Marxism, the European Union and Brexit


The L5I and the European Union: A Right Turn away from Marxism

The recent change in the L5I’s position towards the support for EU membership represents a shift away from its own tradition, of the Marxist method, and of the facts.


By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), August 2016,

Adobe Acrobat Document 1.4 MB





I. The New Viewpoint of the L5I to the European Union and the Issue of EU Membership

II. The Position of the RCIT and Our Tradition in the LRCI/L5I

III. The Essence of the Matter: A Question of the Form of Imperialist State Organization

IV. The Justification of the L5I’s Turn to the Right – Our Refutation

a) Is It True that the Fate of the EU is Beneficial for the Development of the Productive Forces?

b) Is It True that the Fate of the EU is Beneficial for the Situation of Migrants?

c) Is It True that the Fate of the EU is Beneficial for Internationalist Consciousness and the International Struggle of the Working Class?

d) What Should the Attitude of Revolutionaries Be towards EU-Membership for Semi-Colonial Countries?

e) Is It True that Trotsky Advised the Working Class to Favor Remaining in an Imperialist Pan-European Confederation?

V. What are the Consequences of the Political Turn to the Right of the L5I on the EU Issue?

VI. The Theoretical Foundations of the Political Right-Wing Turn of L5I

a) Opportunistic Belief in the Potential for Progress of Decaying Capitalism – a Break with Lenin's Theory of Imperialism

Excurse: The Marxist Classics on the Internationalization of the Productive Forces in the Imperialist Epoch

b) Economist Reinterpretation of Questions of the Political Class Struggle: the Question of the Nature of the EU

c) Economist Reinterpretation of Questions of the Political Class Struggle: the Question of the Tactics of Revolutionary Defeatism

d) Europe-Centeredness with Social-Imperialist Consequences






The League for the Fifth International (L5I) has undergone a remarkable political change, manifested in its position on the EU referendum in Britain in June 2016. Towards that vote – in a dramatic reversal of its position promulgated for decades – the L5I called for socialists to vote in favor of Britain remaining in the EU. The title of the call it published leaves absolutely no doubt that the L5I now considers a vote for a country’s remaining in the imperialist EU beneficial for the struggle for socialism: "The UK EU Referendum – Vote Yes and fight for a socialist united states of Europe". [1]


In contrast to this shift, the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) continues to uphold the position which the L5I has taken ever since the mid-1970s: in any referendum on membership of an imperialist nation-state in the European Union, revolutionaries will neither vote for nor against membership in the EU. This is because both options represent only different manifestations of the imperialist state, and thus can only serve the interests of rival factions of monopoly capital. [2]


Instead, revolutionaries must, as always, raise the banner of the political independence of the working class. Therefore, on the issue of any such a referendum, we adopt a revolutionary defeatist attitude – that is, we reject both camps as qualitatively similar reactionary and imperialistic, and consequently abstain from voting in the referendum.


Again, in absolute contrast to the L5I, the RCIT continues to uphold this authentically revolutionary position even today. The RCIT is an international organization with militants in 11 countries, whose founding cadres were either bureaucratically expelled in 2011 by the majority of L5I leadership or resigned their membership in the latter organization. [3] These founding cadres participated in the elaboration and defense of the traditional position of the L5I for, some for decades, and now proudly and tenaciously continue this tradition, whereas since 2011 the L5I has shifted from Marxism towards centrism. [4]


It is therefore only logical that the L5I today publicly attacks the RCIT and other forces that defend a position of class independence in the question of national membership in the EU. [5]


In the past, we have had frequent opportunity to discuss the issue of the EU and the tactics of revolutionaries. Often, we have criticized the attitude of centrist opponents. However, in general these documents were primarily directed to those organizations which advocated national-centered tactics in support of exiting from the EU. Consequently, we have devoted far less space to the arguments of proponents of EU membership, seeing how, outside social democracy, there are few leftist groups that actually support the central project of the European bourgeoisie. Unfortunately, the L5I has now joined this small, exclusive circle.


We have already published a preliminary article on the L5I’s rightward turn towards the EU in German. [6] The following document is the translation to English of another, more elaborated document also originally written in German. [7] It reveals in detail how the L5I most egregiously broke with its own tradition, with the facts, and with the Marxist method. This shift to the right is based on a conscious abandonment of fundamental tenets of authentically Marxist theory and includes:


* An opportunistic and economistic optimism about the progressive potential of decaying capitalism,


* An historical pessimism about the revolutionary potential of the working class,


* And a break with Lenin's theory of imperialism.


As we shall elaborate, this theoretical crisis of the L5I in turn justified, in the eyes of this organization’s leaders, their ostensibly sincere but essentially cynical adaptation to pro-EU social imperialism.


This fissure constitutes a perilous portal leading to a complete capitulation to social-imperialism. Such surrender is inevitable if the comrades of L5I do not reverse their policy, something which we in the RCIT appeal to them to do.




[1] Workers Power: The UK EU Referendum – Vote Yes and fight for a socialist united states of Europe, 21 June 2015,

See also the following articles and statements of the L5I:

GAM: Brexit 2016: Kein Grund zur Freude, Neue Internationale 211, Juli/August 2016,; Red Flag: Spotlight on socialist policy: EU referendum, 26/01/2016,; Liga für die Fünfte Internationale: Britannien: Das Referendum über den Brexit und seine Nachwirkungen, 28. Juni 2016,; L5I: The Brexit referendum and its aftermath, 29/06/2016.; GAM: Euro-Krise und Euro-Austritt, Neue Internationael 181, Juli/August 2013,; Ben Zimmer: Nach dem Brexit: Folgen und Perspektiven, REVOLUTION Deutschland, 21. Juli 2016,; Richard Brenner: Brexit: a setback for the working class, Red Flag issue 06, 04/07/2016,; Dave Stockton: The British far left and the European referendum, Fifth International. Volume 5, Issue 1, 10/06/2016,; Dave Stockton: What’s at stake in the EU referendum? 06/03/2016, in: Red Flag issue 03,

[2] The RCIT has elaborated its Position on the EU in a number of articles, statements and pamphlets:

RCIT: After the BREXIT Vote – Stormy times ahead for the workers and oppressed in Britain, 24.6.2016,

RED*LIBERATION (Bulletin of Socialists in the Labour Party): UK: No to Cameron’s Trap: Neither YES nor NO to UK membership in the EU! For Abstention in the Referendum! We call on Momentum to create a “Third Camp” and to launch a socialist and internationalist campaign! For international Unity of the British, Migrant and European Workers! 25 February 2016,

RCIT und RCIT Britain: Boycott Cameron’s Trap: Neither Brussels, nor Downing Street! For Abstention in Britain’s EU-Referendum! For international Unity and Struggle of the Workers and Oppressed! Fight against both British as well as European Imperialism! Forward to the United Socialist States of Europe, 2 August 2015,

Michael Pröbsting: 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, Revolutionary Communism Nr. 40, August 2015

RKOB: The European Union and the issue of the accession of semi-colonial countries, 14.10.2012, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 6,;

The most important documents of the LRCI/L5I on this issue are:

Movement for a Revolutionary Communist International: The Nature of the EEC and the Elections to the European Parliament; in: Permanent Revolution No. 2 (Summer 1984); Workers Power: EEC: An Arena for European Class Struggle; in: Workers Power No. 57 (6 June 1984); ArbeiterInnenstandpunkt: Der österreichische Kapitalismus auf dem Weg in die EG. Die Auswirkungen auf die österreichische Klassengesellschaft und die Aufgaben der Arbeiterbewegung (Resolution der Nationalen Leitung vom April 1993), in: Revolutionärer Marxismus 9; ArbeiterInnenstandpunkt: Weder Österreich noch EU, sondern die Vereinigten Sozialistischen Staaten von Europa. Eine marxistische Streitschrift gegen Austropatriotismus und Euroimperialismus, Broschüre, Wien 1994; Marc Abram: Für Vereinigte Sozialistische Staaten von Europa! (1996), in: Revolutionärer Marxismus 22; Michael Pröbsting: ‘Americanise or bust’. Contradictions and challenges of the imperialist project of European unification (2004), in: Fifth International” Vol.1, No.2,; Michael Pröbsting: Die Frage der Vereinigung Europas im Lichte der marxistischen Theorie. Zur Frage eines supranationalen Staatsapparates des EU-Imperialismus und der marxistischen Staatstheorie. Die Diskussion zur Losung der Vereinigten Sozialistischen Staaten von Europa bei Lenin und Trotzki und ihre Anwendung unter den heutigen Bedingungen des Klassenkampfes, in: Unter der Fahne der Revolution Nr. 2/3 (2008),; LRKI: Maastricht: Nein zum Europa der Bosse! Für ein Europa der ArbeiterInnen! (1992), in: Revolutionärer Marxismus 8; Martin Suchanek: Freihandel und Protektionismus, in: Revolutionärer Marxismus Nr.22, Michael Pröbsting: und Martin Suchanek: EU in der Krise. Soziales oder sozialistisches Europa?;; in: Revolutionärer Marxismus Nr. 35 (2005)

[3] On the history of the RCIT as well as the L5I, see our book by Michael Pröbsting: Building the Revolutionary Party in Theory and Practice. Looking Back and Ahead after 25 Years of Organized Struggle for Bolshevism, December 2014,

[4] On the critique of the RCIT on the centrist L5I see Building the Revolutionary Party in Theory and Practice, Chapter III,

In addition reader should refer to our letter to the L5I in which we critically analyze its degeneration away from revolutionary Marxism: RCIT: Where is the LFI drifting? A Letter from the RCIT to the LFI comrades, 11.5.2012,

[5] Ben Zimmer: Nach dem Brexit: Folgen und Perspektiven, REVOLUTION Deutschland, 21. Juli 2016,

[6] Manfred Meier: Nachbeben des Brexit - Zur Rechtswende von L5I: das „JA“ zum Verbleib in der EU, August 2016,

[7] Michael Pröbsting: Die L5I und die Europäische Union: Eine Rechtswende weg vom Marxismus. Die jüngste Positionsänderung von L5I hin zur Befürwortung der EU-Mitgliedschaft verkörpert eine Abwendung von der eigenen Tradition, von der marxistischen Methode und von den Tatsachen, August 2016,