Monday, December 24, 2018

Brexit Bullet Points for the American Left in 2020


-by Tim Russo

Bernie Sanders in 2020 will face much the same headwinds in the Democratic Primary as Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has faced since spring, 2015. As an American Clintonista who worked on all three of Tony Blair’s Labour victories, I found my radical lefty zeal of the recently converted during Corbyn’s rise. As I converted, I wrote about my Saul Off His Horse moment a lot, here, and here. So pick up a chair.

Like most Americans, I myself had been reflexively Remain. The dying embers of the Third Way yet glowed in my heart as the Brexit referendum approached in Corbyn’s first year as Labour leader. For some strange reason, the “EU” still seemed a comforting blanket of the status quo I used to thrive in. I’ve stayed in touch with a few British friends, and without fail, the Blairite dead ender Corbyn haters were for Remain. As were the Hillary 2016 people.

I became Brexit Curious.

Corbyn has personally opposed the EU his whole life, as a manifestation of neoliberal wealth extraction for capital, among many other such socialist reasons. Corbyn’s 1992 quote on the Maastricht Treaty, which created the EU, is remarkably prescient. “It's the establishment of a central bank which is staffed by bankers, independent of national Governments & national economic policies. That will undermine any social objective that any Labour Government-- or any other government-- would wish to carry out.” There is indeed a strong, sound, socialist argument for Brexit (Lexit-- Learn it here).

Yet, Corbyn instead campaigned in 2016 for Remain as leader of a Labour Party deeply split over the issue. Core Labour voters outside London largely delivered Brexit, who had first fled Labour to UKIP (read-- Reagan Democrats, now Obama-Obama-Trump voters). But London Labour voters (read-- US coastal elites), those most likely to somehow benefit financially from EU membership, went heavily Remain. Remainers were just as shocked by Brexit as Hillary was by Trump; neoliberalism’s transatlantic blind spots are predictable.

Labour’s position today is a compromise, as it must certainly be-- to respect the result of the 2016 referendum, vote down Theresa May’s deal, then fight for a general election to win government and negotiate a good Brexit, then if all else fails all options are on the table, including a second referendum. But Corbyn’s own position is to respect the result of the referendum if at all possible, rather than try to reverse it. As recently as Dec. 21, Corbyn emphasized respect for the Brexit result to The Guardian, creating howls of horror among his Blairite enemies.

No, Virginia, Brexit won't be reversed

A second referendum is total folly, and the push for it is no doubt part of the Third Way’s death throes desperation to destroy Corbyn. First, a second referendum would inevitably be more Brexity, not less, largely due to an entirely predictable backlash against ignoring a referendum result. No campaign on earth will stop a Brexit repeat, and one run by the likes of Alistair Campbell, Peter Mandelson, and Jim Messina will merely throw fire on the backlash flame. Personally, I think Corbyn should campaign for Brexit if there is a second referendum, solely on the basis of respecting the result of the first one. Socialism means nothing if the people can’t decide a question by referendum unless the “correct” result occurs.

Second, and more importantly, for at least the last 30 years, any fool should have known that if the EU went to referendum in the UK, it would lose. It's why David Cameron had to be forced into promising a referendum, and this still holds. Long forgotten is Peter Mandelson’s “Britain in Europe,” Labour's "non-partisan" campaign with Thatcherite Tories for joining the single currency. Launched early on in the Cool Britannia heights of late 90’s New Labour, Blair’s promise to hold a referendum on the single currency never happened, largely because other EU countries who put an EU constitution to a referendum rejected the EU (France and the Netherlands in 2005 in particular). The EU does not have a winning streak in national referenda, quite the opposite.

Like so many transatlantic woes of the early 21st century, centrist neoliberal policy of the late 20th spawned it. Blair’s single currency referendum promise not only went nowhere, it gave rise to Nigel Farage’s UKIP (the UK Independence Party), which is why UKIP’s logo is the pound. Mandelson & Blair's stupidity over the single currency birthed UKIP just as the collapse of generational security was given rocket fuel by Bill Clinton’s dismantling of the New Deal. Brexit’s forces are quite historical, complex, and with centrist fingerprints all over them, just as with Trump; fascism doesn’t just fall off the turnip truck, folks.

For the American left, Brexit is thus a window into the political, ideological, and historical forces that will gather against Bernie 2020. In that spirit, I leave you with some quick bullet points of commonality between Bernie and Corbyn which Brexit illuminates.

Russia didn’t do Brexit.  Please. Just, don't. Brexit has been brewing for decades. The EU is not popular guys! Just because Putin can read the tea leaves of neoliberal collapse better than brainless capitalists doesn’t mean he can turn up the day it all predictably comes to naught, toss some memes around, and take the credit. If you think Britain will change its mind, just ask the French gillets jaunes how they’d vote on EU membership. You know how it pisses you off when someone claims Bernie is a Russian op? That’s how much it pisses off Brexit voters. Doesn’t work, backfires, and wastes time. Enough.

Know the rules. The most delicious irony of Corbyn’s rise is that New Labour reforms of party leadership elections opened the door for hundreds of thousands of brand new members to join and elect Corbyn over the hoots and howls of centrists. Instead of MPs, electoral colleges, and other assorted smoke filled rooms, Ed Miliband as Labour leader instituted the “one member one vote” (OMOV) system of membership voting for the Labour leader. In this same way, Bernie Sanders can take over the Democratic Party one state at a time during the 2020 primary. To repeat Corbyn’s takeover of Labour stateside, Bernie will need to blast the doors wide open to nonvoters, infrequent voters, new voters, just as Corbyn did, in a massive campaign of voter registration, state by state.

The smears will never stop. Any socialist as close to power as Corbyn is today will get the kitchen sink emptied at them in perpetuity. Bernie Sanders will be no different. In particular, Corbyn’s enemies love to smear him, and Labour, as hopelessly anti-semitic, based almost solely in conflating anti-Zionism and support for Palestinians with the ovens of Auschwitz. Centrists in America will do the same to Bernie and his movement, even though Bernie himself is Jewish. Since these attacks are always baseless and ugly, they always backfire, but also always repeat, despite their ineffectiveness.

Media isn't your friend. Corbyn's Brexit position illustrates British media's Pavlovian dog hatred very well. He is uniformly reviled by every single mainstream media outlet in British politics, especially the BBC. Even The Guardian, once seen as a bastion of the left, has been in constant Corbyn meltdown mode since 2015, which Brexit is aggravating. Stateside, this manifests on MSNBC daily, hourly. MSNBC has been teeing itself up to kneecap Bernie Sanders in 2020 ever since he nearly won Iowa in 2016. Online, this dymamic is far worse, with the likes of DailyKos and its assorted DNC loyalist grifters joining every anti-Bernie paid troll op Peter Daou and David Brock will ever dream up to pay their mortgages. Once Bernie wins Iowa in January 2020, just as when Corbyn won leadership in 2015, the attacks will explode into a viciousness previously unimagined. They will all backfire.

Finally-- stop shying away from Marx. Both Brexit and Trump are symptoms of the collapse of neoliberal capitalism, as its failures continue piling up, unaddressed and ignored. You are hopelessly ill equipped to understand those forces if you haven’t at least become familiar with a Marxist interpretation of capital. The good news is, you don’t need to read Marx’s work on any other country. Just read what Marx wrote about us. Oh? You didn’t know Marx wrote about our Civil War? Now ya do. Read it. Spoiler-- the Confederacy isn't dead yet.

That’s enough homework. Now get to it! Brexit is a helpful lens through which to see all these forces at work. In early 21st century America, there is so much room to run left, and it’s just growing. A movement has been rising to seize that political ground since the Greens in Iran, the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and now, Corbyn and Bernie are the vessels. Be a part of that movement. Don’t be such a fool to stand in its way.

UPDATE: From Wales

Novara Media Co-Founder Aaron Bastani's twitter feed alerted me to a growing phenomenon-- Labour members who voted Remain in the 2016 Brexit referendum and who are turning to voting Leave if there is a second referendum, largely based on who is arguing for a second referendum most-- Blairites. Bastani retweeted the lament of a Welsh Labour member, which clearly makes the argument for Lexit-- a left Brexit.

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At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For once we get a reasonable discourse on the problems facing a Sanders campaign and a measure of what he can do about it. We need more articles like this on the other major issues facing the nation right now, especially what to do about the corporatist media.

That said, there is nothing there telling us what to do about Bernie's previous collapse into being a leashed sheepdog for HER! He himself has never once fully explained that move to my satisfaction, and I sent him money I had to scrounge to gather because I thought he was the solution. Party corruption and the compliance of the media in presenting only negative stories about him took care of that.

This time around, I can't just jump on the bandwagon. Bernie needs to show me that he can get bills through the Congress that will benefit me as a citizen. I need MFA. I need to know that Social Security is safe from corporatist predation. I need to know that the massively increased corporate pollution of my environment will be dealt with. And so much more.

I won't have the funds available to assist the effort this time around unless I'm willing to starve to gather a donation. I'm already having to do this because I can't afford the increased fees and co-pays the Congress is allowing the healthcare industry to impose on us.

At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Hone said...

Reality will kick in, no doubt. All this talk does not read the tea leaves.

Well, we will see what happens, won't we? If and when there is no new referendum and there winds up being a No Deal BREXIT we will see how that plays out. I suspect it will not be pretty. No matter what, many people will be royally screwed.

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:19, a fine comment.

Hone... well, consistency at least.

first, some actual truths not often seen and never believed by the imbeciles in america:

"Bill Clinton’s dismantling of the New Deal."
YES!! Finally someone ELSE that was paying attention in the late '90s. Clinton advocated and pushed and cajoled... but the democrap party was all in on it too.

"Putin can read the tea leaves of neoliberal collapse better than brainless capitalists"
Again, nicely said. If you want to know what neoliberal collapse means, read Marx (et al) on 'late stage capitalism'. Like Special Relativity which specifies that light-speed travel is impossible because of the requirement of infinite energy, capitalism contains its own destruction because of mathematical infinities. Earth is not capable of infinite resources. And, yeah, I realize that's all math-n-shit so a very tiny minority of americans can possibly understand.

"Both Brexit and Trump are symptoms of the collapse of neoliberal capitalism"
Again, perfectly said. Just as Reagan and thatcher were the birth of the insanity of neoliberal capitalism, it SHALL collapse under its own infinities. It has to.
But before it collapses, it crushes the masses underneath itself. Capitalists never see nor care about this as long as their limbic overload of greed is never satisfied. And it never can be... can it?

But the conclusion, though partially true, is a canard:

"there is so much room to run left, and it’s just growing. A movement has been rising to seize that political ground since the Greens in Iran, the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and now, Corbyn and Bernie are the vessels."

Yes, there is a vast vacuum on the left and it grows simply because all political action keeps fleeing to the right.

HOWEVER, I disagree that any such movement exists, at least in this cluster fuck of a shithole. I cannot speak with any knowledge about the UK nor Corbyn.
In this CF/SH, Occupy was crushed (capitalists with media help, storm troopers, but mostly the indifference of 98% of americans).
And, like 1:19, I cannot trust Bernie. He could have proved his sincerity but, instead, he proved his fealty to the capitalists. He has no legitimacy to claim nor BE claimed as a vessel for such a movement, even it it did exist.

it does not exist in this CF/SH. It simply does not.

If it did, the democraps would now be an asterisk in history books and we'd have a real left party (or parties) that would have won 340 seats in the house 6 weeks ago.

You cannot have a left movement when the left electorate are as goddamn stupid as ours.

At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Hone, it appears that the EU does not WANT to make a deal with the UK that does not ratfuck the UK severely.

If the UK gets a favorable deal at all, there are 2 or 3 others who are likely to do likewise.

This article does not even mention the biggest sacrifice that each member must make. By shackling themselves to a currency under only the control of capitalists, they self-castrate any ability to implement any kind of currency policy that is not capitalist-inspired when needed.

If the 2008 crash had been centered in the EU, the crash would have been worse by an order of magnitude. The us could do shit like QE (1, 2, ...) to make the investors whole. A little of that made it to main street. Without our central bank acting unilaterally, we could not have had that and main street would have been ratfucked even worse to make the investor caste whole.

The line about being able to implement policy for the benefit of environment and/or labor was just hilarious. There exists no central bank nor any currency manipulators who have ever done either... and there never will be.

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes the UK was right to stay out of the Euro. And, as Anonymous 7:13 said, the UK is unlikely to get a deal it will like when renegotiating Brexit. The structure of the EU, which requires unanimous consent on a deal, makes easy negotiations next to impossible. As Ian Welsh has written, the EU was set up to make it hard for outsiders to divide Europe. Which Trump, the Russians, and the Mercers dearly want to do.

Nonetheless, as you say, Russia didn't "do" Brexit any more than Russia "did" Trump -- the Russians made a difference at the margin only. It was the neoliberals who so enthusiastically went along with conservatives to create inequality, that created the preconditions for Brexit and Trump.

Yves Smith, who has the same sympathies you and Bernie have, politically, has been very good on this, and I expect her views are shaped by her experience as a banker and dealmaker. Deals that require unanimous, or near unanimous consent (like say, bond restructurings) are just plain hard to do, as a Brexit redo would also be.

Corbyn has of course been consistently exemplary on issues of economic equality, but as to his relationship with the Jews of Britain, well, see this from Harper's Magazine.

From what I hear in my friends who live in the UK, antisemitism is quite definitely on the rise in the UK and Labour does nothing to stop it. I appreciate that leftists get the kitchen sink thrown at them but a refutation of Corbyn's antisemitism, based on his record, would be really nice.


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