By Class unity
Jun 28, 2016
It's Complex, Stupid - The Versatile Brexit
This is not propaganda so don't expect it to be
There are two different modes of writing to be done during a political upheaval.
First there is propaganda. Propaganda shouldn't be nuanced, it doesn't have to be specific - you can promote compromises for certain groups to rally around. It just has to be something that will make sense to lots of people straight away and be hard for the other side to counter.
The other mode is analysis. When you analyse the events you don't do it tactically because you know it won't reach even 10% as many people as you would if you were spouting off one-liners or creating political cartoons.
This is intended as analysis:
The European Union is not your friend
To be specific, if you consider yourself to be anti-war, an internationalist and/or an anti-fascist the European Union is not your friend.
One of the big claims about the EU has been that it was set up to maintain peace in Europe after the first and second world wars. In this it has been hailed as a success but wrongly so.
- Most EU powers have been busy waging war imperialist wars around the rest of the globe. Read here for more: Is the EU a force to stop wars?
- Even within Europe the EU has not only failed to prevent war but EU powers acting through NATO have been actively involved in European wars. Read this for more: The Bloody history of NATO's intervention in the Balkans.
- More recently EU expansionism against Russia led to a right wing coup in the Ukraine and subsequently to the current low-intensity war going on in the east of that country.
Another big argument for the 'remain' side was the importance of maintaining international solidarity with ordinary Europeans across the continent. Hmmm... the gap between perception and reality is quite significant here:
Try this one on for size: The EU is a vehicle for Anglo-German imperialist domination of the South
"Instead, we need to consider the working class movement as a whole across Europe. As I write this, French workers are striking and rioting against labour laws that the government intends to impose to make it easier to sack workers. Last month, the Greek government passed a budget for the next round of austerity enforced by the Troika. In Portugal, the trade union struggle and the Left is on the rise. Countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain have become debt colonies for the parasitic finance capitalists that gain their share of surplus value through debt, interest and extortion".
The EU might seem friendly and progressive to certain sections of the UK population but in much of Southern Europe it takes on the role of the right wing conservative party, enforcing heavy austerity measures.
Last but not least we've all noticed that there was significant support from the far right for the Brexit vote. Those left wing people who voted to leave (not me) did so in the hope that despite the fact that they were doing the same thing as much of the UK's organised fascist movement they would achieve different things with their vote. They have been criticised for being naive and allowing an explosion of far right activity. A deeper look might reveal more:
- Organised fascist street groups are not at their peak in the UK right now, far from it. Not so very long ago the EDL used to be able to bring out thousands of people: two thousand in Birmingham in 2013, one thousand in Preston in 2010, one and a half thousand in Newcastle 2013. Both the EDL and other Neo-Nazi fringe groups simply cannot get more than a few hundred at most out to any demo these days. This is down to the hard work of anti-fascists who have long been committed to cleaning up Britain's streets.
- Back to internationalism - remember that far-right coup that the EU contributed to in the Ukraine above? Well if we think the resurgence of fascism is bad here in the UK take a peak at how bad it is there, all used for the benefit of EU expansionism: BBC report on Neo-Nazi threat in Ukraine and here when between 40 and 100 anti-fascists were massacred The Odessa Massacre how could anyone who calls themselves an anti-fascist give any support to the EU? The Bristol - Ukraine antifascist solidarity group certainly don't feel that it deserves any support: 'Report and Photos from Bristol - Ukraine anti-fascist solidarity meeting'.
- Both sides of the campaigns leading up to the EU referendum spoke about migration as if it could be taken as an assumption that it was a bad thing suggesting only different measures to control it.
Anti-fascists worth their salt do not fight fascism in order to defend the status quo. It's not always easy to get this right because even most conservatives are afraid of fascism and see it as destructive and an anti-establishment force. To anarchists, fascism can only be seen as a disgusting contender for what happens after the status quo fails, it must be beaten so when that failure comes it is anarchism that succeeds instead. Most anti-brexiters aren't seeing it that way. They are simply shocked and outraged at a side of life in the UK they had previously overlooked.
You aren't really that friendly with the European Union either
The EU hasn't been any kind of ally and you (most of you) haven't cared much for it either - until very recently.
In the last EU elections in 2014 only 35% of people bothered to vote and of those 1/4 voted for UKIP. The time before that 1 million people decided to hand the BNP a vote to be their MEPs and that time turn out was even lower at 34%.
The truth was that most people never gave a much of a crap about the EU until they decided that they desperately wanted to stay in it or get out of it.
The far right are certainly not your freinds
The fact of the matter is, that whilst the above facts absolutely prevented me from voting in favour of remaining in the EU the sure knowledge that a vote to leave it would be interpreted as support for the far right prevented me from voting to leave it either.
What has been really upsetting is the hurt this has caused migrants as well as many other brown and black people living in the UK - Solidarity with migrant communities after Brexit people's lived experience are not debating chips, they are real and they matter.
Had there been a strong left wing movement to exit I would have voted for it (explicitly pro-migrants rights I would add). But there was not. A decent attempt at a 'lexit' campaign was made - see the website here: http://www.leftleave.org/ It railed against:
- The EU's big business agenda
- The recent horrific treatment of refugees at Europe's borders
- and the view that the EU has won worker's their most cherished rights while they have been able to simply sit back, vote and watch the good times roll in.
...but sadly it was barely heard about outside the relatively small socialist circles.
It has not always been the case that EU membership has been considered lefty or progressive. It was the Conservative party that originally took the UK into the EU under Ted Heath in 1973 and at that time the Labour party were the ones divided on the matter with those on the left such as Tony Benn being most explicitly against it.
Unfortunately whilst damaging the EU may ultimately help avoid further wars, cruel austerity and fascist coups in other places - the people of Britain may find it a struggle to make the most of our freedom from this corrupt club. The lies of the right wing 'Vote Leave' campaign are quickly unravelling and many people on both sides are going to be left bitterly disappointed and angry.
Anarchists should be attempting to rile everyone up into revolt from now! Don't let this opportunity be wasted.
There is no case for remaining in the EU but the campaign to get out of it has been pure poison. All we can do now is try to convince more than 52% of the country to unite around a left-exit. Considering many of the 'leave' voters were sold on thee idea that the NHS would be getting extra funding this may not be too hard to do in theory.
Attempting to over-turn the result is simply not a viable option:
- If you know anything about the far-right in the UK you know that they thrive on feeling like the victims. They will not know what to do with a perceived 'win', in fact it might shut some of them up eventually. On the other hand they will know exactly what to do if that 'win' is then snatched back from them by students and urban liberals (in their eyes). So will many of the other 52% who have no connection at all to the far right but see them as the only organised group who appear to be standing up for them.
- The EU doesn't deserve your support anyway. Why not simply continue to struggle for open borders, migrants rights and welcoming refugees? There is no reason to think that any country leaving the EU has to become less accepting of migrants.
Accusing every person who voted leave of being an idiotic Sun-reading bigot is also not a sensible option:
- We have no idea how many left-wing people actually voted to leave for the reasons stated above. I have no pretensions that it was a majority but it was probably more than people think. Many will have felt they had to do so on the quiet considering the frantic noise going on all around them.
- Even if the 'leave' voters simply believed that they would be given some dignity and the NHS would get some extra funding, is the answer now to attempt to degrade them further? NO!
- This hands the far-right a win on a plate. The referendum was not truly about immigration, nor was it a poll to see how many people were racists or fascists. It was made out to be but really it was a simply in/ out choice on the EU. Why concede to them that it was anything else? Why tell them that the silent majority really did support them all along?
It's up to us all now.
What do we do next?