Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The crisis behind the Tory revolt

When more than a quarter of a governing party’s MPs defy instructions and vote against their own prime minister, you sense the political storm clouds are gathering over Westminster

In fact, but for the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats coming to David Cameron’s rescue, the government would have been defeated on the motion for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

What last night’s vote confirms is that the Coalition is led by two men who lack the support of their own parties because deputy prime minister Clegg hardly commands total backing either.

Cameron, a one-nation, free-market Tory was defied by a parliamentary party much further to the right who lost their standard bearer when Liam Fox, the disgraced defence secretary, was forced from office.

The right’s disdain for Cameron is so visceral, many wouldn’t care if the government fell and they found themselves a new leader. They may yet get their wish.

An unstable government, which was propelled into office by state officials when last year’s election produced a stalemate, is the reflection in politics of the equally volatile economic and financial crisis that has rocked Europe in particular.

Cameron and his cabinet know that the British economy’s fate is interdependent with what happens in the 17 eurozone countries within the EU. That’s why they resisted the referendum call, even if in their hearts of hearts they may agree with it.

When Greece formally defaults on its unrepayable foreign debt, as it is certain to do, the impact on Europe’s banks will be totally unpredictable. That’s the problem EU leaders are struggling with day after day, without convincing the markets they are getting anywhere.

So far they’ve come up with a fund of about €100 billion to bail out the banks that will be hit by a Greek default. Some observers say that a sum ten times that amount – i.e. €1 trillion – is the minimum required to provide temporary relief because countries like Italy and Spain are next in the firing line.

We should not underestimate the historic nature of the failure of the “European project”. It was designed to avoid a repeat of the two world wars of the 20th century by bringing different nations under one common umbrella.

Economic integration was to be followed by political integration. In this way, economic crisis would be a thing of the past – as would free-for-all market competition. It has not turned out like that.

Since the mid-1990s, changed economic conditions have driven the market into the heart of the EU, which consequently became a regional arm of corporate-driven globalisation. What has emerged is a bureaucratic, often secretive, quite undemocratic EU run in the interests of capital and finance.

The Tory right are not entirely off target in their criticisms of the EU – except their alternative – to raise the Union Jack, batten down the hatches and make sure foreigners get no further than Calais – is hopelessly reactionary. Their opposition to the EU is entirely nationalist, cloaked with fake concerns about democracy and parliamentary sovereignty.

Whether it is the EU crypto-state or the British version, real sovereignty actually lies with a network of probably no more than 150 “tightly-knit” corporations, according to complex systems theorists whose ground-breaking study was published recently.

They rule through political and other proxies at national state, European and global levels (the World Trade Organisation, for example). This corporate-state partnership is beyond reform. It is the problem and not part of the solution.

A network of democratically-run People’s Assemblies has to create a sovereign power in its place and institute a new dawn of co-ownership, self-management and mass involvement. It’s the best way to deal with the rising tide of nationalism that last night’s vote expressed.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

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