Monday, 25 April 2016

Brexit and US Hypocrisy

The supporters of Brexit accuse President Obama and the US of hypocrisy in calling for Britain to remain in the EU.  Obama and the US are guilty of hypocrisy for many things, but not on this.

The Brexiters argument is that Obama is calling on Britain to remain in the EU, and to pool its sovereignty with other EU countries, whilst they say the US would not open its borders and pool its sovereignty with Canada and Mexico.  The logic is faulty on so many levels.

Firstly, the United States is a country with a population of 322 million, as opposed to the UK population of just 64 million.  On that basis is is already more equivalent to the EU than the UK.  It has a land mass of 9.9 million sq. km., as opposed to just 242,000 for the UK.  Again, in terms of area, and all that goes with it in terms of natural resources, the US is already more comparable with the EU than with the UK.

In terms of its economy the difference is even more striking.  US GDP stands at $18 trillion, slightly behind EU GDP, of $18.5 trillion.  By comparison, UK GDP is tiny at just $2.9 trillion.  It is what makes the claims about the UK being the fifth largest economy highly misleading, as I set out recently.

But, of course, what the Brexiters fail to notice is that the US is more like the EU than the UK for one other simple reason.  It is already a federal state, of the kind that the EU is still only itself trying to develop into!  The clue is in the name - The United States of America.  It is already a Federal Republic that has brought together a former commonwealth and series of independent states, each of which have had to already pool their individual sovereignty into that of the federal republic.  It is one reason that, unlike Britain, the United States has no official language, at the federal level.

If we wanted to make a logical comparison it would not be between the position of the UK and the US as a whole, but of the UK with one of these individual states that comprise the United States.  A sensible comparison would be with say California.

California does have an official language - English.  Its area is 424,000 sq. km.  The population is 39 million.  Its economy is about the same size as that of the UK, at around $2.2 trillion.  So, all those arguing for Brexit should answer the question, do they think that California would be better off leaving the United States?

Moreover, Britain does not currently pool its sovereignty into EU sovereignty in anything like the way that US states pool their sovereignty into the federal republic.  The UK's pooling of sovereignty into the EU, is only slightly greater than the degree to which the US as a whole already does pool its sovereignty on a wider international scale.

The US already does have essentially open borders with both Canada and Mexico.  Its why draft dodgers in the 1960's, and many others at different times, have fled across the border into Canada.  It is why many Canadians commute into work in the United States.  It is also why Donald Trump and other right-wing populists make great play over wanting to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.

Moreover, besides the range of constraints on the US's sovereignty, voluntarily entered into in relation to the WTO, United Nations Treaties and so on, the US already has an open market with Canada and Mexico via NAFTA.  One consequence was that many jobs were exported to Mexico, which has benefited Mexican workers, who thereby gained employment.  But, in the longer term, it has also benefited US workers, who have thereby obtained many cheaper commodities required to meet their requirements, whilst the US is able to concentrate on using its resources on those kinds of commodities it can produce more effectively and sell to Mexico in exchange for those cheap goods.

And there is another important lesson to learn from the United States.  The coming together of those states, required a Civil War to achieve.  It cost the lives of 750,000 people.  The First and Second World Wars, were in reality, a series of separate conflicts, but in Europe, they were really about the same thing, an attempt to create a single European state under the domination of the powerful German economy, and the attempt by Britain to prevent it, just as it had stood against European unity by opposing Napoleon in the previous century.

Those conflicts represented the playing out in the realm of politics the objective need of modern industrial capitalism to operate in a large single economy, under the umbrella of a single central state. The EEC and now the EU, are a continuation of that process having learned the lessons of those previous conflicts.

To return to the question above, in this context, about whether the Brexiters would advocate the secession of California from the United States, we already have the answer from history.  In the US Civil War, the predecessors of today's conservatives, not only advocated, but physically assisted the confederacy in their attempt to split away from the North.  The Confederacy like its conservative supporters then and now, based themselves on the economic forces of the past, and the social forces that derived their wealth from it.  Marx and the British working-class put themselves on the side of Lincoln and the federal republic, not because they thought those forces were socialist, but because immediately they were the opponents of reaction, and objectively they were based on the economic forces of the future and the social forces whose fortune is dependent upon it, and which thereby is the foundation of future progress and the development of socialism.

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