In this long drawn out battle between Remainers and Left-wing leave supporters there have been many casualties the biggest of which is the truth.
I am proud to be a European, and don’t buy into the xenophobic scaremongering of those little Englanders who would close our borders. After all, I lived in mainland Europe for a fair few years before and after 1992 when the EU was formed.
I’m a passionate internationalist, I believe in a people’s Europe, a social Europe. But there are many forms of internationalism and not one to my knowledge advocates belonging to an economic and political Trade bloc called the EU. A union of capitalist nations built on principles promoting a free market while openly exploiting its people with its poor worker’s rights and even poorer unbalanced wages descending from west to east. A union that cannot even set a minimum wage, never mind universal workers’ rights throughout its 27 member states in fear of upsetting its market forces.
This market-led union that allows the exploitation of poorer countries to provide the workers for labour intensified jobs throughout its richer western member states. This is not internationalism in any form its pure unadulterated exploitation.
The Romanian Labour Minister Violeta Alexandru stated after witnessing the appalling conditions her countrymen had been working under said: “The coronavirus crisis must prompt a rethink of the conditions in which some people from Eastern Europe work in the farms and food industry of Western Europe.
No, this is not a workers’ internationalism
The true Proletarian internationalism, the one that says ‘workers of the world unite’, is an internationalism of workers, not corporations and Bankers. Neither is it the internationalism uttered by politicians that translates to globalisation, true Proletarian internationalism comes when the trade unions form the ‘International Workers Association’ who have the interest of all workers in mind, where they work together to negotiate for the best interest of all workers and when those interests are denied then the right to carry out appropriate industrial action in every country is practised, true international solidarity such as we have witnessed with both the Bakers Union and the McStrike and the RMT who practice Proletarian internationalism and while not necessarily taking industrial action almost always bringing to light the plight of workers throughout the world.
Despite my advocation for internationalism and my cry for ‘workers of the world to unite’, the question we were asked in the referendum of 2016 was not whether we wish to remain Europeans, that question could never have meaning, we are European. Rather, no, we were asked whether we wish to remain subject to the institutions of the European Union, including the unelected Commission.
As the people of Greece have learned through bitter experience, those institutions will not tolerate any reform or deviation from their blueprint of permanent austerity and corporate rule. The remain and Reform mantra was only that, a mantra. We all understand the trouble with being both anti-austerity and pro-EU is the fact if you want the EU you have to accept Austerity.
So when asked on the ballot ‘should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union? My answer was a resounding “NO” my vote was to leave.
As the late Tony Benn once pointed out: “The EU has the only constitution in the world committed to capitalism … it destroys the prospect of socialism anywhere in Europe, making capitalism a constitutional requirement of that set-up.”
Such a set-up also requires that enormous powers lie in the lap of unelected and — in practice were not in law — unaccountable bodies, namely, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Court of Justice.
Remain, campaigners, point to the powers of our own unelected Civil Service, Bank of England, House of Lords, Supreme Court and monarchy.
But the crucial difference is this: in Britain, these institutions are not constitutionally beyond the reach of our elected representatives. They can be reformed and even abolished.
No longer should the people be trusted to give the answer the EU wanted.
The referendum result to leave was an overwhelming majority, yes I did say overwhelming! When you understand that the most important EU referendums have been won and lost on a difference of less than one percent.
The very referendums that created the European Union, the Maastricht Treaty, a treaty that changed the political landscape and lives of 500 million people in over 28 countries. Was a result of a difference in opinion of just 300k people, Knowing the political history of EU referendums it becomes very clear the UK’s referendum with its 52% more than suffices and satisfies as an EU referendum majority.
It should be realised the Maastricht Treaty, the treaty that formed the EU came about after the result of a referendum. The referendum on the treaty was held in France on 20 September 1992. It was approved with a yes vote of only 50.8%.
Opponents included the French Communist Party (PCF) and far-left parties such as the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) or Workers’ Struggle (LO), who opposed what they considered as an advance of neoliberalism.
The result of the referendum, known as the “petit oui” or in English the “little yes”, along with the Danish “No” vote held earlier on 2 June 1992 rejected the treaty with 50.7% of voters saying NO to the EU with a turnout of 83.1% was considered to be the end of the “permissive consensus” on European integration which had existed in most of continental Europe until then.
Its been a long-standing aim for the Left to leave the EU and no amount of mixed up centralist ideologies will distract from the fact EU constitution is the only one in the world that enshrines neoliberal economics into its text.
For the third of Labour Party members that voted to leave the EU in 2016, we have witnessed an onslaught of bigotry directed our way. For the Bennites in particular that have stayed within the Labour Party, they have endured unprecedented attacks by centrists who have attempted to bastardise history to suit their agenda rather than openly debate why a neoliberal capitalist construct like the EU is no place for the left or a socialist. Even now their one argument is they want more neoliberalism.
If it’s a Tory Brexit then it’s true, it has always been a Tory EU
The centrist have created the argument this is a ‘Tory Brexit’, while completely ignoring the Tory Party have since 1973 been the Party of the EU they had more skin in the game to remain than any other UK political Party, having both taken us into the common market and the EU while socialist and Labour stalwarts from Tony Benn to Jeremy Corbyn opposed both treaties.
The truth once more, many on the LeFT were stunned that leave had won the vote! The amount of money spent, trying to convince the people to remain, £9.3 million in taxpayers’ money, on leaflets that only spelt out the pros of remaining in the EU. Ironically the webpage still exists titled ‘. ‘Why the Government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK‘.
Along with the establishment support, it was unprecedented but not unexpected, after all, the EU was and always has been a Tory project. The Tories never ever wanted to leave, let alone be the party to take the UK out of the EU. No wonder Camron resigned the next morning after edging all his bets on Remain.
In the same frame no wonder, the Labour Party PLP carried out their so-called Chicken coup on Jeremy Corbyn less than three days later. Corbyn at the time was the only competent political leader with enough knowledge of the EU being a life long Eurosceptic he had made many of the arguments for Lexit in his four decades as a politician.
The centrist also skips the fact that the Tory Party, in general, campaigned vigorously to remain in the EU spending millions in public money to enforce a message of remain.
Within the Conservative Party (which was officially neutral), 25 of the 30 Cabinet Ministers including the Prime Minister, David Camron who dramatically resigned the day after the referendum returned an out, vote.
The majority of the Conservative Party’s 330 MPs announced that they would campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union and did so.
Of course, all leave supporters are racist!
Tony Benn once said: “you have to differentiate between nationalism, which hates foreigners, and the right of self-government, which is a democratic argument”.
There are some who argue this vote to leave the EU is a racist vote, where I have no argument racists certainly voted to leave the EU, I’ve been flummoxed to understand which race they despised so much to make them ‘vote leave’, after all the EU is predominately Caucasian.
But for those on the LeFT ‘race’ or more accurately ‘xenophobia’ never came into the decision, like most right-minded people the vote was based on firstly it was a case of democracy and then fundamental questions like, do we want to belong to this Supranationalist organisations know as the EU or do we want to employ the socialist principle of self-determination?
That Right of Nations to Self-Determination, outside of what Jeremy Corbyn described as a European Empire the right to say no and choose our own destiny as a country
“My view of the EU has always been not that I am hostile to foreigners but I am in favour of democracy. I think they are building an empire and want us to be part of that empire, and I don’t want that.” -Tony Benn
The European Union is a liberal empire, and it is about to fall, warns Wolfgang Streeck (Max Planck Institut). The position of imperial hegemon belongs to Germany, which is finding it increasingly difficult to fulfil that role.
What is the European Union? The closest concept I can come up with is that of a liberal empire. An empire is a hierarchically structured block of states held together by a gradient of power from a centre to a periphery. At the centre of the EU is Germany, trying more or less successfully to hide inside a “Core Europe” (Kerneuropa) formed together with France. Germany doesn’t want to be seen as what the British used to call a Continental Unifier, even if in fact this is what it is. That it likes to hide behind France is a source of power for France vis-a-vis Germany.
Like other imperial countries, most recently the United States, Germany conceives of itself and wants others to do the same, as a benevolent hegemon doing nothing else than spreading universal common sense and moral virtues to its neighbours, at a cost to itself that is, however, worth bearing for the sake of humanity. In the German-cum-European case, the “values” that are to give legitimacy to an empire are those of liberal democracy, constitutional government and individual liberty, in short, the values of political liberalism. Wrapped into them, to be displayed when expedient, are free markets and free competition, i.e., economic liberalism. Determining the exact composition and the deeper meaning of the imperial value package and how it is to be applied in specific situations is a prerogative of the hegemonic centre – enabling it to extract a sort of political seigniorage from its periphery in return for its benevolence. Read more
Of course for those that like their messages more visual here’s what we are discussing: Guy Verhofstadt Lib Dem conference 2019: Building Empires
The Lib Dems cheering Verhofstadt calling for a European Empire is like a party political broadcast for Vote Leave. “The world order of tomorrow is not a world order based on nation-states or countries- it’s a world order that is based on Empires.”
Guy Verhofstadt Lib Dem conference 2019 sounds more 1939 Shocking rhetoric.
We did not fight for the vote to have it dismissed or overturned by the politicians or the losing side!
Michael Foot, the last true socialist Labour leader before Jeremy Corbyn.
Michael Foot made the point: “We did not fight for the vote to have it dismissed or overturned by the politicians or the losing side!
“People didn’t fight for the vote just to have the fun of electioneering they wanted to see that the vote that they used and the Ballot Box could change things stop things alter things remove governments when necessary.
That’s one of the principal reasons for having a vote but that’s not going to happen if we stay in the market if we become enmeshed in the whole of their machinery and apparatus because what will happen then is that you can go and have an election in this country in which we vote out the government here but you won’t be voting out all the government that meet in Brussels to decide What’s going to happen to us
It is that precious inheritance, given us by the people who fought for the right to vote fight for the right to form trade unions thought for the right to establish their own institutions fought for the right to have an elected house of commons which should be the supreme authority in this country and answerable to nobody else it is those things that are at stake in this campaign “
That point stands today. The UK is a democracy and the true power is within the hands of the people.
“When I saw how the European Union was developing, it was very obvious what they had in mind was not democratic. In Britain, you vote for a government so the government has to listen to you, and if you don’t like it you can change it.” -Tony Benn
The argument against the legitimacy of the referendum has never held water and even Sir Keir Starmer understand that when he made his speech in the house of commons shortly before A50 voted. He stated:
“We lost the referendum. Yes, the result was close. Yes, there were lies and half-truths—none worse than the false promise of an extra £350m a week for the NHS.
Yes, technically the referendum is not legally binding. But the result was not technical; it was deeply political, and politically the notion that the referendum was merely a consultation exercise to inform Parliament holds no water.
When I was imploring people up and down the country to vote in the referendum and to vote to remain, I told them that their vote really mattered and that a decision was going to be made. I was not inviting them to express a view.
Although we are fiercely internationalist and fiercely pro-European, we in the Labour party are, above all, democrats.
Had the outcome been to remain, we would have expected the result to be honoured, and that cuts both ways.
A decision was made on 23 June last year to leave the EU. Two-thirds of Labour MPs represent constituencies that voted to leave; one third represent constituencies that voted to remain.
This is obviously a difficult decision.
I wish the result had gone the other way—I campaigned passionately for that—but as democrats, we in the Labour party have to accept the result. It follows that the prime minister should not be blocked from starting the article 50 negotiations.”
Obliviously Starmer’s done a lot of flip-flopping since then, making Owen Jones look more like a clog dancer than a professional Flipper.
But being fair to Starmer he could always see the chink in Corbyn’s armour and his backstab on a second referendum during the 2018 Labour Party conference was the beginning of the end for Corbyn along with any chance of a Left-leaning Labour Party ready for office. It was also the vehicle Sir Keir Starmer used with the Remain supporters to get him elected as Labour Leader.
Ironically the first dictate he made as leader was, ‘GET BREXIT DONE!‘ and is now cajoling the PLP to accept any deal the Tories get even a bad deal.
The lefties for neoliberalism AKA ‘Remainers’ have completely lost sight of the principles and foundations of socialism within the Labour Party. They have cast aside the values of democracy and socialism with unfounded cries of Racism, Russian interference and electronic manipulation by companies like Cambridge Analytica all have proved false.
In 2020, the British Information Commissioner’s Office closed a three-year inquiry into the company, concluded that Cambridge Analytica was “not involved” in the 2016 Brexit referendum and found no evidence for Russia’s alleged interference during the campaign.
Yet journalists like Carole Cadwalladr grandstanded these accusations presenting them as absolutes, she was awarded the Orwell Prize for Journalism for her Brexit and Cambridge Analytica data investigation.
It’s amazing that her unsourced, unsubstantiated claims were ever published. For years she has pumped these claims about Russian agents and Russian money using every media outlet possible even a Teds talk. In the process, she has not only attacked individuals, but every member of the British public who voted for Brexit in 2016.
Cadwalladr and her financial backers have for years pretended that the British public were misled into voting for Brexit. Instead of listening to the genuine concerns of their fellow citizens, they engaged in a smear-campaign against us. They pretended there were no serious reasons to vote the way we did, but only vacuous, stupid people, led down the wrong road by agents of a foreign power. It was an outrageous claim, outrageously encouraged and tolerated by Cadwalladr’s colleagues and peers because she seemed to be confirming their own bigotries and prejudices.
At the moment Cadwalladr is going through a very public court case where she is backpedalling faster than a cyclist in oncoming traffic in her accusations about Russian money and influence during the Brexit referendum, Cadwalladr has dropped her truth defence in her libel battle but now insists her claims were in the public interest.
The fact is we find the only real Russian interference came from Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB agent and his son Evgeny Lebedev, co-owners of The Independent newspaper based in Dublin ‘Independent News & Media’ their support for Remain and the so-called Peoples vote has had an influencing effect on many people.
Counter-revolutionaries against a working class vote.
Misguided lefties have campaigned for a second referendum for 4 years, a policy that destroyed the Lib Dems and witnessed Labour’s catastrophic defeat in the 2019 general election.
A defeat that chucked the proverbial baby out with the bathwater in the form of Jeremy Corbyn.
A result that witnessed the UK’s best last hope of real change its best chance at stopping this rigged system and the only man in the Labour Party willing to take on the establishment and its status quo, Jeremy Corbyn having to step down.
The Remain camp following Peter Mandelson’s Peoples vote got exactly what Mandelson wanted Corbyn out. Meet the suits behind the ‘People’s Vote Campaign’ and ‘Open Britain’
The Left-wing Remainers Neoliberalism’s useful idiots.
These people wanted to overthrow a strongly working-class revolt against neoliberalism and to keep the UK beholden to Brussels’ rotten capitalistic rules.
If they thought they were Revolutionaries then they were counter-revolutionaries. If they thought they were Socialists? Then they were capitalism’s useful idiots. Pro working-class? Hardly they worked to overthrow millions of working-class votes and try to ensure that the British working classes, and the rest of the UK, remain subservient to ruthless EU neoliberalism.
These people claim they want to overthrow capitalism and yet as soon as millions of ordinary Brits demand a break from the globalist EU they’re weeping into their almond-milk macchiatos. ‘Is this fascism?!’, they cry when the people of Britain raise their voices against EU neoliberalism, bourgeois buffoons that they are.
And how did this ever-increasing EU work out for the people in the Red wall regions and the general Labour Heartlands?
There are nine UK regions in the top ten of northern Europe’s most deprived areas.
The UK has nine out of the ten poorest regions in northern Europe, with suggestions that the rapid industrial decline brought about under Margaret Thatcher is chiefly responsible for creating pockets of poverty in one of the World’s richest economies.
West Wales, Durham and Tees Valley, South Yorkshire and Northern Ireland all rank highly as the poorest areas in Europe in a report by Inequality Briefing.
The report notes that despite Britain having a similar economic make-up to its northern European counterparts, it is a far more unequal country.
Inner London ranked as the richest area in Northern Europe in the study, but it was alone in the top ten richest list.
Meanwhile, nine areas in the UK entered into the top ten poorest, with Hainaut in Belgium the lone exception.
Other research carried out by Inequality Briefing has found the gap between the richest and poorest regions in the UK, in terms of disposable income, is the widest in the EU.
The findings reveal that the UK is highly dependent on London and its environs, with just one British region other than the capital – the south-east of England – having a GDP per capita in excess of the EU-15 average, meaning that just 27 per cent of the UK population live in regions wealthier than that EU average.
News for you folk, Biden won the presidency, watch out for a re-emergence of TTIP and chlorinated chicken being put on EU shelves. Do you remember that deal Obama said we wouldn’t get if we left the EU? Then when we did vote to leave and Trump stopped TTIP you told us we would get that deal as punishment for leaving the EU. Well, Biden’s your man for bringing it back.
A Biden administration’s foreign policy would revert to liberal internationalism and in particular liberal institutionalism, meaning re-engagement with international governmental organisations.
A new administration will probably re-vitalise the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Trade policy can be viewed not only in economic terms but also as a tool of foreign policy. Both US and EU leaders viewed TTIP as not only an opportunity to increase trade and investment flows but also to cooperate to thwart the Chinese government’s ambitions to shape the agenda on global trade and finance. This desire to contain China would also see the US government seek to re-enter the re-named Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) which at the last count included Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, with the UK in discussions to join.
The US’s re-engagement in multilateral intergovernmental organisations means the US would probably unblock the appointment of judges to the WTO’s Appellate Body and come to an agreement on the new Director-General of the WTO.
But with or without TTIP there is still CETA and that’s one hell of a bad deal for the common folk.
John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, talks to Carrie Cracknell about the threat from free trade agreements to public services, in the context of TTIP, CETA, TiSA and other treaties.
The defence of workers’ rights is the main pro-Remain argument used by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), all but three affiliated trade unions (TUs), and the newly formed Left Against Brexit (Another Europe is Possible). Their argument is flawed for the following reasons:
- It is based on the false assumption that the EU protects workers’ rights whilst at the same time overestimating the limited protections enacted.
- It elevates and relies on the legal system rather than collective bargaining by workers organised in trade unions
- It displays ignorance of trade union history and in so doing undermines the role of organised workers to win hard-fought improvements in wages and living standards.
- It ignores the anti-trade union rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), based, as it is, on the palpable pro-employer nature of the EU itself.
The TU leadership’s enchantment with the EU stems from the now shattered myth of “social Europe” propounded by Jacques Delors at the TUC Congress, in 1988 (see #Analysis #7 – Why Does the British Left Love the EU?). The Lisbon Programme of 2000 effectively undermined any promises of the Delors agenda by insisting on “flexicurity”: more precarious work, supported by a social security “safety net”. The Lisbon Treaty of 2008, following the financial crash, reversed “social Europe” completely by undermining legal basis of workers’ right to employment contracts and negotiated collective agreements. This, coupled with the privatisation of public services, has clearly privileged the power of capital as being the dominant EU “freedom”. The protection of business interests has been rigorously backed by a succession of ECJ rulings (see below).
Nevertheless, the “left Remainers” still cling on.
The most important EU provision cited by the Remainers is the Working Time Directive 2003 which Theresa May has not ruled out transposing into UK law, although the Tories dislike it. The Directive gives workers rights to daily and weekly rest, a maximum weekly working time, and a minimum of four weeks paid annual leave. However, employees who want, or are pressured, to do so can simply sign a written opt-out. In 1998 the Labour Government passed The Working Time Regulations – a slightly improved version of the EU Directive. In fact, most negotiated collective agreements in the UK give workers a much better deal: a maximum 40 hour week, a demand championed by the labour movement since the 1880s.
Professor Mary Davis is a Labour historian. Active in the Labour movement her whole working life, she received the TUC’s Women’s Gold Badge for services to trade unionism in 2010. Read more.
A sticking point on the EU trade deal is workers’ rights, yes some may feel the Tories will decimate our worker’s rights. To be fair it’s an ongoing battle, however, the EU has never been big on workers’ rights and if we did happen to align with the EU worker’s rights at what level do we do that? All EU worker’s rights are substantially less than those set by the UK. We could in theory see a reduction of workers’ rights down to EU minimums. You have to honestly ask why the Tories have not already done this in the last 10 years, that answer is very simple it’s a vote loser.
EU Commission makes it clear: The same minimum wage for all EU countries is impossible
In October the EU looked at universal minimum wage, something many of us have commented on for years. Their conclusion is to outsource the responsibility claiming that collective bargaining on wages is the “gold standard” for all member states. On this, we agree but in the same breath, the EU commissioner also stated that unbalanced wages must continue or economies will crash. Read more.
Commissioner Nicolas Schmit said that if Bulgaria, the country with the lowest wages in the EU, were to introduce the same wages as his native Luxembourg, the very next day there would be “no Bulgarian economy”.
The minimum wage in Bulgaria is €312, and it is €2,071 in Luxembourg.
It begs the question of what sort of EU allows such imbalances of wages, its a wonder the Bulgarian economy has not crashed through lack of workers all heading for better pay elsewhere, oh, wait… They have and who could blame them.
According to the International Labour Organisation, adequate minimum wages contribute to sustaining domestic demand, strengthening incentives to work, reduce wage inequalities and in-work poverty.
In the EU, in-work poverty increased from 8.3 percent in 2007 to 9.4 percent in 2018 as a result of the previous economic crisis.
The gender pay gap needs to be looked at urgently – given that nearly 60 percent of minimum wage earners are women.
In the EU, minimum wage protection in Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Finland and Sweden is provided exclusively by collective agreements, and the remaining 21 countries have statutory minimum wages set by governments.
However, the EU proposal does not oblige member states to harmonise their systems, nor does it set a common minimum wage level.
In fact, the EU will not pursue a minimum wage throughout its 27 member states they have admitted that instead, the provision promotes collective bargaining on wages as a “gold standard” for all member states since those countries with high collective bargaining coverage tend to have a lower share of low-wage workers, lower wage-inequality and higher minimum wages.
“There will be never, at least not in the foreseeable future, the same level of minimum wages in all the member states of the Union,” said the EU commissioner for jobs and social rights, Nicolas Schmit.
“Promising the same minimum wage for all Europeans would not be realistic, would be impossible and irresponsible,” he added.
A few EU UK comparisons to consider.
Now we are in this final month before leaving the EU it seems appropriate to reproduce Enrico Tortolano’s article from 15 June 2016 to give a recap of the EU neoliberal make-up.
Workers across Europe have rallied against a union which has used its undemocratic structures to force neoliberalism on a continent.
Voting to leave the EU is a no-brainer for the Left. The European Union is remote, racist, imperialist, anti-worker and anti-democratic: It is run by, of, and for the super-rich and their corporations. A future outside austerity and other economic blunders rest on winning the struggle to exit the EU, removing us from its neoliberal politics and institutions. Corporate bureaucrats in Brussels working as agents of the big banks and transnationals’ now exert control over every aspect of our lives. Neoliberal policies and practices dominate the European Commission, European Parliament, European Central Bank, European Court of Justice and a compliant media legitimises the whole conquest. This has left the EU constitution as the only one in the world that enshrines neoliberal economics into its text. Therefore the EU is not – and never can be – either socialist or a democracy.
Against the left’s strategic case for exit is relentless blither and blather from the elitist liberal commentariat: the EU is a social-democratic haven that protects us from the nasty Tories is their litany and verse. This is an absurd fantasy: by design the EU is a corporatist, pro-capitalist establishment. Therefore, it strains credulity that the bulk of the Parliamentary Labour Party and a rump of the trade union movement believe in the myth of Social Europe. The late Bob Crow was bang on the money when he said: “social EU legislation, which supposedly leads to better working conditions, has not saved one job and is riddled with opt-outs for employers to largely ignore any perceived benefits they may bring to workers. But it is making zero-hour contracts and agency-working the norm while undermining collective bargaining and full-time, secure employment.”
The only thing that should remain is the truth: a social Europe was never part of the European Union super-state project. How could it be? The EU has always travelled on the “free trade” train alongside “free” movement of capital, business-austerity, flexible labour markets, low pay, privatisation of public services and the eradication of welfare states. These were not just random policy proscriptions, but specifically designed by ‘free-market’ fanatics. It was the deepening and integration of the EU project that allowed unelected policy makers, driven by the powerful EU corporate lobby, to circumvent and eradicate the social rights that were won by workers in the aftermath of World-War-Two. Creating democratic deficits in all the EU institutions and policy-making by unaccountable technocrats enabled and accelerated this process of dismantling rights. This arrangement ensured the neoliberal Holy Trinity of public spending cuts, privatisation and the removal of trade union rights could be enforced with little contestation.
It’s worth noting the continuity of contempt by the European Union elites towards public opinion. Jean Monnet the founding father of the EU understood democracy was an obstacle to the elitist project and had to employ a degree of deception: “via money Europe could become political in five years” and “…the current communities should be completed by a Finance Common Market which would lead us to European economic unity. Only then would … the mutual commitments make it fairly easy to produce the political union which is the goal.” Jean-Claude Juncker, today’s unelected EU chief makes clear that nothing much has changed, “when it becomes serious, you have to lie”. “There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.”
Neoliberal logic is insidious and some trade union leaders in Britain seem bewildered by it all and continue to argue that some kind of utopian Social Europe exists, offering protection for workers in Britain. In reality, the Social Chapter, while it potentially gave some extra legal protection on a few issues, was never much more than crumbs: a gesture to disguise the reality of the European Union as a bosses union. What protects workers in Britain is not the social rights from benevolent bureaucrats in Brussels, but our collective strength and ability to organise and take action.
It was organised struggle by workers’ and their trade unions in Britain that created the 1948 Factory Act, the 1970 Equal Pay Act and so on right through to the National Minimum Wage. To argue that we would lose our right to annual leave if we left the EU is ludicrous and just another part of the Remain project-fear campaign. We’ve had holiday pay enshrined in UK legislation since 1938, and if the Tories were desperate to withdraw these rights, why haven’t they at least scaled them down to the EU minimum in their six years in power? The answer is democracy. Unlike the unelected European Commission, the Tories face the British public at the ballot box at every general election. And lets be honest, even Eton Tories know withdrawing employment rights isn’t a vote winner.
The consolidation of the EU treaties and judicial rulings into the European Constitution – renamed the Lisbon Treaty – meant even the concept of a Social Chapter was the stuff of Alice in Wonderland. EU member states that have been ‘bailed out’ – the bailout funds actually went to French and German banks – by the troika have suffered the biggest fall in collective bargaining rights in the world. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) collective bargaining rights have fallen by an average of 21% across the ten EU countries hardest hit by the economic crisis, and have fallen by a massive 63% in Romania and 45% in Greece. The anti-trade union laws and polices passed and implemented in the UK are actually just regional versions of the articles laid down in the Lisbon Treaty. The message is clear: the EU is no place for trade unionists.
The EU is also no place to be young. In fact they have most to lose if we remain in the EU. An over competitive education system, the closure of vital youth support services and the introduction of student loans has meant that young people have fewer opportunities than their parents generation. With the EU being the world’s low growth region, with 23 million unemployed, the social fabric is deteriorating at an alarming rate. In some EU countries youth unemployment has pushed northwards of 50%. Outside of the EU we would be able to prioritise building a society without unemployment and with secure, skilled, well paid jobs. We would be able to tackle the unaffordable housing market and enable young people to develop again free from the chains of debt. Young or old: the toxic mix in the EU of low growth, low productivity and mass unemployment means a bleak future.
The EU is no place for internationalists either. It is a racist ‘Fortress Europe’ project doing everything it can – including allowing refugees to be shot or drown in the Mediterranean every day – to prevent those fleeing from Syria and neighbouring countries being able to enter the EU. Those who do get to EU shores end up locked away in brutal concentration camps. Those at the sharp end of EU trade policy have also been brutalised. The EU conducts economic terrorism on a global scale through aggressive global trade policies and structural adjustment conditions, in particular towards African states. This has served only to deepen their poverty and inequality whilst enriching the white EU 1%. Nor does it build meaningful solidarity between EU states; through the lens of Greece and Germany we see tensions not witnessed since 1945.
Inequality and intimidation doesn’t just exist between the EU and the so-called developing nations either, but the strong EU economies such as France and Germany prey on what they call the ‘peripheral countries’ in Southern and Central Europe. The institutions of the EU have relentlessly and very deliberately imposed the misery of neoliberal austerity and privatisation on these economically weaker countries. Governments across the EU have used EU Treaty rules as cover for this robbery of public wealth.
Real internationalism is workers’ solidarity throughout Europe. The working class are facing the same fight against low pay, casualisation, cuts and privatisation in every country of the EU. Right across the EU workers are hoping the UK exit so they too can demand referendums. There is no doubt a successful UK exit would have huge support, and be emulated, across the continent. That is why the bankers and institutions of the EU were so desperate to force the Syriza government in Greece to its knees: in order to demonstrate to workers in other EU states the fate that would await them should they demand democracy and an end to austerity. It may have backfired. The Syriza government’s capitulation has forced the Greek working class to demand Grexit. If Syriza had only stood firm and implemented the socialist policies it got elected on it would have been kicked out of the Eurozone and even the EU, but by developing a real alternative to austerity it would have inspired millions of EU workers to demand their liberation.
The social disintegration, economic decline and democratic deficit across the EU seem to surprise some. They should not. The major EU policy initiatives such as the Single Market Strategy, European competition policy, Economic and Monetary Integration and the Growth and Stability Pact have put “free” trade and “free” capital mobility, fiscal restraint and business-austerity before the collective interest. In other words the 1% always come before the 99%: the employers always come before the workers. Only in Pinochet’s Chile – where democracy was also absent – have we seen such an embedded programme of neoliberalism. It ruined Chile’s economy too.
A new multi-nation survey from Pew Research Centre finds that Euro-scepticism is on the rise across the EU. It found the EU’s image and stature has been in rapid decline in recent years. In a number of nations, the portion of the public with a favourable view of the Brussels-based institutions have fallen markedly in recent years as the economy collapsed. Nevertheless, dogged by defeatism and despair some on the left are terrified of Tory mavericks Gove and Boris. They should recognise that by voting to Remain, these buffoons will still be around. Moreover, they should ask why Cameron, Osborne, the CBI, IMF, WTO, World Bank, US and the entire armoury of finance capital want Britain to Remain. To improve workers’ rights? Don’t think so. From Yannis Varoufakis to Caroline Lucas – there is no shortage of postmodern opportunists lining up to claim it is better to stay in the EU and try to reform it. What they don’t have – and can’t have – is a strategy. The EU constitution doesn’t allow it.
The late Tony Benn summed up the whole issue: “We are discussing whether the British people are to be allowed to elect those who make the laws under which they are governed. The argument is nothing to do with whether we should get more maternity leave from Madame Papandreou (a European Commissioner at the time)”.