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Tag Archives: uk
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”.
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.
Tonight’s vote in the Commons about Cameron’s plans to bomb Syria has a relevance well beyond the UK borders. Things are heading towards a full military invasion with ground troops, with the direct involvement of Western and other armies.
The worrying thing about many objections to the airstrikes is that they point out how bombing won’t be enough, hence the “need” for a ground invasion. Obama has just announced a new “expeditionary force” based in Iraq that will be able to carry out attacks in Syria – in practice, US troops were already carrying out operations in Syria, now they have been given the green light to do so openly.
Many are evoking the spectre of a repeat of the devastation brought about by the wars in Iraq and Lybia, which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. Let’s be frank: this would be much worse.
Civilians would continue to be massacred as the Islamic State does not use conventional army tactics. It’s not clear who the allies and who the enemies are, with hundreds of smaller groups on the ground pursuing all kinds of agendas, many tied to fundamentalist groups and the Islamic State they should supposedly fight. And there is major friction among powerful countries and global superpowers jostling for positions, pursuing multiple agendas that cannot be reconciled, even with a common enemy. Once US, UK, France, Turkey, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others become directly involved, there is a real possibility of a global conflict.
What’s worst, you won’t hear the high trumpets of grand ideological statements of the Bush/Blair era. Rather, politicians in power are busy downplaying the reality and pursuing their own petty interests, hoping that things won’t get that bad, not this time.
UK is key in the alliance, because it has one of the strongest armies in Europe, but also because of its symbolic and ideological role as the closest European ally to the US. If you are in the UK, do whatever you can to stop the madness. If British MPs vote against airstrikes in Syria tonight, it would be a significant setback for this hypocritical and spontaneous alliance of opportunistic warmongers set upon mass destruction.
Visit Stop The War Coalition website for ways to lobby your MP and details on protest actions throughout the country.