Sunday, 18 October 2015

Nothing pacifies resistance like an EU entitlement

SLATUKIP posts the above on Twitter. Presumably, they are in favour of such EU measures. I don't know what motivates Ukip to vote against such measures, but were I an MEP, I think I would as well.

Examining some of my own rhetoric on EU measures, I have been known to say that the EU adopts international codes and laws verbatim. To be more precise, the EU doesn't even copy such measures into its regulations. It writes regulations that refer to ILO and IMO codes, conventions and resolutions by name and serial number. Thus any international measure that creates amendments to ILO measures does, by default, amend EU regulation. We can see one such example here.

The ILO is really the forum where it is important to have our voices heard because its conventions and resolutions are legally binding - where there is no parliament and the UK has only a partial proxy vote with no outright veto. The conventions are put together through a process of negotiation between NGOs, unions and employers associations as well as corporates, coalitions, trade blocs and nation states.

While we have argued that there can never realistically be an injection of true democracy at this level, some is better than none. For that we would have to be out of the EU in order to veto. The left assume that any such power of veto would mean those howwid Tories might block measures that grant us further rights. It may amuse some to learn that the EU blocked ILO measures on labour rights for Women working underground in mines - on the basis of... gender equality! Can't have different rules!

But there is more important point here. The conventions and resolutions are hammered out through a process of negotiation and lobbying, where corporates with highly paid specialist lawyers can and do muzzle the ILO when it comes to agreeing violations of fundamental rights, where otherwise the investigations would feed back into further resolutions. In the context of the above SLATUKIP meme, I will bet that the EUs own resolutions can be traced to an ILO initiative.

The assumption of the left and those like SLATUKIP is that because the gesture politics of the EU are wholesome in intent means that are not corrupted and corruptible. If anything such institutions serve as a safety valve mechanism to prevent workers mobilising. The international matrix of lawmakers and law takers have made us passive receivers of rights. That's a bad thing.

It's true that were we to fully repatriate all such lawmaking from the EU, any government could in theory revoke certain rights and protections. As someone who thinks the UK labour market could be liberalised somewhat, I wouldn't especially mind, but supposing there are protections we did want to keep. We would have to form effective unions and use our votes and demand those rights. We would have to fight for them. And that's no bad thing.

The way in which the EU has turned itself into a benevolent benefactor of the works is how it has bought loyalty with the crumbs from their table and pacified our own unions and quelled any genuine grassroots labour movement. That's why the Labour party is a shadow of its former self.

The principle here is that those rights which are gifted by the international elites can just as easily be revoked without any democratic recourse, usually without a mention in the media since the media is only dimly aware that strata of lawmaking exists. Not even the EU could stop it even if it noticed! The alternative is that we could lose our rights were we to repatriate such law making powers, but those rights which are fought for rather than gifted from above are not so easily taken away.

In fact, I would say that it's not just this strata of law that has made us passive recipients of law and protections, it is most of them and I would say this is a key dynamic in reduced participation in democracy. Why fight for rights when you can just wait by the fax machine to see what the anointed ones have granted us?

If we want a revitalised democracy, then we must have real power. The power to mobilise and the power to affect our own laws. To delegate to the EU and the international stage is to delegate our responsibilities as citizens in a democracy.

Indeed when Juncker made his speech to the world's press over the Greek bailout, which the left called "harsh austerity", Juncker said "There are, as I said, no wage cuts in this package. This was never, never ever on the table. What is on the table is a proposal to modernise the wage grid of the public sector. And, for the private sector, we have agreed to review collective bargaining practices. Our only request has been that this should be done in line with the best European practices in cooperation with the institutions and ILO which are the specialists when it comes to this question."

So there is a schism here. If the EU as an instrument of the ILO is some benevolent protector of rights, the logically it does not follow that the EU imposes harsh austerity on Greeks. It used to be that the left would unite and fight for rights and mobilise to threaten those governments that would take them away. Now it seems they are happy to be passive receivers of rights in place of democratic process, from a global organisation that is very much in the pockets of the lawyers and their corporate paymasters.

There seems to be a fear that were we to have democratic control then we could possibly lose those rights we have. If that be the case then that is our own fault for allowing ourselves to be so passive and neglected our duty of vigilance. But I don't think that would be the case. Britain has been at the very front lines of the battle for workers rights throughout history and even our cosseted middle classes would rise up were their paid holidays in any way threatened.

The fringe entitlements that the EU bestows upon us would probably be filtered out due to lack of grassroots demand. That in itself creates a better culture in that there is give and take between employer and employee and that not every single transaction is proscribed by the dead hand of authority. What falls between the cracks is ours to fight for.

We cannot say what motivates Ukip in voting down such measures. I expect it's born of some half understood principle that the EU has no mandate in this regard whether the laws are wholesome or not. In that I would probably find cause to agree with Ukip. Democracy means that sometimes rights are lost as well as won. It seems the modern left is happy to dispense with democracy because they don't trust the people. That is a somewhat misanthropic worldview. For sure, democracy means having to fight to maintain our rights, but in the end, we are lost without it.

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