Britain is led today by deeply divided political parties. Our leaders have many policies, but no inspiring vision for Britain’s future – either within, or outside the EU. As President Roosevelt once famously said: “where there is no vision, the people perish”.
The peoples of the European Union do have a vision – the pursuit of peace and stability across the continent on the basis of European values (including the maintenance of welfare states) and unity. It is a commitment upheld despite immense suffering by, for example, the Greek people. It is a commitment rooted in the even larger costs of economic failure in the 1920s and 1930s; and in the uncountable human costs of the Second World War – a war still fresh in the memories of many Europeans.
However, where EU politicians and their peoples aimed at convergence, financial vultures have forced divergence. Where Europeans painstakingly built inter-governmental collaboration based on democratic governance and moderation, private wealth’s parasitic behaviour has fuelled anti-democratic fanaticism and bigotry.
Britain’s Left are wrong to abandon that vision of a peaceful and stable Europe; of inter-governmental collaboration based on democratic governance. Above all, the Left is wrong to cede power to private wealth and its determination to force divergence through the marketisation of society by self-adjusting and self-regulating markets; and to thereby destroy the European vision of unity, peace and stability based on welfare states.
Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Liam Fox, aided by the DUP, are leading the British people away from collaboration with European neighbours, and into a condition of abject subordination to American capital and right wing Republicanism.
The Lexiters of the Labour Party are colluding, unconsciously, in that strategy.
The Lexiters’ supposedly left wing strategy in favour of Brexit carries huge risks. First, many assume that the Left will benefit from Brexit. That may be wishful thinking. Despite the weakness of the Prime Minister and the absolute shambles that is the British cabinet, the Conservative vote is holding up. That signals danger. For if the Tories were to win the next General Election they would have five years in which to lock Britain out of Europe, and into harmful, long-lasting trade agreements. They would be given five years in which to complete their planned demolition of the welfare state and the privatisation of the NHS. To turn Britain into a vassal of the United States.
That would be a catastrophic outcome, and no one on the Left should be party to it.
If a Labour government were to win after Britain had exited the EU, the Lexiters’ risky strategy would not be counter-balanced by advantages. While Britain will get back some freedom with regard to e.g. State Aid, a Labour government would almost certainly face political isolation – from its European partners across the North Sea, and from Trumpism across the Atlantic.
Unless the Labour movement were to help build and strengthen Left forces in Europe, the future looks bleak for any future Labour government. What chance then of implementing ‘socialism in one country’ – an alternative economic strategy? How could a Left-wing Labour government single-handedly challenge the globalisation of domestic markets, or play a key role in building peace around the world, while isolated and weak?
To fulfil the Left’s own ambitions, to challenge the utopianism of globalisation, there is an urgent need to reach out and rebuild social democratic alliances with European partners.
There are signs (e.g. in Germany) that social democratic parties are waking up from their long sojourn in the house of ordoliberalism, and are newly alive to the deep structural flaws of the project that is globalisation. A project that both New Labour and many European Social Democratic parties signed up to, and for which complicity they have paid a heavy political price. Many Europeans look to the newly revitalised British Labour movement for leadership out of the deregulated, heavily indebted, low-paid, hugely unequal and insecure economic conditions suffered by millions. Conditions that have allowed those responsible for catastrophic economic failure to emerge triumphant after the 2007-9 Global Financial Crisis.
No doubt there are big challenges to face if the EU Treaties that embed ordoliberal policies are to be amended. But thanks to John Major and Gordon Brown, Britain is exempt from the excessive deficit rules, and would not adopt the Euro – under current arrangements. In other words, we would continue to benefit from these opt-outs, but only if we remained within the EU,
We clearly need longer to work through all these arguments, to correct the falsifications of Conservative ministers, and to mobilise the British people behind a more conciliatory and progressive relationship with European partners.
We need more time to present the British people with a vision of the future that reverses the marketization and monetisation of all aspects of life; that is socially just and ecologically secure; and that is based on upholding peace and solidarity with our neighbours.
That means a longer transitional period
within the European Union is needed. A longer transition
outside the EU would mean Britain never gets back on the same terms as we enjoy today.
By far the best strategy for the Labour leadership at this stage would be to request an extension to the Article 50 period – from the EU.
And if Parliament is not satisfied with the deal negotiated by the Tories and DUP, then Labour should follow John McDonnell’s lead, and give the British people a final say, via a referendum on the Brexit decision. It is only right to give young people that will face the future we create, a vision of a hopeful, peaceful and prosperous future, and a path towards that future. They deserve the right to endorse or oppose the Brexit deal.
According to ICM/Guardian poll in January, there is only one English region, Somerset, whose voters (by the narrowest of majorities) think that the British people should not have a chance to take a final decision. Every social class voted in favour of the proposition that the British people should have a choice – as did every age group. The 65s and over were the exception. Labour voters are overwhelmingly in favour of the public having a chance to take a final decision: by 63% – 19%. 29% of Tories agree and 55% of Tory Remainers want another referendum.
The British people are calling out for progressive leadership. Labour could lead the nation out of the chaos created by UKIP and the far Right of the Tory party. But only if Labour’s Lexiters face up to the risks they are taking with both their own party, and the nation’s future.
Ooooh, so those saintly Remainers want peace while those wicked Brexiteers presumably want war. Problem with that theory is that there are dozens of examples from around the world thru history of neighbouring countries remaining at peace for decades or centuries without economic or political union. Meanwhile there are a roughly equal number of examples of neighbouring geographical areas which are economically and/or politically united going to war. There is such a thing as a "civil war". I’ve heard on the grapevine there’s one going on in Syria right now.
"However, where EU politicians and their peoples aimed at convergence, financial vultures have forced divergence. Where Europeans painstakingly built inter-governmental collaboration based on democratic governance and moderation, private wealth’s parasitic behaviour has fuelled anti-democratic fanaticism and bigotry."
Is that actually accurate? I think that the major financial institutions, and even the largest private money-owning capitalists would prefer to create an EU wide single market for finance matching that in goods, and more akin to the situation in the US, or other large economies such as China, or Japan. In fact, most of that section of capital has backed Remain.
The driving force for Brexit and for divergence has actually come from the reactionary remnants of private capital, the small traders, the back street garages, and so on, along with the backward sections of the middle and working-classes pulled along behind them that have been the mainstay of conservative parties, and on occasion of the fascistic and ultra nationalist movements. Unfortunately, it has also come from reactionary, national-socialist strands within the labour movement too, as represented by Stalinism, and its fellow travellers, as witnessed with No2EU, and so on.
As Paul Mason pointed out some time ago, it has actually been a requirement by politicians to get elected, and so to feel the requirement to respond to this fairly sizeable chunk of reactionary nationalist sentiment amongst their electorates that drove them to focus on policies that failed to address the actual needs of the EU for further integration. It is that which drove conservative politicians across the EU, and via their influence over the ECB, to punish Greece and the rest of the periphery.
In actual fact, if you look at Greece, and the interest of the owners of bonds, their interests were in fact protected – in part – by such convergence, because the ECB, through its various programmes such as the ESM, and LTRO’s bailed out the owners of all those worthless bonds to such an extent that their prices have been driven up to such a level that nearly every 2 Year EU sovereign bond today has negative yields!
The real social force driving reactionary nationalism and divergence is all of those small private capitalists, and the reactionary sections of the middle and working-class that has always been a part of the social base of conservatism and fascism, not of the natural base of Labour and other social-democratic parties. Labour needs to focus on attacking that reactionary ideology, whilst developing the kind of internationalist and social-democratic policies that can undermine the conditions that produce these backward social elements, in conjunction with other social democrats across the EU.
Here’s the Brexit movie. On a long-haul flight, the plane’s on autopilot and the door to the cockpit is locked. The passengers are about to be served lunch. And though the steward and the chief stewardess know there’s something terribly wrong, they’re fussing over whether there’ll be enough coq au vin for everyone. I’m not sure quite how it ends.
"While Britain will get back some freedom with regard to e.g. State Aid, a Labour government would almost certainly face political isolation – from its European partners across the North Sea"
"Many Europeans look to the newly revitalised British Labour movement for leadership."
Oh come on now. What, a Brexiting Britain is a source of inspiration but a Brexited Britain will be a political leper colony?
And about those ordoliberal treaties? Yes, we could wait for socialist leaders to pop up in 28 states at precisely the same time, and for this not to disturbed by electoral cycles for as long as it takes to negotiate or ratify a new treaty. Orrr we could just escape the treaties automagically in March next year. Decisions, decisions…