US President Barack Obama is expected this week to make a speech calling for Britain to remain in the European Union. When Obama does this, he is saying that Britain remaining in the EU is what is best for capitalism. However, what is bad for capitalism, in this case leaving the EU, is not necessarily good for workers.
Remaining in the EU is also better for workers. European capitalism (which the US has an interest in keeping stable) has — in its own interests — substantially integrated Europe both economically and politically. By doing so, European bosses have also increased the possibilities for Europe-wide workers′ unity. To try to break up the process of integration is as regressive as trying to turn the internet off because that is run by capitalist companies. Or attempting to abolish parliament without bothering to ensure that bourgeois democracy is replaced with something better. Our method of fighting capitalism is not to smash up all of its achievements, or to create chaos and reaction just because it is ″bad for capitalism″.
Conditions of chaos and reaction are not good for building a better or more humane society. We want to take over the world that capitalism has made, by exploiting our labour and productive capacities, and make it our own. Capitalism operates across European borders. The EU referendum result will not change that. On a recent trip to France to join protests in Paris against the French government′s new anti-worker law, Workers′ Liberty activists met and discussed with some German workers, one of whom worked as a train driver for Deutsche Bahn. Deutsche Bahn owns transport companies across Europe, including the Arriva train and bus company in Britain. Leaving the EU would not place serious limitations on Deutsche Bahn′s ability to exploit workers in Britain and in Germany, or to stop it doing what it does now — playing them off against each other. It would, however, increase the barriers to workers in Britain and Germany organising together against Deutsche Bahn.
This referendum is largely being fought on the question of immigration. A vote to leave the EU will be a vote against migration and against migrants. That will strengthen the anti-migrant right and set the tone for attacks on migrant rights. Such a political climate will turn workers in Britain against migrants and workers from other countries. During his pre-referendum negotiations with the EU Cameron tried to get greater powers over benefits (especially for migrants) and employment law for the British government. He had to settle for some lesser, but still awful, benefit cuts. The right of the Tory party alongside UKIP are campaigning to leave the EU because they want to go further than Cameron against migrant rights, against immigration, and against workers′ rights.
The protections usually cited by those campaigning to ″remain″ — the European Court of Human Rights, the Working Time Directive, paid annual leave, health and safety protection, and rights for part-time, agency and outsourced workers, TUPE — do play a role in protecting us from the worst things the Tories want to do. But these protections are not infallible. Moreover such rights had to be fought for and won, and they will need to be defended, by our movement. Our campaign to remain in the EU must do more than defend these protections. It must organise for our own ideas — for a workers′ Europe. We criticise the governments of Europe. We fight for an end to austerity and a levelling up of wages, conditions, services and rights across the continent. We call for democratic reform of the EU, including a sovereign EU Parliament. We fight for freedom of movement and an end to “Fortress Europe”.