Friday, December 30, 2016
This is not the moment to try to make Brexit work for working people
This moment has been coming for a long time.
In the early twentieth century, British politics grew up from being a battle between “liberal” and “conservative” wings of the ruling class and became, by the mid-twentieth century about the conflict between representatives of the working class and of the ruling class.
After the working class had had to be armed to put back into its bottle the nazi djinn released by a bourgeoisie terrified by the October revolution, our Party formed our greatest ever Government which built a welfare state that underpinned a generation of progress for working people, leading to the pinnacle of support for our movement (in 1979).
However, the impossibility of reforming capitalism into a society which could sustainably be organised in the interests of the working class in the long term meant that the economic crisis created for the ruling class by the power of our side was resolved (in the absence of a socialist leadership of our class) – by Thatcherism – through our defeat and at our expense.
As we were defeated domestically so the (terribly flawed and often horrendous, yet real) global alternative to capitalism was destroyed by the failure of its bureaucrat leaders to foresee that they could never win a global arms race with rapacious global capitalism.
The “fall of the wall” began (or accelerated?) a process of decomposition of social democratic parties (in Europe at least) which has been perhaps most pronounced in Greece but has been universal. Much of the political left deluded ourselves from time to time that this was a positive development. Some still do.
Right wing social democracy sought salvation in the Blairite “Third Way” and an ultimately doomed marriage between social and economic liberalism, a dream that could only be sustained for a while – whilst the economy permitted the ruling class to afford it.
The economic crisis which made the “Third Way” unaffordable led to Conservative Government in the United Kingdom (as it has eclipsed social democracy through most of Europe) and the reaction to the revealed irrelevance of the flaccid careerists who had dominated the Blair/Brown Labour Party has led to the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
Your blogger welcomes Corbyn’s leadership as I welcomed his candidacy even before it had become fashionable to do so (and if I abstain from the national Momentum “organisation” created to give organisational form to a fan club it is only because I despise and despair of the careerists who flutter around it as flies surround a cow pat).
However, I understand and appreciate that just at the same time that a socialist has risen (for the first time) to lead the Labour Party, so the class struggle has been eclipsed as the organising principle of British politics because of defeats previously inflicted upon our movement. The tragedy of the 2015 General Election was not simply the first Tory majority in 23 years but that the decision to call a referendum on the EU would reorganise our national politics around an internal disagreement within the ruling class.
This has now happened. The key political question in the UK is not currently whether you are for the working class or the ruling class. It is whether you are for the xenophobes and isolationists or the “globalising” exploiters. (For the avoidance of doubt, your blogger takes the latter side as should all internationalists and socialists).
Obviously the task of socialists is to (re)build the working class movement (in part in the hope that we can develop our national polity in the direction of class politics once more). Any socialist outside the Labour Party is merely a political tourist now – and within the Labour Party we must of course support the socialist Leader of the Party.
However, we cannot possibly offer uncritical support to a leadership which is plainly unable to fathom the depths into which the national polity is sinking. To suggest that Labour can make “Brexit” work for working people is a lie that should not be told.
The sad but simple truth is that we cannot prevent the marginalisation of Labour whilst our politics is fundamentally defined by a dichotomy which is not class struggle (any more than the working class in the occupied six counties have been able to build a working class party under the shadow of a polity dominated by the national struggle).
This is most certainly not a failure of “Corbynism” (if such a thing exists) and the solution is not a triumph of the residual Blairite careerists who form the majority of the terminally unimpressive Parliamentary Labour Party (or of the elements of the trade union bureaucracy who support them).
However, neither the ragged remnants of right-wing social democracy flying the flag for “Progress” nor the rag, tag and bobtail upon whom the current Party leadership are forced to rely appear yet to have faced the reality of the change wrought upon our national polity and the consequences of that change.
This would be the point in such a blog post at which the reader might expect a (more or less) trite answer to the problems previously identified.
I am happy to disappoint.
I don’t know the answers to any of the problems posed above.
Neither do you.
We have some thinking to do.