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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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
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.