What is the Single Market?

What is the Single Market?

corbyn and starmer

Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn

The announcement over the weekend from Keir Starmer has caused controversy over the position that Labour and the trade union movement should take towards Brexit, the Single Market and the European Union. This is a key question for the left – we are publishing this article from Hannah Sell, deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party, originally carried in the current issue of The Socialist newspaper. In this article Hannah spells out the socialist analysis of the EU and Brexit, and importantly the policies and programme that we think need to be fought for.


The Single Market: a neo-liberal tool of the bosses 

Fight for a socialist Brexit

Theresa May’s four-week holiday is drawing to a close. She is returning to an autumn of watching her party tear itself apart over the EU. Following her humiliating general election campaign she really is a ‘dead prime minister walking‘; powerless to be more than a passive bystander in the Tories’ civil war.

According to the capitalist media the only Brexit choices on offer are the ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ visions offered by the two wings of the Tory Party. Unfortunately, many leaders of the workers’ movement, including the leadership of the TUC, also paint the issue in the same terms: supporting the ‘soft Brexit’ wing.

None of the variants of Brexit on offer from the Tory Party, however, are in the interests of working and middle class people.

Reactionaries

The right-wing nationalist ‘hard Brexiteers’ represent the view of a small minority of the British capitalist class, if even that. They are full of utopian dreams of a return to the days when Britain was the world’s biggest imperialist power, and of resentment at their nation’s inexorable decline.

Their growing dominance in the Tory party, exacerbated by the collapse of a section of Ukip into their ranks, means that the Tories can no longer be relied on by the capitalist class to act in their interests. The idea, however remote, that the ultra-reactionary toff and ‘MP for the eighteenth century’ Jacob Rees-Mogg could become leader of the Tory Party sums up the dire state it is in.

It is clear that the nationalist ‘little Englander’ Tories offer no way forward, but nor does the ‘George Osborne’ wing. It is criminal to suggest, as Polly Toynbee has in the pages of the Guardian, that we should be looking to the likes of Osborne, responsible as chancellor for inflicting the worst austerity since World War Two, for a Brexit in the interests of the majority.

Osborne and his ilk represent the view of the majority of the capitalist class in Britain, which would prefer no Brexit, and are fighting for as ‘soft’ a Brexit as possible.

They aim to remain within the single market and the customs union, if not in name at least in substance.

They are driven by what is in the best interests of their system. In essence the EU is an agreement between the different capitalist classes of Europe in order to create the largest possible market.

The different national capitalist classes within it remain in competition with each other but cooperate in order to maximise their profits.

For the weaker economies of Europe – above all Greece – it has meant virtual neocolonial exploitation by the stronger powers.

Inevitably, since the start of the global economic crisis in 2009, there has been a rise in national tensions within the EU which will, at a certain stage, lead to a fracturing of the Euro and major crisis within the EU. Nonetheless, the majority of Britain’s capitalists think they can make fatter profits inside the EU than outside.

It is ludicrous to claim, as the Blairite Labour MP Chuka Umunna has, that the single market is, “uniquely, a framework of rules that protects people from the worst excesses of globalisation and unfettered capitalism.” It certainly doesn’t protect those fleeing war in the Middle East and largely kept outside of the borders of ‘Fortress Europe’; horrendously often left to drown in the Mediterranean.

But nor does it protect those already inside the EU’s borders from the ‘worst excesses’ of capitalism. On the contrary, the institutions of the EU have inflicted terrible hardship on the workers of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and elsewhere.

The pro-EU majority of the capitalist class currently has no party they can rely on to act in their interests. Instead there are politicians in all the major parties, not least the right wing of Labour, collaborating together to try and defend the interests of the capitalist elite.

According to the Financial Times, before parliament shut for the summer they came together in a meeting in the office of Blairite MP Chuka Umunna. Also present were Anna Soubry from the Tories, Stephen Gethins from the SNP, Jonathan Edwards from Plaid Cymru and Jo Swinson from the Liberal Democrats.

This alliance is not only about Brexit. It is also part of a conscious attempt to undermine Corbyn and help to prevent something that the capitalist elite fear even more than a ‘hard Brexit’ – a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government. Also over the summer rumours have abounded of a new supposedly ‘centrist’ party being formed for the same reasons. This may not seem to be posed immediately, but is inherent in the situation.

It is naïve for shadow chancellor John McDonnell to suggest, as he appeared to in the Guardian on 19 August, that it is no longer necessary to push for urgent constitutional changes to democratise the Labour Party because, “the nature of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) has changed”.

Measures like mandatory reselectionrestoring trade union rights within Labour and readmittance of expelled socialists are more urgently needed than ever. Unfortunately, the majority of the PLP remain pro-capitalist and opposed to Jeremy Corbyn, even if his popularity means that some of them are currently holding back from saying so openly. Instead they are mobilising against him on the issue of a ‘soft’ Brexit.

It is urgent that Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and the workers’ movement launch a major campaign – not for a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit – but for an internationalist Brexit that is in the interests of the working and middle class, both in Britain and across Europe. Otherwise it is inevitable that the different wings of the capitalist class will succeed in confusing and dividing working class people.

Our starting point is the diametrical opposite of the starting point for all sides of the Tory Party: we have to support what benefits working class people and cements their unity, and to implacably oppose that which undermines it.

Capitalist ‘freedom’

What attitude does that mean taking to the single market? The single market finally came into being in 1993, following negotiations that began with the 1986 Single European Act; something that Maggie Thatcher claimed credit for initiating!

From the beginning it has been based on the so-called ‘four freedoms’, the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour. It is policed by the European Commission (made up of one representative from each EU state), which takes infringements of market rules before the European Court of Justice (ECJ). From its inception it has aimed to drive through neoliberal, anti-working class measures in order to maximise the profits of the capitalist elite.

The single market compels the privatisation of public services, prohibits nationalisation, and makes it easier for employers to exploit workers in numerous ways. For example, the ECJ rulings in the Viking and Laval cases, which put corporations’ ‘rights of establishment’ before the right of workers to strike. Or the EU posted workers’ directive, which does not recognise agreements between unions and employers, and has been systematically used to undermine the rights and conditions of workers. The posted workers’ directive was at the heart of the Lindsey Oil Refinery strike in 2009. Jeremy Corbyn was right, therefore, to say shortly after the June general election that Brexit should not mean remaining part of the single market. Nor should it mean remaining part of the customs union which means handing the right to negotiate trade deals to the European Commission alone.

In his Guardian article John McDonnell expressed it as: “The bottom line for me, is the new relationship we have with Europe should be designed on the basis that we can implement our manifesto.”

This is not a bad starting point. A Corbyn-led government should pledge to enter the negotiations declaring that all EU laws which hindered this would immediately be annulled. This is not a question of fighting for British ‘sovereignty’, as Labour’s shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner unfortunately put it when correctly arguing to leave the single market, but fighting in the interests of the working class not just in Britain but across Europe.

There are, of course, aspects of EU law – such as various environmental and health and safety protections – which the workers’ movement should have no objection to keeping other than a desire to strengthen them.

And no one wants to see what the ‘soft’ Brexiteers paint as inevitable outside the single market – economic crisis, job losses and price increases. On the basis of a Tory ‘hard’ Brexit, all of that would be posed – but nor does continuing as part of the crisis-ridden EU offer a way forward for working class people in Britain.

Socialist measures

A socialist Brexit, by contrast, could be the start of building a society that was able to provide everyone with the prerequisites for a decent life: a high-quality secure home, a good job, free education, a top class NHS, a living pension and more.

In doing so it would act as a beacon for workers’ and young people across Europe to take the same road, opening the path not only to mass opposition to the EU bosses’ club but also to a democratic socialist confederation of Europe.

A starting point for a workers’ Brexit would be to implement the demands at the end of this article, all of which would require a complete break with the single market.

At the same time, doing so would inspire the 450 million workers remaining in the single market to fight for similar demands in their own countries. It would also terrify the capitalist class, not just in Britain but globally, who would see their rotten profit-driven system under threat from a mass movement for a new democratic, socialist society.

Without doubt the world’s ruling elites would do all they could to sabotage the implementation of Jeremy Corbyn’s programme, including attempting to use the rules of the single market if Britain remained inside it.

But, provided a determined mass movement was mobilised in support of the government’s programme, they would not be able to succeed. The reteat of the Syriza government in Greece over fighting austerity was not pre-ordained. If the government had shown the courage of the Greek people and refused to capitulate to the capitalists and their EU institutions, the outcome could have been very different.

However, to effectively prevent the attempted sabotage of the capitalist class – inside or outside the EU – will pose the question of taking socialist measures in order to remove control of the economy and finance system from the tiny unelected minority who currently hold it in their hands. Pleading with the City of London “to stabilise the markets before we get into government”, as John McDonnell suggests to the Guardian, will never prevent the financial markets trying to attack a government which threatens their obscene profits.

Nor will it work to beg multinational corporations to stay in Britain if they think they can make a bigger profit by moving to a country with cheaper labour.

Instead, socialist measures – bringing into democratic public ownership the 125 or so big corporations and banks that control around 80% of Britain’s economy – would be posed. This would provide the possibility of developing a democratic, socialist plan of production that could very quickly transform the lives of millions.

For workers continuing to suffer brutal capitalist austerity in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland – indeed to workers everywhere – it would act to show a way forward to a new, socialist world.


  • Not a penny to be paid in a ‘divorce bill’ to subsidise the capitalist elites of Europe
  • Ban zero-hour contracts. £10 an hour minimum wage for all
  • Abolition of all anti-trade union legislation. For the right of all workers to freely organise and when necessary strike, in defence of their and other workers’ interests
  • No ‘race to the bottom’! The ‘rate for the job’ for all workers. For democratic trade union control over hiring new workers
  • For the right of all EU citizens currently in Britain to remain with full rights, and to demand the same for UK workers in other EU countries
  • Immediate scrapping of all rules demanding ‘competitive tendering’, limiting state aid and opposing nationalisation. This would remove the legal obstacles to councils bringing all local services back ‘in house’. It would enable the immediate renationalisation of all privatised public services such as rail, energy and water. It would remove the obstacles to renationalising the NHS, throwing out the private multinational companies that are bleeding it dry
  • For a socialist society run in the interests of the millions not the billionaires. Bring the 125 major corporations and banks that dominate the economy into democratic public ownership

If you agree with us, get in touch to find out more! Fill in the form below

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Save Coventry Libraries campaigner speaks as Cheylesmore library set for closure

Save Coventry Libraries campaigner speaks as Cheylesmore library set for closure

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Protesters outside Earlsdon Library

We have been sent the following article by Save Coventry Libraries campaigner Sarah Smith.

Cheylesmore Library will be closing on 10/8/2017.  Okay, so it’s earmarked to be re-opening as a community run Library on 4th September; why all the fuss you ask?

First of all, that is a whole three weeks and four days that a community will be without a library; just when it needs it the most, due to it being the summer holidays.

The government and local councils have NOT done a full investigation into the impact of community/volunteer solely ran libraries, however, they do know this, the average life span for a community/volunteer solely ran library is 18 months, where there has been only a handful of exceptions. Therefore when this happens it appears like they aren’t responsible for the closure of the libraries but the community/volunteers are.

Not only do they give up the responsibility to run these libraries, but they also give up responsibility for the safety of you. These volunteers are not CRB checked.  They will not be trained to deal with medical or other emergencies that occur, such as safe guarding issues, etc.

They are not even obliged to even open up the library as in if volunteers don’t turn up to open it then the library just doesn’t open.

Finally…

Council’s across the country do not have to impose the cut backs imposed by central government, they could spend reserves and form a campaign against central government for more money; better still, they could say no, if they wanted to and if our local councillors & MP’s refuse to do this, then maybe it’s time to elect those who will stand up for the people of Coventry.

Join the protest outside Cheylesmore Library on Thursday August 10th at 6pm!

Organising for safe homes in Coventry

Organising for safe homes in Coventry

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On Tuesday 1st August, Coventry Socialist Party held a public meeting in Hillfields about a new campaign for housing safety in Coventry.

Attendees included a number of local residents from tower blocks from a number of different areas of Coventry, all keen not just to highlight their own concerns and experiences but also to get involved and take action in organising a campaign on housing safety – an issue which has really come to the forefront in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy, which has left at least 80 people dead.

There was a very determined tone to the meeting – it was pointed out that what happened at Grenfell was a symptom of a capitalist system that puts profit before people, and holds working class people in complete contempt.

Local residents raised such issues as fire alarms being removed from tower blocks and housing provider Whitefriars charging tenants for repairs – up to £600 in some cases!

One of the main proposals of the meeting – to get local residents organised in tenants’ groups – was well received, with plans now underway to have tenants of three different tower blocks organise door-knocking and petitioning of other residents in their own flats.

The demands mentioned discussed include the fitting of sprinklers in all tower blocks – a recommendation consistently made by coroners following three different tower block fires nationally since 2005. As also mentioned in the meeting, the vital importance of a fully-functioning sprinkler system was starkly shown by the difference between the fire in Grenfell Tower and in a hotel in Dubai – a very similar structure but for a sprinkler system – in 2016. In the latter, nobody was killed.

It was clear that pressure must also be put on local landlords to fully enforce the highest safety standards across all housing in Coventry – private or social – and pressure should be put on local councillors to help tenants organise and fight for our rights. This is far from an impossible demand – Birmingham City Council, owning the majority of tower blocks in the West Midlands, will be carrying out the installation of sprinklers in all tower blocks across the city!

As we have made clear in a previous article, “We cannot afford a system which treats our lives with such contempt, and gives them so little value in comparison to those whose interests it was created solely to represent”. We have to link these issues to the overall demand to bring all housing back under public ownership. This is also linked to our demands to change society along socialist lines: to bring all infrastructure and the economy into the democratic control of working class people. For a society run for people, not profit!

Are you a tower block resident and want to get involved? Fill in the form below!

Why is Venezuela in crisis? Socialist interviewed on LBC radio

Why is Venezuela in crisis? Socialist interviewed on LBC radio

The ongoing crisis in Venezuela is in the news at the moment because of the assembly elections that have just taken place.. The media and the capitalist class are using the crisis to smear socialism as being doomed to fail, as well as putting pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to condemn the regime.

Hannah Sell, the deputy general secretary of the Socialist Party, explained in an interview on LBC Radio that the problem in Venezuela is not too much socialism, but not enough – you can listen to the interview here.

Izquierda Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Left), our sister group in Venezuela, have written an article on the ongoing crisis which can be read here.

 

 

 

Coventry kids going hungry over summer holidays

Coventry kids going hungry over summer holidays

foodbank

The following article was sent to us by Nicky Downes, a local teacher and equalities secretary for Coventry NUT.

There will be many children in Coventry counting down the days until they return to school in September. We all assume that children love the freedom of the holidays but if you’re hungry then there is little pleasure in each day.

Teachers in Coventry often have a packet of biscuits in their cupboard and many will have provided a bowl of cereal for a child that has gone without breakfast. At least for all children in Key Stage 1 there is a free hot meal to look forward to at lunchtime during the term. In fact as reported by the Cov Telegraph this week 8368 students in the city are entitled to free school meals. That’s one in every ten children.

Come the holidays free school meals are not available. For some families finding the cost of providing meals for their children for the six week holiday can be a struggle. The Tressell Trust which runs many of Coventry’s foodbanks reported a 17% rise in use over last year’s summer holidays. It is likely to be as high or if not higher this year.

We live in the sixth richest country and still some of our city’s children go hungry over the summer. Despite knowing that for many a free meal in the middle of the day is essential, the Tory government wanted to end free school meals for Key Stage 1 and were quite rightly forced to backtrack. No families should be reliant on foodbanks to fill the gap. It’s a national disgrace.

Hundreds attend #Justice4Daz campaign launch meeting and march

Hundreds attend #Justice4Daz campaign launch meeting and march

The march and rally for Darren Cumberbatch in Nuneaton on Edward Street

Marching for justice in Nuneaton (pic: Coventry Telegraph)

Over 200 people came to the launch meeting of the #Justice4Daz campaign last week, which was set up after Coventry man Darren Cumberbatch died after “contact” with the police – the third black man to die in such circumstances in a month, after Edson da Costa and Rashan Charles. Hundreds also joined a march in Nuneaton on Saturday.

The meeting was chaired by Reverend Desmond Jaddoo, who asked the question on many people’s minds – “why was this healthy 32 year old man torn away from his family and from the community?”

The meeting heard that Darren left his sister Carla’s house on Sunday July 9th “healthy and in great form”, and that the police only informed the family that he was in George Eliot Hospital on Wednesday 12th. Witnesses said he had been “battered” by police, and had black eyes and burns on his body. He told a friend he had been Tasered 9 times.

Speakers at the meeting called for the use of Tasers to be suspended due to concerns about their safety, and for the officers involved in Darren’s death to be suspended immediately. Concerns were also raised about the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), who were described as “not fit for purpose”.

A speaker from Black Conscious Coventry argued that the problems within the police are systemic and rooted in the capitalist system: “Policing is not there to protect the community, it’s there to protect property and big corporations.”

Hundreds also marched through Nuneaton from the train station to McIntyre House, where Darren was staying, and on to the police station. The march was led by friends and family of Darren. Marchers laid flowers and candles outside McIntyre House.

The march then proceeded to the police station where Darren’s sister, Carla, spoke. Luke, a witness from the night when Darren “came into contact” with police, also spoke: “Something kicked off around 2 o’clock in the morning. I heard him screaming, I heard him shouting. The police were there. He was screaming for help. He was asking, ‘What have I done?’ I heard no reply. I heard tasers – no warning of tasers. I heard CS gas – no warning of CS gas … That night there was something going on that shouldn’t have been going on by police.”

Ryan Rochester, chair of the Coventry branch of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) said: “This happened three weeks ago and we still haven’t had a statement from the police. There is video footage from the incident – when are we going to see it? The longer people have to wait the more doubt there is on the validity of what is going on.”