Friday, February 26, 2016

Should I Stay or Should I Go

Enormous publicity has been given recently to the question of whether Britain should remain in the European Union or leave it. But it is all pointless from the point of view of the working class. It may be that some groups of workers would find their position slightly improved being within the EU; some groups might think their position would be slightly better outside it; but the over-riding fact is that we possess no stake in the great wealth-producing agencies of what the papers call “their” country. A referendum is like an assassin giving his or her victim the choice of being strangled or drowned. All the media – the newspapers, television, radio, and so on – are getting intensely excited about the EU question. But like all the other political questions we are told to worry about, all this noise merely reflects disagreements among the owning class. It may be that larger companies think there will be more chances of profit within Europe, resulting from a closer engagement with the markets across Europe. It may be that smaller companies think that their lesser resources won't let them compete if the big conglomerations are cleaning up all the profits – if the bigger predators are doing better, perhaps they will do worse. It will be obvious that all this ferment has nothing to do with the basic position of workers in society. All this furore, the endless discussions will make little difference to the mass of people. If workers would only devote a tenth of the effort to their own interests that they spend debating the interests of the various sections of the master class, then we would have socialism double-quick.

The EU was set up to favour the sectional interests of the a part of the capitalist class who thought that such an arrangement would be in their economic interest, in the same way the campaign to leave the EU is being largely financed by a section of the capitalist class who think that leaving the EU will have an economic benefit to them. The SPGB isn't concerned with the sectional interests of the capitalist class, it is interested in the working class and achieving socialism. The SPGB has since its formation in 1904, held the view that capitalism cannot be reformed in the interests of workers, therefore the only logical position for a socialist party is to opposes reformism, that is to say reforms of the system distract energy and attention away from the work necessary to create a socialist society, i.e. spreading the ideas of socialism.

Cameron's EU deal is not going to make much difference even from a capitalist point of view. It's essentially an institutionalisation of the status quo as regards the relationship between euro and non-euro EU Member States and new EU legislation on child benefits for workers in one EU country whose children live in another (this will apply to migrant workers in Germany, etc as well as in Britain). And it doesn't erect any legal barriers to the free movement of workers, only some measures to make it less attractive to come to Britain (and even this is being countered by the move from tax credits to the so-called "living" wage which won't be affected). So it won't stop immigration if that's what was intended. No wonder the Euro-sceptics don't think much of it. In terms of the working class, the vote won’t bring socialism closer, either way, so as a class we have no specific interest in the vote. As a class we have no interest.

The most profitable corporations think globally all the time. Real change will require global action. Piecemeal interventions have not helped slow or reverse the pace of wealth accumulation by the capitalist class. We’ll never truly change things unless we engage and galvanise new hearts and minds.


Mike Ballard said...

As a class, we do have an interest in getting control and ownership of as much of the wealth we produce as we are politically powerful enough to obtain. As a class, we have an interest in obtaining free medical care, unemployment benefits, shorter work time with no cut in pay, free public education and an adequate age pension. So, we do have class interests in getting some reforms.

What we don't have an interest in is whether the small businesses or the large businesses get better treatment from the State. We don't have class interests in common with capitalists with the possible exception of stopping climate change and the extinction of species, including homo sapiens.

So sure, on to common ownership of the wealth we collectively produce. Who needs a wage system, the ruling class, not us. Produce for use and need after we've taken back the whole of what we produce.

ajohnstone said...

There has been some discussion within the Party that shows we aren't entirely unanimous in the attitude we should take for the EU referendum. Some think as you do that certain reforms should be defended such as the mobility of labour, something that is also supported by a powerful element of the ruling class.

As we are of insignificant influence (hard to admit but nevertheless true) our Party view is quite academic and therefore we can use the referendum to strengthen our basic principles which is to advance world socialism, and point out that discussion of remaining or leaving the EU is an issue of the size of our prison cell, as one comrade said. As in the past, we consider being in or out of the EU holds little benefit for UK workers...some find membership advantageous, some are hindered by it but overall, neither result will make their lives as wage-slaves significantly different to justify taking sides.

We have the advantage of an upcoming annual conference and i feel the topic of the referendum will be fully discussed at it and who knows, another view may be suggested that is neither a leave or stay.

Mike Ballard said...

We deserve to socially own and control more and more of the collective product of our labour. Brexit or EU doesn't matter to the working class. What matters is our standard of living. As our productivity grows, so should our leisure time.

ajohnstone said...

The debate already involves the question of standard of living. It was EU rulings that enabled my own union to campaign against the hours we worked and place a limit upon them. It was a UK ruling that created an opt-out clause to exempt us from working less hours. Fellow workers were addicted to working over-time and reluctant to give it up while wages remained low but were also reluctant to fight for higher pay.

C'est la vie.

Nor should we forget the quality of life ;-)