Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/28880

Posted on 22 March 2019 at 15:33 GMT

Editorial of the April 2019 issue of Socialist Today (no. 227)
Socialism Today issue 227

Socialism Today issue 227   (Click to enlarge)

The way out of the Brexit impasse

As the first act in the Brexit drama reaches its concluding scenes, only one thing about the plot is certain.

The reverberations from the working-class revolt against the capitalist establishment which, at bottom, the 2016 EU referendum result represented - a shout of rage at the age of austerity ushered in by the 2007-08 financial crash - will not end at that point.

Approving a withdrawal agreement treaty between British capitalism and the 27 other EU capitalist nation states was meant to be the easy part of Brexit.

Resolving post-Brexit citizens' rights, 'divorce payments', the Northern Ireland border, and details of the 21-month transition period were just the prelude.

The more difficult next step was renegotiating Britain's 46-year economic, legal-political and military-diplomatic ties with the EU club, including a new trade deal.

And yet, at the time of writing, days after another humiliating defeat for Theresa May's proposed withdrawal treaty text, nothing has been agreed.

The parliamentary vote to rule out a 'no-deal' exit also resolves nothing, even in its own terms. Carrying no legislative weight, it does not alter the fact that the default position is for Britain to formally leave the EU structures and treaties on 29 March - unless the provision specifying this within the 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Act is repealed by another parliamentary vote, and the EU27 heads of state unanimously agree to extend Article 50 beyond that date.

Or alternatively, that the UK's Article 50 application to leave the EU is revoked by the government.

But nothing is straightforward. More Tory MPs voted against the government's motion to allow for a postponement of Brexit day than supported it - by 188 to 114 - including the Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, who had just wound up the parliamentary debate for the government! On the other hand, there will be a temptation for the EU27 leaders, facing European parliamentary elections in May, to place conditions on any extension - including UK participation in the elections - never mind the issue of additional UK payments to the EU budget.

The reality is that any move to try and untangle the Brexit imbroglio will have to overcome the same conflicting interests, economic and political, within and between the different capitalist classes of the EU states and their political representatives, which have led to the current impasse.

Further Westminster paralysis, an acrimonious breakdown of negotiations between Britain and the EU27 and an 'accidental' no-deal exit, a cabinet rebellion and the defenestration of May, a general election, a Corbyn-led government or another hung parliament - all these possibilities and other variants, too, are inherent in the unfolding situation.

Capitalist contradictions

In broad terms the capitalist politicians have not been able to reach agreement over Brexit for the same reasons that capitalism is not able to bring about 'an ever greater union' of the peoples of Europe through the EU treaties, despite having gone far in creating a pan-European economic bloc.

The bosses' organisations have been holding their heads in despair at the Brexit negotiations, with the director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Carolyn Fairburn, denouncing Westminster as "a circus" delivering "failed politics".

The EU is a bosses' club, designed to facilitate the systematic exploitation of the working class by big business on a continental scale.

So, why can't the political representatives of capitalism - in Britain and the EU27 - just agree on how to share out the loot?

But the capitalists' control of the productive forces through private ownership is not the only pillar on which the capitalist system is based.

There is also the nation state, the terrain on which capitalism first emerged in the Low Countries and Britain, and then across the globe.

The nation state is not only an economic entity but a social and political formation, with historically rooted features, such as territorial boundaries, language and culture, not mechanically changed by purely economic forces and which remain organic elements of capitalist society.

They provide the conditions for capitalist politicians to attempt to build a social base for their rule, becoming particularly significant in times of economic crisis when the need to justify ideologically a system in which a small minority exploit the majority becomes most acute.

These are the underlying contradictions on which the Brexit negotiations have floundered and which are preventing an easy resolution. Capitalism is a system of political economy, not economics alone.

This was what lay behind the warning of the Tory chancellor Philip Hammond when he spoke at a CBI lunch at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos.

Hammond, who supported remain in 2016, now lectured the assembled bosses that "it would be a pyrrhic victory" to abandon Brexit to meet business interests "by shattering our country's political and economic system".

Some form of Brexit could not be avoided, in other words, without seismic consequences. Unable to overcome the contradictions, however, it is precisely seismic events that are coming.

The workers' voice

If there are limits to the cooperation of the capitalist politicians of the different nation states of the EU, it is because, in the final analysis, they represent the interests of their respective capitalist classes.

The working class, on the other hand, has no stake in capitalism and its interests are the same whether they are German, British, Italian, or Greek, etc - including, therefore, a shared interest in real international solidarity. The task is to give expression to this programmatically and organisationally.

These are critical times for the workers' movement. While there undoubtedly is scaremongering involved, a no-deal exit will produce economic dislocation, at the very least, while the bosses will use the cover of Brexit to push through job losses, closures and other attacks on workers' conditions.

This will be latched-onto by the right-wing Tory Brexiteers to blame remain-supporting MPs and civil servants for blocking necessary preparations.

The emergency deals that will be negotiated on planes landing, people and goods crossing borders, the mutual recognition of standards and so on, will then be denounced as 'giving in to Brussels'.

The propaganda of the right could get an echo, unless a viable force can offer a real alternative of workers' solidarity and decisive socialist action against big business to end the chaos.

This must include the trade unions urgently raising a programme of opening the books to workers' inspection of all companies threatening investment strikes or redundancies - as Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Nissan, Airbus and others have announced - and, where necessary, nationalisation under democratic working-class control and management.

Public ownership would only be the first step in securing the future of workers facing Brexit chaos, but it would preserve the plant, machinery and accumulated skills of the workforces, which potentially could be applied to a range of other products.

Managed by elected representatives of the workers and the wider community, they could then begin an 'audit' of society's real needs.

This would include, for example, the urgent need to move to a low-carbon economy, giving a working-class lead to the growing movement of young people against climate change [see this month's Global Warning column in Socialism Today].

Fighting for trade union leaderships that will take such a stand is a key task for socialists in this period, as the article by Rob Williams [also in the journal] explains.

This must go hand-in-hand with the workers' movement preparing for the challenges of a possible Corbyn-led government, explored by Hannah Sell [in the same journal].

The conclusion is clear. The world economy has barely recovered from the consequences of 2007-08, and the looming prospect of a new downturn is the backdrop against which the next acts of the Brexit drama will play.

The capitalists have no solution. Only the workers' movement armed with a socialist programme can point a clear way out of the Brexit impasse.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.






Related links:

Brexit:

triangleThe 'national unity' threat to Corbynism

triangleGeneral election looms... Capitalists in chaos: Fight for socialism

triangleBoris, Brexit and British capitalism

triangleStop Boris - General election now

EU:

triangleBoot out Boris and all the Tory toffs - fight for socialist policies for the 99% not the 0.1%

triangleLib Dems: little bosses' party elects eager pro-austerity leader

triangleGreece elections: Syriza ousted amid voter disillusionment

triangleSocialist Party member Janet Gibson advertising NSSN conference at a protest of steel construction workers outside a Siemans factory in Lincoln (click for report)

Capitalist:

triangleThe landowning establishment

triangleCaerphilly Socialist Party: The threat to the NHS from capitalist trade deals

triangleWhat way forward to tackle climate change?

Workers:

triangleLiverpool RMT seafarers protest against super-exploitation

triangleWorkers reject 'Martini' contract

Capitalism:

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: AI, robots and capitalism

Britain:

triangleWaltham Forest Socialist Party: What is the role of a revolutionary party in Britain today?

Government:

triangleYork Socialist Party: National Government 1931 - lessons for today

European:

triangleMay ends in June! Boot out the Tories!

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

21/8/19

Brexit

The 'national unity' threat to Corbynism

14/8/19

General election

General election looms... Capitalists in chaos: Fight for socialism

14/8/19

NHS

Tory bribes don't hide destruction of NHS

14/8/19

General election

Boot out Boris and all the Tory toffs - fight for socialist policies for the 99% not the 0.1%

31/7/19

Climate change

Tories look in wrong place for climate solutions

31/7/19

Tories

Build a working-class movement to force an election

31/7/19

Liberal Democrats

Lib Dems: little bosses' party elects eager pro-austerity leader

31/7/19

Council

Labour promises to end council privatisation: councils must do that now!

31/7/19

Universal Credit

Fighting Universal Credit

31/7/19

CWI

CWI refounded with determination and confidence

30/7/19

Brexit

Boris, Brexit and British capitalism

21/7/19

CWI

Socialist Party conference reaffirms the CWI's historic approach

17/7/19

General election

Stop Boris - General election now

17/7/19

Them & Us

Them & Us

17/7/19

Universal Credit

Fraudsters thrive and claimants suffer in despicable Universal Credit scam

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07954 376 096

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999