A vote to get out of the EU is a vote against TTIP.
Left Socialist Blog
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..).
“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.”
Trump and His Blessed Friend.
Before the UK EU Referendum the Editor of New Left Review wrote,
…a vote to remain, whatever its motivation, will function in this context as a vote for a British establishment that has long channelled Washington’s demands into the Brussels negotiating chambers, scotching hopes for a ‘social Europe’ since the Single European Act of 1986. A Leave vote would be a salutary shock to this trans-Atlantic oligopoly. It would not bring about a new golden age of national sovereignty, as Labour, Tory and UKIP Brexiters like to claim; decision-making would remain subordinate to Atlanticist structures. It would certainly involve a dip in GDP—around 3 per cent, on the most plausible estimates, so smaller than the contraction of 2009. But the knock-on effects of a leave vote could be largely positive: disarray, and probably a split, in the Conservative Party; preparations in Scotland for a new independence ballot.
Susan Watkins Oppositions. New Left Review. No 98. March-April 2016.
Immediately after the result Watkins’ partner Tariq Ali, who had campaigned for a Leave vote with an array of groupuscules, stated this to Tele Sur (a multi-state funded pan–Latin American terrestrial and satellite television sponsored by the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Bolivia that is headquartered in Caracas Venezuela, about which little needs to be added…)
British-Pakistani intellectual, writer and journalist, Tariq Ali, told teleSUR on Friday that the majority of British voters gave the EU “a big kick in its backside,” explaining that the majority of working class “leave” voters felt that overall the EU did not benefit them, was undemocratic and an organization for the rich and the banks.
Ali lamented the fact that “right-wing “leave” supporters used xenophobia and racism to attack refugees and migrants.”
His principal suggestion, however, was that there should be ” new elections, because we want a newly-elected government to carry through the negotiations—hopefully a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn and not some wing of the Conservative Party.”
Alas, there were no new elections and Corbyn did not form a Labour government.
In her analysis of the result Susan Watkins concluded (Casting off ? NLR 100, July August 2016)
For now, though, it is plain that Blairized Britain has taken a hit, as has the Hayekianized 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. Which will ultimately prove more important, and what the side-effects of each will be, remains to be seen.
Ali at least appears to be one of those who consider that Trump’s victory was in part a result of opposition to this ‘neo-liberal order’.
This is a transcription of some of Ali’s words in a video talk about Trump.
A very deep cancer at the heart of modern liberalism today that since the 90s since the birth and emergence of this particular form of capitalism under which we live and which is referred to as neo-liberalism to give a new tag, but which is capitalism all the same, and which is concerned with making profits but nowadays concerned with making profits with no regard for people who are less well off… And so they imagine living in an insider bubble, cocooned from reality that they can get away with it endlessly. Well what the Trump triumph unprecedented in the 20th and 21st century reveals is that you can’t get away with it all the time.”
The idea that because people have become unhappy with the results of ‘globalisation’ or ‘neo-liberalism’ that they vote ‘populist’ (heavily inflected by the nationalist defence of the ‘people’ not just against elites but against other nations) is so well-worn that it operates as en excuse for considering anything more than the origins of this discontent. Watkins’ account of the Brexit ballot is a long and contentious essay on this theme.
If there’s any political thrust to this stand it’s as if there’s a healthy push to protest against the market, and the left’s task is to give it an extra shove.
Thinking about where the urge is going to end up once it gets into the political system is ignored.
Watkins and Ali are only some of the apparently left-wing people who failed to think through the consequences of their call for Brexit : what would happen after leaving the EU “Neo-liberal” framework (a gross simplification that ignores the weight of EU regulation) in a world dominated by large large capitalist powers.
The biggest capitalist power, the USA, is now in the hands of somebody who, whatever the motives of his supporters, who is pretty sure that Brexit is good news for his turn to an America First planet.
We await a response to the new shape of the “trans-Atlantic oligopoly” from the pro-Brexit left’s “insider bubble”.
He vowed to do a free trade deal with Britain, while attacking the European Union – which he described as “the consortium” – for making it hard for companies to do business.
Mr Trump said that the people of Britain voted for Brexit because “people want to know who is coming into their country and have control of trade”.
Then there’s this:
Brexit Good for Terra Firma, Bad for Most People, Hands Says (22nd of January, Bloomberg Markets).
The U.K.’s decision to leave the European Union is going to lead to dramatic changes in the way the country’s economy operates, which could create opportunities for a firm like Terra Firma Capital Partners, Chairman Guy Hands said.
The country will have to get rid of much of its social safety net and may see a 30 percent decline in wages in real terms in the next 20 years to enable it to compete outside of Europe, Hands said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. Debt will command higher interest rates as more risk is ascribed to an independent U.K., and immigrants from Europe will be replaced with workers from the Indian subcontinent and Africa, who may be willing to accept “substantially” lower pay, he said.
Still, ultimately, the exit will be a good thing for the economy, Hands said.
No doubt the pro-Brexit left imagine that this will all melt away with some big demonstrations and other protests culminating in a left ‘populism’.
There are few signs of anything with this degree of coherence or support emerging in the UK in the immediate future.
There is no sign that a force of this nature, based solely in Britain, outside the institutions in which the majority of the European Left operate, the EU, could stand up for a progressive model to oppose to Trump and his Tory friends.
May “left the door open for the greater involvement of US corporations in British healthcare.”
Before the Referendum the Socialist Workers Party warned against the EU’s ‘project’.
Another example of the neoliberal essence of the project is given by the secretive negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a free trade deal the EU is brokering with the US. TTIP will further prise open sectors such as education and health to the multinationals, and equalise environmental protection and workers’ rights at the lowest level across the two regions.
The Socialist Party claimed,
Voting to leave the EU would set TTIP back, and send shockwaves through the unelected command of the bosses’ EU.
Trade Unionist Against the EU published this claim:
A vote to get out of the EU is a vote against TTIP.
these ‘trade deals’ are nothing new, just good old fashioned imperialism; a word that EU enthusiasts in the labour and trade union movement rarely like to use and with good reason.
Oddly, not only has no shock occurred, but TTIP Mark 2 looks already underway: this time negotiated directly between two bosses’ representatives, Trump and May.
Theresa May suggests UK health services could be part of US trade deal reports the Independent.
PM insists Government remains ‘committed to an NHS that is free at the point of use’.
Theresa May has left the door open for the greater involvement of US corporations in British healthcare as she arrives in America to lay the groundwork for a future trade deal.
Ms May would only say that she was committed to a health service that is free at the point of delivery, but made no comment on whether the NHS would be off the table in any future talks.
Trade and the UK’s economic relationship with the US will be one of the key pillars of the Prime Minister’s visit to Philadelphia and Washington DC.Asked whether health services might form a part of a potential deal, she said: “We’re at the start of the process of talking about a trade deal. We’re both very clear that we want a trade deal.
“It will be in the interests of the UK from my point of view, that’s what I’m going to be taking in, into the trade discussions that take place in due course.
“Obviously he will have the interests of the US. I believe we can come to an agreement that is in the interests of both.”
The Telegraph reports that the agenda is set out within the following framework,
- Defence: Mrs May will be keen to ensure that Mr Trump remains fully committee to the Nato military alliance which is a vital organisation to keep Russia in check in eastern Europe. Both leaders are expected to urge other Nato countries increase their defence spending to 2 per cent of gross national product.
- Trade deal: Mrs May and Mr Trump will seek to find common ground on trade and lay the groundwork for a new deal after Britain leaves the European Union around March 2019. Mr Trump is keen to agree deal within three months.
- Russia: Mrs May and Mr Trump will discuss the West’s concern about Russia.Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will speak directly for the first time since the US president’s inauguration in a telephone call on Saturday.
Old fashioned imperialist bargaining between sovereign powers indeed.
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)
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.
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.
Ex-Greek finance minister will help launch nationwide campaign alongside John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas
The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis will join the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and Green party MP Caroline Lucas for the start of a tour to persuade leftwingers to vote to stay in the EU.
The senior figures from the political left are teaming up as part of the Another Europe is Possible campaign, in which they will make a progressive case for the UK to stay in.
The tour will start with an event in London with Varoufakis, who was severely critical of the EU’s dealings with Greece’s debts when he was finance minister but has recently warned that Brexit could plunge Europe into a 1930s-style depression.
Other rallies will involve trade unionists, as well as the Labour MP Clive Lewis, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, at cities including Bristol, Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester.
Lewis said: “This referendum will define relationship to the world for decades, and we will be joining together with progressives across Britain and Europe, not just to make the case that we are better off in Europe, but also to talk about the kind of society we need to build.
“Capital long ago fled national borders. In order to build a society which is fair for everyone, we need an international response to austerity and the financial crisis. That’s why we are campaigning on an unapologetically progressive platform – for social justice, the environment and freedom of movement.”.
This follows last week’s decision by the Fire Brigades Union,
National conference agrees to support campaign for Britain to remain a member of the European Union. But brilliant speech from General Secretary Matt Wrack rejects status quo Europe and calls for alternative
Delegates at FBU conference debated EU membership at length both in a fringe meeting on Wednesday and in a plenary debate today, but ultimately decided by some margin to remain and campaign for change with trade unionists across Europe.
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, gave a fiery speech, critical of the current EU but strongly in favour of staying in to defend workers’ rights and change the union from within.
In particular, Wrack passionately defended the free movement of workers, saying that problems such as unemployment and housing crisis were caused by banks and the failure of markets, and not by migrants.
Kieron Merrett, trade union officer for Another Europe Is Possible , who spoke at a conference fringe meeting the evening before the vote, said:
“It’s terrific to see one of Britain’s best organised trade unions back the workers’ case for ‘In’ with an explicit ‘stay in Europe to change Europe’ line. It was an excellent debate that we were delighted to participate in. But the message must now go out, not only to every firefighter, but also every trade unionist in the UK. There is only one way to vote in this referendum to defend the vital interests of working people. That’s to vote to remain inside the European Union.”
Supporters of leaving the Union are also holding a rally this week.
Lexit: London left leave rally WEDNESDAY
All London meeting this Wednesday 18 May – 7pm:
The Internationalist Case against the EU – Friends Meeting House (Small Hall) 173-177 Euston Road, NW1 2BJ.
Speakers: Philippe Cordat (CGT union confederation France), Brid Smith (TD (member of parliament for People Before Profit, Ireland), Quim Arrufat (international secretary of the left wing Catalan party CUP), Lindsey German (Counterfire), Argyri Erotokitou (Greek doctor and leading member of Antarsya, Alex Callinicos (Socialist Workers Party) and Rob Griffiths (Communist Party).
In the Morning Star today Alex Gordon Lexit convener on the Left Leave Campaign writes on the present conflicts about new labour laws in France.
French Trade Unions Fight EU Attacks on Workers’ Rights.
Startled by this link between the EU and the El Khomri Law?
It’s backed by the following extraordinary claim.
LAST week France’s Socialist government issued an emergency decree to weaken workers’ rights at the behest of the European Commission.
Last Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls imposed the hated “El Khomri” law — named after Minister of Labour Myriam El Khomri — using an emergency constitutional mechanism (Article 49.3) to prevent a debate or vote that his government would lose in the French parliament.
Gordon repeats this assertion,
President Hollande’s decision to invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution to comply with radical measures the European Commission demanded in November 2015 brutally exposes his own government’s weakness.
Article 49.3 of the Fifth Republic was designed to prevent repetition of the chronic instability that characterised France’s Fourth Republic (1946-58), which famously saw 22 governments come and go in a mere 12 years.
In other words, it’s French Sovereignty which is is being used to……obey Brussels.
Every single report indicates that the El Khomi law originates in the demands of the French employers’ organisation, the MEDEF (” le basculement idéologique dans lequel François Hollande et Manuel Valls, inspirés par le Medef. Liberation. Passim). The Communist Daily, L’Humanité noted the same in February, “le Medef est devenu extrêmement offensif pour remettre en cause le modèle social français, pour réclamer des baisses d’impôts et de cotisations sociales, pour exiger la remise en cause du droit du travail. S’appuyant sur son vaste réseau de médias et d’économistes, il prétend cogérer l’État en imposant la réduction de la protection sociale, le report de l’âge de la retraite, la baisse des dépenses publiques..).
This is the first I’ve heard of an involvement of the European Union in the El Khomri law.
But, you’ve guessed it, the news hounds of RT, Russia Today, have sniffed it out for the benefit of all, no doubt including the Morning Star,
Brussels, discrete Chief Conductor of the El Khomri law.
The author of the RT article, Pierre Lévy, is in charge of the journal Ruptures that claims to be, “progressiste et iconoclaste”. It is to say the least, a strange mixture of ‘communism’, anti-globalisation rhetoric, and French nationalism. In other words it’s a ‘sovereigntist’ project, an assertion of French nation against the European Union. (1)
Instead of this claptrap, for a serious account of the long-standing employer pressure to get red of labour law ‘red tape’ see the Blog de Gérard Filoche
Or this article by Filoche, an expert in French labour law, from his experience as an Inspecteur du travail: Un nouveau bouquet de lois sur le travail en janvier 2014.
Meanwhile in the UK a ‘sovereigntist’ connection runs through Alex Gordon’s ‘Lexit’ rally.
Amongst the speakers we note Philippe Cordat Cordat is “Secrétaire du Comité Régional de la Cgt Centre, that is a region of the French trade union federation, not the national CGT. He appears to have conflicts with the CGT union leadership – as outlined in this Front Syndical de Classe.
Cordat has strong opinions on the ‘super-national’ forces at work in the European Union.
The« idée européenne » a été historiquement portée par deux forces : la social-démocratie et le Vatican.”
The European ideal has historically been carried by two forces, social democracy and the Vatican. (Here)
Cordat also has views on the activities of the Socialist Party, the NPA and other far-left groups, as well as Freemasons and religious networks not to mention bosses’ influence inside his union ,
A bien y regarder la déferlante anti-communiste qui marque le débat public dans le pays depuis plus de quarante ans a conduit de nombreux syndicalistes à faire une fixation sur « la mainmise de Moscou » sur la CGT sans ouvrir les yeux sur les pratiques du PS, de la LCR devenu NPA, des autres structures de l’extrême-gauche des réseaux maçonniques et religieux, du patronat qui s’activent dans et autour la plus importante organisation syndicale française.
The successive waves of anti-Communism that have marked public debate in this country over the last 40 years, we can see, has led many trade unionists to be fixated by the ‘hand of Moscow’ in the CGT, without opening their eyes to the activities of the Socialist Party, the LCR which has become the NPA, and other far-left structures, Freemasons and religious networks, as well as the bosses, operating in and around the most important trade union body in France.
Réflexions d’un syndicaliste de la CGT Philippe Cordat. (2011)
These opinions form part of Cordat’s wider complaints against the the CGT’s own version of Another Europe is Possible (whose details are too similar to the UK campaign to need repeating).
He stated in 2012 (Front Syndical de Classe) that this strategy is completely wrong.
Elle ne remet en cause ni les fondements, ni même les principes pour lesquels l’UE agit en ce moment : effacement des souverainetés, remboursement des dettes au profit des marchés …
It does not question the foundations and the principles which drive the present EU: the iblteration of soveriegnties, the payment of debts to the profit of the markets…..
This emphasis on the importance of national sovereignty is shared by the Communist Party of Britain as one can see here: Why the EU is a negation of parliamentary sovereignty and democracy. argues Robert Griffiths.
It is to be wondered if the ‘revolutionary’ speakers at the Lexit meeting, from Counterfire and the SWP, not to mention Antarsya, or even the ‘municipalists’ of the Catalan CUP, share this sovereigntist vision.
Or indeed if they have the slightest concern about this project:
(1) Fondé par Pierre Lévy, ex-journaliste à L’Humanité, ex-militant du PCF et de la CGT Métallurgie1, BRN compte ainsi dans son équipeLaurent Dauré (UPR et Acrimed)2, Dominique Guillemin (UPR)3 et surtout Bruno Drweski, militant anti-impérialiste entretenant un réseau d’amitiés et d’alliances tant à gauche qu’à l’extrême droite4. Il est à noter que le directeur de la publication de BRN, Hervé Berbille, a participé ès qualité à une réunion de l’Action française à Bordeaux en 2005 visant à promouvoir le « non » au TCE, comme le relate le compte-rendu publié sur le site de l’organisation d’extrême droite5. Confussionnisme Info. “RUPTURES, NOUVEAU MENSUEL SOUVERAINISTE.”
Heroes of Europe Against Hitler’s European Union.
What is it about former London Mayors and Hitler?
A few weeks ago we had Ken Livingstone’s comments about Zionists and Hitler.
No sooner had the din died down after Ken’s kenspeckle kiddy krap, than we have Boris’s bumptious borborygmi.
In a dramatic interview with the Telegraph, he warns that while bureaucrats in Brussels are using “different methods” from the Nazi dictator, they share the aim of unifying Europe under one “authority”.
He claims Winston Churchill would be joining him on the Brexit bus; he warns that the EU shares the same flawed ambition to unite Europe that Hitler pursued, and he challenges the Prime Minister to a proper “democratic debate” about the referendum live on television.
(Boris) sees parallels between the choices that confronted his beloved Churchill, and Britain, during the Second World War and the decision facing voters next month.
“This is a chance for the British people to be the heroes of Europe and to act as a voice of moderation and common sense, and to stop something getting in my view out of control,” he says.
Johnson claims to be a real European.
Apart from his mastery of all the living tongues and cultures, he is a native speaker of Ciceronian Latin, and is said to be the only person alive who has read enough of the Emperor Claudius’ lost volumes on the Etruscans to be fluent in their speech.
He may be interested to read how his rancid rhetoric has gone down in the rest of Europe.
The DW article – one of a whole page of similar instant German reports – is content to outline Johnson’s rant.
The French reaction is more forthright.
Pour appuyer son argumentaire contre l’UE, l’ancien maire conservateur de Londres n’a pas hésité à effectuer un parallèle surprenant.
To back his arguments against the European Union, the former Conservative Mayor of London has not hesitated to draw a surprising parallel.
We will be more forthright still.
Johnson is known for his talk about ‘piccaninnies’ and black people’s ‘watermelon smiles‘.
Not to mention his description of President Obama and the “part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire…”
Johnson has not only joined the Carnival of Reaction amongst those leading the Brexit campaign: he is now leading it.
As Mack Wrack General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, says,
A Brexit vote at the EU referendum will benefit Boris Johnson and his pursuit of power, Mack Wrack warned, as his union threw its support behind the Remain campaign on 12 May. The 37,000-strong Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is the latest in a growing list of trade unions joining the battle to stop the UK breaking away from Brussels.
“It’s not our referendum,” Wrack, the general secretary of the FBU, told around 200 delegates to the union’s annual conference in Blackpool. “The referendum is taking place because of wrangling amongst the Tories. It’s a result of pressure from the right-wing of the Conservative Party and the threat from Ukip.”
He added: “The outcome of a Brexit vote is likely to lead to a change in prime minister, and we could end up replacing one Old Etonian for another.”
“[Johnson] is the man who forced through the worst cuts in the history of the fire service, anywhere in the country, ever… So far the referendum debate has largely been a feud between elites over the best way to exploit workers.”
The comments come after the Trades Union Congress, Unite, Unison, the GMB and other major unions backed a Remain vote at the 23 June ballot. The FBU recently voted to re-affiliate with Labour after Jeremy Corbyn’s shock leadership election victory in September 2015.