29/09/2016 by socialistfight
Socialist Fight Statement 19-9-2016
In fact, it is likely that it was his critical stance on the EU that saved Labour from being completely undermined in England and Wales, outside London, in the way it was wiped out in Scotland in the 2015 general election. It was Labour’s joint neo-liberal campaign with the Tories against Scottish independence that drove Labour’s discontented working class base to the SNP. It is not difficult to imagine something similar happening South of the border if the Blairites had had their way over the EU referendum. The Blairites are fully aware of this; their propaganda against Corbyn on the EU is reflective of their indifference to the very survival of the Labour Party.
In the aftermath of the narrow vote for Brexit on 23 June, there has been a major escalation of racist and chauvinist attacks on both East European workers, and people from long established ethnic minorities such as Afro-Caribbeans and South Asians. Social media has highlighted the frequency and nature of these attacks, with racist thugs loudly proclaiming that ‘we’ the ‘indigenous’ population had voted to ‘get rid’ of ‘foreigners’, and some of the reality has found its way into the mainstream media.
Polish and East European workers have been the targets: leaflets have been pushed through doors threatening ‘Polish vermin’ with violence. Polish cultural centres have been attacked and daubed with racist graffiti, and there have been a rash of violent attacks, including the disgusting murder of a Polish man, Arkadiusz Jóźwik, over the August Bank holiday weekend, in Harlow, Essex. This was followed up by another violent assault a week or so later in the same town.
Black and Asian people have been abused and threatened by pro-Brexit racists and told to ‘go home’. These incidents are just a small sample of a large litany of incidents. The Institute of Race Relations compiled a list of well over 100 incidents in the month after the referendum vote just by monitoring media (http://www.irr.org.uk/news/post-brexit-racism/). But even these are undoubtedly only a small fraction of what is actually going on. Many victims of abuse and even violent racial crime do not report such incidents because of justified distrust of the police and the legal system.
Leave, Remain, and Xenophobic Bigotry
This wave of racial abuse and violence can be put at the door of the bourgeois politicians on both sides of the recent referendum vote. The entire thrust of Johnson, Gove and Farage’s ‘Leave’ campaigning was whipping up hatred of migrant workers; but the bulk of the ‘Remain’ side was no better, endorsing both fortress Europe racism against migrant workers and demands for an ‘emergency brake’ on European migration, agreeing with the Leave side that migrants were to be treated as an enemy population.
Theresa May, now Prime Minister and pro-Remain, was responsible for sending vans with the hate message ‘Go Home’ (ostensibly to illegal immigrants, though in the small print) touring round areas with heavily immigrant communities in the recent past.
Not only East European migrants but also Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees were targets for the hatred of the Leave campaign as Farage in particular banged the drum against those fleeing the wars the West and the Israelis have waged in the Middle East. These wars destroyed Iraq and Libya and continue to destabilise great swathes of the Fertile Crescent and North Africa, in pursuit of the objective of creating anarchy, social collapse and fragmentation of the Arab world in particular. This is not only aimed at asserting US global hegemony but also at preventing any coherent Arab unification that may threaten Israel’s ability to seize Arab land with impunity.
Often the patter that came from the pro-Remain Tories and Blarities was that staying in the EU was the way to halt EU migrants and refugees though a deal with the EU itself, whereas an ‘isolated’ UK would not get cooperation from the EU. This was desperate stuff on the part of the Remain campaign, cringing in the face of the anti-immigrant populism that has gained much influence in British society because of the relative absence of working class politics for more than two decades.
Labour movement chauvinism
Even where elements of working class politics existed, it often undermined itself because of its parliamentary reformism and thus programmatic ties to the nation-state. Britain is not just any old nation state; however, much it may have declined from its heyday of empire, it is still an imperialist state and a key, if junior, partner of the United States in its imperialist crusades around the world.
Therefore, British national sentiment does not contain any element of justification or a struggle against oppression, as does, say, Palestinian, Irish or Latin American nationalism. It is reactionary pure and simple – we as Marxists do not support the ‘right’ of British chauvinists, even those with ties to the labour movement, to exclude or restrict migrants from British soil.
Unfortunately, the Labour left has been historically bound to reformist schemes involving the nation- state here as a potential vehicle for reforms in the supposed interests of the working class. And it is true that real gains have been won within the framework of the national state: the existence of the National Health Service is apparently a case in point. Legislated into existence by Attlee’s post WWII Labour government, it was the realisation of a proposal actually made by Beveridge, a Liberal peer, during the war.
But it is profoundly misleading to see the NHS as a product of national reformism. It was rather one of a series of concessions made by the ruling classes in the imperialist countries in circumstances of the extreme discredit that fascism threatened to bring upon capitalism itself at that time. In order to try to obscure the connection between fascist barbarism and the capitalist system, relatively generous social welfare concessions were made to the working class across the imperialist world.
It was fear that the widespread hatred of workers for fascism would come to be directed against the system itself, and lead to its revolutionary overthrow, that led the imperialists to adopt ‘welfare capitalism’ as a disguise for the system.
Only decades later, at the dawn of the neo-liberal era in the 1970s, would capitalism seriously break with the ‘welfare capitalism’ consensus and launch a prolonged, but often quite cautious, offensive against these gains. It is the potential for class struggle on an international level that offers the hope of defeating and reversing this offensive, not a return to delusions about ‘national’ reformism. But that is one of the key weaknesses of the Labour Left.
Thus the most ‘radical’ elements of the left campaigned for so called ‘Lexit’ – left wing exit, in the name of Britain taking control of its sovereignty from the EU in order to elect a left government that could legislate for socialism, or at least some serious social reform. This is the ideology that motivated the likes of No2EU in the past, leading elements of the RMT Rail Union, the Socialist Party, the SWP, and in the referendum itself, George Galloway.
The problem is that, reformist illusions aside, Britain is an imperialist country and the demand for its ‘sovereignty’ – which was never violated in any case but merely voluntarily and partially delegated to EU institutions – can only have reactionary consequences. The result is that organisations and individuals who were and still are among the most subjectively fervent opponents of racism and chauvinism against immigrants, and who have led movements that have mobilised millions to protest against imperialism’s worst recent crimes, find themselves rubbing shoulders with reactionary chauvinists like Farage and even endorsing demands for immigration restrictions on migrant workers.
This is the dead end of nationalist reformism. Galloway for instance had the courage to openly side with Iraqi resistance against British and US imperialism, but in the referendum this most pro-immigrant of Labour politicians was rubbing shoulders with Farage and denouncing ‘unrestricted’ immigration.
Militant/Socialist Party have always flinched from opposing immigration controls as a matter of principle, as part of their accommodation with imperialism, including such manifestations as Zionism and Ulster Loyalism, thus showing their chauvinist, parliamentarist deviation from Marxism.
The SWP (and its splinter group Counterfire), which historically stood, at least in theory, for the abolition of all immigration controls, nevertheless lined up in a victorious campaign politically dominated by anti-migrant chauvinists like the Tory right and Farage.
Corbyn and the EU
Jeremy Corbyn historically had similar views on the EU to the Bennites that are probably most characteristically associated today with George Galloway (since the Greek debacle, prior to which he was actually pro-EU). Corbyn called for a critical ‘Remain’ vote in the referendum. He was savagely attacked by the pro-Remain Blairite PLP for his critical stance, as part of the political rationale for the coup aimed at unseating him.
In fact, it is likely that it was his critical stance on the EU that saved Labour from being completely undermined in England and Wales, outside London, in the way it was wiped out in Scotland in the 2015 general election. It was Labour’s joint neo-liberal campaign with the Tories against Scottish independence that drove Labour’s discontented working class base to the SNP. It is not difficult to imagine something similar happening South of the border if the Blairites had had their way over the EU referendum.
The Blairites are fully aware of this; their propaganda against Corbyn on the EU is reflective of their indifference to the very survival of the Labour Party.
Corbyn’s ‘Remain and Reform’ stance on the EU at least defended the rights of migrant workers. He has talked of ‘solidarity’ when confronted with chauvinist agitation against migrant workers in the labour movement. His perspective of reforming the EU, however, is indeed another variant of left reformism, as the EU itself is a capitalist, neoliberal bloc dominated by imperialist states like France and Germany, and not a vehicle for gains for the working class. Greece showed that very clearly.
We do not endorse the EU’s single market for labour and capital, just as we do not endorse capitalist markets in general. But we do defend workers’ rights, and a key right of any worker is the right to sell his or her labour for the highest price s/he can get. We are opposed to all restrictions on this, including chauvinist ones that purport to benefit one section of the working class (‘indigenous’) workers against another migrant section.
Proletarian internationalism not labour protectionism
Working class support for labour protectionism actually helps capital to divide the working class along national lines and severely damages the possibility of international solidarity. And since capitalism has become more and more internationalised for many decades, and the IT revolution in the more recent decades has made capital flight qualitatively easier, international solidarity is going to be a crucial weapon even in defensive struggles in many countries, both imperialist and semi-colonial, in the future. Without it, the working class will suffer more very damaging defeats.
One positive effect of migration is that it brings into existence, despite all the strains, an international working class, not as an abstraction, but as a material reality. That has always been true of capitalism. In an earlier period, by drawing into the cities and industry enormous numbers of former poor peasants, it created its potential gravedigger in subsequent generations. This is also true of migration: and it is why all kinds of reactionary backward –looking bourgeois nationalists hate migration and migrant workers.
We as socialists and supporters of workers’ rights, in the Labour Party, have to make a leap of our understanding, and realise that migrant workers’ rights ARE workers’ rights.
Just as much as the right to join trade unions and to strike and struggle for better wages and conditions, so the right to seek work where the best conditions are available is also indivisible for workers. To say otherwise is to poison the relations between sections of workers with different national origins, and so destroy the prospect of class solidarity both domestically and internationally. In effect, such chauvinism encourages different groups of workers to scab on other’s struggles.
We need to fight to win so-called ‘indigenous’ workers to defend migrant workers’ rights and struggles as the same as their own. We need to organise a movement that will physically defend migrant workers against racist and xenophobic attacks, whether from organised non-state racists and fascists, or indeed the state.
The new Labour left should have no truck with labour protectionism, but should adopt as its own the slogan:
‘BRITISH’ WORKERS, MIGRANT WORKERS, SAME STRUGGLE SAME FIGHT, WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE! . ▲