The events in Greece this week will have come as a reality check to the diminishing number of people on the Left who still cling to the belief that the EU is anything other than government by the bankocracy on behalf of Big Capital. The irrelevance of the forthcoming Greek Referendum demonstrates that popular democracy is meaningless within this capitalist superstructure. The only hope the Greek people have of avoiding decades of austerity and forced economic emigration is to free themselves not only from the shackles of the Eurozone but also from the entire neo-liberal edifice that is the EU. The Greek people are not being offered such an opportunity in their forthcoming referendum, but such an opportunity has been opened for us in Britain by the forthcoming EU referendum. If we too are to avoid decades of austerity, we should seize this opportunity. It won’t be easy, not least because by campaigning to leave we on the progressive Left will appear to be on the same side as parts of the Right, some of whom are racist and most of whom will be campaigning on the wrong issues. Rather than making lack of democracy and workers’ rights the primary issues in the campaign, the Right will be campaigning to leave in order to cut the minimal employment legislation imposed by the EU, to remove the remaining entitlement to UK welfare payments by EU immigrants (or indeed, remove these immigrants physically) and to assert various specious issues of petty nationalism. In addition, the referendum campaign will be conducted with Cameron claiming to have achieved a number of irrelevant ‘reforms’ designed to appease his critics on the Right and with the pro-EU lobby in a position to outspend the Out Campaign many times over. Furthermore, many on the Left may opt to keep their heads down rather than be associated with the right wing opponents of the EU, opening the way for the mass media, including the already cowed BBC, to report only two views: those of the government to stay in and those of its right wing opposition to leave.
The opportunities that will open up to us if we leave the EU are, however, too valuable to throw away without a fight. These include, amongst others, the opportunity to switch away from a regressive VAT to a progressive Land Value Tax, the opportunity to slam the door on TTIP currently being negotiated between the USA and the European Commission and, most important of all, the opportunity to begin to regulate, tax and eventually appropriate Big Capital after it has been stripped of the preference and protection that the EU affords it. Leaving the EU won’t guarantee that any of these will come to pass, but if we stay in they will remain unattainable.