Category Archives: Brexit

The UK’s Brexit and anti-globalisation general election

Apart from his efforts to bring about the Threefold Social Order after the First World War, Rudolf Steiner stayed away from involvement with politics. Indeed, he went so far as to say: “The Anthroposophical Society is averse to any kind of sectarian tendency. Politics it does not consider to be among its tasks.”  This is a line that many anthroposophists also take, for understandable reasons.

Despite this, I am going to write here about politics, because the forthcoming “snap” British general election, called by the British prime minister Theresa May to be held on June 8th 2017, is of such a momentous nature, with implications not just for the UK but also for many other countries around the world, that it surely deserves a wider anthroposophical perspective.

We have also just had the result of the presidential election in France, which was won decisively by Emmanuel Macron, leader of a new political party, En Marche! (On the Move!), whose name by a strange coincidence bears the same initials as his own. His defeated opponent, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Front National party, had one of the most devastating lines in their televised debate, when she said: “France is going to be led by a woman, either me or Frau Merkel” but her aggressive, hectoring style led most observers to conclude that she had lost the arguments.

(As an interesting aside, a respected clairvoyant suggested to me that Emmanuel Macron is an aspect of Napoleon Bonaparte, who has reincarnated to do what he can to compensate for all the death and destruction he caused during his life as Emperor of France. A fanciful notion, perhaps, but put pictures of Macron and Bonaparte side by side and there is a distinct resemblance. I shall watch with great interest how Macron approaches his task of seeking to unite a very divided nation.)

Macron Bonaparte

Macron Bonaparte (image via the blog Conseil dans l’Espérance du Roi)

The Eurozone economic crisis, combined with the cultural and social impact of its open borders policy, has led to the rise of far-right parties not just in France but in many EU nations: the very thing which defenders of the EU say it exists to counter. But discontent with the EU is only one factor; another important one, which applies much more widely than just within Europe, is that the bankers and money-men collectively bankrupted us a decade ago – and got away with it. The resulting surge of rage across the Western world unleashed the Brexit vote in the UK; it smashed the established French party system, so that neither of the main parties there was any longer even in contention for the presidency; and in the USA it carried Donald Trump all the way to the White House. The tide in favour of national self-determination and anti-globalisation appears to be running high in many countries right now.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I voted to leave the European Union during the referendum held on June 23rd 2016, and I gave my reasons here and here. Most anthroposophists I know took a different line, and voted to remain. There has been a lively discussion about all of this in recent issues of the Anthroposophical Society in Great Britain’s Newsletter. I don’t intend to repeat the arguments I made last year, but will add here a few further observations.

First of all, a glance back at the history of Britain and the European project, together with a question: why was it that Conservative and Labour statesmen such as Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin, as well as the great European Charles de Gaulle, were all against the idea of Britain joining what was to become the European Union? Was it because they all understood what the European project was about and realised that Britain was not a natural part of it?

Churchill de Gaulle

Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle

The case made by those in favour of joining the European Economic Community (such as Harold Macmillan, prime minister from 1957 to 1963) was that Britain’s relative economic and actual geopolitical decline after the Second World War left joining the rest of Europe as the only viable alternative. However, after the war and in the early 1950s, most British politicians were unable to see just how difficult Britain’s position had become; or perhaps some of them could see it, but weren’t prepared to tell the British people that our imperial pretensions could no longer be sustained. It was the Suez War of 1956 that revealed just how far Britain’s economy had weakened, and how dependent it had become on the USA.

Britain after the Second World War and into the 1950s resisted the idea of joining in any moves towards European integration. True, Churchill had publicly supported the idea of a United States of Europe, notably when he made the keynote speech at the Hague Congress that created the Council of Europe in 1948; though whether he ever envisaged Britain being part of any such union is very doubtful. Certainly, he was far less sympathetic to the idea of union by the time he had returned to power in 1951. Nor was the post-war Labour government in favour of any moves towards union that might cede sovereignty in any form. In May 1950 foreign secretary Bevin said that because of links with the USA and the Commonwealth, Britain was “different in character from other European nations and fundamentally incapable of wholehearted integration with them.” In any case, measures towards political union of any kind aroused him to vigorous rejection. ‘I don’t like it. I don’t like it,’ he famously said of the idea of the Council of Europe: ‘When you open that Pandora’s Box you’ll find it’s full of Trojan horses.’

Bevin and Attlee

Ernest Bevin and Clement Attlee

Most Conservative politicians agreed with him. So Britain failed to engage in the creation of the EEC in the Treaty of Rome of 1957, and then later tried but failed to remedy what had come to be seen as a mistake. For Charles de Gaulle had never forgotten that Churchill had once told him that “if we had to choose between France and the US, Britain would always choose the latter.” So when Britain finally tried to join the EEC, first in 1963 and then again in 1967, de Gaulle vetoed our applications. Giving his reasons in 1963 for saying “Non”, he commented: “England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her interactions, her markets and her supply lines to the most diverse and often the most distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only slight agricultural ones. She has, in all her doings, very marked and very original habits and traditions.”

De Gaulle also believed that Britain would represent American interests: it would be the US’s Trojan horse in the EEC. He had concluded that Britain was not committed to the goals of the EEC because, having withdrawn in 1955 from the original talks that led to the creation of the EEC, Britain had then proceeded to establish its own rival customs union (EFTA – the European Free Trade Association). In addition, he found the British both arrogant and self-important. Was de Gaulle wrong about any of this? I don’t think so.

This is all ancient and unfortunate history, some might say. Eventually, in 1973, Britain managed to join the EEC – but only after de Gaulle had left office. Nearly half a century later, we’re all Europeans and global citizens now, drinking our fairtrade coffee while we wait for our flight to some agreeable holiday destination. We like the idea of being able to move to any EU country for work, and in any case, without all those helpful Eastern Europeans coming to the UK, who will look after the elderly in our care homes or serve us our skinny latte?

Despite such compelling arguments, I voted to leave on June 23rd 2016, and thus opened myself up to accusations of racism, fascism, betraying young people etc from furious Remainers. Even so, I was somewhat bemused to find myself characterised by Michael Eggert, a German blogger, as someone who was siding with “neo-nationalist reactionaries” and “reflecting the internal arguments of the UKIP supporters.” He tells his readers that if they go to the anthropopper blog they will know what to expect if they are “familiar with today’s neo-right and open-fascist conspiracy theories. The ingredients for anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are the same, albeit with the pseudo-occult bluff arguments which so many believing Steiner supporters derive from his statements of 100 years ago.”

Actually, Michael, if I were pushed to define my political position, I would say that I lean towards anarcho-syndicalism with a deep green tinge. I thought I had taken great care in my Brexit essay to set out quite a distinct and principled position from a progressive standpoint – but perhaps the argument was too nuanced to pierce the hard shell of your cultural infallibility.

Leaving the uncomprehending Egoisten aside, I still remain baffled by the poor reasoning exhibited by so many Remainers; why is it, for example, that pro-EU people on the left or Green sides of the argument are so in favour of the European Union? What are they doing, these radicals who like to think of themselves as being in the forefront of the fight against globalisation, by fighting instead for an undemocratic, unaccountable trading bloc which is backed by the world’s banks, multinational corporations, financiers, and heads of governments? To listen to these Remainers, it’s clear that the decision to leave is being treated not as an opportunity to engage more fully with the wider world, nor a throwing-off of economic handcuffs or even simply as a change that must be accommodated after due democratic process, but rather as some kind of a national disaster.

Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s only MP and one half of the party leadership

And what is the Green Party thinking of, when it supports the EU? The EU cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as green. Has Caroline Lucas forgotten the continent-wide destruction created by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy – the wiping out of hedgerows, forests and wildlife, landscape features, small and family farms, and the promotion of industrial farming and agricultural free trade – which has arguably done more damage to the rural landscapes of Europe in 50 years than any other single instrument in the previous 500? This of course is now being extended to Romania, Poland, Hungary and the other newer members of the EU, where we will once again see the destruction of the peasantry, wildlife and diverse landscapes and the introduction of monocultures and the triumph of agri-business.

As for the Labour Party, I confess I don’t know what their attitude to the EU is today, nor do I understand what their position is on Brexit. What I do know is that they have failed to provide any kind of leadership, or to show that they have any clue about what caused the vote to leave. It seems that they have already given up on any prospect of winning this general election and are now manoeuvring behind the scenes for the leadership election that seems likely to follow a heavy general election defeat for their party.

The weakness of the left and the Greens means that this general election campaign will be more or less entirely about Brexit – and if I am right about most people’s motivations for voting to leave the EU, then in some ways it is also a manifestation of anti-globalisation, as we have seen elsewhere around the world.

The ruthlessness and will to power of the Conservatives have been much in evidence ever since the country voted to leave. We saw this first of all in the leadership contest to succeed David Cameron and then in everything Theresa May has done since becoming prime minister, especially in the way she has called this general election after denying on at least six occasions that there would be any election before 2020. The chances are that we are in for an extended period of Conservative rule. This has huge consequences, most obviously for Brexit and the UK’s future relations with Europe, but also for the futures of Labour’s leadership, public services, and the constitutional outlook for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.

may juncker

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker (photo via the Daily Telegraph)

Mrs May has of course been fortunate in her enemies; nothing is better calculated to bring voters over to her side than leaked vindictive accounts from the aides of Jean-Claude Juncker of private dinners at Downing Street, or the threat of charging British taxpayers £100 billion because we were foolish enough to want to resign from the club. This is perhaps one reason why the Liberal Democrats were not able to make any kind of a breakthrough in the British local elections held on 4th May – as the one British political party which is unequivocally for Remain, they are now seen as supporting the vindictive and venal elite of the European project.

For the European Union has always been an elite project. Since it took shape in 1992, its architects have always been reticent about putting their project to the people. Referenda were rare, and if people voted the wrong way, as they did in Ireland or in Portugal, they were told to vote again until they gave the ‘right’ answer. The unspoken but clear aim has been to diminish, if not abolish, the democratic sovereignty of European nations, and to ‘pool’ that sovereignty in the interests of creating a giant, borderless free-trade zone. Of course, it was dressed up with talk of peace, equality and brotherhood, but it was primarily an economic project, as well as an attempt to keep Germany from becoming too dominant. (I wonder what happened to that?) People were not asked to vote on any of this, for a simple reason: it was clear they would say no. People remain stubbornly attached to their national identities, as we have seen in Britain, and as we see across the continent. This has been the EU’s fatal and quite deliberate flaw: it has never carried the people with it.

Were Rudolf Steiner alive today, he would not be giving his backing to the European Union as it has evolved. Why so many anthroposophists are unable to see this escapes me, because Steiner was quite clear about what should happen. He hoped for a threefold association of European nations that would themselves be threefold societies in which the cultural, legal-political and economic spheres would be clearly separated yet inter-related, his diagnosis being that Europe’s ills were caused by the interference of the three spheres with one another: business seeking to dominate the political state and the state seeking to dominate the cultural life (e.g. education). For the European level, Steiner looked forward to a common European economic life (which the EEC had started to provide), a common supranational European cultural life (which over the last fifty years has started to emerge in many ways) but to the maintenance of national values and traditions in the sphere of rights and law. It is this last point that the European Union, in its inept attempts to become a superstate, has completely failed to understand, and this is why Brexit became a necessity.

If Macron and others could begin to help the EU to reform itself along the lines indicated by Steiner, I would not hesitate to seek to rejoin such a community – and I think this would apply to many other people as well, not just in Britain but throughout Europe.

70 Comments

Filed under Anthroposophy, Brexit, European Union, Rudolf Steiner

Trump, Clinton and Brexit plus,plus,plus

In my post of March 3rd 2016 I referred, rather rudely, to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as “the arsecheeks of Ahriman.” The implication was that the 2016 USA presidential election represented a Hobson’s Choice (ie a non-choice or no choice at all) between two routes to a place you really wouldn’t want to go to.

Upon further reflection, I’m not sure that this was entirely fair. The defeat of Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump could have at least one upside – it could signal the end of neo-liberalism, that pernicious doctrine that came in during the 1980s and 90s, signed up to by Reagan, Clinton, Thatcher, Bush, Blair etc and which marked a decisive end to the post-Second World War social contract that I had grown up with, and rather liked. Neo-liberalism brought us privatisation, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade and market “solutions” to problems we didn’t realise we had, and the ever-increasing enrichment of the super-wealthy 1% (who lied that this was necessary because it would lead wealth to trickle down to the rest of us). It also brought us the financial meltdown of 2007/8 and the realisation that as the banks were bailed out and hardly any bankers on either side of the Atlantic were prosecuted for their crimes, it would be the taxpayer who paid the price of their behaviour.

What neo-liberalism also led to, for most of us, was a stagnation or decline in our incomes and living standards and deterioration in our public services. In the USA and much of the Western world, the basic morality behind the idea that ‘if you work hard, you get ahead’ has broken down, because people’s wages and salaries have not kept pace with rising prices, and many of their jobs have disappeared. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics in the USA, the hourly wage of blue-collar workers doubled from the 1940s to the 1970s, but has flat-lined ever since then. At the same time, the free movement of capital has allowed factory jobs to be lost to poorer countries abroad. Since 2000, the real median wage in the USA is down by 14% and the real low wage is down by an incredible 26%.

This wage stagnation took place during the sixteen-year period covering the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, so it became clear to voters that both Republican and Democrat parties were going along with it; and neither party was concerned enough to do something to reverse the trend. But Donald Trump, a man described by his son as a “blue-collar worker with a bank balance,” had noticed what was going on and spotted an opportunity. The image Trump likes to project is that of a man surrounded by bling and with a trophy wife, who eats fast food in front of a TV screen tuned to Fox News – the epitome of the American dream for a certain demographic. For white, working-class voters, Trump represents a break with the cosy arrangements between big business, big banks, big media and big politics that had shut them out from the dream and put them economically and culturally in retreat. The irony of looking to a billionaire with inherited wealth to rescue them from their predicament was presumably less of a factor than their hatred for the Washington machine-politicians who had brought them to such a pass.

These people suspected that a Hillary Clinton presidency would have continued the same old policies with the same old corrupt arrangements with big business and lobbyists, while failing to deal with issues such as illegal immigration which had done so much to undermine their own living standards. Why on earth would they vote for four more years of that?

How could Clinton offer hope when she helped create this situation in the first place? In fact, she systematically destroyed the candidacy of Bernie Sanders – the only politician in the US who really spoke to the anger of ordinary voters. This is why her Wall Street connections and her former position as a Walmart board member were so deeply resented. Trump may be a boorish billionaire, but politically and economically, he is less responsible than Clinton for what has happened. When he said, “Make America great again”, it resonated. When Clinton replied, “America is already great”, it seemed like a sick joke by someone from the elite to whom neo-liberalism had been kind.

From my perspective here in the UK, Hillary Clinton was, just like Barack Obama, fully signed up to the GMO/Monsanto agenda; she would have pushed for TTIP to be implemented; she would have put post-Brexit Britain at the back of a 10-year queue for a trade deal; and she would probably have got into a war with Russia. It might have been nice to have had a woman in the White House but that’s about the best thing you could say for Hillary – no-one was going to vote for her with any real enthusiasm, other than that she wasn’t Trump. So I can’t say I’m dismayed that her presidential bid has crashed in flames and the Clinton political dynasty has come to an end.

Now, that is not to say that I’m happy about the election of President Trump, either – far from it. What’s more, it seems very likely that he is bound to disappoint his supporters, who may believe that his promises should be taken literally (do they really expect a wall along the Mexican border paid for by the Mexicans, a total ban on Muslims entering the USA, Hillary Clinton in a jail cell, etc?). Their rage when he fails to deliver is going to be awesome to behold. The victory speech he gave after Clinton had conceded the result is a sign of compromises to come – instead of calling her “crooked Hillary” as he had done throughout the campaign, he called her “Secretary Clinton”, congratulated her on a very hard-fought campaign and said: “We owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.”  His supporters, who just an hour earlier had booed loudly when her picture flashed up on the giant TV screens and chanted “Lock her up! Lock her up!” must have been puzzled by this sudden change of tone.

But, again from my UK perspective, with Trump there are going to be some moments to treasure. What, for example, will Boris Johnson (our new foreign secretary), say to excuse himself when he meets the new president? This is what Boris said in December 2015, as Mayor of London: “Donald Trump’s ill-informed comments (that there were no-go areas in London as a result of Muslim terrorism) are complete and utter nonsense. I would welcome the opportunity to show Mr Trump first-hand some of the excellent work our police officers do every day in local neighbourhoods throughout our city. Crime has been falling steadily in both London and New York – and the only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.” And here’s our former prime minister, David Cameron, also in December 2015: “I think his (Trump’s) remarks are divisive, stupid and wrong. If he came to visit our country I think he would unite us all against him.” And what about Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, who had previously stripped Trump of his role as an ambassador for Scottish businesses on the world stage after he had called for Muslims to be banned from the US, and who was vocal in her support for Hillary Clinton? What on earth will she find to say to excuse herself when Trump next comes to Scotland to visit the birthplace of his mother and inspect his two golf course businesses?  Oh, to be a fly on the wall when that meeting happens!

One of the few British political figures to have backed Trump is Nigel Farage, the man who beyond any other forced David Cameron into offering the Brexit referendum, and who said on November 9th: “Today, the establishment is in deep shock. Even more so than after Brexit. What we are witnessing is the end of a period of big business and big politics controlling our lives. Voters across the Western world want nation state democracy, proper border controls and to be in charge of their own lives.”

Of course, Farage is correct that there are several resonances between the situations in Britain and the USA. In Britain, those people who voted Remain didn’t do so out of any great love for the European Union (I’m not the only one who regards it as neo-liberal and anti-democratic), but because they liked the idea of having a passport allowing them to live and work anywhere in Europe. In the USA, I suspect most Clinton voters found it easier to find reasons to hate Trump than they did to cast a positive vote for Hillary.

As James Meek wrote in the LRB Blog:

“There are many similarities between the Brexit vote and Trump’s win. The reliance for victory on white voters without a college education, fear of immigration, globalisation being blamed for mine and factory closures, hostility towards data-based arguments, the breakdown of the distinction between ‘belief’ and ‘conclusion’, the internet’s power to sort the grain of pleasing lies from the chaff of displeasing facts, the sense of there being a systematic programme of rules and interventions devised by a small, remote, powerful elite that polices everyday speech, destroys symbols of tradition, ignores or patronises ‘real’, ‘ordinary’ people, and has contempt for popular narratives of how the nation came to be.”

And so it came about that a billionaire who has been characterised as a bigot, braggart, demagogue, idiot, liar, misogynist, narcissist, racist, sexual predator and sociopath was nevertheless chosen to become the 45th President of the USA.

Sixteen years earlier, The Simpsons predicted that Trump would become leader of the free world. In an episode, entitled ‘Bart To The Future’, broadcast in early 2000, Lisa Simpson, who had just been elected President in succession to Donald Trump, is pictured sitting in the Oval Office surrounded by advisers. “We’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump,” she says. Writer Dan Greaney told The Hollywood Reporter: “It was a warning to America. And that just seemed like the logical last stop before hitting bottom. It was pitched because it was consistent with the vision of America going insane. What we needed was for Lisa to have problems that were beyond her fixing, that everything went as bad as it possibly could, and that’s why we had Trump be president before her.”

Last month, the creator of the show, Matt Groening, told The Guardian : “We predicted that he would be president back in 2000 – but (Trump) was of course the most absurd placeholder joke name that we could think of at the time, and that’s still true. It’s beyond satire.”

Beyond satire it may be, but it has just happened. An era is ending and a new one is taking form. Despair, anguish, incredulity are expressions of grief for the lost era. But apart from the Blairites, Bushites, Clintonites and Goldman Sachs parasites who have enriched themselves, who else will really mourn the loss of the neo-liberal period?

This new era of politics, with Trump at its head, will probably be ugly. What it might mean for the future of NATO and the Baltic states, for European defence budgets, for the European Union, for the Paris climate change agreement, for Mexicans or Muslims, for relations with China, Russia, Iran, North Korea etc, for gun control and healthcare in the USA – who at this stage can say? What it might mean from an anthroposophical point of view, however, I will try to piece together in my next post.

107 Comments

Filed under Brexit, Donald Trump, European Union, Hillary Clinton, Neo-liberalism

Brexit, new wine and old bottles – what is really going on?

Since 23rd June, when a majority of the British people voted to leave the European Union, it has seemed as though the entire country is in a kind of prolonged post-referendum stew. Many of those who voted Remain are feeling angry – angry towards those who voted Leave, angry towards David Cameron for making such a thorough miscalculation of such an important issue for grubby short-term political ends, angry that a continent united peacefully after the Second World War now looks set to unravel, and angry about the possibility that the United Kingdom may cease to exist if the Scottish people (who voted to Remain) now vote for independence. London has been in a state of shock – how dare a few million provincials in a “foreign” country called England do this to them? There have been calls for a second referendum, with millions signing a petition to that effect, in a vain bid to persuade parliament somehow to overrule the referendum result.

As an anthroposophist, I know that being on the losing side can be painful. After all, as Hermann Poppelbaum once said, “If one is to pursue a life spent in the promotion of anthroposophy, it is necessary to develop an entirely new relationship to failure.” But even so, the reaction of those who were unhappy with the result of the British referendum has been extraordinary: there have been splits in settled communities and dissension between old and young, rich and poor, metropolitan types and country dwellers, and even within families. A friend spoke about a married couple she knows: the husband voted Leave, the wife voted Remain. After the result, they didn’t speak to one another for three days and things are still decidedly frosty between them.

My own family has not been immune from this. My French in-laws emailed to say in Asterix-speak: “Ils sonts fous, ces Anglais”, and made it politely but decidedly clear that in their view I was naïve, idealistic and quite mistaken in my reasons for voting Leave. My son expressed the same view, but in angrier, more indignant language and accused my generation of having betrayed younger people. Why it is seen as unworldly to have ideals while trying to take a view beyond the immediate, I’m not quite sure; but I try to reassure myself about these idealistic tendencies of mine with the following quotation from Rudolf Steiner’s Renewal of the Social Organism:

“It is too easy to dismiss as impractical idealism any attempt to proceed from bread-and-butter issues to ideas. People do not see how impractical their accustomed way of life is, how it is based on unviable thoughts. Such thoughts are deeply rooted within present-day social life. If we try to get at the root of the ‘social question’, we are bound to see that at present even the most material demands of life can be mastered only by proceeding to the thoughts that underlie the co-operation of people in a community.”

For it is clear from the referendum result that co-operation between the people in the various British communities is breaking down. To quote from an article by Brendan O’Neill in The Spectator:

 “The most striking thing about Britain’s break with the EU is this: it’s the poor wot done it. Council-estate dwellers, Sun readers, people who didn’t get good GCSE results (which is primarily an indicator of class, not stupidity): they rose up, they tramped to the polling station, and they said no to the EU.

It was like a second peasants’ revolt, though no pitchforks this time. The statistics are extraordinary. The well-to-do voted Remain, the down-at-heel demanded to Leave. The Brexiteer/Remainer divide splits almost perfectly, and beautifully, along class lines. Of local authorities that have a high number of manufacturing jobs, a whopping 86 per cent voted Leave. Of those bits of Britain with low manufacturing, only 42 per cent did so. Of local authorities with average house prices of less than £282,000, 79 per cent voted Leave; where house prices are above that figure, just 28 per cent did so. Of the 240 local authorities that have low education levels — i.e. more than a quarter of adults do not have five A to Cs at GCSE — 83 per cent voted Leave. Then there’s pay, the basic gauge of one’s place in the pecking order: 77 per cent of local authorities in which lots of people earn a low wage (of less than £23,000) voted Leave, compared with only 35 per cent of areas with decent pay packets.

It’s this stark: if you do physical labour, live in a modest home and have never darkened the door of a university, you’re far more likely to have said ‘screw you’ to the EU than the bloke in the leafier neighbouring borough who has a nicer existence. Of course there are discrepancies. The 16 local authorities in Scotland that have high manufacturing levels voted Remain rather than Leave. But for the most part, class was the deciding factor in the vote. This, for me, is the most breathtaking fact: of the 50 areas of Britain that have the highest number of people in social classes D and E — semi-skilled and unskilled workers and unemployed people — only three voted Remain. Three. That means 47 very poor areas, in unison, said no to the thing the establishment insisted they should say yes to.”

As for the mainstream political parties, they seem to have gone through a collective nervous breakdown. The Tories have demonstrated yet again their capacity for ruthlessness and backstabbing amongst colleagues; while Theresa May has outgamed them all and clawed and fought her way to the top of the greasy pole. One Tory MP was quoted as saying: “The thing about Theresa is that she knifes you in the front”. It seems this was meant as a compliment. The Labour Party is currently in meltdown, with the Parliamentary Labour Party divorced from its voters, its members and from its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who is facing a leadership challenge from two former members of his shadow cabinet. The referendum has revealed just how incompatible the various sections of the Labour electorate have become and it is not inconceivable that the Labour Party will split into two or more new parties.

Many young people are upset about the result, despite the fact that according to Sky Data only 36 per cent of 18-24 year olds bothered to vote in the referendum, compared with 75 per cent of 45 year olds and 83 per cent of people over 65. This first became obvious when a young woman went viral on YouTube describing her bewilderment that her vote had actually had a real grown-up effect on the life of the nation. “I didn’t realise,” she kept saying, and, “I thought I might get another chance to vote again.” She is of course a product of the re-sit generation, which grew up facing only exams which could be re-taken until a favourable result was gained. So the attitude that a democratic vote can be taken again if you don’t like the result is not perhaps surprising; indeed, we saw the EU adopt that approach with the Nice Treaty and then again with the Lisbon Treaty when voters in Ireland did not vote in the approved way.

What most of these young people don’t seem to have realised is that reports of the enormity of the change that emerged on June 24th are misplaced. It may not be as seismic as people have assumed. The truth is that the world is controlled by the corporate sector, especially the banking sector, and will continue to be so whether the UK is part of the EU or not. It’s a strange paradox that all these radical young people who voted Remain were on the same side as the major neoliberal institutions – from the Bank of England, the Conservative government and the Corporation of London to the EBRD, OECD, World Bank and the US government.

It’s also worth noting that in this age of social media we are increasingly living in what has been called a “filter bubble”, in which our information sources are becoming ever more filtered and self-socialised, because we are only associating with people who live and think like us. Here’s what internet guru Tom Steinberg said about this on his Facebook page just after the result:

“I am actively searching through Facebook for people celebrating the Brexit leave victory, but the filter bubble is SO strong, and extends SO far into things like Facebook’s custom search that I can’t find anyone who is happy despite the fact that over half the country is clearly jubilant today and despite the fact that I’m *actively* looking to hear what they are saying.

This echo-chamber problem is now SO severe and SO chronic that I can only only beg any friends I have who actually work for Facebook and other major social media and technology to urgently tell their leaders that to not act on this problem now is tantamount to actively supporting and funding the tearing apart of the fabric of our societies. Just because they aren’t like anarchists or terrorists – they’re not doing the tearing apart on purpose – is no excuse – the effect is the same, we’re getting countries where one half just doesn’t know anything at all about the other.”

As I mentioned in my last post, I thought it was foolish of the EU to treat David Cameron’s call for meaningful reform with such contempt and to send him back to the UK with barely a fig leaf to cover his embarrassment. The EU is now reaping the consequences, and it is surely time, as Angela Merkel seems to have realised, to get shot of Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the European Commission. Interestingly, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, has come up with some useful suggestions for reform of the EU. He’d like to introduce some new rules: the EU would only act in areas where other member states could not. It would agree that any of its directives could be vetoed if a third of national parliaments rejected them. Such changes could have provided a blueprint for precisely the kind of far-reaching reform that Cameron was seeking and had promised to the British people. If he had got a deal like that, I might even have voted Remain myself, despite all my other concerns about the EU. Rutte’s overall point is that sovereignty – and democracy – matters. But this was not to be, and Cameron had to fall on his sword.

If, as the referendum result seems to show, a social and political cleavage is deepening in our country, what can be done? What is really going on? We are in truly turbulent times. Since the Brexit vote, we have had the publication of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq War, the conclusions of which will surely mean that Tony Blair spends the remainder of his life fighting lawsuits from bereaved families as well as moves to impeach him from people such as Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party. Nor are these convulsions confined to the UK; in recent days, we have had the murder of more than eighty people in Nice by what is assumed to be an Islamist terrorist, an event which seems certain to strengthen the appeal to French voters of Marine Le Pen and her Front National party, who are also arguing for a Frexit referendum; we have had an attempted military coup in Turkey; and we have the prospect of Donald Trump in the USA presidency from November.

To turn from the ridiculous to the sublime, I have found this passage from a lecture that Steiner gave in November 1919 to be meaningful:

 “…Now we live in the age of the Michael Revelation. It exists like the other revelations. But it does not force itself upon the human being because man has entered his evolution of freedom. We must go out to meet the revelation of Michael, we must prepare ourselves so that he sends into us the strongest forces and we become conscious of the super-sensible in the immediate surroundings of the earth. Do not fail to recognise what this Michael revelation would signify for men of the present and the future if men were to approach it in freedom. Do not fail to recognise that men of today strive for a solution of the social question out of the remnants of ancient states of consciousness.

All the problems that could be solved out of the ancient states of human consciousness have been solved. The earth is on the descending stage of its evolution. The demands which arise today cannot be solved with the thinking of the past. They can only be solved by a mankind with a new soul constitution. It is our task so to direct our activity that it may assist the rise of this new soul constitution in mankind.”

What did Steiner mean by the Michael revelation? He was referring to the Archangel Michael, the Time Spirit for our age, and Steiner saw the Michael Impulse as the theme needed to transform modern human consciousness. Stated very simply, this Michael impulse is to help us all to receive the inflow of the spiritual world into our material, physical world.

I daresay that quite a few people will be scornful of moving from a sober discussion of the political and social realities around Brexit to mention of the non-material influences on these matters; but to my mind, at a time when all our established systems are breaking down, when our leaders are discredited and clearly at a loss as how to proceed, and all the hidden dark secrets of our society are coming to the light of day, it is impossible to understand what is going on without a larger view of human consciousness than is provided by the materialist outlook. Right now we are surely seeing some of the effects of the Michaelic impulse on our “ancient states of human consciousness”. As always, the poets and artists get there before us, and W B Yeats described what is now happening, in a poem written in 1919, the same year in which Steiner delivered the lecture quoted here.

THE SECOND COMING

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

 

The darkness drops again but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

 

Steiner ended the lecture quoted above with this warning:

“Externally, humankind approaches today serious battles. In regard to these serious battles which are only at their beginning … and which will lead the old impulses of Earth evolution ad absurdum, there are no political, economical, or spiritual remedies to be taken from the pharmacy of past historical evolution. For from these past times come the elements of fermentation which first, have brought Europe to the brink of the abyss, which will array Asia and America against each other, and which are preparing a battle over the whole earth. This leading ad absurdum of human evolution can be counteracted alone by that which leads men on the path toward the spiritual: the Michael path which finds its continuation in the Christ Path.”

Jesus Christ put it this way: “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.”

In the UK, Europe and America we are seeing that the politicians are unable to keep the old machinery working. They pull the old levers, more and more frantically, but the effect is less and less. We see the old social orders are breaking down, and new cultures are rising up. For some reason, the politicians and the media people are usually the last to realise what is going on, while everywhere around them people are starting to resist the old certainties and a tendency to disorder begins to emerge. Our western civilisation is changing in the age of the consciousness soul and under the influence of the Michael impulse; and a certain amount of chaos is inevitable as we move to a different kind of order. The new wine needs new bottles.

 

111 Comments

Filed under Anthroposophy, Brexit, European Union, Jesus Christ, Rudolf Steiner

Reflections on the British Referendum

The British referendum campaign to decide whether Britain should leave or remain within the European Union has been in some ways a strange and rather depressing experience, not helped by our weather during June: monsoon-style rainfall and flash flooding in many places. Opinion polls in the weeks leading up to the vote on 23rd June wavered between a slight lead for Remain to a slight lead for Leave. There was then a truly tragic event: the murder of Jo Cox, the member of parliament for Batley & Spen in West Yorkshire. She was shot and stabbed by a man who reportedly called out “Britain First”, the name of an extremist right wing party. Jo Cox had been an MP for only one year but she had already made a mark across party lines with her humanitarian campaign for Syria. She was 41 years old, married, with two young children. By all accounts, she was a kind of secular saint, the kind of politician that any country should cherish in an age when so many people regard their elected representatives with contempt and cynicism. Jo Cox had been a fervent advocate for Remain and her death seems to have coincided with opinion polling showing increasing support for Remain and the tide turning against Leave. It was distasteful to see some of the leaders of the Remain campaign try to suggest that her death was in some way the fault of those who want to leave the EU.

It was also depressing to see both sides trying to scare voters with increasingly apocalyptic pictures of the disasters that would occur if we didn’t vote their way. As an advocate for ending our membership of the EU, I particularly disliked the way in which, instead of making the principled and reasoned case for leaving the EU, many of those politicians campaigning on the Leave side stoked up fears about immigration. The nadir was reached with a poster from the UK Independence Party, which showed a snaking queue of refugees from Syria together with the slogan “Breaking Point”.

Yet there is also something very stirring about what has just happened. I’m writing this on the day that the referendum results have shown, against all the expectations of the London-based commentariat, that Britain has voted to leave the EU. We have listened to the warnings of experts, the pleas of the vast majority of MPs, the threats of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Governor of the Bank of England and the President of the USA; and still a majority of British people have said No to the EU. We’ve done the thing almost everyone with power and influence said that we shouldn’t and have taken a leap into the dark, trusting in our own judgement that the EU was not right for us. We have expressed a vote of no confidence in the establishment. Such independence of spirit, such freedom of thought, is the essence of democracy and it is very stirring.

This is one of the very few ballots I’ve experienced in which my vote has counted for anything; in Britain’s “first past the post” electoral system, my votes over many elections are usually wasted. But in a referendum, every vote has an equal weight, and it is a pleasant change to experience a ballot which is truly democratic. One result of all this will surely be a demand in the future for reforms to Britain’s current electoral system.

The outcome of the referendum has revealed a divided Britain, in which many young people voted Remain and many older people voted Leave; London was pitched against the rest of England and Wales; Scotland was in opposition to England; the prosperous were versus the poor; and the political parties were out of step with their supporters. Does Britain, as a homogeneous society, still exist?

This result will be a salutary shock to London, which voted overwhelmingly for Remain. It is revealed as an arrogant and centralising city state, out of touch with the rest of England. London has for years been like a kind of black hole, sucking in capital and resources that should have been spread much more widely. Brexit will begin to redress the balance.

This result is also a profound shock to the mainstream political parties. Prime Minister David Cameron, who had pledged to call the referendum as a device to unite his Conservative Party against the UK Independence Party just ahead of the 2015 general election, an election which he had not expected to win, was then forced after his party’s surprise victory to implement his pledge. By nailing his colours so firmly to the Remain mast, he has now ensured his own political demise and has announced that he will step down by October this year. The Parliamentary Labour Party too, is showing poor judgment: instead of examining how the party has become so divorced from its core voters, some of its MPs are now planning a coup against their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for being insufficiently enthusiastic about staying in the EU.

There are other questions which will come to the fore in the weeks and months ahead. What will this result mean for Northern Ireland, which voted to Remain, and which has a land border with another EU country, Ireland? It has already led to renewed calls from Sinn Fein for a United Ireland. What will it mean for Gibraltar, which also voted to Remain, and is now likely to come under an increasingly aggressive campaign of harassment and non-co-operation from Spain? Above all, will the Scottish National Party now seek to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence?

But there are perhaps even bigger questions for the European Union itself. When David Cameron came back from the EU after his failed negotiations for meaningful reform, I thought at the time that European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and his colleagues had made a serious misjudgment by treating Cameron with contempt – and so it has proved. The EU has been judged by this referendum and found wanting. Other member-states will now be lining up to tell it so. Fundamentally, this is about the right of people across Europe to elect the people who make key decisions in their lives. Polls have shown between a quarter and third of people across Europe are now deeply hostile to the European project. The economies of southern Europe are immobilised by a straitjacket strapped on to them by Brussels and Frau Merkel.

As I said in my previous post about the EU, it was set up not only to be deliberately anti-democratic but also to be a vehicle for the banks and big multi-national corporations. It is also extremely difficult to reform the EU, because this would require changes to the treaties, which in turn require unanimous agreement from all member-countries. Britain was taken by its leaders into the EU in 1973 on the basis of a deliberate deception and as a result our governing elites are now reaping in the referendum result what Rudolf Steiner called “the karma of untruthfulness”.

I do not want what now follows after Brexit to be business as usual. We need to reassure Europe that we’ll be good neighbours, reassure migrants here that they are welcome, and reassure the 48 per cent who voted for Remain that they are not strangers in their own country. Both Conservative and Labour parties have failed in their own ways and we now need to find new ways and a new story. Future British governments need to be true one-nation governments, working towards a situation in which towns like Sunderland and Swansea no longer feel cut off from the politics of a metropolitan elite.

Internationally, Brexit has given an opportunity to Britain (whether it survives as the United Kingdom or whether it splits into its constituent nations), to start a debate about forming a new organisation of nation states that can offer a more hopeful vision of the future than that provided by the corporate plutocrats of the EU. There is an alternative to corporate domination and the environmental destruction and massive inequality it brings. Real social change begins, like Brexit, with non-cooperation with the existing system. Once we make the choice to stop co-operating with a system we find immoral, we can begin to build an alternative. By discussing these ideas with other countries around the world, we can start to build a new global economy in which every community has food and water security and locally produced renewable energy. This then creates the foundations for a more peaceful world.

Just over a week ago, my wife and I paid a visit to Lewes Castle, a Norman castle which stands at the highest point of Lewes, the county town of East Sussex. It was built in around 1069 by William de Warenne, the son-in-law of William the Conqueror. While I was there, it struck me that the Norman domination and ruthless suppression of the Anglo Saxon inhabitants of England and the Celts of Wales has cast a kind of shadow over the British Isles for nearly 1,000 years. In one of the castle rooms, I came across this quotation about the Normans in an exhibition display:

 “…and they filled the land full of castles. They cruelly oppressed the wretched men of the land with castle works. And when the castles were made they filled them with devils and evil men.”

(Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1137)

This energy of domination, cruelty and adversarial politics has shaped the British nation in the centuries since then and echoes of it still survive today in Westminster. What is Brexit really about, I wonder? Is it possible that it marks the beginning of something that will lead to the decline and fall of this Norman model of dealing with other people and other countries? Could we be about to find our way towards a new and more heart-centred approach to what it means to be British and European citizens of the world? I feel that it really could be so.

 

117 Comments

Filed under Brexit, European Union, Norman Conquest, Rudolf Steiner

Britain and the European Union – should we stay or should we go?

europe-flag via Reuters:Stefan Wermuth

Photo: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth via the Daily Telegraph

On 23rd June 2016 the British people will vote in a referendum to decide whether the United Kingdom should remain or withdraw as a member of the European Union.

This will be the second occasion on which the British people have voted in a referendum on their relationship with Europe (the first was in 1975) and it will be a highly significant moment in the history of the UK. I’ve been wondering about which way I shall vote, and whether anthroposophy can give any pointers to help me in my decision-making. This blog post is the result and is longer than usual, reflecting as it does just a few of the complexities involved in coming to a view on such a historically-charged issue.

The 1975 referendum

I’m old enough to have voted in the 1975 referendum on whether Britain should stay in what was then called the European Economic Community. At that time I voted Out, persuaded by the argument that the EEC was created in the interest of bankers and big business and was fundamentally undemocratic.

As Tony Benn of the Out campaign put it: “My view (of the EEC) has always been not that I am hostile to foreigners but I am in favour of democracy. I think they are building an empire and want us to be part of that empire, and I don’t want that.”

tony benn via the colossus.co

Tony Benn – photo via the colossus.co

However, most Britons came to different conclusions and the 1975 result was a landslide for the pro-Europeans. On a 65% turnout, more than two-thirds of voters backed British membership. Every part of the UK voted to stay in, except for the Shetlands and the Western Isles. It was the most emphatic endorsement of the European project the British have ever given.

The 2016 referendum

Forty years after that first British referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron has called a second referendum on 23rd June to try to quell a rising tide of anti-EU sentiment within the UK. By now, Mr Cameron is probably regretting his decision to hold a referendum, as far from shooting the UK Independence Party’s fox, its main effect to date has been to split his governing Conservative party apart.

cameron via uk.businessinsider

Prime Minister David Cameron – photo via uk.businessinsider

Angus Jenkinson, an anthroposophist and business consultant has written an interesting piece for LinkedIn, called The Fallacy of Brexit, in which en passant he looks at Cameron’s motives for holding the referendum:

“…In the first case, why are we having a referendum at all. Was a majority of the people of Britain calling for a referendum?  We are told not.  There are many people who would like to leave, the polls put it at 39%, but the betting houses are predicting we will vote to stay.  The real reason for the referendum is to deal with the politics of the Conservative Party. Approaching the last election, David Cameron needed to stop the haemorrhage of his fellow conservatives to UKIP.  He promised them a referendum after an election he did not think he would win. To his and the embarrassment of many Conservatives, others now wish to take the opportunity of a mass refugee migration to convince the public at large that it is time to leave. I do not see this as democracy but as the imposition of the internal politics of a party on the nation. It is nasty bureaucracy”.

Angus is firmly in the “Remain” camp and other friends and colleagues to whom I’ve spoken take the same view. We know that Rudolf Steiner felt that it was time for the age of nationalism and nation states to draw to a gradual close, and that would seem to accord with voting to stay within the EU. Probably most people in the circles I move in are also thinking of voting to stay in, on the grounds that we’re all European now and the EU is much better at environmental protection, human rights and general fair-minded decency than a British Conservative government is ever going to be. But is that the main or most important consideration?

What is the real issue?

To my mind, the issue is not Europe, with its great history, incomparable culture and diverse peoples – we shouldn’t confuse Europe with the EU. Nor is it that we in Britain need some European protection from the excesses of an unfettered and reactionary Conservative government. No, the issue is the European Union and the ultimate goal for the EU to become a superstate – the United States of Europe. Anglo-American elitists have been working hard behind the scenes to bring this about for more than a century now, because they see the United States of Europe not only as a bulwark of support for the USA in future struggles with Asia but also as the first phase in the formation of a system of world governance.

Here we come up against something that Rudolf Steiner warned about, which is the agenda of those behind what the first President Bush called in 1990 the “New World Order.” After Germany’s defeat in the First World War, Steiner made the following observation:

“… the actual victor is the being of  the Anglo-American peoples, and…this being…is destined to dominate the world in the future…It will be easy to win external dominion, for this will be done with the help of forces for which the winners can claim no credit. The transfer of external dominion will take place with the relentlessness of a force of nature…Will there be a sufficient number among those impelled to assume external dominion…who feel a responsibility for inserting into this entirely external materialistic dominion…an impetus for spiritual life? What is more, there is not much time in which this can be done. The middle of this century is a very important moment….the dominion of materialism bears within it the seed of destruction. To shoulder external dominion means to take on, and to live within, the forces of destruction, the forces of sickness in the world. Out of the new seed of the spirit will come something that can bear mankind onwards into the future. This seed will have to be nurtured, and those to whom dominion has fallen will be especially responsible for this.”

Rudolf Steiner, Ideas for a New Europe, lecture series in Dornach Dec 1919 to Feb 1920

Steiner is here saying that the elites of the Anglophone countries will be exerting a dominion in economic, cultural and political life in entirely materialistic terms and that this will lead inevitably to cultural disintegration and disaster. What is really interesting is that he is also saying that it is the people in these English-speaking countries who will have to find a way to counteract these forces by planting the new seed of the spirit that can bear humankind towards a better future.

The European Union and its part in the New World Order

The ultimate goal of these elites is world government, the first phase being the creation of the United States of Europe. This phase started in 1951 with the European Coal and Steel Community, which then became the European Economic Community, and which is currently the European Union. The second phase of the drive to world government is the creation of a Pan-American Union. Preparations for this have already been put in place with NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the USA. The third phase, the one which will be most difficult of all to achieve due to the disparity of cultures involved, is to convert the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum into an Asian Union.

This New World Order and the move to world government has been planned by the current elites such as the Bilderberg Group, the World Economic Forum at Davos and their forerunners such as the Pilgrims, the Skull and Bones Club, the Cecil Rhodes/Alfred Milner group for many, many years and has involved many well-known statesmen. Here, for example, is Winston Churchill in a speech at the Albert Hall given on 14th May 1947:

“The creation of an authoritative, all-powerful world order is the ultimate aim towards which we must strive. Unless some effective World-Super-Government can be set up and brought quickly into action, the prospects for peace and human progress are dark and doubtful. But let there be no mistake upon the main issue.  Without a United Europe there is no sure prospect of world government. It is the urgent and indispensable step towards the realisation of that ideal”.

Ironically, Churchill who was an old-fashioned imperialist, never envisaged Britain as part of what became the EU. He felt that the British Empire should endure and, as someone born to an American mother and a British father, saw Britain and America working together to spread Anglo-American values throughout the world. He must have felt betrayed when it became clear after the Second World War that, through the Marshall Plan, the American government was bent upon depriving Britain of its colonies and taking for itself much of the trade with those countries.

Winston Churchil AP Photo

Winston Churchill – photo via AP Photos

Back in 1947, Churchill saw himself as a patrician doing his best for the decent people in the lower orders:

“What is it that all these wage-earners, skilled artisans, soldiers and tillers of the soil require, deserve, and may be led to demand? Is it not a fair chance to make a home, to reap the fruits of their toil, to cherish their wives, to bring up their children in a decent manner and to dwell in peace and safety, without fear or bullying or monstrous burdens or exploitation, however this may be imposed upon them? That is their heart’s desire. That is what we mean to win for them.”

Churchill’s heart was in the right place and those things he listed may well be what millions yearned for; but the ordinary people were not to be allowed to seek for them in their own way, democratically. They were not to be told the ultimate goal but were to be led by a series of little lies and evasions along the path which the international elite had already determined would best satisfy the yearnings of the many – a United States of Europe that would be ‘little sister’ to the USA’s ‘Big Brother’.

The United States of Europe and the road to world government

An example of how this worked in practice was the way in which British citizens were lied to from the 1960s onwards, when the British government first began to try to persuade the British people that joining the EEC would be in our interests because it would make Britain richer and more prosperous; it was presented as merely a kind of economic club, the purpose of which was to increase trade. Had we been told from the beginning that the goal of the EEC was to do away with Britain’s national sovereignty and to incorporate Britain as just one member state of a centralised federal union, we would never have voted for it. But that goal of a United States of Europe – for Winston Churchill, for Jean Monnet (founding father of the EU), for US statesman Dean Acheson, for President John F. Kennedy, for former Prime Minister Edward Heath (who took Britain into the EEC) and many other prominent transatlantic figures – was in fact always the destination, on the long road to a world government.

World government, after all, sounds quite benign – until you look at the words of those who are planning for it. Here’s Brook Chisholm, former director of the UN World Health Organisation, in 1991:

“To achieve world government, it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, loyalty to family traditions, national patriotism and religious dogmas.”

And here is the famous French naturalist Jacques Cousteau, also in 1991, quoted in the UNESCO Courier:

“It’s terrible to have to say this. World population must be stabilised and to do that we must eliminate 350,000 people per year. “

UNESCO has previous form here. In 1948, for instance, Julian Huxley, the British scientist and first head of UNESCO (and brother of Aldous Huxley), wrote:

“Even though…any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible, it will be important for UNESCO to see that the eugenic problem is handled with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake so that much that is now unthinkable may at least become thinkable.”

rockefeller image via beforeitsnews.com

Image via beforeitsnews.com

And in a meeting of the Bilderberg Group in 1991, David Rockefeller, President of the Council of Foreign Relations and of Chase Manhattan Bank said:

“We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time magazine, and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promise of discretion for almost 40 years…It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards world government. The supernational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practised in past centuries.”

Yes, surely we would all be much happier with an intellectual elite and world bankers deciding everything for us – except that following the financial crisis of 2008 we now know where that leads. We are all still paying for it, while our public services are slashed to pieces or privatised, and by contrast the bankers are unpunished and continue to take huge risks within a financial system that is still largely unreformed.

Rudolf Steiner’s warning about a world dominion based solely on economic advantage

“A fundamental concept for the western areas which are so mired in platitudes must be to see the social organism as something living. And one sees it as living only when it is considered in its threefold nature. It is just those whose favorable economic position allows them to spread an [economic] imperialism over practically the whole world who have the terrible responsibility of recognizing that the cultivation of a true spiritual life must be poured into this imperialism. It is ironic that an economic empire which spread over the whole world was founded on the British Isles and then when they were seeking mystical spirituality turned to those whom they had economically conquered and exploited. [India — Tr.] The obligation exists to allow one’s own spiritual substance to flow into the social organism. That is the awareness which our British friends should take with them, that now, in this worldwide important historic moment, in all the world’s economic institutions where English is spoken, the responsibility exists to introduce true spirituality into the exterior economic empire. It’s an either/or situation: Either efforts remain exclusively oriented towards the economy — in which case the fall of earthly civilization is the inevitable result — or spirit will be poured into this economic empire, in which case what was intended for earthly evolution will be achieved. I would like to say: Every morning we should bear this in mind very seriously and all activities should be organized according to this impulse. The bell tolls with extreme urgency at present — with terrible urgency.”

Rudolf Steiner in Dornach, Feb 22 1920 Lecture 3, The History and Actuality of Imperialism

Britain is told to step back in line

cameron obama via metro.co.uk

President Barack Obama and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron wave from the steps of 10 Downing Street, London before a meeting Friday, April, 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

If we needed any further convincing that the USA is angry with Britain about the referendum, all it will have taken was the recent visit of President Obama to London and his extraordinary threat that Britain would be at the back of a 10-year long queue to negotiate a trade deal should we be foolish enough to vote Leave. Let us put aside for the moment the irony that the leader of a country that was founded after fighting for independence from a foreign empire is now seeking to convince the British that they don’t need their own independence from a latter-day empire. Let us also discount the warnings of no less than eight former US Treasury secretaries of the dangers ahead if Britain leaves the EU. All I will say is that we don’t have a trade deal with the USA at the moment (neither does the EU, although it’s currently negotiating one in secret) and yet we seem to be trading perfectly satisfactorily without one.

The threat of TTIP

And why is the USA so insistent that we shouldn’t leave the EU? Could it be anything to do with the TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated in secret between the EU and the USA? There is concern that TTIP will enable companies to sue governments where state measures harm profits.  It will also open up Europe to rapacious US corporations, keen to find new profitable areas to exploit through the privatisation of our health and education services.

Richard House in an excellent article for News Network Anthroposophy has described what is likely to happen to our education system once forced academisation (preparing the ground for TTIP) comes in. However, TTIP is much more about power than about trade, and if national governments are faced with the possibility of very expensive lawsuits from very wealthy corporations should these governments have the temerity to introduce policies that hinder the corporate sector’s pursuit of profit so as to protect the environment or workers’ rights (which is what will be possible through TTIP) then these governments are far less likely to introduce those policies. This will be even more the case in poorer countries.

Iain Dale via LBC

Iain Dale -photo via LBC Radio

The Conservative media commentator, Iain Dale, has just woken up to the dangers of TTIP, and has written in his blog:

“Until this week, we only suspected what its contents are. Its drafting was so secret that the European Commission banned any knowledge of the negotiations. Anyone who revealed the contents were threatened with criminal proceedings. This week, a draft of the agreement was leaked to Greenpeace and it makes for pretty horrifying reading.

One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect, it means that unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically-elected governments.

For example, if the Government introduces an environmental tax on fracking which affects the profit of a US mining company, they can sue for loss of profits. Totally outrageous. It also forces public sector organisations such as the NHS to effectively open up all their services to privatisation. Now that may be a good idea, but it is our Government that should decide to do this – not TTIP.

US-manufactured GM food products will be forced on EU countries who currently ban them. I could go on. It’s an issue which even many Remain supporters are uncomfortable with. In essence it’s an affront to democracy. There is some debate about whether national governments have a veto over its final draft. Some say it is subject to Qualified Majority Voting. In my opinion, it’s so important that there should be a referendum on it in each of the 28 countries.”

The European multinationals want us to stay in

The European corporate sector, as represented by the CEOs of Philips, Volvo, Shell, Fiat, Nestle, BP etc, is also very keen that Britain should stay in the EU. They all belong to an organisation based in Brussels called the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT). It’s a private club whose only members are the CEOs of the biggest European multinational corporations.

The ERT was instrumental in forming the single market in the first place, in 1985. The aim of the ERT (and of the single market) is to promote growth and to orient the European economy towards exports, in order to obtain greater global market share for European corporations. ERT members are on very close terms with European Commissioners – they dine at each other’s homes, they meet regularly during work hours and they provide commissioners with places on the boards of their corporations in a classic example of the “revolving door” between government and the multinationals.

Many reports originating from the ERT end up as Commission policy almost word-for-word. For example, the ERT decided that we need to expand the motorway network in Europe, to facilitate growth and exports, and almost exactly the same map that they produced was used by the Commission and adopted by the European Parliament.

The Global Redesign Initiative

But the best-laid plans of these elites can still go awry, partly through increased access by ordinary people to hitherto confidential information via the internet (viz Edward Snowden), and partly by unforeseen world events which are having a massive impact on people’s lives. Recently we can see that at least one of the wheels has fallen off the New World Order project bandwagon. In particular, the prospect of creating a United States of Europe is receding into the distance as the monetary union fiasco and migration disasters have demonstrated the inability of the EU to operate effectively in the interests of its members.   And so the global elites and the corporations have come up with their best – and most scary – idea yet: the Global Redesign Initiative.

Their argument is that when it comes to tackling global problems, nation-states and their public politics are not up to the job. They must therefore be replaced by a much more efficient new system in which ‘stakeholders’ –- that is transnational corporations, a few powerful governments, selected intellectuals and invited members of ‘civil society’ – will henceforth manage the world’s affairs together. Governments will become merely one actor among several running global affairs.

Dr Harris Gleckman via YouTube

Dr Harris Gleckman of the Transnational Institute – photo via YouTube

National governments can no longer control transnational corporations, and can no longer govern their own countries. If they try, in ways that inconvenience multinational corporations and their investors, those investors will remove their money from that country and force it to change direction. There is an excellent video entitled “How do corporations want to run the world in future?” featuring Dr Harris Gleckman of the Transnational Institute, who explains what the Global Redesign Initiative is all about.

The economic arguments for staying in

What about the economic arguments for staying in? The British Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has been trying to scare us with some truly absurd future scenarios. But what does seem to be the case is that Britain’s annual EU subscription of some £10 billion each year actually gives us nothing in return – yes, nothing, for the figure is calculated after netting off everything British farmers and scientists and others at present receive from the EU.

I’m no economist and I can be pulled this way or that by convincing-sounding arguments put forward by either side. But I’ve recently read a very good and evenly-balanced post on the “Notes on the Next Bust” blog, which comments on the UK Treasury’s report detailing the costs to Britain of leaving the EU. To my mind, it makes it clear that no-one actually knows what would happen and that it is far from certain that leaving the EU would be detrimental to Britain.

Can the EU reform itself?

This has been a longer-than-usual posting and I’ve not even touched upon some other important issues such as: the lack of democracy in the EU structures, the lack of effective measures to deal with security and defence, terrorism, money laundering and tax evasion, immigration, etc. One European response is to say that it just proves how we need “more Europe”: if only the EU had more overall power and less internal squabbling then for example it could maintain its own borders. In theory, perhaps, this is true, but experience is telling us that the EU is, by its constitution and because of its sprawling size, a system of bureaucratic regulation, but not a system of democratic, decision-making government whose citizens can believe in it.

We should always remember that changes in the EU to make it less corporate-centred and less signed up to the neo-liberal agenda are more or less impossible, because they would require changes to the Treaties; and these treaties can only be changed by the unanimous vote of 28 countries.

Rudolf Steiner’s ideas for a new Europe

Rudolf Steiner via Adoc photos - Corbis

Rudolf Steiner – photo via Adoc Photos/Corbis

What did Steiner want for Europe? Steiner hoped for a threefold association of European nations that would themselves be threefold societies in which the cultural, legal-political and economic spheres would be clearly separated yet inter-related, his diagnosis being that Europe’s ills were caused by the interference of the three spheres with one another: business seeking to dominate the political state and the state seeking to dominate the cultural life (e.g. education). For the European level, Steiner looked forward to a common European economic life, a common supranational European cultural life but to the maintenance of national values and traditions in the sphere of rights and law.

That’s what I’d like, too. It can still be worked for, when the moment is right.

We British are not going to be able to reject our corporate-controlled national government quite yet, but on 23rd June we have an opportunity to reject the European version. With luck and a fair wind, that will then provide some encouragement for us to join other people around the world to start creating the new and different story we all need so desperately.

 

 

88 Comments

Filed under Anthroposophy, Brexit, European Union, New World Order, United States of Europe