Some pictures of the anti-austerity rally on 25th March

On 25th March, several members of the Campaign for Independent Britain joined with representatives of EPAM, the United People’s Front, to protest about the EU-imposed austerity which is crippling Greece. The demonstration was held in front of the Greek embassy in London and was one of a number of similar demonstrations held in several European capital cities.

Here are a few pictures of the event.

If you would like to find out more about the extent of the suffering among the Greek people, former Ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos will be one of the speakers at the forthcoming CIB Annual Rally on 29th April. His subject will be:- Greece – the cradle of democracy with no democracy and EU-inflicted poverty

Anti-austerity demonstration in front of the Greek embassy.

PLEASE SUPPORT THE GREEK PEOPLE
In response to an appeal by EPAM,
the United People’s Front
THE CAMPAIGN FOR AN INDEPENDENT BRITAIN
(Cross- Party)
INVITES FELLOW PRO BREXIT CAMPAIGNERS
TO ASSEMBLE
at 12.00 noon Saturday 25 March
outside the Greek Embassy
1a Holland Park, London W11 3TP
(nearest Tube Station Holland Park)
IN SILENT PROTEST AT THE LOSS OF
BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS, IMPOSED BY THE EU’S AUSTERITY PROGRAMME,
as evidenced by the UN Human Rights Council Report,which proves DENIAL of
THE RIGHTS TO
WORK, SOCIAL SECURITY, FOOD,
HOUSING & HEALTH CARE.
LIVES ARE BEING LOST.
THE DEATH RATE HAS SHOT UP,
as a result of Euro Austerity &
COLLAPSE OF GREEK HEALTH SERVICE.

 Leonidas Chrysanthopolous writes:-

We are calling for the restoration of human rights to the people of Greece who have been deprived of them because of the austerity measures imposed by the EU and the IMF. Our requests are based on the report that was published in February of last year by the independent expert of the UN and submitted to the Human Rights council in Geneva. We have chosen that date since it is the National Day of Greece and we celebrate the proclamation of the war of independence against the Ottomans.

IMF Apologises for its treatment of Greece

This article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard appeared in last week’s Daily Telegraph. The IMF has admitted making a number of very serious mistakes. It “misled {its} own board, made a series of calamitous misjudgments in Greece, became euphoric cheerleaders for the euro project, ignored warning signs of impending crisis, and collectively failed to grasp an elemental concept of currency theory.”

Greece in particular has suffered enormously because of IMF misjudgments. For the last four years, its expectations of an improvement in the Greek economy have proved wildly optimistic. While it is good to see the organisation admitting its mistakes, it is hardly surprising that we are rather cynical about its projections of a downturn in the UK economy following the Brexit vote.

Brexit vote is about the supremacy of Parliament and nothing else

Why I am voting to leave the EU, by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

At heart, the Brexit vote is about the supremacy of Parliament. All else is noise

With sadness and tortured by doubts, I will cast my vote as an ordinary citizen for withdrawal from the European Union.

Let there be no illusion about the trauma of Brexit. Anybody who claims that Britain can lightly disengage after 43 years enmeshed in EU affairs is a charlatan, or a dreamer, or has little contact with the realities of global finance and geopolitics.

Stripped of distractions, it comes down to an elemental choice: whether to restore the full self-government of this nation, or to continue living under a higher supranational regime, ruled by a European Council that we do not elect in any meaningful sense, and that the British people can never remove, even when it persists in error.

For some of us – and we do not take our cue from the Leave campaign – it has nothing to do with payments into the EU budget. Whatever the sum, it is economically trivial, worth unfettered access to a giant market.

We are deciding whether to be guided by a Commission with quasi-executive powers that operates more like the priesthood of the 13th Century papacy than a modern civil service; and whether to submit to a European Court (ECJ) that claims sweeping supremacy, with no right of appeal.

It is whether you think the nation states of Europe are the only authentic fora of democracy, be it in this country, or Sweden, or the Netherlands, or France – where Nicholas Sarkozy has launched his presidential bid with an invocation of King Clovis and 1,500 years of Frankish unity.

My Europhile Greek friend Yanis Varoufakis and I both agree on one central point, that today’s EU is a deformed halfway house that nobody ever wanted. His solution is a great leap forward towards a United States of Europe with a genuine parliament holding an elected president to account. Though even he doubts his dream. “There is a virtue in heroic failure,” he said.

I do not think this is remotely possible, or would be desirable if it were, but it is not on offer anyway. Six years into the eurozone crisis there is no a flicker of fiscal union: no eurobonds, no Hamiltonian redemption fund, no pooling of debt, and no budget transfers. The banking union belies its name. Germany and the creditor states have dug in their heels.

Where we concur is that the EU as constructed is not only corrosive but ultimately dangerous, and that is the phase we have now reached as governing authority of crumbles across Europe.

The Project bleeds the lifeblood of the national institutions, but fails to replace them with anything lovable or legitimate at a European level. It draws away charisma, and destroys it. This is how democracies die.

“They are slowly drained of what makes them democratic, by a gradual process of internal decay and mounting indifference, until one suddenly notices that they have become something different, like the republican constitutions of Athens or Rome or the Italian city-states of the Renaissance,” says Lord Sumption of our Supreme Court.

Democracies deny internally by a slow process of constitutional erosion, like the City state of Athens

It is a quarter century since I co-wrote the leader for this newspaper on the Maastricht summit. We warned that Europe’s elites were embarking on a reckless experiment, piling Mount Pelion upon Mount Ossa with a vandal’s disregard for the cohesion of their ancient polities. We reluctantly supported John Major’s strategy of compromise, hoping that later events would “check the extremists and put the EC on a sane and realistic path.”

This did not happen, as Europe’s Donald Tusk confessed two weeks ago, rebuking the elites for seeking a “utopia without nation states” and over-reaching on every front. “Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that the citizens of Europe do not share our Euro-enthusiasm,” he said.

If there were more Tusks at the helm, one might still give the EU Project the benefit of the doubt. Hard experience – and five years at the coal face in Brussels – tells me others would seize triumphantly on a British decision to remain, deeming it submission from fear. They would pocket the vote. Besides, too much has happened that cannot be forgiven.

The EU crossed a fatal line when it smuggled through Lisbon Treaty, by executive cabal, after the text had already been rejected by French and Dutch voters in its earlier guise. It is one thing to advance the Project by stealth and the Monnet method, it is another to call a plebiscite and then to override the outcome.

Need I remind readers that our own government gave a “cast iron guarantee” to hold a referendum, but retreated claiming that Lisbon was tidying up exercise?  It was no such thing. As we warned then, it created a European supreme court with jurisdiction over all areas of EU policy, with a legally-binding Charter of Fundamental Rights that opens the door to anything.

Need I add too that Britain’s opt-out from the Charter under Protocol 30  – described as “absolutely clear” by Tony Blair on the floor of the Commons – has since been swept aside by the ECJ.

It is heartening that our judges have begun to resist Europe’s imperial court, threatening to defy any decision that clashes with the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, or the core texts of our inherited constitution. But this raises as many questions as it answers.

Nobody has ever been held to account for the design faults and hubris of the euro, or for the monetary and fiscal contraction that turned recession into depression, and led to levels of youth unemployment across a large arc of Europe that nobody would have thought possible or tolerable in a modern civilized society. The only people ever blamed are the victims.

There has been no truth and reconciliation commission for the greatest economic crime of modern times. We do not know who exactly was responsible for anything because power was exercised through a shadowy interplay of elites in Berlin, Frankfurt, Brussels, and Paris, and still is. Everything is deniable. All slips through the crack of oversight.

Nor have those in charge learned the lessons of EMU failure. The burden of adjustment still falls on South, without offsetting expansion in the North. It is a formula for deflation and hysteresis. That way lies yet another Lost Decade.

Has there ever been a proper airing of how the elected leaders of Greece and Italy were forced out of power and replaced by EU technocrats, perhaps not by coups d’état in a strict legal sense but certainly by skulduggery? On what authority did the European Central Bank write secret letters to the leaders of Spain and Italy in 2011 ordering detailed changes to labour and social law, and fiscal policy, holding a gun to their head on bond purchases?

What is so striking about these episodes is not that EU officials took such drastic decisions in the white heat of crisis, but that it was allowed to pass so easily. The EU’s missionary press corps turned a blind eye. The European Parliament closed ranks, the reflex of a nomenklatura.

While you could say that the euro is nothing to do with us, it obviously goes to the character of the EU: how it exercises power, and how far it will go in extremis.

You can certainly argue from realpolitik that monetary union is so flawed it will lurch from crisis to crisis until it ruptures,  in the next global downturn or the one after that, and will therefore compel the European elites to abandon their grand plans, so why not bide our time. But this to rely on conjecture.

You can equally argue that the high watermark of EU integration has passed: the Project is in irreversible decay.  We are a long way from the triumphalism of the millennium, when the EU was replicating the structures of the US federal government, with an EU intelligence cell and military staff in Brussels led by nine generals, and plans for a Euro-army of 100,000 troops, 400 aircraft and 100 ships to project global power.

You can argue too that the accession of thirteen new countries since 2004 – mostly from Eastern Europe – has changed the chemistry of the EU beyond recognition, making it ever less plausible to think of a centralized, close-knit, political union. Yet retreat is not the declared position of the Five Presidents’ Report, the chief blueprint for where they want the EU Project to go. Far from it.

In any case, even if we do not go forward, we may not go backwards either. By design is almost impossible by to repeal the 170,000 pages of the Acquis. Jean Monnet constructed the EU in such way that conquered ground can never be ceded back, as if were the battleground of Verdun.

We are trapped in a ‘bad equilibrium’, leaving us in permanent friction with Brussels. It is like walking forever with a stone in your shoe.

But if we opt to leave, let us not delude ourselves. Personally, I think the economics of Brexit are neutral, and possibly a net plus over twenty years if executed with skill. But it is nothing more than an anthropological guess, just as the Treasury is guessing with its cherry-picked variables.

We are compelled to make our choice at a treacherous moment, when our current account deficit has reached 7pc of GDP, the worst in peace-time since records began in 1772 under George III. We require constant inflows of foreign capital to keep the game going, and are therefore vulnerable to a sterling crisis if foreigners lose confidence.

The original article appeared in today’s Daily Telegraph

Greek worries return as support grows for referendums elsewhere in the EU

Compared with the high drama of last year when Yannis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister and Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the President of the Euro group, came close to a punch-up at a Eurozone ministers’ meeting in the run-up to a deal over the country’s debt,  Greece has not been hitting the headlines to anything like the same degree – yet.

However, its intractable debt problem has not gone away. On the face of it, things look a bit better. Compared with the corresponding period in 2015, more tax has been collected while governemt expenditure has not risen very much. The country is therefore running a healthy fiscal surplus.

But at what cost? The anti-austerity Syriza-led government of Alexis Tsipras has been utterly humiliated. A report in the Guardian paints a bleak picture of the mood in the country after the Greek Parliament approved the toughest austerity measures to date – €5.4 billion in savings, meaning pension cuts and further strains on the already creaking Greek health service. Greek government debt still stood at a whopping 176.9% of GDP at the end of 2015, slightly down on 180.1% a year earlier, but still unsustainably high in spite of years of punishing austerity measures.  ““It can’t go on for ever,” said Stergiou, a student interviewed by the Guardian’s reporter. “Greeks are running out of stamina, they are running out of endurance.”

This speech by Steven Woolfe MEP on the same subject is worth listening to. The statistics he spells out are quite frightening.  His proposal, that Greece should leave the EU, may sound far-fetched, but in view of the widespread public anger that a party elected on a ticket of hope has now become as unpoplar as its predecessors, nothing is impossible.

Greece isn’t alone with its problems. A Maltese bank, Nemea Bank, has been placed in administration. Admittedly, it is only one of 24 banks in operation in this small country, but nonetheless a further sign that beneath positive money figures for the Eurozone as a whole, all is not well in several peripheral countries.

Furthermore, it’s not only people in financially troubled countries who are becoming increasingly unhappy with the EU. David Cameron’s decision to call a referendum on UK membership has let a very unwelcome cat out of the bag as far as the EU is concerned. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard analyses a MORI opinion poll showing how widespread the demand for similar referendums is becoming in other countries. Over 50% of the electorate in both France and Italy support such a move and were the Italians to agree to such a referendum, it could be quite a close run thing.

What is more, only a minority of those surveyed expected the UK economy to suffer if we left.

The thought of a “domino effect” has always worried the EU’s élite. However, the response of Jean- Claude Juncker, the Commission President, indicates just how out of touch these people are from the real world.  With David Cameron clearly in mind, he said “Too many politicians are listening exclusively to their national opinion. And if you are listening to your national opinion you are not developing what should be a common European sense and a feeling of the need to put together efforts. We have too many part-time Europeans.” More Europe has always been the EU’s usual answer to any problems. Even Mats Persson, the  former director of Open Europe who is now advising  David Cameron recongises the folly of this approach. “If European voters always face the choice between ‘more Europe’ and ‘no Europe’, then “sooner or later, they will pick the latter”, he said.

Lord Lawson said a while ago that the EU was past its “sell-by date”. One of the many government scare stories currently doing the rounds is that Brexit would pose problems for the EU. However, if Lord Lawson is correct, it could in fact create an opportunity. The EU has no divine right to eternal life. If withdrawal precipitates its demise in a piecemeal but orderly way, this may be preferable to the sort of sudden collapse that marked the end of Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union.  If we believe that our country deserves something better than miserable subjection to an unelected supranational bureaucracy, why should not our European neighbours seek a better future too?

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