Chapter I. The New Viewpoint of the L5I to the European Union and the Issue of EU Membership




Let’s start by presenting L5I’s reasoning for their recent political turn. Essentially, the comrades put forward seven arguments which we will elaborate below. First, the membership of a country in the EU benefits the promotion of an internationalist consciousness of the working class.


To be for Europe – even if capitalist production methods prevail – helps to preserve a more international consciousness. An exit, no matter in which form, does not only destroy every internationalist consciousness, it also creates illusions in the national state. For that reason alone the pro-Brexit outcome of the referendum is not a reason to celebrate, but a defeat which can not be whitewashed.” [1]


Second, the comrades argue, the EU is something progressive insofar as it enables a broader development of the productive forces and culture:


The breakup or disintegration of the EU into isolated capitalist states would be a step backwards for the international working class. The progressive impulse in the EU was not its political institutions but the underlying processes of economic integration that give rise to them. The expansion and integration of commerce and industry across borders, on a regional and global scale, raises humanity’s productivity, culture and, above all, the international awareness and coordination of the working class.[2]


We should vote against Brexit because it is a backward step from the development of modern capitalism – the means of production and labour power – to a smaller, fragmented, more isolated capitalism. For four decades capitalism’s productive forces have been developing within a trans-European framework. To sever or restrict these links will worsen the coming crisis. But most of all, it will further fragment the working class.” [3]


And elsewhere the L5I writes: “The system of nation states of liberal capitalism is much more of a restriction, an obstacle, for the further development of the productive forces, it is the source of crisis not its solution. The unification of the EU, and the introduction of the euro are a response to the real developmental tendencies of the productive forces, although under the rule of finance capital and the governments of Germany, France and the other “leading” EU states. (…) In such a case, the working class movement of Europe should fight to oppose the expulsion of the country and instead call for the cancellation of all austerity programmes, the cancellation of the debts and so on. The answer of revolutionaries to the imperialist unification is fundamentally not a return to independent nation states, with their own currencies, but rather the unification of Europe under the working class, the struggle for the United Socialist States of Europe. The exit of any particular country from the euro zone is in no way an unavoidable stage in this perspective. On the contrary, in the struggle for the revolutionary unification of Europe that would be much more of a step backwards.[4]


Third, the L5I argues that a withdrawal from the EU would create a worse situation for migrants than would be the case if Britain would remain within the EU.


In short, it would be a reactionary step, testified to by the fact that a Brexit vote will be used as a mandate for further massive restrictions on immigration.” [5]


Fourth, the L5I argues, that membership of a country in the EU would be helpful for the promotion of the international class struggle.


What “Brexit” would do though is to reduce the objective basis (a linked up economy, reduced state borders and a common legal framework) for a united struggle of Europe’s workers, just as Fortress Europe’s external borders obstruct solidarity with the workers of the world. This should be our starting point.[6]


Fifth, the L5I rejects for these reasons not only the exit of imperialist EU countries, but also of semi-colonial ones (such as Greece or Ireland). [7]


Sixth, the L5I comrades consider as wrong the viewpoint of the RCIT (and thus their very own position during recent decades) which sees the referendum as a conflict between two imperialist camps.


The argument, to support the interests of the working class by advocating an “independent position” is not correct. (…) The Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) has managed a theoretical feat by applying the military tactics of revolutionary defeatism, relevant for cases where two imperialist camps are pitted against each other and so both are led to defeat, in this political question. As if you can react to a policy issue where there is only a Yes and No by saying that this is all crap and you simply abstain.” [8]


Finally, the L5I-comrades think that their position corresponds with the approach of Trotsky. To substantiate this claim, they cite the following quotations from Trotsky in 1916: “Would [the slogan of the European working class, Ed.] be the dissolution of the forced European coalition and the return of all peoples under the roof of isolated national states? Or the restoration of tariffs, “national” coinage, “national” social legislation, and so forth? Certainly not. The program of the European revolutionary movement would then be: The destruction of the compulsory anti-democratic form of the coalition, with the preservation and furtherance of its foundations, in the form of complete annihilation of tariff barriers, the unification of legislation, above all of labor laws, etc. (…) The even partial overcoming of these hindrances would mean the establishment of an imperialist Trust of European States, a predatory share-holding association. The proletariat will in this case have to fight not for the return to “autonomous” national states, but for the conversion of the imperialist state trust into a Republican European Federation.” [9]


Most of these arguments are not new, but have previously been raised in recent years by the British group Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL), which also takes a pro-EU stance and which – just like the British supporters of L5I – have for some time been active within the Labour Party. The AWL is an extremely right-centrist sect which openly supports the Zionist apartheid state of Israel and which steadfastly refuses to defend oppressed peoples against imperialist powers. In the past, when we were still active in the LRCI/L5I, we always expressed our disdain for the AWL. But since our expulsion from the L5I, the latter has unfortunately changed in many ways. Today, its British members are not even ashamed to form a common block with the AWL and to stand together with them as candidates for leadership positions within Left Unity. [10] For L5I, these pro-Zionist social-imperialists evidently have been transformed from Saul to Paul. But, in reality, the L5I leadership itself has sadly transformed itself from a Paul to Saul. [11]


[1] Ben Zimmer: Nach dem Brexit: Folgen und Perspektiven, REVOLUTION Deutschland, 21. Juli 2016, (our translation)

[2] Richard Brenner: Brexit: a setback for the working class, Red Flag issue 06, 04/07/2016,

[3] Dave Stockton: What’s at stake in the EU referendum? 06/03/2016, in: Red Flag issue 03,

[4] GAM: Euro crisis and Euro exit, which perspective? 22/07/2013,

[5] Dave Stockton: The British far left and the European referendum, Fifth International. Volume 5, Issue 1, 10/06/2016,

[6] Dave Stockton: The British far left and the European referendum, Fifth International. Volume 5, Issue 1, 10/06/2016,

[7] See e.g. the article of Martin Suchanek: Griechenland nach dem Referendum: Ist Plan B die Alternative?, in Revolutionärer Marxismus 47, September 2015,

[8] Ben Zimmer: Nach dem Brexit: Folgen und Perspektiven, REVOLUTION Deutschland, 21. Juli 2016, (our translation)

[9] Leon Trotsky: The Program for Peace (1915-17), in: Fourth International, New York, May 1942,

[10] See e.g.: Meaningless noise. Workers Power has made a strange new ally, Weekly Worker Issue 1049, 12.03.2015,

[11] We have formulated our criticism of the AWL in: Michael Pröbsting’s volume The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, 2013, chapter 13,; Michael Pröbsting’s pamphlet The British Left and the EU-Referendum: The Many Faces of pro-UK or pro-EU Social-Imperialism. An analysis of the left’s failure to fight for an independent, internationalist and socialist stance both against British as well as European imperialism, Revolutionary Communism Nr. 40, August 2015


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