Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Internationalist Left on Voting Yes in EU Referendum.

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Stand with our European Sisters and Brother: Vote Yes to Europe!

As some groups, such as the SWP, the Socialist Party,  and the CPB (Morning Star) announce that they will campaign for a ‘No’ vote in the European Referendum, the internationalist left has been debating the launching of a ‘Yes’ campaign.

Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

In an in-out referendum Workers’ Liberty will vote to keep the UK in the EU. We will do so for reasons similar to those that motivated our call to Scottish workers to vote against independence. In general, we are in favour of fewer and weaker borders and barriers between peoples.

If the issue in the referendum had been, for example, a vote on an EU economic treaty, we would probably have advocated abstention. It is not our job to choose between different methods of exploiting workers.

But the issue now is about strengthening borders and hostile attitudes towards other peoples; pulling the UK out of the EU will do both. It runs in the opposite direction to the creation of a federal Europe, which we favour.

The European bourgeoisies have pulled Europe together, substantially integrating Europe economically and politically. By doing so — in their own way, in their own interests — they have also expanded the possibilities for Europe-wide workers’ unity. We could add many qualifications — the expansion of bureaucracy, the capitalist nature of the process of integration — nevertheless European integration is historically progressive.

To try to break up the process of integration is as regressive as trying to turn the internet off because it is run by capitalist companies, or attempting to abolish parliament without bothering to see that bourgeois democracy is replaced with something better.

They state,

We advocate the left forms a united campaign with the following aims:

• To defend migrants’ rights and oppose racism

• To vote against British withdrawal from the EU

• To fight for a workers’ Europe, based on working class solidarity

Socialist Resistance.

SR has not yet taken a view on this. In my opinion, however, the right way to vote in this referendum will be Yes.

This could change over the next two years—we don’t know what is going to happen to Greece for example—but given the xenophobic politics that will dominate the main No campaign it is difficult in my view to do otherwise as things stand today. Any No vote is going to be seen as lining up with the racist elements that will be demanding this. It will be very difficult to avoid this.

A left -wing Yes campaign, under these conditions, should be based on a strong statement that recognises the real nature of the EU and explains why it is necessary to vote Yes under these conditions.

The conditions for a progressive and credible No campaign (i.e. on the basis of socialist and working class politics and significant forces) do not exist in Britain today.

Alan Thornett.

Things are moving.

The Weekly Worker noted last year this resolution by the Labour Representation Committee in 2011.

That the Europe-wide capitalist crisis requires a Europe-wide working-class response.

2. That we should no more oppose European capitalist integration than we would oppose the merger of two companies, even though the bosses use mergers as an excuse to attempt job cuts and other attacks. When Britain PLC merges into Europe PLC, the answer is to link up with other European workers in solidarity and struggle.

3. That demanding withdrawal from the EU, or opposing British entry into the European single currency, is a British nationalist position which misidentifies the enemy as ‘Europe’ rather than the ruling class. This is not altered by tacking on a slogan like ‘Socialist United States of Europe’.

4. The road to a socialist united Europe is the road of responding to European capitalist unification by organising for cross-European workers’ and socialist struggle. We advocate the following programme for this struggle:

  •   Oppose all cuts; level up wages, services, pensions and workers’ rights to the best across Europe;
  •   Tax the rich and expropriate the banks, Europe-wide;
  •   Scrap the EU’s bureaucratic structures; for a European constituent assembly;
  •   Against a European defence force; for a Europe without standing armies or nuclear weapons;
  •   For a European workers’ government.

5. In a referendum on British entry to the euro, our position will be to advocate an active abstention and our slogans will be along the lines of ‘In or out, the fight goes on’; ‘Single currency – not at our expense’; and ‘For a workers’ Europe’.

Active abstention is not an option today.

The nature of Tory Europhobes, UKIP and the right-wing press, have made this clear.

As Alain Thornett notes,

The conditions for a progressive and credible No campaign (i.e. on the basis of socialist and working class politics and significant forces) do not exist in Britain today.

With previous struggles around the EU—the introduction of the Maastricht Treaty and the single currency in the 1990s for example—it was possible to be part of broad left wing No campaign that was based, at least to some extent, on socialist and working class principles and represented something significant. It did not imply any alliance or common “national” interest” between British workers and “British” capital: while resisting global ambitions of capital it also resisted spurious notions of a common interest in British “sovereignty”.

Thornett also observes,

The Tory right, in the form of the ‘free market’ Institute for Economic Affairs, have already published scenarios that they would expect a Tory government to follow after British exit. These scenarios involve realignment of the UK state with the other major reactionary elements of the international bosses clubs – the World Trade Organisation, NATO, the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), the EU Customs Union and the European Economic Area (EEA).

The Tories would repeal the Working Time Directive that limits (however inadequately) workers’ hours and remove the EU restrictions on introducing genetically modified crops, as first steps in a long series of reactionary policies. Reactionary Free Trade Agreements would be negotiated and the possibility of signing the UK’s own version of TTIP or even joining the USA in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is proposed.

To put it simply, saying that a ‘No’ campaign could be independent of the right wing is ridiculous.

It will be ‘independent’ in name only: the crucial point is that they will vote with the xenophobes, nationalists  and ultra-free marketeers.

By contrast, a Yes vote, if the issue is ‘In’ or ‘Out’ of the EU is to stay in and transform the Union, from top-to-bottom.

Where we part company with members of Socialist Resistance is on the basis for change in the EU.

Following the Party of the European Left we would support a radical programme of reform of the EU, through co-operation with our sisters in brothers in other European countries.

The central plank of their platform is opposition to austerity.

We would campaign for a united social Europe – towards a united socialist Europe.

Our immediate concern is solidarity with the Greek people and their government Syriza.

Channeling energy into a campaign to stand aside from Greece by lining up against the EU with the right-wing Tories and UKIP, is not just unhelpful for their fight, it is seriously damaging.

Any victory for those wishing to leave Europe will be a victory of capital and reaction: austerity and the enemies of the left Greek government.

We back the AWL’s call.


Written by Andrew Coates

June 10, 2015 at 11:58 am

10 Responses

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  1. Corbyn making good points http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/our-eu-referendum-debate-has-been-hijacked-by-xenophobes-and-money-men–heres-what-we-should-really-be-talking-about-10310078.html

    Just repeat what I said before (Corbyn alludes to this) that any campaign needs to include the values of a united Europe, the prevention of war which was the driver to its founding and how Russia (and probably others) would like nothing better than to return to C19th foreign policy of little nation states all fighting each other.

    Paul Canning

    June 10, 2015 at 6:46 pm

  2. I’m voting NO! NO to the fourth reich! NO to the EUSSR!
    that doesn’t make me a nationalist.
    a no! campaign cannot be free of the right, and neither can a yes! campaign.
    there are different lefts and different rights.
    Syriza should take Greece out of the EU, there is not another way. we all know it. the breakup of the EU would be a positive thing.


    June 10, 2015 at 7:38 pm

  3. Funny this “EUSSR” stuff from someone I reckon probably would have been a big fan of the genuine USSR. How is the Campaign Against Euro Federalism these days, Toy?


    June 10, 2015 at 8:13 pm

  4. Welcome aboard, comrade Coatesy! I expected no less of you. We must have a discussion about the practicalities of the campaign.

    Jim Denham

    June 10, 2015 at 10:11 pm

  5. Let’s not kid ourselves – the left is going to be utterly irrelevant on both sides of this campaign. The British end of the “internationalist left” that Andrew cites here amounts to three Trotskyist grouplets with a combined membership of around 150, at least one of which specialises in quarreling with every other group on the left as a matter of principle. This handful of people does not have the slightest chance of turning a “yes” vote into a vote for a “workers’ Europe” (whatever that is) any more than No2EU can seize the “no” agenda from UKIP and the Tory nationalists. The choice will be between staying in the EU as it is at present and what it is becoming, and leaving it and becoming a satellite state of it. The campaign agenda will be entirely set by members of the capitalist establishment, and will almost certainly focus mainly on what’s good for “business”.

    The case for internationalism, for trying to work with like-minded people in other countries and develop solidarity, stands in its own right, regardless of whether Britain, or bits of it, are inside or outside the EU. The ELP, which has affiliates and observers from countries both inside and outside the EU, has a good approach here.

    Nobody on the left can seriously be content with the EU as presently constituted. The ELP certainly isn’t. The choice we make in this referendum should depend on how optimistic we are about the possibility of transforming it. Personally, I’m pessimistic, so I’ll probably vote no. Nothing that has happened with Greece so far suggests to me that the EU’s structures have much potential for developing a “social Europe”, let alone a “socialist” one. But who knows – I may be pleasantly surprised.

    Either way, in or out, the left will have to deal with the same issues – opposition to austerity, privatisation, growing inequality, the degradation of public services and all that. Those issues won’t be aired in the official referendum campaigns – both establishment factions are largely in accord on them.


    June 10, 2015 at 10:48 pm

  6. “I’m voting NO! NO to the fourth reich! NO to the EUSSR!
    that doesn’t make me a nationalist.” – troy

    hi troy. Newport Ukip produced a sticker just for people like you –


    And here’s a”EUSSR” one for you (by some group called EU truth who are so bonkers they even think Nick Griffin is controlled by the Masons) –

    Btw, I see you’re a Galloway fan. Sorry to disappoint but the Fedoraistas are pro-EU –

    “Respect is in favour of a balanced and fair immigration policy. We are in favour of an EU Referendum, in which we would campaign to remain a part of Europe.”


    John R

    June 11, 2015 at 8:59 am

  7. Whatever its impact on the campaign itself issue of the EU is not irrelevant to the left.

    If small groups make their internationalist position clear now it can help build support for a much wider pro-EU – on a left basis – current of opinion.

    However optimistic or pessimistic one is about the EU one thing I am absolutely clear on: that an ‘independent’ UK will be even more reactionary.

    Andrew Coates

    June 11, 2015 at 11:27 am

  8. MassResistance says NO to ZOG and the One World Government. NO to E-ZANU litres and homosexualists!

  9. All anti-EU people are mad: I cite Mad Ipswich Tory Kevin Algar who links to here just to start with.

    Andrew Coates

    June 11, 2015 at 4:55 pm

  10. Yes, whatever the borders we should advocate international links and solidarity. But why not oppose creating new borders, which will make such links harder?

    The left should use the referendum debate/campaign to campaign positively for migrants’ rights, international class links and solidarity, etc. On a more propagandistic level, we should argue for a Workers’ Europe. As part of all this, we should advocate a vote to stay in.

    I actually think the constituency for such a campaign is pretty large – some of the far left, yes, but also a lot of forces in the unions, Left Unity, the Greens, pretty much the whole of the youth and student left, a lot of the wider student movement, significant chunks of the Labour left, migrants’ organisations, and just lots of left-leaning people who don’t want Britain to get ouot.

    Being faced with the referendum is not good, but by campaigning on these lines we can organise and educate quite a lot of people to build a stronger, better left.

    Sacha Ismail

    June 20, 2015 at 10:18 pm

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