It’s not only Nigel Farage and hard right Tories who want out of Europe. There’s a left-wing case to leave, too.
The following is an extract from an article by Joseph Choonara which appeared in the Socialist Review.
Joseph will speak on the case for leaving the European Union at 7pm on Wednesday 11 November in the Red Hall, 11 Grosvenor Rd, Broadstairs CT10 2BT.
Come and join the debate. Admission free.
We have to start from the nature of the European Union itself.
A project that has always been a profoundly capitalist one.
As capitalist firms grow, they face a contradiction.
On the one hand, they are tireless in their drive to expand the scope of their operation, to obtain inputs, market their goods and exploit workers on the widest possible scale.
On the other hand, firms require a state, tied to a particular national territory, which can provide them with important infrastructure, ensure the right kind of labour power exists, and secure their interests at home and abroad, using force if necessary.
The EU is how the European ruling classes have tried to overcome this contradiction.
Alone, even the biggest European economies are overshadowed by their rivals.
The logic of the EU is to allow the major European powers to continue to play a role on a global scale.
It secures for their capitalists a large domestic market and a big pool of labour to exploit, and – for those opting to abandon their national currency – it creates a form of money that can compete with the dollar.
The recent economic crisis has exposed the problems of a currency shared by countries with no common system of taxation and with only minimal redistribution of wealth between them.
Nonetheless, for the bulk of capitalists the EU continues to offer advantages.
Indeed, Margaret Thatcher, remembered today as a Eurosceptic, was an enthusiast for the removal of barriers to competition across the continent.
The increasingly neoliberal approach taken by the EU has always been combined with rhetoric about a European social model.
This was proclaimed most loudly in the 1990s, just as the budget deficit limits imposed by the 1992 Maastricht treaty triggered a wave of unemployment and welfare cuts across the continent.
Recent events demonstrate even more clearly the EU’s neoliberal character.
During the first decade of monetary union weaker European economies were subjected to a wave of cheap credit from banks of the most powerful states.
So when the global crisis erupted, banking bailouts, rising social spending and sharp declines in tax revenue sparked a debt crisis in countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain.
The EU responded by doing what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been doing to indebted Third World countries for decades – made them cut public services and benefits.
The European Commission is part of the hated troika of institutions seeking to foist the most brutal austerity on Greece and doing everything it can to tame or depose the Syriza government.
Breaking Syriza is about maintaining a system of austerity across the region – an approach now enshrined in the European Fiscal Compact, which limits state spending across the eurozone.
Another example of the neoliberal essence of the project is given by the secretive negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade deal the EU is brokering with the US.
TTIP will further prise open sectors such as education and health to the multinationals, and equalise environmental protection and workers’ rights at the lowest level across the two regions.
The most compelling argument by those left forces calling for a Yes vote is that the EU secures free movement within its borders.
But the EU’s support for free movement is based on its desire to create a European-wide labour force that can be profitably exploited by capital.
It is not motivated by humanitarianism or anti-racism.
The point when EU states began to harmonise immigration policies in the late 1990s also saw them launch intensified attacks on “outsiders” — unleashing a new wave of detention and deportation on those from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab world.
Just as the “freedom” of those from Yorkshire to live and work in London does not negate the horrors of British border controls, so freedom of movement in the EU does not diminish the reality of Fortress Europe.
There is no greater indictment of the EU than its treatment of those making the desperate voyage from North Africa.
Here the policies being promoted across Europe amount to drowning as a deterrent — which has been the fate of 1,800 migrants in the first five months of this year alone.
The ideology of “Europeanism” that underpins Fortress Europe draws its ingredients from the same racist myths that support traditional nationalism, and in practice the existence of the EU has proved no obstacle to the rise of far-right anti-immigrant forces within its borders, from the Front National in France to Golden Dawn in Greece.
It is mass campaigns from below that can truly undermine racism.
We should take no lectures on this topic from the leaders of the Yes campaign.
Cameron’s last government was responsible for an immigration bill that promoted racist status checks by landlords and employers.
Today he is touring Europe trying to secure new restrictions on even the limited free movement afforded by the EU.
Our role in the referendum is to try to carve out a space for an internationalist No campaign.