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Spread Referendum Rebellion *further* in a positive direction says Socialist Workers Party.

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Farage Celebrates ‘Blow’ to Neoliberalism, Capitalism and Political Elite.

Socialists should seek to direct the rebellion of  23 June further in a positive direction and squash any reactionary elements. Those on the left who see only a further spiral downwards are turning their back on an opportunity to connect with and broaden working class revolt.

Says Charlie Kimber of the Socialist Workers Party and Editor of Socialist Worker. (Why did Britain vote Leave? International Socialism October)

I shall not bother with the ‘learned’ examination of statistics Nor with vapid claims that a small fraction of the European left backed Brexit (strangely Kimber does not mention the ultra-nationalist ‘Trotskyists’ of the Parti ouvrier indépendant démocratique (POID), with whom the British ‘Lexit’ campaign formed close ties during the campaign see here). Nor with the rhetoric about a revolt against the ‘elites’.

Instead let’s go to the core of the Kimber ‘argument’: the revolutionary prospects a Leave vote has created.

That is the idea that this was a “working class revolt” that needs to be ‘broadened’.

He observes,

The reasons for that rebellion are contradictory, and the fallout from the vote is uncertain. But that does not change the essential character of what has taken place. We should welcome this development. Liberals fear turmoil, revolutionaries should not. We are not going to get to the British revolution without some complicated and many-sided developments that require the left to grasp the moment—and if they don’t then the right can grab that feeling of anger instead. The year of the referendum also saw meetings in many places to remember 100 years since the Easter Rising in Dublin. Many in the audience would have nodded sagely at Lenin’s understanding of what happened..,

It would be interesting to learn more about how the British Revolution is helped by the victory of Farage and the hard-right Tories. The right has already “grabbed” this moment.

Is Kimber suggesting that this ‘anger’ is something you can go about snaffling for your side if you’re cunning enough?

In the meantime….

Of course the Leave vote was not the Easter Rising. But Lenin’s method is important.

Indeed, the Referendum has so many points in common with the Easter Rising that Marxists will have spotted them immediately.

Apart from welcoming chaos the SWP declares,

The Socialist Workers Party called for a Leave vote. We did so for three main reasons. Firstly, the EU is an openly pro-capitalist institution…  Secondly, the EU, through its Fortress Europe structures, acts to repel migrants and refugees from outside Europe…… Thirdly, the EU is part of the imperialist world order that, along with NATO, delivers important support for the United States and provides reliable partners in its murderous actions. That is why since the late 1940s the US has promoted European integration to secure a stable junior partner for managing global capitalism.

So the SWP voted to leave capitalism by supporting capitalist plans to quit the EU, to back further restrictions on freedom of movement to get rid of racism, and to undermine and get rid of the imperialist world order. No doubt as soon as possible.

The SWP believes the Leave vote will benefit the working class across the world and the struggle against racism. It is a further blow to the coercive neoliberal power of the EU and its racist laws. The dismantling of the pro-capitalist EU must begin with revolts at a national level.

The SWP “believes” that the Leave vote helped the working class across the world, and anti-racism, on the same secure basis that they believe that Lenin would have “nodded sagely” at their ‘line’.

As for the “blow” to EU neoliberalism –  that’s a lot of huff and puff.

Kimber instructs us, “However we voted on 23 June, we have to unite against racism, austerity, the Tories and the anti-Corbyn Labour MPs. “

That is, to unite with those who backed the “rebellion”, ” backed up by a wider programme raising issues that can engage with workers angry at the political elite and austerity.”

Interesting ‘Marxist’ concept that, the “political elite”. (1)

“We must be participants in the outcomes, and that means intervention, innovative thinking, and organising. After the Leave vote the battle is on. Socialists should gladly embrace and shape it.”

After the Referendum the leader of the Fire Brigades Union Matt Wrack said,

The Brexit vote was a defeat for the working class in Britain as well as internationally. It was a defeat for internationalism and collectivism. Brexit was a victory for populist demagogy, xenophobes and racists. Brexit has already had detrimental economic effects and worse is likely to come.

Brexit has resulted in a more right-wing government. It means an already difficult period ahead will be even harder for the trade union movement and the working-class communities we represent.

The Tendance says: we will not unite with those who actively encouraged the defeat of the working class, internationalism and collectivism.

Whatever Lenin said about the Easter Rising.


(1) This is the SWP trying to get on down with Podemos and attempting to find a way to say, La Casta.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 24, 2016 at 11:31 am

Will the left hear the cries from Aleppo?

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London, Saturday.

Will the left hear the cries from Aleppo?

Syrian solidarity activists should therefore go and make the case in defense of the original uprising against the Syrian regime and Russia at, for example, forums put on by the U.S. Peace Council, which is currently touring apologists for Assad. We can organize debates about Syria and Palestine at political conferences, and challenge the views put forward by Blumenthal and Khalek in left publications and websites.

This attitude of fighting to win the debate is important. We have to win the left to a genuine anti-imperialism that opposes not just the U.S. empire, but its rivals (and sometime collaborators) as well. As revolutionary socialist Eamonn McCann put it so well in a speech in the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland, we must protest American imperialism’s crimes in Iraq, Yemen and beyond, while also challenging Russian imperialism in Syria.

Finally, and most importantly, we must stand in solidarity with genuine liberation struggles from below, regardless of which imperial camp they are challenging. Our slogan is neither Washington, nor Moscow, nor Beijing, nor Damascus, nor Tehran, nor Riyadh, but self-determination for oppressed nations and international socialism.

From Socialist Worker.

No, not the UK Socialist Worker of the SWP, but the US Socialist Worker of the International Socialist Organization.

This is only one contribution to a very serious debate taking place on the entire  US Left about these issues.

One could begin with one important and  latest contribution:  The numbers game in East Aleppo by Louis Proyect.

In the UK Socialist Resistance have published this: Syria – calling for an end to intervention is not nearly enough

The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty republishes this: What’s wrong with “Stop the War”?


Written by Andrew Coates

October 23, 2016 at 11:53 am

Suzanne Moore: from Provincial Obscurity in Ipswich to the World Political stage.

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Ipswich, Coach that took Suzanne from Provincial Obscurity to the World Stage.

Voters will stick two fingers up to those lecturing about Brexit’s dangers .

I don’t know how many more people are going to lecture me to vote for the status quo. Stephen Hawking, actors I don’t care about, family and friends I do, George Osborne in a hi-vis jacket, some pale Lib Dem – all these people are pro-Europe. Remain is humane. Morally superior. All else is Farageland, old-fashioned, implicitly racist, desperately uncosmopolitan. Europe is a dream of weekends in Warsaw, festivals in Barcelona and stags in Amsterdam. It’s about being free and modern and connected. Mostly by cheap flights. What sort of person would want to not co-operate with this?



For all the talk of being the party of the workers, the only ones the Tories seem to care about are white English people

The dots are not joined here at all. The language of belonging matters. The redrawing of these new boundaries is being done in the language of the left, but it is the most extreme move to the right I have seen in my lifetime.

“Stop the world I want to get off” turns into: “If you believe you are citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere.” A slight affront to the easyJet generation, a death sentence if you are on a dinghy in the cold sea. This is no move to the centre but a plunge into dark, dangerous waters.

Unkind souls may comment that this is the not the writing of somebody who has been speaking prose all their life.


Written by Andrew Coates

October 6, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Clive Lewis and the Trident Speech.

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Clive Lewis speaking in Liverpool

Clive Lewis said he was clear that Labour policy was to renew Trident

Clive Lewis is the greatly respected, and liked, MP for Norwich South. Elected in 2015, his successful campaign election last year was a ray of hope in an otherwise desolate East Anglian political landscape. Clive is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, a cause with which this Blog deeply identifies. He is Chair of the Anti-Academies Alliance, another issue which draws wide support across the Labour Party, teachers’ unions and the left, not least in another East Anglian town, Ipswich. Lewis was one of 36 Labour MPs to nominate Jeremy Corbyn for party leader in 2015. His speeches at labour movement events, such as the annual Burston Rally in Norfolk, attended by activists from all over East Anglia, have been exceptionally well-received.

To put it simply, this Blog thinks Clive Lewis is a good thing.

Why Clive Lewis was furious when a Trident pledge went missing from his speech

The shadow defence secretary is carving out his own line on security.  Says, STEPHEN BUSH in the New Statesman.

Clive Lewis’s first conference speech as shadow defence secretary has been overshadowed by a row over a last-minute change to his speech, when a section saying that he “would not seek to change” Labour’s policy on renewing Trident submarines disappeared.

Lewis took the stage expecting to make the announcement and was only notified of the change via a post-it note, having reportedly signed it of with the leader’s office in advance.

Lewis was, I’m told, “fucking furious”, and according to Kevin Schofield over at PoliticsHome, is said to have “punched a wall” in anger at the change. The finger of blame is being pointed at Jeremy Corbyn’s press chief, Seumas Milne.

 The article continues, pointing out that the GMB (Not to mention UNITE) take the view that building Trident is important for their members.

One of Corbyn’s more resolvable headaches on the NEC is the GMB, who are increasingly willing to challenge  the Labour leader, and who represent many of the people employed making the submarines themselves. An added source of tension in all this is that the GMB and Unite compete with one another for members in the nuclear industry, and that being seen to be the louder defender of their workers’ interests has proved a good recruiting agent for the GMB in recent years.

Strike a deal with the GMB over Trident, and it could make passing wider changes to the party rulebook through party conference significantly easier. (Not least because the GMB also accounts for a large chunk of the trade union delegates on the conference floor.)

So what happened? My understanding is that Milne was not freelancing but acting on clear instruction. Although Team Corbyn are well aware a nuclear deal could ease the path for the wider project, they also know that trying to get Corbyn to strike a pose he doesn’t agree with is a self-defeating task.

Bush concludes,

There are three big winners in all this. The first, of course, are Corbyn’s internal opponents, who will continue to feel the benefits of the GMB’s support. The second is Iain McNicol, formerly of the GMB. While he enjoys the protection of the GMB, there simply isn’t a majority on the NEC to be found to get rid of him. Corbyn’s inner circle have been increasingly certain they cannot remove McNicol and will insead have to go around him, but this confirms it.

But the third big winner is Lewis. In his praise for NATO – dubbing it a “socialist” organisation, a reference to the fact the Attlee government were its co-creators – and in his rebuffed attempt to park the nuclear issue, he is making himeslf the natural home for those in Labour who agree with Corbyn on the economics but fear that on security issues he is dead on arrival with the electorate.  That position probably accounts for at least 40 per cent of the party membership and around 100 MPs.

If tomorrow’s Labour party belongs to a figure who has remained in the trenches with Corbyn – which, in my view, is why Emily Thornberry remains worth a bet too – then Clive Lewis has done his chances after 2020 no small amount of good.

Politics Home states,

A senior Labour source said: “Clive punched a wall when he came off the stage because Seumas altered his speech on the autocue.

“He was fuming as he sent a post-it note on stage as he was sat there ready to speak and didn’t know what the exact change was. Apparently Clive had agreed it with Jeremy but Seumas changed it.”

The Huffington Post reports,

Former Shadow Defence Secretary Emily Thornberry and Lewis both co-chair the Trident review, which had been expected to resume its work as part of the new International Policy Commission, once fresh members and officers are appointed.

Lewis and Thornberry both abstained from the Commons vote on Trident renewal this year. Corbyn voted against.

Thornberry today told the BBC that the defence review was continuing.

And HuffPost has been told that the reason Lewis was angry was because he was already nervous about his first major conference speech, having been an MP for just over a year and in the defence job for a few months.

He did not object to any of the substance of the changes to his speech, but only to the last-minute nature of them, one source claimed.

Despite the last-minute watering down of his speech, CND was still furious that Lewis had declared party policy was to keep Trident rather than review it.

CND’s Kate Hudson accused him of a “U-turn”: “Lewis has clearly signalled that the Labour leadership will not seek to change Labour policy and appears to have abandoned its defence review conducted extensively over the past year.

“The majority of Labour members oppose Trident replacement, so where is the democracy in that?”

Green party leader and MP Caroline Lucas added: “It’s deeply disappointing to see the Labour party failing to oppose Trident replacement.”

But moderates welcomed the shift, with Labour MP John Woodcock saying: “The Trident vote is now behind us, the manufacturing work is going ahead and the matter is settled.

It is no secret that when the name, Seumas Milne, comes up this Blog’s hackles are raised. From Milne’s support for the right-wing Islamist  Tunisian  Ennahda party, his vilification of Charlie Hebdo, right back to his favourable judgements on the former Soviet Union, Milne has expressed views with which we profoundly disagree.

This incident, as Steve Bush indicates,  has more immediate causes.

GMB On Trident Renewal Vote July the 18th 2016.

GMB Calls On Politicians To ‘Stop Playing Fast And Loose’ And Get On With Trident Renewal Government needs to push ahead with approval of the Trident successor programme to give stability and security to workers and industry says GMB.

 UNITE’s policy on the issue of Trident,

Unite Executive Council statement on Trident 17 July 2016.

We welcome the Labour party Defence Review as a vital and serious contribution to UK defence strategy and, in particular, the renewed focus Jeremy Corbyn has placed on defence diversification, in the context of the priority he rightly places on world disarmament.  Whatever decision is taken on Trident, defence diversification must be an urgent priority for the next Labour government and Unite will campaign to ensure that it is.  Nevertheless, it is a fact that defence diversification is not going to be taken seriously by the present government, and we cannot ask our members in the affected industries to buy a pig in a poke.  The possibility of new jobs of similar quality tomorrow will not support workers and their families and communities today.


Unite recognises the strength of arguments against Trident from a financial point of view, and from the perspective of an assessment of the actual contemporary threats to British security, such as terrorism. We also of course accept the compelling moral argument against the use of nuclear weapons which needs little elaboration as well as the UK’s commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.  But neither is there a moral case for a trade union accepting the obliteration of thousands of its members’ jobs and the communities in which they live being turned into ghost towns.  The consequences would reverberate throughout the manufacturing sector across the country.

Unite remains opposed in principle to the possession or deployment of nuclear weapons (including Trident) but our first duty remains to our members. Therefore until there is a government in office ready, willing and able to give cast-iron guarantees on the security of the skilled work and all the employment involved, our priority must be to defend and secure our members’ employment.

 Clive Lewis has friendly relations  with UNITE.

On Lewis’ abstention on the Commons Trident Vote Socialist Worker said at the time,.

Some 41 Labour MPs abstained following a call from Labour’s shadow foreign and defence secretaries Emily Thornberry and Clive Lewis.

The pair—who are supporters of Corbyn—had said MPs should treat the vote “with the contempt it deserved” by not taking part.

They argued that the debate was a deliberate attempt to divide Labour. In practice this meant failing to oppose the Tories.

Some are already following this remark to its conclusion:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 27, 2016 at 11:50 am

After Burkini Stunt in Villeneuve-Loubet (France) Exposed Seven Network and Zeynab Alshelh in Shame.

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Capture d'écran du reportage australien diffusé sur la chaîne Channel 7 montrant deux australiennes en burkini dans les rues de Villeneuve-Loubet. "J'ai simplement pensé que c'était super beau le burkini, ma mère, ma tante, tout le monde le portait, alors j'ai voulu faire pareil", explique notamment Zeynab Alshelh, 23 ans (à droite), pour justifier son choix du port de ce maillot de bain.

Australian Islamists and Television Channel Falsified Stunt to Attack French Secularism.

The Seven Network and the pugnacious Muslim Aussie family it flew to the French Riviera with the aim of provoking beachgoers into a “racist” reaction to the “Aussie cossie” burkini owe the traumatised people of Nice and France a swift apology.

The cynical stunt pulled by the Sunday Night program, where it spirited Sydney hijab-proselytising medical student Zeynab Alshelh and her activist parents off to a beach near Nice to “show solidarity” with (radically conservative) Muslims, featured the 23-year-old flaunting her burkini in an obvious attempt to bait Gallic sun lovers into religious and ethnically motivated hatred. Except according to the French people filmed against their will, the claimed “chasing off the beach” that made international headlines never occurred because Seven used hidden camera tactics, selective editing and deliberate distor­tion to reach its predeter­mined conclusions.

This unethical exercise in journalism deliberately painted France as “hostile to Muslims” even though the most hostile countries in the world for Muslim women are places such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, where being female entails forcible veiling and the threat of punishment with the lash, prison or worse for flouting bans on driving, playing sport, committing “adultery” or doing much at all without a male guardian.

The manipulation is the latest example of calculated French-bashing fuelled by collusion between the goals of political Islam and compliant media outlets seeking culture clash cliches.

The Australian.

The article concludes:

Next time Seven should finance Zeynab Alshelh trying her luck taking off her veil in Saudi Arabia or Iran, or perhaps the trainee doctor could use hidden camera techniques in Egypt on doctors practising illegal female genital mutilation on the vast majority of little girls.

But as she confesses to Inquirer: “I’m not going to put myself in that kind of danger — and anyway, they are not preaching secularism (like France) they are just doing whatever they want to do.”

This is the origin of the Australian’s exposé, Nice-Matin:

La chaîne de télévision australienne Channel 7 a diffusé ce samedi la vidéo d’une femme en burkini se faisant “chasser” d’une plage de Villeneuve-Loubet par des baigneurs. Selon un témoin, la scène est montée de toute pièce.

The Australian television Channel 7 broadcast a video of a woman in a ‘burkini’ chased from a beach in Villeneuve-Loubet by the bathers. According to a witness the incident was a set up.

“Witnesses who spoke to Nice-Matin accused Seven of using hidden cameras, scripted dialogue and deliberately disruptive behaviour to get a reaction.”

“We could see it was being dramatised, it was too much to be true and it stank of a set-up.

“They put themselves right in the middle of the jet-ski corridor of the private beach. Because they were in the way of others, the owner of the beach came out and asked them to move.”

Another witness claimed the man who asked the crew to leave was her uncle, but he was actually asking the crew to stop filming him and his family.

“He never asked these three people to leave the beach. He spoke to the camera because he was asking the cameraman to leave,” the witness said.

“There were children on the beach, including our own, and we didn’t want them to be filmed.”

This the Channel denies, “Channel Seven denies French Burkini segment was ‘a set-up’.”

But a few days ago L’Express also indicated that in order to illustrate the anti-Muslim feeling in France the only French political figure interviewed was…..Lionel Tivoli, President of the Front National of the Municipal Council of Antibes. They cite the Mayor of  Villeneuve-Loubet, Lionnel Luca (of the right-wing, Les Républicains) expressing regret that the young woman was not well received, but asking why they chose to come to a place still under the shock of the Bastille Day (14th July) massacre at close-by Nice.

In August the Burkini Ban was removed from Villeneuve-Loubet, following the decision of the Conseil d’Etat.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 25, 2016 at 11:50 am

Labour Party Marxist Call for People’s Militias on Labour’s Agenda?

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Organise People’s Militia on a Big Scale, Says Labour Party Marxist.

As the Socialist Party instructs the Labour Party to deselect 172 Labour MPs, and campaigns for “a new mass workers’ party that can draw together workers, environmental and community campaigners, anti-capitalist, anti-war and other protesters to represent and fight for the interests of ordinary people” more radical forces are gathering.


Communists do not want such an army to be “fit” for war or anything else – we want it to be scrapped and replaced with a universal people’s militia. We should not spend our time envisaging a land war between Britain and Russia, but rather a people’s defence against counterrevolution, whether internally or externally – the main emphasis being on the internal. A democratic defence policy that guards the people, not the ruling classes and their property.

The position of the Weekly Worker/Labour Party Marxists demonstrates the ‘actuality of the militia’, as outlined in L’Armée nouvelle by Jean Jaurès (1911, re-issued in 1915) which called for universal military training in France to replace the old ‘caste’ of officers and professionals.

One can see that, like Podemos, which has many admirers on the left, Jaurès went straight against the ‘casta’.

Lenin pointed out in 1905 (The Armed Forces and the Revolution)

The experience of Western Europe has shown how utterly reactionary the standing army is. Military science has   proved that a people’s militia is quite practicable, that it can rise to the military tasks presented by a war both of defence and of attack. Let the hypocritical or the sentimental bourgeoisie dream of disarmament. So long as there are oppressed and exploited people in the world, we must strive, not for disarmament, but for the arming of the whole people. It alone will fully safeguard liberty. It alone will completely overthrow reaction. Only when this change has been effected will the millions of toilers, and not a mere handful of exploiters, enjoy real liberty.

As Revolution approaches in Britain it is imperative that Lenin’s 1917 words in the April Theses (The Tasks of the Proletariat in the Present Revolution) be heeded,

..the standing army to be replaced by the arming of the whole people.

No issue could be more pressing……..

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Susan Watkins, Casting Off. Brexit: a world-historic turn. Alex Callinicos. Assessing Brexit from the Left.

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Socialists must be internationalists even if their working classes are not; socialists must also understand the nationalism of the masses, but only in the way in which a doctor understands the weakness or the illness of his patient. Socialists should be aware of that nationalism, but, like nurses, they should wash their hands twenty times over whenever they approach an area of the Labour movement infected by it’.

Isaac Deutscher, On Internationals and Internationalism. Cited in The Left Against Europe. Tom Nairn. New Left Review. 1/75. 1971.

La terre nous donne une discipline, et nous sommes les prolongements des ancêtres

Nous sommes le produit d’une collectivité qui parle en nous. Que l’influence des ancêtres soit permanente, et les fils seront énergiques et droits, la nation une.

The soil gives us a discipline, and we are the extension over time of our ancestors….We are the product of a collective life which speaks in us. . May the influence of our ancestors be permanent, the sons of the soil vital and upstanding, the nation One.

La terre et les morts. Maurice Barrès. 1899. (1)

Susan Watkins, Casting Off (New Left Review 100. July-August 2016). Brexit: a world-historic turn. Alex Callinicos.  International Socialism. Issue: 151. 2016.)

Casting Off, in the latest New Left Review begins by observing that the “surprise” of the Leave vote in the June Referendum went against the wishes the “ruling class” “much of the intelligentsia” and “much of its youth”. In a choice expression she compares lamentations about the result on Facebook to a “Wailing Wall”. Those beating their brows at the loss of the EU Jerusalem “in one account” were full of “nightmares of xenophobia”. “Britons having ‘voted to make foreigner-hunting legal, if not an actual duty.’”. Many people in Europe, she notes, that is, Germans and French, were unconcerned. Only a third of Germans and a quarter of the French were “unhappy about Brexit”.

Was this the result of the “ressentiment”, bottled up rancour stewing amongst “globalisation’s losers”? An ” insurrectionary protest against neoliberalism, globalism and cultural contemp” as Paul Mason put it (le Monde Diplomatique. July.) ?  Or more simply was a revolt of the left-behind, spearheaded by the working class, the unemployed, the casualised, and the poor. In Brexit, Alex Callinicos has written that, “All the polls show that the poorer you are the more likely you were to vote Leave. This means that millions of working class voters have gone unrepresented by the mainstream of the labour movement”. He trumpets his own group, the SWP, which backed the Leave campaign on a ‘left’ basis (Left-Exit, lexit). “Lexit offered a political voice, albeit a small one, to working class people who wanted to reject the EU on a class basis.” (2)


For Watkins the result was not a rebellion against the distant mechanisms of finance capital and the world market. It has domestic origins, in British government policies laid down since the 2008 banking crisis, Gordon Brown’s turn to fiscal rigour, and the Liberal Conservative Coalition’s austerity programme. As a result scare mongering about the potential negative effects on the economy of Brexit had little impact on those already at the bottom of the pile. In “the Leave districts that have been depressed since the 1970s, with gdp per capita less than half inner-London levels, and now hardest hit by cutbacks in services and benefits, bleakness and desperation appear to have trumped economic fear.” She continues. “Anti-globalisation, then? Of a sort, if globalisation means not just deindustrialisation and low pay but disenfranchisement and politically targeted austerity.” In the south the ‘anti-Globo stand was different, “Their economic interests had been carefully nurtured by the Cameron-Osborne governments and their vote was more purely ideological: fear of change overcome by reassertion of ex-imperial national identity. Britain had never been conquered by Germany, so why was it ceding powers to Brussels?”

In this vein both Watkins and Callinicos play down the role of xenophobia and, more specifically, anti-migrant worker sentiment, in the referendum. Both note the mainstream Remain campaign’s supporters, beginning with the Prime Minister David Cameron’s “talking tough” on migration. For Callinicos, “at least as powerful a force is likely to be an alienation from the economic and political elite crystallising the experience of 40 years of neoliberalism and nearly 10 years of crisis expressed in stagnant or falling wages, unemployment, dwindling social housing and a shrinking welfare state. The EU as the incarnation of neoliberalism and contempt for democracy is a perfect symbol of all these discontents. London, site of a global financial hub, may have voted to Remain”

The pair concur on one point, “….the main reason given by the bulk of Leave voters—49 per cent—was the notion that ‘decisions about the uk should be taken in the uk’, a more ambiguous formulation that could include democratic, sovereign and nationalist perspectives. “ (Watkins), “Lord Ashcroft’s referendum-day poll found that nearly 49 percent of Leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”, compared to 33 percent who gave the main reason for leaving that it “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” (Callinicos).

There are three central problems with these claims.


Firstly, it is absurd to compare the Conservative Remain campaigners’ talk of ‘control’ of migration in the same breath as the blood-and-fire rhetoric of UKIP and their echo-chambers on the Leave side. To dismiss the issue by ranking its importance on the basis of an opinion poll is to assume that one motive trumped the other rather than coalescing with it.

As Kim Moody has argued, immigration was at the centre of the campaign. “A majority of all those who voted Leave ranked immigration and border control as their 1st or 2nd reason. Those in the top social rank were less likely to give this as their first reason than others, but all groups were the same for 2nd choice and all Leave voters put immigration high on their list. Anti-immigrant and xenophobic views were prevalent in all social groups. This is not meant to be a comforting conclusion.” (3) Furthermore, “One section of British corporate capital that threw its majority weight loudly behind Brexit was the daily press.” “The Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Star, Daily Telegraph, and Sun, all known for their anti-immigrant bias and with a combined daily circulation of just over 5 million, supported Brexit.”(Ibid)

It would not have taken long, a visit to the pub in less well-off areas, would suffice to hear people publicly repeating the right-wing tabloid’s anti-migrant propaganda melded with their own prejudiced anecdotes. Perhaps it would have taken longer to visit Ipswich market and see the UKIP placard carrying crew sitting on the benches ranting about Romanians. But such sights were not rare. Anywhere.

Few could doubt that cosmopolitan pro-European hipsters would shy from these displays. But what exactly drove the minority who followed Lexit to cast their ballots in the same way and how do their asses their achievement in bolstering the nationalist right? Callinicos asserts that “The emergence of the Lexit Campaign, advocating a left, internationalist opposition to the EU, was one of the successes of the referendum. Not because it swung a massive number of votes, but because it brought together a significant spectrum of forces on the radical left to campaign for a Leave vote on an anti-capitalist and anti-racist basis that (unlike some earlier left anti-EU campaigns) had no truck with migrant-bashing.” Really? Is the Socialist Party’s call for control (by trade unions?) of the entry of migrant labour, joined by the Morning Star-Communist Party of Britain, part of this “anti-racism”? Does the SWP really have that much in common with the CPB who push a barely revamped version of the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy, completed – and why not? – with capital and import controls? Was it a ‘success’ to see New Left review, the SWP and all the others, cavort on a Camden stage in the company of a – suitably disguised – supporter of the French ‘Lambertist’ current, one-time Trotskyists who having sipped from that poisoned cup have become ultra-nationalists? (4)


Secondly, what were the “non-immigration” issues behind the Leave vote? Casting Off describes “the slow, still inchoate politicisation that had been taking place in the aftermath of the financial crisis”, and “the Exit vote would not have happened without the financial crisis and skewed, class-based recovery.” Callinicos talks more broadly of UKIP’s rise as part of “ordinary voters’ revulsion against the entire political and economic elite.” The “very unanimity of establishment opposition to Brexit is likely to have goaded many people into the Leave camp simply as an act of defiance.”

Absent is any account of the mass, country-wide, left and trade union austerity campaigns, co-ordinated by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity (PA) Had this no effect in channelling ressentiment against the ‘elite’ towards progressive solutions? Did its protests, marches, conferences, pickets and pressure on local councils, count for little?

It is true that their impact was decreasing in the run up to the Referendum. An April London March barely attracted 20,000 – despite the freedom that the end of Police estimates gave to the organisers to claim an attendance of 175,000 (in a half empty Trafalgar Square). Clearly this ‘incipient politicisation” has drained away in a different direction. A look at how the politics of protest are foundering might throw up the reflection that the victory of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party indicates that political institutions can be the focus of change, rather than the street. The hard task of getting Labour local authorities to oppose austerity, not just because of the legacy of Blair’s accommodations, but as a result of an armour-plated legal budget controls over councils, has begun. The problems this turn to Labour creates for those, like Callinicos, and his former comrades in Counterfire, the majority of the active leadership of the PA, begin with the recognition that the Brexit vote as a “representation” of opinion, which more walking about in the roads, attempts to bathe in Corbyn’s reflected glory, and calls for general strikes, are unlikely to revolve.


Thirdly, the Brexit result was a boost to sovereigntism, the belief that politics has to focus on nations, and on the ‘people’s’ control over the national body politic. In this respect Chantal Mouffe’s declaration that the vote was a “salutary shock” is less significant than her immediately following words. The Belgian political philosopher stated, “That’s because I am one of those so-called ‘left-wing Europeanists who are not sovereigntists but instead demand a democratic refoundation of Europe” Pleasure with the damage to the City and neo-liberal forces is one thing, but what harm did this create to ‘sovereigntism”? (5)

The evidence against rash claim lives in Downing Street. Yet, against Mouffe for many it has reinforced the illusion, that in some form sovereigntism can be the basis of left politics. To cite the most obvious source of how far this ideology has crept into leftist circles: the conclusion of Mouffe’s  jointly-authored of Podemos (2016) Iñigo Errejón has called for the construction of a “..we the people “that demands sovereignty and a new social contract”. To build this we have “to think about the effective, mythical and cultural commonness of any identity construction”. Or, in an even more abstract vein, to follow Frédéric Lordon, politics based on “un commun passional” bound to “une certaine appartenance” (belonging) not to a hypostatised nationality but to “la nation politique” a political construction. (6) In other words, in contrast to Barrès, a newly minted sovereign feeling, without the clamour of ancestral voices, embodied in institutions. They would surely be able to take “decisions about the UK in the UK.” The evidence is that those appealing directly to the dead voices of our forbears, the racist populist right, have had more success in the sovereigntist venture.

Callinicos, with customary grace towards those who disagree with him, outlined the choices for the left at the start of the campaign, “between the neoliberal imperialist monstrosity that is the EU, strongly supported by the main echelons of British capital, and the xenophobic and racist Thatcherites that dominated the Leave campaigns.” In his conclusion he opines, no doubt to warn those not averted to the possibility, that British capitalism is “entering very stormy waters.” The defeat of an invigorated Tory party under Teresa May, at the helm of state, will doubtless be the coming work of a mass movement conjured from the depths.

Democratic Refoundation?

Those who chose to vote for the “monstrosity” as “not worse” may well still feel unhappy at the result – for all the tempests in the global capitalist oceans. Many of our legal rights, consolidated in EU law, are now to put to the test of a sovereign Parliament for which we have ambiguous passionate feelings. The democratic refoundation of Europe, if pursued, and developed by forces such as DiEM25, will take place without our directly interested participation. We risk becoming further stuck in our backwater.

But for others there is this consolation. Our “sub-imperial” “far from prefect Hayekian order” has taken a blow. Watkins speaks of a victory for British (English) nationalism, in a “a semi-sovereign state” Yet the defeat is clear, for several – scattered – targets, “ For now, though, it is plain that Blairised Britain has taken a hit, as has the Hayekianised EU. Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret these knocks to it, against which the entire global establishment—Obama to Abe, Merkel to Modi, Juncker to Xi—has inveighed.” (7)

The prospect of the “actuality of revolution” by “critics of the neoliberal order”, a “world-historic turn”….still leaves them shaking in their boots….

For the rest of us, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union,  expressed our view (Morning Star 12th of September),

The Brexit vote was a defeat for the working class in Britain as well as internationally. It was a defeat for internationalism and collectivism. Brexit was a victory for populist demagogy, xenophobes and racists. Brexit has already had detrimental economic effects and worse is likely to come.


(1) On Barrès and his concept of the “people” and nation see the illuminating, Le peuple chez Maurice Barrès, une entité insaisissable entre unité et diversité. Brigitte Kurlic. SensPublic. 2007.

(2). See also: The internationalist case against the European Union. Alex Callinicos. International Socialism. Issue: 148. 

(3) Was Brexit a Working-Class Revolt? Kim Moody. International Viewpoint. 14th of September 2016.

(4) Both the Morning Star’s CPB and SPEW advocate immigration controls and socialism in one country, notes Mike Macnair. Weekly Worker 15.9.2015. In report here: Paris Anti-EU Rally: French ‘Lambertist’ Trotskyists Receive Backing from UK ‘Lexit’ Campaign.

(5) A Salutary Shock. Chantal Mouffe. Verso. (From Mediapart 27th June 2016)

(6) Podemos. In the Name of the People. Iñigo Errejón in Conversation with Chantal Mouffe. Lawrence and Wishart. 2016. Imperium, Structures et affets des corps politiques. Frédéric Lordon. La Fabrique. 2015.

(7) See: Prognoses. In: The New Old World. Perry Anderson. Verso 2009.