Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Clegg Kippered

In the two debates, between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage, Clegg came a poor second, in a two horse race. He was left trailing in the dust, in the second debate in particular. That is a pity, because the reactionary nonsense, put out by Farage, really does need to be challenged. Clegg was never going to be the person to do it. Not only has Clegg, like the party he leads, lost all credibility, after they linked up with the Tories, and especially after they abandoned any semblance of principal, on many of the things that gave them some kind of radical image, but this was a debate between a consistent nationalist (Farage) and an inconsistent internationalist (Clegg). There was some justification in Farage's repeated statements, in the second debate, that he had expected Clegg to put up a defence of the EU that never came. Instead, Clegg was left looking more like the Tories, he's in bed with, as being only in favour of the EU to the extent that it was beneficial to some supposed British national interest, and even more like the Tory imperialists in his war-mongering comments over Ukraine and Syria. All traces of the Liberal Democrats that opposed the Iraq War has gone, in favour of the Liberal imperialists who bombed the hell out of Libya.

Clegg appeared even more the dissembler, the slippery character – not an easy feat when you are debating with Farage – the more he tried to replace argument with attempts to smear Farage by association with Putin. Here, it was Clegg who was the imperialist, supporting the actions of US and EU imperialism, in pushing its boundaries up to Russia's borders, and supporting fascists, in Ukraine, to overthrow an elected government as the means to do it, whilst Farage was able to play the role – hypocritically – as the anti-imperialist. Clegg's attempt, to represent Farage's criticism of the EU's actions, amounted to nothing more than an attempt to use the argument “My enemy's enemy is my friend”.  In other words, if you criticise US and European imperialism then you must be supporting Russia!  It might as well have been George Bush saying "You are either with us or you are against us."

Even worse was Clegg's argument that Putin could bring the war in Syria to an end, with a single phone call to Assad!!!! How on Earth would that be possible? If Assad stopped any military action on his side, the result would not be an end to violence, but simply the victory of the jihadists, financed and supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and that same US and EU imperialism standing behind them. It would simply mean turning Syria into an even bigger replica of the chaos that has been inflicted on Libya, as it descends into increasing barbarism, as dozens of competing reactionary militia fight it out on the streets, with the elected government being a total sham. If this is the extent of Clegg's political analysis he has no business in politics let alone holding the position of Deputy Prime Minister.

Instead of countering Farage's argument, about the extent of laws made in Brussels, by arguing clearly that, in order to have a single market or Common Market, it is necessary to have a level playing field, which means that laws, covering the entire market, must be made by a single Parliament, Clegg was forced back on to a nationalist argument of denying that Farage's claim was true, and, in so doing, suggesting that it was somehow a good thing that Britain was able to make its own laws. In fact, its because the single market is incomplete, and because Britain has negotiated opt outs, that British workers do not have the full benefit of aspects of European Law in relation to working hours etc. But, then Clegg could not make such arguments, especially given his alliance with the Tories, because, instead of arguing in favour of measures that benefit workers, across Europe, Clegg was effectively only able to argue for what was in the interests of Britain, for which read British capital. In so doing, he allowed the reactionary Farage to present himself as the defender of British workers, when, of course, he is no such thing.

The same was true over Clegg's weasel words over immigration. Time and again, he was left sounding like a Tory, talking about how the Liberals were preventing European immigrants from being able to claim benefits, when they came to Britain. He, of course, failed to mention that those same policies are hitting British people too, introducing the idea that entitlement to benefits should be linked to contributions. In fact, for any kind of common market to work, where there is free movement of capital and labour, it is vital that workers should be able to obtain the same social insurance benefits wherever they are within that market. Imagine if it was suggested in Britain that if you moved to Yorkshire from Lancashire you should not be entitled to use various Council services until you had lived there for so long and paid into Yorkshire's coffers rather than Lancashire's!!!

We really do need a thorough debate over Europe. We do need to take issue with the fact that the EU has been constructed as a bureaucratic monstrosity. We do need to take issue with the free market ethos that pervades the foundations of the EU's institutions. Capitalist politicians, like Clegg, can never do that. The case for a democratic EU, an EU that unites workers across Europe, on the basis of furthering their interests, rather than a concern only to further various national interests, can only be carried through by socialists, committed to building working-class organisations across Europe, as a first step towards building such organisations on a global scale. It can only be carried through by socialists committed to, and openly arguing for, a United States of Europe, within which all workers can pursue their interests, by building European worker-owned co-operatives, European Trades Unions, and a European Workers Party working towards the establishment of a European Workers Government, on the way to a Socialist United states of Europe.

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