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Perspectives for Britain 2016

Socialist Party documents

Perspectives for Britain 2016

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EU referendum

8. Of course, as a consequence of the EU referendum the Tories could split and Cameron could be ejected from power even before a new stage of economic crisis develops.

Cameron has rushed through the EU negotiations, cobbling together a few inconsequential crumbs that he can claim as concessions by the EU, in order to enable him to hold the EU referendum on 23 June.

He hopes that by holding the referendum quickly, he will avoid it becoming a referendum on his rule and the Tory government.

However, this is far from guaranteed to work. Like the Scottish Independence vote, it is possible that the EU referendum could become a means by which many workers express their rage at continued austerity and wage restraint.

We have to pose the referendum in those terms, explaining that voting 'Leave' could lead to the possibility of getting the Tories out.

The neoliberal EU formally prohibits significant state intervention and public ownership, and encourages privatisation.

The TTIP EU-US trade treaty takes the privatisation process even further. Part of our campaign will be to explain that halting and reversing privatisation is incompatible with membership of the EU.

However we also point out that the EU would not be able to use its laws to prevent a sufficiently determined left government in Britain or elsewhere from taking decisive measures such as nationalisations.

9. A clear majority of the British bourgeois are in favour of remaining within the EU. They fear that Brexit will lead to foreign capital, which invests heavily in the finance sector of the City of London and looks on Britain as a springboard for investment in Europe, relocating to the continent.

The EU, with over half-a-billion people, is one of the biggest markets in the world, if not the largest, and takes over half of Britain's exports.

There are a minority of finance capitalists - particularly the smaller hedge funds - that favour exit from the EU, dreaming that it will lead to an even less regulated 'Square Mile'.

The view of this minority of the capitalist class has the initial support of nearly half of Tory MPs and the vast majority of Tory Party members.

That the opinion of the big majority of the capitalist class on this important issue is so severely underrepresented in Britain's traditional capitalist party is a very clear example of the increasingly dysfunctional character of capitalist politics.

10. This could reach crisis point in the coming months. If Cameron loses the referendum he, regardless of his laughable claims to the contrary, would be politically finished and would probably have to resign very quickly.

It is possible that the government would fall and a Corbyn-led Labour Party could come to power, but there are still huge roadblocks to this not least the determination of the right of the Labour Party to prevent it.

Losing the EU referendum would also be likely to lead to a new independence referendum in Scotland. Cameron could still go down in history as the Tory prime minister responsible for the break-up of the United Kingdom! Even if he wins the EU referendum, particularly if only narrowly, the pyric victory could very quickly turn into its opposite with voters punishing the Tories for austerity in the same way as Labour has been punished after the referendum in Scotland.

A split in the Tory Party could become unstoppable. Even prior to the referendum, it is only the 'first- past-the-post' electoral system which is holding the Tory Party together.

Boris Johnson's cynical support for Brexit is designed to make him the main contender to lead the anti-EU majority of the Tories in such a situation.

Given the profound divide that also exists in the Labour Party, a fundamental realignment of British politics could not be ruled out with the pro-EU Tories uniting in a new party with the right of the Labour Party, possibly also involving the remnants of the Liberal Democrats.

11. As we have predicted before, the capitalist class has begun a 'Project Fear' campaign in the hope of scaring the population into voting to remain.

However, up until now the big supermarkets have held back from joining the campaign. This is not coincidence but shows their own fear that 'Project Fear' could backfire, with workers defying the blackmail and voting to withdraw from the EU, and then boycotting companies which had threatened them with hellfire and damnation for doing so.

12. For decades, the trade union leaders, rather than challenging the government of the day and mobilizing strike action, pursued a strategy based on EU directives, social charter and legislation.

The TUC argued that although the application of EU law was 'imperfect': "For the Trade Union movement, the EU Social Model is a counterbalance to the free market, reducing the risk of a race to the bottom between workers competing to keep their jobs".

The notion that the EU exerts a tempering effect on the excesses of the Tories and employers currently peddled by the 'Remain' campaign, was put forward for years by TU leaders unwilling to act or channel the mounting anger of their members and the working class.

In reality, however, the Social Chapter only ever provided a few relatively minor reforms, little more than window dressing for the real character of the EU as an agreement between the different capitalist classes of Europe in order to create the largest possible market in order to maximise their profits.

Increasingly, however, even that window dressing is largely being jettisoned. Nonetheless, the pro-EU propaganda of many trade union leaders has had an effect on a layer of workers.

13. In addition, an important layer of workers - particularly of young people - are currently inclined to vote to remain in the EU, in the belief that doing so is more internationalist than voting for withdrawal.

They are repelled by the right-wing nationalist horrors in UKIP and the Tory right who are campaigning for exit.

There is also a concern to protect the right and opportunities for migrant workers. However, as the equally right-wing horrors leading the 'Remain' campaign step up their propaganda, some of these can still shift to voting 'Leave' as a means to protest against austerity.

14. Anti-immigrant propaganda will be peddled by both the 'Leave' and 'Remain' establishment campaigns, with the 'Leave' campaign claiming that exit from the EU would make it possible for Britain to more effectively control its borders and the 'Remain' campaign saying that - if it wasn't for the EU - the desperate refugees currently trapped at Calais would be camping out in the towns and cities of Britain.

Both arguments are nonsense, of course. From the point of view of capitalism, the refugee crisis is insoluble, in or out of the EU.

It is a complete condemnation of capitalism not only that terrible wars are forcing millions to flee their homeland but also that the EU - a bloc of 500 million people - cannot cope with the minority of refugees (around a million) that have risked their lives to successfully reach Fortress Europe.

Yet there are 11 million empty homes in the EU, enough to provide homes for all those who need them including the refugees.

It is possible that in the next period the refugee crisis will trigger the break-up of the EU, regardless of how Britain votes in the referendum.

15. The capitalist class - both in Britain and across Europe - have a highly contradictory attitude to immigration.

The capitalist class in Britain has consciously used the super-exploitation of migrant workers as a tool to lower wages over a long period of time.

On the other side, they fear that large scale immigration can create social instability, whilst at the same time capitalist politicians whip up anti-migrant feeling in order to maintain their social base.

16. No wonder then that there are also highly contradictory attitudes to immigration and the refugee crisis among the working class.

On the one hand, there is enormous human sympathy with the plight facing refugees fleeing war, particularly among the young.

On the other side, there remains a strong feeling that further large-scale immigration would damage the pay and living conditions of workers already resident in Britain.

As part of a pro-working class internationalist campaign for exit, we have to put forward a programme in defence of refugees' rights, which also enables us to engage in dialogue with workers who have fears over immigration.

We have to defend the right to asylum and also the right of those currently working in Britain to remain with full legal rights, whether Britain is in or out of the EU.

Crucially, we have to continue to emphasise that the only way to prevent employers undermining wages is a determined fight for the rate for the job for all.

However, the central thrust of our propaganda should be putting the case for socialism. A socialist voluntary confederation of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland as part of a socialist European confederation would end the domination of neo-liberalism and big business.

We should concentrate on emphasising that the vast wealth that exists in Britain, Europe and internationally is under the control of a tiny minority and how that could be used - on the basis of a planned economy - to provide decent jobs, housing and public services for all.

17. If Jeremy Corbyn had been prepared to lead a socialist, internationalist campaign for exit, it could have gained a huge echo.

It would also have been able to reach out to important layers of working-class UKIP voters, most of who are to the left of Corbyn's election programme on many issues.

Instead, of course, one of his first major concessions to the Labour right was to agree to unequivocally back the 'Remain' campaign, potentially abandoning millions of workers to UKIP.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) therefore has a vital role to play in ensuring that there is a pro-working class, internationalist campaign for exit.

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