Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cameron EU Speech Flops


This week in the House of Commons, and later at the Global Elite gathering at Davos, In Switzerland, Brit Premier, David Cameron, made his long-awaited public statement on Britain's position in the EU and his vision of the British Conservative Party way of pursuing it in the future.

His speech committing the Conservative Party to a "IN-OUT" referendum on EU membership in 2017, had been postponed for a week, supposedly due to the hostage crisis in Algeria. But,In fact, it was a speech that had been brewing for years, ever since  his taking over leadership of the Tories, for fear that it would rip the party apart. In the end, it is primarily the fact that the Tories are already being pulled apart by  more rabidly expressed opposing positions on the EU  in recent times that forced his hand. This was well demonstrated by the hoots and hollers of the Tory Neanderthals on the back benches of the Commons chamber.

The "Financial Times" Philip Stevens, commented that this was “politics on a tightrope”, motivated by Cameron’s hope that his commitment to a referendum would “forestall a historic split in his own party comparable to its 19th century ruptures over the Corn Laws and imperial trade preferences in the early 20th”. Raucous support from the back-benches didn't hide the dismay in other quarters at Cameron's guff. The Lib-Dem half of the coalition government at Westminster attacked the speech and disclaimed support for it.

More worryingly for Cameron, and the British ruling class as a whole, has been condemnation of the prospect of a British referendum by other EU members and, more especially, by  President Obama in Washington. Although the referendum is not scheduled for another four years and is dependent on the Tories winning the 2015 general election, a dim prospect at the moment with the Tories on only 33% compared with Labour on 39%, Cameron has been attacked for injecting further uncertainty into the European project when it is already in crisis. Philip Gordon, US assistant secretary of state for European affairs, publicly made clear Washington’s displeasure recently when he stressed that Britain’s continued membership of the EU was “in the American interest”.

Cameron’s remarks were intended to try and appease constituencies none of which can be described as progressive; the back-bench Tory Eurosceptics and the UK Independence Party,  who have been yapping more loudly at Cameron's heels since he became Prime Minister, each of which just as reactionary as the other. To his EU partners, Washington and a substantial section of British and international  big business opposed to such a risky move, Cameron pledged that in such a referendum he would campaign for British membership with all his “heart and soul”, a mealy mouthed pledge which went down like a lead balloon.

Cameron presented his move as a means of saving the European project, rather than damning it. Europe’s crisis, he stated, stemmed from its lack of competitiveness and flexibility in the “new global race of nations” now underway, and the challenge posed by the “surging economies in the east and south”.

"With “Europe’s share of world output … projected to fall by almost a third in the next two decades”, Cameron condemned “complex rules restricting our labour markets” and “excessive regulation” on business as “self-inflicted” wounds. Cameron cited German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s earlier pronouncement that Europe’s system of welfare and social provision is unsustainable and has to go.

His proposals essentially consist of a demand that the austerity measures that have created a social catastrophe in Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy  and elsewhere must be extended and deepened across the continent, in line with the levelling down of wages and working conditions to the levels of sweatshop Asia.

This is why that, even while demanding a “loosening” of the EU so as to protect the City of London, the citadel of British Finance Capital, Cameron supports further fiscal and political consolidation within the Euro zone. He claimed that the Euro zone countries needed “the right governance and structures to secure a successful currency for the long term”— that is; it must have the economic and political mechanisms in place to enforce the diktats of finance capital, while stressing that Britain had no intention of adopting the Euro-currency itself.

On the continuing decimation of the living standards of the working class across the EU, Cameron, the EU, Washington and Monopoly Capital are all united. All of which makes Cameron’s posing as the defender of “democratic accountability and consent” hypocritical cant. Cameron hypocritically referenced “growing frustration” with the EU across the continent that has led to “demonstrations on the streets of Athens, Madrid and Rome” In Britain too, he said, “democratic consent for the EU … is now wafer-thin”. Whereas, democratic consent for the vicious austerity programs being enforced across Europe by Cameron, Merkel, Draghi, Barosso and Rumpoy doesn't exist at all.

But, Cameron’s proposed referendum has nothing to do with establishing the democratic right of working people to oppose and defeat the vicious austerity that has brought millions onto the streets. The opposite is the case. He, with the others, wants to consolidate a right-wing bloc pledged to even more draconian economic measures, in which the interests of Finance Capital, both domestic and foreign are protected while abolishing the remaining legal rights of ordinary workers. Hence his attack on legislation limiting working hours.
This is the kind of  EU to which Cameron is committed. While various European foreign ministers criticised Cameron’s speech, it was not on its substance that they did so, but, for his lack of a united approach with the EU -Wall St. elite and for opening up another nest of worms with his dodgy referendum pledge.

Referring to Cameron’s demand to renegotiate the terms of EU membership, German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, said that “cherry picking was not an option” while his French equivalent Laurent Fabius complained, “If you join a football club, you can’t say you want to play rugby.” Merkel, however, said that Berlin would listen to “British wishes” over EU membership in the hope of finding a “fair compromise”. Only on Tuesday, Merkel and French President, Francois Hollande, had vowed to speed up Euro zone integration and promote European "competitiveness" (code for low wages) in terms similar to Cameron’s. Quoted on the 50th anniversary of the Franco-German Alliance, both stressed the need for “budget discipline” and "labour reforms", more coded language for the further reduction of workers' rights throughout the EU.

Cameron did succeed in creating a dilemma for the British Labour Party, whose leader, Ed Milliband, opposed the idea of the referendum but had no concrete proposals to substitute for the austerity mania currently sweeping Europe. This, itself, is indicative of the inability of European Social Democracy as a whole, including the Irish Labour Party here, of mounting any kind of challenge to the rampage of neo-liberalism led by Wall Street and its cronies in London and Frankfurt. The Global Financial Elite don't need Social Democracy anymore to act as a semblance of democracy and social justice in the Capitalist World. They have decided to use the economic crisis brought on by their own insatiable greed and power mania to gut the organised workers' movement and abolish what has been described as the "European social model" in short order. There is only one reply to this audacious power-grab; massive popular resistance and internationalist solidarity of the working class everywhere.

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 Áth Cliath/Dublin
Eanáir/January 27 2013

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