We’ve got a referendum coming up in June that Cameron didn’t want, but was forced to promise at a time when it looked as though votes lost to UKIP might have cost him the election. His arguments now are largely based on the number of jobs that could be lost if we leave. But what kind of jobs?
I listened to a debate on EU membership on ‘Any Questions’ on Radio 4 on Friday evening, broadcast from Spalding in Lincolnshire – it was like listening to people arguing about where to put the deckchairs on the Titanic. Global ecology or democracy weren’t mentioned, but there were lots of bogus arguments about jobs from dodgy politicians and businessmen.
The jobs they were talking about were mainly backbreaking, exploitative migrant agricultural workers’ jobs; and the audience in Lincolnshire clearly didn’t want them over here. But the thing is, they don’t want to be here either. They don’t come for the weather, or the culture – they’re desperate. It’s not the kind of world we should be encouraging. And the type of jobs Cameron is talking about for British people are those geared towards exports or in the financial sector.
From a low-impact perspective, gearing our economy towards exports is a bad idea. A low-impact economy would be based on small businesses providing goods and services for their local communities, not for communities in other countries. This kind of system would provide far more jobs – and more interesting jobs too. Large-scale agriculture and corporate supermarkets destroy more jobs than they create – see here; plus it’s damaging to small farms in Eastern Europe – see here. Large machines, pesticides, huge fields, monoculture, cheap labour – that’s no way to farm. It’s bad for people, for communities and for the environment.
Britain has lush farmland, perfect for fruit and veg in the west, cereals in the east, sheep, cattle and trees on the hills, and surrounded by seas teeming with fish. and yet we don’t produce much more than half of our own food. We find ourselves in the crazy situation of selling as many tonnes of spuds to Germany as we buy from Germany – but it’s all good because it makes those all-important export figures look better.
As for the financial sector – let’s wind it down, and let’s enourage the people in it to do useful work instead. It’s a cancer, destroying real wealth for most people, sucking money from taxpayers, enriching the worst kinds of people, strengthening the corporate sector at the expense of small businesses and destroying the environment.
One member of the ‘Any Questions’ panel (owner of a multi-million pound food import and export business) complained that British people don’t want to get up at 4 in the morning. Well, neither do the Poles – but they’re desperate, which is why they have to. It’s rich hearing that people are lazy from someone who owns rather than works – who gets wealthy from the work of other people. People work hard if they have their own business or smallholding, but doing that in the face of competition from the corporate sector and large-scale agribusiness is becoming more and more difficult. Let’s base the agricultural economy on smallholdings producing for local markets, and let’s stop focusing on exporting food when we don’t produce enough for ourselves.
People in Spalding said that they don’t like the fact that they hardly hear English spoken in their town any more, and I understand that. But trying to stop immigration isn’t going to work if we don’t question the corporate system, that destroys small farms in Poland so that labourers have to come here to work in terrible conditions away from their families. Let’s help migrant workers (as well as British people) to have smallholdings and small businesses in their own countries.
Back to the EU: taxpayers are currently stumping up £13bn per year for another layer of corporate insitutions. We have a corporate-dominated national government and now we also have a corporate-dominated EU. It’s a ‘rock and a hard place’ situation, that will only ever be resolved by replacing this whole rotten corporate capitalist system.
But would it be easier to challenge capitalism from within the EU or from outside? The Greens want to stay in, because EU environmental legislation is better than our national legislation. But the legislation is only necessary in the first place because our growth, investment and export-oriented system damages the environment. And in the end, the EU exists to promote that system – to encourage growth and make it easier for export-oriented industry and agriculture to thrive.
Also, any directives ‘protecting’ habitats or species are ultimately greenwash in a global economy primed to grow forever. Manufacturing has been exported to China et al, and any vague protection we have over here is dwarfed by the enormity of the ecological damage being wreaked over there. This scene isn’t unusual for Chinese rivers:
It’s much easier to keep beaches clean over here (for example) when we don’t have any manufacturing. But having said that, even in Europe, extinctions are happening at a rapid pace, and even if not extinct, wildlife numbers are shrinking rapidly. Globally though, it’s apocalyptic.
And as I understand it, if Jeremy Corbyn wins the next election, he would be unable to re-nationalise any parts of the economy that have been privatised since the 80s (I’m not commenting on whether that would be a good thing or not – I’m just using it as an example), without the unanimous support all EU countries – and that’s not going to happen. It’s locked in. The only exception is the railways, but there’s a bill going through the EU at the moment that will lock them in too. TTIP would be the same – locked in, and there would be nothing that a radical government elected anywhere in the EU could do about it.
On the positive side, European history is a catalogue of mutual butchery. It’s difficult to imagine that continuing within an ever-closer EU, in the same way that it’s impossible to imagine Kansas declaring war on Colorado. I don’t know if Europe is the world’s most violent continent, historically, although it would take some beating. But since 1945, wars in Europe have been few, and within countries, rather than between them – apart from recent shenanigans in the ex-Soviet Union.
Ultimately, I’d like to see a united Europe, but not united under a corporate-dominated institution. That would be very difficult at the moment, living as we do in a corporate-dominated world. Maybe the coming together of countries that have shed the corporate yoke will be possible at some point in the future. But for that to happen would seem to require the break-up of the EU as a precondition.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Darlene Cavallara March 14th, 2016
I appreciate your article and would like to add that this Low Impact perspective needs to be the global perspective – every country needs to throw off the corporate jackals that have hijacked our world. The best way to accomplish this is through rendering their system, products, and services obsolete – creating our own local and regional economies and governing structures. It is more that possible to do this with the internet being a source of so much information, resources, and market channels for our cottage industries. New and old sustainable technologies offer a path towards our own energy sources and regenerative farming practices can feed our regions. I believe we need to establish small scale micro-exporting and importing and bypass the mass distribution channels that our governments control so heavily. I can buy your non-perishable products through the Amazon, Ebay, or some other merchant service and you can buy mine. We can trade things as well from community to community….it will take some time and well thought out strategies but we can change how things are if we work from the ground up. Thank you for your article and perspective. ?
2Dave Darby March 15th, 2016
Thank you Darlene – although I would just say that Amazon and Ebay are themselves multinational corporations, responsible for the deaths of lots of small businesses. Much better I think for small producers to sell their goods and services via local word of mouth, or via websites like this one (or yours – how’s it going over there btw?)
3Dan Golding March 15th, 2016
Good article – thank you. I am still undecided, although erring towards leaving as it is my fervent hope that by doing so we’ll get some national pride back and start buying and producing locally.
I think immigration is just smoke and mirrors to the politicians – I genuinely don’t care who lives in this country as long as they contribute (and the same goes for nationals as well … contribute to society, don’t just take benefits)
If leaving the EU forces us to rethink and become nationally more resilient then that can only be a good thing. The world needs a radical rethink and too many are obsessed with money for money’s sake. This referendum is a massive opportunity for the country to put itself first – it’s just a shame that those with the loudest voices are the big corporations who stand to gain the most.
4Darlene Cavallara March 15th, 2016
Hi Dave – you are right about Amazon and Ebay but I was mentioning them for long distance trading that has easy shipping solutions figured out…not my area of expertise by far but I have experienced frustration with shipping options in the past. It is best to order directly when possible and I often check out a merchants website before I order from Amazon to see if there is an option to buy directly from their website. Things are going great over here – we are getting closer to successful funding of the education center and the low impact agency we are establishing is getting legs under it. I will definitely put out the word when we pass this next milestone. I look forward to the coalition and partnership building phase! Cheers!
5Geri Clarke April 21st, 2016
The EU did not create the global trading system, neither can you get rid of it. History teaches us that only revolution -chaotic disruption changes economic systems. It is naive to think that leaving the EU will reduce the power of global corporations in the UK.
The nitty gritty of the debate is learning what will be affected and what will not. Polish agricultural workers won’t go home even if we leave the EU. They are cheap labour, as were the Bangladeshis, Caribbbeans and Irish before them.
6Dave Darby April 22nd, 2016
I agree – the EU didn’t create the global system, but that’s not a reason to support a corporate institution. Otherwise, why not have a corporate-controlled world government too, whose aim is to increase growth and orient the global economy towards exports, and whose policy is written by a private club of corporate CEOs? I’m assuming you wouldn’t want that, so why a European government doing exactly the same things?
‘neither can you get rid of it’ – can’t get rid of this system? You’re saying that capitalism is the end of history? I’d go and get a better paid job if I thought that was the case, because it would mean our extinction – ecology is degrading more each year because of our cancerous economy.
Revolution doesn’t mean chaotic disruption, it just means the introduction of a new system. The ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 that marked the transition from divine right of kings to mercantilism was the biggest political transformation this country has ever seen, and it was entirely peaceful. But a bit of chaotic disruption would be well worth it to get rid of a system that’s pushing us towards extinction.
‘It is naive to think that leaving the EU will reduce the power of global corporations in the UK’ – I agree, there’s a lot of work to do. But transnational corporate-controlled institutions are going to increase corporate power a lot more, and in my opinion should be opposed – that’s the EU, TTIP, TPP, CETA, IMF, World Bank and the extremely scary Global Redesign Initiative – http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/read-this-report-to-understand-how-banks-and-corporations-are-planning-to-assume-global-governance/.
European (and global) unity – yes; under corporate institutions, not for me.