Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Articulating Distrust of Labour Over Brexit

I have been fairly quiet over the last six weeks, watching the political preliminaries to the invocation of Article 50 unfold and finding myself, despite being a committed democratic socialist, increasingly drawn to Theresa May's robust approach. The reality rather than the media-driven simulacrum of what is happening is a power struggle between a left-liberal 'radical centre' that is used to having its hegemony over information flows, culture and policy unchallenged and a rather moderate form of nationalism that is actually outward-looking and inter-nationalist and filled with potential for radical change if only the moment can be seized when it arrives.

The thrashing around of the tails of the Clintonist, Blairite and Liberal Democrat dinosaurs while challenged not, as they should have been, from the Left but from the Right - conservatives in the UK and populists and conservatives in alliance in the US - indicates a tragic failure of socialism since the fall of the Soviet Union. Instead of building a democratic eco-sustainable economicism, it has collapsed into a mish-mash, a soup of eco-conservatism, rights theory, liberal constitutionalism, cultural politics and identity nonsense.

Watching this unfold, my patience is at an end with the sight of an unelected House of Lords stuffed with creatures of the old liberal hegemony seeking to defy the essence of a simple national vote under conditions where the official 'Left' is clearly seeking to create the conditions for a reversal of a democratic mandate. Forty years of acting as foot soldiers for this failed system must come to an end at some stage. To take a Soviet analogy, fighting in the Great Patriotic War is one thing, loyally arguing for the sclerosis of Brezhnev is another. The liberal Left have become an artery-clogging part of the politically sick patient, resisting the surgical solution of Brexit.

For some weeks, I have been contributing to debates on Left Futures where I would say that the debates in the Labour Movement have been fairly represented, a majority clearly taking the Remain position at face value with a vocal minority wanting a programme of action almost indistinguishable from that of the Liberal Democrats. On the other side a robust minority making the solid arguments for a Left-Brexit which tend to be evaded and avoided as to their substance in favour of a rather woolly-minded aspirational idealism about a Socialist Europe. This is my reply to one of the stronger Remain advocates from that source:-

" ... I have agreed that the 'middle way' is probably the best that could be done under the circumstances for the party but it is not an adequate long term strategy.

" Take the votes in the House of Lords. The first amendment (EU citizens) is a matter of relative indifference. Although the Government is probably technically correct in terms of negotiating position, Labour 'values' do suggest that EU citizens should not be treated as hostages and there is an argument that middle class expats should not expect EU citizens creating wealth in-country to be pawns in their interest. That is a fair Labour fight.

"The second amendment (Parliamentary vote) is not what it seems (an issue of Parliamentary sovereignty) but is an obvious attempt by Remainers to create sufficient uncertainty that time can be bought for a reversal of position.

"This is not necessary because the matter has been decided, the negotiation is executive, the uncertainty advantages the other side in the negotiation (which is 'treachery' to a great degree) and Parliament will get full scrutiny of the Great Repeal Bill which is the point where resistance to the type of Brexit is best handled.

"The population, aided by the mid-market tabloids, is not stupid. It knows that a clique of radical centrists is conspiring to reverse a democratic vote. The only saving grace is that their Second Referendum was knocked out of the water.

"If and only if Labour in the Commons, using Parliamentary sovereignty as cover, supports the second amendment in the Commons, even if it loses, then many otherwise fully socialist and labour-supporting people who sincerely believe in the priority of democracy and of national sovereign power against neo-liberalism really do have to 'consider their position' with Labour on two grounds.

"The first ground is one of trust - by supporting the second amendment in the Lords, Labour has indicated to democrats that it cannot be trusted but by doing so in the Commons, it will demonstrate that it cannot be trusted to maintain democracy along the lines that the Chartists initiated so long ago.

"The second ground is that, even if it loses and especially if it wins, it will have indicated what it is not to be trusted on - that is, the attempted reversal of the democratic vote and, above all, the de facto attempt to reintegrate us into the neo-liberal European model in alliance with Tory business remainers and liberal democrats.

"This latter is a very serious matter that has not yet been fully understood by many activists. In effect, it sets up the condition for the splits that are now taking place across Europe in the socialist movement between socialists and liberals (on which I have written elsewhere) but where socialists are ready to associate with democracy and national sovereignty along traditionally British lines.

"The fissure will not happen over night but, with two years to prepare and many minor elections on the way, once Labour goes down the road of resistance to the 35% of its voters' wishes (and I share the acceptance of that number) then it is a road that it cannot go back from.

"Since its economics and defence policies are not trusted by many others and university students, wobbly middle class professionals in the south  and public sector workers are not sufficient base for a national majority, Brexit will have done for Labour in the long run much as the First World War did for the Liberals.

"Personally, being in a minority of a minority, I shall be studying the conduct of the Leader and the PLP with great interest. My own Party membership extends to September but decisions on the future by me and others, and then others, will start to inform themselves on that conduct in the next few weeks.

"Since the issues are existential, any emergent force, oppositional to the ignorant populism of UKIP as much as to the weasel ways of the liberal centre, is not likely simply to be a withdrawal or a a slightly disassociated component of a liberal-led Labour. It is likely to become an intellectual implacable enemy and then gather around itself others with a similar commitment to radical democracy (neo-Chartist) and to socialism.

"I tend to have a fairly good track record on predictions though things always happen more slowly than expected - but they do happen. By 2020, such a force might be only an irritant to a Labour that cannot break through and win an election.

"By 2025, it could be a mortal threat (the equivalent to the threat of UKIP to the cosy elite liberalism of the Tory Party) if Labour persists in being a pale version of a European Socialist Party seeking 'enosis' with a failed dream or prepared to act as a pseudo-socialist grunt provincial assistant to a European 'socialism' that is about as radical as Clinton's Democrat Party."