Monday, 22 February 2016

A Socialist Campaign For Europe - Part 1 of 5

Oppose Cameron's Reactionary Deal

Not only can socialists have no interest in supporting David Cameron's shoddy deal over the EU, but they should actively oppose it. That is not just because the individual elements of Cameron's reform package are themselves reactionary, but the whole basis of Cameron's renegotiation, of British exceptionalism is itself reactionary. Even if Cameron had been demanding the right to introduce progressive measures in Britain, separate from conditions existing in the rest of Europe, socialists would have to have opposed such a nationalistic, and divisive approach. The whole basis of the labour movement is solidarity, the notion that we are one single class forged in unity against our class enemies, irrespective of nationality, region, or locality. There can be no real furtherance of the interests of British workers, separate from the interests of other workers across the EU, any more than there could be furtherance of the interests of Scottish workers, separate from the interests of workers in the rest of Britain.

It is, of course, pretty inconceivable that Cameron ever could have been pushing for progressive reforms that would have benefited British workers. A large part of the reason for Cameron being forced into these sham negotiations is the need to reconcile the deep rifts over Europe that exist within the Conservative Party, and which have been externalised via the creation of UKIP. As a Conservative Party, they represent the interests of all those elements of British capital, that have a material interest in being separated from the EU, or at the very least no reason to support its further development. On the one hand, there is a large constituency of fictitious capital, which is based around the City of London, which has every interest in opposing any further development of the Eurozone, and the power of the ECB, in being able to regulate the banks and finance houses in the UK. On the other, all of those small private businesses, whose main activity has no wider horizon than the UK market, has no interest in the development of a European market, dominated by large capitals that could eat their lunch. Still less do they have an interest in seeing a further development of the kinds of social legislation that the EU has pursued in contrast to the reactionary measures that UK governments have pursued. Listen to people like Chris Grayling on TV at the weekend, whose whole basis for leaving the EU was phrased around his desire to remove Health and Safety protection for British workers, and to undermine all of the other workers rights that have been gained alongside workers in the rest of Europe, via the EU.

But, Cameron also knows that the reality is that although the Tory Party is dominated by these reactionary elements, and can only win elections by appealing to their interests and prejudices, the UK economy, like every other developed economy, is dominated by, and its fortune is determined by, the interests of large-scale productive-capital. That large-scale, socialised capital requires not only the development of ever larger economic, social and political structures such as the EU, but it also depends on the kind of social-democratic state that goes with it, and the measures of regulation required to provide longer term stability, and planning for capital accumulation to take place. Cameron needed to placate the conservative forces that dominate the Tory Party with a show of winning some reactionary measures, and by showing that Britain could enjoy such exceptional treatment, whilst being able then to argue for Britain to remain in the EU.

The reason for socialists advocating a vote to stay in Europe, therefore, has nothing in common with the reasons that Cameron is putting forward. Not only does it have nothing in common with the idea that Cameron has made it safe for Britons to vote to stay in, because Cameron has protected “British” interests, but also nor does it have anything in common with the idea that British workers should support an EU on its current basis. There is no basis upon which socialists could stand on a platform with Tories, simply upon the superficial basis that they both seek a vote to stay, because the more important point is that they seek to stay on diametrically opposed grounds.

The pro-EU Tories seek to stay only in so far, as they see it as a means of furthering the interests of the dominant sections of British capital. Socialists seek to remain because they see it as fundamental to maintaining the unity and solidarity of workers across Europe, of undermining the petty, narrow minded nationalist divisions that can be thrown up to divide workers, and which are used to pursue a race to the bottom of conditions, of the kind that Cameron's “reforms” have all been about, and which would intensify were Britain to actually leave. Socialists see remaining in the EU as central to opposing the reactionary nationalist ideas of individual national roads to socialism that Stalinists, and left reformists have put forward in the past, which further the illusion that somehow Socialism can simply be legislated into existence by a national parliament, and implemented from on high by the capitalist state.

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