The irony of an unelected elite of bureaucrats in Brussels, together with the unelected President of the European Council, lecturing an elected national government on the virtues of democracy would normally occasion at least a wry smile.

However, in this case the EU Commission is objecting to yet another reactionary move against Poland’s judiciary by a very reactionary regime in Warsaw.

The sweeping powers to dismiss and appoint the country’s judges backed by the ruling Law and Justice Party do not bode well for civil and political liberties in Poland.

The EU Commission professes concern about the “rule of law” and threatens to invoke Article 7.

That would involve all EU member states unanimously agreeing to warn the Polish government about its conduct.

This in turn could lead to Poland losing its voting rights in various EU institutions.

Of course, it could be that all the fearsome pronouncements by Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and EU Council President Donald Tusk — a bitter political rival of Law and Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski — are merely a melange of hot air and blether.

The EU Commission has never lifted a finger to block anti-democratic measures taken against immigrants, trade unionists, socialists and communists in numerous EU member states.

And as Kaczynski points out when calling the EU’s bluff: “Too many interests, including economic ones, want the possibility to further exploit Poland.”

It’s certainly true that German big business led the way in buying up large parts of the former socialist economies of eastern Europe at bargain basement prices, followed by the capitalists of France, Britain and Italy.

Western Europe’s capitalists also value that region’s position as a source of cheap migrant labour too much to expel Poland from the grip of EU free market fundamentalism.

It would be a triumph of naivety over experience to imagine that EU bureaucrats and politicians would willingly destabilise these lucrative arrangements in the cause of civil and political liberties.

At the same time, many thousands of Poles are protesting against their power-hungry, authoritarian regime in Warsaw.

They deserve sympathy, but should drop any delusions that they have a staunch pro-democracy ally in Brussels or Strasbourg.

If the EU Commission fights and wins this struggle over the Supreme Court Bill now before the Polish parliament, it will confirm the bureaucracy’s view that it should and can exercise sovereignty over democratically elected governments, whether the latter are progressive or reactionary.

Should victory go Kaczynski and his right-wing MPs, they will feel encouraged to dismantle more of the fragile democratic and social rights of the Polish people.

Ideally, therefore, victory needs to be won by the people of Poland, supported by democrats and progressives everywhere.


This article appeared in The Morning Star on Saturday 22nd July 2107

stop your complaining and take what you’re bloody well given.

After all, public-sector workers are supposedly “overpaid” in this country, according to Chancellor Philip Hammond. So, surely, it’s right that their wages have been slashed since the Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators came to power in 2010?

Don’t you remember the prison officers driving around in flash cars, like the ones that our own multimillionaire Chancellor is fond of? The Tories have stopped those shenanigans, lopping £3,800 off their wages in real terms.

Weren’t nurses rolling in it before the Tories taught them the value of thrift by cutting the value of their pay by 12 per cent?

And is it that the cleaner who handed John McDonnell her pay slip — for a bonanza £297 a week — just doesn’t know how good she’s got it?

Hammond says the real scandal is that someone would dare to repeat what he said in the “private space” of the Cabinet room.

What an odious man. What a sickening stance. “Overpaid.” Hammond is a spiv who’s made millions ripping off the NHS to build doctors’ surgeries and gone round the world raking in money by telling poor countries how to sell off public assets.

That Barts NHS Trust cleaner in London, working full time, is on strike with her colleagues for an extra 30p an hour — a piddling sum denied them by bosses. £12 a week!

Britain is the fifth-richest country in the world yet Hammond has the gall to say that not only is this woman not worthy of an extra £12 a week but she is paid too much already. The mind boggles and the stomach churns.

In 2009 the New Economics Foundation worked out that for every £1 hospital cleaners are paid they create £10 in social value. It is the same right across our public sector. Workers who are underpaid and undervalued and disgracefully slandered by this government are the people who we all rely on.

This state of affairs is not just disgraceful but also inept economics. The “living within our means” mantra has always been a falsehood. Government finances are nothing like those of a household. Thankfully fewer and fewer people believe the fiction that it was government spending and not criminally reckless lending by bankers that caused the 2008 crash.

While the Tories and Lib Dems have shovelled cash to their rich pals during their austerity binge, deep pay and service cuts have left our economy in an extremely fragile state.

Even things that might appear useful, such as Help to Buy for first-time-buyer mortgages, have inflated and prolonged dangerous asset bubbles — which must burst — and subsidised big business.

Average pay today is worth 3 per cent less than 10 years ago. Household debt has soared as people try desperately to maintain their living standards with credit cards and pay-day loans.

We are heading for the cliff edge and the Tories’ economic policy — of stealing from the many to give to the few to hide in tax havens — only drives us further toward oblivion.

We have been living through an economic disaster this past decade, the grim statistics made worse by the human tragedy behind them. Nurses so impoverished they must rely on food handouts. Families made homeless because rents are too high. Elderly people dying in winter because they can’t afford to turn the heating on.

People recognise this is wrong and that Labour offers an alternative to such suffering — which is why we’re seeing crowds turn out even in such “true blue” places as Bournemouth. The fear of economic catastrophe is real and valid, but we must harness our hope for a better future and kick out the Tories.


This article appeared in The Morning Star, Monday July 17th 2017