Leadership hopefuls jostle for position
After the Tories’ woeful EU election performance and Theresa May’s resignation, leadership hopefuls are now vying to become Britain’s next unelected prime minister. All the candidates have been quick to blame Mrs May for failing to deliver Brexit – a failure that has clearly angered workers, who have been watching the parliamentary pantomime in increasing disgust for the last three years.
There is a good chance that Boris Johnson could win the contest – he is a prime favourite with the Tory grassroots and has done a good job of branding himself as someone ‘refreshingly outspoken’ and a ‘hardline Brexiteer’. He is also promoting himself as the only candidate who might actually be able to win an election.
But the Tories are in serious trouble. Having come in fifth place in the EU poll and received a drubbing at the hands of the newly formed Brexit party, which secured 32 percent of the national vote and the largest number of MEPs (29 to the Tories’ four!), they will need to deliver Brexit quickly if they are to avoid annihilation in a general election.
The EU election result, despite the spin being put on it by remainers, showed clearly that British workers are still demanding Brexit and will punish Tory and Labour alike at the next election if it has not been delivered. But if the Tories’ new leader says they are prepared to do a no-deal Brexit, there is every chance parliament will bring down the government and force a general election to try to stop it happening.
Despite having a reputation as a ‘hardline’ Brexiter, Johnson’s willingness to vote in favour of May’s deal when the pressure was on shows that he is above all a careerist, who is most unlikely to ignore the wishes of the ruling class in frustrating Brexit.
Brexit: an insoluble riddle?
The most powerful members of the ruling class are desperate not to leave the EU without a deal, and, at the end of the day, it is this class that our MPs really serve. That is why most of them oppose no-deal. And the few that don’t oppose it are less worried about delivering the referendum result than about keeping their seats at the next election!
Without a change in parliament, May’s successor will face precisely the same nightmare scenario: that of trying to find a way to frustrate Brexit (in line with the wishes of the majority of the billionaire class) while pretending to deliver it (hopefully pacifying the millions who voted for it).
Moreover, they will want to do this in a way that doesn’t split the warring Tory party or bring down its fragile government, and – even more of a challenge – in a way that somehow maintains some shred of credibility in the idea that we live in a ‘democracy’ that stands above all personal and class interest.
It looks like being almost impossible to deliver Brexit with the current set of MPs, who have shown a dogged determination to frustrate every available option – and especially to oppose leaving the EU without a deal. But if the Tories can’t deliver Brexit before they are forced into a general election, they know that their party risks being wiped out.
At every turn we see Britain’s sham democracy being exposed.
The people voted for Brexit, but after three years we are as far as ever from seeing it delivered.
Meanwhile, despite all the pressing problems working people face in Britain – unemployment, underemployment, poverty wages, below-poverty-line benefits, homelessness, overcrowding, privatisation of health and education, destruction of all our rights and services – no other issue can be addressed while Brexit dominates the agenda and soaks up all the government’s resources (a sure indication of our rulers’ true priorities).
There is also increasing embarrassment in political circles that at this time when so many are losing faith in British capitalist democracy, the next prime minister will be chosen not by the country but by 120,000 Tory members, who are overwhelmingly over the age of 55 and resident in the south.
Ruling class divided
At heart, the split over Brexit reflects a deep divide in Britain’s ruling class over how best to survive the worldwide capitalist economic crisis. It was this crisis that brought the banks crashing down in 2008, and for which workers have been paying ever since.
The most powerful section of our ruling class hopes to weather the storm by ramping up its war drive and by aggressively exporting goods to undercut rivals.
A smaller section – the one that backs Brexit – believes it can survive by refusing to pay for expensive wars abroad and engaging in protectionism (ie, using tariffs and trade wars to protect the home market from competing businesses based abroad).
All of them want to pass the burden of the crisis onto the backs of the poor through cuts and austerity, driving down wages and the standard of living for workers.
But none of these measures can stop the progress of the crisis, which is built into the fabric of the capitalist imperialist system; all of them will make it worse. Capitalism itself must be removed before we can end the eternal cycle of boom and bust, the drive to war, and the constantly expanding gap between rich and poor.
But clearly the capitalists are not going to opt for a solution that puts them out of a job, even if it’s the only one that will actually work!
Our party is in favour of Brexit not because we believe it will solve all workers’ problems (that can only be done by the workers themselves taking power and reorganising society in a way that serves their interests), but because we see that Brexit is weakening our class enemies and their institutions of rule: British capitalist democracy, the EU bosses’ club and the warmongering Nato alliance.
Meanwhile, as the ruling class fights it out, its splits are reflected in both preferred parties of rule, which are paralysed and unable to act. These divisions are getting deeper as the crisis gets worse and our rulers more desperate to win the battle of competition and survival.
As a result, we are witnessing the slow-motion demise of stable two-party politics in Britain as the main parties tear themselves apart – a development that is greatly to be welcomed.
Weakness and disunity in the ranks of our enemies creates opportunities for workers. But it is not enough just to sit back and enjoy the sight of their discomfort; we must organise our class so it can take advantage of this weakness and build up our forces for socialism.