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Let’s take advantage of the establishment’s crisis

This article is over 5 years, 6 months old
Issue 2509
Tory rivals David Cameron and Boris Johnson in happier times
Tory rivals David Cameron and Boris Johnson in happier times (Pic: Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

The European Union (EU) referendum has exposed the depth of the crisis in the British political establishment—especially in the Tory party.

No one is more aware of that than David Cameron. His future—and that of his chosen successor George Osborne—hangs in the balance.

Socialist Worker has called for an anti-racist, internationalist Leave vote to break up the neoliberal EU and Fortress Europe. We went to press before the result.

If the vote is to Leave the EU, or even narrowly to Remain, Cameron will face calls to resign. If the late surge for Remain saves his bacon he will breathe a brief sigh of relief.

But Cameron and some of his top ministers have been calling each other liars on live TV. That makes their task of uniting to attack the rest of us so much harder.

Whether Cameron limps on as an increasingly lame duck or starts a bitter leadership contest to replace him, these are bad times for the Tory government.

This is good news for the workers’ movement.

Despite attempts to give the EU credit for workers’ rights, everything we’ve ever won has come from fighting those at the top. Their weakness is our opportunity.

Yet much of the left has responded only with misery and pessimism.

They insist that a Leave vote would “let the Tories off the leash” and that our side is too marginal to oppose them. They say that David Cameron’s troubles can only help those who are even more right wing.

Such prophesies can be self-fulfilling.

When Labour and Green Party figures speak alongside the likes of Cameron, they are failing to build left wing opposition to him. When unions make joint statements with bosses it detracts from their task of building workers’ strength to take bosses on.

No matter how bad the bosses’ assault gets, the force that can change the world is the working class. Workers will only gain strength by pursuing their own interests—not those of a “lesser evil” boss or Tory.

In any case the pessimism is misplaced.

Many of those who vote Leave will do so to hit back at an undemocratic elite. Many of those who vote Remain are motivated by the belief this will defend workers’ and migrants’ rights.

On both sides are tens of thousands who elected Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, millions who donated for refugees and a majority who backed the junior doctors’ strikes.

Recent strikes in France have shown the power workers can have. That can happen in Britain too.

We need unity in action and socialist politics—not despair and pessimism.

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