By James Anderson
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Beware what you wish for if you vote no to EU

This article is over 6 years, 2 months old
Issue 407

Joseph Choonara (October SR) mistakes a Yes in the EU referendum as necessarily meaning support for its right wing institutions and practices. He wrongly assumes that leaving is the only way of opposing them; and he completely ignores the implications of leaving.

Firstly, instead of addressing what I wrote, he fantasises about what I was “maybe” saying or “perhaps” thinking.

In reality, I neither support nor wrote (or thought) anything about an EU “super-state”. I neither said nor implied that internationalism “must…express itself through…EU institutions”.

I wrote that practical internationalism is “facilitated” by sharing the common framework and enemies provided by the EU.

There were no “illusions” that the EU itself, even if reformed, would deliver left outcomes. Instead the argument was clearly vote Yes to fight for a better Europe, to build bottom-up anti-austerity, anti-imperialist and pro-democratising coalitions within the UK and across the rest of the EU and beyond, in cooperation with like-minded international allies.

Secondly, Joseph asks why a “left Yes” is easier to distinguish than a “left No” from the respective mainstream campaigns. Fair question — both campaigns will be chauvinist and worse. But I’d already given a fair answer, partly in terms of fighting EU and member states’ policies; and Joseph simply ignores the other part of my argument: “Socialists voting ‘No’ could have a lot of explaining to do.”

Unlike 1975 and the clear two-thirds win for Yes, they could now be decisive in delivering a No victory. Hearing about their “anti-racist, anti-capitalist principles” will be small consolation if they deliver victory for a triumphant Tory-UKIP right wing populism, the most reactionary factions of capital and the petty bourgoisie, assorted racists, anti-immigrant obsessives and nostalgics for “British greatness”.

“Little Britain” with fewer workers’ rights and perhaps fewer jobs? Scotland stays in the EU and we get “Little England” even more Tory and toxic?

In Ireland the fragile peace process based on re-unification through cross-border institutions is wrecked as the Irish border becomes an entrenched external border of the EU. IRA “dissidents”, wedded to militarism and against “peace”, are reinvigorated by getting popular support, and unionist paramilitary drug-racketeers gain a political excuse for existing as supposed “defenders of Ulster”?

Disaster all round for workers and the left. Beware what you wish for. If it’s bad in the EU, Little Britain/England would be a whole lot worse.

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