Friday, 19 April 2019

On Lefties for Farage

For one time only, George Galloway tells us he's voting for Nigel Farage's Brexit Party. Pushing the oft-heard Brexiteer talking points, we're told parliament has spent the last three years trying to thwart the result of the 2016 referendum. So "we" need to send a message to the "Westminster elite". A rocket up their backsides, if you will, a reminder the angry leave army are not about to have their Brexit taken away from them. But to countenance voting for, urging a vote for, and campaigning for the Brexit Party, isn't that a step too far?

Elaborating his position further, Galloway emphasises the political distance between himself and Farage, but because this is an issue of democratic principle, he is prepared to encourage people to vote for the referendum's outcome to be enforced. Making this easier is the fact Labour's list of candidates - affirmed without any members' participation, it must be noted - can count among them enthusiastically pro-EU figures. These include remain favourite, and ski slope campaigner Lord Andrew Adonis. Because Labour's European challenge is dominated by candidates of this political stripe, this then makes voting for the Faragist list okay.

It does not make it okay.

Left or right, leave or remain, heads everywhere are being lost. A sense of perspective and political purpose is almost entirely absent from politics when reacting and responding to events, so it's time to restate some basics to plot our way through this. Politics is about power, about struggle, and is the medium through which class interests are articulated and prosecuted. This is something the right knows well, despite their disingenuous claims to the contrary. Labour on the other hand is and continues to be the imperfect political vehicle of proletarian interests. That is a rag tag and bobtail alliance of variously organised workers and people who have to sell their ability to work in return for a living. Right now, politics is in the grips of a dynamic of decomposition and recomposition. The powers of old, the Labour right, the meagre forces of authoritarian centrism, and finally the Tories are in historic decline. On the rise are forces incubated by the long decades of the Thatcherite settlement - the negative project of nationalist atavism exemplified by Farage and the Tory right, and the rising class of networked, socialised workers who are in a process of political becoming - they're far from the finished political article. But already their pulse from below is the power behind Corbyn and Corbynism, and Labour is an at times slow, at times rapid struggle of refounding itself. This is the conjuncture that must always be borne in mind when making sense of the twists and turns of Brexit's tortured politics.

What then is the immediate priority from the standpoint of working class politics now? Brexit? No. It is the consolidation and expansion of the Labour Party as a force that can annihilate the Tories, and prepare it and our class for the slog of a long spell of government. We approach Brexit then from the point of view of preparations for power. In the first instance then, this prospectus is enhanced by Labour winning the popular vote and most seats in the European elections. It changes the balance in the European parliament and shows the rest of the left across the continent that the left can win while standing as the left. And from the UK's perspective, it sends a very clear message that the reactionary right - which is what the Brexit Party is - can be defeated, and their ascendency isn't some natural, inevitable force. Something as simple as that, of getting a win over Farage transforms the political narrative of this country. It shows Labour can be successful under adverse circumstances, and that the hope for something better does not have to be a pipe dream. A Labour victory can dispel paralysing cynicism and melancholy, it can mobilise and inspire.

Galloway draws attention to Labour's candidates to justify his protest. They might not have been my first choice, but you can't have it both ways. You can't write off the wider politics of Labour's challenge because of who's standing while ignoring the people Farage has standing for the greater Brexity good. Their candidate list is yet to be finalised, but those announced so far deserve your contempt, not your vote. There is no hiding from the consequences of a good Brexit Party performance either - a ramping up of divisive and racist rhetoric, a multiplying of hate incidents and crimes, and a further coarsening of British politics. Are you happy for someone else - women, a disabled people, gay men and lesbians, East Europeans and anyone who isn't white - to pay the hate price of a burgeoning populist right? Additionally, apart from giving Farage and his lackeys the benefit of a MEP's salary for however long Brexit goes on for, what is the point? Politicians read polls and watch elections, and Farage coming out top isn't going to focus minds at Westminster any which way. If anything, it would embolden the ERG and perhaps encourage May to stick to their red lines in the hope of scooping this vote up in the future. And, of course, the Brexit Party - like UKIP before it - is a product of the crisis in the Tories, and in the context of our politics Farage's campaign is simultaneously a moment of political recomposition on the right. Galloway is fooling himself if he thinks the Brexit Party are a single issue outfit destined to evaporate when its task is complete. For Farage and his admirers in and outside the Tory party, this project is a stepping stone to replacing or refounding the Tories as a populist right formation.

The European election then is a battle, a political battle between the party of a new rising class, and a party of reaction. Brexit is the catalyst, but is largely immaterial to the movements stirring beneath the turbulence. A vote for Farage and the Brexit Party is not a "vote for Brexit", it is a vote for the populist right. For a backward project. For the forces arrayed against the Labour Party and labour movement. A vote for Labour, whether one self-identifies as a lexiteer, a remainer, or none of these labels is a vote for something much better. It's a vote for our coming victory.

10 comments:

Unknown said...

Laura parker is standing down from her post in Momentum to be the only true socialist MEP candidate so far. Let's hope more will come forward.

Unknown said...

Galloway has proved once again he is too much of a loose cannon to be trusted! No Socialist worthy of the name can EVER justify voting for fascists!!!

Boffy said...

This is a non sequitur. Its precisely because, "the consolidation and expansion of the Labour Party as a force that can annihilate the Tories, and prepare it and our class for the slog of a long spell of government" that Brexit is "the immediate priority from the standpoint of working class politics."

That is so for several reasons. Firstly, for 90% of those self-same Labour members and activists, it is such, and the Labour leadership is doing all in its power to frustrate, and thereby demoralise and demobilise them. Once again - three years into a Corbyn leadership that was supposed to be different, democratic and listening to the membership - we have parliamentary candidates being appointed. Democracy would have meant we could choose EP candidates that stood on a truly progressive, internationalist platform, but its apparent that Corbyn's Stalinist coterie much prefers its own usual method of bureaucratic manoeuvre and control from the top.

But Brexit is the priority for another reason. It is such an intense struggle because it represents a conjunctural milestone. It represents, as I've written previously a great struggle between two great class camps. Even more than the Miners Strike of 84-85, which side of that struggle you are on, determines whether you are in the camp of progress or reaction. Its no wonder that nationalists like Galloway have chosen to be in the camp of reaction.

The conjuncture is one not just affecting Britain but most of the developed economies. It means that capital has come up against constraints that can now only be resolved at an international level, and that require all those trying to squeeze capital back into the straightjacket of the nation state, which could only be done at massive cost to the working-class, which would involved taking capitalism back to its more primitive forms based upon dog eat dog competition by a myriad of small firms, backed by a strong state, to beat down resistance from workers, be defeated.

The same struggle is being played out in the US with Trump. Brexit cannot be seen in isolation. This is as big and decisive as the struggle over the Corn Laws, or the US Civil War, where Marx unequivocally stood on the side of the industrial capitalists - in both cases - against the forces of reaction.

Brexit is the immediate priority, because it defines where we are in that struggle between two great class camps. Its a bit like the English Civil War fought under the banners of parliament against King, but on the basis of a struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism, but which was really about a class struggle between two broad class camps, with the progressive forces being those of the rising mostly merchant bourgeoisie, and their allies.

Unlike even a big strike like 84-85, which if lost can be reversed in a few years, under the right conditions, or certainly an ephemeral event like a General Election, which as Engels pointed out is only ever an indirect gauge of the degree of class consciousness, Brexit is the immediate priority, precisely because it is defining for at least a generation. If Brexit goes ahead, it will shape British politics in favour of reaction, for the next 30-40 years.

It is the priority because where a strike is merely a limited distributional struggle involving a minority of workers, and an election is a purely passive event, this struggle over Brexit is one that is mobilising the millions of advanced workers themselves, as the march of 1 million, and so on demonstrated.

The tories try to pretend that everyone wants to "Just Get On With It", by which they really mean the Leavers want that, and fuck everyone else. This is the decisive class issue of our generation. Being on the wrong side of it is an act of class betrayal of huge proportions.

Boffy said...

" Labour on the other hand is and continues to be the imperfect political vehicle of proletarian interests."

Except it isn't, and never has been. The Labour Party is a bourgeois party, and always has been. It is just as that it is a bourgeois party - defined by its ideology and objectives - that is based upon the working-class. It is merely an extension of the bourgeois ideology of trades unionism, of simply bargaining within the confines of capitalism for a better deal for workers. As Marx indicated in his analysis of Ricardian economic theory, and the Ricardian socialism that came out of it, which is the basis of social-democracy, that always means that workers interests have to be subordinated to those of capital, because it sees the growth and accumulation of capital as fundamental to the workers being able to raise their living standards.

That doesn't mean that this social-democracy is not progressive, it simply means its not socialist. It only represents proletarian interests indirectly, as Marx sets out, in Wage, Labour and Capital, for example, by the fact that by bringing about an increase in capital accumulation it creates better conditions for workers wages and conditions to improve. Incidentally, that is precisely why a progressive social-democracy, let alone international socialism has to be unreservedly opposed to Brexit, which points in the opposite direction.

Boffy said...

"We approach Brexit then from the point of view of preparations for power. In the first instance then, this prospectus is enhanced by Labour winning the popular vote and most seats in the European elections."

Except Labour's confused, duplicitous and reactionary pro-Brexit stance makes it almost certain that it will not win even those elections! Not winning an election is a minor issue if you have at least used that election to mobilise progressive forces, behind a clear principled programme, but Labour isn't even doing that!

Boffy said...

"Are you happy for someone else - women, a disabled people, gay men and lesbians, East Europeans and anyone who isn't white - to pay the hate price of a burgeoning populist right?"

But then what about the rush of Labour's leaders to embrace that trend with their enthusiastic support for an end to free movement, appeasing all of the bigotry that believes that the problems of British capitalism are the fault of foreigners, be they immigrants, or EU bureaucrats!

Boffy said...

"Galloway is fooling himself if he thinks the Brexit Party are a single issue outfit destined to evaporate when its task is complete. For Farage and his admirers in and outside the Tory party, this project is a stepping stone to replacing or refounding the Tories as a populist right formation."

But it's not just Galloway. There have been lots of comments recently about how can Brexit be a right-wing project if people like Tony Benn etc. in the past supported leaving the EU. It shows the extent of sloppy thinking. Mosely went from Tory, to left Labour. He was a Fabian, and his Mosely Manifesto was a 1930's Keynesian equivalent of the economic nationalism of the 1970's AES promoted by the Communist Party, Tribune, Benn et al. The Mosely Manifesto was backed by amongst others Aneurin Bevan.

Mosely followed the logic of his economic nationalism, after MacDonald betrayed the party. Mosely set up the New Party on his way to creating the british Union of Fascists. Stalin did not start out as a reactionary anti-working-class tyrant. Trotsky said if a young Stalin had known his future, he would have shot himself. It was the reactioanry economic nationalism of "Socialism In One Country" that led Stalin down the reactionary path he took. The same could be said about for former Italian Socialist Benito Mussolini. The Strasserites proclaimed their own version of "anti-capitalism", and in the 1930's, there were many former German Stalinists who easily jumped ship to give their allegiance to the National Socialism of Hitler, which as Trotsky pointed out looked very little different to the programme of National Socialism that Stalin was carrying through.

Lenin in the 1880's, in his polemics against the Narodniks speaks in one place about the fact that in many cases individual Narodniks, were the most militant opponents not just of Tsarism, but also of the emerging capitalist regime. Subjectively, these individuals were some of the best revolutionary fighters. And, yet Lenin says, because of the ideas they adhered to, the ended up being in practice reactionaries.

Nationalism is a corrosive reactionary ideology, even the best revolutionaries if they are drawn in by it, end up in the camp of reaction.

clarekneebone said...

The effect of the Gilet Jaunes/EU Spring is not considered much, but I feel that it is worth watching closely. The EU commission will bring the might of their power, and do so every week to squash this movement with military force and media blackout. There is a race to censor the internet by the right as too much control is being lost. It is also a race to see if the masses of people can make a difference to the political structure of the EU so that Lexit might not be necessary?

windjunky said...

Either you’re a socialist or you want to remain in the EU. Either or.

Martin Davis said...

'Either you’re a socialist or you want to remain in the EU'. Ergo, if you want to leave the EU you must be a....socialist? I assume not. But then what is to distinguish your socialism, which defines itself here precisely against those who call themselves socialists but wish to remain, from other explicitly non-socialist Leavers?