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The holy freedoms of capitalism

The 2014 TUC Congress motion against the EU’s proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade treaty, said, “Congress notes that free trade agreements rarely, if ever, benefit working people and are pushed by corporations who use them as a means to maximise profits and further their own interests.”

Precisely. That is why the ruling class and the EU push free trade. Perhaps we should stop calling it “free” and call it by its true name, “out of control” trade.

The EU is built on the “free movements” of capital, labour, goods and services, that is, on uncontrolled movements of all four. Capital needs these “freedoms” in order to maximise its profits, and for no other reason. Alexander Stubb, Finland’s prime minister, recently called the EU’s “free” movement principles “holy”.

So where do the organisations of our working class stand on these holy principles? They are starting to understand that the uncontrolled movement of goods and services, “free trade”, is not good for workers. It’s taken longer than it should have, but the realisation is dawning that the working class has to oppose free trade. Free trade policies stop us rebuilding Britain, and endanger the NHS and our education system.

In what could turn out to be a huge step forward, Unite has acknowledged that it was wrong to support the EU-US trade agreement . Other unions should follow, and force the TUC to stop its shameful support for the principle of TTIP.

The free movement of capital allows companies to disinvest at the drop of an interest rate. It also enables capital to hide in tax havens like Luxembourg, the EU’s in-house tax haven, run for 15 years by the new European President, Jean-Claude Juncker.

The Labour Party (along with the others) lauds “inward investment”, defined as capital flowing into Britain. Never mind that this capital is used to speculate in housing, or to buy up football clubs, or to buy industries and asset-strip them. We don’t want inward investment, we want the money made in Britain from our work to stay in Britain and fund proper investment.

The greatest backwardness appears when it comes to the free movement of labour. Holy or not, it has become a sacred cow for most unions. Never mind that this “freedom” encourages the modern slavery of workers moving at the orders of people traffickers, gang masters and cheapskate employers. Or that it means the theft of scarce skilled workers from across the world. (See November’s Workers, “Ebola: capitalist health exposed”.)

In December, the GMB organised a day of celebration of immigration, oblivious to the fact that the only winners from uncontrolled migration are the employers, who lower wages, boost profits, make employment ever more insecure.

The losers are the countries whose educated workforces are plundered by countries like Britain that no longer need to worry about training their own population – just steal skills from abroad. And of course those in Britain who will not live 12 to a house in order to survive on poverty wages – or who find that all the jobs are advertised in Poland anyway and never come up at Job Centres (yes, it happens, frequently).

As the capitalist press gloats, the EU is an insurance policy against any government deviating from “austerity” (poverty) policies. So to rebuild our industries, protect our services, draw up our own trade policies and decide our migration policy, we have to leave the EU.

• See companion articles:

TTIP: a dagger aimed at Britain's sovereignty

TTIP: The Tufts study

TTIP: The extraordinary rendition of Britain