Should We Stay or Should We Go? A Debate Over Brexit

Fri, 06/10/2016 - 06:00
Should We Stay or Should We Go? A Debate Over Brexit

In less than two weeks the people of Britain will be taking the decision to either Leave or Remain in the European Union. This is arguably the biggest vote this country has faced in a generation. Last week on 2nd June The Nation magazine published a view from four leading figures on the British left to shed some light on the issues surrounding both Leave and Remain. Local MP Jon Cruddas was one of the contributors alongside Helen Lewis, Harris Beider and Tariq Ali.

The full article published on 02.06.2016 by The Nation can be found here:

Jon's contribution can be found below.

JON CRUDDAS MP ? Member of Parliament for Dagenham & Rainham

Vision Zero

It is a strange reflection on the state of the contemporary left that a socialist Labour Party in the United Kingdom appears committed to an unreformed European Union?one whose viability is increasingly predicated on the subordination of democratic politics to markets and constitutionally bound to a Hayekian utopia in which the free movement of people, money, and things fundamentally undermines the substantial achievements of postwar social democracy. Above all, there is a widespread inability to distinguish between internationalism and globalization, so that the progressive left of Europe?in Greece, for example?appears at the vanguard of a project without any real hope of resisting the domination of capital by building a robust social democracy.

How did we get here?

The roots of the current situation can be found in the breakdown of the Keynesian consensus in the 1970s and the further breakdown of a constructive vision for political economy on the left. Gone was the political philosophy that placed labor and labor value at its heart; gone, too, the belief that democratic politics could resist and constrain the domination of capital. Instead of robust ideas about politics and political economy, cultural issues of identity and civic equality were instituted as the sole basis for a broad coalition of democratic resistance to the domination of capital. But it was a poor substitution?one that left uncontested the idea that capital was and ought to be an interest and a power that maximizes returns to itself, while treating human beings and nature as mere commodities to be exploited and discarded.

At the high tide of Thatcherism in the 1980s, Labour lost faith in its own people, its own voters, and its own national role. The party retreated to a progressive European politics in which the EU would deliver workers' rights, paid holidays, civil equality, and justice, whether or not Labour won national elections. When Tony Blair was elected in 1997, the party became the leader of a political project that would protect the European Central Bank from democratic interference and intensify the institutionalization of the free market and the free movement of people as the defining features of the EU.

It is only out of weakness and timidity that Labour supports the European Union. There is little vision of how, if Britain remains a member, the EU would be reformed; there is no challenge to the manner in which it engages with a dispossessed, abandoned, and often despised working class. There is merely resigned approval of a system that can only be described as a force for liberalization because it is the underwriter of continental peace. Meanwhile, social democracy is in free fall, and the anti-immigrant right is everywhere on the march.

Leaving the EU, however, would arguably make everything worse. This is a referendum without a choice.