Two sides of the same capitalist coin. That is the choice on offer to workers and youth in this Tory farce of a referendum. On the one side is David Cameron and George Osborne, backed up by the majority of the Establishment, big business, and the bankers. Their vision for Europe is the complete antithesis of that advocated by the leaders of the labour movement who find themselves in the same camp as Cameron, campaigning to Remain.
[Editorial of Socialist Appeal]
This wing of the ruling class is not advocating a “social Europe” of stronger workers’ rights, more freedom of movement, and greater environmental protection, but the polar opposite: attacks on trade union legislation, scapegoating of migrants, and the enshrinement of privatisation and deregulation through free trade deals such as TTIP.
One only has to look at what is taking place in Greece currently to see what Cameron and other similar such Tories have in mind: endless austerity, a mass sell-off of public assets, and a generalised assault on workers’ terms and conditions - all being carried through by the “Left” government of Syriza under the explicit duress of the European Union and its unelected bureaucracy. At the same time, the EU has negotiated a scandalous deal to deport refugees in Greece to Turkey.
The events in Greece are a mirror to our own future; a reminder that a Corbyn-led Labour government, committed to opposing austerity, defending the NHS, and re-nationalising the railways, for example, would quickly come up against the capitalist club that is the EU. To carry out its programme, such a Corbyn government would have to break with the EU and make an internationalist call to the workers of Europe to follow suit and fight for a socialist alternative.
On the other side, however, is Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Nigel Farage and other such unsavoury characters. Their programme is the same as that of Cameron and co. The only difference is that they wish to Leave in order to carry it out. A “Brexit” led by these gangsters will not be a blow against the bosses’ EU, but a boost to the careers of the most reactionary elements in the Tory Party.
- We say: No to the bosses’ EU!
- No to Tory Austerity Britain!
- Fight for a Socialist United States of Europe!
All roads lead to ruin
Regardless of the outcome of the EU Referendum, under capitalism the future for workers in Britain and across Europe remains the same: austerity and attacks. The European project, on a capitalist basis, is doomed. The Schengen Agreement and the “free movement of peoples” lie in tatters. There is no way out for Greece’s economy; eventually there will be a default and the single currency will be torn apart. And with a new world slump on the horizon, In or Out will make no difference - the cuts and onslaught against the working class will only deepen.
At the same time, the wheels of crisis have already been set in motion within the Tory Party. Buckling under pressure from UKIP and his own backbenchers to call for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, David Cameron has inadvertently opened up a Pandora’s Box. As senior Conservative figures lob increasingly vicious insults at one another, the ruling class and their mouthpieces are growing ever more worried by the situation opening up. As the Financial Times (13th May 2016) comments, “Mr Cameron’s party risks becoming so consumed by recriminations that putting it back together again on June 24 could prove difficult, whatever the result.”
The problem facing the capitalists, then, is that they do not have a reliable party to carry out the policies of austerity that the profit system requires. The Tories are mired in splits and scandals. Already they have been forced into a series of embarrassing U-turns over welfare cuts and academies due to the anger building up from below.
But the crisis of capitalism is far from over, and a barrage of new cuts and attacks against workers, the youth, and the poor will be required in the coming period in order to try and restore some semblance of equilibrium in the economy. The death of Britain’s steel industry and the closure of large high street chains such as BHS are only a foretaste of what lies ahead under capitalism.
Kick out the Tories! Kick out Capitalism!
The Labour Party, meanwhile, is no longer under the firm control of the capitalists and their Blairite agents. The Parliamentary Labour Party and the party’s bureaucracy are still very much in the hands of the right wing, and these are consistently being used by the Blairites as a base from which to launch attacks against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. A number of Socialist Appeal activists, for example, are amongst those who have been recently targeted for expulsion by the shadowy and unaccountable Compliance Unit in an attempted purge of the Left from the Labour Party.
Corbyn supporters in Momentum and the trade unions should mount a serious campaign against such expulsions, and go on the offensive to put an end to the Blairites’ shenanigans inside the Labour Party, which are designed to undermine and eventually overthrow Corbyn himself.
The deal struck between Jeremy Hunt, the Tory Health Minister, and the BMA negotiators in the junior doctors’ dispute also reflects the desperation of the Tory leadership to focus all their forces on the upcoming referendum. But even this agreement could rapidly unravel in the face of opposition from rank-and-file junior doctors, who feel they are being sold a shoddy deal by their leadership. Such an outcome would lead to a renewal of the struggle on a higher level, with the possibility of escalated strike action, including joint action between NHS staff and other sections of the public sector that are fighting back against Tory cuts, such as civil servants, teachers, and lecturers.
What is clearly needed is a generalisation of these struggles - that is, mass joint industrial action in the form of a one-day general strike, with the explicit aim of kicking out all the Tories.
Alongside this, Corbyn and the Labour leaders should be arguing forcibly for British workers and youth to be given a real referendum: a referendum on the Tories and their austerity; a snap election to let voters decide who they support - this tax-dodging Tory government of the rich, or the junior doctors and the rest of the labour movement who are fighting to defend jobs, pay, and public services.
United around a bold socialist programme, the Corbyn-led Labour Party could mobilise a mass movement to get rid of Cameron and Osborne - and Boris, Gove, and IDS too - and offer the working class a genuine alternative to austerity. That would be an option worth voting for.