No 1530 6th March 2018
“Big beast” Tory Brexit swipes, the hung election in Italy, Germany’s desperate arm-twisted “grand coalition” and endless anti-Trump investigations all indicate a split and divided ruling class throughout the capitalist world. All are paralysed by the enormity of oncoming crisis collapse, the Catastrophe that began in 2008 and has unrolled ever since, fended off only by demented money printing QE. But Trump’s US trade war moves show international conflict and aggression has only just begun, heading for all-out war that the capitalist order has been warming up with its ludicrous “war on terror” since Afghanistan and Iraq (and Serbia before). Brexit chauvinism fits international scapegoating and belligerence but terrifies the British ruling class, - presiding over one of the weakest links in the imperialist ranks - splitting it down the middle. The intractable Irish border issue underlines their defeated weakness. Complacent Remainers and “welcome immigrants” posturing just as useless, failing to develop revolutionary theory. Leninism needs building
Bitter ruling class splits and recriminations over Brexit jingoism and its doomed fascist attempts to turn the clock back on the Irish national struggle reveal the desperate floundering of the bourgeoisie’s grip on the world.
The ruling class is becoming ever more paralysed and fearful everywhere as it plunges towards rapidly deepening international trade war conflicts, as suddenly escalated by Donald Trump’s new US steel and aluminium tariffs and European retaliation.
Threats to block jeans, cars, and much more, presage far more beggar-thy-neighbour destructive conflict to follow.
This deadly tit-for-tat can only accelerate the global economic degeneration all the way to full scale Slump (as pre-World War One and in the 1930s) and ultimately to the horrifying “solution” of world war between the imperialist market rivals to physically wipe out the competition.
It is the only answer the bourgeoisie has ever had for the intractable contradictions of capitalist production-for-private-profit and for which 20 years of specious Middle East “war on terror” and on “rogue states” pretences, (including the latest crocodile tears “concern” over Syria), have been preparing the public mood, acclimatising mass opinion once more to death and destruction as a “daily reality” and a “necessity”.
Capitalist collapse gets nastier by the day and its ruling class never been more rotten ripe for overthrow, the only alternative to the World War destruction already set going in Ukraine, Yemen, Iraq, the Congo, Libya, Syria and Somalia among others – and threatened against Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea – all confirming the real nature of capitalist “freedom and prosperity”.
But the shallowness, anti-theory philistinism and the “condemn terror” capitulations of the fake-“left”, (revisionist flavour as well as poisonous Trotskyist), continue to hold back the only possible way that system can be ended, through seeing and using the defeats and setbacks for imperialism as the openings for conscious revolutionary struggle, to completely bring down and end the entire monopoly capitalist system, and establish world wide cooperative socialism.
To coordinate, unify and inspire all the oppressed of the world for that task, the clearest theoretical leadership is needed, developed by a purpose built party of constant polemical struggle for understanding, already long overdue.
The core of that has to begin as Marx did, with the ever deepening Catastrophic failure of the entire capitalist system driving the whole world into conflict and ultimately world war.
Its relentlessly developing “austerity” impositions (causing misery, penury, hunger, homelessness and death everywhere) have continued ever since the full crisis emerged in the great credit collapse in 2008 (after decades of partial economic failures around the world) the full impact held back since only by the insanity of Quantitative Easing, swamping the world in valueless extra dollars.
It has simply stored up even more inflationary and credit problems for a far greater disaster.
It is about to break (hence Trump), as the bourgeoisie is fully aware.
Hence the splits and confusion paralysing every ruling class, from the indecisive Italian election and the broken German “coalition” to the astounding anti-Trump bourgeois infighting in America itself, as well as the vacuum in the East of Europe, (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia), all rejecting the new post-Soviet encroaching of “globalised” corporate capitalism for shallow unstable “populist” anti-Westernism (taking a rightwing nationalist form at present only because of the absence of Leninist leadership).
Russia’s Bonapartist balancing act between western-based gangster oligarchs and the lingering populist nostalgia for the old Soviet Russia expresses the same.
In Britain it is expressed through the festering Brexit paralysis and its tangles over the border with Ireland, raising astonishing hostilities within all sections of the British ruling establishment, (Labourite stoogery as well as the Tories themselves) split wide open and all now taking great chunks out of each other.
It should be a major opportunity to expose the chaos of this world Slump collapse and its oncoming conflicts, and to defeat the ruling class.
A no confidence vote to bring down the disastrous Tories would be just a first step, immediately easily possible for example.
But the Labourites and the “lefts” of all shades hang back, terrified of the questions that would be posed by the collapse of government and the vacuum left behind, and even more of the answers that revolutionary philosophy alone can supply.
They do not even want the responsibility knowing that “more parliament” can solve nothing.
So they all bury themselves in the Brexit diversion, limiting themselves to arguments for or against either side.
Even if under a supposed “left” rationale, this not only misses real significance of this infighting, exposing ruling class weakness, but leaves the working class misled and split, trapped in Little Englander chauvinism on one side, or complacent and useless “politically correct” pieties about “welcoming all immigrants” on the other.
Both lines fail to warn the working class about the real capitalist system causes of endless austerity, antagonism, cuts and greed ridden contempt by the rich, and fail to make clear that its oncoming collapse will hammer the working class, inside or out of Europe.
Just the opposite, this “left” stupidity falls entirely for the premise that the argument is about “the best path to development and prosperity” (which is impossible this side of the greatest war destruction ever seen, if capitalism continues) which says that there can be an upturn within the capitalist framework (“if only the right controls are imposed”).
It is the most disgusting fraud and hoodwinking nonsense and leads the working class right up the garden path into the deadliest dangers of vicious ruling class crackdowns and outright coups, already being prepared (as against the Allende government in Chile for example).
Both sides of the argument are driven by the British ruling class’ panic over the cutthroat viciousness of competition for rapidly collapsing markets that is coming after decades of brewing crisis and rising inter-imperialist competition, which has been festering in constant trade war skirmishes and has seen repeated collapses of entire regions from South-East Asia to Latin America as currencies have failed, credit systems have broken down and huge economies like Japan have stagnated.
How best to survive the even greater overdue hurricane of world economic collapse is the cause of the frenzied Brexit disputes; either by staying within the European Union trading bloc built up over decades by the continental bourgeoisies in anticipation of the inevitable conflicts to come (so that European monopolies could have a big enough protected market in which try and match the size and scale of the giant American monopolies and the even more efficient (in capitalist terms) upcoming Japanese combines too), or by trying to survive outside.
The very marginally less unrealistic Remain option means playing second fiddle to the ever more dominant power of German capitalism, and its rising ambitions (unstoppable in a capitalist world) to extend its power, and to some extent to French influence, long tying itself to the German axis (as it had already begun to do in the Second World War, split down the middle between Vichy collaboration and “resistance”).
The price to pay is submitting to “standards and regulations” imposed to favour European investment and the industrial clout of the biggest Euro-monopolies like Volkswagen and other German combines, or French ones in some cases, the survivors being only those able to keep up with the necessary technology and investment to follow the rules (or cheat their way round them as the diesel car makers were caught out doing - and that exposé itself a result of trade war).
The “membership” includes payments in, to provide funds for “development” in the poorer parts of Europe, in the weaker southern economies originally such as Spain, Portugal and Greece, and then increasingly in Eastern Europe, to head off a discontent that would otherwise eventually begin to turn to communism or at least to revert to nostalgia for the old workers states where the rapacious exploitation of restored capitalism becomes ever more obvious.
In return there is some shelter for the City finance sector and the chance to host other capitalist industries, like the Japanese car makers looking for a toehold into European markets.
It recognises that long ossified British imperialism no longer has the ability and power to resist the world competitive pressure of the other imperialist blocs except in such a group.
The argument to pull out of Europe comes from ultra-reactionary “Empire” wing of the ruling class, harking back to the supposed “Golden” days of Rule Britannia imperialist dominance and unable to swallow the “humiliation” of tagging along behind Berlin as a “vassal state” as the preposterous arrogance of the prig Tory MP Jacob Rees Mogg declared recently; it taps into the vilest jingoism and chauvinist attitudes preparing for the oncoming viciousness of capitalist collapse.
These attitudes stretch all the way down through the petty bourgeoisie and layers of the working class, corrupted for centuries with a misplaced and backward sense of imperial superiority and entitlement (derived from brutal and tyrannical colonial suppression) which still finds expression throughout the class collaborating trade union and Labourite culture, essentially replacing the need for class war to end capitalism with demands for a “fair share” of imperialist super-profits ripped out from overseas exploitation.
Deep down, such chauvinism is inseparably part of all reformist politics, ties the working class to its subjugation by its “own” ruling class and is utterly antithetical to the revolutionary path which alone can stop, or rather transform, the greatest ever plunge into Slump chaos and war.
This reaction’s “answer” to the obvious economic disadvantages for British capitalism, of standing alone in the crisis, and outside the European bloc, is to tear up all the “difficult and restrictive” standards and regulations imposed by Brussels, allowing the imposition of even greater speed-up and exploitation than seen so far, and allowing desperate price-reduction undercutting of markets free of trade restrictions (the real meaning of the “freedom to trade elsewhere”) along with a readiness to take in dirty washing from around the world, escalating the blind-eyed money laundering, tax avoidance and wheeler-dealing which already makes up a huge part of the crucial finance sector in the City of London.
It is summed up as a “European Singapore” and relies essentially on the preeminence of London as the most concentrated centre of parasitical finance capitalism in the world (save possibly Wall Street), encouraging the flow of every kind of dirty money, “no questions asked”, to cream off a fee; the last and most degenerate expression of capital concentration, as Lenin analysed in Imperialism – the highest stage of capitalism.
The Brexiteers also desperately hope that the “traditional” alliance with the United States, the so-called special relationship, can be tapped for trading arrangements, some kind of recompense for British military and intelligence service to the US, in the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones for example.
The same alliance will be tapped for the most degenerate arms sales profiteering, as with the disgusting and cynical sales of bombs missiles and planes to the Saudi Arabia feudal backwardness which has been bombing Yemen deliberately into the world’s most appalling humanitarian disaster for three years with 18 million in desperate conditions, half of those facing outright famine and tens of thousands facing typhoid and cholera.
Even that utterly degenerate arrangement still leaves the British ruling class playing second fiddle, despite the sneering about “vassals”, but this time to US imperialism.
It is thin gruel in the teeth of the rapidly deteriorating world trading crisis.
And like all bullies’ sidekicks, the pathetic British ruling class can be shoved aside anyway, as underlined by threat of Bombardier planemaker tariffs and now punitive steel and aluminium import taxes just imposed by Trump which will hammer not only China and Europe but also the only just “rescued” remnants of the “British” steel industry (itself saved recently only by a dirty arm-twisting deal by its Indian bosses, to write-off and “privatise” the pension arrangements of the workers there – many suffering major losses to their lifetime contributions and facing a straitened retirement).
In other words, in or out of Europe it is the sweep of the world crisis which is decisive and not any pie-in-the-sky fantasies about the British “superiority” freewheeling around the world to the gratitude of the “natives”.
As the EPSR declared when Blairism was grovelling around behind the American war onslaught on Iraq (EPSR 1185 20-05-03):
Crashing around in gung-ho flag-waving may temporarily look superficially impressive, but what about the longer term perspectives????
It was because of British imperialism’s classically-weakened position (100 years of irreversibly steady decline) that Britain joined the Common market in the first place, under its Tory ruling class first eleven, the Conservative Party.
...New Labour are the New Tories, but the decline remains constant. It is permanent. British imperialism is firmly among the sick men of world monopoly-capitalism.
But now Blair & Co have to put their money where their gobby pro-American-belligerence mouths have been,--- or not, as the case may be.
For the US imperialist executive, - with 50 over-production unprofitable states on its hands already, needs a 51st “over-production” unprofitable state on its hands like it needs another Sept 11.
Blair & Co know that in reality, they are about as loved in Washington as a dog with fleas.
And it is a plain matter of fact that in the international trade war, the USA treats rival British interests just as hostilely as it bullies any other competitor.
Nothing has changed since in that respect, other than the temporary ascendancy of the most reactionary wing of the ruling class so blinkered by past imperial illusions that it cannot see its own weaknesses.
If there is any US “deal” at all it will anyway come at a disastrous cost for British capitalism, which is obliged to open its doors to the most rapacious privatisation and trading relationships, including selling off even more of the already stripped bare NHS, and other remaining state “family silver”, as well as abandoning many basic health and quality standards for example, as in the infamous “chlorine-washed chicken” question where suspect, unfresh and substandard food products, laden with hormones and antibiotics, can be imported and sold, which previously would have been banned.
Of course, it would be a mistake to pretend anything virtuous about the European Union on such issues either, which as a capitalist monopoly “community” is as capable of its own profiteering food and health disasters as any other part of capitalism – witness milk and cheese scandals in Italy, the adulteration of Austrian wine with anti-freeze and the “unacceptable” pig rearing systems allowed in Denmark compared to Britain, as well as the mad cow scandal, used by Britain’s rivals to block out its agriculture.
The point however is that leaving the European Union opens up the economy to just as much monopoly plundering and carpet-bagging as anything the EU is imposing.
So describing the European Union as a “bosses club” as do the fake-“left” who support Brexit, like Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party, much of the official TUC and assorted Trot and revisionist groups, implying there is an advantage to being on the outside, “getting out from under Brussels bureaucracy” is to thoroughly mislead the working class.
The entire capitalist world is a bosses’ club of relentless and unstoppably intensifying monopoly domination, and all that is achieved by leaving is to swap one section of it to favour another.
These “Lexiters” are selling the working class a trade protection pup, which will rapidly become a rabid full grown pitbull as far as their future is concerned.
They should look to the company they are keeping with the most reactionary Tories, so snobby they can barely speak.
This “Lexiting” is saturated in class collaboration and disarming Little Englander notions of “taking back control”.
But far from benefiting workers the illusions fostered in “making our own decisions” are a disaster, a pernicious mixture of faith in the “democratic” system and some mythical British “sovereignty”, and outright jingoistic scapegoating chauvinism, trapping the working class behind the trade war moves now intensifying and blaming “others” for the problems that come solely from the overproduction difficulties of the capitalist system itself.
What “control” have workers ever had in any of the real decisions of the British or the European ruling class?
Democracy at the best of times is gigantic hoodwinking and manipulated fraud covering up the reality of a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, hidden behind the corrupt pretences of parliamentary representation through the pocket-lining mountebanks and careerists (all variants) who posture in the comfortable club on the Thames.
And nor is Brexit anything to do with the “will of the people”.
Referendums are an even bigger racket than parliamentary democracy itself, even more manipulated and twisted from the moment the one-off question is set with laughably narrow parameters and inbuilt bias from the way it is worded, and then by the deluge of manipulated press coverage, advertising and twisted “information” (lies) used to push, pull and twist “public opinion” to get the required result.
But despite the obvious flaws in the Brexit-side arguments, those opposing it are just as much avoiding the revolutionary questions.
While they expose the economic fantasies of the Brexiteers for the disaster they are, they equally foster illusions in capitalism and in “democracy”.
And the “shelter” of the European market will not last for long in the oncoming Crash (which hammered much of Europe even in 2008).
Their sanctimonious single issue politics, laden with ever more posturing moralising, is as divisive and diversionary as anything from the Brexit side, failing completely to deal with the real concerns and fears which have driven many of the working class behind the Brexit in the first place and tying them just as much to reformist illusions.
The obvious issue above all else is immigration and/or migrant workers, blamed by much of the indigenous working class (mainly white but including a range of mostly second and third generation migrants) for the difficulties they face.
But instead of tackling these issues, and fighting to explain clearly to the working class the real capitalist cause of their valid fears and difficulties, these “lefts” reflect the middle class milieu they come from, reverting to high-handed sneering about “racism”, “fascist attitudes” and pious declarations about “welcoming all immigrants”.
As the EPSR has explained in the past, migrant working and economic migration, certainly is a problem for as long as the capitalist system exists, and has been used for centuries by capitalism to divide and rule; to foster clannishness; to undercut conditions and the capacity of workers to organise; and to reduce the revolutionary pressures in the countries from which the migrants are drawn (eg EPSR 1085 17-04-01, 1093 12-06-01 quoted - and see also 1133-1134-1135-1136):
And once unemployment starts to rise and there are not enough jobs to go round of any description, how are longer-established residents expected to react when hard-to-come-by jobs start going to ‘economic migrant’ newcomer ‘foreigners’???? How are longer-established residents likely to respond to the ‘explanation’ that “these poor people have only come here to better themselves”, especially in an ‘advanced’ and ‘sophisticated’ a country of extravagant consumerism such as Britain where mindless unserious smut, advertising gimmicks, and trashy pop music are relentlessly heaped on people’s heads as ‘culture’ to try to guarantee that there is no room for the tiniest scrap of political philosophy in anyone’s brain????
The backward basis for racist responses and disastrous divisions in the working class is there as the crisis deepens towards serious social conflict. Capitalism’s degenerate cultural trap for a massive diversion to split the working class (so that the chances of a united revolutionary reply to deepening slump and poverty should be as close to zero as possible), has been well laid.
The worst way to fight this diversion is to denounce workers for racism. All that this does is take everyone’s eye off the main issue more than ever. Reactionary ‘political correctness’ is the Council of Europe’s sinister game. The hypocritical ‘moral’ pressure on ordinary people to feel guiltily ‘xenophobic’ because they react enviously and politically backwardly to what they see as ‘foreigners’ taking their jobs is almost certain to drive more and more of the poor, lumpen, and petty-bourgeois minded into the arms of the nationalists like the BNP.
The only hope of a solution to this threat is a massive education-drive to explain the degenerate rottenness of the whole capitalist system and society, - for all countries in the world whether they have immigrant-population minorities or not, - a decay that is menacing everyone on earth with horrors far worse than mere job losses; and which warmongering tyranny can only be halted and reversed by communist revolutionary action by the whole proletariat of the planet.
But this is the one thing that the ‘politically correct’ hordes, wagging a finger at racist backwardness, will make certain is not said and never explained.
Just parading their utterly abstract and academic ultra-’political correctness’ line of “no immigration controls” and “welcome all asylum-seekers”, etc, is worse than useless. If the literally hundreds of millions who would willingly exchange grinding Third World poverty and/or political disillusionment, despair, or repression for First World affluence could actually make it to Britain, then the practical stupidity and pointlessness of this ultra-‘politically correct’ posturing would become all too apparent.
But even as things stand, the ‘nobility’ of the gesture is the vainest and emptiest show imaginable since in reality all it is doing is giving a fake-‘left’ cover to existing bourgeois reformist practice, legitimising the very manipulativeness of the capitalist state which it claims to be setting out to expose as ‘racism’.
Changing Britain’s immigration laws is pure reformism and not ‘revolutionary’ at all, no matter how apparently extreme the “no immigration controls at all” academic posture might seem. And not once throughout this whole immigration controversy has the fake-‘left’ exposed the deliberate imperialist political encouraging of worldwide emigration for more than a century as a safety valve to take the more enterprising away from crisis-ridden countries where revolution would be the only other option. A socialist revolution in Britain would have the immediate clear internationalist duty, - as posturingly accepted by both the SA and the SLP, - to instantly start helping every other nation on earth to achieve their own socialist revolution. Tens of thousands don’t like life in Kosovo, or Iraq, or Sudan, or Nigeria, or Bangladesh, etc, etc????? Fine, great. So instantly equip them with training, revolutionary education, and material support for an organised return to their homelands to fight for a revolutionary improvement in conditions there. It would be all-round entirely reactionary, to just encourage the individuals who had the drive and ambition to leave their homelands for something better, to just swell the catering and cleaning casual labour force in Britain, or help British backwardness to continue to ignore its gap in training sufficient doctors and nurses of its own, or teachers, etc, etc.
So what is the ‘revolutionary’ point of encouraging reforms for “complete freedom of immigration” now, under capitalism??
There isn’t any. It grants the capitalist state the right to play God over human lives when the only thing worth thinking about any capitalist state or any of its activities is that they are all out-of-date and irrelevant and that the only worthwhile future is to abolish all capitalist states immediately. It pretends even more stupidly that sound ‘reforms’ to a capitalist state’s immigration laws can make a capitalist state quite a worthwhile and tolerable thing after all, pure reformist nonsense. And it says to the native working class that the only real problem is their racist intolerance of all the immigrant newcomers. “Welcome all asylum-seekers” working-class communities everywhere are instructed. “Any problem you think you might have with this rests entirely in your own backward racist prejudices”.
This racistly stupid and lunatically academic ‘politically correct’ nonsense got its answer in Oldham [“race” riots 2001 - ed], as the EPSR has consistently warned would begin to happen.
It is quite pointless telling culturally disadvantaged and economically-deprived proletarian communities that more immigrant admissions to the already-lengthening dole queues and housing queues and hospital queues and social services queues could not possibly adversely affect their own lives and that they must overcome their own natural prejudice with a leap in philosophical magnanimity to simply “welcome all asylum seekers”.
It is not going to happen, and the BNP’s intervention spreading ludicrously bogus ‘comfort’ about serving ‘British nationals’ first is a warning to the fake ‘socialist’ swamp to start shedding their own anti-communist and counter-revolutionary prejudices themselves, and quickly, so that a serious Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movement can start to be built in the working class, making the only possible sensible anti-capitalist observations and proposals on the immigration question, making world revolution the only sane answer for all, and the only long-term possibility for consigning backward racist prejudices to the dustbin of history.
One or two of the more thoughtful bourgeois press commentators get somewhere towards this (without the revolutionary politics obviously):
Last Wednesday the New York Times ran a column by the journalist Roger Cohen headlined The Madness of American Crowds, partly about the Americans who voted for Donald Trump – who, he baldly claimed, were simply “mad”. “People are weak,” he wrote. “They are susceptible. They are easily manipulated through their fears. They long to prostrate themselves. They can be led by the nose into the gutter. The angels of their better natures, if they’ve ever given a moment’s thought to them, are a lot less powerful than the devils of their diabolical urges. They lie, they exploit, they seek distraction at any price from the monotony of existence.”
Back in 2016, it was briefly fashionable to feign interest in at least some of the places that voted for Brexit and Trump and argue that people with so-called progressive politics ought to think about their problems. But in some quarters, the “in” thing is now a sour, dismissive attitude to millions of people and their supposed complaints. The underlying worldview is simple: whatever the economic context, one part of society is seen as racist, stupid, nostalgic, and brimming with senseless emotion, while another is logical, enlightened and forward-thinking and, despite the fact that the era of alleged rationalism that has now been overturned brought us such disasters as the Iraq war and a huge economic crash, the modern nightmare boils down to the fact that the first group are suddenly in charge.
For some people at least, Brexit is now a pretext for simply standing back and smugly scoffing at the fate of the places where a majority of people voted for it. In a recent issue of the anti-Brexit newspaper the New European, one columnist articulated the basic argument: “The north-east and the Midlands voted for Brexit. Yes, I know they almost certainly did so unwittingly against their own economic interests, but democracy isn’t, ‘Get what you vote for, unless you’re wrong and then we’ll fudge it for you from there.’ I’m sorry that those areas will suffer, but such is the price of democracy.”
If this kind of thinking is your cup of tea, it now has intellectual underpinning. The Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker has just published Enlightenment Now, a doorstep-sized statement of the case for “reason, science, humanism and progress” against what he calls “progressophobia”. Among other things, Pinker believes that across the west and beyond, people are actually “getting healthier, richer, safer, and freer”, and that inequality “is not in itself a dimension of human wellbeing, and … should not be confused with unfairness or with poverty”.
He tends to represent the world either in graphs, or the kind of bromides that suggest someone glancing at the world from a speeding Prius, en route to a TED talk. “The old stereotype of poverty was an emaciated pauper in rags,” he writes. “Today, the poor are likely to be as overweight as their employers, and dressed in the same fleece, sneakers and jeans.” He rejoices that people on low incomes have such basics as electricity, running water and colour TVs – “a century and a half before, the Rothschilds, Astors and Vanderbilts had none of these things”. The punchline: “The rich have gotten richer, but their lives haven’t gotten that much better.”
It might all suggest nothing more harmful than a supposedly clever person managing to sound stupid – were it not for the way that it so snugly fits its time. By implication, the allegedly disadvantaged people who voted for Brexit and Trump are actually not that disadvantaged at all, and Pinker suggests the reasons they rallied to populism can be placed squarely in the realm of emotional prejudice and resistance to “progress”.
Pinker’s book evokes the same liberal misanthropy now swirling around Brexit. “Most voters are ignorant not just of current policy options, but basic facts,” he says. And woe betide anyone who publicly questions the idea that progress is continuing apace, and no fundamental rethinks are required. “I believe that the media and intelligentsia were complicit in populists’ depiction of modern western nations as so unjust and dysfunctional that nothing short of a radical lurch could improve them,” he says, seemingly ignoring the fact that 10 years after the crash there is still rather a lot of injustice and dysfunction around.
Do we have to go through all this again? Referendums are almost always silly and dangerous things, but we had one, and nearly three-quarters of the electorate took part in it. Just about all of us – remainers included – cast our votes at least partly on the basis of gut instinct, tribal affinities, and beliefs only partly rooted in undeniable truth.
As with the coalition that elected Trump, a lot of the people who still staunchly support leaving the EU are comfortably off. Some are undoubtedly fired by bigotry. But many defy such easy stereotypes. A lot of them live in places to which politicians have not paid any meaningful attention in decades, where people have suffered nearly eight years of austerity – and, thanks to the deindustrialisation callously let loose in the 1980s, issues around immigration have become tangled up in a dire lack of homes, dependable jobs and basic opportunities. It may fly in the face of the boundless optimism proffered by Pinker, but in a lot of these places, in terms of basic security and a collective belief in the future, life was probably better 40 or 50 years ago.
In Britain and elsewhere, the liberal left has still not found the language to speak to that sense of loss. Even now, a lot of the people who feel it see Brexit as the better of two options: the continuation of the way things were before, or a chance to at least upturn the tables, bring decision-making much closer to home and somehow start again. This is not to dispute that Brexit is a bad idea, or that the people who have taken charge of the process are inept beyond words. But if you reduce the reasons why so many people voted for it to mass prejudice and stupidity, you are guilty of the same transgression the liberal misanthropes wail about: the denial of fact.
More should be said when there is time about this Pinkerite cod science complacency being heavily promoted at present, which is nothing but a reworking of the “all’s for the best in the best of all possible worlds” philosophical idiocy once mocked in the novel Candide, only this time with graphs, alleging some “steady progress” in the world.
Apart from failing to mention that the greatest part of all its celebrated “progress and poverty reduction” has come from the great revolutionary advances in the world (and notably the Chinese workers state, both internally and in its trade with Africa and Latin America etc) this ponderous pontificating smugness is totally blind to the gigantic contradictions which are about to rip the world open.
Try telling the Middle East how there is “less killing than there used to be” and anyway, count the numbers only once the great nuclear arsenals, now being renewed, have all been dismantled.
Only revolution can do that.
None of the “lefts” offers any such perspective.
Nor do they even give the working class any clear view of the disastrous weaknesses of the ruling class.
One of the clearest expressions of that is the panic that the more rational sections of the British bourgeoisie have been thrown into on the Irish border question.
The gung-ho insistence of the Brexiters on “taking control” and particularly on immigration, obviously demands a hard border, and it is impossible to exclude the British economy from the European Union regulatory system, court system and customs union etc, without one; the defeat of the British ruling class at the hands of the IRA/Sinn Féin struggle over thirty years of national-liberation war in “Northern Ireland” equally and oppositely says there cannot be one.
It took years of prevaricating negotiations for the British finally to agree the snail’s pace withdrawal from “Northern Ireland” (the ripped-out colonist-dominated and undemocratic enclave established at bayonet point in 1921 to stymie the full independence of Ireland, overwhelmingly voted for (democratically), which was embodied in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 (and its 2006 coda, critically transferring policing and security oversight responsibilities to the agreed joint republican/colonist government in Stormont).
Consolidation of the GFA over 20 years, with increasing cross border cooperation with Dublin at multiple local and intergovernmental levels with Westminster, an increasingly dense network of cross-border institutions, and free unchecked transit (an invisible border), is part of a long slow process of eventual re-unification for Ireland, as was tacitly understood to be the case by all sides (going as far back as the original Anglo-Irish agreement signed by Thatcher in 1985) and as is given political form by the increasingly significant Sinn Féin cross-border political presence.
It was always an agreed part of the compromise peace process that the reality of a defeat for imperialism by an armed nationalist revolutionary movement should not be emphasised, giving the ruling class a chance to save face and to avoid delivering too many lessons to the working class of the revolutionary realities of the struggle (as was the obfuscating pattern elsewhere too in the British Empire, as it was forced out by the post-war wave of liberation struggles, presented as magnanimously “granting independence”).
All but the most bigoted and backward reactionaries, still smarting from this humiliation for British imperial dominance recognise that this is an irreversible process - only the endlessly awkward diehard Orange colonists in the Democratic Unionist Party and the most empire minded of the British ruling class (such as the quoted Michael Gove opinion below) still hankering after reversing it.
It is a reflection of the backwardness and reactionariness of the Brexit chauvinism - and the weakness of the split and divided ruling class held hostage by the small number of DUP MPs it relies on to keep its government in place - that this fascist minded bigotry, which ran the vilest of death squad suppression, torture and ethnic cleansing levels of intercommunal violence and intimidation, should now feel encouraged to try and turn the clock back on the agreements, even floating the slyly disingenuous idea that the GFA “has run its course”.
But to do so would guarantee eventually a return to the bitter conflicts of the “Troubles” as everyone knows, which is not wanted by the great majority in Ireland or Britain, including most of the ordinary “protestant” colonists themselves who have become used to the peace and relative normality of the last two decades.
Nor is it wanted by the international bourgeoisie, which spent decades pressuring and cajoling the British to get the festering mess of “Northern Ireland” off the agenda, aware of the damage it was doing to the “freedom” pretences of the entire bourgeois international order (albeit also seeing a chance to gain diplomatic advantage over a rival).
It would also be impossibly expensive in financial, military, and social terms; demanding massive resources and a military presence to be reestablished, so much so that not only has half the British establishment felt obliged to denounce the ideas but the American ruling class has intervened, sending Senator George Mitchell over, the man who mediated the original GFA.
The seriousness is hinted in various bourgeois press pieces:
In 1923 the border was still provisional. The UK government had appointed a boundary commission that would decide its final course after reading submissions of evidence from the two sides. My “handbook” is really a compilation of the Dublin government’s case, which very roughly was that any partition at all was a bad idea (“calamitous in practice”), but that its more glaring injustices could be corrected “by restoring the maximum number of unwilling citizens to the government of their choice”.
What this meant was drawing the boundaries of the new northern state more tightly, to exclude Catholic-majority areas such as Derry City and the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone. Many tables and charts support Dublin’s case in statistical detail; scholarly analogies are made with the boundary set between Germany and Poland in Upper Silesia, and the “mixed population” of Transylvania. But the boundary commission paid no notice to any of this evidence, and in 1925 simply confirmed the border as it already existed – in the handbook’s words, “an arbitrary line in a small country clearly marked for unity by the sea”.
For the next 70-odd years, the sea was no match for the roar of political and religious identities. And then, in 1998, came the Belfast or Good Friday agreement, a multilayered and subtle set of documents that mandated a power-sharing government for Northern Ireland, and, as an international agreement, redefined the triangular relationship between Belfast, Dublin and London. Thanks to it, the border was minimised as a contentious physical and psychological presence in Irish life. The army’s watchtowers and the queues of lorries at frontier posts disappeared. Now only the keenest-eyed travellers know when they have left one country for another.
The agreement was popular. Separate referendums in the Republic and Northern Ireland endorsed its implementation by votes of 94% and 71% respectively, and last year the United Kingdom agreed with the European Union that it would protect all the agreement’s provisions after Brexit. We all know the difficulty here. Maintaining a “frictionless” border means that the UK must keep its regulations fully aligned to those of the internal market and the customs union, which seems impossible unless the British government modifies its stated ambition to leave both. Or unless the credibility of the Good Friday agreement can be undermined to the point where it needs revision and replacement.
In this context, last week’s attack on the agreement by a trio of Brexiteers is a development worth unpicking. On 15 February, the Irish historian Ruth Dudley Edwards wrote a Daily Telegraph article on the 13-month impasse at Stormont that concluded: “Realists believe the [deal] has served its purpose and run its course, leaving behind the unintended consequence of enshrining sectarianism in the political process.”
The following day the Tory MP Owen Paterson, a former Northern Ireland secretary, tweeted a link to the piece with a comment: “The collapse of power-sharing in Northern Ireland shows the Good Friday agreement has outlived its use.” Last Saturday the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan wrote, again in the Telegraph, that the agreement was “often spoken about in quasi-religious terms … but its flaws have become clearer over time”. Finally, two days later, the Labour MP Kate Hoey told the Huffington Post that she thought the agreement needed “a cold, rational look”, and that the power-sharing Northern Ireland executive it mandated was “not sustainable in the long term”.
The condemnation of Paterson, Hannan and Hoey has been fierce: this week Hoey told the Northern Ireland affairs select committee that finding fault with the Good Friday agreement was “as if you’re saying you want to kill all babies at birth”. In their defence, all three could argue their criticism was directed at Stormont’s failure rather than the agreement’s international aspects, such as cross-border trade and cooperation. But their long-held position on Brexit – Hannan was one of its chief architects – suggests a different motive: “If the Belfast agreement must die so that the glorious ideal of Brexit may live, so be it,” to quote Fintan O’Toole in today’s Irish Times about this “cynical and reckless” exercise.
Where did I pay my 30p for the Handbook to the Ulster Question? I think in Belfast in the early 1970s: a secondhand shop somewhere near City Hall. The owner, on hearing the thud of a distant IRA bomb, said nonchalantly, “Oh, I thought it was time we had one of those today.” There were many old books on theology; helmeted British soldiers in the streets; rain.
Many people fear that a revival of a hard border and the abandonment of the Good Friday agreement will mean a return to those days. Enemies of the agreement, who include members of the Democratic Unionist party, describe this as moral blackmail; others (including O’Toole) think that 20 years of relative peace may at last have broken the link between political failure and blood on the streets. But say the worst happened – would the British army return to enforce the law? Would its soldiers be willing to risk life and limb knowing it was the perversity and vanity of their politicians that had put them there – a final British misadventure? There would be no stomach for it.
The culmination of the referendum campaign was the BBC’s live Great Debate from Wembley on the evening of 21 June 2016. It lasted for two hours. After an hour and a half, someone finally raised the question of Britain’s obligations under the Belfast Agreement of 1998 (often called the Good Friday Agreement) that brought an end to the longest and most vicious internal conflict in the history of the United Kingdom. Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, spoke passionately in a tone of pleading desperation: “Many trade unionists in Britain and Ireland worked together for many years to support the peace process in Northern Ireland and it took a lot of hard work. And we’ve supported the Good Friday Agreement ever since … The Irish prime minister has said that if we come out of the EU, there will have to be border controls and, let me tell you, the way that is seen in Belfast and Derry, I worry for our future.”
It fell to Boris Johnson to reply to O’Grady on behalf of the Leave campaign. “I remember vividly,” he said, “when the EU was given the task of trying to sort out the tragedy in the Balkans…” For those who had suspected that, for most of the Brexiters, Ireland might as well be Montenegro, here was literal confirmation. Johnson spoke for two minutes. He did not address O’Grady’s point at all. He did not manage even the most facile of clichés about the Belfast Agreement or the benefits of peace. He did, admittedly, raise the question of violence on the streets: “I do worry about our security on the streets of this city.” This city was, of course, London. The UK cities that O’Grady had mentioned – Belfast and Derry – were neither here nor there.
Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they are very much “there” – a foreign place barely glimpsed even in peripheral vision. Johnson has been utterly consistent in this. In his big Brexit speech earlier this month, delivered as foreign secretary, he said about the Belfast Agreement exactly what he said in June 2016: not a word. There is some irony in the way he has implicitly adopted the great vernacular slogan of people in Northern Ireland during the Troubles: whatever you say, say nothing.
The consequences of Brexit for the Belfast Agreement have always been, for the most ardent Leavers, the thing that must not be seen or spoken. And in the way of such things, the whole Brexit process has been haunted by the return of the repressed. The EU has refused to pretend that there is no Irish problem. It has not gone along with the British government’s airy assurances that “there will be no return to the borders of the past” on the island of Ireland because everything is going to be frictionless, seamless and marvellous. The EU insisted, in the first phase of negotiations, on turning these airy assurances into solid commitments.
This week, Brussels will publish its draft withdrawal agreement, a legally binding text under which the UK will, in effect, commit itself to keeping Northern Ireland in the single market and customs union, unless a future free trade deal or a magical technological solution manages somehow to avoid a hard border. It will also bind both parties to recognising in all negotiations the “paramount importance”, as Theresa May wrote in her Article 50 letter, of the Belfast Agreement.
This has enormous repercussions. The sleeping beauties on the Tory right, for whom ignorance of Ireland was Brexit bliss, are finally waking up to these implications. A fog of denial and self-delusion is beginning to clear and they can at last see what should have been obvious all along: you can have a hard Brexit or you can have the Belfast Agreement but you can’t have both. And it is increasingly clear which choice they want Britain to make: throw the dead weight of the peace process overboard so that the Brexit balloon may soar into the blue skies of its triumphant future.
The Tory right has never been fond of the Belfast Agreement, even though it was John Major who (with considerable courage) prepared the way for it by explicitly removing any British claim over Northern Ireland other than the democratic wishes of its people. In The Price of Peace, Michael Gove’s pamphlet for the rightwing Centre for Policy Studies, published in 2000, he characterised the entire peace process as nothing more than a capitulation to the IRA which he likened to the appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s. But this hostility lapsed over time into mere indifference – until, very late in the day, Brexit’s true believers began to understand that they have an Irish problem.
Hence, as the EU prepares to publish its draft legal text, what seems like a concerted campaign to clear the greatest moral and political obstacle from the path to Brexit glory. The Belfast Agreement must be made not to matter. The failure of attempts to re-establish a power-sharing executive in Belfast opens up the opportunity to say that the whole 1998 deal is no longer worth bothering about.
And so the former Northern Ireland secretary, Owen Paterson, tweeted that “The collapse of power-sharing in Northern Ireland shows the Good Friday Agreement has outlived its use”. Labour’s staunchest Brexiter, Kate Hoey, follows up by declaring the agreement “unsustainable”. The leading Tory intellectual, Daniel Hannan, in his Daily Telegraph column, dismisses the agreement as nothing more than “a bribe to two sets of hardliners” in Northern Ireland. He claims, rather astonishingly, that it did not bring peace because Northern Ireland was already at peace: “The Belfast Agreement was a consequence, not a cause, of the end of terrorism.” And to crown the campaign, Jacob Rees-Mogg, also writing in the Telegraph, announces that this whole Irish business does not really exist – it is an “imaginary problem” caused by the Irish government.
The Belfast Agreement is not holy writ and the collapse of the power-sharing talks between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party does, indeed, point to the problematic nature of one part of it – the internal arrangements for the governance of Northern Ireland. If the context were less febrile, the 20th anniversary in April of the agreement would be an apt opportunity for a thoughtful review of those structures.
But let’s not kid ourselves. These attacks on the agreement are not coming from a sudden interest in the minutiae of devolved government in Montenegro – sorry, Northern Ireland. They are all about Brexit. The real subject here is not a deal made in Belfast in 1998. It is the deal Theresa May signed in Brussels in December to conclude the first phase of the divorce negotiations. Bizarre as it may seem, many of the leading Brexiters seem not to have understood that deal or the radical implications of the commitments May made in it, commitments that, she concurred, “must be upheld in all circumstances, irrespective of the nature of any future agreement between the European Union and United Kingdom”.
It is worth recalling that when May did this deal in December, the first instinct of the Brexiters was to characterise all the language in it about Ireland as just more meaningless verbiage to stop the Irish from whining on. The Brexit secretary David Davis told Andrew Marr: “This was a statement of intent more than anything else. Much more … than it was a legally enforceable thing.” This was entirely untrue – as we will see this week, the deal will be turned into a legally binding text – and Davis quickly reversed himself and claimed to have been misunderstood. But his claim revealed a deeper mindset: an inability to grasp the underlying reality that the Belfast Agreement sets very tight limits on the UK’s final arrangements with the EU.
The problem for the Brexiters is that, in December, May signed up to two different things, apparently without grasping the connection between them. The first of these is that the Belfast Agreement effectively demands that there be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Thus, whatever else happens – even if there is an ultra-hard, no-deal Brexit – the British will “maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support North-South co-operation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement”.
This is a big commitment in itself, but it could be implemented in a way that had relatively little impact on post-Brexit Britain by, for example, creating customs borders between the two islands of Britain and Ireland rather than within Ireland. Except that this kind of arrangement is anathema to the DUP, on whom May depends for her Commons majority. So, in desperate need of a deal, she also gave the DUP what it wanted: an equal commitment that there will be “no new regulatory barriers” between Northern Ireland and Britain. The mathematics of this are quite simple. Northern Ireland has to remain fully aligned with the Republic, which is to say with the customs union and single market. Britain has to remain aligned to Northern Ireland. So Britain has to remain aligned to the customs union and single market. Exit hard Brexit pursued by the Belfast Agreement.
One way to deal with this is heroic denial. The Brexit minister Robin Walker told MPs on Thursday that the text agreed in December “is not talking about full alignment” – even though “full alignment” is exactly what it says. The other is to dig out the root of the whole problem, the Belfast Agreement itself. In a sense, this is the more honest approach, not least because it implicitly acknowledges that the driving force in Brexit is a specifically English nationalism for which the rest of the UK is ultimately dispensible.
But even then there is a problem for the zealots. Their whole vision of a glorious post-Brexit future is based on Britain’s ability to do great trade deals and be a trusted partner on the world stage. Yet to get there they now have to start by tearing up two of the most important international deals Britain has signed in its recent history, both of them legally binding. They have to renege on the pact May signed in December, that placed the Belfast Agreement at the centre of the Brexit process. And they have to pull out of the agreement – which, contrary to what they seem to believe, is not an internal British deal but a binding international treaty between two sovereign governments registered with the United Nations and effectively underpinned by both the United States and the EU.
They would have Britain stand before the world, knee-deep in shredded treaties, and say, “Sign here, trust us!” One can but wish them the best of British luck with that one.
The former American senator who brokered peace in Northern Ireland has warned there could be “serious trouble ahead” if border checks were reinstated because of Brexit.
George Mitchell, who worked with Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern to strike the peace deal in 1998, said he did not think a return to violence was inevitable in the region. But he said “the risk is high enough” for politicians to take action before any “regressive” forces in society resurge. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the greater danger was the “change in attitude” between communities that had been in conflict or had lived with physical or social barriers in the past.
“When there was a hard border, there was very little commerce, there was very little interaction between the people of Northern Ireland and the people of the Republic, and that led to stereotyping, to the demonisation of others, to attitudes that were based upon acts from the distant past,” he said.
“The open border has meant people travelling back and forth, a degree of social interaction, of commerce, of people working together. If you reinstate a hard border, you go back to the delays when stereotyping resumes, demonisation resumes, and people turn inward as opposed to outward, and they lose the benefits that come from open borders.”
He said: “Yes, there could be serious trouble ahead. No society is immune from the regressive forces that are part of every problem.”
Mitchell said peace was a fragile thing and that it would take years to make the changes in attitude between communities become a way of normal life.
He also raised concerns about the deadlock over resumption of power-sharing in the Northern Ireland. “What is most difficult to change in conflict societies is what is in the minds and hearts of people, that’s what’s hard, that’s what takes a long time to change, and that change is not completed in Northern Ireland,” he said.
The collapse of the devolved government 13 months ago, combined with uncertainty over the border, made the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement, this year, “seem hollow”.
As chairman of the Northern Ireland peace talks, Mitchell worked to bring all sides together with the support of the premiers in Ireland and Britain, Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair.
The detachment of the Brexiters from the consequences of their jingoism mentioned in the (middle) O’Toole piece, suggests a ruling class that has begun to lose its marbles, a phenomenon noted throughout history at the point where the crisis has made its existence untenable, from the God-appointed delusions of “absolute monarch” Charles I in the Cromwellian English bourgeois revolution and the (supposed) Marie Antoinette-isms of the French, to the ramblings of the Russian Tsar in 1917.
But the inability of the left to see this weakness or make any kind of concrete assessment of the revolutionary realities remains the major obstacle to working class.
Nothing illustrates this better than the continuing insistence, even in the teeth of this ruling class border panic, that the GFA represented a “defeat” for the Irish national-liberation struggle and a “sellout” by the Sinn Féin. Here’s some of the latest poison in the Weekly Worker rag, its sour defeatism poured out under cover of merely citing mysterious unspecified “commentators and republican critics” and self-declared “revolutionary republicans” (to imply other views to be a “sellout”) and all buried beneath a dense academicism that is virtually unreadable:
Questioning the current impasse is not, however, confined to Tory Brexiteers and their fellow-travellers on the Labour right. Republican critics of the Provisional leadership have their own take on the political stalemate, arguing that it shows that the whole Provisional project - so closely identified with Gerry Adams since the late 1970s - has been a complete failure.
This hiatus in the forward march of Provisional Sinn Féin all seems a long way from the bright strategic vision for a “new terrain of struggle” outlined by Gerry Adams following the Good Friday agreement in 1998.
It is also a long way from the commitments made by Adams and his comrades, as they consolidated their leadership over the Provisional movement in the 1980s......
Thus it became commonplace amongst both commentators and republican critics in the late 1990s and 2000s to describe the Provisionals as ‘New Sinn Féin’, drawing a comparison between their abandonment of core principles and a newfound emphasis on spin, and Tony Blair’s revisionist ‘New Labour’ project in Britain.
A common strand in dissident critiques was the idea that the Provisional movement had gone from being the vanguard of the historic struggle for an independent, 32-county republic to a counter-revolutionary barrier protecting the British presence in Ireland. The 32 County Sovereignty Movement, for example, declared that “British strategy has now reached its pinnacle ... with a Provisional Sinn Féin leader ... as a minister of the British crown, calling IRA volunteers ‘traitors’.” Meanwhile other republicans accused McGuinness, now the deputy first minister, of prostituting “every republican cause that has been adopted since ... 1798” and turning his back on “anything to do with a united Ireland”.
The astonishing depth of hostility in these statements not only revealed the gulf between former comrades, but also suggested a weary disenchantment and a sense of terminus: for revolutionary republicans, Adams and McGuinness had long since passed over into the enemy camp.
Whilst many traditional republicans saw this transformation as the result of an individual betrayal by Gerry Adams or the inevitable consequence of electoral politics, these tropes do not really explain the counterrevolutionary trajectory of the Provisionals. In part these developments were underpinned by the radically altered political and social terrain that was emerging in Northern Ireland during the 1980s and 90s.The most significant feature of this new landscape was the changing relationship between the nationalist community and the British state, which would ultimately prove decisive in shaping republican politics through the institutionalisation and incorporation of Provisionalism into the status quo in Northern Ireland.
From the 1970s a series of British political initiatives, such as the Sunningdale (1973) and Anglo-Irish (1985) agreements, were designed to counter a perceived nationalist alienation from authority, undermine support for militant republicanism and bolster constitutional politics.
However, if these political initiatives had a limited immediate impact, it was the state’s deployment of the ‘economic instrument’ - the ‘economic and social war against violence’- that was to have much wider and largely unforeseen long-term political and social implications, especially for the nationalist population.
The net effect was that social and economic change in the 1980s and 90s - both independent of and mediated through the state - was combined with British state strategy to reshape the terrain on which republican politics were conducted.
One significant and widely-noted result of these changes was the development of a new, nationalist middle class employed in the public sector, alongside the emergence of a new layer of nationalist business and social entrepreneurs.
It takes an extraordinary bending of reality to describe concessions won from imperialism – reforms – as being an economic instrument “weapon” or to declare the across the board sweeping victory of the Sinn Féin in the last election, completely wiping out the SDLP representation, as a failure.
Well might this piece declare an
“astonishing depth of hostility in these statements”
but not from its alleged “real republicans”; from its own foul crypto-Trotskyist defeatism.
The reality in Ireland is that the total ethnic suppression of the republicans and the “No surrender” stridency of the Orange colonialists is long gone and it is long gone because of the defeat of the colonialists and British imperialism.
If that were not the case all this agonising over the reimposition of a border would not be happening at all; in fact there would still be a “hard border”.
But in fact all sides, and even the bigoted DUPers have been falling over themselves to make clear that “oh no, there is no intention of establishing a hard border” and as soon as a few of the more off-the-wall nutters hinted at ignoring the GFA the Americans suddenly popped up to warn the British ruling class against making any stupid moves to jeopardise it. And that was not just any old American but the one at the heart of years of painstaking negotiations to withdraw.
As for the Sinn Féin now using “constitutional” means that is because it has won the capacity to do so, and as the quoted Michael Gove comments above make clear, (still sour and smarting from it) the entire British establishment understands that.
Why ever would there be an insistence of doing things the hard way - costing lives and pain – and in fact almost certainly counter-productively inflaming hatreds and divisions when the British retreat includes making available more straightforward mechanisms?
Offering the olive branch to the majority colonist population is not done out of defeat, it is done from strength and the confidence to carry the entire population forwards.
This fake-“left” defeatism is in line not with the working class but with the bitterness of the ruling class which itself does not want to admit its own defeat.
Sinn Féin and the republican movement are nationalists not Marxists and have their own flaws, not least ironically in joining in on occasions with the “condemnation of terror” that puts all the fake-“lefts” on the wrong side in the oncoming world war.
For example in 2004 the EPSR was obliged to criticise it over the Madrid bombings (EPSR 1224 16-03-04):
It remains the most outstanding political party of anti-imperialist achievement in the entire Western world, but it has no answer at all to the far more complex socialist revolutionary challenge facing Western civilisation as a whole.
Worse than that, Sinn Féin has no allegiance whatever to building a party of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory, and becomes a bad role model at that point of future development.
And those weaknesses have already been showing for years, joining bourgeois confusion in the imperialist countries on a number of international issues, and missing the point and the opportunity for giving an even more severe kicking to the West’s counter-revolutionary skulduggery.
SF has just repeated the error, leaping in to “condemn” the Madrid bombings as “an appalling act” and “an atrocity”, — compounding the shallow opportunist nonsense Sinn Féin slipped into over Sept 11.
On top of all that, the SF role model for revolutionary socialist political struggle in Britain gets several crucial points completely wrong.
Firstly, without revolutionary theory for Britain, the socialist revolution will NEVER take place.
The reformist-’left’ pressure, advocated by the SLP and SF groupies, is WORSE THAN useless, utterly disarming the working class in Britain, and utterly disarming the international anti-imperialist struggle which can ONLY proceed by stepping things up towards TOTAL CONSCIOUS REVOLUTIONARY MARXIST struggle as rapidly as possible.
Secondly, the correct programme, strategy, and tactics, — the correct theory, — that Sinn Féin did have for its colossal anti-imperialist triumph in Ireland was STRICTLY LIMITED to a national liberation victory.
But national liberation and socialism are two totally different things entirely. In some specific historical circumstances, they have run on to each other. But they won’t be doing it out of the GFA. And they won’t be doing it in Ireland when Sinn Féin becomes the governing party there soon.
Capitalist “reformism” is all that is guaranteed, — such as has temporarily nearly killed off working-class struggle in Britain after 100 years of Labour/TUC class-collaborating lies and treachery in the interests of British imperialism and warmongering.
No, more is needed, — Sinn Féin inspired or otherwise.
Theory is what is primarily needed, — of INTERNATIONAL socialist revolution and the part Britain will have to play within that perspective.
The Labour movement, the Trots and the revisionists still refuse or fail to put any such perspective to the fore, despite the obvious discontent and frustration growing daily and which is clearly reaching explosive levels just beneath the surface.
Small wonder Stormzy's rapper-cry in the Brit Awards, demanding “where’s the money for Grenfell, Mrs May?” stirred so much sympathy and resonance because the existing politics is paralysed.
But anger and well-founded class resentment will remain incoherent, unfocused and inchoate without a clear revolutionary lead explaining that there is no other way to end these growing Slump burdens and the ever more depraved world warmongering except by all out revolutionary struggle.
A huge debate is required; beyond even the issues of the crisis Slump driving all the current events, there is a cascade of past confusions to be tackled, the legacy of decades of capitalist anti-communist brainwashing, distracting consumerism, and pop and celebrity shallowness, all mingled with the relentless defeatism and sourness of the fake-“left” and its retreats.
Almost none of the lefts are even willing to engage in the gigantic reassessments required (and inevitably erupting as the crisis bites ever deeper) let alone take a lead in stimulating the open polemical discussion and educating the working class by putting the revolutionary perspective at the top of the agenda in all the struggles and battles, as Lenin insisted was crucial in his seminal “What is to be Done?” (still crucial reading a century on) no matter how particular or “local” an issue might be (see quote EPSR box for example).
Their diversionary moralising on single-issue politics from anti-racism to feminist “anti-sexism” not only fails to tackle the deepest class conflicts in society but often even alienates and repels a working class condemned for the faults imposed by capitalist culture, leaving them open to the backwardness, chauvinism and scapegoating fostered by deliberately encouraged Nazi and fascist groups.
The need is for Leninist theory to be built now.
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