Thursday, 15 August 2019

Would Swinson Really Save The Tories Yet Again

Liberal Leader, Jo Swinson, says the Liberals would not vote to support Jeremy Corbyn becoming a caretaker Prime Minister, in a Labour led government, established, solely, to prevent a No Deal Brexit, and bring about a General Election. That means that the Liberals, once more, are committed to saving the skins of a reactionary Tory government, and to enabling it to implement its reactionary policy of No Deal Brexit. The only thing the Liberals have had going for them, over the last three years, has been there opposition to the reactionary policy of Brexit, and they have only had that because of the terrible position that Labour adopted, over Brexit, during that time. Now that Corbyn has belatedly committed to stopping Brexit, is Swinson really saying that she will not support Labour in doing so, and will, instead, once again, save the skins of the Tories. I doubt her party, or voters would ever forgive her, or the Liberals, if that was the case. 

But, it would not be the first time the Liberals have done such a thing. In the 1970's, the Liberals withdrew from the Lib-Lab pact, and together with the Tartan Tories of the SNP, and bigots of the Ulster Unionists, they brought down the Labour government, resulting in the 1979 General Election, and the government of Thatcher. For 18 years, Thatcher, and then Major, wreaked havoc on the British economy, British society, and communities, up and down the country. In 1981, with the country going through a 1930's style depression, and unemployment in real terms around 6 million, the Tories were teetering on the brink of being driven from office. Their opinion poll ratings had collapsed, Labour under Michael Foot, was standing at 51% in the polls. 

Into those conditions, the Liberals and their fifth column inside the Labour Party, of what came to be called the SDP, worked to split Labour, and to split the anti-Tory vote. In doing so, they bought time for the Tories to regroup, and for Thatcher and the hard right to defeat the “Wets” in her party, before they rallied nationalistic support behind them via the Falklands War. It was Thatcher's government in the 1980's, along with that of her co-thinker, Reagan, in the US, that deregulated financial markets, and brought about the huge inflation of asset prices that continued through the 1990's, and into the early 2000's, which led to the financial crisis of 2008. 

And, when that global financial crisis created conditions, in which the Tories were able to lyingly lay the blame at the feet of Labour, in 2010, the Liberals tagged along behind the Tories, for their own short-term political gain. The Liberals in 2010, had argued that the Tories talk about Britain being like Greece, and on the back of which they justified their calls for austerity, were not just wrong, but dangerous. The Liberals were happy to lyingly blame Labour for the crisis, in order to bask in the shade of the Tories reflected light, but they also argued that it was too early to end the fiscal stimulus that Labour had introduced, and which had brought about economic recovery. But, as soon as the Tories offered leading Liberals ministerial positions, in a coalition government, those disagreements were quickly swept aside. 

The Liberals had only won an increased number of seats in 2010, because they had lyingly portrayed themselves as some kind of radical alternative to Blair-right Labour under Gordon Brown. They had promised to scrap university tuition fees, for example, and they made great play of their opposition to the Iraq War. But, once entrenched in their ministerial positions, the Liberals anxiously supported the Tories austerity measures, including the Bedroom Tax. Their Financial Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, was even described as being more Tory than the Tories, before his ministerial career, was quickly cut short by scandal. The Liberals, not only failed to demand that tuition fees be scrapped, but they voted for them to be tripled! Their opposition to the Iraq War, was quickly forgotten, when they voted to support the Tories war against Libya, which backed a handful of jihadists, supported by the feudal Gulf states, to overthrow Gaddafi, and which has resulted in Libya being thrown back decades, to become a failed state, riven with sectarian conflict and warlordism, which in addition has been a major source of people trafficking across the Mediterranean, into Southern Europe, which was a major factor in providing ammunition to nationalists and populists across the EU, including during the Brexit vote. 

As a result of their lying and treachery, the Liberals were appropriately rewarded in the 2015 General Election, by being almost wiped out. I predicted at the time they might be reduced to six MP's, which they only marginally beat. And, when Corbyn became Labour Leader in 2015, the chances of the Liberals or their sidekicks in the Greens, being able to portray themselves as radical alternatives to a Blair-right Labour Party disappeared completely. With large numbers of young and progressive voters seeing the only way of stopping a Tory Brexit, being to vote Labour in 2017, Corbyn was able to come within a hair's breadth of becoming Prime Minister. Certainly, it looked as though the Liberals and Greens would be quickly dispatched to the dustbin of history, as once again, as I had predicted, politics settled back into a struggle between two large parties themselves, reflecting a battle between two large class camps in society. 

It is then, all the more a tragedy that Labour under Corbyn squandered that opportunity over the last three years, by pursuing its own reactionary nationalist agenda over Brexit. Prior to the referendum, the EU, was an also ran concern of voters, as indeed was the question of immigration. It was the preserve of far right cranks and fanatics of the BNP and UKIP, who repeatedly received derisory votes in General Elections, and were only ever able to muster any kind of victories in low polls, when their fanatical supporters made sure they turned out to vote. But, the EU referendum, introduced by Cameron with Liberal support, purely for the purpose of internal Tory party management, to quell the right-wing extremists on the Tory benches, and their outriders in UKIP, changed all that. 

Corbyn did actually adopt a principled position in the referendum itself. He argued that Labour should remain inside the EU, and work to reform it. We cannot give a blank cheque to the EU's single market provisions that entrench the predominance of the free market over everything else, nor the rules on fiscal discipline that were used to isolate and undermine the radical social-democratic government of Syriza in Greece, and to impose swingeing austerity across the EU after 2010, as a means of bailing out the owners of fictitious capital, when the prices of their assets collapsed following the 2008, global financial crash, and the subsequent Eurozone Debt Crisis. As I wrote at the time, we needed a Socialist Campaign for Europe. However, having called the referendum solely for internal Tory Party management purposes, the Tory media, not surprisingly ignored anything that Labour had to say, and ignored the many meetings that Corbyn himself undertook during that campaign – indeed they did their best to repeat that during the 2017 General Election, but their attempts were prevented from succeeding by the role of social media in 2017, and the size of the Corbyn rallies, including at popular events such as Glastonbury. Labour's position in the 2016 referendum, was not just undermined by the fact that the Tory media, as expected, ignored Corbyn, but by the fact that Corbyn himself had appointed arch Blair-right Alan Johnson, to lead Labour's campaign. 

Its not surprising, then, that many people, offered the alternative of a Blair-right/Cameroon/Liberal EU, as against a Faragist Brexit, did not see a real choice between the two. As I said at the time of the referendum, the Faragists were likely to win, precisely because a referendum has the same effect as a low poll; it allows the fanatics to exercise a disproportionate effect on the result. The fanatics will always turn out to vote. The referendum gave the nationalist fanatics a reason to turnout to vote, encouraged by the fact that for years, the Tory media, had given air time to Farage, and other UKIP nonentities like Suzanne Evans, at every opportunity. For the Tory media, anxious to boost ratings, and readership, the internal squabbles inside he Tory party were the only thing they were interested in covering, almost as good for them as a good war, to boost their ratings. With the Tory Brextremists learning from the Tea Party in the US, to focus on their core vote, it was obvious that if they could turn out that core vote, and all of the periphery of fanatics, whilst the lacklustre offering of the Remain campaign could not, motivate its supporters, then Leave would win, and that is exactly what happened. 

In the aftermath of the referendum, and of the huge rise in support for Labour in 2017, the way forward should have been clear. A principled campaign, involving large scale mobilisations to oppose Brexit, and to link up with anti-austerity struggles and struggles against right-wing populism across Europe, would have consolidated Labour's position, and, the dominance of the Left within it. It would have undercut the ability of the Blair-rights to appeal to that large mass of progressive opinion inside Labour's membership and voters that is increasingly motivated by opposition to Brexit. Had Corbyn and the Labour leadership, alongside that also vigorously pursued the democratisation of the party, including the reintroduction of mandatory reselection, then the band of Blair-rights and right wing Labour MP's, Councillors and apparatchiks could have been removed, and a fighting Labour Party been built, ready to defeat the Tories, and sweep into office. But, Corbyn and the leadership did the opposite. They appeased the Blair-rights, including allowing the witchhunting of activists on the grounds of anti-Semitism; they allowed whole CLP's to be closed down, where they were democratically opposing right-wing Labour MP's; they argued against pressing forward with democratic reforms and mandatory reselection, thereby enabling the Blair-right MP's to remain in the overwhelming majority, and holding Corbyn to ransom; and whilst doing that, they also consciously set their face against the vast majority of Labour activists and voters, by committing to pursuing the reactionary Brexit policy! 

It is quite right, given this history, to be wary of Corbyn's belated conversion to opposing Brexit, and, even now, it is not clear what position Labour would put forward if a General Election is called. But, the fact remains that we are 80 days away from a possible Tory No Deal Brexit. I still believe that Johnson will not deliberately pull the trigger on that, because he knows, as does the EU, that it would be devastating to Britain, and would quickly bring down his government, and lead to Britain seeking an emergency re-entry to the EU. But, accidents in history do happen, as the immediate dynamic of events take over. Johnson has boxed himself into a corner, in which his only real option is to capitulate when October 31st. arrives. That would also spell his own personal political doom, and probably that of the Tories. In the meantime, there appears no guaranteed means of preventing a No Deal Brexit, if Johnson is forced by events into that path. 

A No Deal Brexit would lead to catastrophe; it would lead to civil unrest that would probably bring down the government, and lead to an emergency re-entry into the EU. But, the Tories, like Trump in the US, have been moving inexorably in the direction of Bonapartism. I wrote several years ago that Johnson was the epitome of that movement. It is not a coincidence that a hard right Tory, who supports capital punishment, and who has said that criminals should be terrified, has been appointed as Home Secretary, nor that Johnson has decided to employ 20,000 additional police, nor that they have put large numbers of troops on standby for after Brexit. These are precisely the kind of strong state Bonapartist measures that would be expected from a government that expects to face widespread public anger at its actions, along with the preparations already made to introduce martial law under the Civil Contingencies Act, after Brexit. 

It would be best to avoid such a situation, if possible, and that means that it is best to do everything to prevent Johnson being able to push through a No Deal Brexit. The only credible, and guaranteed means of doing that, currently, is to vote no confidence in the government, and to install a new government, with the sole purpose of stopping No Deal, and either revoking Article 50, or asking the EU for a further extension. At this stage, the best option is to simply revoke Article 50, because there is no guarantee that all 27 other EU countries would agree to a further extension. Revoking Article 50, now, and calling a General Election, clears the decks, and allows each party to set out its wares in that election. 

If the Tories wanted to fight the election on the basis of a No Deal Brexit, which they would have to do to prevent their vote haemorrhaging to the Faragists Brexit company, let them do so. They would undoubtedly be defeated. But, Labour would have to fight the election on the basis that having revoked Article 50, they would not seek to pursue Brexit. They would have to promise to fight alongside our European comrades for a progressive reform of the EU, and for the kind of progressive social-democratic agenda that Labour has been developing for Britain, to end austerity, and bring about regeneration of communities. 

Would Swinson really let the Tories off the hook, by not supporting a Corbyn caretaker government to stop Brexit, and call a General Election? Not likely. They would destroy themselves in the process, by destroying the only basis on which they have been able to resurrect themselves in the last two years – opposition to Brexit. The Liberal demands to be able to dictate who a caretaker Prime Minister should be are ridiculous. It is clearly only the opposition party that commands the large majority of MP's in parliament that can do that, and that is Labour. If Corbyn had not been proposing bringing down the Tories and creating a caretaker government, that would be a different matter. It would then have been a question of stopping Brexit, by forming a majority of MP's, in parliament, on that basis, and selecting an MP around which MP's from different parties could rally. 

That is no longer the case, now that Corbyn has put himself and Labour in the vanguard. Those who seek to stop Brexit now have the only credible option of forming up in ranks behind Labour, so as to bring down the Johnson, stop Brexit, and call a General Election. Its obvious why the Liberals do not want to do that. It is not about whether they trust Corbyn to do what he has promised. It is down to the fact that, if Corbyn does stop Brexit, and does call an election, in which Labour stands on a position to scrap Brexit, and implement a progressive social-democratic agenda, the Liberals brief resurrection, will be short-lived, and see them buried once more.

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