The British people will vote whether to remain part of the European Union or not by 2018. Cameron’s promise of a referendum suits the Tories electorally. It should defuse the threat from UKIP & damage Labour’s chances of winning the next general election by appearing too pro-European. But behind this short-term electoral positioning lies a split in the capitalist class.
Politics is largely a reflection of the underlying economic power. After WWII Britain was no longer the power it was. The break-up of the empire posed two options for Britain’s political class to savage some of their influence. One was by trying to turn the ex-colonies into an economic sphere of influence under the banner of a Commonwealth. The other option was to join with continental Europe in a project leading to economic & political union. As an island nation the second option was always going to be problematic, hence the promises that this was just a ‘common market’. It then became the EEC (European Economic Community). Then in 1993 the European Union, launching it’s own currency at the turn of the century. Now with the latest economic crisis threatening it’s break-up, political union & eventual fiscal union is forcing deeper integration & taking further powers away from nation states. Most in Britain don’t want this, but until recently the masses have been fed the line that it’s in ‘our’ economic interest. What they have really meant is it has been in the interest of the rich to stay in the EU. Much of Britain’s trade is with the EU. To lose access to the internal EU market will hurt. But industrial capitalists do not have the upper hand. As the financial crisis of 2008 showed, it is the financial capitalists of the City of London who have the most power. When the banks got into trouble the government came running with their cheque-book. We are all now expected to pay for this bailout with austerity. But it is probably the European financial transaction tax that has upset the City & so given Cameron the green light for Britain’s eventual withdrawal.
So how should people vote in a referendum? The EU labour laws are not as harsh as those in the USA. Britain’s withdrawal will no doubt led to a watering-down of labour legislation to the benefit of business. Britons may soon end up with just two weeks paid annual leave just like the Americans. So it that sense the British working class are better off being in the EU. But that’s like saying it’s better to have the least cruel of two masters; why accept that you have to have a master? The choice is a false choice: ruled by Brussels or ruled by Westminster. In both cases the objective is to squeeze as much money out of you as possible for the profits of the rich.
The alternative is the working class ruling themselves. A direct democracy where all the economic resources are collectively controlled through councils. Where there is no such thing as profit or wages. Imagine your street or village, how would the people run it? You could set up a street or parish council open to all. All resources within the street/village would be controlled by the council. Collectively the needs of the people would be assessed, e.g. food, water, shelter, heating, etc. This would then be matched against resources. All those able to make a contribution would be expected to do so. But the provision of many things will require resources from elsewhere, hence there will need to be a geographical hierarchy of councils, maybe street, parish, town, county, nation, even continent (yes, Europe) & a world council. This may or may not mean delegates sent to councils covering wider geographical locations. With the internet decisions can be taken that affect the whole world, e.g. the allocation of oil resources, without the need for an actual world council of delegates to sit. All 7 billion people could, if we wanted it to happen, vote on-line. It may be that the geographical hierarchy is matched by an interest group hierarchy on some issues, e.g. the programming language used for various worldwide computer applications. But the crucial danger will be to stop any emerging bureaucracy. The person elected in the parish to be responsible for the provision of healthcare will be someone with experience, someone who is able to do the job. But this role & all roles should be held for a limited time to prevent a new class forming. Indeed, it should go further than this. Everyone, especially those in positions of power, should have to do some of the menial tasks that have to be done, e.g. emptying the dustbins or weeding a communal flowerbed. A truly classless society where people & the environment come before profit.
This cannot be voted for in a referendum. The ruling class will never give up their power voluntarily. It means organising, it means discussing with people, it means taking to the streets, it means going on strike, it means revolution.