Against Britain and Europe: The false choice of Brexit

Against Britain and Europe: The false choice of Brexit

Analysis of Brexit from an Anarcho-syndicalist, World Systems Analysis perspective arguing that both the EU and the British state must be opposed.

In 2016 the British public voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. Now the British state is clamoring to secure some kind of exit from the supranational institution. Theresa May's successive attempts at scoring a deal failed, one by one, eventually leading to her resignation as Prime Minister and the ascent of Boris Johnson to the office. Johnson has promised to carry out the exit by October 31st, even if it means not striking a deal with the EU over how to handle trade with Europe, protections of Brits living in other European countries, and the flow of goods through Britain from and to Europe.

Despite the nationalist and xenophobic bent to the leave vote leftists have taken to the leave campaign, arguing that it is a needed step in fighting neoliberal attacks by capital against labor and the environment. This conception of the EU as a mechanism of capital against social change goes back to the 60s when socialists believed that EU legislation would prevent nationalization of industry. Thus leftists have called for "Lexit", i.e. British exit from the EU on the basis of popular movements against neoliberal policy and for democracy and equality. For the British population who voted leave, the issue is two fold. Firstly, the EU as a bureaucratic institution, seemingly above the member states themselves, has fueled the sentiment that the EU is a barrier to national sovereignty. Second, tied to this conception of national sovereignty is the idea that the EU's authority will, is, or could force Britain to take in migrants and immigrants.

Thus the choice seems to be between Brexit for leftist, or reactionary reasons, or remaining in the EU for stability, economic, or social equality reasons. This choice is a false one. The reason on the part of the British ruling class for leaving is that EU imposed regulations that protect labor and the environment would no longer hold capital back from exploiting the former two. Yet the EU is not a mechanism that protects labor and the environment from capital, nor is it a mechanism of democracy.

The EU was created during the cold war as 1; a bulwark of states against the threat of the Soviet Union and 2; a pan-European institution for the development of the common accumulation of capital in the world economy. With the end of the Cold War the EU's function has turned fully to the latter, especially in the late 20th century when Europe's production of surplus value.1 severely declined. The EU being an institution of the capitalist world economy, as all political institutions are, has come to favor the core states that control the profitable industries, as a mechanism of control against the peripheral states which control the least profitable industries and thus have the weakest political and economic control (Germany's domination of the EU is well known, for example). It is thus a bureaucracy over the European working class that facilitates the exploitation of the former by capital. The EU even imposes austerity policies on it's member states.

Despite the EU's function as a bulwark over workers in favor of capital Lexit is not a meaningful path to positive social change. What Lexit seems to ignore, forget, or both, is that the British state is no less a bulwark over labor, for capital, than the EU. It's hard to believe that a former colonial power, which produced the leading figure of the neoliberal offensive against labor in Thatcher, and who's labor party has been controlled by the right for years, achieving autonomy against the EU will somehow lead to social justice.

Of coarse the desire for national autonomy is a farce. In the first place Britain is not one of the peripheral states that the EU exploits through loans. Nationalism, when all is said and done, is an ideological mechanism of legitimization for the capitalist state, itself the political unit of the capitalist world economy, itself based on the exploitation of labor by capital. Equally obvious is the fact that the demonisation of immigrants and migrants is based on the racist nationalist ideology that those who are not arbitrarily designated as "citizens" are fundamentally different than us and a threat to us.

The Brexit situation is fundamentally one of the interstate system of the capitalist world economy. The British state and the EU are doing and will do only what is in their interests as units of that world economy. Meanwhile the situation is further fueled by nationalist ideology, racism, and public alienation from the EU bureaucracy. There is no horse in this race for popular transformation of society towards democracy and equality. As an alternative to leaving, or staying, an international socialist movement should be built up on the European continent. This movement should be created through and facilitate the direct action of workers against the British State and the EU bureaucracy, and the capitalist world economy as a whole, in the interest of workers and oppressed peoples as a whole.

1. Surplus value is the mass of commodities produced by workers which are then extracted by capitalist firms to be sold on the market.

Bibliography:
https://truthout.org/articles/freeing-up-the-rich-to-exploit-the-poor-that-s-what-trump-and-brexit-are-about/
https://truthout.org/articles/brexit-is-not-the-holy-grail-its-supporters-are-imagining/
https://truthout.org/articles/will-brexit-destroy-the-uk-s-economy-an-interview-with-malcolm-sawyer/
https://lexit-network.org/appeal
On the Class Character of the European Communities/European Union: A Marxist Approach, Sakellaropoulos
World Systems Analysis: An Introduction, Wallerstein

Posted By

Ivysyn
Aug 21 2019 05:28

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  • This movement should be created through and facilitate the direct action of workers against the British State and the EU bureaucracy, and the capitalist world economy as a whole, in the interest of workers and oppressed peoples as a whole.

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Comments

darren p
Aug 21 2019 06:35

Brexit is an assault on immigrant labour, and something that is going to interfere with the family lives of thousands of people. "There is no horse in the race for the radical transformation of society" is true, but it is still something that represents an attack on freedom.

shug
Aug 21 2019 08:06

"it is still something that represents an attack on freedom". You haven't explained what this freedom is - or whose freedom you mean. Maybe the freedom of European workers to be exploited by British capital?

darren p
Aug 21 2019 08:39

The clue was in the first sentence.

Nymphalis Antiopa
Aug 21 2019 10:26
Quote:
Brexit is an assault on immigrant labour, and something that is going to interfere with the family lives of thousands of people.

True - it seems BJ is going to legalise a kind of Windrush expulsion of EU citizens (including those who were born in the UK and have or had one UK parent but who have not been naturalised) who are not apparently "qualified" enough - "qualified" being something a man of quality like him is in an excellent position to asess. And this may well be reciprocated by sections of the EU.
The problem with an article like this is that it only opposes the bullshit ideologies of both sides at an intellectual level without really looking at the practical effect Brexit (or Lexit or Anarchexi or Fascexit, etc.) will have.
You can oppose the principallly middle class ideology of "remainers" and oppose the frying pan or fire of Brexit v. Remain discourse without wishing the misery and chaos that will be heaped on those at the bottom of the hierarchy by Brexit. Many working class people treated like total shit voted for Brexit because keeping things as they are was no choice, but change that comes from "choices" above and exterior to one's own choices invariably is no choice at all other than a choice on how you're going to be shitted on. If there'd been a vote to remain all this chaos and misery would have been avoided, and opposing the misery of international capital and bureaucracy would probably have been clearer. It's like the choice between being exploited at work or of being kicked out of work. You don't have to support the first to be furious about and fearful of the second.

As for

Quote:
an international socialist movement should be built up on the European continent.

- what kind of internationalism is this that centres purely on Europe? This is aside from the bullshit use of the word" socialist", when virtually everyone (with very few exceptions) of any renown who called themselves "socialist" were total collaborators with capitalism."We are all socialists nowadays," said the future King Edward VII in 1895, which should have put people off the word ever since.

darren p
Aug 21 2019 10:36
Nymphalis Antiopa wrote:
The problem with an article like this is that it only opposes the bullshit ideologies of both sides at an intellectual level without really looking at the practical effect Brexit (or Lexit or Anarchexi or Fascexit, etc.) will have.

Yes. I think this has been the problem with most writing on this topic written from a revolutionary perspective.

shug
Aug 21 2019 11:24

Daren P. you say the clue to my question is in your first sentence : "Brexit is an assault on immigrant labour, and something that is going to interfere with the family lives of thousands of people." I was asking what 'freedom' and whose 'freedom' you're referring to. Workers in one part of the capitalist world being forced by material necessity to sell their labour power in another is freedom?

Spikymike
Aug 21 2019 12:10

Some consistency in arguing against the false democratic choices in the whole Referendum process and the Capitalist parliamentary process as a whole was important both before, and just as much after the Referendum results, in tackling the racist and anti-immigrant atmosphere resulting from the Brexit campaign.
Another view here:
http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2019-08-20/british-bosses-political-c...

R Totale
Aug 21 2019 12:58

Shug, just to clarify: are you saying this from a pure "plague on all their houses" standpoint, like that in the CWO article above and so on, or are you saying that it's a good thing if European workers are "protected" from being exploited in Britain, by being deported, kept out by border controls and so on?

zugzwang
Aug 21 2019 14:49
Quote:
1. Surplus value is the mass of commodities produced by workers which are then extracted by capitalist firms to be sold on the market.

The value of the mass of commodities does not consist only of surplus value. If that were the case then workers wouldn't be able to buy their means of subsistence, which is part of the value of the mass of commodities, or the variable capital. Additionally there's the value transferred from the constant capital etc.

Mike Harman
Aug 21 2019 20:37
shug wrote:
Daren P. you say the clue to my question is in your first sentence : "Brexit is an assault on immigrant labour, and something that is going to interfere with the family lives of thousands of people." I was asking what 'freedom' and whose 'freedom' you're referring to. Workers in one part of the capitalist world being forced by material necessity to sell their labour power in another is freedom?

There are 3 million people from EEA countries already in the UK, if they lose status, it makes them considerably easier to evict, deport, sack, deny NHS treatment to (and unemployment benefits, school places etc., it's a long list) than currently. Same would likely happen to UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU.

There are versions of Brexit where this is less likely, like full EEA membership outside the EU itself, and there are versions of remain where it could still theoretically happen - like 'temporary brakes' to freedom of movement, or renegotiation within the EU. However the idea that the only thing that moving around the EU does is lead to people being exploited - does the British ruling class not exploit British workers?

ajjohnstone
Aug 22 2019 09:43

Just to have a personal grumble, but I am losing actual money each and every month ever since Brexit referendum and my standard of living has significantly fallen.

Nor am I the only one. So much has the pound dropped in value that residency is now being jeopardized for a number of people here who no longer can meet the income requirements.

Knowing a couple of Brexiteers, they simply had no idea that voting leave would have consequences, but now they are passing the buck back to the EU blaming the protracted process of leaving as the cause of their situation.

Whatever troubles lie in the future, the Brexiteers still have their scapegoat...the EU but the only outlet for their anger will be those Europeans who live here.

fingers malone
Aug 22 2019 19:13

Govt is currently threatening to introduce NHS charges after 1st November for all EU citizens living here who haven't yet got settled status, which I think is 2 million people.

R Totale
Aug 24 2019 15:32

FWIW, the latest attempt at a Lexit statement is here: https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f/leave-fight-transform-founding...
At first glance, it still seems to be caught in the same trap that Lexit's always been stuck in: there's vague talk about wanting to "advance genuine internationalism", but they can't bring themselves to commit to anything specific about defending EU migrants. I can't see them winning over any internationalists who currently see remain as the lesser evil, or indeed are against both camps, if they can't make that kind of commitment and explain how they plan to leave without harming migrants; but on the other hand, I suppose if they did take an explicitly pro-migrant stance, they'd piss off the Baron Glasman/Paul Embery/Spiked wing of Lexit, and they don't seem willing to do that. So, round and round it goes.

jef costello
Aug 24 2019 19:25

Brexit is a direct attack on non-uk workers and will drop living standards for UK workers. So while we may be no fan of the EU, we can't support Brexit. LExit is just a version of the big nation imperialism argument used to support antiuonal liberation struggles, although there, at least, you get some pretence at the romance of struggle.

One problem with Johnson is that he is so full of hot air it is hard to actually know what he will do. He has already abandoned a commitment to reduce immigration, but that doesn't mean he won't do a whole lot of things, ranging from inconvenient to downright racist, to EU and other migrants just for fun.

baboon
Aug 25 2019 18:20

"Britain was far from being the only European country where the ruling class, whenever it could, blamed the effects of its attacks against its ‘own’ working population on ‘Brussels’. But in Britain, this ploy was used consistently over such a long time, with an intensity, and to a degree of hysteria, almost unparalleled anywhere else. Moreover, this policy reached a new crescendo at the beginning of the new century, when a number of Eastern European countries joined the European Union. Part of the deal accompanying their integration was that the already existing member states were allowed to restrict the influx of labour from the East during a transitional phase of up to eight years. The concern behind this was to ensure that the downward pressure on wages in Western Europe which the competition from the east on the labour market was going to exert could be phased in, in order to avoid a too-sudden exacerbation of social tensions. Only three countries renounced the use of this transitional mechanism: Sweden, Ireland and… the United Kingdom. In the case of the latter, the main motive was not hard to detect. Whole sectors of British industry were losing out to a German competition which was benefiting, among other things, from radically lowered wages thanks to the (in)famous ‘Agenda 2010’ austerity policy put in place there under the Social Democratic/Green government of Gerhard Schröder. In face of this, an enormous influx of cheap Eastern European labour was exactly what British capitalism needed in order to counteract this German offensive. And at the level of labour market policy, the measure was a complete success. Many workers in Britain lost their jobs, replaced by imported ‘EU citizens’ in a more or less desperate economic situation, and as such obliged to work more for less. Not only were the latter correspondingly ‘highly motivated’ (as the capitalist euphemism likes to put it), many of them were also highly qualified. This policy did not only help to lower real wages. It had a series of additional drastic consequences at the social level, best described under the term: capitalist anarchy. Almost no preparations had been made for such an influx of hundreds of thousands of new inhabitants. The already acute situation at the level of housing, health care and public services like transport and health, was brought to the brink of collapse. And this not only in the Greater London area, but also in regions which until then had been much less a destination of European Union labour migration. An example of the mood reigning at the time was the announcement by the National Health Service in the London area that it was contemplating ceasing to train nurses, since more than enough already trained ones from abroad were now pouring in."

A long quote from this article https://en.internationalism.org/content/16718/brexit-quagmire-all-factio... by the ICC shows the utter ruthlessness of the bourgeoisie in its drives for greater exploitation. One further issue raised by a "No-deal" is the likely repatriation of British ex-pats in their tens, if not hundreds of thousands. These will mostly be pensioners who need housing, public services and health care - they will be the eastern Europeans of tomorrow.

darren p
Aug 26 2019 11:36

The ICC article says this

Quote:
In face of this, an enormous influx of cheap Eastern European labour was exactly what British capitalism needed in order to counteract this German offensive. And at the level of labour market policy, the measure was a complete success. Many workers in Britain lost their jobs, replaced by imported ‘EU citizens’ in a more or less desperate economic situation, and as such obliged to work more for less.

Were any empirical sources used to make these claims, or was it just written because it seems 'obvious'? The claim that EU migration has had a negative effect on UK wages is debatable at best from the sources I have looked into..

baboon
Aug 26 2019 20:04

A recent Bank of England study over some 20 years showed little effect on wages overall but the biggest effect was on the lower paid, unskilled and semi-skilled workers, The bank estimated a 2% loss in wages to this group which is the biggest sector of the working class; There's no measurement by the bank of the monetary effects of the increased costs for housing and other public services which has adversely affected the working class due to the general lack of preparation by the bourgeoisie for such a sudden upheaval. The complete contempt for the working class here, both native and immigrant, is expressed in the drive for greater exploitation.

The highest paid "workers", those on 80 plus grand a year have benefited about a 3% rise in income from immigration according to the bank but this group includes judges, senior police and military figures. There's no mention of native self-employed workers in the report and this by no means insignificant sector of the working class has to be the one hit hardest financially one would think.

I think that you could make a case for saying that in certain historical circumstances immigration can boost wages and conditions overall - the working class has been a class immigrants and have dynamised and strengthened whole economies. But we're not talking about such conditions, rather nearly 20 years of austerity in Europe, a further descent into economic crisis and, in Britain, a relentless political campaign around Brexit and anti-Brexit, parliament and democracy.

ajjohnstone
Aug 26 2019 20:36

I'll give a personal anecdotal evidence for how much Eastern European workers were welcomed by at least myself.

On separate occasions I tried to get a plumber to fix central heating boiler and to plumb in a washing machine.

First finding one willing to do such small jobs was difficult and when the quotes were presented they were extortionate.

I ended up getting someone "on the side" from my work to do it...I do some extra overtime to pay him and he do the work instead of doing the overtime for more money, a fairly equitable arrangement

A few years later, the aristocrats of labour to coin a well known phrase were dropping their prices due to the newly arrived competition.

Surprise, surprise one of the most proponents of Brexit I know was a self-employed painter and decorator and his beef...they cut the prices he could previously could demand...and he expected me to feel sympathise. Once again the piddly little jobs were being sought

darren p
Aug 26 2019 20:56
baboon wrote:
A recent Bank of England study over some 20 years

I couldn't see, in that study, any reference to "Many workers in Britain lost their jobs, replaced by imported ‘EU citizens". Where did that bit come from?

darren p
Aug 26 2019 21:06
ajjohnstone wrote:
I'll give a personal anecdotal evidence

[insert facepalm here]

R Totale
Aug 29 2019 20:23

Any hot takes from anyone on the latest shenanigans?

baboon
Aug 30 2019 21:25

I should have said earlier that I agree with the article posted above on the phoney choice that's central to all capitalist elections and democratic circuses. Talking of which, the gilets jaunes movement contained a strong element of the ideology of 1789, there;s talk in Britain now of Charles II. The defence of capitalist democracy propels the working class backwards as individual citizens, a tendency which is opposed to its need for unification. There's already been such a cacophony from the left in Britain and calls from for protest, demonstrations and strikes in defence of parliament.

Spikymike
Aug 31 2019 10:18
Spikymike
Oct 10 2019 09:41

And the IWGB joins the legal fight trying to avert the 'no deal' moves as reported here:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49960647