From Irish Political Review: July 2008

The People Have Spoken

The working class and small farmers have spoken. And since Ireland was the only country that was allowed to speak, they have spoken for Europe and placed themselves at its heart.

They have decided that Europe is a group of nations with a dream and not a bureaucracy which imposes diktats from above. They have determined that Europe is a collection of peoples and not a homogeneous free market which is regulated by a court with the enthusiastic support of a neo-liberal Commission. They have declared that Europe is an area with defined borders engaged in a glorious project of cooperation and not a revival of the imperialistic instincts of Britain, France and Germany as an adjunct to American imperialism.

The enemies of the people have attempted to explain the result away. They have diminished the verdict’s significance and have heaped their feeble scorn on the people’s intelligence. But it is not the Irish working class and small farmers who lack intelligence. Au contraire! By the simple expedient of placing an "X" on a ballot paper they have reduced their critics to cretinism. And they have done this without reading a word of the soon to be forgotten document because their understanding is more profound than mere words on a page. They have looked at Europe and know that it is not the Europe of Delors, Mitterrand and Kohl. They have seen that Britain has sold the Eurocrats the Trojan Horse of expansion, but the people have refused to back that tired old nag, never mind buy it.

And meanwhile the media babble continues to flow undisturbed by understanding: "if only the ‘yes’ side had started its campaign earlier" they exclaim. They regret that the Mahon Tribunal set piece, which they had enthusiastically supported, had not happened. They wish that Ahern, who they had wanted to resign, had not resigned. Their impotent rage cannot hide their heart’s desire: "if only the people could have been manipulated to act against their own interests".
But the people have spoken and their words will not be distorted or diminished. They have voted "no" not because they hate Europe but because they love it. They do not wish to destroy Europe but to save it. They have not rejected it but demand that it be restored to the people through its constituent elements which begin with the nation state.

So where do we go from here? It is not up to the Irish people to work out the nuts and bolts of a reconfigured Europe. All they have done is to tell European leaders what they do not want. The Irish have rejected the subordination of workers’ rights to free market values within Europe. They have rejected a purely free market relationship, as decided by Mandelson, between Europe and the rest of the world. And they have rejected military expansion. It has been explained to them that their rejection will result in "immobilism". And yet they have decided that immobilism is preferable to the direction that Europe is going. No European foreign policy is preferable to the "ethical" foreign policy of recent years which has led to the destruction of Yugoslavia and coat tailed American imperialism in the Middle East.

That is what the Irish people have rejected. If the political leaders of Europe cannot devise a project that the people of Europe can embrace, the project will deserve to fail.

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