GUEST BLOG: Dave Brownz – Where is Britain going?

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After 9 years of bitter austerity, how did the Tories turn an entitled, lying clownish toff like Johnson into such a winner, and an avowed parliamentary socialist like Corbyn into a weak chump? The answer lies in the failure of Labour to stand up to Johnson’s Trumpish rally to ‘make Britain great again’. Fatally, Lexiteers like Corbyn tried to meet Brexit halfway with a ‘Socialist’ Brexit, or Lexit.

The Tories were split over Brexit but the Brexiteers fought inside the party to defeat the Remainers, so the campaign was all about Brexit.  Labour was also split, but refused to take a position and compromised on a second Referendum. So, Labour broke the stalemate by allowing Johnson to turn its Brexiteer working class voters into his pawns.

Never mind. Brexit is far from over, and Johnson’s hard Brexit will explode on the streets and workplaces rendering parliament impotent to stop the breakup of Britain. It will push Scotland towards independence, and give Northern Ireland every reason to join a united Ireland. This will pose for socialists the test of their ability to organise the working class against reactionary bourgeois chauvinism and for proletarian internationalism.

To understand why this election will launch an open class warfare that can only be resolved by fascism or socialism, we need to explain how Britain’s existential crisis, as part of a wider terminal crisis of global capitalism, has forced Brexit to the top of the bosses’ political agenda.

Brexit stalemate

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The stalemate over Brexit is a symptom of the paralysis of the British ruling class facing the dilemma of its future as a declining imperialist power maneuvering between the US bloc or the Russia/China bloc. The rise of Russia and China threatens the waning US world hegemony. The EU is torn between the two but increasingly drawn towards Russia/China.

This poses a problem for the UK ruling class: to remain in the EU as it gets pulled away from the US towards Russia and China, or to leave the EU and stick with the US come what may. The British ruling class is split between the finance sector, the legacy of Britain’s rentier role in the world economy, and the national bourgeoisie who are now in partnership with US, EU and Asian transnationals.

Both fractions are globalist in outlook and make their profits in a multilateral world where capital and labour know no borders. Johnson in copying Trumps ‘exceptionalism’ is acting contrary to Britain’s globalist role. There is no case for abandoning the EU for the US – since Britain profits from both – unless Britain is so uncompetitive it sees no future in the EU drawn toward Russia/China and is desperate to gamble on the declining US. So, what part of the ruling class has an interest in writing off the 20th century and building a fantasy or reclaiming the glory days when “Britain ruled the world”?

None except a small section of British capitalists that wants to share in a US takeover and asset stripping of British assets including the remaining state assets such as the NHS. This is the Trumpist strategy to save the US that the reactionary Tories endorse.

The trade deal being negotiated with the US will reduce Britain from the status of declining imperialist power to a client lackey state. Those who stand to gain from a hard Brexit are those who blame Britain’s decline on EU membership and want to become the servile junior partner of the US. They are a tiny, backward chauvinist fraction that rejects globalism to make Britain great again. But this slogan actually means becoming mere neo-colonial compradors (agents) of US vulture capital. This is the reason that the Brexit comprador fraction needs to manufacture a populist movement of chauvinist workers and petty bourgeois social imperialists to give it parliamentary legitimacy.

Lexit succumbs to chauvinism

The left is mightily confused over Brexit when it puts itself into the camp of the comprador Brexit faction of the British ruling class. While the left propagandizes that Brexit creates a Left-exit (Lexit) for workers to take power, in practice they are acting as stooges to call on workers to side with British imperialism over German imperialism. What’s more they sign up to ‘their’ ruling class to defend Britain from all foreigners, migrants, militants, and revolutionaries to defend ‘glorious Britain’. The bankruptcy of this ‘social imperialism’ (socialism at home paid for by imperialism abroad) explains Labour’s defeat by the Brexit populists.

The problem with the Lexit position is that it takes a historical construction of the bourgeoisie, the nation state, and defends it as timeless. But since the arrival of the age of imperialism early in the 20th century, capital has known no borders. It has had to expand globally to boost profits at home. Giant monopolies backed by their nation states have gone to war to make their rivals and the world’s workers’ pay for their crises of overproduction. Thus, excess capital is destroyed in depressions and wars, while workers’ wages have been driven down by depression and their resistance defeated by conscription to fight the bosses’ wars. The 20th century proves that workers used as cannon fodder must mutiny and unite with workers everywhere to overthrow crisis-ridden global capitalism. In the place of bourgeois nation states workers will create socialist republics that replace chauvinism with internationalism and a global federation of workers’ republics.

Fascism or Socialism

The extreme logic of bourgeois nationalism leads to the rise of fascism to smash workers refusal to pay for the bosses’ crises. This is where we are again today, in a full blown, terminal crisis of global capitalism, where new movements are beginning to rise up against global capital. And once more the bosses are encouraging fascism to raise its ugly head to smash workers struggles for basic democratic rights from Algeria to Hong Kong.

Within this framework, the situation in Britain is consistent with a declining imperialist power reverting to imperialist xenophobia, led by a reactionary comprador clique of the bourgeoisie that has been defeated by monopoly capital. In its desperation to protect its wealth it exploits the fears of workers against migrants to ape Trump in backing imperialist Britain against imperialist Germany and France. And in many European countries the same centripetal forces of national populist movements are creating the swamps in which fascism breeds.

There is nothing progressive in defending bourgeois nations in the name of the ‘left’. It leads to the enlisting of workers behind the national flag to fight workers in other countries in the interests of the ruling classes and against the interests of humanity and nature. Against the populist/fascist movements that are forming to divide and smash working peoples, the only left position that can lead to the end of capitalism, is that which unites workers across national borders into one international revolutionary force capable of ending capitalism and building socialism.

 

Dave Brownz is TDBs guest Marxist Blogger, because every left wing blog needs a Marxist Blogger.

21 COMMENTS

  1. “Labour was also split, but refused to take a position”

    Yes Dave the Labour would have won if they voted for Brexit.

    I am married to a 73yr old British lady that like so many British ‘fears Germany’s rose to become the gatekeeper to the EU’.

    So that was the reason for the British voter switch to vote for a ‘brexit party.

    Labour made the wrong fatal desision there for sure.

  2. I got a lot from this analysis but would love it if the (presumably Marxist) analytical language could be modernised. I have to keep stopping to translate.

    My main takeaway though: Labour movements need to go global – and our workers here need to be convinced that raising wages in the third world is an important part of raising wages in our country.

    • That raises a question that is not getting the attention it deserves.(IMHO): The exchange rate mechanisms the pretend to equate the currencies of different countries do no such thing for a start. People in some countries are paid like $2 US a day and survive, you could not survive in New Zealand on that by a long way so the comparison is false. But leaving that aside, if we were to pretend that change rates did balance living standards between countries , then that raises the question of whether we are to share the world’s resources out evenly , resulting in a massive drop in living standards for most of us in NZ, or whether we are going to do the best we can for the people of New Zealand , which is the only population we can influence the welfare of.
      Apart from the loss of living standard ( and it might not be all that bad) the other effect of equalising wealth distribution evenly throughout the world population would be to almost completely eradicate the advantage of world trade, because if the difference in wealth / earning power was not there to exploit there would be no profit in doing or making anything in another country that can just as easily be made or produced in this one. That in itself would result in higher employment in countries like ours and save enormous amounts of pointless burning of fossil fuels.
      The transition that has taken place in China’s economy and living standards over the last decades make it seem possible that this could eventually happen.
      D J S

    • Yeah Aaron, the language can be difficult. Thanks for making the effort. I agree the main point is that the labour movement trapped in nationalist solutions is prey to reactionary chauvinism. But Great Britain is dying and Brexit is the last kick from a dying empire to pull up the drawbridge and live on memories of the glorious past. The chart that bomber put up to head this article backs that analysis. It is the millennials who understand that Britain is part of a globalised, cosmopolitan world. Corbyn should have understood this and tried to offer a internationalist socialist alternative to the nationalist Brexit, with the real prospect of jobs, welfare, health, housing etc that could have persuaded them to vote for socialism instead of Brexit. But the splits in the Labour Party over socialism and Brexit led to a compromise position that played into the hands of Brexit and Johnson’s one nation populist appeal to older workers.

  3. I think Corbyn looked like he wanted a bob each way on Brexit. He wasn’t bold enough. Fundamentally he was on the right track with re-nationalising the coal, rail and other things. But the endless crap from ex Labour mps was not helpful. The media the media the media, just like here they have a lot to answer for.

    • Being a British baby boomer I was around when the rail and coal were nationalised . What a disaster that was. It lead to strikes and waste. I was recently in the UK and Corbyn was talking about nationalizeing the top soccer teams. Perhaps it was just the people I mixed with but no one had a good word to say for Corbyn. Plenty said they would have voted Labour but not with him in charge. Boris was thought of being a liar but a likable rogue .

      • @ TS?
        “…but no one had a good word to say for Corbyn. Plenty said they would have voted Labour but not with him in charge….”
        Did they elaborate on that? Did they say why they don’t trust a whiskery fellow who rides a bike? What’s Corbyn done? Are you sure the people you ‘mixed with’ were not, in fact, budgies?
        I’m of the opinion that anyone deliberately voting for a liar, a wanker, a fuzzy, pasty cave spider like johnson who, like most caged budgies, sits and squawks while preening it’s kitsch feathers as it shits where it eats but none the less gets food delivered to it daily, should get out more after they smash their televisions.
        I can tell you who won the UK general election.
        It was the media. The MSM drugged the terminally stupid into going out, buying a shot gun, going home, loading the gun and while smiling like lunatics on laughing gas, shooting themselves in both feet.
        Look? Let’s be brutally frank.
        Bwitain is done become ‘Merica dumbasses.
        ‘merica is a Zionist interplanetary outpost and we’re the satellites that orbit [it].
        Can I ask? Is it time, then, for the planet to burn to a crisp?
        I woke up thinking about God this morning.
        What is ‘God’?
        I’m sure God’s a ‘what’ not a ‘who’ BTW.
        We’re taught to believe in a God. A God we can’t see nor fathom other than as a metaphor.
        You can see the danger in that, right? We’re taught to take the word of others on the God conundrum. And knowing people as well as I’ve come to, then I say “ Yeah-Nah? Fuck that. “
        So,God, per se?.
        [It’s] a tool used as a mechanism of control in my humble opinion.
        When we abandon our selves to a metaphor while looking away from the collective ‘us’, we’re no longer in control of our minds much less our economy nor can we reach out and give a hand up to those who’re at risk of nothing more than piss poor luck, more often than not.
        While trump gripped the hearts, minds and bowels of The Great ‘merican god botherer he couldn’t lose.
        It’s a fact. Read about it.
        Johnson gripped the hearts, minds and bowels of the Terminally Greedy and he’d a got double points if they were also bible bashers.
        I’m much more inclined, if I could call it that, to believe in the devil. I think the god we like to ponder’s been denied access to this particular Hell.
        Is this existence, in fact, Hell?
        After all? We’re doomed to lose all that we love. All that we cherish. All that we worked for. Our friends, family, companion animals, our art, our poetry… everything.
        And while we lose all that we love and adore? We must endure pain and suffering and not just the pain and the suffering we, personally, must endure but we must watch on helplessly, in many cases, as others suffer and lose too as our politicians force us to keep those unlucky and unlovely at arms length.
        What the fuck’s that about?
        When a politician goes balls-out to lure us away from the joyous and righteous pleasures that can be found in love and respect for each other while we do our best to live a more spherical (Hell-) life that encompasses all living beasties and plants etc by using the spectre of a God metaphor to turn a dollar?
        You know, there’s the devil. God only knows where The God is but I can sure as fuck see the devil.
        johnson and trump. What freaks? What fiends? They’re cleverly disguised monsters whom we allow into our homes and into our lives while we’re told we must walk past the wretched and the hungry because as we’re told, it’s always the fault of the unlovely and unlucky that they’re unlovely and unlucky.

        Idiocracy
        Meet Joe Bowers
        https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/

        The Queen of Versailles
        https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2125666/
        “ Why are all these people on our aeroplane Mommy? “

        Another one by the fabulous Lauren Greenfield.
        The King Maker.
        https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5105734/?ref_=nm_knf_i1
        “ Image is real. Reality, is not.”
        ( I paraphrased that one.)
        “ All we see and all we seem is but a dream within a dream”

  4. Most of this I would agree with. Brexit doubtless represents very different concepts and different aspirations to different factions of British society. In particular it is likely that the Tory fraternity envisage a closer trading relationship with the US and more neoliberalism while the once labour supporting workers who voted leave are more interested in regaining British sovereignty and independence . Not caring too much if the GDP goes down a bit.
    But Brexit or remain is a long term decision. It covers the future for either hue of government. Brexit does not determine Britain’s future either way beyond the present parliamentary term. It’s now up to whatever government they elect in the future to chose independence and a measure of self sufficiency or tie themselves to the US while the US eviscerates them. Inside the EU they don’t have the choice.
    It is hard to see global labour uniting while financial and economic globalisation is in decline. Much of the world is being forced into isolationism by US sanctions. Dramatically demonstrating to anyone paying any attention that the globalism of the last 30 or so years has created an interdependency that benefits only the tiny elite and has provided the US with it’s control of the world’s exchange mechanism the opportunity to ravage the wealth of the rest of the world. Russia, Venezuela, Syria , Iran and Europe are starting to notice and take steps to regain control of their affairs. Brexit is a part of that trend, admittedly not from Johnson’s point of view but from the voters who voted leave.

    • You are right. And that is why I said that Corbyn’s Lexit is a capitulation to this reality where the US is still top dog when it comes to an alliance with Britain against its main rivals in the EU moving towards Russia and China. I did not expect it to be any different since Social Democracy is mired in 100 years of serving national capitals as social imperialism, i.e. socialism premised on the defence of bourgeois nation states in particular the imperialist states. Corbyn’s failure to fight for a socialist Britain in a Socialist Europe represents the bankruptcy of Social Democracy to break from bourgeois nationalism. It has to be replaced by workers parties that mobilise workers internationally across borders to combat the cross-border reactionary alliances of populist/fascist parties that trap workers into going to war against one another again.

      • Just seen a very comprehensive “After Corbynism” by Paul Mason, it is very well thought out and argued so is certainly worth having a debate about.
        He basically argues that the alliance of the Right and Far Right must be met by a New Left Labour Party run by the membership that can form a temporary alliance with the Centre. Frankly, I think this is breathing life into a dying Social Democracy to lock the big majority of working people into bourgeois parliament, when already people young and old are increasingly prepared to take to the streets and build their own assemblies and institutions based on popular or workers democracy to fight capitalism’s terminal decline, the rise or fascism and threat of extinction.
        https://www.paulmason.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/After-Corbynism-v1.2.pdf

        • But Dave he almost ignores Brexit. I think it was everything in this election.
          “In the coming leadership election the questions the candidates must answer are:”
          Why did we lose? What are the new class dynamics of Britain? Why did Corbynism fail? Where does this leave Britain in the world? What kind of party do we need? What needs to change about the policies?”
          Why did we lose?
          They lost because their electoral base recognised that for them, leaving the EU
          was more important and more permanent than supporting Corbyn now.
          What are the new class dynamics of Britain?
          They are the same as always.
          Why did Corbanism fail?
          It didn’t fail in spite of the MSM as CB claims, It temporarily took second place to a more fundamental and durable issue that Corbanism did not directly relate to.
          Where does this leave Britain in the World?
          That can’t be answered until Brexit and the final deal with the EU is settled which is a long way off yet. I will hazard the guess that in the end Brexit will look indistinguishable from the deal that Corbyn was hoping to strike ; remaining in the customs union and changing very little from the status quo.
          They need the kind of party they were developing as the likes of Tom Watson and other Blairites were dropping out and being deselected.
          Nothing needs to change about the policies. Apart from taking full control of the money supply and the Banks.
          IMHO
          @CB on God and his influence on the mind… I’m sure that believing in God requires a fundamental transformation of how a human mind would work left to it’s own devices. We wouldn’t know anything about God except through what other people tell us. And none of them know anything about God.
          It requires that your brain accept the explanation ultimately for everything, for which there is no evidence. Once you can abuse your intelligence in that basic way you are then free to believe whatever you like about anything regardless of available facts.
          Cheers D J S

          • Mason thinks that Corbyn lost because he didn’t support the People’s Vote on Brexit soon enough. He charts the loss of support for Corbyn week by week.
            He is convinced that there was a majority for Remain, and that another referendum would have given time to soften Brexit and been more democratic than an election rigged by the Tories.
            I don’t think this would have worked anyway. As I said above Corbyn could have won only if he had come out clearly against Brexit with a socialist alternative program that clearly reversed austerity and undermined the primary motive for voting Brexit among Labour supporters.
            Anyway Corbyn and the Labour Party could not have done this given its subservience to British capitalism and control of the party by an elitist bureaucracy and not the members.
            I doubt that Mason’s new party and program will happen in the present situation.
            As for Britain’s place in the world, that course will be set by the class struggle that it is already growing and the more that gets in motion the less influence parliament will have.

  5. I believe that basically the Brits were panicked into voting for the Conservatives (or their Brexit Party shadow party), often against their better judgment, because Boris the Spider somehow hoodwinked them into thinking that only he could stand up for Britain against the horrible EU.
    Most likely they will find out the hard way that Boris is basically a British Trump, talks big, passes on impossible tasks for his subordinates to do and blames them when they can’t accomplish them.
    My sister’s partner is a scientist/dairy research consultant who works a lot in the UK. He has met Boris Johnson on a few occasions. His summary of Johnson is: “the most dishonest politician I have ever met in my life – a pathological liar.
    The country is in for a very rough ride and I reckon there will be a lot of splitters from both the major parties.
    Like the Americans have found out: be careful what you wish for.

  6. Headhunters.

    Never in European post-war history has a politician been hunted for years more intensely and full of hatred than Jeremy Corbyn, and that means something. Another sign of how correct Corbyn is. He startles the elites, capital and the neoliberals, who recognize him as a serious danger.

    Given the very, very unique circumstances of this 2019 UK election, having achieved a 32% support behind the Green New Deal manifesto is not too bad a result. Also, the UK Green Party, received nearly 900.000 votes, in line with some other successful campaigns in 2019.

    There is a solid ground for the Left to build upon. Programmatic continuity is the call of the hour. No reason to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    Two main shortcomings of the UK election, from my point of view: 1. Labour was not able to find an adequate left rebound to nationalistic emotions, over- and undertones, 2. the continental European Left was not able to provide meaningful and coherent strategic or tactical support to the Remain vote on the British Isles.

    From a perspective of the European precariat and working classes, Brexit will probably do damage to all of them.

    Good Morning Britain.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPdHwCQlwAE

    • Never in European post-war history has a politician been hunted for years more intensely and full of hatred than Jeremy Corbyn, and that means something. Another sign of how correct Corbyn is. He startles the elites, capital and the neoliberals, who recognize him as a serious danger.
      Totally agree manfred staab.

    • Manfred, yes, but why was Labour unable to deal with these nationalist emotions? Especially of white male workers. [Noting that they are a minority and that the majority of young WMW (under 34) voted for Labour.] IMO because it was hidebound by its parliamentary history to serve and represent a ‘constituency’ which is the bourgeois nation state that traps workers into nationalism (hence nationalisation vs privatisation) as the solution to all problems. So if by ‘baby’ you mean a Labour party that is more internationalist and socialist, then you are arguing along the same lines as Paul Mason (my comment above). To me that is not the solution but part of the problem if it merely uses workers are voting fodder. My ‘baby’ is not national parliaments (rather they are part of the ‘bathwater’) which goes for the EU nations as well, but the international working class in all of these countries going beyond parliaments as bourgeois institutions to develop the existing movements against austerity and climate change (the same thing really) which are already rapidly becoming more internationalist when they come up against the bankruptcy and futility of nation states trying to co-opt or smash them. As for the media it is a medium. Most of it is owned or controlled by the ruling class, but it is contested ground, and by itself cannot become the main determinant as to which class wins the class war.

  7. Gidday, Dave Brown. Let me sort some thoughts.

    Nation-states, as most administrative, bureaucratic geographic localities do, primarily serve the controlled, managed (governed) exploitation of human and natural resources. Emancipatory steps from within such straight-jacket appear to be difficult, albeit perhaps not impossible.

    One constituting element of the nation-state is the citizen, not only by legal and socioeconomic definition (class) but also as moral category and emotional subject. I would tend to argue that the contemporary white male worker of upper age is more receptive toward destruction of these principles which are central for his life-experience during post-war industrialization. E.g. “Stranger in my own country.” Such statement reflects a serious harm of quality of life and not just a misplaced, greedy sense of entitlement, as is sometimes argued.

    With the climate crisis unfolding, there are increasing signs that the zenith of the nation-state has passed and other organizational structures will be more appropriate on local, regional and global levels. It should be task of the global Left to help and to facilitate developing of such structures, as they are valid bearers of values in the tradition of enlightenment and humanity.

    Learning a lesson: SYRIZA in Greece lost many achievements because of insufficient strategic and tactical support by the European and Global Left.

    • I agree that nations have passed their use-by date. But I want to show why. Nation building was part of the rise of capitalism allowing the formation of the bourgeoisie out of feudal society. The bourgeoisie was a revolutionary class but as a class did not stand for universal humanity because it embodied a contradiction where society exploited nature. For Marx, 1848 showed that the bourgeoisie was no longer progressive and the proletariat had to replace the bourgeoisie to resolve this contradiction in a universal humanity. So far attempts at proletarian revolution have been destroyed by bourgeois counter-revolution. The 20th century proved that capitalism had exhausted its capacity to develop anything without successive depressions, fascism and wars, and now climate catastrophe. The proletariat defined as all those who produce value directly and indirectly, as the revolutionary class able to defend humanity and nature from destruction and extinction, must destroy the old bourgeois institutions that have been openly counter-revolutionary since the Commune of 1871, and build new ones capable of ending class oppression and constructing a society in harmony with nature.

      • Being supportive to this analysis; my practical conclusion for the Left is found in building local, regional and global solidarity networks.

        …the belief that the clocks in NZAO are clicking substantially different to other parts of the world, as it occasionally assumed in some TDB comments, is mostly misleading…

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