Thursday, 13 February 2020

Brexit And Windrush 2

Brexit was a reactionary agenda, pushed by right-wing nationalists, and supported by Little Englander nationalists, bigots, and xenophobes. That Lexiters trailed along behind these reactionary, right-wing nationalists does not mean that they too are reactionaries, right-wing, or that they are bigots or xenophobes. It does mean that they were deluded, in believing that their pleas for Brexit to be seen as in some way holding out a progressive perspective would not be drowned out by the overall reactionary clamour that Brexit was bound to generate. It does mean that, whatever the legitimacy of their own claims to be socialists, or even Marxists, their socialism was itself subordinated to their own nationalist prejudices, which means that the foundation of their socialist beliefs certainly did not reside in any genuine Marxism. Indeed, their own socialist beliefs appear to be founded on reactionary principles themselves, whether it be the reactionary national socialism of Stalinism, and its theory of Socialism In One Country, and/or a reactionary moral socialism of the type of Sismondi, which favours less developed forms of capitalist development over more developed forms of capitalist development. 

When I was learning Spanish, some years ago, the teacher on the instruction CD, in examining syntax, made the distinction between someone who is drunk, and someone who is a drunk. The former relates to a condition that may or may not be regularly repeated by the individual; the latter refers to someone for whom being drunk is a normal condition. We might make the same distinction as regards someone who commits a crime. For example, breaking the speed limit is a crime, but do we want to brand everyone who, even on several occasions, breaks the speed limit as being a criminal, as opposed to someone for whom criminal activity, in general, is a way of life? Lenin made the same distinction in his polemics against the Narodniks. There were some amongst the Narodniks who, subjectively, were committed fighters against Tsarism, and on behalf of the workers, and poor peasants. Yet, in terms of the political programme of the Narodniks, and its attempts to hold back capitalist development, in Russia, they were reactionaries. The same analysis was provided by Marx of Sismondi and his followers, who wrote biting criticisms of the evils of capitalism, and yet, whose agenda, in trying to hold back capitalist development, were reactionaries, who lined up alongside the reactionaries of the type of Malthus, who himself plagiarised Sismondi's work. As Marx puts it, in the Communist Manifesto. 

“In countries like France, where the peasants constitute far more than half of the population, it was natural that writers who sided with the proletariat against the bourgeoisie should use, in their criticism of the bourgeois régime, the standard of the peasant and petty bourgeois, and from the standpoint of these intermediate classes, should take up the cudgels for the working class. Thus arose petty-bourgeois Socialism. Sismondi was the head of this school, not only in France but also in England. 

This school of Socialism dissected with great acuteness the contradictions in the conditions of modern production. It laid bare the hypocritical apologies of economists. It proved, incontrovertibly, the disastrous effects of machinery and division of labour; the concentration of capital and land in a few hands; overproduction and crises; it pointed out the inevitable ruin of the petty bourgeois and peasant, the misery of the proletariat, the anarchy in production, the crying inequalities in the distribution of wealth, the industrial war of extermination between nations, the dissolution of old moral bonds, of the old family relations, of the old nationalities. 

In its positive aims, however, this form of Socialism aspires either to restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramping the modern means of production and of exchange within the framework of the old property relations that have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means. In either case, it is both reactionary and Utopian.” 

A large part of what passes for Socialism today is of this school. The “anti-capitalists”, for example, are frequently to be found decrying the actions of the monopolies and multinationals, which, on the basis of Marx's analysis, are actually the progressive, more mature forms of capital, and presage the future socialist society, and yet these same elements are rarely to be found protesting about the activities of the small capitalists, who are the ones where the most grotesque exploitation of workers are to be found! The same is true in relation to the “anti-imperialists”, who are to be found protesting about the investment of capital by large, multinational corporations, which again tend to offer the most rapid path towards economic development, and better conditions for workers, and yet, simultaneously, the "anti-imperialists" align themselves with all sorts of thoroughly nasty, reactionary nationalist regimes that oppress the working-class. 

The driver for Lexit was itself, in part, a reflection of this reactionary, moral socialism. It was a reflection of the idea that, because, in some way, the EU represented a more mature, more perfect expression of the interests of capital, it had to be opposed, and attempts to break it apart had to be waged. It is the corollary of the idea that the large scale capitalist production that developed in the 19th century had to be challenged, not by pushing that development, and its inherent contradictions, forward, to the point whereby the contradictions erupt, and turn society on its head, transforming these large socialised capitals into workers property, as the basis of constructing socialism, but instead, by holding that development back, frustrating it, and attempting to pose against it, not a more developed form of property, arising out of it, but a return to a less developed form of property, and productive relations. That is precisely what one of the drivers behind Lexit sought to achieve in seeking the break-up of the EU. It is a thoroughly reactionary, and Utopian trend. 

The other driver behind Lexit was the ideology of national socialism as promoted by Stalinism and its fellow travellers. In practice, there is not a great deal of difference between this trend, and the trend of moral socialism, described above. The Stalinists themselves, often in alliance with Third Worldist elements, and these petty-bourgeois moral socialists, also seek to hold back capitalist development. The main driver for that was, initially, the global strategic goals of the USSR, and the Stalinist bureaucracy. 

Attempts to hold back capitalist development of individual economies was seen as playing into the narrative of Varga's Law, which said that capitalism had peaked, and was in terminal decline – even though anyone with eyes could see that the opposite was the case. It also played into a rather crude determinist, and catastrophist concept, in which socialism would arise, because the immiserated workers, described by Varga, would eventually rise up, even though all evidence has shown that immiserated workers – in the sense meant by Varga of falling wages and living standards – move in the opposite direction. They become atomised, and demoralised, and their economic and social position in society weakens, their organisations go into decline, and they look to easy solutions from reactionary populist forces. Listen to the voices of those elderly workers, and former workers, that voted for Boris Johnson. They are not rabid red in tooth and claw socialists, who only voted against Labour, because its failure to pursue Brexit forcefully prevented them establishing a British socialist republic! They are the same people who voted against Michael Foot in 1983, and continued to put Thatcher into government during the 1980's!! Any idea that you could base a progressive Labour government on the votes of such elements, let alone seek to build socialism, is simply fanciful in the extreme. 

Attempts to hold back wider capitalist development, such as the spread of multinational corporations into less developed, but industrialising, economies played into the hands of the USSR, and its global strategic vision, by providing space for the USSR, and its satellites, to establish control over those states, usually via an alliance, and support, for various reactionary nationalist regimes, military juntas, and so on. These reactionary petite-bourgeois nationalist regimes provided the basis of the Third Worldist movement. In part, it sought to hold back the kind of more rapid economic development that came with the investments of multinational corporations, because that undermined the position of these petite-bourgeois regimes, and their corrupt power. A more rapid development of the economy, meant a more rapid development of the working-class, as an economic and social force. It meant the development of an educated and progressive middle-class that would begin to challenge the lack of political democracy within the state, and would be able to mobilise, behind it, the working-class. That is what happened with the Arab Spring in 2011, which was simply a repetition of similar developments that happened in Europe in 1848, under similar conditions. 

The USSR sought to hold back the development of the EEC/EU, because it was a challenge on the border of the USSR itself. It was a challenge both economically, as Western Europe grew much faster, and as EU workers living conditions, individual freedoms and so on, presented a picture of a different, better, life for workers trapped behind the Iron Curtain, and because it represented, in itself, a military strategic bloc that could challenge Soviet expansionism in Europe. Stalinists in Western Europe opposed the EU, not for any reason of the interests of workers, either inside the EU, or in the USSR, but solely in order to act as representatives of the Soviet bureaucracy itself, and its attempts to cling to power. Putin seeks to oppose the EU for the same reasons, today, and the Stalinists continue to dance to his tune. The Stalinists, and their fellow travellers seem not to care that Putin heads up an openly, right-wing, reactionary and kleptocratic regime that, whilst it differs little in practice from the final days of the USSR, does not even make any attempt to claim that it is, in some way, socialist, or any kind of workers' state! 

Opposition to the EU flows from these reactionary trends, and it is, in its arguments, barely distinguishable from the reactionary right-wing arguments of the nationalists of the BNP, UKIP, BP, or the Monday Club Tories. But, Lexit also flows not just from opposition to the EU, but also from the reactionary Utopian idea that Socialism could be built in Britain, on its own, as an isolated Little Icara, a haven of Socialism in a sea of capitalism. Such ideas, are also a reflection of the continuance of reactionary nationalist ideas in the labour movement. In particular, it reflects the continuation of the pernicious theory of Socialism In One Country, developed by Stalin in 1924, and which formed the basis of the national programmes of the various Communist Parties. In fact, the programmes put forward by the various Lexiteers did not even amount to a programme for Socialism, but only for the development of a sort of progressive social-democracy in Britain. Even that is unachievable, as the history of every other country that has attempted such a strategy has shown. 

What the Lexiters attempt to push for their reactionary nationalist agenda did was simply to mislead some workers. Fortunately, the number of workers they influence is infinitesimally small. The main proponent of Lexit was the CP, and the Morning Star, whose supporters also stood behind Corbyn, occupying the positions in his office. Its calls for workers to abstain, for example, in the 2019 EU referendum, were met by a complete indifference, provoked by the fact that only a handful of workers even know that the CP and Morning Star exist, let alone pay any attention to what they might say. But, even in misleading some on the Left, particularly some of those that have entered the movement more recently, it played a thoroughly negative and reactionary role. It continues to do so. Its attempts to explain Labour's defeat as being due to not pursuing a reactionary Brexit position, are not only plainly false, but they play into a reactionary narrative being promoted by the Tory press that the only way for Labour to win, is by accommodating to the reactionary prejudices of some workers in northern towns. And, although no significant number of workers are aware of the CP/Morning Star, or the other micro-sects that followed in their train, larger numbers of workers are aware of the existence of Len McCluskey who pushes this same reactionary line, as well as being aware of Rebecca Long Bailey, Richard Burgon and others who are the more visible face of this same reactionary nationalist trend. 

Despite all of the claims of the Lexiters at the time of the referendum in 2016 that it opened up progressive potential, the immediate result was to increase xenophobia, including a sharp rise in racist attacks. It legitimised racist sentiments that have always existed in Britain, but which at least were submerged, and not vocalised other than by the extreme right. The writing was on the wall in 2010, in the General Election, when Gordon Brown was confronted with the reality of Mrs Duffy and her criticism of immigration by Eastern Europeans. Mrs Duffy, a lifelong Labour voter, was not, at all untypical. She was the reflection of generations of Labour voters that hold reactionary views that the Labour Party has continually failed to address, so long as it could win their votes, by sweeping the existence of their reactionary views under the carpet, rather than taking them on head on. Gordon Brown, it should be remembered, instead of standing by his entirely valid assessment, instead, tried to get out by weasel words, and a subsequent cringing appeasement of Mrs Duffy. In 2015, Labour again showed its willingness to appease xenophobia with its election mug promoting its commitment to immigration controls. 

And, no sooner was the 2016 referendum done than Corbyn himself was committing to the ending of free movement, a reactionary sentiment that the CP has always held, along with its similar reactionary nationalist support for import controls, so as to throw the responsibility of crises of British capitalism on to foreign workers. So, its not surprising that with the Labour leadership itself proclaiming its own commitment to “Get a Labour Brexit Done”, progressive voters were hardly enthused to vote Labour, whilst the reactionary nationalist voters, most of whom vote Tory anyway, were hardly going to vote for a pale pink Corbyn version of nationalism, when instead they could vote for the full English Brexit offered by Johnson. Reactionaries offered the choice between the real thing and an imitation always go for the real thing. 

So, the Lexiters, those who called on Labour to “respect” the referendum decision, the Labour leadership that collapsed into a reactionary nationalist agenda of promoting its own version of Brexit, are responsible for Boris Johnson's victory. But, they are also responsible for the reactionary nationalist, and xenophobic consequences of that victory. Again since the election, we have seen a pick up in xenophobia, and in racist attacks. The coronavirus moral panic whipped up by the Tory press is also playing into it. The truth about the coronavirus is that it is no more dangerous than flu. The mortality rate from both is around the same. Last year, 1600 people died from flu in Britain, but in 2018, the figure was around 17,000, yet we do not see the same kind of panic, people stopping their kids going to school, and so on, that we see with coronavirus. It all plays into an agenda of fear and loathing that acts to distract attention away from the very real negative consequences of Brexit that are already beginning to be felt. 

So, it is not surprising that a populist right-wing Tory government follows up its victory, on the back of mobilising reactionary nationalist sentiment, and the support of racists and bigots, by introducing the scandalous Windrush 2. Not long ago, the Windrush scandal looked set to seriously undermine Theresa May's government, as public opinion was outraged that people who had come to this country in the 1950's, and 1960's, and who had lived and worked here, since that time, doing jobs they had been brought here to do, because British people did not want to do them, should find that their British nationality was being called into question, purely on the basis of bureaucracy and failure to have completed appropriate paper work. Some of them had even served in the British armed forces, after they had moved here. No one seriously believes that someone who came here in the 1950's and 60's, especially someone who came here with their parents, as a child, is anything other than a British citizen, whatever the niceties of the paperwork might say. As Corbyn pointed out, they are as much a British citizen as is Boris Johnson, who was born in the US, and came here, with his parents, when he was five. 

Of course, even with the original Windrush Scandal, there were many whose real opinions were hidden by a desire not to be seen to be standing out against what appeared to be the consensus view. There were many of those same bigots who voted for Brexit, and for Boris, who would never see anyone as actually a British citizen, no matter how long they lived here, if they had dark skin. And, after the initial public outcry, as the stories of individuals were broadcast by the media, keen to boost their ratings by a human interest story, the reality is that the government backtracked on its initial promises, proceeded at a snail's pace in compensating those that had suffered and so on. And, now, keen to keep faith with all of those racists and bigots in northern towns that voted for him, it is not at all a surprise that Boris Johnson has introduced Windrush 2, playing to the racists and xenophobes, by promising to deport to Jamaica, people who came here as 2 year olds, simply on the pretext that they committed an offence that they have already paid for. What next, the reintroduction of transportation for stealing sheep? It would, after all, appease the bigots who hanker after a return of Empire, because it would mean establishing new colonies into which the prisoners could be transported. 

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