The collapse of the centre ground and Brexit

The timing of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU could not be better for those on the right and far right of the political spectrum. In the wake of a refugee crisis, which has seen public sympathy for the plight of the huge numbers of people fleeing conflict and chaos in the Middle East and North Africa turn first to apathy and now to something approaching hostility in many quarters, combined with the collapse of the centre ground across Europe and the US, which I explore in detail here, the prospects of Brexit coming to pass are greater now than they have ever been.

This collapse of the centre ground has not only benefited the right, of course. In the US, while the odious Donald Trump looks a shoe-in for the Republican Party nomination while spouting the kind of rhetoric which in a civilised society would seen him institionalised rather than lauded as a future president, Bernie Sanders has also attracted huge support, evidence that socialism and socialist ideas are no longer taboo in the land of the free. Sanders, in fact, has lit up the Democratic Party primaries with a camopaign that has seen the 74 year old democratic socialist senator from Vermont trounce Hillary Clinton in debate after debate.

But back to the UK and the EU referendum, where despite the attempt by a section of the left to assert that Brexit would make the prospect of implementing progressive and socialist ideas easier – specifically when it comes to taking key industries and services into public ownership – the reality is that the beneficiaries of Brexit would be the right and far right. The politics driving Brexit are the ugly politics of anti immigration, xenophobia, and British nationalism. If successful it would propel the vile reactionary views and worldview of people like Nigel Farage into the heart of the establishment, ensuring that already under pressure minority communities would find themselves placed under even more pressure.

The EU and its insitutions merely reflect the economic and political hegemony of neoliberalism. They are a transmission belt delivering policies which reflect this hegemony, which will remain a fact of life the day after Brexit. This is why those on the left who are intent on campaiging for a No vote on June 23 are playing into the hands of Nigel Farage and UKIP, allowing themselves to be recruited as unwitting footsoldiers for the far right.

There is also the Corbyn factor to consider. At a time when Labour under his leadership is garnering such huge support across the country, and with the Tories in complete disarray over the EU, for anyone on the left to oppose Corbyn over the EU now is tantamount to sectarianism of the worst kind.

There is no viable socialist or progressive case for Britain’s exit from the EU in the present political climate. There is only surrender to right wing nostrums on immigration, multiculturalism, and something called British values.

98 comments on “The collapse of the centre ground and Brexit

  1. Karl Stewart on said:

    But the political right is not only present on the ‘leave’ side. There is a strong right-wing, pro-capitalist element on both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ sides of the EU debate.

    Your argument that a ‘leave’ vote can only possibly benefit the right due to its presences on this side of the debate could equally be applied in the reverse – i.e. that a ‘remain’ vote can only benefit the right due to its preponderance on the ‘remain’ side of the debate.

    It’s an extremely weak argument either way. And taken to its logical conclusion, it becomes and argument for abstention and passivity – ‘the right is dominant, so don’t engage in mainstream politics’.

    The left needs to debate whether voting ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ can advance our own, socialist objectives, not surrender the political initiative entirely to the currently dominant political right on either side.

    The question for left-remainers is: How does membership of the EU aid the international solidarity of working people?

    I’d say that our leaving the EU will not prevent UK workers supporting striking workers in France, Italy or Germany, just as we have done and will continue to give solidarity to workers in the non-EU USA, Canada, South Korea, or Brazil.

  2. Karl Stewart on said:

    The ‘left-remain’ case is based on the supposition that the EU – a capitalist, neo-liberal, privatising alliance – can be reformed into a vehicle for left-wing, progressive advance.

    Doesn’t the recent experience of the Greeks suggest that this isn’t possible?

  3. Arguing for EU withdrawal is not a case of opposing Corbyn, but of opposing the most powerful sections of British and international capitalism and their political representatives.

    The reality is that people like Owen Jones (and JC himself) are surrendering the ground to the nationalist right on this issue, as the majority of the trade union and labour movement in this country have been doing since the late 80s/ early 90s. At least in those days the illusion of a social Europe was more understandable and apparently evidenced.

    As for the disarray in the Tory party, this isn’t a reason in itself to take one side in the EU argument any more than the other. It’s certainly a good thing that there is disarray, but that could be capitalised on far more effectively if the labour and trade union movement was in its majority opposing the government on the issue.

    Is there something more inherently progressive, anti-racist or pro-working class about Cameron and the other Tories who are arguing for remaining in? Are they bashing claimants and immigrants any less?

    Remember that the disgusting UKBA advertising vans telling illegal immigrants to go home were the work of Theresa May, who will be campaigning for remaining in Europe, while Farage actually condemned them.

    If Tony Benn and Bob Crow were still around today they would be campaigning for withdrawal. Sectarians? Panderers to racism?

  4. I notice that Hope not Hate are quite rightly campaigning against the use of racist arguments in the EU referendum campaign, and are recognising that there are anti-racists on both sides of the debate.

  5. I was of a similar mind about the entire discussion over the potential outcome of a “Yes” vote in the Scottish referendum. Those who were campaigning for “exuent left”, as it were, were quite unwittingly just dancing to the tune of the SNP, which in some areas meant a petty-minded nationalism which is made completely worse by there being no guarantee whatsoever as to how Scottish governance, trade unionism, business/economic investment, taxation, pensions, state services and the much lauded North Sea Oil would look even a year down the line. Nothing like this complex a case has been made by anybody claiming that exiting the EU would be business as usual.

    In a way, this kind of far-right politicking reminds me a great deal of many groups on the far-left that just claim that installing an “economic democracy” of incredibly vague parameters would probably mean socialism overnight, without really describing what kind of executive structure would be in place, without stating explicitly the street lights would stay on etc.

    The Brexit camp have made absolutely no convincing case for me, other than just some totally overblown nonsense about immigration and, not surprisingly, considering how UKIP have gobbled up the ex-BNP vote, Islam. Galloway is just providing running cover for this kind of politics. I’m quite surprised he’s putting his famous contrarianism above the betterment of his pet British demographic. Then again, George Galloway may just want a better voice for George Galloway in British politics, fancy that!

  6. Paulus: Galloway is just providing running cover for this kind of politics. I’m quite surprised he’s putting his famous contrarianism above the betterment of his pet British demographic.

    Interesting.

    Even if this is a serious or relevant argument, can you tell me whether most muslims in Britain have come here on the basis of free movement provided by our membership of the EU?

    I suspect that it’s unlikely, given that people from EU countries (most of which are overwhelmingly white, all predominantly if not equally overwhelmingly christian) have a virtually unfettered right to settle legally in this country while people from former British colonies and/ or from Middle Eastern countries (overwhelmingly non-white and substantially non-christian) wracked by imperialist-created/ influence wars do not.

    It’s hard to see how membership of the EU helps the immigration status of most victims of racism in this country.

    Is the argument that there are shared European values any less open to reactionary interpretation than the one that there are shared British values?

    But this whole debate doesn’t need to be about race. The extent to which it is will be determined by the extent to which those of us who have a progressive case for brexit allow themselves to be marginalised, silenced or both.

  7. Vanya: Even if this is a serious or relevant argument, can you tell me whether most muslims in Britain have come here on the basis of free movement provided by our membership of the EU?

    But this is not how the issue is perceived by the wider public, is it? For them the free movement of people is bound up with immigration in general, feeding a negative perception of the issue which has only been given more impetus by the refugee crisis.

  8. In general, to be non-white in Britain is to be perceived as being an immigrant by a greater and greater number of increasingly vocal people. I have great difficulty explaining the ridiculousness of this entire state of affairs to colleagues, and apparently there is a bit of a problem here that will unlikely be addressed entirely in 4 months.

    John has already put it another way: even movement between EU member states has been completely conflated with immigration of all other kinds from all sources and of all skill levels, and it has even been completely hijacked by idiots like Farage who seem to believe that the UK is barred from encouraging any kind of immigration from the Commonwealth or elsewhere in the world because of an apparent Clause of Martyrdom held within Britain’s EU membership, whereby the only migration allowed in and out of the UK is only permissible if the mealy mouthed bureaucrats in Brussels say so, much to the social detriment of the UK! Whatever problems are caused by immigration are hardly ever quantified with hard stats, just rumours and prejudices are used to back any of this tripe up. It is also this kind of nonsense and sheer mental disconnect about these supposed, practically non-existent caps on immigration that bigots like Farage like to point as as being bigoted itself while simultaneously talking endlessly about immigration caps!

    I think this general stewing malaise is made worse when Farage immediately brings up Muslims as soon as he is being asked about the EU or immigration, as if it’s a hard wired response he’s not quite gotten rid of when UKIP had just a handful of councillors and a few MEPs and he could practically get away with it.

  9. #6 & 7 If you have positive arguments for remaining in Europe grounded in reality fair enough.

    But to me, basing political line on peoples’ prejudices and misconceptions is wrong whether you are actually stoking the fires or trying to dig a trench around them and allowing them to keep burning.

    I mean, how do you engage in a discussion about immigration in the context of the EU debate without telling it as it is? Or do you simply refuse to discuss the issue on the grounds that anyone who wants to talk about it must be a racist and not worth talking to?

    Because if you base your arguments on the idea that staying in the EU will actually be beneficial to the overwhelming majority of non-white immigrants and those settled long term you will be sowing illusions on the one hand and reinforcing the idea that Labour/ the left is “for the immigrants and against the rest of us” on the other.

    Again, however difficult it may be, this debate should be taken out of the issue of race and immigration as much as possible. And again, the more that anti-racists who are also anti-EU are marginalised the less that will happen.

    During the oil refinery disputes back in 2009 I think most of us, rightly, did not ape some of the Guardianistas and their far-left shadows in condemning workers for defending their conditions because the slogan of British jobs for British workers had raised its ugly head.

  10. Karl Stewart on said:

    Paulus,
    John,
    There have been plenty of occasions when mavericks on the right have taken positions, for different reasons and from different perspectives, which have coincided with positions taken by the left.

    During the Iraq War, for example, plenty of Tory MPs also opposed the illegal invasion, as did the BNP for example – but we were still right to oppose the Iraq War ourselves from the progressive standpoint that we took.

    Similarly, there are those on the maverick and/or far-right who oppose the UK’s submissive relationship with the USA. But on the left, it’s still right to oppose that relationship from a left standpoint and for our own, different reasons.

    Would John and Paulus support continuing NATO membership for example? Perhaps on the grounds that this alliance could be reformed, or transformed into something progressive?

    I disagree with those on the left who support continuing EU membership on the grounds that it could be reformed or transformed into something progressive, but it would be stupid of me to hit them with lazy arguments about how they’re supporting Cameron, or Western European capitalism, or neo-liberalism.

    The left is divided on this issue and I think it’s incumbent on all of us on the left to seek to understand the left-wing arguments for ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ respectively and to counter those arguments.

    My view is that the EU is not reformable and that we should leave in order to better move forward a real internationalist and socialist agenda.

    But I do appreciate that those on the left arguing to remain are also doing so because they see this as the best route forward for socialism.

    And that should be the context within which we on the left debate this issue – not submitting to the arguments of the political right.

  11. “At a time when Labour under his leadership is garnering such huge support across the country, and with the Tories in complete disarray over the EU, for anyone on the left to oppose Corbyn over the EU now is tantamount to sectarianism of the worst kind.” — It’s hard to take an article seriously that says this. Firstly, he’s not garnering huge support. Secondly, people seem to think sectarianism means socialists going against the majority. Sectarianism means putting the interests of your section of the left above the interests – as you see it – of the class as a whole. On this basis, to support the EU even though you know it’s a neoliberal shithole in order to bolster Corbyn would be the very definition of sectarianism! If Corbyn was in favour of Out (as he hinted during the leadership campaign), would it therefore be ‘sectarian’ to argue for an In vote?

  12. Vanya,

    From the editorial: socialist measures themselves such as renationalising industries or intervening directly in the economy are illegal.

    This is factually inaccurate, as per Article 345 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which states: ‘The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.’

    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:12008E345

    All across the EU states have majority shares or own and run their own transport and energy sectors. This is confirmed in this 2013 Estep report, commissioned by the EU: http://www.esparama.lt/es_parama_pletra/failai/ESFproduktai/2_UM_valstybes-valdomos-imones_2013-03.pdf

    In particular the report states: ‘SOEs are entitled for public services provision, which can be broadly observed in utility sectors such as transport, telecommunications or energy.’

    While nationalisation may be restricted it is not banned or illegal. This is a myth. Moreover, even if it were, are we seriously suggesting that a Corbyn-led Labour government, elected on a clear democratic mandate and manifesto pledging public ownership of the nation’s railway system and ‘Big Six’ energy companies, would in any way be deterred by diktat from the EU?

    Britain is not Greece. We are one of six largest economies in the world with a population of 65 million and a major recipient of FDI.

  13. John: While nationalisation may be restricted it is not banned or illegal. This is a myth. Moreover, even if it were, are we seriously suggesting that a Corbyn-led Labour government, elected on a clear democratic mandate and manifesto pledging public ownership of the nation’s railway system and ‘Big Six’ energy companies, would in any way be deterred by diktat from the EU?

    Leaving aside the extent to which the effect of Article 345 actually works, particularly in terms of other legislation (such as the Railway Directive), how will this work?

    In the referendum Labour should campaign vociferously to persuade the electorate of the alleged benefits of remaining in the EU and tell them how awful it would be if we voted to leave, and then in the general election manifesto promote rail and energy re-nationalisation and respond to warnings that the EU will try and stop it by saying, “don’t worry, we’ll just tell them to **** off!”?

    If Labour does in its majority/ official stance stick with a stay in position in the referendum, and the result goes that way, that would of course be exactly what I would want them to say. But it would seem a great deal easier and impressive to be logical and consistent about it in the first place.

  14. George Hallam on said:

    John: rom the editorial: socialist measures themselves such as renationalising industries or intervening directly in the economy are illegal.

    This is factually inaccurate, as per Article 345 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which states: ‘The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.’

    Yes, you are right on this. How else could the Coalition government have nationalised RBS?

    However, the Morning Star was also correct to point out the essentially neoliberal nature of the EU.

  15. George Hallam on said:

    Another problem with the editorial is the way it dismisses what Cameron’s renegotiation did.

    As The dust settles on the Prime Minister’s much-vaunted “renegotiation” of the terms on which he hopes Britain will remain a member of the European Union, the media have quickly moved on to the soap opera of which leading Tories will end up on which side.
    Pundits can hardly be blamed for not focusing on the detail of the supposed concessions David Cameron has snatched from Brussels.

    The following comment by Garrick Alder is more informative:

    Dave saves the City

    The opening sentence in the report on the website cityam.com on David Cameron’s ‘deal’ with the EU was this: ‘The City of London will be safeguarded under a new deal agreed between European leaders, after European Commission president Donald Tusk said there is “unanimous support” for a new settlement over the UK’s position in the EU.’ 1

    Cameron was in an odd position: he had actually succeeded where it mattered to his financial backers – saving the City of London from EU regulation – but could not actually say so and had to pretend that the other minor concessions were the big items.

    The relevant paragraph in the formal deal is this one, I think:

    ‘The implementation of measures, including the supervision or resolution of financial institutions and markets, and macro-prudential responsibilities, to be taken in view of preserving the financial stability of Member States whose currency is not the euro is, subject to the requirements of group and consolidated supervision and resolution, a matter for their own authorities and own budgetary responsibility, unless such Member States wish to join common mechanisms open to their participation.’ 2

    Cameron’s pitch was essentially this: leave the City alone or the UK will leave. And it worked.

    1 http://www.cityam.com/234994/eu-referendum-prime-ministerdavid-cameron-says-he-will-do-everything-he-can-while-energysecretary-amber-rudd-says-a-reform-deal-is-out-of-reach

    2 Section A paragraph 4 of the long document at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/europeancouncil/2016/02/18-19/

    From http://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster71/lob71-holding-pattern.pdf

  16. John Wight’s asserts that Labour is ‘garnering huge support across the country’… I have to say this is the politics of fantasy and certainly does apply to Scotland where Labour are expected to lose every constituency seat to the SNP in May. Perhaps it’ time that socialist unity started covering politics in Scotland?

  17. #18 Surely the relevance of Scotland to the debate on Europe is not so much on how strong Labour is in relation to the SNP, as both parties are currently in support of remaining in the EU?

    In other words, the SNP supports independence from Westminster but not from Brussels (or from Washington for that matter).

  18. Vanya,

    For a NO voter I would have thought the relevance of Scotland would be how to keep it in the UK if you win? After the boundary changes Scotland’s 50 seats, if the left can find a strategy for winning them back, will be crucial to whether a left wing government, now able to nationalise what it wants when it wants, has a chance of winning power.

  19. John

    The Tories now have a bigger lead than before the election and he’s more unpopular with the public than Farage. The membership of the Labour Party does not evidence your claim that he’s ‘garnering huge support’. But carry on.

  20. #20 My own answer to that would be that I want Britain (including Scotland) out of the EU and I want Scotland to remain in Britain as part of a federation.

    And I would want people who agree with me in Scotland to persuade as many as possible to vote accordingly in the coming EU referendum and in any subsequent referendum on Scotland’s status either in respect of Britain, the EU or both.

    If Britain leaves the EU and that did precipitate Scotland breaking away that would be a bad thing in my opinion, not the least for the reasons you suggest.

    But that risk (and I have no idea of how serious it is but suspect it to be far less than some suggest) is not enough to persuade me that I should support remaining in the EU, any more than the idea that a perceived victory for Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson is worse than a perceived victory for David Cameron and Theresa May (and a very real one for the most powerful sections of British and US imperialism).

  21. Vanya,

    I think for me that is the problem, it really is a bit of a twilight zone what would happen in the UK if the No vote wins.

    Objectively speaking for the Left here in Europe getting rid of the most powerful neo liberal member would be a major step forward. It will be a real aid in the campaign against TIPP which the UK have been pushing remorselessly through the Council of Ministers and the Commission. France could finally end the Sangate nightmare. The campaign for a Social Europe would get a real boost by the removal of the UK veto.

    On the negative side we would see EU govt rushing to attract UK based companies by offering them tax incentives, subsidies et al, Frankfurt would have the pleasure of hosting those unpleasant thugs from the City, and the price of bake beans here in France would rise.

    Seriously though could Scotland vote for independence? At the very least there would be a constitutional crisis that the UK could do without as the country scrambles to sort out its relations with other EU countries, bribes companies to stay, sorts out the immigration status of EU residents in the UK, and UK immigrants like myself in Europe.

    As the Govt that will be doing all this will be a Conservative one what is the left strategy to protect migrants, retain jobs, protect workers?

  22. George Hallam on said:

    Howard Kirk: An article by Kate Hoey about nationalisation – reading it and some of the comments, it appears that nationalisation of certain industries is effectively prohibited but not of say, one company.

    http://www.leftfutures.org/2015/09/eu-membership-means-no-renationalisation/

    The relevant passage:

    Under Article 106, the EU prohibits public monopolies exercising exclusive rights where this violates EU competition rules. The EU’s Court of Justice has interpreted Article 106 as giving private companies the right to argue before the national courts that services should continue to be open to private-sector competition. Nationalised services are prima facie suspect and must be analysed by the judiciary for their “necessity”. Thus the EU has given companies a legal right to run to court to scupper programmes of public ownership.

    Competition law is central to the EU.

    Liberalism assumed that the only role for the state was to protect existing (private) property. No intervention was necessary.

    Neoliberalism is built on need for the state to intervene to construct the conditions for competition. This has entailed creating entirely new property rights.

    The article is by Danny Nicol is Professor of Public Law at the University of Westminster and author of’ The Constitutional Protection of Capitalism’.

  23. George Hallam on said:

    Noah,

    Thank you.

    Interesting stuff. I’m suprised that a left-winger could be so well informed. Clearly, I have been too sceptical about lefties.

    I wonder what happened to the un-named MP who said this.
    Is he in the ‘vote to leave’ campaign or in the ‘Grassroots’ one?

  24. P Spence on said:

    The Star sets out the socialist case for Out: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-d439-EU-membership-bars-socialism#.VtFCTUXfXCQ

    The EU is an imperialist cornerstone. It is not reformable. It is a ratchet; a one way street suppressing working class solidarity and enhancing corporate power. Those on the left who support the EU abstractly present a time unspecified in the future when all the states are miraculously led by committed socialists and thereby EU institutions will be transformed to serve the interests of the working class. It should be obvious that EU serves the interests of private property: free markets and cheap unprotected (except for the minimum to sustain the work force) workers. The case for Out is compelling and I speak as someone who too many years bought the social Europe argument: Greece and Ukraine have persuaded me otherwise.

  25. P Spence on said:

    Syriza told the Greeks that they could have their cake and eat it. That was a lie. Their credibility is shoot to pieces. The German politicians were more honest and Greece is now subject to a neoliberal revolution in which its young people are exposed to super exploitation either as migrant workers in Northern Europe or as a reserve army of labour at home. Our role surely should be to disabuse people of their illusions and pipe dreams; as Sartre might have said its about taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions; socialism is not the road of least resistance; it demands struggle and sacrifice; but in the face of the infantilising and anaesthesiting propoganda of late Capitalism, I admit that that is easier said than done.

  26. P Spence: The EU is an imperialist cornerstone. It is not reformable. It is a ratchet; a one way street suppressing working class solidarity and enhancing corporate power.

    This is about as succinct an analysis of the British state as I’ve read.

    The analysis of the EU put forth by the CPB is consistently reductive, mistaking the horse for the man riding the horse. The institutions of the EU are but a transmission belt, delivering policies which reflect the economic dominance and hegemony of neoliberalism. The hegemony will continue the day after Brexit, both in the UK and across Europe.

    The only political beneficiaries of Brexit across Europe will be the right not the left. Farage and co will be propelled into the heart of the establishment, along with Gove, Johnson and the right wing of the Tory Party, as Labour under Corbyn suffer a withering reverse, the price for being on the losing side of the argument.

  27. George Hallam on said:

    John,

    This is argument by metaphor. Well, two metaphors actually. The institutions of the EU are both a horse and a transmission belt.

    Perhaps it would be better if you said the EU was a bicycle?
    It would give new meaning to the Dutch question: “Who stole our bicycles?”

    Then you could replace the ‘transmission belt’ with a chain. At least that would keep it consistently mechanical.

    By the way has any one of you ever seen a transmission belt (outside of a museum)?

  28. P Spence on said:

    Let’s talk Ukraine: http://www.salon.com/2016/02/23/this_is_how_we_spooked_putin_what_the_new_york_times_wont_tell_you_about_the_american_adventure_in_ukraine/

    EU Foreign policy is subservient to the USA ( Nuland “fuck the EU”) and is applied so as to stop Germany and Russia cooperating as they should to sort out the Ukraine.

    The EU is coterminous with NATO and its expansionary imperialist goals: surely obvious after Ukraine. Russia, China and Iran represent the imperialist’s unconquered expanse and the EU is instrumental in the aggression directed eastward. Brexit would upset the global strategy and and create space for anti-imperialist initiatives.

    Brexit will be a disaster for our ruling class- witness the G20 this morning jumping to Cameron’s aid- and weaken The City of London. Don’t we need such disruption to open up the socialist alternative?

  29. P Spence: The EU is coterminous with NATO and its expansionary imperialist goals: surely obvious after Ukraine. Russia, China and Iran represent the imperialist’s unconquered expanse and the EU is instrumental in the aggression directed eastward. Brexit would upset the global strategy and and create space for anti-imperialist initiatives.

    Again, the idea both that with Brexit the EU wouldn’t continue to fill the role of cat’s paw for Washington, and that Britain wouldn’t continue to do the same, is delusional. In fact you can bet that even more emphasis would be placed on the Atlantic Alliance by the British political and military establishments, along with its membership of NATO.

    The way the case is being formulated by the anti EU left you’d think that Brexit would usher in a democratic and socialist paradise. This is Britain we’re discussing not Venezuela under Chavez. Moreover, the most left wing and progressive leader the Labour Party has had in generations supports remain. This is key to the issue.

  30. Karl Stewart on said:

    But the political right is not only present on the ‘leave’ side. There is a strong right-wing, pro-capitalist element on both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ sides of the EU debate.

    The argument that a ‘leave’ vote can only possibly benefit the right due to its presence on this side of the debate could equally be applied in the reverse – i.e. that a ‘remain’ vote can only benefit the right due to its preponderance on the ‘remain’ side of the debate.

    It’s an extremely weak argument either way. And taken to its logical conclusion, it risks becoming almost an argument for abstention and passivity – ‘the right is dominant, so don’t engage in mainstream politics’.

    There have been plenty of occasions when mavericks on the right have taken positions, for different reasons and from different perspectives, which have coincided with positions taken by the left.
    During the Iraq War, for example, plenty of Tory MPs also opposed the illegal invasion, as did the BNP for example – but we were still right to oppose the Iraq War ourselves from the progressive standpoint that we took.

    Similarly, there are those on the maverick and/or far-right who oppose the UK’s submissive relationship with the USA. But on the left, it’s still right to oppose that relationship from a left standpoint and for our own, different reasons.

    The left needs to debate whether voting ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ can advance our own, socialist objectives, not surrender the political initiative entirely to the currently dominant political right on either side.

    As far as I can make out, the ‘left-remain’ case is based on the supposition that the EU – a capitalist, neo-liberal, privatising alliance – can be reformed into a vehicle for left-wing, progressive advance.

    But doesn’t the recent experience of the Greeks suggest that this isn’t possible?

    And would left-remainers also argue for staying in NATO and seeking to transform it into a vehicle for socialism?

    The question for left-remainers is: How does membership of the EU aid the international solidarity of working people?

    I’d say that our leaving the EU will not prevent UK workers supporting striking workers in France, Italy or Germany, just as we have done and will continue to give solidarity to workers in the non-EU USA, Canada, South Korea, or Brazil.

    I don’t see how we possibly need the EU for any of this?

  31. Karl Stewart on said:

    Karl Stewart:
    But the political right is not only present on the ‘leave’ side. There is a strong right-wing, pro-capitalist element on both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ sides of the EU debate.

    The argument that a ‘leave’ vote can only possibly benefit the right due to its presence on this side of the debate could equally be applied in the reverse – i.e. that a ‘remain’ vote can only benefit the right due to its preponderance on the ‘remain’ side of the debate.

    It’s an extremely weak argument either way. And taken to its logical conclusion, it risks becoming almost an argument for abstention and passivity – ‘the right is dominant, so don’t engage in mainstream politics’.

    There have been plenty of occasions when mavericks on the right have taken positions, for different reasons and from different perspectives, which have coincided with positions taken by the left.
    During the Iraq War, for example, plenty of Tory MPs also opposed the illegal invasion, as did the BNP for example – but we were still right to oppose the Iraq War ourselves from the progressive standpoint that we took.

    Similarly, there are those on the maverick and/or far-right who oppose the UK’s submissive relationship with the USA. But on the left, it’s still right to oppose that relationship from a left standpoint and for our own, different reasons.

    The left needs to debate whether voting ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ can advance our own, socialist objectives, not surrender the political initiative entirely to the currently dominant political right on either side.

    As far as I can make out, the ‘left-remain’ case is based on the supposition that the EU – a capitalist, neo-liberal, privatising alliance – can be reformed into a vehicle for left-wing, progressive advance.

    But doesn’t the recent experience of the Greeks suggest that this isn’t possible?

    And would left-remainers also argue for staying in NATO and seeking to transform it into a vehicle for socialism?

    The question for left-remainers is: How does membership of the EU aid the international solidarity of working people?

    I’d say that our leaving the EU will not prevent UK workers supporting striking workers in France, Italy or Germany, just as we have done and will continue to give solidarity to workers in the non-EU USA, Canada, South Korea, or Brazil.

    I don’t see how we possibly need the EU for any of this?

  32. Andy Newman on said:

    George Hallam,

    Yes i have seen transmission belts, when i worked for Rank Hovis Enginnering division, i was doing some work on instruments at a flour mill in Hull where the machinery was connected to electric turbines by transmission belts. That was 30 years back mind.

  33. Karl Stewart on said:

    Karl Stewart:
    But the political right is not only present on the ‘leave’ side. There is a strong right-wing, pro-capitalist element on both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ sides of the EU debate.

    The argument that a ‘leave’ vote can only possibly benefit the right due to its presence on this side of the debate could equally be applied in the reverse – i.e. that a ‘remain’ vote can only benefit the right due to its preponderance on the ‘remain’ side of the debate.

    It’s an extremely weak argument either way. And taken to its logical conclusion, it risks becoming almost an argument for abstention and passivity – ‘the right is dominant, so don’t engage in mainstream politics’.

    There have been plenty of occasions when mavericks on the right have taken positions, for different reasons and from different perspectives, which have coincided with positions taken by the left.
    During the Iraq War, for example, plenty of Tory MPs also opposed the illegal invasion, as did the BNP for example – but we were still right to oppose the Iraq War ourselves from the progressive standpoint that we took.

    Similarly, there are those on the maverick and/or far-right who oppose the UK’s submissive relationship with the USA. But on the left, it’s still right to oppose that relationship from a left standpoint and for our own, different reasons.

    The left needs to debate whether voting ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ can advance our own, socialist objectives, not surrender the political initiative entirely to the currently dominant political right on either side.

    As far as I can make out, the ‘left-remain’ case is based on the supposition that the EU – a capitalist, neo-liberal, privatising alliance – can be reformed into a vehicle for left-wing, progressive advance.

    But doesn’t the recent experience of the Greeks suggest that this isn’t possible?

    And would left-remainers also argue for staying in NATO and seeking to transform it into a vehicle for socialism?

    The question for left-remainers is: How does membership of the EU aid the international solidarity of working people?

    I’d say that our leaving the EU will not prevent UK workers supporting striking workers in France, Italy or Germany, just as we have done and will continue to give solidarity to workers in the non-EU USA, Canada, South Korea, or Brazil.

    I don’t see how we possibly need the EU for any of this?

  34. George Hallam: This is argument by metaphor. Well, two metaphors actually. The institutions of the EU are both a horse and a transmission belt.

    And this is still February. Imagine what June’s going to look like. Oscar Wilde on steroids. To wit: “The mind of a thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.”

  35. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman,

    Just checking. British industry has always been under-capitalised

    Vanya,

    Not the classic Model 150 vacuum-cleaner with the bakelite hood?

    I hate to pedantic but I think that the part was referred to as a ‘belt drive’ but it’s the same thing.

    My mother-in-law had a Hoover Junior 119. I never liked it; the belt kept slipping off.

  36. George Hallam on said:

    John: “The mind of a thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-a-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.”

    Great quote.

    Now lets’s get back to the argument.

    Personally I don’t think that Brexit would usher in a democratic and socialist paradise. But then I’m not a leftie so perhaps I don’t count.

    As to what a Brexit would do economically I’m sure that the City would suffer.

  37. George Hallam on said:

    Noah: I have no doubt that Jeremy gave full weight to the need for the Party to arrive at a clear and decisive position.

    Neat turn of phrase.

    Would that be Jeremy Clarkson or Jeremy Hunt?

  38. Karl Stewart on said:

    It’s an extremely weak argument either way. And taken to its logical conclusion, it risks becoming almost an argument for abstention and passivity – ‘the right is dominant, so don’t engage in mainstream politics’.

    There have been plenty of occasions when mavericks on the right have taken positions, for different reasons and from different perspectives, which have coincided with positions taken by the left.
    During the Iraq War, for example, plenty of Tory MPs also opposed the illegal invasion, as did the BNP for example – but we were still right to oppose the Iraq War ourselves from the progressive standpoint that we took.

    Similarly, there are those on the maverick and/or far-right who oppose the UK’s submissive relationship with the USA. But on the left, it’s still right to oppose that relationship from a left standpoint and for our own, different reasons.

    The left needs to debate whether voting ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ can advance our own, socialist objectives, not surrender the political initiative entirely to the currently dominant political right on either side.

    As far as I can make out, the ‘left-remain’ case is based on the supposition that the EU – a capitalist, neo-liberal, privatising alliance – can be reformed into a vehicle for left-wing, progressive advance.

    But doesn’t the recent experience of the Greeks suggest that this isn’t possible?

    And would left-remainers also argue for staying in NATO and seeking to transform it into a vehicle for socialism?

    The question for left-remainers is: How does membership of the EU aid the international solidarity of working people?

    I’d say that our leaving the EU will not prevent UK workers supporting striking workers in France, Italy or Germany, just as we have done and will continue to give solidarity to workers in the non-EU USA, Canada, South Korea, or Brazil.

    I don’t see how we possibly need the EU for any of this?

    Quote text Reply

    Karl Stewart on 27 February, 2016 at 5:56 pm said:
    But the political right is not only present on the ‘leave’ side. There is a strong right-wing, pro-capitalist element on both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ sides of the EU debate.

    The argument that a ‘leave’ vote can only possibly benefit the right due to its presence on this side of the debate could equally be applied in the reverse – i.e. that a ‘remain’ vote can only benefit the right due to its preponderance on the ‘remain’ side of the debate.

    It’s an extremely weak argument either way. And taken to its logical conclusion, it risks becoming almost an argument for abstention and passivity – ‘the right is dominant, so don’t engage in mainstream politics’.

    There have been plenty of occasions when mavericks on the right have taken positions, for different reasons and from different perspectives, which have coincided with positions taken by the left.
    During the Iraq War, for example, plenty of Tory MPs also opposed the illegal invasion, as did the BNP for example – but we were still right to oppose the Iraq War ourselves from the progressive standpoint that we took.

    Similarly, there are those on the maverick and/or far-right who oppose the UK’s submissive relationship with the USA. But on the left, it’s still right to oppose that relationship from a left standpoint and for our own, different reasons.

    The left needs to debate whether voting ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ can advance our own, socialist objectives, not surrender the political initiative entirely to the currently dominant political right on either side.

    As far as I can make out, the ‘left-remain’ case is based on the supposition that the EU – a capitalist, neo-liberal, privatising alliance – can be reformed into a vehicle for left-wing, progressive advance.

    But doesn’t the recent experience of the Greeks suggest that this isn’t possible?

    And would left-remainers also argue for staying in NATO and seeking to transform it into a vehicle for socialism?

    The question for left-remainers is: How does membership of the EU aid the international solidarity of working people?

    I’d say that our leaving the EU will not prevent UK workers supporting striking workers in France, Italy or Germany, just as we have done and will continue to give solidarity to workers in the non-EU USA, Canada, South Korea, or Brazil.

    I don’t see how we possibly need the EU for any of this.

  39. Karl Stewart on said:

    Karl Stewart:
    It’s an extremely weak argument either way. And taken to its logical conclusion, it risks becoming almost an argument for abstention and passivity – ‘the right is dominant, so don’t engage in mainstream politics’.

    There have been plenty of occasions when mavericks on the right have taken positions, for different reasons and from different perspectives, which have coincided with positions taken by the left.
    During the Iraq War, for example, plenty of Tory MPs also opposed the illegal invasion, as did the BNP for example – but we were still right to oppose the Iraq War ourselves from the progressive standpoint that we took.

    Similarly, there are those on the maverick and/or far-right who oppose the UK’s submissive relationship with the USA. But on the left, it’s still right to oppose that relationship from a left standpoint and for our own, different reasons.

    The left needs to debate whether voting ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ can advance our own, socialist objectives, not surrender the political initiative entirely to the currently dominant political right on either side.

    As far as I can make out, the ‘left-remain’ case is based on the supposition that the EU – a capitalist, neo-liberal, privatising alliance – can be reformed into a vehicle for left-wing, progressive advance.

    But doesn’t the recent experience of the Greeks suggest that this isn’t possible?

    And would left-remainers also argue for staying in NATO and seeking to transform it into a vehicle for socialism?

    The question for left-remainers is: How does membership of the EU aid the international solidarity of working people?

    I’d say that our leaving the EU will not prevent UK workers supporting striking workers in France, Italy or Germany, just as we have done and will continue to give solidarity to workers in the non-EU USA, Canada, South Korea, or Brazil.

    I don’t see how we possibly need the EU for any of this?

    But the political right is not only present on the ‘leave’ side. There is a strong right-wing, pro-capitalist element on both the ‘leave’ and ‘remain’ sides of the EU debate.

    The argument that a ‘leave’ vote can only possibly benefit the right due to its presence on this side of the debate could equally be applied in the reverse – i.e. that a ‘remain’ vote can only benefit the right due to its preponderance on the ‘remain’ side of the debate.

    It’s an extremely weak argument either way. And taken to its logical conclusion, it risks becoming almost an argument for abstention and passivity – ‘the right is dominant, so don’t engage in mainstream politics’.

    There have been plenty of occasions when mavericks on the right have taken positions, for different reasons and from different perspectives, which have coincided with positions taken by the left.

    During the Iraq War, for example, plenty of Tory MPs also opposed the illegal invasion, as did the BNP for example – but we were still right to oppose the Iraq War ourselves from the progressive standpoint that we took.

    Similarly, there are those on the maverick and/or far-right who oppose the UK’s submissive relationship with the USA. But on the left, it’s still right to oppose that relationship from a left standpoint and for our own, different reasons.

    The left needs to debate whether voting ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ can advance our own, socialist objectives, not surrender the political initiative entirely to the currently dominant political right on either side.

    As far as I can make out, the ‘left-remain’ case is based on the supposition that the EU – a capitalist, neo-liberal, privatising alliance – can be reformed into a vehicle for left-wing, progressive advance.

    But doesn’t the recent experience of the Greeks suggest that this isn’t possible?

    And would left-remainers also argue for staying in NATO and seeking to transform it into a vehicle for socialism?

    The question for left-remainers is: How does membership of the EU aid the international solidarity of working people?

    I’d say that our leaving the EU will not prevent UK workers supporting striking workers in France, Italy or Germany, just as we have done and will continue to give solidarity to workers in the non-EU USA, Canada, South Korea, or Brazil.

    I don’t see how we possibly need the EU for any of this.

  40. George Hallam: Personally I don’t think that Brexit would usher in a democratic and socialist paradise. But then I’m not a leftie so perhaps I don’t count.

    Sorry George, but not holding that belief doesn’t stop you being a “leftie”, so you do count. In fact it doesn’t really indicate very much, given that I suspect that none of those people on the left who support brexit believe it either.

    In fact (note to John) can this discussion proceed on that basis unless some evidence can be provided that anyone on the left does?

    George Hallam: I hate to pedantic but I think that the part was referred to as a ‘belt drive’ but it’s the same thing.

    Your hatred of pedantry is legendary George, as you demonstrate here.

    I love, “…but it’s the same thing.”

    Btw, I don’t know which model it was. I do recall that it was one of those stand-up ones and not the horizontal one that you had to drag around. Does that help?

    I’ll do some google research when I’m a little less busy.

  41. Karl Stewart on said:

    Do the left-remainers think our remaining within the EU will usher in a socialist paradise?

  42. Karl Stewart on said:

    Does it trouble our left-remainers that they’re on the same side here as David Cameron?

    Does it trouble our left-remainers that they’re on the same side here as the overwhelming majority of UK big business?

    Does it trouble our left-remainers that they’re on the same side as G20?

    Does it trouble our left-remainers that they’re on the same side as the left-neocon AWL?

  43. anon: Those who haven’t seen it may find this interesting, though curiously it is entirely silent on the transmission belt issue.

    ‘The EU referendum: The case for a socialist Yes vote
    Issue: 148

    Posted on 5th October 2015
    John Palmer’

    http://isj.org.uk/the-eu-referendum-the-case-for-yes/

    Embroidery aside, a vote for Brexit on June 23rd is a vote for racism, anti immigration, and the vile reactionary British nationalist politics of the far right.

  44. #43 Not read it yet. John Palmer was a rrelatively early exponent of a pro eu position from the left.

    I will say that the option of a socialist left vote will probably not be on the ballot paper. And nor will a socialist no vote.

  45. Karl Stewart on said:

    John,
    And are you just going to put your hands over your ears and keep repeating that until June 23rd John?

  46. George Hallam: As to what a Brexit would do economically I’m sure that the City would suffer.

    Bits of it would, those for example selling financial services into the EU. Bits of it would positively celebrate, particularly the dodgy ends of investment management who have long hated the transparency demanded by the EU.

  47. John: Embroidery aside, a vote for Brexit on June 23rd is a vote for racism, anti immigration, and the vile reactionary British nationalist politics of the far right.

    Or to put it another way, a vote for staying in the European Union on 23 June is a vote for selective migration and the racist immigration policies of Fortress Europe and the vile, reactionary politics of the bankers, bosses and bureaucrats who run the financial institutions, transnational monopolies and supra-state bodies of state monopoly capitalism.

    For a sane, rational and fact-based analysis of Britain and the EU read John Foster’s latest pamphlet

    https://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/britain-and-the-eu-what-next/

  48. Karl Stewart on said:

    Nick Wright,

    Well said Nick.

    The only argument being used by Princess Wight is to try to smear Exit-Left by association with the reactionaries on the leave side – but exactly the same argument can be put to the left-remainers.

  49. George Hallam on said:

    Pete Shield: Bits of it would, those for example selling financial services into the EU. Bits of it would positively celebrate, particularly the dodgy ends of investment management who have long hated the transparency demanded by the EU.

    Think it through.

    If enthusiasm for staying in was restricted to those selling financial services into the EU then support would be limited.

    The City acts as a conduit for World finance. Being inside the EU is a massive advantage. Hence the general support for Britain’s continued membership.

    As for the transparency demanded by the EU a) it hasn’t been much of a burden and b) Cameron has secured protection (read my post).

    If Britain does vote to leave There will be woe in City halls, and wails in Bank stalls;
    The dealer smites his bosom, the Forex trader rends his cope.
    And she of the seven hills shall mourn her children’s ills,
    And tremble when she thinks on the edge of England’s sword.

    But let’s not get carried away, you get the general idea.

  50. Nick Wright: Or to put it another way, a vote for staying in the European Union on 23 June is a vote for selective migration and the racist immigration policies of Fortress Europe

    Well, see, this is the problem when you imbibe the anti EU narrative of UKIP. Most migrants into the UK are from non EU countries. EU migration accounts for only 3.6% of the UK population, and more British nationals have taken advantage of the free movement of people than the citizens or nationals of any other EU member state.

    http://www.richardcorbett.org.uk/britons-lose-out-because-of-eu-migration/

  51. John: Well, see, this is the problem when you imbibe the anti EU narrative of UKIP.

    Whatever you think of the anti-EU stance taken by Nick Wright and other people on the left, it is a position based on internationalism and has nothing to do with the UKIP narrative.

    John: Most migrants into the UK are from non EU countries.

    This is the case by a small margin if British nationals migrating to the UK are excluded, and all other categories of inward migration are included (eg, student, family member, asylum seeking).

    However, the paper cited in the Richard Corbett link shows that of people coming to the UK for (long term) work, a big majority are from the EU / EAA. The IPS figures for 2014 are 278,000 people overall moving to the UK for a job or to find work, of whom only 68,000 are from outside Europe.

  52. John,
    The points you make about migration into the UK are not contested and nothing I said echoes UKIP’s take on this issue.
    The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants refers to the appalling human cost of the ‘Fortress Europe” immigration policy thus I am happy to be in their company .

    My principal purpose was to argue that, in a situation in which both left and right (ruling class and working class) opinion is divided no purpose is served by inferring decisive conclusions from the particular character of the various protagonists. instead we have to argue from facts.

  53. Of course the other very significant distinction between the vast majority of those immigrants who are citizens of EU countries and most of those from outside is the legal basis for their entry and residence here.

    The hoops that non EU migrants, asylum seekers etc have to jump through don’t apply.

  54. For anyone interested, I have written a more in-depth piece against Brexit, which can be found here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/john-wight/left-wing-brexit_b_9333604.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-politics&ir=UK+Politics

    Of more interest is the revelation of Corbyn’s moves to form a new left alliance with other pro Europe socialist and progressive parties to fight for an alternative to the neoliberal status quo https://www.rt.com/uk/333880-corbyn-european-left-alliance/.

    This is a welcome development, one everybody on the left must support, especially as it undercuts the de facto alliance between UKIP and the Brexit/Lexit reactionary crew.

  55. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    For anyone who is interested here is the Socialist Party’s contribution to the EU debate:
    “EU referendum: Vote OUT the Tories: It is wrong and a serious mistake for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour to be supporting an ‘in’ vote that could inadvertently lead to an escape for this Tory government on the ropes. They should reverse course and help to bring down Cameron and Co so a general election can be called.”…….” While calling for an ‘out’ vote, the Socialist Party recognises that for the working class and middle class, Britain being inside or outside the EU is no solution either way. Neither are these choices a solution for any population across Europe.”

    http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/22262/23-02-2016/eu-referendum-vote-out-the-tories

  56. Mick Costello on said:

    Vanya,
    A lot of good sense that does not fall into the camps either of the anti-foreigner xenophobes or the ‘progressive’ united imperialist states of Europe fantasies.

  57. John: EU migration accounts for only 3.6% of the UK population

    But there is no doubt that in certain sectors, migration from the accession countries in particular have pushed down wages, and the practice of some employers of only recruiting through employment agencies that recruit in centrak and Eastern Europe and do not even advertise the vacancies in the Uk has led not only to pushing wages down, but also exploitation.

  58. Karl Stewart: The only argument being used by Princess Wight is to try to smear Exit-Left by association with the reactionaries on the leave side – but exactly the same argument can be put to the left-remainers.

    well, yes and no.

    It is certainly true that there are enthusiasts for both remaining and leaving across the political spectrum, and therefore endless scope for the “guilt by association” game.

    However … … the debate will actually be won or lost not by the ideologues and enthusiasts on either side, but by the currently undecided or those – like me – who take an instrumental view based upon an evaluation of profit and loss.

    The EU does offer a number of legal protections for workers, and it is also true that the EU is probably less likely to sign free trade agreements detrimental to workers rights and the public sector than a Conservative UK government would, if left to their own devices. So that degree the EU remains a constraint on unfettered neo-liberalism.

    However, on balance the aspects of the social Europe have diminished in recent years, compared to the pressure from business, that has led to the more unfortunate interpretation of the posted workers directive, the Swedish Derogation, and the well understood phenomenon that has the rather unfortunate description of “social dumping”. A free market that leads to a race to the bottom in terms of pay and employment rights is of no benefit to working people.

    It is also true that Brexit almost certainly would have an unfortunate economic impact on real jobs across the UK.

    Some UK unions did have a serious impact on the scope of Cameron’s negotiations by making it clear that they would not necessarily campaign to remain if employment rights were sacrificed, and although the danger is not completely passed (due to some wiggle room for Cameron over deregulation) this defensive battle is largely won at this stage.

    Given that the EU would not cease to impact on UK employment law even if the Uk were to leave, the question therefore is whether UK workers’ rights would be better improved by fighting to reform those laws from within or without. Currently, UK unions broadly do benefit from the relationships they have through the European parliament and institutions of the EU.

    On balance, in the currently existing economic and political context, there is more to be said for staying than for leaving.

    Does this mean that there is no future danger of the EU seeking to constrain a left leaning UK government? Well, the dificult bit there is not the EU, but getting that left leaning UK government in the first place, if this scenario occurs we could cross that bridge when we come to it. Frankly, leaving the EU with UKIP’s wind in the Brexit sails woudl make the future left UK governmenr less likely to happen, IMO.

  59. Andy Newman: But there is no doubt that in certain sectors, migration from the accession countries in particular have pushed down wages, and the practice of some employers of only recruiting through employment agencies that recruit in centrak and Eastern Europe and do not even advertise the vacancies in the Uk has led not only to pushing wages down, but also exploitation.

    This is certainly something that cannot be allowed to continue, but is this a case for Brexit or reform?

    In fact, I’m certain that this is an issue that will be near the top of Jeremy Corbyn’s inbox when he enters Downing Street in 2020, on the back of a campaign in which you will have played a full and productive role, Andy. 🙂

    The prospect of pulling out of the biggest single market in the world, made up of 500 million consumers, which accounts for over half of all British global exports, is not one anyone who is serious could possible countenance.

  60. John,

    Absolutely, I will be voting and campaigning to remain in the EU. However, our credibility is tied up with the arguments we make matching the real world experience of voters, for whom the EU is not an entirely positive experience.

    You are right that staying in and seeking reform izs better than leaving

  61. Left wing supporters of Britain remaining in the EU base their case on the prospects for transforming the organisation.

    Given that two people, John Wight and Andy Newman, both of whom make well researched and well constructed rational arguments in the service of all kinds of progressive causes and with whom, on most substantial issues I am in complete agreement, are among the more principled advocates of this approach I am keen to hear how they think it will be possible to give effect to this strategy.

    Setting aside the question of how the barriers to the kind of alternative economic strategy that a Corbyn-led government might adopt if Britain was to remain in the EU might be circumvented I am interested in the broader strategy for effecting change within the institutions of the EU.

    I would like to know how a co-ordinated move across the states that make up the EU to give effect to this reform programme could deal with the absence of an institutional basis for subverting the prerogatives of the Council of Ministers, how a continent-wide democratic mandate might be won and what institutional basis and organs of power might be available to give effect to such a mandate.

    Equally, I would like to know what mechanisms are available for revising the Lisbon Treaty.

    I would like to know how the mutual defence provisions of the treaty and the intertwining of NATO’s structures with those of the EU might be negated and what practical measures could be taken to deal with the relative autonomy the military, intelligence, police, and other coercive instruments of the individual states, and of the EU and NATO – including the US military – exercise.

  62. Nick Wright: Left wing supporters of Britain remaining in the EU base their case on the prospects for transforming the organisation.

    Nick, I appreciate your reasoned comment, which raises pertinet questions vis-a-vis the feasibility of reforming the EU. However this is not my primary motivation in opposing Brexit. For me it is primarily about the danger presented by the dominance of the far right over the issue, and how it and they have shaped the narrative when it comes to exiting the EU, successfully conflating the free movement of people with asylum seekers, the Muslim community, and non EU immigration in the process. Throw into this toxic brew austerity and the refugee crisis and, as I have written elsewhere, the right has never had it so good in terms of its stars lining up.

    If Brexit comes to pass imagine the headlines across the right wing press praising Farage as the man who fought for Britain’s ‘liberation’ from Brussels over many years through thick and thin, shamefully slandered and smeared throughout. He’ll be depicted as a hero, a true patriot, the man of the hour, etc., etc. It will be the post-Falklands War right wing carnival of jingoism all over again, running with it the risk of the demonisation of migrants and migrant communities achieving mainstream legitimacy.

    The negative impact on class consciousness will be grievous, I believe, just as it was after the Falklands.

    There there’s the position of Corbyn on the issue and the need to support him at a time when the Tories are in utter disarray and growing more fractious by the day, it seems. It was Napoleon who said, “Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake.”

    Surely their disarray is our opportunity.

  63. Karl Stewart on said:

    Andy Newman,
    Firstly, I’m a bit embarrassed to read back my ‘Princess’ dig at John – pretty daft comment by me on reflection.

    Anyway, I really don’t see that EU membership has in any way been beneficial to the UK trade union movement. Before EU entry, the UK TUs were at their strongest ever historically, by some distance the most powerful in Europe if not the world.

    The miners and dockers won crushing national victories and in industry, lay-member-led joint shop stewards commities were extremely strong.

    And as John Haylett explained in his recent Morning Star article, paid holidays, and equal pay for equal work that some praise the EU for had already been fought for collectively and won by trade unions here.

    EU membership has weakened the UK trade union movement. Compare its relative strengths today to 1972 (the year before we joined).

    The fight to reform the EU from within has been fought by the peoples of southern Europe over the past couple of years. By the Spanish, Italians, Portuguese and Greeks. They’ve fought hard and they’ve been picked off one by one and defeated – in the case of the Greeks, smashed and humiliated.

    We need to exit-left and we need to urge others to exit-left with us.

    I find the ‘left-remain’ argument quite a passive one, almost presenting this as a choice between lesser evils. But we need to take this opportunity to voice our own agenda and our own vision of the future – not meekly allow the right wing to dominate both sides of the debate.

  64. anon on said:

    So it looks like staying in is the lesser of the two evils on offer.

    Not unlike the Scottish referendum then.

    ‘Vote to remain with no illusions’.

  65. George Hallam on said:

    John: Nick, I appreciate your reasoned comment, which raises pertinet questions vis-a-vis the feasibility of reforming the EU. However this is not my primary motivation in opposing Brexit. For me it is primarily about the danger presented by the dominance of the far right over the issue, and how it and they have shaped the narrative when it comes to exiting the EU, successfully conflating the free movement of people with asylum seekers, the Muslim community, and non EU immigration in the process. Throw into this toxic brew austerity and the refugee crisis and, as I have written elsewhere, the right has never had it so good in terms of its stars lining up.

    It might be helpful if we made a distinction between the campaign and the result.

    There is some truth in what you say about the campaign being dominated by the issue of immigration. However, you don’t spend much time on the analysing what would be the outcome of leaving the EU beyond the moment of triumph NF would enjoy.

    I’m more concerned about the morrow.

  66. George Hallam on said:

    Stein’s Law states that “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop”.

    Currently there are a number of trends in the British economy to which this law applies. For example, the property boom in the South East, low investment in productive industry and a chronic balance of payments deficit. In addition, these unsuitable trends are intertwined and tangled together with other problems – unemployment, insecurity, overcrowding, poverty, social disintegration, etc. – into a gigantic economic knot. While these trends continue the problems will just get worse.

    It should be obvious that whatever happens on 23rd June the knot will still be there. This could be used as an argument for dismissing the issue of the referendum altogether.

    However, this is not my view for the following reason: I think that the root cause for the persistence of the unsuitable trends in the British economy is the dominance of the City of London.

    Leaving the EU would:

    a) weaken the City and bring to a head our balance of payments deficit.

    b) allow a whole range of solutions that are currently illegal under EU laws to be discussed.

  67. John,

    You argue that a victory for the Brexit option in the referendum would have a grievous negative impact on class consciousness. You argue that “the right has never had it so good in terms of its stars lining up.”

    This raises the question of what class consciousness consists of and how is ‘the right’ constituted.

    The ways in which the bourgeois media and the political establishment have shaped the debate on Brexit illustrates the complex ways in which the ruling ideas of any society are always the ideas of the ruling class.

    One one hand we have the dominant sections of capital, the big banks, the transnational monopolies, the state and supra state bureaucrats with their chosen political instrument, the Tory Party (and their witting and unwitting echoes in the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid, Green and Labour parties) lining up with the dominant trends in the ruling classes of North America andEurope..

    On the other hand we have sections of domestic mainly manufacturing capital, some speculative financial entities, sections of the monopoly media and substantial sections of the commercial petit bourgeoisie in opposition to the main direction taken by big capital.

    Not surprisingly this division in the bourgeoisie makes for a carnival of reactionary ideas in which progressive alternatives find very few opportunities to be heard.

    In the first referendum on whether or not Britain should end its membership of the then Common Market (into which the country was taken without a vote) the trade unions and the Labour Party – both much more weighty in politics than they are today – were officially opposed, although the most pro-USA, pro NATO right wing elements were very much in favour of continued membership.

    Defence of national sovereignty fused with a greater level of class consciousness was not sufficient to counter the advantage that the ruling ideas had.

    Today it is a changed situation; working class and progressive opinion is divided as is bourgeois opinion and whilst the Labour movement is more confused than previously. The divisions among our rulers are even deeper than they were and reflect the problems that have arisen since the banking crisis and since state monopoly capitalism began to show even more advanced signs of morbidity.

    To argue, from the left, that Brexit would represent a victory for the right is nonsense unless it is thought that the dominant sections of capital are somehow less right wing (or more left wing), more progressive (less reactionary) that the subordinate sections.

    By the same token, to argue that Brexit, a defeat for the dominant sections of capital, would have a negative impact of (working) class consciousness fails to take into account the actual existing fracturing of class and political consciousness among working people.

    This is important for the success of the Corbyn electoral project.

    If Cameron wins on the terms just agreed with the EU the subordination of our economy to neo-liberalism, finance capital, privatisation, deregulation and the EU NATO military and foreign policy integration will be entrenched.

    It is hard to see how this would be anything other than a grievous blow to the prospects of shaping of an understanding among working people that an alternative economic strategy of the kind outlined by a Corbyn-led progressive government could succeed.

    At a purely electoral level the Cameron tendency would be more or less hegemonic on the right. The Labour right, especially in the PLP, would have enhanced credibility and Jeremy Corbyn, with his long standing opposition to the EU compromised by his quiescence on this issue, would be diminished.

    The ability of Labour, as demonstrated by a string of recent local authority elections, to rally working class support and draw some abstainers and UKIP voters back would be compromised.

    This is why the working class movement, as a whole, needs to develop an independent politics.

  68. jack ford on said:

    Johnson, Duncan Smith, Gove, Howard and Farage all support retaining the single market. while rejecting the free movement of people from other EU states and an end to UK subsidies/fees going to Brussels. But as is shown by the examples of Switzerland, Norway and Iceland this is a flagrant case of wanting to both eat and have their Europhobic cake. To gain full access to the single market both Norway and Iceland are both members of the European Economic Area (EEA) which means they have to both pay fees to Brussels and accept the free movement of EU citizens. (So for example while the UK pays about £100 per head of population every year to the EU Norway pays about £81.)

    Meanwhile Switzerland has instead opted to join the European Free Trade Association which gives them a more limited participation with the single market. (For example their access to services are far more restricted than those of Norway and the UK. It should be noted that all the right-wing politicians of the out campaign mentioned above are strong supporters of the UK retaining full access to the service markets which of course includes finance e.g. the City of London.)

    Furthermore, Switzerland voted in a referendum in February 2014 introduce quotas for migrants including those from the EU. They have been warned by the EU though that since this would violate the 1972 agreement between themselves which gave Switzerland access to the single market the latter would be revoked. Which is exactly the choice the UK would face if we left the EU: we would be starkly told that if we want to stay in the single market (which the free market/neoliberal ‘out’ campaigners all are committed to) we would have to also continue to allow the free movement of EU citizens within our borders like Switzerland (and via the EEA Norway and Iceland).

    So when will Johnson, Duncan Smith, Gove, Howard and Farage acknowledge that this dilemma (from their perspective) is unavoidable? Or are they too slippery, untrustworthy and evasive to do so? They have rhetorically called for an open and honest debate. So why aren’t they leading by example?

  69. George Hallam on said:

    John: The prospect of pulling out of the biggest single market in the world, made up of 500 million consumers, which accounts for over half of all British global exports, is not one anyone who is serious could possible countenance.

    The market may have 500 million consumers, unfortunately they aren’t buying enough goods made in Britain to pay for the EU goods bought by Britain. This is unsustainable.

    * EU Exports for December 2015 are £10.4 billion. This is a decrease of £1.0 billion (8.8 per cent) compared with last month, and a fall of £0.9 billion (7.7 per cent) compared with December 2014.

    * EU Imports for December 2015 are £17.0 billion. This is a decrease of £2.3 billion (12 per cent) compared with last month, and a fall of £1.1 billion (6.3 per cent) compared with December 2014.

    * In EU trade the UK is a net importer this month, with imports exceeding exports by £6.6 billion.

    * The proportion of total exports to the EU is 38 per cent in December 2015. Over the past 18 months, this has ranged from 38 per cent to 49 per cent. The proportion of total imports from the EU is 55 per cent in December 2015. Over the same period, this has ranged between 49 per cent and 55 per cent.

    https://www.uktradeinfo.com/Statistics/OverseasTradeStatistics

  70. George Hallam on said:

    jack ford,

    Excellent point.

    I don’t know whether you support “stay” or “leave”, but in this context it doesn’t matter. Your post exposes the inconsistencies of the mainstream politicians.

  71. John on said:

    George Hallam: he market may have 500 million consumers, unfortunately they aren’t buying enough goods made in Britain to pay for the EU goods bought by Britain. This is unsustainable.

    Which is precisely why the issue is not about the EU but neoliberalism. It will continue to be the issue the day after Brexit too, though with one significant difference. All the mugs out there will believe they’ve just won a giant victory over the wogs. It’ll be Agincourt, Waterloo, and Goose Green redux. National consciousness will be raised as class consciousness is weakened.

    All the pedantry in the world won’t save us then Georgie-boy. It’ll be Springtime for Farage.

  72. George Hallam on said:

    John: It’ll be Springtime for Farage.

    :

    Is so then it’ll be a very short spring.

    That’s the redeeming feature of democracy; it’s a learning process.

  73. Nick Wright: Left wing supporters of Britain remaining in the EU base their case on the prospects for transforming the organisation.

    Not really, my expectations are a lot lower than that.

    I believe that it is possible, within existing EU institutions and arrangements to achieve reforms to some of the more egregiously anti working class measures, such as the posted workers directive, and to get the EU commissioners to rule, for example, that the UK’s implementation of the agency workers directive includes unlawful avoidance mechanisms; and acheive reversal of the effect of Viking and Laval judgements, etc. I also believe that, for example, opposition to free trade agreements like TTIP are easier to achieve from within the EU, than without, because a UK Conservative government unconstrained by the EU would accept worse.

    Do I believe that the institutions and policies of the EU would be an obstacle to a potential radical left UK government? Probably. But that is an issue that we could and should deal with then. And that is why the left and the unions should exercise caution in their advocacy of a remain vote, because although staying is better than leaving, we are staying in an institution that does need reform, which may not be achievable.

    This discussion reminds me of the anecdote from Hugh Dalton, who said that before the war he had been told by the radical left that it would be impossible to nationalise the bank of England without a revolution, in fact he achieved this reform over a nice cup of tea with the bank’s governor.

  74. Andy Newman,

    I see, almost everything needs to be done to make the EU acceptable but nothing much can be done to change it.

    And even it could be done, it would be much like Hugh Dalton’s nationalisation of the Bank of England which so threatened the pillars of capitalist ownership and control that Gordon Brown could hand control back without doing very much to change the direction of its policies.

    This rather makes the case for a socialist nationalisation of “the means of production, distribution and exchange” in which control of the state is the decisive factor rather than the bureaucratic mode deployed by both Tory and Labour governments.
    https://21centurymanifesto.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/brexit-left/

  75. Nick Wright: This rather makes the case for a socialist nationalisation of “the means of production, distribution and exchange” in which control of the state is the decisive factor rather than the bureaucratic mode deployed by both Tory and Labour governments.

    Nick, the problem is not that we have EU institutions shackling a socialist Uk government which is backed by a confident labour movement.

    If that does become the situation, then we could and should deal with the EU then.

  76. Andy Newman,

    Indeed, we do not have a socialist government, or even a very confident labour movement.
    And it is entirely possible that the present maturing of contradictions in state monopoly capitalism may reach a more advanced stage while Britain is still a member of the EU. And it is entirely concievable that such a crisis development would be of continent-wide dimensions, or even wider.
    But if Britain were to be still in the EU this would be another set of complications with a source of supra-state power (and the attendant instruments of coercion) even further from our grasp.

    To put it another way, how many more levers of power and influence does our ruling class have at its disposal while Britain remains in the EU than it would have if the British people were to defeat Cameron and his big business backers?

  77. Noah on said:

    Andy Newman: Do I believe that the institutions and policies of the EU would be an obstacle to a potential radical left UK government?

    It’s worth bearing in mind that the EU is an obstacle to ‘moderate’ capitalist governments, or even local authorities, which seek to support sectors of the economy. Just two examples:-

    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/20/eu-cracks-down-subsidies-struggling-steelworks-belgium

    http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-5458_en.htm

  78. Karl Stewart on said:

    Andy Newman: Nick, the problem is not that we have EU institutions shackling a socialist Uk government which is backed by a confident labour movement.
    If that does become the situation, then we could and should deal with the EU then.

    If there’s been a ‘Remain’ vote just a couple of years previously, with most left-wing people having supported ‘Remain’ then it’ll be extremely difficult for the left to argue for us to leave.

    But if there’s a strong left-exit case in this referendum, then even if we lose the vote, then at least we’ll have a receptive audience in those future circumstances.

  79. John on said:

    Noah: It’s worth bearing in mind that the EU is an obstacle to ‘moderate’ capitalist governments, or even local authorities, which seek to support sectors of the economy. Just two examples:-

    The greatest obstacle to a ‘moderate’ capitalist government in the UK, however, is Thatcherism, precisely the ideology that dominates and drives the campaign for Brexit. Meanwhile the most progressive leader the Labour Party has had in generations is campaigning to remain.

  80. Karl Stewart on said:

    John: The greatest obstacle to a ‘moderate’ capitalist government in the UK, however, is Thatcherism, precisely the ideology that dominates and drives the campaign for Brexit. Meanwhile the most progressive leader the Labour Party has had in generations is campaigning to remain.

    Thatcherism is driving the campaign to remain. Thatcher herself campaigned to remain – she never argued to leave.

    Yes, there are pro-leave people on the political right, as well. The right is divided as to whether profits can better be maximised and whether workers can be more exploited in or out of the EU.

    Why do you think the ‘remain-right’ are better than the ‘leave-right’?

  81. Noah on said:

    John: Thatcherism, precisely the ideology that dominates and drives the campaign for Brexit

    Thatcherism also dominates the campaign to stay in.

  82. Omagh on said:

    John,

    This is nonsense; you infer that the neoliberal,IMF-hugging /EU is a bulwark against such forces; it isn’t, it is a legal and political mechanism for securing mass movement of cheap, exploitative labour. People, working people, have a right to stand against this enforcement of poorer labour conditions without being accused – as you do, the dog whistle of the far-left – racism. You end up being a pin-up boy for the Brussels money-lenders. The Greek treatment tells us about the values of this club you support. The whole DNA of the EU, from its very inception, is to create exploitative conditions for neoliberalism to thrive. I see no realistic way of reforming an utterly corrupt system .

    Noah: Thatcherism also dominates the campaign to stay in.

    The Left’s fantasy island of the super-state in Europe is just patent nonsense.

  83. Omagh on said:

    This is nonsense; you infer that the neoliberal,IMF-hugging /EU is a bulwark against such forces; it isn’t, it is a legal and political mechanism for securing mass movement of cheap, exploitative labour. People, working people, have a right to stand against this enforcement of poorer labour conditions without being accused – as you do, the dog whistle of the far-left – racism. You end up being a pin-up boy for the Brussels money-lenders. The Greek treatment tells us about the values of this club you support. The whole DNA of the EU, from its very inception, is to create exploitative conditions for neoliberalism to thrive. I see no realistic way of reforming an utterly corrupt system .

  84. Karl Stewart on said:

    John, Thatcher campaigned in favour of EU membership. She never called for withdrawal.
    The ideology of Thatcherism is currently the ideology of the EU.
    No country has ever been prevented by the EU from enacting conrnerstone Thatcherite policies, such as privatisation, public-sector cuts and attacks on the rights of workers – the EU has never intervened against any such policies.

    On the other hand, the EU has intervened, very recently, against members-state governments who have tired to pursue a progressive, left-wing political and economic agenda.