Cliff Jackson responds to Pete Glover’s article and makes a socialist case for leaving the EU
If there is one thing that characterises the Brexit campaign it is that it is populated by jerks. Besides the garrulous frog Nigel Farage and the evil puppet Michael Gove on the right, the left wing of the Brexit movement – the Lexiteers – are also a bunch of a**holes.
Here we have arrayed the combined forces of the stupendously deluded George Galloway and the highly telegenic Steve Hedley. Pete Glover is right to point out that, in tail-ending nationalism, these circus clowns are playing with fire. But also ridiculousness: no one yet has put forward the socialist case to build a wall in the middle of the Channel and make the Syrians pay for it, but I’m optimistic.
All of this stupidity means that any revolutionary socialist who starts talking about Brexit (or Lexit) is likely to be retweeted by UKIP and attacked as a jerk by more or less everyone. But there are arguments for a Lexit vote which don’t make you sound like a jerk and which we shouldn’t ignore.
1. Remember Greece? That was on the EU
Every aspect of the European project undermined the revolutionary consciousness that existed in Greece during last year’s events. The older generation of workers in Greece own houses and have savings and pensions which are all valued in Euros. There may have been plenty of people who had nothing to lose, but in any advanced capitalist country these people are never too far removed from someone who does.
The reliance of those people on a currency controlled by the European Central Bank, a ‘national’ currency which could effectively be withdrawn from circulation by foreign banks, created the climate of fear which underpinned the strangulation of any nascent revolutionary process.
Syriza was always a reformist vehicle which, as we said at the time, did not have the potential to overthrow capitalism in Greece. But the process itself was not necessarily predestined to fail. However, the threat of a currency collapse in the wake of Grexit ensured that the question of the Euro versus the Drachma largely replaced the question of capitalism versus socialism.
The ability to strangle a radical reformist government or hold a country in debt peonage is not an exclusive quality of the EU or even an integral part of its project (I’m sure German capitalists and their bankers would rather Greeks did have more money to buy their exports). Peter Glover has also given the example of Argentina’s default and subsequent fleecing by the vulture capitalists to demonstrate the fact that plenty of international treaties and frameworks exist to enable this kind of attack on national sovereignty by private interests. TTTIP is the latest instrument in a long line.
In Argentina the Marxist left is doing well and revolutionary politics are credible. The Greek left is defeated and in denial about its failure to confront the irrevocable realities of the Euro and EU membership and the consequences of a break: socialist revolution, or social collapse. Rejecting the EU without reservations was the correct tactic then. It still is now.
2. This debate should be about corruption, not immigration
The free movement of workers within the EU is about the only aspect of it which the left wing Remainers can solidly and seriously defend, and the unpleasant reality that the EU debate has descended into a racist exchange of clichés and bullsh*t about immigration is hardly surprising. Nationalism and fascism is a growing threat across Europe, not just in the UK. It is a threat which, we should bear in mind, was ignited by popular hatred of the European Union bureaucracy before the refugee crisis poured gasoline on the flames.
And whilst they are knowingly peddling dangerous fictions about immigration, the right wing Brexit campaign do happen to have a good point about the radically undemocratic nature of EU institutions.
Make no mistake: the EU is a vehicle for corporate power disguised as an unaccountable technocracy. It is wildly corrupt in principle: one of the most open forums in history for the better-heeled capitalists to control regulations without the annoyances of bourgeois democracy. Graft flourishes inside this democratic sham. Before it was leaked, an audit of the expenses of 160 MEPs was so explosive it could only be read by one person at a time inside a guarded, locked room.
The right oppose EU corruption because they think it is bad for capitalism. Socialists should vocally oppose the EU and EU corruption because it is a perfectly clear example of how capitalism works. The capitalists who control the EU can claim that it is a force for transparency because it’s easy to abide by and evangelise regulations which you control. They enshrine their monopolies and advantages in regulations and directives and then use these complex and expensive rules as a battering ram to overpower weaker or, as they would see it, less efficient capitalists in member states. And, like Germany, France or Holland, Britain isn’t a ‘victim’ of this process (although its workers are); British companies and their armies of consultants are the perpetrators of it.
The principled Left have already stomached one unconditional vote for corrupt councils and incompetent politicians across the country in order to bolster Corbyn. What justifies another now?
3. And let me just explain one little thing about who runs the UK (and the EU)
Okay, not technically sounding like a Lexit argument but this what the Brexit campaign cannot or don’t want to openly acknowledge. Should the country vote to Leave, which is unlikely, the British government that emerges from the subsequent General Election will not be made up of Brexiteers. In fact, it will do everything in its power to fudge the outcome so that, in all but words, we remain wedded to the European project.
Why? It’s worth explaining that when career politicians attempt to make decisions or fiddle with laws they rely almost totally on Britain’s real governing class: the upper middle class battalions of lawyers and accountants who move seamlessly between Whitehall and the meeting rooms of the ‘Big Four’ professional services firms. These people spend literally all of their time advising businesses on how to make more profit or pay less tax. There are hundreds of thousands of them. They design our laws and, as a vocal and articulate group of ‘progressive’ thinkers, try to control culture too. All of it in the interests of personal gain and profits.
And this Deloitte-E&Y-PwC-KPMG technocracy also runs the EU. Their offices are clustered in the centres of EU power to make it easier for this to happen. And – no matter if it is a doomed and impossible project, a seething pit of corruption, a vehicle for American-backed military expansion in Europe – this thing, the ongoing disaster of the ‘European Union’, is the techno-romantic fairy tale that these highly-paid consultants recite to themselves before going to bed at night.
Even if it is a futile gesture, we must vote against this nightmarish fairy-tale: the empty rhetoric of ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ and ‘integration’ that justifies a ruthless, desperate struggle to make profit amidst all the mayhem and suffering of an economic system which is mired in crisis.