Thursday, March 17, 2016

The EU discussion at the WLG meeting on March 5th by Peter Rowlands

I could not make this, but thanks to Nick for producing a summary of the discussion. Fairly predictably this appeared to encompass most of the positions on the left, with a majority, seemingly without much enthusiasm, supporting IN on the grounds that BREXIT would disadvantage the left. This is true, but it is a negative position; few on the left now advocate BREXIT, but most share this negative attitude, including, I am sorry to say, JC himself.

I think this is all quite wrong.  While there is much at fault with the EU it is not unreformable and we should seek to change it alongside our friends in the range of left and centre left parties in the EU, most of whom do want to remain in a reformed EU.

Indifference to the EU is wrong, but it is doubly so when faced with a referendum that polls show is rather close. If we wake up on June 24th and find that the Brexiteers have won we will only have ourselves to blame. There is a good left wing case for IN and I hope that Jeremy and John can make it in the coming months. Alan Johnson and the current Labour campaign certainly aren’t.

There is no future for an independent socialist UK. It is not possible. It probably wasn’t in 1983, it certainly isn’t today. We cannot ‘build Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land’. BREXIT would mean that Scotland would rejoin the EU anyway, and so would we in Wales if we had any sense, although the likelihood of a significant vote for UKIP in the forthcoming Assembly elections indicates that this is lacking in certain quarters.There would be a huge rise in unemployment as foreign firms relocated in the EU, big capitalism would name its terms and they wouldn’t be pleasant. The apparent regaining of sovereignty would in fact be the reverse, as there would be less real control over our affairs, but this would be waved away as the new Conservative /UKIP coalition took office ( with Boris as PM ) amid an orgy of distasteful nationalist and imperialist nostalgia. The right would be in the ascendant, but BREXIT would also help the not inconsiderable forces of the right in the EU, from the ‘respectable’ fascists of the French National Front to the real Nazi article in the shape of the appalling Jobbik and Golden Dawn. These people want to break up the EU and go back to the Europe of the 1930s. BREXIT could help them succeed.

There is surprisingly no mention in Nick’s account of the left in the EU, but it is in fact a substantial and growing force. Many of the social democratic parties, like Labour here, lost their way in the 1980s and moved to the neo liberal right, but partly as a result of that new parties of the left emerged, most successfully in Germany as Die Linke, but also in Finland, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain, and more recently in Greece as Syriza and Spain again as Podemos. Most of the newer left parties do not want to leave the EU, although they are highly critical of it, and while most of the social democratic parties are still floundering they are in the main moving towards a more left wing approach.

The umbrella group representing the left parties increased its representation substantially in 2014, while the social democrats held their own. The big losses were by the conservative parties to the right wing populists like UKIP here and the French National Front.

Comrades are invited to have a look at the policies of the Party of the European Left, (Socialists and Communists), the Party of European Socialists, (social democratic parties) and the European Trade Union confederation. Policies generally favour an end to austerity and policies for growth and full employment, a renewed emphasis on ‘social Europe ‘with improved employment and social rights, greater democracy and transparency with more powers for the parliament, and increased curbs and controls on big business. (This is crucial. Huge global corporations can only be controlled by an entity the size of the EU. Contrast the treatment of errant banks by the UK and the US).These are the sorts of policies that Labour surely supports.
There are huge problems in the EU, mainly to do with the Euro, and heightened by the refugee crisis. But it still has the greatest concentration of left wing parties and support for what they stand for in the world, despite the dilution and distortion that many have undergone. It would be unthinkable to walk away. It is not just a question of international solidarity. It is a question of how we, the UK left, make progress. There is no possibility of an independent socialist UK. A socialist Europe, based on a reformed EU, is a possibility. BREXIT would have the effect of significantly reducing that possibility. We should therefore campaign strongly to remain.

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