Saturday, 18 July 2015

Nationalism is destroying the Eurozone

There is a recent example of a reasonably long lasting currency union between peoples who spoke different languages that is often forgotten. Not very long ago I could spend the same Rouble whether I lived in Moscow, Vilnius or Kiev. Further afield I could spend it in Yerevan or Tbilisi. This currency union endured for at least 70 years and if you count the time when these places were part of the Russian Empire it existed rather longer than that. What made this possible? The most important was that throughout all of these places there was a common language. While people spoke their own languages at home, at school and at work they spoke Russian. Not only this, but in every tiny Soviet town and village there was the same ideology. The streets were called the same sort of names such as Lenin Prospect, Marx Street etc. There were the same statues of Lenin stretching out his hand. People watched the same films and the same television. They more or less eat the same food and drank the same drink. They believed the same things and they were taught to think of themselves as one Soviet people. For this reason Roubles were transferred around the Soviet Union without anyone counting the cost. What the Soviet Union had the Eurozone lacks.

I followed the recent Greek crisis from afar. I was in a pretty little German town and every morning I would read the headlines in the German newspapers. There were two I particularly remember. One had Angela Merkel dressed up as Bismarck and called the Iron Chancellor. The other complained of bailing out Greece with “our money”. I think people have been pretty tough on Germany in recent days. I don’t think that people in the UK would be particularly keen on sending much of our money to Greece either. These are not trivial sums.  But if you think of it as "our money" you frankly should not be in a currency union with the people you think of as them.

But this is the problem altogether. People in the EU are not coming closer together they are moving further apart.  If the EU was serious about creating a single European state it would have made sure by now that everyone was working towards speaking the same language. It doesn’t matter much which one, but let there be one, or else free movement of people really means free movement of people to do menial labour. If we all grew up speaking the same language in school, then I really could work anywhere. As it is, in most EU countries I would only be able to clean floors.

But can we really imagine an EU with a common language and a common ideology, where people felt themselves to be part of one common European people? Can we imagine that Germans will willingly and gladly send money to Greece and think of Greeks as more or less the same sort of people as themselves? If this was going to happen it would have happened by now. This #Grexit crisis was the crisis that was supposed to bring about closer monetary union in the Eurozone.  Perhaps it will. Perhaps 10 or 20 years from now we will have a transfer union  and a full political union in the EU and this will be seen as the first step towards it. But no, I can’t see it.

Where I stayed in Germany there were German flags on every building in a way that would have been unthinkable 20 or 30 years ago. There was a statue of Frederick Barbarossa (1122-1190) standing next to Wilhelm the First (1797-1888). It was just fine to celebrate the First Reich (962-1806) and also the Second Reich (1871-1918), there was a gap and some things that were never to be mentioned, but then we could all just leap right over to a new Kaiser and a new Reich.

This is all, no doubt, terribly unfair to Germany, which remains one of the most pleasant, liberal places imaginable. It should be remembered that Germany had no vote on joining the Euro and the people would undoubtedly have preferred to keep the D-Mark. But they have been placed in the position of leadership of the Eurozone and that leadership role looks anything but democratic.

When Greece had its referendum on austerity, it was explained very clearly to them by the Eurozone leaders that voting No meant leaving the Euro and probably the EU. They voted No anyway. But guess what they got still more austerity and they still stayed in the Euro. There were two honourable courses of action that were possible for the Eurozone leaders at this point. Either they should have followed through on their threat and kicked Greece out of the Euro, or they should have recognised that the Eurozone must henceforth be a transfer union, where the words "our" and "your" no longer applied.  The EU has too frequently been ignoring the will of the people in recent years and governments, including the Greek Government, have too frequently cooperated. This really is turning the EU into some sort of modern Holy Roman Empire.

Something died last week. I have always been someone who was willing to go along with the EU as an ideal. I thought a democratic, equal EU was a reasonably good ideal. Let’s bring down borders rather than erect new ones. But that ideal has gone. The Soviet Union fell apart because of its own contradictions, it would be better if the EU did the same. In the end even with a common language and a common ideology the Soviet Union could not overcome the differences that existed in the peoples who lived there. That as much as anything split the whole thing apart. Yet those differences were small compared to the difference between a Greek and a German.

This is our problem. If Czechs cannot bear to live with Slovaks in the same country, if Scots cannot quite bear to live in the same country as English people, how on earth do we expect Greeks and Germans to become one people? The problem as always is nationalism. It is something instinctual and goes back to when Germans were tribes waiting to be united by a great leader. But what unites these self-same Germans today divides them from all others. Germans will give to Germans, but they won’t give to Greeks and this is for reasons that happened both in the 19th century and a thousand years ago.  

If we can’t find a sense of being the same people then it is hard see the EU surviving other than as an Empire held together by an undemocratic bureaucracy. An EU that is willing to crush democracy in Greece and ignore the will of the people living there is not a force for good. Until and unless it can show itself to be a force for good I want no part of it. If Scotland really thinks in terms of "ours" and "yours" with regard to the people in the other parts of the UK, then I want no part of that either. Either we are one British people who share without limit or in the end it would be better for those who don’t feel a part of our common journey to leave. Choose #Scexit, choose independence within the Fourth Reich, after all small countries do wonderfully well there, but I’ll not share it. I want no part of it.  

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  1. A good piece Effie. Right or left, most people in Nothern Europe (billionaires apart) recognise that income tax has to be paid; in southern Europe, right or left, maybe not most, but many people say 'You're joking pal'

    1. It is absolutely a joke, over a billion £'s of our taxes was just given to Greece (I say given even though it was a loan as they cant, and wont ever, pay it back).

    2. It most certainly is the case that people in the Eurozone are far to far apart to share the same currency. Attitude to tax is one issue, but much more important Europeans don't have the sense of being one people.

      It is this which makes Scottish nationalism so tragically stupid. The one thing the UK has is the one thing the Eurozone lacks. They want to divide the English speaking people who live in the UK, who think of themselves more or less as one people, in order to turn us into the Eurozone so as to squabble as they do.

    3. Being people in a political union, with the same language, doesn't make us "more or less one people". Certainly a significant number of Scots may feel this way, but I'd wager the majority don't...and successive social attitude surveys tend to support the view that most Scots self-identify as Scots first, and British second (or not at all). Caricaturing Scottish nationalism and presumably by extension (?) all those who support independence as following something which is "tragically stupid" just makes you look petty. It's perfectly possible to have a principled view that independence would be good for both Scotland AND the rest of the UK.

      I don't just think we aren't one people, I know it isn't so. I'm married to an English woman. I've lived half my life in Scotland and half in England. I have degrees from both an English and Scottish university. One of my four grand-parents came from Wearside in the NE of England. I have family all over the UK.

      I don't advocate independence for Scotland because I don't care about them, or because I'm anti-English, but because I think we can do better alone, and because I believe the union has failed to deliver the kind of society I want to see, and that it never will.

      The Euro as a project was ill-conceived and even worse in operation; the lesson the treatment of Greece, and the anti-democratic nature of the current EU set-up isn that the EU must be made more democratic, less dominated by special interest groups, neocons, and the establishment, and more accountable to the various peoples of the EU, who have no desire for a US of E, just a loose confederation & single market. The USSR =/= EU, still less an EU reformed as it ought to be.

  2. I'm glad you have seen the light, the EU has never been anything more than a corrupt self serving dictatorship.

    1. I've always been fairly moderate about the EU. I'm still probably a floating voter. But the last couple of weeks changed me. This really stinks. Good people should stand up when they see that something is wrong.

    2. For me I never gave the EU much thought until Ireland was told to vote again in a referendum as the EU never got the result they wanted, the whole project is about power for the few while ignoring the wishes of the people of Europe.

    3. A version of 'democracy' the SNP are itching to try!

  3. As ever Effie, it's hard to know where to start with some of your ramblings. There are serious issues highlighted by the way the EU has (mis)handled the Greek crisis, but your reaction to them and analysis of them reminds me of the reaction of New Labour to their recent defeat in the General Election. You know there is a problem, misidentify it, and then call for precisely the wrong course of action. Paradoxically, your reaction to the failures your perceive in the EU is that we should probably leave, but faced with a union that many Scots believe is failing them, your reaction is that we must cleave together, that Scotland isn't a real country, and that we are still better together.

    Despite your valiant efforts, there is little to be gained or learnt trying to compare the former USSR and its collapse, and the current problems facing the EU. The comparison and the parallels you attempt to draw are as trite and tendentious as they are misleading.

    There is no real call or desire amongst the vast majority of Europeans for a United States of Europe, still less a common language. De facto there is only one global language - English (luckily for the depressingly monoglot anglophones). Greece should never have been permitted into the Euro; it was hubris of the neocons in charge of it to think otherwise.

    Hopefully the EU will be reformed; it's certainly long overdue, but it doesn't mean the European idea as a whole in bankrupt. A reassessment, even Grexit, might actually be the best outcome short term... both for Greece and the rest of the EU. It sounds like you now support the UK leaving the EU, because it is undemocratic and the various parts are too different and want different things. Yet if Scotland leaves the you plan to leave and settle in the rump UK...? Or will you stay if Scotland isn't part of the EU?

    I can't imagine the ideological and logical contortions involved in someone with your background, born and brought up in Scotland, being driven so over the edge by their hatred of the idea of Scottish independence that they would flee the country and live somewhere else in the event her fellow countrymen, after exercising their democratic will, might chose to become independent. It's truly through-the-looking-glass stuff; the political and moral equivalent of taking your ball home when your getting a beating at the football.

    We disagree on most things political Effie, but I had hoped against hope that you were actually less of an extremist than some of your blogs and comments suggest. Looks like I was wrong!

    1. Any problem with the EU is solved by more EU, that is the fundamental basis for the EU and that is why the project will fail as one size does not cannot and will not fit all members.

      The SNP are going to be asking for some very basic things from the EU in the next year namely the ability to charge EU students for university fees on the same basis as English residents and the control over the fishing industry in Scotland (that is actually devolved but handled by the EU instead) so when these simple things are refused by the EU what is your position going to be then?

  4. Hard to say until the negotiations begin. The Greek debacle has certainly made me re-assess my attitude to the EU, altho I remain broadly in favour of it as a project. The EU has shown an ability to be pragmatic in the past (e.g. special deals for the UK rebate, Denmark etc). I think the current crisis is more down to German intransigence and domestic politics than the EU as a whole. As the IMF said, in the end, they will have deal with the unsustainable debt, which will inevitably involve German and French banks taking a hammering.

    My view of an independent Scotland vis a vis the EU is that we should probably be a part...but not at any price. I'd be quite happy to see us stay out if the deal isn't right, which has probably hardened due to the Greek situation. On recent polls however, Scots as a whole are considerably more pro-EU than the rest of the UK, so unless that changes radically, I'd expect us to be members.

  5. A lot of people are re-looking at their views on the EU, myself included as a Europhile.

    I think Unionists and Independence supporters are put in a strange position of paradox a la Europe. What I see a lot of is Unionists who want out of Europe and to keep the UK. Independence supporters who want out of UK union but to stay in the EU.

    Personally I think the EU is an infant version of the UK. If its to succeed then maybe more integration is needed but I'm not 100% sure its neccessary.

    One of the key goals of the EU has been to perpetuate peace in Western Europe. While its been problematic around the edges(Yugoslavia and Ukraine) there has been little or no strife between the usual suspects since end of WW2.

    The idea that Greece has issue so Scotland being independence is madness is to me projecting a negative situation on a false comparison. If anything Scotland's position in the UK needs to be re-examined and looked at to see the systemic failures over the last 100 years.

    The UK is now setup to wholly keep London growing, the issue is that London is already too fat and bloated to remain healthy. It requires increasingly large subsidy to maintain and in the end the same money spent elsewhere would reap bigger rewards. Howevver witha London centric Civil Service and Government which are hugely influence by banks,media and crooked foreign capital any move out of the capital is met with massive resistance.

    What is especially funny is that all the negative press the EU gets when the UK economy was in the toilet and only escaped by stealth devaluation followed by a period of gut wrenching inflation that was played down by the media...

    Despite all time low interest rates there is no real growth.....What happens in another downturn ? Its not like they can cut rates further. Just wait and see if they raise rates lol

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. London generates a 20 billion a year surplus and that surplus is then shared across the rest of the UK.

      What you need to ask yourself is this:

      Is it better for Scotland to control practically the entire fishing industry in Europe or is it best Scotland has a very small footprint in this area while other European countries thrive?

      Is it a good idea that Holyrood could alter VAT rates with the rest of the UK and create VAT exempt goods/services?

      Is it a good idea that the Scottish Government could spend its income on Scottish companies simply because they are Scottish?

      Is it best that Scottish universities charge fees to EU students the same way they do English students so that more Scottish residents can get free places?

      Is it best that the farming industry is controlled from Holyrood rather than Brussels?

      Is it best that the environment is controlled fully from Holyrood rather than Brussels?

      Is it better for Scotland to instead be funding infrastructure projects in Eastern European countries to instead use our net contribution to the EU to fix our own roads?

      If you agree with these issues and its hard to see how anyone could disagree then we must leave the EU.

  6. UK contribution to EU isn't even 50 quid per person......What is Scottish contribution to the UK ?

    As I said , Unionists seem enthralled by London but not by Brussels. Where does that 20BN number come from and which parts of Government costs does it include as local and national. As ever the detail is in the small print.

    7BN upgrade for Westminster.....yes really....Crossrail is of course a national infrastructure project and is 50% funded by Westminster....

    London Sewage upgrade..

    1. Scottish contribution is - 10 billion or so but our EU contribution is 20 billion a year.

      I never mentioned London once as I specifically highlighted areas that are in fact devolved but come under Brussels control.

  7. Lets look at current pain points for people....

    Defence and Foreign Policy ...... Leading to extremism and death
    Banking regulation........ Major factor in current financial catastophe
    Welfare reforms.........
    Corporate tax evasion......

    All areas under Westminster control.....Your numbers for EU contributions of course don't count what comes back. Statistics and small print as I said.

    As I pointed out both sides of independence debate have challenges with EU debate. The funny thing is that both sides in the main take the opposite side as regards EU independence/Unity as their UK stance.

    1. You go on about 'unionists' being obsessed when in fact it is you that is obsessed with the union, this debate is not about the UK it is about us leaving the EU and the powers that the EU holds over us being repatriated to the correct places.

      Your head I'm afraid is to far up your ar&@ and because of that you are going to miss this once in a lifetime chance to empower the Scottish Parliament with meaningful powers.

      I suspect when the SNP catch on to the fact that everything not reserved is automatically devolved except where the EU is concerned then you will, like a sheep, start talking about the issues at hand.

  8. Do you actually ever read what folk say or do you just knee jerk right in there with your tiny Britnat brain. Run along now son and lick your lollypop.

    "As I pointed out both sides of independence debate have challenges with EU debate. The funny thing is that both sides in the main take the opposite side as regards EU independence/Unity as their UK stance."

    1. Yes I read your replies word by word and your responses to me were all about London when I was talking to you about Holyrood, you know its as if you have preprogrammed responses and you are awaiting an update as you have no idea how to debate the issue of EU powers being repatriated to Holyrood and that most likely is because the SNP have not told you how to think yet.

      Its a very strange kind of nationalist that wont jump at the chance for the powers I mentioned!

  9. The Greek crisis has taught us a very important lesson - currency unions can only survive if the profitable and rich areas continually bail out the poor ones. This isn't possible - unless all the bits, rich and poor, are part of the same country with the same government that can redistribute cash as it sees fit. Thank God we are in the UK and still have the pound. The eurozone would fall over itself to achieve the kind of stability Britain has. Meanwhile the Scot nats want to undo that very stability - creating yet another unworkable currency union, this time involving the pound, with England playing the role of Germany and Scotland playing the role of Greece.

    Words haven't yet been invented to describe their level of stupidity, nor that of the zombie 50% who now support them.