Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’
National Organiser of Trades Unionists Against the EU Joins Far-right Westmonster site as former Leftists takes up National Populism.
Former Leftists Wave the Brexit Flag.
As Galloway is joined by a prominent FBU Trade Unionist, Paul Embery (London Regional Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and National organiser of Trade Unionists against the EU, a campaign backed by the Morning Star, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition and, notably, the Communist Party of Britain and Socialist Party) on the far-right Westmonster site, we ask: is a section of the one-time left drifting towards national populism?
Westmonster carries articles promoting the new “Patriotic Alliance” scare stories about migrants, and – favourable – reports on Trump and the chances of a Marine Le Pen victory in France.
On the same site Embrey argues that trade unions need to stop being, “an arm of a tin-eared liberal establishment” (TRADE UNION MOVEMENT MUST RECONNECT WITH WORKING CLASS POST-BREXIT).
He argues forcefully against free Movement,
… on free movement, union leaders remain ambivalent at best, criminally silent at worst. This disastrous policy, which commodifies workers, atomises society and contributes to the undercutting of wages, has, more than anything else, contributed to the rupture between working-class communities and the political class.
Westmonster’s patriotic ‘socialists’ parallel many of the themes of the former ‘Marxists’ of Spiked-on-Line.
This section of the left has not just embraced the populist language of the “people” versus the ‘elites’, the ‘rulers’ of the European Union.
They have moved from ideas of “strong democracy”, which had something in common with the writings of Benjamin R. Barber, a critique of liberal “thin” democracy, based on rights, and advocacy of the ability of people to “govern themselves”.
In its place National Sovereignty has been rediscovered (see: Frank Furedi. Politics without sovereignty is not politics at all 2007).
In parallel to French ‘sovereigntists’ (supporters of ‘souverainisme’), both former leftists and long-standing republican nationalists, they both defend “national institutions and culture”. Against the European Union they support, ” une Europe des nations“, the economic and political independence of each country, against globalisation. Right wing soveriegntists explicitly opposes mass immigration, ‘left’ sovereigntists also express concern about both the free movement of capital and of people.
By its nature sovereigntism is fixed on national political institutions.
In France this tends to mean an exaggerated ‘republicanism’. In the UK it is driven by an obsession with Parliamentary sovereignty.
Spiked-on-Line fits comfortably into the role of the best defenders of the Mother of Parliaments.
Following challenges to Brexit by what he chooses to call an “Elite Remainer”and the Spiked’s Deputy Editor Tom Slater evoked everything save the Magna Carta to defend Westminster.
Parliamentary sovereignty is a precious thing. We fought a civil war and chopped off a king’s head to establish that it is only a parliament, with the consent of its electors, that can govern, that can determine the politics of a nation. It was the promise of parliamentary sovereignty, of real representation for all, that agitators from the Chartists through to the Suffragettes struggled and fought and went to the wall for.
“The Brexit case was driven by disdain for the demos, not love for parliament.” he thundered, we must now defend not just parliamentary sovereignty, but also the radical, democratic ideas that underpin it..”
One time leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Frank Furedi has extended the argument in directions all too well-known to those familiar with French politics. In August last year, (HOW ‘OPEN BORDERS’ BECAME AN ILLIBERAL CRY) he tackled immigration.
The use of immigration as a tool to weaken national sovereignty is wholly destructive, provoking cultural confusion and uncertainty. An enlightened argument for freedom of movement must also uphold national sovereignty, and recognise the status of the prevailing national culture. Disregarding the special status of national institutions and culture is an invitation to a permanent war of cultures — that is, to real division and tension.
On the same Spiked-on-Line site, the day of Brexit was greeted by excited born-again nationalists,
Leading British public intellectual Julie Burchill announced,
It’s very handy that Brexit was born as the Labour Party was dying – now all of us comrades who are repulsed by forelock-tugging, nepotism and hypocrisy have a home to go to. I can’t remember a time when I felt so excited about the future. I was pleased but not shocked to learn that John Lydon, my teenage hero, is a proud Brexiteer – I’ve always said that the REAL thing the Remnants can’t forgive us for is not the imaginary hate crimes or the alleged economic Armageddon our victory will bring, but the fact that we’ve revealed them as a bunch of scared-stiff, curtain-twitching, tut-tutting, doom-mongering stick-in-the-muds, clinging on to the boring old status quo like a kiddy with a comfort blanket, when all this time they thought they were progressives. Bring on the chaos!
Former International Marxist Group member and Labour MP, Kate Hoey says…
Today is brilliant because triggering Article 50 simply reflects the most basic element of democracy: putting into effect the choice of the people. With the entire establishment arrayed against them, the British public decided that the UK was strong, wise and generous enough to survive outside the restrictions of the European Union.
In a few years’ time, when we are making our own laws and freely trading with the rest of the world – including with our European friends – I predict that it will be very hard to find people who admit to having doubted that we could succeed as a proud independent country.
Kate is MP for Vauxhall.
Other comments include, from a member of the revolutionary wing of the Daily Telegraph, “It’s now up to left and right to contest what kind of future they want for the UK after Brexit. The 2020 election will pose a choice between socialism and capitalism. ”
Harsimrat Kaur adds a dash of humour by declaring, “The main reason I voted to leave was so we can implement a fair immigration system. The idea that a person with an EU passport has easier access to Britain than someone with a non-EU passport is outrageous. Going forward, I want to see us restore that equality.”
Brian Denny, of the Trades Unionists against the EU, a regular contributor to the Morning Star and who appears to be a member of the Communist Party of Britain (see their site here), says, “We have nothing to lose but Eurocratic dictatorship.”
In a gesture which links Spiked-on- line with Westmonster, Paul Embery (see above) says…
What happened on 23 June was a genuine democratic revolt. The establishment was shaken to its core. Working-class England – which had hitherto always played second fiddle in the minds of politicians to Middle England – arose from its slumber. And how! An entire class of people which had been ignored and patronised hit back. The left must get on board. Democracy just happened. We should cheer and embrace the new mood. Suddenly politics means something again. Suddenly we can see that the political order isn’t inviolable. There is a New Jerusalem to be built. And we have taken the first step.
Paul is regional secretary of the Fire Brigades Union and national organiser of Trade Unionists Against the EU.
Many people on the left will no doubt wish to congratulate the FBU on having a leading figure write for Spiked-on-Line and Westmonster.
Or perhaps to explain to them a few things about internationalism, the working class having ‘no country’, the British state’s ‘capitalist’ faults, and perhaps, something about who’s in charge of making Brexit, transferring EU legal documents and rulings into British law under their own terms: the hard right wing of the Tory Party, cheered on by the millionaire press (as the Morning Star might say..).
“The Patriotic Alliance is a grassroots movement built on the success of the EU referendum. By holding the political establishment to account and introducing fresh ideas to the national policy debate, the Alliance aims to capitalise on the huge promise delivered by Brexit. Join us to make Britain fairer, more democratic and more prosperous.”
Brexit day was spent in the Gorton wards of the constituency where the great majority voted Leave in the referendum. It is said usually by journalists that Manchester Gorton constituency voted at least 60-40 Remain.
As a matter of fact no-one can know that because the votes weren’t counted on a constituency basis but like so much in this story if you tell a lie often enough.
In fact Brexit inevitably means a reinvigorated relationship with our Commonwealth, with people who stood by our side in our darkest days when otherwise we would have stood alone. People more likely to share our language add to our culture and with whom we share so much history.
I look forward to Brexit Britain resounding to newly re-engaged Canadian Australian New Zealand Indian sub-continental and Commonwealth African voices in the years to come.
I fought the 1975 Common Market referendum under the leadership of Mr Benn Mr Foot Mr Shore and Mrs Castle. The abandonment of the Commonwealth was one of their most powerful arguments. We lost then. But we’ve won now. Let’s build a Britain to be proud of, independent of the EU and firmly rooted in the world.
‘Anti-establishment’ site is being edited by Nigel Farage’s former press officer and will mix aggregation and some original content.
Westmonster says (March the 14th)
Leave.EU and Westmonster’s Arron Banks has clarified the situation with UKIP. In a statement just released he has said:
“UKIP has somehow managed to allow my membership to lapse this year despite having given considerably more than the annual membership fee over the past 12 months.
“On reapplying I was told my membership was suspended pending my appearance at a NEC meeting.
“Apparently, my comments about the party being run like a squash club committee and Mr Carswell have not gone down well.
“I now realise I was being unfair to squash clubs all over the UK and I apologise to them.
“We will now be concentrating on our new movement.”
Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies……
Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said leaving the EU must not become “an excuse for diluting people’s already meagre rights at work,” but said the left should set its sights on the opportunities the negotiations present.
“Triggering Article 50 opens the way to progressive policies outside the EU to control capital, raise public funds for infrastructure investment, enforce equal rights for migrant workers and radically cut or abolish VAT.
“Such policies would remain unlawful if we stay in the single market.”
Trade Unionists Against the EU’s Doug Nicholls saluted “a great day for workers in Britain.
“Forty years of being controlled by those we don’t elect will soon be over, and we can rebuild a full-employment economy.”
A Morning Star Editorial declares,
Arguing for Unity around the Morning Star and the Communist Party of Britain’s programme the Editorial states,
A convincing left-wing resurgence requires unity. The labour movement cannot afford to rerun the arguments of the referendum ad nauseam, but should be pursuing a set of economic demands — the new deal for workers agreed at last year’s TUC is a good place to start — and framing any approach to the exit negotiations around how we meet those demands.
A determined push from the left to secure a British exit deal that promotes working-class demands and an end to neoliberalism will find an echo across Europe and help shape a progressive future.
A red rose future indeed!
Meanwhile in the world we live in Another Europe is Possible announces,
Leading figures from Labour and Green parties, along with the general secretaries of a number trade unions, have released a statement vowing to fight on after the declaration of Article 50 today. 29th March 2017
- As Article 50 is triggered, leading Labour and Green figures, along with trade unions, vow to oppose “a harmful, extreme form of Brexit”
- New Progressive Deal launched, fighting for workers’ rights, free movement, environmental regulations and other protections.
- Campaigners raise the alarm over the Great Repeal Bill – which will hand ministers unprecedented powers to change the law by decree
Leading figures from Labour and Green parties, along with the general secretaries of a number trade unions, have released a statement vowing to fight on after the declaration of Article 50 today.
The letter, which is signed by Clive Lewis and Caroline Lucas, as well as UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis, states: “With article 50 triggered, we are entering a dangerous moment for our democracy. The government is pursuing a harmful, extreme form of Brexit for which it has no democratic mandate. The British people must have the defining say over what kind of deal is reached. The result of the referendum was not a mandate to undermine our human rights or our rights at work, to scrap environmental protections or to attack migrants. We will not allow this government to pursue a race to the bottom in which we all lose.”
Writing in the Mirror this morning, Clive Lewis added: “There’s a difference between respecting the decision to leave the EU and giving Theresa May dangerous levels of power to decide the future of our country. Parliament let the British people down last month when they let the Prime Minister negotiate leaving the EU without any restriction or guidance.”
The unprecedented alliance of was drawn together by the campaign group Another Europe is Possible. It has launched a new Progressive Deal, which will fight to retain the six progressive elements of EU membership: free movement, workers’ rights, environmental protections, human rights, science and research funding and education links. The Progressive Deal (here) will be a focal point in the coming months.
Michael Chessum, national organiser for Another Europe is Possible, said: “The Tories are using the technicalities of the Brexit process to strip us of rights and freedoms. The antidote to that is clear, principled politics – and finding a message that can cut through. We need to challenge the consensus that immigration and free movement are the cause of falling living standards, and we need to champion workers’ rights, human rights and other protections. That is what the Progressive Deal is about – and if the left can unite around a clear vision, we can absolutely shift the outcome of these negotiations.”
No Trump no Brexit no racist EU exit!
Why join the March?
Another Europe is Possible introduced the reasons:
This Saturday, tens of thousands of people will march through London on the ‘Unite for Europe’ demonstration. We’ll be there despite our criticisms – and here’s why.
The triggering of Article 50 on March 29th will represent a defeat for democracy and a blow to the rights of ordinary people.
Theresa May has managed to get away with a smash and grab raid on the Brexit process; if the government gets its way, parliament and the people will have little or no say over what is negotiated on our behalf. Millions of European citizens have no guarantees about their right to remain in the UK. And our human rights, rights at work, free movement and environmental protections are under grave threat.
We are in this situation because the terms of the debate have been set entirely by the Tories, UKIP and the right wing press. The message is: Leave won, so now we can do whatever we want.
But the referendum result is not a mandate to attack migrants, destroy the environment or undermine workers’ rights. The government has no mandate for the extreme, regressive form of Brexit that it is pursuing.
So we have to mobilise – to shift the debate and prevent the Brexit nightmare from becoming a reality. The 16 million people who voted for Remain are not our only allies in that task – there are many who voted Leave who do not agree with what Theresa May is doing, and many more who didn’t vote at all.
Another Europe is Possible will be on the demonstration this Saturday – not to wave flags and not to defend the EU’s policy or democracy as it currently exists. We were and are very critical of these.
We will be there because we all have a right to be heard – and a duty to fight against the tide.
Martin Thomas of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty argues:
Labour’s deference on Brexit also undermines the work of rebuilding Labour support.
The Labour right wing’s staged Shadow Cabinet resignations in June-July started the process which has given Theresa May a lead in the polls despite unpopular policies (continued benefit cuts, new schools cuts, grammar schools…) But the new line of deferring to a supposedly fixed Brexit majority has worsened it.
While the Lib-Dems – despite their so-recent record in government, despite the fact that one-third of their voters went for Brexit on 23 June, despite everything – have doubled their membership by making at least some show of fighting the Tories’ Brexit, Labour’s surge in membership has been paused or even slightly reversed.
We cannot beat the Tories by deferring to them. Labour should fight Brexit all the way!
The BBC reported,
Tens of thousands of people joined an anti-Brexit march to call for Britain to remain in the European Union.
The Unite for Europe march in London coincided with events to mark 60 years since the EU’s founding agreement, the Treaty of Rome, was signed.
A minute’s silence to remember the victims of the Westminster attack was held ahead of speeches at a rally in Parliament Square.
Comrade Bonnie Greer tweeted from the march.
Socialist Resistance have an excellent report,
Try and picture what a march of Brexit supporters would look like in central London, asks Andy Stowe. You immediately get images of portly men dressed in John Bull outfits, Farage gurning in front of the cameras, English and British flags, homemade placards with slogans about WW2 and not so subtle allusions to controlling borders. It would be a Glastonbury for racist English nationalism.
The Unite for Europe demonstration through central London on March 25th certainly had aspects that showed it wasn’t organised by socialists. The organisers’ homepage is decorated with two strips of European Union (EU) and British flags, the liberal way of showing that British people want o be part of the EU. Speakers at the closing rally included former Lib Dem leader and Tory glove puppet Nick Clegg, current Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, someone offering the ex-pat perspective (ex-pat being the correct term for a British person who’s an economic migrant in another country) and Blarite Rottweiler Alistair Campbell.
Almost immediately after the Brexit referendum result was announced there was a large, young and angry demonstration against the result. Those people were largely absent on March 25th. Press estimates of the size range from 25-100 000 but they tended to be older and more affluent. The young Europeans who keep the service industries of London running didn’t turn up. Supporters of Socialist Resistance who were distributing postcards advertising this year’s Fourth International Youth Camp remarked that it sometimes took a few minutes to find someone young enough to hand one to.
However, the demonstration was unequivocally progressive. British flags were substantially outnumbered by that of the EU. The people carrying them were making a statement that they rejected reactionary British nationalism and wanted to identify themselves as citizens of Europe. The home made placards they carried spoke of freedom of movement and being able to work in any EU state. It was a partial rejection of national borders. Coming only three days after an attack by a reactionary terrorist who murdered three people and injured at least fifty, the march was, in an unassuming way, an assertion of the power of mass action by people who want to engage in politics.
Socialist Resistance rightly make a number of critical observations.
Most of the marchers gave the impression that they had no criticisms of the EU. I saw no condemnations of its shameful deal with Turkey to prevent the movement of migrants or the rejection of the will of the Greek people. This of course is not the view of Socialist Resistance and others on the radical left who opposed Brexit. We argued that it’s a supra-national authority which has imposed austerity on the European working class and has reduced most Greeks to utter penury. Our reason for opposing Brexit was that we knew it could only be achieved by a massive xenophobic chauvinist campaign dominated completely by the right. The London demonstration was a rejection of that tidal wave of xenophobia and racism.
Politically the big winners on the day were they Liberal Democrats and they can expect to regain some lost ground by their stance on Brexit. Their membership turned out in strength distributing stickers, carrying placards and setting the tone for the day. A handful of Labour Party banners could be seen but the party had made the mistake of not mobilising for the event and there was no evidence of any organised trade union presence.
Brexit has shifted British politics to the right in a way we haven’t seen since the election of the Thatcher government. The Tories are now pushing through UKIP’s programme and the Labour Party’s response has not appeared coherent to many of its supporters. The Lib Dems threw down a gauntlet to the radical left, the unions and the Labour Party that our side needs to be the one defending freedom of movement, resisting Tory inspired xenophobia and protecting migrants.
Scottish Referendum: More Nationalist Claptrap as SWP Demands Vote so “May can be wrecked on the shores of Scotland.”
Another Bout of Nationalist Claptrap Looms.
The Scottish National Party’s Call for a new referendum is not just a diversion from the fight against the Tory Government, its austerity, and its Brexit plans.
It is an extension of the sovereigntist call to take back ‘control’ of ‘our’ country from the Brexit backers and their left hangers-on to Scottish politics.
Shiraz is right to observe that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s immediate response was wrong, Second Scottish referendum: why Corbyn was wrong.
…last weekend Jeremy Corbyn visited Glasgow and told the media: “If a referendum is held, then it is absolutely fine, it should be held. I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”
“A spokesman for Corbyn” and “a source close to Corbyn” tried to minimise the damage.
According to the spokesman: “Jeremy reaffirmed our position today that if the Scottish Parliament votes for a referendum, it would be wrong for Westminster to block it. Labour continues to oppose a further referendum in the Scottish Parliament”.
But Labour has not taken a position that Westminster should agree to a referendum if Holyrood votes for it. And Corbyn’s argument that the Labour Party should not “prevent people from holding referenda” does not fit in with Scottish Labour’.
Shiraz is also right to underline that the SNP has an infinite supply of reasons for call for Scottish independence as the cornerstone of their politics. Their apparent ‘left-of-centre’ politics, that is policies to boost public services for their people, are not social democratic. They do not demand equality, an end to the exploitation of the market, social ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange (Clause Four) but the Scottish ownership of the political system.
Like sovereigntists everywhere the call for our ain folk to take power out of the hands of ‘Westminster’ may seem at odds with apparent support for membership of the European Union.
Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, to cite but three examples, are run by various coalitions of nationalists, including, in Slovakia’s case, a government agreement of centre-right nationalists around , the ‘centre left’ PM Robert Fico.
In this context “the dissolution of a key imperialist state” means a new set of mini-states as deeply implicated in the world political and economic system with nothing about the basic character of capitalism, market societies, changed except a cultural gloss and a potential for nationalist political exploiters to ensconce themselves in privileged positions.
It is quite possible for a Europe of the Nations, a European Union that tilts to various kinds of nationalists, to emerge without doing anything more for the interests of the left than to divide it out between competing cultural and national interest group identities.
An indication of the poor economic logic behind this latest bid comes from the Financial Times (January 18th)
Scotland’s economic growth was a third of the overall UK figure and unemployment is rising, according to figures published as the governing Scottish National party struggles to decide whether to demand another independence referendum.
The SNP made Scotland’s relative economic strength a central part of its case for independence ahead of the 2014 referendum, but growth has fallen behind, partly because of sharp falls in the oil price. New figures show Scottish onshore GDP in the third quarter of last year grew 0.2 per cent while equivalent UK growth was 0.6 per cent. Compared with the same period of 2015, Scottish GDP was up only 0.7 per cent, against the UK-wide figure of 2.2 per cent. Mark Diffley, of polling company Ipsos Mori Scotland, said that while voters often struggled to assign blame for economic problems between the governments in Edinburgh and London, the poor performance made leaving the UK a tougher sell. “It’s probably more difficult to make an economic case for independence when things are looking so gloomy.”
Just saying that the SNP is pro-EU does not mean that the kind of national egotism the party has represented for decades will evaporated.
Meanwhile how will the pro-Scottish independence left react?
They are unlikely to care about economics….
A clue is in SWP leader Charlie Kimber’s article, printed last week, 7 Mar 2017.
It will take a mass movement, on the scale of the one in 2014 and beyond, to force the Tories to concede a referendum and then win it.
It has to be based on militant opposition to austerity and racism, and a fight for a society where people come before profit.
If that succeeds then just as David Cameron was brought down by the EU referendum, so May can be wrecked on the shores of Scotland.
More nationalist claptrap, more unionist claptrap…and, May will be gone…
The SWP no doubt wishes to repeat its success in backing Brexit.
Sorcerer’s Apprentices barely covers this lot…
“There is a blind refusal to see that a people’s Brexit provides a genuine opportunity for workers to gain confidence, challenge a weak and divided Tory government and elect a left-wing Labour government empowered to see through its socialist commitments.”
This Monday, 13 March, the Commons will vote on a Labour amendment to the Article 50 bill to guarantee the right of EU citizens to remain in the UK.
The Tories will use any excuse to scapegoat migrants to divide communities and deflect from their own damaging policies. This is a choice between a society for the few who will use the current crisis to justify their position and a society for the many which recognises the vital and important contributions migrants make to the country. Whether we want to remain in the EU or not, we demand the right to remain and freedom of movement for everybody.
We must show our support as this important issue goes back to the Commons. Join the emergency demonstration at Parliament from 5.30pm on Monday evening.
The government must guarantee the rights of EU nationals to remain in the UK.
In the latest New Left Review Perry Anderson discusses President Trump.
He includes these comments on ‘populism’ in Europe and the Brexit vote.
In the Old World, the principal reason why populism of the right typically outpaces populism of the left is widespread fear of immigration; and the principal reason why this has not carried it to power is greater fear of economic retribution if the euro—detested as an instrument of austerity and loss of sovereignty though it may be—were not just denounced, as it is by populisms of the right and left alike, but actually discarded. In the UK alone, though nowhere near forming a government, a populism of the right did achieve, in the referendum on British membership of the EU, a score exceeding even Trump’s.
The victory of Brexit, Trump announced from the start, was an inspiration for his own battle in the US. What light does it throw on the unexpected outcome of the election in 2016? Fear of mass immigration was whipped up relentlessly by the Leave campaign, as elsewhere in Europe. But in Britain too, xenophobia on its own is by no means enough to outweigh fear of economic meltdown. If the referendum on the EU had just been a contest between these two fears, as the political establishment sought to make it, Remain would have no doubt won by a handsome margin, as it did in the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014.
Over-determining the contest, however, were three further factors.
After Maastricht, the British political class declined the straitjacket of the euro, only to pursue a native brand of neo-liberalism more drastic than any on the continent: first, the financialized hubris of New Labour, plunging Britain into banking crisis before any other country of Europe, then a Conservative-Liberal administration of a draconian austerity without any endogenous equal in the EU. Economically, the results of this combination stand alone. No other European country has been so dramatically polarized by region, between a bubble-enclosed, high-income metropolis in London and the south-east, and an impoverished, deindustrialized north and north-east: zones where voters could feel they had little to lose in voting for Leave, a more abstract prospect than ditching the euro, come what may to the City and foreign investment. Fear counted for less than despair.
Under the largely interchangeable Labour and Conservative regimes of the neo-liberal period, voters at the bottom end of the income pyramid deserted the polls in droves. But suddenly granted, for once, the chance of a real choice in a national referendum, they returned to them in force, voter participation in depressed regions jumping overnight, delivering their verdict on desolations of both. At the same time, no less important in the result, came the historical difference separating Britain from the continent. The country was not only for centuries an empire dwarfing any European rival, but one that unlike France, Germany, Italy or most of the rest of the continent, never suffered defeat, invasion or occupation in either World War. So expropriation of local powers by a bureaucracy in Belgium was bound to grate more severely than elsewhere: why should a state that twice saw off the might of Berlin submit to petty meddling from Luxemburg or Brussels? Issues of identity could more readily trump issues of interest than in any other part of the EU. So the normal formula—fear of economic retribution outweighs fear of alien immigration—failed to function as elsewhere, bent out of shape by a combination of economic despair and national amour-propre.
Put slightly differently, hatred of foreigners, it was the memory, and the real trace, of imperial grandeur, government cuts and people pissing themselves with loathing of ‘Brussels’ that fueled the Leave Vote.
I will leave it to supporters of the erudite Anderson to explain how exactly “endogenous austerity”, a feeling of having “nothing to lose”, led to the vote to Leave, without the first and last (both ‘foreign’) factors condensing into the far from ‘floating signifier’ of Brussels. That was, apparently, crystallised in a “real choice” in the ballot box, though to do what it far from clear.
Oddly comrade Anderson makes no mention of his own, far from brief, writings on how loathsome the Belgium based EU administration is, the architect of a ‘Neo-Hayekian’ neo-liberal order, its prebends and hangers-on, “more opaque than the Byzantine, the European Union continues to baffle observers and participants alike.”
Or indeed that,
The EU is now widely seen for what it has become: an oligarchic structure, riddled with corruption, built on a denial of any sort of popular sovereignty, enforcing a bitter economic regime of privilege for the few and duress for the many.
Perry Anderson. The Greek Debacle. 27.3.15.
It might appear that the focus of the “populism of the right”, against this structure, is, in Anderson’s judgement, justified.
Which leads us to ask: did Anderson back the vote to Leave?
And what would be his recipe for regaining control from the ‘oligarchs’ (not a term which he defines, let alone relates to anything resembling Marxist concepts of class and power blocs).
There is little doubt that the ‘left’ Brexiters, the ‘Lexiters’, agreed with Anderson’s description of the EU ‘oligarchy’ and many were more than forthright in affirming their own ideas of how to restore “popular sovereignty”, in not sovereignty tout court.
One wing drew their own sense of ‘amour-propre’.
The ‘workers’, apparently, free of the neo-liberal EU, would, as Trade Unions Against the EU asserted, “gain confidence” and …through challenges, “elect a left wing Labour Government”… now no doubt able to exercise a fuller ‘sovereignty’.
But first they have to get there….
For the Socialist Party, “anger felt by millions of working class people at the decimation of their living standards, jobs and services has searched for an outlet, and over many years there hasn’t been a mass socialist alternative to channel it. The Socialist Party predicted that the EU referendum would be used by many as a weapon against the Tory government.”
Only give the Socialist Party the arms and they’ll finish the job…..
Others on the People’s Brexit side unchained their wild hopes on upsetting of the EU capitalist apple-cart without a clue about anything more than the immediate effect of Leave.
For some these dreams were, briefly, realised.
As the Editor of Anderson’s New Left Review, Susan Watkins, put it, ” 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.
Or as Tariq Ali put it finely, he was pleased, “that the majority of British voters gave the EU “a big kick in its backside.”
This has not happened.
Trump came, neo-liberalism is mutating into new, capitalist, potentially protectionist, forms, xenophobia got worse, and Labour is not, let’s be tactful, in a position to offer a new Socialist government.
The ruling Tory party has been strengthened, homegrown austerity has got worse, and few would say that the cost of Brexit is going to be small, for workers who are part of ‘globalised’ cricuits, the ‘left behind’ and all who rely on public services.
Although Lord Islington Ali’s bubble may be as happy as he is at their spiteful gesture, many people on the left, who cherish the internationalist ideals of a Social Europe are decidedly not.
For those who give advice to the political class the reality of Brexit is about to hit hard:
No more baggy rhetoric about sovereignty and “taking back control”. From now on, those who got us into this situation have to show they can get us out intact by March 2019.
From those who give advice to the left:
There was a strong xenophobic and reactionary current in the Leave vote, but also a more politically ambiguous desire to give two fingers to Britain’s ruling elite. The most sensible course for the British left is to try and build bridges between those who opposed Brexit and those who voted for it without embracing the full platform of UKIP, the Tory right, and the Daily Mail.
It is generous of Finn to advocate hands across the divide, and the People’s Assembly (that is, the pro-Brexit groupuscule, Counterfire), to follow this up at a grassroots level by calling for people to join with them to protest against the consequences of their Leave vote.
But for many of us, not least the young people who voted to Remain (75% of 18- to 24-year-olds), and who find it beyond bizarre that any ‘left’ force could back turning the UK into a free-market rat-hole led by those intent on sucking up to Mr Brexit, President Trump, it is hard to see why we should support the tattred remnants of the People’s Brexit.
No amount of symbolical protests is going to change this.
Just to give a flavour…
Both the Lexit Left and the Corbynista Left are arguing that socialists should ‘respect’ the Brexit vote. This argument is false. It is a betrayal of every migrant worker whose status has been threatened by the vote. And it is a massive concession to the racist discourse for which Brexit is now the primary framework.
Brexit is being implemented by a hard-right Tory regime that offers permanent austerity, decaying public services, grotesque greed at the top, and mounting poverty and despair at the base. And the clinch-point – in relation to Brexit – is immigration control. May is peddling hard racism as cover for hard austerity.
The EU offers four freedoms of movement – of investment, goods, services, and people. The first three need not concern us because investment, goods, and services are controlled by capital, not us. The key issue at stake for working people is the right of free movement.
As Neil says,
“We do not ‘respect’ the vote: we denounce it and we shout our denunciation from the rooftops.”