Since Germany decided to punish Greece for daring to try to exercise democracy and national sovereignty, there’s been something of an upsurge in commentators on the British left questioning whether the EU is really the progressive institution they’d assumed it to be, leaving their vote in 2017’s EU referendum potentially up for grabs.
(Unlike Scotland, of course, at least Greece didn’t have to ask permission to hold its plebiscite on austerity, even if it appears to have counted for nothing in the end.)
Coming hot on the heels of the European Parliament ignoring concerns over the highly secretive TTIP negotiations, the European dream is turning into a nightmare for many.
To be fair Owen Jones (linked above), he’s been questioning the assumption longer than most, although that made his stance on the Scottish independence referendum even more hypocritical – George Monbiot is at least being consistent.
The closest anyone came to providing the Lesser-Spotted Positive Case for the Union™ was probably when unionists on the left contended that Scotland should remain in the UK because of class solidarity with those elsewhere in the UK – “A worker in Glasgow has more in common with a worker in Manchester than a banker in Edinburgh”, was a common refrain.
It wasn’t a particularly convincing argument – several trade unions operate across the UK/Irish border, and being at opposite ends of Europe didn’t stop people protesting in Glasgow and Edinburgh in solidarity with the people of Greece recently – but at least it was a bit more sympathetic than threatening to bomb our airports or stop us using our own currency.
Owen Jones was certainly among those making such an argument. Despite recognising the huge flaws in the Project Fear approach – and his own parents’ sympathies to the independence cause – class solidarity across the UK mattered more to the likes of Jones than the possibility of one part of these islands managing to break free of the Thatcherism Max nightmare the UK was clearly heading towards. In fact, the pro-independence left was often accused by folk from the unionist left of selfishly abandoning their comrades in rUK to perpetual right-wing Tory governments.
It seems strange, therefore, to see the same kind of commentators suddenly suggesting that the British left should, in their words, “abandon” their fellow workers throughout the EU to perpetual right-wing European governments. (After all, when the majority of countries within the EU elect right-wing governments, it stands to reason that the EU as a whole will move towards the right.)
“Stay and fight the Tories!” was the rallying call to people in Scotland – but we’ve heard no such call to stay and fight the CDU, the VVD and the True Finns. You could suggest this apparent distinction between workers in Glasgow, Liverpool and Cardiff and workers in Paris, Athens and Bratislava is simply British nationalism, or that it’s that other thing where you don’t like people whose passport has a different country written on it from yours – but “internationalism” it definitely isn’t.
The timing is absolutely impeccable, given that the Tories have this week published their Trade Union Bill, which seeks to erode the UK’s trade union laws further, despite already being amongst the weakest in Europe.
(Curiously, while the EU moves like lightning to defend banks from “rogue” left-wing governments who might default on their crippling, unpayable debts, it appears to offer no such comradely protection to workers.)
Combined with the planned savage cuts to tax credits – which Labour are still pondering whether to oppose – and the redefining of “living wage” to mean “a wage which isn’t even nearly enough to live on”, those pleas for Scots to stay for the sake of workers elsewhere in the UK are starting to look like the guilt-tripping demands for a suicide pact those of us in the Yes camp always said they were.
Convincing Scotland to stay in the UK has been good news for foxes. It’s less certain that workers in Linlithgow and Leuchars will be thanking their lucky stars that No voters decided to show solidarity with their compatriots in Lewisham, Lurgan and Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, and smash up Scotland’s life-raft just as the great ship GB was powering at full steam towards a Tory iceberg.