Once More on the Brexit Diversion

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.

Submitted by Internationali… on October 19, 2019

Ever since the Cameron government called the 2016 referendum, we have argued that neither Brexit nor Remain offer a way forward against the ongoing attacks that the working class is enduring.1 It has been no consolation that the 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.2 With the latest deadline for action drawing closer, the political manoeuvring surrounding Brexit has once again reached a fever pitch, spiralling into what some in the media have called a “constitutional crisis”.

Boris Johnson’s talk about “turbo charging” Brexit quickly turned into accelerating the political chaos in the established order. The quirks of the Parliamentary system left his faction very much “in office but not in power”. His premiership has been marked by losing vote after vote, failing to gain a majority for a general election, and salt was rubbed in his wounds when 21 Tory MPs defied a 3-line whip to vote for the so-called “Benn Act”, legislation designed to mitigate the risk of a No-Deal Brexit. In response, Johnson ejected the offenders from the party and attempted to prorogue parliament for five weeks in order to frustrate any further attempts to disrupt the government’s Brexit strategy. This prorogation was subsequently found to be illegal by the Supreme Court, in a dramatic overturning of a previous judgement made by the High Court. All of these developments have been seized upon by the Brexiteer populists to weave a narrative centred around “surrender”, in which the British electorate is being “stabbed in the back” by a group of self-serving elites and unelected officials.

In the midst of all this, it is important for revolutionaries to recognise 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 Europhilic 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.