by W Stephen Gilbert

The exit of Britain from the European Union, the “Brexit” (MaxPPP TagID: dpaphotostwo527836.jpg) [Photo via MaxPPP]

Last Christmas, as you do, we received the usual batch of greetings cards from people we’re only in touch with at that time of year. Almost without exception, these cards included a message to the effect: “isn’t it terrible about Trump and Brexit?” As we are perceived as (ex-)metropolitan, enlightened, middle class professionals, we obviously must subscribe to all the views prescribed for that demographic.
My partner can speak for himself. But I voted to leave. This is an outrage that many of my friends cannot understand and find difficult to forgive. They tolerate my intolerance of that ugly, specious, coined term that Theresa May likes to use twice in one mantra. But by my vote they think I’ve taken leave of my senses or become a class traitor or revealed myself as a closet fascist.
Bracketing Trump and the 2016 referendum result is thought a legitimate summary of a year that was in many ways the most ghastly anyone can recall. It’s almost as though the leave campaign was implicated in the premature deaths of Victoria Wood and David Bowie, let alone the inability of the American electorate to prevent a supremely unsuitable candidate being handed “the most powerful job in the world”. A hitherto intelligent friend bracketed me on Facebook with unacceptable supporters of the leave campaign: “Nigel Farage, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin – nice company you keep”, as though voting is something to do with fashion and celebrity. He must be so relieved to have voted the same way as Victoria Beckham, Simon Cowell and Jeremy Clarkson.
There is much said in the media and at Westminster about the abuse heaped on people in the public eye. Those who oppose Jeremy Corbyn are apt to accuse Corbyn supporters in particular of perpetrating this abuse and Corbyn in turn of failing to stem the flow, as though he possesses the power to discipline people who tweet anonymously. But abuse is a two-way street and the digital deterioration of political rhetoric is not confined to one faction. Those who voted to leave are routinely accounted ‘morons’, ‘racists’ and solely responsible for every hate crime that occurs in Britain. I resent this. As Canon Giles Fraser has observed, there are not 17 million racists in Britain.
There is no basis for the assumption that a perceived rise in hate crime and racist attacks is caused by the result of the referendum; indeed, logic rather suggests that a vote to remain would have provoked bitterness and retaliation among those for whom immigration is a dominant issue. Nor is there any merit in all leavers being thought of as Little Englanders. This is as shallow and demeaning as the argument that remainers were only concerned that their holidays in Umbria or Provence might be somehow circumscribed if we left the EU, that they are tourist, fair-weather Europeans. Nevertheless, there is certainly a romantic fantasy underpinning the bitterness that many thwarted remainers express, making it necessary and pertinent for Jeremy Corbyn to keep pointing out that we’ve not leaving Europe, we’re just leaving the EU.
Initially, I was minded to vote status quo. I imagined that the remain campaign would be making a case that I could understand and accept. In fact, this would have been unprecedented. From Harold Macmillan on, Europhiles have felt no obligation to spell out the case for being in what began as the EEC and became the EU. All British governments have been broadly in favour of membership (not excluding the Thatcher administrations), but they have adopted the stance most nakedly embodied by Roy Jenkins: just leave it to us who know, and don’t you worry your pretty little head about things that don’t concern you. The media have played along, making minimal effort to report the workings of the European market, save for mocking perceived anomalies. Over the years, the Tory press has hardened its opposition to the EU, obeying the deregulatory requirements of its cabal of owners.
Perhaps unduly influenced by the press, certainly alienated by the failure of Europhiles to make the case, millions of Britons have come to regard the EU as indifferent to their needs and concerns. “Decades of pro-EU spin have failed to convince the mass of working people of its worth;” wrote John King two years ago, “the only reason their opposition has been so restrained is the secrecy and speed of the takeover. This has occurred across generations, a slow-motion transfer of control, driven by the rich and powerful. Our leaders are complicit, know where their futures rest. There are careers to protect and promote, fortunes to be made. The feelings of the wider society are ignored” [New Statesman June 11th 2015].
Even the most enthusiastic long-term supporter of the EU among the Tories, Kenneth Clarke MP, understood the anti-European sentiment of the electorate as expressed in the referendum, though he seemed to find British governments more culpable: “I think it was mounting anger about economic inequality, the unfair distribution of the rewards of economic success, the gap between different parts of the country, with London and the south-east having a booming economy, and nothing happening in some of the old industrial cities of the north and the north midlands” [The Guardian, February 6th 2017].
But David Cameron and his allies eschewed any positive and constructive arguments. They preferred to mount an anti-Farage barrage of threats and doom-prediction. As it became clear that no pro-EU exegesis was ever to be offered, I began to incline towards spoiling my ballot paper in a positive way, writing something across it about being repelled by two campaigns each as negative and infantile as the other. At the count, such a message would have had to be formally noted.
Not the least repellent aspect of both campaigns was the emphasis on “the British interest”. Why would the EU want us to stay if we were only concerned for our own prospects? What about the European interest? I would go further: my primary concern is the global interest. I am as alarmed by our emphasis on self-interest as I am by “America first, America first”. We are all dependent on the survival of the planet. The only useful statespersons are those concerned with the welfare of everyone.
But in trying to inform myself about the issue, I began to discover that there were good left reasons to vote to leave. And as I took to thinking about those, I learned to ignore the vapid arguments of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and to see that the prospects for being outside the EU were actually rather encouraging.
Indeed, for most of the first year after the referendum, economic commentators regularly exclaimed at how unexpectedly well the British economy was doing as the sky resolutely declined to fall in. If the picture has clouded a little recently, it is no longer possible to separate the impact of the referendum vote from the uncertainty created by the sow’s ear that the government has made of its approach to the negotiations with the EU.
Again, Ken Clarke put blue water between himself and his government. Recorded as long ago as last December, he told Michael Crick: “Nobody, probably from the prime minister down, has the first idea how events are going to evolve next year … [The government’s] policy wouldn’t fill one side of A4 at the moment”.
Or as fellow Tory remainer Anna Soubry put it in the same programme: “It’s all gone tits up” [Brexit Means Brexit: The Unofficial Version BBC/Oxford Film & Television June 21st 2017].
But what about those good left reasons? The first item to consider is that identified by Tony Benn, mentor to Jeremy Corbyn, who opposed the Common Market in the 1975 referendum and remained a leaver for the rest of his days.

In Britain you vote for the government and therefore the government has to listen to you,” he told the Oxford Union in the last year of his life, “and if you don’t like it you can change it. But in Europe all the key positions are appointed, not elected – the Commission, for example. All appointed, not one of them elected … My view about the European Union has always been not that I am hostile to foreigners but that I am in favour of democracy” [March 25th 2013]

Another question of democracy is the intended future development of the EU. It has to be faced that remaining in the union would have gradually subsumed the unwritten British constitution under laws carved in European stone. The ability of British voters to change the direction of British travel by voting in general elections would have been eradicated by mid-century because the room for manoeuvre of national governments – and, most pertinently for the British, the sovereign House of Commons – would have been incrementally surrendered to Brussels. Half of all British legislation in recent years originated in the EU, and it is the half that cannot be rescinded while in the union. That in which Karl Marx most anchored his hope for the revolutionary potential of the British workers’ movement has been in certain danger of being castrated by the EU until now.
Paul Mason put it baldly:

The leftwing case for Brexit is strategic and clear. The EU is not – and cannot become – a democracy. Instead, it provides the most hospitable ecosystem in the developed world for rentier monopoly corporations, tax-dodging elites and organised crime” [The Guardian May 16th 2016]

Had we remained in the EU, future Labour governments would have been powerless to reverse the privatisation of the NHS upon which the Tory government is embarked. What’s more, taking public utilities back into public hands – proposals that command wide public support – would have been thwarted by Brussels. For instance:

The fourth rail package [approved April 2016]… categorically seeks to dismantle incumbent state monopolies in … EU countries. This rules out reinstating mainland Britain’s old state monopoly, British Rail. While public sector organisations will still be able to run rail services, any service or route will need to be contracted out and not simply awarded.
By liberalising the European rail industry, the fourth rail package is continuing a longstanding EU objective. The EU appears to share the British ideological mindset of the 1990s that led to a fragmented rail network and privatisation. It is arguing for this under the mantra that competition will bring better and cheaper services for passengers” [Nicole Badstuber, The Conversation website June 20th 2016]

As Prof Danny Nicol adds:

Britain is … bound by the EU treaties. Indeed, every British court is duty-bound to enforce every EU law in preference to any conflicting British statute. Under Article 106, the EU prohibits public monopolies exercising exclusive rights where this violates EU competition rules. The EU’s Court of Justice has interpreted Article 106 as giving private companies the right to argue before the national courts that services should continue to be open to private-sector competition. Nationalised services are prima facie suspect and must be analysed by the judiciary for their ‘necessity’. Thus the EU has given companies a legal right to run to court to scupper programmes of public ownership” [Left Futures website September 18th 2015]

Looking wider, there is an historic chasm between progressives and reactionaries concerning governance. Progressives hold that civil rights can only be maintained by the implementation of law, that workers and others can only be protected from exploitation and oppression by rules. Reactionaries argue that economies can only prosper if they are released from legal restriction, that regulation (including progressive taxation) stifles the entrepreneurship that creates industries and jobs.
The opposition of multinationals and their supporters to the EU arises primarily from the accumulation of law and regulation. But insofar as the EU’s regulations prevent governments from implementing progressive policies, the deregulation argument for leaving touches hands with progressives. Laws securing workers’ rights are welcome. Laws restricting those rights are not. The notion that the EU is somehow an acceptably regulated multinational market arrangement, whereas neither the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) nor the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) would be, is incoherent. Donald Trump’s dissent from these enterprises – he has withdrawn the US from TTP – is an unexpectedly encouraging sign. Both TTP and TTIP tend to free business interests from the constraints of international law and indeed will allow multinationals to bring actions – not excluding vexatious litigation – against national governments.
When the text of the proposed TPP deal was made public as the US election campaign got under way, Bernie Sanders said:

“I will do everything I can to defeat the TTP. We need trade policies in this country that work for the working families of our nation and not just the CEOs of large, multinational corporations” [his website November 5th 2015]

Pursued almost wholly in camera by the EU and the Obama government, the on-going TTIP negotiations would have opened up European public utilities (which would include the NHS) to US and multinational ownership and have brought European trading standards and environmental regulations into line with those laid down in Washington. Trump’s ambiguity over TTIP is causing major irritation in the EU. The problem is that he is notoriously capable of performing a 180-degree turn and brushing it off as “fake news”. So he may yet do a TTIP deal with Brussels. Happily its proposed bonfire of regulations need not affect our post-EU arrangements. But they make it all the more urgent that Britain sheds its Tory government sooner rather than later so that EU regulations copied and pasted benefit the majority in Britain.
There can be little doubt that, if elected, the Corbyn project has better prospects of succeeding outside the EU than inside. He would be able actually to abandon the austerity that is in fact an EU treaty requirement, take public utilities back into British public ownership (rather than, as so many of them are, in the hands of foreign state enterprises), rescue otherwise doomed industries and invest in infrastructure.
Austerity is a busted flush. On the eve of the 2017 election in Britain, the economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote:

Austerity has not only damaged the European economies, including the UK, but actually threatens future growth. For instance, when you have young people not learning, or in jobs inappropriate to their skills, they’re not increasing their human capital in the way they could be. Without that human capital, future economic growth will be lower than it could have been. It is remarkable that there are still governments, including here in the UK, that still believe in austerity” [The Guardian June 7th 2017].

No wonder the young support Corbyn.
As the economics editor of The Guardian, Larry Elliott, wrote recently, Corbyn and the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell are…

…exploring the freedom Brexit would provide for public ownership, lower rates of VAT to help those on the lowest incomes, state aid to support sunrise industries, and fairtrade agreements with developing countries … A radical socialist programme that included a different approach to state aid, state ownership, public procurement and managed trade would be deemed illegal under European laws” [July 21st 2017]

There is presently a certain amount of tension on the Labour front bench over the question of Britain’s continued membership both of the so-called single market and of that arm of the EU known as the customs union. “The only countries that can have full membership of the single market are EU member states,” writes Bert Schouwenburg, International officer of the GMB union. “Others, such as Efta members, can participate in it by belonging to the European Economic Area but have to accept the EU’s four freedoms in goods, services, capital and people. What this means is that a post-Brexit British government would be obliged to tender its public services and utilities to the benefit of European multinational capital. It would be unable to prevent the further privatisation of the public realm and powerless to stop unscrupulous employers undermining collective bargaining by the deployment of cheap labour from other parts of the EU. As for the customs union, outside its own borders the EU is extremely protectionist, and its neoliberal free trade policy is not something that should be emulated” [Letters to The Guardian July 20th 2017].
I defy anyone who is not a lawyer to hack their way through the legislation covering the customs union or to take a categorical position over Britain continuing to be a member. Is it beneficial or not to a trader in Britain if “any pecuniary charge, however small and whatever its designation and mode of application, which is imposed unilaterally on domestic or foreign goods by reason of the fact that they cross a frontier, and which is not a customs duty in the strict sense, constitutes a charge having equivalent effect within the meaning of Articles 9, 12, 13 and 16 of the Treaty, even if it is not imposed for the benefit of the state, is not discriminatory or protective in effect and if the product on which the charge is imposed is not in competition with any domestic product”? [European Court of Justice ruling July 1st 1969 on the Treaty of Rome of 1957, incorporated into Article 30 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union of 2007].
Go on, tell us how to interpret that.
While the fiscal implications of Europe argue for a life outside the Union, what about the geopolitical record of the institution? We are repeatedly told that the EEC/EU has kept the peace in Europe for 70 years. When I was a child, I was taught that Yugoslavia was in Europe. Throughout the 1970s, discussions took place over the possibility of Yugoslavia becoming the first Socialist member of the then EEC and agreements of trade cooperation were signed in 1970, 1973 and 1980. That country was ravaged by civil war throughout the 1990s, breaking up into six separate states. The UN and many nations including EU members became involved in the wars, and terms such as ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ were widely used. How apologists for the EU find themselves able to pretend that one of the cruellest and bitterest of modern conflicts is somehow relocated outside the continent and hence that the EU has held the peace is impossible to understand.
Meanwhile, the founding philosophy of the EEC was to be communautaire, which is to say that all the members would look out for each other. The two major challenges that the EU has faced so far this century have dramatically demonstrated how very far the Union has strayed from being at all communautaire. Those members whose economies have run into trouble, which is to say Greece, Italy and to a lesser extent Ireland, Spain and Portugal, have found membership of the EU has given them more pain and punishment than sympathy and succour.
And Europe’s handling of the migrant crisis has been one of the most shaming episodes since the Second World War, with an every-man-for-himself attitude, widely condemned as “fortress Europe” rather than a constructive and co-operative strategy dictating every nation’s improvisations. Further, no coherent policy has been forged concerning the wish of Turkey to gain membership, with the current stand-off dictated by the whims of the Turkish dictator. It is a sorry record.
Do remainers believe that the EU is a progressive, liberal, innovative force in the world? Are they deluded? People who cling to the EU idea appear to see it as some kind of romantic combination of médecins sans frontières, Oktoberfest, the Vienna Philharmonic, the smörgåsbord, the Venice-Simplon-Orient express and a remembered long weekend on Ibiza. But all these admirable enterprises will be there when Britain is out of the EU and, crucially, they will still be available to visitors from the UK.
Whether Britain can and will thrive outside the membership of the EU is impossible to know. After so many election results wrongly anticipated by the commentariat and the establishment and so many political developments emerging from left field, both in the sporting and in the political senses, no one can confidently pronounce on how situations will play out. We would not be where we are in summer 2017 if David Cameron had not sought to buy off his Europhobe backbenchers with the 2015 manifesto promise of a referendum, a promise cynically made because Cameron doubted the Tories would win in 2015, thereby calling his bluff. Having misread the electorate in 2015, he proceeded to do so again in 2016, whereupon his successor, Theresa May, misread it a third time in 2017.
Some remainers now claim that public opinion has turned against leaving the EU and that a further referendum on the terms negotiated by the government would see them rejected. Don’t bet the house on it. Wishful thinking plays a part in market research as well as in parliamentary calculation. There may be many Labour backbenchers who cling to the notion that somehow Britain will be restored to full membership of the EU and no questions asked. They are encouraged by knockabout pieces by Vince Cable who has an electoral interest in splitting Labour. But the electoral appeal of Corbyn’s innate respect for democracy has been underestimated before.
We are entitled to doubt that the gift of prophecy resides in Westminster. And developments can be willed as well as weathered. The best bet for a creative jolt to the negotiated departure from the EU would be for a further general election to propel a Labour team into the breach, allowing a fresh start to the process and a clear programme of government to define the intended outcome of that process. An authentic internationalist like Corbyn could be relied upon to secure a relationship with Europe that benefits not only the citizens of the continent but also those elsewhere who hope to see a progressive government in Westminster.
That surely is our best hope.

W Stephen Gilbert is the author of Jeremy Corbyn – Accidental Hero (Eyewear 2015)

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Go on, tell us how to interpret that.

It means that Member States cannot impose independently anything which even looks a little bit like a customs duty on anything.


It’s an open to the French far left and Le Penn Guallist is that Medcines sans Fontieres is a CiA front. Former director Kouchner abd his sour -faced wife Ockrent (Belgian journalist rmer TF1 newcaster and big wig in Albright and Soros’ warmobgering ICG) have been on Langley’s payroll for years.


In his 2014 book, ‘Crossed Memories’ French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner claims that his boss, president Sarkozy was hated because of him being Jewish.
Interestingly, in November 2011, ADL’s top gun, Abraham foxman slammed both Barack Obama and Sarkozy over making fun of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Another point, totally over looked in the British press and totally unknown to the British public, is that the Treaty of Rome was tailor made for the civil law “code Napoleon” legal systems of the founding states of France, Benelux ,West germany and Italy The Uk ( and ROI) common law system with lack of ID card address registration make it incompatible wirh the rest of the block Like having a honda engine in a BMW. De Gialle said this in the 60s.And that is why the UK gets a massive disprobortion of RU migrants. Getting a tax number and ID card in say, wealthy Luxembourg is a costly and byzantine process. In the UK getting a national insurance number is a breeze.


What is the EU’s nain function? ie on what does it spend the working class taxes on? Few people can answer this very fundemental queztion. The answers is subsidizing agricultural landowners (excutive pay pensions, translation and bureaucracy for the nomenklatura is second). Who are the agricultural landowbwrs? In decending order: the vatican, the dutch royal family, Albert Grimaldi of Monaco, the british royal family, spanish nobility ( Nick Clegg’s wife) the Von Hapsburg family (of the ex austrian throne) Saudi and GCC investment funds Tokyo banks, Goldman Sachs and London manage uk tax haven based hedge funds. There’a a word for all of this: Feudalusm.


Good comment about Yugoslavia. The EEC in 1991 was instrumental in causung that war. The BND (West Germany’s CIA) had been illegally shipping in weapons since 1987 and the US congress put economuc sanctions on the Federal SFRJ government in Novemver 1990 ling before a shot had veen fired. But it was the EEC Badinter commussion that outrageously declared Yugoslavia as “non existant.”The equivalent of the Soviet politburo declaring Spain or the UK as non-existant and recognising Catalonia or Scotland. as sovereign states and lavishing them wirh arms and cash.


Good comment about Yugoslavia. The EEC in 1991 was instrumental in causung that war. The BND (West Germany’s CIA) had been illegally shipping in weapons since 1987 and the US congress put economuc sanctions on the Federal SFRJ government in Novemver 1990 ling before a shot had veen fired. But it was the EEC Badinter commussion that outrageously declared Yugoslavia as no existant. The equivalent of the Soviet politburo declaring Spain or the UK as no_ existant and recognising Catalonia or Scitland.


Good comment, but O think your U-I-O keys are stick!

Greg Bacon
Greg Bacon

Britain, like the USA, is ruled by venal, back-stabbing, corrupt war mongers who take care of themselves and piss on everyone else. Witness the cowardly defense of war criminal Tony Blair.
This will end either by the corruption getting so deep and dark, the whole rotten mess collapses from its own corrupt weight, leading to anarchy or by the war mongers setting of WW III as a last -ditch means to protect their sorry asses.

Lumpy Gravy
Lumpy Gravy

I voted to remain: my choice was personal. Our son had a temporary job in a local factory and 50% of their products are sold to Holland and Denmark and he was offered a permanent position. The day after the Brexit vote the offer was withdrawn.
Here, in the Black Country, 60% voted to leave. Their reasoning was that we will, after Brexit, get back control of our country. I have never been able to influence any Government policy, domestic or foreign, and nor have they and neither have you. The “control” that they wished to get back does not include us and it never will. It’s just that they, encouraged by the tabloid press, “feel” that they have control. In or out the enemy is the same.
I acknowledge that being out we can now re-nationalise those parts of the economy, NHS, rail etc as we wish: fair point but first we need a Labour Government that will implement those policies. The Tories will lead us into trade deals with the USA, TTIP by the back door, whereby we will have to accept poisoned chicken and beef into our supermarkets to prop up their failing economy and accept GMO seeds and the weed killers that go with them.
Not much of a choice in my opinion.
You’ll be pleased to know that our son got his contract one year later.


A good read. I myself voted Remain, with peg on nose, despite Greece’s shafting and the wider truth that the EU is an imperialist club. Though their arguments were far better informed than those on either side of a ridiculous ‘debate’ precipated by nothing more than Cameron’s reckless opportunism, Lexiteers could never convince me that now was a good time to Leave in so hasty a context, when socialist and real internationalist arguments against the EU could not be properly aired and would be drowned out by rightwing xenophobia.
A slightly fuller version of my reasoning can be read here …
That said, most of my exchanges ever since have been against those who voted the same way as me. Like WS Gilbert I’ve been nauseated by the battery of petit-bourgeois vilification, with its thinly veiled contempt for those most shafted by the neoliberalism the EU represents.

Reg Varney

Fascinating read, the major issue I have with Brexit, is leaving Europe and going straight into the arms of warmongering USA. I would prefer to live under a dictatorship of Europe any day than to have the tiniest agreement with those cowards, Liam Fox has waited years for this opportunity, along with many more.


This isn’t related to the article above but I decided I’d float it with ye anyway because it is causing me concern and I always felt there are some good level-heads at Offguardian with decent opinions. Have ye seen the latest Counterpunch unfair criticisms of Caitlin Johnstone – accusing her of being a rape apologist and secret white supremacist, and all because she suggested that the left and right should should collaborate on certain issues they share in common like ending war. Really bizarre bullshit certain well established Counterpunch journalists are hurling at her.
A lot have expressed their belief that the reason why Counterpunch are trying to destroy Caitlin Johnstone is due to jealousy or sexism. My belief is in something more sinister afoot. These CP journalists aren’t stupid and wouldn’t have in the past let something as petty as sexism or jealousy cloud their journalistic judgement, as they did with those baseless ad hominem attacks on her. I fear there is money/bribes/opportunities flowing from somewhere else that could be transforming them from journalists to prestitutes doing the bidding of the 1%. In fact I have noticed in the last year, the odd article creeping into CP that wouldn’t look out of place in the fake left New York Times. It’s very sad, because I always saw something like Counterpunch as my little untainted corner of the web – call it blind faith perhaps. But this latest nasty bullshit they’ve leveled at you has been a stark realisation – if even Counterpunch can be co-opted, then this could be the beginning of a grim future for alternative media. If I can’t trust CP, then who the hell can I trust?!

Eric Blair

FYI, Counterpunch also ran articles defending Johnstone. Personally I find the whole “issue” rather idiotic but not surprising given today’s fractured and disassociated political landscape that eschews action in favour of trolling and trading insults with other silo-dwelling keypad/keyboard tappers. Welcome to the post-social society.

I fear there is money/bribes/opportunities flowing from somewhere else that could be transforming them from journalists to prestitutes doing the bidding of the 1%. In fact I have noticed in the last year, the odd article creeping into CP that wouldn’t look out of place in the fake left New York Times. It’s very sad, because I always saw something like Counterpunch as my little untainted corner of the web – call it blind faith perhaps. But this latest nasty bullshit they’ve leveled at you has been a stark realisation – if even Counterpunch can be co-opted, then this could be the beginning of a grim future for alternative media. If I can’t trust CP, then who the hell can I trust?!

What I see here is somebody who can’t handle differences in opinion. Do you read only magazines and newspapers that confirm and never challenge your beliefs? Do you ever talk to, and listen, to people who hold views and opinions you do not share?
The recent trend of zero-tolerance for opinions and ideas that diverge from orthodoxy is disturbing. For many people It’s black and white only, no shades of grey let alone any other colour. The idea that a newspaper or blog you “trust” offering a point of view you do not agree with = a CIA infiltration is more than a little bit paranoid and unhinged.
Have you really, until now, agreed with each and every piece published by Counterpunch? I find that hard to fathom. You can handle Johnstone’s “collaboration” with the alt-right but arguments or rants against her choice are heretical and point to a CIA plot? Are you a coherent human being or am I responding to a troll?

Andrew Moynihan
Andrew Moynihan

Thanks for your contribution Eric. As I originally said I came here for your take on Caitlin Johnstone because I have respect for Offguardian and their level headed commenters with decent opinions. And you’ve taken the time to reply with clearly a level head and decent opinion which I’ve certainly taken on board. But to be honest, there was no need for the condescending tone. I have disagreed with some of Counterpunch articles previously, just like I have Offguardian ones. Just that when I see five ad hominem inaccurate CP articles in one week leveled at Johnstone, articles that could have been spewed by a tabloid, it seems strangely excessive and I get suspicious. Sure, three articles were defending her because CP have to appear balanced. But to be honest, if CP had five articles maintaining that the jolly green giant existed, they’d loose all credibility if they didn’t have at least one article arguing on the contrary. Whereas, I’d prefer the jolly green giant issue was given no coverage at all in the first place because while we’re covering we are just chasing phantoms and getting nowhere. But interestingly, Johnstone who is an established journalist and the main person at the centre of this, basically ignored the first two baseless articles but then when the issue persisted she asked CP if she could post an article on their website defending herself and she was denied it. I believe that was unfair.
“What I see here is somebody who can’t handle differences in opinion. Do you read only magazines and newspapers that confirm and never challenge your beliefs? Do you ever talk to, and listen, to people who hold views and opinions you do not share?”
Sorry, but if I didn’t have this kind of intellectual or moral awareness, I don’t think I’d be coming to sites like Offguardian in the first place, and seeking the opinion of it’s commentators.
“You can handle Johnstone’s “collaboration” with the alt-right but arguments or rants against her choice are heretical and point to a CIA plot?”
These are more than just arguments or rants against her. They’re trying to insinuate that she’s a white supremacist and rape apologist which seems to me that they are trying to silence her with weaponised identity politics. There are a lot of respectable people who’ve had disagreements with Caitlin for good reasons and Caitlin, myself, any one here would be robust enough to accept genuine fair criticism. Just when it’s unfair criticism from a respected source, and they are labelling her a white supremist … well, it’s hard to just walk away from a label like that. It sticks like mud.
But thanks again for input, and taking the time to reply.


I agree with you. The attacks on Johnstone (of whom I know nothing) were led by the new editor Joshua Frank (?). He appears to have a soft spot for the positions taken by that part of the US ‘left’ which cannot wean itself from the Democratic Party (the traditional party of the slaveholders and Jim Crow), and which does not recognise that the US is the centre of imperialism, regarding it as merely one of several Empires. I’m afraid that behind the tortured apologies for al qaeda in Syria and Libya is Tony Cliff’s slogan “Neither Washington nor Moscow but international socialism.” To be fair if old Comrade Gluckstein were alive he’d be horrified at the allies his followers have made.


Thanks Bevin. I think Caitlin is great. But I think Counterpunch is great too (or used to be at least) Sure, Counterpunch have posted some articles I didn’t think were that great in the past but at the end of the day, they are a very broad church with hundreds of different contributors while Caitlin is only one person. Just in this latest row, I have to come down on the side of Caitlin cos I think the motives of CP are fishy. Offguardian criticises the Guardian journalists all the time for being corporate prestitutes. Do I think this unfair? No. Offguardian have very solid reasons for doing so. Just that when an alternative media giant takes on one journalist insinuating she’s a white supremacist without solid reasons, I think it’s unfair. Peace out.


I am not an economist, nor do I have any specialist knowledged. But I was quite put off of Jeffrey St. Claire when I emailed him to point out to him that a link on his site had been hijacked. He verbally spit on me. He called Mr deep researcher, which was hurtful, since I take pains to let people know that I’m not a deep researcher. I don’t know how to be and haven’t the time. I am a wage slave for one thing.
I don’t know how anyone could miss the horrible eviscerating of the Left, let alone pooh pooh it. Chris Hedges didn’t miss it nor does he pooh pooh it, but then he’s a somebody. It’s so bad, and, now, noticeable, that it’s become easy material for blogging. But I always do so with a heavy heart. I’m blogging about my side losing the class war – and more!
I can tolerate other viewpoints, to a point. I personally don’t think that the Right is a moral equivalent to the real Left. But that doesn’t make me an extremist. That makes me someone with definite views, which is a condition one risks acquiring when one pays attention, reads and thinks about things. So I make no apologies because I view those habits as positive.
For a fact, there are ways to deal with opposing, even opposing and odious views, besides just accepting and passing them on, a la Common Dreams (which banned me for complaining about them vacuuming up everything, Right and Left). And Roger Annis demonstrates that approach on the website he oversees called “The New Cold War: Ukraine And Beyond.” He simply adds a note at the end of the article pointing out that the editor of The New Cold War doesn’t agree with this or that. That’s all you do. You don’t have to shut out other views. True, In Roger Annis’s case, the articles accepted by The New Cold War which receive that treatment are not considered by the New Cold War to be entirely wrong or odious, but Roger’s approach does show the way. You can even include on your website a roundup of what those on the Right say. I have a distinct category on my own blog of links for major media, which I don’t think anyone will misunderstand.
I liked this article. I was for Brexit. I remember posting comments to Mother Jones about it and discovering, the hard way, Mother Jones – a progressive icon – isn’t too tolerant. They disappeared every comment I made. I was talking about John Oliver’s awful pro Remain show, which I wasn’t the only one claiming to be on the Left noticed was awful. Canada’s Rick Salutin also found it to be quite lacking.

Norman Pilon

“If I can’t trust CP, then who the hell can I trust?!”
Trust yourself. Obviously you’ve twigged to what appears to be a shift in the basic political and intellectual tenor of CP, and it doesn’t accord with your core values. There is a whole lot more than just CP out there, though. And I very much doubt that CP’s shift in its editorial line, if it has happened or is happening, portends anything grim about the future for alternative media. I don’t really think this is a genie that the establishment will be able to put back into the bottle . . .
If you like the content, here, at OffG, you will probably like the following sites, too, on the assumption that you might not already be familiar with them:
. . . to list but a handful good quality alternative media sites.
I’m sure you are already familiar with most of these, but on the off-chance that you aren’t. And of course, because everything that gets published at these sites is referenced, you will be able to link up to other countless sources of reliable information . . . Also, OffG has a really good list of “LINKS” in the right margin, if you scroll up.
Hope that helps.

Andrew Moynihan
Andrew Moynihan

Thanks Norman. I do find your words that the establishment won’t be able to bottle this genie very reassuring – there’s hope. And perhaps I am being hard on CP, just that something appears a bit strange. Thanks for recommending those sites too, which some of them I am partially familiar with.


Well, how can we forget that Al Cockburn himself was one of the biggest “Troother”-shamers running? I always took CP content with a grain of salt; some stuff quite good, some iffy, some outright Disinfo. But this was unforgivable:


Speaking of which: a fairly Mainstream band (Arcade Fire) has just released a video with a 9/11 “message” hidden in it… written in Windings3! Laugh. Go to 3:53

Steve Jack

Yes, a great article, Stephen. Thanks for putting this together so ably, and for explaining so clearly.


One would assume Labour has never helped gut the NHS, push privatisation nor generally abuse the electorates faith. Brexit, the will of the people, democracy are odd terms to use when talking about a surveillance state that has never been open nor honest with it’s population. All sides continually deceive, loot and impose harsher conditions upon any that oppose. Leave, remain has only one difference, robbed by a few or robbed by many.


Does anyone know what Labours Brexit policy actually is? If so, could they let the Labour Party know? Preferably, before the Party Conference???
The issue seems to be what the mantra “continued tariff free access to the Single Market (SM)” actually means… Just ‘Access’ or actual ‘Membership’??? There seems to be divisions being stoked by the likes of Blair and Kinnock (if ever there was an argument needed to support euthanasia)… Even McDonnell seems not to have ruled out continued membership.
For me, the key issue was all that sovereignty we were going to get back. Labour seems to be positioning for a unique ‘Norway Lite’ deal: with ‘Three Freedoms’; not Four (minus Schengen.) If this is even possible (Tony Blair seems to think it is, straight from the Bildeberger’s mouth): is it desirable to want to be a quasi-sovereign vassal state – with no vote and no real autonomy – for 94% of the current cost of membership??? [Open Europe]
For what? Heterodox economists such as Richard Werner and Steve Keen think the effects on our economy will be negligible…

“I have also recently tested, using advanced quantitative techniques, the question of the size of impact on GDP from entry to or exit from the EU or the eurozone. The conclusion is that this makes no difference to economic growth, and everyone who claims the opposite is not guided by the facts.” Richard Werner.

In the same article, Keen says that future tariffs would be 2%: so why are we selling our soul for a Faustian pact; a neither-in-or-out deal???
Keen also makes clear that our economy is driven by cheap consumer credit: and is faltering because we are maxed out on it. Thanks to nearly 40 years of Neoliberalism, our economy is quite capable of failing on its own: without EU help. With EU ‘help’: that eventuality becomes a certainty.
So, fuck off Mr Kinnock and Mr Blair: you sold out the miners and the working class; ripped out our industrial heart; and offered it, still beating, as a sacrifice to the pagan Gods of Neoliberalism. Don’t get drawn in John, our best chance is on our own… [After a Debt Jubllee]… Your fiscal stimulus measures aren’t compatible with the EU project… I never thought I would say this: but – Brexit must mean Brexit!


If all goes well the next Labour Party conference will be its most democratic ever and will resolve a proper policy on ‘Brexit’ and much else, including Trident and NATO. At the moment, as you must know, the apparent policy wishes of the elected leadership and the rank in file are regularly thwarted by the PLP the NEC and the bureaucracy of the Party. Only Conference can sort it out. Until it does be thankful that there isn’t a Brexit policy because of their were one it would be Hillary Benn’s and Tom Watson’s not the socialist alternative called for by the circumstances.
There is an alternative, but it is not a minor variant on the current course. It is democratic socialism empowering the people and laying the responsibility of discharging the duty of ruling the country on every individual in it.


Bevin: you have more faith than I that the final policy won’t be Messrs Benn and Watson’s anyway. I cite in previous comment that some of the progressive policy coming from the NPF (Land Reform Tax???) was neoliberalized between the Draft and final Manifesto’s. The most obvious example was the NIB was originally to be funded by public money: which became ‘private finance capital’: a big difference. As the Party seems to still be being steered more by Progress; and not Momentum – despite the disparity of size – I don’t share your faith in the process. Strange things seem to happen in behind-closed-doors policy meetings. Stranger things happen on the Conference floor; by the time they have a bastardized-hybridized-acceptable-to-all policy. I wouldn’t be the first to say that the process of policy adoption is neither socialist, nor democratic. Any policy that survives Conference still needs to get past the NEC and Shadow Cabinet veto. We know where control lies there. No wonder JC wants to democratize the process.


In 1976, or was it 1975, I voted to remain in the EEC as it then was. Why? because it seemed to offer a third way between Russian Communism and American capitalism/imperialism. There also seemed to be a social democratic spirit of the times best epitomised by Jacques Delors and the Social Chapter which would safeguard workers’ and stakeholders’ rights and a certain foreign policy posture, particularly in the Franco-German axis that at least kept Britain, under Wilson, from participation in the Vietnam War. This was not to last, however. The admission of former Eastern European communist states, into the ‘New Europe’ as Rumsfeld, was wont to call them, changed the whole balance of forces pushing Europe into a into an altogether different economic and geopolitical structure which I and many others had hoped for. Thus:
”The destructive Russophobia of the ‘New Europe’ undermined the credibility and coherence of the EU as a whole. It had been anticipated that the new members would be ‘socialised’ in the ways of the EU, but, instead, the EU was in danger of undergone a reverse socialization – incorporating the toxic dynamics and virulent neo-liberal market-ism of some of the new members, accompanied by their prioritisation of Atlantic security over EU social solidarity.” (Richard Sakwa – Frontline Ukraine).
Europe was to undergo an ongoing Americanisation. The last vestiges of indepdence were in 2003 when France and German joined forces with Russia in opposing the second Gulf war. From then on the wretched Petainist/Quisling clique represented by Sarkozy, Hollande and Merkel came to the fore. Neoliberalism was to become the economic policy and foreign policy, and foreign policy being predicated on NATO expansion eastwards and doubling in size effectively meant that the US was also in control. This was particularly instanced in the Ukrainian crisis where the EU served as a handmaiden to the colour revolution – a ‘revolution’ described by Stratfor as ‘the most blatant coup in history’. The EU has spectacularly failed, both economically and politically; this insofar as Instead of the original vision embracing the whole continent, it has become little more than the civilian wing of the Atlantic alliance. Proof of this absorption of Europe into the US military and economic structures is manifest.
‘Continental European states are part of the Atlantic alliance. Proof of this is given in the central position of NATO in this political construction. That a military alliance with a country outside the Union (the US) that has been integrated de facto into the EU Constitution, constitutes an unparalleled anomaly. For the Eastern European periphery (principally, Hungary, the Baltics, Sweden, Poland) NATO’s protection – is that of the United States against their eternal Russian enemy is more important than their adhesion to the EU … There is at present no longer any purely European project. A North Atlantic project under US command has replaced it … The hegemonism of the US is clearly visible behind the disappearance of the European project in favour of a return to Atlanticism.” (Samir Amin – The Liberal Virus, The Implosion of Capitalism).
Suffice it to say I voted ‘out’ in the Referedum


Excellent comment Frank. With the Franco-Germanic heartland; the Visegrad dissenters; the unfortunately acronymed PIGS periphery; and an outlying UK making bi-lateral trade deals under Hammond and Davis – we could soon have 4 EUs!

Edward Warrener
Edward Warrener

Just a quick reminder to anyone thinking otherwise. The Vote to leave the EU was bindiing and calling another vote is not going to happen, at least not legally.

Barry Goddard

It was not a binding vote, and not a plebicite; it was an advisory referendum. Read the 2015 act of parliament, it’s quite plainly written there.


Whatever happens from now on, Goldman Sachs will still own and control Britain’s postal services and also the whole of GREECE!


It was a non binding advisory referendum. Please enough of this denial.


Thanks, interesting counter-arguments and I agree with a lot of what you say, but what happens to all our trade with the EU if we leave the single market and customs union? How will the so-called cliff edge be avoided?


“… what happens to all our trade with the EU…?”
The UK has a large trade imbalance with the EU i.e. we import far more than we export to them. Pressure on them really.


Take some consolation from the fact that the people who accuse you side with Obama and Clinton, destroyers of Libya and creators of ISIS. Putin is destroying ISIS and that of course is a major sin.


That is only a sin in uncle Sam’s eyes when it takes place in Syria. ISIS is the only terrorist group operating in the wider Middle East who the US isn’t supportive of (except in Syria, where they are seen as useful), for the reason that ISIS is also targetting Gulf monarchies, like Saudi Arabia, who they see as blasphemous for working with infidels. Talk about vicious dogs eating vicious dogs!


The reason why the EU exists can be summed up in one word: ‘Greece’
Together we stand, divided we fall. Well, the austerity measures from the EU, ECB and (grudgingly) IMF against Greece should be a warming to all European citizens that the EU should be dismantled, the sooner the better. But I am not sure if all Europesn citizens can dig the thought that in the end the EU will come after their pensions, and dismantle their public healthcare system and education, by imposing a debt that cannot be repayed, yet must be repayed.
Here is story that the MSM spins in the Netherlands: The banksters from London and the EU offices from Britain will move to countries like the Netherlands. Which is great for the Dutch economy.
I tend to disagree. Rising housing prices and people who earn money for imposing austerity measures to others while becoming rich themselves may be great for GDP, but not so great for the real economy.
I would have also voted Exit. Actually the Dutch already did that in 2005 in a referendum. But the mantrum is that politicians should never listen to the mob, and of course they did not listen. The same thing happened when the Dutch voted against the Association of the Ukraine with the EU last year. The Dutch said No, and the politicians followed Plato’s mantra that one should never listen to the mob. And yet we live in a ‘Democracy’. We live in interesting times…


Willem: I agree, and have said the same – Greece is the extractive wealth model for Europe… Even though we (the UK) are ‘leaving’: it is the extractive model for us too – under the guise of austerity. As for the banks: if your Dutch ‘masters’ want them, they can have them, as far as I am concerned. They only employ around 300,000 in the City. Apart from all the spurious ‘wealth’ they create – being too big to fail or jail – they bring a massive economic liability. Next time, they will be ‘bailed in’, taking the nation’s pensions, healthcare, and savings with them. Similar to Greece; or the Netherlands (if they move); or, (as they are only bluffing) most likely – the UK.


Good points. I’d add voters being ignored, Greece also. They had an election and then a vote of confidence both were eventually ignored by Tsipras and led to the Syriza party splitting and the humiliation of Greece by the EU and the IMF.
This teaches us a lot about the EU. As does the ways and means of the break-up of Yugoslavia by the US and NATO as touched upon by W Stephen Gilbert.
Interestingly the Brexiters are by and large pro-NATO which to me seems a massive contradiction.
Tony Benn remained all his life against EEC/ EU for the right reasons the fact that it is undemocratic. It is in essence a publicly unaccountable bureaucracy – totalitarian in nature.
Rather like the ideas surrounding globalism, the EU at its heart befits large multinationals not the ordinary workers.


Brexiters by and large does not equate to ‘all’ Brexiters, which should be a main point that readers take from this article. As for Greece, It seemed to me that the Greek people were just as much a part of the problem as their traitorous leaders. They were propagandized, not educated and wanted their cake and to eat it too. They absolutely didn’t want to leave the EU – which was eating them alive. They are now like a head without a body like you see in The Walking Dead. Chomp, chomp, chomp mindlessly is what we see.