Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

As Galloway and Farage Unite: Vote Yes for a Social Europe.

with 30 comments

George Galloway and Nigel Farage

George Galloway and Nigel Farage join forces at an anti-EU membership campaign event in London.


For a Social Europe: Against Brexit.

“Consider again the profile of this general left-wing stance. Its basic dilemma is that of a felt equidistance between the alternatives of simple left-wing nationalism and the Common Market—that sole and unpalatable way of transcending nationalism which the existing historical situation seems to present.”

Tom Nairn. The Left Against Europe. 1972. (1)

As David Cameron announces the “successful” conclusion of negotiations with the European Union (EU) the British left appears faced with an unpalatable choice. The coming Referendum debate will be largely held on either endorsing membership of the EU on these terms, or the Brexit alternative. That is, between plans to limit benefits to European migrants, the Government’s wider package for a ‘special for the UK and its free market policies within a European framework, or exit, national sovereignty, and more restrictions on migrants and freer market policies in a global economy.

The appearance of George Galloway at Nigel Farage’s rally last night indicates the way one section of the ‘left’ has decided to campaign. We wonder how many others will follow this ‘Enoch Powell” moment (Grassroots Out unites politicians – the ones we normally try to avoid.

Alex Callinicos argued last year “Socialists in Britain will have to take a stand on the entire project of European integration.” For some time voices on the British left hostile to that project have become louder. Perry Anderson, once an opaque supporter of Europeanism, even Trotsky’s backing for a capitalist United States of Europe, has more recently muttered warnings against the EU becoming a “deputy empire”, with an economic “semi-catallaxy” free-market internal order, distant from its populations. In sum, the European ‘social model’ is inexorably moving in the direction of “oligarchic rule” by the Council and Commission, contemptuous of democracy. Another New Leftist, Susan Watkins, has argued that the restrictive ‘fiscal pact’, German autocratic control of the EU’s financial instruments is at the core of the management of the Euro crisis, mass unemployment and austerity. The European Parliament is an “unaccountable co-decision assembly serving as a democratic façade.” (2)

For some on the left the Greek crisis reinforced the view that European integration is a process directed against the left. The European political blocs, principally the Christian-democratic/Conservative, Liberal and Social Democratic alliances the radical left plans of Syriza and forced on Greece another round of austerity. They put the decisions of these political actors, – including those more directly economic fractions in charge of financial decision-making – within the ingrained logic of a supranational drive for a neo-liberal Europe. It is true that if Greece wanted to remain within the Monetary Union it would have to accept policies that those in charge of the Euro would accept. But the balance of political forces arrayed with the EU’s institutions determined the terms to which Tsipras was forced to accept. (3)

In parts of Europe some of the left has discovered the merits of ‘sovereigntism’. A central plank is the idea that the power of economic decision-making should be held by national Parliaments. Popular on the British left during the 1970s, and written into the Alternative Economic Strategy (AES) as a pillar of the Socialist Challenge, this did not stop short of advocating import controls – a form of protectionism now proposed by the French Front National. Working class power requires saving the independent Nation Stat. This means Exit.

Without ready appeal to the celebration of the Nation in the 1789 Révolution, few in Britain are as explicit as the programme of the Trotskyist Parti ouvrier indépendant, and its latest split,  the Parti Ouvrier Indépendant Démocratique, in evoking the nation’s rescue from the failures of the EU. But the thought is there. It is echoed in the quietly uttered view that there is a great deal of truth in UKIP’s complaints against Brussels. That the “free market of labour” is a device of the bosses; that good old collective bargaining is diverted if not hampered by Europe-wide EU regulated works’ councils. Galloway indicates just how far some of these people are prepared to go.

A ‘left’ attempt to capture the progressive side of the discontent Nigel Farage feeds on was behind the vanity election slate, No2EU/Yes2Democracy in the last European Elections. It sunk without trace.

Those who cite Greece to boost their support for Brexit, ranging from Tariq Ali (who advocated an “out” vote last year) to James Meadway, face one massive problem. The most radical critic of the Syriza capitulation, and, as the former Greek Finance Minister, not the least, Yanis Varoufakis, stands for a radical plan to tackle the lack of democracy in the EU by radically transforming its structures. We may admire, rather than be wholly convinced, by the detailed proposals of DiEM 25  We may voice great suspicion that one nationalist crew at least, the SNP, backed by erstwhile New Leftist Tom Nairn, has clambered onto the social Europe bandwagon out of its own selfish interests. (4)

Yet – this needs underlining a hundred times – the cause of Europe is now being rethought. Internationalist projects filled with generosity for the present and hope for the future, grounded on left values, are emerging.

The coming referendum will not be about a utopian vision of a social Europe. But it will be about whether we can lay hold of the mechanisms that would create the possibility of one coming about. That can only be through the European Union: allied with our comrades across the Continent in an effort to transform its basis and structures.

In debating Callinicos (above) comrade John Palmer made the following points:

• For socialists voting in the EU membership referendum the question then is simple—which vote would encourage and strengthen the racists and ultra-chauvinists most, a Yes or a No?

• There can be no doubt that if Britain leaves the EU many European regulations restricting working hours and other employment and social reforms will be scrapped. Again the question for socialists is clear—which referendum outcome will most threaten the interests of women’s equality and those of the organised labour movement—a Yes or a No?

• Which referendum outcome would represent the greatest setback to human rights in Britain—a Yes or a No to continued EU membership?

• Which referendum vote would best strengthen future working class unity, a No or a Yes? I think the answer to all the questions posed above is clear: Vote Yes. Then let the struggle for a different Europe redouble. (5)

Indeed: internationalists have no choice but to follow Palmer’s advice and vote Yes.

Imagine a Brexit and the celebrations of the winners: the non-stop media coverage, the endless Flag waving, the speeches, the anti-EU George Galloway having sexy-time with Nigel Farage on Russia Today, and the boot of Reaction smashing into our Faces for the foreseeable future. …

No don’t.


(1) Tom Nairn. The Left Against Europe. New Left Review. Series l. No 75.
(2) The internationalist case against the European Union. Alex Callinicos. International Socialism. No 148. 2015. Chapter Ten. “Prognosis.” The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso. 2009. Susan Watkins. The Political State of the Union, New Left Review 2015. Series II/90. S ection of Watkins’ analysis of the Parliament is reproduced in the latest Le Monde Diplomatique. Le Parlement européen est-il vraiment la solution? February 2016.
(3) Les Leçons du plan d’ajustement imposé à la Grèce par l’Union Européenne.Phillipe Lamberts. Le Monde Diplomatique. October. 2015.

(4) Link: DiEM’s Manifesto.
(5) The EU referendum: The case for a socialist Yes vote. John Palmer. International Socialism. No 148. See also: Best fight on the EU terrain. Elliott Robinson. Alliance for Workers’ Liberty.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm

30 Responses

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  1. “There can be no doubt that if Britain leaves the EU many European regulations restricting working hours and other employment and social reforms will be scrapped.”


    I have heard a number of comrades say this, but as of yet no one has given the fine details of what these issues are. if I am to support remaining I need them spelled out.

    Mick Hall

    February 20, 2016 at 1:33 pm

  2. Well for the moment read this:

    Programme For A Good, More Social And Sustainable Europe

    by John Palmer on 10 February 2016


    Andrew Coates

    February 20, 2016 at 1:41 pm

  3. If you look closely you will see a young Galloway in this picture, casting admiring eyes at Roderick Spode and the Black Shorts.

    Andrew Coates

    February 20, 2016 at 2:38 pm

  4. Good stuff, Andrew: this needs to be said.

    Jim Denham

    February 20, 2016 at 3:04 pm

  5. And five years ago …

    And now …

    Lobbying for Brexit: How the Kremlin’s media are distorting the UK’s debate
    Ben Nimmo – 13/02/2016

    The Kremlin wants Britain to leave the EU. That, at least, is the impression given by the coverage of the so-called “Brexit” debate by the RT television channel and the Sputnik news wire, both of which are funded by the Russian government. In the week that followed the announcement of European Council President Donald Tusk’s proposed deal to keep Britain in the EU, both channels’ reporting betrayed a systematic bias in favour of the “Out” campaign which was too consistent to be the result of accident or error. Since neither outlet operates on a commercial footing, it appears reasonable to conclude that their bias is the result of a political choice.

    Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

    February 20, 2016 at 3:47 pm

    • Excellent spot Paul.

      Yup, a whole load of leftists, from the SWP, Counterfire, and the members of ‘socialist’ Respect, not to mention the Stop the War Coalition must be renting their clothes in sorrow for all the drivel they loyally supported from Galloway over the last 11 years – er, not.

      This does not look like destined for a long shelf life either.

      Andrew Coates

      February 20, 2016 at 5:43 pm

  6. Mick Hall: The Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, the Agency Workers Regulations, Part-Time Working Regulations, the Working Time Regulations, Statutory Parental Leave … how much more do you want?

    Jim Denham

    February 20, 2016 at 8:34 pm

  7. Another baseless attack on the great George Galloway while at the same time promoting a fake internationalist EU imperialism.
    Jim D – You got your butt kicked by a pipsqueak such ‘caliphate’ John T, i’d like to see you take on Galloway. He’d eat you alive for breakfast if you were ever in a debate, altho i doubt he’d waste his time on a ‘Trotskyist popinjay’

    there are two left/right alliances
    one anti eu left/right Galloway/Farage
    the other pro EU left/right alliance which this site advocates.
    third positionist Trots support neocons.

    Galloway has a good chance to be mayor.
    Galloway is an anti fascist, it is outrageous to even compare him with Mussolini.


    February 20, 2016 at 11:14 pm

  8. So you really think the EU is some sort of a state with a social conscience – at least more so than the British government? It’s just random in the way the French or German governments may have been more rightwing or leftwing than the contemporary British government.

    The EU administration is not a sort of Euro TUC or the Labour/Social Democrat parties of the EU – it’s the same sort of state (albeit in early stages) as any other European state and its rules would be to the right of a Corbyn government – there would be lots of (from Corbyn – truthfully or untruthfully): ‘We would like to do X but EU rules prevent us, Sorry!’

    So that’s no reason to support or oppose Brexit.

    Nor are who are the other supporters of Brexit (e.g Farage) relevant, or the reasons why many will vote Brexit (e.g. racism, or Islamaphobia) It’s a binary choice – there are scum and unpleasant reasons on both sides. Farage or Blair, Duncan-Smith or Cameron?

    So that’s also no reason to support or oppose Brexit.

    But there are two reasons to support Lexit.

    1. Democracy matters. Sure UK is only semi-democratic – Tories rule on just twenty-odd percent of the vote – and UK is qualitatively less democratic than the USA (where they have election of many more office-holders, right to silence, recall elections, right to bear arms, no chance of ID cards, free (even hate) speech – but still US only semi-democratic, just more so)

    EU institutions are qualitatively less democratic so than UK (appointed not elected). Russian socialists doesn’t think (correctly) ‘Western democracy is an ideal to aim for’ but we all think and support reforms towards a western style democracy over the semi tyranny of that country. The more democracy the better. The greater quaqlitative democracy from Brexit is a reason to support leaving.

    2. Britain (and many other states) were last in the mix in WW2. Stasis lasts for decades and kills politics. No change in USSR from Stalin to Gorbachov. I wouldn’t support a WW3 as billions could die but I do know the world after would see many old regimes and states gone and no stasis for a while. Brexit is very minor compared to war but the chance to shake things up is a reason to support Brexit. After years of playing for pennies, I’m in favour of a high-stakes gamble.

  9. What the fuck is “Lexit”? Sounds like a load of anti-Marxist idealistic crap to me. Punch-drunk should read the Communist Manifesto and then Marx’s speech on Free Trade, to educate himself.

    By the way: I’ve been asked to speak at a meeting/debate on the EU to be held shortly (exact date to be decided) in Stoke: any of you Galloway-groupies want to come and debate me?: after all, that will be your chance to “kick” my “butt”, won’t it?

    Jim Denham

    February 21, 2016 at 12:21 am

  10. Sorry comrades — on this one, the Weekly Worker is right. Actively boycott the referendum!



    February 21, 2016 at 1:41 am

    • WW would have us boycott almost every vote held anywhere in the world on any issue because neither choice is socialism. Their arguement that a vote to remain in the EU is “ultimately [a vote for] David Cameron himself” is plainly ridiculous.


      February 21, 2016 at 6:42 am

  11. If Denham wants to mention Marx, he should consider where the interest of capitalists lie, as Marx would have done.

    The majority of them support remaining and these include the most powerful – the large multinationals. the CBI, most ministers – the worst of our enemies.

    The ones that do support Brexit include some more right and these people are often portrayed as the old-style ‘Bring back the Empire’ type. Whilst that may be true about them, there are very, very few of them as a proportion of those supporting Brexit (maybe 40% of the population) as, in the same way, so very few of those supporting remaining in the EU are capitalists. It’s irrelevant.

    Denham and his ilk mention present EU concessions like ‘maximum working hours’. It’s a will ‘o’ the wisp fantasy that the EU has a social conscience. Of course such are important and any attempt to remove them should be fought, but it is just a whim of the EU and could go just like that by some bureaucrat’s pen – it’s a lot harder (sadly) to envisage an EU wide strike from Dublin to Dubrovnik to save such than if they were the domain of elected national governments.

    This arguments is also inconsistent as well as irrelevant. When they argue ‘these social protections are important so let’s support the arrangements that protect them’- er, like a separate national Scottish state that would be more left than the British government (based on the experience since the Scottish government was revived). But the large majority of English Lefts were against independence.

    Ignore all their red-herring arguments. Ignore all the obnoxious, right-wing figures in both camps. In Marxist economic terms, there is no obvious side to support. The capitalists are split and no result automatically increases (or protects) the economic power of workers.

    So it is simply a political question. It qualitatively more democratic outside the EU, so vote Lexit.

  12. Anyone who’s even made a cursory reading of Marx (especially the Communist Manifesto) will be aware (unlike Punch-drunk) that he (and Engels) most certainly did *not* base his politics on supporting what is bad for capitalism or “big business”. Read the speech oh Free Trade.

    The history of Marxism on this issue can be summed up briefly: Marx and Engels, Babel and Kautsky, Lenin and Trotsky, along with Gramsci, Parvus, Bauer and Beer, supported the slogan of a United States of Europe. The First, Second and Third Internationals all propagated the slogan at various times. The only substantial Marxist opponent of the slogan was Rosa Luxemburg, whose positions on nationalism and imperialism were out of step with Lenin and most Marxists of the time.

    It is true that in August 1915 Lenin composed an article ‘On the Slogan for a United States of Europe’ in which he dropped his previous support for the slogan as an immediate, agitational demand.. But even so, he stated that the objective (of a United States of Europe) was “quite invulnerable as a political slogan.” Lenin’s disagreement with Trotsky and other Bolsheviks rested on his fear of vapid abstraction and grand ideals being counterposed to concrete tasks and a realistic assessment of the balance of forces in a given country. It was a purely tactical difference.

    Jim Denham

    February 21, 2016 at 10:33 am

    • John Palmer poses the right questions and supporters of the Farage/Galloway Pact simply avoid them.

      Jim has answered the point about the concrete benefits of EU membership, which nobody has denied.

      The rest of the antis’ arguments are just rhetoric.

      Andrew Coates

      February 21, 2016 at 11:35 am

  13. Reblogged this on Redvince's Weblog.


    February 21, 2016 at 11:35 am

  14. There are no benefits that are ‘concrete’ in the way that the NHS is not a ‘concrete’ benefit. All are constantly sought to be removed or diluted by the capitalist class, either through the EU or through the national state. Sometimes the situation on an issue for workers will be transiently better in the EU, sometimes the reverse – so, as I said, this is a bogus argument.

    I “did not base my arguments on supporting what is bad for capitalism or “big business” other than as Marx DID do, by supporting socialism (and which is automatically ‘bad for business’)

    Anyone who thinks the EU is related to a socialist United States of Europe is at a remedial Marxist level. I’d also say that slogan was of its time and I’d argue now for a socialist united world states.

    Call for more democracy. Rhetoric, eh? To an idiot, maybe.

  15. “I’d also say that slogan was of its time and I’d argue now for a socialist united world states.”

    So, the way to get a “socialist united world states” is to first descend into petty-nationalism? OK.


    February 21, 2016 at 12:24 pm

  16. I’m not arguing for ‘nationalism’. I’m saying the UK state is presently qualitatively more democratic than the EU, so we should leave. If it was the reverse, all other things being equal I would argue we should stay.

    That’s the sort of nonsense argument – a wilful ignoring of the facts and a focus on irrelevancies that mar. both sides of the debate. It is turning into one of those mad debates (like Israel/Palestine or the Scottish referendum) where so much irrelevant heat is generated that it covers up any light.

    For an example of the mad,but particularly irrelevant arguments from my side see the following from ‘5 arguments’ from Counterfire: “4. The EU is increasingly turning into a racist institution in which thousands of miles of fences are put up to keep people out and camps are built to corral and process migrants. Fortress Europe would also be a white Europe in which the cheap labour of eastern Europe is exploited whilst people from the Global South are excluded.” http://www.counterfire.org/articles/opinion/18197-5-reasons-to-leave-the-eu

    As if the UK, inside or outside the EU would be any different!

  17. Andrew Coates

    February 21, 2016 at 1:15 pm

  18. Can we please have a referendum on international capitalism? Yes or no.

    Scott Reeve

    February 21, 2016 at 1:59 pm

  19. “For an example of the mad,but particularly irrelevant arguments from my side see the following from ‘5 arguments’ from Counterfire”

    Counterfire? Sod that.

    1. Blahty blah TEH NATOS IMPERIALISM, for some reason.
    2. Vladimir Putin doesn’t like the EU
    3. The EU is opposed to Assad, the Democratically Elected SOCIALIST Leader of the Free Arab World. Which is just BANG out of order. P.S. He never killed or tortured no one who didn’t deserve it and he loves his old mum.
    4. WARS are BAD. Unless it’s the Russians doing it. Then it’s everyone elses fault anyway. Including the EU.
    5. Vladimir Putin doesn’t like the EU


    February 21, 2016 at 6:49 pm

  20. Here’s my “saucy seaside card” view on this momentous event –

    (if it loads, I’m new to Twitter)

    John R

    February 21, 2016 at 8:14 pm

  21. PW — Weekly Worker isn’t saying “neither choice is socialism.” WW is saying both choices are anti-worker. Which they are. So a boycott by the working class is perfectly sensible.


    February 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm

  22. Weakly Werker are a bunch of tossers who couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery. to say boycott both EU and anti EU means nothing, the workers don’t care about the CPGB and nobody is listening to them. its just a way of saying ‘ we don’t know what to do, so do nothing’ . you must take a side, and the correct side is against EU.


    February 21, 2016 at 9:44 pm

  23. Jim D posing as an expert in Marxism, making pronouncements as though his crappy little AWL group represented something- ha! Your history of Marxism misses out Stalin.

    Jim D says:
    “The history of Marxism on this issue can be summed up briefly: Marx and Engels, Babel and Kautsky, Lenin and Trotsky, along with Gramsci, Parvus, Bauer and Beer, supported the slogan of a United States of Europe. The First, Second and Third Internationals all propagated the slogan at various times. The only substantial Marxist opponent of the slogan was Rosa Luxemburg, whose positions on nationalism and imperialism were out of step with Lenin and most Marxists of the time.”

    erm, yes but you’ve missed out Stalin who followed the line of Lenin. I suggest you start going to Stalin Society meetings and acquainting yourself with the CPGB ML and Harpal Brar.

    “Trotsky has never yet held a firm opinion on any important question of Marxism. He always contrives to worm his way into the cracks of any given difference of opinion, and desert one side for the other. At the present moment he is in the company of the Bundists and the liquidators. And these gentlemen do not stand on ceremony where the Party is concerned.”

    (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 20 p. 448, 1914).

    Jim D and the AWoL and CPGB weakly werker are just like the anti communist Trotsky.

    For Socialism in One Country!
    Victory to the Galloway/Farage alliance!


    February 21, 2016 at 9:59 pm

  24. I’m assuming Dean is here for comedy relief.


    February 22, 2016 at 5:42 am

  25. You read it here first, Dean says out loud what the SWP-SP/Morning Star/ Counterfire lot are at present only muttering to themselves.

    Andrew Coates

    February 22, 2016 at 12:57 pm

  26. An unpleasant smear about the SWP

    Their good statement on why they are backing Lexit includes “It was nauseating to see George Galloway appearing at the Grassroots Out rally last night and campaigning against the EU alongside the racist Ukip’s Nigel Farage”.


  27. Ho ho ho, Punch-drunk: someone, at last who believes a single word the SWP say (in public). Now that’s what I call gullible …


    February 25, 2016 at 3:45 pm

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