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Heroic Failure, Brexit and Politics of Pain. Fintan O’Toole. A Review from the Internationalist Left.

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Heroic Failure, Brexit and Politics of Pain. Fintan O’Toole. Apollo. 2018.

“L’existence d’une nation est (pardonnez moi cette métaphore) un plébiscite de tous les jours, comme ‘l’existence d’un individu est une affirmation perpétuelle de la vie.”

The existence of a nation (you will pardon me this metaphor) is a daily referendum, just as the continuing existence of an individual is a perpetual affirmation of life.

Ernest Renan. Qu’est-ce qu’une nation 1882.

No ! penury, inertness and grimace,

In some strange sort, were the land’s portion. ‘See

Or shut your eyes’ says Nature peevishly.

‘It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:

‘It’s the Last Judgement’s fire must cure this place,

Cacline its clods and set my prisoners free’

Childe Roland. Robert Browning. 1855.

The Irish writer Fintan O’Toole begins Heroic Failure on the “phantasm” that drove the Brexit vote with a meditation on the delights of English self-pity. In the years leading up to Brexit, he remarks, E.L. James Fifty Shades of Grey (2011), a “fantasy of domination and submission”. This, he suggests could be rendered into a political fantasy “in which Christian Grey is the European Union and Anastasia Steele an innocent England seduced into entering his Red Room of Pain.” (Page 21) A friend tells me that flipping through its pages he found it full of un-erotic Americanisms (‘ass’). This might be a further metaphor to explore in that. Amongst the Brexit ultras, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have not only taken their politics from the US neoliberal right, but the latter seems sufficiently at home alongside Donald Trump to talk in Disney speak of “that’s all folks.”

Ernest Renan, who considered the Nation to be a “soul” a “spiritual principle”, left the decision-making about this make-up to popular choice. O’Toole equally echoes Renan is describing just how much of the British imperial past Leave supporters forget during our own Referendum. In this present the UK is a plucky land, ill-rewarded for holding the fort against Hitler, and under the boot of an alien superpower run by Teutons in a new Holy Roman Empire. In this picture Brexit as a “genuine national revolution against a phoney oppressor. It has the form of a moment of liberation without the content. The people get out of the Red Room of Pain only to find themselves in the Red, White and Blue Rooms of Pain. (Page 141)

Brexit Bollocks.

In the absence of real oppressors a variety of substitutes were found. Food was an issue from the start. Heroic Failure cites E.P. Thompson’s dyspeptic attack on middle class enthusiasm for the Common Market’s well-garnished menu. By the 1990s Mr Podsnap returned to defend our national Cuisine. Boris Johnson pursued the millennium with a crusade against a Brussels-led “humiliation of British democracy” – a threatened penury of prawn cocktail flavoured crisps. Johnson stood firm. Against a bossy female bureaucrat he declared, “As part of the balanced diet of a British child, – two packets Quavers, three chocolate Magnums, 2 oz dog shit a day – the prawn cocktail flavour crisp was thoroughly nutritious” (Page 112) Magnum ice-creams, few will fail to notice, are now being stockpiled to guard against the no-Deal Brexit Final Judgement.

It would take from the pleasure of reading Heroic Failure to recount more of O’Toole’s  not at all tall-tales of Brexiteer Bollocks. Nor would be appropriate to cover his fine account bonds between the Irish and British are bound together, from the centuries of national oppression and prejudice, to the deep ties of affection and descent (this writer is, apparently, genetically around 37% Irish) that bring us perhaps closer than any other nationality outside of the United Kingdom. Given this background it is all the more surprising that the Leave campaign showed an “absolute refusal to countenance any discussion of Ireland.”(Page 88) The importance of the ‘backstop’, which may be translated into English as “safety net”, for the border with North, has turned out to be more important than the nippers’ right to eat dog shit.

Behind the “sadopopulism” and the nationalist “dreamtime” lies the hard free-market right. When the boss of Wetherspoons, Tim Martin, came to Ipswich he evoked fish, no doubt under the impression that East Anglia prosperity was assured, as from mediaeval times until the beginning of the Twentieth Century, by the Herring Catch. Campaigners for Leave may have spoken in other antiquarian language of the country’s ‘Vassalage’ to the European Union. O’Toole gives a reminder of the English Royals’ scorched earth tactics during the 100 years war, which he compares to the mass murders of warlords in today’s failed states. Les Anglais ont débarqué, which originated during this period, can still signify the flow of menstrual blood.

Behind this lies a wish for, O’Toole suggests, Jacob Rees Mogg’s “sovereignty of the super rich and their right to escape.”(Page 172) “Buccaneering capitalism”, national sovereignty in the service of commerce, the right to a no-Deal Brexit under WTO rules, the project is for,  as Luke Cooper says, “a Britain ‘unchained’ from the shackles of European regulation, in other words, even more of a capitalist dystopia.”(The Left Against Brexit. Another Europe is Possible. 2018).

The Rise of English Nationalism.

Heroic Failure concludes with thoughts on the English nationalism that has become the motor of Brexit politics. Renewed English identity – 60% of the country’s population now identify themselves as English instead of British – partly mimics “the gestures of small-nation ‘liberation’ movements…”(Page 187) The self-pity on show is not an exclusive national trade mark, if at least Hugh MacDiarmid is to be taken to heart, ”Puir Auld Scotland’ bleat wi’ pride…. A thorn in a’ the wide world’s side” (A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926) But few, very few, countries have resembling the “unfinished psychic business of both the Second World War and the End of Empire.”(Page 92)

O’Toole would like to see the back of the Tory eccentrics and chancers who have pushed Brexit. He is not at his strongest when he suggests that English nationalism, “so poorly articulated and self-contradictory” is up for grabs”, by “progressives” (Page 200). In the century following Ernest Renan’s definition of a ‘Nation’ another Frenchman, Henri Barbusse, writing in the midst of the brutalities of the World War that preceded the Second declared that nationality was the business of poets and dreamers. Patriotism can be respected. Yet it carried grave dangers when it became the basis for politics. (Le Feu. Journal d’une escouade.1916).* Left-wing politics may recognise wish to wrest our common feelings and imagination, our humour and our decency, away from the Brexiteers and isolate the far-right. But a political strategy built out of a national identity is unable to respond to the ‘real issues’ (that is, those not stemming from hatred of foreigners) said to be behind the vote to Leave by the left-behind, and their attraction to the wank-bank dreams of the Hard Brexit Right. 

This can be seen in the dismal fate of “leftist anti-Europeanism”. Efforts to harness the ‘national popular’ from those claiming to be on the left have led nowhere. They have run with the Brexit hounds, and not their opponents. There are claims that ‘the’ ‘real’ working class, not by virtue of what they do but on *who they are*, mustered behind ‘national liberation’ from the EU.  During the Greek crisis they would have volunteered to be Lord Byron’s Jackals and fight for Hellenic independence from Brussels. Some on that left now back a Brexit on WTO terms. More live in the ‘dream-time” of a People’s Brexit, a Beacon of Hope to the World, brought in on the backs of a break with the EU. It shows few signs of appearing. A few relish the thought that Brexit will lead to the break up of Britain. This will, by allowing nationalists free reign in Scotland, pave the way for internationalism. Some just wallow in chaos. One of New Left Review’s leading intellectuals, Tariq Ali, leapt for joy at the Big kick up the EU’s backside” after the Referendum result.“

There is another left. “Ours is a future of solidarity between people and across borders”, “to end Fortress Europe, push back against the neoliberal economic consensus and build unity between workers across the continent” “building an internationalist left that can turn the ride in Europe and beyond” (Alena Ivanova. Michael Chessum. The Left Against Brexit. Another Europe is Possible).

We are in the middle of the Battle………..

“Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set, And blew. ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.’

***

*”Out of patriotism–which can be respected as long as it remains in the domain of sentiment and art on exactly the same footing as the sense of family and local pride, all equally sacred–out of patriotism they make a Utopian and impracticable idea, unbalancing the world, a sort of cancer which drains all the living force, spreads everywhere and crushes life, a contagious cancer which culminates either in the crash of war or in the exhaustion and suffocation of armed peace.” Under Fire.The Story of a Squad. Henri Barbusse

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“Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms” – the Story Behind the Communist Party of Britain’s Call.

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Communist Party of Britain Brexit Sub-Committee.

Britain should leave the EU on March 29, liberating a future Labour government from EU Single Market rules and trading with EU and other countries on WTO terms if necessary, Britain’s Communists declared at the weekend.

At the first meeting of its new Executive Committee elected at the 55th Congress, the Communist Party said that the ‘pro-EU Tory minority regime’ and the EU Commission could not be trusted to reach any withdrawal agreement that did not serve the interests of big business and the capitalist class.

‘Locking Britain into the EU Customs Union would make any such agreement even worse’, Robert Griffiths explained, ‘because it would outlaw import regulation to protect strategic industries such as steel, while also impeding a mutually beneficial fair trade policy with developing countries’.

Britain’s Communists urged the labour movement to reject ‘anti-democratic manoeuvres’ to extend Article 50 in order to delay and possibly cancel Brexit. Instead, the CP executive called for a ‘People’s Brexit’ to leave the EU, its Single Market, Customs Union and new pro-NATO military structures so that a left-led Labour government will be free to pursue left and progressive policies that benefit the workers and the people by investing in transport, the environment, housing, productive industry and public services.

‘Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms’, Communists propose

Communist Party calls for Brexit on World Trade Organisation terms (The independent Daily Paper of the Left, the  Morning Star).

The Morning Star has  yet to track down the insider’s account of the reasons for this call, and even the highly rated Skwawkbox has not, so far, published the ‘low down’

But the Newshounds of Tendance Coatesy are hot on the story that has rocked Britain’s left.

Our investigative reporters suggest that the announcement may be a sign of these possibilities:

  • The CPB has made the barking announcement so that anything, absolutely anything, Andrew Murray and Seumas Milne suggest for  Labour’s Brexit plans,  will look reasonable.
  • The Party has decided to follow Chantal Mouffe’s Left Populist strategy of hegemonically uniting  Gammon discursive articulations, with the most advanced sections of the labour movement,  through a chain of equivalences, in a People’s Brexit.
  • The WTO, as identified by cde Aaron Bastani, is the most advanced form of capitalist accelerationism whose rules will ensure the swift coming of total luxury communism –  faster than Novara Media’s Griffin farms in Norway.
  • Roger Griffiths and his mates have never got over the 1970s Alternative Economic Strategy and its protectionist proposals.
  • The CPB actually believes this load of old cobblers.

The Central Committee of Tendance Coatesy is in permanent session debating our response.

On a serious note, it seems that the CPB is prepared to throw the Irish people to the Unionist wolves.

 

As Tory Crisis Turns to Jeeves and Wooster Farce Labour Should Fight Brexit in Campaign for Election.

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Tories Debate Theresa May’s Future and Brexit.

Fintan O’Toole considers that the paranoid fantasy behind Brexit has now turned into a Marx Brothers Farce (Brexit looks like it was written by Marx Brothers).

Turning to the classics of the labour movement others would suggest that P.G.Wodehouse offers a better guide.

Aunt Agatha May is still trying the marry the Conservatives to a Mr Withdrawal.

Tory MPs meet today at the Drones Club to decide on the fate of this leader.

Fink-Nottle Mogg (MP, Market Snodsbury) whines that the British newt industry is threatened.

Roderick Spode Johnson wants to build a Giant Collapsible Channel Bridge to stem links with Europe.

Madeleine Basset says,  ‘Today I danced on the lawn before breakfast, and then I went round the garden saying good morning to the flowers.'”

There is not the slightest likelihood of a Jeeves shimmering into view, full of fish suppers, to sort out their difficulties.

As Labour is poised to offer an alternative to the Conservatives the most important thing is to have proper left-wing policy on Brexit.

We have had enough of the Heralds of the Red Dawn of Lexit

We have had enough of those who talk of a “real” working class, the left behind, all, apparently Leavers, to lend support for their ‘raise the drawbridge on Europe.

We have had enough of the belief that a go-it-alone Socialist Britain would be a Beacon for the World.

We are fed up with the pretence that Labour will negotiate a “better deal”, slightly less ruinous than the present one.

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Labour needs to take account of the “other Britain” of urban, multinational poor working class and lower middle class districts, and the majority of the labour movement,, across the country, which opposed Brexit. Not to mention the growing anti-Brexit constituency as a whole.

Another Europe is Possible has called for opposition to Brexit and a People’s Vote to be part of Labour’s campaign and manifesto.

This letter published in the Guardian summed up the stand:

“To quote the official policy passed at Labour conference 2018, we want “a radical government: taxing the rich to fund public services, expanding common ownership, abolishing the anti-union laws and engaging in massive public investment”.

As the party of working people, Labour must defend all the rights threatened by Brexit – workers’ rights, environmental protections, free movement. With the Tory deal published, the realities of Brexit are clearer than ever. Fighting effectively for a radical Labour government means committing to giving the people a final say, and campaigning for remain in that referendum.

In Europe, just as in domestic policy, Labour must offer a radical alternative to the status quo. Our movement must champion a revolt across the continent against austerity, neoliberalism and anti-migrant policies and for a democratic, socialist Europe.

Labour’s policy is shifting, but is not yet committed to stopping Brexit. We will continue the campaign to win Labour to a vision for a radical government leading the fight to transform Europe from within the EU. To this end, and to provide anti-Brexit Labour supporters with a platform, organising framework and programme of activity, we intend to create an independent campaigning coordination within the campaign for a Corbyn-led Labour government.

Today Paul Mason joins the debate, giving some indications of what our aims should be.

Labour should prepare to fight neoliberalism within the EU – Lexit is not an option

Paul Mason, “The cancellation of Brexit and the election of Jeremy Corbyn would transform the mood in Europe.”

At a Europe-wide level, if the UK remains, Labour should announce that, in government, it would form an alliance of left governments inside the EU pushing for the complete reform of the Lisbon Treaty. The aim would be a new treaty, removing competition rules which promote privatisation and outsourcing, and modifying the state aid rules to allow both a national and a Europe-wide industrial strategy to support high-tech jobs, innovation and growth.

As a non-Euro member, there is little a left government could do directly to counter the way Germany games the Eurozone to promote jobs and growth at home, while maintaining austerity and poverty in the periphery. But it could promote, at Commission level, the policy of fiscal stimulus designed specifically to counteract the misdesign of the single currency.

Here, the recent manifesto published by Thomas Piketty is worth a look. It proposes tax rises of €400bn, mainly on corporations and the assets of the rich, and spending the revenue on innovation, democratisation and the integration of migrants.

This manifesto took up a whole page in le Monde yesterday..((.Nous lançons aujourd’hui un appel pour transformer les institutions et les politiques européennes »)

I did not notice any British signatories…..

Yet.

The upside is that it would create, at a pan-European level, both money and democratic control for fiscal stimulus and a redistributive programme. The downside is that it is explicitly designed to avoid a “transfer union” – whereby rich countries pay for public services in poor ones. But unless it becomes a transfer union, the Eurozone is simply a union for transferring wealth and growth from the periphery to the north European centre.

At the very least, a left-led Labour government could constructively join the discussion around Piketty’s manifesto. Events are moving so fast, and uncertainty so high, that people have barely registered what a remarkable change for Europe the withdrawal of Article 50 would be.

A left-wing Labour government, with a mandate to cancel Brexit and reform the EU, would radically transform Europe. Because, whatever happens to Piketty’s plan, it would come to power on a programme of fiscal expansion and redistribution, intending to overcome any Brussels-mandated obstacles to nationalisation and industrial policy. It would change the atmosphere. It would empower the parties of the left at national level, and could immediately engage Labour-controlled cities with the innovative left administrations of Barcelona, Berlin and Amsterdam.

There are many obstacles to cross: May has to go, her deal has to be defeated, the Tory party has to fall apart and – either in an election or in a second referendum – the xenophobic backlash has to be defeated.

But the British left has to stop dreaming about Lexit. One of the things we have genuinely learned from the process of trying to leave the EU is the extensive nature of its status as a regulatory superpower. Even a Britain ruled by the Socialist Workers Party and the Morning Star would find itself forced to comply with Commission directives. Paradoxically, a left exit from Europe is only possible if Europe itself goes left.

For two-and-a-half years Labour has dutifully and painfully tried to make Brexit work. But parliament has been sidelined, time has run out, and the space for a Labour-designed version of Brexit has disappeared. If anybody has betrayed Brexit it is Theresa May. Once her deal is thrown out, the moral authority of the 2016 referendum evaporates. It’s then either no deal or no Brexit.

And if it’s no Brexit, watch the blood drain from the faces of European neoliberalism: I’ve been with Jeremy Corbyn as he’s hit both Brussels and the Hague with messages of uncompromising clarity: neoliberalism is over, austerity is a catastrophe. But to the stunned audience of centrist social democrats, Corbyn’s words always seemed like a message from afar. If we play this right, we can take it into the heart of Europe.

Exactly.

People’s Brexit Meeting – for “a socialist economy off the shores of Europe”, free of “German Capital” and “Cheap Labour”.

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People’s Brexit Promises a Socialist Economy off the Coast of Europe.

 

Larry Elliot, writes in the Guardian today,

The left needs to work on its own plan to rebuild our economy, and that will be easier after Brexit.

 …there is an opportunity to do things differently, to exploit the policy space that Brexit affords and tackle the structural problems that have plagued the economy for decades. The right has its plan: more liberalisation. It is time for the left to come up with its own vision that would deploy every available policy tool to modernise the economy, rebuild Britain’s industrial space and spread prosperity more widely.

Such a transformation is much more likely to happen outside the EU than inside. That’s because the two most significant UK imports from the rest of Europe – German industrial goods and cheap labour – have helped to bend the economy out of shape by holding back the manufacturing sector and encouraging the growth of low-wage service sector jobs. It is possible to do better than that.

The economy is out of kilter because of “German industrial goods” and “cheap labour” (that is migrants).

The Socialist People’s Brexit will see off these foreign imports!

We’ll have our very own socialism off the shores of Europe!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 23, 2018 at 1:49 pm

The Independent Backs Referendum on Brexit Deal.

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Britain in the EU is the best chance to constrain the power of big money and big business.

Amongst continuing chaos on the Brexit right and left this is worth flagging up: how some of the leading ideologues of Leave are now becoming disaster theorists.

In the Great Deception (643 pages long, long) Christopher Booker (who is also a climate change denier) and Richard North argued that that British membership in the EU is a “slow-motion coup d’etat” with an “agenda of subordination” to invasive centralised regulation that is economically harmful to the UK. “an entirely new form of government, one which was supra-national’ beyond the control of national governments, politicians or electorates” Everything else would become subordinate to this entity.

Those who have plodded through its weary pages, and bothered to retain more than the name of Jean Monnet (there are 3 other apocalyptic horsemen, Arthur Salter, Altero Spinelli and Paul-Henri Spaak), will probably remember only that the project the authors refer to was a United States of Europe. 

And that it was doomed, “…like the vision of Le Corbusier and a much grander scale, it would eventually leave a great devastation behind it: wasteland from which it would take many years for the peoples of Europe to emergence.”

The Great Deception, Can the European Union survive? Christopher Booker. Richard North. 2017 ‘Referendum’ Edition (First published 2005).

It seems, nevertheless, that now it’s the Brexit victory that can claim to have created a desert and called it their peaceful victory.

As both authors now say.

Theresa May’s Brexit proposal is so detached from reality that it can only end in disaster. CHRISTOPHER BOOKER (1)

It is this context which makes the Independent’s call today make sense.

The referendum gave sovereignty to the British people, so now they deserve a final say on the Brexit deal

Independent.

Morally, emotionally even, another referendum is needed to help bind up the wounds of the past two years

The Independent today launches a campaign to win for the British people the right to a final say on Brexit. Come what may in the months ahead, we maintain our commitment to our readers to retain balance and present many different points of view. But on this subject we believe a referendum on the final deal is right. We do so for three reasons.

First, amid the chaos of recent months, one thing has become increasingly clear: Theresa May’s approach – and indeed the chaos in parliament – is not working. We are simply not close enough to resolving so many big issues about which people care so much. The enormity of the task, the contradictions in both major parties and the ferocious divisions in their ranks have now stretched our parliament to its limits, to the point where the impasse leads us ever closer to an “accidental” Brexit, as foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt most recently acknowledged, without a deal.

Second, sovereignty rests with the people – the people should have the opportunity to finish what they began, to pause and consider whether they still want to go ahead with the Brexit course we’re on, just as they would any other major decision in their lives.

Third, while there are questions about the validity of another referendum – shouldn’t the original outcome be delivered? – we clearly know more now than we did in 2016, amid such deeply flawed campaigns on both sides. Ignoring these shortcomings and ploughing on regardless is a far bigger problem for democracy. Faced with the current turmoil in our politics, and with dangers ahead coming into focus, it is surely undemocratic to deny people a chance to express their opinion afresh.

The Independent also publishes this important commentary on Corbyn’s Labour Brexit speech by Nick Dearden, director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now.

It makes many of the points those backing The Left Against Brexit would make, but is too sanguine about the lingering influence amongst the Labour leadership of the view that Parliament, embodying Popular Sovereignty, can effectively work socialist wonders free from the kind of pooled sovereignty the EU works with. Those Corbyn listens to include influential voices from the ‘British Road to Socialism’ tradition which believes not only that, but that the EU is a particularly hard form of what used to be known (pre-Trump) as “neo-liberalism”.

Corbyn was brave enough to tackle the reasons why people voted for Brexit – and now he’s being savaged for it.

Nick Dearden

The real criticism you might make of Corbyn’s speech is that it’s not radical enough. After all, much of this analysis is common sense in many parts of Northern Europe where “industrial strategy” and “economic intervention” have not been dirty words for the past four decades. But Corbyn pushes the envelope, for instance insisting that those businesses who benefit from government intervention must be held to account for their levels of pay equality, for their climate impacts, for what happens in their supply chain.

This couldn’t be further from Donald Trump’s vision of the world. In fact, Corbyn explicitly eschews Trump’s protectionist trade wars. But, as economist Dani Rodrik consistently argues, if you want low tariffs and an open economy without high levels of inequality and poverty, you must have strong regulation on big business, coupled with high levels of investment and welfare. The alternative is a free-for-all for big money.

That’s what we’ve lived through in Britain – a “market knows best” approach in which all that mattered was slashing regulation and liberalising the economy. That’s what drove Brexit, and indeed it’s what is driving far-right votes in the US and elsewhere. Sadly, it’s not being listened to by the government because the hard Brexit being successfully pushed by Liam Fox and Jacob Rees-Mogg would turbocharge this model.

I want the EU to survive because I believe it can fulfil the dream of some of its founders to promote peace and equality. I want Britain in the EU because I believe it’s the best chance to constrain the power of big money and big business, to fight climate change, and to offer an alternative to the rise of Trumpism. That’s why I’m speaking at the Left Against Brexit tour in Liverpool tonight.

But it is a fantasy to think the EU can do any of this without serious top-to-bottom transformation. The EU has embraced far too much of the “market knows best” philosophy – often pushed by the British government. As a result it is coming apart at the seams, and before too long, Brexit will be the least of Brussel’s worries.

That’s why the policy direction Corbyn announced yesterday should not be seen as an attack on the EU. Rather it gives much-needed direction for the union as a whole. Only a Europe which embraces some of the changes set out by Corbyn yesterday has a hope of surviving. There is no going back to the day before the EU referendum— we either embrace fundamental economic reform, or we lose to the false promises of the growing far right.

John Rogan  signals this useful thread on the issues the speech dealt with.

Corbyn Backs Britain and a Labour Brexit: “Build it in Britain Again.”

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“Build It In Britain Again”.

“Labour leader outlines UK-first strategy as he sets out plan for post-Brexit industrial revival”

Corbyn’s Full Speech

Because Labour is committed to supporting our manufacturing industries and the skills of workers in this country we want to make sure the government uses more of its own money to buy here in Britain.

The state spends over £200 billion per year in the private sector.

That spending power alone gives us levers to stimulate industry, to encourage business to act in people’s interests by encouraging genuine enterprise, fairness, cutting edge investment, high-quality service and doing right by communities.

But to ensure prosperity here we must be supporting our industries, making sure that where possible the government is backing our industries and not merely overseeing their decline.

These are some further statements:

A Labour Brexit could provide real opportunities as well as protections for our exporters.

It’s not just that our new customs union would provide the same benefits that we currently enjoy in the EU’s customs union but our exporters should be able to take proper advantage of the one benefit to them that Brexit has already brought – a more competitive pound.

After the EU referendum result the pound became more competitive and that should have helped our exporters.

But they are being sold out by a lack of a Conservative Government industrial plan which has left our economy far too reliant on imports.

And,

The rise of finance is linked to the demise of industry.

Between 1970 and 2007 finance sector output grew from 5 per cent to 15 per cent of total economic output.

Manufacturing meanwhile decreased from 32 per cent to 12 per cent.

The next Labour government will rebalance our economy so that there is prosperity in every region and nation.

We will do this by setting up a national investment bank and a network of regional development banks to provide capital to the productive, real economy that secures good skilled jobs.

This speech coincides with the publication in New Left Review of an ambitious study of Corbyn’s political and economic strategy by Robin Blackburn, Older readers may recall that the author was once active in coming along to left wing meetings.

There is much wishful thinking on Blackburn’s views on how to “enhance popular resistance to, and potential control over, the accumulation process.” and promote democracy and popular superintendence of the social surplus and how it is invested.”

But more immediately relevant is a description of the policy advisers behind the Labour Leader and his ally, John McDonnell.

McDonnell’s economic advisory team has seen some turnover but seems to have reconsolidated since the 2017 election, with 39-year-old James Meadway, former senior economist at the NEF, playing a central role.

At the NEF, Meadway’s paper ‘Why We Need a New Macro-Economic Strategy’ portrayed the UK as ‘chained to a dysfunctional, over-exposed financial system that is symbiotically linked to a weak real economy’—‘a weak economy sucks in imports, requiring finance; a continual demand for financing helps support a bloated financial system’, leaving policy-making overly vulnerable to investors’ demands.

‘The key to breaking the grip of austerity is to undermine the financial sector’, Meadway argued. ‘The key to undermining the financial sector, in turn, is to reinforce the real economy.’ Tools to shrink and reshape the financial sector could involve debt cancellation and breaking up the banks. Those for strengthening the productive economy included not only the orthodox notion of a State Investment Bank—the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland could be used to finance projects with clear public objectives—but also more unconventional policies: injections of Quantitative Easing cash directly into real economic activity, such as financing Dieter Helm’s £500bn project for green infrastructure: ‘used wisely and sparingly’, popular QE could be ‘a major blow against the domination of private finance over public economic outcomes’.

Robin Blackburn. The Corbyn Project. New Left Review. No 11. May/June 2018.

To get a flavour of this we cite the following -from the recommendations in Why we Need a New Macro-Economic Strategy.

Introduce capital controls. By making movements of capital in and out of the UK more expensive, they become less desirable, reducing speculation Measures like an emergency tax on capital inflows; unremunerated reserve requirements; legal restrictions on derivatives positions and restrictions on overseas ownership of residential property could manage the flows of capital to attract more stable investments.

We note (which Blackburn does not) the following conclusion from a histrionic denunciation of the EU by the same Meadway in 2015.

For those in the UK, two things are necessary. First is to support all those resisting new austerity measures, whatever the presumed character of the government. Second, to reject Britain’s continued membership of the EU. It is simply not possible for anyone in good conscience to offer their support to an institution so manifestly and comprehensively opposed to democracy and committed to enforcing neoliberalism – whatever the price paid by its victims. Internationalism demands that we do whatever we can to undermine the European institutions. In our own referendum, on British membership of the EU, the left must vote No.

James Meadway. Counterfire 2015.

There are many people advising John McDonnell, including those, whom out-of-touch Robin Blackburn appears not to have heard of,  like Prem Sikka (Tax-haven transparency won’t stop money laundering in Britain Guardian May 2018) and those he has, Ann Pettifor (although there are good  grounds for believing she has not had had any results for her advocacy of radical Keynesianism).

One can see Sikka’s concerns (part of a group studying the issues)  in Corbyn’s phrases about the need to  “chase dodgy money out of the financial system” ,  “Getting the dirty money out of the City of London” and a ” financial transaction tax”.

But there is little doubt that Meadway’s argument for a “productive” economy, within a national framework has an echo not just with the Shadow Chancellor but with Corbyn and his advisers, Andrew Murray, and his spokesperson, Seamus Miline.

Or, that is the conclusion one draws from today Corbyn speech: titled Build it in Britain.

It is hard to see how any of the proposals, hard to give a concrete form other than a wish to give British companies priority in government procurement and contracts, fulfill this ambition,

“It is about changing course so that people feel real control over their local economy and have good jobs that produce a consistent rise in pay and living standards, in every part of the UK.”

But there are deeper economic problems:

This is a good summary.

Corbyn went full Trump in his latest speech about the benefits of Brexit – from an economic standpoint, that’s alarming.

Ben Chu

The Resolution Foundation this week shows incomes for the worst off in Britain are no higher than they were 15 years ago. Reshoring low-value manufacturing will not help such people, and will not restore depressed communities to economic health.

The reason for the record drop in the pound on the night of the referendum was a rush of expectation across financial markets that the UK economy will be considerably weaker outside the EU’s single market and customs union. There’s no long-term economic benefit implied in the currency slump – only cost.

Yet, in fairness to Corbyn, it’s not mad to suggest that a weaker pound should be providing a short-term lift for manufacturing firms. Even the Bank of England has suggested that UK manufacturers have been in something of a “sweet spot”, with sterling weak but Britain still, for now, remaining in the EU’s economic institutions.

More troubling are Corbyn’s comments on imports. “We’ve been told that it’s good, advanced even – for our country to manufacture less and less and instead rely on cheap labour abroad to produce imports, while we focus on the City of London and the finance sector,” he lamented.

There’s nothing wrong with promoting a rebalancing of the UK economy away from its 30-year over-reliance on finance. Yet the implication that the UK would benefit from churning out manufactured products domestically that are currently made in the developing world is nonsense.

New research from the Resolution Foundation this week shows incomes for the worst off in Britain are no higher than they were 15 years ago. A major part of the reason is that low-skilled men have seen their weekly hours collapse. Reshoring low-value manufacturing will not help such people. Nor will it restore depressed communities to economic health. That is the kind of con artist’s fantasy that Donald Trump has been spinning to US steel workers in the American rust belt.

The only sensible and feasible vision for the future of UK manufacturing is a high value added one, using skilled workers, cutting-edge equipment and, if necessary, foreign investment and expertise.

Corbyn’s reference to “cheap labour abroad” smacks of the beguiling creed of economic nationalism. His remarks may not be explicitly anti-foreigner but they are still resonant of Trump-style tirades against corporate outsourcing.

Labour List makes the following point which should be underlined:

The key words “cheap labour” were taken out of context to make it seem as if Corbyn had blamed migrant workers for the UK’s economic woes. This is what he actually said: “We’ve been told that it’s good, even advanced, for our country to manufacture less and less and to rely instead on cheap labour abroad to produce imports while we focus on the City of London and the financial sector.” He was talking about imports made abroad with cheap labour, not cheap labour here in the UK.

Pressure Grows on Labour to Oppose Brexit.

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Image result for brexit cartoon june 2018

#StopToryBrexit – A Final Say For The Many.

The Conservative Party is now in open warfare over the terms of Brexit,

Michael Gove has literally ripped up Theresa May’s plan for a new customs partnership with the EU. To the surprise of the officials present, Gove tore the document in two at a meeting on Wednesday night.

Customs will be one of the biggest bones of contention at the Chequers. I understand that there is talk that the model favoured by Brexiteers, MaxFax, might be altered to include tariff alignment with the EU.

But if that’s the case, then Britain won’t be able to have a proper, independent trade policy. One of the Brexiteers close to the discussions warns that this is the ‘breaking point of what people are prepared to accept’.

Michael Gove rips up Theresa May’s customs plan 

Meanwhile the call for a People’s Brexit from anti-EU left (A People’s Brexit that unites the left is the only way to confront an increasingly bold neoliberal mafia, argues Lindsey German) is increasingly marginalised.

The assertion that shouting  “taking back control” would inspire a post-Brexit radical movement  is dead in the water.

Only the far-right has benefited, launching its own campaigns.

The idea that a Sovereign Parliament, free from EU rules will be then able  to turn the capitalist system into a Beacon of Socialism is crumbling faced with the prospect of disrupted production and distribution chains. What kind of ‘independent tariff policy’ with bargaining power is possible in the post neo-liberal world of Trump’s Trade Wars.

Only on the fringes  only those still wedded to the idea of ‘ourselves alone’, a Britain perhaps reinvigorated by Pharaonic  irrigation projects –  the removal of the surplus urban population to dig canals and grow rice in the countryside, continue on, regardless.

Then there remains the issue, which the pro-Brexit Trade Unionists Against the EU campaign and their allies in the Morning Star and the Socialist Party have failed to respond to, of the £54,000 donation the front received from far-right millionaire Arron Banks donated to their cause.

The Labour Party is now debating the serious issues that Brexit creates.

In the New Statesman PATRICK MAGUIRE comments,

 

The campaign for a second Brexit referendum is fatally flawed but it could still hurt Labour

There is undoubtedly a significant gap between Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Brexit and the softer one most of the membership would prefer. Recent polling shows that 87 per cent would like to see the UK remain in the single market, and 78 per cent want a referendum on the final deal.

 

In other words, the only thing keeping the line behind Corbyn is fear of public division, not any popular left wing support for a Popular Brexit tailored to help a radical left government implement its programme.

 

Some in Labour are now speculating the campaign for a second referendum – or People’s Vote, to use its sickly-sweet brand name – could similarly dominate this year’s conference.

There is good reason to think so. The failure of Tory rebels to deliver MPs a meaningful vote on the final deal has given impetus to the campaign at the grassroots. Lots of constituency Labour parties are largely Europhile, and activists from 62 of them have already promised to table a motion demanding a second referendum.

As my colleague Stephen says in his column this week, it’s a given that the leadership won’t acquiesce. If it is voted on, then it may well be that Corbyn’s distance from his members on Brexit will be much harder to hide. If chicanery from his allies prevents a potentially embarrassing vote on Brexit for the second year in a row, then attention will be drawn to the gap anyway.

The campaign has many shortcomings. There is no majority in the parliamentary Labour party, nor the Commons, for a second referendum, and its advocates are making the same mistake as David Cameron: what happens if they lose? While the 2016 referendum left room for ambiguity on the shape of the Brexit deal, there would be no doubt as to what an endorsement of the government’s deal meant. Despite them, it is still likely to cause headaches for Labour.

The probable shape of a  ‘final deal’ is something no Labour leadership should accept.

What can we then do?

The last paragraph makes some serious strategic points, but faced with disaster that is Brexit you can’t help feeling that many will consider that the gamble is worth it.

Growing pressure on Jeremy Corbyn from Momentum to turn against Brexit

Financial Times. , (today)

Momentum, the grassroots political movement that helped to sweep Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of Britain’s Labour party, is putting growing pressure on him to turn against Brexit and even push for a referendum on the final deal.

At last September’s Labour conference, Momentum played a key role in preventing delegates from voting on the party’s Brexit position (and we note, specifically on Freedom of Movement).

But this year, by contrast, several Momentum members said it could take the opposite role and force a vote among delegates on whether there should be a “people’s vote” on the final Brexit deal.

“Labour’s leadership fears that any tilt towards being anti-Brexit could cost the party the support of working-class voters in Wales, the Midlands and the North.” – not to mention that key Corbyn’s advisers such as Andrew Murray of UNITE are pro-‘People’s Brexit’.

This is the crucial point, “But the leadership of Momentum, while currently supporting Mr Corbyn’s position, is facing an upswelling of anti-Brexit sentiment among its membership of largely younger, more urban, supporters. One member of the shadow cabinet said the mood was changing and a general election could be won without the support of Brexiters. “There are people who want to keep the strategic ambiguity, there is a fear that if we are pushed too far on this it could screw up Labour’s electoral chances,” added one senior figure inside Momentum. “It’s possible that there could be an electoral route through being pro-Remain and that wouldn’t lose us votes, but it would be a risk.”

At a meeting of the Momentum version of its Central Committee,

Sam Tarry, political officer from the TSSA union, made an argument for a second referendum, while Mr McDonnell spoke against. With the attendees at odds over the issue they eventually agreed to put off a final decision until September.

The  petition of Momentum members calling for a second referendum stands (today) at 2,703 Signatures Collected. It needs just above 4,000 — 10 per cent of the group’s membership — to oblige a vote of all members.

It appears that Momentum supporters, as befits a left-wing organsiation, are more pro-Remain than even the heavily pro-EU Labour membership.