Constitutions of Continents

Sadly, both Dead Men Left and Hold that Thought are barking up wrong trees when they come to Europe. DML argues for a left no and HtT for a left yes. I'm going to argue, in my usual flaccid and unconvincing style, that left-right issues are not really relevant for the constitution(al treaty) that goes to a referendum this Sunday in the Fifth Republic.

Dead Men Left makes a couple of mistakes, IMHO, in his piece. The first is to say

“Good Europeans vs. bad Americans is a model all internationalists should noisily reject. To dismiss - at a minimum - the 48% who voted against Bush in November 2004; to dismiss the many historic achievements of the US left; to write off any possibility of change in America that does not depend on external confrontation is to evince a profound, pessimistic conservatism.”

DML's main point is right, but to say that the 48% who didn't vote for Bush are somehow part of the radical left or even committed to another world is bollocks. They did, after all, vote for John Kerry. You remember. The one who based the personal part of his campaign on being in the military. You might remember which war he was in...

Secondly, Mandelson is very well described as oleaginous, but just because he likes something doesn't make it bad. I am given to understand that he is partial to guacamole, which I consider an entirely reasonable position. The cynical point of view is that he would sell his own grandmother for power. The European Constitution means he doesn't even have to do that, as it presents him with a lot more power. Now, while Mandelson having more power is probably as close to demonstrably bad as we could come, more power to someone is not necessarily bad. What if Make Poverty History were taken on board by the new common foreign minister as a leitmotif? While it may have become watered down, even Britain will support it and it would improve matters.

The point of the constitution is that it raises the stakes. There's the usual bullshit of pandering to petty nationalism with pointless rhetoric about the EU being not a nation but a family of nations, but beyond that there are two big changes: the common foreign minister and the 1/3 veto.

If people are going to scream about the constitution, they might take the time to read it. If 1/3 of national parliaments vote against a European law, it goes back to the Commission. I do not deny that the EU has the potential to ride rough-shod over the European social model. The 1/3 provision means that, particularly given that people would appear to be more willing to participate in non party-politics based campaigns (viz. Make Poverty History, Stop the War, Social Forums &c.), a particularly odious piece of Eurolegislation could be effectively stopped by a concerted, transEuropean campaign.

The question should be not 'does this accord with our political dogma' but 'is this good for us as lefties/righties/soggy centrists'. There is no bias inherent in the Constitution that cannot be undone by legislation coming from Brussels; the question is as to what nature this legislation will take if the Constitution is approved.


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