The 23rd of June is a day that could potentially affect people’s lives for generations to come in Britain and beyond; it is a day that goes well beyond Corbyns, Camerons, Johnsons and Farages. But while the neighbouring France rages with protests and demonstrations against a deeply neoliberal restructuring of its working law, the British left wanders are divided, leaving the Brexit Campaign supported and embraced mostly by the far-right. It has by now been made clear that this referendum is set from scratch to serve the European capital and elites, and within an asphyxiating timeframe entirely mismatching its historical importance. But a set battleground is still a battleground; we need to say whether the UK should remain or not in the European Union, and crucially, we need to be actively there to defend it. In the Brexit dilemma from an anticapitalistic and internationalist left perspective we cannot but loudly shout ‘yes’, and below are a few reasons why.
The EU is feeding war, and fascism.
Is the EU bringing peace to Europe for the last 50 years and more really an argument? Stemming from a Cold War bloc, the EU was created in order to confront the Soviet Union and the newly formed states of Eastern Europe: its principal task was to rebuild European monopoly capitalism. NATO was formed in 1949, arming West Germany for the first time after the war, and essentially creating a military force capable of fighting the Soviet Union. Especially Britain as a member of the EU, has been a well-tuned war machine from the very first moment. We cannot forget Yugoslavia’s destabilisation and Serbia’s bombing by NATO, and the devastating ongoing wars across the Middle East leading thousands to death and displacement. Ukraine’s case has clearly demonstrated that the EU and NATO are more than ready to side with extreme nationalists and fascists if class profits demand so. And it was fascists who burned the whole continent down in genocidal WWII; it is fascists who kick and stab immigrants and refugees at the European borders; it was fascists who brutally murdered Labour MP Jo Cox in broad daylight. ‘Hate’ is not as vague as presented by most British media: it has a face – one that the EU methodically nurtures.
The EU crushes working and democratic rights, and negotiates TTIP.
The EU has historically played the role of attacking working and democratic rights of the working class through structural reforms, rather than protecting and establishing them –as part of the left in Britain claims. This class role is deeply inscribed not just in policies and political correlations, but in the basic Treaties and rules fleshing out its roots. But especially now –with David Cameron’s skilful renegotiations– any remaining ‘good’ bits of EU employment protection rules in Britain have been crossed out. Every single established working right after WWII was fought for and claimed by the people with blood – and not by arbitrary technocrats and corporate lobbyists. What about TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership)? Even though exiting the EU is by no means enough to prevent it, the partnership has been typically negotiated by the EU and the USA in secret and in favour of corporate and capital investment interests. As if debt crises, ‘finance menaces’ and bankruptcies of all sorts weren’t enough, the TTIP would give large corporations the power to directly sue elected governments and to interfere with their national policies and laws, thus removing any (even mediated) power or consent of the British people (e.g. TTIP could potentially make the privatization of NHS irreversible). Again, it was the EU that enforced the liberalisation of the monopoly of postal services, paving the way for the Tories to privatize Royal Mail.
The EU nurtures economic crisis and uneven development.
The Greek case during the last six years of the crisis –culminating in last summer’s third followed by this summer’s fourth memorandum– has shown that implementing any social reform within the EU is a lost case, the inadequacy of SYRIZA’s political vision and the deeply neoliberal class role they most fiercely serve at the moment. Τhe EU in coalition with the local elites can turn a raging 61% ‘OXI’ to a ‘yes’ overnight and push the vast majority of a country to further depression, poverty and economic strangulation. It is now clear that the Eurozone acts as a mechanism of massive redistribution of wealth and uneven development within the EU itself, benefiting immensely the banks and multinationals of certain territories over others. By destroying the productive structure of the peripheral countries, workers are pushed to migrate in order to sell their increasingly cheap labour. How easy is to fight all this ‘from within’? The Greek case proved once again that the EU is structurally undemocratic, based on authoritarian rules and instruments that are not even elected by the people –and therefore are immune to any political cost and oppositional movements.
The EU is not internationalist: it is deeply anti-immigrant and imperialist.
The far-right case campaign for Brexit is indeed extremely scary; but so is the EU’s clearly anti-immigrant profile. Fleeing from the raging war the EU and NATO have exported in their countries, hundreds of thousands of refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean this summer only, shot and kicked at the borders while trying to enter the Fortress; and even those who do make it have to deal with the harsh policies of the Dublin Treaties. What about migrants from the European Periphery such as ourselves? The promoted ‘mobility’ and ‘freedom of movement’ of workers, paired with the ‘flexibility’ of ‘new’ types of labour is directly connected to open EU borders for capital and commodities: not for people and their working rights.
Leaving the referendum debate in the hands of the far-right and conservative parts of British politics (Farage, Johnson) will be a historical mistake for the Left. Yes, the institution of EU need to be demolished but this vote shall be just the beginning. We need to reform the trade unions and establish new ones (structured from the base of the workers), strengthen the antifascist movement and oppose fascism, and along with the immigrants and refugees build a strong workers’ movement.
The EU cannot be reformed. It can only be overthrown!