THERE ARE MANY REASONS SOCIALISTS ought to have problems with the EU. Michael Calderbank has already ably presented most of these in Briefing. But a certain kind of response is common. Yes, there are all sorts of things wrong with the EU, but at least it’s internationalist – rather that than the Little Englandism of Nigel Farage. I don’t find the choice between UKIP and Jean-Claude Juncker very appealing. In any case, there’s only a very precise sense in which the EU is an internationalist project.
The EU is a union of nation states in the service of capital, and it does not operate to the detriment of either. Far from undermining national sovereignty, the EU project is premised on and bolsters it. ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ grasps this, hence the name. It is for this reason that their website is awash with more red, white, and blue than an Orangeman’s underwear drawer. The campaign focuses on what the EU does for ‘us’, presumably meaning the people of Britain.
Because of the relationship to Brussels, we are told, we enjoy “a stronger economy, stronger security, and stronger leadership”. It is not exactly the Internationale in action.
The EU co-ordinates and strengthens the power of its member states. A example of this can be seen in the pan-EU counter terrorism strategy, under whose auspices anti radicalisation strategies have been rolled out at great cost to the Continent’s Muslims. If this is one example of the double-edged nature of EU internationalism, with its striking inability to embrace diversity beyond certain limits, there is an altogether more horriffic one. In the name of Fortress Europe, desperate people are left to die an unimaginably horrible death in the Mediterranean. The EU Border Force will be the institutional expression of an internationalism confined at best to white majority countries.
In the face of all of this, one sometimes hears that the coming together of European capital will at least make for new bonds of workers’ solidarity across the EU. The best argument against this is that it palpably hasn’t happened. The pollyannaish view on which workers automatically link hands ever more expansively as capital colonises the world is a vulgar parody of Marxism, insufficiently attentive to small matters like history and human agency.
None of this means that the Out campaign, including its Stalinist ‘left’ fringe, is anything other than appalling. I will, with little enthusiasm, vote to leave, both because exit would precipitate a Tory internal crisis and because there is something to be said for defeating the illusions people place in the EU. However, socialists shouldn’t prioritise participating in the referendum debate. Our strategy has to be one of keeping alive better alternatives. Our ambitions must go further than the choice between Juncker and Farage. It’s time to adapt an old slogan – neither London, nor Brussels, but international socialism!