Now I was going to write a blog about where the hell everybody had gone, none of my usual haunts seem to have blogged for at least a couple of days and some less than that, then I realised that I haven’t blogged for about the same time so I decided to keep my mouth shut on that one. Besides I think people may come back in time, the resurrection of jimmy sunshine campaign is making its presence felt – I think jimmy’s going to burst if he doesn’t blog soon so if you’re reading this and you haven’t read jimmysunshine then it’s about time you did, then you can make up your own mind. There are a number of links to good blogs in my gutter -a big up to bobred who is my top referrer, and some respect to glasgowdave who appears often on the blog-city homepage as one of the top 3 Scots. I won’t tell you about the others you can look for yourself and enjoy, suffice to say if I’ve put them there then they’re well worth a look. OK that’s my being nice (or sycophantic take your pick) over with now although it’s late I’m going to start off a mini-rant.

Currently at the forefront of the news is the proposed referendum on the new European constitution. Blair has allegedly done a u-turn and now agreed to have one. So which way should one go in the ref? Well, I do consider myself European, I’ve lived abroad, I speak a couple of the languages and I like to think of myself as being moderately cosmopolitan and certainly an apprecient of cultural diversity. However is this what the EU is about, that is certainly what they would have you believe but does it pass muster? I think under scrutiny the answer is no, ok so perhaps I tend to smell a rat when large corporations start saying this would be good for the country. I used to think well the EU has brought in various pieces of employment legislation that otherwise would not exist in this country, there are however many examples of such ‘progressive’ legislation being vetoed by Britain, most notably the social chapter of the Maastricht treaty. Furthermore if you look at some of the battles by the business community to avoid implementing some of the legislation that has got through like the instigation of a minimum wage, it does rather put it into context. The minimum wage, a measure that even relatively repressive countries like the US have had for years, caused much debate here, one of the main ‘concerns’ appeared to be that smaller companies would not be able to afford the amount proposed by the trade unions as to the wage rate. Sorry and that’s our problem why exactly? So you’re supposed to duck just regulation because it might kerb slave labour and harm smaller businesses, fuck off. If that’s the only way that these businesses can stay in the game……………bye. I know it’s easy to be blase about it not depending myself on such for my livelihood but then the employees of these companies deserve the right to a decent livelihood as well, they’re doing the donkey work why should they suffer? It’s another example in my book why private enterprise cannot work. Go on argue with me on this one I love a good ruck!
If you want other examples of where the EU favours companies more than individuals look at the import export side. If you as a person travel to the continent and buy lots of booze fags and stuff the onus has up to now been on you to prove that it is for your own consumption, firstly why should you have to do this you have paid the duty in another EU country it’s not illegal for foreign nationals to buy things and if I wanted to cost up the economic side of things I could do so by saying, right I spend hypothetically £10 a week on wine, £10 a week on beer and £25 a week on cigarettes (this is an example I personally do not spend that money I can assure you, chance would be a fine thing!) Now making the comparison I could buy the same quality and quantity of wine in France for £7.50, I could buy the beer in Belgium for £7.50 and the cigarettes in Luxembourg for £15 making a £15 saving on a weekly outlay of £45 -that’s 33% reduction. Now if my quantity is 2 bottles of wine a week, 4 bottles of beer and 5 packets of cigarettes I could go to the continent and buy 2 cases (24 bottles of wine) 48 bottles of beer and 50 packets of fags, you can easily fit all that into a boot of a normal sized car. The saving would be £210 and the booze would keep me going for 3 months or so and the cigs for 10 weeks. This is quite a bit of money over time and you can hardly blame people for going en masse on the booze cruise to save money and cut the cost of going which obviously also has to be factored in. It is precisely because of the outlay to go to the continent that people are going to try to maximise the amount they can get. Logically you could say that if you were a prudent smoker or drinker it would be foolish to sell the goods on to other people because you would therefore lessen the amount of time before you would either have to go again or buy goods at British prices so you wouldn’t actually be making any money in real terms. Now Britain doesn’t like all this because they see if as tax evasion, you are avoiding paying British duty and that investment is going to another country’s treasury and that country does not have to pay for your welfare in benefits/NHS/education/pension etc., but hold on what about Trans-National-Corporations they use resources in a country but do not invest money back so what’s the diff. Well, simply speaking you’ve got a lot less clout than a TNC mate, sorry about that but there it is. The other perk if you are a business is that you can circumnavigate EU tariffs and things easily by transferring stuff around within the company. This is a common thing in computing now, you used to get ‘Manufactured in….’ and then the name of the EU country this was deemed as an EU produced product and so not subject to special import duties. Now notice many computers say “Assembled in….’ this is because all the parts are made in Malaysia, Taiwan, Macau, China, Indonesia etc. they are shipped to the EU country and then just put together as a finished article this allows the sale of the goods still as an EU manufactured product, even though it isn’t. Nice being a company isn’t it, you know if individuals tried a similar logic to EU law they would be shot down in flames. Again it is just endemic of the system, you take the recent banana war between the EU and the US. The EU is buying caribbean bananas, the US says no you can’t buy those bananas you have to buy Central and South American bananas there is no reason to buy caribbean bananas unless you are just trying to piss us off, why will it piss the US off, well have a guess who controls the banana production in these Central/South American countries, that’s right it’s not just cocaine production that the Americans are involved in down there, they have their fingers in every pie going. Well you say, what happened to free trade wasn’t that supposed to be a good thing, consumers choosing what to buy and all that? You are young, grasshopper, but you will learn. Free trade means you are free to buy what you are told to buy, you have an alternative which is for example not to buy any bananas but if you are going to buy bananas then the US is free to insist that you buy its bananas. You would think the WTO might have something to say about all this, after all it is the sentinel of trading practices and it’s based where exactly, oh sorry yes it’s the US isn’t it…..rather convenient wouldn’t you say?

I digress, back to the matter in hand namely the EU, I could go on about global capitalism for ages, as you have seen. So in light of what I have said about the EU should one form an unholy alliance and vote No in such a referendum, this is a tricky one, I don’t like allying with the fascists and the petty-englanders and their reasons are very different to mine and those of us on the left, I want a genuinely socially progressive organisation not an impotent talking shop that serves the interests of the Trans-National-Corporations. Can this happen out of the EU, that is another question entirely the point is it is not what has happened in the current EU. The question is is it better to try to reform it from within or to reject and try to rebuild from the ground up? My view is that to try to reform it after it being a done deal so to speak isn’t going to happen, the juggernaut will roll on, the only way really is to reject to try to shake things up and hopefully there will be enough debate in the aftermath to make it clear why we have rejected in order to distance ourselves from the far right. The difficulty in this plan is that a no vote would inevitably be claimed by the media, who are after all broadly right-wing euro-sceptic, as a victory for the right-wing cause. New labour have sucessfully buried the notion for most people that the left also has serious problems with the EU in its current form. Should we therefore not vote? Well, I don’t really see that as an option, a protest is only a protest if somebody knows you’re protesting and with the current level of apathy any genuine reason for not voting will be lost in the explanation that trends are going down on voter %. I mean ideally there’d be 2 boxes in the no faction – which would be along the lines of vote no because you disagree with the concept of ceeding any national sovereignty to any other national or supra-national power, and vote no because you believe that the EU in its current guise does not provide the basis for socio-political development that it should. Of course this is fantasyland stuff and Labour will be at pains to try to portray anyone voting no as part of the neo-fascist faction, it suits their purpose to do so and try to dispell any ideas that there is dissent on the left. (Though how they can claim to have any sway or idea about what the left thinks is beyond me). Phew, I’m tired now I’m off to wait for my second wind.

Ok perhaps mini-rant wasn’t quite accurate!