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Leaving the EU is a left-wing move; we cannot let the Right dominate it

March 30, 2016

 

An interesting blog appears on the website of the Scottish Socialist Party addressing the possibility of a socialist case for leaving the European Union. 

 

In sum, the piece notes reasons for why a Socialist case can be made, particularly with regards to the issue of TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), the way the deal has been made in secret, and the extent to which it will have bearing on core socialist principles such as keeping unaccountable corporations out of our public services. 

 

Yet the author stops short of advocating a socialist case on the grounds that "leaving the EU in the upcoming UKIP/Tory referendum will not advance the socialist struggle in the UK."

 

I have two initial thoughts about this conclusion: firstly, because something doesn't primarily advance the socialist struggle is not in and of itself a reason to reject a proposition. That would stop us from doing a whole host of things (I'm not campaigning against the closure of my local hospital because that will not advance the socialist struggle in the UK; I'm not feeding my cat this weekend because etc etc).

 

But being serious, we must be mindful that the European Union - the troika - is itself a barrier to socialism in ways more immediately recognisable in places like Greece. Austerity is writ large in the everyday operations of the EU, so there is no neutral position on the in/out referendum question. In fact, rejecting the case for leaving is tacit support for the capitalist EU. 

 

Secondly, there is a real problem with calling the referendum the "UKIP/Tory referendum", though I'm sympathetic to why it is referred to as such. 

 

If you were to look at the press attention the referendum receives lately you'd be forgiven for thinking it was the battle between two Right-wing dogs. The 'In' team, including Prime Minister David Cameron, are campaigning on a platform that says business is safer in the EU. And look, the CBI and JP Morgan agree. On the other side, the loudest 'Out' voices are only talking about core Right issues such as mass immigration and sovereignty. Essentially Left voices are drowned out. 

 

So, with the little time we have left before a referendum, what can we do to change this? After all, this isn't actually a "UKIP/Tory referendum", though we have perhaps allowed it to appear so. 

 

The author of the piece, Hugh Cullen, also says the following:

 

"Even if a socialist campaign were formed to leave the EU, it would be populist xenophobia and nationalism that would win the day."

 

This is real despair. It suggests that whatever we do to try and make a Left wing case against the EU it is destined to fall into the laps of the Righties anyway. 

 

What's ironic about this position, coming from a socialist, is that it has been echoed by Leave.EU backer and UKIP donor Aaron Banks. Though, despite Banks' own political leanings, reacted by saying his eurosceptic group needed a leader from the Left. We're in a real bind when Right-wingers can see the need for a Left-wing eurosceptic voice more than leftiwingers do. 

 

Banks actually proposed that the Left-wing leader should be Kate Hoey MP, the outspoken Labour member of Parliament, the Co -Chair of Labour Leave along with Graham Stringer MP and Kelvin Hopkins MP. 

 

In a piece for the Independent in October 2015, Hoey made the case for a Left-wing euroscepticism position very clear:

 

How can we protect civil liberties when the EU forces on us unaccountable extraditions through the European Arrest Warrant? How can we ensure the jobs and growth that we need when vital contracts for work go to preferred bidders on the continent and not to British firms? How can we preserve and improve our public services when the Services Directives help force the privatisation of the Royal Mail and EU rules against state aid will make it almost impossible to renationalise the railways? TTIP is a gift to the multi-national corporations. I don't trust the EU to negotiate on our behalf, and I certainly don't trust it to be on the side of small businesses or Trade Unions.

 

Anyone thinking the referedum is a Right wing-only fight maybe has a point: to the outside that's how it appears. But, as Hoey herself points out, leaving the EU is a left-wing move. We must not be overcome with despair. 

 

 

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