I was shocked to see the Socialist Workers Party and several other supposed anti-capitalists supporting the Leave campaign, on the basis that the EU is pro-capitalist. This completely misses the point.
In a capitalist society such as this, all State institutions can be understood as supporting the interests of the capitalist ruling class, whether they are EU institutions or not. Therefore the fact the EU institutions obviously act in the interests of capital is not in itself enough of an argument for Anti-Capitalists who happen to be British Citizens to vote for leaving the EU in the upcoming referendum.
In fact, the argument I am about the make is that an independent British State would be even worse for the interests of the majority of people – the working class – and would consolidate power even more into the hands of a tiny minority of capitalists.
Despite the fact that all capitalists share certain interests – the protection of the concept of private property, the continued existence of a subordinated class of workers, access to natural resources etc – there are many issues on which the capitalist class is divided, and this is the main reason that separate political parties and factions exist in so called ‘democratic countries’. The issue of the “Brexit” (‘British Exit’ of the EU) is one example of this.
Some capitalists think they will make more money if Britain remains in the EU, and others think they will make more is Britain leaves. This is why both the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ campaigns are each well-funded, and each able to claim that what they want is better for ‘the economy’. What the mean by ‘the economy’ is profits for themselves and people like them, rather than anything to do with the interests of the majority of people.
As Anti-Capitalists we believe that the interests of the majority of people in the long term lie in the abandonment of capitalism as the dominant economic system and its replacement by a system based on values of freedom, equality and harmony with wider eco-systems. As far away as this goal seems, it will seem a lot farther if we leave the EU.
In the short term the interests of the majority of people are more obvious. People need more access to the basic material resources necessary for a dignified and happy life, which in today’s world means higher wages, better working and housing conditions, access to healthcare, education and other social services, as well as security and justice. If we leave the EU what little we have of all of these things will become even less.
The Leave campaign represents the interests of only a minority of the capitalist ruling class, let alone the rest of the population. There are certain capitalists interested in letting the British economy depend even more on financial services to other capitalists from around the world. They can see that the dominance of US imperialism will not last much longer and neither will the international economic system based on the US dollar and it’s links to the price of oil, or the institutions such as the World Bank and IMF that are effectively controlled by the US government.
The new situation in the world will be characterised not by Western dominance but by a balance of power between the West, Russia, China, India, Brasil, Iran and the other oil producing states. Certain British bankers and financiers want to be in a position to take advantage of this by getting rid of the various limitations placed on them by the EU. They also want British workers to be poorer, and to be prepared to work longer hours for less money, so that we can ‘compete’ with workers in other countries, another reason they want Britain to leave the EU.
This minority capitalist faction is represented in parliament by UKIP and the pro-Leave Conservatives. To achieve their political ends they have relied primarily on whipping up a frenzy of xenophobia and racism among the lower-middle class and certain sections of the white working class. There are actually only a very few companies that control the main news outlets in the UK, and it is not hard to tell that most of them have an interest in the Brexit.
They have tried to make racists afraid of the hundreds of thousands of traumatised refugees seeking safety from what are often British-made bombs, and to also give them the impression that somehow the EU is making it easier for them to come to Britain, despite how many people are murdered by EU-funded goons at the external borders.
They have also tried to make it seem like a bad thing that so many workers from other EU countries are in the UK, without ever talking about the benefits that British workers have received from being able to work in other EU countries, or the fact that the number of British workers living abroad is at least as great or greater than the number or EU workers in Britain.
Finally they resort to the good old excuse of Terrorism, and it’s best friend, Islamophobia, stirring up even more hatred of the Muslim community, blaming an entire religion for the crazed actions of a minority whom most Muslims openly say are not real followers of the faith. The European Court of Human Rights is made out to be something that lets terrorists evade justice rather than what it actually is, which is a last final hope for British citizens when our own police and court systems unfairly lock us up for crimes we didn’t commit, which is happening more and more often.
In short they are exploiting the fear of ignorant people who have not much to lose, and are afraid of losing it – who feel lonely and terrified of a complex world they don’t understand and seek comfort both in a strong leader or sense of identity as well as a feeling of superiority over people the papers say it’s OK to hate. This is exactly how Hitler came to power – not because the majority supported him, but because the financial elite and the racist lower-middle class did.
It will take a lot to defeat this agenda, and even if Britain remains in the EU, we will still have many more battles to fight against the institutions of the EU itself -not least of which is the struggle to end the deaths and human rights abuses at the external EU borders -but at least we will have millions of other EU-based anti-capitalists as allies instead of being trapped on this island with the Tories.
If anti-capitalist activists do not get involved in campaigning against the Brexit, making arguments on doorsteps based on class struggle rather than liberal idealism, and clearly explaining that it is not about being ‘pro EU’ but simply about being Anti-even-worse-capitalism, the referendum may be won by the Leave campaign. The Remain campaign will make unconvincing arguments that the majority of workers will not respond to, and try to glorify the EU rather than honestly admit that it too only represents the interests of a minority.
The Anti-capitalist movement can use different tactics to fight our battles than liberal capitalists will. We can take to the streets and make a noise. We can occupy buildings owned by the companies funding the Leave campaign and the general xenophobic racist propaganda of the press. We can organise cultural and artist events to bring together the different sections of the public who have the most to fear from the Brexit- migrant communities, marginalised people who are often victims of police brutality and injustice in the courts, low paid workers etc.
These are the kinds of actions that we can take as a minority movement to help build a bigger movement that might be strong enough to win this fight, and go on to win others afterwards. If we do not start organising such a movement, who else will?
The momentum of the popular movement that existed in 2011 has been lost, and no big unifying topic has come up again since then as an opportunity to build it back up. If the Brexit referendum is not that opportunity, what else will be?