Three impossible things before breakfast: some comments on the "Full Brexit" group

Three impossible things before breakfast: some comments on the "Full Brexit" group

The New Statesman recently carried a debate between Paul Mason and the “Full Brexit” group over the Brexit question. I agree with the “Full Brexiters” that there's no positive case socialists can make for the EU; however, I don't see the British state, which they seem to embrace as an alternative, as being any better. Examining their article, a few incongruities jump out:

Far-right anti-fascism and ISIS against jihadis

The Full Brexiters object to Mason's criticisms of the RMT's Eddie Dempsey, writing:

His piece was full of the usual McCarthyite tactic of guilt by association against those who oppose the EU. Mason’s attack on Eddie Dempsey, an anti-fascist trade unionist, was a classic example of this.

But what does anti-fascism actually mean? One way Dempsey has expressed his understanding of anti-fascism was through a glowing obituary of Alexei Mozgovoy, leader of the Prizrak (Ghost) Brigade in the Ukranian conflict. A few details were missing from his account: he mentions the Ghost Brigade raising red flags, but doesn't mention that they were also known to fly the flag of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's far-right LDPR, or the Amnesty International report documenting abuses by the group. One writer described Mozgovoy as believing that “Jews... are conspiring to divide up the Slavic people and make them slaves.”1 Another article, “‘The spectre’ of communism or Mozgovoy as Che Guevara for Tolkienists” offers further criticisms of Dempsey's myth-making obituary.

On another occasion, Gerry Downing of Socialist Fight publicly thanked Dempsey for his work defending a talk by Vanessa Beeley from protesters, writing that “Eddie Dempsey... kept the jihadists at bay”. Beeley's own far-right links have been documented at great length in numerous places; to offer one characteristic example, she's a great fan of Gearóid Ó Colmáin, and has given space on her own blog to a post defending him against claims of racism and fascism, as well as promoting his writing on the Gilets Jaunes. In that article, described by Beeley as “one of the better explanations of what is happening” he offers the somewhat unusual view that:

leftists are useful idiots of the oligarchy’s three key agendas:
1 Mass immigration and population replacement to turn human beings into capital.
2 The normalization of sexual perversion so as to break down the resistance capacities of the human individual.
3 Global warmingism which will provide the basis for a centralized global state apparatus controlling every aspect of our lives.
It’s the Cursed Trinity of the New World Order: Human capital is the Father, gender confusion is the Son and Co2 is the Diabolical Spirit.

More recently, O Colmáin has also written that:

If you stand with the working class, you are a fascist... I have often been accused of being a fascist. Henceforth, I will consider the appellation to be a compliment for which I am most unworthy! ...Like the Spanish Falangists... I believe that only a revival of traditional Roman Catholicism in Europe will save humanity from self-destruction.

Some people might see anti-fascism as meaning a struggle against the views of people like Beeley and O Colmáin; it's interesting to see that Dempsey's definition means defending them and providing them with space to spread their views.

Another twist to the tale is that Dempsey's comrade Gerry Downing, the one who thanked him for his work keeping the “jihadists” out, is the same person who was expelled by the Labour Party for his support of ISIS, and his belief that the 9/11 attacks were “progressive... and must never be ‘condemned’”. This sort of thing makes quite a striking contrast to Dempsey and the Full Brexiters' populism; for instance, the NS article reminds its readers that the Brexit vote involved “millions of Labour voters as well as Conservatives”. One wonders how those millions, who the Full Brexiters seek to appeal to, might react to learning that their man Dempsey volunteers to do security for a group that defends ISIS.

Internationalist border controls

Looking at the content of the article more broadly, the authors urge us to understand that “There is a profound distinction between globalisation and internationalism... The way to defeat the far right is for the left to embrace an internationalist and democratic Brexit.” However, they stay silent on the most pressing question of what this internationalism would look like in practice, the issue of migration and border controls. Does “an internationalist Brexit” mean a withdrawal agreement that would not affect the rights of current and future EU migrants in any way? Or does it mean bringing in some increased form of border policing against EU migrants, perhaps in the belief that Brexit will bring enough benefits that making life harder for some working-class people is a price worth paying? I suspect that they can't really answer this question, because firmly committing to either one position or the other would mean alienating some of the people they want to appeal to. While supporting the EU might not be a socialist position, it's understandable that people might see it as a lesser evil, and they're unlikely to be won over by an alternative that refuses to spell out any clear position on such a vital subject.

Lords against the undemocratic establishment

The author bio on the article just states that “The Full Brexit is a pro-Leave group of academics including Maurice Glasman, Costas Lapavitsas, Mary Davis, Chris Bickerton, Wolfgang Streeck and Richard Tuck.” Which is a rather modest way of putting it – why not mention that his full title is actually Lord Glasman, Baron of Stoke Newington and of Stamford Hill ? Perhaps this might seem a petty and churlish thing to point out, but some people may like to know when their populist anti-establishment revolts are being endorsed by actual Barons.

Posted By

R Totale
Apr 6 2019 14:47

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  • Does “an internationalist Brexit” mean a withdrawal agreement that would not affect the rights of current and future EU migrants in any way? Or does it mean bringing in some increased form of border policing against EU migrants?

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Comments

Ed
Apr 6 2019 20:53

Did some formatting edits but mostly wanted to say 'yikes' at that 'Workers Brexit' image.. bloody hell!

LeeJones
Apr 7 2019 08:38

A very lazy article indeed.

The author immediately falls foul of what The Full Brexit described as "the usual McCarthyite tactic of guilt by association". The weird archaeology of digging up Gerry Downing in an attempt to discredit TFB via Dempsey will strike any sane reader as rather desperate.

The Full Brexit has published articles on the question of border controls and EU citizenship which the author could have read, rather than relying solely on one New Statesman article for their "research". These articles argue that EU citizens should be granted immediate UK citizenship (https://www.thefullbrexit.com/eu-nationals-british-citizenship) and that the democratic case should be made for a liberal migration regime that opened up the right of settlement to non-EU citizens, who are currently discriminated against (https://www.thefullbrexit.com/open-up-immigration).

As to Maurice Glasman's membership of the House of Lords, this is indeed "petty and churlish... to point out". Glasman is a strongly committed, left wing political theorist and activist. He supports the abolition of the House of Lords. This and other democratic reforms should be sought in the wake of Brexit.

Finally the author seems to have no idea what populism actually means. The Full Brexit has repeatedly published articles that seek to defend and expand representative democracy, not populism.

LeeJones
Apr 7 2019 08:39

A very lazy article indeed.

The author immediately falls foul of what The Full Brexit described as "the usual McCarthyite tactic of guilt by association". The weird archaeology of digging up Gerry Downing in an attempt to discredit TFB via Dempsey will strike any sane reader as rather desperate.

The Full Brexit has published articles on the question of border controls and EU citizenship which the author could have read, rather than relying solely on one New Statesman article for their "research". These articles argue that EU citizens should be granted immediate UK citizenship and that the democratic case should be made for a liberal migration regime that opened up the right of settlement to non-EU citizens, who are currently discriminated against.

As to Maurice Glasman's membership of the House of Lords, this is indeed "petty and churlish... to point out". Glasman is a strongly committed, left wing political theorist and activist. He supports the abolition of the House of Lords. This and other democratic reforms should be sought in the wake of Brexit.

Finally the author seems to have no idea what populism actually means. The Full Brexit has repeatedly published articles that seek to defend and expand representative democracy, not populism.

Mike Harman
Apr 7 2019 08:59

People really love stretching 'guilt by association' to simply pointing out actual political associations that people have.

R Totale
Apr 7 2019 11:18
LeeJones wrote:
A very lazy article indeed.

The author immediately falls foul of what The Full Brexit described as "the usual McCarthyite tactic of guilt by association". The weird archaeology of digging up Gerry Downing in an attempt to discredit TFB via Dempsey will strike any sane reader as rather desperate.

First time I've ever been called a lazy archaeologist, so thanks for that. Just to be clear, are you saying that this information is inaccurate, and that Dempsey was not in fact involved with helping Downing's weird pro-ISIS group host a meeting by a deeply objectionable conspiracy theorist, or are you saying that it's true but irrelevant, and that Dempsey helping a weird pro-ISIS group host a meeting by a deeply objectionable conspiracy theorist doesn't reflect on him or his politics in any way?

Quote:
The Full Brexit has published articles on the question of border controls and EU citizenship which the author could have read, rather than relying solely on one New Statesman article for their "research". These articles argue that EU citizens should be granted immediate UK citizenship (https://www.thefullbrexit.com/eu-nationals-british-citizenship) and that the democratic case should be made for a liberal migration regime that opened up the right of settlement to non-EU citizens, who are currently discriminated against (https://www.thefullbrexit.com/open-up-immigration).

Eh, "if you read one thing by someone, you then have to read every other thing they've ever published before you can have an opinion on the thing you've read" seems like a fairly shaky defence to me. And, just to be clear, is that article Bickerton's person opinion, or does it represent the actual position of the group? Does Baron "total ban on migrants" Glasman agree with that call for open borders? And if so, why not mention such a key point in the NS article?

Quote:
As to Maurice Glasman's membership of the House of Lords, this is indeed "petty and churlish... to point out". Glasman is a strongly committed, left wing political theorist and activist. He supports the abolition of the House of Lords.

Nice to know. If only there was some kind of way that people who were opposed to the system of state honours could express their rejection of that system.

Quote:
Finally the author seems to have no idea what populism actually means. The Full Brexit has repeatedly published articles that seek to defend and expand representative democracy, not populism.

Give over, if I wanted to call your lot fascists I would've called them that. When you say "The decision to leave the EU was taken in a referendum involving the largest-ever vote in British history. This was certainly not an expression of far-right politics but the settled view of millions of Labour voters as well as Conservatives. If voting cannot bring about change then our politics is in crisis... It is the unwillingness of the ruling class to deliver Brexit, and not Brexit itself, that is leading to popular anger." That's not intended as an invocation of "the people" against the elites? Not at all, not even a little bit?

R Totale
Apr 7 2019 14:12

Oh, and one more thing: thinking about it, I'm really not convinced that "McCarthyite" is a helpful word to use in this context, because the defining feature of McCarthyism and the red scare isn't that it involved asking questions about people's politics and affiliations, it's that it involved asking those questions while backed up by the full coercive power of the state. The blacklist literally ruined people's lives, there were people imprisoned for refusing to testify.
So, if you want to describe, say, Chelsea Manning being jailed for refusing to inform, or the employer's blacklist in the construction industry as being McCarthyite, I can see the sense in that, but in contrast, I'm literally just some loudmouth on the internet. If I want to ask "Mr Dempsey, are you now or have you ever been involved in helping the spread of "anti-globalist" conspiracy theories?", he is perfectly free to just ignore me and it will not affect his life in any way whatsoever.
Paul Mason clearly has a bit more power and influence than I do, but still, if you compare the coercive power that Paul Mason can exert with that of Senator McCarthy or the House Unamerican Affairs Committee, I think you'll find more differences than similarities.
I mean, if you really want to define McCarthyite as just refering to any instance in which anyone asks questions about someone else's politics, I guess you can do, but it's a bit like using "Trumpian" to refer to someone who hosts a reality TV game show, or going "I saw a beetle today, it was a very Kafkaesque experience", no?

Croy
Apr 9 2019 20:34

Internationalist brexit is a contradiction in terms. I commend OP for even spending the effort refuting such a ridiculous position and taking the time to have a back and forth with someone who defends a group who want to "defend and expand representative democracy" on an anarchist site. Most amusing

Fleur
Apr 9 2019 21:59

What kind of half-assed hypocrite is Glasman anyway? How does someone reconcile wanting to abolish the House of Lords and accepting a peerage? Pick a fucking side.

R Totale
Apr 10 2019 18:39

I'm starting to think Lee isn't going to come back and explain whether "open borders"* is actually an agreed position of the group or just something suggested in one article on their website. If I was a cynical person, I'd think that having one pro-open borders article with a disclaimer saying "​This work represents the views of the authors only", but then never stressing that as a key part of your politics or even mentioning it in public most of the time would be an awfully convenient way to have something to point out when you want to look all socialist and internationalist when arguing with others to your left, while also not alienating the reactionaries in your own coalition, ruining Paul Embery's chances of getting more speaking gigs alongside Farage and so on. But that would be a dreadfully cynical way of looking at it, I'm sure there must be a perfectly innocent explanation.

*leaving aside the question of what that even actually means in the first place.