BUSINESS AS USUAL IS NOT AN OPTION!

Following the result today of the Scottish Referendum – 55.3% against Independence on an 84.6% turnout – the government has reiterated its commitment to bringing forward draft legislation on more devolution for Scotland in January. If the government and the Labour opposition think that all that’s needed is transfer of some modest tax raising powers for Scotland and some restriction on Scottish MPs voting on English matters where these have been devolved to Scotland, they will be sadly disappointed. The list of constitutional and fiscal matters in the UK that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency is legion. Here are just a few of them:

• The EU. Powers continue to drain away to the unelected European Commission. The latest example of this is the secret negotiations now under way on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTiP) which, when signed up to by the EU, will strip elected governments of the power to resist further privatisation of our public services.

• The unrepresentative nature of the Westminster Parliament. The House of Lords is a retirement home for clapped out politicians. The House of Commons is a sham of democracy, elected every five years (who agreed to that?) on a derisory turnout, peopled by over-paid party hacks and appointees who are elected on the strength of a barrage of propaganda from the capitalist press and a cowed BBC.

• Our enfeebled local government democracy. It’s stripped of revenue raising powers and run by over-paid apparatchiks. The relatively more democratic model provided by the Committee System is opposed by the large parties as it would not support the big salaries for councillors aproportion of which is diverted to financing future elections.

• The absence of democratic control of the NHS which is being privatised piece by piece and which, for us locally, is threatening the existence of Croydon University Hospital.

• The continuing attacks on trade union right and the almost total absence of workplace democracy. The government is even threatening to make illegal strikes and other industrial action that fails to secure a workplace majority of those entitled to vote. Even the decisive vote of No in the Scottish referendum only attained a 46.8% majority – i.e. it would have been inadequate for industrial action.

These and many other issues including education, housing and climate change will be discussed at the inaugural meeting of the Croydon Assembly convened by Croydon TUC on 15 November at Ruskin House, 23 Coombe Road, Croydon CR0 1BD. To register your place, go to http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/croydon-assembly-tickets-9351064285?aff=eac2 .

A Progresssive Alternative to the EU

The debate on the left about the merits of continued membership of the European Union is often clouded by considerable naivety about the scope to reform the EU from within and shift it in a more progressive direction. The chimera of a ‘Social Europe’, promoted in the 1980s by Jacques Delors, then President of the EU Commission, did much to foster this confusion. But we should be under no illusions about the possibility of changing the EU into an organisation defined by social justice and fairness. The EU is using the financial crisis to intervene ever more decisively in the economies of member states, in favour of monopoly capital and the wealthy and to the detriment of ordinary people.

The recent speech by European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, in which he outlined his vision for a federal Europe, with full fiscal and political union to be delivered via a new EU Treaty, is simply the latest step in the forced march towards a near-total loss of national sovereignty over internal economic affairs.

I wonder if part of the problem when discussing these issues in progressive circles rests with the confusion in some people’s minds between a legitimate sense of internationalism and interest in European culture on the one hand and a failure to recognise the capitalist underpinning of the EU on the other; allied with a degree of nervousness about being associated with the reactionary, knee-jerk xenophobia and chauvinism of UKIP and others on the right.

But there are sound, progressive reasons for wanting to leave the EU and reshape our economy on the lines of the People’s Charter. Samir Amin has just written a thoughtful article in Monthy Review, which is a useful contribution to the debate, available at:

http://monthlyreview.org/2012/09/01/implosion-of-the-european-system

And, of course, if you haven’t read it already, do get hold of a copy (now updated) of John Foster’s pamphlet, ‘The European Union: for the Monopolies, against the People’, available from Party HQ, for an excellent discussion of the history of the EU and the implications of continued membership.

Chris Guiton