Brexit or Frexit : demagogues at work

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
March 25, 2019

About one million demonstrated against Brexit in Britain last Saturday. They formed one of the most massive demonstrations the country had ever seen. For months now, Parliament has been torn as to whether it should ratify the agreement that has been negotiated with the European Union (EU). And no one knows if and when Brexit will happen, or what the consequences will be.

It’s already obvious that for British workers the outcome is not what the demagogues promised. They said that the country would regain its sovereignty. They made it sound as if the money given to the EU would be used to improve the health service and as if the standard of living would rise. Three years on, the radiant future promised by the dream merchants has turned into a nightmare.

European countries no longer each have a separate economy and, once you’ve made an omelet, you can’t put the eggs back together again… All goods are manufactured in several countries. For example, in the British automotive industry, most car parts cross the Channel several times before being assembled to make cars that are sold… on the European continent. Due to Brexit, multinationals are reorganizing their production at the European level and tens of thousands of job cuts are planned. With more than 10,000 trucks crossing the Channel every day, reinstating customs controls would have serious consequences.

Brexit supporters were opposed to European immigration. But, like in France, many sectors – building, agriculture, hospitals, catering – couldn’t function without immigrants. By setting Britons against foreigners, by reinforcing racism and xenophobia, Brexit has divided workers and weakened them in their fight against the capitalists.

Northern Ireland was ravaged for almost three decades by a rampant civil war. Setting up a border again with the Republic of Ireland in the south could reopen wounds that are still raw.

While many Britons were fooled in 2016 by politicians who were in favor of Brexit, there are supporters of Frexit in France. When the Brexit referendum was held, Le Pen was enthusiastic. And the other French sovereignists, Dupont-Aignan, Asselineau and even Mélenchon, were also delighted.

The EU wasn’t built for the people but for big business and finance. The major banks and multinationals of Western Europe now have access to a huge market of more than 500 million inhabitants. The richest countries have gained economic control over the poorest countries. It’s this capitalist unification that Macron, Bayrou and Hollande have defended.

The EU hasn’t united European peoples. It hasn’t harmonized workers’ rights. The minimum salary in Eastern Europe today remains lower than 500 euros. Greece, Spain and Portugal have been devastated by unemployment. Even women’s rights have gained nothing from the construction of Europe. Irish women had to fight for the right to abortion and they only obtained it recently. Maltese and Polish women are still deprived of that right.

Clearly the EU doesn’t have a glorious record. But that of each national state isn’t any better. The attacks against the working class led by Sarkozy, then Hollande and now Macron were not decided in Brussels but in Paris.

In the run-up to the European elections, Macron and the other pro-EU politicians oppose Le Pen, Salvini and the anti-EU brigade. This is all an act and a fake fight. Salvini’s government wants to force the unemployed to accept any job, just as Macron does with his measures against the jobless.

There is really only one opposition that matters, that of the workers against big business. Whatever their nationality, workers in Europe and workers throughout the world have the same interests: defending their job, their salary and their pension; controlling the economy so that it works in the interests of all. In the upcoming European elections, these ideas will be defended by Lutte ouvrière’s list, led by Nathalie Arthaud and Jean-Pierre Mercier.