The referendum on UK membership of the European Union on 23rd June has major implications and unique divisions across the political spectrum.
For staying in EU are Cameron’s wing of the Tories, LibDems, most of the Labour Party for a “social Europe”, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens, plus US instructions. For leaving EU are UKIP (who called the referendum), Tory Eurosceptics, the far-right and, for different reasons, most of the British left groupings, eg, CPB, SWP, SP, Counterfire and Respect. Socialist Resistance calls for a critical “in” vote to resist the xenophobia/racism of the mainstreams of the “leave” camp but declares in its recent pamphlet, that the European Union is unreformably “a reactionary anti-working class neo-liberal institution and we are in favour of exit from it” (page 10). The Revolutionary Communist Group is for abstention.
The two right-wing main streams of the “leave” camp (Brexit) are nationalistic xenophobia in response to migrants and refugees, particularly Islamophobia: secondly deregulation of commerce and industry generally adverse to the interests of the working class. There is no plan A or B, but a general atavistic nostalgia for Empire, Commonwealth and national super-power status. Conversely the left groups, as listed above, support Brexit for two quite different reasons. Firstly in protest at the savage “pound of flesh” debt-recovery forced on to a pauperised Greece by the Troika (IMF, ECB and EU). Secondly regarding the “democratic deficit” of the EU, the powers of its Council of Ministers and Commission over the European Parliament. But it is wholly mistaken to regard the Eurocapitalist brutality against Greece as essentially any different to domestic brutality at Orgreave, the Poll Tax demo or Atos work-testing. It’s the nature of the beast! Mistaken too to regard the neoliberal regime and democratic deficit of the European Union as to warrant turning back to Westminster rule: to Parliament’s museum of first-past-the-post MPs, unelected Upper House, unwritten Constitution, corporate lobbyists, shackled trade unions, world’s highest surveillance, muddled powers of established Church, civil service and Monarchy, arcane and archaic feudal procedures controlled by a liveried apparatus. all symbolised by the displayed golden Saxon war-club called the Mace.
The European Union is a higher form of government than its constituent nation-states. It has subsumed Franco-German rivalry of the last two centuries and the Benelux national boundaries. It leads the world in civil, workers’ and LGBT rights and justice, health and safety, environmental protection of land, air, rivers and beaches, renewable energy, climate action and industrial, fishing and food standards. Its greater mobility to work, live and study should be championed and extended by all progressives. Internationalists, Red or Green, should and must engage with the world, with the continent of Europe and with its Union to unite its struggles for revolutionary transformation. To quit the European Union because it is less reformable than Westminster is mistaken and reactionary. The laws of history are stronger than the bureaucratic apparatus. Leaving the EU has no resonance with the anti-austerity parties and groups of southern Europe. British socialism, like all National Socialism, is an oxymoron and swear-word; patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Leaving the European Union will bring a carnival of racist, deregulated reaction. A vote to Stay In the European Union on 23 June fits the strategy for engagement, for global eco-socialist revolution from below, the only hope of survival. Workers FOR the world, unite!
Tim Summers (Green Party since 1999)
Can Zionists cope?
Piers Corbyn tweeted: “#Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for #Palestine”. Eric Lee in his column (Solidarity 400) responded that “Zionists” can cope. He, Eric, is a Zionist in the sense of “a person who supports the Jewish people’s right to a national homeland”, but he also opposes the Israeli government and supports the right of the Palestinian people to an independent state alongside Israel. Luke Hardy responds (Solidarity 401), that Zionism is in fact Israeli nationalism, and as Marxists we oppose all nationalism (even while supporting national rights).
That is true on a barebones level, but, I think, misses some points. Usually, as with Piers Corbyn’s tweet, jeers against “Zionists” as hopeless bigots are aimed not at non-Jewish but at Jewish sympathisers with Israel. Are those Jews “Israeli nationalists”, by way of identification with Israel? Probably most of them are.
As Luke points out, most people other than revolutionary socialists and other ideological minorities are to some degree or another “nationalist” for the nation they identify with. We can respond to this by saying: “Ah yes. Israeli nationalist. Very bad. Lenin explained that Marxists oppose all nationalism. Not as bad as the ‘absolute anti-Zionists’ say, but bad. Nothing to do with us, thank god”.
Yes, Lenin did argue, rightly, that Marxists must ideologically oppose all nationalism, even the most refined and liberal. Nationalist And, as it happens, in my opinion, Eric’s political views on some issues, notably Israel’s assault on Gaza in early 2009, have been distinctly Israeli-nationalist. We have debated that in Solidarity. The question here is whether we use that debate to get out of the line of fire when people like Piers Corbyn denounce “Zionists” across the board.
When anti-semitism raged in East London in the late 19th century, Eleanor Marx would declare defiantly at public meetings there: “I am a Jewess”. Strictly speaking she wasn’t (her mother was gentile). She wasn’t religious-Jewish. She could “correctly” have responded: “Of course I’m not Jewish, and I’m hostile to Jewish religion. If you want to attack Jews, well, that’s not me. But in any case I think your attacks are overdone...”
In more recent years, sometimes comrades whom we know to be atheist respond defiantly to anti-Muslim racists: “Yes, I’m a Muslim”. They know that with the racist they are not having an argument about theology, but one about his or her prejudices against those who “look Muslim”. Likewise, much of conventional raging against “Zionism” is not an erudite explanation of why we should criticise all nationalisms, but a hostility to those who “look” to have some identification with Israel.
Martin Thomas, north London