By Steve Bush in personal capacity
I read Dario Argentina’s article on the UK EU Referendum with some alarm, and it more than lived up to my expectations. Personally I started from a position of abstention, but have moved the other way and will be voting to remain. I agree entirely with Dario’s analysis of the origins of the Referendum when he says:
“this referendum was not brought about by a mass working class movement putting forward a socialist Leave programme, but stems from an internal division within the Conservative Party, reflecting the confusion and lack of direction within the capitalist class. Surely, then, this is a referendum based on how best to manage British capitalism, either within the imperialist EU or as an ‘independent’ imperialist state?
Formally speaking, yes it absolutely is. But this is from the point of view of the bourgeois. It’s clear that the main ruling fraction of the British capitalist class support remaining in the EU. This alone, however, is not reason to vote against them and vote Leave.”
However, the idea he then puts forward, that somehow we need to see the Referendum as a means to “send the whole EU imperialist project into turmoil and – even deliver a fatal blow.” And that this would somehow “strengthen the working class in ‘Southern’ Europe who are already entering the arena of class struggle.” I cannot accept. Let us take a look at these claims a moment.
First, would a UK ‘Brexit’ send the EU into turmoil? Well, whilst it would undeniably have an impact upon the EU, I think ‘turmoil’ is stretching things rather. The EU managed pretty well without the UK, it could likely do so again. The UK is not a part of the Euro zone, so there would be no significant impact on the monetary side. It is not a signatory to the Schengen agreement, and has taken no real numbers of refugees , so there will be no change in immigration & refugee issues. The UK is not really a net contributor to the EU, mainly because of the extremely generous rebate it receives and the large quantities of funding it gets back from the EU in the form of Grants etc. Whilst the EU certainly has problems – some quite serious underlying economic issues – it is unlikely to face any more as a result of Brexit.
So it’s even more unlikely then that a Brexit would deal the EU a ‘fatal blow’ – it may leave it a little weaker, but it will live on, problems and all.
As to the idea that a Brexit can in any way ‘strengthen the working class in ‘southern’ Europe’ – this is a serious flight of fancy. How can it do that? In concrete terms? There really is no way that can be the case.
The key factor for me in voting Remain, on the other hand, is the real political and social consequences in the UK of the Referendum. The Government as it stands is weak and divided. The Tory Party is split – mainly over the EU, and is finding it hard to pass laws in Parliament. The opposition is starting to score victories as a result, and it is possible that before 2020 the Tories could, effectively, lose a functioning majority in Parliament.
In the event of a Brexit victory next week though, the Government will be transformed. There is little doubt that Boris Johnson would take over as Prime Minister. It has been leaked already that Nigel Farage has been offered a Peerage and a Cabinet position. Michael Gove, Ian Duncan-Smith, Priti Patel and co would all hold senior positions within a new cabinet, which would be the most right wing since Thatcher, possibly even more so. Farage would lead as many of his UKIP followers back into the Tory Party as possible, giving the Tories a larger activist base and membership.
Dario says “It’s true that the EU debate in this country has become extremely toxic and centred around immigration. However, even the Remain side is calling for tougher immigration controls! The reality is, whatever way the vote goes, the nationalist genie of jingo is out the bottle.” – with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a right-wing neo-fascist terrorist this week the situation has become far more toxic. For many people the whole referendum is simply about Immigration and nothing else. This in spite of the fact that post Brexit it is highly unlikely that levels of immigration will change very much. What will change, however, is the level of reactionary activity and casual racism towards immigrants – the far right will be hugely emboldened, and these kind of attacks and even murders will become more common.
We would face at least four years of this, along with economic chaos, further job losses, greater austerity, and more than likely a recession to boot. The likelihood after four years of reaction, of a Labour Government getting elected, would be very low. What’s more it is highly likely that the Blairites would at least attempt to remove Corbyn, blaming him for ‘not doing enough’ to stop Brexit.
On the other hand, Corbyn – like most of us on the Left – is no fan of the EU and the way it has been run over the past couple of decades. Were Corbyn to be Prime Minister he has made clear he would work with the Governments of ‘southern’ Europe to try and push back the EU and change it’s outlook. If this proved to be impossible, then he and those other Governments could split the EU by leaving as a group. That would have far more impact across Europe and could have a real impact on class consciousness across the whole EU and, potentially bring it down and replace it with a Socialist Europe.