Sunday, 15 December 2019

Labour's defeat. Part One.

Labour's defeat in the 2019 General Election is definitive. Labour is the only major party that reduced its votes across all of the UK countries, regions and towns since the 2017 election. Labour took approximately 10 million votes on the 12th of December. In 2017 it had achieved 13 million votes. While the Tories won more seats in Parliament, their overall 14 million votes were not much greater than Teresa May's overall numbers in 2017. But their successful attack on the working class vote in England and Wales in the current election changed their pattern of votes into seats in Parliament. The 2019 election was not 'won' by the Tories, it was 'lost' by Labour.

However Labour's loss of votes is not just the victim of smart footwork in key marginal constituencies, organised by the Tories electoral gurus. Nor was it just Labour's late and lack-lustre approach to Brexit. Its 6% decline in many of the big cities speaks volumes that have not yet been fully understood. The core of Labour's wholesale defeat goes deep; deeper than Labour's obvious weakness about Brexit.

Starting at the very end of the election campaign, an odd contradiction emerged as Labour's left leadership began to re-define themselves and the party that they were trying to build. In the last months of 2019, a new political language emerged on the Labour left. Labour was not now so much a party as a 'movement'. Labour's program was not a Manifesto so much as 'a Transformation.'

It was all meant to reflect the large size and democratic power of Labour's membership and the shift by Labour from narrow politics to a change in society. But two separate and largely contrary ideas began to circulate. The journalists poked away at cultish aspects of Momentum, Corbyn's necessary support organisation that held back the impact of the large right-wing of Labour MPs. At the same time, barriers after barriers were being erected against possible political forces that might have been gathered, including some splits from the more radical parties and movements that were outside of Labour. There were openings to those making a big impact on society, as with the current wave of strikes, Extinction Rebellion and the ecology movement, the Greens, or the Peoples Assembly. Meanwhile the 2019 Manifesto had 'transformed' itself into an ideology, a new way of changing society. Yet it was an ideology that was meant to stand the ground with millions of people because it had a guaranteed budget!

So we had a 'movement' that drew lines against real possible movements - like the left that campaigns for a socialist Scotland; and a 'Transformation' that was defended to journalists as a successful European capitalist model, like Germany. Suddenly left-Labour had become an ideological circus - and utterly incomprehensible to millions. The success of the 2017 Labour Manifesto was in its definition. 'End Austerity now'. And millions understood. They backed the state ownership of services. The NHS proved it worked. By 2019 defending the NHS had become who is offering the biggest money pile, and, and, and... Many voters lost their way between 'Transformation' and their day to day life. In the end they did not believe the 'Transformation.' They wanted it specific and straight.

And that was the weakness. Make the successful 2017 Labour story again, but bigger and therefore better. Not so. The great changes that inspired populations across history, were those that sought for the political and economic ideas that rose to the level of the concrete. 'Land, peace and bread' said the Russian revolutionaries. 'Now, win the peace' said Attlee.

The self-created contradictions of Labour's left have a fundamental origin in the contradiction of the Labour Party itself; in that the party as a whole shelters not one but two classes in society. It is encompassed, as a party, by a state and an economy that clashes against the interests of one of those classes. Most Labour MPs, officers and trade union leaders support Britain's status quo. And that cannot and may not be 'transformed'. It can only be broken out of. Even the left of the party can be soaked by Labour's fundamental history of patriotism, defence of the state and Britain (not the people) first. This class problem at the core of the party, dominated by a big majority of MPs, can only now surface more furiously than ever.  It will try to finish what remains of Labour's left - only, of course, trend up destroying the mass support, the energy and the effort that kept any real mass Labour Party alive.

A great deal of the legacy of Blair (and the Milibands) are behind Labour's defeat in 2019. Part of the reason why a large number of would-be Labour supporters sincerely doubted the Labour left's cornucopia (which appeared like a childish competition with the Tories) is the shrieking silence by Blair, then by Brown and then by (both) Milibands as they covered up the seminal role of the banks in the 2008 crash. Instead, the madness of the Tories that Labour caused the crash and created the need for austerity became 'common sense' instead. This idea remained lodged in the minds of millions of British people.

Why did all parts of Labour cut their own party's throats, for more than a decade? Because the banks and finance corporations were (and remain) the centre of British capitalism. And this fact was still only whispered, even by Labour's left leaders in 2017 and now. The 'Transformation' spoke relatively nothing about opening the terrible truth regarding Britain and its financiers. How was the City to be nationalised? How can the tax havens be raided? Instead we had a proposal that state finances would create a new economy from money gathered from the top 5%. Does anybody believe the top 5% would shell out? Where, and most importantly how, would the Labour led state get its money? Would the billionaires really give it all up? This mess was a concession made by the left to Labour's leaders' murky history and their failure to attack the banks. But that meant no fundamental or believable base was created for the 99% to stand on, at least when it came to proving you really can move large amounts of wealth from the billionaires to the poor.

The failure to call-out the core of British capitalism and the need to break it down was yet another reflection of the unresolved contradictions of the Labour Party, including among much of the Labour left.

Which brings us, finally, to Brexit and to Corbyn.

There is a good reason why the Brexit issue and the anti-Corbin offensive combine. Starting with Brexit, the argument that the 2019 election was won by a brave, apparently 'to die for', Boris Johnson 'getting Brexit done' hides the really dramatic decision that was made inside the British ruling class following the extended catastrophe of Teresa May. As everybody knows Boris himself took the route of Brexit because it was his only hope to be Prime Minister. What has been hidden is the determined shift in the City of London and the multi-nationals to wreck Corbyn's Labour Party as the first and most critical priority - if necessary dropping the Tory grandees and accepting for the time-being the Brexit route. After the 2017 General Election, Corbyn's Labour Party was getting stronger and it had to be destroyed at all and at any costs. Ruthlessly reorganising the Tory Party and accepting the maverick Johnson was the cost worth paying. After all, Johnson would happily come into line in a future soft trade treaty. It was this ruling class led, absolutely fundamental step, not Brexit itself, that destroyed Corbyn's Labour.

Johnson was successful in splitting millions of working class voters on the Brexit issue. It should be remembered however that the Tories were not much further in their triumph than the vote they achieved under ex PM May in 2017. It was Labour's failure to marshal their vote from 2017 that gave the Tories their majority. The Labour vote fell most dramatically in the Midlands and the North East of England. But it fell right across the board. Labour made mistakes over Brexit but did not fail only because of its unsuccessful Brexit policy.

The 2016 Brexit referendum has changed its character over time. Leaving the EU itself was, and remains, simply a frame that surrounds different pictures. It was the political and economic context creating an emerging new leadership in society that shaped the real content of the 2016 Brexit referendum.

In 2016 the huge majority of those voting to leave the EU nominated immigration as their reason for their vote. Voter's anger with the establishment was expressed by hostility to immigration as the perceived reason for the collapse of vital services and reducing income. It was not surprising. Immigration was the immediate and daily sight that was new and which was apparently changing daily life. It was Blair who had set up the conditions for that particular social confrontation. In other words the initial wave of Brexit was undoubtedly an attack on the elite and their system - but from the right.

More. The 2016 Brexit mushroomed the significance of the extreme far right - who took the leadership of the Brexit movement under its banner of radical racism. The majority of Brexit voters were not fascists or even radical racists. But their initial leadership was. And you can still hear the echoes of the 2016 referendum when mainly Asian heritage children are told that they have to 'go home' when Brexit comes. Brexit meant an end to 'political correctness gone mad' and a huge eruption of racist slurs, comments and attacks - extended mainly to Asian heritage people. In many impoverished towns and cities the old working class culture, built by communal work and by the effects of the trade unions, had gone. This was the context, the real content of Brexit in 2016. Which meant among other things, that the working class had been split. Millions in the bigger cities, among young people, in Scotland and London, and among virtually all the ethnic working class, voted, holding their noses, to remain in the EU. 2016 was about breaking up the momentum of the national racist right in British politics. Voting 'remain' was anti-racist act and was essential.

Meanwhile, the ruling class in Britain turned away from the social dangers that were emerging. Their main party, the Tories, flew into chaos. Leaders of the establishment bleated about how Brexit would mean poverty. For the poor that had little effect because they were already there.

What began to shift the 2016 Brexit was social impact of the rise of the Labour left and Corbyn. Racist attacks are still higher than 5 years ago but while the new Labour left could not substitute for the missing millions of trade unionists, they shifted the character and the political debate in society through 2016 and 17.  First the youth were mobilised and second the growing extreme far right were minoritised and then isolated. During this time the Tory government did nothing to break the far right. In part they absorbed it. PM May continued her extreme immigration measures.  But by 2018 even Farage himself denounced the active far right and stated that Brexit was not primarily about immigration. The polls showed that immigration was no longer the main reason to support Brexit. This leap forward, led by the Labour left and anti-racist movements, changed the 2016 Brexit in society, at least its context and therefore its real meaning.

The nature and role of the EU is stark and obvious. It is a global centre of modern capitalism. But Brexit has rarely been about that - at least in its British aspect. Brexit has turned into a mirror of the shape of UK society. As Brexit shifted away from racism so its resistance to the British status quo, always there, became the dominant issue for Brexit supporters. Farage noticed this shift too, a shift that meant a new effort to get on the new bandwagon. The prominent issue became the democratic right of millions to be heard and supported. The tottering May government became the symbol of an elite that had failed.

It was then that Labour left missed the trick. Shocked by the enormity of the gathering onslaught on Corbyn, the new content of Brexit was missed. There were three reasons for this; first 'No Deal' now became the new flag for the far right. It appeared to the Labour left to be another extreme right initiative that had to be defeated at all costs. 'No Deal' offered the end of all positive rules and regulations regarding work and labour. Towards the end of May's premiership 'No Deal' looked like a likely outcome. But it turned out that 'No Deal' was a diversion. Nevertheless many Labour MPs, including even those hostile to Corbyn, could 'unite' to get a new referendum, which seemed a necessary and sensible response to the disaster of 'No Deal'. Second, there was fear that the Labour left would lose millions of young people who were opposed to Brexit unless there was a concession to their original views and third, it was argued that a promise of another referendum might even coalesce both sides of the working class. (There was quite a large aspect of 'uniting' Labour's MPs about this too.) The Labour left had led the move to change the direction of the 2016 referendum. But it began to retreat from any positive policy to break from the EU (which would have been an immediate and essential act should Labour get into power and carry out its Manifesto promises!)

In 2018 the ruling class decided on their main move, even accepting for a time the danger of 'No Deal'. The Labour leadership were thrown into retreat and their defence by the most ferocious attack by the media and large sections of privileged society in modern history. The Labour leadership missed the shifting understanding and depth of the new, democratic question for Brexit voters. Even more importantly, the strength of that fact among those who voted against Brexit was also missed. The Labour left had detached its leadership from the working class both across the Brexit supporters and those non Brexit voters who had decided to uphold the democratic rights of the Brexit voters. Brexit had moved on. The Labour leadership was going in the wrong direction.

Would Labour have won or have at least managed another hung parliament if it had risked 'No Deal' and insisted on maintaining the Brexit result as it stood? Unlikely. By 2018 Labour's new left had lost its momentum in the wider society, bombarded by a focused onslaught set up by the owners and managers of wealth and power in Britain and their allies and mouthpieces. The left were immediately hampered by the structure inside their political organisation where dominance remained with pro-capitalist MPs, despite the Party's membership and supporters. Labour was fighting inside as well as out. Even if the Labour left had retained their 2017 manifesto promise to support the result of the 2016 referendum, Corbyn's attempt to find a version of Brexit that shielded ecological and working class conditions would have rapidly been defined as 'dither and delay' and would almost certainly have lost to Boris's 'at all costs' program. This was the effect of the direct action of a ruling class that put the destruction of the Corbyn-led Labour Party above all other costs, including, temporarily, Brexit.

Corbyn's name emerges well from out of the Labour left's failure. He focused on key possibilities longer and more coherently than many of his team. He stayed as closely as possible to the 2017 manifesto promise to accept the referendum result. At the same time he fought publicly and fiercely against racism (until he was constantly side-winded by the farcical claim that he was an anti-Semite.) He was the best of Labour's left by far. And the assault which he suffered demonstrates, if it ever needed to be demonstrated, that those who genuinely challenge the system of capitalism have to prepare for every possibility thrown at them from the most powerful forces on earth.

Significantly, and yet again, the the absence of nation-wide working class organisation prevented a coherent and widely understood response to the establishment, the elite the political class, the captains of capitalism. Corbyn became remote and regionalised, as his personal authority and sincerity was torn to pieces. A large part of the base of the Labour Party could never be enough. Instead, for millions of people, Corbyn became the very elite that he was desperately trying to defeat.

The next article will address the possible future for socialist organisation on a wide scale now that tens of thousands stand inside the wreckage of Labour's left. In essence, Momentum and those sympathetic MPs that remain socialist need to avoid using their energy and motivation parlaying with Labour's furious right - which intends to smother their colleagues (if they stand firm at all.)  The way to use the gains that have been made is to accept the spilt between Labour's two opposite classes. It will come anyway in the form of expulsions of Corbyn's supporters. Instead Momentum and its allies need to work towards a new type of socialist party, with some MPs if at all possible, but most of all together with the working class communities and organisations as they struggle day to day and prepare for action against a (very early) future, run by a dangerous, trapped, right wing government. In other words begin the leadership of the recomposition of the new British working class - with all of its real and actual decisions, in Scotland, Northern Ireland being part of building the new movements, erupting against the goals of Capital across the continent.

By way of a conclusion so far ... The most basic reason of all why the Labour left has failed is because it could never win - not without grasping the new and fundamental political reality of modern capitalism (which is decisively not contained in Britain by any particular stand on Brexit!)

As has been suggested earlier, the left social democratic approach to decisive reform is no longer viable (which is not to say that the effort and struggle for reform is worthless. It remains the most effective activity that humanity can make.) The problem is that the political structure of social democracy is an obstacle to progress. It is part of the delay and is forcibly shared with those who seek the opposite.

Post WW2, after the defeat of fascism and the strength of the USSR vis a vis the US and Europe, millions of workers and their organisations in the West were able to make substantial changes to their conditions and their lives. It was not at all a direct product of the poisonous Stalinist regime as such, but rather the impact of the heroic efforts of the Russian people and the weakness of Western capitalism in a devastated Europe while facing the rise of anti-colonialism. across the world.  Social democracy was at its heyday in the West under these circumstances. But such conditions are long gone.

Capitalism has gone global and finds labour across a world among the cheapest conditions. Finance has cut its ties from production and from any particular nation. Nations now are organisations which are safety nets for smash-ups in the disassociated flow of capital. The social democratic route to substantial reform is now closed. Revolutionary action is now the route to reform, and working class organisation in the new societies of the West needs to be redefined. It is virtually impossible to return to the days of Attlee or even Roosevelt. The consequences of the new dispensation are both good and bad, and are already all around us. Syriza (not the Greek people) flopped because they had to take a revolutionary step to win their reforms. Direct and often violent action against the state in France by the Gillet et Jaunes was the means to directly move 6 billion Euros a year back to the French people.

This is not an argument against organisation. A short term positive response by the state to gather time is just that - not any sort of long term change. In France, Macron is now embattled in a bitter and prolonged struggle cut pensions. And the centre of this battle is the French trade unions.

Unfortunately the political use of the term 'betrayal' has now spread widely, from disappointed sections of the far left across the world, to the day to day politics of the western mainstream. If the argument about Labour's left is reduced to 'betrayal, across the whole group, or its leaders or even all those under pressure from the right wing of the Labour Party, it simply tells us that only a tiny expert number can produce the the right way for humanity.

The fundamental issue here is the nature of the structure of Social Democracy. It is a vehicle that had an historic success in the West and now cannot deliver a serious inch of social progress. Accordingly, under leaders like Blair, the social democratic Labour Party becomes the operative shadow of the Tories. In many parts of the West, social democracy has shrivelled. In others it has genuinely transformed into total capitalist parties. Corbyn's new Labour left tried to struggle out of its Social Democratic history. But, as even Brexit shows, it becomes immediately outflanked by the organised action of big Capital. This experience contains many mini 'betrayals' and more mistakes, but that is not the point. Brexit was never going to be a Social Democratic victory. And now the new Labour Party leadership is about to devour its left, its mass base, its challenge to 'the system.' As a consequence the British Labour Party may well end by by devouring itself. Many social democratic parties in the West have done just that.

The melee in Britain will begin with the demand that Momentum be dissolved, as a foreign carbuncle on the now healthy body represented by the Chuka Umunna's of this world. That will start Labour's collapse. The process will happen behind the big news of Boris Johnson's restored honeymoon with the main leaders of Capital in the UK and a fresh wind for Calais.

It is an essential and even desperate purpose to maintain the thousands in Momentum and all the bits and pieces of Corbynism that remain, inside and outside parliament. It is truly unlikely that will happen within the walls of the dieing Labour party.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Britain's last General Election?

There is an international frame for all of the various crises that have been rolling across the West since 2008. And these crises (which are constantly unresolved) do have more coherence than is often understood. For example, Trump's America appears primarily to be attacking China's economic rise. China's subordination seems to be Trump's main goal. Less understood and more surreptitiously, Trump is actually at economic and political war with the EU.

The 'strange' and 'personal' behaviour of the US President in relation to Putin, often explained by Trump's 'macho male' attraction, becomes more explicable when Russian leverage in the EU is added to the strain and pressure on the EU and its German leadership. Trump wants a decline in the Chinese economic influence across the world. He also wants that in relation to the world's biggest market, the EU. But he needs the destruction of the EU, as opposed to his acceptance of the Chinese regime. 

The Trump leadership sees the crisis of 2008, and its invariable recurrence, solved by the simple, straight-forward subjugation of the US over China and the necessary dissolution of the European Union. The total supremacy of the dollar (tied to the US's financial state machinery, starting with the 'Fed') would then be able to 'solve' the world's next financial crisis through US global political leadership and its financial domination.

The great battles of the new capitalism are played across a vast theatre in which the relatively minor disputes being fought out in Britain, for example, are small beer. Nevertheless, Britain's part of the crisis is going to be big enough to reorganise its nation and most of what was the post war British society - in a more substantial way than any time since WW2. Brexit has provided Britain's crisis with its current title. But much more substantial movements than Brexit are underway. 

The would-be the next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has a primary slogan of 'Getting Brexit Done' as he and his extreme right Tory Party fall into the General Election. It is a fatuous fantasy even in its own terms. Boris's main slogan sums up the emptiness of the election he wants to win and believes it works because it is empty, because it covers up the real and rotting politics and economics of British society. Boris's Brexit, if he gets it, will only begin the British agony with the EU - spreading over years and years.  

What will actually unfold through and after Britain's election? What is the real British crisis?

Brexit is not and never has been the critical question for Britain's future. The main issue for Britain's future has always been the direction that British capitalism takes. It has been a dilemma over the decades since Thatcher, and in turn it has created a smouldering political crisis. Britain's political crisis did not start in 2008. It was initiated by Labour leader Blair's 1997 election which welcomed American wars and the financial legacy of Thatcherism. And it was Labour's Gordon Brown that pulled away the last restraints that might have limited the the whirlwind of the British-based banks and their epic financial storm. It was the madness of the Royal Bank of Scotland - the largest bank in the world (read the biggest purchase of the largest debts - called its assets) that forced the British state to have to turn its financial resources into propping up international finance in 2009.  And it was an election which reflected the disappointment with Blair's Labour Party that duly sent the people of Britain into the depths of austerity in 2010, under the banner of the Tories and the Lib Dems.

The politics of the 2008 crisis and its political ramifications in Britain have now become simple. It took a while to get there but Labour has begun to draw together a leadership and program that challenges the direction of international finance and its associated globalisation. The Tories, the main party of Britain's rulers, has decided for Trump. The relationship to the EU has always been secondary in this battle. (The Tories pretend that Brexit is over if they win the election, whereas years of Brexiting are ahead.)

A new General Election has always been the decisive political issue since the 2016 Brexit referendum vote - not because Brexit itself is the decisive question and not because Britain's democracy is a particularly incisive or any sort of successful instrument for most of its population, but because there is no other effective alternative for change - for either of the two main social classes. (There are the partial exceptions to Parliament's importance, including the extinction rebellion battles and some ferocious trade union struggles - set up by managers expecting a Tory victory.) For the population as a whole, the fight between Labour's program of social democratic reform and the Tory restoration and expansion of British based finance capital - with all of its associated requirements (cheap labour, slashing legal restrictions, sales of state property etc.,) are the only political leaderships and directions that seem to be available.  

But just as a genuine, long term Labour victory would require a relentless battle with national and international capital - led in the first place by the EU - so the prospects for a Boris 'victory' are equally shaky

The political orientation that Britain has had since it gave up its navel superiority to the US in 1921 and the remnants of its Empire in 1956 to 1961 (minus Hong Kong) has been to rely on the US as part of an Anglo-Saxon bloc. As Britain grew weaker it decided to carry the Anglo-Saxon banner into Europe and what has become the EU. This assured, among other things, the continuing global role in the expanding world of finance via the City of London, a seat on the UN's Security Council, shared war materials and wars etc. But Boris proposes to cut away any influence on the EU which, inevitably, diminishes the 'Anglo-Saxon' presence in Europe and increases the reliance of Britain on the direct requirements of the US regime.

This means that Boris will be the subject of Trump in virtually all spheres (attitudes to China, imports and exports, food, health etc) excepting the City of London. And the City will use the opportunity to expand its financial liberties to the detriment of the overwhelming population of the country. 'Singapore on the Thames' as one EU administrator suggested. This is Boris's proposed future for 63 million people.     

More significantly still, both Northern Ireland and Scotland are already politically convulsed, supposedly by Brexit. In reality a decade of austerity, the contradictory issues across Britain around racism and identity and the possible re-opening of the routes to a united Ireland and an independent Scotland will boil over with Boris in charge.

The fact that both NI and Scotland are ahead of Britain as a whole in their opposition to Westminster reflects the alternative political leaderships and the mass political initiatives that have evolved over decades - including through civil war in the case of NI.) Both countries are pressed by the increasingly Little English leadership of the UK Parliament that prefers its own minority political blocks in both countries rather than accept the indigenous politics. The United Kingdom in different ways and with different answers has already failed to accept the democracy of two parts of its united nation. An organised, coherent and thought out Irish nationalist leadership in NI and the experience, the popular movement and the political party in Scotland will act decisively against the minority core in Boris's Westminster should it come to lead the so called UK.

The break up of Britain and worse is the likely result of a Boris win in the General Election. The consequent drive against labour, with a small 'L', essential to British Capital's new rules, will produce anti-parliament or non-parliamentary reaction by tens of thousands, being driven into Britain's new 'third world.' Proto fascist and racist currents, bolstered by state action, are then most likely to be the preparation or the response against any sort of resistance, of the sort which is now emerging across the world in Hong Kong, Iraq, Chile and France. As the shifts in big Capital re-arrange the world, so Britain will echo the battles now emerging.

A victory for Corbyn's Labour, while contrary to the expectations, claims and hysteria from virtually all of the mainstream media, has the potential to mobilise the peoples of Britain, rearrange the UK nations - and wider. It will need to. At the heart of the matter is whether our crazy system inflates another financial ball of empty air in its scrabble for wealth or whether the citizens across the world decide to stick in the pin before their society becomes yet more unliveable... 

Monday, 30 September 2019

The Boris Brexit is over.

Yes. Because something else is about to start.

UK Prime Minister Boris has turned the final key and truly Trumped himself. He still holds, now at its height, a bloc of 39% of voters that support 'No Deal.' But Boris shares that 39% with Farage's Brexit Party. And the minority 39%, that Boris has been using to lead the whole of society - denouncing the Brexit 'surrender', fuelling active, public anger - is fraying.

A small part of it is the new Supreme Court ruling which stops Boris shutting Parliament. 49% of voters supported the court and 30% did not. The court was determined to keep the 'remain' door open on behalf of the City, the large corporations etc - but for the time being the court cuts down Boris's charge for outright victory.

Second, Boris's next ploy, which was to set up an immediate General Election, is now in the slow lane and in any case cannot happen before the October 31st. The number of voters that wanted an immediate election before October 31 was always well under 50%.

Finally Boris promised to 'die in a ditch 'if he did not get an exit from the EU by 31 October. And that too looks pleasingly possible. It certainly breaks Boris's main promise that he swore to his core support. That 39% core would not go away if there was a failure on the 31st, but they would split to Farage and, most importantly, they would cease to provide the political lead, behind Boris, across society in general.

There will be tricks and slights of hand before October 31 but the problems that have surfaced for Boris means that he is now desperate to get a 'deal'. Boris's secretive pals have always seen the possibility that getting a 'deal' is different to exiting the EU. They have always known that the bargaining with the EU could start after Britain's exit. But now that a quick election is probably delayed until later November - at the earliest. That would mean a lot of rough weather in the economy before the Election. An early 'deal', pre-November, now looks like it could delay the economic mess of a full Brexit and therefore provide a good chance of a Boris victory in the coming election.

Boris's 'deal', 10 pages of waffle if he's lucky, would have to shove the backstop over Northern Ireland and other key problems to 'guaranteed' futures. A great hullabaloo around Boris's plan, carefully keeping trade issues for the future, would try to re-set all those extreme brexiteers back together with the wider population that is completely exhausted with the Brexit argument, bringing them together as a new bloc that could back Boris and his made-up deal. If the economy still hangs on for a few months, a General Election over Xmas might then provide a Tory victory. Boris is out of his ditch and can then set about his version of Trumpington.

Or so he imagines. Times are changing and views are shifting.

Most of Britain's people are certainly exhausted with Brexit and want the whole mess to go away. Recently however, a there is a growing sense that new politics in Britain are desperately needed. Its first reflection is seen in the wide sense of failure of Britain's political class as a whole. Paradoxically, this has been picked up by both the Tory Party and by Labour. For example there is complete denial from Boris and the Tory Party in general that the negotiations with the EU will still be front and centre whatever happens or does not happen on October 31. The Tories are trying to win the race against Labour based on the prominence of their policies on the NHS, policing, and infrastructure. The difference with Labour is that they have begun to put a further proposition to the population on Brexit. The Tories lie and say that Brexit will be over by November 1st. But now Corbyn has yet again won over the Labour Conference, on a different plain. His proposal, besides the social reforms set out in the Labour conference, is a proposed reunification of the working class over Brexit.  

Boris to a large degree, Farage, and now the Lib Dems both in total error, are deeply inclined to continue to ramp up the Brexit hysteria and are thereby beginning to miss a growing mood. The most obvious evidence of this shift is the reaction to the Lib Dems now that they intend to bypass a referendum if they get into government! Their own grandees are faltering. Amongst other things, if the Lib Dem leaders press the Brexit button, and only the Brexit button, then they will need to explain on the doorstep why they are the Party who rejects the 2016 referendum without a vote! A significant point now often accepted by many of those who voted for Remain.

The Brexit pantomime is a wearing distraction.

What is really the main political issue in Britain today? It is surely the question, can a radical socialist party win the government? That is the real next period in British politics and it begins only weeks away. Frankly, the upshot of Brexit, so long as a temporary compromise can be settled, is neither here nor there, in that context. The number one issue is the unification of the working class, centred on the need for a shift in wealth and power in society. The fight with institutions, like the EU, can wait.

To win radical government, real and immediate dangers must be overcome right now. Boris must not become a settled PM. Otherwise a soft Brexit, another vote, deals after Brexit, none of it will count. The softest possible landing with the EU either way, through a friendly deal, a new vote etc, helps most, for the time being. But Boris's 'heroic' platform; 'out by Halloween - at all costs'; has to be stopped with or without his fake deal - not because it will mean lorry jams at Dover but because it will secure a Boris victory. Boris must be broken and his faction in society isolated. To do that Boris must fail and the unification of Brexit built.

Can the Labour Party carry through a radical socialist program? That's another question entirely.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Breaking up Britain's new right wing.

It is entirely possible that if Boris had managed to keep to his 'No Deal' ultimatum, then the EU might well have spawned a version of a deal that looked like more concessions to the UK. After all, the EU leadership has already 'proved', a hundred times over, to those considering the British route, what a fractious turmoil that exiting turns out to be! But Boris's 'deal', and especially his 'no deal', would both have amounted to a new austerity, another drastic attack on the British working class.

A political choice needed to be made.

Breaking down Boris's leadership is not 'clever politics'. It is not some tactical dance. It is a major, class issue. This is not because of his right-wing block of Tory and Farageist Brexiteers in the country, which barely count for 25 - 35% maximum of potential voters. It is not because of the potential lack of the Irish Backstop, which would inevitably have to involve Westminster control of Stormont - to the delight of the reactionary DUP by provoking the wreckage of the Good Friday Agreement, etc., etc. It is because Boris was beginning to win over the leadership of society.

Since the end of the 19th century the British Parliament has rarely played a decisive role in the real decisions regarding issues touching matters of wealth and power. It is therefore rare for Parliamentary figures to really lead society in the sense of creating a shared 'common sense' among the majority, even among those who may have had contrary ideas.

Such political leadership goes beyond a specific, minority bloc in society, and, as perhaps surprisingly, Lenin once wrote, beyond a single class. 'From the standpoint of Marxism the (working) class, so long as it renounces the idea of hegemony or fails to appreciate it, is not a class, or not yet a class, but a guild, or the sum total of guilds.' And while the British working class are not in a sea of peasants, the evolution of Britain's modern working class has yet to fully centre itself socially and politically, let alone fully regroup with its potential allies.

The point of Boris's potential across society was that he could take dramatic hold of a majority view at least inside the English working class on Brexit - as the starting point, the platform, for his defining leadership across all of decisive political matters. Most especially, as far as Boris is concerned, to hook a large section of the working class 'back', now semi-detached from the new radicalism of Corbyn's Labour Party via the predominant call 'to get Brexit done', into a renovated Thatcher/Trump/Tory scenario and existence.

Breaking this process up is part of a class struggle. The defeat of Boris and his remaining allies will begin to dissolve his leadership role and potentially reframe the content of an early General Election. A General Election before 31 October would be entirely framed by Boris's 'common sense' to get Brexit done - and that will be the overriding issue for the majority of English voters. Of course the ruling class will seek any avenue and be constantly searching to renew the cause of remaining in the EU. Although a National Government including the Corbyn part of the Labour Party is deeply unlikely. But the reality will grow; that some Brexits renew austerity. That really ending austerity means a soft Brexit at best. That Brexit, or not Brexit, is only a tiny part of the story of change that needs to come.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Don't over-estimate Brexit.

There is a growing vision of the deep and hidden manoeuvres swirling around the current British parliamentary struggles over Brexit. The substance of this idea is that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is following the tactics developed by his adviser Cummings. For example Johnson deliberately says 'shit' to Labour leader Corbyn in the House of Commons (shock, horror) when talking about Labour's economic plans.

This idea of who really runs Boris and who, malevolently, will do literally anything to gain Boris's goal of 'No Deal', has some truth. Boris's rudeness, his ruthless dispatch of the creaky old Tory grandees, his tricks pulled out of the hat, do have a 'mess it up; keep it wild' flavour. And that does not come from the words of Boris's headteacher at Eton when he speaks to the young gentlemen being sent off to run Britain. It comes from the studies made by Cummings, a mini version of Steve Bannerman. And so it is that the right-wing kernel of the new Tory shock troops can barely wait for 'No Deal' to get going with the British version of Trump.

But the substance of the crisis of Britain's Parliament does not lie with Parliament.  It is centred among the tens of millions that have suffered most intensely during a decade of austerity. And, at the moment, the removal of the Tory government and the victory of a Corbyn government, is the only serious opening for a root and branch alternative to the British's peoples misery and anger.

For now, this has been entirely tangled up with Brexit. Brexit has become the cover for the deep malaise of the British people. The energy and anger caused by two miserable decades as the rich got spectacularly richer and the poor's lives fell apart, has been swallowed by the fatuous strains of the UK's relationship with the EU.  

An example of the disoriented thinking that this has caused is shown when some argue that the radical Labour leadership should accept Boris's demand for a General Election before the fight for 'No Deal' is over. This is despite the possibility/probability that Boris would win the election hands down. Boris would win because he would say 'I want a final Brexit after three terrible years; Labour is stopping us.' Even if Labour promoted 'a more pro-worker's deal with the EU - but we need more time', type proposal, the sickened population of England, at least, when it comes to Brexit, would almost certainly give the election directly into Boris's hands, assuming that at least one misery would be over.

The idea that Labour should ignore the fight to stop a 'No Deal' Brexit and go immediately for Boris's election is partly to do with the simplistic view that the way you do politics is to start from the opposite of your enemy. Blair said it; therefore it must be wrong. In reality, simply putting a cross where your enemy puts a plus is a hopeless way to decide 'what is to be done'. Unfortunately a much deeper, studied analysis, rising to the level of real life, is crucial.

In the case of Labour's potential to form a government, it is essential to expose and break down the Boris/Cummings's fantasy that somehow austerity can be swept away because Brexit is resolved, in the pretence that the EU will disappear after October 31. But breaking down that powerful feeling depends on the concrete failure of Boris's initiative. Argument on the doorsteps will not, itself, be anything like enough. Boris's 'dream' has to be physically broken, before the active political feelings of millions of people currently aroused by the political crisis, simply return to indifference as a consequence of the difficulties of daily life - or worse.

Here we come to the essence of the matter. It is vital that 'No Deal' fails, because 'No Deal' is the new austerity in Britain. And it is important that there is a 'soft' Brexit deal. By itself of course it will do little to damage the role of the EU, its corruption and its institutions, essentially propping up globalisation, even in a Britain which leaves the EU. Trade deals etc will still point in the wrong direction for the new economy that Britain has a chance of building. But most important of all is that Boris must be busted, whatever the Brexit outcome. And that cannot be done unless his core policy is smashed. That is the decisive next step and the Corbyn Labour Party must focus on that issue first and foremost, without restraint.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Brexit starts after October.

Two apparently key events will decide the next stage of Britain's expanding crises. The most obvious one, and the one that has just put Boris Johnson on his throne, is that Britain is shelving the EU on 30 October. The second, which is the real meat in the sandwich, is the coming General Election.

These two events will set the future for the UK. Except that one of them; Boris's great promise to the people who are sick to death with the EU whether they were 'leavers' or 'remainers' - that the UK is finished with the EU - turns out to be 'fake news' (in the delightful terms used by Boris's own coach.) 

The idea that the UK (or for that matter, the EU) will stop organising trade etc., after the 'No Deal Exit' is fatuous. That's when the real negotiations will start. There is even the chance that Boris will get an EU 'deal' before the end of October. It is truly absurd, as some of the media correspondents and old Tory gurus would have it, to expect the EU will insist on some moral rejection of their trade rather than deal the cash. The EU has already got its main result. The UK's pathetic performance, the total collapse of its long term reputation of political savvy across the world, has done the damage that the EU needed to prevent any further break up in its own camp, at least for the next few years. After October 30 the EU will ferociously demand a deal from the UK. And Boris will accept it - if he's still around.

The reality is that Boris's Brexit will just be be the start of the negotiations with the EU, under conditions where there has been a considerable shift in the relation of forces between the two contenders. Brexit does not finish on October 30. When the Brexiteers cheers finally fade away, that's when it all starts. 

And an early General Election? Well, here's a gap even smaller than the number of days offered to MPs to stop 'No Deal'. The next General Election, which will effect the real political and economic future of Britain, will instantly follow October 30 - whether MPs manage to block Brexit or not. If Boris is blocked he will call the election 'for Brexit.' If he gets it through, he will call the election on the immediate effect of his 'successful' promise (before the roof falls in.) 

That is the big game. The election, believes Boris, is the critical issue for his own future because it is the most important issue for Britain's economic and political elite. If he can break the prospect of a radical Labour Government then he opens the renovation of the Tory Party as the political instrument of the ruling class once more. (So long as his victory is big enough in terms of the number of MPs, he will also try to dump his some of his more manic, Brexit-believers.) 

Polls all show that Boris's Tories are now 5 or 7% above Labour. But both Labour and the Tories are being bitten from the margins. The current 18% for the Lib Dems is shaky, particularly after its leader rejected Corbyn's place as temporary Prime Minister if the Tory government was voted down. (Even the Tory grandee Kenneth Clark was for it.) Similarly, Farage's 14% is needed for the Tories to do better than their current, tiny, jiggered, majority. But the 'science' of polling is practically meaningless in Britain, as was clear in the last election. 

The substantial issue of the coming election partly lies with the ability (or lack of it) of the leadership and of the conference of the Labour Party, ideally promoting mounting mass action against Boris across the country and building key alliances which presents a popular, practical and attractive future.  Boris's spray of a few £millions, plus a false end to Brexit, is not a future. It is a Trumpite disaster. The future is a different economy, because the one that Britain has doesn't work; it is concentration on health, education, welfare and redistribution as the key jobs of government and it is stopping getting into Trump's wars and fights across the globe.

The current crop of Labour MPs, even including a hopeful new selection, will not be enough as a large number remain who are hostile to all things radical and socialist. They hang on to the Blairite history, where it was supposed that all classes, in practice mainly the rich, were well supported. Besides these MPs, more dangerous is the fact that the general population is not receiving an alternative message - one that stands against Boris's bombast. If Labour starts setting up concrete agreements now, particularly with the Scottish Nationalists and the Greens, that would make a radical future seem far more real. Support for the ridiculously under-represented Green Party requires a large-scale Labour outreach to them and an open, publicly-shared support in common for a new green economy. Millions of young people see the centre of their political lives in a battle to be green. Equally, the dissolution of the House of Lords would allow for the great cities and their leaders to build a new institution that raises democracy among local people. All of these steps and others, starting now, would demonstrate powerful  images of a different, better society which everybody can understand. 

Mass-action and a radical Labour, projecting a new version of the sort of country (and countries) that could be won by millions of ordinary people across the whole of the UK, will build a new vision in society. That is yet to be won. There needs to be a different picture of the future in the countries of the UK. Radical Labour and its allies need to de-centre Dunkirk and the all the other remnants of Empire, and create a new majority in society. In turn a new majority will help a new unity among the working class and its allies that can put Brexit in its proper place - with Brexit measured as a part and only a part of the much wider future that needs to be constructed. These are essential goals to be won through mass action and political clarity. 

If Boris wins and gets through, he will start failing very, very fast, both inside his party and outside in society. And then it will be the fight against fascism that will become the priority. 

Friday, 30 August 2019

Revolution? In Britain?

There were small but angry crowds protesting in several of Britain's main cities when the news spread that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was closing Parliament for five or more weeks in the run up to his ultimatum to leave the EU by Halloween. Several leading journalists called for mass action on the streets to challenge what was described as a coup against Parliament. A major rally is being built by the Peoples Assembly and others in London on 3 September. Lots of similar actions are underway across the country.

From the point of view of the vast majority of Britain's population, Johnson's drive to Austerity mark two, courtesy of Trump, will be a disaster of epic proportions. But the vast majority of Britain's population are currently split over the EU. That is exactly what Johnson wants just now and he has built his real political project on that basis. His main plan was not so much designed on leaving the EU as such, but has always been focussed on decimating the Corbyn led Labour Party.

PM Johnson could not care less about whether the UK leaves the EU without a deal or if there is a last minute deal that is enough to pass in Parliament before the 30 October. His entire concern is to make sure he can get to and win an early General Election decisively before the roof comes down, when the 'no deal' or the 'half deal' starts to bite in society. Any delay would be fatal because a large shift to a radical Labour Party will happen, both fast and vast, in those circumstances.

In any case, Johnson believes that once Labour is defeated and when he is ensconced in Westminster after the election, he will probably be able to play around with a set of new negotiations with the EU. Similarly he doesn't particularly believe in any long term future for the shock troops of the right wing of the Tory Party. He believes he can weather any storm once Labour is defeated. The British ruling class see the destruction of Corbyn's Labour Party as of greater value and, if necessary, worth some longer term mucking around with the EU. And Johnson has bet his political future on that.

In the meantime the coming General Election, either just before 30 October if Parliament blocks the October exit, or just after if Parliament fails, is going to be based by Johnson entirely on aggravating the split inside Britain's working class and their allies. Johnson will lead the anti-immigrant, anti-Parliament show after spraying out some dodgy sweets to the 'more discipline, lock them up' brigade.

But Britain's history is moving faster than Johnson's stratagems (derived by Dominic Cummings.)

The political crisis has already becoming a social and economic crisis in society. And the so called United Kingdom is dividing.

First; the anger over Johnson's action is rising. And like most peoples' hatred against austerity, the Brexit split, which Johnson is currently relying on, does not apply. For example the actions against Johnson that have been called by the main political campaigning organisation in England, the Peoples Assembly, are echoed by Momentum movement inside the Labour Party. Together, they will produce a profound effect in the September multi-thousand Labour Party Conference which in turn reduces the power in society of the Brexit division. 'Down with No Deal, Johnson and Austerity' is a potent political mixture.

Second; Johnson's current capture of the leadership of society ('I can end the bloody Brexit carnival!') despite his base in a minority political and social bloc, is very fragile. Not just because mass action to a different tune (see above) is acutely on Britain's agenda but also because the emerging role of the US's President on the one hand, and the the growing associations with the far right on the other, are already emerging, will surface more, and are generally loathed by 75% of British population.

Third; the creeping economic catastrophe across the West, called the 'second face of 2008' by some economists, will be earlier and doubled in Britain if there is 'No Deal' or even a Tory Deal. And the obvious question arises, who is going to pay for the next 2008? Fear of this development, particularly if it starts breaking into people's hearing, is why Johnson is now spraying £millions across the land. He is desperate to close down Corbyn's Labour Party before the economy really begins to shake. After that he thinks he can fiddle with the EU if necessary to hold it all together.

Johnson is on a knife edge. The two things that can bring him down are a new protest on the streets, designed, as with the Anti-War movement against the war in Iraq and the Poll Tax protests, to win over society, to make the opposition to Johnson the prevailing 'common sense' of the majority. Coupled with such initiative and action, Labour's September conference cannot be dominated by an argument over Brexit. Instead the active, daily, overthrow of Johnson must take precedence. A calm and united Brexit decision and an end to the fake divisions among ordinary people has to be presented as a necessary result - of the defeat of the ten year, mangled, deadly, right wing Tory government, now finally led by the trickster Johnson!