In the lead up to the June 23 Brexit vote, Canadian media reported almost daily on the line-up of right-wing, anti-immigrant, racist and fascist organizations that were campaigning in support of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union: the Brexit referendum.
The message to Canadians was clear: Brexit is dangerous; the European Union is safe. To nail down that assessment with working people, the leader of Britain’s TUC, Frances O’Grady, confirmed that maintaining Britain’s labour rights and standards hinged on enforcement by the European Union – not the British government which she said, would first erode and then eliminate workers’ rights and standards.
The Tories and the EU: Divisions in the Ruling Class
In fact both the British government and the EU have been working for decades to slash workers’ rights and standards. It was Margaret Thatcher who brought neo-liberal economics and social and trade policies to Britain, and Tony Blair who took Britain into the dirty wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and severely restricted civil and democratic rights in the post 9/11 ‘security state’.
The EU is a supra-national body that represents the interests of the largest European, German and transnational corporations. Financed by the privately owned European banks, with the enforcement powers of the European Commission, it has single-handedly subjugated the national sovereignty and independence of states across the continent, waged war on the African states and refugees trying to escape wars in Africa and the Middle East, while also waging war on the working class and peoples of Europe with the imposition of austerity, mass impoverishment, joblessness, and harsh restrictions on labour, democratic, civil and social rights. The EU has also fanned the flames of racism, xenophobia, and hatred, leading to the growth of fascist parties and movements in every part of Europe. And these parties, as in the 1930s, continue to act as the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.
The division in the ruling class over the EU, was not about content, but about the pace of capitalist globalization in Europe. German capital, and the German banks, were pushing for more concentrated and centralized economic and political power in the EU, which conflicted with the interests of big capital in Britain and in some other EU countries. As US President Obama observed, the German efforts to “deepen” the EU , meant the EU “was moving too fast” for some of the European monopolies (including some in Britain).
Urging governments and corporations to “avoid hysteria” following the Brexit vote, Obama reminded his audience that “NATO and the transatlantic alliance still exist”. To enforce capitalist globalization, exploitation and continuing super-profits.
The EU is an opponent of the working class and working people, and its complete break up would be an important step in curbing the power of the monopolies and the big corporations in Europe, and in creating the conditions for an effective struggle to restore national sovereignty and democracy to the peoples of Europe.
A Victory for the Working Class
And so the decision of the British working class, by a margin of just 2%, to “leave” the European Union was an important and courageous decision in face of a massive “remain” campaign led by Tory PM David Cameron. The Communist Party of Britain and other left and progressive organizations campaigned hard for Britain’s withdrawal, while advocating an agenda for fundamental economic and social change in Britain, contained in the “Lexit” (exit Left). This included massive job creation, higher wages and living standards, investments in education, healthcare, housing and social programs, an open immigration policy providing safe haven for refugees and new immigrants, a foreign policy of peace and disarmament, and a trade policy of fair trade with all countries based on mutual benefit.
The Communists argued that the Brexit opened the door for the working class to take on the IMF and the World Bank, and to expand the Lexit to include an exit from all supra-national capitalist blocs and trade deals.
However the immediate job is to prevent the betrayal of the Brexit vote: by Conservatives bent on transforming the referendum result into “advice” that Parliament can accept or reject; and by the Labour Party caucus which is attempting to dump its Leader Jeremy Corbyn for his socialist views and his unwillingness to campaign to overturn the referendum result. Scottish nationalists, hoping to re-open the issue of a referendum on Scottish independence, are campaigning to keep Scotland in the EU.
British Communists are demanding that the government trigger the 2-year exit negotiations by informing the EU that Britain is leaving the EU, and then call an election so that new MPs, committed to negotiating Britain’s exit, can be elected. British Communists are also demanding that the trade union movement and the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, regain leadership of the anti EU campaign, linking Britain’s sovereignty and independence from the EU with an open immigration policy for refugees and immigrants. In the process they aim to push back the fascists, racists and xenophobia so prevalent in the UK today.
Canada and the Brexit / Lexit
Pulling Britain out of the EU raises important new questions and possibilities for Canada to also break free of the corporate trade deals and blocs that have cost this country its sovereignty and independence, a million jobs, a large part of its manufacturing base, and transformed its multilateral trade policy into a unilateral trade deal with the US; and a foreign policy made in the USA, putting Canada on a permanent war footing, waist deep in US dirty wars.
The British working class has shown that another way is possible, necessary, and urgent.
In the US elections, both Trump and Clinton are committed to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership, campaigning on protectionist policies and blaming previous trade deals for massive job losses and declining living standards and wages. Trump is also campaigning on anti-immigrant, racist and xenophobic policies that promote isolationism.
Move the TPP to the garbage heap
The Liberals’ commitment to the TPP may well be waning as a result of the Brexit and the US elections, which means that mass independent political action by labour and the democratic movements before November could decisively move the TPP off the government’s agenda, and onto the garbage heap of history where the MAI and FTAA already lie.
For Canadian workers, the most important response to the Brexit would be to kill the TPP, and knock another block out of the imperialist fortress in North America.
The tide is starting to turn.