Sunday, June 19, 2016

European Union: a Marxist View

Communist League: Vote Leave, oppose UK imperialism

The following statement was issued by Jonathan Silberman for the Communist League in the United Kingdom.

The Communist League in the U.K. is calling for a vote against EU membership, while opposing the British nationalist demagogy of both the Remain and Leave campaigns.

Britain’s capitalist rulers have used membership in the European Union and its predecessors from the outset to strengthen their hand in pressing down wages and job conditions of the working class at home and weakening our unions. They rely on the EU to bolster their imperialist interests against oppressed peoples of the semicolonial world, and to boost British capital’s position in fighting for profitable markets against imperialist rivals in Europe, North America, and the Pacific.

Working people in other EU member states — our brothers and sisters — from Germany to Greece, face the same types of attacks from the exploiting classes and governments in those countries.

In opposing the capitalist rulers in the U.K. and voting to leave the EU, the Communist League rejects the reactionary “British sovereignty” banner of the Leave campaigns of Boris Johnson and UKIP, which appeal to working people to subordinate ourselves to the rule of British capitalists.

Workers have no interest in supporting Cameron’s deal, which serves the interests of the U.K.’s ruling families. Backing pro-EU campaigners such as Corbyn, who falsely claim that a “social Europe” benefits workers, deals a blow to the working class and unions.

Independent working-class political action means organizing solidarity with union and other workers’ struggles here and around the world. It means fighting for immediate demands to unite and defend workers from efforts by the employers and government to make workers pay for the devastating impact of today’s global capitalist depression and serve as cannon fodder in London’s wars and military interventions.

Join the Communist League in advancing a course to forge a party that will mobilize working people in revolutionary struggle for a workers and farmers government.

The Militant - June 13, 2016 -- Communist League: Vote Leave, oppose UK imperialism


Debate on UK vote highlights EU rivalries,

workers anger


LONDON — Growing competition between capitalist countries worldwide is tearing at the fabric of the European Union. The EU is a protectionist trading bloc and would-be political union whose member countries have rival national ruling classes with different and often opposing interests.

Economic stagnation and sharpening competition, as well as the refugee crisis and its roots in the Middle East conflicts, are at the center of divisions within the EU today. A June 23 referendum on whether to continue the United Kingdom’s EU membership is marked by these tensions and by the growing discontent of millions of working people.

The “Remain” campaign, headed by the Conservative Party government, is supported by the dominant sections of the capitalist class for whom the economic benefits of EU membership appear overwhelming, especially given their precarious prospects for profitable production and trade. Industrial output in the U.K. is in recession and labor productivity lags behind its competitors.

The capitalist magnates point out that the EU is the biggest trading area in the world. Through membership, British companies can sell goods across the continent paying fewer tariffs, and the U.K. serves as a platform for companies from the United States and elsewhere seeking to trade within the EU. As a result, the U.K. now has one of the highest levels of foreign direct investment in the world. EU membership, the bosses argue, offsets Britain’s decline as a world power, allowing London to “punch above its weight.”

London has already secured an opt-out from the “ever closer union” in the EU’s founding charter, and from a number of other EU regulations, and the British rulers have maintained their own currency, the pound, instead of joining the EU’s eurozone. The government-led Remain campaign argues this means the U.K. has the best of both worlds.

The Remain campaign has the backing of the Labour Party, Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats, as well as most of the trade union officialdom, the Confederation of British Industry, Washington, the main EU governments and international financial institutions.

Workers face growing social crisis

Despite this lineup of bourgeois political forces and the pro-capitalist union officialdom, the outcome of the vote hangs in the balance.

Millions of workers will vote to leave, frustrated with years of declining living standards and growing social crisis, angered by the bloated EU bureaucracy and distrustful of the traditional parties of government. This distrust is reinforced by events such as U.S. President Barack Obama’s April visit to Britain, during which he declared that if London leaves the EU, the “U.K. is going to be in the back of the queue” on trade deals with Washington.

The “Brexit” debate is driving a political crisis within the Conservative Party. Nearly 40 percent of Tory members of Parliament have declared support for the “Leave” campaign. Some are calling for the resignation of the party leader, Prime Minister David Cameron, whatever the outcome of the referendum.

The other major party campaigning for a British exit is the populist UK Independence Party, which argues that London needs to defend “British sovereignty,” including imposing greater restrictions on immigration from other European countries. They say further expansion of the EU will lead to increased immigration, especially from Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought to take advantage of the surge of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Mideast and North Africa to press Ankara’s long-held objective of EU membership. For more than two decades, member governments across the continent have found one excuse after another to block entry of the EU’s first “non-European” member. In return for visa free travel into the EU for Turkish citizens, the Turkish government is now taking measures to slow down Europe-bound refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

Remain and Leave campaigners have traded exaggerated threats of the dangers of their opponents’ stand. Cameron claims that leaving the EU will result in imminent economic crisis and war. Fellow Tory MP Boris Johnson argues that the EU “is an attempt to do … by different methods” what Napoleon and Hitler had attempted, to “recreate the dream of the Roman Empire.”

But support for leaving has little to do with these arguments. “I’ll be voting leave,” Kevin Gallagher, a factory worker from Dagenham in East London, told the Militant. “The money that is spent on the EU should be spent on things we need like hospitals. Whatever the outcome of the vote the government will still be going after workers rights,” he added. Other workers told this reporter they would vote to stay in, despite disliking the EU, because they are uncertain what a British exit would mean for living standards.

The referendum debate is sharpening factional tension within the Labour Party. The party’s recently elected London mayor Sadiq Khan has joined with Cameron to campaign for Remain. While party leader Jeremy Corbyn has demurred sharing a platform with the Conservative leader, he argues that EU regulations protect workers and are the road to “a real social Europe.”

Leaving would lead to a “bonfire of rights,” says Corbyn. This rings hollow in light of the assault on workers underway in France today led by the Socialist Party government of Francois Hollande (see article on page 4).

Similar developments are fueling political crisis across the continent. The two dominant capitalist powers, the rulers in Germany and France, push for greater European political integration as they squeeze weaker countries such as Greece, with devastating consequences for working people and much of the middle classes. Meanwhile from Germany to France to Italy to Austria, anti-EU parties and movements are growing. Attitudes to the EU differ between and within the traditional capitalist and bourgeois labor parties.

Despite “stimulus” measures, growth remains sluggish across the eurozone. While unemployment averages over 10 percent, there are vast regional differences. Germany’s official unemployment rate is 4.5 percent; Greece’s stands at a quarter of the population.

Whatever the outcome of the UK referendum, further fracturing pressures will dominate the EU.

The Militant - June 13, 2016 -- Debate on UK vote highlights EU rivalries, workers anger

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