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Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany

Berlin.

How can anyone favor BREXIT? Isn’t European unity a grand idea after so many centuries of warfare? Why should any sensible person want to leave it?

For any traveler moving around in Europe the crossing from one member country to another with no customs or pass controls was indeed a blessing and, even more, that one no longer had to calculate how many thousands of lira equaled ten marks or twenty francs when buying a souvenir. And this from Piraeus to Palermo or Porto, from Valetta to Vilna, from Helsinki to Hoek van Holland. No, stop! That’s where boats leave for Britain and even before BREXIT Britain (like some East European and Scandinavian countries) didn’t use the euro. But it was at least in the EU. Now it quits altogether. Isn’t that a tragedy, maybe even an omen that others might follow suit and wreck it all?

Recent weeks saw hot arguments on this. Strangely enough, both those on the left and those on the right were split among themselves.

Leftist BREXITs explain that the EU idea, beautiful as it seems, was far from altruist from the start. A Frenchman, Robert Schuman, who was briefly a minister in Marshall Petain’s fascist regime after France’s defeat in 1940 and then spent the rest of the war in a monastery, perhaps praying or making plans for uniting Europe, is often called the Father of the European Union. Bur some children are lucky and have many fathers. In the summer of 1948 spymaster Allen Dulles, later head of the CIA, and spymaster William Donovan, head of its predecessor, the OSS, founded an American Committee on United Europe (ACUE), aiming at quick unification of the war-torn continent. Bringing French and German iron, coal and steel companies together would gain more profits while helping Germany to regain acceptance and strength for the Cold War. So they started a new group, the European Movement, with millions from the CIA and the Ford Foundation, and named five honorary presidents: Leon Blum of France, de Gasperi of Italy, Spaak of Belgium, an eager Konrad Adenauer from his new Federal Republic and, crowning it all, Winston Churchill, though voted out of office still full of ambition. It was he who spilled the beans on European brotherliness. This “unofficial counterpart“ of the Marshall Plan must help win the “liberation of the nations behind the Iron Curtain” as a path to “our aim and ideal, nothing less than the union of Europe as a whole.” For him, that meant at least as far as the Ural Mountains.

This remains relevant today. The constant eastward movement then directed against the USSR and its cordon of reliant neighbors, jealously guarded so no hostile powers could advance to its borders, has since the defeats of 1989 to 1993 become a similar constant attempt to surround Russia, seen as a rival, with a tighter and tighter noose, now including Poland, the Baltic trio, Rumania, Bulgaria, and as soon as possible the Ukraine, Moldavia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, with Moscow its future target.

And on the way, any attempt anywhere by working people to take control away from the industrial and financial bosses, domestic and international, must be crushed in the bud. This was accomplished most brutally in Greece, now suffering under a depression worse than in the USA in the 1930’s, and was a warning to all less wealthy member countries to maintain austerity, hitting away at the rights and incomes of working people, pensioners and the others – to the advancement of the Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Goldman-Sachs and big French banks. One might even catch echoes of a similar policy regarding Spain 80 years ago!

Therefore the BLEXIT proponents on the left said: the EU is rotten at the base, completely undemocratic. It cannot be turned upside down; to Hell with it!

What was the answer of other left-leaners? Well, they said, you may be right about its roots. You may also be right about the forces dominating it, whose commissioners make the rules for all the EU, preventing independent decisions and with German bosses like Schäuble ruling the roost, a vulture’s roost. But leaving this amalgam of different countries, now 28 strong, will not only hamper the chances of progressive or working-class movements from crossing the Channel either way, thus weakening both sides, but will open the door to the racist, immigrant-hating, Muslimophobic or foreigner-hating thugs and parties now gaining strength at a frightening pace. They hate the EU if only because its European Parliament occasionally makes good decisions on labor rights, against privatizing water supplies or weakening food and other standards. It may be far weaker than the unelected European Commission which makes most of the  rules, but it is an arena for fighting the fascistic tide which also threatens Britain. And who has been loudest for BREXIT? The racists! Do you want to ally with them?

But, comes the response, it’s the conservative leaders running the show in Brussels and the billionaire forces behind them who enabled the extreme rightists to gain strength. The leaders’ policies, hurting middle and working classes, conducting wars in the Middle East, their neo-colonial exploitation in Africa, which sent waves of desperate people fleeing to Europe, where they become ideal scapegoats for the far right and dividing working-people. There are many parallels to the forces supporting Trump, but the NAFTA,  which sent waves of Latinos northward was pushed through by a Clinton. Now the EU wants to force TTIP down European throats, like TPP on Pacific shores. Both are pushed by Obama and might be pushed through by a second Clinton, who can all too easily slip back to her earlier support.

And so the arguments continued. But now the decision has been made – and hardly seems reversible (though some are trying hard). It is now vital to look at the spin-off. The withdrawal from power of David Cameron is no loss. And he probably has plenty to tide him over, if not in Panama then in the Cayman Islands or some other tropical paradise.

But, far more importantly,  the forces which have long controlled the British Labour Party, the “Blair brigade”, closely tied up with the forces of wealth, were scared out of their wits when a true representative of working people was elected to head a party they saw as their own.  They have been plotting hard to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn ever since, and they now saw their chance. They accused him of being too “luke-warm” in  his support of the EU – which may have some truth to it, for he knew well of the corruption and motivation involved in it. He was not so very active against BREXIT, but had no part in the racist forces who favored leaving. But whatever the excuse, they circled in for the kill; a majority of Labour MPs in the British Commons have withdrawn their support of him – an unprecedented low blow. (But it recalls a few House members from the Blue Dog kennels.) Since Jeremy refuses to give in to their demands that he quit, it remains to be seen whether the majority of Labour which supported him so strongly not long ago will now defy the backstabbing allied with the media attacks.

To my mind, this is even more important than Britain’s (and/or Scotland’s) membership in the EU or outside it. Corbyn is a ray of hope in Britain and Germany and even the USA; if he can lead large numbers of honest people to reject racism and fascism while taking things increasingly into their own hands we can all take some much needed hope!

+++

Now, to end on a very different note: the German Bundestag is currently considering a new Law Regulating Prostitution. While feminists want to forbid it altogether, and organized sex-workers demand basic rights, like pensions and health care, it looks now as if the main victors will be the owners of the big, fancy, quite legal brothels spread around Germany, often using women lured to Germany with many promises. The sex-workers often prefer a tougher word to describe their trade. And then, maybe the word “whore” (similar in German) is not so irrelevant after all when examining current politics.

More articles by:

Victor Grossman writes the Berlin Bulletin, which you can subscribe to for free by sending an email to: wechsler_grossman@yahoo.de.

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