Thursday, 14 April 2016

Built To Resist

Matthew Turner writes:

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in support of membership of the European Union will have been regarded as better late than never by much of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Labour grandees have been prodding him since his coronation as Labour leader to campaign more vigorously to remain in an institution which he clearly disagrees with.

It is a shame that the party machine has managed to quash his Bennite tendencies on the matter. 

After all, he voted against membership in 1975 and opposed the subsequent Maastricht and Lisbon treaties.

Considering how many votes Labour lost to Ukip in the general election, not to mention the fact he is renowned for his principled politics, Corbyn could be doing marginally better in polls and approval ratings if he decided to stick to his guns. 

His natural Euroscepticism reflects public opinion across Britain more closely than the views of his colleagues on the soft left. 

Corbyn’s hands, however, were tied.

The consensus among the Parliamentary Labour Party and party membership is that an In vote on 23 June is the right way to go. 

A break from that could have been fatal for what is left of party unity. 

That does not mean the leftist base upon which Corbyn has built his power will follow him blindly into a position they – and he – used to stand against. 

There is a left-wing case for leaving the European Union, and Corbyn would have been the perfect candidate to make the democratic case for Brexit. 

Alas, the public will be ruthlessly stripped of the proper debate they deserve. 

In Corbyn’s own words, TTIP negotiations “are rooms on either side of the Atlantic stuffed full of highly effective corporate lobbyists doing their best to develop their own interests”. 

Over the summer of 2015 we saw the Troika’s brutal treatment of Greece and according to Yanis Varoufakis, there was a “point blank to refusal to engage in economic arguments” and that he “might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem”. 

If that is the approach the European Union is committed to, why should we be confident that we can work together and negotiate with Europe? 

Labour’s official position on Europe is short-sighted and frail. 

The safety net of the EU could be more desirable than a rampant Conservative government, but the idea that we’re going to have right-wing national governments forever and need a neoliberal Europe as a mainstay for worker’s rights is disingenuous and defeatist. 

Kate Hoey, Labour MP for Vauxhall and co-founder of the Grassroots Out campaign, is correct to state that most of the rights British workers enjoy were fought for by the British labour movement, not doled out by the EU. 

I can admit that Corbyn’s vision for a social Europe is compelling, desirable and persuasive. But progressives need to consider that the utopian Europe he is describing isn’t on the ballot in June. 

The rise of Corbyn over the summer of 2015 was based on a rejection of incremental change to a corrupt, debauched system and laying the foundation for a new and better path instead. 

We should apply this same leap of faith to the EU referendum. The Europe Corbyn describes is nothing but a naïve pipedream – and he knows it.

We have seen, time and time again, that the undemocratic configuration of the EU means that the union is built to resist a radical, progressive deviation from neoliberalism.

And that is why, despite being an ardent supporter of his leadership, I won’t be following Corbyn on 23 June.

I’ll be voting to leave.

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