Time to change course?
I, like many on the Left voted for Brexit because the EU is demonstrably an undemocratic organisation, representing the interests of capital and the few, higher developed and dominant countries in the group. Its structure makes it virtually impossible for any member country to determine its own economic parameters or to develop socialist forms. That said, I feel the present chaotic and dangerous situation must make all of us review our positions. When I voted, I certainly didn’t envisage negotiations on Brexit being undertaken and completed by one of the most right-wing and incompetent Tory governments of all time. I am also unhappy at finding myself in bed with a whole number of unsavoury characters like Nigel Farage and Co.
We are also deceiving ourselves completely if we imagine that most of the Brexit voters did so for good left wing reasons. Those who did so can be roughly broken down into a few distinct groups: a miniscule minority on the Left who would like to see our country in a position to build a socialist society, then the majority – in the main, north of London and working class – who were fed-up with austerity and their lack of representation both in Westminster and Brussels, then a backwoods Tory grouping comprising those who look back with nostalgia to the Empire days and, finally, the xenophobes who just hate all things foreign. Not a simple or straightforward ideological mix.
Irrespective of whether Brexit goes through on May’s deal or as a no-deal hard Brexit, no rational person will deny that the consequences for the UK are incalculable and full of bear traps. There is no doubt that the Tory hardline Brexiters, like Liam Fox, would be more than happy to see Britain fall into the arms of the USA and become the 51st state. And that is certainly not what we want.
For those of us who would like to see a Labour government under Corbyn, bring in genuine socialist policies, the chances of this coming about are far from certain. Since Thatcher demolished most of Britain’s manufacturing industry, the country has become reliant on financial trading, foreign-owned assembly-belt industries and the service sector. Even if a left-wing government under Corbyn were elected, the country would need immediate and massive investment (where would the money come from?) and it would take generations to re-establish a skilled and educated workforce and years to rebuild a domestic manufacturing infrastructure.
There is a strong feeling in the country, including many on the Left, particularly young people and a majority in Momentum – whose enthused commitment will be vital for any successful election campaign – that Brexit as it stands – May’s deal or no deal – offers no solution to our problems and could plunge the country into more chaos and impose a more dire austerity. The wealthy, as always, will not suffer either way; they have already parked their wealth in offshore tax havens and invested elsewhere. It will be those already bearing the brunt of Tory polices who will suffer. There will be mass sackings by those firms reliant on European exports and no new jobs without mass investment.
If an election is called, many will be very reluctant to vote Labour because they see the leadership’s present stance as equivocal, and they can’t see how a Corbyn government could obtain a better deal than May has. The process has now gone too far for any meaningful re-negotiations.
The overwhelming majority of those who voted Brexit, apart from the few committed Lefties, will not be persuaded to vote for Labour. They are fully behind May, who they feel is courageously ‘fighting Britain’s corner’ against a bullying EU, in the old Churchillian spirit. They say, get on with it, Brexit now, whatever the cost! In a new election, it would not be too wild an assumption to see the Tories romp home again and Labour’s vote split on this issue alone. While correctly continuing to argue that the EU is undemocratic and not reformable in its present form, we have to draw back from the brink and adopt a different strategy, joining most of the other left-wing European parties, if we are to maintain a united movement.