Brexit for tanks? The EU and the working class

Brexit for tanks? The EU and the working class

Rage Against Capital takes a look at the EU and what it means for the working classes and the oppressed internationally as well as critiquing the CPGB-ML's endorsement of Brexit.

So called “Brexit” refers to the exit of Britain from the EU, a united coalition of European countries that was formed after WW2. Many of the exponents of “Brexit” tend to be British Nationalists, Neo-Nazis, Fascists, or just simple racist reactionaries (e.g. UK Independence Party). It’s a wonder then why any leftist groups would support “Brexit” given it’s association with heavily reactionary groups and movements. However, CPGB-ML has an answer to that..or at least they think they do.

If you are not familiar with the CPGB-ML, they are a Marxist-Leninist split from the SLP. The party was created in 2004 when Arthur Scargill refused to support the North Korean government and ejected many members from the Yorkshire committee. Said members along with former members of the CPGB formed the CPGB-ML. The party is most known for defending Stalinist Party States and figures such as Mao and Stalin. Most of their on the ground actions consist of being a voice for Stalinist politics and support for “tinpot” dictators such as Al Assad, Maumar Gaddafi, and Robert Mugabe in protest movements. Recently they have come out with a video on their YouTube channel, “Proletarian TV” that advocates for Brexit on the basis of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism. The video ca be found here (

The basic argument the video puts forward is that the EU is a union of imperialist and capitalist states and thus can only constitute a reactionary institution. This I think is obviously true, but the problem with this argument is that the EU being a union of imperialist states does not support “Brexit” as such. In fact, this can be used to support almost the opposite conclusion, that in reality Brexit presents no real materiel benefit for the working class. In all honesty I don’t take the CPGB-ML very seriously, the reason I am attacking their position is not because I feel it is influential or that I want to have a dialogue with the CPGB-ML. Rather, I think this is an opportunity for revolutionaries to understand the EU and why British Exit from it will bring nothing for the working class and oppressed internationally.

To understand the CPGB-ML’s position on this issue we need to understand it’s position on “imperialism” as such. The party is not new to using a fragmented understanding of Lenin’s theory of imperialism and Karl Marx’s theory of political economy to justify it’s understanding of the world. Their understanding of imperialism is that it is primarily a set of relations carried out by the western capitalist powers toward the global south and the east. It is thus their position that Britain leaving the EU would weaken “imperialism” as such. What the CPGB-ML doesn’t take into account is Lenin’s actual definition of “imperialism” and the EU’s place in the actual international system of imperialism.

Lenin and Imperialism:

Lenin says in the first chapter of his work “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism” that Imperialism is the international system of states in capitalist society. This would mean that all “nation states” as such are imperialist in so far as they are part of the international system of imperialism. Since whenever the CPGB-ML refers to “imperialism” they refer to a set of relations the west has to the south and east, they are operating under a reductionist understanding of imperialism that not even their idol and favorite figure to invoke, Lenin, would have accepted. Lenin believed, for better or worse, that ALL nations have the “right” to self determination, so the only way to criticize imperialism, would be to criticize the international system of states that make it up. As such, using Lenin’s conclusions would lead us to the conclusion that Brexit will not do anything to weaken imperialism since imperialism is an international system and not simply a set of relations that flows out of western powers.

The EU:

The EU is an association of states in Europe that was originally designed to rebuild national production and national economies after world war two. While the EU did help many countries build their industry back up which had been destroyed as a result of the war, over the years the EU came to mostly function as a mechanism of control over said countries for the benefit of the European ruling classes and bureaucracy. The EU is certainly not a good institution, however British exit from it won’t do very much..or really anything at all for the working class/oppressed of Europe, and even less the oppressed globally. If the UK exits the EU, what will happen? Will the EU disband? I doubt it, there is pretty much no evidence to believe that that would happen. Will the British working class benefit? No, they will still be oppressed by the British capitalist class and it’s state. Will it do anything for the European working class in general? No, they will still be oppressed by the EU which as stated above would probably still exist and they will still be oppressed by the European capitalist class and their respective states. Will it do anything for the oppressed internationally? No, imperialism, capitalism, and all other forms of oppression and oppressive institutions will still exist pretty much unchanged. Unless you are some kind of British Nationalist there is really nothing to gain from Brexit which is why most arguments for it are supported and put forward by reactionaries.

What To Do About The EU ?:

The EU is without a doubt a reactionary institution that represents the domination of the capitalist class and it’s bureaucracy over the oppressed and the working class internationally. However, one should not waste their time and energy on the goal of British Exit as it provides no materiel benefit for the oppressed. I think concessions from the ruling class are vital to easing our everyday lives in capitalist society. Brexit is not a concession, however, it is a re-shuffling of power. As I said before I am not appealing to the more logical side of the CPGB-ML, I think people who openly promote Robert Mugabe are beyond any appeals to logic. However, the working class and the oppressed need to understand the EU and what to do about it. Effectively the EU like the state, private property, and the market, is symptomatic of the class society we live in, specifically the capitalist class society we live in. To fight against these things we must organize against said society and attempt to create a new one in it’s place.

For more info on the EU and the referendum check out this piece from 2015 on that sums things up quite well:

Posted By

Jun 13 2016 05:52


  • the EU like the state, private property, and the market, is symptomatic of the class society we live in, specifically the capitalist class society we live in. To fight against these things we must organize against said society and attempt to create a new one in it’s place.

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Jun 21 2016 00:41

Both the SPGB and Chomsky have stated that Brexit will be the worse option I notice.
This is what Chomsky had to say in a recent interview with the Guardian: " I’m unenthusiastic about either, but I think probably the worse choice would be Brexit. My sense is that it would probably turn Britain – or maybe England, if Scotland pulls out – into even more of a dependency on the US. And there are a lot of good things that have happened in Europe since the second world war. Those should be salvaged, and I think they can be."

The SPGB state that Bremain will be best for capitalism, but lets face it, it will be good for the ruling class either way. Brexit is likely to hurt the poor and working class more than it will 'harm' capitalism and the rich. Either way, we will still have capitalism and austerity and should reject both the neo-liberalism of the EU and that of the British state.

Jun 21 2016 16:11


My sense is that it would probably turn Britain – or maybe England, if Scotland pulls out – into even more of a dependency on the US.

This is the reason why I will be voting for the UK to exit the EU. I see more revolutionary potential in the USA than in the European Union.

That, plus the fact the European stock markets seem to react positively to any inkling that the UK will remain in the European Union

Bambuľka kvantová
Jun 22 2016 12:49

In my view, theoretically correct is to abstain, as you don not want to take sides between two competing fractions of the capital. However, this time what's theoretically correct is not politically correct! If you do not want to add legitimation to the growth of nationalist and far Right in the UK and Europe, then the only option is to vote IN. That's what I'd call politically correct. Sometimes both political and theoretical choices are the same, but this time I am sure they are not.
(Of course, nationalism will be rising regardless of the result of the referendum, however the last thing we should do is to add our voices to boost its legitimacy. I am afraid abstention IN THIS CONTEXT is not enough.)

Jun 30 2016 04:10

There was also a neo-liberal pressure to remain. The EU is also one of the top institutions in deporting refugees. I suppose a remain vote was *better* than Brexit (speaking after Britain has already made the decision to leave of course), but it's still making a choice between one reactionary and bourgioes institution over another. The choice was not at all meaningful and there was no organized worker's movement to leverage the vote to further it's goals so abstention was certainly the best option.