EU referendum – The Workers’ Answer

  • No to racism & xenophobia
  • Defend workers' rights
  • Vote to ‘Remain in the EU’

‘National independence’ is a retreat from class unity and internationalism

THEY'RE OFF. The EU referendum and May elections have triggered a storm of propaganda that will fill the tabloids and news bulletins with an unparalleled torrent of racist lies and distortions, as the factions of Britain's capitalist class vie to persuade workers to align with the arguments of our class enemy.


The strongest line of attack for the “Leave” camp is the migration and refugee question. They know that outside a minority of anti-EU cranks, UK voters are staggeringly indifferent to the pros and cons of Europe.

UKIP has long made a speciality of suggesting that the strains on the health service are caused by Polish or Romanian benefit tourists, that our schools and council houses are filled up by European migrants, that Britain is just full up.

The Tory Right will also be forced to resort to panicking the population about “swarms” of refugees, claiming that only if we recover “our independence” will we be able to repel them.

Of course these arguments fall on fertile ground. Firstly because after ten years of crisis and austerity from the Brown, Cameron-Clegg and Cameron-Osborne governments, our health education and social services, our wages and pensions are under strain. People do feel alarmed and discontented and rightly so. The tabloid media stir this argument, peddling racist myths in order to divert people from the real causes of their anxieties – the rich who have gotten vastly richer, the market system which staggers from recession to recession, the bankers, financiers and speculators unable to solve the misery caused by the capitalist system that enriches them.


Against this tide anti-racist campaigns by well-informed activists are not enough. The stirring up of anti-refugee racism and Europhobia is a mass phenomenon and requires mass means to combat it. It needs the combination of arguments against the racist lies and exposure of the actual culprits for our sufferings and anxieties, with action to tackle and abolish the social problems that create them.

The Labour movement – the Party and unions together – must mobilise hundreds of thousands in the workplaces, on the streets and in the housing estates to dispel the myths about migration and to mobilise against the real causes of misery and deprivation. For this we need the material to do so. The human resources to produce mass leaflets, pamphlets and newspapers exist. The branches and constituencies are already mobilised for the elections.

If we combine a powerful anti-austerity with an anti-racist message, if Corbyn and McDonnell call on the mass of new members and supporters to mobilise to spread the message and engage with voters. then we can transform the consciousness of millions of Labour supporters and attract millions of new ones to an alternative vision of society.

There are of course many things to fight against in the European Union, first and foremost its austerity policy, which crucified Greece and threatens any parties trying to from a government which tries to end austerity. But British governments on behalf of British bankers are just as merciless in imposing cuts at home and abroad.

The European Commission's privatisation plans, like the “Fourth Railway Package” must be fought. But it is modelled on British Rail privatisation, adopted over twenty years ago. TTIP threatens Europe's state health and social services, but Britain is way out ahead in private contracting. There is massive opposition within the EU countries to TTIP; we are stronger fighting it together because it is an international, indeed an intercontinental deal best fought internationally.

Europe with its Schengen Treaty is a racist fortress, closed to poor people fleeing repression and exploitation. But as Calais shows, British governments armed with their opt-out are as self-interested, uncaring and heartless as any other.

Socialist alternative

Yes we need to fight every single one of these neoliberal reforms, every attack on workers' rights, all the EU and NATO's military operations – but we need to do this shoulder to shoulder with Polish, German, French, Italian and Spanish workers. Together we are much stronger and effective. We must fight not just against neoliberal “reforms” but for major social reforms in the interest of workers. But as we build up our strength, we need to demand measures that break the logic of capitalism and set out to destroy its domination of our continent.

We should demand the socialisation of all Europe's banks so that they can help plan development here and beyond, in Africa and the Middle East, to overcome the consequences of centuries of European plundering.

Since the British capitalist class is one of the most powerful in the world, a pioneer of privatisation and militarism, locking ourselves in with our own bosses will strengthen neither British nor European workers. It will do the exact opposite.

The Great Recession of 2008-10, the banking and sovereign debt crisis, the weak recovery tending to stagnation, the NATO wars and the refugee crisis, have together thrown the European Union into a deepening crisis. The borders and barriers are going up again. If this continues and deepens then it could lead to a period of outright capitalist decline, where the forces of production are strangled once again by these national barriers.

We cannot solve this by a retreat behind them, let alone take the responsibility for throwing them up in the believe that is easier to build socialism there.

This process of disintegration will only exacerbate the effects of the next crisis for working class people and further divide the working class of Europe. The answer is not nationalism – whether British or Scottish – but internationalism. That means a vote to “Remain in the EU” on June 23 and a fight to replace today's fortress EU with a socialist union of the European people.

Editorial March 2016

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