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Britain's Brexit election

Failure to confront reaction means no alternative is on offer

9 June 2024

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer.

The various strands are; vote Labour and hope to pressure the leadership in government, vote socialist (basically a vote for the Socialist Party). Off to one side is the combination of anti-imperialism and populism represented by Gorgeous George Galloway.

A vote for Labour is blind pragmatism. The union bureaucracy, having failed to gain any significant victories against capital, have decided to back Starmer in exchange for whatever loose change he will offer them. The consultation between Labour and unions turned out to be a presentation met with a standing ovation from the union bosses. The mood was somewhat spoiled by Sharon Graham of UNITE announcing that the union would not support the programme.  However, the majority of the left groups have decided to stay aligned with the union bosses.

A vote for a Socialist Party is pure abstraction unless it presents a programme to resolve the crisis in British society today. A vote for Galloway's Workers Party is pure opportunism, given the reactionary elements of his programme. What all the proposals lack is any background analysis of the circumstances of the election. These are of course the abject failure of the Brexit project, the fragmentation of the Tory party, the determination of Labour to continue along the same path and the rabid attempt by the right to move towards fascism in order to realise their dream.

The failure of the socialist groups to present this background analysis is a product of their failure to confront English nationalism and chauvinism in the run-up to Brexit, instead presenting an imaginary "Lexit" as an alternative.

The thing is, Brexit is still going forward. It expresses itself in ongoing racism, privatisation, denial of human rights and militarisation of British society. Britain followed the American model of financialisation, attempting to make money from money. Industry accounts for less than 20% of the British economy.  To redevelop the economy would require massive investment.  The Tories decided that couldn't be afforded and have opted for a strategy of deregulation that they hope will force down living standards and increase the rate of profit. This strategy has failed but still rolls on, even as it leads to a shift towards fascism and the disintegration of the Tory party.

Sir Kier Starmer plans to continue with Brexit. His slogan of "Growth Growth, Growth" is a reformulation of Tory strategy. Oppression of the working class has to lead to profit levels rising before Labour will consider any reform. Most leftists seem to be hanging on like grim death to the expectation that a large Labour majority will lead to internal pressure on the party and a challenge to Starmer. But that won't happen spontaneously.  There needs to be some level of political organisation around which a fightback can begin.

Despite its tiny size, the socialists in Britain could play a decisive part. All they have to do is ask themselves about the needs of the working class rather than the middle-class milieu that they subsist within. The mass immiseration of the class can be prevented by mobilisation against privatisation, welfare cuts, anti-migrant laws, for democratic rights and against the drive to global war.

The path forward requires a return to Europe. Not the pale reflection of the British disease advocated by the remainers, but under the banner of the "United Socialist States of Europe" initially advocated by Leon Trotsky and around which a new European workers movement can be built.

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