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Abandon rejoin and don’t imitate the Tories January 29, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Sound advice one might think:

Labour leadership candidates were presented with a second analysis of the election defeat from Europe for the Many, an organisation that brings together academics and campaigners. They suggest the party will not win the next election without regaining socially conservative voters but warned achieving that presents Labour with a serious challenge.

Their report, The Devastating Defeat, found that in the 2019 election, voters focused on values and identity over economic policies, which advantaged the Tories, particularly in ex-heartland seats. But any rush to recapture socially conservative voters should not lead to Labour imitating Tory policies on immigration and law, they warn.

Indeed that way lies despair. But also:

Abandoning all discussion of rejoining the EU was also essential for the future electoral success of Labour, the report said.

And:

Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, said: “To win over voters who are less socially liberal than Labour is today, but more economically leftwing than the Tories, we should not impersonate them.”

Luke Cooper, an associate researcher at the LSE, said: “Brexit has created a really tough situation for Labour. By making values and identity the central questions of the day, it has broken the party’s traditional electoral coalition.”

Noted it before. The idea of rejoin at this point would be madness of a different sort. Indeed I’d have thought the BLP’s best approach would be to be explicit it wants a close and developing relationship with the EU but that the idea of rejoin is off the table for a good decade or so until the effects of Brexit have become clear. Realistically the idea of rejoin seems to me to be a non-starter for a generation, perhaps more. As always the question is where does that ‘remain’ energy go now. One would like to think it might be channelled into some mixture of soft Brexit/progressive politics but in fairness that needs a vehicle willing to progress that approach. That has to be the BLP, but it clearly requires compromises in respect of previously arrived at positions.

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1. tafkaGW - January 29, 2020

Sure rejoin shouldn’t be a position for the BLP, and I don’t think it will become so.

But pointing out the damage wreaked by a Tory Brexit should. The Tories have scrapped workers and environmental standards that the previous Parliament (in a rare moment when the UK parliament had some power) forced into the withdrawal agreement, along with parliamentary oversight.

Labour have no parliamentary political influence here – when the HoC has a solid majority the dUK becomes a Prime-Ministerial dictatorship in the their monarchy-with-occasional-elections constitution-free system. It’s quite possible this will last for a decade, if Johnson continues to successfully play Brexit as a nationalist identity issue.

Brexit will structure the UK’s politics for at least one decade, probably longer.

And the Tory press will keep quiet for a few months, to give their suckers the temporary feeling that Brexit has ‘gotten done’, but by June will start to become loudspeakers for the EU as a perfidious enemy and the othering of EU citizens remaining in Britain, the Irish, etc. etc.

It’s the job of the opposition to keep hammering home the consequences of Tory decisions structured by Brexit. And that the Tories have chosen a particularly hard form of Brexit, because they pander to immigration obsessives and racists in their base.

To ignore it simply cedes ground to the Tories and alienates further those parts of the working class complexity and Labour’s activist base that opposed Brexit and continue to find it repugnant at a deep emotional level.

Labour can’t keep silent about Brexit and it’s consequences. It needs a good Brexit spokesperson in opposition.

Phil BC has been writing some good articles, which apply to all broad left parties in ‘developed’ world, about how to work with a complex, fragmented and stratified working class, and not imagine we are fighting on a pre-1980s class landscape. For example Labour and the new working class.

These are our people, our base, so we have to understand them and bring more of them into the party’s orbit. This is the sort of listening Labour should be doing, not wasting time flattering two-bit bigots and chasing former UKIP voters by promising to be more racist and wafting nuclear weapons around like giant willies. We’ve got to think about how the new working class is segmented, the differences that tend to crop up between those who’ve moved to the big cities in search of opportunities as well as those who remain in the provincial communities we lost, and the rural seats we’ve never done well in. We have to think about our own membership and its occupational distribution, how they got involved in the party, what their points of contact were before they signed up, and Labour needs to work more closely with the affiliated unions to learn from their recruitment strategies and how to do a better job of pushing the Labour link. All this in conjunction with deepening the party’s commitment to social movement organisation and standing with workers in struggle.

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2. Stan - January 29, 2020

I suspect many of the people who were energised by remain, particularly post-ref, are single issue people: everything was alright pre-Brexit, everything would be alright again if only we could turn back time. The referendum shattered their view of England but, rather than understanding the why, they demonisied the apparent cause of their discomfort – working-class voters (which probably isn’t true even in that limited causal explanation)
The thing is, many – not all – of these will not be hugely affected by any post Brexit economic turbulence: and in the end, the feeling will be the nagging annoyance of someone used to seeing their world reflect their values and priorities to a satisfactory degree, finding that said world has diverged from that happy state.

The exception might be the young, who may not easily let go of this….and who may not let Labour put it behind them quite so easily.

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3. tafkaGW - January 29, 2020

Anyhow leave the UK to itself – there is little enough we can do about it.

Instead concentrate on damage limitation for the RoI and NI, the rest of the EU, the issue of reunification of Ireland. Perhaps helping Scotland if they reach the point of a realisable independence push.

And ensure that the inevitable attempted divide-and-rule which will constitute the Tory UK’s wannabe-neo-colonial approach to is neighbours, comes to nothing. There will be plenty of proxies for this popping up in RoI politics.

Ultimately there are much bigger issues to face nationally, as part of the EU, and globally, than the Brexitania’s continuing political disfunction.

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oliverbohs - January 29, 2020

The remarks made by Thornberry about how perfidious the SNP is typifies a particularly deep strain of delusion and London metropolitan sneering. I know she is a hopeless case, and those views are hopefully only held by her and a couple others in the party. The SNP after all want to remain in the EU.
Could there be lessons in how Sanders is going about wooing blue collar and non voters? (So far so good, though it’s too early to say). Sticking to three, four five messages that resonate is the kind of discipline well beyond the British Labour Party.
There is a temptation to put the blame on Remoaners but sadly the LP presence worth of Watford was without sufficient foundations. Or is that unfair?

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Colm B - January 29, 2020

Thornberry and Nandy’s comments on Scotland reflect the elephant in the room – British nationalism or more broadly Imperial nationalism: small nation nationalism bad, Imperial nationalism invisible! Labour has been wedded to British nat since the days of the Empire despite the dissent from the party’s radical left.

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4. An Sionnach Fionn - January 29, 2020

Judging by the performances of Farage and company in the European Parliament today and some of the UK media and vox pop reaction, it seems that the EU is seen as a rival that needs to be taken down in the near future rather than a valued partner. I suspect the next big thing on the Brexiteer agenda will be years of anti-EU agitating now that Brexit has been implemented. This is not over yet and won’t be for some in Britain until the EU is no more.

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5. makedoanmend - January 29, 2020

By ref to Brexit

Anti-EU agitation hasn’t begun in earnest yet, but it is gathering steam in the US, UK and as far away as Australia. Books on globalisation, such as “Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism” are being written about supranational institutions, and the EU is front and centre. The book makes the point that the EU arose out of the idea of making busies less accountable to individual nations. This book explicitly makes the link between neoliberalism as a philosophy and the creation of the EU. The links may be tenuous but the suggestion isn’t implausible.

There are localised back-lashes against globalisation in many nations across the globe, and EU institutions are now being portrayed as the poster-child for all the ills of neo-liberal globalisation in places like the UK, USA and other countries. (Even the UN is linked to neo-liberalism.)

US workers, for example, are becoming increasingly aware that their jobs were shipped over seas or over borders in order to allow wage arbitration to occur. They lost good jobs and know these jobs are now in China and elsewhere. They know that national governments have become almost powerless to collect taxes from huge international conglomerates, and they think that those taxes would pay for health care and so on. (Ireland comes to mind when taxes are mentioned.) Many workers are persuaded that their own government’s policies, such as those followed by the Tories, are secondary to supranational entities like the EU or the WTO, or that once released from the EU their economic lives will improve.

There is a problem, however, for those of us in the EU who have benefited in some respects from having an internal market. (The peace most Europeans have lived under most of our lives might now be under threat.)

Simply put, there is much truth in that fact that EU institutions have acted to prioritise privatisation of public services; that the Euro undermines economic sovereignty; and that budget restrictions post 2008 hinder the ability of individual EU nations to pursue public policies due to artificial budget constraints; that wage arbitration is rampant.

Also Greece, rightly, is the case in point that the non-EU neo-nationalists will use to portray the EU as a degenerate entity. Again they have a good argument. The treatment of Greece was and is abysmal.

One could say the UK is jumping ship, so to speak, just in time to say to its own population that their government has foreseen the horrible path of neo-liberal globalisation with the EU leading the way. They can claim that the Tories are actually righteous and have lead their country from the authoritarian EU institutions and upheld the noble aspirations of UK democracy. The economic lot of ordinary UK will not change but the Tories can always point out that there are others worse off than themselves, and furthermore that the average UK citizen may be poorer but they are morally superior to those continentals who willingly live under undemocratic supranational EU institutions. Who’s to say they will be wrong?

On the other hand, do we want to be dominated by a resurgent USA and their minions?

I’d suggest it’s time that we focus on what we need the EU to be for all EU citizens, and especially those citizens who’ve seen their welfare deteriorate since 2008. If we don’t, I expect to see the EU fragment quite quickly.

Anyway, imo, I expect to see a gathering storm of anti-EU rhetoric building over the next couple of years. It’s a certainty. It does not matter that the UK or USA act every bit as bad or with ill intentions to their own working people as EU institutions might do, what matters to them is that they destroy all opposition to their control of capital. The USA would rather act like an old imperialist country, and our neighbour isn’t far behind in this regard.

The oldest trick in the book is to accuse your opponents of doing what you already do but somehow make it seem like your opponent’s actions are somehow more morally corrupt. The USA might act badly but they do so individually with regard to advancing the advantage for their own capitalists. The EU behaves as some superanational conspiracy and so their capitalists are reprehensible. Therefore, the EU is worse. Or some such story.

Brexit may mean much more for Europe than it does for the UK in the long run. It’s affect on us in Ireland is currently incalculable and potentially dangerous.

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WorldbyStorm - January 30, 2020

“I’d suggest it’s time that we focus on what we need the EU to be for all EU citizens, and especially those citizens who’ve seen their welfare deteriorate since 2008.” +1

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tafkaGW - January 30, 2020

“Simply put, there is much truth in that fact that EU institutions have acted to prioritise privatisation of public services;”

Some truth – privatisation was mostly driven from national neolibs – starting with Thatcher in the UK. Very often these national initiatives were pinned on the EU, in a classic shifting the blame tactic. The neoliberal turn of the EU was driven principally by the UK in cooperation with Germany. In that sense we’re well shot of them.

“that the Euro undermines economic sovereignty”

Yes, it does undermine sovereignty for nations that previously had their own currencies. But monetary ‘sovereignty’ is limited mostly by global finance. It is better to be a large heavy football with inertia (the Euro) than a table-tennis ball (the Punt) when one is being kicked around by ‘the markets’.

The ECB needs to come under the control of the European Parliament and it’s charter should be changed to one of maximising inequality and minimising climate damage.

“and that budget restrictions post 2008 hinder the ability of individual EU nations to pursue public policies due to artificial budget constraints;”

Again much austerity was driven by national true believers with the Fiscal Compact as a fig leaf. That said the Fiscal Compact needs to go.

“that wage arbitration is rampant.”

Wage arbitration is much less rampant within the EU that it is globally. If Bulgaria, say, were to leave, workers there would loose what minimal protections they have. Imagine the situation for workers in Ireland had it not joined the EU.

In the end you have to ask yourself why the right have the EU in its sights. It’s because they see it as a dangerous potentially democratic counter-power to that of ecocidal global capitalism and a brake on the free accumulation of capital. And one of sufficient size to really worry them, in contrast with middle-sized declining nations like the dUK, not to speak of small nations like Ireland.

It’s bad for the arms trade to have nations and regions that for centuries were continually be at war with each other are at peace with each other for 70 years.

So the argument for the EU remains: it’s of the right scale to have global influence, and it is partially democratic and transparent, and it doesn’t fight internal wars. It has an independent judicial system, which sometimes rights wrongs imposed by national laws.

It has the principle of funding poorer regions through transfers from richer ones.

It allows workers the freedom to travel within in it and live outside their nation without being second-class citizens, and broadens their horizons beyond the often stifling regional and national.

Nearly all environmental protections have been imposed from the EU on national governments. Another reason why the right hates it.

The EU offers a scale of political organisation where global political economy could be influenced in order to combat the climate emergency. Just that one lever makes it worth preserving, regardless of the rest.

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WorldbyStorm - January 30, 2020

That’s a very good overview TAFKAGW, one thing that strikes me is the idea the EU will disintegrate. Not impossible but so clearly against the interests of the constituent nations that I think it unlikely. In one form or another it has been around for over half a century and appears remarkably flexible and adaptable. Also it’s not as rigid as some seem to think – for example one would be hard pressed to find absolute blocks on nationalisation or absolute demands for privatisation – there are numerous workarounds (some which we on the left should be more open to ie non national but municipal or regionally or communally devolved forms of social ownership which avoid some of the problems intrinsic to monolithic state enterprises). We have to work them and spread them further (I always think of a point a good friend in community activism makes – what a state gives in funding to groups or whatever it can take away so other approaches are necessary to increase autonomy). None of which is to say the EU is perfect but the scope for working it is with no illusions but from our perspective is immense

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makedonamend - January 30, 2020

Well put tafkaGW. I largely agree, as I do with WBS’s thoughts.

But, and to but some buts – there is an element of truth in those statements nevertheless. That is all the EU detractors need in order to attack the EU relentlessly in the next few years.

Cui bono?

I would also point out a couple of external factors. Trump’s administration refused initially to recognise the EU representative. There’s obviously hostility to the EU from this quarter, and maybe beyond in the USA. The EU is subject to indirect sanctions via the pipeline and the negation of the Iranian deal. The US is just beginning to ramp up a trade war with the EU. These, imo, are not unrelated events.

Being cynical I also think the UK jumped ship when it suited them to do so. They weighed up the strength of the USA vs the EU and made their decision. When it suited them, they jettisoned the commonwealth back in the day and now the EU. The Brexit camp are now claiming that their campaign was based upon a forensic examination of the undemocratic nature of the EU, and others, further afield, are essentially claiming that neo-liberalism, since it originated in Austria, was always the underlying reason for the formation of the EU. Their line of the attack on the EU is that the EU is “the” supranational centre of neo-liberalism. It is “globalist” enterprise that undermines individual nations’ powers and impoverishes its populations. In essence, the EU is a neo-liberal conspiracy. It has it adherents in the UK and across Europe.

Also, we’ll see attacks stating that the EU is a globalist supra-national evil on the one hand while on the other hand it is attacked for being too weak to confront the likes of the USA. A lose-lose narrative has been constructed. I expect the rhetoric to reach a crescendo as the UK negotiates with the EU advance. Hence why the EU pols are now acting to nicey-nicey to the UK right now despite provocations.

My concern is that independent Leftists in Europe need to assess the situation and construct counter narratives if they feel the EU is worth saving. Hopefully that narrative is based on policies that actually help working people without overtly relying on id pol to frame their responses or proposals.

I’m not trying to be alarmist, but I think that complacency might prove fatal.

I’d also like to hear arguments against Ireland remaining in the EU – beyond the normal and rather superficial ones given by pro-British types.

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tafkaGW - January 30, 2020

Agree that complacency and no change from below will probably lead to the break up of the EU. Who knows at what pace.

The above was written in haste and didn’t convey my hatred of the current Eurozone construction. I’m increasingly of the opinion that a break with the Eurozone may be necessary. Or that ignoring or working around the rules becomes so widespread that they become the rules.

There is a strong correlation between where disatisfaction with the EU is strongest and where the naked fiscal power of the ECB has been applied to protect the rich from gambling losses at the expense of the diverse working and caring class.

But simply to leave (this side of the overcoming of world capitalism) would lead to the situation that Greece faced: having to pay Euro-denominated debt in a devalued neo-Drachma.

I fantasise about a coordinated exit to a mutually supportive alternative European monetary system. With mutual agreement to refuse to repay debts other than at a self-determined schedule. But more likely would be the collapse of the Eurozone as a consequence of a new financial crisis.

So the only option left for now is to work politically locally but focused towards the EU level for democratic reform of the ECB. Climate-change policy may be an opportunity for this.

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6. makedonamend - January 29, 2020

argh

busies = business

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7. FergusD - January 30, 2020

I’m not convinced the EU is reformable in any meaningful sense. Whatever reasons it was created for it is dedicated to creating a continental capitalism to compete with the USA, Japan and surely China. And imperialist ambitions are coming to the fore in the military sense i.e. military involvement outside the EU territory and not as part of NATO. Germany politicians seem to increasingly take the view it should have the military might to match its economic might and send its forces overseas to protect its interests.

The end of the USSR has released capitalism to return to its old ways of imperialist rivalry.

Still, Brexit will not stop that. Probaly just mean, as mentioned above, that the UK will hitch its wagon to the USA even more firmly. There has always been that Atlanticist faction the the UK, even in the BLP.

Sadly, it is too late for the BLP to have engaged more with the ‘left’ and workers organisations as part of the EU in a way that UK workers may have seen as a way forward. Not too late for workers organisations and the left in the EU27 though. The fight is against capitalism, of whatever nationality or block.

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