We present here two widely divergent perspectives on the meaning and the prospects opened up by Brexit, both originally published by Defend Democracy. The starkness of the contrast – between the view of a former World Bank officer and that of a self-identified revolutionary socialist — is, we think, itself of considerable interest.
The first analysis comes from Neil Faulkner, “a revolutionary socialist, a Brick Lane Debates activist, and the author of A Marxist History of the World: From Neanderthals to Neoliberals.” The second is by Peter Koenig, co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.
by Neil Faulkner
Taking a position on the EU Referendum was not easy. The in/out choice was essentially an argument inside the political and corporate elite about what was best for British capitalism. We do not wish to be ruled by either the City of London or the European Central Bank. Both are run by bankers. Both are hard-wired for financialisation, privatisation, and austerity. Both are mechanisms for hoovering wealth upwards to the 1%.
One could have made a strong argument for abstention. It would have run like this. This is a dispute between two rival factions among our rulers about how best to organise exploitation and the accumulation of capital. It is an argument about how best to make profits. Either way, we get ripped off and they get richer. Working people are deluded if they think that either side represents them, or that either choice, in or out, benefits them.
In theory, this argument is sound. But, as Goethe said, theory is grey and the tree of life is green. What is true in an abstract sense – that there is nothing to choose between the City of London and European Central Bank – is not true when you translate it into the concrete terms of a live political debate. I will come back to this. Before doing so, I want to say something about Lexit.
While one could have made a strong argument for abstention – albeit an abstract one – the same cannot be said for the argument for voting Leave. It did not matter that the EU is a bankers’ club, that the EU is undemocratic, and that the EU is imposing austerity and privatisation. All true, and all irrelevant. Because exactly the same can be said for the alternative: the City of London.
A somewhat more sophisticated version went like this. The EU is the mega-project of Europe’s political and corporate elite, including its semi-detached British syndicate. Brexit will throw this project into crisis. The crisis of their system will be our opportunity. We welcome the crisis of European capitalism caused by the breakup of the EU.
Similar arguments have been presented in the past. The German Communist Party, under orders from Moscow, welcomed the crisis of the Weimar Republic in the early 1930s, refused to form an alliance against fascism with the German Social-Democratic Party (dubbed ‘social fascists’), and claimed that a Hitler dictatorship would be a stepping-stone to socialist revolution. We know the outcome.
Let me spell out the basic underlying mistake here: it is to assume that any crisis – and any outbreak of mass discontent – must somehow benefit the Left. In fact, as Lenin explained, the ruling class can survive any crisis if the workers let it, and, as Trotsky explained, there are two parties in a crisis, the party of revolutionary hope (the socialists) and the party of counter-revolutionary despair (the fascists).
I cannot condemn comrades on the Left who got this wrong during the Referendum campaign. They include many friends whose commitment, idealism, and decency are beyond question. But they must now stare reality in the face. So too must any abstainers who sought refuge in abstraction.
If the monster of nationalism and racism incubating inside the Brexit camp was less than wholly apparent during the campaign, it is undeniable now. Yet I have seen revolutionaries whose opinions I used to respect claiming that the EU Referendum result represents ‘a class vote’ and that, because working-class communities voted heavily against the Remain camp, we are witness to a popular revolt against austerity and inequality.
This is breathtaking stupidity. It is to make a nonsense of any distinction between ‘class in itself’ and ‘class for itself’: a vital distinction for Marx, who knew the great difference there was between the mere fact of class position – a matter of sociological description – and conscious mass struggle by working people acting for themselves to change the world. Indeed, in some sense, the whole of socialist activity is accounted for by this distinction.
For socialists to think that millions of working people voting for Johnson, Gove, and Farage – who conducted the most racist election campaign in recent British history – can somehow be interpreted as ‘a class vote’, or, as the Lexit website claims, that the result constitutes ‘a left-wing victory’ leaves me struggling for the words.
In a crisis, the Centre cannot hold, and popular discontent can be captured and channelled by the Right or by the Left. The Left has no hope if it cannot even tell the difference. So let me spell it out.
The Brexit campaign was an anti-EU, anti-Westminster, anti-Establishment campaign – just as Hitler’s campaign was anti-Weimar in 1932. The Brexit campaign drew upon great pools of bitterness among those at the bottom of society, the victims of globalisation, neoliberalism, and austerity – just as Hitler was supported by the unemployed, the unorganised workers, the broken small businesses, the ‘little people’ who felt forgotten, ignored, and abused. And the Brexit campaign fanned a great upsurge of anti-immigrant racism – just as Hitler blamed the Jews.
So the Brexit victory means a sharp lurch to the right. UKIP is surfing a wave. The Tory Right will take the leadership. New Labour has its slow-motion coup to get rid of Corbyn back on the rails (and those who doubt the right-wing trajectory of British politics should note that the line here is that Corbyn is disconnected from the Labour base because he is soft on immigration). Across Europe, the Far Right is toasting Brexit and demanding their own in/out referenda. The EU may well break up (pulled apart, please note, not by ‘the party of revolutionary hope’, but by ‘the party of counter-revolutionary despair’).
We are living in dangerous times. Despite the juggernaut of corporate power, the grotesque greed of the rich, and the mounting social crisis afflicting working people and the poor, resistance is minimal and the Left – blighted by autonomism, sectarianism, and, in some quarters, a blank refusal to face reality – effectively irrelevant.
Yet the Left must act. The global crisis is deep, intractable, and set to get worse. The historical stakes have never been higher. The Left has to build a fighting alternative based on mass struggle from below. A good start might be the simple recognition that the Brexit vote represents a right-wing tidal wave – a triumph of Trumpism – and that if we don’t get our act together soon, the danger is that the Far Right, here and across Europe, will harden into all-out Fascism.
by Peter Koeneig
BREXIT is the best thing that has happened not only for the Brits – but for all of Europe – and potentially for the world in the last 30-some years – which were beset by Washington Consensus demagoguery, by ever more flagrant globalization towards a New World Order, under which the elite knows no scruples in decimating countries and continents – enslaving entire people – to get what they want, striving for Full Spectrum Dominance. The current inflexible and un-solidary EU is a direct result of this drive.
The BREXIT vote may break the stranglehold of Washington on Europe. The BREXIT vote may be the first step in a new dynamic of a EUREXIT from Washington’s dominance, from NATO, from the wars and conflicts sustaining the US corporate profit bulldozer, from the threat of a corporate enslavement by the looming TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), from sanctions against Russia – from the sheer prohibition of building up what makes most sense for the future of Europe – a relationship with Russia and the east, including China.
The BREXIT vote may – just may – be that pebble that puts in motion a landslide for freedom seekers from the fangs of Washington. This ‘MAY’ depends on the perseverance of the people, of recognizing and assimilating what long-term benefits will be associated by cracking the western corporate-finance fist.
Immediately after the unexpected result, the western presstitute media went into overdrive spreading fear about what this ‘revolting and unwise’ decision may mean not just for Britain, but for the rest of Europe. What will ‘The Markets’ do? What will become of the world financial center, London – and how will it affect the rest of Europe, the British Pound, the euro, the stock market throughout the world? According to the brainwashing mainstream media (MSM), Brexit will for sure affect jobs in and outside the UK – an assertion without substance.
These are warning signals for the Greek and especially the Spaniards in view of their crucial elections on 26 June. Will they dare voting anti-establishment? And instead be voting for the Unidos-Podemos alliance, in view of ending the deadlock on austerity that brought hunger, unemployment, poverty and despair? – Would they dare becoming the second stumbling block after the UK for the corrupt US-vassal, the European Union?
The presstitute barrage against Brexit is meant to warn others not to stand up against the plague of Brussels, lest you may be punished with more debt and austerity. Indeed, the first reaction of Mr. Tsipras, Greece’s PM, was to blame European leaders (sic), who were responsible for destructive belt-tightening programs. He pleaded for reforming the EU. Unfortunately, this top-heavy technocracy and servant of Washington’s is not reformable. The EU as it stands today cannot be reformed. Let’s remind ourselves, the EU was not the idea of Europeans, but the creation of the US, when after WWII the reigning elite in Washington wanted a rebuilt Europe (reconstructed with their money – the Marshall Plan), a loose and submissive trading union of European nations, with eventually a common currency modelled after the dollar – fiat money – but never ever a political federation that could become a competitor to the ‘exceptional people’s’ empire.
The British vote expressed discontent and frustration across party lines with the Brussels’ ever increasing control over countries’ internal affairs, thereby abolishing national sovereignty – and, yes, also their incapacity to handle refugees – millions made homeless and miserable through wars and conflicts instigated by the US and supported by the very EU, directly and through NATO. Brexit represents the culmination of the British malaise vis-à-vis the EU ever since the UK became a member in 1973. The ‘exceptional’ island nation, still longing for her empire’s glories of the past, understandably has a hard time being told what to do by a bunch of unelected and unscrupulous bureaucrats in Brussels.
The BREXIT vote is, however, not a guarantee for exit. According to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, it may take up to two years to negotiate exit terms. In his own words, David Cameron will ‘steer the ship’ for the next three months, until a new Prime Minister is put in place through elections he announced for October 2016. A lot can happen in these three months and even more in the coming twenty-four months. This period can even be extended through mutual UK-EU agreement. Mr. Cameron should call for immediate elections, step down now, and leave preparation for engaging in the exit procedure to his successor.
There are other potential hindrances or delays for exit. The result of the vote is not binding and needs to be ratified by the British Parliament. Though unlikely at this point, the Parliament could decide for the good of the British people to stay in the EU. As reported by BBC, there is a movement for a repeat of the Brexit referendum that has already collected 2.3 million signatures. A new vote could be sufficiently manipulated to reverse the result. The EU itself is divided in how they want the exit to take place. While Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission, tends to hasten Cameron to start the process ‘tomorrow’, Madame Merkel says there is no hurry.
Brexit-Brits, please do not relent, be not persuaded that you chose wrongly to leave the monster EU; be steadfast! Europeans – wake up! This is the chance of a lifetime to break up with the Washington led-dominance, with NATO, the eternal wars on terror, the destruction and balkanization of the Middle East and ‘regime change’ throughout the world. Become compassionate again with your fellow citizens! – Retake your sovereignty, with your own independent currencies, free from the FED- Wall Street dollar-euro dictate.
The populaces’ silence to the Washington empire’s murderous advances gave it apparent leeway to become ever bolder. In the case of Brexit (or no Brexit), the criminal gang on top of the pyramid, didn’t shy from sacrificing a young British Labor Party MP, Jo Cox, who was campaigning for ‘Remain’. Her murder, by an apparent lunatic, who ‘they say’ yelled ‘Brexit’ before he shot and stabbed her to death, seemed to have turned around public opinion in the last couple of days before the vote – or so the mainstream-bought pollsters would have liked their voters to believe. Indeed, pollsters’ reversal of last minute ‘survey’ results in favor of the ‘Remain’, were expected to influence the electorate. This was the plan. But it failed.
David Cameron’s BREXIT acceptance and announcement of his resignation in the wake of the vote, was giving the Brexit majority a euphoric sense of ‘Yes we can’. Although coming back on the people’s decision appears unlikely now, it is not impossible. Just look at Greece. A year ago, the Greek voted overwhelmingly against the austerity packages imposed by the infamous troika (EC, ECB and IMF). Had the referendum result been accepted by the ruling left-wing (sic) Syriza party, it would have meant exit from the Eurozone. Yet, Mr. Tsipras, his cabinet and a (bought) majority of Parliament opted for ignoring the wish of the people, continuing instead accepting living under the destructive yoke of Brussels and Washington, thereby plunging Greece’s population into indescribable poverty and misery with no end in sight.
Here lays just one of the absurdities in comparing Brexit with Grexit. In the case of a Grexit, the ‘markets’ would have hardly blinked. Grexit was not really on the radar screen of big investors. To the contrary, Greece was steadily, but falsely, threatened with expulsion from the Eurozone, if they would not behave according to the ECB (Goldman Sachs) imposed European economic policy. For the European elite seeing the UK leaving the rotten-to-the-core European Union, is like betraying their values of treachery and corruption.
The Brexit vote divided the country, but not along party lines which shows that the party doctrine is rapidly becoming a myth of the past. People voted from their heart. Judging from interviews with real people in the streets, they voted for fear of losing jobs in a steady increase of globalization; for fear of being flooded by refugees, but also out of anger against the Brussels strong-arming their lives, the impunity and secrecy by which the non-transparent EC negotiates uncanny deals, for example, was mentioned the TTIP, under which the rules for our lives would be imposed by a US-led corporate empire, whose jurisdiction would be above that of our nations.
Brexit will bring a new dimension, a new perspective to all peoples of Europe, of which according to different surveys, a clear majority are against the EU.
Brexit may, therefore, be the first step in a series of similar referenda, ranging from France, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Italy – and more. That alone would be the death-knell of the EU and the destructive Euro. But it would also bring new dynamism, new hope, as newly sovereign countries would be free to make their own monetary policies, according to local needs of their economies. They could seek their own trading partners without being afraid of sanctions. They could reinstate their stolen social safety nets, health services, education, pensions; they could work towards full employment, according to local production for local markets, with local money and local banks, fully detached from the globalized FED-Wall Street financial sledgehammer.
The writing is on the wall is bold and clear – the future for Europe, socially and economically, lays with the East, Russia, Central Asia and China as natural partners. The West, dominated by a US-led corporatocracy is decaying fast. Unfortunately, much of Europe is still part of the war and greed driven western system. It is inherent in the hundreds of years of Europe’s slave-driving colonial past. Yet, a closer association with the East could bring new values to Europe; values of honesty, respect for each other and solidarity.
Fear-mongering by the western media will be a given. But why would you fear? What could be worse than the artificially induced 2007/8 ‘crisis’ – which is made to linger on, seemingly forever – and which so-far has killed tens of thousands of mostly southern Europeans, reduced life expectancy, and according to the British Lancet, astronomically increased suicide and cancer rates from despair, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, malnutrition – from sheer help- and hopelessness?
Can you imagine, what it means for the Greek to stand in humiliating lines for EU ‘donated’ food packages, after the same EU has put these people mercilessly and miserably into the gutters?
Good riddance of such an EU, an unreformable criminal monster. It should disappear as fast as possible, to give people again space to breathe, to live out their dreams. And if one of their dreams is to unite as a group of likeminded sovereign nations into a political and economic federation – not driven from outside, but solely from within – then why not, a new form of a European Union of solidarity and common values may be attempted.
BREXIT may become a positive agent of change, an induction of awareness, a great sigh of relief and hope – Yes, We Can ‘EUREXIT’. Imagine, a de-globalized world, the backbone of the New World Order broken – peace would break out and, We, the Peoples of the world would move towards harmony and understanding of each other, with dialogues instead of conflicts — I’m dreaming, of course. Sometimes, though, dreams are the engines towards reaching the impossible.