Friday, 24 June 2016

W(h)ither Britain

I would have been highly delighted had my prediction that Britain would vote to leave the EU been proven wrong. But, as I wrote yesterday, I never thought it would be proved wrong, despite the belief of the opinion polls, and financial markets that Remain would win.

As I pointed out some time ago, the British electorate is made up of around 5% who are fascists or hard core racists, and a further 25% who are bigots. That was born out by this referendum. The turnout was 72%, and the leave vote was 52%. In other words, 37.5% of the population voted for Leave, whose campaign by general consent became not about the EU, but purely about immigration, and which descended further and further into the swamp of racism and xenophobia as time went on. That 37.5% was comprised of the 30% mentioned above, plus a further 7% plus who opposed the EU on other conservative, nationalist grounds, and between 0.2 – 0.5% who voted on the national socialist arguments put forward by so called Lexit.

In a blog post today, Paul Mason has argued that its wrong to claim that 50% of the population are racists or bigots. True, but as stated above, around 30% of the population are. That doesn't mean that the majority of such people want to put all foreigners into the gas chamber, or that they are going to go out and abuse or attack them – though a small proportion of them will.

It is not necessarily racist to be concerned about immigration per se. Many people are, as paul also says, concerned about persistent levels of deprivation, about insecure employment, about lack of housing, schools, and hospitals What is racist, by definition, is to blame all of those deficiencies on immigration, to reach for that as an easy scapegoat, despite all of the facts, and despite the most obvious fact that all of those problems are the direct result of the austerity policis introduced by the Liberal-Tories after 2010, continued by Cameron after 2015, and in large part not challenged by the Blair-right wing of the Labour Party.

If anyone wants to know who to blame for this result it is those conservative politicians, including the Blair-rights, and the EU counterparts, who for the last 30 years have followed a policy of protecting th fictitious paper wealth of the owners of money-capital, at the expense of real productive-capital, and who, when the consequences of that bubble burst in 2008, responded by again protecting that paper wealth, whilst inflicting austerity and recession on to everyone else, the most graphic illustration of which was the treatment of Greece.

But the blame also lies with all those, who for decades were prepared to use immigration, and the EU, as an easy scapegoat. That applies most notably to the Tories and the gutter press, but it applies also to those Labour politicians who used weasel words to talk about “non-racist immigration controls” or managed migration. It unfortunately also applies to Paul Mason himself, who more recently has proposed limits on the free movement of labour. If you lie down with dogs, you catch fleas.

I have written many times, in the past, about this huge reservoir of bigotry that exists out there. If you move in enlightened middle-class circles, or think that the activists at your union branch and so on represent the wider public, you will not see it. If you are a journalist or politician who thinks that making regular visits to deprived areas you get to understand, then again you will not see it.

You may hear the oft repeated “We're not racists, but ...”, and you may link this to all of those concerns, and conclude that those people are not racists, but you'd be wrong. Its not when people are being interviewed by journalists, or questioned by politicians that their true opinions come out, but when they are talking amongst themselves, and freely expressing their views, that the ingrained bigotry emerges. Its only when you hear that, as part of this milieu, in the workplace, in the sports centre, the gym, the pub and so on that the extent becomes clear.

And, because there has been decades of middle class journalists, politicians and clergy and others, not recognising that reality, even when it became manifest in support fort he BNP and UKIP, and instead insisted on telling us what a tolerant place Britain was, this cancer has never been addressed, but has been allowed to metastasise.

The last thing that Corbyn and the Labour Party should do now is to respond by following Paul Mason's advice to make even further concessions to that racism and bigotry. We need the Labour Party to be built on solid foundations. As I wrote yesterday, “Remain or Leave – The Fight Goes On”. The Labour Party still needs to forge links across the EU to oppose austerity, and that cannot done at the same time as trying to put the blame for that austerity on to foreign workers by talk of restrictions on free movement etc.

That becomes all the more important as the first effects of the Brexit vote has been to send the Pound and stock markets into a tailspin. The Brexiters have spoken about the Pound's fall in typically facile tones. They have tried to make a virtue out of a necessity, by claiming a lower Pound is good for exports. Let's examine what that means. It means that where previously, say one UK car exchanged for one German car, if the Pound halves in value, then two UK cars exchange for one German car. That certainly does mean the UK built car is then cheaper, and should be easier to sell. But, now its necessary to build and sell two UK cars, simply to get one German car in exchange for it, and that applies to any other German, EU, or other foreign produced commodity.

It means to import the same amount of food, energy and other commodities that workers require, British workers have to work twice as hard, produce twice as much as they previously did! No wonder the Tories and Ukippers like that option. But, its precisely for that reason that Labour and British workers need to build unity across Europe and to build an EU wide solution.

In fact, responsibility resides with the Blair-rights who failed to build such a perspective, and even during this campaign stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories and their austerity policies. Rather than tackling the real problems, over the last twenty years, they ran away from them, and devolution was a case in point. It only acted to encourage fragmentation, nationalism and division.

In the aftermath of the vote, the SNP is raising the call for a new Scottish referendum. It is, of course, quite rational. If England and Wales votes to leave the EU, but Scotland and Northern Ireland have voted decisively to remain, it is logical that these areas should leave the UK and remain in the EU. In fact, as John Bruton pointed out, the logical thing would be for Northern Ireland to become part of a United Ireland, inside the EU. That would also deal with the issue of the border.

London too voted decisively to remain, and as London has a population and GDP comparable to Norway, it would be rational to declare itself an independent city-state and to remain in the EU. That would leave Wales and the rump of England to sink into the sunset. Would I propose such a course of action? Absolutely not, for the same reason that I opposed Scotland leaving the UK, and the UK leaving the EU. Our task is to build the greatest possible unity of the working-class and that starts from where we are.


davidjc said...

When you from where we are, do you mean going into a quick general election on a Leave platform? Or do you think there's still the option to make the election a second 'double lock' referendum? I see the LibDems have come out as a pro EU party, which could be a threat to Labour's minority vote.

Boffy said...

I wasn't talking in electoral terms. I was talking about the strategic task of socialists of building maximum working class unity. I can well understand why someone who voted to Remain, would feel cheated by this Referendum, I do myself. But, the last thing to do in those circumstances is to respond out of spite.

The EU is not yet a state, but a state in the process of becoming. But Britain is a state, and the starting point is to maintain the greatest unity of workers within it. We can still orientate to workers in Europe, whilst doing so, and from there move to the reintegration of Britain into the EU, or preferably a United States of Europe. So, I see no basis for arguing for Scottish independence, or the creation of London as an independent city-state.

I do see the basis for a United Ireland. The North of Ireland is an artificial state created only under duress by British armed force. The majority in the North voted to remain, and the unity of the Irish working-class would be strengthened by re-uniting the North with the South, within the context of the protections provided by the EU.

Labour should continue to strongly make the case for Britian to remain in the EU, and for an extended struggle for the reform of the existing EU, and creation of a United States of Europe. That is a struggle that only someone like Corbyn can lead. The Blair-rights are tainted by the conservative policies of austerity that have weakened the EU, and led to this anti-EU vote in the first place. Ed Miliband pointed that out in a speech yesterday. The Labour Party would be strengthened if those Blair-right MP's left or were expelled.

The Labour In Campaign was led by Alan Johnson who was politically weak, and never seen. Hillary Benn was Shadow Foreign Secretary with responsibility for the EU, and again was politically weak and muddled in his message, and again hardly seen. On top of that we had various Blair-right MP's like Harman, and Saddiq Khan appearing on platforms with Cameron as the most right-wing Prime Minister for years. No wonder a third of Labour voters voting against the confused message they were putting out.

The party needs to coalesce around the clear, principled message that Corbyn was putting, and if that means a bunch of Blair-right MP's who have tried to organise a coup against the vast majority of Labour Party members have to be expelled, or decide to leave, that will be a good thing. We have half a million members who can easily replace those MP's come a General Election, and the ability to put a clear message without the Leader having to look over his shoulder will make us much stronger.