Brexit: A CPI view

Speech by Eugene McCartan at public meeing on Brexit
Dublin, 20 March 2017

As the chairperson has said in her opening remarks, tonight’s meeting is part of a national speaking tour on “Brexit: A left view: Implications and opportunities.”
     We would like to thank Rob Griffiths, general secretary of the CPB, and Nick Wright for coming to Ireland to address an Irish audience regarding the political earthquake that was the Yes vote in the referendum in Britain to leave the European Union.
     Not alone did that Yes vote send shock waves through the British state, and the British establishment, but its ripples have hit all the capitals of the member-states, and indeed the United States, like a bolt of lightning. Clearly the establishments throughout the EU have been totally taken by surprise at the idea that any sensible, progressive, far-sighted individual could possibly harbour thoughts of leaving, never mind voting to leave, the EU.
     The unspoken has been spoken. It is difficult at this juncture not to believe that the EU is in decline and has suffered a major political as well as psychological blow.
     Moments like this really do help to clarify who the enemy is and who are the revolutionary forces. Once again social democracy jumps to the defence monopoly capital rather than confront and embrace the opportunity for change. Fear takes hold, and cowards retreat.
     The Communist Party of Ireland has for a long time been a critical voice against the EU, against the constant hollowing out of the democracy and sovereignty of the Irish people by the Irish state and the Irish ruling class. You cannot understand what the European Union is or what its role and function is if you ignore class and whose class interests it serves.
     For too long, class has been removed from the discussion and debate on most issues, particularly regarding the European Union. The great crisis of 2008 revealed this country’s economic vulnerability and how the Irish ruling elite have created the conditions where they they have traded away sovereignty and democracy for their own economic and political interests.
     They were exposed then as nothing more than gatekeepers for the interests of monopoly capitalism, both the European Union and the United States.
     It is important that we show our solidarity with the British working class at this time. The European Union continues to push to strengthen its mechanisms of control and domination. There are great dangers in the present conditions that the powerful states will push for further and deeper controls, such as the new financing rules announced by the EU Central Bank and EU Commission. Jean-Claude Juncker has produced a new EU “white paper” on the future of the European Union harbouring such strategies, his so-called five possible scenarios for the EU’s future development.
     “Scenario 3” is the one favoured by Merkel and the core powers that wish to go along with the EU Commission and strengthen the centre against the peripheral states. It raises the possibility of a “coalition of the willing,” a cohort of member-states that use the option provided by the Treaty of Lisbon that allows “permanent structured co-operation” in various fields, such as domestic surveillance and repression, or through closer collaboration in foreign and military policy.
     They are seeking to pave the way for a greater and faster assertion of the European Union as an imperialist bloc, which can only lead to further interventionist and militaristic policies. This can only strengthen NATO and speed up the militarisation of the European Union itself. The Irish state is increasingly involved in this imperialist military alliance, whose agenda includes the promotion of instability and continuing war in various parts of the world.
     For capital, the logic of concentration and centralisation must continue for it to reproduce itself in the existing structures of capital accumulation, and in Europe that means that the EU must continue to concentrate power in itself if it is to continue to function, and in doing that it must continue to hollow out the democracy of member-states.
     Every treaty and the torrent of legislation have undermined the authority and jurisdiction of the member-states. The centre of power is in Berlin and Brussels. The need for a sovereign, independent, democratic Irish state is as great as it was in 1916.
     By strengthening and tightening financial controls, the ECB hopes to keep in check the peripheral peoples and states. These countries are not just a source of capital extraction in the form of debt repayments but also provide a huge reserve army of labour.
     The European Union is showing growing strains of deepening economic and financial instability in its core powers, such as Germany, France, and Italy, while we witness the growth of reactionary chauvinistic forces that exploit the people’s disillusionment with the EU. There is no doubt that the left’s failure to defend national sovereignty against the ever-increasing authority of the EU institutions has left the field open to the right.
     Strengthening the European Union and the euro will not reinforce a solidarity that has never existed but will reinforce the priority of the interests of the main powers of the European Union. It is the concentration and centralisation of economic power for monopoly capital. This is not progressive.
     The promotion and universalisation of capitalism is the guiding principle of the EU. Its laws aim at preventing national governments from showing favour to public enterprises or even nationally owned private firms. In effect, it encourages the pan-national corporations. It is virtually illegal now to nationalise a service or industry. The tendency of EU policy and legislation is to eliminate the state subsidising of services.
     The Irish state and the ruling class it represents have operated in alliance with the imperialist centres, Brussels, London, and Washington, albeit in a subservient position. The Brexit vote has put them in a state of confusion. They have opted for continuing a policy of dependence and submission to the European Union, subordinating the interests of the Irish people to those of the EU and the United States.
     We believe that sections of the Irish left and the labour movement have not fully understood the importance of combating the EU-imposed debt and our continued membership of the euro zone, and recovering the tools that ensure economic, budgetary and monetary sovereignty. They have meekly accepted the official political consensus on the nature of the EU, clinging to the myth of “social Europe,” just occasionally uttering mild criticism. They are hobbled by their lack of class analysis and class politics.
     It is only through a class outlook that we can arrive at any understanding and formulate a policy in the interest of the working people and the Irish nation.
     For example, working people have, for now, defeated the state’s attempt to impose water charges. The counter-attack by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil involves the invoking of EU law, which they say is embodied in our constitution. It follows that to continue with the water campaign means confronting the EU.
     If the establishment parties are in a state of confusion regarding Brexit, this also applies to significant elements within the Irish left. National democracy and sovereignty are not optional extras but are the essential tools for a people to develop politically, culturally, and economically. They are the essential keys to unlocking the triple lock of imperialist domination over our people by the United States, the European Union, and Britain.
     Confronting and breaking the power of monopoly capital is not easy or clean. It won’t always happen on terms that we wish or dictate. Anyone who thinks so is a fool. We must continue to fight for fractures in monopoly capital’s power—and this is one—but also fight to reclaim sovereignty and national democracy for the left and in working-class interests. To retreat now and limit our struggle for individual liberal rights, as some of the left do, is either misguided or, worse, cowardly.
     There can be no advance for working people while monopoly capital usurps power and control. This is our fight too.

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