In the light of the histrionics and rage of the chattering classes, which are already overwhelming the resolve of some Brexit campaigners and hustling them into feeling they’ve been part of some terrible mistake, it’s important to bear in mind why true anti-imperialists campaigned for a British exit from the European Union and why this remains a good thing for both the working class of Britain and the oppressed masses abroad.
A recent Lalkar article summed up the three most important outcomes that will follow Britain leaving the EU, each one of which should be enough on its own to bring cheer to any friend of progressive humanity:
1. Brexit sets the stage for the disintegration of the imperialist EU.
Britain may be the first country to leave the union, but it will clearly not be the last. Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy … in each of these countries, the depth of the economic crisis is being intensified by their membership of the EU and of the eurozone. The pressure from workers desperate to escape the clutches of the EU banksters can only be heightened by Britain’s departure from the union.
“The catastrophic scenario that many feared has materialised, making the disintegration of the EU practically irreversible,” announced multibillionaire George Soros in the wake of the vote, predicting “further uncertainty and political risk, because what is at stake was never only some real or imaginary advantage for Britain, but the very survival of the European project”. (EU disintegration ‘practically irreversible’ – Soros, RT, 26 June 2016)
2. Britain leaving the EU will also accelerate the disintegration of Nato.
Nato, the neo-nazi warmongering alliance that has been the scourge of humanity since its founding 67 years ago, is looking increasingly shaky as a vehicle for projecting the combined power of the European and North American imperialists.
The memberships of Nato and the EU may not be identical, but they are closely aligned. When they founded the EU, the European imperialists accepted an alliance under the leadership of the US, with Nato acting as their joint military wing. With Britain (one of the three big powers that really control the union, and the primary conduit for US influence over it) out of the EU, US imperialists will find it far harder to overcome dissent from other EU countries regarding their desire to use Nato to wage their aggressive wars in the Middle East and Europe and to ramp up hostilities towards Russia.
Since 2003, fractures in the alliance have been growing. This was first apparent in France’s opposition to the proposed United Nations security council resolution that would have given a legal fig leaf to the invasion of Iraq. France’s opposition and the failure to secure a fresh resolution led to the hasty formation of the US-led ‘coalition of the willing’ to replace Nato as the invading and occupying force (and to the ‘cheese-eating surrender monkey’ sobriquet for France being coined in the American popular press). The fractures were further exacerbated when both France and Germany refused to participate in the invasion.
That we can expect these fractures to widen still further is underlined by the call from France’s president François Hollande for Nato to treat Russia as a “partner”, not an adversary – a call made on the eve of the organisation’s biannual summit, held this July, and backed up at the summit itself (to the obvious ire of President Obama) by the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras. (See Nato show of unity masks domestic divisions by Sam Jones and Henry Foy, Financial Times, 10 July 2016)
It is further underlined by the exceedingly undiplomatic remarks of Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who, in the lead-up to the warmongers’ gathering, went so far as to describe Nato’s recent military exercises on Russia’s borders as a “disastrous” piece of “sabre-¬rattling” and a “war cry”. (See European war games by Sam Jones, FT Magazine, 30 June 2016)
German chancellor Angela Merkel has been quick to disassociate herself and her party from these remarks of her social democrat coalition partner, and to reassert her government’s previous promise to commit German troops to the upcoming deployment of Nato forces in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – a mission in which France has refused to participate, despite intense US pressure to do so. (See Merkel pledges German support to deploy thousands of Nato troops to deter Russian aggression by Justin Huggler and Matthew Day, The Telegraph, 7 July 2016)
But opinion polls in Germany have shown that only 9 percent of voters approve of Germany’s involvement in the Nato Baltic deployment, and it is clear that Minister Steinmeier’s views also reflect those of a significant section of the German ruling class, which is becoming increasingly uneasy at the prospect of a war with Russia. (See Nato’s Warsaw summit suggests US-led military bloc is divided by Bryan MacDonald, RT, 11 July 2016)
This section is pushing hard for the creation of an independent European army able to project European imperial power in its own interests rather than simply following the US agenda via Nato. With the main force that was standing in the way of a European army (Britain) now excluded from such discussions, this long-discussed plan is gaining new momentum. (See Germany calls for more joint European military initiatives by Stefan Wagstyl, Financial Times, 13 July 2016)
3. The cohesion of the imperialist camp in general has been further undermined.
It is clear that the imperialists are not planning to stop being imperialists, but, with increasingly competing and conflicting interests, and the consequent disintegration in the previously cohesive imperialist camp (a cohesion brought about in response to the victorious march of socialism after WW2), the pressure that the EU and the US are able to put on the oppressed countries, as well as on Russia and China, will in all likelihood be seriously reduced.
This can already be seen in the dissent in both France and Germany over sanctions against Russia, for example. In June, the French senate voted overwhelmingly to urge the government to reduce the economic sanctions against Russia, even as the EU president was announcing that sanctions would be rolled over for another six months.
According to Radio Free Europe: “The vote was nonbinding but a barometer of rising frustration with the sanctions … The European Union was Russia’s biggest trading partner before 2014, when Russia’s [supposed!] aggression in Ukraine prompted it to impose sanctions ranging from banning oil equipment exports to barring Russian banks from getting loans.
“In retaliation, Russia banned all food imports from the EU.
“As a result, EU agricultural exports to Russia plummeted by 50 percent last year and imports from Russia dropped by a third compared with 2013.
“French auto and food companies have suffered because of the sanctions and Russian embargo and have quietly lobbied French politicians to lift them … lawmakers complained that the sanctions are hurting the French economy and argued that Europe should not follow US policy on Russia.” (French senate urges government to lift sanctions on Russia, 9 June 2016)
Dissent is also rife over the US-backed war in Ukraine, the war in Syria, the refugee crisis that has resulted from 15 years of imperialist wars in the Middle East and Africa, and more. This dissent can only weaken the imperialist camp as a whole and therefore cannot but be to the advantage of the workers and oppressed masses.
Meanwhile, the hopes of some that cutting the cord with Europe will strengthen Britain’s ties with the US are likely to be shortlived. A recent Bloomberg article summed up this common delusion and the US’s response to it:
“Others in the Brexit camp hoped that by leaving Europe, Britain would tie itself more closely to the US. They will want to show that leaving Europe has made Britain more relevant in the world. That idea has periodically cropped up over the years and never fails to get an eye-roll from US officials.
“When President Barack Obama warned before the referendum that Britain would have to go to the ‘back of the queue’ for trade deals, he was acknowledging the reality that Britain’s value to the US derived in part from its seat at the bigger EU table. As Raymond Seitz, US ambassador to the UK from 1991 to 1994, wrote in his memoirs back in 1998:
“‘Some hold up the American connection – a revivified ‘special relationship’ – as a viable alternative to full-blooded Europeanness. But this is a flimsy proposition, unlikely to gain much traction except with the graspers of straws. When push comes to shove, America has a greater interest in European unity than in British sovereignty.’
“[Prime Minister Theresa] May will have a hard time pleasing both visions of Britain’s future in the world, and she will find the US distracted by its own issues.” (Adjusting the Special Relationship After Brexit by Therese Raphael, 13 July 2016)
Major crisis within the British ruling class
On the home front, the first and most obvious result of the Brexit vote has been a major crisis for the ruling class. It has become increasingly clear that not only was outgoing prime minister David Cameron wrong-footed into holding the referendum in the first place, but also that neither he nor his bosses in the 0.01 percent ever expected that they might actually lose it.
Indeed, Cameron’s failure to instigate any kind of planning for the eventuality of a successful leave vote has been described by parliament’s foreign affairs select committee as “gross negligence”, which has “exacerbated post-referendum uncertainty both within the UK and amongst key international partners, and made the task now facing the new government substantially more difficult”. (Cameron accused of ‘gross negligence’ over Brexit contingency plans by Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, 20 July 2016)
These failures of the imperialists are important to note in light of the tendency amongst certain petty-bourgeois critics of imperialism to allow their fear of the financial oligarchy to overwhelm their reason. Such is the intimidation that these poor critics feel that it leads them to imagine that the ‘masters of the universe’ are so powerful and so clever that they always and everywhere get what they want. Therefore, reason the critics, any outcome that transpires must necessarily be the one that was planned by the bourgeoisie, who have only to decide a thing for it to happen, and who simply move everyone around like puppets on strings or pieces on a chess board.
In fact, great though the power of the imperialist overlords is, it is not as great as all that. Not for nothing did Chairman Mao Zedong describe the imperialists as “paper tigers”, who lift a rock with which to smash the workers, only to drop it on their own feet. (Talk with the American correspondent Anna Louise Strong, August 1946, and Speech at the meeting of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, 6 November 1957)
As our party predicted might happen, the British ruling class has actually been hoist with its own petard. The robber barons of the square mile wanted to keep Britain in the European Union, but they also needed to keep the pot of xenophobic scapegoating boiling away in order to divert the anger of the masses away from them and their decrepit system while they are busy trying to save themselves at our expense. (See Why British workers need a Brexit, Proletarian, April 2016)
The British ruling class, being so tiny, is well aware of the necessity of keeping workers divided from one another; how else could it possibly retain its position? Its members fear like the plague the possibility of workers coming together against their rule, and at a time of deep crisis like the present, their need to find scapegoats and divert blame is all the greater. This explains why it is that they lost the referendum, for the anti-immigrant prejudice they have so carefully inculcated tipped the vote in favour of exit. The level of anger against austerity, unemployment, inequality, insecurity and despair, combined with this xenophobia, proved to be a decisive factor in the referendum.
In order to keep their noxious xenophobia brew simmering away, politicians and media did what they have done during every election for more than 30 years, following their decades-old recipe of giving huge publicity to a handful of demagogic career politicians whose job is to loudly blame immigrants for the destruction of British jobs and services (the NHS, council housing, schools, jobs, pensions, libraries etc), and to blame the EU for immigration. Neither assertion is true, but both have become widely accepted by dint of endless repetition in all the major media outlets and by politicians of all the major parties.
Besides this big media boost, the reactionary leave campaigners also received a boost from the funding of several rich bourgeois. These backers are genuine believers in the myth of a British imperialism that would be stronger outside the EU, and, while they may not be amongst the financial oligarchs who really control the levers of power in Britain, nevertheless they were able to facilitate the leave campaign by dint of some hefty cash injections. (See 250 business leaders back Vote Leave, Vote Leave Take Control, 26 March 2016)
Those who are today complaining loudly that the leave campaign was characterised by lies and fearmongering and that it manipulated workers into voting against their (supposed) interests forget two salient facts. First, so was the remain campaign; only it played on the fears of the better-off workers (who feel they have something to lose) rather than on the anger of those who have already lost most of what they had to the relentless march of the overproduction crisis.
Second, there was a progressive leave campaign that was given no coverage whatsoever by the popular media, and whose arguments hardly any British workers got to hear. It is true that many who voted to leave did so on the basis of false information, but the root cause of their vote was anger with the status quo.
The final nail in the coffin for the bourgeoisie, which shows just how far they underestimated the anger of Britain’s workers, was the high turnout. Having created a situation where the poorest workers have been keeping away from the polling booths in increasing numbers (since they can see that their votes at present make no difference to the type of government they have to live under or to the conditions they have to endure), the capitalists have now to deal with the unlooked for and decidedly unwelcome fact that millions of working-class voters are re-engaging with the political life of the country – just at a moment when the ruling class is weakened by infighting and schisms that threaten to tear it apart.
Despite the best efforts of the court jesters (sorry, political satirists) to portray the referendum as boring and irrelevant, 72 percent of those registered to vote turned out – many of them signing up to the electoral register for the first time in their lives. Some 33.6 million votes were cast – 3 million more than at the 2015 general election, which was itself a record for recent years. (See EU referendum: The result in maps and charts, BBC News, 24 June 2016)
To put that number in perspective, the by-election in Manchester Central in 2012 recorded a post-war low turnout of just 18.2 percent, and council elections regularly attract well under half of the electorate (which itself is known to be missing several millions adults of voting age). In the English council elections in 2014, turnout was under 36 percent.
Whilst in a really democratic society (that is to say, a socialist one), 72 percent would be considered a dreadful turnout, by recent bourgeois standards it is spectacular, beaten only by the Scottish referendum of 2014. Interestingly, although Scottish voters voted to remain in the EU, the turnout there, both for and against Brexit, was significantly lower – only 56 percent in Glasgow and 67 percent in Scotland overall.
Be that as it may, the end result has been a political crisis the like of which has not been seen in Britain in living memory. With the ruling class at sixes and sevens, schisms and splits are the order of the day, and the lack of consensus over what to do now means that political and media pundits are slogging it out in public, to the great benefit of the working class, since all the public fighting and scheming is providing enormous learning opportunities .
This is even more so when one considers that the referendum encouraged unprecedented numbers of workers to take an interest in politics, and very many of those are now following the aftermath with great interest – despite the best efforts of the popular press to lull them back to sleep with reality TV shows, talent contests and pictures of royal babies.
The disarray in the bourgeois camp has had several useful outcomes from this perspective. The first one has to be the publicity given to a previously carefully-concealed aspect of bourgeois politics: namely, that bourgeois politicians are interested first and foremost in their careers: finding ways to keep getting paid (as opposed to serving the public good) is their number one consideration.
Foremost amongst those unmasked has been Boris Johnson, who absolutely typifies the type. Revelations about the two newspaper columns he wrote (one for each side of the debate) before printing the one that announced his joining the leave campaign show just how seriously Mr Johnson and his ilk take crucial political questions whose outcomes will affect the lives of millions. (David Cameron and Boris Johnson: the friends who fell out by Michael Cockerell, The Guardian, 22 June 2016)
Exposés and hatchet jobs by various bitter media pundits have pointed out that Johnson, far from believing in the cause of the leave campaign, merely joined it in order to score points off David Cameron, hoping to weaken his premiership and to ensure his own elevation to the post of prime minister in the not-too-distant future. (See There are liars and then there’s Boris Johnson and Michael Gove by Nick Cohen, The Guardian and Tories at war: Anna Soubry accuses Boris Johnson of supporting Brexit in bid to become PM by Katie Mansfield, Express, 25 June 2016)
For Johnson, it seems, the referendum was merely a continuation of the competition that had been going on between himself and Cameron since their days at Eton and Oxford – just an overblown popularity contest for the rich and privileged. Through this example, the whole racket of the jobbing bourgeois politician has been starkly exposed. It is becoming clearer than ever that these careerists are not interested in improving the lives of workers but only in fulfilling their personal ambitions and in feathering their own nests. They have no compunction in treating the country like a plaything in the course of climbing the greasy pole, and all their high-sounding words are revealed to be nothing more than insincere point scoring (as perfected at their public-school and university debating societies).
Johnson’s games have backfired for himself and his class, however. Not only did he help to secure an outcome that he never wanted and was patently unprepared to deal with – in the process earning the ire of his paymasters and scuppering his chances of becoming PM – but he has now been forced to take on a job share, as a devalued foreign secretary, of negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU, which will sooner or later require him to explain to the interested public that Brexit will very likely not, after all, deliver both freedom from immigration and freedom from EU rules and fees. Nor will it enable the government to put £350 million a week into the NHS, a lie that was retracted the very day after the referendum. (See The leave campaign made three key promises – are they keeping them? By Alan Travis, The Guardian, 27 June 2016)
The disarray and disunity within the ruling class over this issue is reflected within all the major political parties, most especially within the Conservative party. David Cameron, having held the referendum in the hopes of healing the already deep divide within the Tories, only succeeded in deepening it further.
The leadership campaign that followed his resignation was characterised by more stabbings in the back and public slanging matches than the party has seen in many a year, and even outdid the shenanigans that preceded the ousting of Margaret Thatcher as leader. Again, the glare of publicity has given all these events a great educative value – processes that the ruling class is usually at pains to keep behind closed doors have been made embarrassingly public. As Lalkar pointed out last month, not since the repeal of the Corn Laws in the early part of the 19th century, has there been such a deep division within the ranks of the Tory party. (See British people vote to quit the EU – turmoil in the imperialist camp, July 2016)
This entertainment was cut short by the withdrawal of Brexit campaigner Andrea Leadsom from the race to be the next prime minister and the unopposed anointing of ‘moderate’ remainer and draconian home secretary Theresa May. Whilst there has been some effort to get behind our new prime minister by media and Conservative MPs alike, it would be entirely mistaken to think that the rifts within the Tory party have been healed. (See, for example, Divides run deep in the Conservative party by Simon Heffer, New Statesman, 7 July 2016)
The crisis in the Tory party looks set to simmer on as the ruling class tries to come to some kind of consensus over just what form Brexit should take: what the government’s approach should be to negotiations, what kind of an outcome would be best, what timetable would best achieve the desired ends and so on. Not to mention how all these questions interact with the wider politics of Europe and the world and how they will impact the economic situation, which was already unstable and has now become even more so.
The disarray in the Labour party is dealt with elsewhere in this issue. Suffice it to say that, while the ultimate cause of their disunity was not Brexit, the shameless creatures of the parliamentary party have jumped enthusiastically on the bandwagon in order to launch the latest round of their campaign to have Jeremy Corbyn removed from his position of leader.
It should be extremely instructive to those who retain their near religious adoration of Labour as being somehow ‘the party of the working class’ to note how much more interested those who control the party are in ousting the ‘Marxist’ Corbyn (who is really an extremely moderate kind of left social democrat) than they are in taking advantage of the disarray amongst the Tories and the ruling class to make either party political gains for themselves or (heaven forfend) to organise working-class resistance to austerity, privatisation, racism and war.
Any working-class party worth its salt would be doing everything in its power to use the situation of a bourgeois crisis to make gains for workers, but the Labour party, which happily tolerated the leadership of one of most enthusiastic and disgusting war criminals of modern times at its helm for 13 blood-soaked years, finds itself unable to spare a thought for anything or anyone until such time as Corbyn is ousted or his opponents have forced a split in the party. The disintegration of Britain’s main social-democratic outfit, the principal prop within the working-class movement of imperialist rule, can only bring joy to true progressives.
Why did so many workers vote leave?
The progressive case for leaving the EU was made very clearly by our party, but it is equally clear that the vast majority of British people hadn’t heard either our arguments or those of the various trade-union and left-wing leave campaigners. But if voters weren’t following our class-conscious reasoning, what inspired them to vote the way they did?
The simple fact is that the all-pervasive propaganda blaming immigrants for welfare cuts and unemployment and the EU for immigration is not new but decades old. It has been building to a crescendo in recent years and has acquired the weight of a binding prejudice for huge swathes of workers, who have seen their livelihoods and communities decimated and who have been offered no leadership to resist these attacks and no other convincing explanation for their troubles. Many leave voters simply voted for what they believed would result in immigration controls that they believed would be the way to stop the endless rounds of lay-offs, closures and privatisations.
Leave voters were also heavily influenced by the other false promises of the reactionary Brexiteers, such as that the NHS would be saved and that democracy would be improved. It has been extremely instructive for many of these to note how quickly the leave campaigners’ website was taken down after they won the referendum, and equally salient to note how many of them clearly did not expect (or even really want) to win. These charlatans were simply doing their job of misdirecting workers, for which they usually get good money, nice safe careers with no real responsibility and huge amounts of media attention; they never expected to have to deliver on any of their promises!
Analysing the results, it is clear that workers in poorer areas and from lower income groups were the ones who voted to leave the EU in greatest numbers, and it is also clear that in essence theirs was a vote against austerity, which is squeezing all the remaining joy and hope out of so many lives. They also voted for a shake-up and a change. Their vote was a reflection of the same disenfranchised anger that explains the rise of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the US, and of Podemos and Syriza as well as Golden Dawn and Marine le Pen’s Front National in Europe.
All over the world, there is growing anger and frustration at the way the crisis is ruining workers’ lives. As a result people everywhere are losing faith in the main political parties, whose representatives have to a man and woman proved themselves more interested in bailing out the bankers than in defending the interests of the people.
Satirical news reporter Jonathan Pie succinctly summed up the remain campaign’s argument as “Stay as we are or risk uncertainty.” This message may have worked for more privileged (‘middle-class’) workers, but there was nothing in it to appeal to the millions who have very little left to lose, and who have little or no prospect of that changing in the present climate. As Pie succinctly expressed it: “If you’ve got nothing, why would you vote for things to stay as they are? At least with uncertainty there’s some hope that things might change. If I was in that position, I would take uncertainty over nothing. Why have they got nothing? Because austerity has systematically targeted the poorest and most impoverished people in this society until they’ve got nothing left.” (What’s that coming over the hill? The Tories by Jonathan Pie, RT, 1 July 2016)
Does the result prove that all poor workers are racists who shouldn’t be allowed to vote?
Not at all. Blaming immigration for our troubles is the natural result of having been bombarded with lies about it for decades by media and politicians. Most of those who voted hoping for an end to immigration and increased job opportunities may be misguided, but do not necessarily fall into the category of racists.
If they had secure jobs and homes and decent services; if they felt their kids had a decent future and they could look forward to a stable and peaceful retirement, most of them wouldn’t give two hoots about the national origins of the person living next door to them. British workers are much better than is portrayed in the media at assimilating other cultures and peoples – curry, after all, is the favourite dish of British workers today.
As it is, the situation for the masses of workers was rather succinctly summed up in The Guardian: “When Mrs Thatcher came to office in 1979, manufacturing accounted for almost 30 percent of Britain’s national income and employed 6.8 million people; by 2010, it accounted for 11 percent and employed 2.5 million …
“In no other major economy was industrial collapse so quick. For a time, well-meaning journalists reported the catastrophe, and then gradually the sight of empty towns and shuttered shops became normalised or forgotten.
“It seemed there was nothing to be done. At one time, the country’s prosperity had been underpinned by the spinning, weaving, stitching, hammering, banging, welding and smelting that went on in the manufacturing towns; much of the country’s former character was also owed to them – non-conformist chapels, brass bands, giant vegetable championships, self-improvement, association football. Surely nothing as significant to the nation’s economy, culture or politics would ever emerge from them again? And then it did: grievance. Actually, more than that: the sudden discovery that in certain and perhaps unrepeatable circumstances, the poor could use their grievance about all kinds of things to change at least one.” (In this Brexit vote, the poor turned on an elite who ignored them by Ian Jack, 25 June 2016)
Justified grievance was the real basis for the Brexit vote. Clearly, workers who want to stop immigration have been misinformed about the cause of their ills. They thought they had been given a chance to do something about the problem, but they will find that the promised improvements don’t arrive. Quite the reverse, in fact – not only is immigration unlikely to be stopped, but, even if it were, the crisis is only set to deepen, and with it all the miseries that are being heaped upon their backs.
It is the job of communists who have the benefit of a scientific understanding to take the truth to workers and help them understand that capitalism and not immigrants is the cause of our problems, and that only by uniting with workers of all backgrounds will it be possible to get rid of the system that causes all the ills of modern society, from poverty, disease and unemployment to racism and war.
The middle-class moaners are not so much revealing their hatred of racism in their rants against ‘the racists’ (which in their world includes every worker who voted to leave), so much as their deeply-rooted anti-worker prejudices, which so often come to the fore at election times – hence the regularly returning media discussions over whether the ‘uneducated’ should be allowed to vote at all.
Has racism been further legitimised by the reactionary Brexit campaigners? Yes, clearly. Their job is to stir up divisions and that is what they have done. But, as we have pointed out consistently in our literature on the referendum, racism in Britain didn’t start with their lies and is not confined to them. One has only to look at the records of such leading lights of the remain campaign as David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair to see the ridiculousness of pinning the racist label exclusively on one side or the other.
Should we be scared about the rise in xenophobic attacks?
A rise in the xenophobic atmosphere in the country is not only bad news for those who feel the sharp end of such victimisation, it is also bad news for progressive people generally, since our aim is to unite workers. The level of xenophobia that has been fomented amongst workers as a means of diverting their anger away from capitalism, and the extent to which many of them have been turned into dupes of our rulers – used as pawns to assist the survival of the very system that is ruining their own lives – demonstrates the weakness of our movement and shows what a long way we have to go.
We do not, however, need to be intimidated by this task or to feel scared that our ends are unattainable. And we certainly don’t need to be panicked by the latest reports into support for the xenophobic and/or racist imperialist remainers in general or the xenophobic imperialist Labourites in particular, none of whom offer any better solution to workers’ problems and all of whom are complicit in the situation that has led to a rise in racism.
Just as xenophobic fearmongering didn’t start with the referendum, so it doesn’t stop with it either. It is a product of the capitalist class’s need to divide and rule, and this need for as much division as possible in the ranks of the workers will only become more acute as the crisis deepens. We can expect to see a continued whipping up of xenophobic and islamophobic scapegoating by reactionary remainers and leavers alike in the coming period, but we should be clear-headed and recognise that it has nothing to do with either staying in or leaving the EU, no matter how it is currently being presented by media and politicians.
Instead of falling into the trap of simply ‘hating’ (and therefore dismissing) every worker who believes immigration is a problem; instead of holding ourselves aloof from such people and nursing a sense of superiority, it must be understood that, in the main, these workers are simply looking for answers and have been misled. In this sense, they are no different from the workers who are presently putting their faith in black nationalism, Scottish nationalism, bourgeois feminism, Momentum or any of the other blind allies set up to lure in workers who genuinely desire to find solutions to their problems.
It is the duty of the communists to spread the understanding that capitalism is the cause of these problems and the working class has the power to remove it and replace it with the socialist economic system which is alone capable of providing the necessary solutions. The very fact that so many people are actively looking for answers and searching for change represents an opportunity that must not be ignored.
Will the vote be reversed?
Despite the bellyaching of the liberal cognoscenti (and Tony Blair), it doesn’t seem likely that the referendum will be ignored, overturned or rerun. There is perhaps an outside chance that negotiations will be allowed to fizzle out when the promised combination of ‘total border controls with full access to the European market’ proves impossible to deliver, but this will depend very much upon the mood of the masses and the attitude of the rest of the EU member states.
Theresa May’s appointment as prime minister and her repeated assertions that “Brexit means Brexit” would certainly indicate an acceptance of the result. As does the reaction of France and Germany, who have lost no time in cutting British representatives out of ongoing EU business, despite the fact that Britain is still officially a member of the union and has not yet even begun the process of leaving. When Angela Merkel was asked whether she saw any prospect of reversing Britain’s decision, she stated simply: “This is not a time for wishful thinking.” (Cited in EU leaders toughen line over British ‘divorce’ by Michael Birnbaum and Griff Witte, The Washington Post, 28 June 2016)
This is not a mere treaty vote to be run again in a few years, and Britain is not a minor imperialist player or an oppressed nation: Britain has been a major linchpin of the EU (one of the three big imperialist powers that have dominated the union) and the referendum, once agreed upon, could not easily be overturned or ignored. There is every indication that British workers would not stand for it, and most members of the ruling class seem to accept that they’re better off focusing on getting the best possible exit deal than on stirring up who knows what level of further anger amongst an already angry and disenfranchised working class.
The ruling class clearly understands what the loophole searchers and media pundits don’t: if the workers are pushed too hard, their protests may very well not be confined to polite, police-approved demonstrations, planned a month in advance and confined to backstreets and weekends. Their anger could conceivably be violent and their violence may be turned against the guardians of capitalist law and order – namely, the police, judiciary, corporations and all the other bastions of state power and ruling-class privilege.
It is clear that there is much to celebrate in the outcome of the referendum, from the disarray in the camp of our enemies at home to a weakening of three of the biggest enemies of the oppressed masses globally. We have no reason to falter in our resolution or to worry about the forces that have been unleashed, and every reason to get out and get on with our work.
And there is a lot of work to be done. The weakness of our movement must be addressed and our party’s influence must be extended. We are in the midst of the worst-ever crisis of imperialism, which threatens to become even more deep and profound. The ruling class will do its best to pin the deepening of the crisis onto the EU vote, but, while the vote has certainly added to the systemic weakness, a further downward turn was already being predicted at the start of the year, long before economic forecasters had any inkling that Britain might vote to leave the union. (See 2016: Monopoly capitalism staring into the abyss, Lalkar, March 2016)
The job of revolutionaries is to assist and accelerate as much as possible the process of learning by using every available opportunity to educate the workers – who are the ruling class in waiting – as to the nature of the system and the necessity of uniting to fight for socialism.
We must reach out to the increasing numbers of workers who are taking an interest in politics and use every hospital closure, every privatisation, every lay-off, every benefit cut, every case of police brutality, every racial attack, every illegal invasion, every war crime, every attempt at blaming the poorest and most vulnerable workers for the crimes of the capitalist system to demonstrate the case for socialism and to build our party as the rallying point for revolutionary socialists and advanced workers in Britain.
In closing, we once again remind our readers that what is truly admirable about the referendum result is that it demonstrated the defiant spirit of the masses, who went against their rulers and delivered a stunning blow to the billionaires and multinational corporations, despite the threats they were subjected to and the scorn that was poured on their heads. The result was indeed, in the words of the Financial Times, “a roar of rage” from the oppressed. (Britain turns its back on Europe by George Parker, Michael Mackenzie and Ben Hall, 24 June 2016)
But it is not enough for the tormented lion to roar, it must now get up and show its teeth to its tormentors; it must fight back, and fight to win, for what is at stake is nothing less than the future of humanity.