Spartacist Canada No. 190
European Union: Enemy of Workers and Immigrants
Brexit: Defeat for Bankers and Bosses!
We print below a statement by the Central Committee of the Spartacist League/Britain issued the day after the June 23 referendum that voted for Britain to leave the European Union. Such is the arrogance of the British ruling establishment that within days of the vote, prominent voices were calling for the outcome to be overturned through a second referendum or by a vote in Parliament. In the upshot, new Conservative prime minister Theresa May, who took over following the resignation of Tory leader David Cameron, has vowed to proceed with negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU.
Meanwhile, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has faced a full-scale insurrection by right-wing Labour MPs, including acolytes of former prime minister Tony Blair. In the space of a day, some 20 MPs staged an orchestrated resignation from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. A defiant Corbyn quickly replaced them and insisted that he intended to remain as party leader. At a convulsive meeting of Labour MPs on June 27, one after another of Corbyn’s right-wing enemies rose to demand his resignation. Meanwhile, thousands of Corbyn supporters demonstrated outside Parliament in an emergency protest called by Momentum, a left-Labour movement. Supporters of the Spartacist League/Britain participated in the protest carrying signs saying: “Defend Corbyn—Out with the Blairite Plotters” and “EU: Enemy of Workers and Immigrants—Britain Out Now!”
After losing a no confidence vote among Labour MPs by 172 to 40, Corbyn refused to quit, declaring: “I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60% of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning.” Corbyn now faces a new election for Labour leader in a vote that will conclude in late September; his opponent, Owen Smith, is backed by the Blairite right wing.
Standing on our consistent record of proletarian, revolutionary and internationalist opposition to the imperialist-dominated European Union (EU), the Spartacist League/Britain welcomes the decisive vote for a British exit. This is a stunning defeat for the City of London, for the bosses and bankers of Europe as a whole as well as for Wall Street and the U.S. imperialist government. The vote to leave is an expression of hostility from the downtrodden and dispossessed not only to the EU but to the smug British ruling establishment, whose devastation of social services and industry has plunged whole sections of the proletariat into penury.
As we wrote in Workers Hammer (No. 234, Spring 2016), calling for a leave vote: “Amid the growing chaos besetting the EU, 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. But the failure of Labour and the trade union bureaucracy—like the social democrats and trade union misleaders throughout Europe—to mobilise against the EU has instead ceded the oppositional ground to openly anti-immigrant reactionaries and fascists.”
With anti-EU sentiment running high among working people in France, Spain, Italy and Greece, the vote for Brexit will encourage opposition to the EU elsewhere in Europe. The main purpose of the EU is to maximise the profits of the imperialist ruling classes at the expense of the workers, from Germany to Greece, and of the weaker countries of Europe. The exit of British imperialism could sound the death knell for this inherently unstable capitalist club. Down with the EU! For workers revolution to smash capitalist rule! For a Socialist United States of Europe!
The far right and fascist forces—including UKIP [UK Independence Party] in Britain and the National Front in France—are today rejoicing over “their” victory. UKIP blatantly whipped up vile anti-immigrant racism, including with a disgusting poster implying that thousands of dark-skinned refugees were at Britain’s door. But UKIP hardly has a monopoly on racism: Cameron invoked the spectre of migrant camps similar to the Calais “Jungle” in France moving to England in the event of a British exit. And Labour governments have whipped up anti-immigrant racism just like the Tories. We say: No deportations! Full citizenship rights for all who make it to Britain! Down with racist Fortress Europe!
Those who voted for Brexit did so for a variety of reasons. But only the wilfully blind in the workers movement will see the vote for Brexit as simply a boost for UKIP and the Tory right wing. Cameron has resigned, the Conservatives have been bitterly divided, the capitalist rulers of Europe are in shock. The time is ripe for workers struggles to begin to claw back decades of concessions to the bourgeoisie on wages, working conditions and trade union rights by the reformist union bureaucrats. For a start, the multinational and multiethnic workforce of the NHS [National Health Service] should tear up the wretched agreement imposed on junior doctors and mobilise to fight for a revitalised and expanded national health service to provide quality care to all totally free at the point of service. At least the junior doctors fought, unlike Len McCluskey and the rest of the pro-capitalist trade union tops who refused even to mobilise their ranks to fight Cameron’s pernicious new anti-union law. What is needed is a fight for a class-struggle leadership of the unions.
In the wake of the EU’s ravaging of Greece, the “left” Brexit camp, including the Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Socialist Party offered a half-hearted campaign for a leave vote. From their reformist “old Labour” standpoint, the EU is a barrier to achieving their maximum programme: renationalising British industry under a left Labour government. Faced with closures of the steel plants, this ultimately boils down to a protectionist call to “save British jobs,” which fuels anti-foreigner chauvinism and is counterposed to a class-struggle perspective. The morning after the Brexit vote, the SWP’s crowning demand is: Tories out—for a general election.
A year ago, the same outrage and discontent at the base of society that propelled the vote to leave the EU also fuelled the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party, opening the possibility of reforging Labour’s historic links to its working-class base and thus reversing two decades of Blairite schemes to turn Labour into an outright capitalist party. But in campaigning for a remain vote, Corbyn trampled on the interests of the many working people and minorities who looked to him for a change. Crime does not pay: when the results of the referendum came in, Corbyn’s enemies began plotting to remove him from the leadership as soon as possible. It is in the interests of the working class to repulse any and every attempt by Labour’s right wing to regain control of the party.
Today the country is divided—by class, and along regional and national lines. England—outside London—and Wales voted to leave the EU. A majority in Northern Ireland voted to remain, reflecting fears among Catholics that border controls between North and South would be reinstituted. Scotland too voted to remain in the EU, and the SNP [Scottish National Party] has declared that a second referendum on independence is on the agenda. The bourgeois nationalist SNP are committed to maintaining an “independent” Scotland’s membership of the major Western imperialist clubs—the NATO military alliance and the EU. Corbyn’s capitulation to the imperialist EU has deprived working-class opposition to the EU in Scotland (and elsewhere) of a political voice.
The Brexit vote is the second time in the space of a year that the working masses in Europe have voted to repudiate the EU. Last July’s vote in Greece against EU austerity was utterly betrayed by the bourgeois Syriza government, which crawled on its knees before the European banks. The burning question posed is what kind of party does the working class need to represent its interests. The fundamental problems facing the working class cannot be solved within a parliamentary framework. We need a government based on workers councils, which expropriates the capitalist class.
As part of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) we seek to build revolutionary workers parties, in Britain and around the world, rooted in the understanding that only through the mass mobilisation of the working class in struggle can the workers fight for their own interests and act in defence of all the oppressed. Socialist revolutions especially in the economically developed countries of Europe, including Britain, will establish rationally planned economies based on an international division of labour. The overthrow of the capitalist ruling classes and the development of the productive forces under a socialist united states of Europe will open the road to a global socialist society.