I was very perturbed by Benjamin’s pro-EU article in a recent number of PN and, indeed, rather surprised that PNtook so little interest in the political and peace issues involved. Jeremy Corbyn and many others who campaigned for, or who voted for, remaining in the EU did so not because they supported the EU as at present constituted, but because they thought that it could be changed from a bulwark of capitalism and privatisation in the direction of socialism.
This group overlapped with those who voted for the EU not because they approved of it as it now is or thought it could be changed into something else, but because if they voted for Brexit they would join the likes of Gove, Johnson and Farage. Paul Mason was a prominent example of this group.
Of all the substantial political parties that voted for leaving the EU, the only one who did so on principle was the SWP. The last number of Socialist Worker before the referendum recommended members to vote Leave. The SWP regarded the EU as a bastion of capitalism which was unreformable because of its oligarchic structure which had no democratic mechanism by which change could be brought about. What was impressive about the SWP’s position was that it wasn’t affected by the knowledge that their sworn enemies, the English Defence League, would be voting the same way. They voted on pure principle: they had made an analysis and they stuck to its implications.
Although as a pacifist, I am not a member of the SWP, I reached a similar conclusion to theirs: the barbaric treatment of Greece and of the refugees demonstrated conclusively that at the heart of the EU was an adherence to capitalist imperialism. This was underlined by the TTIP [transatlantic trade and investment partnership] negotiations involving the EU and the US which sought to establish the primacy of corporate profit over national welfare. So if the state intoduced measures to protect public health which affected the profits of large international corporations, the said corporations could take legal action against the state to protect their profits.
But, for a peace activist like myself, the socialist case for rejecting the EU was joined at the hip to an even more powerful objection: that the EU is the civilian wing of NATO and both the EU and NATO are the subordinate agents of US power and essential to its aim (see Chomsky) to establish full spectrum dominance. That NATO is an agent of US power is hardly a matter for dispute since it is always led by a US general, but according to [Croatian philosopher Srecko] Horvat in What Does Europe Want? ‘one of the prerequisites for joining the EU is to be part of NATO’ (though that must be a recent development which was probably put in place to make sure former Soviet satellites should be firmly in the US camp).
It should be blindingly obvious that when the EU votes to impose sanctions against a particular state, it invariably reflects the priorities of US power. The EU is quite happy to slap sanctions on Iran and Russia, but the EU would never never slap sanctions on the US for US acts of aggression. But the most flagrant example of EU bias is its support for the brutal policy of the US and Israel towards the Palestinians. The EU supports the siege of Gaza, and when Hamas was elected by the Palestinians in free and fair elections, ‘the EU showed no more hesitation than the US in plunging the population into misery, cutting off all aid when voters elected the wrong government’, in the searing words of Perry Anderson.
Through the taxes I pay to the British state, I am forced to collude with oppression, torture and war, however much I publicly oppose them. But the referendum offered me a choice: I didn’t have to collude in particular with the criminal policy of the EU towards the Palestinians. I could vote to leave the EU. I hardly dared hope that I would be on the winning side, but it turned out that I was, thank goodness.