Belated but for the record……
There was an anti-European Union campaign group dubbed Lexit set up following a meeting in London in April 2016. According to a Morning Star report among those involved were “rail union RMT, Trade Unionists Against the EU, the Communist Party of Britain, the Indian Workers Association (GB), the Bangladeshi Workers Council of Britain, Scottish Left Leave, Counterfire and the Socialist Workers Party.” http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-eabf-Left-allies-in-Lexit-for-EU-Leave-vote#.VykQ2jH66So
And further on the fringes of the Far Left the British Spartacists are Brexit (or if you prefer the euphemism Lexit) too : http://www.icl-fi.org/english/wv/1087/britain.html
Headed by Robert Griffiths of the Communist Party of Britain, Lexit promised to promote what it called the “working class, left-wing and internationalist case” for exit. They were united around five key arguments for a left exit — against the EU’s neoliberal agenda, its undemocratic nature, and the horrors of Fortress Europe; and for a defence of workers’ rights through collective organisation and union strength, and for exploiting the crisis for the Tories that a leave vote would provoke. The Left Leave Campaign had a website and posted a leaflet and on 18 May, arranged a meeting with speakers from Ireland, Greece, Catalonia and the UK at Friends Meeting House, London NW1 2BG . http://www.leftleave.org/
While making a comment that the “debate” for exit was dominated by the language of the Right, the RCPB ML called forlornly that “The Debate on the EU Referendum Must Not Be Framed in a Chauvinist Manner”. It sided with a “Workers Opposition” to call for a “Leave” vote.
The RCPB ML argue that “ the issue workers face is how can they throw a spoke in the wheel of this Europe of the monopolies and the European powers, Britain, France, and Germany who exploit the countries of Europe for huge profits, wrecking their economies and privatising their public services, as they are doing at home in Britain as well.”
Elsewhere on the fringes, the CPGB-ML position on the June referendum is that “British workers need a Brexit!” in part because “Britain outside the EU be less able to bully other countries, but the EU’s power would also diminish, and US imperialism would be weakened by the weakening of its ally. Without the presence of Britain in the EU, the US-EU imperialist alliance would probably become much more fragile – which would only be a good thing for workers and oppressed people everywhere.”
Long time anti-EU advocates , the CPB (ML) have used the ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ slogan in recent years and argue that “The EU is aided and abetted by quislings in our class who would rather supplicate in Brussels than struggle in Britain.” Its website is filled with arguments for a Leave vote in the referendum. It produced its own glossy pamphlet, “Out Of The EU” campaigning “to reclaim sovereignty over Britain and deliver a hammer blow to the dictatorial ambitions of the deeply undemocratic EU.”
The Maoists of “Democracy and Class Struggle” came out with a leave argument:
Combat Liberalism – No to the Neo Liberal European Union
Nickglais April 23, 2016
“People who are liberals look upon the principles of Marxism as abstract dogma.
They approve of Marxism, but are not prepared to practice it or to practice it in full; they are not prepared to replace their liberalism by Marxism.
These people have their Marxism, but they have their liberalism as well–they talk Marxism but practice liberalism “
Mao Zedong – Combat Liberalism
The debate In UK over the European Union and Brexit reveals a profound gulf between Liberal Social Democrats and Revolutionary Marxists over both the class and national questions that arise over the question of UK Brexit.
The entire European Union Project from its inception was based upon a commitment to free market liberalism and of late neo liberalism.
The EU had a slight detour a few decades ago when Jacques Delors talked of a Social Europe but that has ended as quickly as it started with Delors being responsible for introducing neo liberal privatisation into French political life.
Socialism as an idea is inimical to the common market and market ideology which is central to the European Project whether the ideology is expressed in the European Commission, The European Court of Justice or the European Central Bank.
International Labour rights were established by working class militant struggle and codified by the United Nations International Labour Organisation.
The European Union has found its recent anti working class labour rights judgements pronounced in the European Court of Justice in conflict with the United Nations International Labour Organisation
The European Court of Human Rights which is not an EU organisation but organised by the Council of Europe is also in conflict with the neo liberal EU European Court of Court of Justice on human rights
It is clear even to the blind which class the EU institutions represent after years of liberal and neo liberal practice…
It is not a reformable institution and only liberals would spread that big reformist lie about the European Union.
It is a highly structured bureaucracy where the European Commission decides what is legislated not the European Parliament It is a bureaucracy not a democracy….
From a class point of view we need to smash the neo liberal European Union and the class it represents in Europe and free our class from its austerity and legal constraints.
Now we come to the National Question and the European Union.
We should expose British Nationalism and stand up for democracy for all the nations of the British Isles, Scotland, England,Wales, Kernow and Manxx, we should call for democratic self determination upto and including separation from the British State.
It should also be noted that the Tory opposition does not represent a British national bourgeoisie that we can ally with – it is a faction of the Finance Capitalists that want less regulation on the Banks and City of London represented by City Slicker Boris the Bastard.
The contradictions within the finance capitalist class in the City of London with Osborne representing one faction along with Cameron and Boris the Bastard and City scum Farage representing another should be welcomed – we should study and expose their internecine fighting.
There can be no joint platform with our class and national enemy in the UK or left cover being given to Boris and Farage’s anti EU positions which is precisely what Galloway is providing – even saying Farage is no racist.
Therefore in summary
(a) Our class position is not to just oppose the neoliberal European State but to smash it.
(b) Our position on the national question is to expose British Nationalism and support self determination and democracy for the all the nations of these islands.
(c) Given that the capitalist class in British Isles and particularly its finance capitalists are divided on this Brexit issue we should exploit the divisions and not unite with them under any circumstances.
Both factions are our enemies and are inimical to the interests of the working people of these islands.
We must call for the smashing of the British State just like we call for the smashing of the European superstate as both represent our class enemies.
Given that we have just celebrated Lenin’s Birthday on 22nd April let us look at the Question posed in 1915 by Lenin in his polemic with Trotsky who supported the United States of Europe slogan and its relevance today.
“Of course, temporary agreements are possible between capitalists and between states. In this sense a United States of Europe is possible as an agreement between the European capitalists … but to what end?”
Lenin’s answer was
” Only for the purpose of jointly suppressing socialism in Europe, of jointly protecting colonial booty against Japan and America, who have been badly done out of their share by the present partition of colonies”
Trotsky disagreed with Lenin in 1915 and and again in 1923 repeats
“The United States of Europe”, is a slogan in every respect corresponding with the slogan “A Workers’, (or Workers’, and Peasants’, Government”. ( shades of Varoufakis and Owen Jones)
History has a way of clarifying the past as well as the present – the road of Lenin and anti imperialist revolution or the road of Trotsky and the revisionist swamp and liberalism,
VOTE NO – VOTE AGAINST THE IMPERIALIST EUROPEAN UNION
THE CAPITALIST EUROPEAN SUPERSTATE AND BRITISH CAPITALIST STATE ARE ENEMIES OF WORKING PEOPLE
SMASH CAPITALISM – BUILD SOCIALISM
Elsewhere, at an open meeting in a North London pub on 23rd June, organised under the rubic of the Maoist RED BLOCK, the New Communist Party’s Daphne Liddle and David Ayrton contributed to the debate on the European Referendum.
Daphne argued out. Ayrton, a former member of the North London CPB, a member of the London District Committee, and a past candidate for the EC, said: the issue (EU Referendum) is a sham, “the workers have no dog in this fight. Working class unity would be better served by following the Labour Leadership and the majority of the big trade unions in supporting the Remain campaign.” Dave Ayrton had resigned from the CPB in March over the EU issue and he joined the Labour Party.
The organisers of the meeting, Revolutionary Praxis group – a component of the RED BLOCK – opposed the referendum and believe to ‘leave’ vote was quite reactionary step backwards in regard to consciousness.
“The left in general supported ‘Lexit’ not only pandering to anti migrant worker rhetoric but also sewing illusions in electoralism. The ‘Lexit’ groups proclaimed British politics would shift to the left as a result. This has not been the case. The British cabinet is now one of the most right wing ever, despite the pretence in Theresa May’s maiden speech as Premier. The revisionist left have also began to play identity politics in the form of portraying the working class as all white, socially conservative and ‘British’, directly borrowed from reactionary commentators. Also showing contempt for the Irish people having the decision imposed on them and creating further division in their country. Some leftists have attempted to blame migrants for driving down wages and not capitalism.”
Statement by Revolutionary Praxis shortly before the referendum http://www.revolutionarypraxis.org/?p=229
EU Referendum: In or Out Monopoly Capitalism Reigns
Referendum second time around
The divisions within the British ruling class over European integration have reached a head with the EU referendum on June 23rd 2016.
This will be the second referendum on British membership of the European Union (formerly the European Economic Community), the first being in 1975 when similar divisions in the ruling class were inescapable as a result of the further development of the centralisation and concentration of capital. The referendum has also caused a great division among the British left, and indeed a great distraction from the development of the class struggle in Britain.
Divided ruling class
There is no point in regurgitating in detail the already familiar history of the EU’s development from 1946 onwards. Briefly the decline of European imperialism after World War 2 meant the European ruling class was faced with the challenge of US imperialism on the upturn, the strengthened Socialist bloc in the east and national liberation movements in the colonies and semi colonies. For the French, British, German, Dutch and Belgian imperialists the future was bleak. Their survival depended on more free trade between them, greater concentration and centralisation of productive forces ( the beginning of the EU was the European Coal and Steel Community) and finance capital. As the decades have moved on we have seen the introduction of bourgeois institutions such as the European Parliament, European Bank and plans for a European Army and Police Force.
The development of capitalism always tends towards the development of monopoly and centralisation. This trend was observed over a century and a half ago by Marx and Engels:
‘In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations.’1
This has been the realisation of monopoly capitalism in the 20th century. The contradiction in this process is the partial erosion of the bourgeois ideology of nationalism based on the traditional nation state. In the process of the free flow of capital it is inevitable that there will be a freer flow of labour and less restrictive borders between traditional national boundaries. The superstructure therefore has to be bought into line with the creation of big capital and thus the old ideological straight jacket of nationalism based on the feudal state foundations needed to be abandoned. These contradictory developments can only be progressive in terms of the greater integration of workers of different nationalities and the eroding of the poisonous bourgeois nationalism of the past which has been used to divide the working class of nations and whipped up to encourage workers to fight for the ruling class against workers of another nation’s ruling class.
The decline of the European powers and the new rivalries they faced pushed them to further integration and centralisation. British imperialism was not keen to be involved at first and sought to preserve its independence and ‘special relationship’ with US imperialism as the junior partner. However in 1973 Britain joined and remained after the referendum voted to stay in 1975. The capitalist class in any nation is not homogeneous however and a section of the British ruling class has always wanted to attempt an independent existence from the European bloc. In recent years there has been tension between European imperialists and US imperialism over such issues as invading Iraq and the strategy towards dominating the Ukraine.
Britain has firmly supported the US and clearly some of the more reactionary sections of the capitalist class would like to be closer to the US and integrate further with US imperialism rather than the EU. The leading reactionaries in the US know that Britain would be useless today as an independent imperialist and this was expressed by Obama in his call for Britain to remain in the EU. The section of the British capitalists who wish to leave the EU of course believe British imperialism can carve out an independent role in dominating the oppressed countries without other European nations and in this sense they want to go backwards and appeal also to backward nationalist ideas and fears of migrants. The leader of UKIP (and independent frontage for disaffected Tory right wingers) Nigel Farage recently claimed the question of women’s safety would be central to the referendum on the basis that the EU allows peoples of different cultures to enter and then claims that these people will abuse women:
‘Frankly, if we are prepared to accept, or if Germany and Sweden are prepared to accept, unlimited numbers of young males, from countries and cultures where women are at best second-class citizens then, frankly, what do you expect? None of this is going to get better because the EU now is in negotiations with Turkey and [Turkish president] Mr Erdoğan plays a clever game, doesn’t he?’2
Clearly stooping to the most reactionary colonial stereotypes and prejudices. This section of the capitalist class wishes to keep the flames of nationalism burning into the 21st century! Although nationalist and racist sentiments are not as strong as in the past they are far from being a spent force and the right-wing out campaigns are blatantly trading on these reactionary ideologies.
British left stoops to a new low
The divisions among the ruling class will of course be reflected in the whole of society through their control of culture and media and this is also reflected in the majority of the British left. We have the Lexit campaign (the Left leave campaign group) and Another Europe is Possible (a leftist campaign to remain in the EU). Both these campaigns are devoid of any class content and sing to the tune of the two sections of Britain’s ruling class.
The Lexit campaign consists mainly of the rump of British revisionism in the CPB associated with the Morning Star newspaper, the Troto-Syndicalist SWP and its splinter group Counterfire, and the RMT union. This campaign correctly condemns the racist official Brexit campaign dominated by the Tories and UKIP. It is however a platform for reformism and Wedgwood Benn protectionism appealing to Little Englander mentality. The roots of this reformist agenda can be traced back to the revisionist document The British Road to Socialism which was the official abandonment of revolutionary politics by the CPGB in 1951 and the capitulation to Labourite reformism. The SWP/Counterfire’s devotion to Leon Trotsky would obviously lead them to the same Menshevik reformist position as their dead master.
The objections to the EU raised by the Lexiters present us with some of the most vomit inducing defences of bourgeois parliamentarianism; ‘Why the EU is a Negation of Parliamentary Sovereignty and Democracy’ screams the Morning Star of the 12th May. So we have a defence of the British capitalists right to exploit and oppress British workers exclusively through ‘Parliamentary Sovereignty’ based on the old feudal state boundaries rather than with their European counterparts. There is no difference for the working class either way! Many workers and the poor in Britain have no interest in defending the British Parliament’s sovereignty as they know it does not represent them and they have no illusions in this institution. Similar reformist sentiment is promoted by TUSC a front for the Trotskyite Socialist Party who have long jumped on the latest populist band wagon and appealed to racist sentiment as they did in the Lindsey Oil Refinery dispute.
The main argument from the Lexiters and those around them is that a British Parliament free from the EU constraints can allow the people of Britain to elect a left wing government which will take lots of utilities into state control and introduce economic protectionism to defend ‘British jobs’ and ‘British industry’. This is nothing but a reactionary dream which leads to nothing. The working class experienced this form of capitalist rule from the 1940s onwards. Exploitation and oppression were still the norm as were colonial wars and oppression of other nations. The conditions for this type of capitalist rule have long gone. British withdrawal from the EU would only strengthen British nationalism, restrict the movement of people and thus intensify racism, and an even more right wing Tory government led by Johnson would probably be installed. It is likely that many migrants from Eastern Europe would have to leave and any form of trade protectionism would lead to unemployment abroad. It would be turning the wheel of history backwards. We cannot let nationalism revive and divide workers. However the Lexit campaign tries to sell it, their pandering to the ‘leave’ vote revives anti-migrant rhetoric and nationalism.
It is unfortunate that some revolutionaries have also been affected by these outmoded ideological structures appealing to the sentimentality of petty bourgeois public opinion. The CPGB(M-L) has adopted a ‘leave’ line separate from the Lexit campaign. They quote Lenin’s opposition to the slogan of a United States of Europe among revolutionaries 100 years ago.
Lenin’s view on this must be looked at in the context it was written and not simply parroted and thrown around to justify a line of British sovereignty today.
The Remain camp of the British left is no better consisting of Trotskyites and reformists and if not openly liberals at first hand. The ‘Another Europe is Possible’ campaign calls for the EU to be reformed. This is to be done by every EU state electing left wing representatives and governments, but this is highly unlikely to happen all at once! As Marxists we reject any such delusional fairy tales as the EU being transformed into a ‘social Europe’. It is a capitalist organisation of nations and will not change! The ‘stay in’ campaign also promotes the institutions of the European Parliament which can only divert class anger into useless leftist electoral populism. They are sewing illusions in Bills of Rights and other legislation which mean nothing to the people of Greece for example who struggle to put food on the table. The only means of changing Europe as any other continent is social revolution.
Lenin on the ‘United States of Europe’
What did Lenin actually say and in what context?
‘From the standpoint of the economic conditions of imperialism—i.e., the export of capital and the division of the world by the “advanced” and “civilised” colonial powers—a United States of Europe, under capitalism, is either impossible or reactionary.’3
Lenin was correct, and he wrote this is 1915 when the European powers were engaged up to then in the most bloody war in human history to re-divide the world between them. Therefore it was impossible to call for a united Europe under such circumstances. An attempt to unite Europe under German imperialism by force was indeed reactionary and led to destruction on an unprecedented scale and the eventual defeat of German fascism by the heroic efforts of the USSR. This attempt to elevate Germano-European imperialism to a new global hegemonic empire and redivide the world died with Hitler in his imperial chancellery.
Since Lenin wrote those quoted lines the European powers have been long eclipsed by US imperialism and later also Soviet Social Imperialism, (the result of the USSR’s transformation after the revisionists seized power), which compelled them to have more than a temporary agreement and create a voluntary union of bourgeois democracies and the EEC was their answer to this challenge.
We should have no interest in preserving the old nation states of the imperialists like Britain. Their integration into a European state is a sign of their decline. We do not wish to involve ourselves in what is an impossible attempt at British imperialism‘s revival by the right wing Tory section of the ruling class.
The world situation has changed in the last century and today US imperialism is developing into a global state with increasing hegemony over the planet. The imperialists of Europe require a union to preserve their interests in the world in the face of the US. They are currently the junior partners to the US but there have been tensions and the future is not yet decided on which way the EU will turn. Hence the split in Britain‘s ruling class.
Capitalist monopoly sews the seeds of its own downfall
The constant development of capitalism towards monopoly forms creates the objective basis for socialism through the disappearance of national frameworks and the barriers between the old European nations have now gone. This also creates better conditions for the solidarity between Europe‘s working class. There have already been campaigns across Europe to oppose TTIP to name just one example. Workers in Europe will increasingly become conscious of a common and central enemy, European capitalism. Even non-member European states like Norway have to adhere to EU regulations and trading laws. Strong globalisation trends determine that integration is now impossible to resist anyway. Trying to reverse globalisation is a futile fantasy.
The revisionists and Trots who call for withdrawal wish to turn back the wheel of history. This is impossible. Only revolution can solve the contradictions. For these reasons Marx supported the development of free trade agreements between capitalist nations in Europe in the 19th century. He participated in the Free Trade Congress in Brussels in 1847. It did not mean he supported capitalism but saw that its further development would objectively bring closer the basis for heightened class struggles and socialism. Engels in his preface to the 1888 English edition of the pamphlet On the Question of Free Trade had this to say about Marx‘s support for the Free Trade campaign:
‘To him, Free Trade is the normal condition of modern capitalist production. Only under Free Trade can the immense productive powers of steam, of electricity, of machinery, be full developed; and the quicker the pace of this development, the sooner and the more fully will be realized its inevitable results; society splits up into two classes, capitalists here, wage-labourers there; hereditary wealth on one side, hereditary poverty on the other; supply outstripping demand, the markets being unable to absorb the ever growing mass of the production of industry; an ever recurring cycle of prosperity, glut, crisis, panic, chronic depression, and gradual revival of trade, the harbinger not of permanent improvement but of renewed overproduction and crisis; in short, productive forces expanding to such a degree that they rebel, as against unbearable fetters, against the social institutions under which they are put in motion; the only possible solution: a social revolution, freeing the social productive forces from the fetters of an antiquated social order, and the actual producers, the great mass of the people, from wage slavery. And because Free Trade is the natural, the normal atmosphere for this historical evolution, the economic medium in which the conditions for the inevitable social revolution will be the soonest created — for this reason, and for this alone, did Marx declare in favour of Free Trade.’4
Socialism will be achieved as an outcome of the forces inherent in historical development. This does not mean it is inevitable. With a scientific understanding of society through Marxism-Leninism-Maoism we can apply our subjective conscious understanding of the need for socialism upon the objective material conditions. Further integration of European superstructure and economy will further this task, it is an inherent contradiction of monopoly capitalism. Social being determines consciousness. The conditions are there for united European wide class struggles and these would enhance the political consciousness of British workers. For a start, they can learn from the current actions of French workers, if we can deconstruct the old national chauvinist attitudes towards the French all the better.
Nationalism is no answer
Attempts to reconstruct the outmoded ideology of national autonomy is backward and promotes reformist illusions. Communists must fight for the greatest unity of workers and oppressed peoples across the whole planet. When the objective conditions of capitalism‘s development facilitate this process we should intervene to support it. This is even more paramount with the rapid development of information technology and its affect on shrinking the world and making it even easier to unify. Along side this development is the US imperialist‘s global state which will face unprecedented resistance as the world situation develops further. The contradictions will also develop between the US, EU and the BRICS and we must always exploit these contradictions to the advantage of the working class and oppressed. The only way of transforming the world is social revolution, as through People‘s War being engaged in today in India by the vanguard of the oppressed people.
As Chairman Mao Tse-tung said the imperialists are paper Tigers, they may look scary and powerful but they are not. The decisive factor is not their power and weaponry but the people.
Whether Britain is in or out of the EU the same fundamental economic and political contradictions will continue to determine the character of British capitalism and thus perpetuate the oppression and exploitation of the great majority of the people in Britain. Voting either way in the EU Referendum will not alter this basic fact. In or out we need to focus on and develop struggles to defend living standards, to alleviate housing shortages, defend public services and combat racism.
1 Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marx and Engels Basic Writings in Philosophy and Politics, Feuer, Lewis (Ed), P33, Fontana (1976)
2 Nigel Farage: Migrant sex attacks to be ‘nuclear bomb’ of EU referendum, The Guardian, June 5th2016
4 On the Question of Free Trade, marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1888/free-trade/index.htm