The prevailing sections of the national ruling classes of the EU-European countries are unanimous: they want Britain to remain in the European Union. This applies to continental as well as to British insular Europe. Of course, they all know that the mere withdrawal of Great Britain from the EU will not mean the end of political and military cooperation or even of economic relations between the remaining EU powers and Great Britain. If the dominating powers in the EU, given the virulent crisis of the euro and the EU as a whole, nevertheless want to avoid the risk of further withdrawals, then they are forced to take economic measures, which will undoubtedly be felt, against a country that leaves the EU.

This would weaken the already stagnant international markets and lead to unrest, further crises and shocks. International operating corporations, whose headquarters are situated outside the EU and who have branches in the UK, would have to fear that free access to the European market could be denied. In addition, it would diminish the weight of the EU in the dynamics of global politics. At the same time, US imperialism would lose its most important lobbyist within the EU institutions.

If the conservative and far-right leaders of the Brexit campaign win the referendum, they will have to abandon rapidly their idea that the exemption of the United Kingdom from the alleged tutelage and diktats from Brussels will lead to a restoration of the former British glory. It will not lead to new economic prosperity nor will it put an end to the immigration of labour. The stagnation of the international economy creates the basic conditions for both continental Europe and Great Britain to implement the continuation of capitalist policies - including an increase of the migration flows of proletarians who are hoping to find better living conditions. Wars, conducted and fuelled by imperialism, are intensifying this and will continue to do so.

Only a new boom in the imperialist world economy could remedy this situation. However, neither an intensification or an expansion of neoliberal policies nor a switch to neo-Keynesian measures can bring this about. The rulers of all capitalist countries will continue, in whatever form, the class struggle from above and in doing so try to increase the profit margins of their capital. This includes increasing the competitive pressure within the working class at home with the immigration of additional labour. If this fails, then capital will emigrate. The far-right, a servant of Capital, will therefore not only increase the aggressiveness of racism in the future but it will not considerably limit migration.

Wherein lies the importance of Brexit for the working class?

All this are all arguments against Brexit for the politicians of the status quo, for the satisfied and contented, for leftists who believe in the imperialist community of interests between capital and labour and continue to stick to the illusion that they can manage capitalism without crises. That is not the case for Marxists. The fact that, regardless of the outcome of the British referendum, the working class will have to reckon everywhere with further neoliberal attacks on their living conditions, is no reason to be indifferent to the debate on Britain’s exit from the EU.

The working class in Britain has good reasons to VOTE FOR BREXIT:

  1. The ruling classes of Great Britain and continental Europe will be weakened politically and economically;
  2. The United Kingdom would be thrown into a severe crisis by the revival of the Scottish independence movement;
  3. The prevailing bourgeois-monarchist party, in all probability the Conservative Party would be thrown in a deep crisis. It could mean the end for Cameron. Even a split in the Conservative Party would become a possibility;
  4. The permanent crisis of the Labour Party would deepen. The right wing would make Corbyn’s passivity in the question of the proposed referendum responsible for the defeat and they would sharpen their knife against the left wing. Still, the right wing would have lost the key points of its current policies. The party’s left wing would face the challenge to overcome Corbyn’s half-measures and to develop clear left-wing program.

The European Union is not a federation of states and is certainly not a federal state or even a supranational state formed by a multitude of nations. It is an alliance of 28 sovereign capitalist states. This alliance administers chunks of the sovereignty of member states based on freely negotiated arrangements. However, member states can at any time put a stop to it by exercising their right to veto and they can withdraw from it. For the dominant European classes and their governments the EU’s apparently supranational character is most welcome, because in this way their painful decisions for the working class, on which they have all agreed in Brussels, can be evaded in a national debate. This little game worked well in the past. However, it has also contributed to a crisis of confidence in the EU and the growth of euro-scepticism. A Brexit would make the class struggle in Great Britain more open and transparent.

Considering that the class struggle in its expression, both in and out of the EU, is and remains on a national footing, a Brexit is not an historical regression that would curtail the development of the internationally socialized productive forces. The proponents of this view, like Workers Power, have not understood the nature of the EU.

Last but not least, a European socialist revolution will not develop in a straight line nor will it happen simultaneously in all countries of the European Union. Undoubtedly, a strong revolutionary movement in one country will also encourage the working class in other countries to join the struggle. Still, the international revolution will be a chain of national revolutions, for which there are no fixed timetables. Those who believe that the struggle for power in their own country can only take place if it happens simultaneously in all the other 27 different countries, each with its different history, culture and traditions, is a dreamer and will never carry through a revolution.

What is the point of view of the British left?

The British labour movement plays only a minor role in the debate on Brexit. Substantial sections of the working class consider that the questions that could arise from a Brexit as a matter of concern only for competing currents of the Conservative Party and the right wing. The right wing of the Labour Party supports the Remain campaign. Corbyn, revered by the left wing and who, in the seventies, opposed integration into a capitalist Europe, has argued without enthusiasm against Brexit. The majority of the different trade union leaderships and the Trade Union Confederation (TUC), all of them dedicated to class collaboration, have also rejected a Brexit. Only a minority, the left wing of the trade union movement, is in favour of a Brexit.

There is a wide range of opinions in the Labour Left as well as in the far-left.

Supporters of the Remain campaign are also be found here. They refer to one of the EU's founding myths, according to which the EU prevents intra-European wars. They overlook the fact that after the breakup of Yugoslavia the EU's main powers have waged war on Serbia. They ignore that the European treaties compel EU countries to make greater efforts to arm themselves and broaden military cooperation. They overlook that, after 1990, more European countries have participated in wars outside of Europe than the greatest pessimist could have foretold at that time. Finally, the current military build-up against Russia demonstrates that a more united capitalist Europe does not decrease but significantly increases the risk of a major war in Europe.

Of course, there are also forces that want to initiate a democratisation of the EU, and thereafter want to reshape it with the help a broad social reform offensive. That is what Corbyn promises. Syriza, in Greece, has demonstrated how realistic such a perspective is. Recently, Cameron himself has demonstrated that renegotiating the European treaties cannot bring about any relevant changes to the EU. The argument that one should be part of the EU in order to ally oneself, on an internationalistic footing, with the continental labour movement is just pathetic.

A considerable section of the British left stares at the far-right (UKIP) as if hypnotised due to latter’s domination of the Brexit campaign. This massively influences the attitude of this section of the left. Socialist Resistance is so afraid of being lumped together with the far-right that they reject Brexit altogether. Workers Power explains that both the Remain and the Brexit campaigns are reactionary and focuses on a campaign against austerity. This organization thereby turns its back on the focus of British domestic politics. The Communist Party of Great Britain declares from the outset that this is an internal dispute between reactionaries and calls for a boycott of the referendum - as if the politics of their own bourgeoisie are of no concern to the working class. Many greetings from sectarianism.

The Socialist Party in England and Wales, a sister organization of the German SAV, and the Socialist Workers Party, linked to Marx 21, are in favour of Brexit. Both conduct their own, left Brexit campaigns. The Socialist Party seems to be putting more emphasis on the fight against austerity. The SWP on the other hand gives the impression to prefer a campaign for an internationalist immigration policy. The two most powerful organizations of the far-left thereby take an essentially progressive stance.

From a Marxist point of view, a clear stance on Brexit is imperative. It is obvious that class-conscious forces must lead a politically independent campaign for the withdrawal from the EU. Joint propaganda with the racist right-wing populist UKIP and the nationalist Conservatives is excluded. The working class has no prospect of a prosperous future either with the EU or with British nationalists. The joint call for Brexit issued by left trade unionists is a start. The working class should only rely on its own strength and fight for a British Soviet Republic in a European Socialist Soviet Republic.

Dieter Elken