Campaign news

The referendum – a view from Ireland

19th June 2016

The referendum – a view from Ireland

By Finn Geaney, Dublin Council of trade Unions,
Teachers Union of Ireland and Irish Labour party

The left in Britain has for decades been confused about the situation regarding the European Union. Some socialist organisations and a number of trade unions have come out in favour of voting to leave, believing that in this way they would be striking a blow against capitalism. A number of comrades have suggested abstention. But in my opinion abstention is not an option. Either it is beneficial for the advancement of socialism to vote ‘no’ or it is beneficial for the advancement of socialism to vote ‘yes’. It cannot be creditably argued that it would make no difference either way. For this is the only conclusion that can be drawn form an abstentionist position.

Some on the left argue that the European Union is undemocratic. There are three principal bodies involved in driving EU policy.

The European Parliament is elected by individual countries – conservative parties have a majority here. Christian Democrats have more seats than the Social Democrats and left Parties combined. However, the European Parliament is not a federal parliament such as exists in Germany or the US.

The European Council, which consists of the Heads of State or Government of the twenty eight member states, as well as the President of the European Commission, is the principal decision-making body of the European Union. It is that body which provides the impetus for EU policy initiatives. The European Council is driving a right-wing agenda today because the majority of its members belong to Europe’s conservative parties, itself the result of conservative election victories in the constituent states. So the first question facing socialists is how is it that right-wing parties are winning elections in so many European countries? The energies of socialists would be better directed here instead of against the chimera of a European Super State.

The third significant organisation in the governance of the European Union is the European Commission. Its task is to ensure that regulations and directives adopted by the Council and Parliament are implemented by the member states. The Commission also has the power to draw up proposals for new EU legislation. There is one Commissioner from each EU country. Inevitably, for the same reasons that apply in the other two organisations, a majority of the EU Commission were nominated by conservative governments.

So when left-wing activists fulminate about the EU being driven by unelected bureaucrats they are perhaps not taking sufficiently into account the tasks that properly belong to socialist parties and trade unions within the member states.

The Treaties that have been adopted since 1956 represent the primary legislation of the EU and form the basis for secondary legislation that appears in the form of regulations, directives and decisions. Some states adopted these Treaties by referendum, others by decisions in parliament. But whatever means allowed for the acceptance of Treaties can also be used to reverse aspects of these Treaties or to introduce new Treaties. Nothing is permanent.

It is true that negotiations on a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the United States represent a real threat to the conditions of workers and public services across Europe. But TTIP has to be fought by building trade union resistance across the countries of Europe and by changing government policy at home. Voting ‘no’ to the EU will not protect workers or public services from being undermined. In fact many of the improvements in workplace conditions in such areas as hours of work, health and safety and part-time employment came about as a result of directives from the European Union; as is also the case in health provision, food safety, environmental protection and animal husbandry.

The European Union is seen by the United States as a willing ally of NATO, yet no individual EU country is obliged by the EU Treaties to take part in any NATO endeavour. It is matter for socialists in the constituent states to resist the growing association of US imperialist interests with European foreign policy.

Those left-wing British MPs who in the 1950s and 1960s became engaged in the struggle against Gaitskell and the right in the Labour Party, in more recent decades came to identify a new enemy - Europe. Tony Benn, though himself a giant in the socialist movement, was one of the principal offenders in this regard. That tradition is carried on by left-wingers today. Basing their argument on ‘sovereignty’ they claim that progressive legislation is inhibited by membership of the European Union.

Do they forget that the privatisation measures carried through by the Thatcher Government were not inspired by Europe? Neither were her endeavours to weaken the trade union movement. The absence of a progressive system of taxation that would make the rich pay is not a consequence of a decision by the European Commission, and neither is the decision to run-down the NHS or the public system of education in favour of private interests.

If the vote to leave the European Union is carried, this will open the way to a surge of confidence for right-wing forces across British society. Immigrants, regardless of their country of origin, will pay a big price. Employers, freed of the shackles of progressive labour legislation emanating from the EU, will attack workers’ conditions. The consequent economic decline will adversely affect employment prospects.

How is the left planning to deal with that scenario? Is an upper-class twit like Boris Johnston going to be allowed to cause the reversal of gains that have been built up over decades of popular struggle? And are Farage and his likes to be given the freedom to open up new chasms amongst workers in Britain?

Bookmark and Share


By Ian Hodson It’s great news that a mainstream political party has recognised the importance of taking positive action to raise pay. Since 2008, politicians from all parties along with many in the media, have pushed the narrative that society will somehow improve by imposing austerity and blaming minority groups for the state of the country’s finances. Sadly, many have fallen for this deception and the ‘look over there’ politics that has rose to prominence since the Conservatives returned to power in 2010. [continue...]

Folkestone United – coming together to support migrants Bridget Chapman, Folkestone United, reports [continue...]

No Witch-Hunts In The GMB, Reinstate Keith Henderson (The Online Petition) Keith Henderson Essex LRC member and former Regional Organiser of the GMB Union was dismissed from the GMB last December, Keith has always believed that the real reason for his dismissal was because of his socialist beliefs and the manifestation of his beliefs. [continue...]

Please see our Labour Briefing Website here: [continue...]

The LRC is supporting a broad alliance of campaign groups and trade unions against the proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill (currently before Parliament) and putting forward our alternative based on social justice and welfare for all. [continue...]

Across the country working people are losing their jobs and their homes. Meanwhile the bankers who plunged us into this crisis have been bailed out with billions of pounds of our money. It’s time to fight back. Their Crisis Not Ours! is the LRC’s campaign to bring together workers, pensioners, the unemployed, students, those facing repossession and all those suffering because of an economic crisis that has been imposed on us. The campaign is supporting the demands of the People’s Charter. [continue...]

Rail bosses are using the recession as an excuse to attack jobs and conditions and cut back on services and essential rail works, and hike rail fares - as LEAP research suggested they would. Thousands of jobs are being threatened or have been lost. At the same time rail fat cats are raking in big profits and bonuses on the back of the most expensive fares in Europe. Make no mistake: as the recession worsens so will the attack on rail workers and rail services. [continue...]

The campaign calling on the Government to abandon its plans for privatisation of Royal Mail. The Government has introduced the Postal Services Bill to part-privatise the Royal Mail. With our affiliate union CWU we are fighting to Keep the Post Public! [continue...]

The campaign to demand the Government funds improvements to all existing council housing, and to start building first class council homes to address housing need. For more information see Defend Council Housing website. [continue...]

Campaign news


Find us on Facebook Follow LRCinfo on Twitter

Corbyn for 2020:


Subscribe to Labour Briefing

Labour Briefing