The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Britain’s Brexit ... or Not

Apr 1, 2019

The following article was translated from the editorial for the March 25 workplace newsletters distributed by the French revolutionary workers group, Lutte Ouvrière.

On March 23, about a million people demonstrated against Brexit in Britain, one of the largest demonstrations the country has ever seen. For months, the parliament has ripped itself apart trying to decide if it has to ratify the agreement negotiated with the European Union (EU) laying out the terms of Britain’s exit from the union. And no one knows if, or when, Brexit will happen, let alone the consequences.

It is already clear that, for the British workers, the results will not be what the demagogues promised. According to them, the country would regain its sovereignty. To hear them speak, the money Britain put toward the EU would instead be used to improve the health system and the population’s standard of living. Three years later, the brilliant future promised by these merchants of illusion has been transformed into a nightmare.

The economies of the different European countries are today completely enmeshed, and once you have an omelet, you cannot get back the individual eggs. The production of every manufactured good involves many different countries. For example, in the British auto industry, the majority of parts cross back and forth across the English Channel many times before they are finally assembled into cars that are ready to be sold ... on the European continent.

With Brexit, the multinationals will reorganize their production at the level of Europe as a whole, and tens of thousands of job losses are planned. More than 10,000 trucks cross the English Channel every day, so re-establishing customs barriers will have severe consequences. And Britain has stocks of medicines like insulin for use in three-quarters of the continent, the shipment of which cannot be delayed without dramatic problems.

The promoters of Brexit denounce European immigration. But as in France and other EU countries, many economic sectors cannot function without immigrants: construction, agriculture, hospitals, and restaurants to name a few. By setting the British against foreigners, by reinforcing racism and xenophobia, Brexit divides the working class and makes it weaker in front of the capitalists.

In Northern Ireland, which has long been ravaged by a civil war, the re-establishment of a border with the Republic of Ireland to its south threatens to reopen still raw wounds.

Just as many British people were deceived by the politicians who advocated for Brexit in 2016, workers in France hear the same ideas from politicians like Le Pen and other French nationalists, and even some on the left.

Of course, the European Union was not built for its people. Everything was done for capital and finance. The big Western European banks and multinationals now have access to a vast market of more than 500 million people. The richer countries assert their domination over the poorer ones.

The EU has not unified its people. It has not harmonized the rights of the workers. Today in Eastern Europe, the minimum wage remains below 500 euros a month (about 560 dollars). Greece, Spain, and Portugal have been ravaged by unemployment. And the construction of the EU has not improved the rights of women. Women in Ireland still had to fight for the right to abortion, which they just won, and which women in Malta and Poland still lack.

So the record of the EU is certainly far from glorious. But the records of the individual states that make it up are no better! The government of Salvini in Italy wants to force the unemployed to take any job, no matter how bad, just like Macron in France with his decrees against the unemployed.

In reality, the only opposition that counts is the one between the workers and big capital. Whatever their nationality, the workers of Europe, the workers of the world, have the same interests: defend their jobs, their wages, and their pensions; take control of the economy so that it functions for the good of all.

In the European elections, this will be the thrust of the campaign of the Lutte Ouvrière slate, headed by Nathalie Arthaud and Jean-Pierre Mercier.