The politics of staying in the EU is mixed up with the politics of the euro

A number of left-wing commentators have written recently on the forthcoming UK referendum on continuing membership of the EU. The gist of these topical pieces is that the British left-wing should campaign for the exit of the UK, and not leave the running to UKIP. They acknowledge that the EU was pro-labour in the 1980s but since then it has become very pro-capital. The developments in Greece are seen as the starkest moment yet when these pro-capital powers are put to use, against the people.
OK, declaration due, my work often involves EU funding for public and third sector projects in the UK. But that apart, the UK always provided at least 50% of the funding and in some years the UK funds were far more generous and wide-reaching than the EU funds, though not any more because of austerity policies.
The EU is a massive compromise: between East and West Europe; North and South Europe; labour and business interests; left-wing and right-wing national governments. Some national leaders can work with compromise, but usually the more extreme leaders take an absolute position – my way or no way.
For the left, I think the fundamental issue is whether the EU is seen as an instrument of internationalism or one of globalisation?
For me, the flame is still lit – but flickering – for internationalism. The appalling treatment of Greece by the EU as well as the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank must be a lesson we learn from. The euro does not belong to any one country, despite Germany being the home of the ECB as a sop to local sentiment. Of course, there were horrors of hyperinflation in the 1920s and 1930s, but there were also massive subsidies such as the Marshall Plan from the USA in the 1950s.
But more than all these financial and economic arguments is the human one – the EU is foremost a peace-keeping project or it is pointless. Every straight banana and curly cucumber is absolutely worth it to save us from fighting ourselves.
And across Europe we pick our fights more easily than we like to think, whether it is in the Middle East or closer to home.
I guess where this leaves me is that the left-wing commentators have not yet found a compelling strategy to tackle globalisation, apart from retreating from anything international in case ‘business’ takes it over. And in the UK the New Labour project fundamentally said it could work with business for social justice, even though inequalities rose throughout its time in power.
To start to tackle globalisation, we need to look at reintroducing capital controls and exchange rates to protect weaker economies, and here the target needs to be the euro rule book not the EU.

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