Wednesday 12 July 2017

Would we be better governed out of the EU?

Musing about the hard left stance on the EU. As I understand it, they want to leave because the EU is a capitalist neoliberal club governed on behalf of the global elite. The more intelligent left wingers realise that the UK is also a capitalist neoliberal club governed on behalf of the global elite. But they reason that they have more chance of turning the UK into a socialist state than the EU.

Are they right?

Well, I think that, like Marx, they are right with a lot of their diagnosis, but wrong – catastrophically so – with the solution. They’re right: the EU is a capitalist neoliberal club governed on behalf of the global elite. So is the UK. The difference between the two is the thick strand of human rights thinking woven into the architecture and practices of the EU, which underpin everything and which protect all its citizens from depredation by state or commerce. It is so effectively woven in that the neoliberals, when they came along in the 1980s, were completely unable to extract it. And that, of course, is one of the chief reasons – and frequently stated in public - why the UK’s elite want to pull us out of the EU, so that they can do away with all that human rights “nonsense”. That is why being inside the EU, even in its current state, is better than being outside it.

But would it be possible to reform the UK’s governance outside the EU in such a way that we, the citizens, will benefit more than if we stayed in the EU? That is the socialist hope, that being freed of EU restrictions about what they can do with industry and so on, they will be able to change the way the UK governs itself. At least, I think that is what it is – it seems to me that they could do a lot of what they want while remaining within the EU, and it is not clear to me just how much they would be restricted.

And if we were out, what then?  In terms of governance, we will have the most uneven contest since David and Goliath, and David is without his slingshot. On one side the massed, rich and powerful ranks of the neoliberal elite, both political and commercial, most of the media, and many of their powerful international friends, whose aim is to reduce the powers of citizens still further so that there is even less opposition to their ability to create profit. The day we leave, even before that, they will be preparing the way to removing citizen protections in employment, health, civil rights, the environment, anything that stands in the way of profit. On the other side, a man who has never governed will very  slowly gear into action, aided by a couple of low circulation newspapers, a few rich friends and several hundred thousand well meaning, energetic, enthusiastic but mostly naive supporters. The contest, if you can call it that, will be ugly but mercifully short.

Perhaps the socialist wing of Labour might consider a more delicate strategy, and conclude that staying in the EU enables them to protect themselves and the citizens of this country far better than leaving. It may not be ideal, but it is sensible not to fight battles you can’t win. Socialism within EU rules is possible, and many in the EU are receptive to the message that principles other than neoliberal ones can be effective. As I argue in my previous post, some strategies, like state ownership, previously did more harm than good in some circumstances, but may now do more good than harm due to the excessive power now wielded by corporations. The trick is to know how much is enough and how much is too much. And, as far as I can see, we can do everything we want and need to do while remaining in the EU.

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