The democratic deficit
Scotland and its democracy I know about, studied it, lived and breathed it all my life, but I can’t claim to be anything close to an expert in the minutiae of, say, Scottish law. The complexities of the law as it affects Scotland’s ambitions and endeavours is for proven specialists to expound. To tackle every subject as if an expert is a trap for the hubristic. Consequently, I open debate on withdrawal from the European Union with trepidation.
My first reaction to leaving Europe, ‘Brexit’, is, anything reviled by the Tory party, supported by odious Ukip, must be beneficial for the rest of us, in some way they dislike.
A declaration: I am a European
I have no doubt Scots feel as I do, a European, at home in Italy as much as in Spain.
Were we never to travel to Europe, nor outside Scotland, we cannot help but see ourselves surrounded by European cultural influences, in architecture, money systems, design, art, music, and our language. I look at red pantile roofs in Scotland and know we traded with Spain for hundreds of years. I love the art of Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and Goya. I know our own Scottish painters lived a spell in Paris and Spain. I like Italian cars. I eat at Italian restaurants. I work with Polish craftsmen. I listen to German classical music. Our English cousins are, like us, all the richer for European influence on their culture. I look at St Paul’s Cathedral knowing Sir Christopher Wren designed it as a miniature Vatican.
I can only speak for myself, but I find the Tory party, its concocted neo-con ideology, its class system, it’s suspicion of anything ‘foreign’, repulsive, anti-life.
Nevertheless, listening to repetition of ‘unaccountable EU bureaucrats’ has you wonder if there’s some truth in what the ‘Brexit’ brigade argue.
Let’s put the first lie to rest
Contrary to the dross tossed at us by Brexit enthusiasts in the hope we’re deaf as well as dumb, we do elect representatives to the EU. Those are the MEPs whose name we don’t know, and who always poll low attendance figures at European Parliament election times. That’s how much we care about European democracy, thus giving Europhobes a free hand.
What we don’t elect are the many bureaucrats that serve them, rather in the same way we don’t elect the House of Lords which rules over Scotland and the UK, or the civil service which shows itself ready to plot against Scotland’s legitimate self-determination.
But as one alert reader points out: “It should be noted that the unelected piece of the EU is the Commissioners. However, unlike the members of the House of Lords they go through a process which includes review by MEPs. How many people know what that is?”
Tories say they dislike Brussels bureaucrats composing new regulations and laws on the basis of group political debate and direction. They also don’t like the House of Lords when that body of drastically out-of-touch bletherers defy a vote of the House of Commons.
Above all, they despise the electorate – us – imposing our will, full stop.
As for the EC stamping all over ‘our’ democratic rights, on many of the really big issues, such as the admission of Turkey, Britain can exercise a veto. This is a massive protection. And even where there is qualified majority voting, EU records show that Britain has been outvoted in only 2% of cases since 1999.
Was the 1707 Treaty not for shared democracy?
The Treaty of 1707 between Scotland and England removed democratic rights wholesale.
What it brought was a great wealth for a small number during the years of the British Empire, when we acted as England’s ambassadors and middle management. It also furnished Scottish timber for England’s war ships felled from our great forests. In many respects England is still at war with Europe, psychologically incapable of being at peace with anybody who won’t cheer an English cricket team.
Today we have Tories embroiled in the self-same battle they inflicted on each other when it was first proposed to join the European Community. On its inception a cohesive Europe allowed for the revitalisation of war-broken nations and the resurgence of national cultures. (Scotland did not benefit directly, being considered a ‘province’ of England.)
The Union was sold to us by Edward Heath as an attainable ideal – peaceful co-existence, renewal, cosmopolitanism, no borders, sharing scientific enquiry, medical advances, common institutions, and equal prosperity. That’s what I see as its obvious benefits. Europe has been spectacularly successful as a peaceful continent – internally.
What are Europe’s weaknesses?
Europe’s two weakness are financial. The Euro, though a single currency is a sound practical ideal at first successful, it was established too early in the Union’s framework. And second, nations within the Union have embraced harsh neo-liberal economics imported from, and imposed by, the USA.
Both weakness can be reversed, indeed are getting addressed in the shape of the formation of a new political party with that goal in mind, (which I discuss later) but neither problem, in my view, demands withdrawal from Europe, or the extreme solution, the inherently racist argument, disintegration of the European Community.
That said, it’s EU millions that are being used to help refugees fleeing from war torn, drought ridden Syria. We could not intervene in this human tragedy without group unity.
How did Britain evolve separate from Europe?
Britain, the group of nations we know today, evolved through the centuries as political solutions to hold down and contain acquisitive rivalries between tribes and classes, the monarchy constantly at odds with the masses, barons constantly at war with each other, and trading allegiance with the Crown, money merchants, shipping merchants, and in the late 19th century, trade unions.
As an island our political ideals remained reasonably free of interference from European states, but after World War II we had to accept a large loan from the USA, the Marshal Plan. Greece got nothing because it was seen as too left-wing. It effectively tied us to USA foreign policies, explained away by our Westminster master as ‘ the special relationship’.
What is the genesis of the EU?
The European Union had a different genesis from Britain’s. It was a gathering of industrialists, steel, coal, nuclear power, car manufacturers, and the like who got together to protect their industries and redistribute their profits through their own approved bureaucracy. In other words, like the 1707 Treaty, the construction of the EU began as a convenient trading organisation. Again, like the infamous betrayal of Scotland’s sovereignty by the power elite of the day, the European groups that sat around the negotiation table disdained any notion of genuine people power.
Politicians were easily swayed to support this coalition of European manufacturers, to see it as profitable for them, even when it was not good for the prosperity of their respective populations. One planned result of this cosy grouping was to see Fiat, Italy’s national car company, struggle to survive, while German car companies thrived.
Another result of a self-serving group of industrialists was, when a nation’s economy weakened severe austerity was the answer – punish the electorate. Banks have debts? Transfer those debts onto the shoulders of the taxpayers. It’s stunningly ironic that the one nation wanting out of the EU is the very one pursuing European monetary solutions brutally, to the enth degree, EU style – a bankrupt dogma, empirically and practically.
The Tory party hates the Euro
Those EU member states such as Britain that refused to use the Euro as currency, thinking they were safe from inflation and capitalism’s hard knocks, were shocked to find themselves hit by Europe’s slide into negative growth. Not using the Euro is no protection against recession in a nearby state with whom you trade.
We did our best to hook up with the big boys for safety, the USA and China. Europe, embracing neo-liberal economics, followed suit. Now we discover we are at the mercy of greater anti-democratic forces than we ever envisaged in the form of USA extreme capitalism for the wealthy few, and China’s lurch into deficit.
Suddenly, the Tory government has gotten all sniffy at the thought it might have to give up some sovereignty as part of the EU, a situation fine when the USA calls the shots and lends us a few dozen nuclear warheads, telling us who we must consider our enemies of the day. Sharing a small degree of sovereignty with Scotland is also anathema to the Tory party, and its deputy party, Labour.
Why would they sell Brexit as freedom released of its chains when their entire ideology is one of keeping nations supine, and populations docile?
Where do I stand?
I vote to stay in Europe. I regard European unity as a great advance.
Muddying the water
If you dismiss the lies, the rhetoric, and the alarmist statements there really is only one decision. We should stay in. We should join with other nations to get rid of autocratic processes that are unacceptable, and supplant them with real democracy. The real enemy of the EU are the banks in the grip of neoliberal economics: the European Bank, and IMF.
I regard it a little like independence regained – keeping the Union of the Crowns. It might repulse republicans but it achieves the main goal, and provides England with a neighbour state that feels on equal terms, one in the those of creating real democracy at work. Thereafter, you argue and vote to make Scotland a better society.
If your roof develops a leak, or the electrical system becomes out of date and lethal, you renew them when you can. You don’t torch the house. It’s your home and your wealth.
When we joined the EU we knew we were giving up a small amount of sovereignty in return for all the benefits of membership, exactly the same relationship an independent Scotland was prepared to accept in having the Bank of England (actually the UK’s bank) as Scotland’s bank of last resort.
Surely we can reconcile criticisms of Brussels with our natural identification with European people and their culture?
Leaving the EU is less complicated than staying, or is it?
Those who say leaving the EU is a long complicated process are right. And we can watch Westminster reverse all the liberal gains we fought for. However, there is a solution to concerns of loss of hegemony, the one power elites resist as soon as the idea is broached because their authoritarian mentality won’t countenance it.
In line with Scotland’s neo-Enlightenment, let’s call it a surge of democracy, orchestrated by Europeans seeking to regain control over their lives from unaccountable technocrats, and complicit politicians, the ones who said Scotland would find it near impossible to be a member of the EU when independent.
Bar a few King and Country adherents in the 1922 Committee, and screaming unionists thugs that burn Saltire flags, (aided by the media elite who block a Scottish-international news programme) Tories and Labour were quite content to work with EU institutions they knew were opaque, or corporation biased, until Europe met a mass of fleeing refugees from wars it began and encouraged.
To various degrees depending on which venal politician you talk to, the English government want taller fences, more border controls, forms of ethnic cleansing, unconstrained xenophobia, and all in the name of ‘protecting the British people.’
How can individuals resist more loss of democracy?
Stand up and be counted.
Join the SNP or another political party that actually likes Europeans. Agitate for genuine democracy. Demand change within the EU. It has a parliament we can use, after all.
To be blunt –
Nicola Sturgeon may be right in predicting an increased demand for a second Referendum if we are forced out of the European community. Can you imagine Scotland’s chances for self-determination with the UK out of Europe, the Tories in power another twenty years, and Donald Trump in the Whitehouse?
Alarmed? Try terrified.
There is a meeting of like-minds in Berlin. It is to establish a new movement for genuine freedom: Democracy in Europe Movement 2025. The organisers, eminent economist, Yanis Varoufakis a leading exponent among them, are “united by different cultures, languages, accents, political party affiliations, ideologies, skin colours, gender identities, faiths and conceptions of the good society.”
The principles of the movement are summarised as follows:
“One simple, radical idea is our motivating force: to democratise the EU in the knowledge that it will otherwise disintegrate at a terrible cost to all. Our immediate priority is full transparency in decision-making (live-streaming of European councils, Ecofin and Eurogroup meetings; full disclosure of trade negotiations; ECB minutes, et cetera) and the urgent redeployment of existing EU institutions in the pursuit of policies that genuinely address the crises of debt, banking, inadequate investment, rising poverty and migration.
Our medium-term goal is to convene a constitutional assembly where Europeans will deliberate on how to bring forward, by 2025, a fully fledged European democracy, featuring a sovereign parliament that respects national self-determination and shares power with national parliaments, regional assemblies and municipal councils.”
You can hear the right-wing led by the reflex hatred of the Telegraph newspaper, followed by MI5 employed television pundits, “What a pile of … Utopian idealism!”
What are their ambitions but a Utopian dream to corner wealth, in perpetuity?