From the June 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard
On 23 June you will asked to make a decision on behalf of the minority who own and control the means of production in Britain: should they stay or should they leave the EU? Perhaps you ought to feel flattered that, for once, they have entrusted you with making a decision of vital importance to them. But our answer, as socialists, is ‘we are not interested. Settle the matter yourselves’.
This is because the problems we and you face as wage and salary workers or their dependents are caused by the capitalist system of ownership by the few and production for profit. This system, which requires that making profits comes before meeting needs, will continue whether Britain is in or out of the EU. Whichever it is to be, the problems will continue. They will continue for as long as capitalism does. The only way out is if you, together with wage and salary workers in the rest of the world, organise democratically to replace global capitalism by a worldwide classless socialist society of common ownership and democratic control, with production to satisfy people’s needs not for profit, and distribution on the principle of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs” not by the amount of money you have – or don’t have.
The devil you know
Apart from a few idealists who want to see a Federal European State, the main group in favour of staying is Big Business. With good reason, from their point if view. The EU gives them tariff- free access to a vast single market with common standards. And the EU, negotiating as a single body with non-member States over trade and other economic matters and so with more bargaining power, gets them a better deal than if Britain had to do this on its own.
Other supporters are the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists who want to protect the EU subsidies their parts of Britain get. More principled is the position of the Green Party which wants to defend the free movement of workers throughout the EU – out of as well as into Britain.
Cameron claims to have negotiated some fundamental reform of the EU. Actually, he has done no more than freeze the position of Britain as a non-member of the Eurozone. He hasn’t undone anything. He hasn’t even stopped immigration which some mistakenly see as a problem, only held out a hope that it will be less attractive in a few years. No wonder the Eurosceptics are sceptical.
Basically, the Stay campaign are campaigning for the status quo. As is the Labour Party. In other words, capitalism as we know it, with all the problems it causes, and so not worth supporting even if it is the devil we know.
The devil you don’t
But what about the devil we don’t know? Its supporters are an unsavoury lot. UKippers, Tory backwoodsmen and other xenophobes plus a few ambitious politicians calculating that leaving will provide them with a better chance to climb further up the greasy pole. They have some limited business support, mainly small businesses producing for the home market rather than for export and some hedge funds that don’t want to be regulated.
The leave camp are the ones proposing a change, which they claim will be for the better. But their case is a mixture of wishful thinking and the usual empty promises of politicians. It doesn’t even make sense from a capitalist point of view. Certainly, as they claim, outside the EU British capitalism could still have access to the single EU market, but would no longer have a say in fixing its rules and regulations. A non-EU Britain could still, as they also claim, negotiate trade deals with other countries and trading blocs, but on its own would be in a weaker bargaining position. No wonder Big Business and its supporters regard them as flat-earthers.
The sovereign has no clothes
One more respectable argument for leaving than ‘Keep Immigrants Out’ or ‘Send Them Back’ is that leaving would give back to parliament the ‘sovereign power’ to decide what laws should apply in Britain. Capitalism, however, is a single world economic system, which makes ‘independence’ and ‘sovereignty’ purely formal when it comes to economic matters. Governments, whatever formal powers they may have, cannot control the way the profit system works. In fact it’s the other way round. Capitalism is sovereign and governments have to apply its basic economic law that priority must be given to profit-making as this is what drives the system.
A State can choose that its government and parliament take the decisions required to comply with capitalism’s basic economic law (as the leavers want) or it can delegate some of these decisions to some inter-governmental body (as at present and as the stayers support), but in the end it doesn’t matter who makes the decision. Nor where, whether London or Brussels. the decision is made.
How to vote, then?
You don’t need to accept the sham choice on offer in this referendum between the devil you know and the devil you don’t. Leave that choice to those who support capitalism in one form or another. As we consider the right to vote as a gain and a possible tool to end capitalism we will be going to the polling station, to cast a write-in vote for socialism by writing “WORLD SOCIALISM” across our ballot paper. If you agree with us, we urge you to do the same.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain