Tag Archives: brexit

“It’s Tony Blair’s fault…”

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An imaginary conversation with the Labour leadership.

Me: “Was it right to push your MPs to vote for Brexit with no conditions attached? None of your amendments have passed, aren’t you just handing Britain on a platter to the anti-migrant ultra-nationalist vision of Theresa May?”

Labour leadership: “It’s all Tony Blair’s fault”.

Me: “What about your defeat to the Tories in Copeland in the recent by-election? Sure, Labour’s decline has been there for a while, but you held that seat since 1935, Tories went up dramatically, UKIP wasn’t really a threat…”.

L: “It’s the Blairites’ fault”.

Me: “You did win in Stoke, does that mean that the Blairites help you win Stoke? Given that they are to blame for Copeland…”

L: “It’s a sign of the great victory of the working classes led by Jeremy Corbyn and a new radical agenda, it will be a socialist revolution, Stoke is the proof”.

Me: “Yet, despite all the door-to-door campaigning, of course it was a by-election, but the turnout was still pretty low, and even if one looks at the vote shares compared to 2015, you lost two points, and UKIP and Tories went up a few points…”

L: “It’s Tony Blair’s fault”.

Me: “The Blairites have caused great damage to the party, and they will do everything they can to oust Corbyn, but are you going to take responsibility for the mistakes done since you took over the leadership? And isn’t the fact that you are still claiming to be ineffectual because of the Blairites a clear sign of failure on your side as well?”

L: “It’s the Blairites’ fault, they are here to get us, no matter what”.

Me: “Was McDonnell’s latest message to Labour members the best response to the Copeland defeat? I mean, what kind of message are you giving to your base by focusing only on the conspiracy of the Blairites and the Murdoch media to get you? Isn’t this just another bit of exaggerated one-way propaganda with no hopeful content about what you are offering, what you are about?”

L: “You said it, it’s a conspiracy, it’s Tony Blair’s fault”.

Me: “Do you think it is wise to pander to rampant right wing nationalism and abandon solidarity with migrants? Doesn’t this betray your socialist internationalist principles? Doesn’t it push you dangerously close to May’s rhetoric and the far right?”

L: “These are minor issues, now we have to respect people’s will – they want migrants out, you know – but we will reopen the borders later, we are absolutely committed to open borders. We have the opportunity to bring about a socialist democracy in Britain, it’s just around the corner, we can’t be let down by these sterile debates. We condemn hate and racism against migrants and people of colour, always…

Me: “You mean like David Cameron and Theresa May…”

L: “… and anyway, it’s Tony Blair’s fault”.

Me: “I find it interesting that despite the vitriolic anti-Blairite rhetoric, you are actually finding common ground with the old guard on anti-immigration policies. Tom Watson recently proposed an apartheid-style system of internal controls for migrants, he said it’s currently being debated within Labour.”

L: “I have no time for you, the revolution is waiting. Bye”.

UK should Remain in the EU to stop the global advance of the far right

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Tomorrow the British will go to the polls to decide whether UK should stay within the European Union or not. I truly hope that the majority will vote to Remain.

Whatever the final result, the referendum debate has shown there is a worrying rise of xenophobia across all sectors of British society, in a country where migrants have always been welcomed and that has featured among the most cosmopolitan in the world. Many on the Leave side have openly campaigned against migrants and for national chauvinism, spreading incorrect information and unfounded arguments to fuel hate and resentment.

Even more worrying, the debate on immigration around the EU referendum saw many on the left opening the way for the legitimisation of the widespread resentment against migrants. Several prominent figures – including union leaders, intellectuals and Labour party members – have stressed the need for “controlled immigration” and the protection of British workers vis-a-vis all other workers.

Admirably, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has stuck to his principles and insisted on his pro-immigration stance. The priority should be solidarity across all those hit by the crisis to fight the devastations of neoliberalism and austerity. Migrants are a convenient scapegoat to divert the public’s attention from the real cause of their plight: the drastic reduction of state welfare, widespread privatisations and a wholesale attack on workers’ rights.

Other sectors of the radical left have maintained their commitment to internationalism and inclusion, but campaigned for Leave, hoping that a Leave victory would open a crisis within the Tories from which the left might emerge victorious. Like sectors of the Sanders’ base in the US, and leftists across Europe, they are unwittingly paving the way for the rise of the far right, in the hope that this pragmatic short-term convergence of interests will topple neoliberal technocracy and lead to systemic change.

The reality is that the Tory right and the far right UKIP are much better positioned to capitalise on UK exiting the EU, and they have been the real protagonists of the Leave campaign. Brexit would be one major step towards a global advance of far right populism. It could be followed by a Trump victory in the US presidential election in November, a Le Pen victory in the 2017 French presidential elections, and a victory of the left/right populist 5 Star movement in Italy in 2018.

The EU is in deep crisis and British PM Cameron’s EU deal means that if Britain votes to Remain, the way will be opened for a technocratic curtailing of freedom of movement – all member countries would be allowed to put a temporary break on migration from other EU countries, if they can prove that their state budgets are under substantial pressure. This would be no victory either. But handing the UK to a right-wing alliance that thrives on hate and xenophobia is undoubtedly far worse.

Greek crisis round up – 18 July 2015

GREEK CRISIS ROUND UP 18 JULY 2015

– The main news from yesterday is that the German parliament has given mandate to start talks for the 3rd bailout, the new ESM loan, with a vast majority of 439 in favour vs 119 against. A significant fact is the increase of dissent from within CDU/CSU (Merkel’s centre-right alliance) compared to previous votes on Greece. All other countries that needed approval from parliament or special committees to go ahead have now been given mandate to start talks for the new loan (France, Finland, Austria, Latvia and Netherlands).

– EU countries have finalised details for bridge financing to allow Greece to honour upcoming debt repayments and clear arrears. €7.16bn will be provided by the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM) – the EFSM includes non-euro EU countries, British concerns that their money would be used for Greece have been addressed through a system that gives guarantees to non-euro signatory countries in case Greece fails to repay this loan.

– After the extension of ECB emergency liquidity, Greek banks are set to reopen on Monday, but capital controls (weekly withdrawal limit of €420; bans on foreign transfers) will continue for some time after that, according to various sources. This means the reopening is more cosmetic than anything, the viability of Greek banks remains a serious concern and will for some time.

– Ongoing talks around the 3rd bailout are already marked by a major division among the creditors. IMF director Lagarde has emphasised that Greek debt is not sustainable without major debt relief – implying that the IMF might not participate in the new bailout, to follow its mandate of not lending to countries that are not likely to be solvent. EU countries are counting on €16bn or so from the IMF, a substantial chunk of the €85-86bn package for Greece.

– There are also ‘quieter’ calls from all quarters, from international left-leaning economists to right-wing creditor government technocrats, suggesting that in the end Grexit might be the best option for Greece and for everybody else – perhaps it is just a matter of timing and providing a ‘sweet’ Grexit offer when it becomes clear that Greeks cannot or do not want to bear the burden of the harsh conditions imposed by the new bailout.

– Syriza’s internal crisis continues, with the majority of Syriza’s central committee members opposing the deal (109 out of 201; https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/07/syriza-debt-tsipras-left-platform-kouvelakis/), it’s clear that the rift is much bigger than the numbers of dissenters in parliament. Last night Tsipras has announced a cabinet (mini)reshuffle, confirming Tsakalotos (who replaces Varoufakis), and replacing Lafazanis, energy minister and vocal opponent of the deal – he was also pushing for a gas pipeline deal with Russia, among other things – with former labour minister Skourletis. Other dissenting deputy ministers were also replaced. These are still early stages anyway, we will have to see in the next days – the next votes in Greek parliament connected to the bailout deal will be an important test. Many are now talking about possible elections in autumn.

– Another interesting development is the rising number of prominent left voices in the UK standing against a EU left solution to austerity and neoliberal policies, some hinting at Brexit in view of the 2017 British referendum on EU membership. In fact Cameron’s dangerous play of showing EU failures while hoping for reforms towards more national sovereignty to win a Yes might backfire, with increasing numbers of Tory eurosceptics seriously considering Brexit. The leader of UNITE, the biggest trade union in Britain, is threatening to campaign for a No vote if Cameron pushes for EU treaty changes that weaken workers’ rights. Events in and around Greece in the following months are certainly set to influence the voting behaviour of the British left. A paradoxical effect of the Greek turmoil might be an unlikely convergence of right and left on Brexit, for rather different reasons of course.