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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 May 2018

Tories' continuing EU quagmire is Corbyn's opportunity

European Parliament, photo Thijs ter Haar (Creative Commons)

European Parliament, photo Thijs ter Haar (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Ross Saunders

No-one is at the helm of the government's plan for Brexit. There is chaos at every level of the capitalist state as it threatens to crash out of the EU.

The government's Brexit plans have been defeated in the House of Lords an unprecedented seven times.

It is not clear that the Lords, whose function it is to safeguard the strategic interests of the capitalist class, will allow the government to get through anything but a 'soft Brexit' or a Brexit in name only - possibly through committing Britain to membership of the "EU lite" - the European Economic Area (EEA).

Those sections of the Tories, and of the other main parties, that are most connected to the strategic interests of British capitalism are working towards the same goal. That would enrage the Tory base and threaten the Tories at a time when they are already mortally wounded by the unpopularity that implementing austerity has brought them.

But the European Union occupies a key part of European capitalism's strategy to compete with the other world powers, by partially overcoming the limits of the nation state that obstruct the further development of the market.

Capitalist mission

The capitalists will go to great lengths in order to preserve this project, even destroying the political parties through which they currently exercise their power in order to achieve that mission.

Their clearest-headed political representatives are on course for a head-on collision with right-wing Tory populists who rely on stirring up resentment on social issues like immigration to build a base of support.

And 'hard Brexiteers' like Johnson, Gove and Davis are gaining ground: newly appointed home secretary Sajid Javid has dipped a toe in their camp by signalling that he is opposed to Theresa May's preferred option of a "customs partnership" with the EU, preferring maximum facilitation.

Disagreements currently contained within the cabinet could break out into the open at any point, and quickly develop beyond the control of the Tory leadership and the class of billionaires which stands behind them.

Corbyn's Labour Party could drive a wedge through the Tories at these points of weakness and smash them to smithereens, were it not for the fact that Labour is divided by Blairite rebellion.

Figures like Chuka Umunna are aiming to paralyse Labour, discredit it, and if necessary destroy it, rather than allow it to be used to implement Corbyn's programme.

He is fairly openly preparing the ground for a new political vehicle for the super-rich, meeting once a week with Tory and Lib Dem MPs to campaign for a second referendum on EU membership.

Green MP Caroline Lucas foolishly occupied a seat on the platform at one of Umunna's events, alongside Tory MP Anna Soubry. No-one professing to be trying to end capitalist austerity should join forces with these representatives of capitalism.

Single market

Umunna is, sadly, not alone. Labour peers, breaking ranks from Corbyn's call for a "jobs Brexit", are instead calling for membership of the EEA and the Single Market, with all the anti-worker restrictions that come with them.

Dogpiling on Corbyn after the antisemitism smears, Labour peers have accused their party's leadership of "paralysis" and "cowardice."

If the Labour right gets its way, the party's autumn conference - still stitched up by the right thanks to the timidity of Momentum's leaders and others on Labour's left - will overrule Corbyn on Brexit and sign up to the EEA.

Brexit did for Cameron and Osborne and finished Ukip off as well - at least for now - but it only created an opportunity which the left must seize. It is not too late for Corbyn to cut through the haze of confusion that the Blairites have created around Labour's position on Brexit.

Corbyn has correctly said that Britain needs a Brexit that puts the interests of ordinary people first. He should spell out that this means fighting to preserve and extend the rights of workers, including EU migrants in Britain, at the same time as removing the obstacles the EU and Single Market place in the way of socialist policies.

If the Blairites are not willing to support that policy - as they have so far shown - then they should be removed by the membership from any positions of power and responsibility. That requires a thoroughgoing democratisation of the party, including the introduction of mandatory reselection for all representatives.

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