Happiness

Leo Tolstoy (portrait by Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi, in the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)

Tolstoy wrote that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Perhaps something similar applies to the debate about Europe. All Yes voters are the same, each No voter is different.

By this I mean that all yes voters are voting for the same thing. The constitution exists in a text and it will come into force if it is ratified. It will change the way in which the European Union takes decisions, giving the citizens and the governments of Europe a better opportunity to reclaim influence over the forces that shape their lives.

That is what the constitution means, and that is what all yes voters are voting for. They may have different views of what that new decision-making system should be used for – what sort of policies the European Union should adopt – but it is clear that the constitution is the means of taking those decisions and implementing those policies.

Our friends the no campaigners are in a different position. They do not paint a consistent picture of what the constitution means.

For half of them, it is part of a neo-liberal conspiracy to undermine the rights of workers in the interests of global capital. The freedom of business to operate across borders outside the constraints of social democratic institutions and norms is to be strengthened in the interests of the people who own and run capitalism.

For the other half, however, they wish it were this way. They lament the fact that the Charter of Fundamental Rights gives citizens new rights. They fear that the creation of parliamentary democracy at the European level might reduce their ability to make money. The constitution, far from being neo-liberal, is in fact socialist.

Now, these are both interesting criticisms of the European constitution: either might be true but they cannot both be. And that means that the diversity of the No campaign, far from being a strength, is in fact a weakness. Different parts of the No campaign are making contradictory and unsustainable promises. They should be held to account for this

By all means criticise the European constitution for what it says. But don’t criticise it for saying things which in fact it does not say. If we can have a debate about the facts of the constitution rather than the myths and the prejudices, then I would be happy.

This blog entry first appeared on www.yes-campaign.net. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union or of the Yes campaign.

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