Marx said “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”. (1) Who wants to be a European Club that has the UK as a member? But as the UK has left, I am much more enthusiastic about joining. A few others agree including Scotland, Northern Ireland, Cardiff, Newcastle and London.
The Brexit vote has seen the end of Cameron, the rise of Johnson, wobbly financial markets, dangers of an economic crisis, a rise in racist attacks on Polish and other migrants, the possibility of Northern Ireland and Scotland leaving the UK, and a coup in the Labour Party.
Undermining Corbyn and planning to get rid of him started the day he was elected. Before the local elections, there was the anti-Semitism farrago. This stopped as soon as the voters spoke. The line was to wait until after the referendum. Had Cameron won, the Labour Right would have moved on the grounds that Labour had performed poorly in comparison with Cameron’s ‘great’ leadership.
All this adds to the feeling this is no ordinary crisis. It may prove a terminal crisis for the two party system. Last week before the vote I said “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”.
The country avoided both the worst case scenarios – total UK wide victory for Cameron or Johnson. It was close to a draw. We had a high, but not very high, turnout. Shame it wasn’t much lower. The good news was that we ended up with the only potentially revolutionary outcome or as Tory grandee, Michael Heseltine, said on BBC Newsnight “we have a constitutional crisis of a scale that has never existed in my life”.
The potential Irish and Scottish rebellions give us something to work with. The Tories are very worried and so appear more united than ever. They are all keeping calm in case rocking the boat will tip their wallets into the sea. In the Labour Party class war has broken out. On the streets there are increased racist attacks. A spontaneous, angry demonstration of mainly young people gathered outside parliament last Tuesday. Chanting “Eton Mess” and “Fuck off Boris”, they were demanding another referendum. It is not all over yet.
Today we are still in the EU and will be so for at least two years. This is a long time in politics. The EU is not itself a fixed organisation, either in terms of its component nations, or its political constitution. So let us refer to a future Europe as the United States of Europe and fight for that.
The ‘Remain but Abstain’ campaign was in favour of fighting to remain in a capitalist EU but not by voting for Cameron’s reactionary deal. This was not for any supposed social benefits but because it provided greater opportunities and better circumstances to build European working class unity and make democratic revolution.
After the exit vote we have to redouble our efforts to support a European democratic programme including:
• United States of Europe – the full economic and political unification of Europe
• European Federal Republic – including the rights of nations to self determination.
• Democratic, secular and social republic
• For a European democratic revolution – transfer of power to the sovereign people, election for a constituent assembly, elected workplace councils, abolition of existing European constitutional treaties
How did the ‘United States of Europe’ figure in the Tory Referendum? It was raised by Boris Johnson. He presented it as the bogey man, which every sensible person should fear. If it is so dangerous it must be good. Yet it was not on the ballot paper. The Tory referendum was designed by the Tories for the benefit of the Tory party. There was no progressive democratic European option on offer.
The working class were invited to vote for two reactionary programmes a) Brexit – full withdrawal from the EU or b) Cameron’s ‘reformed’ EU – a reactionary, discriminatory, anti-working class negotiated agreement. When two cars are racing directly at each other, it is best not to be in the back seat of either or think offering socialist directions to the Tory drivers will avoid a crash. As with the Scottish referendum, the biggest party casualty will be the Labour Party.
You might be forgiven for thinking that in a referendum to vote for Hitler or Mussolini there was nothing to do except play the game – vote for the lesser evil or if you are feeling devilish back the one that would upset the ruling class applecart the most. This is a false choice, not simply because there are options of abstain or boycott, but because the power of the organised working class, like the power of Capital, is not in the ballot box but in working class organisation.
Opposing exit does not depend on a ballot. A political general strike would be a more effective weapon. Some people thought I was having a laugh in calling on trade unionists to plan for a political strike. The Tory budget threat is real enough. At a public meeting during the campaign I asked Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union whether the TUC was planning any industrial action in the event of Brexit? You have already guessed the answer that Matt confirmed.
Was it a mistake for Corbyn not to call for strike action against Brexit and confound the Labour right? So what should we do now? First we must defend Corbyn against the Euro plotters. Second we must challenge the democratic legitimacy of the referendum. Third we must support the Scottish and Irish people in the struggle to remain in the EU. Last but not least we have to win support for a republican United States of Europe and European party to fight for this.
Left Unity and Rise
(1) Gracho Marx – Quotes Marx-brothers.org