Staying in Europe …. Or, Don’t you just love British Politics?
Well no, actually. It’s the pits.
The EU referendum ‘debate’ is transformed into a bitter low-life parody with right against right and left against left, all using much the same arguments – the economy will be better, jobs safer, immigration under control, human rights protected, pensions secured, regulations lifted, business supported, security strengthened, blah blah, each vying to see who can tell the biggest porky and get away with it in front of an increasingly divided, not to say misled electorate.
Worse, much worse, as we draw to the conclusions of the public discussion, is that the political jamboree, unable to sustain credibility over the supremely vital themes of jobs, poverty, austerity, human rights, is being reduced to a largely racist and utterly distorted, in fact barely relevant, focus on immigration. (See, for example, Gary Younge.) For that reason alone, a ‘Yes – Remain’ vote is called for.
How are we to decide when surrounded by disinformation from all sides? It is difficult to engage in rational discussion, so vile are the campaigns and the media versions of it, worst of course in the popular media. There is little pretence of philosophical, political, strategic, sustainable or even economic depth in the cheap populist cosmetic treatments being served up to us.
The perfect cameo is that it has taken a chef, Delia Smith, and a comedian, David Mitchell, to provide wisdom and expose not just the shallowness of the referendum debate but the paucity our political system.
Does anyone really believe that Britain will be better off, fairer, more equal, let alone with our NHS intact, austerity binned, and climate change challenged, under that rump of right wing Tories and UKIP, led by Boris, IDS, Redwood, Gove et al. They must be joking.
Some left wing ‘leave’ advocates claim that the working class’s capacity for struggle will be enhanced if we break from the capitalist European Union. Right from the start, such options are set to be seriously undermined by boundary changes rigged to prevent any future Labour government, let alone a Corbyn alternative, from gaining an electoral majority. Dramatic shifts in tribalism and left sectarianism will be required before any lefty aspiration to social upheaval bears fruit. Is that more likely under an extreme rightist shift in Brit national politics? (That, comrades, is a definition of ultra-leftism.)
A ‘leave’ victory will result not just in a bonfire of workers and human rights, it will unleash a carnival of xenophobia, boosting the most unsavoury political currents in the land, currents that have been kept at bay by Corbyn’s Labour regaining traditional ground lost, often to UKIP, over the Blair years and by significant ‘hope not hate’ anti-fascist mobilisations the length and breadth of the country. We saw just a taste of that violent mob politics when Orange Unionism took to the streets in the days following the Scottish referendum. Frightening.
Apart from anything else, a ‘leave’ result will deepen nationalist currents, with Scotland almost certain to defect and Wales put under increasing national pressure, both being likely to vote ,Yes’, having received huge social and economic financial support from the EU over the past few decades.
Scotland’s current socialist radicalism, it’s rejection of New Labour, of Blairism, of Tory-Labour alliances, is likely to be further distorted towards less savoury nationalism as against its current healthy, social, cultural and political vitality. In Wales, ‘leave’ is more likely to strengthen rightist nationalists as against the Plaid Cymru of Leanne Wood, the would-be socialist alternative to the wavering Labour leadership of Carwyn Jones, no radical he.
So the vote on June 23rd has little to do with principles, nothing to do with right and wrong, or any belief that the EU is good or bad for us, our rights, our economy, our protection, our sovereignty. Neo-liberal economics is equally distasteful served up by Brussels or Westminster, perhaps marginally better via the complexity of European politics than the current drift of Brit politics towards the US tweedle dumlican tweedle democrat model. French, Belgian, Spanish, Portugese and, yes, Greek workers give us more to fight alongside than anything much we currently see from England, let alone with what so-called English Nationalism is likely to do to that.
This time, it is a vote for internationalism, for Europe, for sticking together. It’s not ‘the national question’, as if British nationalism has ever had anything to do with our rights. It’s a vote against those who promote that concept of nationalism and you just have to look and listen to them to know that we are in implacable opposition to virtually all they stand for.
The EU was founded in no small part to minimise conflict and build peace and collective prosperity in Europe. The defeat of xenophobic, superior, nationalism in the war provided its foundations.
You might have to hold your nose to vote to remain in the capitalist Europe that the EU has become but that odour is nothing compared to the stench of the Tory right and little England.
Gordon Gibson is a Momentum activist and Labour member in Swansea.