Thursday, July 07, 2016

Morning Star Says 'Exit To Socialism'
Morning Star

There are crucial and urgent lessons for progressives and the left to learn from the Brexit vote and the political future of Britain depends on how quickly and thoroughly they are absorbed, argue OLIVIER TONNEAU & STEVE SWEENEY

JUDGING by the BBC coverage and by my Facebook wall, Brexit is triggered a wave of anxiety: Britain has become a fascist country, what is happening to the world?

I don’t know how much can be said while distress is so acute, but I will try to provide grounds for mitigating this feeling.

We’ve all seen the infamous Ukip “Breaking Point” poster; we’ve read the front pages of tabloids warning against “invaders”; the Leave campaign has sank so disgustingly low that it is hard to resist the conclusion that if such a campaign could win, then Britain must be rotten to the core.

Indeed, in the last weeks of campaigning, the arguments of the Remain camp focused largely on one point: don’t associate yourselves with such despicable individuals as Nigel Farage. Now we feel shocked that so many did not seem to mind the association.

Yet does the way in which campaigns were run really tell us what motivated people’s votes?

How do we know that Ukip posters moulded, or even reflected, the motivations of the electorate?

Can the Leave vote really be conflated with a Ukip vote? Remember, in 2010, Ukip won under four million votes, not 17 million.

Did 13 million people turn towards Ukip in less than a year? I don’t think so.

This is the same British public of which 70 per cent said that the government should do more to help those fleeing war and persecution, over 80 per cent of which would welcome refugees into their country, city, street or home and the same public which donated masses of aid to the Convoy for Calais.

What went on in the heads of these people? That is what must be understood.

Yet we can only endeavour to do so if we step out of the frame that the Remain camp has imposed on the campaign. It convinced itself that the referendum was between humanists and fascists.

Hence the temptation to curse at the stupidity of the mob and give ourselves a tearful hug before the world comes to an end.

This temptation must be resisted. People have voted Brexit to put the brakes on what they perceive as a violent disruption of their lives.

They may have made the wrong diagnosis. True, the Tories were not coerced by the EU in implementing their policies, yet the only way to argue convincingly for Remain was to correct the diagnosis without denying the symptom. Drowning their voices by singing Imagine very loud with our hands on our ears is pointless.

In order to hear their voices, we must begin by dismantling many false alternatives. Take the thorniest subject of all: immigration.

Pro or contra immigration? For the Remain camp, that seemed to be the question. I am not even sure what it means. I consider that moving freely across frontiers is a fundamental human right.

But when whole countries — Poland, Portugal, Greece, Spain — are haemorrhaging millions of their youth, I do not perceive this as an exercise of this right but as forced migration under economic pressure.

And I do not defend the right of capital to push workers about as it sees fit. It may surprise you but highly educated Poles and Spaniards are not grateful to be serving coffee at Costa, although of course they’d rather this than be unemployed at home.

The arrival of these millions in Britain has, it is clear, been traumatic to the resident population in some areas.

Does it mean that they are anti-immigration? Again, what does that even mean?

We know that they are anti-falling wages and anti-rising housing prices. Whether the fall of wages and the rise of housing prices have anything to do with immigration is academic.

When people see that migrants are becoming more numerous and they individually are owning less, the correlation is too strong not to be treated as causation.

That is something that all leftists should accept as a given in any strategic thinking.

The real question must therefore be: how do we organise for the arrival of large numbers of people in a way that is acceptable to those already there?

And the answer can only be: by securing the rights of the latter — primarily, the rights to employment under fair wages and affordable homes.
Legislating on these rights would, of course, have been equally beneficial to immigrants.

The left did pledge to fight for decent wages and housing prices. Yet it failed to acknowledge the fact that the EU is not an ally in this fight but an opponent — which could be taken on from inside or outside, but which had to be taken on somehow.

This attitude did not shore up faith in Europe, but undermine faith in the left.

Now what? So the European dream has fallen through the window, let us wake up and wonder what really has been lost.

The answer from the perspective of the humanist values upheld by the Remain camp is: very little.

Had Britain remained in Europe, it would have been on the terms negotiated by David Cameron, hardly hospitable to immigrants or workers.

That the EU was ready to grant these terms rather than see Brexit occur reminds us that it has long ceased to be — if indeed it ever was — a protector of humanist beliefs.

The EU is about free trade and has proved ready to sacrifice each and every one of its supposed values to protect this.

How different will Britain outside the EU be from Britain inside the EU? My answer is: not very.

Thanks to the Transatlantic Free Trade Area, the EU will continue its organised destruction of social rights. And just as it was willing to grant Cameron all its wishes to crack down on immigrants’ rights in particular, it will take an increasingly tough stance on immigration to appease the countries whose exit it will now try to prevent. Had Remain won by 51 per cent the exact same thing would have happened.

The hidden paradox of this campaign is that Tory Remain and Tory Leave are based on the same principles and would not have had widely different consequences.

Of course, there will be unpleasant side effects. I am well-placed to know this since, as a French citizen, I might have lost the possibility of retiring in my home country because an existing agreement over pension schemes between France and Britain will most likely be suspended.

Many among us in the middle class had more to lose from leaving than remaining, and had I been entitled to vote, I would have selfishly voted Remain.

But a broad, convincing argument for Remain had to be made on different grounds.

Because there is no fundamental difference between a neoliberal EU and a neoliberal Britain, arguments could as easily be made, from the left, for Remain as for Leave.

There was a case for Lexit: leave the EU and take on the Tories on the national scale. By campaigning for Remain, parts of the left undermined their capacity to take the Tories on.

Campaigning for Remain could have been the right choice — but only with the right strategy. The case for a left Remain was made by DiEM25: we’ll stay in the EU only to take the fight to neoliberals internally. After all, if Cameron could drive a hard bargain, why couldn’t we?

But the details of the battle plan, and the expected benefits, needed to be laid out clearly.

And what had to be made clear is that transforming the EU could only have happened by means of an institutional crisis of some magnitude.

It was not enough to begin every speech with the reluctant recognition that, yes, some things are not working in the EU.

The left needed, at least, to acknowledge and echo anger so as to rechannel it.

Instead, it sunk into angelic discourses about peace and love and attempted to reframe the debate as “join the party of love against the party of fascists.”

Now, in a paradoxical twist, many members of the party of love seem to be despairing of democracy itself: if the mob is so stupid, then why not an enlightened dictator?

Words to that tune keep on popping up on my Facebook wall, and they are worrying.

Some are already wondering whether the outcome of the referendum can be overturned in Parliament.

Do they only realise the disastrous effect that would have on those who voted Leave?
France has never been the same since its own No vote was ignored in 2005.

The hatred of the people for the ruling class has reached extreme heights which paved the way for the National Front. To overturn the referendum’s outcome would pave the way to an even worse incarnation of Ukip.

What is done is done. It is pointless to rail against “the mob.” Rather, it is time for us to accept that the disjunction between the European dream and the current condition of European people has reached unmanageable points.

As we wake up from our dream, we should not foolishly lament Europe’s disappearance.

Europe, a geographical entity, will of course survive the shattering of the EU, and we must plan for it.
The difference between a dream and a plan is that for the latter, there is a strategy.

It is this strategy that we now need to design. Our only hope that such plan is conceivable and implementable is that the 13 million people who voted Leave but had not voted Ukip in 2015 have not all of a sudden become bigoted fascists.

The first step is to understand who they are, what they want, and what Europe means to them.

Perhaps we will be able to do this now that the before we knelt totem lies in rubble at our feet.
The debate over Europe has served to blur the true dividing line, which remains that between right and left.

Now we have no other choice but to look for the opportunities created by Brexit. The Tories are in disarray. Cameron has had a series of defeats inflicted on him this year and he is being made a fall guy to try to save the Tories from a general election and potential defeat.

Whoever replaces him will be presiding over a weak and divided government with a slim majority.

Now is not the time for progressives and the left to be divided. We need to be united now more than ever, and begin with a number of things.

- The People’s Assembly national demonstration on October 2 at Tory Party Conference has a new significance and we need to build this to be the biggest mass demonstration this country has ever seen.

- The unions and progressives should unite around Jeremy Corbyn and protect him from the right wing of the PLP which is using this as an opportunity to try and oust him. We should be clear that this will meet with resistance across the movement.

- We need to build and strengten the forces that will fight against racism, fascism and Ukip. One that will fight for our NHS, fight for public services, the renationalisation of the railways, for better terms and conditions, for the nationalisation of the steel industry that we were told was not possible under EU legislation, against TTIP. A movement that stands for hope.

- We should build a movement that forces the final defeat for the Tories and that starts by calling for a general election now.

Whichever side of the EU referendum debate you were on, we need to fight together. Unity is strength, united we stand.

Working-Class Voters Peeled Away From The Established Parties

Morning Star

Two seismic referendums and a leadership crisis are symptoms of a dying system of elite-controlled pseudo-democracy, writes JOE GILL

Brexit, and the unprecedented leadership crisis of both main parties, is a result of the unreformed Westminster system, as areas of the country and working-class voters peel away from the established parties.

This started with the Scottish referendum — after decades of having their views ignored Scotland supported the SNP and abandoned the Labour-Tory duopoly. They narrowly voted against leaving the union.

Next Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership against the party’s parliamentary elite.
Then voters backed Brexit, rejecting the Westminster consensus, as a kick against policies that have left much of the country worse off.

Now Labour sees a revolt by the PLP against the members’ choice 10 months ago — again, the choice of voters outside of Westminster goes against the interests and views of Westminster insiders.
The PLP seems to have forgotten about democracy and think they can decide who leads them — and presumably bypass the membership entirely, since they can’t be relied on to make the right choice.
It’s ludicrous to blame Corbyn for Brexit — that was due to decades of neglect and a rejection of globalised, deregulated labour markets, which Labour helped bring in with insufficient concern for the impact on poorer communities. Besides, 70 per cent of Labour supporters voted for Remain, so Corbyn did his job. Cameron didn’t.

Because our political system is closed and unaccountable — safe seats, minority governments under first past the post, power concentrated in Whitehall instead of regions having control of resources — we end up with referendum as a means of protest.

For Labour the problem is, even if Corbyn is not an ideal “leader,” he was duly elected in a landslide. The endlessly repeated trope that Corbyn is “unelectable” is a code for saying that the Westminster elite does not believe that someone with his views has the right to be elected in Britain’s bourgeois oligarchic democracy.

Essentially, as with the general who came out and said Corbyn was not fit to govern due to his foreign policy views, the elite believes in a limited form of democracy in which the people are given a choice to vote for parties and leaders who more or less agree on how the economy should work — free market corporate-welfare — and where Britain stands in the world — military power supporting Western-dominated world order.

Moreover, Corbyn believes that the grassroots party has sovereignty, not 172 MPs. In that belief, he is with the tide of history, toward more democracy and people power. But of course, each time the people get closer to taking control away from political and economic elites, the elite fights back. The bigger the threat, the more they fight.

As a country, we need to move beyond the idea of a parliamentary dictatorship, our 18th-century system which has hardly served the country well for the last three decades or so. For most of the 20th century when the two big parties dominated the political scene, representing coalitions of the major social classes in the country, it worked well enough.

Not anymore.

David Cameron said the other day that sovereignty lies with the people, hence Brexit, but constitutionally, sovereignty lies with the Queen in Parliament. It’s archaic and it needs to change.

Brexit, the Scots referendum and Corbyn are the symptoms of a moribund system moving toward a system of popular sovereignty. But the people and the country are not used to this and so malignant results like all this racism and xenophobia and the Labour Party civil war are the result.

Parliamentary sovereignty was designed to prevent the masses having a direct say in politics. It is a pre-democratic system, with large elements of oligarchy and feudalism. It needs to be done away with.

Constitutional and electoral reform, and the desperate need for a federal rather than centralised system of democracy and resource distribution, are essential to renew the system. But the party elites are incapable of bringing this about — in most cases, they want to keep the status quo.

After the bourgeois-democratic revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries and the spreading ideas of democracy around the world, the limits of this liberal representative model have been reached.

For much of the 20th century, the left believed that socialism — in the form of a communist one-party system, or a social democratic majority under liberal democracy, could deliver. However, both systems — communist and social-democratic — viewed power as centralised. The leaders of the working class would look after the new collectively run economy with limited or no democratic input from the masses.

Since the collapse of communism and decline of traditional social democracy, new models have emerged of participative democracy, as seen in Latin America and to some extent in the new horizontal movements in Europe that seek to harness mass participation in the development of policy and constitutional arrangements.

Instead of elected dictatorships and neoliberal oligarchy, people want to have a direct say over government, not just voting in unaccountable career politicians every five years.

In the internet age, this is perfectly possible. Of course, some will say that ordinary people have neither the time, inclination nor knowledge to, say, directly vote on laws and put forward laws to Parliament based on petition. That’s a convenient line, but it doesn’t wash. Give people the tools, and they will get involved. Such experiments have already begun in the wave of new left governments in Latin America.

The only question is how do we get there, how long does it take and how much resistance will there be from the powers that be. The Arab spring showed that the counterrevolution is as bloody as ever.

The dangers are real, as we can see in the resistance to Corbyn and what he represents: death to the old system of elite rule.

Perhaps, as in the 17th century, when England’s short-lived commonwealth was the first of its kind in the modern era, Britain can once again lead the way toward a new form of popular direct democracy.

The people are sovereign. In this, Corbyn’s is the way of the future.

It’s Clear Our Politics Still Needs Corbyn

Morning Star

If Labour’s old guard wanted him out before Chilcot they’ve failed, says BEN MORRIS – and the inquiry’s findings show Britain is overdue a different way of doing things

DESPITE most of the British political establishment beseeching him to step aside, Jeremy Corbyn is not bowing.

Given that the coup was launched by the Blairite wing of the party, it is not conspiratorial to imagine that there is a link between the multifaceted attacks to which Corbyn is being subjected and the findings of the Chilcot inquiry. Announced over seven years ago, the report released yesterday puts the spotlight on the disastrous record of many of Corbyn’s critics.

It was reported by the Independent last month that Corbyn had been preparing the opening of a war crimes investigation into the ex-Labour leader.

Could the coup be a move to protect the Blairites’ spiritual leader from the implications of the report?
Angela Eagle and Owen Smith are being touted as potential challengers, and senior figures such as Margaret Beckett and Tessa Jowell have pleaded with Corbyn to step down and “save the party.”

Yet the party that they want saved is one that many, until last year, felt wholly excluded from.
Corbyn was able to galvanise these people. In turn, these people must be allowed the opportunity to galvanise the wider electorate in a general election.

For the moment, however, it still looks likely that Corbyn will face another Labour leadership challenge. The backing of the unions — added to the ability of Momentum (the support network set up in order to cement his leadership) to quickly and efficiently mobilise — will, in all probability, see him win that contest.

With a second mandate secured, and a re-energised, fully-supportive shadow cabinet in place, the Blairite rebels will be faced with a question: Do my views still align with those of my party? And the resounding answer, it seems, will surely be no.

With their route back to control of Labour bleak, it may be that many are tempted to join with the Liberal Democrats to form a new centrist party. As far-fetched as this may currently seem, a split could be beneficial for both parties.

There is no denying that the broad appeal of this potential new party would represent a significant threat to the left’s ambitions in future general elections, due to the gravitas of some of the politicians that could be expected to populate it.

They could run on a message of “stability” and “security,” which would play well to the electorate in the uncharted waters in which we now find ourselves.

From their part of view, short of losing the Labour “brand,” the move seems to make sense.

Additionally, Labour’s break-up may be inevitable. It has been bubbling under the surface for a long time, at least since the days of Thatcherism.

Labour has always been described as “a broad church,” and yet there must surely be a limit as to how broad a church can be while still coalescing into an effective opposition.

During the Blair and Brown years, the left of the party was marginalised, ridiculed for archaism and mocked for refusing to adhere to the new rules of politics.

Clause IV was repealed, “socialism” became a dirty word and the PLP swung to the so-called centre-ground.

Yet its resurgence now, embodied by Jeremy Corbyn, has attracted support once more. It is time for the Labour Party to once again make the case for true left-wing principles that have been ignored by mainstream politics for the entire lifetime of millions of voters.

The last time the left at least had a seat at the table was during the Thatcher years; a time of miners’ strikes and attacks on the working classes.

This milieu constituted a fertile political landscape for change.

That Tony Benn even came close to achieving the deputy leadership of the Labour Party is testament to this, and makes his son’s position at the forefront of its opposition even more troublingly ironic.

Yet the current climate which has brought about this political malaise in which we are now embroiled bears significant similarities to the Britain of the 1980s.

The referendum result was the eventual political manifestation of the anger that five years ago sparked riots — an anger that speaks of austerity and the subjugation of the working class, of job losses and the deindustrialisation of towns reliant on manufacturing, of fury at the foreign wars and corporate greed that has defined the previous decade and a half.

It is popular fury with scandal, bribery and phone-hacking; with the London-centric media and aloof political elites. It is a rage whipped up by fears of immigration and terror.

Against this backdrop, there is a need for a strong left, for a compassionate message that recognises these fears and fights for the majority who feel them.

Not only that, but there exists, for the first time in a long time, the ability of the left to actually win power.

To many, Corbyn represents this hope. Yet a few on the fringes are wavering as the rebels become more vociferous.

Even some who voted for Corbyn in the leadership election are regretting what they perceive to be his half-hearted support of the Remain campaign.

Yet Corbyn is of the traditional left, and has long expressed sympathy with the Eurosceptic wing of the party. Brexit was caused by a dispute within the Conservative Party that got out of hand, and Corbyn’s reticence on the issue should not be framed as proof that he cannot decisively change the course of British politics.

Nobody knows what his plan is at the moment. It is all contingent on whether he survives as leader or not.

Who knows when Article 50 will be triggered, when there will be a general election, when the second Scottish referendum will come, or whether the public mood will change as the reality of our predicament sets in.

Perhaps the rebels foresaw the unavoidable break-up of the Labour Party and are demanding Corbyn’s removal to protect their political father figure from the Chilcot findings. Maybe they see this as their final chance to reclaim the Labour Party.

Yet the “European problem” festered and grew on the right, and now, more than ever, Britain needs a strong left.

More than anything, the younger generation deserves it, as it is they who will be the real victims of any lurch to the right.

To deny them this, on top of everything else, would be criminal.

Now is not the time to succumb to the popular narrative.

A version of this article appeared at

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