As a Socialist I fundamentally oppose the European Union and everything that it stands for, so naturally when news came through that Britons had decided to kick the European establishment in the teeth -and the working classes had shown what they think of crippling austerity measures- I was indeed very optimistic. Especially since Donald Tusk, president of the European Council issued a statement that BrExit represented “the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also of western political civilisation”. The liberal Guardian and all other like-minded newspapers are throwing a hissy fit including many of the so-called ‘leftists’. I argue that those upset with the result, -well, those who believed that the EU took an active role in promoting the welfare of the lower classes- should understand that this wasn’t at the forefront of EU policy.
Fundamentally, the European Union was founded on misanthropic neo-liberal tendencies to rival the already then massive U.S. economy and the emerging Far-Eastern economies of China and Japan. The EU aimed to remove barriers around the movement of commodities, capital and people to the point at which they are most profitable. Freedom of movement in the EU falls under this umbrella. Freedom of movement, although having merits performs a sterling job of guising its ulterior purpose, which is to promote movement based on necessity rather than voluntary choice in the overwhelming majority of cases. Many workers in less affluent European countries are forced to up sticks and move away from families and their established home life in return for a poor paying job and often horrid living conditions due to unscrupulous landlords; a movement that one could hardly herald as voluntary. In this sense the EU dehumanises the individual, seeing people merely as a commodity to be moved and exchanged like any other item. This exact reason is why the European Union is a proponent of worker exploitation which is counter intuitive to unification, and is thus based on strengthening class divisions, instead of eradicating them, which is what we and all of humanity should be aiming for.
Most liberals are more than ready to sing the praises of the EU for being virtuous by “protecting workers’ rights”, however any critical thought will uncover this myth. The Remainer may say “Ah but the Human rights act!” The reality is that these are merely bread crumbs from Club EU’s table, as capitalists are pragmatic and will offer piecemeal reform – what is necessary to avert any chance of revolt or mass dissent. The reasons for such “rights” being accepted in the work place are as a result of the international unions who through collective action forced the capitalist to compromise, a fact which members of the Remain campaign were very quick to forget. If the EU really did have workers’ rights at the top of their agenda, why haven’t they implemented a continent-wide minimum wage? Surely this would prevent poverty level wages that exploit many of the Eastern Europeans who, due to unfavourable circumstances are willing to work for considerably less. This raises another issue caused by the EU: economic migration of those who are desperate and willing to be considerably more competitive with native workers, supposedly universally forcing the wages of workers down due to a “race to the bottom”. This includes the creation of more zero-hour contracts (which I also believe should be abolished entirely). This is intentional however, creating a “buyer’s market”. In no way does this competition that the EU espouses between workers benefit the workers themselves, the benefit is enjoyed by the Capitalists who consequently don’t have to give out higher wages or in some cases improve working conditions. The mechanism that has allowed for this exploitation is the European Union. The notion of a universal minimum wage would go against the interests of the Capitalist class who would become increasingly limited in their access to the currently abundant cheap labour from Eastern Europe nor the competition that this entails. Since the EU is based on free market ideas and therefore the inherent competition between workers, we have seen this led to spikes in xenophobic sentiment and disunity across Europe. The EU in this sense can be viewed as a repellent to any meaningful multilateral collaboration amongst people or pan-European sentiment.
The European Union has been gripped by austerity fever and as a result has become labelled by some as the “Austerians”, originating from the Austrian School of Economics. The Eurozone crises meant that a number of member states incurred a significant budget deficit. The most notorious example being Greece who has experienced catastrophic consequences as a result of being forced by the EU to initiate austerity measures at all levels. Recently Greek national train operator TrainOSE is set to be sold off to Italian Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane. The UK has witnessed similar issues in the UK with privatisation, in April this year Coperforma proved to be rubbish at taking over previously nationalised NHS transport services, leading to a number of missed critical appointments, people being left uncollected from hospital and an array of other issues. This clearly demonstrates that privatisation is not the way to go. Greece is indeed a tragic case, and a sterling example of the EU’s incompetence. Greece has essentially been in a perpetual recession since 2008, youth unemployment is at 50%, and according to Eurostat figures from 2008 to 2013, Greeks became 40% poorer. Not only are the people barraged with economic recession but it has been stated that serious cases of mental illness such as depression have near tripled. Men of working age being the largest effected demographic, something that the EU could but simply hasn’t addressed as the bureaucrat reapers continue to slash healthcare funding. A study by the BMJ Open states that, “We found a clear increase in suicides among persons of working age, coinciding with austerity measures”. So not only do “expert economists” disagree with austerity (see below), but so do mental health experts. This has led to the SYRIZA and neo-Nazi Golden Dawn parties gaining considerable ground in elections, proving at a national level that the EU has been politically divisive. A point on this is that due to capitalism’s impersonal ‘market forces’ many people are left feeling powerless. This has given rise to the plethora of far-right nationalist parties that we see today such as Britain First, as people attempt to -to use a cliché term- “take back control”. The shocking thing is the BMJ Open article also concludes that this was an international phenomenon, in almost all European countries. Again the reason that the EU pushes for austerity is as Nobel laureate economist Paul R. Krugman explains: “austerity actually causes the economy to shrink, but a lot of ulterior motives people [EU bureaucrats] who want less redistribution of wealth and a weaker welfare state”, and this has very much been the case. Even outside of the Eurozone Cameron and Osborne had signed up to the doctrine of austerity, cutting key services relied on by the population, notably tax credit and disability cuts which were defeated by the Lords. The EU doesn’t have interest in the betterment of the working class. The alternative option was to do what many social democrats -notably Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn- have been calling for, which is an increase in corporation tax. Again this would never be the case since it would hurt Club EU, and nor do I believe that it is the solution. The reality of austerity is tragic failure, it is a sinister medicine that seeks to cure the disease by killing the patient.
Tax avoidance was a key issue that the Remain campaign harped on about, which is ironic for an institution that seems so completely unsure of itself in this department. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission was previously the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, the tax dodging capital of the world. The EU has allowed for ‘base erosion and profit shifting’ (BEPS) to develop in the internal market. This was exposed in the ‘LuxLeaks’, (Quote from the Guardian) “which were 28,000 documents from accountancy group PrincewaterhouseCoopers. The documents disclosed that the Luxembourg authorities ,under Juncker, had helped 340 big firms to minimise their tax payments”. Juncker knew what corruption was going on, but it was only when he was exposed that amendments were suggested. This really speaks for itself.
If what people want is to unite European peoples, the EU, which is attempting to forge ‘unity’ on economic forces isn’t way to do it. Instead it is an extension of the capitalist club and not a promoter of pan-European sentiment. The EU is a divisive mechanism which has proven to be as clear as a muddied lake. There is no way that the EU can be viewed as a virtuous organisation and for these three reasons alone the EU is an institution that leftists and humanitarians alike should oppose. Many who voted remain were those in a more privileged position who wanted to jealously protect their pedestal in society by voting against any proposals that could bring substantial change to the lower strata of society. They attempt to kid themselves that this wasn’t the reason, but it was. I propose a socialist refoundation of Europe which would promote a pan-European identity on humanitarian grounds, through which people will be able to move forward collectively, not on divisive and iniquitous capitalist economics.