Writing on the Wall: No Choice

Submitted by on 16 July, 2002 - 12:23

When Choice is no choice

  • Alan Thornett on 'Vote Chirac' and 'Vote No'
  • Chirac's lucky escape: questions for Chris Harman
  • pensions crisis - work longer or starve

When choice is no choice
'A foolish consistency in all things is the hobgoblin of small minds' (Emerson).
Alan Thornett argues for a 'No' vote in any euro referendum. In Socialist Outlook: A reply to SWP's Chris Harman, he defends the LCR's call for vote for Chirac in the second round of the French presidential elections:
'To compound such a ridiculous allegation he then goes on to compare the policy of the LCR with the call by German social democracy (the SPD), in the presidential elections in Germany in 1932, for a vote for Hindenburg against Hitler…
Chris Harman goes on to imply that a vote for Chirac would sow illusions in him.

… the left were faced with a choice: either vote for Chirac against Le Pen - and be accused of supporting a right-winger - or be seen by the mass movement on the streets as being indifferent to Le Pen getting a higher share of the vote and being strengthened by it.

What Chris Harman misses out is the political dynamic of those mobilisations, which culminated in 2 million on the streets on May Day, or the shock to French society of Le Pen reaching the second round. It produced the biggest demonstrations in France since the Liberation, even bigger than 1968.

To tell the hundreds of thousands of young people who were pouring onto the streets that they should then abstain at the ballot box (as LO did and as Chris Harman advocates) made no sense at all.'

What Thornett misses is the fact that 2 million took to the streets looking for a political lead makes the LCR's position worse, not excuses it, by misleading more people into believing that a corrupt rightwing bourgeois politician could be a vote against fascism.

Thornett is consistent in one sense: in both cases he is being led by 'left' popular opinion rather than making an independent political judgement of working class interests and trying to win militants to it. But if he really wanted to be consistent with a No vote, he'd be voting for Le Pen (I'm not suggesting he ever would), or voting Chirac and Yes.

Chirac and the euro project represent mainstream big business, integrationist, neoliberal capitalism and it will be the working class who are expected to pay in privatisation, job insecurity and lower living standards.

The No camp and Le Pen stand for isolationism, protectionism, nationalism, and guess what? The working class will still be expected to pay in stagnation, job losses, racism, division and lack of rights. Some choice.

One for the SWP
Now here's one for Chris Harman, whose political gyroscope is set to the opposite of whatever Blair says:
'Mr Blair said: "I would express my happiness and pleasure that President Chirac escaped unharmed from this incident, which is obviously very regrettable indeed."'

On Bastille Day, Chirac escaped harm from a neo-nazi not-very-sharp-shooter. So what's it to be:

No to neo-Nazi Terror. Defend the anti-fascist Chirac?
Or Blair and Chirac: the real terrorists. Victory to the (bit misguided) desperate youth?

The shooter, Brunerie, 25, was said to be incoherent and suicidal at the time of his arrest. Sounds like a suitable SWP recruit.

Too poor to grow old
Here's another choice/no choice story.
In a review commissioned by the government in response to a wave of employers switching to cheap personal pension style schemes or closing existing schemes altogether, Alan Pickering, former chairman of the National Association of Pension Funds, claims he wants to protect final salary schemes and encourage more people to join. Great, you say, finally some action on the pensions crisis. So how will he go about it?

Government should step back from "micro management" of pension funds, which makes them inflexible and swathed in red tape. He proposes a pensions act that would sweep away the current complex rules and create a single set of principles governing all pensions. He also wants to create a "more proactive" regulator, and allow employers to make pension scheme membership a condition of employment.

Flexibility also means that employers could allow people to work beyond 65. He hoped legislation would take effect in two years. Starting to get the picture?

Current rules insist pensioner income is inflation-proofed and death benefits are payable to spouses.

Can't have that sort of red tape and inflexibility.
For the slow of understanding: employers will be able to make membership of a scheme compulsory, but are not required to guarantee benefits. Handy that idea of working beyond age 65. You won't be able to afford not to.

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