Despite the onslaught of ‘Project Fear’, the British electorate have voted to leave the European Union. The entire international establishment was lined up on the side of Remain. Economic elites from the US to the IMF, the ECB and the European ruling classes were frantic in their desire to keep the UK in the European business club. The military elites in NATO were also clear that the UK remaining within the EU was crucial to sustaining the structures of Western Imperialism. Brexit represents a major challenge to this wider capitalist agenda.
Over the last two years we have seen the EU for what it really is – a prison house for workers that imposes austerity and fosters racism and xenophobia.
The EU has overseen the mass impoverishment of European workers. In 2015 more than half of Greek pensioners were already living below the poverty line (€650 per month). Despite this, the EU turned Syriza into their loyal servants cutting wages, pensions and services even further. Workers everywhere have lost under endless waves of European austerity.
This is especially true in Ireland where the EU forced €64 billion onto ordinary people and insisted on a programme of vicious cutbacks, charges and privatisation. In Britain the EU supported the Tories in their campaign to cut wages, social services and welfare benefits, whilst blaming immigrants.
People are rightly disgusted by Donald Trump’s racist promise to build a wall to keep out Mexicans. But the EU has already effectively built such a wall to keep out refugees fleeing war and repression. Instead of welcoming refugees the EU confronts them with barbed wire fences, military patrol boats and a rotten deal with Turkey . This has forced hundreds of thousands of people to risk their lives on the open sea. Indeed, thousands of people have already drowned, leaving blood on the hands of the European elites.
The vote to leave was rooted in class and a revolt against the establishment. It was principally a vote by working class people who are rightly angry at the loss of control over their wages, conditions and lives. In much of Britain it was the most deprived and disadvantaged communities, including many of the Labour Party’s traditional heartlands like the North East and Wales , that voted leave in the biggest numbers.
If Jeremy Corbyn had had the courage of his lifelong convictions, he would have given a voice to this anger and pulled the exit debate to the left. As it was, Corbyn – in a concession to Labour’s right wing – chose to campaign for remain leaving the field open to the racists and xenophobes in UKIP and the Tory right.
The pressure on wages and services comes from Tory policies and the EU, not from immigrants. Migrants go to Britain in order to work, pay their taxes and help to run vital services like the NHS. Their contribution is overwhelmingly positive both economically and culturally. It is the British bosses and bankers that cut services and workers living standards.
The right will try to claim victory in Britain but the reality is far more complex. The Tory Party is now in disarray as David Cameron has been forced to resign. The workers’ movement, the trade unions and the left need to take advantage of this and go on the offensive.
Whatever else happens, it is becoming clear that neoliberal Europe cannot hold and that the political centre i.e the old establishment is under serious threat. British workers have rejected an anti-democratic and anti-worker EU built on endless austerity and racist politics. The job of the radical left is to support this rejection of European neoliberalism and turn it into a struggle against the Tories while at the same time marginalising the racists and the xenophobes.
A Europe based on worker’s rights and solidarity is possible but to get it we need people power and a real struggle against the EU bosses club and the capitalist system they represent.