The Debate on the EU Referendum Must Not Be Framed in a Chauvinist Manner


One of the most important questions facing the people in the European Union (EU) referendum is how it is being covered by the monopoly media and how the “Remain” versus “Leave” debate is being framed in a chauvinist manner. The issue facing the working class and people is how to seize the initiative and break the limits that are being placed upon it by the ruling elite and re-frame the debate so that it serves their interests.

In the media campaign briefings and news report sound bites one would be forgiven for thinking that the two camps revolved around David Cameron and George Osborne for the “Remain” campaign, and another around Boris Johnson for the “Brexit” campaign. In this way the debate is framed around the vector of what suits the interests of big business, finance capital and the trade of transnational corporations operating in Britain and elsewhere.

On the one hand, the main argument of Cameron and Osborne is one of trying to stampede the “Yes” vote by claiming that Britain’s economy, as compared with other countries, is well on the way to “recovery” and leaving the EU would “end” its trade agreements with European countries and “jeopardise” this recovery. Therefore, they argue, Britain would be better off in what they, just as ridiculously, try to claim is now a “reformed” EU. Also, Cameron and Osborne go on to extend this scaremongering to “British jobs”, saying that car workers’ jobs, for example, would go if Britain left the EU.

On the other hand, the main argument of Boris Johnson for a “Brexit” is limited to the same claim of talking up Britain’s economy as a “leader” in the world but that the EU is “burdening” Britain’s economy with over-regulation. The argument goes that this over-regulation “costs” Britain’s economy and “holds back” Britain’s trade with Europe and the world and is the result of the “interference” in the British economy by “Brussels”. He also goes on the argue that this is better for “British jobs” because Britain would “control its own borders” and blames an influx of foreign workers for holding back the economy, and so on.


In other words, the way the debate gets framed is in a chauvinist way, around the vector where everything in Britain would be better if only Britain were allowed to carry out its anti-social, pro-austerity, neo-liberal, anti-immigrant agenda on behalf of finance capital, within the EU with the “Remain” campaign, or to carry on this same agenda outside the EU with the “Brexit” campaign. This is the limit that the ruling elite are desperately trying to place on the discussion among the people on the EU referendum. They are well aware of the dangers to this anti-social agenda in a Europe of the monopolies should the people start to seize the initiative in the discussion on the EU referendum, just as the Scottish people seized the agenda for a modern sovereignty of the people in the Scottish referendum on independence.

For the working class and people the necessity is to re-frame the debate on the EU referendum in the way that serves their interests. In spite of the media campaign to limit serious discussion of the issues in the EU referendum, people everywhere are wanting to find out more and discuss within workplaces, schools, colleges, trade unions and communities. In progressive circles, the debate must not be narrowed down to prevent people from seeing the world as it is. So, for example in the trade union circles, both those for remaining and leaving the EU, there is a danger for the discussion to get reduced to what is “good” for British workers, jobs and so forth, creating the illusion that either leaving or remaining protects workers jobs, when the security for jobs lies in the fight of the working class and people themselves to defend the livelihood of all.

For example, the Trade Union Bill is not going to be defeated by staying in the EU, or by leaving but by the fight of the working class against it to provide their right to organise with a guarantee in Britain. In other circles, the discussion gets reduced to whether workers see themselves as European, or British, or the issue gets further confused in left circles to the divisive vector of whether you are “nationalist” or “internationalist”. Then alongside this amongst these circles the argument gets promoted for remaining in the EU as more of a “reluctance to leave”, almost mirroring Cameron with a call for critical support to “reform the EU”.


However, all of these arguments confuse the debate and are a block to releasing the initiative of the people. So, for example, Britain’s membership of the EU has nothing to do with whether an individual considers themselves a “European” or an “internationalist”. The EU is on the side of neo-liberal imperialist “internationalism”, not on the side of the working class and people regardless of their views. The EU of the monopolies wants to decide everything, and the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of those EU forces, such as the Troika, who want to impose monopoly right is wrecking whole economies. The case of Greece is a prime example. The privatisation of European public services and other industries through the “free-trade” laws as well as through sanctioning TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) further allows the penetration of US monopolies for the same purpose. At the same time, Britain as part of the EU, along with the other European powers, is imposing austerity at home and in Europe. The EU has nothing to do with the unity of European countries but quite the opposite. It is a Europe run in the interests of monopolies riding roughshod over the sovereignty of the peoples and their governments.

For the British working class to avoid infection with the chauvinism of the ruling elite, the debate must be framed with the proletarian internationalist perspective of fighting as one with the working peoples of Europe, and upholding the sovereignty of peoples and nations. It is about the interests of the working class and people being served and the necessity for the people to make the decisions on how their society and economy is run. It is about the working class and people discussing how their agenda and their programme can be addressed.

Then the issue workers face is how can they throw a spoke in the wheel of this Europe of the monopolies and the European powers, Britain, France, and Germany who exploit the countries of Europe for huge profits, wrecking their economies and privatising their public services, as they are doing at home in Britain as well.

In the coming months in the run up to the vote on June 23, the working class and people should vigorously take part in this discussion and support building this Workers’ Opposition to the EU of the monopolies and the whole austerity agenda of the ruling circles in Britain and through the EU. Deepening the discussion along these lines will break the limits that the ruling elite and the monopoly media are trying to place on the discussion on the EU referendum. To have a serious debate would mean that more and more people will see through the bankruptcy of the “two camps” represented by Cameron, Osborne and Boris Johnson and other vile racists. Such a discussion would let the working class and people see that in the struggle to empower themselves the EU of the monopolies represents a major block to progress. It would further enable the Workers’ Opposition to call for a “Leave” vote that unites and serves the interests of all the people and strengthens their demands and the fight for sovereignty to lie with the people and not the monopolies in Britain and elsewhere.

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