Unite general secretary Len McCluskey hit the right note when he told his union conference this week that putting Jeremy Corbyn into 10 Downing Street was more important than Brexit.
Whether Britain is in or out of the EU, too many more years of right-wing Tory rule is going to wreck our economy and society for a generation.
We cannot afford another long stretch of austerity, privatisation, militarism and widening social inequality. It would condemn millions more people to slum landlordism, low wages, insecure work, poverty and discrimination of every kind.
All the while, the super-rich would get even richer, stashing billions more in their overseas bank accounts, while the City of London’s casino economy and corporate corruption continue largely unchecked.
So, electing a left-led Labour government is indeed paramount.
But with it must come Britain’s disentanglement from the EU “free market” treaties, rules and institutions that would obstruct the implementation of a radical Labour manifesto.
Anybody who believes that the European Union would be anything other than hostile to a Corbyn Labour government has not been paying attention for the past 40 years.
EU membership did nothing to protect Britain’s trade unions or public services from the Thatcherite onslaught.
The European single market — so beloved of Margaret Thatcher’s bureaucrats, who helped design it — enshrines the “freedoms” of big business to shift capital, goods, services and labour around the continent and beyond in order to maximise profits for shareholders.
Since the 2008 financial crash, the so-called “Troika” — the EU Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — has bailed out Europe’s banks, extending credit to debtor governments on condition they pursue extreme policies of austerity and privatisation.
Democratically elected governments in Italy and Greece that failed to administer extra punishment beatings to their peoples were replaced by unelected “technocratic” regimes, headed by market-approved former EU bureaucrats and bankers.
Yet there are still Labour supporters on the left who deny that such EU obstacles would exist.
It is as though they have not read the two fundamental treaties of the European Union which prohibit Labour manifesto policies on state investment, preferential treatment for public enterprise, competitive tendering, regulation of trade, equality for imported labour and big cuts in VAT.
Perhaps they missed too the report in the Times on May 7 that “Britain faces restrictions on post-Brexit trade and draconian measures to enforce free-market policies because the European Union fears a future Jeremy Corbyn government.”
Senior EU officials had told the paper that Labour’s policies of state aid and public ownership were prompting EU negotiators and member state governments to take a hard line.
Any post-Brexit trade and customs deal would have to protect the EU big business “free market.”
This anti-socialist perspective is shared by the Tory Cabinet majority and right-wing Labour MPs if they can’t reverse the Brexit result altogether.
But Unite’s conference delegates began to join the dots this week. They rejected the dangerously anti-democratic call to annul the first EU referendum by holding a second.
Nothing would give a bigger boost to the far right in Britain and raise Ukip from the political grave than a second referendum.
Instead, the labour movement must repudiate the pessimists and defeatists who imagine, against all experience, that the EU is some kind of benign nanny protecting an otherwise helpless working class from Jacob Rees-Mogg and his big bad wolves.
We should demand a “people’s Brexit” that maintains mutually beneficial relations with our European neighbours, while leaving a future Labour government free to pursue left and progressive economic, social and environmental policies of every kind.
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