From the June 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the run-up to the referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union, we assess the views of the Far Left on this ‘vital’ issue.
Although divided into a 57 or more mutually antagonistic sects, an ever-expanding sea of alphabet soup, many of them put up a surprisingly united front.
What say ye, oh my brothers?
SWP: We say OUT! Although diminished from its pre-Delta days, the Socialist Workers Party (Socialist Worker) is still the largest of the Left groupings. As such, it very much sets the pace in regards to the ‘questions of the day’. Its pamphlet, The EU, a left case for exit, gives a good account of the nature of the European Union. The dedication to neo-liberal economic policies, such as the infliction of austerity misery on the Greek people and widespread privatisation in the interest of the ‘fat cats’, is made clear. Equally, the creation of a murderous Fortress Europe policy to keep out migrants is spelt out, as is the fact that the EU is no source of progressive social reform. To weaken ‘British Imperialism’ vote no.
RS21/ Counterfire: We say OUT! These meaningless SWP splinters follow the example of their older brother.
SPEW: We say OUT! The ‘Socialist’ Party of England and Wales (formerly the Militant Tendency) (paper: The Socialist) says ‘We call for a vote to leave the capitalist EU, and to build a socialist Europe’ for much the same reasons as its arch rivals. They may not have noticed but their much-vaunted construction project has not even got to the planning stage. The choice on the ballot paper is not between a ‘socialist’ (whatever nonsense that might mean to them) Europe and a capitalist Europe but between a capitalist UK as a member of the capitalist EU and a capitalist stand-alone UK. SPEW takes no part in the Lexit group, the anti-EU campaign group formed on 13 April.
CPB: We say OUT! The third (maybe second) largest Left party has an influence beyond its size due to its activism within the unions. Its pamphlet Britain and the EU: What next? sets out the pro-business agenda of the EU, its anti-democratic nature (pots and kettles?), the decline and fall of Delors’ Social Europe, pro-US origins as a political version of NATO, war-mongering interference in Ukraine and Yugoslavia. The Communist Party of Britain is the prime mover in Lexit. CPB General Secretary Robert Griffiths is the group’s chairman. To be fair, although the CPB are nay sayers, a fair crack of the whip is given to the INNERS in the CPB associatedMorning Star.
CPBML: We say OUT (very loudly)! In a large and glossy handout, this group of ‘anti-revisionists’ say “Out of the EU!” The Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), producer of Workers, is notorious for its nationalist stance. Much talk is there of ‘our country.’ Our country? No, Their country! Nation is a capitalist concept. They own, they control: We are their slaves who must break our mental programming. The workers of the world have no country. Even by Left standards, this group is a disgrace.
CL: We say OUT! The Communist League, an intrusion into the UK of the American MilitantTrotskyists, succinctly state ‘the challenge facing workers is to see our independent class interests… not to look to the capitalist rulers for protection – be they inside or outside the EU’. Quite right but this doesn’t stop them voting OUT.
NCP: We say OUT! The (not so) New Communist Party (New Worker) leaflet The truth about the EU features a cartoon of a trio of what look like B-17s bombing a town of peaceful demonstrators. While no one can ignore the neoliberal agenda of the EU, such alarmism is rather over the top. NATO is not at all the same thing.
SL/B: We say OUT! The Spartacist League/Britain, the Sparts, once known for their chanting, with publication Workers Hammer, decry the European Union as the ‘Enemy of Workers and Immigrants’ (aren’t migrants workers too?). But in or out austerity and racist anti-migrant policies will continue.
WRP: We say OUT! The orthodox Trotskyist Workers’ Revolutionary Party (daily paper: News Line, its masthead strangely Sun-like) says Vote Leave to ‘bring down the broken Cameron government… bring in a workers government’. A likely outcome – we don’t think. And, plural or singular, workers don’t need governing.
CPGB-ML: We say OUT! Noisy and unapologetically Stalinist, the Communist Party of Great Britain Marxist-Leninist (paper: Proletarian), consider Brexit will ‘weaken British, European and even US imperialism’ (i.e., providing opportunities for Chinese, Russian and Arab imperialism) ‘taking our struggle for socialism one small step forward’ (or making not a blind bit of difference).
RCPB(ML): We say OUT! The Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (Line of March) holds that ‘working people themselves must set the agenda’. Quite right too. Yet the agenda of the referendum has already been set by the ruling class. By voting in their referendum, we are playing their game.
SLP: We say OUT! Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party ‘lambasts’ the ‘free movement of both labour and capital’ and boosts import controls on goods and people. The less said about this (especially the latter) the better.
ISLP: We say OUT! The Independent Socialist Labour Party – an anti-Scargill Scargillite – also go for the OUT vote.
RESPECT: I say OUT! The fan club of the man with the hat call the EU an ‘undemocratic plutocracy, a bankers’ Europe’. And is not the UK an undemocratic plutocracy, a bankers’ paradise? And did not the gorgeous one rethink his views after being booed when sharing a platform with Farage? He did not.
Against the flow
RCG: The Revolutionary Communist Group, very active backsliders from Trotskyism, is yet to declare. The publishers of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! seem to have little interest - presumably because the effects on its beloved Irish, Palestinian, etc, etc, nationalism and Cuban state capitalism are negligible.
IMT: The International Marxist Tendency issuing Socialist Appeal, still boring within the Labour Party, are hedging their bets. ‘The task of Marxists… is not to come out in favour for either reactionary camp’. So neither an IN or an OUT. That’s a good start.
Workers Power: After nicely contrasting the ‘racist and chauvinist OUT campaigners’ to the ‘pro-capitalist/ neoliberal IN campaigners’, the fighters for a Fifth International (as if four weren’t bad enough) say IN! Workers Power (publishing the pleasantly pink Red Flag) is now entryist in the Labour Party. Which is an IN. Strange huh?
SR: Socialist Resistance ‘Ecosocialist Feminist Revolutionary’ are INNERS. Leader Alan Thornett simplistically aligns Europe and manufacturing (good) and US and finance capital (bad). Although the drawbacks of the European Union are noted, they call for the opposite vote to the chief leavers, UKIP and the “Tory Right” (aren’t they all that?).
AWL: The Alliance for Worker’s Liberty (Solidarity) stands for an IN vote, saying, in particular, it reduces ‘nationalist antagonisms’. The AWL has always used hostility and contradictoriness to create a clear red line between it and the other Left groups. Its reasoning on this issue seems a little half-hearted.
SEP: Socialist Equality Party are for an active boycott. ‘No to the European Union – No to British nationalism!’ Fair enough. ‘For the unity of the British and European working class!” And of the world, one might add. ‘For the United Socialist States of Europe!’ This slogan, thought up by Trotsky himself, has been used by INNERS and OUTERS and, here, by abstainers.
CPGB: The Communist Party of Great Britain (journal: Weekly Worker) also recommends a boycott of the referendum. Its essentially tactical reasons include opposition to British nationalism, opposition to the EU as a capitalist body, as well as a theoretical opposition to referenda as undemocratic.
How would ‘Brexit’ affect the working class in Britain?
Capitalism: No change. The European Union is just as dedicated to free market capitalism and neoliberalism as the British government is or is likely to be. The latter’s austerity programme, independently arrived at and carried out, is just as brutal as the one that the EU imposed on Greece.
Working conditions: No change. For the average worker, in terms of pay and conditions, the benefits of membership or non-membership of the European Union are negligible. The days of the ‘Social Market Economy’ are long gone and will not return.
Civil rights: No change. In or out, we are dependent on our rulers, on how much they think they can get away with.
Privatisation: No change. One aim of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is to ‘open up’ (privatise) health care and education. Does anyone believe that such a programme is not on the British government’s agenda anyhow? In any case, state bureaucrat or company director, a boss is still a boss.
Democracy: No change. The undemocratic nature of the European Union is matched by the undemocratic nature of the British state. In or out, we, the working class, have little or no say in the decision-making process. In the most crucial decisions, the endless blood-soaked ‘interventions’, even our ‘democratic’ representatives in parliament have little or no say.
Migration: No change. The European Union is responsible for the Mediterranean massacres, a direct result of the Fortress Europe policy. Would these deaths continue if the UK was not part of the EU? Of course. Would the Calais concentration camps still be there? Of course. And perhaps greatly swollen with Poles and Eastern Europeans too (we can only hope, think the UKIPers).
A plague on both your houses!
Membership of the European Union is a concern for the capitalist class, not the working class. Because the master class is divided on this and cannot decide amongst themselves, they have passed the buck to ‘the people’ in the form of a referendum. Its timing is a cynical ploy by the Cameronian old boys’ club to head rival UKIP off at the pass. The referendum is a non-choice between two all but identical forms of capitalist oppression.
The outcome of the referendum can’t matter that much to the capitalist class – otherwise we would not have been asked. Have we been generously granted a referendum about the constant rounds of military intervention that have caused the deaths of millions? Or on global warming, a possible result of which might be the destruction of the entire planet? Or on nuclear weapons, the most colossal and dangerous waste of resources? Or on austerity, whose grinding misery has resulted in scores of suicides and deaths through stress?
Voting either IN or OUT is an act of class collaboration, to stand alongside either slimy representatives of finance capital like Cameron and Osborne or loathsome opportunists like Farage and Johnson. Your choice: Big Business or Little England. Those who swallow this are deluding themselves.
The working class interest lies in the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism. This referendum is not worth the shedding of a single drop of working class ink.
Vote neither IN nor OUT. Either is a vote for capitalism. Instead, use the opportunity to positively express your desire for socialism. A ballot paper ‘spoilt’ for socialism is a happy ballot paper.