The “synchronised stagnation” of the global economy since 2008 shows the capitalist class everywhere has no solution to economic crisis. Hence ever more strident nationalism has been adopted across the globe. It even engulfs its two greatest powers, now locked in a trade war. This nationalism is their “alternative”. For them the problem is not capitalism but one form of it – globalisation. The fact is that the continued existence of the system in any form means more misery for most.
“Brexit” is the British version. It was the political expedient forced on 54 million voters to hold together a Conservative party of 125,000. Thanks to the 2016 referendum the capitalist class in the UK lost control of its own agenda. Even the capitalist aficionados of Brexit, in their saner moments, admit that in economic terms the ruling class is shooting itself in the foot.
Spinning Out of Control
“Taking back control” now looks more like politically “spinning out of control”. The 2016 referendum marked the start of unresolved chaos in the bosses’ political superstructure. That political crisis of the British ruling classes is now well into its fourth and most turbulent year. During 2019 the unresolved divisions have seen spasm after spasm disrupt the customary smooth running bosses' Parliamentary Punch and Judy show. Both Tory and Labour have fractured into squabbling factions, all with their own hard, soft or no Brexit quack remedies for the underlying capitalist crisis. Boris Johnson’s talk about “turbo charging” Brexit quickly turned into accelerating that political chaos in the established order.
The glaring contradictions in the Brexit conundrum on the island of Ireland reached the point where no further bribes could maintain the Democratic Unionist Party's support for the Tories. Groups of Labour MPs and supposed Independents picked and chose when to support the Government and Opposition. The anti-Brexit faction of capital turned out a massive stage army in London for an extra Referendum on 19th October only to see its demand immediately evaporate in the Parliamentary faction fight. Unable to deliver any of their preferred "hard Brexit" options, Johnson's Government turned back to the traditional democratic General Election trick. This might “get Brexit done” but at what price? A hard border in the Irish Sea? A removal of the Unionist veto on future relations with the EU (aka relations with the Republic)? A Scottish Nationalist Party’s demand for another independence vote legitimised? Little England anyone?
A Colossal Distraction
It is important for revolutionaries to expose the Brexit pantomime for what it is – namely, a colossal distraction. The whole fiasco is a domestic row between two wings of the British ruling class. On one side, there is the Europhile faction of the ruling class, made up of those who understand that Britain’s continuing relevance on the world stage relies on its ability to act as a safe haven for international capital and transnational corporations. These “Remainers” identify Britain’s EU membership as an effective means to this end. On the other side, there is a Europhobic faction of the ruling class – the “Leavers” – who manage to combine a yearning for the pre-Suez glory days of cosy Anglo-American relations with a quaint enthusiasm for “independence”. It goes without saying that neither of these options have anything to do with the working class.
Of course, this hasn’t prevented each side from attracting its fair share of “useful idiots” on the left. The Remain camp has styled itself as a force for liberal internationalism and has thus managed to secure support from those elements of the left which can always be counted on to prop up the most “progressive” faction of the ruling class. Meanwhile, the Leave camp is backed by a constellation of leftist groupings, each of which champions their own pet version of a “Worker’s Brexit”. This, we are asked to believe, will create the conditions for a renewed “Spirit of ‘45”, in which an ascendant “socialist” Labour government will bring back jobs, reopen the pits, and nationalise heavy industry once free from the yoke of the EU. This thinly veiled social chauvinism is usually justified with reference to stipulations in the Maastricht Treaty which are said to “make socialism illegal” – as if a social revolution could ever have legal sanction from the authorities!
Whatever relationship is ultimately arranged between the British state and its European counterparts will be of little importance to the working class. The real division we face is not Leave versus Remain, or No-Deal versus soft Brexit, but between those who have an interest in creating a fundamentally different kind of society and those who do not. None of the bosses’ alternatives will be allowed to present a real threat to the rule of private property. It is the responsibility of revolutionaries who recognise this fact to prevent themselves from being drawn into the internecine disputes of the ruling class.
The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 49) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.