In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell painted a picture of the future as a boot stamping on a human face, forever. The boot now has a name. TTIP. The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership. Hammered out in secret talks between Europe and the USA, it will make democracy illegal, by giving corporations the right to sue governments for passing laws that restrict their profits, such as laws that raise environmental or social protection.
Campaign group 38 Degrees gave evidence this week to a select committee at Westminster. One of their members described the experience as follows:
“This week I was shouted at by a group of MPs.
I’d been asked to explain to the Business Select Committee why 38 Degrees members are so worried about TTIP. That’s the dodgy EU-US trade deal that could bring further privatisation of our NHS. But once I got there, they didn’t seem to want to hear why we were against privatisation. Or why we want to stop American corporations having the power to sue our government in secret courts.
Instead they attacked 38 Degrees members for wanting to have a say. They kept arguing that 38 Degrees members didn’t know enough to have valid opinions about the deal. And when I said we don’t trust politicians to deal with something as important as this behind closed doors, the chairman told me to shut up!”
If, like us, you’re sceptical about the value of trade and concerned about the threat that trade poses to democracy, you’ll understand where he’s coming from. TTIP has to be defeated but, in the long term, it’s just as important to defeat the mindset – totalitarian liberalism – that thinks something like TTIP could ever be acceptable in a society that values vital democracy. We’ve become numbed to the idea that it’s not for business to compete for access to our markets, it’s for nations to compete for the privilege of investment by businesses. Because if the businesses are disobeyed, they have the power (that we gave to them) to lay waste to everything. Faced with the threat of our sovereignty now being for sale, defence is nowhere near enough. Politics must re-conquer economics or go down fighting. A boycott of US goods might be a start?
It’s just a shame that David Babbs – the man who now complains about being shouted at – is the man who decided only last year that the voters of Eastleigh ought not to hear from Colin Bex.