David Cameron and the Tories seemed strong after winning last May’s general election—just one year on they are in tatters. If Britain leaves the European Union (EU), Cameron is almost certainly finished.
The Tories’ divisions over the EU are tearing them apart.
As the leading Tory right winger Andrew Bridgen said, “David Cameron is at odds with half of the parliamentary party.”
Their weakness is our opportunity.
The left should exploit these divisions and not let Cameron off the hook.
Some left wingers argue for Remain to keep out a government led by Boris Johnson.
But David Cameron, George Osborne and the Tories arguing for Remain are not moderates under fire by right wingers and racists.
Cameron has pushed through brutal assaults on working class living standards, ramped up racism and joined a new imperialist war in Syria.
Osborne is the architect of austerity and home secretary Theresa May is leading a racist clampdown on Muslims, migrants and refugees.
They are every bit as nasty as Johnson or Michael Gove.
Cameron would try to use a Remain vote to ramp up all of these attacks—it is a vote that helps his regime.
If Leave wins it’s possible that Johnson could become prime minister.
But he would inherit a Tory party in open civil war and a weakened, rump government that could not withstand real resistance.
Even leading Tories have said that whoever is leader after the referendum could face a general election as early as October.
There is no need to wait until 2020 to kick out the Tories.
A Leave vote is our chance of a lifetime.
We should seize it.
Another Europe is possible, but not in the EU
Some people who oppose the EU’s brutal austerity and racist policies want to remain in order to reform it.
There’s no shortage of campaigns, from the Labour left’s “Another Europe is Possible” to the Green Party’s “Greens for a better Europe”.
Jeremy Corbyn said, “We want a Europe of the solidarity of socialist parties, trade unions and people that want to see a decent society.” But who are Labour’s “socialist” allies? They include Slovak prime minister and next EU president Robert Fico, who said, “Islam has no place in Slovakia”.
A socialist Europe is not on the ballot paper and there is no method for reforming the EU.
The European parliament is a powerless body, which doesn’t even have the right to propose new legislation.
The bureaucracies that actually run the EU cannot be used to reform it either. The European Central Bank and European Commission are wholly unelected and undemocratic bodies.
Some 2.5 million people signed a petition against the US and EU’s toxic Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In response EU Commissioner Cecilia Malstrom said, “I do not take my mandate from the European people.”
The European Commissioner from Britain is Baron Hill of Oareford, a Tory life peer and corporate lobbyist.
These are the ruling class figures who hold real power in the EU. Any fundamental change would mean unravelling all of the EU’s treaties, which make the free market a condition of membership. But that requires the agreement of all 28 member states.
If the left came out on top in all 28 countries, why bother with the EU? We could forge a genuine workers’ internationalism from below.
Another Europe is possible—but not inside the shackles of the EU bosses’ club. A Leave vote would weaken the EU’s rulers and boost workers in France and Greece who are fighting against austerity.
It can be part of breaking apart that bosses’ club and forging a real socialist alternative.
Workers’ rights were won by workers
The majority of trade union leaders and the Labour Party claim that workers would lose their rights without the European Union (EU).
But many workplace rights in Britain go further than the EU minimum, because these were won through mass struggles.
The 1968 Ford Dagenham strikers (pictured) were crucial to winning equal pay laws.
For instance, workers legally have 5.6 weeks of paid holiday a year, while the EU’s Working Time Directive 1998 only guarantees four weeks (plus public holidays).
Similarly parents in Britain can qualify for up to 50 weeks of shared leave, 37 of which are paid, while the EU only guarantees women 14 weeks.
International rulings and national laws on workers’ rights don’t mean bosses abide by them—unless they’re forced to.
A minimum of six days annual leave was first required by the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Holidays with Pay Convention in 1936.
The Tory government, led by arch reactionary Stanley Baldwin, point blank ignored it, but two years later brought in the Holiday Pay Act 1938 because of mass union campaigning.
While it fell short of the unions’ demand of two weeks’ paid holiday a year, workers in industries with “wage boards” now had one week’s annual holiday.
Wage boards were similar to pay review bodies, but had legal powers to set pay rates and terms and conditions.
Yet some workers already had paid holidays before the 1938 Act, including those outside its remit.
Battles by unions meant that four million workers already had a week’s holiday through some 50 industrial agreements.
Labour’s Hilary Benn claims that the “future of all these rights, now protected across Europe, will be entirely in the hands of a Conservative government” if there’s a Leave vote.
The future of workers’ rights is in workers’ hands—only struggle can guarantee that they are defended and advanced.
Fortress Europe and racism
Racism runs through Fortress Europe from its foundations to its battlements.
This is starkest at the EU’s borders, where its clampdown forces migrants to risk the deadly sea passage.
The EU demanded Greece build a wall to stop migrants crossing by land. An EU directive stops airlines bringing them by plane.
If they reach Greece’s islands they are met by border cops the EU has drafted in from all over Europe. They are detained to be deported under escort by heavies wearing EU armbands.
Southern European countries had few immigration controls before the 1980s and 1990s. European integration meant turning them into northern countries’ border guards—with horrific results.
Over 10,000 people have drowned trying to enter Europe since 2014.
The official Vote Leave campaign is headed by racists, who say they want to “regain control” of Britain’s borders.
But this doesn’t mean that leaving the EU will see mass deportations of migrants living in Britain.
Almost two thirds of foreign nationals in Britain are from outside the EU and would not be affected. There are around
2.2 million British people living in EU countries and governments would be unlikely to pursue mutual repatriation.
Capitalists rely on migrant workers to pump out more profits, but the ruling class can turn to racist scapegoating when it wants to try and divide us.
That means that what happens to migrants depends on whether we fight against the racist assault.
The Remain campaign is not anti-racist. The deal on Britain’s EU membership that Cameron negotiated is a bankers’ and racists’ charter—that’s what’s on offer on 23 June.
The most talked up part of it restricts EU migrants’ rights to claim benefits.
Even with the current set up, the EU is no guarantor of migrants’ rights any more than the Tory government is.
Germany and Belgium have already reimposed internal border controls.
The rights of big business to move freely trumps the right of people to move freely.
Socialist Worker is against Fortress Britain and Fortress Europe. We are for lifting all restrictions on immigration—but that can’t be done inside the EU.
Would leaving the EU mean a recession?
As David Cameron, George Osborne and the Remain camp get increasingly desperate, they are relying on unfounded scaremongering.
Hypocrite Osborne has claimed that leaving the EU would mean a “DIY recession”, with the loss of 820,000 jobs.
Osborne has regularly cooked the books before budgets to try and prove austerity is working.
That’s because austerity has not restored British capitalism’s profitability and the global economy remains mired in stagnation.
The next recession will be caused by the ups and downs of capitalism—and Tory policies in particular.
Thousands of steel jobs could have been saved if steel plants had been nationalised.
But the EU’s free market constitution specifically prohibits this. The EU is committed to helping bosses make profits and giving them access to a large market.
That’s why Cameron, Osborne and the majority of British bosses are for remaining in the EU. The European Commission website boasts that “opening up market opportunities for European businesses” is “a key priority for the EU”.
It does this through, for example, Economic Partnership Agreements in Africa which bulldoze “trade barriers” such as regulations, taxes and price controls. The EU muscled big European fishing firms into the seas of 18 African countries, where they depleted fisheries.
Its Common Agricultural Policy has helped devastate peasant agriculture in the global south, creating debt, poverty and hunger. To have an economy that puts people before profit, we have to break apart this neoliberal institution.
The lie of ‘European values’
Constructing a “European identity” means finding things that separates Europeans from Africans, Asians and other people across the globe.
This usually involves claiming democracy and human rights as “European values”—just as outrageous as making them “British values”.
The idea of a distinct European identity harks back to the “Christendom” of the Middle Ages. Europe’s warring feudal rulers united in crusades against supposedly barbarous Muslims.
That division was bunk then and it’s bunk now.
Europe, north Africa and the Middle East have a shared history—and Europe’s Renaissance was built on discoveries of the Islamic world.
Yet it’s often still the subtext of debates about how far the EU should expand.
Some of the most ardent pro-EU figures shudder at the thought of ever letting Muslim Turkey join. Politicians in Greece often frame EU membership as a choice between “civilised” Europe or the “backward” Middle East.
This Islamophobia—and the scapegoating of “economic migrants” from outside Europe—helps legitimise the racism that eurosceptic right wingers use against EU migrants too.