Saturday 20 October saw hundreds of thousands march through London to demand a ‘people’s vote’ on the Brexit deal.
The march was billed as “demanding a democratic vote on the Brexit deal”, but the reality is that this was a march against Brexit, attracting in the main people who had voted remain, and sponsored by capitalists and supported by politicians who are desperate to salvage Britain’s place in the European imperialist project, either by remaining in the single market or by re-joining the European Union (EU).
As the Morning Star pointed out: “Coaches to London were funded by Peter Mandelson, Michael Heseltine, Anna Soubry, David Miliband, Alastair Campbell and an assortment of wealthy celebrities.
“That’s on top of sizeable donations, up to £1m, from Superdry cofounder Julian Dunkerton, currency speculator George Soros and others.”
Not to mention the weight that odious figures such as Tony Blair and his ‘Institute for Global Change’ have thrown behind the campaign to keep Britain in the EU one way or another. (The institute has the goal of promoting globalisation with a specific focus on the middle east, by the way, in case you were wondering if the war criminal had any sense of shame.)
As to the impact of the march, we can’t forget the 2003 demonstration against the Iraq war, which drew well over a million people to protest in the streets of London yet did nothing to stop the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
Will a march less than half the size be enough to convince the government to hold another referendum?
If it does, perhaps that might open the eyes of many as to the reality of our democracy – helping them to see that it is a democracy for the rich, propertied classes, for the CEOs and stockholders, rather than for the working people, and that if the occasional ‘mistake’ happens – such as the Brexit vote – then it must be corrected.
What were people marching for?
The marchers we spoke to gave a variety of reasons for coming on the demonstration: “For our children’s future; for my small business; for stability and national security; for peace; for freedom of movement; for our house prices …” and, overall: “Because we’re scared of fascism and racism.”
Lest we forget what the European Union really is, it is an attempt to forge a new, competitive imperialist power out of the much-weakened imperialist European powers after WW2. To do this it must destroy workers’ rights everywhere, push down wages, maintain a continent-wide reserve of the unemployed, and prey on the poorer nations in the union to sustain a higher quality of life for some in the wealthier nations.
Not only this, the EU member states must exploit the rest of the world – in trade, finance, and labour-power – and where they cannot negotiate or blackmail, they must intervene militarily – generally with the urging and support of the USA.
Freedom of movement?
The myth that the European Union’s freedom of movement is some kind of anti-racist endeavour has been thoroughly debunked by the migration crisis in recent years. The fact that people still believe the EU is a welcoming, humanitarian mission is merely proof of the effectiveness of bourgeois propaganda.
The destruction of Libya and attempted destruction of Syria, enthusiastically conducted by many of the major EU imperialist countries, have resulted not only in the deaths of hundreds of thousands but in the displacement of millions of people, many of whom tried to leave for the safety and prosperity of Europe – who then found the EU’s much-lauded ‘freedom of movement’ hastily suspended while border fences were put up.
Since the beginning of this crisis, wholly caused by European and US imperialism waging war on relatively prosperous and stable countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and even further afield, the free-movement Schengen Area has been suspended (in many cases temporarily, in some cases continuing to this day). Refugees and migrants alike are welcomed, if they survive the journey, by hostile guards, growing fences, closed borders, and what are essentially concentration camps, without food, medicine, water, or heating. Many of these camps are in Greece, where migrants would reach by boat from Turkey, and would be trapped after the northern borders were closed.
The European Union reached a deal with Turkey in March 2016, agreeing to pay billions of Euros and accelerate Turkey’s EU membership process in return for it accepting up to 72,000 rejected asylum seekers, in direct contravention of EU and international law regarding asylum seekers. By 2016, in Turkey, some 665,000 Syrian children were estimated to not be in school, many working in textile sweatshops.
Competing NGOs have been let loose in what can only be described as a new wild-west. Some 81 NGOs set up on the island of Lesbos in 2016, whose 90,000 residents saw 450,000 refugees pass through in 2015, but only 30 of these NGOs had registered with local authorities and were coordinating their activities. Hundreds of millions of pounds, if not more, flooded into NGOs to help refugees transit through Greece, either to camps where they would languish, to be sent back to Turkey, or to try their luck at the now-fortified and closed border.
Freedom of movement under imperialism means the freedom to exploit immigrant labour, both legal and illegal. Imperialists use the lack of legal rights of irregular workers to keep them in line while they provide cheap labour in imperialist countries, who can then be easily discarded when no longer needed, providing no strain on the imperialist country’s welfare systems. Of course this means that arguing for closed borders under imperialism is useless, divisive, and reactionary, as the capitalists will never stop exploiting migrant labour, We must instead turn our attention to those who exploit the working class – the ruling class who grow fat off our labour, whether it comes from a native, a migrant, or an ‘illegal’ worker.”.
‘European values’, or capitalist values?
The tone of the demonstration was reminiscent of the very fascism that the protestors claimed to oppose – characterised as it was by pleas for European unity, European families and ‘European values’ (whatever they might be); for a strong Europe, able to defend itself against her enemies; for faith in the undemocratic European Union’s ever-growing bureaucratic apparatus, which manages her banks, her single market and (soon) her hoped-for army.
Trade unions across Europe are being crushed, corrupted or muzzled by laws, to be replaced at best by employment tribunals and arbitration balanced in the employers’ favour. EU rules now make it illegal for member states to nationalise any vital industry or service for the benefit of its people, if that in any way interferes with the potential for profit-taking (which, of course, it almost always does).
Concerned with their small businesses, their house prices, the threat of big companies taking their business elsewhere (which, of course, they have been doing for the last hundred years and more), the marchers appeared not realise that the things they are fighting to save have already been lost by the majority of British workers.
For those whose town hasn’t had any jobs for a generation or more; for those who will never be able to get on the housing ladder; for those who cannot afford university; for those who won’t miss the ‘option’ of travelling around Europe visa-free because they can’t even afford to travel around Britain, the myth of the friendly, benign EU has been dispelled, and no amount of fearmongering or threats will bring it back.
The EU was always, and remains today, a bosses’ club, designed to ensure more efficient exploitation of workers at home and abroad, and to help the fading European imperialist powers recoup their strength and retain their place in the world that emerged from WW2, when socialism was spreading like wildfire across the globe, and the US was the only imperialist power strong enough to stand in its way.
As a tool for strengthening the power of the ruling classes of Europe, and for strengthening the warmongering Nato transatlantic alliance, it is most decidedly in our interest to see the EU, and with it both British and US imperialism, weakened. This is why British workers must not allow the referendum result to be overturned.
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