The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 28th July 2017

A battle still to be won

MILLIONS OF WORKERS and trade unionists are opposed to Britain’s continued membership of the European Union (EU). Millions of trade unionists voted for Brexit in the June 2016 referendum. But this mass support to leave the EU is not reflected in the views of the majority of the union leaderships. Nor does it feature much in the ongoing media debate about the leave negotiations, which began in June but have barely gone beyond procedural formalities.

On one side we have the Tory Eurosceptics, who are the dominant faction within a much weakened Theresa May government that now relies on the votes of 10 sectarian bigots from northern Ireland to maintain its majority in Parliament.

On the other we hear the toxic voice of disgraced former Labour premier Tony Blair, who has risen like Lazarus from the grave to fill the gap left by the temporary demise of the Liberal-Democrats to spout all sorts of nonsense about the benefits of the “single market” and the immense cost that will supposedly fall on the people of Britain if we end up with a “hard” Brexit.

Simply put, the Eurosceptics reflect the thinking of the section of the ruling class that fears Franco-German imperialism and believes that their interests are best served under the wing of US imperialism. The Europhile wing of the bourgeoisie, on the other hand, believes that British imperialism’s future lies in partnership with Franco-German imperialism whose avowed aim is to build the new European super-state envisaged in the Treaty of Rome.

Behind all the speculation about “remaining in the single market”, “soft” or “hard” Brexits, or some sort of Norwegian-style associate membership, lies the determination of the Europhile wing of the ruling class to create the conditions for another referendum to reverse the outcome of last year’s vote.

Further confusion is spread by union leaders who still cling to the social-democratic myths about the EU. For years Labour politicians and the majority of the leaders of our unions elevated the EU as an instrument for social progress and economic advance. They said that the EU was becoming more representative through the authority of the European Parliament and the establishment of regional autonomy. They claimed that the anti-working class “directives” and “rulings” could be reversed. They argued that the EU could be reformed to serve the interests of working people.

None of this is true. The EU, with its toothless parliament, ruritanian regional governments and farcical referendums that only count when the vote agrees with what has already been decided, hasn’t been reformed. Nor can it ever be under the Treaty of Rome.

Some unions, including the bakers’, RMT and ASLEF, have taken the principled stand against continued EU membership. Support for Brexit is growing in other unions and within the reinvigorated Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn. But communists also have a crucial role in putting the case for Brexit on the working-class agenda.

The EU exists solely for the benefit of the oppressors and exploiters. What few benefits the EU possesses, such as increased trade and open borders, can equally be achieved through separate agreements and treaties. The EU is neither genuinely federal nor democratic, and every stage of European integration has been financed by working people through higher indirect taxes, lost jobs and lost benefits. The EU cannot be reformed. The sooner we leave the better.