Last June 23, while the working class was confronting the labour code reform of Hollande and the EU in France, Great Britain was performing a referendum to decide if they should remain as part of the European Union. Despite the campaign of the British, European and even United States’ capital, a majority of the British working class voted to leave the EU.
By Roberto Laxe.
It is clear the timorous policy of the current Labour leader Corbyn, of “swimming and folding the clothes” in front of an option that confronted his social base (more inclined to leave the EU) with the apparatus of the party disciplined to the Great Capital, made the task of the conservative right wing and the UKIP easier, by putting racism and xenophobia in the center of the debate while hiding the true reasons. The vote was against the neo-liberal policies implemented since Thatcher’s times, her successors Major and Blair, and above all since the explosion of the crisis in 2007. It would be childish to deny racism and xenophobia played a central role; it is also true that, as many say, “not everyone that votes to leave is racist, but every racist will vote to leave” (in a not so precise affirmation, as the xenophobic policies against the refugees were encouraged by the Europeanist government of Cameron).
Great Britain was, together with the US, one of the centers of the current crisis, followed by the Spanish State, as it was strongly financed by the UK when the real-estate bubble reached the highest rates, sweeping banks like the Northern Rock, nationalized and later sold, and sweeping retirement funds, etc. In word of a high executive of the Bank of England, “along the last 160 years, the growth of financial intermediation has been superior, in more than 2% annually, to the global growth of economy. In other words, the increase of the added value of the financial sector has been twice the increase of economy itself, in this 160 years period”. If such financial sector represented 1.5% of the benefits of economy between 1948 and 1970, nowadays it represents 15%.
Great Britain was only capable of navigating through the crisis differently than the Spanish State and what they pejoratively called the PIIGS, because that “special” situation the British imperialism keeps in the international division of the world: to be a financial center with no major industries (all of them in foreigner hands, or out of the country), and the control of the Pound, which allows it to absorb part of the surplus value at global level, to cover its costs and have independent policies from the Euro Zone. Even like this, to be part of the EU forced it to discipline to the policies of Brussels, even against its will. This discipline is what associated the EU to decline, cuts and austerity; the conclusion could not be other than the victory of the position to leave, leaving the EU one step away of crumbling: the crisis of the refugees exposed the misalignments the EU is going through.
From Greece to the UK, through France and the others
It is not the first time the EU gets a setback from the peoples. In fact, every time a State asks the population regarding the EU, the latest (and the government in turn) face a defeat. In front of the European Constitution, according to data quoted by Vincenç Navarro, 79% of the manufacturing workers voted against, in France, as much as 67% of the services workers and 98% of the workers organized in unions; in the Netherlands, 68% of the working class voted against; in Luxemburg, 69%. And not so long ago, just one year, in Greece, the EU got a major OXI [NO], only reverted by the betrayal of its leadership, Syriza, by driving the policies that are now turning Greece into a European protectorate, specifically German.
It is not out of place to affirm the Greek experience, the rejection to the policies of the EU, had an effect over the Brexit, reaffirming the deep class, international nature of the British people’s response.
At the bottom, the EU crisis
The Brexit is not the cause of the EU crisis but one of its consequences, like the Greek OXI and the French mobilizations. In other words, it is a consequence of the present European capitalism (which took legal form in the Maastritch Treaty) and its consequences of debt, privatization and dismantling of the Welfare State. But this is a particular type of crisis, as the British bourgeoisie always had a “special” relationship with Europe, defended by Churchill in 1930: “we are with Europe, but we are not part of it”. After the WWII, when the UK left the center of the world to the US, the British bourgeoisie redefined its role and became the European “partner” of the new Power. For the US, this new role is really important, and therefore the position of Obama in favor of the “remain”; this way, they have a foot inside the economic conglomerate that could become its shadow at some point, besides being a spearhead for the economic relations between both sides of the Atlantic: Great Britain as the filling of the sandwich, the EU in one side and the US in the other, both keeping London as a financial center of first order.
This contradictory relation manifested less than two years ago, when the Court in Strasburg denied Frankfurt the right to hold the headquarter of the Euro exchanges, back then (and still) located in London. It is surreal: London, with a different monetary policy than the Euro Zone, controls the financial decanting in Euros. The Brexit also holds this component, which intensifies the inter-imperialist tensions: by leaving the EU, they cannot hold the argumentation to keep the financial center of the Euro in London, and the moves to take control of it have already began.
The EU is an alliance among imperialist powers against the European working class and the peoples of the world. The crisis of 2007 intensified its exploiter, oppressor tendencies, and it is against these policies the peoples are reacting; some through a referendum, like the Greek or British people, and some through strikes and occupations, like the French people. But in all cases, the response is isolated. Each working class, each people, is confronting its government, as if the policies were not part of a European capitalist plan but just national or State problems. This happens mostly because of the accomplice union bureaucracies, the social democracy and the neo-reformism, educating their bases in a national, not international, way of thinking.
Many of the parties rejecting the policies of the UE do not take this all the way to the end, staying in the sole demand of “regeneration” [of the EU], not understanding the EU itself is the problem. Others remain in the opposition to those policies only inside national frames. Both feed the racist, xenophobic proposals, which are the only ones that appear to the working class and the population with a clear, open confrontation to the core of the problem: the EU. For the Brexit, the OXI, the French mobilization to gain a really transforming nature, it is necessary to overcome the nationalism hand-tying them, and the rejection to the EU has to be linked to the demand of “Another Europe is possible: the Europe of the Workers and the Peoples”.
 To be cautious, to prepare alternative moves before you do something to mitigate the possible consequences.
Translation: Sofía Ballack.