Andy Brooks, the General Secretary of the New Communist Party of Britain, was interviewed by a member of the International Relations Bureau of the Communist Party, Turkey (KP) the week before the European Union referendum. The interview was held at the NCP Party Centre in London on 13th June and published in the Turkish communist daily soon after. This translation in based on the text posted on the International Communist Press (ICP) website which is affiliated to the International Relations Bureau of the Communist Party, Turkey.
International Communist Press: The EU referendum in the UK is now one week away. What do you think about EU and the referendum?
Andy Brooks: We vote Leave. We oppose the EU – we have been opposed to the EU since we were formed in 1977. We believe that the EU cannot be reformed. The whole Treaty of Rome has to be torn up. We do not believe there are any positive benefits for the working class in the EU. The EU is essentially a rich men’s club, a club for big business. It exists solely to operate in the interests of the big European corporations and we believe it is dominated by Franco-German imperialism. Whatever minor benefits have come to workers because of these institutions could easily have been obtained by other means. For example, freedom of travel. Before 1914 there were no passports, no barriers. The limitations on travel are a 20th century phenomenon and freedom of travel could have been introduced anyway, as has often been said.
ICP: You said you oppose the EU and you will vote Leave. But in every election you support the Labour Party and now they campaign to stay in…
AB: We don’t believe there is a parliamentary road to socialism. We also don’t believe in standing in elections. So, since 1977 we have called on our supporters to vote Labour and our party is an affiliate of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), which is a committee formed some years ago whose leading lights were the late Tony Benn and other left social democrats including Jeremy Corbyn, now the leader of the Labour Party.
We don’t think there is any point in standing communist candidates. It is literally divisive. The parliamentary election system in Britain is essentially a two-party system. At this stage the major progressive working class demands are for social reforms and we believe that they are best carried out by reformist parties such as the Labour Party. We see the main struggle being within that party and the trade unions, and as long as the Labour Party retains its organic links with the trade unions our policies are unlikely to change. Lenin himself said, at the time of Ramsay MacDonald in the early 1920s, that the British Labour Party was a very strange party, unlike any other social democratic party in Europe. The “strangeness” is that the Labour Party gets nearly all its members and funding from the trade unions. This is still the case.
Yes, the Labour Party supports staying in although there are some individual Labour MPs that oppose this. Just as the majority of the trade unions support staying in but there are a number of militant trade unions that oppose this, such as the railway workers unions (RMT and ASLEF) and the bakers’ union.
ICP: What are your main concerns about the EU? How did it affect the people?
AB: I am from a generation that can remember Britain before it joined the EU. Only people of my age and older can remember the era of cheap food. After we joined the Common Market one of the fears that was proved totally correct was the increased cost of living – the cost of food went up astronomically. Nowadays lots of people don’t realise that the price of food in the EU is the highest in the world. And it is artificially sustained, previously through food mountains, nowadays by paying farmers not to grow things. The previous system used in Britain and countries that weren't in the EU was subsidies. This was designed to help farmers but keep the prices down; whereas the EU, which is opposed to subsidies, operates on the principle of keeping the prices up.
ICP: There are a lot of campaigns or fronts that propose to leave the EU. What do you think of them?
AB: We don’t take part in the major campaign against the EU. But Lexit [Left Leave Campaign] is different. We have no problems with Lexit and we report their activities. It’s a very new movement. We publicise them and encourage our supporters to participate, but we have our own independent policy.
ICP: Why do you prefer this?
AB: Because the major opposition to the EU has historically been based on anti-immigration, chauvinist and racist lines. UKIP, and indeed some who pose as left wing, embrace these ideas.
The mainstream campaign against the EU, which is being led by UKIP and Euro-sceptics within the Conservative Party, is almost entirely based on immigration fears. We have had, it’s true, a huge number of workers arrive from Eastern Europe in the last two years – it is possible that London is now the third biggest Polish city in the world after Warsaw and Chicago. Aside from Polish workers, we also have a lot from other parts of Eastern Europe.
But the issue of immigration is entirely a bogus argument and the conservative opponents of the EU have an entirely reactionary agenda. Their opposition is because they see the EU as a brake on further neoliberal policies. They also represent the section of the British ruling class that is afraid of Franco-German imperialism and believed that British imperialism’s interests are best served in alignment with US imperialism.
Historically Britain’s policy since World War II has been to seek US protection for its vast global interests whilst acting as a bridge between US imperialism and Franco-German imperialism. That policy was more or less maintained until the Blair government.
ICP: What has been changed?
AB: Blair more or less burned that bridge by aligning completely with US imperialism in the Middle East. The Cameron government actually has no close friends in Europe or America. So the Euro-sceptics, in the main from the Conservative ranks, are coming from that section which fears German and French imperialism and still believe that the interests of British imperialism are best maintained in tandem with the United States.
We argue that Britain should have an independent foreign policy. The Euro-sceptics talk about the burden of funding the EU but they never talk about the American bases in Britain because they approve of them. So, the “independence” they talk about is not genuine independence but simply about leaving the EU. They don’t talk about independence from US imperialism. They never openly admit that British imperialism cannot stand on its own feet.
ICP: How will the exit of Britain affect the future of the EU?
AB: If Britain leaves the EU I think it will encourage most of others like Greece, Spain, Portugal and Cyprus… all those countries crucified by the Troika [the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Commission (EC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)]. They would see the strength of the demand in Britain for an alternative and possibly this could lead to the break-up of the EU.
At the moment some polls put the anti-EU lobby in the lead but we just don’t know what will happen. If the EU-supporters are defeated they will pull out all the stops to reverse the result – we suspect that many manoeuvres are being planned to prevent this [Brexit] happening.
ICP: How will the exit of Britain affect politics in Britain?
AB: Well, there is no procedure for leaving the EU and the pro-EU section of the British ruling class will fight it tooth and nail. Whatever happens, I suspect that David Cameron will resign. Obviously if the vote goes against him, he will have to go. But the Conservatives only have a very small majority and it is quite possible that the Conservative government could collapse. An incoming Labour-led government would not be bound by this referendum. The leadership, Corbyn and the others who are pro-EU, may adopt the usual tactic of moving to hold another vote – we have seen this in Europe whenever the result goes against the EU, many a time. So we say that a Leave vote should be a colossal vote against the EU.
ICP: Do you think leaving the EU is a step forward on the road to socialism?
AB: Well, it may not be a step forward, but it will represent a defeat for the bourgeoisie, or at least one section of it. A step for socialism only depends on the strength and the militancy of the working class as a whole. We believe only the communists can emancipate the working class.
ICP: Thank you very much, we really appreciate the interview.
AB: It was a pleasure, thank you very much.