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Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
Issue 121, Friday 30th May 1997Maastricht Treaty - nil points
STOP PRESS: Hot news from our Dole mole - Project Work suspended on Thursday afternoon - looks as though it's totally kicked the bucket. Shame!
EUROVISION - MAKING YOUR MIND UP!
As Eurocrats quaff Bucks Fizz, it's time to kick them in the Waterloos...
Next month, Europe's leaders will come together in Amsterdam for "Son of Maastricht", to agree on the `convergence criteria' for a single European currency. The aim of the meeting is to make Europe the third global trade force to compete with the US-led American and the Japanese-led Pacific regions. But to hit the criteria targets each nation that signs up has to reduce its debts - and that means slashing welfare and stifling wages rises.
And this is the spark for the continuing strife raging all over the continent for the past couple of years: a general strike in Greece; protests throughout France, such as French lorry drivers paralysing the country and winning all of their demands including retirement at 55; thousands of German miners occupying Bonn in protest at the threat to slash industry subsidies... the list goes on...
Of course the whole "Europe" issue is, for most Brits, one big yawn and seems quite irrelevant. But, as SchNEWS investigated, we discovered that if big businesses get their wicked way, we could see any gains over the past 50 years go down the plug hole
A Little History
Long before most of us had ever heard of Maastricht, Britain's multinationals were holding meetings in their boardrooms to talk about greater integration with Europe. Since then, the multinationals have fought a long campaign to get Britain into Europe, and when they see things are not going their way, they turn up the heat and put the pressure on.
When John Major made a concession to his Euro-sceptic backbenchers on a single currency, the Financial Times published a letter of protest from Britain's top multinationals, including BAT, British Aerospace, BP, Glaxo Wellcome, Guinness, Shell and Unilever.
European companies want to change to a single currency to avoid the cost of currency-exchange. A united Europe, it is hoped, will do for European corporations what the North American Free Trade Agreement has done for US business. Pooling resources will help create a new "strong" currency that can compete with the dollar on the world markets, and at the same time being able to dominate and exploit poorer counties in eastern Europe and the third world.
However, all this can only be achieved by a massive attack on public spending...
The Maastricht Treaty requires governments wishing to join the new currency to reduce their deficit (the gap between income and expenditure) to three per cent of gross domestic product (GDP); and their debt (the amount they borrow to reduce the deficit) to 60 per cent of GDP.
To see what's in store for the rest of Europe, you only have to look at England. 18 years of Conservative rule has meant massive cuts in social provision, the breaking of any effective trade union movement and the introduction of a low-paid "flexible" workforce. But even that isn't enough. As the day for a single currency draws nearer, all over Europe governments are embarked on a new austerity drive. As Andy from Revolution told SchNEWS, "In a Britain already ravaged by years of cutbacks, a further £18-£25 billion could be cut from spending in pursuit of the Maastricht convergence criteria." Or as one sacked Liverpool docker said, "The Maastricht Treaty is a Thatcher treaty."
Already, workfare has been introduced in Holland and Belgium. Italy, Portugal and Spain have increased the retirement age or plan to do so. Family allowances in Belgium and Germany are now means-tested, as is the pension in Norway, Holland and Spain. In Denmark, income support is now taxed. The German government, under pressure from the costs of unification, is planning to cut unemployment benefit, sick pay, health-care, child benefits and holiday pay; to raise the age of retirement; to freeze public sector pay for two years; and to withdraw legal protection for workers in companies with 10 or less employees. And this is only just the beginning...
As one anti European activist told SchNEWS "Who will win this particular round in a struggle that is only just beginning remains unclear. Governments face major difficulties meeting the Maastricht criteria and popular protest is only making it harder, but if the voice of ordinary people is to be heard a way must be found of uniting and breaking the stranglehold of the official opposition, otherwise, we will all be made to pay the price of the system's endless search for profits."
Don't worry - SchNEWS isn't getting all xenophobic - we all like a bottle of French red-wine, Spanish strawberries and the odd German (soya) sausage. As Richard from Revolution put it, "We don't want a little England mentally just as much as we don't want a Europe controlled by the Bundesbank - but a Europe under the control of ordinary people." We'll drink a case of yer finest Bordeaux to that!
MAKE SOME NOISE!
"We are witnessing the rebirth of European
Expansion of Heathrow's Terminal 5 (T5)
Stansted & Gatwick could all become major projects in the not so distant future. The Heathrow inquiry is in its third year and is not expected to finish until late 1998. If it goes ahead, T5 will be the largest green belt development in UK history, destroying 625 acres of protected London green belt - and the planned M25 link road another 50 acres. 4 rivers - the Colne, Crane, Duke of Northumberland and Longford - will be either culverted or filled with de-iceing and aviation fuel run-off (just above a SSSI and the point where London extracts its drinking water). T5 will, in its own right, become the third biggest airport in Europe, behind Frankfurt and the rest of Heathrow (already on 3000 acres of greenbelt!). The development will include a terminal building, offices, hotels, shopping malls and 21,000 car parking spaces. If you want to know more contact FoE on 0171 566 1678.
SchNEWS in brief
Vicar with Attitude
Remember John Papworth, the London vicar who rapidly lost his job when he suggested that shoplifting in supermarkets was not a sin? Well, the church won't be any happier with his latest wheeze, for our man has bypassed god to draw up a "new" 10 commandments! Sticking to the general carin', sharin' themes as revealed to Moses first time around, John encompasses 20th century concerns with, amongst others, no.4: "Thou shalt enjoy the gift of sex as thou willst..." and no. 10: "Thou shalt not heed commercial notices nor become enslaved to cars, computers, TV and like technologies." Jesus, we feel, would have approved...
South Downs Alert!
The South has lost up to 80% of its Downsland in the last 50 years, putting wildlife at risk and spoiling the beauty we all take for granted. And no single, co-ordinated organisation have any responsibility for looking after it. Friends of the Earth is calling on the National Trust to take over so at least "development" will be prevented. To support this desire there's to be a Fun Day, on the 1st June starting at 12 noon @ Stanmer Park with stalls, entertainment & walks on the downs. Take picnic, suitable clothes and happy vibes. Info: 0171 566 1698.
The + files
Henry Doubleday Research Association: Preserving back-garden biodiversity! Non-conformity in the world of veg has been stamped on for years- unregistered varieties fall foul of legislation decreeing which types can be sold in the EU; the HDRA realises that security and safety from epidemics is possible only with biodiversity, as well as freedom of choice- and to this end have set up a seed bank to preserve, propagate and share a full range of `outlawed' organic veg varieties. They also offer a full range of organic advice, courses and research into organic techniques. A must in such genetically-uncertain times!! Contact: HDRA, Ryton Organic Gardens, Coventry, CV8 3LG.
Crap Arrest of (Last) Week
For criminal damage to a shirt button. Around twenty activists took part in an anti-genetics action inside Marks and Spencers, Brighton. The store security guard leapt into action, grabbing one protester. In the resulting melee someone else grabbed the guard, popping a few buttons in the process. Five (five!) van-loads of police then arrived a few minutes later to make the arrest...
83-yr-old attacks police!
83 year old Reg Weston, on his way home from an anti-Project Work demo in January at Gravesend Sally Army (where the unemployed must iron clothes for charity shops) saw a protester chatting with policemen, and told him he ought not to fraternise with the `scum'. One of the `scum' asked Reg to repeat what he had said. Reg did as he was asked. The policeman said if Reg repeated the words again, he would arrest him under the Public Order Act. Reg did...and was arrested. Another protester who criticised Reg's arrest is also charged with obstructing the police.
Reg's three day trial is in Gravesend Magistrates Court, North Kent on June 6th, 9th and 10th.
Under New Labour everything has changed - no one gets hangovers any more, dropped toast lands butter side up, and condoms never split. However, some things have remained the same. The wallets of the few are growing fatter, and the fat cats are lapping up ever richer cream. Directors of Camelot, administrators of the National Mockery, have just given themselves a 90% pay increase. Peter Jarvis, the Chief Exec of Whitbread, who scrapes by on £521 an hour, has been put forward as the person to look after the Low Pay Commission which will decide the minimum wage! What next - Genghis Khan as Minister of Human Rights? Tony Blair asking Margaret Thatcher for advice?
That's not all. The Head of BP has become Minister for European Competition, and Martin Taylor, man of notes at Barclays has become head of the task force on welfare reform. Nice to see someone appointed with empathy for the people affected by the changes; who knows what it's like to save coppers in a whiskey bottle. There's more - Lord Hollick, responsible for sacking hundreds of people from Anglia TV and the Express, is a special advisor to Dept of Industry. New Labour, New Forceps: Looks like the delivery is going to be difficult. More drugs please nurse!
The SchNEWS warns all readers not to be blinded by Maastricht's Eurovision. Always be Shaw that you're not a Puppet on a String. Never let them hit you in the Waterloos, or you may fall foul of the Brotherhood of Man. Then you will be EMUed. Honest.
Don't forget the training day - and remember SchNEWS envelope stuffing every Friday @ Justice? Office. Go on, make our day.
SchNEWS, PO Box 2600, Brighton, BN2 2DX, England
Last updated 12 June 1997
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