Book review by Anne Field
The Battle of Grangemouth – A Worker’s Story, written by former Ineos convenor Mark Lyon, is as “a vital new book”, “a book which had to be written”, and “one of the most important books in modern working-class history.”
That is what Unite claims in its advertising campaign for the book, published last week by Lawrence & Wishart in association with Unite itself.
In one of the multiple endorsements which preface the book Unite General Secretary candidate Len McCuskey describes Lyon as “one of our most respected activists”. By writing the book he has “done the movement another service”.
McCluskey’s Chief of Staff, Andrew Murray, is of the same opinion: “Mark Lyon’s credit rating is triple A. Through his part in the struggle (at Grangemouth), and then through this memoir, Mark has laid two stones on the highway to the future.”
Lyon finished writing “one of the most important books in modern working-class history” in January of 2016. Fourteen months were then allowed to pass before this “vital new book” saw the light of day.
But every cloud has a silver lining. By the purest of coincidences, the book’s publication conveniently falls just ten days before ballot papers go out in Unite’s General Secretary and Executive Council elections.
“Why don’t we start out on the story – and I will see you on the other side for your thoughts,” writes Lyon in the book’s Introduction. This invitation soon turns out to be as enticing as an offer by Charron the boatman to ferry the souls of the dead across the River Styx into Hades.
The book begins with a potted history of the Lyon family dating back to the beginning of the last century, reminisces of the author’s childhood, and self-congratulatory memories of his apprenticeship and earliest years of paid employment.
The tenor of Lyon’s autobiographical sketches is the usual ‘life was tough, but that didn’t stop us having a good laugh’: “Hardy folks with gallows humour were clearly the order of the day.”
The book concludes with more reminisces on the part of the author: his experiences as a guitar player and member of a band, his musical tastes, a visit to evening mass in his local church, and random half-thought-through comments about the Scottish referendum of 2014 and the general election of 2015.
Unfortunately, what fills the gap between the opening and concluding sections of the book does little to enhance the style or content of Lyon’s literary endeavour.
The book is peppered with homespun homilies (“I think everyone should see Auschwitz at least once during their life”), useless titbits of information (“you can enjoy cherry vodka, fine beer and jazz in Krakow”), new paradigms of Scottishness (“Scottish is a condition and a philosophy; there is no automatic qualification by birth”) and some particularly excruciating turns of phrase:
“The only things missing were sackcloth, ashes and a pig’s bladder on the end of a stick as Tom tried to cajole and humour his master like a seventeenth-century court jester. … They may take our bicycles but they will never take our freedom! …”
“They had been smashed, wasted and destroyed and now lay prostrate and face-down in the street before the majesty and might of Unite the Union. … Even without reference to Old Moore’s Almanac, you can tell that the future is littered with certainties.”
A variety of themes run through the substance of Lyon’s literary endeavour. One of them is the contrast between Good People and Bad People. Good People are simply brilliant:
“As a contract welder I met some brilliant people … (Scottish Regional Secretary) Pat Rafferty and all the union sections were just brilliant … our brilliant members at Grangemouth … our brilliant Unite officer Scott Foley … individual Labour Party members were brilliant … it was brilliant for our members to know that Len was there beside us … Thompsons Solicitors have been brilliant … Canon Leo is the most brilliant man you could meet … we were given brilliant support.”
That’s a lot of brilliance. And things “fantastic” and “magnificent” do not lag far behind:
“Our fantastic political department … the response from our branch was nothing short of magnificent … it was a fantastic response from our members … our branch was simply magnificent … our magnificent branch members.” Read the rest of this entry »
These are all genuine:
By Dale Street
Last week turned out to be a particularly busy one for the flag-waving puddle-drinkers* who wallow in self-righteous denunciations of any slight – real or, more often than not, imagined –to the Holy Trinity of Scotland, the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon.
It began at the weekend with Sadiq Khan’s speech to the Scottish Labour Party conference: “There’s no difference between those who try to divide us on the basis of whether we’re English or Scottish and those who try to divide us on the basis of our background, race or religion.”
The statement had been preceded by references to “Brexit, the election of President Trump in the United States and the rise of right-wing populist and narrow nationalist parties around the world.”
It was followed by criticisms of “some in Scotland who try to define London as your enemy … They make out London is always working to undermine Scotland. That is not my London and it’s not Labour’s London.”
Denouncing the SNP as divisive and nationalist and part of a broader surge of right-wing populism touched a raw nerve. But what did a Black Muslim mayor of the biggest city in Britain, elected in the face of a campaign based on bigotry and division, know about such things anyway?
A lot of Khan’s critics seemed not to have even understood (or wanted to understand) what he actually said: “SNP equals Nazis is Labour’s new defence of Britain? Do you oppose all nation states then? … He just called 50% of Scots racists. Some understanding!”
Instead of speaking in Scotland, Khan was advised to concentrate on the problems he had created in London: “I just don’t know who the hell Sadiq Khan thinks he is. He has already got London into a Bengali slum. He needn’t start on Scotland. He needs to go.”
Needless to say, there was no sympathy for those who defended Khan’s comments: “Load of nonsense. You’re defending a libelling scumbag who has come to Scotland and lied, as did Corbyn.”
In fact, the publication of an article defending Khan on the Guardian’s website triggered a fresh round of breast-beating indignation among nationalists who – when not engaged in unending attempts to gag critically minded journalists – excel in extolling their toleration of dissent.
“Sadiq Khan was not wrong to compare Scottish nationalism to racism or religious intolerance, at least not entirely. Someone has to say it: the parallels are clear,” wrote Claire Heuchan, “as a black Scottish woman I too fear the politics of division. Zeal for national identity inevitably raises questions of who belongs and who is an outsider.”
Within 24 hours Heuchan had been hounded off Twitter by cybernat abuse: She was an African who had no right to discuss Scotland, she was not really Scottish, and the University of Stirling should sack her (even though she was a student, not an employee, at the university).
Running true to form, Wings Over Scotland, the ultimate form of Scottish-nationalist low life, took the lead in abusing Heuchan: “What an absolute galactic-class cuntwit.”
The news that Heuchan had quit Twitter was the signal for another round of abuse and denunciations – of Heuchan herself.
“More MSM Yoon propaganda. Unqualified nonsense. … Her piece was sanctimonious self-regarding claptrap from a Unionist shill. It got the reaction you were hoping for. … I’m sure some people did step over the mark, folk are angry, but this cry victim shit is unbelievable.”
“Woman who linked racism with Scottish nationalism quits Twitter over severe case of embarrassment/shame There ya go, fixed. … Her accusations were disgusting and her views should not have been published. … Someone writes an awful uninformed piece of clickbait, is asked questions, locks her account and runs away. Fake news.”
By Wednesday it had become clear that the publication of the piece by Heuchan was part of a sustained attack by the Guardian on the SNP and its leader. The proof was provided by that day’s cryptic crossword.
12 across: Ruling nationalist’s way to encourage progress. And right next to that, 14 across: Carmen is close to perfect for discriminating fellow. Answers: “Sturgeon” and “Racist”. This could not possibly be a coincidence!
“So the racist crossword is real. Let’s be clear about this: the Guardian is pure British establishment. They are an attack dog for the UK. … Why did you imply in your crossword that Nicola Sturgeon was a racist? Why are you stirring it up? Call yourselves liberal?”
“This is a deliberate slur on our elected First Minister. Guardian: like the rest, no respect for democracy. … This is no coincidence. I worked for a crossword compiler and they are checked for possible ‘unintended’ inferences. … Why is this a conspiracy theory? It’s fact, not a theory.”
Inevitably, the cryptic crossword was not only the trigger for a second referendum (“This is today’s Guardian crossword. Time for #indeyref2.”) but also the trigger for yet another boycott campaign:
“I have cancelled my subscription today. Final straw: your outrageous clues in today’s crossword. … The Guardian never coming into this house again. … That’s the last donation to their news operation from me.”
(By this point in the week the puddle-drinkers had become so obsessed with the non-existent accusation that the SNP equals racism or the Nazis – please, take your pick – that they failed to notice that the answer to 1 down, which ran into “Sturgeon”, was “Prevent”.)
The week – and what a week it had been – was rounded off with the chance for yet another display of joyous, civic nationalism, occasioned by the Scottish Tories’ conference in Glasgow. It was too good an opportunity to miss:
“Let’s be clear. The Tory MSPs and Mundell launded by Ruth Davidson are the English Tory fifth column in Scotland. ‘Scottish’ in name only. … Oliver Mundell is the sort of public speaker that makes you wish his father had embraced his homosexuality sooner.”
“Ruth Davidson should be hanging her head in shame to call herself Scottish. She is working against Scotland. There is a word for that! … Would be a lot better if Theresa May stayed in a nation that votes for her rather than come to lecture a nation that doesn’t vote for her.”
(Leaving aside the equating of voting patterns with nations, Theresa May has never actually stood for election in Scotland – a nation where the Tories are the second largest party in Parliament.)
Last week began with contrived self-righteous indignation at Sadiq Khan’s argument that Scottish nationalism was a divisive political force. (Although we all know: Scottish nationalism is not divisive; on the contrary, it is simply better than everyone else’s nationalism.)
The rest of the week was one long vindication of what he said.
Nige and Dougie in happier times
The slow-motion car crash and hilarious pantomime that is the disintegration of Ukip seems to have been brought about in part at least, because Nigel Farage wants a knighthood, or perhaps a peerage. But preferably a knighthood, because a peerage would mean having to give up his cushy and well-paid seat in the European Parliament.
That’s right: Our Nige, Man of the People, the Outsider, the Scourge of the Establishment, wants a knighthood or a seat in the Lords!
When Douglas Carswell mocked the great Rebel’s ambitions, suggesting he should instead be given an OBE for “services to headline writers”, Farage was beside himself and publicly warned that the party will collapse unless its sole MP is thrown out.
Farage raged that Carswell had “sought to split and divide Ukip in every way imaginable” since defecting from the Conservatives in 2014. Farage said the leaked online exchange showed Mr Carswell was “consumed with jealousy and a desire to hurt me” and urged Paul Nuttall to expel him from the party.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Farage said: “As a party, how can we let a man represent us in the House of Commons who actively and transparently seeks to damage us?
“I think there is little future for Ukip with him staying inside this party. The time for him to go is now.”
According toLord Pearson of Rannoch, Ukip’s former leader, initially tried to organise a peerage for Farage, backed by Ukip peer Lord Willoughby de Broke, last July in the wake of the EU referendum.
The plan were dropped when the pair realised Farage would have to resign as an MEP first before being allowed to accept a peerage.
Pearson then approached the Cabinet Office’s Parliamentary and political service honours committee about a knighthood for Mr Farage. It turned down the application at the end of July.
The peer then asked Carswell to approach Gavin Williamson, the Government’s chief whip, about appealing the decision to reject Farage’s application.
On December 30th Pearson emailed Carswell saying: “Dear Douglas, Could you let me know how your talk with Gavin Williamson went before Christmas? By phone if you prefer? Good wishes. Malcolm.”
Carswell replied the next morning on December 31 – the day the New Year’s honours were announced – saying: “As promised, I did speak to the government Chief Whip.
“Perhaps we might try angling to get Nigel an OBE next time round? For services to headline writers? An MBE, maybe?”
Pearson replied an hour later: “Dear Douglas, Let’s speak at your convenience. Ring me? Not sure an ‘Other Buggers’ Efforts’ quite hits the spot for Nige……..?! Malcolm”.
Farage said: “It could not be clearer that Douglas Carswell was negative in his response to the chief whip. He is consumed with jealousy and a desire to hurt both Ukip and me. What a sad figure he cuts.”
Pearson said the comments showed that it was “pretty clear [that Carswell] did not support” Farage’s knighthood.
He added: “It is true that I and others tried to get a knighthood for Nigel Farage and one way or another we failed, and we still think he should have one.
“I am not going to give up. I am going to go on and try to see whether we can get him a K in the Birthday honours in the summer.”
So much for the “radicalism” of Dulwich College educated ex-stockbroker Farage. Radicalism has a real meaning and tradition in politics and it couldn’t be further from Farage’s repackaged conservatism. So while we can all have a good laugh at Nige’s frustrated ambitions to join the aristocracy, our real job is to use this to drive a final nail into Ukip’s preposterous claim to represent the working class.
Andrew Coates nails the liars and fantasists of Socialist Worker:
Nothing to do with Brexit, says Socialist Worker Alternative News Factory.
Socialist Worker. 21.2.2017.
There’s no shortage of things to be angry about at the moment—especially when it comes to racism and attacks on Muslims and migrants.
It can be hard to keep track of the outrages committed by US president Donald Trump.
And in Britain many politicians think the vote to leave the European Union (EU) is an opportunity to attack migrants and end freedom of movement.
Yet Trump and Brexit are not the same thing—and we shouldn’t lump them together.
There are similarities between the two. They both happened because sections of working class people kicked back at mainstream politicians after decades of attack.
Some did swallow racist myths pushed from the top of society.
But there is a major difference. There could never be a progressive case for supporting Donald Trump—but there has always been a left wing and anti-racist case against the EU.
Socialist Worker campaigned to leave the EU because it has enforced austerity and locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty.
It’s not true that the main factor behind the Leave vote was racism against migrants—as polls keep showing.
It was a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politicians.
There’s an anti-establishment feeling in Britain that can be turned into resistance.
But to do that means connecting with people’s anger—not dismissing it as racist.
It is no doubt important to emphasise that Trump, who strongly backed Brexit, is not Brexit, nor indeed is he Paul Nuttall, nor was he present, like Nuttall at the Battle of Hastings.
Yet one suspects that the SWP are stung by the loud noises of celebration coming from the Trump camp, and far-rightists around the world, from Marine Le Pen onwards, at the British vote to Leave.
It would be interesting to see the data that shows that the main factor behind the Brexit was “a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politics.”
It would be also interesting to see a Marxist analysis of the ‘elite’, what class it is, and indeed what an ‘elite’ in the UK is.
It would be perhaps too much to expect an account of how leaving the EU, and attacking migrants’ rights (in the UK and, for UK citizens within continental Europe) and ending freedom of movement within its frontiers, is going bring borders down and help, “locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty”.
No doubt the “The EU’s Frontex border guards stop refugees entering Europe by land – forcing them to risk their lives at sea.” will disappear as the UK……. sets up its own border guards.
How Brexit was going to be part of the the fight against austerity by consolidating power in the hands of the right-wingers now in charge of the UK Sovereign state, opening up the way for future trade agreements with the pro-Brexit nationalist Trump, is one of those mysteries of the dialectic.
One that shouting that Trump is not Brexit, and an analysis based on “kicking back” at elites, is not going to unravel.
As for people’s reasons for the Leave vote.
This is a synthesis of many studies (Wikipedia).
On the day of the referendum Lord Ashcroft‘s polling team questioned 12,369 people who had completed voting. This poll produced data that showed that ‘Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.”
Lord Ashcroft’s election day poll of 12,369 voters also discovered that ‘One third (33%) [of leave voters] said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”’
Immediately prior to the referendum data from Ipsos-Mori showed that immigration/migration was the most cited issue when Britons were asked ‘What do you see as the most/other important issue facing Britain today?’ with 48% of respondents mentioning it when surveyed.
In the SWP’s Alternative News Factory the third who were plainly anti-migrant have vanished, nor any consideration that this may have been a reason, if not the principal one, for a Brexit vote.
Perhaps the writers for Socialist Worker were asleep when the torrent of anti-migrant propaganda was unleashed in the country.
Now, how exactly is the SWP going to relate to the “anti-establishment” demand that motivated the others that “decisions taken in the UK should be taken in the UK” by these people ‘angry at the elites’?
Oh dear: and she’s supposed to be a “straight” politician:
Brexit is our opportunity to reshape Britain
Trade Unionists Against the EU’s FAWZI IBRAHIM gives his take on what’s up for grabs during the government’s Brexit negotiations
BREXIT has opened up opportunities for workers to shape their future and the future of the UK.
Such opportunities are very rare. They come but once in a lifetime. The last time such an opportunity presented itself was at the end of World War II.
On that occasion, the people created the welfare state, the NHS, social housing and the public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy. This time, let’s aim even higher.
Never before had the British people given such a clear instruction to a government to pursue a specific course of action as they did on June 23 2016.
The government had no choice but to heed this unequivocal instruction to leave the EU, to leave in a clean break and not some half-way house, a fake Brexit in which we remain subservient to the EU’s core institutions including the single market and its equally neoliberal Customs Union.
With “Brexit means Brexit,” Theresa May made it plain that her government will carry out the settled will of the people.
The fact that she was officially on the Remain side during the campaign and had spoken of the threats to the economy of leaving the EU to a Goldman Sachs meeting of investors before the referendum is irrelevant; if anything, it’s a testament to the depth and maturity of British democracy. The 80 per cent vote in favour of triggering Article 50 by the end of March by our parliamentarians who only a few months previously voted Remain by the very same majority is another testament to the strength of our democracy and the power workers can exert. MPs and governments are not elected to fulfil their own desires or satisfy their personal foibles, but to carry out the instructions of the people that elected them.
The referendum vote was also an instruction to the leadership of all trade unions to accept the settled view of workers and move on from the referendum debate. Generally this has been the case as more and more trade unions ditch their attachment to the free movement of labour and embrace Brexit.
Although Labour accepted the decision to leave the EU and whipped its MPs to support invoking Article 50 by the end of March, it nonetheless joined forces with those who are demanding the government state its negotiating priorities. Such a demand is both disingenuous and dangerous. It is disingenuous because its real purpose is to derail our exit. It is dangerous because it weakens the hand of the government as it goes into negotiations with the EU. As any negotiator knows, the one thing you don’t do is give away your priorities and tactics in advance.
Nicola Sturgeon’s attempt to derail Brexit by her contention that “the Scottish people voted for Scotland to remain in the EU” is fatuous. The referendum was for Britain as a whole and not whether any individual nation within it wished to stay or leave the EU. Equally questionable is her contention that by voting for the UK to remain in the EU and having failed to convince the rest of the country to do the same, Scottish people would want to leave the UK and join the EU. If four of five friends on a night out decide to go to a restaurant and a fifth expressed a wish to go clubbing, it does not follow that the person who disagreed would wish to go to a night club had she been on her own, let alone leave her friends and go to the club by herself. So it is with the EU referendum.
If Sturgeon calls a referendum on Scottish independence on the basis of joining the EU, it may very well prove her undoing. By the time the issue arises in two or three years time, countries would be queuing to leave a fractured, crisis-ridden EU rather than new ones eager to join, unless, that is, the Scottish people want Edinburgh to be the Athens of the north in more than one sense.
The Brexit vote was a rejection of neoliberalism as embodied by the single market and its four freedoms of movement.
This is the spirit of 2016, as powerful and all embracing as the spirit of 1945, which if seized could enable us to transform our economy.
Any shilly-shallying, any wavering will leave space for anti-working class organisations to divide and divert. The trade unions are uniquely placed to define this transformation.
With their extensive knowledge and expertise, trade unions should debate and formulate the policies necessary to re-orientate the economy towards a post-capitalist future. It is not a question of changing governments; it is a question of re-building Britain whichever government happens to occupy Downing Street.
Letter in response to the above, sent to the Morning Star on December 29 2016:
On reading Fawzi Ibrahim’s paean to the May/Farage approach to Brexit (M Star December 29) I thought, for a moment, that this paper’s policy of wide-ranging debate had been extended to Daily Mail leader writers.
Here’s what Ibrahim called for:
“A clean break and not some half-way house”: ie leaving the single market, which Unite says would cost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
“Trade unions (must) ditch their attachment to free movement of labour and embrace Brexit”: ie unions must support tighter immigration controls – which, thankfully Unite and other progressive unions are resisting.
And here’s his attack on Corbyn’s Labour Party:
“Labour (was wrong in) demanding the government state its negotiating priorities … because it weakens the hand of the government”: ie full support to Theresa May in refusing parliamentary scrutiny!
But then I realised, this bizarre article couldn’t be written by someone from the Daily Mail, because that paper is realistic enough to understand that Brexit cannot, under any circumstances “re-orientate the economy towards a post capitalist future”! Only a delusional fantasist would expect that.
From Tendance Coates, but with my headline (above):
Ali’s Latest Wistful Musings….
Dead Centre; The Year in Shock with Tariq Ali.
Art Forum begins:
THE STUNNING RISE OF NATIONALISM, populism, and fundamentalism has roiled the world. It is tempting to imagine that we are witnessing just another rotation of political modernity’s cycle of progress and backlash. But we can situate the undoing of the demos in democracy’s longue durée while rejecting the false comfort of the idea that what’s happening is not new, that we’ve seen it all before. How did we get here? How did we create the conditions for Trump, for Brexit, for Mosul, for a daily sequence of devastating events, whether shootings or strikes? Is shock, that quintessentially modernist avant-garde strategy of instigating mass perceptual—and therefore political—change, somehow more prevalent than ever, albeit in radically transformed ways? Does shock, in fact, go hand in hand with apathy and desensitization?
Indeed, masses of perpetual longue durées is a must for the quintessentially modernist avant-garde demos.
In this roiled (I have no idea of what this means but it suggests rolling all over the place) piece the Sage of Islington replies with his musings on this rotational cycle.
Speaking of Brexit and Trump the veteran pundit, awake from a much needed twenty year doze, admits,
…what strikes me as unexpected is the speed with which this right-wing recrudescence has taken place. Suddenly, in every major European country, you have right-wing groups developing along anti-immigration lines, saying, “We’ve got too many foreigners in our country,” trying to unite voters around populist xenophobia.
On the wars and deaths that have led people fleeing from the conflicts in Iraq and Syriya he is clear where the blame lies.
Not with Assad at any rate….
we confront the fact that the US and its EU allies uprooted these populations in the first place. When you bomb Arab cities and Arab countries, reduce them to penury, destroy their social infrastructures, and effectively create a vacuum in which religious fundamentalists come to the fore, it is not surprising that millions of people want to run away.
Honesty compels him to admit,
We waged a left-wing campaign called Lexit, Left Exit from Europe, which was very small and had limited impact, but our position certainly did chime with the views of a number of people we talked to on the streets, etc., who said that the country was wrecked and that staying in the EU would prevent us from doing anything to fix it.
Brexit was far from the only recent instance in which far Left and Right have found unlikely common ground.
Apparently the real problem is what Ali (and nobody else) calls the “extreme centre”.
I wish I could say that I think the extreme center has been put on notice by the past year’s turmoil and by Trump’s election, that new prospects for the Left and for direct democracy have opened up in the wake of Corbyn’s and Sanders’s campaigns. Unfortunately, I can’t. In the 1960s and ’70s, there was a great deal of optimism. There were few victories, but the defeats weren’t of such a nature that we thought they were going to be permanent or semipermanent. We live in bad times, I feel—the worst through which I’ve ever lived. There was a ray of hope during the height of the Bolívarian experiment in South America, where Chávez’s incredibly moving idea to unite the continent against the empires was very heartening. His death and the dramatic drop in the price of oil have of course brought Venezuela to a dire state. While Ecuador and Bolivia are doing somewhat better, people feel that we are going to be defeated there. And then, with the economic changes that the United States wants in Cuba, one is wondering how long it will be before Cuba becomes a US brothel again. I hope that doesn’t happen. But if it does, I won’t be surprised…
Nothing would surprise Ali…
But thankfully Good News and Merry Cheer is on the way,
Given the state of the world, I’ve been revived somewhat by working on a new book for the centenary of the Russian Revolution next year, The Dilemmas of Lenin. Lenin was a visionary inspired by utopian dreams, a man of practical action and ruthless realism. Rereading him and related works has been a real treat, so much so that my dedication is actually quite optimistic. “For those who will come after: The road to the future can only be unlocked by the past.”
Alan Partridge could not have expressed these thoughts with such a deft touch.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Let Battle Commence!
The path to what’s coming starts from the beginning what went before
Barbara Speed at the i:
Other voices piped up, claiming that these reports from terrified Syrians, and the warning by UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon of possible “atrocities” taking place in Aleppo, and the Red Cross’s statement about a “deepening humanitarian catastrophe”, were mere propaganda. Footage circulated of Syrians celebrating in Aleppo at the impending government victory. Then there was the Morning Star, a socialist daily tabloid. Its front page declared the near-“liberation” of Aleppo this morning, while other publications raised the possibility that “massacres” were being committed there. (Social media was quick to pick up on the fact that when the Berlin wall fell, the paper ran with “GDR unveils reforms package” as its front page splash.)
By Liam Conway
The Brexit vote was “a bitter blow for the establishment, big business, the international financial institutions, the rich and the politicians” says Charlie Kimber, writing for International Socialism Journal.
This gives the impression, ″with minor exceptions″, that the ruling class was united in their support for remaining in the EU, which is clearly a fantasy. Cut through the pseudo sociology in Kimber’s analysis and you are left with two points. The leave vote was primarily a revolt against the establishment and was not dominated by racism or hostility to migrants. What evidence does Kimber give for either of these conclusions?
For the latter a little. For the former, none at all. Kimber quotes studies by professors and commentary by Labour politicians to justify the purely Kimber view that the leave vote was anti-establishment. Kimber writes that Professor Jennings of Southampton University found that “workers perceived politicians as arrogant, boorish, corrupt, creepy, devious, loathsome, lying, parasitical, pompous, shameful, sleazy, slippery, spineless, traitorous, weak and wet.” But how is this specifically related to the EU? Most of the sleeze that dominated the press was rooted in the British Parliament, not the European.
Kimber says that the Leave vote “was driven by such factors as the MPs’ expenses scandal, the decades-long sense that the political parties are now all the same, the widespread contempt for the ‘pillars of society’, the lies told to launch the Iraq war and the resentment that comes from sensing that a tiny group at the top of society are making millions while you’re suffering — and they are also laughing at you.”
But Kimber produces no evidence at all that the groups he cites as most likely to vote Leave — the poorest and least formally educated in society — did so because of class hostility to the elites in Britain. And even if the poorest of the poor were bitter and chaffing at the bit because of their mistreatment by the British establishment, why would they blame the EU? Dislocation Jennings’ study is nothing to do with the EU, it is about dislocation with British politics and politicians. Where is the sociological research that shows workers voted to leave because of ″lies told to launch the Iraq War″? This is just political wishful thinking to justify the line of the Socialist Workers′ Party (SWP).
Kimber re-states the three reasons for SWP support for leaving the EU. The EU is a ″capitalist club″. The EU is a racist fortress. The EU is part of the imperialist world order. What Kimber fails to do is explain how leaving the EU gets you out of the ″capitalist club″, undermines racism within Europe against EU nationals, or weakens the imperialist world order. Kimber accepts that racist incidents have risen since the referendum but there is no mention of EU nationals, such as Polish workers, seriously considering returning to their homelands because of increased racism after the referendum. Kimber tries to get around the clear rise in racism and anti-immigrant sentiment by banging on about the contradictory or uneven nature of working class consciousness, but he only succeeds in demonstrating the uneven nature of his own consciousness.
I suggest the SWP, and Kimber in particular, re-read the Communist Manifesto where they will find Karl waxing lyrical about the progressive, as well as the reactionary, nature of capitalism: “The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation.
“Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one customs-tariff.”
What response did Marx recommend for this tendency in capitalism to break down ″independent or loosely connected provinces (nations)”? Was it a reversal of the process? Not at all.
“This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes.”
Kimber replaces solidarity with the interests of the working class with pandering to the current consciousness (of some) on the EU.