Britain has voted to exit the EU.
The far right has tried to claim credit for the Brexit vote. Cory Bernardi was quick to tweet his support for the racist right-wing UKIP leader, Nigel Farage.
Monarchist Tony Abbott welcomed the decision, and looked forward to a free trade agreement with Britain.
Unfortunately many on the left have illusions in the EU and will see the vote as a win for racism because much of the official “Leave” propaganda was scare-mongering about asylum seekers and “EU migrants” taking jobs or crowding the health system in Britain. (So similar to Malcolm Turnbull and Liberals in Australia’s federal election.)
No doubt, some people voted Leave for anti-immigration reasons. But this was also an anti-austerity vote—a revolt against big business and the politicians. The Remain camp had the official support of all the major political parties, practically every business organisation in Britain, the bankers and major world leaders. Many workers in Britain have seen living standards go backwards as a result of neo-liberalism and cuts. Polling showed one third of Labor and one third of Green voters were going to vote Leave.
It is a mistake to see the vote as a vote for the right, and for flag-waving little Englanders. The EU provides no haven for asylum seekers. Britain’s membership of the EU didn’t stop Cameron from maintaining a blockade at Calais and effectively closing Britain’s borders. Cameron’s position on asylum seekers is little different from Farage’s.
Brexit has forced the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and left a deeply divided Tory party.
There should be no illusions—the EU is a bosses’ club. This is why they are some signs of panic now that Britain has voted to leave.
The experience of Greece shows that the EU has no respect for democracy, or workers’ rights. Syriza, the democratically elected government of Greece, was held to ransom by the unelected bankers as savage austerity measures were ruthlessly imposed.
The EU has been no help to the French workers staging massive strikes against France’s Socialist government as it tries to deregulate French labour laws—moves that will lengthen the working week to 46 hours from 35, and make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers.
In fact the new law is part of the same process of loosening the labour market and reducing employee protections that has long been happening across the EU.
Nor has the EU been a brake on imperialism or war. Twenty-two of the EU member states are members of NATO.
Membership of the EU did nothing to moderate NATO’s bombing of Libya. The EU looked on while Britain and France began bombing Syria. The EU has played a direct role in fomenting the war in the Ukraine as it held out the possibility of Ukraine joining the EU, with the signing of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement in June 2014.
Turkey’s membership of the EU was obviously a carrot offered to pave the way for the disgraceful refugee deal that has allowed asylum seekers to be expelled from Europe to Turkey.
The racist right might try to capitalise on the turmoil. Geert Wilders in Holland and Le Pen in France have called for referenda. But those in the UK in the Lexit (Left Exit) campaign have been at the forefront of defending refugees and migrants. Uniting to mobilise in support of refugees and migration will be crucial in the months ahead.
Now is not the time for hand-wringing. The bosses’ crisis is our opportunity. (See Lexit statement below.)
The hopes for a socialist Europe lie where they always did – in the fantastic scenes of ordinary people opposing racism to welcome asylum seekers into the cities of Europe; in the struggles by French workers against labour deregulation, or by Greek workers against austerity and privatisation.
Malcolm Turnbull has tried to use the crisis to say that a Liberal vote is a vote for stability. But Turnbull is a Tory just like David Cameron. The Brexit vote has already seen Cameron declare he will resign by October—good riddance.
We should take encouragement and redouble the efforts to get rid of Turnbull and Australia’s Tories, with the likes of Abbott and Bernadi still in their ranks.
In Britain we have seen the first ever junior doctors’ strike against Cameron in defence the British National Health Service (NHS). Their strike was a major blow to the British Tories plans for the privatisation of the NHS. There is no doubt that Turnbull does have similar plans to privatise Medicare.
He wants to outsource the Medicare payments arrangements, and his rebate freeze will inevitably see increasing co-payments for visits to the doctor.
There is no doubt he also wants to attack penalty rates and the unions’ right to organise. We can vote to get rid of him on 2 July–but we can’t rely on a Labor government to undo the Liberals’ attacks. We will have to fight to end offshore detention. They are more interested in running the system than fighting it.
Like the British junior doctors, and the French and Greek workers, we will have to organise to demonstrate and strike back.
Lexit Statement on the Leave Vote
The Leave vote is above all else a rejection of the entire political establishment by millions of working class people who have been left to suffer austerity for decades with few defenders among the mainstream parties.
This is now a social crisis of the first order. Every institution of the British establishment backed Remain. The Tory party, despite professions of unity, is beginning an internal war. ‘It’s a hammer blow to Cameron’, reported the BBC this morning. Osborne is already talked of in the past tense.
This could have been a great Labour crusade if it had put itself at the head of this working class revolt but the Blairites forced Jeremy Corbyn to abandon his long held opposition to the EU.
This has left the right to claim a victory which is not in truth theirs. Nearly 17 million people voted Leave, but only 3.8 million voted UKIP at the last election. But it is up to the left to now put itself squarely at the centre of opposition to the Tories and the right.
If you don’t want the racists to be the face of today’s result, then don’t let them. There is a significant proportion of those who voted Leave that did so on the basis of opposing the austerity and the neoliberal order that has directly impacted their lives and is part and parcel of the EU. Don’t be so quick to paint millions of people with the same brush as Farage.
Many on the left voted Remain for understandable reasons in a very divisive referendum. It is now time to unite around the most elementary demands that millions of working people will readily support.
The ONLY thing the left can do now, is to rally around this result and take the fight to the Tories.
End austerity now!
Cameron must resign!
General election now!
No more ‘Fortress Europe’ – equality for migrant workers!