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

By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), August 2015

Adobe Acrobat Document 1.6 MB



Note of the Editorial Board: The following document contains 11 tables and 4 figures. The figures can be viewed only in the pdf version of this document (see above).


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I.             The Need for an Independent and Internationalist Working Class Position

I.1.          Our Tradition

I.2.          World Economy and the EU: Myths and Facts

I.3.          The Marxist Classics on the Internationalist Program of Revolutionary Defeatism


II.            The NO-Camp: “UK First” Social-Imperialism

II.1.        The Stalinist CPB: The Openly Patriotic “Communists”

The Marxist Classics versus the CPB

A Referendum on Austerity, Free Trade and Democracy?

II.2.        SPEW/CWI: The Hidden Patriotic “Socialists”

Reforming the British State?

Does SPEW Suggest Socialists Should Become Better Nationalists?

Predicting the Imminent Collapse of the EU … for Four Decades!

SP’s Defense of Immigration Control

II.3.        SWP/IST: Subjective Internationalists, Objectively Supporters of the Patriotic Anti-EU Campaign


III.          The YES-Camp: Pro-EU Social-Imperialism

III.1.       AWL: Is European Imperialism in Fact a Lesser Evil?

Is the EU a Progressive Historic Achievement?

Is the Imperialist EU a Necessary Interim Step towards a Socialist Europe?

Is the Referendum About the Unity of Europe or About Imperialist State Organization?

Should We Support Britain’s Membership in the EU as Part of Our Struggle for the Rights of Migrants?

III.2.       Alan Thornett (Socialist Resistance, Mandelist Fourth International): Opportunism to the Left-Wing Milieu as the Only Principle

III.3.       WPB/LFI: An Unfortunate Abandonment of Revolutionary Defeatism

Lack of Clarity about the Internal Semi-Colonies of the EU

Again on Trotsky and the United States of Europe

On the Breaking Up of Larger States


IV. Conclusions


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Cameron’s referendum about Britain’s membership in the European Union is an important test for the left and the workers’ movement. Unfortunately most of the left fail this test and adapt either to the remnants of “Little England” anti-EU chauvinism or to the pro-EU chauvinists. Below we first summarize the conclusions of the RCIT’s position on how socialists should deal with the referendum. We also elaborate the position of Lenin and Trotsky on this issue. We then deal with the arguments of the main left-wing organizations in the YES and NO camps respectively.


Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4     Part 5     Part 6     Part 7     Part 8     Part 9     Part 10