The EU Referendum – We have no Interest
David Cameron recently told journalists in Brussels that he was “battling for Britain” in meetings he was holding with political leaders from the European Union. He was trying to secure concessions and special terms from other member countries of the EU many of whom wanted greater integration not less.
Cameron “Battling for Britain”? He was battling all right. However, he was battling for the interests of the capitalist class or at least for those sections of the capitalist class who want to keep European Union membership but still retain political control over taxation, currency, borders and financial institutions.
The capitalist class is often divided over economic and political issues and it is particularly divided over the European Union. Not for purely economic reasons like trade and free markets but for political ones. And so it always has been since the foundation of the EU in 1993 out of the Common Market which Britain had joined in 1975.
There are those pro-European capitalists who do not want to see their taxation spent on social security for migrant workers and their families. Taxation has always been a deeply engrained capitalist issue. Who pays, how much and for what purpose?
And there is the interest of bankers, financiers and the hedge funds in the City of London who want to be protected from EU financial legislation. City autonomy from any legislation is highly prized and a lot of money from finance capital goes straight into the Tory party coffers to represent and further this particular interest.
If the capitalist class is divided over the question of continued membership of the European Union what about the working class?
The working class is address by politicians in a political rhetoric of fear. Fear about immigration, fear about unemployment, fear about “the unknown”. The capitalist class are treated like adults by politicians, the working class as children.
It is claimed that workers have an interest around trade union rights or lack of them, about immigrants entering the country forcing wages down, taking housing and creating higher unemployment. This miserable and hateful propaganda seeps out of the media, particularly the tabloids, on an almost daily basis. The politics of fear: the politics of hate.
What of the trade unions? Trade unions come out of the class struggle between capitalists and workers over the extent and intensity of exploitation. This takes place under capitalism either in or out of the European Union. And it is capitalism which creates competition between workers over jobs, housing and other necessities of life. And it the capitalists who try to force down wages, it is the profit system which determines whether a worker has a job or not and it is the politicians who try to divide the working class between itself. The aim of politicians is to divide and rule, to prevent class solidarity and an understanding and rejection of a nasty and exploitive social system based on commodity production and exchange for profit.
Yes, there is a working class with an interest totally at odds with the capitalist class both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world. There is one world-wide working class with no interest in the question of the EU referendum, but with an interest to consciously, politically and democratically abolish capitalism and establish socialism; the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.
However the capitalist class and their political representatives need the support of workers to either to stay in the European Union or to leave it. They want our vote. So, we are now told by Nick Robinson of the BBC that it is:
… now all about you. And your country(sic). And what you will decide” (BBC NEWS 19th February 2016)
Is it? Is it our country? And is it in our interest to vote either to stay in or leave the European Union?
Well, the socialist position on Britain’s membership of the EU has not changed since the referendum was last held in 1975. Then, the referendum was about whether Britain should or should not join the Common Market or EEC. At the time socialists said that the referendum was of no interest for the working class and would not change their subject position in society. We said that it was a business club and that it made no difference to the working class whether Britain became a member or not. The socialist position on the EU has not changed.
Think and Act in your own interest
The next few months will be dominated by arguments in the media and between politicians about the details of the deal David Cameron has negotiated with the 27 other EU leaders. Will it protect British business from decisions taken by and in the interests of the Eurozone? Will it prevent the UK from being sucked into "ever closer union" or what some call a federal Europe? Will it make it easier for national politicians to stop those in Brussels imposing unwanted regulations and directives? From the perspective of the working class, who cares?
Workers, of course, will be encouraged to join in the quarrel. Workers will be told by pro-EU supporters that they will earn more money staying in, that trade union “rights” will be upheld and that employment will go up. The other side, those wanting to leave the EU will say the reverse; that wages will increase if Britain leaves the EU, that the EU is a threat to trade unions, that it is undemocratic, economically inefficient and likely to cause more unemployment than less.
Workers should not take any notice of either side.
Then there is the question of immigration. One side will show immigration does not affect workers the other side will have economists saying it does. Again it is an argument which has no interest for workers. There is no such thing as “British jobs for British workers”. Workers in Britain have the same class interest as workers coming from Rumania, Poland and even Syria.
The questions being asked about the European Union are questions of no interest to workers. The fundamental question for workers is not continued membership of the EU but a question between retaining capitalism or abolishing it; of retaining the profit system or establishing socialism.
So Mr Robinson is wrong. The EU referendum is of no interest to the working class. The real and pressing issue facing workers is the ownership of the means of production and distribution and what they are used for. Workers do not own the raw resources, the factories and warehouses; the transport and communication systems. Furthermore the main political parties; Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Greens do not represent the interests of our class.
The working class has no country. Whether workers find themselves either in or outside the EU they are all wage slaves. And wage labour is the necessary condition for the existence of the capitalist class to live a life of luxury and privilege.
For let us not forget that the working class creates all the social wealth through being exploited in the productive process. Workers produce more social wealth than they receive in wages and salaries. The capitalist class contribute nothing to the creation of this social wealth. They, instead, live off the unearned income of rent, interest and profit.
Workers, therefore, share a common interest no matter where they live and they have a common world-wide solution to the social and economic problems facing our class by becoming socialists and working together to establish socialism.
Like Nick Robinson from the BBC, the Prime Minister David Cameron told workers outside No. 10 on the day that he announced the date of the Referendum that; “the choice is in your hands”. What is the choice?
Do workers want to be associated with the government of David Cameron with its vindictive attack on trade unions and their ability to strike? Do workers want to be associated with a government which imposes austerity measures on the weak and vulnerable?
And do workers want to be associated with the racist anti-immigration and free-market fundamentalism of UKIP now sharing a joint platform with the detritus of the capitalist left in the form of George Galloway? The choice Mr Cameron talks of is a bogus one.
There won't, of course, be any space on the referendum ballot paper to state; “No, to the referendum but yes to world socialism”. There won’t be an opportunity to say “I refuse to give my consent and here are the political reasons why”. The referendum is a referendum for the capitalist class not the working class. It makes no difference to whether workers are exploited within the EU or outside the EU.
The “choice” presented by the referendum to workers is in fact no choice at all. So what can a socialist do? Where here is some sound advice. Take some colouring pencils and a ruler to the polling station. Edge the ballot paper in red so it stands out when the ballot box is opened and then write across the ballot something along the lines “This referendum is of no interest to my class: Establish World socialism now!”
That is the answer to Mr Cameron and the capitalist class whom he represents.
Workers, quite frankly, just do not have an interest in the EU referendum. We have better things to do with our time than get involved in a political spat over taxation, currency, financial reforms, subsidies border controls and who calls the shots; Brussels or Westminster. We have a world to win.
Object and Declaration of Principles
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
Declaration of Principles
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HOLDS:
1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.