Brexit is not a blow to capitalism but empowerment of a Right-wing clique
I understand the anxiety that many thinking of voting Leave feel about the EU.
The feeling that we live our lives in a world governed by forces we cannot control; that our destinies are shaped by people other than our elected representatives.
But it was ever thus. One hundred years ago our parliament was elected by a minority of men. It was only in 1950 that the principle of ‘one person, one vote’ was finally accepted by the UK Government.
It was the Left’s struggles against the undemocratic system that led to these fundamental changes in democratic accountability.
And it is the Left within the EU that has secured the gains in workers’ rights we enjoy – the right to annual leave, the right to maternity and paternity leave, the right to control our own working hours.
Within the EU, we have the opportunity to push for further protection of our fundamental rights as workers and as human beings. For instance, pushing for EU rules on procurement to allow contract tendering to take a far greater cognisance of social protections and human rights, and moving for tougher action on tax cheats and dodgers on an EU-wide basis.
Outside the EU we face a future where the Right-wing governments foisted on the UK by a perverse and twisted electoral system will systematically strip even the most basic protections from men and women across these isles.
A post-Brexit UK governed by Boris and Co. will be a paradise for those intent on destroying these basic rights.
We now forget – very often forget – that only a couple of generations separates our modern society from the barbarity and savagery that gripped our continent in the middle part of the last century.
More time has passed between our entry into the then-EEC, than had flowed from the end of the last World War until then.
The horror that our forefathers and mothers experienced is still a part of living memory. Horror that, as ever in human history, hit ordinary men and women hardest, while the elite were hit the least.
This is not to say that the hysterical hyperbole spewed forth by the prime minister, warning of war breaking out after Brexit has any basis in reality – indeed it is this kind of insulting guff that has led to the current widespread disgust with both official campaigns – but rather a recognition of historical reality.
The formation of the European Coal and Steel Commission as the forerunner of the EEC was explicitly intended to prevent war, and we sit today at the foot of the longest period of stability and peace in Western Europe in recorded history.
Those on the Left arguing for a Leave vote must reconcile their rhetoric with the facts of our EU membership.
That the tendency over recent history is not that of a UK parliament exercising its sovereign power to protect the mass of the population, but of an EU backing the rights of ordinary people against the vested interests of capital, and against those who would strip individuals of their natural and legal rights.
Yes, there is work to do to swing that pendulum yet further towards the worker. And yes, our EU institutions need transparency and further accountability, in particular to the elected European Parliament.
But a Brexit vote is not some protest against international finance, or a blow for banking reform, as some have mooted. It is a vote to drive the UK further into the hands of the hard-Right clique who temporarily – one hopes – have their hands on the tiller.
This is not a game, where the most shared Tweet or most cutting photoshop wins. Millions upon millions of men and women in employment across the UK depend on the EU for their protections at work.
They depend on health and safety regulations to save their lives. They depend on protections for part-time and agency workers. They depend on their entitlement to annual leave.
By voting Leave, we will turn our back on these protections. By voting Remain, we can protect our hard-won rights, and continue the task of securing more for generations to come. Next Thursday, help us do that.
Chris Stephens is MP for Glasgow South West and Scottish National Party Trade Union spokesman. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisStephensLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.
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