In the last Weekly Worker I highlighted the differences between reformist-remain, revolutionary abstention, and ultra left exit. The revolutionary position can be located within the abstention-boycott camp. However not everything in that camp is revolutionary because the anarchist idea of a “plague on all houses” is anti-politics not class politics. It has more in common with other anarchist ideas that it is good to smash up the system or blow it up, rather than the proletarian idea of taking it over.
Revolutionary working class democracy rejects and opposes anarchism. The case for a European revolution, for a European wide people’s revolution, is not based on utopian dreaming or fantasy reformism. It is an objective reality based on the facts of European integration. The EU has created and continues to create a (two speed) European economy. This shake up is being carried out by Capital largely unseen but appears in its concrete visible form of wage labour (so-called ‘Polish plumber’) from EU countries working in the UK.
This revolution needs and requires ‘completion’ by a European democratic revolution, if it is not to wreck ever more havoc. Even if nobody recognises or wants a European democratic revolution it is being forced or demanded by the conditions of capitalist development. The problem, as Trotsky might have said, is that subjective consciousness does not match up to objective facts. British Marxism has collapsed once again into reformism and ultra leftism.
The counter-revolution gathers to its banner those capitalists and small businesses who hate the revolution, and many dispossessed and downtrodden workers (whom the democratic revolution would empower). The counter-revolution sees and feels threatened by the European revolution and many working people ‘want their country back’. It was never theirs. They never owned nor controlled it and the old England of the 1950s and 60s is never coming back. The counter-revolution can only end in frustration, driven to madness and despair. It is more than dangerous.
Hence Remain has two positions. There is reformist-remain which says that to remain we have to vote for Cameron’s dirty little deal in a popular front with the Tories. The ballot result is the only rope we can hang by. But if remain wins the Cameron deal will come back and bite this opportunism on the bum.
Revolutionary-remain is for remaining in the EU but refuses to back Cameron. At first this seems counter-intuitive. Since socialists have made a fetish of bourgeois democracy then voting for Cameron’s ‘reformed EU’ is surely the best or even the only thing we can do? Not at all. Class struggle is not confined to narrow parliamentary methods. If this biased referendum produces the wrong result the City and big corporations will intervene using powerful extra parliament methods.
What is good for the goose can work for the gander. If the working class movement was seriously committed to remaining in the EU they would not be putting all their eggs in a rigged referendum. The working class has its own powerful levers, political and trade union. The trade union bureaucrats begging us to vote for Cameron’s dirty deal are doing nothing to mobilise trade union members against Brexit and the new round of austerity threatened if there is an exit vote.
Most of the outcomes of the referenda are more or less reactionary. This is why a low voter turnout is better than a high one. But there is one scenario which has revolutionary implications – Scotland and Northern Ireland votes to remain (and Wales too) and England votes to exit. Note I am not calling for England to vote for exit which would be sheer opportunism. It is reactionary and doesn’t become progressive because some socialists call for it.
I am calling for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to vote remain. I am not basing this on opinion polls. Especially the first two have been involved in mass democratic movements and mobilisations and in Ireland a revolutionary struggle for constitutional change. The impact of this can be seen in the opinion polls and in a more European consciousness. It does not rest on the idea of a second Scottish referendum, which may or may not happen.
A UK exit requires the repeal of legislation such as the European Communities Act and other primary legislation which are “incorporated directly into the devolution statutes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland” (Financial Times 20 June 2016). Constitutional experts say that if the UK government insists that “powers repatriated from Brussels go to Westminster this could set Westminster and Holyrood on a collision course”. By convention, Westminster must seek consent of the Scottish parliament on devolved issues.
In short the vote on Thursday could produce a democratic fracture in UK politics. It is not the most likely scenario but it is possible. The only thing we know for sure is that after Thursday the winner will have been a member the Bullingdon club.
Left Unity and Rise