An ‘In/Out’ EU referendum is an exercise in cynical opportunism…
It seems, in the quest for something meaningful to actually say, we are in the process of considering some rather fanciful ideas. The latest in a growing procession is the idea of offering an ‘In or Out’ Referendum on EU membership. You have to wonder how detached some among our ranks actually are from reality when you hear statements like this:
some Labour figures believed a referendum would “lance the boil” of Euroscepticism.
Its my firm belief that were such a ballot to be held the No camp would triumph and in a decisive fashion. Personally, I would be in the Yes camp on this one. This is not because I believe in the European Union as a paragon of virtue but I do believe what it does, even in its cack-handed, anti-democratic and very capitalistic fashion, is more progressive than a cynical retreat behind national borders. In breaking down outmoded nation state it is paving the way for a future form of government which spans literally the entire globe and, correct if me I am wrong, but isn’t that what socialists of all shades profess to want?
I am aware that this is not a majority position on the left which seems wedded to achieving socialism through the empowerment of the nation state. I know what these comrades would say. The EU is ‘neo-liberal’; it’s brutally capitalistic, etc, etc. Totally correct. However, are these comrades then telling us an independent, capitalist Britain would be a socialist nirvana? That is the logical conclusion of their arguments as is an abandonment of the principle of internationalism.
This rather takes me to the central point of why this referendum is wrong in its conception. It’s not offering a fair choice because ‘in or out’ does not offer us the third option; which is to remain in but take aim at the anti-democratic aspects of the EU and fight for change. A sense of democratic grievance is what lies behind strong anti-EU feeling in the majority of cases but while this is in many ways legitimate, a retreat into nationalism is the wrong way to vent this frustration.
The likes of UKIP pray on this sense of grievance and demand the impossible; to turn back the hands of time and unmake things that cannot be unmade. Britain would not prosper outside Europe but would wither on the vine and the reaction to this would be a descent further into the pit of sour and embittered nationalism, not a clarion call for socialism as the more deluded left imagines. Even by capitalist standards, Britain is very far from being a ‘great power’ and is only this way in the minds of those entranced by flights of nationalist fancy.
The ‘In/Out’ Referendum is a exercise in cynical popularist opportunism (which is probably one reason it may appeal to the leadership), not a legitimate democratic demand. It diverts energies away from the struggle for a democratic Europe and a brighter future in which national antagonisms have been buried by a tidal wave of internationalist solidarity.