No to bosses’ choice ... A workers’ Europe

Referendum offers no solution

Everyone has noticed the bi-partisanship which rules British politics at this juncture. One expression for this has been ‘Clintonisation’. At one stage, it was the question of Ireland which immediately saw Labour and the Tories huddle close together in condemnation of ‘terrorism’. Now, however, the Tories and New Labour are increasingly coming to agreement on virtually all issues. We are witnessing the ‘great blending’ of mainstream politics.

The question of Europe is acting as a catalyst with regards to this ideological convergence. Traditionally - though falsely, of course - the Tory Party has been perceived as the party of ‘Little England’, committed to defence of national sovereignty and hostile to Europe, federal or not. The Labour Party, on the other hand, was the non-flag waving party, into European cooperation and partnership.

New Labour is different. The ‘Butskellism’ of the past saw Tory and Labour united around a social democratic-led agenda. Blairisation’ sees Tory and Labour uniting around a rightwing agenda. Naturally, national chauvinism and patriotism play a large part in this political ‘realignment’.

Therefore, Tony Blair is desperate to present New Labour as the authentic voice of ‘Little England’ - voting Labour is your patriotic duty. Hardly surprising then that Labour has decided to act tough on Europe, eager for the flag-waving vote. Thus, after dismissing all talk of a referendum on the ‘European question’ as dithering nonsense - a Labour victory at a general election would be a sufficient mandate - Gordon Brown suddenly announced at the weekend that a referendum on a single currency is an excellent idea. Indeed, he pledged to stage a referendum if Labour is elected. Brown is falling over himself in his indecent haste to steal the Tories’ clothes and leave them stark naked before the electorate.

Bill Cash, the eccentric and slightly deranged Tory Eurosceptic, expressed the Tories’ new dilemma: “The decision certainly creates big problems for us in the run-up to the general election.”

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have taken fright at opinion polls which have consistently shown that two thirds of the electorate are against the pound sterling joining a single currency. Brown claimed that a round of meetings between him and European finance ministers had ‘convinced’ him that insufficient progress had been made on the form economic and monetary union would take - nothing to do with the impending general election and the struggle for votes, of course. In his best Churchillian tones, Brown stated: “We have always said that a decision should be made in the national interest at the time. That is why we say we will keep our options open.”

Communists should be explicit with regards to the future referendum - whoever conducts it. Referendums are an inherently non-democratic exercise which ‘disenfranchises’ the masses; it reveals their impotence in an almost ‘pure’ form. The bourgeoisie writes and poses the question, thus setting the terms of the debate. Whether you vote ‘yes’ or no’ the result will be the same - intensified attacks on the working class.

Though the bourgeoisie is arguing over the timing and extent of European integration, there is little alternative for any of the capitalist nation states. Go-it-alone is not an option. But capitalist integration will be forced through on the backs of the workers with worse austerity measures to come in all states.

Given the fact that it is extremely unlikely that the question will be, ‘Are you in favour of proletarian internationalism and a workers’ Europe?’, communists and revolutionaries should boycott such a referendum on the day. However, this in no way excuses us from actively intervening in the debate and posing our agenda: the need for a workers’ Europe. This means we are in total opposition to the Maastricht Treaty (any version) and its effects, which hail a European-wide attack on the working class, and any form of ‘Little Englandism’, even if it does play ‘left’.

We are for the organisation of the world’s resources for humanity as a whole. Any retreat into ‘national socialism’ can only retard this process and throw us back into national chauvinism and reaction.

Unlike The Observer (November 17) which believes that “a referendum is the only answer” - indeed, that “no party can now govern without referenda” - communists believe that only working class politics can provide the answers. We must push our agenda onto the political map, not give the ruling class a free run.

Eddie Ford