Another Europe is Possible

Left Unity and the EU Referendum

Prime Minister David Cameron, has called the EU referendum for June 23rd. Left Unity will be campaigning for a ‘Remain’ vote and working alongside Another Europe is Possible.
Serious criticisms can be leveled against the European Union, but unfortunately this referendum is not driven by the desire to make the EU more just, democratic and equal. This referendum is driven by a widespread campaign of racism and bigotry against migrants, to cut back the EU’s commitment to the free movement of people. UKIP and the hard right of the Tory party argue that EU membership causes Britain to be ‘swamped’ by migrants because of the EU’s ‘freedom of movement’ policy. This same EU policy also allows 1.8 million Britons to live in other EU countries.
Cameron has negotiated with EU leaders to get a ‘better deal’ for Britain, but rather than securing an increase in the democracy and accountability of the EU institutions, or challenging the disastrous neo-liberal cuts agenda which has dominated the EU since the Maastricht Treaty in the early 1990s, he has focused on attacking migrants’ rights.
His ‘achievements’ from his negotiations add up to nothing more than a petty and vindictive assault on freedom of movement, pandering to the far right agenda.
He has negotiated to stop migrants from claiming in-work benefits for four years – a so-called ‘emergency break’ which can be applied for 7 years. He has negotiated a reduction in the amount of child benefit payable to the children of migrants, to the levels in the countries where they reside. This is in spite of the fact that people come to Britain to work hard, contribute to our economy and pay taxes into the system. This punitive child benefit system is a disgrace, an attack on children, their health and development.
We anticipate a carnival of racism and xenophobia as the referendum campaign hots up. Refugees from outside Fortress Europe will also come under attack, in spite of the fact that the British government is largely turning its back on them, even though their extreme distress often originates in the failed foreign policies of Britain and its allies in the Middle East.
Left Unity will do all it can to stand by migrants and refugees. We will work with others across Europe to welcome those driven from their homes by capitalist crisis and war.
A vote to ‘leave’ will not create the political space for a socialist Europe. The fragmentation of the EU would be on a right-wing, intolerant and nationalist basis. It would be a Europe of Le Pen, Farage, Orban and others on the right.
This is why we say that another Europe is possible, why we work in solidarity across Europe for a social Europe – extending people’s rights and improving living standards, and why we say there are no national solutions to Europe’s crisis.

Left Unity Principal Speaker, Felicity Dowling, said:

‘We stand with those who have most to lose in the EU referendum campaign: with the children of workers who have lost child benefit, with the migrants who face further unjust vilification as the debate rages.

‘We stand with the tens of thousands fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

‘We stand together with British and European workers.’


18 comments

18 responses to “Another Europe is Possible”

  1. peter banner says:

    I will be voting to leave the EU for none of the reasons that you have put toward ,I like closer ties with Europe and trade but don’t want to be part of a system that is just as corrupt and self serving as our government is , I think that we have a much better future trading in the world , I do have some misgivings because the EU have protected workers rights to some degree .

    • Mike Demetriou says:

      Agreed except for the last bit Peter. It’s not the EU that has protected workers rights. It’s workers. We should stop feeling grateful for a few crumbs from the EU table.

      • Andrew Fife says:

        You can change the UK government in elections, you can’t change the central ideology of the EU. The EU’s institutions are structured to circumvent popular democracy, which EU-enthusiasts blame for the rise of Nazism, Sovietism and populism. The three major parties are essentially the same, and looking at the Commissioners (those who draft and initiate legislation) you couldn’t tell the difference between EPP, PES and ALDE. They agree on 90%.

        The neo-liberalism and fiscal conservatism we experience is written into the treaties and compacts, so it can’t be defeated without an continental consensus between the member states. This consensus can never be reached because of the EU invests to buy votes for “More Europe”. The EU was, once a time, primarily an economic construct.

        Fixating on UKIP’s racism means you loose sight of what matters most in this referendum, democracy. As a democratic sovereign state, we can defeat our executive (the PM, the Cabinet, the government), in the EU we can’t defeat the Commission.

  2. Very good, principled statement which makes the right points. It identifies the gambit from the right against Cameron, and, whilst correctly rejecting the xenophobic character of his EU deal, makes the correct point that the vote no camp is now indelibly marked with even greater reactionary anti immigrant bigotry.

    It correctly concludes that vote yes is the only vote possible in this referendum. Well done.

  3. With due respect, the choice as you present it is a false one. Firstly, voting to stay inside the EU will automatically mean assenting to Plan A – there is no Plan B. On the other hand, there are many reasons to vote to leave the EU (not mentioned above) that have nothing whatsoever to do with building walls and a fortress Europe – which is something happening in the extant EU. As is the financial ruin of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. And as is TTIP.
    The EU is a technocracy run at the behest of the corporations and big finance that urgently needs to be undone. The current disintegration of Europe is happening largely because of policies of the EU. Certainly the nations of Europe must survive, but if this to happen then it may be necessary for the EU to perish.

  4. bob walker says:

    I think this is showing a lot of disrespect to people on the left .Who want to leave the E.U.To say that we are being led by Racism and bigotry against migrants. We have been against the EU. long before Farage. People keep going on about changing The E.U. from within. Can they please explain how this is to be done. Can we have something constructive. Instead of slagging off decent people who wish to leave the E.U.

  5. Mike Mosley says:

    I agree with all the points you make about Cameron’s petty, vindictive attack upon migrants and also agree that unfortunately the debate is likely to centre upon a right-wing agenda.
    However, ultimately this is not a referendum about Cameron. It is about the EU. Surely Left Unity should be seeking to present the real left-wing alternative debate. For example, why should we rightly campaign against TTiP and yet also support our continued membership of an organisation which embodies the same ‘libertarian, free trade’ principles of TTiP?. Just because the EU currently offers protections which we cannot at present persuade our own governments to give to workers is not a reason for us permanently to remain a part of a body which will always seek to undermine workers’ rights by giving more and more free-rein to corporations and the rich.

  6. dan says:

    I worry about having an unaccountable Tory government, and likely a Tory government that is set to rule us for the next 10-15 years. The negotiation is more than attacking migrants though, it’s overtly neo-liberal giving special treatment to the city of London but doing little for everyday people.

    I’l reluctantly vote to stay in because I like the social benefits and protections it brings us and have no faith that if we leave these rights won’t come under sustained attack from the right.

    I will casually ignore TTIP but am not naive enough to think that by leaving we will escape it’s grasp. Similar agreements are being forged across the world and will just be replaced with UKTTIP.

    We’re stronger together, in an age when the Tories are trying to divide us like never before.

  7. Dave Church says:

    The end of the Second World War caused a real panic within the capitalist class. In this country the following General Election was between Churchill, the giant, cigar smoking, war hero, challenged by Attlee, the weedy, pipe smoking, “modest man with much to be modest about”. But the promise of ‘a land fit for heroes’ could not work twice within a single generation. Attlee won by a mile and set about bringing whole industries into public ownership, nationalising rail and coal, introducing the welfare state and the National Health Service. Is it any wonder that capitalists were worried that the stopper had been removed from the bottle containing the democratic genie? But then they realised that these democratic structures were very much confined to the nation state. So a new stopper could be inserted into the bottle. That stopper could be summed up in three words: ‘the international treaty’. What followed was the European Coal and Steel Treaty, the European Free Trade Area, the European Economic Community, upgrading of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organisation. And to demonstrate their continuing project, we now face the forthcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). These treaties are not between people, they are between nation states with the intent of controlling people. The people can vote for whoever and whatever they liked – but only within restricted capitalist limits – as determined by their international treaties!

    The ‘left’ is quite rightly opposed to narrow nationalism. But sometimes I think we too readily accept interNATIONALISM because we haven’t even been allowed a single word to describe a collective of ‘all people of the world’.

  8. Geoff Ryan says:

    The referendum will be posed as a choice between Cameron’s xenophobic ‘battling for Britain’ (i.e. for British capitalism) and the even more rabid xenophobia of UKIP and the Tory right in the ‘leave’ campaign, pandered to by George Galloway. Both of the main campaigns stress British ‘particularism’ and all sorts of nonsense about defending ‘our’ democratic traditions. If by democracy we mean ‘one person, one vote’ (and that is the absolute minimum definition of democracy) then democracy stretches all the way back into the dim and distant past – otherwise known as 1950. This was the first Parliamentary election in Britain held on the basis of ‘one person, one vote’ – after the abolition of university seats and 2 votes for some university staff and graduates. I stress Britain not the UK since ‘one person, one vote’ was the main demand of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in 1968-69. The UK as a whole finally achieved ‘one person, one vote’ in the 1970s. (And this requires accepting that an unelected, hereditary head of state and a monstrously anti-democratic ‘first past the post’ voting system that gives Cameron a majority on less than 25% of the electorate, (less than 38% of those who actually voted) are in any way democratic).

  9. Anne Gray says:

    I am surprised that Left Unity enters the domain of the Cameron vs Brexit battle on its own terms, with a text that is almost wholly about migrants and refugees and highlights the row about child benefit to non-residents. Gramsci would surely have warned of the dangers of a verbal battle on the enemy’s terrain! The East European workers flocking to the UK in search of higher wages need to be seen as workers not migrants. Your text little reflects the many times in which the left has argued correctly over the last 45 years that the need is to construct international institutions and a internationalised economy that helps workers not capital.
    The EU has given us a series of social/labour directives derived from the pre-Maastricht, more social-democratic models of Europe favoured in the era of Jacques Delors’ leadership (1985-94 – see http://biography.yourdictionary.com/jacques-delors or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Delors if that was before your memory). This is far more important than paying child benefit to non-resident children at the rates of the country where the parent works – only 5 EU countries do this anyway, as detailed on http://www.migrationwatchuk.org/briefing-paper/288). Without the EU directives, Britain would probably have no minimum wage law and precious little parental leave, contractual rights of temporary or agency workers, or holiday pay. But these rights are being whittled away by UK exceptionalism and constant corporate challenges in the European Court. The error of the Delors period, as often lamented in the European Social Forum movement of 2002-about 2010 was to link social democratic measures on labour rights with the type of integration favoured by big business which continually and too-successfully lobbied the European Commission behind the scenes. In the process, free movement of workers became free recruitment of cheap labour anywhere, and proper planning of work locations was set aside, leaving behind the era in which EU and national funds were used to attract employment to where workers lived.
    Capitalism will always try to impose either cheap labour migration, or competition between states or regions to see who will offer the largest subsidy to beg for a new car plant, call centre etc. to bring work to unemployed workers. But the former policy has much potentially higher costs for the state and for workers and families in the long run, as well as invoking the threat of more environmental damage. Workers travel thousands of carbon-emitting air miles trying to keep in touch with relatives; housing, clinics and schools are left in the wrong places; elders bereft of company and support from their children struggle to manage their lives in deserted villages; teachers in places like London struggle to meet the needs of pupils speaking several languages in one class. Just as the EU spent millions patching up the economies and societies of Ireland, southern Italy, rural Spain, Portugal and Greece in the 1980s after many of the younger people had left in search of work, so it will eventually be challenged to put right the infrastructure mismatch arising from capital’s latest foreign recruitment bonanza.
    The need for a new approach to internationalisation has never been clearer. Free movement of labour should be out of interest not desperation. International institutions should set up international tax collection arrangements to ensure that companies pay 100% of their tax bill, based on where they have premises, customers or workers. A much larger share of taxation should fall on profits not work incomes. There should be internationally agreed discounts for companies locating in job-hungry regions, but companies would be made to contribute adequately towards social infrastructure both where they re-locate and where they leave plants and redundancies behind. Workfare and job centre bullying of unwaged people to get super-exploited jobs should be stopped. National insurance offices should distribute union recruitment forms and union-generated information about labour rights, to minimise exploitation of migrant workers. Unions would be subsidised to run offices with multi-lingual capacity in all areas of concentrated migrant workers, like London and East Anglia. There should be no opt-outs from EU social/labour directives and access to industrial tribunals free of charge. Short of getting rid of capitalism, which seems more difficult than ever, these are just a few of the potential demands for a worker-friendly EU.

    In case anyone is interested in other writings expressing some of these views, see: https://he.palgrave.com/page/detail/?sf1=barcode&st1=9780230518124
    and Gray, A.,Unsocial Europe, Pluto Press, 2004.

  10. Nick Wright says:

    This referendum is not about a “choice between Cameron’s xenophobic ‘battling for Britain’ (i.e. for British capitalism) and the even more rabid xenophobia of UKIP and the Tory right in the ‘leave’ campaign”.

    It is about whether Britain leaves or stays in the EU.

    Each vote has an equal value (unlike voting in British general elections in which only the swing votes in marginal constituencies have a decisive effect).

    This referendum gives us a rare opportunity to subvert something which our rulers – the biggest banks, transnational corporations and state bureaucrats – really, really want.

  11. Mike Demetriou says:

    I’m disappointed with LUs position on this. It seems we have to vote yes to prove how much we disagree with the right. The ‘Another Europe is possible’ campaign seems noble enough but I notice their strap line ‘stay in Europe to change Europe’. This isn’t about Europe. It’s about the EU. The two are COMPLETELY different!

    The fact that we’ve had neoliberal right wing policies since 1979 (under the tories and new labour) makes us grateful for the working time directive and other progressive EU policies but only because the Left has been out of power here on the U.K. We surely know that rights are won through struggle not by the enlightened actions of the EU bureaucracy.

    The EU is unreformable. It is 100% pro free trade, 100% pro growth and 100% behind the relentless drive to further globalisation. All of which makes it even more strange that LU and the Greens support staying in to try to reform it. The EU has to come to an end so that we can start again.

    We’ve missed a real chance to connect with the valid concerns of working people such as the steelworkers because we fail to promote localisation and democratisation as the answer to the relentless economic globalisation which is killing the planet and creating misery for the worlds poor.

  12. Anna Bluston says:

    Spot on Left Unity. We need to work to change the world we actually live in and not just live in the ideals in our heads. But, also work towards the revolution.

  13. Andrew Fife says:

    ou can change the UK government in elections, you can’t change the central ideology of the EU. The EU’s institutions are structured to circumvent popular democracy, which EU-enthusiasts blame for the rise of Nazism, Sovietism and populism. The three major parties are essentially the same, and looking at the Commissioners (those who draft and initiate legislation) you couldn’t tell the difference between EPP, PES and ALDE. They agree on 90%.

    The neo-liberalism and fiscal conservatism we experience is written into the treaties and compacts, so it can’t be defeated without an continental consensus between the member states. This consensus can never be reached because of the EU invests to buy votes for “More Europe”. The EU was, once a time, primarily an economic construct.

    Fixating on UKIP’s racism means you loose sight of what matters most in this referendum, democracy. As a democratic sovereign state, we can defeat our executive (the PM, the Cabinet, the government), in the EU we can’t defeat the Commission.

    [not a reply]

  14. Len Arthur says:

    Capitalism and its state institutions exist within and across nations. The plutocracy that dominates our world has yet again been revealed by the leaked Panama papers, emphasising how we have to challenge that power internationally. Working class resistance both at ‘home’ and in other countries is of equal importance and as internationalists we have to organise on both levels. The criticism made of the EU are also as valid as criticism our own state.
    I argued this case in an earlier discussion piece: http://leftunity.org/the-eu-debate-for-a-yes-vote-and-internationalism/

    Vaguely hoping that some international solidarity will spontaneously occur if the UK votes against is a dangerous speculation if we are doing nothing to bring that solidarity about.

    Left Unity is a member of the European Left and through this socialist organisation of 32 parties spanning the EU and Europe as a wider geographic entity, we are working to ensure that solidarity is built both through political demands and through action. Along with these parties we see the EU as a terrain of struggle just as our own states are. The EU and its Parliament provides a meaningful basis of linking resistance across state boundaries. Just as socialists did not walk away from the weak democracies in monarchist Russia and Germany, so we should not walk away from the EU on a nationalist basis. We need to put internationally agreed demands on these institutions and our states such as a ‘write off’ of state debt and a fundamentally new constitution instead of the current Lisbon Treaty and support all action that has a chance of taking these demands forward. This may occur soon over the challenges that being thrown down to the EU but the Portuguese government, supported by EL member the Left Bloc. Similarly, the outcome of June’s Spanish election could result in another challenge. The key point is that in supporting these demands and possible challenges we are taking real steps to establish the political centrality international struggle and solidarity
    Here is the current EL political position on the EU: http://www.european-left.org/4th-el-congress/draft-political-document-el-congress-2013 and a new one will is currently being progressed toward the Berlin congress in December 2016.

    This weekend I represented Left Unity at a European Left meeting in Porto, Portugal. We are the only UK party that is a member of the EL. All countries reported how the refugee crisis was being used by the right wing and governments to impose their populist and racist political agenda. There was a great concern that a vote against the EU in the UK referendum will encourage the agenda of the right in their own countries. So, as Left Unity, we are not just are not just arguing for a vote against the politics of the right in the UK by supporting a yes vote but also for socialists across the EU and the wider Europe.


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