SWP, shamefaced on Europe

Submitted by cathy n on 16 June, 2015 - 7:00 Author: Sacha Ismail

For the Socialist Workers’ Party, who put such emphasis on migrants’ rights and being internationalist, their support for leaving the EU is more awkward than, say, for the Socialist Party. Nonetheless, they are sticking to their guns.

At the end of May, the SWP published an article by their national secretary Charlie Kimber under the title “EU referendum debate can’t be left to racists”.

“The Tory right and the racist Ukip want to use the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union to ramp up racism. They argue that if Britain leaves the EU then tougher immigration controls can be imposed.

“Every flag-waving nationalist and bigot will crawl out from underneath their rock to argue against the EU shackling “our” freedoms.”

Yes, indeed. So why not argue against withdrawal?

There is rather shamefaced aspect to Kimber’s article. Most if it is hung on an early negative proposition: “We won’t side with any ‘keep Britain in’ campaign”. So an abstention? No, towards the end of the article, Kimber comes out for a “No” vote, though still shamefacedly: “Breaking with the EU can help them weaken the shackles of austerity… A vote against the EU could also cause a crisis for our rulers.”

The arguments are poor to say the least.

If “the process of European integration got underway because European capitalists outgrew the markets that their nation states could provide”, how does moving backwards to more walled off capitalist states serve the working class?

Yes, the EU is a “bosses’ club”; yes it has “imposed brutal austerity on the workers of Greece”; yes, it is a “thoroughly pro-business project”; and yes, it is “because of the EU’s ‘Fortress Europe’ that thousands of migrants are dying in the Mediterranean”.

What Socialist Worker fails to explain – of course – is how Britain leaving the EU will improve the possibilities to struggle against any of these things.

What underlies the SWP’s position is not a rational explanation about the logic of the struggle, but negativism: whatever is bad for or opposed by the ruling class must be good for us. The logic of reactionary anti-capitalism in the SWP’s politics is working itself through. “Lined up on that side is Tory prime minister David Cameron and the majority of the British ruling class… A vote against the EU could also cause a crisis for our rulers. The Tory party could rip itself apart over its divisions on Europe.”

A crisis driven by the nationalist right, weakening the Tory party by strengthening UKIP, will not help the labour movement and the left.

The idea that any version of the “Britain out” cause can or should be championed by the left is ridiculous.

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