Arthur Scargill recently spoke at a Socialist Labour Party EU Exit policy meeting at the Quaker Meeting House in Liverpool. Nerve contributor John Owen was in attendance.
Quaker Meeting House, School Lane, Liverpool
10th June 2016
This was a discussion rather than a public meeting, including legendary former miners leader Arthur Scargill, who was head of the NUM during the Miners Strike in 1984’85, which challenged the policies of Margaret Thatcher’s government, and split the country into almost civil war camps – those for or against the miners.
This time round though the issue is not so sure. He is gruff and confridently sure of his views.
Doug Nichols, a union expert and leader of the TUAEU (trade unions against EU) campaign, spoke mostly in a calm fatherly manner, as if to his children, and quoted from various sources the benefits of leaving the EU. Alas I caught only the end of his speech.
Next was Scargill, who supported the dockers 1994-6 dispute and the city council fight that took placwe here. “Although we have 700 MPs or so in Parliament, the handful of institutions, five or so, have total control of the EU, where is the democracy?
He declaimed, “30 member states or two, pending others and a business lobby of 30,000 individuals, second only in scope to Washington DC.
“Trade union representation you could count on both of your hands. They’ve instituted attacks on final salary and pension schemes. Trade unionists have said to us leave, deliver the blow, do it for us, we are on the streets protesting against them.
“We have the chance now to get revenge, to settle accounts. I was a 17-year-old communist in 1958 when we fought the imposition of Italian labour in the pits, as a result of the treaty of Rome. We were right then and we are right now” he said, to muted applause. “They should fight to keep them open in their own country, not come here.
“Yes, the iron and steel transport and minerals were concentrated to help USA economically, centralising its resources, and also in the Cold War battle against the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain.
“Warsaw Pact countries, allied to Stalin and ruled from Moscow, were set against NATO. That was the post war division of the world’s resources. Social democracy and Stalinism helped prop up imperialism in Europe and divide the world into two super powers.”
Britain’s manufacturing decline was put down to the EU, not successive Labour or Tory traitors or trade union sell-outs. No! The evil EU was responsible for the crisis. where the state of our borders under assault by one million migrants. And all of them, Scargill suggested, were “claiming benefits”, a line quoted variously by Nigel Farrage and Tory Gove.
“This is what the free movement of labour equals, as the free movement of capital too!
500,000 official figures can be disproved; by actual claims.” Somehow he had the figures.
“Ten million unemployed really, not two or three as the Government claims.
We don’t have British cars or any products, yet Germany has five brands, Italy four, France three, Spain two. We don’t have a British car industry any more” he thundered.”
True we’re no longer the workshop of the world.
“1000 years of coal underground, yet we import 40 million tonnes a year from areas that use seven-year-old female child labourers.” he added.
Much of these things are not attributable to the EU, far from it. It has attempted with other groups to halt the exploitation of resources worldwide and rein in capitalists forces. Its countries like Britain with its veto and other support, principally from USA, ally in the war on terror, etc.
Yes these emotive truths are so. But who or what’s to blame? And, furthermore, how do we end such abuse of human rights and child labour exploitation? By leaving the EU of course. Now why didn’t we do that all along if only we thought of that ages ago?
“Tony Benn was dead against the EU (according to him; yet served happily in Harold Wilson’s government) and my friend, until recently, Jeremy Corbyn” (traitor shouts and boos from audience) anti momentum feeling apparent in the room. “He has reneged on Trident and Clause IV and now the EU”. declared Arthur.
Statistics of immigration read out to no apparent disgust. How will the NHS be paid for, with only 10% manufacturing here? Port Talbot the unions solution that workers pensions scheme be used to bail out the company a disgrace. Worthy comment, but does leaving EU help solve it?
There is the official solicitor tale of jailed dockers leader Vic Turner, one of the Gonville 5, released by official solicitor, turned up in medieval beefeater outfit to prison to announce they were free.
However the 2 million workers on strike outside the gates is what swung the decision to release them. Not though the Shrewsbury 3. Des Warren and Ricky Tomlinson, both jailed, and kept in under a Labour government, which wonderful Tony Benn resided in as Minister of Technology.
The EU debate will rage until the date the vote is taken and the ballyhoo is over.
Being sentimental about the 1970s and the enormous strength the unions had and the causes fought for, great principles, is one thing. Today, however, in the here and now. We need to stand against any and all forms of racism and national chauvinism. Something an exit strategy is sure to foster.
For the sake of clarity here is a quick summary of some of the left positions:
- SLP Socialist Labour Party: Arthur Scargill: Brexit equals a million Turks due here, collapsing our NHS and pensions.
- CPGB Communist Party of Great Britain: Morning Star as above but has been instrumental in momentum and Corbyn fan club now not so. More for the Brexit, initiated trade unionist against Europe. This is worse than the previous no 2EU campaign slogan. (TUSC used in Euro elections).
- TUAEU. (as above) some main supporters RMT (regarding rail privatisation legislation) and GMB
- Socialist Party. It will be a blow against Tory government. i.e. splitting the government in half, hasten their downfall despite worries of national backlash. Concessions to immigration fears.
- Leninist weekly worker grouping staunch anti- EU position. Notable policies regarding TTIP NHS, etc. under assault from Europe.
- SWP similar to most of the above. Their theoretical journal socialist review call European and the concept of Europe a form of racism.
- Counter fire, a breakaway from the above siding with the SWP line, for the same reasons mostly blow against Cameron i.e. the concept that anything that weakens the Tories is good and to support the Remain vote, like McDonnell and Corbyn are doing, is treachery, to help keep the government in power. ergo opportune tactic of siding with Boris Johnson and Nigel Farrage and co is best tactic for international workers movement.
- TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) and TUSP (Trade Union and Socialist Party) both seem to be united regarding this position of Brexit, seems more that TUSC leads the other anti-austerity movement will benefit somehow from exiting stranglehold of EU.
- Socialist equality party, mostly online active call for boycott of the vote.
- UNITE trade union supporters have diametrically opposed views to the leadership that is Len McCluskey is backing Corbyn remain campaign.
- Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell both champion Remain but privately oppose it and are just house managing the Labour party with this tactic. Over half a million joined during the momentum campaign, despite fears of the Labour right claiming Trotskyite infiltration. Newer younger forces entered to swing the vote for Corbyn’s success.
- Australian migration and immigration models are lauded by some and economic models of Norway Switzerland and Icelandic economies held as proof of independence.
- UKIP: total racist and close the borders party, willing to support Boris Johnson.