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France: Serious May Day Clashes as Police Introduce ‘Kettling.’

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 Des policiers en civil aspergent des manifestants durant la manifestation du 1er Mai à Paris.

 Police in Civilian Dress Spray Paris Demonstrators. (le Monde)

France 24.

Police fired tear gas after protesters hurled bottles and other projectiles during a May Day rally in Paris Sunday, where controversial labour reforms were the main focus of demonstrations.

  • Tens of thousands of demonstrators took part in the march in the French capital amid a heightened police presence after several recent protests against labour reforms ended in violence.
  • There were ugly scenes as a small group of protesters in balaclavas hurled projectiles at the security forces, who responded with volleys of tear gas, bringing the march to a standstill.
  • Calm was later restored, however, and the majority of those taking part in the demonstration did so peacefully.
  • Police said between 16,000 and 17,000 people took part in the rally and Paris. The CGT union put the figure at 70,000.
  • Rallies in other French cities including Nantes, Bordeaux and Marseille passed largely without incident earlier Sunday.

Le Monde carries a report in which demonstrators accuse the Police of having acted with the aim of stirring up trouble.

« C’est la première fois que je vois ça », commentait un manifestant d’une cinquantaine d’années, présent dimanche à Paris, alors que les forces de l’ordre avaient pris en sandwich la tête du cortège, constituée majoritairement de jeunes sans étiquette syndicale, la séparant en aval du reste du défilé et la bloquant devant par une ligne de CRS quasi inamovible. Résultat : quarante-cinq minutes à peine après le début de la manifestation, au-dessus de ce peloton de tête « nassé », les premiers gaz lacrymogènes fusaient et rencontraient les premiers pétards et autres feux d’artifice, occasionnant quelques charges sporadiques des policiers. « On appelle ça la politique de la tension », regrettait un manifestant. « La surprésence policière est une provocation », surenchérissait un autre.
 This is the first time I’ve seen that” commented on Sunday  a middle-aged demonstrator at Paris, as the police held the head of the march, largely made up of young people unaffiliated to the trade unions, and separated them at the top, by a solid line of the riot squad (CRS), from the rest of the demonstration.

As a result, a bare 45 minutes after the beginning of the demonstration, above and outside this ‘kettle’, the first tear gas grenades were thrown, and were met with bangers and other fireworks, followed by sparodic police charges. “You could call this the ‘strategy of tension” one marcher said regretfully, “The massive police presence is a provocation” forthrightly added another.

British readers will note that the Police used a tactic we are familiar with: ‘nassé ‘ means literally netted, as in fish,  but in the jargon of marches it signifies “Kettled”.

 

One demonstrator alleged that this was a deliberate “strategy of tension” to rattle up disorder.

 

Which is not to deny the existence of bands of ‘casserus’ – those who smash things up (casser) on the margins of French demonstrations.

A May Day rally held by Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party was crashed by a group of topless Femen protesters.

Topless Femen activists on Sunday interrupted the French far-right National Front’s (FN) annual May Day gathering for the second year running, baring their chests and toasting “The end of the FN” before being arrested.

At midday, the Femen militants, topless and clutching bottles of champagne, burst from a red van parked outside the party’s headquarters at Porte de la Villette in northern Paris.

Their torsos were daubed with slogans including “Fascists stay in the shadows” and “Long live the end of the FN”.

Their protest was short lived as riot police controlling the gathering moved quickly to arrest them with the enthusiastic help of FN security guards.

Bystanders shouted “Put them under the wheels of your truck” and “Don’t be gentle with them”.

The official FN gathering this year, dubbed a “patriotic banquet”, took place earlier in the day at Saint Augustin in central Paris, in a break from tradition that usually sees far-right supporters march from another statue of Joan of Arc on Rue de Rivoli, next to the Louvre Museum, to nearby Opéra.

However, bitter infighting that saw FN leader Marine Le Pen oust her father Jean-Marie last year meant there were two different rallies at two different Joans and more airing of the family feud.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 87, kicked out of the party for refusing to tone down racist and anti-Semitic comments, held court at the traditional spot in front of about 400 supporters where he woefully predicted a loss for the FN in next year’s presidential elections.

Earlier, Femen posted a picture on Twitter of its topless militants mopping the ground outside Opéra, under the slogan: “We are proud to clean our democratic and secular streets of Marine Le Pen’s dirty hatred”.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2016 at 11:49 am

Socialist Worker Attacks “dull and uninspiring” Jeremy Corbyn over Europe Referendum.

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SWP Predicts End of Tories if Brexit Comes. 

In Socialist Worker today Charles Kimber lays into Jeremy Corbyn,

It’s probably hard to make a good speech when you’re uncomfortable with the message you’re communicating.

That’s why Jeremy Corbyn made such a dull and uninspiring presentation launching Labour’s pro-European Union (EU) campaign last week.

The SWP National Secretary has his own unique theory as to why Corbyn calls for a Remain Vote:

It turned out the way to make Corbyn back the EU was to elect him Labour leader. He compromised to keep at least some of the right vaguely on side.

The reappointment of Pat McFadden as shadow minister for Europe was seen as the first victory for Labour’s right under Corbyn’s leadership. The announcement that the party would campaign to stay in the EU followed.

McFadden eventually resigned, but was replaced with another strongly pro-EU figure.

Kimber accuses Corbyn of being pivotal in moblising the ‘Remain’ vote.

If Corbyn backed Leave, it is highly likely that the vote would be to break from the EU. Polls suggest that Corbyn is far more trusted on the issue than Tories on either side.

His support would banish completely the myth that only the right wants to exit. He would particularly appeal to young people who presently see the EU as a left wing project.

In place of any argument about workers’ rights, social Europe, or internationalism, or whatever the SWP used to dredge up as ‘principled’ reasons to stand for Little Britain,  Kimber places this centre stage

Corbyn insists a Leave vote would boost the right. But with the political feeling in Britain at the moment it is more likely it would see Cameron’s resignation, turmoil in the Tory party, the loss of their parliamentary majority and an early election. This offers the hope of the end of the Tories before 2020, surely something to be grasped.

In other words, don’t vote just against Europe, but to get rid of the Tories….by replacing Cameron by a more right-wing anti-European Tory.

One can imagine the SWP National Committee…..

The comrades are respectfully silent.

Kimber is gazing into the dialectical  crystal ball.

The Leave side has won!

The Organiser sees movement, a hideous Tory party, a gnashing of teeth, resignations, fights,  disarray, messages of international support to Socialist Worker.

A new regime, perhaps of the hardest of hard rights.

Outrage, strikes, divisions: the regime falls.

Kimber continues his divination.  An election, which will….. – here the prophecy grows dark: only the shifting shapes of masses of workers and protesters can be seen.

There’s a glimmer….

2,000, perhaps 200,000 thousand copies of Socialist Worker sold!

Lowestoft recruits ten new members!

The comrades smile: the Seer of Socialism has Seen!

In French this is known as la politique du pire: the worse the better.

After the exalted visions the SWP cannot resist a sharp, but more mundane,  attack on Barack Obama.

Chief SWP theoretician Alex Callinicos finely analyses the speech of the Monarch of the global Empire,

Obama’s intervention stops anyone pretending any longer that they haven’t noticed where global capitalist interests are lining up. The Emperor himself has told them in words of one syllable that Brexit will harm his empire.

Meanwhile the Carnival of Reaction from the Leave camp continues:

‘We want our country back’ Farage rallies troops ahead of ‘Independence Day’ Brexit vote

NIGEL Farage has given his most rousing speech to date by declaring that a vote for Brexit will become Britain’s Independence Day.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 27, 2016 at 4:51 pm

European Referendum: A Carnival of Reaction.

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One-Man Carnival of Reaction.

Scenes from British Political Confusionism.

“How different too it is turning out from what some predicted would be a ‘carnival of reaction’ ahead of the Euro referendum.”

Counterfire. April 2016.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, claims that Barack Obama’s “part Kenyan ancestry” has resulted in anti-British sentiment. So intense is this dislike that the US President removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. This slight on the Manes of Albion was compounded by the President’s support for the European Union. The EU, it appears, makes 60% of our laws. Bludgeoning home the Brexiter message, Johnson complained that America would never dream of sharing its sovereignty over anything.” (Guardian. 23.4.16)

Sovereigntism, the belief that all went wrong when Parliament pooled its decision-making powers in areas related to the single market, is an ideology shared by Tories in the Leave campaign, and a large part (if anything in this alliance could be called ‘large’) of the ‘left’ quit camp, Lexit. For UKIP and the rest of the hard right, making the running in the referendum debate, hysteria about migration and about such as topics as Obama’s ungrateful memories of British rule in Africa, is mobilised to gain backing for this principle. Left efforts to “keep racism out of the Referendum”,  notably from those who underline the principle of sovereignty, have had no effect whatsoever.

The ‘left’ case is obscured by the suggestion, voiced by Counterfire,  the “Tories crisis is our opportunity”. That the removal of Cameron by a victorious vote in the poll will result in opportunities, apparently not just for Johnson and his allies, but also for the labour movement most of which, and not least the Leader of the Labour Party, supports the Stay side. It is to be suspected that the latest Boris outburst has left a nasty taste in many people’s mouths. So, if it has weakened the Leave camp, is the converse true: that a Stay win will mean a defeat for the left, including the vast majority which advocates it?

Complaints about EU ‘neo-liberalism’ remain rhetoric unless there is a basis for policy. The anti-EU left believes that increased control over national decision-making power will enable a fight against capitalist globalisation. How exactly the UK will detach itself from global capital flows, financial markets, on the basis of rule by Westminster, perhaps split with Holyrood, is hard to grasp.

If the Lexiters propose regulation to control markets and capital then surely a large area, let’s call it Europe, is a better place to begin with. If they propose socialisation then what could be more ‘social’ than a number of different societies getting together, from places, let’s call them the Continent and its adjacent Islands, to form an economic bloc sufficiently large to stand up to international markets and capital? If they wish to remain internationalists then what better place to begin to practice inter-country and cross national solidarity then with the people next door to this one? If they wish political co-operation, well we can co-operate in a common organisation, Since it would begin with Europe, the first part of its name is obvious, and, perhaps, as we are on the left, the next bit, a Union, comes naturally.

Imagine that the left is on the road to power in Britain. The prospect of a way out of neo-liberal capitalism, helped by the “rising wave of protest”, “growing struggles” (Counterfire) is on the horizon. Fantastic! Until the next Brexit outburst…..

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Beats François Hollande in French Presidential Election Opinion Poll.

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Who’s Pedalo Captain Now?

Europe 1 reports on the latest opinion polls for next year’s French Presidential election.

Alain Juppé (Les Républicains  looks an easy winner at present with 35% (plus 4 points since December) in front of Marine Le Pen  26% (minus 2 points). François Hollande only gets 13% (minus 7 pts) Jean-Luc Mélenchon (12%, +1).

In effect Melenchon wavers between 12% and 16% in the polls, according to the survey.

It is important to note that Marine Le Pen is in first place in the case if  Les Républicains (the main right party)  is presented by either ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy, François Fillon or Bruno Le Maire.

Les Républicains have yet to designate, by ‘primary’ elections, who their candidate will be. Deep divisions continue.

But this, one of many identical polls, strengthens Juppé’s hand.

Far-left candidates, Nathalie Arthaud, Lutte ouvrière (1,5%) and Philippe Poutou, Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (2,5%) and the Green Party (EELV), Cécile Duflot, (3%) barely register.

Neither the Socialists nor the Front de Gauche (of which Mélenchon remains nominally a member) have decided on their official candidate.

A sign of Mélenchon’s trajectory is that he already has 95,000 people signed up to his personal candidacy and claims that 500 groups exist to campaign for him.

Présidentielle 2017 : Intentions de vote (17 avril 2016) http://www.tns-sofres.com/publications/presidentielle-2017-intentions-de-vote-17-avril-2016:

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is reported to be on Cloud Nine (Jean-Luc Mélenchon se sent « sur un petit nuage ») enjoying the taste of success while it lasts.

With his customary generosity and dislike of sectarian point-scoring  Mélenchon has commented, (DL)

Je regarde passer le corbillard des Verts et le Radeau de la Méduse du parti communiste.

I am looking on as the Hearse of the Greens and the Communists’  Raft of the Medusa pass by.

JEAN LOUIS THÉODORE GÉRICAULT - La Balsa de la Medusa (Museo del Louvre, 1818-19).jpg

  Mélenchon is now predicting that he will go to the second round in the Presidential elections:

« Le programme que je porte peut être présent au second tour »

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2016 at 12:11 pm

Does Galloway Blaze Trail for ‘Left’ Shift to Align with Nationalist Right?

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Galloway Evokes Battle of Britain Spirit in London Mayor Bid.

 

This nationalistic posturing  reminds me of what’s been happening in France.

While there are admirable protests about the projet de loi Travail (El Khomri) and the interesting Nuit Debout movement anti-Europe nationalism.

They call it “souverainisme“, demands for  national sovereignty, migration, border controls, security, the constitution and cultural identity.

Most of those associated with this trend are clearly on the right, if not the extreme right.

But some on the French left have also been attracted by these themes.

This article from last year describes how some have passed over to the French nationalist right:

PARIS — When the newspaper Libération last month accused self-professed “left of the left” philosopher and best-selling author Michel Onfray of “doing the [far-right party] Front National’s bidding,” French intellectuals circled the wagons.

Onfray, who declined a request for comment for this article, went on to accuse France’s successive governments of “being contemptuous of the people” — what he calls, using the English term, “the ‘old school’ people”: French blue-collar workers, the unemployed, the poor, the pensioners. As for National Front leader Marine Le Pen, he said: “I don’t resent her as much as I resent those who made her possible.”

The first is the fate of France’s poor and working class – the “proletariat” Onfray says has been abandoned by the right and the left alike. In that vision, the governing left’s policies favor the globalized elite and the well-to-do, while catering to the needs of minorities (“the margins,” says Onfray) — such as immigrants, homosexuals and women.

The second theme is the visceral hostility towards Europe and the euro, seen as constraining economic and social policy and a fatal blow to the infamous “exception française,” a large and costly welfare state that’s supposed to shield the French from the turmoils of the global economy.

The drama is being played daily in the court of public opinion. Think of it as “the people vs. the euro.”

Onfray is well known for this vein of rhetoric.

This is what he said of the attitude of those who backed – ostensibly pro-European Constitution referedum (2005) towards those who would vote No to this agreement (the Non won).

They despised the common folk:

Les gens qui vont voter Non à la constitution européenne sont des crétins, des abrutis, des imbéciles, des incultes. Petit pouvoir d’achat, petit cerveau, petite pensée, petits sentiments. Pas de diplômes, pas de livres chez eux, pas de culture, pas d’intelligence. Ils habitent en campagne, en province. Des paysans, des pécores, des péquenots, des ploucs.

The people will will vote to the European Constitution are cretins, morons, imbeciles, uncultivated. They are hard up, small-brained, narrow mined and inward looking. They have no qualifications, no books at home, no culture, no brains. They live in the country, in the provinces. They are peasants, rustics, bumpkins, yokels.

Clearly Onfray hopes to repeat the result of the referendum on the European Constitution.

He however faces a nebulous target.

But British nouveaux réactionnaires have a unique opportunity: the UK Referendum on the European Union.

takes up the Onfray challenge:

Railing against those “a Byzantine system of governance largely beyond the reach of Euro-plebs” the former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and writer for Living Marxism muses, for the anti-elitist Spectator magazine, on The strange death of left-wing Euroscepticism

The further removed the left becomes from everyday people, the more it views the public as an obese, probably racist blob to be re-educated rather than as political citizens to be engaged. The left’s turn from hating the EU to at least wanting to stick with it is directly proportionate to its loss of faith in the masses. Democracy is no longer seen as a tool of progressive change. Lefties now trust EU suits more than they do the loud, odd locals of their own towns.

This comment from Briançon’s article sums up the empty nature of this stand,

““Europe here serves as proxy for globalization,” said a government adviser, who didn’t want to be identified for fear of “adding fuel to the fire.” “I call it the defeatist wing of French intellectual life: There’s no chance we’ll be able to make it, so let’s retract and retreat.”

Will others, hostile to ‘capitalist’ EU but more specifically to the free movement of labour, a substantial group  inside the so-called Lexit camp, follow their French counterparts and align, like Galloway, with the hard right?

Allied with UKIP for the European Referendum Galloway looks a trail-blazer.

As Labour Movement Rallies Behind ‘Stay’ Vote, Corbyn Makes Socialist Case for EU.

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https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cco8-bRUYAAYPQw.jpg

Labour Movement Rallies for Europe.

 

The country’s three biggest unions –  Unison, Unite and GMB – have announced they will campaign for remain reported the Mirror yesterday.

Unison today became the latest major union to announce it would campaign for the UK to stay in the European Union.

The public sector union joins Unite and GMB, which between them represent more than 3million workers, in deciding to back remain in June’s referendum.

General Secretary Dave Prentis said a consultation with Unison members showed overwhelming backing for the union to campaign to stay.

Top of their concerns were fears that Brexit would see the loss of employment rights such as parental leave, paid holidays and protection for part time workers, the consultation found.

Almost four in five (78%) Unison branches wanted the union to take a stance in the EU referendum, and of these 95% wanted their union to campaign for the UK to stay in Europe.

The BBC is now running this story:.

Jeremy Corbyn is setting out the “socialist case” for remaining in the EU in his first major intervention in the referendum campaign.

The Labour leader said the party “overwhelmingly” backs EU membership despite its “shortcomings”.

And he argued that Britain must remain in, to fight for reform.

He cited protection of workers’ rights, environmental standards and consumer safeguards as reasons to vote to Remain on 23 June.

In a speech in central London, Mr Corbyn said: “Over the years I have been critical of many decisions taken by the EU, and I remain critical of its shortcomings; from its lack of democratic accountability to the institutional pressure to deregulate or privatise public services.

“So Europe needs to change. But that change can only come from working with our allies in the EU. It’s perfectly possible to be critical and still be convinced we need to remain a member.”

The Guardian leads with,

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/b33f01099d7f7af9d1c4180cfc979f8ba6be9607/0_235_1523_914/master/1523.jpg?w=1920&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=931c11dcf0f7fb753797054e5b77f732

 

Jeremy Corbyn: leaving EU would lead to ‘bonfire of rights’.

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has responded to calls for him to step up the fight for Britain to remain in the European Union with a speech stressing the need for international cooperation to boost workers’ rights, tackle climate change and crack down on corruption.

Speaking to an audience of Labour-supporting students and trade unionists in London, Corbyn repeatedly pointed to the shortcomings of the EU in its present form – but said he wanted to forge alliances with leftwing parties across Europe to reform it.

“You can’t build a better world unless you engage with the world,” he said, urging young people to “make sure you register to vote, and vote to keep the UK in Europe in June”, and warning that a Conservative government would take the opportunity of Brexit to slash protection for workers, in a “bonfire of rights”.
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“We want to strengthen the protection of every worker, all over Europe, not just in Britain,” he said, promising that a Labour government would co-operate with socialist allies to halt the “race to the bottom”.

Corbyn said the EU had helped to underpin “investment, jobs and protections for workers, consumers and the environment”, and working together with European allies offered “the best chance of meeting the challenges we face in the 21st century”.

He compared the decision to his own choice to remain within the Labour party, even when he had profound disagreements with its leaders. “I’ve had a few differences with the direction the Labour party has taken over the last few years, some people may have noticed. But I have been sure that I was right to remain a member of the Labour party.”

He added, smiling: “Some might say I’ve managed to do something more recently about changing the direction of Labour, and I’m enjoying that as well.”

For arguments against the increasingly isolated Brexit ‘left, see: Shiraz Socialist.

 

https://scontent-lhr3-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xaf1/v/t1.0-0/s526x395/12994552_10154886677403747_7895257316199826842_n.jpg?oh=a2d4a01b2e73011945045873c5239c4a&oe=57B67F6A

Re-run of 1970s Battle by Tariq Ali and ‘IMG Sealed Knot’ Society.

The real left meanwhile…

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 14, 2016 at 11:19 am

Netherlands: Geert Wilders and ‘left’ Socialistische Partij celebrate rejection of Ukraine partnership.

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Firebrand Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders casted his vote in a non-binding referendum on the EU-Ukraine association agreement in The Hague

Geert Wilders and ‘left’ Socialistische Partij to celebrate rejection of Ukraine partnership. 

Netherlands rejects EU-Ukraine partnership deal

Reports the BBC.

Voters in the Netherlands have rejected in a referendum an EU partnership deal to remove trade barriers with Ukraine.

Turnout was low, 32.2%, but above the 30% threshold for the vote to be valid. The deal was rejected by 61.1% of votes, compared with 38.1% in favour.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the government may have to reconsider the deal, although the vote is not binding.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko insisted his country would “continue our movement towards the EU”.

A foreign ministry official in Kiev told the BBC that the result was disappointing, adding that Dutch Eurosceptics could not take Ukraine hostage to express dissatisfaction with the EU.

The FT reported at the end of March.

…it is another outrage, in the rural countryside of east Ukraine two years ago, that is informing the referendum debate.

Dutch relations with Russia are hugely sensitive in the wake of the July 2014 explosion of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukrainian airspace controlled by Russia-backed separatists. A total of 298 people lost their lives on the flight which departed from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport carrying 194 Dutch nationals.

Until the tragedy the Dutch government was seen as one of the closest EU countries to Moscow, with a huge amount of Russian trade flowing through Rotterdam’s port and scores of Dutch companies actively investing in Russia.

During the Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi in 2014, the Dutch king was photographed enjoying a Heineken beer with Mr Putin — even as the rest of Europe was distancing itself from Moscow as the revolution in Kiev’s Maidan square reached its climax.

But Mr Putin’s policy to undermine the successors of Ukraine’s deposed Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovich, who failed at the eleventh hour to sign the EU trade deal, and the subsequent military campaign in the east of the former soviet state has divided opinion in the referendum.

The subsequent moves by Nato to strengthen its presence on the EU’s eastern borders has added to a heated debate about the relationship between the EU and Russia.

“Without giving support to Putin’s vision, we do understand the feeling in Russia that the EU and Nato are moving eastward, because those are the facts,” said Harry van Bommel, a member of parliament and foreign affairs spokesman for the leftwing Socialist party, which is advocating rejection. Ratification of the EU-Ukraine association agreement “will absolutely lead to more tension with Russia and that is in nobody’s interests — Russia and Europe need each other”.

But such arguments sound like “parroting, almost word for word, the Kremlin line”, said Michiel van Hulten, a former Dutch MEP who now heads Stem Voor Nederland (Vote For Netherlands), a leading pro-EU campaign group.

The Dutch Socialist PartySocialistische Partij,  (a former ‘Marxist Leninist’ group that has now evolved into, what it has evolved into, 9,7% of the vote in the last Netherlands General election and 15 Parliamentary seats*)  played a prominent part in the campaign, as the Russian state funded ‘Sputnik‘  obligingly reports:

The Dutch Socialist Party (SP) launched a campaign on Saturday against Kiev’s association agreement with the European Union as the Netherlands is heading toward a referendum on the deal.

Their view is that “Ukraine is better off as a buffer state between the EU and Russia.

They also add (Socialist Party),

there are a lot more things which serve to offer reasons to vote ‘no’ on April 6th. As a socialist it speaks for itself that I reject the neoliberal character of this treaty, a treaty which is of course fervently desired by international corporate business. The agreement provides for the privatisation of state-owned companies in Ukraine and the liberalisation of markets. It includes a ban on state aids (art.262) and prescribes the promotion of exports to the EU by the EU itself (art 379). Dutch truckers have previously lost jobs to Polish drivers posted here. Those who survived will soon lose out to Ukrainian drivers.

Reaction:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 7, 2016 at 11:16 am