Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fervently hoping for Remain

Well, 24 hours from now the count will be on. I've sent in my postal vote to Remain in the EU, having voted against in the 1975 referendum

At that time I viewed the Common Market as it then was as a club for capitalists, and though the argument can still be made, now is neither the time nor the place to rehearse it. I hope that when I come to look over these words in a year’s time,  I shall find my predictions null and void: but if it's a vote for Leave, I fear not just God Save the Queen being sung in the streets - which I shall be mercifully spared - but a resurgence of fascism both in Britain and across Europe.

Staying in the EU was always going to be a hard sell to those of us on the left according to Billy Bragg writing a few days ago on Facebook.

The treatment of Greece and the threat of TTIP suggest that the European Union is little more than a neo-liberal cartel. He quotes Jeremy Corbyn being merely “7.5 out of 10” in favour of remaining within the EU. [1]

A turning point?

And he refers to the Jo Cox murder last Thursday as a turning point.

Is he right to do so? Not widely known before she died, and certainly not to me, this young Labour MP seems to have been murdered in the name of 'Independence for Britain'. She had a passionate belief in the European Union as standing for international cooperation, and had engaged in international humanitarian work in Darfur, Syria and Afghanistan, advocating for the UN-initiated, but dormant, concept of a Responsibility to Protect.

Since her death, says Billy Bragg, none of us on the left can be in any doubt who will be emboldened by a victory for Leave.  Viewed from over here in Ireland, my comment is this was never in doubt, with or without that murder, but no matter. The referendum is a battle for the soul of our country, says Bragg. If we win, we will have to work hard to address the genuine problems that mass immigration causes. We will need to build schools, hospitals and union membership. We will need to give a voice to the forgotten and the marginalised so that they can have some control over their lives and communities. And we will need to reform the EU to make it more about people and less about profits.

Addressing fellow socialists who are tempted to vote Leave, he says that if we do, none of this will be possible. If the libertarians triumph, what's left of our welfare state will be sold to the highest bidder and our workplaces – already the most deregulated in Europe - will be stripped of their meagre protections. The Tory Party will be reborn as shiny suited free market zealots. At the same time the forces of division will be emboldened and anyone doesn't fit in with their warped idea of who does and who doesn't belong will have a life of misery. But if Remain wins, then we will have momentum and the chance to utilise it while the Tories tear themselves apart over Europe.

Everything Bragg says is true, I've no doubt about it. At the end of his article, someone comments that if it was a choice between Weimar and the Third Reich, we would be campaigning for Weimar without hesitation, and I have the feeling there's some parallel to what's happening now.

[1] George Monbiot made a similar argument in the Guardian on 10 February 2016: "I’m starting to hate the EU. But I will vote to stay in."