BBC, DUP & Brexit

BBC's Andrew Marr slammed for 'poor research' on Brexit NI Protocol -  BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

In last weekend’s Marr show the  BBC rallied behind those Brexit forces, which would appear to be almost all of them, who still can’t get their head around the idea that you can’t leave the EU without consequences and that these consequences are not a punishment but actually what they voted for.

This time it was the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Edwin Poots, who was allowed to forget that it was his Party that had helped deliver Brexit and in a form that didn’t allow Northern Ireland to join with the rest of the UK in its new relationship with the EU.  Such a deal, as proposed by Theresa May, was opposed by the DUP as insufficiently Brexity.

Marr appeared to labour under the impression that the Northern Ireland Protocol is solely the EU’s baby and not a joint production with the British Government. Perhaps to be regarded as another one of Boris Johnson’s unrecognised children?

One even had sympathy with the EU representative who had to respond politely to the ignorant and repeated interruptions of Marr, including the latter’s injured innocence that the EU should seek to take legal action against the British for breach of their legal obligations under the Protocol.  Not for him the previous obvious and hardly avoidable observation that – for the DUP – it was “arguably your political incompetence that got you here.”

Marr pushed the incoherent unionist argument that they were so offended by the very temporary suggestion of the EU to invoke Article 16 of the Protocol in order to amend its operation that this was what was required, this time by the British Government.

While sarcastically referencing the ‘sacred’ Single Market, the one Brexit supporters want out of but also to enjoy its benefits, Marr pointed to an opinion poll in Northern Ireland which showed that ‘48% hate the Protocol’.  

‘Hate’ of course is a strong word; was not quite what the question asked, and presumably must mean that while 48% ‘hate it”, 46% also ‘love it’.  The numbers are within the margin of error, and repeating the unionist assertion that speaks of the people of Northern Ireland as if it consisted solely of unionists, the other assertion of Marr – that ‘the people of Northern Ireland have lost faith in the Protocol’ – was hardly justified by the poll.

The BBC, through Marr, appeared to adopt the view of unionism encapsulated in such mottos as ‘we are the people’ and ‘our wee country’, which may be properly understood as ‘WE are the people and ‘OUR wee country’.  That the majority in Northern Ireland voted against Brexit is ignored as unionism, and now the BBC, considers that the rights of the majority of unionism takes precedence.

But perhaps the BBC is also registering something else, which is the evolving strategy of its master – the British Government.

At the beginning of the year the incoherence of unionist rejection of the Protocol led the DUP leader Arlene Foster to point to its benefits (as the alternative to futile opposition).  Unionist hostility spoke of changes to the Protocol.  Now this opposition demands its complete removal.

A large part of this hardening of position derives from the encouragement of the British Government, in a cynical attempt to play the Orange card and support its own policy of seeking changes but not complete abolition.

Of course, British opposition is mainly motivated by the attempt to create leverage elsewhere in UK-EU relations and not any particular priority allotted to the North of Ireland.  So, when it is reported that ‘a senior ally of the Prime. Minister’ says that the Protocol is “dead in the water” this is simply playing to the gallery, in this case just after Lord Frost and the Tory Secretary of State had met loyalist paramilitaries represented by the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC).

Similarly, Poots’ total opposition puts forward, as an alternative, checks on goods in other locations within Northern Ireland “including the ports.”  This however rather undermines his argument that the level of such checks makes them impossible and doesn’t carry any weight when it is to the checks themselves that is the objection.  The promise of any such alternative is about as trustworthy as a promise from Boris Johnson. 

Unionists want the Protocol destroyed and the British Government would like it filleted for other purposes.  Neither are acceptable to the EU.

The increased legitimacy given by the British Government to the paramilitary front organisation is illustrated by its providing a platform to the LCC at a Westminster Committee hearing, allowing a teenage loyalist to make the statement that he stands by previous remarks that “sometimes violence is the only tool you have left.”

That the Orange card is being played is made abundantly clear when the Tories reveal that the 12th July has been “privately set” by David Frost for the easing of Protocol checks.  The culmination of the loyalist marching season is now aligned with deadline for acceptance of the demands of the British Government.

Such recklessness by the Tory regime passes right over Andrew Marr’s head, while he accuses the EU of endangering the peace process.  He denigrates the EU Single Market, but is unwilling even to raise the question whether the vast majority of European States constituting the EU is going to roll over on account of teenage threats on behalf of criminal gangs; the pronouncements of creationist politicians, or as a result of the perfidy of the serial liars of the British Government.

Unionist opposition, backed by the British, may have hardened but the reality of their mistaken Brexit policy has simply compounded their frustration at their inability to push the peace process in a sufficiently rightward direction, a process many of them never supported in the first place.  As unionism has hardened it has also thereby divided.

The DUP is now irreversibly split down the middle.  The only question is what organisational from this division will take.  It is haemorrhaging support to the softer unionist Alliance Party and the even more uncompromising Traditional Unionist Voice.

It has attempted to protect one flank by making overtures to the loyalist paramilitaries in the LCC (by both sides of the current split) but this has proceeded to claims that the UDA has intimidated DUP members to support the new leadership.

The paramilitaries are themselves united in opposition to the Protocol but divided on everything else, so that what appear as marginal figures present as leading spokesmen of loyalist opposition.

On the other side of unionism, its moderate commentators denounce EU ‘intransigence’ while calling on it to protect Northern Ireland from the potential for unionism to finish off the Stormont Executive.  Unfortunately, the DUP has made promises in its opposition to the EU that it cannot keep and the EU has no interest in ensuring that they are kept.  The party may soon no longer be the largest political party or even the largest unionist party.

To expect the EU to capitulate to such a weakened and fractured opposition and a British Government flailing about for trade deals that won’t deliver is to live in an alternative universe.

The EU seeks to become a major political as well as economic power on the world stage.  It expects to be taken seriously by the likes of China, Russia and the United States.  Whatever ‘pragmatic’ changes it is prepared to make to the workings of the Protocol will not amount to accepting any significant risk to its Single Market. Such changes as are proposed will require the British Government to introduce all the measures agreed by it but not implemented.

The failing and weakening of the Good Friday Agreement institutions will continue as will the parallel confusion of unionism.  The Northern State will continue to hold together and no Irish unity referendum will come along soon to save everyone from the decay.  Out of all these processes it is ironically only the successful operation of the EU Protocol that promises some grounds for successful, if only temporary, stabilisation.

A Brexit compromise with Unionism?

In the previous post I argued that there should be no attempt to conciliate unionism, and certainly not by socialists.  Although its politics is entirely reactionary this is what is being proposed by a number of commentators who really should know better.

In one blog, a comment asserted that the ‘institutions of the [Northern] State are errand boys for Sinn Féin, who are errand girls for the Army Council, which is a body of totally unreconstructed IRA hard men from back in the day.  Moreover, it is an almost entirely Northern body, on the cusp of taking control of a 26 County State.’

This, of course, is phantasy.  Locally, the regular columnist in the nationalist newspaper questioned whether ‘sectarian control [has] simply changed hands?’ and asserted that it was ‘difficult to avoid the observation’.

This ignores recent history that is littered with loyalist riots against what they see as encroachment on their rights by Catholics.  Indeed, such riots played a major role in the start of ‘the Troubles’ with such inconvenient facts as the first policeman killed being shot by loyalists.

Conciliation has already been adopted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland pretending that loyalist paramilitaries are not involved in organising and leading the riots.  Its first statement pointed the finger but refrained from outright assignment of responsibility.  It waited until the umbrella group for the main paramilitary groups had issued an appropriate statement denying involvement, and calling for only peaceful action, before stating that these organisations had not ‘sanctioned’ violent protest and that only individuals may have been involved.  This is the normal way of trying to prevent escalation; part of what was called a long time ago an ‘acceptable level of violence.’

The Unionist columnist Newton Emerson has written in a number of Irish newspapers that compromise with loyalist demands should be made to protect the peace process.  After all, warnings by nationalists and the Irish Government that republican violence would follow any Brexit land border within the island had led to it being placed down the Irish Sea.  If Irish nationalism could threaten violence to get its way what’s wrong with unionism doing the same?

There is some obvious truth in this, except that a hardened land border, while not strictly contrary to the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) as often claimed, would not only serve (dissident) republicans but would also severely undermine the current political arrangements.

In the GFA nationalists were to accept the legitimacy of partition and of the Northern State in return for some cross-border bodies, a hypothetical mechanism to bring about a united Ireland through a border poll, one however that was in the gift of the British Government, and a power-sharing Stormont regime that included an effective sectarian veto on change for both sides, which of course is more obstacle than opportunity for those seeking change.

If the border were to be strengthened as a result of a hard Brexit that most of unionism supported while the majority in the North of Ireland opposed, and with the stupidity of the DUP coming back to haunt them in loyalist riots, nationalism might consider that promises are cheap but reality expensive.  It was not republican dissidents that put a border down the Irish Sea but the Irish Government and the EU with the blessing of senior US politicians.

Emerson goes on to ask ‘should we risk restarting the Troubles ‘over inspecting packets of ham at Larne?’  He queries the evidence and reason for believing that the EU Single Market ‘would otherwise be swamped via circuitous smuggling of food through Britain and Northern Ireland.’

He also, in rather contradictory fashion, suggests a law-and-order solution to smuggling across the Irish border and maximum mitigation of the effects of the Protocol in order to assuage loyalist paramilitaries who, although almost defeated, require concessions.  In this regard there are further press reports of money for these paramilitaries in a continuation of the policy of weening them off criminality and political violence by giving them what they want.  Alongside this a law-and-order solution would be applied to the really delinquent factions.

All this is washed down by the admission that ‘at some point we will have to confront the moral squalor of giving in to violence but that moment is hardly now, when so little might be required to prevent violence.  Rather it would be immoral to prioritise hypothetical ham over life and property.’

Of course, the ham is far from hypothetical and Emerson gives every indication of suffering from the illusion of the supporters of Brexit who never understood the magnitude of the decision they supported.  He regards the potential breach of the EU Single Market as small, although both the EU and British sought to use the North of Ireland as leverage in the overall Trade and Cooperation Agreement, promoting its importance to any overall deal.

There is no reason to believe that loopholes would not be exploited and no reason for the EU to believe that the British Government would not seek to exploit concessions or mitigation or whatever term is used to fudge the regulations.  The British have openly breached agreements already reached and failed to implement practical measures, such as  installation of inspection posts and access to data, that it promised to deliver.

The EU has claimed that the most difficult issues could be solved by the British agreeing to synchronise their food standards with those of the EU but the British have ruled this out, and while the British have asked for flexibility the EU has stated that they must first implement what they have already agreed.

It would go too far to say that loyalism and the British Government are in cahoots, the latter is not attempting to get rid of the Protocol altogether, but the pressure applied by both is in the same direction.

The Single Market may not seem so dramatic as yet another political crisis in Northern Ireland but the EU has more interest in the former than the latter: concessions that are given only to Britain might easily give rise to discrimination cases against the EU.  More generally, retreating on the basis of pressure from political violence does not set a good example for any other potential challenges to Brussels and member states.

There is no reason or evidence to believe that smuggling would not take place on the Irish border were it also to become the border for Brexit, or to believe that such smuggling would need to ‘swamp’ the EU Single Market for it to matter to the EU.  On the other hand there is good reason to believe that mitigation of the trade border in the Irish Sea would not be enough for loyalism. For the EU, checks on any border would have to mean something and if they did loyalism would object.

There is no doubting that these checks are onerous and will increase after the transition but the negotiations between the EU and British to find technical solutions do not warrant the view that the Protocol will be effectively removed.  These negotiations were reported by RTE and the Guardian, with some sceptical coverage of them by one informed blogger.

There has so far not been enough direct impact on imports to motivate those not consumed by potential constitutional implications to protest.  As Emerson points out, Marks & Spencer has just announced the opening of a new food store in Coleraine, and Covid-19 has been a much more immediate barrier than Brexit to people getting what they want.

This does not mean that loyalism is not angry, or has cause, but their anger should really be directed to the DUP who led them up the garden path with Boris Johnson at the forefront. Nevertheless, while loyalism does not need to be particularly coherent, there are also limits to what an incoherent view of the world will achieve in bending that world to its own misapprehensions.

Emerson’s law-and-order solution does not seem to recognise the incongruity of calling for increased repression of dissident republicans and others in order to reduce ‘paperwork’.  He wants a retreat on policing of protest demonstrations that are held within unionist-majority areas so as to avoid ‘confrontation’, but it’s not clear how much consideration he has given to the minority living within these ‘unionist-majority areas’.

Of course, in most Protestant areas Orange marches are generally popular and there can be little doubt that a majority of Protestants oppose the protocol and would have sympathy with the aims of demonstrations against it.  The majority would have less sympathy with the paramilitaries who often accompany such displays and that is their problem: one doesn’t come without the other.  Emerson forgets that the immediate victims of loyalist paramilitaries are Protestants in working class areas who are often presented as the paramilitaries’ political constituency, in so far as they can claim one.

He is right therefore to acknowledge the ‘moral squalor’ involved in concessions to loyalism but over twenty years from the deal that was supposed to bring peace and an end to them, we apparently have to make some more, and to the same people.   He says that ‘we’ have to make them but the majority of the population have had no choice in the matter.  His ‘giving in to violence’ has in the past not only involved ‘giving in’ but the sponsorship of loyalist paramilitaries by the British State through all sorts of collusion.  This has involved not only accepting loyalist violence but protecting its perpetrators and assisting its organisation and effectiveness through state agents.  In his seemingly bold and brave admission of unfortunate necessity we are to forget what it has meant in the past.

If Newton Emerson’s proposals have any educative value, they show the limitations of unionist opinion, even from its most intelligent and least prejudiced sources.  It reminds me of the statement last week by First Minister Arlene Foster who, after riots and petrol bombs, and with one bus driver attacked in a case of “attempted murder”, declared that these actions were an “embarrassment” and “only serve to take the focus off the real law breakers in Sinn Fein.”

In the mind of unionism, even when its their fault it’s really someone else’s, anybody else’s.  Brexit was a unionist own-goal which they are trying to reverse.  Socialists have no interest in defending their seventeenth century reaction from twenty-first century capitalism.  It would be good if the many on the left in Ireland who also supported Brexit would acknowledge that they too have made a mistake.

Back to part 1

Recognising Unionist rights?

A Belfast bus burning on the Shankill Road

The recent riots in the North of Ireland have been described as the worst for some years.  It is not that they are particularly large or violent.  In fact, they have been localised and rather small, many rioters being not much more than children. Some have arisen from loyalist groups more involved in criminality than politics and kicking back at policing too effective for their liking.

So why the concern?  The first is that they might get out of control and gather momentum.  The summer is the traditional unionist marching season so there will be plenty of opportunities for disturbances.  This is especially the case now that the state is going to have to relax the Covid lockdown.  A second is concern that the Boris Johnson Government is not considered to have the skills to pacify the situation, or may even have reasons to keep the pot boiling.

It is his betrayal of the unionists in his ‘fantastic’ – ‘oven-ready’ – Brexit deal that has been the main reason for the eruption of unionist anger.  If the definition of stupidity is believing anything he says then the Democratic Unionist Party has shown itself to be the dumbest of the dumb.  Yet even now their leaders call on him to do the right thing and scrap the Northern Ireland Protocol to the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union; something with much bigger ramifications for the British state than riots in Ireland.

The placing down the Irish Sea of the inevitable trade border arising from Northern Ireland staying in the EU Single Market is, as unionists claim, a clear separation of it from Great Britain, even if nationalists and others claim it has no constitutional significance.  Its maintenance would be a reverse for unionism and cause for demoralisation.  While the same barriers are in place between Britain and the Irish State, the effect is to encourage further North-South economic integration.  This, however, is of most significance from a longer term perspective and the Brexit deal excludes services, where it might be expected that the British and EU economies might diverge, with possible similar effects between the two states in Ireland.

The leader of the DUP Arlene Foster started off the year more or less accepting the NI Protocol and pointing out that Northern Ireland membership of both the UK and EU markets gave it certain advantages in terms of trade and foreign investment.  The more bitter DUP MPs, such as Sammy Wilson and Ian Paisley, nevertheless continued to denounce the betrayal, perhaps all the more so because they had been personally associated with being taken for fools.  Leaked minutes of a DUP meeting appeared to indicate that at least some DUP members had about as much respect for these figures as many of us outside.

Which brings us to one of the more immediate causes of unionist agitation.  As pointed out in a previous post the main cause for the swift change of direction by the whole DUP and its titular leader was an opinion poll showing significant loss of support to the even more rabidly militant Traditional Unionist Voice.  When the NI Director of Prosecutions recommended no prosecution of Sinn Fein members following their attendance en masse at an IRA leader’s funeral, and their apparent breach of Covid-19 restrictions, it proved to be the spark that lit the fire.

But this too, while causing understandable unionist anger, is largely a confection.  Unionists condemned the DPP decision but blamed the police when it was the police who had recommended prosecution.  Unionists have lighted upon liaison between the police and Sinn Fein before the funeral as a reason given by the DPP for likely inability to prosecute, but such liaison is not unusual.

The other reason given by the DPP was the Covid regulations themselves and their unfitness for the purpose of successful prosecution.  But it was the DUP (and Sinn Fein) who were responsible for drafting these regulations and if they could not be prosecuted it is yet another example of their incompetence.  Much of the consequences of Brexit and of the fall-out from the Bobby Storey funeral can therefore be laid at the door of the DUP. Far better for someone else to be the target of loyalist anger than themselves.

Arlene Foster called for the head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to resign and refused to meet him, although then did so since she had previously met the loyalist paramilitaries; while the leader of the rival Ulster Unionist Party joined in calling for his resignation but could not explain in a radio interview what he had done wrong.  Meanwhile, the first loyalist riot in Belfast against this failure to prosecute lack of social distancing at the republican funeral took place in the same area in which a loyalist funeral in September had failed to do exactly the same thing.

In a sense none of this incoherence matters, reactionary causes don’t have to be coherent, they just have to be reactionary. The charge levied by unionism is that everyone else doesn’t understand them, doesn’t appreciate their anger, and doesn’t acknowledge that their ‘British identity’ is being undermined.  Since this amorphous charge is without any clear definition it becomes whatever unionism says it is. What is being claimed is that anything unionism doesn’t like is undemocratic, and the more it is upset the more undemocratic it is, and the less everyone else understands.

So what unionism wants is what it wants and deserves to get.  The Northern State was set up for them and it should fulfil its role of satisfying the majority whose existence it is for.  Since its position has historically been one of sectarian privilege and supremacy this should continue to be bolstered, and any attempt to undermine it is undemocratic and sectarian itself.  The nationalist demands for respect, tolerance and equality apply to unionism in equal measure, which means respect for its reactionary culture, tolerance of its sectarian practices and obeisance to its supremacist demands.  The current political arrangements in the North of Ireland are supposedly based on these values, to be shared by nationalists and unionists alike, making it obvious why they aren’t working.

We who live here however are expected to bow down before unionist demands and recognise the failure to offer unionism what is its due, so that we must sympathise with its turmoil and incoherence.  We are supposed to accept the democratic rights of bigots on the basis that there are a lot of them.  Fortunately, the world is a much bigger place and it is possible to imagine that the limits of political change are not defined by sectarian reactionaries, no matter how locally numerous they may be.

While forecasts of an imminent border poll and of a potential united Ireland are premature, the already existing growth of the non-unionist defining section of the population no longer allows unionism to constrain all political development and change.  Even the attempt to share out resources, privileges and rights along sectarian lines has proven unstable, although without yet the maturation of forces to make it fall over.

Socialists should acknowledge that the death of sectarianism, and the forces that defend it and promote it, will not be painless and will not be entirely peaceful.  In the next post I will look at renewed proposals to conciliate this sectarianism.  In the meantime we should not support compromise with sectarian reaction, if only on the grounds that it does not work.  What progress there has been even within Northern Ireland, has come from denying unionist demands and opposing its demonstrations and threats.  Socialism or any sort of democratic settlement will not come without the defeat of unionism, the more demoralised it is the easier and less violent its demise will be.

Forward to part 2

Covid, Brexit, Protest, and the Left too

A couple of months ago in a Facebook discussion with a supporter of Zero Covid I argued that if he really did believe that Covid-19 represented the threat to humanity that he appeared to claim he should demand (albeit critically) more coercive restrictions on democratic rights from the State.  Nothing, after all, is more important than life.

He disagreed, insisting that socialists can never support restrictions on democratic rights by the capitalist state.

Unfortunately the proponents of Zero-Covid supported all the previous restrictions and if they are to be consistent then these new restrictions must also be an unfortunate necessity.  All the rest of the Zero-Covid demands have been made to the state and who else is going to implement them?  Again, it was they who have been hysterical in their claims that capitalism was engaged in what amounts to mass murder.

Of course, Covid-19 did not and does not represent the existential threat claimed and much of the left is wrong about this.  Their position becomes more and more untenable as people appreciate the personal threat to themselves, they tire of lockdown restrictions and more people, especially the vulnerable, get vaccinated.  Were it to become clear that Covid-19 is endemic and therefore requires regular vaccination, as with the flu, their policy would become obviously stupid.

So it should only be embarrassing that they now condemn the rough tactics adopted by the Metropolitan police when it broke up the protest of the murder of Sarah Everard.  To be consistent they should have defended the policy of the police while salving their conscience by condemning the roughness of its implementation.

Of course, the Tories have taken advantage of the widespread acceptance of restrictions of social interaction by proposing to introduce new laws that go a long way to criminalising protest altogether, as should have been feared from the start.  I recently posted another comment on Facebook pointing this out and suggesting that those who didn’t see this coming should avoid politics and find something else to do.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is to engage in ‘parliamentary warfare’ over NHS pay while forgetting that austerity would be worse had the Tories implemented the greater lockdown restrictions demanded by Labour.  The cost would have been even greater had the Zero-Covid policy of some on the left been adopted; a policy that is the product of an opportunist attempt to attack the Tories but like all opportunism is incapable of taking a longer-term view.

It is no defence of this policy to declare that you also have a policy against austerity; one which makes heroic assumptions about the capacity of the working class to resist it.  Opportunism here is accompanied by ultra-left perspectives that envisages the capitalist class paying hundreds of millions of pounds for furlough payments, loans and grants to business and the shortage of tax receipts from workers etc.

Again, the Tories will claim the legitimacy of the bill to be paid and the left will again be exposed as it argued a policy that would have needlessly cost more. The policy of Zero-Covid simultaneously relies on the repressive apparatus of the state to work, while positing that this state can be defeated in the implementation of austerity that the policy requires.

We will leave aside any stupid notion that the combination of pandemic and austerity will somehow galvanise the working class to revolution; although these conceptions are precisely how much of the left envisages socialist revolution coming about – capitalist crisis producing a mass political consciousness that their political conceptions and interventions are incapable of envisaging coming about in any other way.

Despite their serial corruption and incompetence in most of their response to the pandemic the Tories are ahead in the polls.  Their bedrock support has relied, and continues to rely, upon their support for Brexit.  The pandemic has been used to hide the damage done by it and the Labour Party has been too afraid and too stupid to lead a political attack on it.

The Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee can write that “Labour will plug away, exposing myriad flaws in the dreadful trade deal” but this is meaningless if you don’t oppose it.  It looks hypocritical, since Labour supported the deal, and it looks like the dishonesty typical of politicians given Starmer’s avoidance of even mentioning the word, refusal to seek renegotiation of the deal, and previous policy of pushing the Tories to ‘get Brexit done‘.

But once again, while Labour fails, much of the left is actually worse, having supported Brexit from the start and campaigned for it in the referendum.  The damage to working class living standards and the austerity it will entail is on them.  They too, just like the Tories, are relying on Covid and the Tory press to hide Brexit’s damaging effects and just like Boris Johnson they will – child-like – deny any responsibility.

Two alternative narratives have developed – the fault is with Brexit or the fault is with the big bad EU.  The left that thought it could move on will be cut in two by these scissors but there is little chance that it will fess up and admit a mistake.  As a rule the left does not admit mistakes and certainly not ones as big as this, especially as they cannot consign it to history.

A few years ago a comrade on the left from the Official Republican tradition said to me, while we were watching the May Day parade in Belfast, that so much of the left was rotten that it basically had to die away before a new generation of socialists could make progress. He may even have included his own tradition in that, and in my view this should certainly be the case, but it isn’t as simple as that.  The corruption of Marxism perpetrated by the nationalist and statist left both in Ireland and Britain will not be easily cleansed.

In the meantime, you can hardly blame the British working class if it ignores much of the left, it is quite right to do so.

Brexit isn’t working

Brexit isn’t working, and isn’t going to work.  Sooner or later its false promises were going to be exposed and it didn’t take long.  The recession caused by the Government’s Covid-19 lockdown policy has only partially hidden its effects but sector specific issues and complaints from trade associations plus the emergence of official statistics are revealing the damage.

French customs recorded that exports and imports to the UK in January fell by 13 and 20 per cent compared to the average of the previous six months, while the volume of French trade to other countries increased.  German exports to the UK were down 30 per cent year on year, continuing the decline since the Brexit referendum, while Italy reported a 38 per cent drop in exports and 70 per cent drop in exports.

Some of this is undoubtedly due to the pandemic and its effect on the reduction of consumer demand, and some due to the build-up of inventory in anticipation of Brexit, but these are dramatic reductions.  Although not dramatic enough it seems.

It is now reported that the British Government is so Brexit unprepared that the introduction of checks required by it, postponed until April and July, would so damage trade that they could lead to shortages in supermarkets.  They will therefore be deferred further, with a “lighter touch” in controls on imports while work on border inspection posts continues, or in some cases only starts.

British exports to the EU however will continue to have the full suite of border checks applied, while the EU will be alert to the components imported into the UK that are incorporated into these exports but have been subject to rudimentary checks, if any.  Other countries might also wonder at British discrimination in favour of EU exports to the UK while theirs suffers the full panoply of inspections.  This temporary solution cannot therefore be a permanent one but has the potential to create more problems – the “fantastic” Brexit deal all over it might be said.

On this score, while unable to implement controls on its own borders, the ‘Minister for the Benefits of Brexit’ still celebrates the achievement of “a sovereign country in full control of our own destiny while keeping open and free trade between us”; claiming that while many said it could not be done, David Frost can declare “but we did it”. Except that what “we did” – what he was personally responsible for negotiating – he has now torn up three times in one week in respect of the Northern Ireland Protocol (in relation to supermarkets, parcels and plants/machinery).

The greater integration of the Northern Ireland economy into the British, and the political divisions within it, have brought to the fore the irreducible problems of Brexit that in Britain have been addressed by reduction in trade, lorry parks, restriction of entry into Kent and postponement of the application of import controls.

These controls are undoubtedly onerous, with potentially separate approval documentation for hundreds of individual items in containers and lorries.  Many seem petty and pointless, at least to those doing the trading.  Before the controls were even implemented the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein had written to the EU Commission expressing concerns about the effects of these controls and asking for “flexibility”.

At the time I thought that Sinn Fein was complaining about something it had supported: the Brexit border had to go somewhere and it went down the Irish sea as it wanted.  For the DUP the complaint was consistent with their opposition to any separation from Britain, even if it wasn’t consistent with their support for Brexit.  But both were guilty of not accepting the seemingly empty statement of Theresa May that Brexit meant Brexit.

The difficulty of full implementation of the Brexit deal in relation to the North of Ireland was appreciated by the EU, which is why it was prepared to come to some agreement with the British Government if this could be separated from wider application.  This is what the EU side thought it was doing when perfidious Albion did what it does.

Both the EU and the British sought to leverage the situation in Ireland to their advantage and the latest spat is a continuation of that.  The breach of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) is a provocation that obviously plays well for the Tories politically but it has no future and can only fool the gullible Brexit supporters so often – yes even some of them will eventually twig.

The EU will not be deterred from pursuing its existing course and if it does not hold all the cards, the ones held by the British entail paying a price for their being played.  The range of actions it can take will always involve a higher price being incurred by them than the EU.  The possible benefit to the British is that any eventual fudge needed to get the Irish Sea border arrangements to work can be claimed as a victory even if the EU is content to accept it.

For the EU, the difficulty is, as they say, one of trust.  How can it be confident that any attempt to adjust the working of the NI Protocol does not entail more than a fudge that it can live with?  It is even now pointing out that the British are not implementing the deal already agreed, including providing EU officials with the information they require to validate checks.

Given the nature of the existing TCA there is no great need for the EU to seek to ‘punish’ the British, it has enough mechanisms to address non-compliance.  Were the British Government to still seek to essentially violate and contravene the Protocol it would compel the EU and Irish Government to choose between a Brexit border at the Irish land border or make the entry and exit points in the Irish State that border.  The latter has been described by unionism as a win-win-win situation (for GB, NI and the Irish State) but it would entail all goods leaving the Irish State being subject to checks whether made in that EU member state or not, and it would mean acceptance into that state of any British product whether single market compliant or not; hardly a win for Dublin.

The Brexit border at the Irish border would be widely condemned as a breach of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and although it isn’t we have reached a stage where political reaction will very much go along the same lines as if it did.  Practically it would be difficult to enforce and politically it would be very damaging.  Were the GFA working smoothly it might be remotely possible to conceive that this just about might be accepted (at a stretch) but not under current and any conceivable future circumstances given the instability of the Stormont Assembly and Executive.

Sinn Fein would find it impossible to stay in a political arrangement which produced an obviously strengthened border.  The DUP and other unionists are now faced with the same choice, as ex-DUP leader Peter Robinson has explained – basically suck it up or bring down the Executive and Assembly, which is not even guaranteed to get rid of the Protocol anyway.  Comparisons have been made with unionist opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement in the 1980s, but this opposition failed.

The DUP engineered the temporary suspension of Brexit checks at the ports through claiming that there were threats to staff that were not confirmed by the police.  Council staff from a DUP dominated council and from the DUP controlled Agriculture Department were briefly withdrawn prompting EU staff to follow suit.  The DUP has been unable to back up its claims of intimidation and the trade unions involved have denied claims that they had raised serious concerns.  The DUP Minister has also stopped work on building permanent border inspection posts (upon which work hasn’t started) but this too will not be a permanent obstacle to operation of the Protocol.

Loyalist politicians have engaged in their usual sabre-rattling, threatening to fight and engage in “guerrilla warfare” although this is always to be engaged in by someone else, in the first place by the loyalist paramilitaries.  They in turn have reminded everyone that they and the wider ‘unionist community’ are “angry” and are withdrawing support from the Good Friday Agreement.  Since this Agreement envisaged loyalist paramilitaries disappearing through bribery, and they have no intention of disappearing and see no need to do so when the bribes keep coming, what this ‘support’ amounts to rarely gets asked, just as it’s to lots of people’s advantage for it not to get answered.

The DUP came under criticism for meeting the paramilitaries’ umbrella group but the British Government, through the Northern Ireland Office, had already done so.  Normally when the British do something unionists don’t like these paramilitaries eventually get around to killing Catholics.  This time the immediate targets are as likely to be Protestant employees carrying out border checks as Catholics, and the British Government can be portrayed as at least partially on their side in seeking modification of the Protocol, if not yet its removal.  Their problem is the EU and the Agreement made with it.

DUP opposition has been motivated as much by falling polling numbers as the embarrassing results of its Brexit policy.  Its support was reported in February to have dropped to a 20-year low of 19 per cent, more than nine percentage points down on its vote share at the last Stormont election, which could see it being eclipsed as the biggest party by Sinn Fein.  The First Minister of Northern Ireland would then be a supporter of a United Ireland.  Most of the lost DUP voters have gravitated to the even more rabidly reactionary Traditional Unionist Voice, which according to the survey has increased its support by 10 per cent.

DUP leader Arlene Foster began the year by declaring the Protocol “the gateway of opportunity for the whole of the UK and for Northern Ireland” while now calling it “absolutely devastating.”  The DUP privately lobbied the British Government for a “Swiss-style” deal before their Economy Minister condemned it for requiring the UK to “slavishly” follow the EU.  The same Minister also complained about a £70m hole in her budget created by the loss of EU funding.

Unionist opposition is therefore incoherent and is partially muffled by the duplicitous policy of the British Government, which is attempting to delay the worst impacts of Brexit and probably harbours some vain hope it can modify the workings of the TCA permanently.  The EU will continue to implement the deal and to grind down non-compliance with the tools included in the Agreement.

In all this rolling calamity, that once again has exposed the disaster that is Brexit, we should finally not forget the role of the leader of the British Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, who voted for the TCA and now also owns its results.  However, rather than begin to separate himself from it and expose the disastrous effects of the Tories’ Brexit, he thinks he can ignore it and say nothing, even as it impacts the people for whom his three wise monkey policy is supposed to be for.  This, along with everything associated with Brexit, will not work.

Is learning from Brexit possible?

Last week the ‘Financial Times‘ revealed that the Tory Government is working with big business on plans to tear up those workers’ rights enshrined in EU law.  This would include ending the 48-hour limit on the working week; changing rules on work breaks and ending the inclusion of overtime pay in holiday entitlements.  This is the list reported but there are undoubtedly others.

That this was one purpose of Brexit and its likely effect was both predictable and predicted, it comes as a surprise to no one.  Yet large swathes of the Left in Ireland and Britain supported it, although much less vocally in Ireland because it is so unpopular.  In any case their support for it has assisted putting in place these projected attacks and is indefensible and inexcusable.

An analysis of why they took such a position would have to look at such things as an originally opportunist position becoming hard-wired into their politics; their nationalist perspective arising from the view that the nation state will introduce socialism and come to embody it; general simple-minded opposition to the EU on the shallow grounds that it is a creature of capitalism, and the strong tendency to have a more concrete idea of what you are against than what you are for.  There’s also a large dose of ignorance and stupidity involved.

The significant role of stupidity first hit me when I read that left supporters of Brexit were complaining that the negotiations on the British side were being conducted by the Tories.  Further examples became clear when they, like the rest of the Brexit movement, demanded a harder Brexit as the only one worthy of the name, and for the same reason – there was no point otherwise.

Now that even a blind man can see what the future invites, what are the chances that this left will reconsider its support for Brexit and the political approach that led to it?  What might this involve?

Well, much of this left also supports Scottish nationalism, which perhaps should be no surprise since this too involves an obviously nationalist project that harbours illusions in a separate capitalist state.

In the weekend’s ‘Irish Times’ Fintan O’Toole has a long article on Scottish nationalism that is quite good.  It notes that in 1979 the referendum on devolution and creation of a new Scottish parliament couldn’t even get 40 per cent of the Scottish electorate to support it.  Now opinion polls show majority support for independence.  O’Toole looks for reasons for the change.

The first is the decline of the Empire that Scots played such a prominent and profitable role in creating, before it shrunk to the extent that many middle class Scots saw potential for better career opportunities in a separate state.  Some on the Left present this opportunist turn as some sort of anti-imperialism.  That some Irish accept this is where another heavy dose of stupidity comes in, although again, a common nationalist outlook is a more adequate political explanation.

The second reason is the growth of the idea that Scotland is more progressive than England (Wales hardly ever gets a mention), an idea O’Toole correctly describes as a ‘myth’.  This is traced to the idea that Thatcher and her policies came to be seen as an imposition on the country from outside rather than as a class-based assault on the whole British working class.

This isn’t really an explanation, more an outcome – why did Thatcherism come to be seen as a rallying cry for Scottish nationalism and not British working class struggle?  The venom of nationalism is now so prevalent in the bloodstream that even when English and Welsh workers try to move to the left, through the Jeremy Corbyn leadership of the Labour Party, the Scottish left prefers its own nationalism and opposes it.

O’Toole notes the mass opposition of 70,000 Celtic and Dundee United fans during Thatcher’s attendance at the Scottish cup final in 1988.  Many Celtic fans, traditionally a base of support for the Labour Party, are now ardent nationalists.  Again, their existing (partial) identity with Irish nationalism assisted the switch, although with just as little justification.

O’Toole notes that the Scottish National Party tacked to the left in order to garner support from those opposed to Thatcherism, but Scottish nationalism is not a complement to Celtic supporters’ residual Irish identity but a dilution of it, if not a rival.  Recent criticism by the SNP government of the actions of Celtic Football club and praise for Rangers may mainly be a piece of opportunist tacking to a part of the electorate it hasn’t had success with, but it is also politically consistent with any idea of Scottish nationalism.

What O’Toole doesn’t cover is the employment of constitutional solutions by the Labour Party to cover up for its hostility to a militant class opposition to Thatcherism.  Ultimately this played into the hands of the more aggressive nationalists, but then the Scottish Labour Party was even more venal and rotten than the rest of the party.

The third reason advanced by O’Toole is that Scottish nationalism is very much bolstered by the rise of English nationalism.  How else, for example, can you account for the popularity of the SNP Government’s handling of Covid-19 as opposed to widespread criticism of the Tories?  Objectively, the differences are much less than the similarities and both have a very poor record in terms of deaths, making the same mistake of seeding care homes with infected discharges from hospitals.

The Tories have repeatedly used the rise of Scottish nationalism to attack the Labour Party, which plays very well for the SNP. It can hardly be a surprise that nationalist division encourages divisive nationalism.  Yet this too seems to have escaped much of the British left, which supports Scottish nationalism but deplores English nationalism, except for the most degenerate Stalinist section that is now buying into it.

Why do they not get that the former has helped the latter?  Why do those who did oppose Brexit not see the parallels with Scottish nationalism, both movements championing the magical powers of ‘national sovereignty’?  Did they really miss the absence of a Scottish component of the Corbyn movement, the potential base of which had already been partially vaccinated against left politics by nationalism?  Do they really think that the left of the nationalist movement in Scotland was the equivalent of the Corbyn movement in the rest of Britain; ignoring the project of the supporters of Corbyn being to move the Labour Party to the left while the most distinguishing mark of the left supporters of Scottish nationalism is the militancy of their nationalism?  Do they also have to actually witness its full reactionary effects before they discover that nationalism really is not the friend of the working class?

An analysis of why these socialist have taken such a position would have to look at such things as an originally opportunist (but successful looking and therefore trendy) position becoming hard-wired into their politics; their lapse into a statist conception of socialism and mistaken assumption that national separation is the default democratic position of socialists; general simple-minded opposition to the UK on the shallow grounds that it is a creature of capitalism, and the strong tendency to have a more concrete idea of what you are for when it doesn’t actually entail any element of socialism.  Not to mention that dose of simple stupidity.

If the Left that supported Brexit had any idea what mistake it had made in supporting leaving the EU it would be revising its support for nationalism of the Scottish variety.  It would even wonder whether any newly gained national sovereignty for Scotland might unleash demands for workers sacrifice for the newly won ‘independent’ Scotland in the same way the Tories seek to make Britain competitive against the EU.

Of course, it can be argued that Scotland voted against Brexit and a separated Scotland will seek to join the EU; although this is not an argument open to supporters of Brexit.  But even in this case, the point is not that the EU is something in itself that socialists should support, rather it is to be accepted as an exemplar of the progressive development of capitalism, which to the extent that it is progress is also progress towards socialism, as it increases the international socialisation of the forces and relations of production.

The point is that this internationalisation of capitalism, that by this fact brings forward the grounds for socialism, only does so because it strengthens the potential unity of the working class across nations.  It is exactly this unity that Scottish nationalism opposes and destroys.

We have seen this above; through its arising upon the bones of the defeated British working class movement under Thatcherism, and its opposition to workers seeking to mobilise to the left under Corbyn: its opposition to spreading this movement and assistance to those also opposed to it in the rest of Britain.

There is very little indication that the Brexit supporting left has learnt any lessons.  Although it may be viewed as early days, it is a sign you aren’t stupid when you can see the policeman’s truncheon falling and you decide not to put your head in the way, rather than wait until it cracks your skull, whereupon you declare the need to defend yourself against police brutality.

The EU-UK Trade Agreement – first impressions (2) Title VIII Energy

The European Union has been attempting to build a single energy market for over two decades based on liberalised markets for both electricity and gas.  This started with the First Energy Package for electricity approved in 1996.  Britain had started the process earlier and by the end of 1990 had privatised the 12 regional electricity companies.  Far from the big bad EU pushing privatisation it was Britain that led the way, continuing to have a major influence on EU energy policy as a member state.

By looking at the Energy section of the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement we can see characteristics that are repeated throughout the Agreement and illustrate the wider issues that it contains.

Reading Title XVIII Energy of the Agreement is like reading the Directives of the EU’s Third Energy Package, without the detailed rules but with the same principles agreed by the two Parties.  So, we have agreement to “competition in markets and non-discrimination”; with wholesale electricity and natural gas prices that “reflect actual supply and demand”; rules that “encourage free price formation”; and services that “are procured in a transparent, market-based manner.”

The EU also claims that it has agreement to “enforceable commitments towards Paris Agreement and non-regression on climate change and carbon pricing, with possibility of linking EU and UK carbon pricing regimes.”

Since the energy sector is heavily regulated and of strategic importance the Agreement permits heavy state intervention so that the commitment to free markets is heavily qualified, something that the most extreme libertarian advocates of capitalism might bristle at and left supporters of Brexit fail to appreciate.

For example, one of the sections (Article ENER.8) on ‘Third-party access to transmission and distribution networks’ repeats the EU requirement that “Each Party shall implement arrangements for transmission system operators which are effective in removing any conflicts of interest arising as a result of the same person exercising control over a transmission system operator and a producer or supplier.”

The EU recognises that while there can be ‘competitive’ markets in electricity generation between different companies, and in electricity supply to final domestic and business customers, there can only be one provider of the transmission system of high voltage overhead power lines and associated equipment.  In order to prevent the transmission system owner in the middle of the industry discriminating against particular generators or suppliers from rival companies, these transmission system owners have to be ‘unbundled’ from any joint ownership of generation and supply.

In order to protect the ownership structure of Scottish companies the UK as a member state had the rules elaborated to protect ownership structures that on the face of it looked incompatible with separate ownership requirements and removal of any potential conflict of interest.  This was an example, noted earlier, of British influence and not the ‘subordination’ claimed by some supporters of Brexit that we noted in the previous post.  In practice also, the transmission system operators mostly remained state-owned across Europe.

How far the rules could be bent is best illustrated in Ireland where the largest generation company is owned by the Irish State; as is the largest supply company, while the transmission system (and distribution system of low voltage wires) is also owned by the Irish State.  Not only that, but the Irish State also owns generation in the North of Ireland, a supply company and the transmission and distribution systems as well.  It also owns the undersea cables (interconnector) joining the Irish electricity grid to the one in Britain.

Some states regard such assets as strategic and are keen to retain ownership.  What this does is make a nonsense of the view that the EU is somehow a more ‘neoliberal’ creature than Britain, but also that state ownership is somehow socialist.  The Irish State has never had a social-democratic Party in office without it being the junior partner of the traditionally most right-wing capitalist party in it, yet ownership of the electricity industry in the Irish state is dominated by that state.  Something the Irish supporters of Brexit seem utterly oblivious to.

State intervention obviously gives rise to concern about unfair competition but given that both sides subsidise renewable generation this will be a hard area to police, making it another potential area for conflict – “each Party preserves the right to adopt, maintain and enforce measures necessary to pursue legitimate public policy objectives . . .”

In the body of the Agreement and Annex ENER-2 ‘Energy and Environmental Subsidies’ there are numerous references to the need not to “significantly distort trade between the parties”, and that subsidies generally “shall be determined by means of a transparent, non-discriminatory and effective competitive process.”

This includes that “a Party shall not impose a higher price for exports of energy goods or raw materials to the other Party than the price charged for those energy goods or raw materials when destined for the domestic market . . .”

The existence and further development of undersea cables (interconnectors) joining the electricity grids of different countries is the foundation of the single European Energy market that Britain has left.  It is testament to what Marxists have analysed as the Internationalisation of the forces of production and upon which the socialisation of production will form the basis of international socialism.  Their existing development under capitalism imposes its own requirements regardless of reactionary political moves to limit or reverse the process.

The Agreement is therefore keen that the maximum level of the capacity of electricity interconnectors is made available (as also for gas interconnectors).  This is the case if for no other reason than, for example, the electricity interconnectors between Britain and France and Britain and the Netherlands are jointly owned by the British and French and the British and Dutch.  Brexit should therefore not prevent this process of interconnector development from continuing. (See here for a current list of existing and projected interconnection).

This requires continuing cooperation between the EU and UK even as the latter leaves the EU’s Single Energy Market.  Cooperation between the energy Regulators and the transmission system operators will continue although the EU is clear that this does not accord the UK partner equivalence to their own in either case.  In the case of the “administrative arrangements” between the GB and EU Regulatory Authorities, the Agreement states that it “shall not involve, or confer a status comparable to, participation in the [EU’s] Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators by the regulatory authority in the United Kingdom.”  The cooperation nevertheless requires new provisions and rules for trading across the interconnectors joining the EU and Britain.

The main market for trading electricity in the EU is the Day-Ahead market in which hourly electricity flows are priced in an auction involving generators selling and suppliers buying power at the clearing price set by the auction.  This involves generation and supply companies right across the EU with the price calculated by an EU algorithm.  Because of restrictions in the flow of electricity across different countries a single price across Europe isn’t possible but the price differences that arise between different zones determines the direction in which electricity flows across the interconnectors between them.

So, for example, if the price in Britain is €60 and the price in France is €50 the flow of electricity would be to Britain, which would lower the price there and permit export from France and would be an efficient use of the interconnection.

The Agreement’s new arrangements are set out in an Annex (ENER-4):

“the Specialised Committee on Energy, as a matter of priority, shall take the necessary steps . . . to ensure that transmission system operators develop arrangements setting out technical procedures in accordance with Annex ENER-4 within a specific timeline.”

“If the Specialised Committee on Energy does not recommend that the Parties implement such technical procedures in accordance with Article ENER.19(4) . . .  it shall take decisions and make recommendations as necessary for electricity interconnector capacity to be allocated at the day-ahead market timeframe in accordance with Annex ENER-4.”

Which seems to say the Specialised Committee (made up of representatives of the EU and UK) can implement the new arrangements as set out in the Annex, and if it doesn’t agree to them, it can implement them anyway.

These arrangements envisage an auction involving the UK and those EU countries directly connected to the UK by interconnectors, before the EU Single Market Day-Ahead auction.  The results of it would be an input into the EU auction calculations.  The EU Day-Ahead auction closes at 12:00 and produces results for the 24 hours beginning 24:00 on the same day (all times are Central European Time i.e. one hour before UK time).

The newly mandated EU-UK auction would therefore have to be completed well before 12:00 and would not contain more up-to-date information on demand, the weather and power plant availability etc. which may thereby make it less attractive to potential participants.  In these circumstances the prices coming out of it may result in less efficient prices so that the interconnectors directly joining the UK with the other parts of the EU may not flow in the ‘correct’ direction.

In our example above, if, in the EU Day-Ahead auction, the price in Britain was €60 and the price in France was €50 the flow of electricity mandated by the earlier auction might be to France, which would lower the price there and permit export from Britain but would take electricity from where it is relatively expensive to where it is already relatively cheaper, exaggerating the price differences instead of bringing them together.  This would therefore not be an efficient use of the interconnectors.

This of course would affect both Britain and EU countries and would be sub-optimal for both but it is also the case that Britain would suffer proportionately more.  Another example of where exit from the EU may cause harm.

In looking in more detail at one area of the Trade Agreement we can see the stupidity of Brexit even from the narrow point of view of British capitalism.  This includes the left supporters of Brexit whose equally narrow nationalist claims are also unjustified as we have seen.  From a socialist point of view, while it undermines any genuine objective of international socialism Brexit also undermines its left supporters actual project of reforming capitalism through prioritising the nation state and its so-called ‘sovereignty’.

The EU-UK Trade Agreement – first impressions (1)

Thinking about the new trade agreement between the EU and UK I was remined of the words of Michael Corleone in the Godfather 2 – “keep your friends close but your enemies closer.”  And just like the film, the enemies speak of each other with admiration and respect, as forming a partnership, in coming together for what the EU describes as a ‘balanced’ agreement.

Of course, we can take this analogy too far: the EU and UK are not Mafia families.  Let us not be too hard or too soft on notorious enterprises engaged in legitimate business as well as activities that can only be described as criminal from any objective and moral viewpoint.

As a free and ‘sovereign’ power the British will have to do something with their newly found freedom and power, even if it only draws attention to newly discovered limits to both.  As I noted in the previous post – there will be no ‘moving on’ from Brexit, something noted in the European press.

In that post I noted that the EU would be going nowhere and the British would have to deal with it and the constraints it will impose.  Whatever admixture of rivalry and partnership arises following the Agreement it will not be a rivalry and partnership of equals.  The agreement shows that this is also true for the EU – Britain will still be there, as a rival and partner – and the Agreement leaves open the paths for both.  It has registered the relative balance of power between the EU with (roughly) a population of almost 448 million and GDP of €13.5 trillion, and that of Britain with 67 million and €2.5 trillion.

What is noteworthy is just how much has still to be agreed, from acceptance of the UK’s data adequacy; to services, including financial services; recognition of qualifications and much else.  In the next post I will look at the section on Energy that illustrates the extent of this, of what Brexit has torn up and now has to be replaced.

In the meantime the Tory Government and Tory press will sing the praises of an agreement that means that Britain will no longer benefit from free movement of goods, leading to more red tape for businesses; to customs formalities and checks on goods entering the EU, with more border delays; for food exports that require valid health certificates and systematic (phyto-)sanitary border checks, and companies wanting to supply both EU and UK markets having to meet two sets of standards and regulations while fulfilling all applicable compliance checks by EU bodies (with no equivalence of conformity assessment that would allow this to be done in and by the UK).

It will therefore probably take some time for the enormity of the losses to sink in, and for many Brexit supporters it never will; there will always be someone (foreign) to blame.  It is perhaps therefore not surprising to see even the most sober and informed supporters of Brexit exaggerate the potential role of Britain out on its own.

So we see this: “The most immediate conversations will be over what we have in this deal compared with what came before. To what extent will the UK be able to continue exporting services and which authorisations are still valid. These are matters of immediate economic importance, but less important than the overall implications whereby Britain and Brussels have shifted the regulatory focus from Brussels to Geneva, where the UK may enlist the support of its allies and fellow EU FTA holders to bring pressure to bear on the EU.”

“The longer term implications of this means the EU weakens its grip on technical governance to become more of a political and monetary union, the type that Britain could never be part of. We wish them the very best in their endeavours and look forward to working with them, but in international organisations we shall sit as sovereign equals rather than subordinates.”

Except of course that the idea that Britain was a subordinate in the EU is a myth.  The Single Market the Brexiteers have been so keen to leave is an example of the influence Britain has had, as was the enlargement of the EU after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  British influence could also be seen in EU policy on Energy, which I will look at in more detail.

A summary evaluation of the Agreement by the same Brexit supporters is that:

“It is one, also, which keeps the UK closer to the EU globally-based trading system than anyone could possibly have imagined at the outset of negotiations. It is one of considerable depth which creates a framework for a relationship which, if explored by people of far more diligence than Johnson and his cronies, could eventually be turned into a useful working agreement, albeit at savage cost to the UK in the interim.”

This “framework” within the Agreement, to be deployed for developing future relationships, includes “a Partnership Council, 19 specialised committees and four working groups which will no doubt be expanded over time.”

Their summary goes on to state that:

“The economic cost of that [Agreement] will be considerable and it will take two years at least to get the ball rolling through the various committees. A lot of work has to be done to rebuild trust and confidence between the parties, where the EU has to get the measure of Brexit Britain’s intentions and behaviour.”

“In this, one gets a sense that certain pennies have dropped. No doubt the election of Biden poured cold water on a number of transatlantic ideas and the UK is reassessing its global strategy, perhaps realising that the EU still matters as a trading partner. If there is a change in tone and attitude, the process of rebuilding will be faster.”

“This will no doubt leave remainers puzzling as to why we would go through such an enormous bureaucratic exercise to accomplish what amounts to very little at enormous cost. This is a dispute where remainers and leavers will never see eye to eye. This exercise is a switch from supranationalism to intergovernmentalism, broadening our horizons beyond Brussels, recognising that Britain was never an enthusiastic member of the EU and would always have to disembark before it reached its final destination – whatever that may be.”

“Brexit will never satisfy the eurosceptic fundamentalists because reality simply cannot oblige their definition of sovereignty, and though we may sit as sovereign equals in international forums, we do not sit as power equals. If we are to accomplish anything internationally we will need to build partnerships and alliances of like-minded nations, not least because the problems and threats we face in this century are far beyond the capacity of any country acting alone. Leavers just believe cooperation can happen without political subordination.”

The problem here of course is that partnerships and alliances have to have an objective and for that you need to identify your potential allies.  This would normally be those who are closest to you and with whom you trade most, but this is the EU and Brexit is all about tearing this alliance up.  So who are your future allies?

In the past Britain has used its power to seek allies in Europe and to divide its continental powers to prevent their unity.  However Brexit, far from dividing the EU, has united it by illustrating the price to be paid for leaving.  The only two other allies with near equivalent weight in the world is the US and China.  The former wouldn’t tolerate any real alliance with the latter, even if it made sense, and the former is, like every great power, interested in itself.  As one contributor to the discussion on the Brexit site noted – Britain won’t be at the table as an independent player, it will be on the table as part of the menu.  In any case any such alliance would render the just-signed Agreement redundant, which Johnson of course is quite capable of doing, as we have already seen.

These relatively sensible, if reactionary, Brexit supporters seem to envisage an ‘independent’ Britain forming ad hoc alliances with whomever Britain might seem aligned with at any particular moment.  This might be credible if the issues they might align on were also ad hoc and not themselves systematically defined.  The route of opportunist alliances has the potential for Britain to become a sort of rogue state, a deregulated offshore dump for the world’s criminals and partner for the world’s most disreputable regimes.  These supporters of Brexit therefore misunderstand both the nature of interests and of the particular interest of Britain.

They are however far and clear-sighted compared to Sir Keir Starmer who believes he can support the Government and not share the blame; not share in the opprobrium of Brexit that the majority of his party’s members and voters have for it.

If the process of getting to a deal has proved tortuous this will be as nothing compared to the torture of its effects.  When asked whether he was supporting something that would make people poorer Starmer avoided the question; but as the old saying goes – he may avoid it but it will not avoid him.

If, as it appears, his only justification is that the alternative of a no-deal is worse then he should oppose the rotten and false choice that the Government alone is responsible for.  By voting for it, on the other hand, he will join himself to this responsibility.  He claims to be giving leadership, but he is supposed to be the leader of the Opposition and leadership of the Opposition requires . . . guess what?

Once again, he has shown himself to be a smart lawyer and stupid politician, even when judged by the narrow electoralist criteria that appear to motivate him.  He will assume that progressive Labour supporters will have nowhere to go, without considering that this might include nowhere near a ballot box.

Brexit has been toxic to everything it touches, as it continues to move on it looks like another casualty of it could be the Labour Party.

‘Moving on’ from Brexit

Within minutes of the announcement that the negotiations between the EU Commission and Britain would continue the Labour Party put out a statement calling for Brexit to get done, plus supporting a deal so that we could all ‘move on’.  There was no sign of Starmer’s six tests for a Brexit that Labour could support because this would mean not supporting any deal.

So, the statement was one part opportunism and one part aping Boris Johnson’s “get Brexit done”.  The most stupid however was the idea that once there is a deal, any deal, we can all “move on”.

In 1957 the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan sought to pre-empt creation of the European Economic Community by proposing a wider free trade area that would encompass the six would-be members of the EEC.  The six however had already committed while the British appeared to want to have their cake and eat it: gain a free trade area for its industrial goods in the rest of Europe while continuing its current arrangements with its old Empire, especially in relation to food.  For the prospective members of the EEC the British proposal appeared to threaten political ambitions for the new European organisation while France in particular saw it as a British attempt to take leadership.

When this British attempt failed it went ahead with creation of a separate European Free Trade Association (EFTA) that included Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland, setting its launch date for May 1960.  When the EEC members accelerated plans for cutting tariffs in the same month EFTA, in an effort to keep up, followed suit with its own programme of cuts the following February.  An earlier example of the exercise of sovereignty and the ‘ratchet effect’ so objectionable to the British now.

Just over a year later Britain demonstrated its commitment to its new EFTA allies and announced it was applying to join the EEC.  It did this for many reasons, including that EFTA was too small, that the countries of the dying Empire were going to go their own way, and that the US supported West European unity, meaning that EFTA could never rival the EEC.

Joining it, according to Macmillan in 1961, was necessary not only to boost relatively poor economic performance but “to preserve the power and strength of Britain in the world.”  Showing its continuing devotion to its EFTA allies it unilaterally imposed a 15% surcharge on imports from EFTA members in 1964, making them in some ways worse off than the US.

Today Britain is on its own.  It will not be putting together an alliance of several other European states to rival the EU when it doesn’t even have the weight to compel direct negotiations with the two largest EU states, Germany and France.  Instead of such a coalition it trumpets an exit on “Australian” terms, which is a euphemism for no deal but has the merit of showing how isolated it is.

So, Britain sought EEC membership again and applied to join in May 1967.  Six months later France vetoed the application.    In June 1970 the EEC opened negotiations and in January 1973 the UK was admitted to membership.  There was no position for Britain outside it that remotely cohered with its view of its role in the world.

This is even more the case now when its relative power has continued to wane and will suffer a downward step change as it leaves, regardless of the post-imperial bluster that has gone off the scale.  When the Royal Navy boasts of four small boats defending British sovereignty you should know you’re in trouble.  As a nuclear power it awaits a decision on whether the US is going to go ahead with a missile system Britain depends upon for its ‘deterrent’.

Having rejected membership of the Single Market, even were the EU to agree to it, any deal that is now negotiated will be a ‘thin’ one.  In other words, it will address tariff barriers which average about 3 percent while leaving intact non-tariff barriers that are in the order of 20 percent.  Such barriers threaten the existence of whole industries, including motor manufacture, and many others that require EU approvals such as chemicals and aerospace.  Electricity interconnection with France and Ireland requires adoption of EU harmonised trading rules.  Not mutually accepted rules, not equivalent rules, but exactly the same rules.

The British have resiled against the necessity to align its rules with any development of those of the Single Market.  Why should it change its rules just because the EU changes theirs?  As we have seen, we have been somewhere like this before.

Were the British proposals to be accepted, and their rules to remain unchanged while the EU developed its own rulebook, the rules set by the EU would no longer govern entry into the Single Market.  Britain would have access without having to follow the same rules as member states.  In order to prevent this the EU would have to put on the brakes to take account of the European power that has assumed the strategy of preventing European unity for centuries.  The alternative would be to open itself up to other countries seeking the same privilege as the British.  Neither of these is going to happen.

So, we witness the issue of Fish remaining prominent as a way of allowing Britain to declare some sort of victory in a skirmish while surrendering on the main battlefield.

It seems fairly clear, as Denis Staunton from the ‘Irish Times” made clear this morning, that there will be a deal, but that won’t mean Britain can ‘move on’, except in the sense that it goes round another loop of either having to rejoin its European neighbours or sink by itself into an isolation its people will not accept. There is no ‘moving on’.

This means that the strategy of the British Labour Party of supporting Brexit through supporting or abstaining on the deal in Westminster will put it on the wrong side of history and make it joint owner of the disaster.  The referendum and tortured path since have demonstrated again and again that Brexit is toxic.  It will entail untold attacks on the working class, its rights and its standard of living.  The Labour Party should not be looking to be a donkey that blame can be tagged on to.

The division of workers along national lines shows how reactionary Brexit has been by inevitably promoting division within the British working class itself. We can see this through the millions of workers opposed to Brexit and the rise of Scottish nationalism, nurtured by the idea that one variety of British nationalism is somehow qualitatively better than another.  Already in England we see demands for some sort of autonomy for certain regions like the North of England, as if there was a geographical solution to a problem arising from the system that crosses all borders.  It is as if nothing has been learned from the failure of proposing the fix of devolution for Scotland as the solution to austerity and decline.

On the Left, the so-called Trotskyists are saying it could all have been different when it couldn’t; while Stalinists wallow in their own nationalism, in their demand for national sovereignty and their own version of (nativist) identity politics.

The unity of Europe and erosion of national political differences is objectively progressive. It is a task that socialists would themselves seek to accomplish.  That capitalism is doing it only confirms that it can be done in a rightist and conservative manner and that Marx was right to see capitalism as transitional to socialism.  Of course, it is only transitional to socialism if the working class makes it so, but it won’t if it fails to fight for the tasks that capitalism itself has commenced and imposes for its own ends.

In the shadow of Brexit

Back in May I wrote a post ‘It’s not about supporting Jeremy Corbyn anymore’, which stated it was about opposing Brexit, and ditching Labour’s disastrous support for it, poorly disguised in such a way as to piss off anyone with a strong view on the matter. I said after the European elections in which the Tories came fifth, with less than 10 per cent of the vote that –

“The Tories only need a new leader promising Brexit, with a bit more credibility, to have a hope of some recovery, and they’re electing one.  And if they fall short it will not be because Labour has surged forward but because Farage has managed to carry forward his success into a general election.”

But of course, Farage was pulled into line by those with the money and the only significant shift in Labour’s policy was support for a second referendum, except that I noted at the same time that “it’s not about a referendum – if Labour supported some version of Brexit to be approved by a referendum Corbyn would be politically as dead as a Monty Python parrot.”  Which he now is, because his promise to negotiate his own Brexit, and then put it to a vote without committing to supporting it, made no sense.  Then he defeated a motion to support Remain at the Labour conference while promising that a future conference would decide.

In a Facebook discussion I was admonished for not recognising that the gains of the Corbyn movement were a massively increased left membership, a sprinkling of new left MPs and an audience for anti-capitalist ideas.

That a mass membership was encouraged by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is clear, but it also became clear that for this leadership the role of the movement was to follow the leader, not to transform the Party into the social movement that many hoped and believed it should become.  That’s why a claim could only be made that there was a smattering of new left MPs.  This is as much the legacy of Corbyn as defeat in two elections and a divided and untransformed Party, with no clear successor never mind a good range of candidates from which the left membership could choose.

As for an audience for anti-capitalism, I believe in something which is so much more than this negative identification and that has for two hundred years gone a long way in demonstrating not only what is wrong with capitalism but also setting out the alternative.  Brexit itself is a sort of anti-capitalism, in the Lexit, reactionary, stop the development of modern capitalism sort of way that wants to go backwards to when the nation state set the framework of economic and social development.  The proclamation of anti-capitalism as a touchstone is a political retreat and confusion by the left and is consistent with such anti-capitalist phenomenon as Stalinism, and other reactionary populist politics that are inconsistent with the fullest development of capitalism but also antithetical to socialism.

While Corbyn might be leaving the stage, we continue to be under the shadow of his triangulated Brexit policy, including the narrative of a non-existent principle that we must respect a reactionary referendum result regardless of its consequences.  Also included is the idea of a Labour Brexit, one that will supposedly be progressive but bizarrely involves no commitment to supporting it, in fact a declaration of neutrality by the leader with further evasion through postponing a conference that would determine the Party’s position in any second referendum

These are only some of the contortions that have characterised Corbyn’s Brexit policy.  To declare surprise at his unpopularity in the election after such a catalogue of evasion is to audition for the role of one or all of the three wise monkeys.

The failure to openly and honestly fight for Brexit by the leadership, hiding behind six tests; the nonsense of a Labour deal with all the benefits of EU membership but none of the costs; weeks of talks with Theresa May to identify a common Brexit policy, and then claims that a deal could be agreed and voted on within six months (because the EU had agreed to Labour policy!), all this continues to confuse.

For what is most striking about Corbyn and his Brexit policy is not his opposition to Remain but his inability to argue for Brexit.  Like the small left groups who claim that explicit support for Brexit would have defeated the Tories, they fail to explain how all those who are happy to vote for the Tories and Brexit Party could be won to a Labour Brexit that would be denounced as a fraud; or explain what price would be paid in terms of the reactionary politics of nationalism and racism that would be necessary to adopt even to make the attempt.

And what would these groups expect the 68 per cent of Labour’s voters who voted Remain to do while such a policy was pursued, including those in the North of England – in the ‘traditional working class’ areas – who voted to Remain?  How could it ever become Party policy when an even greater percentage of the Labour membership support Remain?

The answer, of course, is that it couldn’t.  And because it couldn’t it wasn’t, although this did not prevent all these groups declaring the need for the impossible – open Labour support for Brexit – that they didn’t even fight for themselves. When was this openly presented as the policy to be supported, as opposed to all the duplicitous evasions listed above?

What exactly was Lexit?  What would it entail? For some it seemed not to matter after it was assumed it would happen – the detail was unimportant, only the economic policy of a future left British Government would matter.  For others it was all the benefits but none of the costs – membership of the customs union and Single Market but no free movement of people and no seat at the table that sets the rules because Britain could help set them from outside, or ignore them if it wanted.  For others it became no deal and trade on WTO terms, sometimes with the lie that these WTO rules meant no real change to the current trading arrangements for years. For others, supporting Brexit seemed only a matter of timing (it was an ok idea before but not now) and a question of who would lead the caravan across the desert and not where it was going.  No wonder there was no open fight inside the Party to win it to explicit support for Brexit.

So now we have a leadership contest where we are threatened with all this vacuous and reactionary nonsense again, with added soundbites and personality claims that only embarrass the listener.

And the obfuscation also continues.  The latest piece I’ve read is an attack on “obsessive Remainers” who have scored “a massive own goal” because they pushed for a second referendum and thereby brought about the victory of Johnson and a hard Brexit.

While it is arguable that a second referendum was not the way to stop Brexit – that was better carried out by a general election in which Labour committed to stopping it – the real claim is that a Labour Brexit was the way forward.  In other words, this is another Brexit-supporting proposition that doesn’t quite declare its love but criticises those who had the temerity to openly fight for Remain.  That this was far from a lost cause can be appreciated from the vote at the Labour conference before the election, when only some sharp practice prevented such a policy being adopted.

While the target is those who fought for Remain the argument is framed around the centrist opposition, represented by “Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson, and Chuka Umunna [who] knew how to play the media and get their message across”, plus the Peoples Vote campaign.

Absent from the analysis are the millions of people this campaign mobilised who were far from all being supporters of the Labour right, and who represented a movement that a Brexit-opposing Labour Party could easily have challenged for leadership of, but which Corbyn through his absence demonstrated opposition.  Along with failure to democratise the Party, this abandonment of a progressive mass campaign to a right-wing leadership is the most criminal of Corbyn’s failings.

Absent also, is any appreciation of the mass support of the voters and members of the Labour Party who also opposed Brexit and are the key constituency defining the possibilities that socialists have to make any significant step forward.  Instead we are invited by supporters of Brexit to orient to a so-called traditional working class that no longer exists in its previous form because the industrial, social and political environment that created it was destroyed.

The article states that “It would be fatuous to scold liberals for not supporting Corbynism, a project that was never their own (although some did claim to support the kind of social-democratic policies that Labour spelled out in its election manifestos). But we can certainly blame them for undermining their own self-proclaimed goal: to stop Brexit . . .”   Scolding  liberals, however, is all that the article does, so it is doubly fatuous by the fact that the author isn’t concerned that Brexit be stopped, so why would anyone with such an aim pay any heed to it?

The hypothesis is put forward that “a so-called ‘soft-Brexit’ deal would have been a perfectly acceptable framework for Labour to carry out domestic social reforms: a step sideways, not a step backward”, a claim made not in order to prevent “rewriting history and shifting the blame”, but to define the next step forward, including the identity of the new leadership of the Party.

This claim is certainly less bold than the ‘jobs Brexit’ claimed by the leadership of the Labour Party but it is still false: the exit of the UK from the EU will put up barriers to migration, trade, investment and economic growth that will very definitely not simply be “a step sideways”. Only those on the left who think that stuffing capitalism or a capitalism in crisis is the objective (i.e. ‘anti-capitalism’) could mistake this as a step forward for the working class.

The best opportunity to achieve the ‘soft’ Brexit that the author considers acceptable was when “Labour came forward with its own platform for the Brexit negotiations that set out clearly the terms of a soft-Brexit deal. It was practical and achievable — and the leading EU officials said so publicly.”

Unfortunately, this “perfectly acceptable framework for Labour to carry out domestic social reforms: a step sideways, not a step backward” turns out to be modification of Theresa May’s deal.

This proposal involved five tests which included ridiculous ideas such as leaving the EU while having a say in the EU’s trade policy, and a claim that a customs union would allow frictionless trade, which is also nonsense.  It could not therefore, as it claimed, prevent a border inside Ireland.

Calls for ‘close alignment with the single market’ does not mean membership of the single market, which anyway would be impossible if the UK left the EU, but which then raises questions of what barriers would this Brexit cause the UK to fall behind, and how much would it assume of having your cake and eating it.  The proposal was for “clear arrangements for dispute resolution” but the EU has these and they’re not going to be subject to British influence.

It is claimed that this platform was “practical and achievable” but if Brexit has taught everyone anything it is that detail is the devil that cannot be ignored and that it isn’t practical and achievable unless it is explained, and it wasn’t.

So, it is not true that the EU considered that this Labour proposal was both practical and achievable, but rather simply a step forward in the right direction, a diplomatic way of opening negotiations that would sort out the detail and remove what nonsense elements were included.  The press interpreted this as a step towards the Norway option but apart from the enormous agreements required to replicate such an option for the very different UK economy, it would involve acceptance of EU rules, which is what is claimed to be the problem, and renunciation of any say in making these rules, which is the purpose of a social democratic government.  How would this have made any sense even if it had been “practical and achievable”?

Another example of the potential for a Labour ‘soft’ Brexit is given by reference to the alternatives to Theresa May’s deal voted on in the House of Commons.  It is noted that the closest to succeeding, losing by only four votes, was Kenneth Clarke’s ‘’customs union’ proposal.  But this, like the rest, got less votes than Theresa May’s deal and only got as close as it did because of abstentions.  Given the lack of clarity in the proposal any clarification was more likely to provoke opposition.

The paucity of these so-called alternatives that might have avoided the disaster of Johnson’s victory, as the article would have it, is precisely shown by the one that came closest to succeeding.  It was so vague it didn’t actually constitute a plan.

It didn’t touch on the single market so wouldn’t have addressed the backstop for Ireland that was the centre of the controversy.  Its customs union didn’t make clear whether it would be dynamically aligned with further development of the EU customs union, or whether the European Court of Justice would have jurisdiction, or whether it was meant as an attempt to go back to arrangements created in 1973 when the UK joined the EEC.  And it didn’t say anything about what arrangements would apply to the 80 per cent of the UK economy comprised of services.  But apart from that it could have been a winner?

While it might seem very passé to go through all this again, the argument about Brexit hasn’t gone away and is very far from being done.  The time given for agreeing future arrangements after officially leaving at the end of next month is not long enough to negotiate a comprehensive trade deal.  If any deal is made, or number of sector specific side-deals agreed, it will not be enough to maintain current levels of trade.  Jobs, living standards and employment will all suffer and the identity of the cause will not be hard to find. All Tory promises about nursing and police numbers, however counted, and of new investment in infrastructure, will be unaffordable, unless borrowing increases significantly, which would only cause its own problems of increased interest rates.

If, on the other hand, the transition period is extended, Johnson’s purpose in doing so will damage his credibility and he will come under pressure from the ultra-supporting Brexiteers.

All this will raise challenges to the new leadership of the Labour Party, which will have to do a lot better than its triangulation over the last three years.  Yet, the issue that defined the election, determined the defeat and will determine and define the next period, has not so far been placed clearly at the centre of the debate over who should be the new Labour leadership.

The policy pursued by Corbyn of pretending every other issue matters more, that the question has been settled, that everyone will move on, that tail-ending the Tories by making piecemeal criticisms while having no principled or oppositionist alternative, or any combination of these disastrous approaches, will allow all the problems stored up by Johnsons to be overcome, or at the very least prevent Labour taking advantage of Tory failures.

The majority of people rejected Johnson’s reactionary policies, including Brexit.  Labour can choose to represent this majority or chase after that minority who will become increasingly disenchanted with it and who will have only three alternatives to choose from.

The first is that pursued by the majority so far – forget about the promises of market access and easy trade agreements and accept only the hardest of exits as a real Brexit.  The Labour Party cannot win by appealing to the more and more radicalised reactionaries who will follow this course.

The second is acceptance of what will become increasingly apparent – that Brexit cannot deliver on its promises and was a mistake.  A soft-Brexit approach will become less convincing to Remainers as it appears more and more pointless and may become indistinguishable from Johnson’s policy, should he so choose.  In effect the Labour Party would be hostage to the vagaries of Johnson’s opportunism and lies.  Labour will get little credit for mild criticism of a policy seen to fail so thoroughly.

The third is that a section of Brexit supporters will retreat into political inactivity and apathy as their prejudices are dashed, at which point ‘politics’ and ‘politicians’ will be blamed for the world not behaving as they think it should. Labour will not win by appealing to the prejudiced and deluded.

For all these reasons the lessons of the Brexit election need to be learned and the great schism in the left between those who have trailed behind this reactionary project and those who have opposed it will have to be settled.  Settling it will not be achieved by reconciliation of socialist internationalists to a successor Corbynista leader, who may simply follow the Brexit water down the plug-hole in ever decreasing and quickening circles.

Whoever is considered best to be the next leader and whatever their strengths and weaknesses, the left must prioritise opposition to Brexit and democratisation of the Party and judge the candidates on this basis.  This will involve examination of candidates’ platform and the forces ranged behind them.  If it is the Labour apparatus and union bureaucrats that is their base, these will determine the favoured candidates future policies.  It is not enough to seek the candidate most likely to defeat any soft left or openly centrist candidate because without opposition to Brexit and fulfilment of Party democracy the return of the right wing will only have been prepared and not prevented.