The Communist Party of Ireland and Brexit 2

In defence of Brexit the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) repeats claims made by the Tory Party European Research Group (ERG), claims which have long been discredited. They revolve around the argument that nothing will really change unless we (the British State) want it to.

In dismissing claims that leaving the EU will lead to trade barriers such as tariffs, the CPI claims that “with so much trade between Britain and EU countries it is unlikely that the capitalist class will want to lose this market.”  We get the CPI version of the Tory argument that the Germans will want to sell us their cars so we’ll be alright.  And in another repeat of such nonsense we are told that “many countries would be very happy to begin trading with Britain that are not allowed now under EU regulations. They will now be free to trade wherever they want.”

So, when Britain leaves the EU it will strike up agreements with other countries, and presumably the capitalist rivalry that sets the framework for such deals will involve none of the detrimental effects that arise from those made by the  EU.  Imperialism, neoliberalism, undemocratic impositions etc. will all cease to be a problem when Britain seeks trade deals with the USA, China, Arab dictatorships, Asian tigers and Latin American governments such as that in Brazil.  Such an outcome is described in this way – “The British people have taken the first step towards economic independence by rejecting control by EU capital. The next step is for us to do the same with the native capitalist class.”

Since much of international trade is within a single multinational company, or involves materials or components for further assembly, it is difficult to understand how leaving the EU would lead to independence, never mind the question why you would want such independence in the first place.  It’s not at all clear how leaving the EU is analogous to the British ‘people’ leaving its capitalist class – or having ‘economic independence’ from it.

But it’s not just the faulty imagery of the Brexit project peddled by its Tory sponsors that infects the CPI’s support.  In an effort to bolster its case the Party repeats exactly the same arguments.

So, the ignorant fiction of Jacob Rees-Mogg is repeated in the claim that “under the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (article XXIV:5, clause 3), Britain will be allowed to have free trade with the EU for ten years while it negotiates a new trade deal . . .”

Brexit, it seems, will mean freedom but it’s a good thing it won’t happen right away.  A modern version perhaps of St Augustine’s prayer – “O God make me pure, But not yet’

This is a claim repeatedly exposed as mistaken, so it is not therefore “all utter nonsense”, as the CPI claim it is, to say that trade barriers will arise when the UK leaves the EU.  The nonsense that exists is the claim of the ERG, repeated by the Communist Party, ironically in an article entitled ‘Brexit: Fact or Fiction?’.

The Party claims that “the open borders for trade within the EU are self-regulatory, in that all members comply with the regulations, and there are no tariffs. If Britain wants to deal with the EU after Brexit it will have to do the same; so there is no need for queues at borders, whether “hard” or “soft.  There will be random checks . . . If British companies are found to be outside the regulations they will be dealt with by the legal system.”

It seems as if the CPI supporters of Brexit feel the need to justify support for Brexit in a concrete way that others such as People before Profit and the Socialist Party do not, although this only exposes their case.

The borders within the EU are not “self-regulatory”, whatever that means, as the CPI itself surreptitiously admits when it states that regulations must be complied with – by members.  But after Brexit Britain will not be a member and compliance works because of thousands of pages of regulations and a legal system that imposes them; a system Brexit supporters are desperate to leave but think will allow Britain to continue to trade as other EU states do.  It is admitted that there will be ‘random’ checks’, but only as they exist now, despite Britain not being a member.  And of course, all this in the version of Brexit sought by the Tory ultras and the CPI, which is of the ‘plain and simple’ kind – i.e. involving no customs union!

So while Boris Johnson wants to have his cake and eat it, it appears the CPI wants the whole bakery while destroying it. The irony of wanting out of the EU because of such things as the customs union, Single Market and EU court system, while relying on these to save the project from disaster must be lost on members of the Party.

It’s not that the CPI is totally blind to the potential consequences of the Tory inspired Brexit but it seeks to disassociate itself from any responsibility for it by simultaneously claiming that while it will makes things worse it will not be very much different:

“If Brexit occurs according to their design and under Conservative Party governance, Britain will remain a largely low-wage country but with a diminishing social wage and a constantly receding welfare safety net—in other words, not greatly different from Britain within the EU”

The Party also recognises that in their fight against the EU they have been joined by viciously right wing parties across Europe and that “the beneficiaries of this growing disillusionment have been the political right,” but again there is no reflection on what this says about their support for the project.

The Party‘s support does however illustrate the alarming similarities between their left nationalism and the nationalism of the right. Both seek to destroy the EU, not in order to replace it with something progressive at an international level, and not in the sense that they seek to reform it in some way.  Their solution is to return to the nation state, and a strong state at that.  There are reports in Britain that such an alliance of convenience might already be sewing confusion.

The CPI has learned nothing from the collapse of the Stalinist states and the disrepute these brought to socialism in the eyes of millions of workers around the world.  It expresses regret at “the defeat and overthrow of socialism in Europe” and ignores the Stalinist regimes’ responsibility for incubating the xenophobic nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism that characterise many of the states in Eastern Europe that lived under this ‘socialism’.

Calling itself Marxist the Party ignores Marx and Engels repeated opposition to the identification of state ownership with working class rule and socialism.  The Party’s goals are not workers unity across nations, working class independence and opposition to their own capitalist states, but support for regression from the international capitalist development of the EU to more backward and therefore necessarily reactionary forms – “a departure from the EU could provide the opportunity to break both dependencies and establish an independent, sovereign national democracy, giving real power and influence to working people.”

The CPI supports Brexit that threatens a ‘hard’ border while it states that “the labour movement needs now to be actively supporting north-south co-operation, the all-Ireland economy, and the protection of the Belfast Agreement”.

It denies ‘retreating to the past’ but its policy is just that – “we need to push real, concrete demands for all-Ireland solutions to health, education and economic and social development, an all-Ireland investment and industrial strategy that favours working people, and targeted capital investment that meets the needs of our people, not the needs of speculators and profit-hungry corporations. This requires national control of capital, something that is totally illegal at present under EU rules.”

Again and again nationalism replaces class: so we have national control of capital not workers ownership; while we must defend the nation state which alone is presented as the road to real change and the depository of “democracy” and “accountability”. The demand is for “national sovereignty and national democracy.”  Not workers democracy and workers sovereignty. This sort of sovereignty is not only not the same but is incompatible with the sovereignty of the capitalist nation state and goes way beyond the democracy that this state will allow.

The Irish working class will be free and sovereign only as a part of the freedom and sovereignty of its sisters and brothers in the rest of Europe.  Not only is national sovereignty the wrong objective to fight for it is impossible, even for the biggest powers,  to claim unchallenged and unimpeded national sovereignty.  It is certainly ridiculous to consider such an idea for a small country like Ireland – the EU is currently teaching this to a much more powerful country.

Brexit is currently an object lesson that exposes the reactionary nature of seeking national solutions to the problems facing the working class.  The confusion and shambles of the current British exit from the EU is not what invalidates it, but is only symptomatic of the contradictions that an attempt to go backwards must expose.

To state, as does the CPI, that for a humane and socialist world “our contribution, as a small country, to this sought-after development must be to create a sovereign workers’ republic—a republic free from British, EU and US imperialism and supportive of progressive humanity wherever it struggles for the good of all” is to believe in the impossible. A sovereign Irish Workers Republic cannot exist while “British, EU and US imperialism” exist.  That’s one reason why the genuine solution is an international one.

The members of the CPI may not be able to conceive what such a solution would look like but that is because they haven’t looked.  Old formulations based on militant nationalism or republicanism laced with leftist phrases are familiar but have failed. The left nationalism of the CPI is reactionary and harks after a past that is dead.  Brexit is teaching this for those who are willing to learn.  If the past is another country, for Ireland’s workers that country is Britain. No wonder they don’t want to follow it.

Back to part 1

The Communist Party of Ireland and Brexit 1

In common with every left defence of Brexit, the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) states that its starting point is “a class understanding . . . does it strengthen and advance the interests of labour (workers) or consolidate and advance the power and control of capital (bosses)?”

Unfortunately, the author then also states that “Brexit is at its heart a question of democracy and sovereignty”, and in relation to these there is no ‘class understanding’ involved.  The article quoted (see below) demonstrates that it does not consider that democracy has a class character, or that the the sovereignty invoked is the sovereignty of a state, and this too has a class character.

So the CPI doesn’t start from the sovereignty and democracy of the working class – the independence and self-determination of the working class – and so does not start from defence of its interests and explain what these might be.  What the CPI starts from is the independence of a nation, or rather two separate nations – Ireland and Britain – to presumably be followed by every other nation state within the EU.

Class becomes submerged under the requirements of individual nation states, i.e. capitalist states, and only within these is real change, in particular by working people, possible– “The strategy of the EU was and is to close down at the national level the capacity of people, in particular working people, to effect real change. It was to neutralise the capacity and the impact of national class struggle, to hollow out democracy . . .”  The idea that the working class must seek to organise itself at an international level to struggle internationally does not appear.

In the case of Ireland this means that it is not only the working class that is made subservient to a European imperialism but also that “The Irish ruling class is still subservient, still parasitic and dependent upon its relationship with imperialism. It is a comprador ruling elite.  The relationship between this state and the EU—as indeed with all the peripheral states—is a special form of neo-colonialism. We see this in the debt imposed on the peripheral states by the core states—all former colonial powers—and in the imposition of various “programmes” to facilitate the transfer of wealth from peripheral to core countries.”

The concrete reality that the Irish State and its rulers have benefited from membership of the EU is covered up while austerity programmes initiated and implemented by individual member states are ignored.  The transfer of wealth is considered primarily, as transfers between nations and not between classes.  For example the implementation of the EU’s Troika programme of austerity in the Irish Sate was preceded and followed by austerity imposed by and through the Irish State.  To proclaim that the answer to fighting the former is to fight for the ‘freedom’ and ‘sovereignty’ of the latter is a betrayal of the interests of the Irish working class and by extension of all those across Europe whose interest lies in their unity against both.

Because it does not start with “a class understanding” the CPI asks the wrong question – “Who needs to win back powers and establish national sovereignty and national democracy? We have to ask the question, Which class needs the tools of national democracy and sovereignty to advance their interests? And which class is subservient to and will collaborate with the EU and imperialism? . . . Are not national democracy and national sovereignty the essential tools needed for advancing the interests of the Irish working class?”

In this way the cause of nationalism is identified with the cause of the working class and the nation (capitalist) state is the instrument of its salvation through “a radical government anchored in a mobilised, politicised working class”

I have written a number of posts (beginning here) on the fallacy of this as a strategy for the Irish working class in relation to its adoption by those who consider themselves Trotskyist, including most recently the Socialist Party, although at least in the current case the CPI are being true to their political tradition.

The tools required by the working class are not the sovereignty of the capitalist state or the democracy that this state will allow to it, except in so far as the democratic norms that exist allow it to organise. The proper tools are the unity, independence and organisation of the working class against the capitalist state, at a national level as well as in opposition to their collaboration at the international level.

The members of the CPI should consider why so many of the Party’s claims and reasoning for Brexit require distortions of reality and arguments derived from Tory-ultras.  Even their most simple- minded vacuous rhetoric finds its CPI equivalent. Where Theresa May justified her most extreme version of Brexit as ‘Brexit means Brexit’, so does the CPI state that “It should not be assuming that Britain is going to remain in the customs union with an agreed backstop, thereby reneging on the result of the referendum, which was that Britain would leave the EU—not “kind of” leave it, partially leave it, or “sort of” leave it. It was a British exit from the EU. Plain and simple.”

So for the CPI Brexit means Brexit, “plain and simple”.  And no matter how complicated it has turned out to be the CPI, like the Tory Brexit ultras, make the same declarations, such as this one (in February of this year) even while the reality of exiting the EU shows it to be neither “plain” nor “simple.”

The CPI, also like the Tory ultras and the DUP, blames the EU for threatening a hard border inside Ireland.  Having opposed the EU-proposed backstop, again like the Tory Brexiteers, that is intended to prevent a hard border, it argues that it is the EU which will cause it to happen – “We must remember who’s doing the threatening. It is not Britain’s border, or Ireland’s border: it is the EU’s border. It is up to the EU to sort out this problem in the interest of its members, in other words Ireland, the only member affected by it.”

The idea that the border of the EU in Ireland affects only the Irish State and not the rest of the EU demonstrates such an ignorance of the issue at stake that it is hard to work out what it is this writer actually does understand.  In any case, once again we see left supporters of Brexit survey its potential wreckage and call on its great enemy to sort out the mess.  This approach is like that of the Socialist Party (SP). In an internal SP discussion their position is stated like this – “We say that whatever way the different capitalist vested interests resolve their business dispute, it must be done without any physical or repressive borders.”

In one contribution to the internal discussion a leading member of the SP correctly describes this position in this way:

“This far too passive and abstract position has been repeatedly echoed and emphasised in oral discussion along the lines of “You [the capitalists] deal with this yourselves. We’re not going to accept any division.” It accepts that the capitalist classes are in power and simply says they must implement Brexit without physical borders. What it doesn’t say is how this real problem would be addressed by a left government with a socialist programme.”

As I have pointed out in an earlier post, there is no immediate or short term prospect of a left Government, even if this was the correct strategic objective to go for, so the question becomes – how is the wreckage of Brexit to be addressed in a political programme?  The obvious answer of course is to prevent it.

The CPI states that “The vote to leave had nothing to do with xenophobia and everything to do with the damage the EU has done to British industry and jobs”, despite the evidence of opinion polls to the contrary.  We are expected to believe that the Leave vote had nothing to do with xenophobia despite it being supported by the vast majority of Tory voters, all of UKIP’s supporters and the far-right, including the fascists.

The loss of British industry and jobs is supposedly to be resisted through Brexit and making new free trade deals with the rest of the world, to where much of old British industry has relocated; while newer industries often dependent on membership of the EU – such as the car industry in Sunderland – are to be defended by leaving it!

It’s one of those occasions where you sigh that you couldn’t make it up, when referring to someone who just has. But then the CPI does it again!

It criticises the Irish Government for “siding with the EU against Britain, which also happens to be our largest trading partner, and against the decision made by its citizens to leave the EU”.  And it says this while supporting a British exit from the EU, which happens to be Britain’s largest trading partner!

So the CPI claims that “The EU is doing to Britain exactly what it did to Ireland during the financial crash”, “the EU and its anti-democratic nature has once again proved itself to be an enemy of independent, sovereign decision-making”, and “the EU has to be seen to punish Britain for leaving.”  We are reminded that “the Irish people today are caught in the triple lock of imperialist interests: British, European, and American.”  Britain appears as both oppressed and oppressor, as imperialist and subject to imperialism,although it’s never explained how, in the CPI’s terms, this is the case.

For the CPI, with Brexit, “at least the North will be shaking off the shackles of EU imperialism. One down, two to go: British and American next!”  Imperialism is not seen as a world-wide system, within which there is a unity characterised by capitalist competition and rivalry, but is understood as a series individual states, or groups of states, which oppress other nations.  The world is divided into nations and not classes, which only attain some sort of rhetorical primacy when they exist within individual, ‘independent’ states.  There is no conception of an international workers or socialist struggle, but at most a solidarity of struggles based not on some tangible and immediate interest but on moral grounds or more distant goals.

Note: In this and following posts the quotes from the statements of the CPI can be found here:

https://socialistvoice.ie/2017/10/brexit-who-decides/

https://socialistvoice.ie/2018/10/the-irish-left-and-the-european-union/

https://socialistvoice.ie/2018/11/brexit-and-backstops-difficulties-for-the-eu-continue-to-intensify/

https://socialistvoice.ie/2019/01/brexit-and-the-divisions-within-the-british-ruling-class/

https://socialistvoice.ie/2019/02/brexit-fact-or-fiction/

Forward to part 2

Brexit and the politics of ‘dead Russians’

I’ve written a number of posts criticising the support for Brexit by some left organisations but these haven’t addressed the original political inspiration for this support.

Brexit is a nationalist project, which is obvious when the likes of UKIP or the right wing of the Tory Party declare their support for it.  However, this is also true of its supporters on the left

‘Lexit’ is simply a left version of Brexit nationalism and left or right, it is nationalism which defines both types of support.  In effect, it doesn’t matter whether the intentions of these leftists are good, or they get one thing right – that the EU is a creation of international capitalism – the left supporters of Brexit have rallied behind a reactionary cause.

So, for example, it is not just the case that left supporters of Brexit were drowned out during the referendum by the more obviously reactionary campaigns; the argument of these people was invisible because it was fundamentally no different from that of the mainstream Leavers.   Both assumed the need to defend the predominant role of the nation state against the internationalisation of the economy and society, including its political form in the shape of the EU.

This can be seen in the many parallels between the arguments of the right-wing supporters of Brexit and its left echoes. Again and again the arguments presented by both, such as they are, are fundamentally the same, as we will see in a later post.  Both denounce the lack of accountability in the EU and compare it unfavourably with the democratic character of member states.  Then we’re told that it’s simply choice between the two.  A simple choice – with a straightforward outcome.

If anyone doubts the similarity, confirmation can be found in the fact that these left nationalists voted for the Tory-UKIP Brexit.  Whatever differences were inside their head never escaped it, even in order to abstain, never mind vote against.

Nothing has changed since the vote. These left nationalists have since failed to offer any alternative to the obvious shambles that has resulted from the decision they helped to make. Where are the left-wing pro-Brexit demonstrations? Where are all the meetings to welcome the great leap forward and discuss next steps?  Why is the left not marching in its own contingent from Sunderland to London as I write this blog?

If there’s a special place in hell for those who promoted Brexit without a plan, the supporters of Lexit have their own particular space already booked.  They are more invisible now than they were before the vote, in some cases attempting to hide behind the patently absurd pretence that what they voted for is not now really that important.

This, for example, is the argument of the most significant supporters of Brexit, which is wrapped around the leadership of the British Labour Party, whose alternative version of Brexit to Theresa May’s is not fundamentally different to her Withdrawal Agreement, including the ‘red lines’ she was forced to abandon.

These include inside the EU customs union while Britain can still negotiate its own trade deals, and participation in the Single Market but without acceptance of its most progressive feature – the free movement of people within the EU.  And the biggest lie of the lot – that you can have a ‘jobs Brexit’ and the left social democratic plans of a new Labour government can go ahead unaffected.

Unfortunately we do have the spectacle of a ‘left’ Labour leadership opposing the free movement of people.  If some supporters of Lexit were forced to sit at a typewriter and type ‘we must oppose the free movement of people’ endlessly, like a Jack Nicholson character in ‘The Shining,’ it would not be surprise if they still failed to register just how utterly reactionary this is.

Strip away the stock left phrases and the argument of the left supporters of Brexit is essentially the same as that of its right-wing custodians. Some cases are more obvious than others.  The example of the Communist Party of Ireland is one of the more obvious, which should not be a surprise, and this will be covered in the next two posts.

This is because it is Stalinism, the nationalist distortion of socialism and Marxism, that is the real political inspiration for left support for Brexit.  It turns out, as if it should really be any surprise, that the old debates by ‘dead Russians’ about the nature of socialism are neither obscure nor irrelevant.  And because they are not irrelevant, neither are the writings of Marx and Engels from whom those who defended the traditional internationalism of the socialist movement in these debates derived their ideas.

These writings include the ‘Communist Manifesto’ in which Marx enthusiastically acknowledges the development by capitalism of a world market, as the grounds upon which the working class created by this development could establish a new socialist society.  This development of capitalism created a new working class, which in turn created an industrial and political movement that was imbued with a confidence that they were on the side of history, a confidence that socialism was all but inevitable.

Do not fear the development of capitalism because it is creating its ‘grave diggers’.  Do not fear the dissolution of old barriers and restrictions, of old conventions and customs because these pave the way for a completely new set of human relationships.  Do not fear the socialisation of capital and the undermining of national divisions because on such processes an international class will be formed and an international movement of workers created.

Capitalism will again and again create a working class in its own image and the reflection that will stare back at it will be just as international in its politics and organisation. Giving birth to it will not be painless or easy, but then the creation of the new never is.  We should not however put ourselves in a position where the political right can point to us and ridicule us like Cameron did to Blair and say – ‘you used to be the future once’.

These views about the nature of socialism meant the movement looked forward not backwards and it is from these that it derived its confidence in its ultimate success, its hopes for the future and its positive programme of transformation. It is therefore not only from the defeats of the working class that the socialist movement lost this confidence, now long evaporated.  It will not come back for as long as the movement seeks only to retard capitalism, to limit it and tame it, or even to stymie it, strangle it or simply to smash it.

The left, as has been pointed out with glee by its opponents, has long been berated for being negative, for always knowing what it is against but not what it is for.  What it is for in a real sense, not empty phrases that are without content, without any practical or immediate application, or if they are real, are simply promises to return to a previous form of capitalism that failed to survive.

So the left is against austerity, against war, against inequality and discrimination.  But when it comes to positive answers the opposition to austerity turns out to involve expansion of the role of the capitalist state, its bureaucratic ownership of resources, and increased taxation of the rich, who unfortunately of course must stay rich in order to guarantee the revenues that feed this form of ‘socialism’.

Opposition to war involves pacifist illusions or support for those fighting imperialism no matter how reactionary they are, because they are ‘anti-imperialist’ – the ultimate end point of a programme defined by what you are against and not what you are for.

Opposition to inequality and discrimination meanwhile has for some now degenerated into identity politics where this negative identification of difference is primary and the grounds for any unity based on common interest is excluded by definition.

And within all this, support for Brexit fits in perfectly – opposition to the international development of capitalism but default support for increasingly outmoded and reactionary capitalist economic and political forms.  All the better for the attempt to recreate the old Keynesian accommodation with national capitalism.

The majority of workers sense what Brexit means, even if they do not have the political consciousness to understand it in the terms presented here.  They understand the backwardness of little England nationalism; they understand the growth or racism and xenophobia as true and authentic reflections of Brexit, and they understand that Brexit means turning their backs on the world in order to subordinate their hopes to narrow-minded nationalist myths.

EU flags fly in Remain demonstrations because the EU is the only political embodiment of a wider international vision they support and want to develop.  The international socialist movement on the other hand has long since submerged into nationalist islands that stand up for the interest of Irish workers, or British workers, or Scottish workers, or workers of the ‘global south’ – for the concerns of any group of workers except their true interest which can ultimately only be defined without national limitation or qualification.

Only in form can socialism be fought for within national terms, and even here this must be less and less the case in order for socialism to advance.  The existence of the EU is a reminder of such a requirement, which is why those who insist on national roads to socialism are unable to deal with it.

And because this purely negative opposition is without any positive content, the left supporters of Brexit are deaf, dumb and blind to the consequences of the no deal Brexit their position requires them to support – for they can hardly support a deal with the hated EU that the whole purpose of Brexit is to destroy.  Again and again the consequences of their decision is attributed to someone else – the Tories, the EU or just capitalism in general.

Key to this degeneration of the socialist movement was the defeat of the revolutionary wave that followed the First World War, itself a reflection of the continued vigour of capitalism, and especially the defeat of the Russian revolution.  From this defeat grew the ugly and deformed phenomenon of Stalinism and the nationalist distortion that was defined as socialism in one country and individual ‘national roads’ to socialism.

This is the history, and these are the conceptions, that lie behind left support for Brexit.  The appearance of a new generation of political consciousness, not necessarily only of young people, provides an opportunity to renew socialism on the internationalist grounds on which it once stood.  The last thing it needs is the dead hand of Stalinism suffocating it with defeated strategies and the promise of a future ‘socialism’, which oppressed millions of workers and which was decisively rejected by them when they got the chance.

This is therefore the importance of rejecting the left nationalism that stands behind support for Brexit and the Stalinism that has inspired it.

Brexit – stop digging!

Wayne Asher writes in the International Socialism Journal (ISJ) that “the traditional left in Britain has committed a colossal mistake in its approach to Brexit and is making matters worse by an obsolete refusal to correct it.”

The traditional left, as Asher calls it, is once again exhibiting a failure that can be seen running through its history throughout the twentieth century, involving the subordination of socialist movements to the state, in its nation state form, expressed in a capitulation to nationalism.

The subordination of Social Democracy and its incorporation into the State led to it urging the workers of each country to slaughter each other in World War 1.  This in turn massively reinforced nationalism after the war, leading to an even greater catastrophe in World War 2.

The defeat of the Russian Revolution saw the Stalinist counter-revolution base its politics on the Russian State and more and more on Great Russian nationalism.  Thus today we even have Stalinists who defend Russia (as if it were still a separate social system from capitalism), entirely forgetting why they supported the country in the first place.

The Trotskyist movement has fought a rather lonely battle against this and such has been its isolation many of its subjective adherents are now no more than pale reflections of these larger forces.  So, we often see the espousal of ‘anti-imperialism’ without any progressive or socialist content, and a programme based on state ownership – ‘nationalisation’ –  instead of workers’ ownership.

Also common is a primitive internationalism.  So, for most social democrats the internationalisation of capitalism is to be supported and the working class subordinated to it.  This is expressed in Britain through the majority of Labour MP’s uncritical support for the EU and its supposed progressive agenda.

On the other hand, for Stalinists and the left social democrats influenced by them, the road to socialism remains national and membership of the EU is rejected on this basis.

As for some of those claiming the mantle of Trotskyism, I was reminded of the corruption of organisations claiming to stand on this legacy by a recent article on Brexit by the Irish Socialist Party, which made explicit its perspective of international socialism as simply being the coming together of already socialist nation states.

This view can see no role, except a purely additive one, for the international struggle of workers. In effect, there is no international struggle, at most a solidarity of separate struggles, perhaps still quoting Marx from more than a 150 years ago that the struggle is national in form. Such an approach is really then the Marxist version of the internationalism of nationalism, in which anti-colonial movements reject accusations of their nationalist limitations by saying that they support other nationalist movements, not just their own.  Brexit is yet another example of this left nationalism.

Asher has no difficulty showing that this policy of the organisation of which he was once a member is wrong.  There are however limitations to his critique and his position could be stronger.

The critique is based mainly on the view that the movement for a left Brexit has had no purchase on reality because the supporters of it were so small. In such circumstances he argues that the Brexit project could only be a reactionary one, and so it has obviously proved.

This sort of analysis is the basis on which another organisation I can think of opposed Brexit.  In effect, they have registered the reactionary nature of Brexit in a purely empirical manner by witnessing the nature of its support and effects.  The Socialist Workers Party and Socialist Party continue to support it by denying this reality and inventing their own.

Asher shows the reactionary character of the support for Brexit – that it is not a movement of the oppressed against austerity and is not a movement of those ‘left behind’.

Its core vote was Tory, reactionary and racist and his article is worth reading on this account alone if anyone is still in any doubt.

However, this recognition of immediate reality does not provide the right starting point for determining how workers should vote.  It is one thing to recognise the reactionary nature of the campaign for Brexit, but to base our own approach simply on this is to believe that our opposition to Brexit is merely contingent, that we could or should look forward to a ‘good’ left Brexit.  It fails to recognise that the effluvia of reaction that has poured forth from the Brexit campaign was not accidental or contingent but faithful to its nature.

Asher states that “Alex Callinicos’s 2015 article warned “the referendum is about the EU as a whole, not just immigration. Socialists in Britain will have to take a stand on the entire project of European integration”.  Unfortunately Callinicos does not seem to have taken his own advice and frames everything in terms of a disembodied racism that stands above everything else, as we discussed in the previous post.

It is not clear that Asher starts from the place recommended by Callinicos either; he appears simply to argue that the immediate weakness of the left and the reactionary nature of the existing Brexit project was enough to determine the attitude of socialists:

“. . . it is quite possible, as Momentum did—to accept the traditional left analysis of the EU and still argue that the correct decision in the 2016 referendum was to argue for Remain. Whatever the levels of oppression and unpleasantness in today’s Britain, they are not the fault of Brussels but of two decades of New Labour and the Tories, and neither were reliant on Brussels to carry through such policies. Socialists who argued for a Remain vote did so not because of illusions in the EU but because they saw that the main issue in the campaign—given the weakness of the left—would inevitably be reactionary nationalism and outright racism.”

He says of the “formally correct position the left (excluding Momentum)” that “it had a formally correct analysis on the nature of the EU but fell into abstraction because it did not take into account the extreme weakness of left-wing forces and the inevitable nature of the Leave campaign in a downturn that has lasted decades.”

We will not go into what all the features of this “formally correct analysis” of the left might be, except to say that I assume it means that – other things being equal, i.e. a stronger left and weaker right – the correct thing would have been to support Brexit.

In this respect, it should be clear from previous posts that I don’t agree with this, and have argued that the working class should not seek to reverse the progress of capitalism into a more backward and purely national form but should rather build its own alternative on the basis of the international development of capitalism.

In this context, I will simply take up one point made in the article.  Asher absolves the Remain left of a belief ascribed to them by Callinicos “that . . .  the underlying assumption of those on the left supporting a Yes vote is that the EU represents, however imperfectly, the transcendence of nationalism and so internationalists and anti-racists should vote for Britain to remain in the EU”.

It’s not clear to me that Asher agrees with this argument, which might be stated slightly differently as being that one reason to support Brexit is that the EU does not, even in an imperfect way, represent the transcendence of nationalism.

This seems to me to be obviously wrong.

Not because the EU transcends nationalism in the sense of superseding it – given the role of the member states in its operation this would not be possible – but because the EU does represent the development of capitalism beyond the restrictions of national boundaries.  The forces of production of modern capitalism in their most developed forms have transcended the restrictions of the nation state and are international in character.

The Brexit debate has been an education in quite how international capitalist production is.  This includes such a range of industries that the Institute of Directors has said that around 30 per cent of companies, and so not just the large ones, have or will shift some or all of their operations out of the UK.

We only need to consider that the Euro is an international currency, with one Central Bank, that has replaced a number of the most important national currencies, including the Deutsche Mark and Franc

Brexit threatens the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU, and was designed to end the freedom of movement that allowed this migration to occur. This movement is but another example of the international development of the forces of production.

In this sense then, the EU does (very imperfectly) represent the transcendence of nationalism.

And this is not just in relation to the economy.  The EU has always been a political project and specifically designed to mitigate certain nationalist antagonisms.  Its supranational political structure is still to a large extent the creature of member states but these states have ceded real political power to supranational bodies.  This is true even of the European Parliament, despite the well-known weakness of its powers.

It should nevertheless not be surprising that the largest nation states carry the biggest clout in the EU and that the easiest nationalisms transcended are the smallest, which doesn’t however include the British.  When some are more powerful than others this transcendence can easily be seen as, and is, subordination, but a perspective of going back to a Europe of purely nation states, the logic of Brexit, is quite clearly not a solution to this but a return to the problem.

The economic and political (imperfect) transcendence of nationalism is reflected in the consciousness of Europe’s population.  Brexit has not prompted a growth of opposition to the EU across Europe and the latest Eurobarometer opinion poll shows increased support for it.  This support is far from uniform or unqualified, but even in the UK Brexit has increased the intensity of support for the European Union.

One opinion poll just before Christmas showed that 30 per cent of Germans supported the proposal by the German politician Martin Schulz for a United States of Europe, which was also supported by 28 per cent of French respondents.  Unsurprisingly the UK was lowest in the poll but even here the proposal was supported by 10 per cent, even though such an eventuality is not even presented for debate, except when it is trashed by Brexiteers.

Asher points out that the supporters of Lexit are in a hole and are still digging.  This is a real problem for the relatively small forces that claim to be Marxist.  As an example of where this might ultimately lead we need only look at Russia where the nationalist depths that Stalinist parties have plumbed has resulted in a programme of extreme national socialism.

This is possible, if only because the left supporters of Brexit are as delusional as its supporters on the right.  In fact, their delusions are greater.  Both live in a world in which Britain can become either the standard bearer of a free market world or a beacon of socialism – if only it were freed from the rest of Europe.

How delusional this can be was revealed to me this week when I attended a meeting on the Irish trade union view of Brexit.  Two speakers from the floor ridiculed the prospect of 27 EU countries electing left or anti-austerity Governments, thereby committing the crime of holding back the UK and Ireland from moving forward.

Aside from the admission that the unity of Europe’s workers was therefore considered to be effectively dead; so, it would have to follow, would any prospect of socialism, which is international or it will not exist.

But what was really delusional was that this claim – that we were being held back – was made in Belfast of all places.  Yes, that city renowned throughout Europe as a trail blazer of working class unity!

Where do you start with such nonsense?

In the hands of such people what we have is not Marxism but a dogmatic Marxism which, because Marxism is not a dogma, is no Marxism at all.

If the contribution of Asher has gone even some way to making the left supporters of Brexit stop digging it will have performed a service.  In this light, we might even see the article by Callinicos as an attempt to stop digging.

It would appear however that some people have yet to show signs of stopping.

Lexit – You were never really there

According to the polls not many people have changed their minds since the referendum, although there may be a few signs that this is beginning to change.  Instead a shift to a Remain majority appears to be from the death of mainly older ‘Leave’ voters and entry to voting age of mainly ‘Remain’ young people.

It might be thought that the reactionary mess of Brexit would cause those supporting Lexit to reconsider but the obstacle to this is obviously the politics that got them to this position in the first place.  I tried to get one supporter of Lexit to address this mess by asking him if he was happy with the way Brexit was going, but he refused to answer.

However, a sign that at least some are debating the question is shown in the latest issue of the International Socialism Journal (ISJ), which contains an article that calls for just such a reconsideration.  In fact, it calls on the Socialist Workers Party to recognise that it made a mistake and to correct that mistake.  It refers to the organisation’s earlier position on the European Economic Community as a way of helping it do so, and I have covered this history in a previous post.

The ISJ also contains an article continuing to defend Lexit from one of the leaders of the SWP, Alex Callinicos.  A fair summary of this article would be ‘we were right, and anyway it doesn’t matter that much.’  In my experience this appears to be a common view among Lexit supporters and has the convenient effect of divorcing themselves from the real world consequences of Brexit and their support for it.

We can continue to refer to Brexit (and not Lexit) because this is what was on the ballot paper; this is what the campaigns to leave proposed in the referendum; this is what all the debate about implementation has been about since, and most obviously this is what SWP members voted for when they put their pencil on the ballot paper.

Any claims that they were actually voting for something other than what we are getting could only be true if the world were as SWP members wished it to be, and of course it isn’t. Examples of this denial of the world as it actually is is illustrated by Callinicos’ denial that the Brexit vote was racist while still having to admit that the result ‘partially’ encouraged racism.

Since racism is for him the over-riding issue this in itself should be enough to make him reconsider, but to actually do so would require acknowledgement that his reading of the result is nonsense.  The article by Wayne Asher opposing Brexit in the same issue of the journal demonstrates this and contains enough material from the now widely publicised opinion poll commissioned by Lord Ashcroft to show that the Leave vote was thoroughly reactionary.

The core Brexit vote was nationalistic, xenophobic and racist, which is why it encouraged racism afterwards.  It was centred on small capitalists, middle class reactionaries and demoralised workers, many of whom don’t normally vote or habitually vote Tory or UKIP.  Whatever their disaffection with the status quo, their response to this status quo was to blame other victims and ally with those whose policy is to make things worse.  Asher very effectively demolishes any argument that socialists should orient to these people, through what amounts to critical support for their reactionary project on spurious grounds that they are the basis of some anti-austerity protest.

The major argument of Callinicos however is that the issue of Brexit is not really that important – “which is the more important issue – the EU or racism?”  Aside from artificially dividing them into wholly separate issues when even he admits Brexit has encouraged racism, both should be considered together, understanding that Brexit is the key assault on the working class at the moment and raises very important issues for workers and particularly socialists.

He acknowledges that the referendum result has been interpreted as a rejection of free movement for European citizens but draws no conclusions that maybe the result was therefore not for the best.  If Brexit was something progressive why so many reactionary consequences?

To put a veil over all this we are told that despite “this deep political and constitutional crisis . . . the plight of British capitalism is unlikely fundamentally to change in or out of the EU.”  He feigns agnosticism over whether the country will be worse off while acknowledging that supply chains will be disrupted, and states that Brexit has “simply highlighted the limits of the reconstruction of British capitalism under Thatcher.”  A bit like cutting your right hand off to highlight the need to use your left just as well.

Callinicos refuses to acknowledge that the Brexit project will involve increased attacks on workers and that for the ultra-right this is one of its main objectives; he complacently claims that “the dynamics of global crisis will continue to work whatever happens on 29 March, and working people will still face attacks and need to fight back in or out of the EU.”  If or when such attacks come will he be saying that these are simply run-of-the-mill attacks on workers’ living standards – nothing special?  No particular cause?

By counterposing opposition to Brexit to opposition to racism he makes the claim that some Remainers are putting support for the EU ahead of fighting racism and fascism. Aside from his sleight of hand – that opposition to Brexit means support for the EU – it is he who has, to put it in his terms, put support for Brexit ahead of fighting racism and fascism.

He wishes to further divorce himself from responsibility for the project that he has supported by claiming that the rise of racism was happening anyway and that there is a tide of such reaction everywhere – so why blame Brexit?  He ignores, or simply denies, that Brexit has made such racism worse and that Brexit is the project in Britain in which this reactionary movement involving Trump etc. has coalesced.

The idea that you can support Brexit while opposing racism and the racists is absurd – imagine a Lexit contingent on a Brexit demonstration consisting of the English Defence League, Football Lads Alliance and UKIP!

But ‘never mind’ seems to be the message – “where you stand on the EU is a secondary question”.  “There is no reason why we can’t stand together against the main enemy – the bosses and the far right that the crisis of their system is strengthening.”

Yes, the millions of EU citizens working in Britain will see no issue with standing shoulder to shoulder with those who voted for Brexit and placed their right to live and work in Britain in danger.  They shall ignore that it was not just some “crisis of the system” that has strengthened the far right but also Brexit.

In the real world, it is not for these millions of workers, or for the millions of working class Remain voters, to explain to the SWP why they will not join their anti-racist campaigns but for the SWP to explain how they could be their effective allies in fighting racism while still supporting Brexit.

Callinicos claims that in supporting it he is demonstrating that it is not impossible to campaign against the EU on a socialist basis, and that “the arguments for leaving the European Union were substantial and debate-worthy.”

However despite this, and his claim that Brexit was mainly motivated by progressive impulses, he nowhere presents the relevance of Brexit to any progressive struggle that is going on.  Nor does not say how his and other left organisations supporting Brexit are helping to push it in a socialist direction.  In fact he is not able to point to any initiative that is putting a left Brexit on the agenda.  The only attempt at this is the ‘soft’ Brexit so far championed by Jeremy Corbyn, and this would still result in lower living standards and is in any case unworkable.

He admits that “the referendum wasn’t something that the left had campaigned for”, but given the argument that the EU is unreformable and is such an obstacle to progressive change you could be forgiven for seeking an explanation why not?  The campaign however, and its result, has demonstrated that Lexit has been an irrelevance, if not those who consider it in relation to the integrity of socialism and Marxism.

Callinicos admits that the referendum result has threatened to “stoke populists anxieties with unpredictable consequences’ . . . “amid political and perhaps economic turmoil’ but again sees no reason to reconsider his support for what got us here.

Like the Tory Brexiteers who proclaimed the benefits of Brexit but buggered off when it came to implementing it, the supporters of Lexit have turned round to claim that their Platonic love child isn’t really that important.

The final act of abandonment is put forward in the final sentence of the article:  “The radical and revolutionary left too should avoid getting trapped on one side or other of the debate within the ruling class and instead stand ready to promote and help shape “fundamental revolts”.

Having supported “one side”, as he puts it, by supporting Brexit, he now wants to claim that, actually, socialists should now not take sides. Of course if they followed his advice it would conveniently make implementation of Brexit that bit easier.

If only he and the other supporters of Lexit had decided to dump it earlier.  It would have saved themselves, even if it would not have made much difference to the result.

Brexit humiliated . . . again

Supporters of Brexit claimed it would ‘bring back control’ and allow Britain to agree more favourable trade deals with the rest of the world.  It was also argued by some that a trade deal with the EU would be the easiest to agree and that the EU would rush to conclude it, such was the importance of Britain to the rest of Europe.

When the EU took control of the negotiations and stated that it wasn’t even going to discuss a trade deal until other matters were sorted first the illusions of the Brexiteers were exposed as fantasy.

So instead they threatened the EU with a no deal scenario – “no deal is better than a bad deal” they said, in a reformulation of the claim that the EU needs Britain more than Britain needs the EU.

Now we have Theresa May arguing that the draft withdrawal agreement must be supported because no deal would be so awful that it cannot possibly be allowed, and hers is the only alternative. Gone are the claims that a trade deal with the EU will be easy to agree, and so ridiculous is the notion that the EU will rush to agree one that no one even thinks to ridicule it.

Boris Johnson claimed that the EU could “go whistle” for their divorce money and Britain would “have cake and eat it”,but now the draft withdrawal deal requires that Britain pay its money, and more besides for the period of the withdrawal, although it does involve “have cake and eat it.”  It’s just that it is the EU that will have cake and eat it – the UK will have to accept its rules, and in various areas not regress from them; will have to continue to pay into the EU; will have to accept new rules agreed during the period of the deal, and will have a veto over any attempt by Britain to remove the Irish backstop that will remain until a new deal with the EU is agreed, sometime in the future.  And of course, any new deal will reflect the imbalance of power between the UK and EU which produced the draft deal.

So far is the withdrawal deal removed from ‘taking back control’ that this is its defining feature – that Britain will submit to rules and relinquishes any influence over them.  Britain will leave the EU through an interim deal that has been agreed because alternative deals have stupidly been rejected by the Tory Government as beneath it.

But the can has only been kicked down the road, so that fatal choices have only been postponed, and when they come they will also be framed by the same imbalance of power that has given birth to the withdrawal deal. In the longer term this will simply be unacceptable to British capitalism.

So the deal does not so much postpone a final Brexit deal as anticipate it, because any sort of final trade deal following Brexit will see Britain subject to the same forces that have resulted in this humiliation. Any fanciful notion that the USA or China will be more accommodating than the EU in a future trading arrangement belongs in the same category as ‘have cake and eat it.”  The decline of British imperialism, and its relative weakness, is laid bare and its competitors are not going to ignore it or let it pass unexploited.

No wonder it is on the question of control that those opposed to the deal have seized.  This weakness, which even ultra Brexiteers have cottoned on to in their own infantile way, is the only possible reason they are now calling for no deal as the alternative – because they can’t get a better one.

It’s why two leading Brexiteers, despite supposedly being in charge of the negotiations, have condemned their outcome.  Why all Brexit ministers have not resigned and why the detested Theresa May is still leader of the Tory Party and Prime Minister.  No one wants her job, or at least not now and not yet.

But what applies to the Tories applies equally to the Labour Party and its alternative, which gets more obscure by the day.  Any putative Corbyn deal is subject to the same imbalance of forces, and claims that it can deliver a ‘jobs Brexit’ become ever less credible as a result of Tory failure.

That this is the case is in itself a condemnation of the failure to oppose Brexit and explain that there cannot be a good Brexit, and that the best option was to continue to argue for Remain.  Had this been done the Labour Party could now claim some credit.

Instead it relies on the Tories cutting their own throat, and the continuing hopes among its members and supporters that at some point the Party will oppose leaving.  And while it has said it will vote against May’s deal, its claims that it can negotiate a better one appear wafer-thin and its rationale for opposing May’s deal just as slim.  It follows the ultra Brexiteers in its current defence of a possible good Brexit by condemning May’s draft deal because of its commitment to having to obey rules while having no say over them.

It’s rather like the incredible story in ‘The Independent’ in which a Tory Brexit MP slams the deal because Britain will have no influence in Europe and will have no MEPs or Commissioner!

And what of the supporters of Lexit, who must oppose the May deal on precisely the same grounds? While Tory supporters of leaving the EU thought Britain could gain strength from Brexit the supporters of Lexit thought it would weaken the British State, as it will, ignoring the effect this would have in weakening that state’s potential to carry out the anti-austerity and state-led development policies they support.

Unfortunately, both share the same illusion that national solutions are better than international ones and on this both are wrong.  The supporters of Lexit think a progressive British State can end austerity and be the motor of progressive economic development on a national basis, while Tory Brexiteers foresee a deregulated, free market tax haven on the shores of Europe.  Both ignore the fact that the rest of Europe doesn’t disappear just because Britain leaves the EU and that the EU will not allow a threat to it to develop in either left or right forms.

Both capitalism and certainly socialism seeks and requires solutions at the international level, and while it may be possible to envisage a large offshore tax haven it is impossible to envisage a progressive island of socialism off Europe’s coast.

If the Lexiteers even got that far, which they couldn’t, they would suddenly find that they needed the rest of Europe’s working class to help them. And if they think that their example of splitting will inspire these workers then there won’t be a European working class to appeal to, just a collection of 27 other fragments of that class, all supporting their national roads to socialism, or nationalist xenophobic competition more likely, if they really did follow the British example.

It is no accident that today Theresa May has gone back to the most reactionary justification for Brexit in order to defend her deal – the idea that it will allow increased immigration controls that will apparently allow Britain’s young people to get jobs and training. As if it wasn’t austerity and Tory education policies that were the problem but foreign workers.

She has claimed that workers from the EU will not be able to “jump the queue”, except of course when the UK eventually, if ever, agrees a free trade deal with the EU, in which case the EU will want particular rights for its citizens.  The claims for Brexit never cease and never appear.

With this deal they have been postponed.  Promises made but not delivered, which will encourage true Brexit believers to rant ever more aggressively and their leaders to seek ever more scapegoats for their failure to deliver.

If the Tories, with the important assistance of the EU, were to succeed in pushing this deal through, the right-wing dynamic of Brexit would not be stopped or tempered but would continue to unfold. Hopes that a general election will lead to a Corbyn Government would place the burden of Brexit delivery on it, and without a policy of opposing Brexit such a government would have no mandate to reverse it.  Whoever in the Labour party thinks this is smart politics needs put out to pasture.

The Labour party should point to the current mess as the inevitable result of Brexit which is so bad the alternative offered by the Tories is only worse.  Only a fight to Remain can address the political turmoil by offering a way out.

Brexit – the dogs that barked and those that didn’t

The Open Britain Campaign has listed seven promises that the Tory Government has broken in its welcome to the new draft of the Agreement for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. These are:

  1.  A transition period will be about ‘implementing’ the future relationship, not negotiating it
  2.  The UK will not pay money to the EU after March 2019
  3.  The UK will not have to abide by EU rules during transition
  4.  The UK will ‘take back control’ of fisheries policy
  5.  Free movement will end in March 2019
  6.  The UK will have new trade deals ready to come into force on 29 March 2019
  7.  The implementation period would last for two years and should not be time limited

These however are not even the biggest.  The most significant is the idea that Britain would take back control, beginning in the negotiations, at the commencement of which the importance of the UK to the EU economy would see the EU rush to agree a comprehensive deal that would suit the UK.  Now, one explanation how trade arrangements would work after Brexit includes open borders without any checks – about as far from taking control as you can imagine.

And this is not a fringe option to be considered as a fall back in the event of a no-deal.   For the only way to avoid a hard border inside Ireland and avoid a sea border between the island of Ireland and Britain is just such an arrangement.

The problems with this are not limited to those quoted in the last link to a BBC report – that even if the British did not have checks the EU would; and that the British would be compelled to let all goods flow without checks in order to be in compliance with WTO requirements that there could be no discrimination in favour of goods from or to the EU.

Already the part-time negotiator David Davis has stated that “we agree on the need to inckude legal text detailing the ‘backstop’ solution for the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland in the Withdrawal Agreement is acceptable to both sides.  But it remains our intention to achieve a partnership that is so close as to not require specific measures in relation to Northern Ireland, and therefore we will engage on the detail on all scenarios set out in the joint report.”

The problem is that the British Government proposals, as set out in the last May speech have already been rejected – there can be no mutual recognition of UK and EU standards, such that all trade can proceed in the frictionless way that now currently takes place.  Any mutual recognition that the EU would agree to would be so limited as to make a border structure inevitable and significant.

There is no ‘technical’ solution that gets round the fact that the UK wants out of the Single Market (and Customs Union); mutual recognition as a general substitute for either is cherry picking on an industrial scale and ruled out, already by the EU, many times.

That this is the rationale for the Tory claim that they can avoid both a hard border inside Ireland and at the Irish Sea proves that the EU insertion of the “third option” – of full regulatory alignment of rules between the Northern and Southern Irish states – will come to pass.

Unless the British renege on their agreement.  Not unheard of, it might be said.  I came across the following on one web site – “North’s first rule of politics comes to mind: never trust a Tory. The second rule is: always obey the first.”  As in this little ditty – “Never trust a Tory, they’ll betray you when it matters / They will scramble to the top and then they’ll kick away the ladder, hinny / Never trust a Tory, or a Tory in disguise, You can see it when you look them in the eye”.  This is why EU figures are also stating that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

The British Government has hailed the draft Withdrawal agreement as a great step forward because it says it allows it a transitional period within which they can negotiate their own trade deals.  This is not even a case of kicking the can down the road, as in the sense that the cliff-edge of leave is simply postponed, because the reality of leaving will still kick in before that, as it is already doing, and the failure to agree better trade deals than have been, or can be, achieved by the EU will become clearer.  It is generally agreed that no substantive deals can be negotiated within two years, and the Tories haven’t even got that long.

The prospect of Northern Ireland within the regulatory framework of the EU would be a bitter pill for the DUP and many unionists in general to swallow.  They have not barked opposition because they are possibly even more deluded that the Tory Brexiteers, although also more paranoid, so more likely to smell betrayal.

The Tory Brexiteers meanwhile are running out of justification, fabricated or not, for leaving the EU.  They also aren’t barking very loudly, and now simply want out, willing to accept more and more acts of capitulation until they get it.  As if they could then turn round when they’re out and implement their ultimate agenda of a deregulated dystopia on the edge of Europe.  Neither they nor the DUP have really appreciated that, in or out, the UK will remain under the shadow of the EU and subject to its more powerful economic interests, to a greater or lesser extent.

Just as Mays’ list of special arrangements she wants from the EU in a final deal beg the question, why is the UK leaving?, so will the period of transition make more obvious the rotten prospects that exit promises.

Even the deal on offer from the EU is far from any panacea.  The inclusion of Northern Ireland within the EU regulatory framework will mean an EU/UK border at the Irish sea, and more trade from the Irish State goes over it than across the land border inside the island.  The draft deal does not therefore solve the problems created by Brexit for Dublin.  Again, unless the British state capitulates further, and proves that a Tory plan for no border controls will actually work (which can only arise if they agree to membership of the Single Market and Customs Union) there is going to be a hard border somewhere.

For unionism in Northern Ireland the prospect of membership of the EU trading arrangements while the rest of the UK is excluded, is not in principle totally unacceptable, as they are quite happy to do things differently on many issues, such as abortion rights for women and gay marriage.  The real problem with the EU deal is that the Northern State will become more and more different from the rest of the UK as the EU develops.  This is not a static solution but a dynamic one in which their artificial majority is no longer potentially always a veto on any issue they decide to make a question of their sectarian identity.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement states that “authorities of the United Kingdom shall not act as leading authority for risk assessments, examinations, approvals and authorisations procedures provided for in Union law made applicable by this Protocol.”  So not only will the UK (as Northern Ireland) have to accept and implement EU law, in all those North-South bodies, it is the Southern authority that shall take the lead and the Northern authority will have to follow.

Of course, if one is a simple-minded Irish nationalist this is not a problem.  But this assumes that what is good for the Southern State is good for the population of Northern Ireland (and for the population of Southern Ireland as well for that matter).

So, for example, in the single electricity market, mentioned in Article six of the agreement, it could well be that the population of Northern Ireland will just have to accept the leadership of the Southern State, which dominates the electricity industry through its state-owned companies.  In the South this has led to ordinary domestic electricity customers paying higher charges than business, which involves yet another clear subsidy to multinationals and an effective tax on working people for the benefit of capital as a whole.

That this will cause aggravation amongst unionists will hardly come as a surprise to anyone.  However, a lot of the declaration of concern about a hard border endangering the peace process misses the point.  Where this peace process the success it is claimed by the same people fretting about its future there would be little concern about changed customs and trading arrangements.  What makes the border, and what happens at it, important is not so much the symbolic arrangements that may apply there, but the fact that behind it the peace process is failing, as the lack of an agreed Executive at Stormont makes abundantly clear.  Additional strain on the process is therefore widely considered unwelcome.

Maybe this is why Article 13 of the draft Withdrawal Agreement on ‘Safeguards’ is included, which states that “if the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties liable to persist, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate measures.”  In other words, if civil unrest erupts again the British State will be called upon to assert its control, perhaps in the customary way it has done so in the past.

As we have noted, the Tories have celebrated the latest EU document as a success even though they have retreated on issue after issue.  Even the hard Brexiteers have been relatively quiet, complaining mostly about the fishing industry, or about ‘vassal’ status during the transition (how ironic),yet not so quiet as that other principled opposition – the supporters of Lexit on the left.

These people discounted the reactionary Brexit campaign in their support for leaving the EU, and have discounted all the reactionary political developments we have witnessed since in order to confirm their position.  So why, if getting out of the EU is so important that it over-rides all this, are they not now condemning the sell-out Tories for prolonging UK membership, or denouncing their capitulation to condition after condition of EU membership that the Tories want to continue after the transition period?

The reason for this is their entirely light-minded and totally unreflective attitude to politics that has substituted protest for alternative and national reformism for working class politics.  These supporters of Lexit could learn a lot from their failure to get this right but it seems they have no desire to do so.

This, however, is much less important than the attitude of the leadership of the Labour Party, which it would appear thinks the reactionary consequences of Brexit, including under-cutting the basis of its social-democratic programme, are of limited consequence.  The most I have heard argued is that the Party should call for a vote on the eventual deal.  But this is meaningless outside fighting for an alternative and a principled campaign against what is clearly a reactionary decision with reactionary consequences.  On this, some dogs should be barking!