Sunday, 21 February 2016

Brexit, Incommensurable World Views and the Failure of the Left

The articulate cases put in our major newspapers by various Tory Ministers on both sides of the European Referendum Leave/Stay debate seem to come down to two incommensurable world views. Either one is a 'homo economicus' (a member of a nation of shopkeepers as Napoleon put it) or we are 'free born Englishmen and women' (the Celts having sold the pass a long time ago).

In the latter case, it is accepted that the defence of freedom and democracy may have 'costs' (though even this is, as yet, unproven). The first [Stay] tries to present the second [Leave] as irrational but the second could equally present the first as short term thinkers who do not understand the degree to which long term prosperity depends on freedom and democracy.

Leave tries to present Stay as deeply limited in its world view (which is not difficult to do) but perhaps has not understood that people are concerned with economic issues because they feel vulnerable. They want 'protection'. They will often prefer to be happy slaves than struggling free peoples. Cameron is playing all this up by linking the economic arguments with highly spurious national security arguments - his pitch is fear in a population who have had no political education since the days of Wilson. Fear is not second to pride as a motivation for political action.

My own instinct is that, partly because of the depressing cowardice of the new Labour Leadership in this matter (which otherwise I support) and the opportunism of Liberals and the Labour Right, the argument for freedom will be lost in a frightened and dangerous run to the new 'mummy' in Brussels.

We Leave people might despise this cowardice and ignorance but our side have to take responsibility for not offering sufficient arguments for security well in advance. In fact, nothing could be more insecure than the floundering European Empire and nothing will be more costly than the bailouts and bribes we will be finagled into once the vote is secured.

Nearly everything Cameron has negotiated is highly contingent, Almost everything could be whittled away without recourse after a Stay vote. The majority of the English working class could certainly find themselves having been sold down the river by their own middle classes and the non-English elements in society, creating the opportunity for populist enmity in the future. For, be in no doubt, the passionate concern for national sovereign identity will not go away but will turn further to the Right after a lost vote and wait until the first economic crisis that has European origins to make its move.

The Official Left's role in this is most disturbing. With sterling exceptions (CAEF, some trades unions and MPs and Labour Leave), it has placed dreamy idealistic notions of a potential Social Europe ahead of the evidenced harsh reality of a proto-super state that will always be run by middle class Germans and their allies - as the fate of Greece demonstrated. Greek Leftists were naive and so are ours. Forgetting what happened in Greece so soon is a staggering amnesia.

Worse, the Left once represented radical democracy and the freedom to struggle for radical change (as Tony Benn often adumbrated) but it is as if it has just given up completely on popular struggle and has turned to well meaning bureaucrats and activists to deliver social reforms. That is exceptionally naive about power and turns the Left into little more than courtiers at the modern Versailles. Or is it kneeling peasants calling for justice from Confucian Mandarins?
 
It is the stupidity of the Official Left combined with its utter pusillanimity in the face of capital that strikes me as the most dreadful legacy of the Blairite years. With a Stay vote, the Labour Party may soon have no other purpose than that of fiddling at the margins of politics to ensure reforms beneficial to its current rump voters and activists rather than the people of Britain as a whole. It would be the final stage of its transformation into a weak version of the American Democrat Party and all the more tragic that it should take place under the watch of the so-called Hard Left.