Monday, 20 June 2016

Lexit or Fixit?

Thousands of columns have been written now on just about every aspect of the referendum. The main focus has of course been the visceral scrap between two gangs of public schoolboys led alternately by David Cameron and his erstwhile Etonian classmate Boris Johnson. Between them they have truly put the "bully" into Bullingdon with ever more ludicrous and shrill statements on both sides; only the appalling murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, brutally shot and stabbed in a Birstall street, has tragically given any pause.

But there have been other debates taking place, unreported by the mainstream media, and the one on the Left is one which has generated its own divisions between colleagues and comrades.

Broadly, no one on the Left seriously supports the EU as it is. The division is between those like Another Europe Is Possible and Diem25, who argue for reform to build a social Europe focussed on tackling the power of international capital, and those like Labour Leave and others on the Lexit (left exit) side who argue this is both structurally and politically nigh impossible.

Both are valid arguments, but to my mind the first approach is the right one to take, for now. 

1. Whether we like it or not, we live in a globalised economy where around one thousand huge transnational mega-corporations effectively own and control our world. They sit far above any national legislature, functioning in many ways as like sovereign states in their own right (and might). We need multinational institutions like the EU to be transformed to counter their power and eventually transform our system of ownership and economics. Now more than ever the idea of achieving socialism in one country seems even more unlikely than changing the EU. 

2. Politically, come Friday, if Britain votes to leave, it will be a Tory regime that is in power, not a socialist one. And, if you can imagine it, it will be even worse than the current one - Brexit Tories, after all, tend to be those who view Cameron and Osborne as appallingly moderate for their likes. Boris Johnson is unlikely to become leader and PM in the event of Brexit, nevertheless. More likely is Theresa May, whose silent support of Remain speaks volumes - watch her emerge as the Tory unity candidate to lead a rightwing government on to the 2020 election. Boundary changes will entrench them further, as might a pragmatic ennoblement of Nigel Farage to bring UKIP into the new politics.

So then welcome to the promised bonfire of employment and consumer rights, safety regulations and human rights law - the "red tape" so often decried by these revanchist neoliberals. And to assaults on immigration and a shutdown on refugees. Some Lexiters talk of the People resisting such outcomes. Possibly, except that the Tories are adept at divide-and-conquer, all the more so shorn of any restraint required by EU regulations and reinvigorated by an albeit imaginary new post-referendum mandate to do maximum harm. And don't forget they will still have their cruel hands tightly gripping all the levers of power.

This is not alarmist fantasy. This is the likely reality post-Brexit. The scenario of millions marching on Downing Street on Friday to demand an election is the real fantasy, sadly. (The only good news though is that, win or lose, Cameron's premiership will be at an end given the deep divisions in his party this has brought to the surface in a most brutal and typically ugly way).

3. We can leave the EU anytime. If reform doesn't happen or if we elect a leftwing government in Britain that looks to take us out for rather more progressive reasons than those that fester in the skulls of Gove, Johnson, IDS and Patel, all we need to do is hold a referendum and leave. But first let's try to see if instead, in solidarity with socialists, greens, trade unions and other progressives and leftists across Europe, we can take the first steps to build a better, fairer and sustainable Europe. A Europe for people and planet.

A final recommendation: please watch this video of Spanish Podemos radical MP Pablo Bustinduy as he speaks on why in spite of the austerity of the eurozone his party wants Spain to remain in the EU and powerfully calls for Britain to do the same.

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