As a Marxist-Engelist-Leninist-Trotskyist back in 1975, I voted in the referendum for us to leave the Common Market, which we had only recently joined. Us Marxists didn’t want to save British capitalism by giving it more prosperity and a longer role on the stage of history. Anything that would destroy business, which was bringing some prosperity to the people, was good in our books. Staying in Europe, back in 1975, threatened to make the poor wealthier. And therefore happier.
If you wanted a revolution you didn’t want a contented working class and middle class. You wanted, if you wanted revolution, the people to be disgruntled.
Back then we knew that fat-cat capitalism would prosper, and some of the crumbs would fall from their table to give some prosperity to other classes. Hence our revolutionary group put in a lot of efforts to get us out of Europe.
Now, of course, the left in 2016 almost completely campaigned to stay in Europe. But then they weren’t revolutionaries. They didn’t want to see Capital trip and fall. For who would guarantee continuing payments to social security recipients, if the whole enterprise of business and government went tits up? Who would protect the NHS if capitalism lost the plot and did not employ taxpayers, and pay the taxes themselves that paid for the millions of local authority and NHS jobs?
The expansion of the EU to include Romania meant the free movement of Romanians out of their collapsed, blasted, broken economy into the UK
What I hated about Europe was its seemingly distant wire-pulling, decision-making at another level of government. Its seemingly stupid ability to not understand that we operate largely on a basis of common sense. And that our common law is based on common sense.
So that other layers of government and decision-making made you feel that increasingly you were not in control of even the small bits of your life. That the people who decided about your life had no understanding of that real life you lived. Not only unelected but of a mandarin class who knew nothing about day-to-day living.
I remember some of the dumb-arse decisions made by British governments around the EU and the free movement of people. Tony Blair’s administration presented The Big Issue with one of its biggest challenges back in 2004.
The expansion of the EU to include Romania meant the free movement of Romanians out of their collapsed, blasted, broken economy into the UK. And then supposedly to protect the poorer jobs in the UK, Blair’s government said that this new intake could not get a job. They had to be self-employed or independently wealthy.
So the fact that for hundreds of years the UK had allowed the poor to come to the country and take all the crap jobs and try and work their way out of poverty was denied them. Irish, Jews, Huguenots, Kenyan Asians, etc: all had been allowed to pass through the prism of crap employment.
But not the Romanians. Hence they came to us. And we, knowing that they would get into trouble, for a lack of money creates trouble, we took them on.
We turned into a kind of social services because government had ruled it so in their stupid way.
And of course the right-wing press were always there to remind us of the contradictions this threw up, as numbers of Romanians started selling The Big Issue.
The Big Issue will always be there for the desperate. The needy. And hopefully by that will make the streets a safer place for us all. In spite of what governments throw at us.
John Bird is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Big Issue. Email him: email@example.com or tweet: @johnbirdswords