And so it is here. I doubt that these hasty scribblings will persuade, or even dissuade, anyone now; so, like much else over the past few weeks and months, consider it, if you will, a futile gesture or even an attempt at self-therapy. Today will be nerve-wracking; tonight will probably be worse still. We all remember the night of the last general election; having been out for dinner and somehow shielded myself from the results, I arrived at a party, to find instead a wake. The selfish, the bigoted, the merely provincial (nothing to do with where one lives: everything to do with a state of mind) triumphed then; ever since, we have suffered a wholesale assault upon what remains of the social fabric of this country, to make that of Margaret Thatcher, even that of the dread ‘Coalition’, seem almost social democratic in its qualities of reconciliation. This, however, is far more important still.
That vilest of selfishness has been on display again, not just from the outright xenophobes and racists, but from so-called socialists (people such as John Mann and, more sadly, Dennis Skinner) who, in their neo-Stalinist fantasy of ‘socialism in one country’, have shown how little they care for internationalism, and also of course from David Cameron’s unforgivable pursuit of ‘special status’. We do not want a ‘special status’; we hold no truck with philistine exceptionalism; we are European and that is all we want: no more, no less. There are good reasons, unanswerable reasons, to oppose what the European Union has become. They come almost entirely from the Left. The despicable treatment of Greece would have made anyone reconsider; yet, in that case, let us listen to Yanis Varoufakis, who considers it crucial for reform of the organisation that has treated us country so brutally that we participate. By ‘we’ I mean both this country and the Left. No one would deny the EU’s neo-liberalism; for us, however, it has long been almost the only brake we have upon still worse neo-liberalism at Westminster. The Social Chapter has long been almost the only protection – however weak – for British workers against the ever-increasing rightward drift of government (both Conservative and New Labour).
It was a grave mistake – born, of course, of NATO’s (the real enemy’s) attempts to weaken the EU, the UK as ever acting as US lapdog – to allow most of the Eastern European countries in so soon. That may yet prove fatal, but we must do what we can, not only to resist the outright fascism now prevailing in Poland and Hungary, not only to help the many good, civilised people within those countries (suffering still more quickly from the deadly embrace of neo-liberalism than we are), but also to rescue Europe from US imperialism, and to look towards an order that might one day also involve Russia. Russia, lest we forget, is European too; the antagonisms whipped up, not least by the EU as it stands, need to be dealt with – and it is difficult to see who can do that other than a reformed EU. NATO – the government will allow us no plebiscite on that membership – has persistently divided Europe; we need something to bring Europe and indeed the world together. As for the absurdity of wishing to be bound by the EU’s rules without having even the slightest say in making them: that is preposterous even by the standards of Michael ‘if you know something, you’re a Nazi’ Gove.
Yet above all, however naïve this might sound, however naïve this might be, the question is: do we wish to return to the 1950s, or rather 1930s, do we wish to start acting in a vaguely twenty-first-century fashion? Do we wish to banish war from Europe, by continuing to suppress nationalism, by continuing to cooperate, by continuing to build a common foreign policy (something that would, for instance, prevent the UK from ever again engaging in a murderous adventure such as Blair’s invasion of Iraq)? Do we wish to break down borders, to put a stop to this country’s embarrassing self-exclusion from the Schengen accords, to participate in a Europe in which travelling, whether in the shorter or longer term, from London to Paris is no greater a step than from Berlin to Munich, or indeed from Florence to Vienna? Do we value people because of who they are, what they do, what they might do in the event of our cooperation, or do we spit on them on account of their nationality, their gender, their sexual orientation, the colour of their skin? (Let us not forget that the Tory Right, let alone UKIP, wishes to do away with the ‘red tape’ that protects citizens against discrimination.) Do we welcome those who wish to make this country their home, who enrich our lives with their labour, their enthusiasm, their culture, or do we follow the lead of Gove, Mann, Nigel Farage, Frank Field, Boris Johnson, Paul Dacre, and the organs of Rupert Murdoch, in blaming ‘immigrants’ for our ills? Do we hold our ground against neo-liberalism, against the vicious far-Right press, or do we offer our final, abject capitulation? Do we want to be able to look our European friends in the eye? Or do we want to be the country that brought a deeply flawed project, which nevertheless offers our only realistic hope for something better, crashing to the ground?
Now, off to vote...