Friday, September 17, 2004

RMT on the constitution

The RMT submission to the TUC on the proposed EU constitution has been published on its website.

The union notes that the whole exercise was supposedly intended to bring the EU closer to its citizens but believes "this new Constitution does exactly the opposite by centralising power further without handing a single competency back to member states".

But its main concern is that the constitution "also consolidates all the neoliberal and monetarist elements of previous treaties as well as the drive to open the public sector to private competition". It adds new powers for the European Commission to negotiate agreements under GATS that will submit education and social services to enforced "liberalisation".

Recent decisions by the European Commission to "liberalise", ie privatise, all rail traffic is yet another indication of the drive to hand entire industries and state sectors over to private corporate interests.

Until now, says the union, the EU has been an association of nations bound by international treaties. But if the constitution comes into force it will be a single legal entity, deriving its power from its own charter, further curtailing the national democratic rights of member states. The RMT also has grave concerns over the Constitution's implicit drive to militarise the bloc and the threat to civil liberties.

Included in the submission is the union's detailed case against "the neoliberal economic model of privatisation", which its says is to is to be imposed from above. And this is where union support is a very mixed blessing.

Effectively, we have the business case against the constitution resting on claims that it imposes further burdens on business. Now we have a union case that it has a "neoliberal" agenda. Both sides cannot be right.

In fact, the union is wrong. As we have stated before in this Blog, the privatisation agenda of the commission is very far from liberal. It cannot be stated enough times that the purpose of pushing through privatisation is to detach major companies from their national bases, so that they can be reorganised at a pan-European level, thus depriving any single nation of control over the means of production it needs to run an independent economy.

This is part of the central doctrine of "interdependence" which is one of the key precursors to economic integration, from which – according to the Monnet method – political integration will emerge.

That the commission then promotes private – actually corporate – ownership is by no means liberal. It has learned the central lesson that ownership is no longer necessary in order to exercise total control. This can be done by regulation, binding these enterprises so tightly to the state (in this case the European Union) that they are independent in name only.

We came across this phenomenon in the late 1980s, strangely enough in the context of a privately owned day nursery. So rigorous and detailed were the regulations applying to it, and so intrusive and frequent was the inspection, that the owner complained that the only decision she could make was on the colour of the toilet paper. "I may own the premises", she told us, "but they (the inspectors) are in charge".

This is the commission's idea of liberalism, which business is right to oppose – although many dim MEPs and MPs fall for the propaganda inherent in the name and are in favour of the EU because of this policy. But if the unions oppose it, they are doing so for the wrong reasons. And by so doing, they are at risk of creating an inconsistency in the "no" campaign than will be difficult to explain away.

As we said before, union support is a mixed blessing.

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