnby@aol.com