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Brown denies democratic process on EU constitution

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Gordon Brown has ignored the democratic process for the second time since becoming prime minister (the first being his unopposed coronation). By denying the British people a referendum on the European Union Reform Treaty, despite 75 per cent wanting one, he is forcing through the 2000 “Lisbon agenda” to “Americanise” Europe with devastating effects on the working class, the youth, and the poor. This treaty is considered to be 90 per cent the same as the European Constitution voted down by the Dutch and French masses in 2005.

With the Royal Mail workers still in dispute, and public sector workers balloting to strike against Brown’s March 2007 pay limit, Brown has decided to weather the storm. Instead of calling an election now, he hopes the public will forget his betrayals when one is called. It’s easier to risk unpopularity by refusing a referendum, than to gamble on an embarrassing likely defeat.

The Tories are calling for a referendum, not because they fundamentally oppose the treaty, but to score points against Labour by pretending to defend democracy. A section of the party is completely against the European project, promoting Little England chauvinism against the other European imperialisms. And although the Liberal Democrats’ acting leader Vincent Cable favours a referendum on the European Union as a whole, Lib Dem leadership contenders Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne said they would not back a referendum on the treaty.

Workers Power supports the call for a referendum and would fight for a “No” vote within it. However, we do not subscribe to the xenophobic, anti-European sentiments of many Tories or the protectionism of the Lib Dems; we fight for a constitution based on workers rights and a restructuring of society – a Socialist United States of Europe.

We are not against European unity; we believe that bringing together workers from across national boundaries makes the working class as a whole stronger. We must fight together to further working class interests, such as quality healthcare, free education, decent wages and working conditions, decent housing and a future for all.

Europe’s so-called democrats will never allow the working class to have its say in the political future of Europe because they know that that they would never get their commitment to capitalism, privatisation, social cuts and racist laws through an assembly made up of workers representatives.

Brown’s blustering that the new treaty has nothing to do with the failed constitution is a lie. The Reform Treaty, to be signed in December, ratified by all 27 member states in 2008 and brought into force in 2009, is part of the neo-liberal Lisbon Agenda 2010, setting out the way forward for European capitalists and big business to make the EU as economically competitive as the US within ten years. It is a project to see through the formation of a new united imperialist superpower.

The Lisbon Agenda called for wholesale privatisation and deregulation – telecommunications and transport, employment policy, health and pensions, all had to be opened up to market forces. And the workers must work five years longer with retirement being postponed until 65.

The Treaty is being used to circumvent the democratic process across all the EU countries; only the Republic of Ireland will hold a referendum on it. Brown was crystal clear when he said that the focus over the next period would include “the new priorities” of jobs, competitiveness, prosperity, climate change and security “so that Europe can play a far stronger part in the competitive economy of the world and be a leader and success story in the new global order”.

So although the overt symbols of a European super state have been dropped like the flag, motto and anthem, it has kept a number of reforms that bring forward European political and economic union: a new president of the European Council to serve 2.5 years, a new EU foreign affairs chief, a reformed voting system and scrapped vetoes in 40 areas. It amends, rather than replaces, existing EU treaties.

Brown argues that the UK’s “red lines”, in foreign policy, tax and benefits, criminal justice and an opt-out from a charter of fundamental rights, have been secured. Yet the Prison Officers’ Association plans to be the first to contest government claims that the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights is not enshrined in British law, in a move which could unravel Brown’s “red lines”. The POA will demand the right for its members to strike by challenging the legality of Britain’s opt-out and Brown will fight it tooth and nail.

A workers’ constitution
Through the European Social Forum process, a number of initiatives have tried to come up with an alternative constitution – one that reflected the needs of the working class, the poor and immigrants of Europe. After the successful “No” campaign in France in 2005, French activists focused their energy on a petition aimed at getting “a million signatures for a social Europe”. The Italians implicitly counterposed this to developing a “Charter for another Europe”, including peace and security, citizenship, equality and difference, workers’ and social rights, democracy and participation, the environment and public services.

What Workers Power proposed was completely different: active working class internationalism, a class struggle that recognises and respects no borders. The working class, together with the anticapitalist and other social movements, needs actively to oppose the imperialist project and fight for another Europe – one based on the political power of the workers and control of the economy through social ownership.

With both we can build an economy, an environment, a society fit for human beings. We can achieve equality and freedom. That is the Europe that we are fighting to build – a socialist United States of Europe.