Questions arising from the Brexit vote.
Comrade Ned K raised important issues in his discussion of the Brexit. His recommendation to look at the website of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) is very helpful.
At first sight the Brexit vote is startling. Is this the first time parliamentary democracy has wielded real power and damaged the interests of the capitalist class? Will the German and French capitalists passively allow the British people to break out of the EU, withdraw the British armed forces, and create a precedent for Denmark, Greece, Italy, and other disaffected states?
The Brexit vote to leave the EU gives rise to some important questions.
1. Is it in the interests of the Working Class?
The answer is a resounding YES.
The EU is an imperial power of the sort identified by Lenin as the highest stage of capitalism. It is a strong rival of other imperialist powers like Russia, the US, and China.
The EU has successfully extended and intensified the exploitation of workers in Europe, and other workers who through immigration have moved into the sphere of EU control.
The EU has hidden its emergence beneath the shroud of Parliamentary Democracy, its use of referenda, the support of the popular press, and the protection of the British capitalists who benefit, as compradors, from the EU.
Every popular movement contains competing elements. The pro-Brexit forces included racists, nostalgic British Imperialists, independent-minded capitalists, and a huge block of class conscious workers in the North of England.
Many workers saw the influx of refugees as a threat to their standards of living, and xenophobic anti-immigration sentiment was promoted by right wing organisations. The anti- Brexit forces included the comprador capitalists represented by the Conservative Party, young people who see no alternative, and those who have benefited from the EU welfare system in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales after generations of neglect by England, often with a sectarian basis.
2. Will it happen?
The vote in Britain to exit the EU reminds one of the exit of states from the collapsing USSR, or the exit of the Ukraine from the Russian empire to the EU empire, or of Allende from the US empire, or of Greece from the EU. It brings to mind the timid effort of the Australian Parliament to stretch the bonds tying Australia to the US Empire in 1974. All of these failed overtly or covertly through coups, corruption, or military intervention.
The answer is that the break from the EU will NOT happen unless the organised working class makes it happen, forces it to happen.
3. How might the Brexit vote be frustrated?
The usual methods are Parliamentary reversal of the vote; negotiation to retain the appearances of a Brexit, but not the reality; application of military force to suppress the working class. These methods were used in the examples mentioned above.
Already the British Parliament is moving along the Parliamentary reversal strategy. With Cameron moved aside, his replacement as Conservative Prime Minister was Theresa May. Her campaign slogan is “Unite and Govern”, which are code words for “keep Scotland, Nth Ireland and Wales in Great Britain” and “over-rule the vote”. Her recent comment that “Brexit means Brexit” can be seen as ensuring that she was better positioned to win the Prime Minister position, without any unambiguous commitment to execute the Brexit. Indeed her only opponent withdrew, saying a contest is not necessary. There is now the ridiculous position, in which Cameron has resigned because he thought an anti- Brexit PM should not be tasked with implementing the Brexit; but the new PM is a committed anti-Brexiter! And Boris Johnson, the pro-Brexiter, is now “Foreign Minister for the Brexit”! Or is he the fall guy?
The new PM may attempt a Parliamentary reversal, though she has said that is not her strategy. She may attempt to negotiate some minor changes to Britain’s position in the EU, possibly the appearances of an exit, but not complete withdrawal. The EU hot-heads are favouring an economic war on Britain; trade restrictions, travel restrictions, diplomatic isolation, to force the British capitalist class to attack this working class rebellion against the EU. And there will be Police and armed forces involved to supress the “terrorists”. All the anti-terrorist laws will be available for use. And whatever strategy the British capitalist class uses will be supported and aided by the press in all its forms.
Is it possible the US might seize the opportunity to embrace Britain into its weakening grasp? Very possible, indeed Obama’s recent comments can be seen as an invitation to Britain to do just that.
4. What is to be done?
During the Vietnamese war against US imperialism, Ho Chi Minh was asked the best way workers in the rest of the world could help the Vietnamese people. His reply was clear and succinct; “Rebel against US imperialism in your own country!”
Rebellion in the Middle East is rebellion against US imperialism and its comprador partners like Saudi Arabia. The rebellion is distorted by sectarianism, just as the struggle in Ireland was distorted by tensions between Catholics and Protestants. In the Arabic states the Sunni Islamic sect is often associated with the Saudi and pro-US states, and the Shia sect with more popular forces. There are some indications that the progressive forces are having more success in attacking military targets.
In Australia the recent elections are revealing a high level of dissatisfaction with the Parliamentary system. The Government attempt to use the Double Dissolution tactic to impose anti-union legislation has failed utterly. The Abbott attempt to hand the billions of dollars to the Japanese for submarine construction was thwarted. There may now be a period in which the working class can extend its opposition to the US conscription of Australia’s armed forces in opposition to China. It is likely that the passage of “Free” Trade agreements will become problematic. A closer alliance between Britain and the US could suit US anti-China policy well.
In Europe, there may be more working class attempts to exit the EU. It is difficult to see that being a peaceful process.
Wherever there are wars there are people who wish to flee, to migrate to safer countries. It will always be a challenge to balance the desire to help, with the necessity to make the rich pay. The real solution to the refugee problem is to remove the cause of the problem, US imperialism, the Saudi royal family, and all the others who prevent the Arabic people from owning the wealth of their countries.
The Brexit vote has thrown a cat amongst the vultures. The British working class is now involved in an open struggle against imperialism. So many peoples around the world are now involved in anti-imperialist struggles. One hundred years on from the first working class seizure of state power, may we again experience 10 days that will shake the world, and overthrow the old order!