A xenophobic storm in the Tories' tea cup

25 Oct 2011

Predictably, Tory backbenchers' demand that a referendum should be organised over Britain's membership of the European Union was defeated on Monday by a huge majority.

Rather than a question of "democracy", as its promoters claimed, it was an exercise in hypocritical posturing.

After all, these are the same politicians who never said anything against the war in Iraq, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population was against it. Nor did they suggest that we, workers, should be given a say in the decision to bail out the bankers on public funds, rather than nationalise the whole lot of them. Or that there should be a referendum over the Con-Dems' cuts in jobs, services and welfare, for which they all voted with both hands.

This is no coincidence, of course. "Democracy" is the very least of these politicians' preoccupations. The last thing they want to hear, let alone take into account, is our opinion on the decisions which really affect us - that is, those which are important for the profits of their capitalist masters!

"Euroscepticism" and the crisis

The resurgence of the "eurosceptic" strain within Tory ranks is nothing surprising, of course. After all, this kind of demagogy has been the mainstay of many currents within the Tory party in the past, as a lever in their factional rivalries.

As long as the Tories were in opposition, these rivalries were swept under the carpet by their common effort and desire to return to power. But now that the Tories feel solidly established in government, their in-fighting is back with a vengeance and, predictably, the "eurosceptics" are on the frontline.

Except that in the context of the present crisis, the xenophobic stench which is attached to the anti-European demagogy of the "eurosceptics", takes on a wholly different meaning.

Especially at a time when we hear ministers boasting day-in and day-out that, thanks to their slashing of public expenditure, Britain is much better off than the rest of Europe. And that if there's anything wrong with the British economy it should be blamed on the eurozone.

Never mind the fact that Britain has in fact, one of the worst public debts in Europe in proportion to its economy (actually as high as Greece), the worst rate of inflation, the most expensive university and transport systems, and a health service which is already one of the most under-funded.

Ironically, though, if it were not for the eurozone imports from Britain, which have remained as strong as ever since the beginning of the crisis, British manufacturing would be virtually bankrupt by now! But this is the kind of thing that "eurosceptics" prefer to "forget".

Enemies of the working class

In fact, after decades during which British capital starved production industries of investment, while putting all its cash in the financial "industry", Britain's GDP per head is now well below that of the two other comparable eurozone countries - Germany and France! But the "eurosceptics" won't tell us that either.

Rather, their xenophobic rhetoric is aimed at covering up the role of British capital in this crisis. At a time when British bosses are cutting jobs, wages and conditions, this anti-European hysteria is designed to divert our attention away from them, the real culprits, and direct it towards the eurozone, its institutions, but also its workers, whom we are urged to see as our "rivals" in the crisis.

And the fact that this rhetoric is effectively endorsed by some Labour MPs and union leaders with slogans such as "British jobs for British workers", does not make its content any less reactionary.

There is a lethal logic in this. In a period comparable to the present crisis, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, it was this logic which provided the rationale for Hitler's Nazi party to militarise the population in order to serve the interest of Germany's big business.

Hitler's demagogy was anti-semitic, but above all, it was nationalist and xenophobic, aimed at all those "foreigners" in Britain and France who were allegedly seeking to undermine Germany's economy and the well-being of its population - the kind of demagogy that the "eurosceptics" are peddling today, against the eurozone countries.

The "eurosceptics" are not the Nazis, of course. They are pathetic, small-time politicians who use this demagogic rhetoric in order to boost their petty careers. But they give the appearance of respectability to xenophobic ideas which are too dangerous to be tolerated. They are the ideas of our worst enemies.