Some lessons from Brexit

I’ve been meaning to get my thoughts on the Brexit situation for quite a few months now, but I wasn’t totally sure what direction I should take with it as a post. In the end, I decided to sepearate what I’ve been thinking to different sections within this post to get what I’ve been thinking down in a more organized fashion.

Here we go.

 

A No Deal Brexit is inevitable

So for the last three years we have been in a peculiar state as regards Brexit. Rather simply leave the European Union, we have been struggling to craft a deal that would allow us to leave the European Union in a formal but incomplete sense, and far from do strictly what the voters want we have been trying to craft a deal that satisfies parliament. This, combined with the chaotic political developments concerning Conservative leadership as well as the snap election from 2017, has resulted in a quagmire with ostensibly no end in sight. For the last seven months or so it has become clearer than ever that the government is incapable of coming to a compromise that would prove congenial to the goal of ultimately leaving the European Union. The British Parliament was given the opportunity to vote not only on Theresa May’s horrifically bad deal but also many other deals that either get us closer to leaving or hinder the possibility entirely, and as far as I recall parliament voted just about every proposed deal down. At that moment it struck me that, maybe, parliament is incapable of deciding on what it wants to do, it cannot agree to a deal, and if that’s the case then to me it struck me that we are probably going to leave the European Union without a deal.

Of course, while it might be the only way forward for Brexit supporters like myself, it isn’t the only option for the establishment. With most of the other deals being non-congenial to the ultimate goal, the two main options at present are to either just cut our way out of the European Union in a No Deal Brexit or to hold a second referendum in the hopes that voters will change the outcome leading to a possible cancellation of Brexit. There are those who would maintain that we can simply stop Brexit entirely, as the Liberal Democrats in particular seem to think we can and should, but in my view that would not work out. All it would do is make the country a laughing stock in the sense that it gave Brussels a giant middle finger but they can’t even commit to it. More recently, it looks likely that a second referendum might not even happen anyway since the government appears to have rejected that option entirely.

Thus to me it seems clear: if we can’t cancel Brexit, and we aren’t going to hold a second referendum, then a No Deal Brexit to me seems to be inevitable. And, to be honest, it is probably going to be the only decision that makes sense in spite of all of the uncertainties and the possible negative consequences of doing so, and in the end it will be worth it considering a break from the European Union is the only way any socialist, or even simply social-democratic, agenda is going to be implemented without constant obstruction. Left-wingers who insist that we remain in the EU are fundamentally deluded if they think the European Union will allow their ideas to fully manifest. The European Union will not allow countries to pursue large scale nationalization on the grounds that they will interpret it as distorting competition, which is just a fancy way of saying it redirects capital away from private market forces and into the hands of the public sector. And considering the fact that the EU forced the social-democratic Syriza government in Greece to implement austerity measures, despite the will of the Greek people, we can assume that the EU will not take too kindly to whatever Jeremy Corbyn has in mind, let alone any actual socialist program. So, in the long run, in order to get what we want, we’re just going to have to take the No Deal Brexit and fight it out in our own country, for it will be the only way to complete the work of British popular and democratic sovereignty.

 

Bipartisan unity is a hollow fetish

If there’s one thing we never hear enough of when it comes to Brexit, it’s this talking point of unity. Namely, how we should be find a way to unite a divided country, with the unstated implication of this being that broad cross-ideological (or bipartisan) collaboration is the way forward. I fear the dictionary lacks the verbiage that would allow me to describe how stupid I believe this is. Take stock of the history of the Brexit talks, and then consider the fact that the Tories and Labour have within the last few months sought out cross-party dialogue, only for talks to collapse. In fact, just today Theresa May offered a proposal for a second referendum that failed to impress even the advocates for a People’s Vote. If this isn’t the easiest way to prove that any talk of unity is a pile of dog shit I don’t know what is. The unity that we speak about in regards to the Brexit situation is impossible. You cannot get any agreement between the pro-EU liberals and socdems and the hardened Brexiteers poised to take over the Conservative Party, and there is no compromise that can be cooked up between their respective positions that can get anywhere. Theresa May tried to get the best of both worlds before, and it was met with rejection by just about every political party as well as the voting public, and failed to pass every time it was put to vote in parliament.

Also, am I really hearing this right? The liberal media is talking about the need to unite the country? Really? After the Remain side that they by and large supported spent the referendum attacking voters who wanted to Leave, mocking the working class for intending to reject EU membership and even resorting to anti-white racism in some cases? They helped contribute to dividing the country (which, of course they would, just as the other side would, for all sides seek to oppose one another as they should in any serious political struggle), but now they want us to talk about how best to unite the country? Are you sure? If you believe that I have some moderate rebels I can show you. The only reason this talking point of unity is leveraged is power: the establishment wants cross-ideological collaboration because it means the possibility of securing an outcome of the Brexit deal that might be more suitable for a ruling class that, by and large, is still invested in European capital.

More broadly though, what business does the Remain side have uniting with the Leave side? What business to political tribes who have no business collaborating with each other have to do so? There’s nothing more insidious to me than the idea that some can claim to be above the political dichotomies that they exist within. Say if you were a right-winger, meaning you support a capitalist economy based in free markets and their corresponding property relations, as well as maybe a few more conservative social policies and neo-imperialism in the thrid world. What business do you have to be bipartisan with me, a guy who wants a society based in the democratic ownership of the means of production as well as the workplace, not to mention production based on need instead of profit, which means surpassing capitalism and doing away with the contradictions therein? Why should I work with you other than if you’re on the same side as me as regards freedom of speech or something (which is the only subject that might, just might, hold such collaborative potential)? And we can even apply this within either wing of the spectrum, which shows the error of the cries of “left unity”: why should I ally myself with someone who supports racial identitarianism dressed as progress, why should ally myself with someone who supports nationalism disguised as socialism, why should I ally myself who opposes democracy and favours unitary state authority?

The simple truth that those who bleat about cross-ideological unity have to face is that the defining characteristic of politics, the component that contextualizes it the most, is conflict. Politics is not about bringing two sides together. It’s about one side of politics defeating the other. Politics is conflict, it is struggle, you might even say it’s war by another means. And many of the things we value the most about Western Civilization were not discussed or compromised over, but instead they were fought for. Liberals who make this mistake will continue to persist in delusion praying for the siren song of slavery that they call unity. This is not to say that unity of purpose is not a virtue, and indeed the radical left has often paid bitterly for their lack of harmony and unity of purpose. It simply says that we cannot be expected to corrall two tribes of people with fundamentally different interests and goals and expect them to be on the same side.

 

Centrism doesn’t work

One of the most striking developments of British politics this year was the emergence of two new parties: Change UK (also known as The Independent Group) on the one hand, and the Brexit Party on the other. It is the former that we will address first. Change UK is the name given to a party formed by a small group of MPs who defected from the Labour Party, as well as the Conservative Party. The ex-Labour MPs cite increasing anti-semitism in the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s inability to handle Brexit while the ex-Conservative MPs cited that the Conservatives were poised to become the party of Brexiteers to the exclusion of its Remainers. Change UK then can be framed as a “centrist” project, uniting contingents of the two major parties in order to form a voice of moderation and progress. Of course let’s ignore the fact that the two sides that have come together were already the same anyway: both of them neoliberal supporters of the EU who are all just fine with austerity and privatization (the ex-Labour MPs consisting chiefly of pro-EU Blairites), that would be bad for their narrative.

Change UK has been, right from the get go, an unbelievable disaster. They are doing exceptionally poorly in polls, never getting any higher than 4% in voting intention, and to that effect they are second only to UKIP in terms of nationwide unpopularity. They seem reticent to give us a clear idea about what sort of policies they want, with one member Anna Soubry repeatedly dodging questions about policy by insisting that that’s not what their party is about, and they’ve even gone so far as to refuse to stand in by-elections because they consider them a threat to democracy. But more tellingly, for a party that was started in party as a reaction to bigotry within the Labour Party (which, while I don’t believe the party is institutionally anti-semitic like its opponents claim, we may have reason to believe Corbyn himself just might be), within hours of its launch the party was under fire for racist statements made by its members. Angela Smith referred to non-whites as “funny tinged” on national television, while Ali Sadjady had to resign because of comments about “Romanian pickpockets”, and Joseph Russo resigned after racist comments about black women. It’s little wonder that people don’t take them seriously. How can you take them seriously when they appear to be such rank hypocrites whose only purpose is to announce to the world their utter bourgeois class character.

But even if it weren’t for they brazen bigotry, there is no reason to assume their brand of ill-defined, feel-good liberalism was going to work in the current climate. Theresa May, the compromiser-in-chief, is a national failure, with her government being the first government in British history to be held in contempt of parliament. Hillary Clinton, the avatar of Third Way of neoliberalism in the 2016 US presidential election, failed to defeat Donald Trump. Matteo Renzi was forced to resign as Prime Minister of Italy following a constitutional referendum. Emmanuel Macron, who won the French elections in 2017, is now deeply unpopular in France in part because of his handling of the Yellow Vests. The liberal project commonly referred to as “centrism” is ill-equipped to face up to the deteriorating conditions and unravelling contradictions of contemporary capitalism – to be able to fight it would require a wholesale re-evaluation, nay, rejection of neoliberal ideology and a transcendence of the liberal framework, a task that Change UK simply aren’t up to.

Beyond that, however, the real reason for the failure of “centrism” is that the premise that we call centrism is an almost complete myth. The concept of centrism only makes sense within the liberal framework of politics, that of bourgeois democracy, that is to say wherein the lines of division are not based on class interest but instead on how different sectors of the bourgeoisie or petit-bourgeoisie believe capitalism should operate in confluence with an array of transient social issues. This framework is why many people still believe liberalism to be a left-wing ideology, even though it isn’t. The “left” and the “right” in this framework represent two shades of modern liberal hegemony, with the “left” representing moderate neoliberalism, social liberalism and liberal-progressivism and the right representing a conservatism that is itself based on neoliberalism and/or classical liberalism, all of which represent capitalist ideologies and operate within a capitalist framework. Centrism, therefore, can be reduced entirely to another form of liberalism, as is rather apparent when you examine the talking points of “centrists” to find that a large number of them support much of liberalism, but with a stronger . In addition to this centrism cannot be counted as a coherent political tradition on the grounds that it has no theoretical tradition that it springs from. Liberalism can be traced to a well-defined intellectual tradition that dates back to thinkers like John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and others. Socialism can be traced to a well-defined intellectual tradition that be traced not only to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, but also to utopians like Henri du Saint-Simon and anarchists like Pierre Joseph Proudhon. Social democracy would be the tradition that emerges after the fact, stemming the ideas of thinkers like Ferninand Lassalle. Even conservatism (which I consider to be loose and incoherent) can be traced to some intellectual tradition, chiefly to the High Tories of old or to men like Edmund Burke. Centrism, however, does not have this. It’s just a generic term for liberals who aren’t social liberals or liberal-progressives but don’t commit to conservatism or to parties that called themselves “centre” parties. If you try to search for an theoretical work that has served to develop centrism as a political theory, you will find nothing. It is a rootless ideology of it even exists as such.

 

Nigel Farage is an opportunist

From the very beginnings of the Brexit saga, Nigel Farage has proven himself to be an exclusively self-serving weasel less interested in political struggle and more interested in the spectacle. Right after we voted Leave, Nigel Farage left UKIP whining about he wanted his life back, leaving UKIP leadership in a perpetual state of chaos. After Farage’s resignation, Dianne James was elected the leader of UKIP…for 18 days, then she unexpectedly resigned as leader and later quit the party and became an indepenent. Following this, another leadership contest was held in which the terminally insane Paul Nuttall emerged as the victor. After the snap general election in June 2017, in which UKIP was almost entirely annihiliated, Nuttall stepped down as leader, and then another leadership contest took place 3 months later in which Henry Bolton won. And then Henry Bolton had to resign after only 5 months in office because he kept seeing his then new girlfriend Jo Marney, who repeatedly made racist comments about Meghan Markle, immigrants and the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, despite proclaiming that he stopped seeing her once these comments became public knowledge. After this, he was replaced the current leader Gerard Batten, who is expected to resign his position after the European parliamentary elections taking place this week. To put it quite simply: after Farage left UKIP, the party constantly shifted from one transient leadership to the next. In addition to this, it’s worth noting that some of the failed leaders and leadership candidates in UKIP have gone on to form their own political parties – Henry Bolton formed the Our Nation Party, and Anne-Marie Waters (who lost the 2017 leadership contest) formed the For Britain party.

Of course, while Farage’s reasons for leaving were patently self-centered and naive, believing that he can just get on with his life, confident that the Brexit situation would somehow resolve itself without him, he has maintained since about 2017 that his real concern is that UKIP is becoming a more extremist and radical party than he’d like it to be: citing the attempted candidacy of Anne-Marie Waters, an outspoken critic of Islam, and Tommy Robinson’s appointment by Gerard Batten as his “grooming gangs advisor” as evidence of the shift towards the far-right with a specific focus on the anti-Islam angle. The irony, of course, is twofold. First of all, Farage has a reputation of drumming up similar rhetoric about Islamic immigration during his time in UKIP: he’s said in the past that most of the refugees coming into Britain harbored ISIS militants, and has even gone so far as to say that Enoch Powell was essentially correct about immigration. There was also that notorious “Breaking Point” poster that UKIP released in the run up to the Brexit referendum, which suggested that immigrants were marching the UK in order to overrun the native population (not to mention inadvertendly resembling a Nazi propaganda film with a similar albeit more extreme message). So for Farage to whine about the party suddenly doing more anti-Islamic rhetoric in order to move away from being a single-issue party (you know, doing nothing but whine about Brexit) comes off as hypocritical. Secondly, he didn’t seem to mind when he was taking over the Brexit Party from Catherine Blaiklock, who was forced to resign after saying that black men are genetically pre-disposed to commit crime and has a reputation for anti-Islamic agitation, not to mention that under his watch the party has had to remove a guy for bigoted comments about the Grenfell Tower survivors as well as accusing Ed Miliband and Peter Mandelson of being “rootless”. Not to mention, some of the people Farage has taken on board for his Brexit Party campaign are arguably much worse than many of than the people he whines about for “Islamophobia”. Claire Fox, for example, believes that you should be allowed to watch child pornography, was a Trotskyist (take it from me, Trots are some of the worst people in the radical left and they’re despised not only by me but also anarchists and most Marxist-Leninists) who like other ex-Trots ended up writing for Spiked, and at one point supported the IRA, who didn’t even try to avoid murdering civilians in their struggle against the unionists, specifically defending the bomb attack they carried out at Warrington in 1993. Another member, the arch-Tory Anne Widdecombe, is on record for her support of gay conversion therapy and whining about “the homosexual lobby”, asserting that homosexuality was immoral and campaigning against gay rights at every turn, and defending the government’s policy during the 1990s of shackling pregnant female prisoners while they were receiving pre-natal care on the grounds that they might escape somehow. Farage has no problem with people like that in his party, but for some reason he doesn’t like it when UKIP want to be more than just garden variety free market conservatives complaining that Brexit hasn’t happened yet. Oh, and are we forgetting the times where he travelled to the European continent in order to coordinate with parties like Alternative für Deustchland, who are frequently in trouble for possibly flirting with neo-Nazism. Somehow Farage has a problem with garden variety anti-Islamic conservatives leading UKIP, but he doesn’t have a problem touring with (not to mention hiring) people who are easily more reactionary than them.

When the snap election in 2017 happened, Farage made a bold statement about how he would return to politics if Brexit was in danger of not happening. He would not do so until March 22nd of this year, when the Brexit Party’s campaign for the European Parliament elections was launched. In between that time, however, he’s been busy talking to Americans as their self-appointed ambassdor for UKIP and the populist right. To that effect he’s made numerous appearances on Fox News in order to talk about various pet political issues in the UK, to the point when I see Farage I have sometimes jokingly said “hey it’s that guy British guy on Fox News”. Fox News in turn tends to gush over him, treating him as the leader of the Brexit campaign and at one point even advertised him as the leader of the opposition even though his then-party was and still is a marginal force in government. He also joined Donald Trump at a campaign rally in 2016 in Jackson, Missouri, to vocally support him, and has since been a consistent advocate and defender of Trump. He has consistently spoken at the Conservative Political Action Committee since 2015, and has been guest speaker at Prager “University” to talk about the European Union. Until he announced that the Brexit Party would be campaigning, you would think this guy’s whole job was just circlejerking with American conservatives (with whom he seems to be very much at home ideologically) about how great America is and how the UK is teetering off the edge to statism and socialism. You might just say he’s more interested in given pompous, charismatic speeches than he is in actually he is in helping us to leave the EU, only rejoining that front when shit’s just about to hit the fan rather than stay on and fight for the thing he helped work for. This combined with some of his positions on foreign policy (he thinks the US should invade Iran for example) lead me to think of him as just another garden variety shill, with no real loyalty to the cause he attached himself to. I guess we can expect that much from someone who used to be a banker.

 

Boycott the European Parliament elections

There are many Leave supporters who are quite eager to support the Brexit Party, even among leftists such as George Galloway, on the grounds that their victory in the European Parliament might bring us closer to ending the delays to our departure from the European Union. It certainly looks like they might gain significant electoral traction, particularly in Wales. But I, however, cannot support them. For starters I have already explained why its leader, Nigel Farage is a charlatanous weasel, opportunist and hypocrite. For me to support him would him would be fundamentally dishonorable on that dimension alone. But beyond that, his support for leaving the European Union would be the only thing I have in common with him; the rest of the Brexit Party’s politics is almost entirely aligned against my own. Besides the already mentioned fact of the party’s willingness to incorporate the most groteque reactionaries in British politics, the Brexit Party also seems to be staunchly in the territory of right-wing libertarian fantasy land when it comes to the economic system. Farage has stated openly that he wants to abolish the NHS, which for all its problems is the main reason this country has managed to survive its post-war conditions, with a system based on private insurance. In essence, he wants to regress our country’s healthcare system to something resembling the horrific ponzi scheme known as the American healthcare system. Not even UKIP supports that and they’re supposed be the far-right party in this country! In fact, for a far-right party, UKIP, to their credit, supports some nationalization of industry at least according to their manifesto. If you’re a leftist and you want to throw your weight behind the Brexit Party just on the chance that we might Leave the European Union, you’re selling your principles and values down the river for the sake of opportunism and I cannot and will not do anything but reject you for it. The left must fight for Brexit, yes, but it must do so on its own front, without right-wing capitalists entering into the picture.

Sadly, however, if you want me to tell you who to vote for instead, I don’t think I can help you. I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about what to do in these elections, and I have concluded that I don’t believe the European Parliament elections will be useful for my goals. I have tried to find a credible left-wing Eurosceptic movement who might be closely aligned with my goals that I can vote for in Wales, and I have failed. There aren’t even any old school communist parties, who are traditionally anti-EU as well as anti-NATO, that might force me to swallow my displeasure for their tankie tendencies in pursuit of the greater good. There’s just Labour and Plaid Cymru, and both of them are entrenchedly pro-EU. If I support Labour, I’d end up supporting all the shitty candidates they have here in Wales, if I support Plaid Cymru, I might have someone lobby for Welsh independence but they’re going to just beg for us to stay in the EU, and to support the right-wing Brexit Party would mean helping them lay the groundwork for taking over the national government in order to turn Britian into even more of a shithole country than it is now. The only answer for me is to boycott for the European Parliament elections, and I suggest that other serious leftists do so as well.

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