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Posts Tagged ‘Counterfire

Brexit Bolsheviks Warn Against People’s Vote on EU.

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Image result for left against brexit

 

The pro-Brexit Bolsheviks are rattled.

Unable to point to any convincing case for their ‘People’s Brexit’, from Labour’s ability to influence the negotiations on leaving the EU to any popular movement to “bring back control” amongst the public, this morning their mouthpieces have been making dire warnings about the People’s Vote.

In an editorial this morning, Labour should resist mounting pressure to back another EU vote they warn,

Labour’s seismic advance in 2017 was down to it changing the terms of debate. It accepted the referendum result and fought for a government committed to a radical shift of power and wealth to working people, and it enthused millions.

That achievement could be thrown away if the party becomes a mouthpiece for those who want a return to the past.

In a piece rich in insults against those “who want to a return to the past”.This includes the “establishment”, a group which apparently does not include Boris Johnson, his wing of the Tories, and  pro-Brexit millionaire media, from Murdoch to the Mail. Citing cautious union leaders, who hesitate at a re-run of the EU vote, it manages to avoid the central issue which is the call for a ballot on the terms of Leave which the government reaches.

The Morning Star backs the RMT pro-Brexit stand, a non-Labour union which twice stood in European elections against the Party, with fringe groups such as the Communist Party of Britain (the publishers of the Star) and the Socialist Party with the slogan, ” No2EU — Yes to Democracy

The Morning Star/Communist Party of Britain (CPB) also believes in National Sovereignty (The necessity to regain national sovereignty )

They consider the Brexit in the context of a fightback against the “the erosion of sovereignty and self-government “.

The politics of the Counterfire are more radical.

They are fond of the writings of the Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukács. This is how one of their writers sees his ideas in today’s context,

Seen from the perspective of the actuality of the revolution, the question is how do we maximise the level of political organisation, confidence and radicalism across the mass of ordinary people; how do we turn what has traditionally been the second party of British capitalism into a transformative force; how do we weaken the power of the British state to resist this movement. Then the answer is very clearly Corbyn – and the mass rallies, mass membership, organisation of resistance to the PLP that is going on as part of the Corbyn movement. Then a question like Scotland is easy to answer – don’t be so blinkered as to worry about numbers in Westminster – the Scottish question is about fundamentally weakening the British state.

The ideas of the great Hungarian Marxist Georg Lukács offer insights into Labour‘s recent quandaries, finds David Moyles (2016)

Corbyn: momentum meets vertigo

In an article on the Counterfire site a few days ago Martin Hall argued that Betraying the referendum result would spell disaster for Labour and the left. (People’s Vote vs People’s Brexit )

Hall, after ramping up the din about negative media coverage of Corbyn and Labour, suggests that,

The noise level is now increasing, with the aim of changing the party’s position of supporting the result and arguing for a Brexit in the interests of working people. The division which has been there on the broad left ever since the result is now cohering into two contradictory positions: a People’s Vote, or a People’s Brexit. Let’s consider both in turn.

Two anti-Brexit groups in Labour are cited.

He outlines the views of the People’s Vote campaign, with bringing several trowels of different, opposing positions, into a single lump.

People’s Vote represent the continuity Remain position that is favoured by the vast majority of the British establishment. Let’s remember that the CBI, the City of London, the Treasury and the Bank of England all supported Remain, overtly or tacitly, and have vested interests in tying British capital into its current arrangements within the Single Market. The Tory Brexiteers simply want a version of free trade that leaves British capital unfettered by EU rules: both these nominally opposed groups favour the primacy of free trade, but one is essentially federalist, while one is lost in nostalgic dreams of revivifying empire.

In the totalising eye of Counterfire’s version of the revolutionary left, they all back “capital”. Will I say or will I go now? Who cares….

Yet, why should people waste so much time fighting over “nominally” opposed positions when they all support “free trade”, imperial dreams or not?

While waiting for an erudite article somewhere challenging this claim, looking at the different “fractions” of capital involved,  it is clear that the divisions, spoken first and foremost by politicians, are political: between the idea of exclusive sovereignty, against the EU “pooling” of sovereign powers.

The second position is that of the Left Against Brexit.

…. position is that Brexit will be a disaster, and that the road to socialism (or at least, some form of progressive democracy) lies in a long march through the institutions of the largest trading bloc in the world. The second element is that having a final vote on the deal and overturning party policy will not represent a perhaps fatal blow to the Corbyn project, both in terms of his position within the Labour Party and what such a decision would do to Labour in the polls, and looking ahead, in the next general election.

To start with if the left takes a position independent of “capital” it does not take a position independent of attempts to share, by  international agreements, the governance of capital – which is one of the functions of the EU. This may be only  a potential power in the hands of the left, but it is not replaced by withdrawing into a sovereign nation which has even less capacity to respond to the internationalisation of capital, beginning with trade,  and extending to production.

Hall might have bothered to look at the motions to the Labour Conference before writing his article.

Do they overturn Party policy?

No: they call for the 6 criteria for a Brexit deal.

They call for the rejection of a Brexit deal if Theresa May fails to meet them.

They call for a referendum on the outcome of the government negotiations.

Normal Motion for CLPs

Oppose Tory Brexit and win a radical Labour government

This CLP supports the earliest possible election of a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn. The current government is putting Tory Party dogma first, not jobs first – and they have no mandate for their agenda.

We note and support Labour’s six tests for Brexit, which aims to ensure that the post-Brexit settlement preserves the benefits we currently get from collaboration with Europe, defends our rights and protections, and delivers for all parts of the UK. It is increasingly clear that the Tories’ Brexit deal will fail these tests.

We believe that only Labour can lead the British people into a progressive and economically sound relationship with Europe.The Brexit deal being pursued by Theresa May is a threat to jobs, freedom of movement, peace in Northern Ireland, and the future of the NHS and public services. Tory Brexit will wreck the British economy, will commit us to a series of long-term trade deals which will enforce American-style deregulation, and will undermine the rights, freedoms and protections currently enshrined in EU law. All of this will bind the hands of a future Labour government, and will make it far harder for us to deliver on our promises.

We therefore urge Labour to oppose the Tories’ destructive Brexit and unite the country behind a radical vision for the future. In government, Labour could rally left-wing parties across the continent, and create a Europe for the many, not the few.

The social problems that caused the Brexit vote – inequality, declining public services, falling pay, a lack of quality affordable housing, and so on – will be made worse, not better, by Tory Brexit and the continued austerity that would result. The problem is the policies of the political establishment, not immigrants, and the solution is a radical social and economic programme.

We must make the election of a radical Labour government our first priority.

We note that given the Fixed Term Parliament Act, the most likely route to a general election before 2022 is the collapse of the government’s Brexit agenda. This motion supports all available avenues to bring down the government: voting down the EU exit deal in Parliament, calling for a snap election, and a popular vote on the deal.

We note and support the 2016 Conference commitment to a public vote on the Exit Deal so the people have the final decision on whether to accept the government’s deal or to stay in the EU.

We call on the Labour Party to:

1. Oppose any Brexit deal that does not satisfy Labour’s 6 tests.

2. Call for an immediate general election, and make a manifesto commitment to call a public vote on the Brexit deal with an option to remain in the EU if the public rejects it.

3. If we cannot get a general election, to campaign for a public vote on the deal with an option to remain in the EU; and following a defeat for the government, to call for an immediate general election.

4. To place radical social and economic policies at the heart of our programme of government – taxing the rich and big business to pay for better public services, rapidly expanding common ownership, abolishing anti-union laws and engaging in massive public investment.

Delegates from this CLP to Labour Party conference should vote in line with this policy.

(More on the Left Against Brexit on Shiraz)

Counterfire believes that “A radical rupture with the current model of capitalism in order to rebalance capital and labour in favour of the latter can only be achieved outside the EU, which is unreformable, and turning increasingly rightwards.”

Does it believe that capitalism is reformable, with a new ‘balance’ between capital and labour being built in a go-it-alone UK

Why is this intrinsically better than the potential governance offered by the EU.

That is, if they do not perhaps believe in a full “rupture” with capitalism is on the cards through elections, a view last proclaimed by the French Parti Socialiste  in the late 1970s….(Quand Mitterrand disait : “Celui qui n’accepte pas la rupture avec la société capitaliste ne peut être au PS“. France Culture)

What details do we have of this “radical rupture”, rather more modest than Mitterrand’s claims, in one country, with the “current model” of capitalism, with all the difficulties it would face (aside from domestic ones) with the WTO, Trade Partners, beginning with Trump who seems bent on his own new model of capitalist protectionism?

If changing the EU means a “long march through the institutions” what institutions can an individual ‘independent and sovereign’ UK turn to change with diminished economic weight and political power turn to change the internationally dominant form of capitalism?

Nobody would deny that many of the the countries that make up the EU are moving rightwards, towards the very national sovereigntistism defended by the Morning Star.

And, as for this jibe…. “Any overturning of the result will only benefit one end of the political spectrum: the right, and not just its electoral, relatively centrist wing. The rag-tag gang of fascists, Islamophobes and assorted fellow travellers that is coalescing around Tommy Robinson, the DFLA and the increasingly extreme UKIP, will be given a huge campaigning boost by any change in Labour policy.”

One assumes  the strength of racist and xenophobic feeling is such that Labour can never confront it…

And that pandering to the sovereigntist line has nothing to do with the rise in…far-right sovereigntist parties.

Deaming of the actuality of the revolution Counterfire seems unable to see the world in front of its face: that “the opportunity that Brexit gives to a radical reforming government” does not exist.

There is no such thing as a Brexit in the interests of working people, as the dominance of those opposed to the labour movement in shaping it indicates.

And what of the ” shibboleths”: that doing so is justified because the vote was somehow unfair, with reasons for this including but not limited to, Russian involvement; breaches of spending rules; the EU Referendum Act of 2015 stating that the result was advisory; the full ‘cost’ of Brexit not being known to people two years ago; that there are now people who are eligible to vote who were not then (and some voters have died). “

Counterfire leader Lindsey German once dismissed gay rights, an impediment in the Respect party’s alliance with right-wing Islamists, as a “shibboleth”.

Can the groupsucle equally dismiss the effects of Brexit on people’s rights and living standards?

This campaign for a vote is for something which was not in existence before: the terms of a Brexit deal, and whether it should continue.

Not to campaign against Brexit is to march towards the constitutional victory of the primacy of right-wing sovereigntism, economic dislocation, and attacks on internationalism,  the interests of working people and the majority in this country.

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McDonnell’s “traditional British Compromise” over Brexit.

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Image result for far right pro-brexit march in london

Should These People Dictate Labour Policy?

John McDonnell has backed a Labour colleague who warned that a second Brexit referendum could lead to social unrest.

The shadow chancellor told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he agreed with Barry Gardiner, the shadow international trade secretary, that anything seen as an attempt to undo the result of the EU referendum could embolden the far right.

But despite those reservations, McDonnell insisted that the Labour party was not ruling out a second referendum and that another vote remained an option if parliament was deadlocked in the autumn.

Guardian 24th of August.

Last Night:

Lindsey German of the groupuscule Counterfire and the Stop the War Coalition (one of whose allies is a McDonnell adviser) gave advice to Labour in this vein on Monday.

The stakes are very high in the Brexit argument. If the Labour right and the centre get their way, there could be a second referendum or an aborting of the referendum vote. That would immediately fuel the rise of the far right, with Tommy Robinson, Gerald Batten and Nigel Farage being some of the unpleasant political figures who would benefit from such a move. That might lead to fissures within the Tories, and with a further recomposition of the political centre pulling in remain Tories, Lib Dems and social democrats, and the right flank of Labour, into a new party.

These are exactly the mirror of pressures on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, where there is growing clamour among large sections of the party for a second referendum. This is now being taken up by trade unions, including the GMB and the TUC itself. This week’s TUC congress will see further moves in that direction, motivated largely by people who are hostile to Corbyn.

The pressure is therefore increasing on Corbyn to abandon his people’s Brexit campaign. Far from helping him win the next election, this would be a suicidal move which would lose votes for Labour, most obviously to right wing formations. It would also strengthen his enemies in the party who have been on a relentless attack against him throughout his three years of leadership.

Counterfire.

It would be interesting to hear more about this “People’s Brexit’ campaign, its rallies, its leaflets, its marches, the workers who’ve occupied the factories to “take back control”…..

It is all very well to set out a list of demands for the best possible Brexit, beginning with “No deregulatory bonfire”, and ending with this, directed at the major partner most Brexiteers are wooing, “We reject a foreign policy based either on a special relationship with Donald Trump’s US…”

It is all fine and good to talk of a Universal Basic Income and backing for worker co-ops….

How can these plans, and overall ambitions for “capital regulation”  deal with the boss of Jaguar, Ralf Speth’s warning that, “friction at the border could jeopardise production to the value of £60m a day. He also warned that traffic jams on the approach to Dover meant that “bluntly, we will not be able to build cars”.” (Guardian)

Socialist Worker rails in the same vein as Counterfire  against the TUC backing for the option of a People’s Vote this week,

Trade unions join call for ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit. Tomáš Tengely-Evans

A second referendum would be a gift to the far right, which will claim betrayal.

The TUC General Council statement was deliberately broad enough to be all things to all union leaders who are split over Brexit.

The various sops in it guaranteed O’Grady could push through her support for the EU’s neoliberal single market and the People’s Vote.

Only the RMT rail workers’ union—and two rebel Unite delegates—voted against the statement.

The composite motion on Brexit kept support for the EU single market and the option of a People’s Vote.

But it had more emphasis of forcing an early general election in order to win over the leaders of unions with members who voted Leave.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the People’s Vote option “must be left on the table”.

But he said the “vote we will need above all is a general election that can deliver a Labour government”.

The issue is not just one for the sidelines, from where Germain and the SWP are comfortable shouting from.

It is of concern that anybody “compromise” agreement looks entirely one-sided: giving in to Brexit.

The worst possible way to try and shut down debate is to brandish the scarecrow of the far-right, populism, and UKIP> 

There is still time to call for a pause in the negotiations over British withdrawal.  

There is a need to have a vote on the issue of Brexit.

Could demanding a General Election, a gift not in Labour’s hands, be an answer out of these difficulties?

No: the issue of the EU will not go away.

 

 

Brexit, Racism and the Far Right: what some new anti-Fascists ignore.

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Image result for bookmarks shop britain great peoples charter

Hard-Line Brexit Right.

“The fight against racism is indivisible – which is why the left has always made it central to its politics.”

Lindsey German.  of the Left pro Brexit group Counterfire. August the 13th.

Brexiteer Arron Banks wants to mobilise Leave supporters to join the Tory Party and vote Boris Johnson as leader reports the Tendance’s favoutie daily print paper, the ‘I’.

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon says Johnson has potential to be a ‘great prime minister’

Brexit-backing businessman Arron Banks is planning an attempt to ensure that Boris Johnson becomes prime minister by flooding the Conservative Party membership with his anti-EU supporters. The former Ukip donor, who gave £9m to the Leave.eu campaign in the 2016 referendum, has proposed a digital advertising campaign to encourage backers of his Brexiteer movement to join Tory ranks and back Mr Johnson in a future leadership election.

..

Trump adviser In the immediate aftermath of Mr Trump’s election victory, Mr Banks travelled to meet the president-elect along with close political ally and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage. Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s former political strategist and architect of his White House victory, yesterday reiterated his support for Mr Johnson, saying he has the potential to be “a great prime minister”. Mr Bannon, who is attempting to sway Mr Johnson towards supporting his plans for a populist anti-EU movement, insisted that Mr Johnson had “nothing to apologise” for over his remarks on the wearing of the burka. The US right-winger told the Sunday Times: “Boris just needs to be Boris – true to his nature and his calling – and I think he has potential to be a great prime minister, not a good one.”

In her account today of the Johnson’s Burka scandal Germain discusses racist coverage of Muslims, Islamophobia, and Boris. She defends women’s right to choose their oppression with the Burka. (Boris Robinson and Tommy Johnson: two sides of the same racist coin – weekly briefing)

For a second one’s attention is caught by this curious sentence, “Islamophobia in the 21st century targets women heavily, reproducing all sorts of issues to do with fear of sexuality, or of independent women. “

But disappointingly the role of the Burka and Niqab in promoting sexual independence is not developed.

After rushing around to mention media attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, she then ends with the one phrase which makes some political sense in the whole overladen adjective-strewn, rant against “toxic” “scapegoating”,

There is a deliberate process here where fascists and the far right hitch themselves to mainstream politicians, and use them to further spread their doctrine of hate and division.

Now how did we come to a political scene in which these highly funded, media, Net obsessed alt-right can have an impact?

Why is there a cross-over between the far right and ‘mainstream politicians’?

How is that when the SWP bookshop, Bookmarks, was assaulted recently members of the vehicle of this cross-over UKIP, were involved (Ukip suspends three members over socialist bookshop attack) ?

Why is Boris the favourite of these forces?

The answer is the Carnival of Reaction that fed into and broke out after Brexit.

This was and is itself based on racism and xenophobia, the motor of that form of alt-right-driven populism which focuses on defending national sovereignty against the foreign EU and migrants.

While some on the left keep imagining that a People’s Brexit will be magicked out of economic and political thin air this continues to develop.

As observers have stated:

UN: Racism has risen since Brexit vote 11.5.2018.

The UK’s Brexit referendum has caused a growth in the acceptability of racial, ethnic and religious intolerance, the UN special rapporteur on racism said Friday.

After finishing a two-week fact-finding mission in the UK and Northern Ireland, Tendayi Achiume said in a statement that she found a “growth in volume and acceptability of xenophobic discourses on migration, and on foreign nationals including refugees in social and print media.”

Racial and religious-based intolerance was also noticeable in political discourse on both the left and right to the point that it has gained ground in mainstream political parties, she said.

DW

Perhaps one reason why Germain does not want to talk about this is because a part of the pro-Brexit left was heavily implicated in the process that has led to present conditions.

Paul Embery, National Organiser, Trade Unionists Against the EU. (a body given publicity and support by the Morning Star, the Socialist Party, and parts of the trade union left)  expressed (the  Sun 4th of May 2018)  the view that the left should be against uncontrolled migration permitted by EU rules on freedom of movement.

He went further than talking about competition over jobs and social resources, or employers’ use of (un-unionised) migrant labour to threaten wages and conditions.

Migration has created a cultural threat:

“The demographic convulsions meant stable, settled Barking and Dagenham found itself in the eye of the storm of the debate over mass immigration. The indigenous population cried out for respite. The letters page of the local paper was filled with correspondents begging to be heard. But nobody in power took a blind bit of notice, other than to patronise them with trite arguments about improved GDP and cultural enrichment.”

Our working class is not racist — they’ve just been shafted by the liberal elite

Embery’s defence of what he calls the “indigenous population” and their “their sense of order” ““faith, family and flag” against the “liberal elite”.

If this sounds like a call for something like the politics of Arron Banks (who donated £54,000 and gave other help to the Trade Unionists Against the EU) that is because beyond being the right-wing of Blue Labour it teeters on the fringe of the hard right.

There are wider issues about the relationship between Brexit and racism and the far right.

One way to look at them is through this emerging coalition of mainstream Tories and the far-right.

But it’s still important to look into the background.

In the lengthy article below Chris Gilligan, author of Northern Ireland and the crisis of anti-racism argues that the pro-Brexit left has ignored or tried to explain away the role of racialism in the Brexit vote.

It is not necessary to agree with the author’s support for Marxist-Humanist ideas on non-state social liberation (they took no official position for Leave or for Remain) to see that,

“If the Lexiteers are aiming to lead the working class, then they are invoking the working class to advance some other  project—such as promoting parliamentary sovereignty, justifying immigration controls, promoting social cohesion or building the Party. They are not immersing themselves in, and learning from, the struggle for human freedom.”

Left Brexiteers Evade the Charge of Condoning Racism

‘It was a popular revolt, not an anti-immigrant vote’: Left Brexiteers evade the charge of condoning racism

by Chris Gilligan, author of Northern Ireland and the crisis of anti-racism

The majority vote to leave the European Union (EU) has been celebrated by many on the Left (Lexiteers) as a revolt by the ‘left-behind’ working-class. The same vote has been condemned as enabling substantial racism and anti-immigrant sentiments. This article critically examines various Left attempts to defend the ‘Leave’ vote against the accusation of racism. According to these defences, a vote to leave the EU was in the interests of the working class, or of human liberation more broadly. The article highlights some contradictions between the goal of human emancipation and the defence of the Leave vote against the accusation of racism.

The article is divided into four main parts. The first part points to the ample evidence that anti-immigrant sentiment was a significant factor in the Leave campaign and vote. (This part also provides a substantiation of the assertion, in the MHI document Resisting Trumpist Reaction (and Left Accommodation), that: ‘In the UK, the surge of support for Brexit last year, which secured the victory of the “Leave” forces, was driven largely by anti-immigration backlash’ (p. 49).) The second part outlines a number of different attempts to evade the ‘it-was-racism-that-won-it’ argument. The third part provides a critique of Goodhart’s defence of Brexit voters from the accusation of racism. The fourth part does the same for Bickerton and Tuck. The article concludes by noting the importance of challenging racism as part of the broader struggle for human emancipation.

Amongst the many important  sections this is particularly telling:

Studies conducted after the referendum confirm that immigration control was a crucial issue. A poll conducted on the day of the vote, for example, found that a third of Leave voters who were polled (33%) said that the main reason for their vote was that leaving ‘offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.’ An analysis of data from the British Election Study survey of referendum voters concluded that the data suggested ‘that the decision taken by the Leave campaigns to focus heavily on the immigration issue … helped to drive public support for leaving the EU while also complicating the ability of Remain campaigners to “cut through” and galvanise support for continuing EU membership’. A study of the British Social Attitudes survey used the data to test two popular explanations for the Brexit vote: firstly, that it reflected ‘the concerns of more “authoritarian”, socially conservative voters about the social consequences of EU membership—and especially about immigration’; and secondly, ‘that the vote was occasioned by general public disenchantment with politics’ (a version of the ‘revolt against the elite explanation’). The study found that the survey data provided more evidence to support the first explanation than it did to support the public-disenchantment one.

Until people like Germain recognise this link between Brexit, racism,  and the growth – still very far from a mass movement – of the far-right in Britain, it is unlikely that those outside their limited circles will take their calls for anti-fascist and anti-racist unity seriously.

 

 

 

Counterfire Pats Itself on the Back for Backing Brexit.

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Image result for LOndon says Lexit Tariq Ali

Pro-Brexit Left Tries to Rise from the Grave.

How is the left reaction to the present stage of Brexit developing?

Counterfire, a weather-vane on the pro-Brexit left offers indications of how those opposed to the growing class for a Second Referendum on the left think.

For those not familiar with who and what Counterfire is, it is a revolutionary socialist groupuscle that split from the Socialist Workers Party in 2010 (Why we are resigning from SWP: an open letter.) They protested against the “authoritarian internal regime” of the SWP and its inability to create and work with, “a broad left response to the recession”.

They were the group most associated with George Galloway’s Respect, both inside the SWP (as the ‘left pltform’) and outside:Coutnerfire leader JohN Rees for example stood  for the Respect list in the WEst Midlands for the 2004 European Elections and was the Respect candidate for the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election. He also stood for Respect in the 2006 local elections in the Bethnal Green South ward of  Tower Hamlets.

Counterfire worked with Galloway in the Stop the War Coalition (StWC). Lindsey Germain from the orgisation is their best-known figure in the  the StWC. This alliance became notorious for  its “anti-imperialism of fools”. In 2015, following the murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Porte de Vincennes Hypercacher the organisation stated, “Paris reaps whirlwind of western support for extremist violence in Middle East”. It has played no active part in defending the population of Syria against the Assad regime’s violence, or in standing up for the Kurds fighting the genocidal Islamists of Daesh.

In domestic politics Counterfire was involved in the Coalition of Resistance (2010)  against Austerity, and is the leading force in the People’s Assembly (founded in 2013), whose national personal they have effectively provided. These are, in their own view, long-term strategic ‘united fronts’.

Counterfire itself promoted a Leave vote during the European Referendum.

Following the Leave victory Counterfire  has been prominent in what was known for a while as the “People’s Brexit” – that is a programme for a left government constructed outside of the structures of the EU (The why and what of a People’s Brexit John Rees)

The problem with this strategy is that trying to “block” the Conservative government’s policies without challenging Brexit has proved hard to do.

There is no movement in political or civil society to ‘take back control. There is no industrial unrest or indeed any other other forces demanding a left platform. There is only a Labour Party without political power. Unless Labour confronts the economic and social consequences of Brexit,that is opposes it, the labour movement lets  May and her hard Brexit opponents act as they wish.

This is the context for the present post:

Brexit and the left, two years on.

“The left should not avoid political struggle, it should actively work to shape the outcomes of political crisis argues David Bush

This article, which admirers  have compared to Mao’s On Contradiction, continues,

 It has been just over two years since Great Britain voted to leave the EU. With the final leave date set for March 29, 2019 Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU have revealed deep divisions within the Tory party and the broader ruling class.

………

In the runup to and shortly after the Brexit vote in the summer of 2016 many on the left sounded the alarm about the dangerous potential of Brexit for the UK, Europe, and even global politics.

Brexit was going to usher in a revanchist carnival of reaction. For the last two years, people have linked Brexit and the rise of Trump, using them as a sort of shorthand to describe the dangerous rise of rightwing populism across Europe and North America. Is this linkage warranted? Two years on what has been the actual effect of Brexit?

Apparently the Carnival was largely overshadowed by the good (but not winning) electoral performance of Labour in the last (post_Brexit0 eleciton)

The result of the election was a stunning near-victory for Labour. Corbyn’s Labour Party won 40 percent of the vote, drastically increased their seat count and took away the Tory majority. The Lib Dems, Greens and the SNP – which all backed Remain – lost votes.

And what of the reactionary side of the Brexit vote? Bush reassures us:

For many voters, living in forgotten communities, where jobs and hope have long disappeared, Brexit was seen as a way to reject the establishment.

One can only sight with relief that didn’t trundle out guff about “metropolitan liberals” “anywhere”.

But I dirgess.

Above all,

 The Lexit position was clear, there were no prospects for the working class inside the EU. It was argued that a Brexit vote would cause a crisis in the ruling class in the UK and in Europe and create better conditions in which to battle both the bosses and the far-right.

Er……?

It is not that the Brexit vote was destined to automatically lead to a decrease in anti-immigrant sentiment, rather that the Brexit vote opened up a political space in which those ideas could be shifted via political struggle.

Counterfire has shifted from arguing for a mass movement behind a People’s Brexit, to the view that Brexit offers the best conditions in which to fight  the expression of far-right prejudices and the bosses.

No evidence is offered for this claim

Except a thought experiment what might have happened if the Remain vote had won.

Looking into his vision of an alternative future the Counterfire Guru writes,

Two years on it is clear that if Remain won, there would more barriers than openings for the Left. David Cameron would still be the Prime Minister in a Majority government, the Tories would not be racked by political crisis, UKIP would be much more popular and able to harness frustration with the establishment more easily, British and EU capitalists would not be staring down a political crisis, Corbyn would not have had an election that would have put his internal critics on their back foot and shifted the political debate in the country.

Would it have offered the prospect of fighting an emboldened hard-right?

Obviously not.

Would it permitted a fight against the bosses?

Well, Yes it would!

Still, as it is, prospects are rosy:

When faced with business fears about Brexit, Tory MP Boris Johnson stated fuck business. Clearly, all is not well in the ruling class.

And,

Brexit from the outset was full of contradictions. Political struggle is and will always determine which side of the contradiction emerges from a political event. Too many on the Left forgot this basic outlook and retreated to moralism and fear. The Left should not dread shake-ups in ruling class institutions. It is messy, but that is the nature of political struggle – a shifting political terrain create openings, but it is also fraught with new dangers. The role of the Left is not to shirk from this struggle, to pine for institutional and political stability of capitalism, but to work to understand the potential, and actively shape the outcomes, of a political crisis. Two years on that is the lesson Brexit.

So in other words all Counterfire is left with is gloating at the “shake up” of “ruling class institutions” by internal squabbling amongt the Tories.

These, as Mao might have said, are “secondary contradictions” amongst the class enemy…..not to mention whatever mischief the pro-Brexit lot can stir up in the Labour movement.

But let the thought sink in: all they can show for Brexit is a bleeding big row.

****

An important reply (which is by no means in the same vein as the above)  is offered by Neil Faulkner: Lexit and the Left: a comradely response to Dave Bush (Left Unity).

Extracts:

The argument that socialists should support Brexit because the bulk of the British ruling class opposes it, because it has thrown the ruling class into crisis, and because the EU is a bosses’ club is no better. It breaks down at so many levels. Underlying it, I suspect, is the absurd notion that, in the hyper-globalised capitalism of the early 21st Century, there might be some sort of ‘British road to socialism’ – presumably under a Corbyn-led Labour government implementing some sort of ‘alternative economic strategy’. Is it not obvious that the state-managed welfare capitalism of the immediate post-war period broke down in crisis in the 1970s? Is it really credible to imagine some sort of social-democratic ‘new deal’ today, to be achieved in one country, in defiance of international finance-capital, and in isolation from the international working class?

..

The Tory regime is in deep crisis. The anti-Trump demonstration showed the potential to turn that crisis into collapse. We won a historic victory on 13 July. The British state, hosting the most important foreign leader in the world, could not guarantee security on the streets of its own capital, so was forced to move Trump around the countryside in a helicopter. The people controlled the streets and turned what was meant to be a state visit to honour a fascist supporting US president into a carnival celebration of our diversity, tolerance, and solidarity. The British Establishment was forced to mute its customary welcome – limiting it to  parades of Redcoats, tea with the Queen, holding hands with May – while the British people told the truth to the world that the man is scum. If we turned that into a mass social movement against Brexit and the Far Right, we can and will defeat them.

Brexit: A Requiem.

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Image result for turds

Did Magna Carta Die in Vain for this?

“The Brexit dream is dying” Boris Johnson.

As “we are truly headed for the status of colony” spare a thought for those who dared to dream.

There is a thorpe in England, Bell End, Bertywoostershire.

Nay but a hamlet, but full, in every nook and herne, with  platoons, little and large.

In the ale-house, on the warm ingle-bench, the smock-frock’d boors sigh heavily o’er their loss.

The day is weary but they recall the merry match when Lord Tariq, wi’ sturdy northern folk from Counterfire, played the cricket team, and took a Beamer from Sir Arron, while wrinkled Vicar Giles smiled gently on.

The Squire, Sir Farrage, and his valet, Mr Galloway, would have many a cream tea at the neighbouring Big Boris Mansion.

Once a mouser was stuck high in the oldest Oak tree, the Lord of the ancient holt, and Yeoman Embery came a-runnin’ to save the feline.

The innocent of the village, Brendan O’Neill, made a tasty stew with that moggie….

The Very Honourable Ress Mogg with his Morris Players…. a sight to behold!

Alas.

Now gone.

Brussels ad portas.

World Cup: “Pure Patriotic Ecstasy” Spreads to Giles Fraser.

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Image result for giles fraser football

Cleric Giles Fraser: in “pure patriotic ecstasy”.

Some people read the future of today’s Cabinet meeting in taxi  phone numbers and train time-tables.

Others will pontificate on global warming at the opening of a tin of baked beans.

But nothing, absolutely nothing, brings out the worst in commentators than waffling about the political and cultural implications of the World Cup and the English team.

A whiff of victory and they’re all over the players’ aprons.

A couple of days ago Counterfire published this, sub specie eternal cultural studies bore,

Success for England will mean what we make it mean

Mark Perryman.

A popular Left politics must surely connect with such episodes as metaphor, to translate what we see on the pitch into the changes beyond the touchline we require to become a more equal society. So here’s my maxim for Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues. If Labour cannot explain the meaning of the World Cup why should I listen to what the party has to tell me on how they’re going to fix the mess the NHS is in? Not the flimsy populism of Blair when he adopted the ‘Labour’s Coming Home’ message after England’s last tournament semi, Euro ‘96, but a political practice rooted in popular culture because here, more than anywhere else, ideas are not only formed, but also changed.

Perryman has an  admirer in the highest ranks of the Clergy who picked up on this passage.

But the point is that a St George Cross draped in the colours of multiculturalism has at least the potential for the beginnings of a journey away from racism. It has a reach and symbolism like no other, touching the parts of a nation’s soul no anti-racist placard thrust in our faces is ever going to. This is the meaning of modern football and when England begin to scale the heights of 2018 World Cup ambition the reach of that message is amplified still further on a scale and in a manner that ’66 could never have done, and ’90 barely began.

It’s Prelate Pontificus Maximus Giles Fraser:

In that moment of pure patriotic ecstasy, the pub seemed united in an unusually intimate form of togetherness. After all that, Neil and I had a rather messy argument about Brexit. “If we win the World Cup, Theresa May will call an early election,” someone else suggested. Then we all drank up and staggered home.

What we think about patriotism positions us squarely on possibly the moral question of our day. From Brexit to Trump, from Hungary to Israel, the question of putting our country first has a divisive feel that enrages liberals and internationalists. Because when it comes to patriotism, what liberals understand to be a defining feature of proper moral reasoning, communitarians think of as a vice. And what communitarians think of as an essential aspect of a flourishing moral community, liberals think of as bigotry.

The Cannon adds is some stuff about (former International Socialist)  Alasdair MacIntyre, if anybody can be bothered to read his half digested reflections.

Let us end with this:

For communitarians, my hugging the fat English stranger (steady down Padre!) , my “Come on En-ger-land” at top volume, are crucial to our morality solidarity. And it’s just the same with my mate Emilliano shouting for Colombia over in the Elephant shopping centre.

And this,

The problem, of course, is that what MacIntyre and I (Note: on the basis of one essay written long ago),  consider moral solidarity, liberals think of as prejudice, even proto-fascism. And what liberals call morality, communitarians view as a dangerous dilution of moral solidarity. And there, in a nutshell, are the culture wars that presently divide us.

After Virtue me old cock!

 ‘People Before Tory Brexit’ Gains Support: Rally, Thursday June 21.

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Union Moves Towards People’s Vote on Brexit.

In the Daily Mirror it’s been argued by Alison McGovern that,

It’s hard to argue that this disastrous Tory government is doing anything but make a mess of Brexit.

In the past fortnight calls for a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal have been getting louder , and in the months to come, I suspect the argument for the public to have their say – in the absence of a general election anyway – will become irresistible.

This follows this decision.

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes,

“Our conference last weekend mandated us to campaign against this Tory Brexit which is failing our country before it lands us in even deeper water. We have been instructed by our members to work with others of like mind to put their concerns and those of other workers at the fire of the Brexit debate.

“Our members also made it clear that Brexit should not be used as another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with. For us, a Labour government committed to a manifesto for the many is a far bigger prize than Tory Brexit. I am delighted that we will be hosting voices from across the trade union and labour movement who agree with us that the Brexit squeeze on workers is already not worth the juice and want to formulate a pro-Corbyn Brexit exit strategy.

“Tory politicians got us into the mess of Brexit in the first place as they put their party and political ambitions before country. As the late Robin Cook said, when he rightly resigned over the Iraq War, the longer he spent in Parliament the more he came to trust “the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people”

“Our members believe the British public, now better informed than in 2016, have had a Brexit cooling-off period. The right thing to do now is to trust the collective wisdom of the many by giving them a say on the final outcome of Brexit negotiations in a referendum. No-one wants a continuation of this ruinous Brexit other than the Tory few who are guiding it”.

TSSA

Labour List reports.

Today the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association has announced it will hold a rally to launch its campaign for a ‘people’s vote’ on Brexit.

The move suggests a pro-EU stance on the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Left of the Labour Party is gaining traction.

Earlier this week, as reported by LabourList, TSSA became the first trade union affiliated to the Labour Party to formally back a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

Delegates at the union’s conference in Leicester also voted in favour of giving 16- and 17-year-olds a vote in such a referendum.

The transport and travel industry union now plans to hold a ‘People Before Tory Brexit’ rally on Thursday 21st June at Congress House in London.

Lord Andrew Adonis, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes, Labour MEP Julie Ward, Labour MPs Catherine West and Geraint Davies are expected to speak at the rally, which is set to be hosted by left-wing NEC member Andi Fox.

Commenting on the event, union chief Manuel Cortes said: “We have been instructed by our members to work with others of like mind to put their concerns and those of other workers at the fire of the Brexit debate.

“Our members also made it clear that Brexit should not be used as another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with… I am delighted that we will be hosting voices from across the trade union and labour movement who want to formulate a pro-Corbyn Brexit strategy.

“Tory politicians got us into the mess of Brexit in the first place as they put their party and political ambitions before country. As the late Robin Cook said, when he rightly resigned over the Iraq War, the longer he spent in parliament the more he came to trust “the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people”.

“Our members believe the British public, now better informed than in 2016, have had a Brexit cooling-off period. The right thing to do now is to trust the collective wisdom of the many by giving them a say on the final outcome of Brexit negotiations in a referendum. No-one wants a continuation of this ruinous Brexit other than the Tory few who are guiding it”.The ‘People Before Tory Brexit’ rally takes place on Thursday June 21, at 7pm at Congress House, Great Russell Street, London.

In a scatter-gun  article, A People’s Brexit that unites the left is the only way to confront an increasingly bold neoliberal mafia, Lindsey German, of the group Counterfire which leads the once influential People’s Assembly, argues against this movement.

Amongst her charges against the EU are the following:

“President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, last week insulted Italians for not working hard enough, being corrupt and not being serious. ” “the hero of many liberals, Emmanuel Macron, uses his presidency to launch vicious attacks on workers and students and to attack their rights.”

Apparently because many European countries are led by people whose politics German dislikes this is proof enough that the EU is rotten.

She concludes,

It’s really time to stop trying to reverse Brexit and start organising to deliver the sort of policies which can break the neoliberal consensus and challenge the far right.

It is hard to see, given the clashes she sketches between “populists” (from the furthest right to their allies such as the Movimento 5 Stelle ) and “liberals”, and the concessions of the latter to the former, what exactly this “consensus” is.

It is even harder to say what remains today of neoliberalism’, with its keynote free trade, and , minimal government intervention in business,  when Donald Trump has just announced another front in his trade wars, imposing 25% tariffs on Chinese goods followed by Beijing’s retaliation.

In fact it can be said with some certainty that the antics of those promoting a ‘People’s Brexit’ were a factor in boosting the British hard right, their ballot box allies.

German cites the sovereigntist economist,  Costas Lapavitsas who in an article (Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour vs. the Single Market) in the US publication Jacobin “demonstrates how the EU regulations would prevent the development of policies which would benefit us all.”

Martin Thomas has dealt a death blow to these arguments.

The economist Costas Lapavitsas, who has done important work on financialisation, has written a widely-cited article for the US magazine Jacobin (30 May) to argue that Labour should back Brexit after all.

ndeed, his article systematically cites the “hardest” sort of Brexit — where Britain has no arrangement with the European Union to reduce economic barriers other than that given by general World Trade Organisation rules — as preferable.

Up to now, very few pro-Brexiters, outside a few right-wing nationalist Tories, have described that “no deal” Brexit as anything other than an admittedly damaging “worst case”.

Lapavitsas was a member of Syriza, one of the left-wingers who quit after the Syriza-led government capitulated to the EU-ECB-IMF impositions to form the Popular Unity party. Popular Unity’s line of agitating for “sovereignty and independence… against the new colonialism”, rather than for explicit socialism or a Europe-wide working-class policy, has proved unproductive. Although PU started with 25 of Syriza’s 149 MPs, and other prominent Syriza figures, it lost all its MPs in the September 2015 election, now polls between 1% and 2%, and has not rallied a large part of Syriza’s former left-wing base.

….

But “hard Brexit” cannot be a left-wing policy. The struggle for socialism is an affair of workers vs capitalists, not of Britain vs a “Europe” identified solely with neoliberal Brussels officials. Consider four points.

First: EU rules would not block anything in Labour’s 2017 manifesto. Domestic capitalist power would try to block some measures, and might try to draw the European Commission in on it, but by far the main obstacles to those measures lie within Britain.

Second: The frontline measures which the socialist left wants to see added to that manifesto would not be blocked either.

Restoring union rights to solidarity action, to quick responses, to picketing, would not be against EU rules. In fact, France has wider, better union rights than Britain had before Thatcher.

Restoring NHS funding would be against no EU rule. Both France and Germany spend markedly more on health care, as a percentage of national income, than Britain.

Restoring local government autonomy and funding, and thereby reviving social care and libraries, would be against no EU rule. Ditto for restoring welfare benefits.

Large measures on those lines would face domestic capitalist resistance much more than any hindrance from EU rules.

Third: the Single Market rules have become neoliberal not because they are “European” and “foreign”, but because they represent a trend of capitalist development pioneered… in London.

“Europe” in Lapavitsas’s picture, is just the neoliberal officials in the European Commission and the ECB. Workers? Labour movements? The argument proceeds as if no such things exist anywhere in Europe except in Britain and Greece.

Labour should certainly be pushed to policies which really would contradict Single Market rules. If the British labour movement rouses itself that far, then it can and must rouse labour movements elsewhere in Europe to do similar.

The reaction elsewhere in Europe to socialist mobilisation in the labour movement in Britain (if Britain happened to go first) would not just be anger from neoliberal officials in Brussels. Workers and labour movements across Europe would be inspired and energised.

The outcome would depend on the conflict between capitalists and workers right across Europe, not on legal battles between the British government and the European Commission.

Fourth: right now we face the danger of a real “hard Brexit”, not Lapavitsas’s imaginary “socialism in one (British) country”, or rather “‘industrial policy’ in one country”.

That Tory, or modified-Tory, “hard Brexit” will set us back in many ways. We should fight it, not accommodate to it by way of telling ourselves tales about it mutating into “semi-socialism in one country”.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 16, 2018 at 11:22 am