Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Socialist Case for Exit

Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/911/23290

From The Socialist newspaper, 27 July 2016

Europe and the workers' movement after the 'Brexit' vote

photo Paul Mattsson

photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

This year's Committee for a Workers' International (CWI - the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) summer school met in the aftermath of the UK vote for 'Brexit' in the 23 June referendum. Delegates from 34 countries attended.

The referendum result has undoubtedly shocked the capitalist class in Britain and worldwide and the school's first session discussed these important developments and their effects in Europe, introduced by Peter Taaffe from the CWI's International Secretariat. Kevin Parslow summarises the key features of Peter's speech and the debate which followed.

Europe - Britain in particular - is now at the forefront of developments. Because of the 'weight' of British capitalism, Brexit represents a giant boulder dropped into a lake. There will be an immediate ripple effect but the repercussions will be felt for months and years.

To give a measure of the potential scale of this crisis, the UK has the second biggest economy in the EU and fifth in the world. As a comparison, its economy is 15 times bigger than Greece, which confronted ejection from the eurozone and the EU in 2015.

The consequences of the referendum were expressed by a front cover of the Economist magazine entitled "Anarchy in the UK" - referencing the 40th anniversary of the punk rock phenomenon! The rise in discontent reflects how capitalist globalisation has stored up mass indignation, which is used to inflict blows on the elite.

The situation in the UK following the referendum continues to be covered in the pages of the Socialist. However, 'Brexit' has also had huge repercussions internationally. The International New York Times reported "US profits shudder after Brexit'"! A stronger dollar against the pound and euro reduces the value of American companies' earnings in Europe.

In Nigeria, ethnic groups demanding independence are asking that if the UK can have a referendum to leave the EU, why can't they have one to leave Nigeria?

But it is in Europe that the main effects have so far been felt. In the first session of the European Parliament after the referendum, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, asked Ukip leader Nigel Farage: "Why are you here?"

Juncker reflects the deep exasperation and concern that the UK referendum might see calamitous consequences in Europe, even the break-up of the eurozone and the EU itself. The EU establishment is desperately trying to prevent 'contagion'.

There is now deep gloom amongst the European capitalists and their political representatives. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, with the far-right, anti-EU Party for Freedom (PVV) ahead in national opinion polls, bluntly stated: "England has collapsed politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically." In the Netherlands though, 47% of voters would like a vote on EU membership.

Brexit has put a new independence referendum in Scotland on the agenda. Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would like to stay in the EU. This has been rebutted by the prime minister of the Spanish state, Mariano Rajoy, who has warned of the consequences for European states if this is granted. This would give new impetus to national groups, particularly in Catalonia and the Basque Country, for independence from the Spanish state.

Sinn Fin immediately called for a new poll on the Irish border following the referendum. This risks a new outbreak of sectarianism - which must be countered through a mass mobilisation of workers. Sinn Fin leaders commented that Northern Ireland was forced out of the EU by 'Little Englanders'!

The referendum result has had repercussions throughout Europe. Lucy Redler from Germany pointed out that there was not a week without crisis in the EU. It was a "spring and summer of discontent in the EU": The EU had told Ireland it could not abolish the hated Water Tax, stronger militarisation of the EU had been proposed and more and more opposition to the 'unreformable' EU was raising its head. But in Die Linke (the Left Party), only she and one other national committee member was opposed to the EU.

Divisions

International Secretariat member Danny Byrne said the EU question has divided the left in Europe and become a microcosm of the difference between a 'reformist' and a 'revolutionary' approach. This was now beginning to open up divisions in left organisations.

The Left Bloc in Portugal and the United Left (IU) in Spain were moving towards a policy of breaking with the EU because of the effects of EU-imposed austerity in these countries.

Peter explained there is a huge eurosceptic mood in most countries. About 53% in an opinion poll in France want a referendum on EU membership; but neither there nor in the Netherlands is a majority yet for leaving the EU.

Greek workers, following the EU-imposed austerity, are now the most eurosceptic; 92% believe the EU badly handled the crisis. Not so long ago, Greece was the most pro-European country but that was before being placed on the rack of EU austerity. That has led to a collapse in support for the Syriza government. This may hand opportunities to the Nazi Golden Dawn, now the third party in opinion polls.

Andros from Xekinima (CWI in Greece) said that for the Greek working class, the most important development has been Brexit. There is very low mood in Greece following the EU-imposed eye-watering austerity but new battles will come.

The general European economic situation is dire. Because no improvement in conditions is likely, capitalist commentators fear a domino effect through Europe. Italy could be the next country to follow Britain out of the EU exit door. This would just about finish the EU; already discussions have taken place about a 'two-tier' Europe. There is chronic economic stagnation in Italy. Broad swathes of the population have had no rise in living standards for decades.

There is a crisis in the banking system, including the world's oldest bank. Prime Minister Renzi wants to recapitalise the banks (burdened with 330 billion of bad debts), by government aid or nationalisation. Yet the EU is preventing this because it opposes 'state intervention'!

This is classical neoliberalism and poses further disasters for workers. However, Italy could be the precursor of political developments elsewhere. The populist Five Star Movement has had electoral successes and leads the opinion polls.

Far right

Germany has seen the rise of the right-wing Alternative fr Deutschland (Alternative for Germany - AfD), that started as mainly an anti-euro party, but which has grown to 11% support in opinion polls due to its virulently anti-migrant and anti-refugee propaganda. (AfD is now trying to politically capitalise on the recent attacks on bystanders by lone refugees in Germany).

Brexit will have important economic effects on Germany. It is reliant on exports to UK, Spain, Italy and Britain, which may be reduced if economic uncertainty takes hold.

Austria has entered a serious political crisis with the presidential elections, narrowly won by the Green party's candidate over the right-wing Freedom Party (FP) candidate. The election has to be rerun over a technicality. The FP is anti-EU and welcomed the UK's referendum result.

Battling against the far right is a key question following the referendum as it can articulate the anti-EU mood and fill the political vacuum left by the former workers' parties. The struggle for new, independent left-wing mass parties is important in this respect.

French workers have been resisting up to now the worst aspects of neoliberalism, including the government's determination to push through anti-working class labour 'reforms', backed by the EU.

Given current polls, President Hollande will be defeated in the first round of presidential elections next year, if he stands. Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front (FN) is likely to be in the final round of voting.

Le Pen also welcomed the Brexit vote and strongly supports the idea of a referendum in France.

Spain has seen two general elections in the last seven months and the left parties, on the joint Unidos Podemos list in June's elections, lost a million votes between the two.

Viki from Spain said this was disappointing for the working class and youth (see issue 910 of the Socialist). Some believed the Brexit vote had a negative effect on the left's vote as the electorate chose stability, although the left's programme and campaign were not adequate.

In Ireland the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit TDs (MPs) in the Dil (Irish parliament) have been the only ones to welcome the referendum outcome. Irish workers have suffered in the last few years from EU-imposed austerity.

Belgium has also seen a strike wave, and Els from Belgium remarked that on the morning of the referendum result, Belgian workers were on strike. The pickets saw Brexit as a victory while their officials thought it was a mistake!

Poland is symptomatic of developments in Eastern Europe. Governments there have embraced neo-liberalism and the EU but the current politically right-wing nationalist government has taken a certain tilt against the market in the direction of 'state capitalism'.

This is an indication of a partial rejection of the effects of the market and the need for a more 'regulated' capitalism including renationalisation. It raises the question of the planned economy and a socialist alternative.

But a storm cloud on the horizon in Eastern Europe is the increased tension with Russia, not just over the Ukraine but also the spreading of Nato's (Western military alliance) tentacles to the Baltic States. EU states in Eastern Europe have hosted military manoeuvres in recent months

Peter concluded by stating that we face a new disturbed period in Europe. The UK referendum showed that a polarisation is taking place that will not necessarily always take place on clear class lines.

But this is provoking discussion and debate and forcing working people, and then the youth, to attempt to think things out. This will bring new supporters to the CWI.

The undermining of traditional capitalist parties throughout Europe is clear but in the absence of fighting left organisations, we see the rise of right-wing populism, which are largely anti-EU. We cannot see the struggle against the far right as separate to the struggle of the workers' movement against austerity.

In new class struggles we can look forward to the broader development of a socialist consciousness than now. That will then pose the changing of society on socialist grounds.

See also:

Why the Socialist Party opposed the EU

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 27 July 2016:


#KeepCorbyn

No compromise with Labour right wing

Mood to defeat the Blairites

Anger against Blairite 'traitors' sweeps Portsmouth Momentum

'Defend Corbyn' rally

Corbyn's 'rock-star welcome' in North West


Socialist Party news and analysis

End Victorian working conditions

Tories plan further fee hikes for uni students

Them & Us

What we saw: UB40 backs Corbyn


Socialist Party feature

Europe and the workers' movement after Brexit

Why the Socialist Party opposed the EU


International socialist news and analysis

Turkey: no to military rule, no to Erdoğan's rule


Socialist history

Barcelona 1936: the people's Olympics


Workplace news and analysis

Fawley refinery strike against 'race to bottom'

Unite policy conference backs reselection of Labour MPs

Brookes workers continue the fight against 2Sisters

Workplace news in brief


Fighting racism

Black Lives Matter demo shakes Leeds

Sheffield solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Huntingdon anti-racist rally


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Pent Valley school closure judicial review blocked

Reverse Derby council cuts

An explosion in sales of the Socialist

Sharrow success


 

Home   |   The Socialist 27 July 2016   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

EU:

triangleWakefield Socialist Party: Splits in the EU

triangleBattered Tories face divisions and growing anger

triangleYork Socialist Party: EU splits and divisions grow over Covid-19 crisis

triangleAs coronavirus crisis intensifies, class antagonisms deepen

triangleGreece-Turkey border refugee crisis

Workers:

triangleSelling the Socialist

triangleReaders' opinion

triangleA socialist NHS fit for heroes

triangleSunday trading: Government blinks first

Europe:

trianglesocialism2020

triangle'Victory in Europe' 75th anniversary: A resurgent workers' movement and the fight for socialism

Austerity:

triangleBoris's new big deal

triangleNews in brief

European:

triangleA new world order - global reconstruction after World War Two

CWI:

triangleIndia: Fighting the curse of capitalism and coronavirus

Germany:

triangleGermany: Right-wing terror attacks - fight racism, fight capitalism!

Spain:

triangleHackney & Islington Socialist Party: How can we boot out the Tories

Italy:

triangle'Health not profit' strike wave sweeps Italy

Greece:

triangleGreece elections: Syriza ousted amid voter disillusionment

Britain:

triangleA new movement for system change

Ireland:

triangleTwo-metre rule under 'review' - Another case of profit before safety

Economy:

triangleThem & us

Eastern Europe:

triangleLiverpool Socialist Party: Eastern Europe - a revival of class struggle

Capitalism:

triangle75th anniversary of the Attlee Labour government

France:

triangleReform or revolt? How was the slave trade abolished?

Scotland:

triangleScotland and coronavirus - a catalogue of government failure

Netherlands:

triangleTurkey: Erdogan seeks sweeping dictatorial powers in referendum

Far-right:

triangleBirmingham South Socialist Party: 1990s struggles against the far-right

Euro:

triangleItalian elections create huge political shake-up

Belgium:

triangleBelgium: Movement against climate change grows

Eurozone:

triangleEU-Canada trade deal battle points to Corbyn's Brexit opportunity

Portugal:

triangleStriking Portuguese dockers show the way forward

Poland:

trianglePoland: thousands mourn death of murdered mayor

Russia:

triangleThe striking relevance of Leon Trotsky's Theory of Permanent Revolution

UKIP:

triangleMay ends in June! Boot out the Tories!

Xekinima:

triangleObituary: Ged Travers 1957-2018

Ukraine:

triangleTV Review: Chernobyl - Workers' heroism vs sclerotic Stalinism

Podemos:

triangleCatalonia independence movement two years on

Syriza:

triangleTories torn - bin them now

Nigel Farage:

triangle'Vote Leave' fined: For a workers' Brexit

Banks:

triangleThem & Us

Austria:

triangleVienna: 50,000 march against racism and austerity

Anti-austerity:

triangleLabour Party leadership contest: Fight for a mass anti-austerity, workers' party with a socialist programme

Basque:

triangleOver one million students strike against sexism and for inclusive sex education

Catalonia:

triangleCatalonia: Draconian prison sentences of independence leaders provokes mass protests and strikes

Northern Ireland:

triangleMay Day 2020: join the protests - wear red, bring flags and banners

Globalisation:

triangleWest London Socialist Party: Globalisation/deglobalisation and the world economy

Peter Taaffe:

triangleSocialist Party executive committee positions

Brexit:

triangleLeicester Socialist Party: Britain after Brexit

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

1/7/20

Coronavirus

Tory full return to school plans gamble with lives

1/7/20

Trans rights

Yes to self-identity

1/7/20

Waste

Plastic waste ignored

1/7/20

Covid

Tories put profit before lives

1/7/20

NHS

A socialist NHS fit for heroes

1/7/20

Labour Party

Workers need a new mass party to defend their interests

1/7/20

Food

News in brief

1/7/20

Tory party

Capitalism and corruption go hand in hand

1/7/20

Government

Boris's new big deal

1/7/20

Benefits

Benefits system being used to force return to unsafe workplaces

30/6/20

Britain

A new movement for system change

24/6/20

Housing

Act now to cancel Covid crisis rents and debt

24/6/20

South Wales

Victory for Royal Glamorgan A&E!

24/6/20

Coronavirus

Lifting the lockdown: workers must not pay the price

24/6/20

Young people

Young people fighting back: Jobs and homes, not racism

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 07748 534 891

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999