Read here: The address by Alex Gordon, Convenor of #Lexit – the Left Campaign to Leave the European Union at the meeting of European trade unionists in Paris on Saturday 28 May 2016 to support #Brexit.
Greetings from Lexit – the Left Campaign to LEAVE the European Union.
I am here with you today because this is a critical moment for the working class: in Britain, internationally and especially here in France where your fight against the ‘El Khomri’ Labour Law is the latest magnificent example of people’s resistance to the financial dictatorship of the European Commission.
In country after country the EU institutions are leading the attacks on workers’ rights and the historic social gains won by previous generations of workers.
Solidarity with the resistance of French workers against EU attacks.
In Britain, voices of opposition to the EU from communists and the far left, alongside trade unionists and associations representing workers from India, Bangladesh, Turkey and young migrants from Greece and eastern European, are making themselves heard, because our class enemies have united massively to call on us to vote to REMAIN in the EU.
The representatives of Goldman Sachs and all the global banks based in the City of London; the IMF Director-General Mme. Lagarde; President Obama and the leaders of world’s main imperialist powers from Europe and Canada; the general secretary of NATO and the governor of the Bank of England have all united to demand, cajole and threaten voters in Britain that a vote to LEAVE the EU will bring war, economic recession and a life of endless misery, which is ironic because these are precisely the outcomes that their own policies promote.
No doubt, in the next few weeks Mother Theresa will be exhumed to add her last-minute appeal to support the EU as the font of faith, hope and charity.
And shamefully, in Britain (exactly as in France during your referendum on the European Constitution in 2005) socialist and trade union leaders by a great majority have joined this campaign of deceit, telling trade unionists and workers that our best interests lie in voting to REMAIN in the EU.
A small and brave minority of trade unions (led by the railworkers’ unions RMT and ASLEF alongside the Bakers’ union) and a tiny number of socialist members of parliament have explained the role that EU policies and institutions play in Britain, France, throughout Europe and beyond in attacking social rights in the interests of global corporate finance capitalism.
Lexit – the Left Leave Campaign calls on workers in Britain to vote to Leave the EU in the referendum on 23 June for two principal reasons.
Firstly, a vote to Leave the EU is an act of internationalism and solidarity with oppressed peoples and workers not only in Europe, but across the world.
The EU is an imperialist enitity – an essential pillar of the NATO/IMF/EU axis. A blow against the EU weakens imperialism. That is why the pro-imperialists in all their forms are united in calling for a vote to REMAIN in the EU.
Secondly, a vote for Britain to LEAVE the EU is the quickest method to destroy the pro-austerity government of David Cameron. Britain’s governing Conservative party is deeply and irrevocably split reflecting the tactical conflict between its factions over whether to serve as a junior partner of Germany inside the EU, or to continue as an alternative pole of global finance capitalism outside the EU.
A vote to LEAVE the EU will certainly lead the Conservative party to sack their prime minister and will bring forward a general election where voters will have an opportunity to elect a government committed to opposing austerity.
The Lexit Campaign sets itself a particular task in the few weeks before the EU referendum in Britain on 23 June. That is to explode the myths and lies about a ‘Social Europe’ promoted by EU institutions such as the ETUC and the corporate media, and which are cynically repeated by trade union leaders who failed to lead any mobilisations against the British government’s attacks on trade union rights and workers pay and conditions during the past 5 years.
A recent report from Britain’s TUC claims that a vote to LEAVE the EU would set back women’s rights by “decades.”
Yet the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact - designed to ensure that countries in the EU pursue austerity programs - represents the greatest assault on equality between men and women for a generation.
The TUC has claimed that only the EU can defend workers’ rights from protection against pregnancy discrimination to fairer pay, holidays and pensions.
But the benefits for women workers of equal pay and equal rights were won by hard work and campaigns by trade unionists and equality campaigners.
How has the EU advanced equality for women in Greece, Portugal, Romania or Bulgaria?
In reality, the fight for equal wages between men and women dates back over a century. Britain’s TUC voted to support equal pay in 1888. The British Labour Party included a right to equal pay for equal work for all employees in its 1964 manifesto, and the Labour government introduced the Equal Pay Act in 1970 – years before Britain joined the European Economic Community.
That Act was the result of mounting pressure from British workers, including strike action by women car workers at the Ford’s factory in Dagenham in 1968 and vigorous campaigning by the National Joint Action Campaign for Women’s Equal rights culminating in a massive demonstration in 1969.
EU supporters ignore this and point to the 1957 Treaty of Rome which set out the principle of equal pay for work of equal value in Article 119. However, this was included as a concession to French workers who already had equal pay legislation and feared that they would be at a comparative disadvantage.
Therefore we should thank French workers and their class struggles for equal pay laws, not give credit to the EU institutions as the British TUC seeks to do.
In practice the EU still has a significant pay gender gap nearly 60 years after the Treaty of Rome. Moreover rising conservative and religious forces and far-right politicians are attacking the very notion of sexual and reproductive rights that were fought for by previous generations of women and men.
Economic crisis and austerity are used as an excuse to dismantle gender equality across EU member states. In Slovenia, women used to enjoy 100 per cent of salary during maternity leave, now reduced by 90 per cent or more.
The idea that the EU, which imposes austerity on millions of peoples from Ireland to Greece, and enforces unemployment, low wages, insecurity, mass privatisation and TTIP, could promote increasing equality is utterly absurd.
We won’t accept lessons on equality or workers’ rights from the same EU institutions that attack workers’ rights in France, that cancel trade union rights of collective bargaining as the price for ‘bail-outs’ in Greece, Portugal and Ireland and which continue to attack trade unions in country after country in order to defend the interests of banks and big business.
Until recent days, the British media has almost entirely refused to report the massive social struggles taking place today in France by transport workers, railworkers, oil workers, youth and the unemployed. They don’t want voters in Britain to see the illusion of ‘Social Europe’.
But workers in Britain increasingly can see that ‘Social Europe’ is a mythical creature like the unicorn.
A victory for the French working class against the government of Hollande-Valls by overthrowing the El Khomri law will be a signal to voters in Britain on 23 June that workers can only protect their interests by rejecting the EU.
A victory for France’s workers and trade unions is the best example you can give to voters in Britain on 23 June.
A vote to LEAVE the EU in Britain on 23 June will trigger a political crisis in the European Union that will strengthen French workers and weaken the ruling elites who attack workers’ rights in your country and in ours.
The conflict is now in the open. It is all the more important therefore that those on the left who continue to foster illusions in the EU are held to account.
Workers rights and equality is our common struggle. The EU our common enemy. Solidarity is the true language of internationalism.