Some critical commentary on the Full Brexit group's call for a "socialist and internationalist Brexit".
The New Statesman recently carried a debate between Paul Mason and the “Full Brexit” group over the Brexit question. I agree with the “Full Brexiters” that there's no positive case socialists can make for the EU; however, I don't see the British state, which they seem to embrace as an alternative, as being any better. Examining their article, a few incongruities jump out:
Far-right anti-fascism and ISIS against jihadis
The Full Brexiters object to Mason's criticisms of the RMT's Eddie Dempsey, writing:
His piece was full of the usual McCarthyite tactic of guilt by association against those who oppose the EU. Mason’s attack on Eddie Dempsey, an anti-fascist trade unionist, was a classic example of this.
But what does anti-fascism actually mean? One way Dempsey has expressed his understanding of anti-fascism was through a glowing obituary of Alexei Mozgovoy, leader of the Prizrak (Ghost) Brigade in the Ukranian conflict. A few details were missing from his account: he mentions the Ghost Brigade raising red flags, but doesn't mention that they were also known to fly the flag of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's far-right LDPR, or the Amnesty International report documenting abuses by the group. One writer described Mozgovoy as believing that “Jews... are conspiring to divide up the Slavic people and make them slaves.”1 Another article, “‘The spectre’ of communism or Mozgovoy as Che Guevara for Tolkienists” offers further criticisms of Dempsey's myth-making obituary.
On another occasion, Gerry Downing of Socialist Fight publicly thanked Dempsey for his work defending a talk by Vanessa Beeley from protesters, writing that “Eddie Dempsey... kept the jihadists at bay”. Beeley's own far-right links have been documented at great length in numerous places; to offer one characteristic example, she's a great fan of Gearóid Ó Colmáin, and has given space on her own blog to a post defending him against claims of racism and fascism, as well as promoting his writing on the Gilets Jaunes. In that article, described by Beeley as “one of the better explanations of what is happening” he offers the somewhat unusual view that:
leftists are useful idiots of the oligarchy’s three key agendas:
1 Mass immigration and population replacement to turn human beings into capital.
2 The normalization of sexual perversion so as to break down the resistance capacities of the human individual.
3 Global warmingism which will provide the basis for a centralized global state apparatus controlling every aspect of our lives.
It’s the Cursed Trinity of the New World Order: Human capital is the Father, gender confusion is the Son and Co2 is the Diabolical Spirit.
More recently, O Colmáin has also written that:
If you stand with the working class, you are a fascist... I have often been accused of being a fascist. Henceforth, I will consider the appellation to be a compliment for which I am most unworthy! ...Like the Spanish Falangists... I believe that only a revival of traditional Roman Catholicism in Europe will save humanity from self-destruction.
Some people might see anti-fascism as meaning a struggle against the views of people like Beeley and O Colmáin; it's interesting to see that Dempsey's definition means defending them and providing them with space to spread their views.
Another twist to the tale is that Dempsey's comrade Gerry Downing, the one who thanked him for his work keeping the “jihadists” out, is the same person who was expelled by the Labour Party for his support of ISIS, and his belief that the 9/11 attacks were “progressive... and must never be ‘condemned’”. This sort of thing makes quite a striking contrast to Dempsey and the Full Brexiters' populism; for instance, the NS article reminds its readers that the Brexit vote involved “millions of Labour voters as well as Conservatives”. One wonders how those millions, who the Full Brexiters seek to appeal to, might react to learning that their man Dempsey volunteers to do security for a group that defends ISIS.
Internationalist border controls
Looking at the content of the article more broadly, the authors urge us to understand that “There is a profound distinction between globalisation and internationalism... The way to defeat the far right is for the left to embrace an internationalist and democratic Brexit.” However, they stay silent on the most pressing question of what this internationalism would look like in practice, the issue of migration and border controls. Does “an internationalist Brexit” mean a withdrawal agreement that would not affect the rights of current and future EU migrants in any way? Or does it mean bringing in some increased form of border policing against EU migrants, perhaps in the belief that Brexit will bring enough benefits that making life harder for some working-class people is a price worth paying? I suspect that they can't really answer this question, because firmly committing to either one position or the other would mean alienating some of the people they want to appeal to. While supporting the EU might not be a socialist position, it's understandable that people might see it as a lesser evil, and they're unlikely to be won over by an alternative that refuses to spell out any clear position on such a vital subject.
Lords against the undemocratic establishment
The author bio on the article just states that “The Full Brexit is a pro-Leave group of academics including Maurice Glasman, Costas Lapavitsas, Mary Davis, Chris Bickerton, Wolfgang Streeck and Richard Tuck.” Which is a rather modest way of putting it – why not mention that his full title is actually Lord Glasman, Baron of Stoke Newington and of Stamford Hill ? Perhaps this might seem a petty and churlish thing to point out, but some people may like to know when their populist anti-establishment revolts are being endorsed by actual Barons.
- 1They support this claim by linking to some writings by Mozgovoy, but the source doesn't seem to have been translated into English.