All that’s solid melts in air amidst Brexit crisis

Photo: Craig Maclean

by Ken Ferguson · Even the most hardened journalists, activists and politicians now stand on the edge of Brexit bafflement as things unthinkable one day enter the mainstream the next.

Moving at dizzying speed and in unpredictable directions the crisis recalls the famous words of the Communist Manifesto “all that’s solid melts in air; all that’s sacred is profaned.”

Amidst the rumour and counter rumour backstabbing and parliamentary parlour games some key questions present themselves and answering them will be essential in determining the reaction both of the independence movement and more specifically the role of the left within it.

For the Voice and the SSP, the starting point of such an examination has to be the attitude taken to the original calling of the referendum and the forces that drove it.

We took a position of reluctantly backing a Remain vote on the basis that the forces driving the Leave side were such that their victory would unleash a carnival of reaction which would eclipse some on the left backing leave in what became known as Lexit.

Vicious economics
We take no pleasure in the fact that this is precisely what has unfolded only far more starkly than even we predicted.

Figures such as Rees Mogg and Boris Johnson are simply the vanguard of a large section of Tory MPs endorsing a vicious free market economics allied to deregulation and a rose tinted world view hankering after the once all powerful British Empire.

More seriously this right wing virus is now dominant among Tory activists and poses the real possibility that, when May goes, they will be the kingmakers ensuring that these extremist politics—by whatever candidate—carry the day.

It is this class reality which will be significant and which is currently concealed under the sound and fury of “Leavers vs Remainers” and suggestions that these two camps can somehow replace class based politics in shaping events.

In this reading all Remainers are progressive internationalists and Leavers are all quasi racist insular Britnats.

Like all such stories it is a blend of fact and fiction and coming to terms with this requires a cool headed examination of the class and social dynamics driving the process.

On the Remain side millions are motivated by a view of the EU which sees it as a beacon for an internationalism which rejects the union jack waving jingoism of the right wing Tories, Farage and UKIP. In particular this sentiment has a strong influence among young people and groups such as Momentum.

On the left the revulsion with the Brexiteers trumps legitimate criticism of the economics of the EU which crucified Greece and enshrines neoliberalism as it core policy.

The Tory toffs who have dominated the Brexit case certainly represent a anti-working class politics of which Thatcher would be proud.

But does that mean that the millions of workers who voted Leave in the North of England and Wales—many from areas with a proud history of struggle—have become Xenophobes?

Despite the simplistic media stereotypes the evidence points to a much more complex process underpinning the views of working class Leave voters.

A look at a map of Leave areas show that they almost universally share the characteristic of being left behind by the de-industrialisation and financialisation of the last 30 years of neoliberalism which has dumped thousands of former miners, steelworkers, factory workers and so forth on the economic scrap heap.

No doubt this was inflamed by right wing quasi racists but are we really to believe that miners who stood against the assault of the state, semi starvation and hardship defending the same communities now voting Leave did so because they have been converted to British Empire nostalgia and racism?

From across Europe and North America the evidence points to Brexit as the UK version of the populism which has seen communities marginalised by the switch from production to finance provide fertile ground for the far right.

It is this basic economic development which has fed forces such as the French Front Nationale, AFD in Germany and the Vox Francoists in Spain.

Most tellingly it played a major part in the election of the appalling Donald Trump to the White House.

Here in the UK the Newport by election caused by the death of Paul Flynn, one of the best Left MPs, who represented the constituency for 30 years, saw a major boost to UKIP which came third with 9 per cent of the vote.

What needs to be addressed is the reality that the regime of super gains for the rich few and growing insecurity, poverty pay, food banks and austerity for millions all provide breeding grounds for the far right in societies where the former parties of the working class have abandoned their former voters.

The arrival of Corbynism while challenging some of this faces major opposition from the still powerful Labour right as evidenced by the constant attacks on him from within.

Decayed politics
While here in Scotland these cruel economics have been partly concealed by the dominance of the the Indy debate, the fact remains that tens of thousands face the same economic and social challenges.

As Brexit drives home the increasingly decayed and right wing politics of Westminster the case for independence should be soaring but is not.

In this situation the urgent need is not to debate the timing of a second indy referendum but to shape an offer which links the economic concerns of the working class majority with the case for Yes.

This, not the pro-big business politics of the so called Growth Commission, points the way to a formulae to break with the decaying UK and open the way to a Scotland putting people before profit.

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