The Left and Brexit
After the wave of reaction that followed the vote for Brexit in the UK some in the leadership of the pro leave left are attempting to clarify their call for “Lexit” by calling for a “socialist internationalist Brexit”. The Socialist Party, which has produced this call, has not explained what exactly it would look like, or how the break up of the EU and a retreat behind national borders could be in any way 'internationalist'. Like the SP the SWP also point to the EU's disgusting racist anti asylum policies that “fosters racism and xenophobia” as justification for their withdrawal stance, ignoring the impetus that was given to European far right organisations by the Brexit 'victory' and the increase in racism and xenophobia in Britain that ema-nated from the pro Brexit camp.
The tremors in the British Conservative party and the anarchic uncertainty in global capitalism following the vote is presented by the pro Brexit left as automatically good for the working class and an attempt is made to claim some sort of hollow victory for the left in the changing of the Tory guard, in spite of the political reality which has seen an even more virulent right wing Tory government come to power on the crest of a right wing surge. They argue that “Whatever else happens, it is becoming clear that neoliberal Europe cannot hold and that the political centre i.e the old establishment is under serious threat.” But that threat is from the Right as the Brexit vote shows.
The interpretation of the Brexit vote as “principally a vote by working class people who are rightly angry at the loss of control over their wages, conditions and lives.” is a politically neutral description of sociological conditions. Remaining muted and uncritical of the politics of this vote is tail ending a spontaneous move rightwards and poses a withdrawal from the EU as a mistaken British “solution” to conditions which are largely a product of decades of triumphant Toryism, with a strongly anti-EU wing, and a Blairite Labour party that had moved much further right reflecting a series of working class defeats.
The SP also support their argument for withdrawal by referring to the fate of Syriza and the EU's “imposition” of austerity which “brutally foisted a diet of austerity on the working classes of Greece”. In the case of the SWP they simply blame “the EU” for turning “Syriza into their loyal servants” but neither group can identify the political fault lines in the reformism peddled by Syriza from its inception or learn the lessons of its collapse.
The pro Brexit left have been caught in the wake a dangerous surge to the right and have adapted to it, with the most absurd defence of the “concerns about immigration” vote coming from the SP who argued that “there are many others who are not racist, whose concerns come from the fact that vulnerable migrant workers have been used by the bosses in Britain to undercut wages and conditions.” This is a self consoling excuse for making a concession to the right which hands to the racist enemies of the working class a hypocritical excuse for their racist “concerns” by presenting them with the weasely argument of 'don't come over here we are worried you might be exploited'! Failure to roll back these concessions will haunt the workers movement. It can already be seen in the current Unite union leadership election with McCluskey making concessions to the right on freedom of movement and his sup-porters in the SP falling in to line.
Following the “success” of the Brexit campaign the SWP have also written in favour of an Irish withdrawal arguing that understanding that the EU was reactionary and voting to leave would in some non explicit way lead to “a heightened level of class consciousness” among Irish workers. But understanding that the EU bureaucracy is reactionary and then fighting for a socialist Europe would maintain class independence and would not leave the working class prey to the reactionary propaganda and rhetoric that went along with Brexit.
The Irish SWP now see the task of the left as supporting “this rejection of European neoliberalism and turn[ing] it into a struggle against the Tories”. This takes an existing hostility against the EU's reactionary institutions, that can be identified with by all European workers, and narrows it down, not even to a fight against the totality of British imperialism, but against the British Tory party. Neither is the SP's opposition to “The pro-banker and anti-democratic nature of the EU” something that requires a withdrawal that would resolve nothing in favour of the working class.
As evidence of the need to support exit they highlight Trichet's threat to Finance Minister Michael Noonan that “a financial bomb would go off” if any attempt was made to burn bondholders” but if anything this would only be magnified by an Irish withdrawal and the unstated implication of the fixation with Brexit, is that Noonan as a representative of the Irish ruling class appears as much less of a culprit than 'the EU'.
If the Irish working class could attain an Irish exit, on capitalist terms as with Brexit, it would not do so alone, the sympathy of a section of the right would be included as in Britain. But divisions on Europe do not exist among the Irish ruling class in the same way as they do in imperialist Britain and the most reactionary tendency of the Irish right wing generally has partitionist and Unionist sympathies. Transported to Irish soil the reactionary nature of withdrawal becomes all the clearer. Alternatively should a revolutionary socialist republic be on the cards they would have to depend all the more heavily upon the solidarity of the European working class, so again there would be no advantage to calling for withdrawal instead of a United Socialist States of Europe. Why should the slogan have to wait?
The notion that a 'vote' for Irish withdrawal under the present conditions of bourgeois rule would in any way empower the Irish working class is deeply flawed. It would leave Irish workers at the mercy of the Irish bourgeoisie who already slyly hide behind the hypnotic focus on Brussels as the cause of all ills and, if successful, would result in Ireland falling completely under the control of Anglo-American imperialism. The mutterings among some 'eccentric' TD's and Senators of the benefits of the days of the British Commonwealth do not come from nowhere. But more important than the mutterings of what is at present a tiny pro Commonwealth rump such a notion reveals a reformist mindset on the left, especially in the Socialist Party, that condemns the EU as “not reformable”. No bourgeois state is, as all revolutionaries should know, but their withdrawal demand - for that very purpose - clearly reveals the centrality of reformism to their decisions on Brexit.
Marx and national one sidedness
In the opening pages of the Communist Manifesto it is clear that Marx bases his analysis on the broadening and deepening of the objective conditions created by capitalism that sets the proletariat the task of gaining world power. The expanding world market had a tendency to undermine “national one sidedness and narrow mindedness” having “drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood.” The unifying aspect of the expansion of capitalism on workers struggles was clear; It was the expansion of the market and capitalist production that united the workers in struggle, a struggle where; “The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers.” Marx analysed not a national system but a world system and he described this expansion of workers unity only as “at first national”, meaning the process was not envisaged as stop-ping at national borders. This burgeoning unity was aided in its development by the improved links between groups of workers, created by modern industry, and the centralisation of “numerous local struggles”. So not only does capitalism create its own grave-diggers in the form of the working class, it creates the conditions for the expansion and ever greater unification of the workers against capitalism, a central contradiction of the system, not only on a national basis but on a world scale, hence the slogan 'workers of the world unite'. This slogan was not picked out of thin air, the conditions even then were developed enough for its practical application.
The development of the capitalist world economy is the objective economic prerequisite of internationalism which puts in place the means of imperialism's destruction - the working class 'gravediggers of capitalism'. Likewise the tendency towards the development of the European united states unifies the working class into ever greater groups, the inevitable focus for which is upon the centralisation of bourgeois power that oppresses them. There is no doubt about the reactionary nature of the EU state apparatus but it is merely an conglomeration of the component states, of varying power, that makes the decisions in the European Council and willingly and determinedly administers them as the Dublin government does. The centralisation of power in Brussels calls forth a centralised response from the working class, not necessarily in an idealised simultaneous revolt of all EU countries but in the enhanced conditions for European wide working class solidarity should a revolt occur in one nation, especially if it is against an EU diktat.
The wheel of history
This objective unifying factor, of creating an ever “expanding union of the workers”, is not advanced by attempts to break up the European Union into smaller reactionary units. Yet this is what is being presented by Irish Left groups as progress. By contrast Trotsky argued that “the problem of socialism confronts us on the imperialist foundation, that is, under conditions in which capitalism itself is forced violently to destroy the national-state framework it has itself established.” and that “If the capitalist states of Europe succeeded in merging into an imperialist trust, this would be a step forward as compared with the existing situation, for it would first of all create a unified, all-European material base for the working class movement. The proletariat would in this case have to fight not for the return to “autonomous” national states, but for the conversion of the imperialist state trust into a European Republican Federation.” There is no cause to repudiate this analysis in the present day as the SP and SWP do.
Describing sections of the petit bourgeoisie that found themselves opposed to the bourgeoisie because they sought a return to an older form of economic organisation as not only inconsistent but reactionary, Marx reasoned that; “... they are reactionary for they try to roll back the wheel of history”. History is providing the material basis upon which the tasks it sets can be resolved by the multi million strong European army of capitalism's gravediggers but the response of the political Luddites of the Lexit campaign and their imitators in Ireland is to attempt to “roll back the wheel of history”, which in the end can mean only one thing, a strengthening of reaction.