The Morning Star, the paper associated with the Communist Party of Britain, carried a naively self-revealing editorial on 9 December: “There’s a huge feeling of guilt and confusion when a leader writer in the Morning Star feels even a momentary twinge of fellow feeling with chief speculators’ stooge David Cameron...”
Hadn’t Cameron done at least something good? He “refused to allow Britain to be sucked further into what amounted to a further consolidation of a European superstate...”
The Star escaped its embarrassing alliance by reflecting that “Cameron remains wedded to Britain’s place in Europe” — as if Cameron would be progressive if only he went the full way with the old-fashioned Tory right, and insisted that Britain keep aloof from Europe — and anyway Cameron had vetoed only “to protect the privileged position of the City of London’s speculators”.
But the instinctive fellow-feeling with Cameron was so strong it could not be denied.
For decades now the Morning Star and others have campaigned against “Europe” and “Brussels” as if they were the cause of all capitalist evils, and national capitalist leaders their helpless victims. As if democracy can exist only in walled-off nation-states, and democratic control over the necessarily international mechanisms of today’s economic life is both impossible and unnecessary.
Capitalism operating with high barriers between countries in Europe is not better than a united capitalist Europe. It is worse. The bringing down of barriers is good, although under capitalism, of course, it comes together with many things we oppose.
Agitation and argument like the Star’s leave the working class and the labour movement wide open to the demagogy of the Tory right. David Cameron’s veto at the European summit on 9 December set off a surge of that demagogy.
Right-wing Tory MPs described the veto as “incredibly, incredibly exciting”, and called for a referendum on British withdrawal from the European Union.
The Mail’s front-page headlines for the three days after 9 December were: “The day he [Cameron] put Britain first”; “Tory fury at Clegg’s ‘pygmy’ insult to Britain”; “Yes, Cameron got it right”.
The Express: “Britain close to EU exit”; “End of EU is unstoppable”.
The Sun was more nuanced in the small print, but headlined: “Up Eurs: bulldog PM sticks up for Britain”.
If today’s crisis leads to a break-up or loosening of the European Union, and a rebuilding of barriers between countries as different capitalist centres scramble to win out in sharpened competition, then that will be regression, not advance.
It will lead to fiercer cuts and privatisation, helped through by the claim that they are necessary to help “the nation” compete.
It is the Tory right which rightfully owns the anti-EU cause, and the “No2EU” left which has erred onto Tory ground, not vice versa.
The leaders of the rail union RMT, left-wing on other issues, have backed the “People’s Pledge” campaign, which demands a referendum to get out Britain out of the EU, highlights on its website a Daily Express front page boosting the Pledge — “New hope to get out of EU” — and calls on people to vote only for parliamentary candidates who support a referendum.
The Pledge campaign itself, founded by former Tory students’ chair Marc-Henri Glendenning and “pro-car” campaigner Stuart Coster, is fronted by Labour Party leftist Mark Seddon.
The Socialist Party ran a joint campaign with the RMT leadership in the 2009 Euro-elections under the slogan “No2EU”.
If the Morning Star can find itself shocked into “guilt and confusion” by the Cameron veto, then those groups should too.
Supporting a united Europe does not mean supporting Merkel and Sarkozy, or Nick Clegg, any more than welcoming modern communications means endorsing Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.
It is an essential reference point for the united labour movement action, across the continent, which we need to resist the new waves of cuts and point the way to an alternative.