Workers Hammer No. 241
No Brexit reversal!
Down with racist anti-worker EU!
Corbyn puts lipstick on EU pig
Jeremy Corbyn announced a “new” Labour Party policy on Brexit in a 26 February speech in Coventry, a former centre of industry and trade union power. Corbyn said Labour is for remaining in individual EU agencies, for staying in the single market during a transition period and for a permanent customs union after that. What would be left of Brexit? In contrast to the fractious Tories, the Labour leadership has taken a solidly pro-EU stance. Corbyn, who abandoned his longstanding opposition to the EU and campaigned for remain in 2016, has been offering himself up to the British capitalists as a useful tool for shoving the anti-worker, anti-immigrant EU down the throats of his working-class supporters. Nevertheless, this has not saved him from being subjected to yet another round of right-wing witch hunting on bogus charges of “anti-Semitism”.
The June 2016 vote for Brexit delivered a stinging defeat to the City of London as well as bosses and bankers across Europe and on Wall Street. Since the referendum, key elements of the British bourgeoisie and the EU capitalist cartel have been manoeuvring to get around the popular vote. Tony Blair and his neoliberal cronies simply want to throw out the referendum result and make the population vote again.
Corbyn is taking a different tack. His posture of being only “seven out of ten” in his support of the EU gained him a hearing among sectors of the population fed up with the attacks on the working class and public services that the British bourgeoisie has carried out in line with EU austerity policy. Likewise, Corbyn’s “respect” for the result of the referendum makes him all the more effective a salesman for the EU bankers’ and bosses’ club. It’s no accident that spokesmen of British capital from the Confederation of British Industry to the Financial Times warmly welcomed Corbyn’s Coventry speech (while continuing to denounce his modest welfare proposals as radical socialism).
Along with these mouthpieces of the bourgeoisie, the inveterate Labourites of the Socialist Party also warmly welcomed the Labour leader’s paean to the EU, despite their stated opposition to this imperialist bloc and its single market. In a 28 February editorial on its website, the Socialist Party claims that Corbyn “sought to oppose the present pro-capitalist EU Customs Union with the idea of one that would be in the interests of working people” (socialistparty.org.uk). In fact, Corbyn’s speech amounted to prettifying the anti-worker EU cabal. What Corbyn is doing for the EU, the Socialist Party is attempting to do for Corbyn.
Corbyn falsely portrays the EU as a defender of workers’ rights and safety standards. The truth is quite the opposite: the EU acts as a battering ram against the workers movement. For example, following air traffic controllers strikes in France and Italy last spring, major airlines demanded the EU prevent further strikes, with Ryanair accusing the European Commission (EC) of “standing idly by as ATC unions once again hold Europe to ransom”. In response, the EC issued a policy paper on 8 June 2017, “Aviation: Open and Connected Europe”, which outlined a series of strike-breaking measures aimed at ensuring “100% continuity of service for flights crossing the airspace of strike-affected Member States”. Likewise, since 2014, the EU has been attempting to smash dockers unions in Spain for infringing on “free enterprise” — a clear statement of whose interests the EU serves.
Such anti-union attacks flow from the EU’s nature as a consortium of capitalist states designed to maximise the exploitation of the working class across Europe. The EU is designed to increase the competitiveness of the European bourgeoisies against their international rivals, while strengthening the domination of the European imperialist powers — centrally Germany and France (and hitherto Britain) — over economically weaker countries such as Greece, Ireland and Poland.
Labour’s 2017 election manifesto laid out the party’s priorities for Brexit: “retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union — which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain”. Corbyn’s Coventry speech pushed the same false perspective that the way to defend jobs and living standards is by defending the interests of British business. The titans of British business, who make their profits from exploiting the proletariat, have shut down industries, gutted unions, driven down wages and slashed social services. The lie that workers have a “common national interest” with their exploiters has been used by Labour and the sell-out trade union leaders to push concession after concession on British workers.
The opposition of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) to the EU is not based on putting forward an alternative policy for capitalism but on the revolutionary, proletarian, internationalist principles of Marxism. As we noted in our call for a leave vote in the referendum: “A British exit would deal a real blow to this imperialist-dominated conglomerate, further destabilising it and creating more favourable conditions for working-class struggle across Europe — including against a weakened and discredited Tory government in Britain” (Workers Hammer no 234, Spring 2016).
Industry can only be put at the service of the population as a whole when the working class expropriates the capitalist exploiters through socialist revolution and reorganises production under its own class rule. Successful workers revolution requires building a fundamentally different kind of party to Labour — not a party committed to partnership with the bosses but a revolutionary vanguard party modelled on the Bolshevik party of VI Lenin and Leon Trotsky that led the working class to power in Russia in November 1917.
Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!
In Britain and across Europe, reformist leftists and the trade union misleaders have spent decades promoting the illusion that the capitalist EU can be transformed into a “social Europe” of human progress, welfare programmes and democratic rights, as Corbyn does today. Meanwhile, working people across Europe have seen their rights and living standards eroded, from the Hartz IV “reforms” that slashed wages and benefits in Germany to French president Emmanuel Macron’s current anti-union drive to the strangulation of Greece. Having deprived the proletariat of an organised expression of opposition to the EU on its own class terms, workers’ misleaders like Corbyn bear no little responsibility for the fact that reactionary anti-immigrant bigots like UKIP came to the fore.
The far right and the bourgeoisie’s gutter press are on a chauvinist campaign to scapegoat EU migrants for the dismal reality of life under British capitalism. This anti-immigrant bigotry has found an echo in the trade union leaderships’ campaigns against “social dumping” and for “British jobs for British workers”, as with the GMB and Unite union bureaucrats (tailed by the Socialist Party) during the chauvinist strikes at the Lindsey oil refinery in 2009. These were reactionary strikes against migrant workers who were employed in Britain under the EU’s anti-union Posted Workers Directive, which allows migrant workers to be hired on sub-standard temporary contracts. The Lindsey strikes were not about defending the unions or the working class, but about redividing the existing pool of jobs on the basis of national origin.
The European imperialists seek to increase the exploitation of the working class as a whole and to divide and weaken the workers movement, including through regulations like the Posted Workers Directive. We oppose the Posted Workers Directive from the standpoint of proletarian internationalism not anti-immigrant chauvinism, which is poison to the workers movement. An indispensable part of defending wages and working conditions for all workers in Britain is to organise foreign-born workers into the unions and to fight for full citizenship rights for them and all immigrants! In fact, these workers form living links to the union movements in their home countries and embody the potential to co-ordinate struggles internationally.
Central to the backlash against Brexit has been a yuppie campaign lyingly portraying the EU as a defender of immigrants and minorities. Contrary to the myth of free movement, workers from other EU countries lack many of the basic legal rights accorded British workers. They may be subject to deportation for anything from traffic violations to being unemployed, and many don’t have trade union protections. Moreover, what of the tens of thousands of dark-skinned refugees trapped behind razor wire in concentration camps and detention centres across the EU?! Who caused the wars and starvation driving masses of refugees to flee the Near East and Africa? The EU imperialist powers have blood on their hands! After devastating these regions in alliance with the US imperialists, the EU then dispatched naval vessels to block immigration across the Mediterranean.
The Socialist Workers Party and other reformists claim that the way to defend refugees is to call on the imperialist war criminals to open their borders. This demand is both utopian and reactionary. No capitalist class will ever voluntarily relinquish control of its own borders — as shown by the border fences and checkpoints that sprang up across Europe three years ago to prevent an influx of refugees. Moreover, as the history of the British empire shows, insofar as a great power can force a weaker state to open its borders, this allows for increased penetration of imperialist capital and eliminates the sovereignty of the weaker country.
Marxists fight for full citizenship rights for everyone who has made it to this country. At the same time, the communist perspective to address the poverty, unemployment and economic devastation of oppressed countries is not emigration to the imperialist centres, but a struggle against the imperialist oppression that ravages those countries. Only international proletarian revolution can lay the basis for the elimination of scarcity and for the withering away of the state, and with it borders and immigration laws.
EU and British imperialists bleed Ireland
A major sticking point in the Brexit negotiations has been the question of customs controls between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. British demands for a “bespoke” customs agreement are an attempt to extract the most favourable terms for British capital and, at the same time, to appease the virulently anti-Catholic Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Theresa May depends on the DUP to prop up her minority government — and the DUP has no intention of accepting anything that even hints at a united Ireland. As with the whole Brexit negotiations, the EU is intent on making Britain pay a high price for having had the temerity to vote leave. The Irish bourgeoisie, overwhelmingly pro-EU, fears that a hard border would bring economic disruption but, at the end of the day, the British and EU negotiators don’t give a toss about Dublin’s opinion.
In order to buttress support for the EU, the Labour Party is whipping up fears that Brexit will undermine the Good Friday Agreement. Imposed by the Blair government and supported by Jeremy Corbyn, this peace fraud has reinforced the subjugation of Northern Ireland’s Catholic population and remains predicated on the presence of thousands of British troops in Northern Ireland. Twenty years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the British government and Northern Ireland police steadfastly refuse to admit their involvement in Loyalist murders of Catholics, despite a mountain of evidence including in the documentaries No Stone Unturned and Unquiet Graves. Enshrining sectarianism, the Good Friday Agreement has been no good for the Protestant working class either. Until the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive last year, Sinn Féin’s presence in Stormont provided a democratic facade to the Orange statelet. All British troops and bases out of Northern Ireland!
We stand for mobilising the working class — both Protestant and Catholic — against Catholic oppression and British imperialism, as part of the struggle for the proletariat to liberate itself from capitalism. At the same time, we recognise that until capitalism is overthrown, there can be no equitable solution to the conflicting aspirations of the Irish Catholic nation and the Protestant community. Our perspective is for an Irish workers republic, part of a voluntary socialist federation of the British Isles, leaving open where the Protestants may fall.
The EU is often presented in Ireland as a counterweight to British imperialist domination. But EU membership has actually been a means to increasingly subordinate the Irish economy and government to foreign finance capital, centrally to the benefit of US, British and German investors. This was starkly illustrated in the crippling austerity measures imposed on Ireland in 2010, which mandated public sector cut-backs, redundancies and pay cuts; social services were privatised, charges for them were ramped up and workers’ pensions were looted. Although it would not free Ireland from dominance by imperialism, leaving the EU and the euro would be an elementary step towards Ireland regaining a measure of national sovereignty, and a step forward for Irish working people against union-busting austerity.
The imperialist epoch inherently leads to wars between imperialist countries to secure access to markets, raw materials and labour power. There have already been two such world wars at the cost of tens of millions of lives and untold misery for hundreds of millions around the world. The EU — an imperialist bloc in competition with the US and Japan — is an inherently unstable formation, which the conflicting national interests of its member states continually threaten to tear apart. The stated aims of EU Brexit negotiators — ensuring an orderly withdrawal and that Britain pays a heavy price — are a tacit admission that Britain leaving the EU threatens the stability of the whole imperialist alliance.
Despite the national divisions of the capitalists, production continues to become ever more interconnected across national borders. However, the greater rationality of large-scale, centralised production and distribution is undermined by the domination of nationally based imperialist monopolies. Only international unity on a socialist basis, accomplished through a series of proletarian revolutions, can lay the basis for rational worldwide development that is not based on exploitation. For a Socialist United States of Europe as part of the fight for a socialist world!