Tomorrow, Parliament will be voting on whether to hold a referendum on EU membership. Were I an MP, I would vote Yes. I would do so for several reasons. Firstly, opinion polls show around two-thirds of people want one. As a consistent democrat, I believe that British people have as much right to self-determination as anyone else. If they wish to exercise that right by voting on whether to be in or out of the EU, I support them. Secondly, Britain's membership of the EU – and that of most other member states – has always been based upon a false prospectus.
In his writings on Self-Determination, Lenin was quite clear, and in my opinion correct. Lenin had no truck with the bourgeois-liberal notions about self-determination, which underpin the positions of organisations such as the AWL, or the SWP today.
“But the formulae of democracy (freedom of press, the right to unionize, etc.) mean for us only incidental or episodic slogans in the independent movement of the proletariat and not a democratic noose fastened to the neck of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie’s agents (Spain!).”
The Transitional Programme
Lenin, followed Marx and Engels in believing that the small states were an impediment to historical development.
The EEC, and then EU was established for two basic reasons. Firstly, the rise of the USA demonstrated to European Capital that if it was to compete on a global scale it needed the same kind of economic and political advantages that came with the size of a single state such as the USA. The USA had originally developed as a loose federation of states, such as the EU is.
The EEC was a pragmatic response by Big Capital. It aimed at creating a single European State, but without the kind of Civil War that the US had undertaken, and without any one single country imposing its will militarily upon the others. But, herein lay the problem. By nature of the historical conditions under which the project took place, large sections of national capital had vested interests in continuing the protection they had, or sought from their own nation state. For, countries like Britain, and France with long Imperial histories the idea of ceding political power to a European State, was never going to be one they adopted gladly. And, with national identities, and cultural differences being fairly entrenched, it would require a considerable campaign by Big Capital to convince populations that they should support such a single state.
To have done so would have meant that Big Capital would have to have come out in open conflict against those within its own class, who were still in thrall to the ideas of nation, and Empire and all of the reactionary crap that goes along with it. For the small Capitalists, in particular, there were very real economic motivations for those ideas.
Engels described it well when he said,
“Thus the truck system was suppressed, the Ten Hours’ Bill  was enacted, and a number of other secondary reforms introduced — much against the spirit of Free Trade and unbridled competition, but quite as much in favour of the giant-capitalist in his competition with his less favoured brother.
Engels – The Condition of The Working Class in England
But, although the interests of Big Capital and Small Capital diverge in this way, and whilst Big Capital is happy to screw over its smaller brethren, it is still a part of that class, of whom the smaller Capitalists make up the larger proportion. It is one thing to screw them by what appear to be means of purely economic competition, or via bureaucratic means via access to the levers of the State, it is another to openly break the United Front that Capital seeks to present towards its class enemies. In the conditions of the Long Wave Boom, of the 1950's and 60's, the EEC could largely ignore these issues. It could proceed as a Common Market, with limited political intervention, whose major goal was to address the needs of Big Capital, and of those sections of the population where opposition might arise. The European Coal and Steel Community, was established not just as a means of promoting economic growth, but also of controlling those industries, which had been fundamental to the ability to wage war. The Common Agricultural Policy was a deliberate piece of regional policy aimed at the farmers, and peasants of Southern Europe. The development of Atomic Energy in Europe, was done so as to create the kinds of size of market, and economies of scale that would enable competition with the US.
But, economic competition within a single market necessarily implies that some level playing field exists for those doing the competing. When the Long Wave Boom came to an end, and competition becomes more sharp, the necessity for such common rules likewise becomes intensified. The establishment of those common rules requires some kind of centralised political decision making body to bring that about.
That is important for the working-class, because whilst a single European State is in the interests of Big Capital, it is also in the interests of workers. Indeed, as Engels suggests, from the latter part of the 19th Century, there has been a confluence of interests between workers and the Big Capitalists, which is represented by the ideology of Social Democracy. It is in workers interests that Capital develops as rapidly, and efficiently as possible, because that raises workers living standards, and creates the conditions upon which the transition to Socialism is made easier.
On TV today, I had Robert Winston argue that the Working Time Directive had been disastrous for medical training of Junior Doctors in Britain. This is the same training that had seen those doctors working 70 hours a week, some of them falling asleep on the job, and resorting to stimulants to stay awake. But, what is it about British Medical Training that was so inefficient that it could not cope with doctors working reasonable hours?
This is the other reason we need a referendum on membership of the EU. As part of that referendum, and campaign around it, we do need to renegotiate Britain's relation to the EU. That renegotiation needs to be one, however, that workers across Europe are part of. We need a United States of Europe that will meet workers needs. We need, conventions called across Europe to discuss the type of Europe, we the people of Europe, want.
In order to bring this about, we need to build Europe wide, Labour Movement organisations – a single European Trade Union Movement, a single European Workers Party, and a single European Co-operative Federation. Such a Labour Movement, as Marx and Engels did with the First International could make considerable headway in insisting upon, and taking action to establish a Minimum Programme of demands.
* Yes to an EU referendum
* Yes to a single European Labour Movement
* Yes to a United States of Europe