Monday, 9 July 2018

Labour Should Demand a General Election to Stop Brexit

As I wrote on Saturday, the events at Chequers, on Friday, were a charade. The aim of the Brextremists is just say and do anything that results in Brexit Day, on 29th March next year, coming and going, so that Britain is officially out of the EU. Then they will have a free hand; every agreement made, promise given will be torn up, as they push through a hard Brexit, and begin to implement their hard right plans for ripping up workers, consumers and environmental rights and protections. The drive, over the last two years, towards a more authoritarian government, as with the Tory right's alignment with the world's dictators such as Duterte, Erdogan and Bonapartist politicians like Trump and Netanyahu will be put in its historical context, as they require such “strong and stable leaders” to inflict their measures on society, as society wakes up to what is happening and begins to resist. 

The resignation of David Davis is just the sacrifice of a pawn in this strategy. Already Davis has been replaced by the even more Brextreme Dominic Raab, and it looks likely that Steve Baker will be replaced by the uber Brextreme Suella Braverman. Over the weekend, the strategy of the Brextremists, I outlined on Saturday, continued to unfold, as one after another they appeared on TV to present the Chequers deal as the softest Brexit possible, which, if the EU rejected, would mean that it left Britain only with the option of walking away immediately on the basis of no deal. Already, the RINOS (Rebels in Name only) like Anna Soubry appear to have caved in to accept the duplicitous form of words that May has come up with once more, in the Chequers deal. That in itself indicates the folly of those who would ally themselves with these people to prevent Brexit, in the People's Vote campaign. 

It illustrates the folly of those engaging in the People's Vote popular frontist campaign for a second referendum. We do need to stop Brexit, but to do so, we need Labour to demand a General Election on that basis. In stopping Brexit, we need to do so not on the basis that the Tory Remainers, Liberals and Blairites propose, of simply accepting the conservative social-democratic principles that currently underpin the EU, but on the basis of a struggle in combination with the working-class and labour movement, across the EU, for an overturning of those principles, and, at least, for a return to the progressive social-democratic principles that were the basis of the EEC up to the 1980's, and better still, for a struggle for a Workers Europe, and the creation of a United Socialist States of Europe. 

Those who argue that Labour cannot campaign in a General Election on the basis of stopping Brexit are wrong. Brexit damages the interests of the working-class; not just the interest of the working-class in Britain, but the interests of the working-class across Europe. A principled social-democratic party, let alone a socialist party, should always stand on the basis of defending workers interests, whatever the short term electoral impact. But, the fact is that those who argue that standing on a programme of stopping Brexit would lose the support of Labour voters in the North and Midlands are simply wrong. All of the evidence shows that Labour voters in those areas voted overwhelmingly AGAINST Brexit. They did so in only slightly lower proportions than they did elsewhere in the country. Those analyses were done by John Curtice and the BES on the basis of those who voted Labour in 2015. Measured against those who voted Labour in 2017, which included a large number of younger voters (under 50), as well as former Liberal and Green voters, the proportion opposing Brexit is even larger. 

Those who make the argument that opposing Brexit would cause Labour to lose votes in the North, make the mistake of confusing Labour voters with the sections of the precariat and other atomised layers of society, who have never been core Labour voters. Their social position has always meant that their individualistic outlook actually makes them often hostile to the organised Labour movement and the principles it represents. Its those social layers that, as Marx sets out in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, are always the ones attracted to “strong leaders”, who offer simple solutions based upon reactionary principles, and the blaming of “the other”. If those within these social layers have ever voted Labour, it has always been on the basis of an unthinking, tribalist support, not any kind of proletarian class consciousness. Its that, which, in the past, enabled such layers to offer up such similar unthinking tribalist support to the Nazis in Germany, or to the BNP in Britain. But, most of the time, it simply results in such layers wallowing in apathy, and seething, but ineffectual resentment. Its plebiscites of the kind of the EU referenda that allow such reactionary nationalism to take centre stage, and the same is true of the Scottish Independence Referendum and the Catalan Independence Referendum, no matter how much national socialists might try to dress them up as outbursts of progressive proletarian outrage. 

Just look at what happened after the Scottish Independence Referendum. Those naïve lefts who claimed that it was some kind of proletarian uprising, on the coat-tails of which the Left would rise to prominence – just like it has sought to do in one single issue after another – should have been quickly disabused of that delusion. The Scottish far left has sunk into total oblivion; the nature of the nationalist vote, as essentially a disaffected Tory vote, has again been revealed, as a large chunk of the SNP vote has returned home to the Scottish Tories. The proponents of Lexit, or of an abstention in the Brexit referendum were even more deluded. The former openly aided and abetted the reactionaries, though fortunately not in any practical sense, because no one was even aware of their existence, whilst those proposing an abstention aided and abetted the reactionaries by omission, but whose existence was even more removed from the awareness of any of the voting public.  The consequences of both were immediately felt by the upsurge in racism and xenophobia, and its longer term effect is being felt by workers now, in the carnival of reaction that is Brexit.

The Brextremists, like Rees-Mogg, are wrong when they claim that a Brexit that leaves Britain in the Customs Union and Single Market is not Brexit. For years, UKIP and the Tory Brextremists argued against the fact that Britain had voted 2:1 in 1975 to join the EU, by claiming that all they had voted for was to join the EEC. Firstly that's wrong, because by 1975, the legislation had already been passed for the setting up of the EU by 1982. But, secondly, the Customs Union is the EEC. So, they should be supporting remaining in the Customs Union, on the basis of the arguments they put forward for the last 40 years. In the referendum, no one was asked whether they wanted to remain in the Customs Union, Single Market, Euratom, or any of the other 40 EU bodies that are vital to the UK economy. That is why plebiscites are a useless vehicle for democracy, and much loved by dictators. 

But, Rees-Mogg and the Brextremists are right that a Brexit that leaves Britain inside a Customs Union and Single Market, but without any vote to determine the rules and regulations produced by those bodies is senseless. Some years ago, I described such a situation as making Britain a vassal state, in which it had to pay dues, and accept the rules of a larger state, but without any voting rights. That description was also used last year by Labour's Barry Gardiner, and more recently by Rees-Mogg. Its why Labour's position, as I have argued all along, is senseless. It represents the same kind of have cake and eat it that Bojo and the Brextremists originally argued, whereby somehow Britain could be outside all of the EU bodies and the requirements that go with that, and yet still have all the advantages of still being a member of those bodies. Its like someone who wants to be outside a Trades Union, avoid having to pay the subs, attend meetings, go on strike etc., but who wants to have every advantage that union members themselves enjoy! Any union that agreed to that would quickly disappear. 

That is why, as I have said all along, the advice of the EU itself from the beginning, is the only real set of alternatives. That is, it is hard Brexit or no Brexit. 

Labour should demand a General Election to stop Brexit. The real problems facing workers in Britain cannot be resolved by Brexit. Not only is it a diversion from the real solutions to those problems, but it will make providing solutions much harder. It will immediately and significantly worsen workers living standards and rights. But, more importantly, the solutions to British workers problems can only be addressed at an EU wide level. Its on that basis that Labour should wage its election campaign. Labour should demand a General Election to stop Brexit, and it should do so on the basis of a programme for progressive social-democracy across the EU. It should unashamedly link up with progressive social-democrats across Europe, with Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the Left Bloc in Portugal and with the left-wing elements of the Socialist Parties in France, Germany, Italy etc. 

The problems that face workers in Britain are the same as those that face workers in Ireland, Germany, France, Italy etc. Those problems have been created over the last 30 years by the policies of conservative social-democrats, be it Thatcher or Blair in Britain, Chirac or Hollande in France, Schroder or Merkel in Germany. Its those politicians that implemented policies to favour the owners of fictitious capital, at the expense of real capital. Its they who have blown up astronomical asset price bubbles that create instability, whilst draining potential investment from real capital. It's their policies that drove the EU into the insanity of austerity, at the same time as printing trillions of Euros to inflate asset prices. They are the same forces joined together now in the People's Vote popular front. The workers across the EU should have nothing to do with them. 

A People's Vote would have all of the same undemocratic limitations as the first vote. It would mean a vote to stay in the EU, was effectively a vote to continue with all of those conservative social-democratic policies that created the problems that exist today. No to a People's Vote, Yes to a General Election to Stop Brexit and move forward to a Workers Europe

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