Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Paul Foot on why socialists oppose the EU

[In his last posthumously published book, The Vote (2005), the campaigning socialist journalist Paul Foot stressed that the EU was part of the infrastructure of international capitalism like the IMF and World Trade Organisation, just another a 'capitalist bureaucracy' counter-posed and quite hostile to 'popular democracy' from below. As Foot wrote, 'The bureaucrats who put together the Treaty of Rome were at best uninterested, at worst downright hostile to extending democracy’, as the new political structure enshrined ‘an appointed Commission, with a huge supporting bureaucracy far out of the reach of any electorate’. ‘The plain fact [was] that membership of the European Community meant a transfer of power from elected Parliaments to the unelected European Commission’ while the European Parliament was actually completely powerless and open to corruption, as ‘the MEPs power and authority went down almost as fast as their salaries and expenses went up’. Writing in the Guardian on the EU in 2004, in what must have been one of his very final pieces of writing, Paul Foot re-emphasised why socialists stand against the EU. The essential truth of his argument, that while 'Another Europe is possible, another EU is not', it seems shines through as clearly and cogently as it did then - which is arguably why those socialists who rallied around the independent banner of a left exit - or #Lexit - this time around were right to do so]: 

I voted no in the 1975 referendum on EEC entry and will do so again in the European constitution referendum - whenever that finally happens. In 1975, I was uneasy about some of the company I was keeping. Very rightwing Little Englander Tories for instance, not to mention fascists. But the class lines were clearly drawn. The rich, almost without exception, were for a yes, the workers and the poor for a no. The Labour party and the TUC were for no on two solid grounds. First, the EEC was a capitalist club designed to cut down the influence of the workers. Second, its institutions were created by capitalists for capitalists and were therefore less democratic and more corrupt even than the parliamentary democracies of its member states. Those objections seem just as powerful today.

The basic class issues may be the same, but the party lines have shifted. The bulk of the Tory party, which, under Thatcher, called for a yes vote, now calls for a no. So does its new lunatic and xenophobic fringe, Ukip. In 1975, the yes campaign spent much more than the no. That may not happen again. All sorts of millionaires are throwing their ill-gotten gains at the no campaign. On the left, the bulk of the parliamentary Labour party (better known as the war party) is for a yes. Some trades unions are still doubtful, but the TUC general council is already starting to bow and scrape to Blair on the issue, and will probably end up snivelling surreptitiously for a yes.
In these circumstances it is vitally important that those of us on the left who want to vote no keep our distance from the rightwing campaign. Internationalists, socialists and greens who oppose the European constitution because it will drag us further down into the corporate whirlpool, emasculate trade unions and further deregulate an already rampant private enterprise, are a million miles away from the narrow nationalism of Michael Howard or Robert Jingo-Silk. We cover a wide spectrum. Even those who favour the mildest Keynesian economics, or the right to organise and strike against capital, or the right to speak out and vote for social democratic policies, will find themselves in opposition to the proposed constitution.
We must not allow our voices to be confused with the clamour of the Murdoch press. Our votes may end up in the same place, but the reasons for those votes need to be spelled out independently and separately...

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