The EU Referendum debate was initially a God send for the Establishment as it creates a convenient distraction from the calamities being inflicted on working people by this Government.
The Europe issue provides a rallying cry through which Capital can create a consensus of so called moderate voices in the Tory Party and the Labour Party. The narrative is that of trusting in the market to sort problems out and not to mess about with the institutions that deliver Austerity. From the Guildhall via Westminster, to Brussels and beyond the consistent policy is to inflict cuts and squeeze every drop of opportunity to crush working people out of the economic crisis.
Locally we have a raft of, “compassionate cuts” which amount to £261 per head slashed from the Local Government budget. Allied to £100 in NHS cuts plus the crippling 20% VAT hike over £1/4 billion has been stolen from our local economy by the Tories. Nationally we have the NHS in meltdown, trashed opportunity for our young people and destitution stalks our society as families, many of whom are in work are driven to rely on Food Banks just to feed the kids. In Europe we see the Greek working class decimated by the Troika and elsewhere there is the grotesque sight of cash being raised to pay for EU/IMF/Troika bailouts via utility bills.
Despite all this Austerity the “extreme centre”, as Tariq Ali calls the moderate consensus in his book of the same name, seems rattled at the prospect of a Brexit vote and is pulling out all the stops to ensure we remain inside the EU.
This debate has been notable for its abject lack of quality, race to the bottom arguments and the sheer volume of senseless noise emanating from the Tories on either side of the divide. Labour, as is usual these days is hopeless and weak. The Left leadership consistently voiced sentiments that the EU was just one big capitalist club. Now in control they are so scared of a counter revolution by the Labour Establishment that they now support the Remain campaign although their ardour is distinctly lukewarm. The voice of the Left, predictably is ignored by the media.
Ludicrous after ludicrous arguments have been deployed by the Establishment. Osborne, a pro pos of nothing, yesterday announced as fact that house prices (the obsession of the Express/ Mail editorial teams) would drop by 18% if Brexit becomes a reality. Boris cheerfully told us that the EU project was comparable to the Third Reich. And then Cameron topped it all by saying that ISIS would be happy if we left the EU and that a Pan European War would ensue. Perhaps the most infantile and stupid remark came from the chancellor when he accused Boris of accusing him of faking the moon landings! How more low brow do you want, and this coming from graduates of Eton, St. Paul’s and Oxbridge!
Former Deputy PM Nick Clegg joined his Establishment buddies by claiming that 3 million jobs would be lost through Brexit and backed Osborne’s statement that UK households would be £4,300 worse off outside of the EU.
Bank of England supremo Mark Carney warned that the Bexit risked recession, something that Osborne was quick to support.
The fact is we don’t need the EU to create recession. We have a proud record of doing that all by ourselves thank you very much.
As a Socialist my instincts are internationalist. Borders are an arbitrary creation to foster division and Nationalism is best summed up by comedian Doug Stanhope when he said, ” (It) does nothing but teach you to hate people you never met, and to take pride in accomplishments you had no part in.” We are humans together in this (potentially) great world of plenty complete with beauty and wonderful technology. My philosophy is best summed up by Leon Trotsky who, with this quote buried the lie that Lefties are a set po faced miseries who see nothing but bad stuff everywhere, ” Life is beautiful. Let future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence and enjoy it to the full”.
One of the Remain arguments deployed by the Labour Establishment is that somehow the EU is the guarantor of workers rights. Funnily enough I didn’t hear much from Jean Claude Juncker, or any other leading EU leaders when the Tories proposed Trade Union Bill white paper was published. The draconian anti TU laws were passed by Thatcher, and John Major exempted us from any protections that were offered by the Maastricht Treaty such as the working time directive. Both prime ministers were operating anti worker policies under our membership of the Euro Club. Almost every single concession which has been grappled with the worst grace possible from the Establishment came from organised Labour in the UK.
The EU is beyond reform. Cameron himself proved this by his so called “re negotiation” which he now seems very reluctant to talk about. Ex leavers McDonnell and Corbyn must realize this, but along with the PM, Party management trumps principles. They have form for this. Pre 2015 McDonnell was all for fighting the Local Government cuts on the front line. Barely a month after becoming Shadow Chancellor he told the Guardian a quite different story, “The situation the councils are now in is if they don’t set a budget, a council officer will do it for them. There is no choice for them any more.”
Another point often made by Lefty Remainers is that the Leave Campaign is populated with nutters such as Patel, Gove and Boris with the closet (or often openly) racists from UKIP which goes to make up a pretty toxic brew. That’s why the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition Chair Dave Nellist pointed out on “Any Questions” last Friday that the non Labour Left had applied to the Electoral Commission to be the official Leave campaign. They were turned down thus making the debate completely skewed. Gove et al represent undiluted, hard nosed capitalism with Cameron and his bed fellows standing for a perceived softer version which the Left Labour Leadership are endorsing.
Tony Benn and latterly Bob Crow always asked of those claiming to be in leadership positions, “Who gave you your power, who are you accountable to and how do I get rid of you?” Apply this to the likes of Juncker and Donald Tusk and you can soon conclude that democracy and the EU and mutually exclusive concepts.
The Referendum debate is futile until we have a narrative can that deliver justice for all at street, national and international level. Jobs, housing education, health and a myriad of other issues are willfully not being addressed.
Finally the debate proves that we need a new Party to emerge from the wreckage of Labour. The Left had their chance when their candidate was delivered to the leadership on an unprecedented wave of popular support which gave him a massive mandate for Socialism. But that ship has sailed. Time to move on otherwise the lack of an effective Opposition may encourage Cameron to seek a fresh mandate should he win. Given Labour’s shocking performance at the Local Elections they would be in for the mother of al shallockings securing a generation of Tory rule.