Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What is Patriotism? An Analysis. (1915)

From the December 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Johnsonian Definition and Others.
The answer depends largely upon the point of view. From one standpoint patriotism appears as the actual religion of the modern State. From another it is the decadence and perversion of a noble and deep-rooted impulse of loyalty to the social unit, acquired by mankind during the earliest stages of social life. From yet another viewpoint, that of capitalist interests, patriotism is nothing more or less than a convenient and potent instrument of domination.

The word itself, both etymologically and historically, has its root in paternity. In tribal days the feeling of social solidarity, which has now become debased into patriotism, was completely bound up with the religion of ancestor worship. In tribal religion, as in the tribe itself, all were united by ties of blood. The gods and their rights and ceremonies were exclusive to the tribesmen. All strangers were rigidly debarred from worship. The gods themselves were usually dead warriors. Every war was a holy war. Among the ancient Israelites, for instance, the holy Ark of Jehovah of Hosts accompanied the tribes to battle. It was this abode or movable tomb of the ancestral deity that went with the Jews in their march through the desert, and even to Jericho, playing an important part in the fall of that remarkable city. All the traditions of the Jewish religion, in fact, were identified with great national triumphs.

The Merits of the Early Brand
Thus tribal religion was completely interwoven with tribal aspirations and integrity. Tribal “patriotism" and religion were identical. Indeed, without the strongest possible social bond, without a kind of “patriotism" that implied the unhesitating self-sacrifice of the individual for the communal existence, it would have been utterly impossible for tribal man to have won through to civilisation. Natural selection insured that only those social groups which developed this supreme instinct of mutual aid could survive; the rest were crushed out in the struggle for existence. Is it a matter for wonder if it be found that such a magnificent social impulse, so vital to the struggling groups of tribal man, received periodical consecration in the willing human sacrifices so common in primitive religious ceremonial ? Bound up with the deliberate manufacture of gods for the protection of the tribe and its works, there is indicated a social recognition of the need for, and value of, the sacrifice of the individual for the common weal.

This noble impulse of social solidarity is the common inheritance of all mankind. But being a powerful social force it has lent itself to exploitation. Therefore, with the development of class rule this great impulse is made subordinate to the class interests of the rulers. It becomes debased and perverted to definite anti-social ends. As soon as the people become a slave class “the land of their fathers” is theirs no more. Patriotism to them becomes a fraudulent thing. The “ country ” is that of their masters alone. Nevertheless, the instinct of loyalty to the community is too deep-seated to be eradicated so easily, and it becomes a deadly weapon in the hands of the rulers against the people themselves.

With the decay of society based on kinship, religion changed also, and from being tribal and exclusive it became universal and propagandist. “Patriotism” at the same time began to distinguish itself from religion. The instinctive tribal loyalty became transformed, by the aid of religion and the fiction of kinship, into political loyalty. In a number of instances in political society, as in Tudor England, the struggle for priority between religion and patriotism became so acute as to help in the introduction of a more subservient form of religion. Thus patriotism became emancipated from religion, and the latter became a mere accessory to patriotism as handmaiden of class rule.

A Most Accommodating Conception.
Though universal religion did not split up at the same time as the great empire that gave it birth, patriotism did so. The latter has, in fact, always adapted, enlarged, or contracted itself to fit the existing political unit, whether feudal estate, village, township, county, kingdom, republic or empire. No political form has been too absurd for it to fill with its loyalty. No discordance of race, colour or language has been universally effective against it.

What, then, is patriotism in essence to-day? It is usually defined as being devotion to the land of our fathers. But which is the land of our fathers? Our fathers came from many different parts of the world. The political division of the world in which we live is an artificial entity. The land has been wrested from other races. The nation they call “ours” is the result of a conquest over original inhabitants, and over ourselves, by successive ruling classes. Unlike the free tribesmen we are hirelings; we possess no country.

Nationality, of which patriotism is the superstition, covers no real entity other than that of a common oppression, a unified government. It does not comprise any unity of race, for in no nation is there one pure race, or anything like it. It does not cover a unity of language, for scarcely a nation exists in which several distinct languages are not indigenous. Nor is it any fixity of territory, for this changes from decade to decade, while the inhabitants of the transferred territory have to transfer their allegiance, their patriotism, to the new nation.

The Product of the Analysis.
The only universal bond of nationality or patriotism that exists for us to-day is, then, that of subjection to a single government. Patriotism in the worker is pride in the common yoke imposed by a politically unified ruling class. Yet it is this artificial entity that we are called upon to honour before life itself. This badge of political servitude is called an object worthy of supreme sacrifice. The workers are expected to abandon all vital interests and sacrifice all they hold dear for the preservation of an artificial nationality that is little more than a manufactured unit of discord: a mere focus of economic and political strife.

Ignoble Exploitation
Thus one of the noblest fruits of man’s social evolution—the impulse of sacrifice for the social existence—is being prostituted by the capitalist class to maintain a system of exploitation, to obtain a commercial supremacy, and preserve or extend the boundaries of a superfluous political entity. The workers are duped by the ruling class into sacrificing themselves for the preservation of a politico-economic yoke of a particular form and colour. Many so-called Socialists have fallen headlong into this trap.

Had social solidarity developed in equal measure with the broadening of men’s real interests, it would now be universal in character instead of national. The wholesale mixture of races, and the economic interdependence of the whole world, show that nationalism is now a barrier, and patriotism, as we know it, a curse. Only the whole world can now be rightly called the land of our fathers. Only in the service of the people of the whole world, and not against those of any part of it, can the instinct of social service find its highest and complete expression. The great Socialist has pointed the way. He did not call upon the workers of Germany alone to unite. He appealed to the toilers of the whole world to join hands; to a whole world of labour whose only loss could be its parti-coloured chains. And in this alone lies the consummation of that tribal instinct of social solidarity of which patriotism is the perverted descendant.

Something Better than Patriotism.
Capitalism, therefore, stands as the barrier the destruction of which will not only set free the productive forces of society for the good of all, but will also liberate human solidarity and brotherhood from the narrow confines of nationality and patriotism. Only victorious labour can make true the simple but pregnant statement: “Mankind are my brethren, the world is my country.” Patriotism and nationalism as we know them will then be remembered only as artificial restrictions of men’s sympathy and mutual help; as obstacles to the expansion of the human mind; as impediments to the needful and helpful development of human unity and co-operation; as bonds that bound men to slavery; as incentives that set brothers at each other's throats.

Despite its shameless perversion by a robber class the great impulse to human solidarity is by no means dead. Economic factors give it an ever firmer basis, and in the Socialist movement it develops apace. Even the hellish system of individualism, with its doctrine of every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, has been unable to kill it. And in the great class struggle of the workers against the drones, of the socially useful against the socially pernicious, in this last great struggle for the liberation of humanity from; wage-slavery, the great principle of human solidarity, based upon the necessities of to-day and impelled by the deep-seated instincts of the race, will come to full fruition and win its supreme historical battle.

A Vile Use of a Noble Sentiment
That is our hope and aspiration. For the present, however, we are surrounded by the horrors of war added to the horrors of exploitation, and subjected to the operation of open repression as well as to the arts of hypocrisy and fraud. With the weakening power of religion to keep the workers obedient, the false cult of nationality and patriotism is being exploited to the full. Like religion, patriotism has its vestments, its ceremonies, its sacred emblems, its sacred hymns and inspired music; all of which are called in aid of the class interests of our masters, and utilised desperately to lure millions to the shambles for their benefit. Thus is an heroic and glorious social impulse perverted and debased to the support of a régime of wage-slavery, and to the furtherance of the damnable policy of the slave-holding class: to divide and rule.
F. C. Watts

The Beginning and Ending of the Wages System (1937)

From the February 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

When doing propaganda, we frequently meet people who claim to be Socialists, but who cannot understand that when Socialism is established there will be no wages system. They argue that, without wages, chaos would ensue.

First, let us make it clear that the wages system has not always existed. As will be seen, it is of a relatively recent growth. Broadly speaking, there have been four different systems of society: Primitive Communism, Chattel Slavery, Feudalism and Capitalism.

Primitive communism lasted for hundreds of thousands of years. In this system private property was a thing unknown, and the words “mine” and “thine” were consequently never thought of nor used by the members of that society. When travellers first went to North America primitive communism was still in existence there. It is thus that the Jesuit Charlevoix wrote about what he saw: —
The brotherly sentiments of the Redskins are doubtless in part ascribable to the fact that the words “mine’’ and “thine’’ are all unknown as yet to the savages. The protection they extend to the orphans, the widows and the infirm, the hospitality which they exercise in so admirable a manner, are, in their eyes, but a consequence of the conviction which they hold that all things should be common to all men. (Quoted by Lafargue, pp. 32-3, “The Evolution of Property.")
When primitive communism existed, the means of life were obtained chiefly by hunting and fishing, and when a member of the clan killed an animal he would share it with the other members. Some would have us believe that the present savage is a brute, living for himself without any thought for others. Lafargue has shown us that this is far from being the case. One quotation will suffice: —
In times of famine, the young Fuegians explore the coast, and if they chance to light upon any Cetaceous animal (a favourite dainty) they hasten, before touching it, to inform their comrades of their find. These at once hurry to the spot; whereupon the oldest member of the party proceeds to portion out equal shares to all. (pp. 19-20, “The Evolution of Property.")
It will be noticed that in early communist society man did not have need of wages to enable him procure the means of life.

Primitive communism was followed by a system of society based upon chattel-slavery. The change was due to developments in the methods of production. As time elapsed man learned the rudiments of agriculture. Animals were domesticated, food plants (e.g., corn, pumpkins and melons) were cultivated. Naturally these developments necessitated more work and patience. It is not surprising, therefore, that when one tribe conquered another, it did not kill its enemies but brought them back home to till the fields for the victors. As Engels puts it in "The Origin of the Family” (p. 195, Kerr’s Edition): —
The increase of production in all branches—stock raising, agriculture, domestic handicrafts—enabled human labour power to produce more than was necessary for its maintenance. It increased at the same time the amount of daily work that fell to the lot of every member of the gens, a household or a single family. The addition of more labour power became desirable. It was furnished by war; the captured enemies were transformed into slaves.
Here, again, there was no necessity for a wages system, and so none existed. The slaves received their food, clothing and shelter, direct from their masters. It was upon the basis of chattel-slavery that the empires of the ancient world were built.

In its turn this system of society decayed and was replaced by another—feudalism. Here, as in the previous system of society, we have two classes —the exploiters and the exploited. We get, on the one hand, the lord; on the other, the serf. The serf worked for his lord but did not receive wages. The serf held lands of his own which he cultivated for his own use. However, he was compelled to work on the lands of his lord a certain number of days each year. One must not imagine that the feudal lord did nothing in return. He had obligations to fulfil, and his privileges were limited. It was his duty, for example, to see to the defence of his dependents. On p. 94 of "The Evolution of Property,” Lafargue tells us that: —
During the feudal period every lord was bound to possess a castle or fortified house having a courtyard, protected by moats and drawbridges, a large square tower and a grist mill to enable the peasants to shelter their crops and cattle, grind their corn and organise their defence. The chieftain’s dwelling-house was considered as a sort of common house, and actually became such in times of danger.
That the feudal lord’s privileges and powers were limited can be seen from the following: —
The feudal lord and the vassal became co-equals once again in the communal assemblies, which discussed the agricultural interests alike of the villager and the lord: the assemblies met without his sanction, and despite his unwillingness to convoke them. His communal rights were as limited as those of the rest of the inhabitants; the heads of cattle he was entitled to send to pasture on the commons were strictly prescribed. (Ibid. p. 102.)
It was not until feudalism was in its decline that the lord was able to shake off his duties and increase his privileges.
The wages system then was not a characteristic of any of the systems of society prior to capitalism. The reason is that the wages system is part of capitalism, or rather, another name for the capitalist system.
Capital and wage-labour are the two sides of one and the same relation. The one conditions the other, just in the same way that the usurer and the borrower condition each other mutually, (p. 34, “Wage-Labour and Capital," Marx, Kerr’s Edition.)
And again:—
Capital presupposes wage-labour and wage-labour presupposes capital, one is a necessary condition to the existence of the other, they mutually call each other into existence. (Ibid. p. 33.)
The wages system was able to develop only when the common lands had been seized by the landlords and when the lands of the peasants had been torn away from them (i.e., during the 16th and 17th centuries). Then the peasants, finding themselves propertyless, without any means of life, were compelled to sell their energies in return for wages to a new kind of master, the capitalist, who was to be found in the towns. As time went on, whereas previously wages were an unusual feature, there gradually developed a wages SYSTEM.

We have shown that the wages system has not always existed. For the benefit of those who still think it will be a feature of Socialism, we add the following: —

Wages are a badge of slavery. If to-day workers receive wages, it simply means that they are slaves. It is true that the capitalist cannot sell the body of his employees to another capitalist; it is true also that a worker may refuse to work for his present master and leave him. But, if he does, what happens? Like the plundered peasant mentioned above, he is compelled to seek someone else to employ him, for he is propertyless and cannot live on air. Therefore, have it as you will, the wage earner is dependent on the capitalist class and the slave of that class.

As pointed out above, the wage earner is dependent on the capitalist class because he has no property, and because that class own the means of production. If then, the working class wishes to end its slavery, it will have to take those means of production from the present owners and convert them into the property of all society, i.e., establish Socialism.

But in doing this the workers will abolish the wages system, for then there will be no employer to say: “Sell your labour power to me and I'll give you enough money to buy the necessaries of life."

“How will the members of the Socialist commonwealth get food, etc., if they have no wages?" someone may ask. Here is the answer: Since private ownership will be done away with, no one will be able to say, "These goods are mine, I'll sell them.” On the contrary, the wealth produced (like the means of production) will belong to all society and every member will have free access to that wealth.

One last objection is possible. Will there not be a scramble? Production, having advanced to its present level, has made it possible to produce goods in abundance and in quantities enough to satisfy everybody. Furthermore, since profits will not be the aim of production under Socialism (there being no profits), goods could be turned out in still greater quantities without fear of a crisis.

To sum up, then, wages have not always existed, nor can they possibly be a characteristic of Socialist society. With Karl Marx, we say: —
Instead of the conservative motto, “A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!" the working-class ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, “Abolition of the wages system."
Clifford Allen

What we mean by Revolution (1990)

From the May 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The word Revolution, which we Socialists are so often forced to use, has a terrible sound in most people's ears, even when we have explained to them that it does not necessarily mean a change accompanied by riot and all kinds of violence, and cannot mean a change made mechanically and in the teeth of opinion by a group of men who have somehow managed to seize on the executive power for the moment. Even when we explain that we use the word revolution in its etymological sense, and mean by it a change in the basis of society, people are scared at the idea of such a vast change, and beg that you will speak of reform and not revolution. As, however, we Socialists do not at all mean by our word revolution what these worthy people mean by their word reform, I can't help thinking that it would be a mistake to use it, whatever projects we might conceal beneath its harmless envelope. So we will stick to our word, which means a change in the basis of society."
—William Morris in How We Live and How We Might Live.

Human nature and Socialism (1990)

From the May 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

t seems that everyone is an expert on human nature, right? Especially politicians, who often make remarks about the general nature of humans. Why, everyone knows that humans are an inherently greedy, selfish, violent, nasty species. I mean, what could be more obvious?

This conventional wisdom is both wrong and unscientific. There has been a lot of debate over the years, for instance the Nature vs Nurture debate, but it seems that the public at large remain ill informed. The public's judgement is of course affected by the unchallenged remarks of people in positions of power. We not only do ourselves a great injustice by condemning our fellow humans in this bigoted way. we also place ourselves and our collective future in great danger. That such views should be widespread amongst all sections of the population is a striking commentary on the education most people receive.

It is worth noting that when people make the scathing remarks concerning our nature they often conveniently exclude themselves and their friends. Actually, when most people talk about human nature, they are referring to human behaviour—two different concepts.

Human nature implies a built-in, inherent attribute, and we do have these. For instance, the urge to satisfy human needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Human behaviour, on the other hand, includes learnt or acquired behaviour. The fact is that we are a social animal and that our behaviour is virtually all learned behaviour.

One to two million years ago, human beings emerged as a species from an ape like creature, and for at least the last 100,000 years we have had basically the same bodily form. The thing that ensured our survival was and is co-operation and this has been a constant indispensable feature of human society. Unlike other animals we long ago dispensed with adapting ourselves biologically to the environment, but instead we adapt the environment to ourselves. For hundreds of thousands of years we lived in primitive hunter-gatherer societies of tribal communities. One of the outstanding features of these communities was the ability of their members to co-operate and live in harmony for their own mutual benefit. If they had the behavioural attributes that we now so glibly condemn in ourselves, human beings would have perished forever millions of years ago.

The main things that people are born to do are to eat, drink, keep warm, imitate, copulate and learn. The relations they enter into with each other at a given time to accomplish these ends set the pattern for the social outlook and the social code. In the course of history humanity has moved from relative simplicity in the social arrangements in isolated communities into a world of large interconnected industrial 'complexes. What people think and how they act is not due to some fundamental instinct, but is the result of customs, regulations and inhibitions that spring from the social environment in which people of past history have had to solve the problem of living. In other words, that people are able to think and act is a fact of biological and social development, but how they think and act is a result of social conditions. Since private property came into existence some 10,000 years ago. the pursuit of property has bred murder, cruelty, fraud, enmity and other anti-social behaviour.

There has been little discernible change in the fundamental make-up of humans, yet there have been considerable changes in social conditions. For example, stealing today is looked on as a criminal act whereas hunter-gatherer societies did not have any concept of stealing because there was no private property.

As to the assumption of selfishness, there are thousands of people who give selfless devotion in all manner of voluntary effort. There is co-operation going on all around us if you care to look, despite the competitive, one-upmanship, law-of-the-jungle philosophy which is rammed down our throats. It comes as a surprise that, despite the enormous inhuman stresses that are placed upon people by the society we live in, there are not more murders, rapes and crimes in general. The selfish, cruel, anti-social conduct that is laid at the door of human nature is really only the outcome of systems based on private property, which compel people to engage in predatory conduct in order to survive.

We cannot afford to let an erroneous view of ourselves as human beings prevail. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot live in peace and harmony. That this will mean that we must make a fundamental change in our system of society is something we will come to when we know about ourselves as humans.
Dave Tildesley
World Socialist Party of New Zealand

Myth of overpopulation (1990)

From the November 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

According to T. A. Pahl. in a letter in the Johannesburg Star (27 February) under the heading ‘Villain is high birthrate', “irresponsible black birthrate" is the cause of poverty, hunger disease, housing problems. unemployment, etc. This racist version of discredited Malthusianism is just as false as it was originally, in 1798.

Of course, no proof is offered, nor is possible. for this miserable doctrine. On the other hand, according to Dr Org Marais. Deputy Minister of Finance: “About 1.7 percent of the total tax-paying public pays 73 percent of the country's tax” (Star, 16 February). The Receiver of Revenue has also shown that about one-third of workers in this country do not earn enough to be liable for any Income Tax.

Housing? “Blacks earn too little to qualify for home loans”, reported Norman Chandler ". . . 91 percent of blacks could not afford the R800 a month minimum requirements of the Urban Foundation. Banks and Building Societies, while 83 percent were unable to meet the Housing Trust's £600 a month minimum requirement" (Star 22 November 1989). Most whites face similar problems.

The bottom line is that capitalism is responsible for all the miseries of, and linked with, poverty, while apartheid has concentrated them on blacks, in this country. Not overpopulation, but the chronic and often planned underproduction of food for the market, with access limited to what people can afford, is the cause of those social sores. Only with the establishment of real socialism/communism, with production and distribution solely for direct consumption, can humanity start to end the menace of starvation for millions.

As long as the means of production and distribution are owned and controlled by the capitalist class, privately or through the state, the workers will continue to make wealth for the rich to enjoy and the producers will remain in servile poverty. In fact, poverty in underdeveloped regions promotes population growth, while in Europe a negative birthrate is worrying governments and employers.

In any case, the main point is: can this world sustain present and future populations, expanding or contracting? Again, let the Star reply: “Every demographer knows that world resources are easily capable of supporting a population many times its present size" ('The Other Ethics of Birth-Control'. 22 July 1976).

What a cruel joke: blaming the productive majority, the poor, for their poverty. In any case, proliferation of the poor can hardly threaten available resources: their buying powers do not expand in proportion to their numbers. The facts are readily available in such works as The Legacy of Malthus by Allan Chase (University of Illinois Press, 1980) and The Economic History of World Population by Carlo M. Cipolla (Penguin Books, 1970).
Alec Hart

In? Out? Big Business or Little England? (2016)

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).
We say
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.