There is no progressive or left wing case for Brexit

fhQxYHfThe timing of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU – June 23rd – could not be better for those on the right and far right of the country’s political spectrum. With a refugee crisis of biblical proportions lapping up on Europe’s shores, and with the collapse of the political centre ground across the West in the wake of the enduring impact of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the right has suddenly found itself vying with the left to occupy the political space that has opened up as a result.

This in itself is no bad thing, for just as the reactionary ideas and politics of Donald Trump in the US and Nigel Farage in the UK have gained traction in recent times, so has the socialist and progressive politics and ideas of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn in both countries. However in the context of a referendum on Britain’s continuing membership of the EU, in which we are witnessing an egregious conjunction of left and right, there are serious grounds for alarm.

There is no viable left wing, socialist, or progressive case for Britain leaving the EU – and certainly not in the current political and economic climate. What there is in truth is a campaign for exit (Brexit) that is dominated by the ugly far right politics of anti immigration, xenophobia, and British nationalism. That section of the left that is also campaigning for Britain exit from the EU, basing their arguments on the anti-democratic nature of its institutions and its neoliberal economic orientation, not to mention increasing militarization, is merely allowing itself to be recruited as unwitting footsoldiers by right and far right in what qualifies as a catastrophic collapse of judgment, if not principle.

Jean Monnet’s vision of European unity

The EU started life as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951, which later became the European Economic Community (EEC), established by the Treaty of Rome in 1958. The original EEC was made up of West Germany, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxemburg, and Italy in a common market and customs union. It was the brainchild of French diplomat and political economist, Jean Monnet, whose vision of European unity was born of the experience of two devastating European wars by the middle of the twentieth century, and the desire to avoid another by fomenting closer economic cooperation, ties, and integration across the continent between former belligerent states, in particular France and West Germany. “There will be no peace in Europe if the States rebuild themselves on the basis of national sovereignty,” the Frenchman said, “with its implications of prestige politics and economic protection.”

His idea was that member states would cede a little national sovereignty in exchange for peace, and continue to do so until a fully fledged European Union came into being.

Today’s EU worships at the altar of neoliberalism

In 2016 Monnet’s dream is a reality in the form of a European Union of 28 member states with a combined population of 500 million people. For obvious reasons, however, Monnet’s dream for many of those people across the EU has been a nightmare. For not only is the EU an economic behemoth, the largest single market in the world, it is one dominated by the needs, interests, and prerogatives of finance capital, reflected in political institutions underpinned by a constitution, the Treaty of Lisbon, which legislates that its member states worship at the altar of neoliberalism.

We witnessed the grievous consequences of this neoliberal hegemony during the Greek crisis of 2015, when the so-called Troika – the IMF, European Central Bank, and the European Commission – forced harsh austerity measures onto the Greek economy and people, while callously dismissing the popular democratic mandate of its government, under Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras, to pursue an investment led alternative in order to navigate the country out of the economic depression it was suffering

Calls from the far left and right within Greece for the country’s exit from the EU rather than continue to be subjected to what the country’s former finance minister and economist, Yanis Varoufakis, described as “economic waterboarding”, were not shared by the vast majority of Greeks, who understood that Greece’s specific economic circumstances meant that going it alone would be as bad, and perhaps worse, than the austerity medicine prescribed by the Troika.

The awful events in Greece in 2015 confirmed the extent to which neoliberalism is incompatible with national sovereignty. However this incompatibility is not merely a product of the EU. It is also a factor across the entire Western world, with the exception of the United States for the historical and geopolitical reasons set out by Varoufakis’ in his book, The Global Minotaur (Zed, 2015). Most of all it emphasized the need for a pan-European anti austerity movement of sufficient size and strength to mount a serious challenge to the status quo. That one did not and still does not exist does not mean that anti-austerity as counter hegemonic current within Europe is dead, however. In this regard the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party last summer by a landslide on an anti austerity platform, is grounds for optimism.

Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist vision and public ownership

Corbyn’s socialist ideas and vision for Britain has garnered huge support across the country, attracting record numbers of new Labour Party members with his pledge to take back the nation’s railway transport system into public ownership, along with the so-called ‘Big Six’ energy companies. Corbyn is also leading Labour’s campaign for Britain to remain in the EU come the referendum in June.

Here, on the left, opponents of Corbyn’s position claim that public ownership is illegal under current EU legislation. But they’re wrong, at least according Article 345 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU of 1958, which states: ‘The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership.’

This legislation remains extant and refutes the claim that existing EU legislation prohibits the kind of nationalization, or public ownership, being advocated by Jeremy Corbyn. But even if it did prohibit it, are we seriously suggesting that in the event that Corbyn gets elected prime minister on a manifesto that includes public ownership that he would not be able to implement it? Nonsense. If David Cameron can negotiate ‘special status’ for Britain within the EU in areas of welfare benefits and migration, then so can Corbyn on taking key industries and services into public ownership. Britain remains a major economy, not just within Europe but globally, and with that economic status comes negotiating power.

But things won’t have to go that far given that all across the EU state or public ownership within the transport and energy sectors is currently a fact of life.

The EU’s role as US gendarme and human rights

Another issue of concern when it comes to the EU has been its role as a geopolitical and economic gendarme in service to Washington, specifically in recent times with regard to the crisis in Ukraine involving Russia, the conflict in Syria, and the Iranian crisis. In this regard the symbiosis between the EU and NATO is of undoubted concern, particularly with regard to the accession states of Eastern Europe and how this has raised tensions with Moscow, leading directory to the conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Yet given the longstanding nature of the so-called ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the US, and the way in which both Germany and France have also established closer ties across the Atlantic over the past decade and more, neither an EU independent of Britain or a Britain independent of the EU would alter the close relationship between either and Washington. If anything, in the event of Brexit, the British political and security establishment would place even more emphasis on its partnership with the United States in order to compensate. As for the eastwards expansion of the EU, there is no reason to presume that this process would cease either.

Another reason for opposing Brexit is the consequences it would have for Britain’s continuing membership of European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which enforces its writ across Europe. Though separate from the EU, the ECHR has been thrown in as part of the toxic brew cooked up by Tory Europsceptics and their far right fellow travellers, led by UKIP’s Nigel Farage. Brexit would almost certainly lead to Britain’s withdrawal and, with it, the removal of a vital layer of human rights legislation for those who find themselves at the sharp end of British justice. This particularly applies to asylum seekers and others facing deportation to countries where they are in danger of being tortured or worse.

For all these reasons and more – workers’ rights and consumer protection, etc. – there is no strong progressive case for Britain leaving the EU, despite its many and manifest flaws. And certainly not when the beneficiaries should it come to pass will be the ugly forces of reaction and nationalism.

Nationalism not socialism is the driver of the campaign for Britain’s exit from the EU, and If successful it will feed a regressive national consciousness at the expense of its class counterpart.

 

 

121 comments on “There is no progressive or left wing case for Brexit

  1. Karl Stewart on said:

    John, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has nothing to do with the EU John. You’ve made a common mistake of confusing it with the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which is an EU body.

    If we leave the EU, then yes we will also leave the juristiction of the ECJ, but no, we will certainly not leave the ECHR. The ECHR has virtually every European nation in membership, including Russia, Norway, Greenland, Switzerland – all non-EU members states.

    (I think the only European non member of ECHR is Belarus.)

    We certainly won’t leave the ECHR if we vote to leave the EU. Also, we won’t leave the United Nations either.

    (And just to reassure SU readers, we won’t be leaving UEFA, or the Eurovision Song Contest – these are not EU bodies either)

    John, your other error is when you claim that Jeremy Corbyn is leading Labour’s ‘remain’ campaign. He isn’t.

    Alan Johnson has been given that job. Alan Johnson is leading the ‘Labour-remain’ campaign.

    Corbyn doesn’t seem to me to be particularly keen on the EU. I think the formal ‘support’ he’s expressed is no more or less than a party leader voicing a formal party policy.

    John, there is actually no coherent left-wing case for remaining in. The EU is a right-wing, neo-liberal, privatising multinational organisation of big business and attempts to move it in a left-wing direction have been tried and have failed.

    A final point, Conservative Party Peer Lord Stuart Rose, a former head of Marks and Spencer and a leading advocate of the ‘remain in the EU’ side, has warned his fellow business leaders just the other day that if we leave the EU then workers’ wages will rise.

    Are you comfortable with being on the same side as someone like him John?

  2. Jimmy Haddow on said:

    Of course you cannot see “no viable left wing, socialist, or progressive case for Britain leaving the EU” because you are not a socialist in the true context of the word. In reality you are a Keynesian social reformer who has no interest in the socialist transformation of society and cannot lift your eyes or consciousness above the negative arse end of society and just want to remain in the framework of the capitalist system.

    That is why you can only say “Nationalism not socialism is the driver of the campaign for Britain’s exit from the EU, and If successful it will feed a regressive national consciousness at the expense of its class counterpart.” Yes, let’s leave the British working class to the mercy of the right-wing capitalist ideological and ultra-right-wing nationalists forces on both sides of the EU argument and let left-wingers/socialist not say one word about how to achieve a socialist society in Scotland, Britain and Europe.

    You are the equivalent of the leaders of the German Social Democratic Party who sided with their capitalist class and voted for war credits on the 4 August 1914 that started the world war that killed millions of working class people.

    Yes, there is an alternative and that is genuine socialist campaigning to raise the ideas of socialism based on Leaving the capitalist EU and presenting a socialist alternative to the bosses’ clubs of Britain and Europe. A socialist united states of Europe, in the first instance probably a confederation of independent socialist states, is the programme of Socialism.

    But that starts in the individual countries of the EU so let’s use the referendum on the Tory government’s austerity programme and the British ruling class and its policies. Of course that is too intellectually difficult for you because you cannot lift your sights out of the capitalist society where it is too nice and cosy for you.

    Finally, we will have Tony ‘what’s his name’ trawling through the CWI texts to see if I have plagiarised something. Very Likely because I have been involved in discussions about a EU referendum for about a year now, so no doubt I have been brainwashed by the CWI line. But let me tell you that in the 1975 Referendum I voted YES to join the Common Market but through 40 years of experience I regret voting yes now because as far as I am concerned the EU has taken a 100 times more from the British, and other European, working class than it has given.

  3. Omar on said:

    Paul Mason suggested 5 years ago that the ability of governments to implement deficit funded spending (i.e. Keynesianism) would be seriously curtailed by the effects of the 2011 Brussels Summit:
    “I can only add at this stage that, by enshrining in national and international law the need for balanced budgets and near-zero structural deficits, the eurozone has outlawed expansionary fiscal policy.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-16112447

  4. Karl Stewart: John, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has nothing to do with the EU John. You’ve made a common mistake of confusing it with the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which is an EU body.

    It is clear from the article that I understand the difference.

    Though separate from the EU, the ECHR has been thrown in as part of the toxic brew cooked up by Tory Europsceptics and their far right fellow travellers, led by UKIP’s Nigel Farage. Brexit would almost certainly lead to Britain’s withdrawal and, with it, the removal of a vital layer of human rights legislation for those who find themselves at the sharp end of British justice. This particularly applies to asylum seekers and others facing deportation to countries where they are in danger of being tortured or worse.

    But the point is that the Tories have already flirted with pulling out of the ECHR, which Brexit makes easier given that under current EU legislation every member state must be a signatory. The ECJ, while separate, is legally bound to accept and enforce judgements made by the ECHR also.

    So it is all bound up with the issue of Brexit in the last analysis.

    Karl Stewart: John, your other error is when you claim that Jeremy Corbyn is leading Labour’s ‘remain’ campaign. He isn’t.

    Alan Johnson has been given that job. Alan Johnson is leading the ‘Labour-remain’ campaign.

    Corbyn doesn’t seem to me to be particularly keen on the EU. I think the formal ‘support’ he’s expressed is no more or less than a party leader voicing a formal party policy.

    Corbyn is the leading voice of the left in the Remain campaign. Whether he is passionate about it or not is besides the point. This is actually one of the weaker arguments being bandied around by the pro-Brexit left, used to justify undermining him at a time when the Tories are in utter disarray over the issue.

    You either support Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party or you don’t. You cannot claim to support him or his leadership while undermining it on the spurious grounds you and others are doing so in the case of Brexit.

    In this regard, I am also willing to admit to my own error in opposing Sadiq Khan’s bid for Mayor of London. You can’t be half off and half on the bus at the same time. It’s not serious politics.

  5. John: You can’t be half off and half on the bus at the same time. It’s not serious politics.

    Indeed, a compelling argument for democratic centralism.
    It would be good to see it applied across the board.

  6. Noah: Jeremy’s ‘lack of passion’ is a symptom if the fact that, although for tactical & organisational reasons he has no choice but to declare for the IN campaign, it’s pretty clear that he shares the analysis of the EU and Britain’s role in it which informs much of the left case for an OUT vote.

    These are weak grounds for opposition. If true then it casts his leadership in a poor light, which doesn’t augur well for his chances of success going forward.

    The general public will not be disposed to accept this kind of nonsense. Corbyn’s official position, which is the position of the party, counts. Assumptions made about his true feelings on the issue don’t count.

  7. John: If true then it casts his leadership in a poor light,

    Not at all. Jeremy has taken what I think is the right decision for the Party, for the reasons I alluded to in a previous post.

    But that decision does not in any way alter the essential capitalist nature of the EU, or make the illusions about it being some kind of pro-worker organisation (or having the capability of being converted into such) any more truthful.

  8. R.L. Davies on said:

    John (7): “The ECJ, while separate, is legally bound to accept and enforce judgements made by the ECHR also”.

    No it isn’t, unless things have changed since last December. And. of course, it is in the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of the EU that the ECJ is “independent” of any elected parliament or government – and that the relevant treaty provisions cannot be changed except by the unanimous agreement of all 28 member states. Roll on the United Socialist States of Europe! Winning socialism across Europe at more or less the same time must be easier than winning it in Britain.
    See: http://www.euractiv.com/section/justice-home-affairs/news/court-of-justice-rejects-draft-agreement-of-eu-accession-to-echr/

  9. There are many good reasons why British socialists should actively boycott the forthcoming European referendum. The one which is the least commented upon concerns, as ever, the Irish question. As I noted in my open letter to the Revolutionary Communist Group: ‘The wording on the ballot will read: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ No self-respecting socialist would give legitimacy to so rotten a geo-political entity as the United Kingdom. Socialists who support the ‘right’ of the British to vote on behalf of the Irish are social-chauvinists of the worst kind. So far, however, British left groups seem not to have noticed (or if they have noticed, seem not to care) that the forthcoming European referendum will have a decidedly colonial character. I earnestly trust that the RCG will break the mould of British chauvinism and signal a return to socialist sanity.’ See ‘Dear Michael MacGregor’ at http://www.rosclarb.uk

  10. john Grimshaw on said:

    Alec Abbott,

    The two main sides in the Euro debate are groups of bosses with different views. The left leave groups (SWP, sp, bcp etc) will gain no traction and some of their arguments make no sense. My view has not changed therefore from one of abstention.

  11. Karl Stewart on said:

    john Grimshaw,
    The way I see it, there are two debates taking place. On the right, people are debating whether being in or out of the EU is the best way to exploit workers and increase profits, and on the left we’re debating whether being in or out of the EU is the best way to move towards a progressive, socialist future.

    The problem is that the only arguments being put forward by the ‘Left-Remain’ side are the lazy, cliched arguments such as those advanced by John Wight in this truly appalling article.

    The ‘Left-Remain’ side continue to refuse to listen to or to engage with the positive case for Exit-Left that’s being made.

    For example, we say that the EU is not reformable in a progressive direction and we cite the examples of Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland as nations that have all had EU-imposed austerity measures despite their opposition.

    In response the ‘Left-Remainers’ say: ‘Yes, but UKIP eh?’

    We Exit-Lefts then point out that we should leave the EU and urge people of other EU nations to leave as well and, together with people of other nations of the world, building a better, progressive, people-first system of international trade and commerce.

    And in response, the ‘Left-Remainers’ like John Wight say: ‘Yes that’s all very well, but you’re little Englanders’.

    So far, the debate on the left between Exit-Left and Left-Remain has been one in which Exit-Left has put forward ideas, arguments, evidence, and an optimistic vision of a positive and progressive future, and Left-Remain have stuck their fingers in their ears, closed their eyes and parroted a very dull, pessimistic and lazy set of cliches.

    No wonder they’re losing the argument.

  12. Vanya on said:

    #17 Frequently when I sit down and have a discussion with left activists it becomes clear that the pro-EU arguments are either based on misconceptions or are entirely negative or a bit of both, and I suspect that many have re-thought their positions.

    Whether that will manifest itself in a significant brexit vote is another matter. I suspect that the influence of JC’s position, albeit he has not enthusiastically pushed it, will be a hard mountain to climb.

    In the world outside the left who knows?

    It is interesting that IDS was probably the most prominent brexit supporter in the Cabinet.

  13. Karl Stewart on said:

    Vanya,
    I think people appreciate that JC is just doing what he has to do as party leader. The people making all the running for ‘remain’ within the Labour Party are the Blairites – and I don’t see them influencing many.

    Among the genuine left, the Exit-Left position is winning hands down.

    (And I wonder if the Sanders campaign over in the States might be changing people’s perceptions of the possibilities for left advance?)

  14. omagh on said:

    TTIP is another big thorn in the side of the Pro-EU left. The EU, behind closed doors with Washington, is happily and undemocratically deciding our corporate-owned future. the idea that any democratic organisation, can support this is frankly absurd. The EU simply does not represent working people. It is an elitist club, unelected, pandering to the whims of banks and the IMF. It was never a common market and is merely an instrument in the globalist’s campaign.

  15. Karl Stewart on said:

    jack ford:
    If we Brexit I fully expect the British government to sign up for TTIP.

    If we do leave the EU, then we can campaign against our government signing up to TTIP. And the question of whether or not the UK signs up to it will depend on the relative balance of forces over this issue.
    Our task will be more straightforward, though, because our government will not be able to hide behind “Brussels” or pass the buck as to the responsibility for signing up to it.

  16. john Grimshaw on said:

    Of the Left that I am aware of, all them have a defined position on Brexit. As I have said above the SP, the SWP and the CPB are all for, as well as the Trades Unionists for Leave, whereas the AWL have a nuanced against position. The CPGB is for abstention I think. I don’t know About any others. What I think is fairly true, however is that these groups have insufficient influence to have any impact on the debate. The out side is largely dominated by right wing tories and assorted racists and the in side is dominated by more centrist Tories and the mainstream LP. JCs failure to argue for his (presumed) point of view, as Vanya notes, will also impact on the debate. Although I note, as an aside, that when I have heard him say anything about the referendum his position is not much different to that of the AWL!

    I accept what Karl says about lazy arguments but I think that they happen on both sides of the left. The SWP, for example, seems to think that supporting Brexit, were it to happen, will be a death blow for the British bourgeoisie, which is a bit like their position on the Scottish referendum.

    The fact is that the British ruling class has an existence independent of the European elite and if Brexit were to happen they would soon adjust. Indeed a number of big companies are remarkably unperturbed about leaving or not leaving. My view is that if there was a leave vote the right wing would see it as a signal to overturn what “progressive” rulings the EU has made (working time directive etc.) and they would dress it up under the guise of freeing SMEs from red tape.

  17. john Grimshaw on said:

    I should’ve said that on the other hand if the vote is to stay which I think it will be (bet.ter the devil you know et.c.), then the pro-eU elites will see it as business as usual.

  18. john Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: I never thought you’d ask.

    My mother who is white working class and Catholic is anti-Europe. In my view her views are simplistic but the thing she has most frequently mentioned to me is the constitutional questions raised by closer and closer ties with the rest of Europe.

  19. john Grimshaw on said:

    The petition against using taxpayers money for pro-Europe leaflets I note from my anti Europe labour friend has now reached just under 200,000.

  20. Karl Stewart on said:

    Further on the lazy arguments of the ‘Left Remainers’, there’s agroup calling itself “Another Europe is Possible,” which is entirely dedicated to arguing against UKIP and Nigel Farage.

    OK guys, enough already, we agree, we don’t like Farage’s politics either!

    But Farage’s position is just one in a multi-faceted debate.

    I know it may sound something of a paradox to call straightforward ‘Yes’ ‘No’ referendum multi-faceted, but the fact is that people are saying ‘leave’ for several reasons and from several different perspectives, just as people are also saying ‘remain’ from different political standpoints.

    We on the left need to be focussing our arguments on whether leave or remain will better create the environment for left-wing and progressive advance. Not waste time trying to join in the Tories’ internal battle on the issue. For me, that’s where the ‘Left-Remainers’ are so missing the whole point poitically.

    Another depressing feature of the ‘Another Europe is Possible’ group is that, like the author of the above article, they either totally misunderstand or are wilfully misleading people about the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) read the section under the title “Human Rights” here. http://www.anothereurope.org/

    Like John Wight, the ‘Another Europe is Possible’ group imply that leaving will EU is somehow linked to leaving ECHR. The fact is that ECHR has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the EU. ECHR was created back in 1949, some considerable time before the Treaty of Rome, which set up what is now the EU.

    Every European nation except for Belarus belongs to ECHR. Russia, Turley, Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland belong to it, even Greenland belongs to it. We are not voting on whether to leave ECHR. Leaving ECHR would require another, separate Act of Parliament.

    Politically lazy and factually misleading.

  21. George Hallam on said:

    Karl Stewart: If we do leave the EU, then we can campaign against our government signing up to TTIP. …
    Our task will be more straightforward, though, because our government will not be able to hide behind “Brussels” or pass the buck as to the responsibility for signing up to it.

    A very important point.
    The key advantage of ‘democratic’ politics is not that it delivers better results but that it by involving ordinary people it forces the competing factions of the powers that be into the open.

    Over time this process allows for learning to take place.

  22. Vanya on said:

    #20 “I never thought you’d ask.”

    Sorry, clearly when I said, “the left”, I should have said, “the left, including George Hallam”. 🙂

  23. Alec Abbott:
    There are many good reasons why British socialists should actively boycott the forthcoming European referendum. The one which is the least commented upon concerns, as ever, the Irish question. As I noted in my open letter to the Revolutionary Communist Group: ‘The wording on the ballot will read: ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ No self-respecting socialist would give legitimacy to so rotten a geo-political entity as the United Kingdom. Socialists who support the ‘right’ of the British to vote on behalf of the Irish are social-chauvinists of the worst kind. So far, however, British left groups seem not to have noticed (or if they have noticed, seem not to care) that the forthcoming European referendum will have a decidedly colonial character. I earnestly trust that the RCG will break the mould of British chauvinism and signal a return to socialist sanity.’ See ‘Dear Michael MacGregor’ at http://www.rosclarb.uk

    Sinn Fein advise a vote to stay in while the Communist Party advise a vote to leave
    http://www.communistpartyofireland.ie/r-2016-03-01.html

  24. #35 This is spot on from the CPI.

    #15 The problem with your position is that it places an abstract idealised form of anti-imperialism/ anti-colonialism (we can’t “recognise” the United Kingdom as a state which includes the 6 Counties) to a very real struggle against that imperialist institution the EU.

    Perhaps those in Ireland who still believe in abstentionism in Westminster elections should encourage voters in the 6 Counties to boycott the referendum on those grounds.

    But better still, those who genuinely want to fight imperialism should, instead of adopting a position that in reality supports the status quo, call for the largest possible vote against the EU. And that is part of the anti-imperialist position in every country that is either a member of the EU or where there is a possibility of being dragged in.

    As for the idea that people in Britain should be encouraged to boycott the referendum on the grounds that it’s also taking place in the 6 Counties, come on, seriously??

  25. jqmark on said:

    i think some people in the thread are a little unfair to another europe the left wing group for staying in, we cant build fake versions of each other and argue with them. which ever way this vote goes i hope we will all still be comrades at the end as we will all still be campaigning against ttip, for worker rights, environmental protection, housing and energy and transport as public services and anti-austerity. the morning star reports that an anti-eu left wing group has been set up. maybe socialist unity could publish a piece each from both another europe and what ever the name of the new group turns out to be. be nice if both sides used female writers given the debate has been very male dominated in the media.

  26. Karl Stewart on said:

    jqmark,

    My criticism of the ‘Another Europe’ was that they, like the author of the very poor article at the top of this thread, imply that a withdrawal from the EU will mean that we also withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

    This is untrue, the ECHR is completely separate from the EU. And we won’t be leaving the ECHR. Almost every country in Europe belongs to ECHR, including Turkey, Iceland, Switzerland, Bulgaria, even Greenland and Russia.

    The only European nation that doesn’t belong to ECHR is Belarus.

    So it isn’t unfair to point out that ‘Another Europe’ is completely, factually wrong.

  27. Vanya on said:

    #39 The anti-EU right make the same conflation.

    In fact the ECJ has recently blocked itself from being bound by the ECHR. See a link earlier on this thread.

  28. Karl Stewart on said:

    Vanya,
    Which makes it all the more important to defend our membership of the ECHR, and explain the difference between it and the EU.

    The big problem I have with some of the misrepresentations put out by the Left-Remainers is that their scare-mongering could actually prove damaging.

  29. john Grimshaw on said:

    Karl I take your point about the EU being separate to the ECHR. However I rechecked johns argument and he does actually say that the two are not the same. Rather what he points out is that the right leavers if successful will tie the ECHR with the EU and seek to get rid of it.

  30. Karl Stewart on said:

    john Grimshaw,
    And if the left-remainers keep misleading people that the two are somehow linked, then this will undercut our efforts to defend ECHR.

    It’s a dangerous game they’re playing. And a thoroughly dishonest one too.

  31. john Grimshaw on said:

    Interesting argument in the Daily Fascist today. Based on academics analysis of uk people’s voting intentions region by region. The area with the highest number of Brexit voters is South Staffordshire but in general it is England’s coastal towns who are most anti-EU such as Boston, Kings Lynn and Clacton. Former industrial towns in the West Midlands are also euro-sceptic. The most pro-EU are university towns such as Cambridge, Edinburgh, Bristol and Brighton as well as London. Scotland and Wales are significantly more pro than England. Older voters are three times more likely to be anti-EU than younger voters. The research was based on 60,000 people done by Bristol university.

  32. Vanya on said:

    #44 “…in general it is England’s coastal towns who are most anti-EU…”

    Possibly because so many of the coastal towns are former fishing ports, with emphasis on “former”.

  33. john Grimshaw on said:

    Vanya,

    H’mmm. I don’t know Vanya. I don’t think Clacton was but I’m sure some of the others were. The article doesn’t mention. I know fishing quotas etc are a big issue with some people. But the recent increase in the cod populations would seem to imply that some EU measures in this area are working whatever the pain. My understanding is that the main issues are whether the pain is being shared equally and small fishing boats/line fishers versus French/Spanish factory trawlers. Whether the perceived unfairness is real I couldn’t say. In any case the people who are planning to vote to leave on this basis I suspect will not be doing so from a left perspective.

  34. Vanya on said:

    #46 I wasn’t referring specifically to the towns you mentioned but to seaside towns (or villages) in general.

    Clearly most fishing ports are by the sea 🙂

    As for whether objecting to your livelihood being destroyed is a left or right position, I would suggest that it is neither in and of itself.

  35. john Grimshaw on said:

    As for whether objecting to your livelihood being destroyed is a left or right position, I would suggest that it is neither in and of itself.

    Indeed. But we’re not having a vote on defending people’s livelihoods, or loss there of. We’re voting on the whole EU package. The loss of fishing jobs or indeed holiday jobs (to cheaper warmer packages) may be providing the base for anger, even now, but some people in these places have come to their anti-EU positions based on a number of other considerations such as immigration and nationalism. It is a toxic mix. They’re also being misled into thinking that any mainstream leave success will mean that things will improve for them.

  36. #48 But immigration and nationalism are not automatically “other considerations”.

    If someone is already a nationalist and / or anti-immigrant then clearly they will tend to see all social problems (their own included) through the prism of nationalism and / or racism.

    They are also likely to become more racist/ nationalist if those problems worsen.

    And if someone is not already inclined to nationalism / racism, then they will clearly be in danger of being attracted by either or both in the absence of a left / progressive position that explains those problems and offers solutions.

    The debates at the time of the Lindsey and other oil plants were instructive here. Interestingly the SWP, who took an appalling position in the early days of Lindsey are taking a strong anti-EU position in this current debate so I wonder if they’ve seen the error of their ways.

    But there is another point that needs to be addressed. It’s not in and of itself nationalism to defend national sovereignty where that sovereignty is eroded or destroyed in favour of an undemocratic super-state with no basis in national consciousness or democracy, and particularly one that enshrines free market capitalism at its constitutional core.

    There is an element of idealist abstract “internationalism” in the arguments of many of those who either defend remaining in the EU or call for an abstention.

  37. jock mctrousers on said:

    Vanya,

    I’m with you on all that. Not hard to spot, but the ultraleft utopian fantasies keep re-appearing.

    Thanks to Grimmy and Vanya for keeping the show going here …

  38. Vanya: But there is another point that needs to be addressed. It’s not in and of itself nationalism to defend national sovereignty

    Not all national sovereignty is the same, of course. There is a marked difference, for example, between defending Palestinian national sovereignty – i.e. an oppressed nation, people – and British national sovereignty – i.e. an oppressor, imperialist nation.

    In this regard support for British national sovereignty implies British patriotism which implies British nationalism.

    It is in the interests of humanity, I contend, that anything to dilute or weaken British national sovereignty is progressive and should be a no-brainer for the left.

  39. Vanya: no basis in national consciousness or democracy, and particularly one that enshrines free market capitalism at its constitutional core.

    Thatcher did not need the EU to implement the free market structural adjustment of the British economy, and given the forces dominating the Brexit campaign – the dregs of UKIP, the empire loyalists of the Tory Party, the xenophobes and anti immigrants, etc. – it is just not credible to imply that free market nostrums in Britain are incompatible with something you describe as ‘national consciousness’. What is this national consciousness anyway? Is it a product of empire, of 500 years of colonialism, of the slave trade, of Britain rules the waves?

    I don’t recognise any such thing as a national consciousness with regard to this country – certainly not one that I am bound to either respect or support.

  40. Vanya on said:

    #49 The EU has no basis in the national consciousness of any of the member states.

  41. George Hallam on said:

    John: In this regard support for British national sovereignty implies British patriotism which implies British nationalism.

    I have often found myself agreeing with john’s posts but this is incredible muddled.

    Patriotism does not imply nationalism anymore than it implies chauvinism. (I am deeply patriotic without having any sympathy for nationalism. In my experience nationalists are usually pretty consistently unpatriotic.)

    As for support for national sovereignty, that is just common sense. This is true both at the level of narrow self-interest and from a broader, more altruistic, point of view.

  42. George Hallam: As for support for national sovereignty, that is just common sense. This is true both at the level of narrow self-interest and from a broader, more altruistic, point of view.

    George, is altruistic about British national sovereignty?

    There is zero interest, none, in British national sovereignty for those interested in breaking the power of the ruling class. This sovereignty is inextricably linked to a history of empire, colonialism, and oppression. It is institutionally represented by the monarchy and its symbol is the Union Jack.

    Support or respect for British national sovereignty from the left is channelled through the prism of labour aristocracy.

    Jean Monnet, the French political economist and diplomat who is credited with concept of a European Union, understood the malign consequences of national particularism. It gave us two world wars and in order to prevent a third – specifically between France and Germany – Monnet argued for the need for Europe’s component states to cede some of their sovereignty in the interests of lasting peace.

    He was right.

  43. Vanya on said:

    So, anything that diluted British sovereignty would be a positive development?

    Certainly anything that dilutes the sovereignty of an imperialist country over its colonies or neo-colonies is positive.

    But that’s not what we’re talking about here. The EU is a mechanism whereby the sovereignty of every country in Europe is diluted in the interests of the imperialist ruling classes of the dominant European countries (including our’s).

    That’s why one of the slogans of the KKE is “Peoples of Europe, rise up”.

  44. George Hallam on said:

    Obviously, British national sovereignty based on usurping the sovereignty of other nations isn’t altruistic.

    However, it is possible to support every nation’s right to sovereignty, including Britain, even when it conflicts with one’s self interest. I think that qualifies as altruism.

  45. George Hallam on said:

    John:
    Jean Monnet, the French political economist and diplomat who is credited with concept of a European Union, understood the malign consequences of national particularism. It gave us two world wars and in order to prevent a third – specifically between France and Germany – Monnet argued for the need for Europe’s component states to cede some of their sovereignty in the interests of lasting peace.

    Thank you, but I have heard of Monnet.

    However, you seem to have a rather superficial understanding of what he was about.

  46. Vanya: The EU is a mechanism whereby the sovereignty of every country in Europe is diluted in the interests of the imperialist ruling classes of the dominant European countries (including our’s).

    The campaign for Brexit is not being led by Frantz Fanon or Ho Chi Minh.

  47. George Hallam: British national sovereignty based on usurping the sovereignty of other nations isn’t altruistic.

    I was unaware there was any other kind of British national sovereignty. On today of all days, 24 April 2016, the 100th anniversary of the start of the Easter Rising in Dublin, we could do worse than ponder what Britain was then and remains so to this day, even if a more truncated version.

    The Foggy Dew. If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye nothing will 🙂
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5tu6O2r6Ow

  48. George Hallam on said:

    John: I was unaware there was any other kind of British national sovereignty.

    As my landsman hath said: There are more things in Heaven and Earth….

  49. jock mctrousers on said:

    John: George Hallam: British national sovereignty based on usurping the sovereignty of other nations isn’t altruistic.

    I was unaware there was any other kind of British national sovereignty. On today of all days, 24 April 2016, the 100th anniversary of the start of the Easter Rising in Dublin, we could do worse than ponder what Britain was then and remains so to this day, even if a more truncated version.

    John , you’re falling into the classic coastline fallacy: that all lands surrounded by a coastline belong in the same nation – hence Ireland should be united, like Britain should be united (no to Scot Nat eh?), like Sweden, Denmark, Finland, entire EU, Russia, China,Vietnam, India, Iran,Egypt,S.Africa should all be in the same nation cos you can drive overland through all of them?

    There are now no (and there was never much) political forces in Ireland who insist on union without the consent of the majority in the North, so who’s sovereignty’s infringed?

    The only people who agree with you are the string of ageing psychopaths who’ve been showing up in the Morning Star all this Easter uprising centennial week – these RC chauvinist,grievance politics drama queens who are hugely over-represented in the cushy sinecures of the so-called labour movement. Sure,sure Yeats’s Easter 1916 would bring tears to a glass eye, but there was rightly next to no support for them, and the state they got sure isn’t the state they died for.

    S. Ireland is for the foreseeable future an inextricable part of the larger capitalism of Britain, but it doesn’t have a vote in it, so what use sovereignty?

    Which brings us back to: UK democracy isn’t much but so many fought for it for a thousand years, and it’s all we’ve got. The nation state is the largest political structure , however flawed, which is at all responsive to democratic input. Let’s not surrender our small gains.

  50. jock mctrousers: you’re falling into the classic coastline fallacy: that all lands surrounded by a coastline belong in the same nation – hence Ireland should be united

    As Churchill said vis-a-vis the struggle over Palestine: “”I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place,”

  51. George Hallam on said:

    John: . On today of all days, 24 April 2016, the 100th anniversary of the start of the Easter Rising in Dublin, we could do worse than ponder what Britain was then and remains so to this day, even if a more truncated version.

    This is getting very emotional.
    There is an important distinction between Britain and the United Kingdom, so while the Treaty might be said to have “truncated” the UK, Britain remained intact.

    Rather than proving your point that British sovereignty must be always be predatory, I think the anniversary shows that denying people the right to their sovereignty when they want it is going to be destructive.

    You may not have noticed but I didn’t express an opinion about the Scottish referendum. That was because it wasn’t my decision. (The economic programme of the SNP was a shambles, but that’s another matter).

    By the same token I think that Britain has a right to claim back it’s sovereignty from the EU.

  52. john Grimshaw on said:

    By the same token I think that Britain has a right to claim back it’s sovereignty from the EU.

    I believe you are right. Whether it is right to do so is moot point.

  53. John: Jean Monnet, the French political economist and diplomat who is credited with concept of a European Union, understood the malign consequences of national particularism. It gave us two world wars and in order to prevent a third – specifically between France and Germany – Monnet argued for the need for Europe’s component states to cede some of their sovereignty in the interests of lasting peace

    Jean Monnet devoted his considerable talents, over many decades, to integrating the interests of the great imperial powers. His conception of European unity was one which rested on a coordination of the strategies of North American capitalism with those of the main European powers. That this entailed reconciling the interests of the bourgeoisies of France and Germany, and at later stage a compromise with the dominant section of the British bourgeoisie, illustrates just how sophisticated a strategist he was.

    Of course, for the working class of all countries the absence of interimperialist war is something of a benefit but no one should delude themselves that any of this is in the long term interests of the working class or a step towards working class state power.

    The intervention in the referendum debate, of Barack Obama, illustrates just how important for the overall interests of the empire is British continued membership of the EU.

  54. George Hallam on said:

    John:
    The Foggy Dew. If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye nothing will
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5tu6O2r6Ow

    I don’t know quite how to respond to this.

    You know my interests so you might expect that I will pick up on any errors.

    If you know the history of the 1916 rising then you will be aware of at least some of the inaccuracies of the video.

    So this is just a wind up?

  55. Vanya on said:

    I am currently in Portugal where people are commemorating the overthrow of the fascist military junta which was inextricably linjed with the liberation struggle of the peoples of Portugal’s colonies in Africa and elsewhere.

    One of the main slogans of the Communist Party here is the demand for sovereignty. And that is aimed against both NATO and the EU.

    There is no contradiction between defendng the sovereignty of your own nation and supporting the self determination of nations that your ruling class oppresses.

    So , unlike Jock, I celebrate the Easter Rising as strongly as I oppose the EU. Like the Communist Party of Ireland and unlike Sinn Fein who have it right on the former but wrong on the latter.

    We serve neither Queen nor EU commissioners!

  56. jock mctrousers on said:

    I celebrate the Easter rising as a piece of theatre, a statement of dissent to the notion that we’re all in it together, the decimated (or worse) European working class and the poppy -wearing perpetrators of the carnage. Whenever someone pulls me up for not wearing a poppy, I feel a gratitude for the sacrifice of these heroes. But I still don’t like all the nationalist stuff that comes with it.

  57. john Grimshaw on said:

    jock mctrousers:
    I celebrate the Easter rising as a piece of theatre, a statement of dissent to the notion that we’re all in it together, the decimated (or worse) European working class and the poppy -wearing perpetrators of the carnage.Whenever someone pulls me up for not wearing a poppy, I feel a gratitude for the sacrifice of these heroes.But I still don’t like all the nationalist stuff that comes with it.

    I was under the impression, I could be wrong, that Yeats and co in the uprising were fighting for some kind of anti-imperialist socialist independence from the British state. Surely that should be worth defending? That the Indepedent state then descended into nationalist religious backwardness is a matter of regret. I would suggest that De Valera has a great deal of responsibility for that. They didn’t learn the lesson of the United Irishmen.

  58. Vanya on said:

    There’s a very good article in the latest issue of the CPB’s Communist Review by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland on the Easter Rising.

  59. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya:
    There’s a very good article in the latest issue of the CPB’s Communist Review by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland on the Easter Rising.

    That seems improbable, but I’ll keep an open mind.

  60. George Hallam on said:

    john Grimshaw: I was under the impression, I could be wrong, that Yeats and co in the uprising were fighting for some kind of anti-imperialist socialist independence from the British state. Surely that should be worth defending?

    Yeats fighting? As in W. B. Yeats?

    He was living in Bloomsbury in 1916.

    Perhaps he was mentally fighting.

  61. George Hallam on said:

    john Grimshaw: I was under the impression, I could be wrong, that Yeats and co in the uprising were fighting for some kind of anti-imperialist socialist independence from the British state.

    There is evidence that, while the insurrectionists were certainly against British imperialism they had a rose-tinted view of German imperialism.

    This made sense of the whole idea of a rising. They thought that German imperialism was better (i.e. more progressive) than British imperialism and that Germany would win the war, possibly very soon. This was the only way the puny armed forces of the insurrection could survive.

    This resolves the conventional distinction between the kamikaze “blood sacrifice” merchants and the “we can win this” camp. If they met with success, then German imperialism would guarantee their survival. If they failed, then their martyrdom would validate their claim for independence. This meant that there wasn’t a big discussion on what would normally have been a big issue.

    Of course, they were deluded; but that’s what nationalism does to your judgement.

  62. jock mctrousers on said:

    George Hallam: They thought that German imperialism was better (i.e. more progressive) than British imperialism

    Need I mention Namibia’s Hereros? Sadly, though, that is indeed probably small potatoes compared to the Brit Empire’s sins.

  63. George Hallam on said:

    jock mctrousers: Need I mention Namibia’s Hereros?Sadly, though, that is indeed probably small potatoes compared to the Brit Empire’s sins.

    If you have a strong stomach read ‘ Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World’ Mike Davis 2002

  64. john Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: There is evidence that, while the insurrectionists were certainly against British imperialism they had a rose-tinted view of German imperialism.

    This made sense of the whole idea of a rising. They thought that German imperialism was better (i.e. more progressive) thanBritishimperialism and that Germany would win the war, possibly very soon. This was the only way the puny armed forces of the insurrection could survive.

    This resolves the conventional distinction between the kamikaze “blood sacrifice” merchants and the “we can win this” camp. If they met with success, then German imperialism would guarantee their survival. If they failed, then their martyrdom would validate their claim for independence. This meant that there wasn’t a big discussion on what would normally have been a big issue.

    Of course, they were deluded; but that’s what nationalism does to your judgement.

    Did they have a “rose tinted” view of German imperialism or did they not unsurprisingly think that given their enemies were fighting a bitter conflict with another power, that that power might assist them in their struggle?

  65. john Grimshaw on said:

    “Of course they were deluded but that’s what nationalism does to your judgement.”

    The Irish nationalists were trying to find a way to gain independence for an oppressed country. Home rule had been defeated by the most reactionary forces of the British state. What other tactics were they left with? The Easter uprising was a failure but it was also a siren call. 1919 proved that there was a real demand for independence.

  66. George Hallam on said:

    john Grimshaw: Did they have a “rose tinted” view of German imperialism or did they not unsurprisingly think that given their enemies were fighting a bitter conflict with another power, that that power might assist them in their struggle?

    Yes, but not just German Imperialim in general but Keiser Bill himself.
    His paper, ‘Wokers Republic’ publisher ‘Kaiser and Socialists, (4 December 1915) about a social democrat who had just interviewed the Kaiser.

  67. George Hallam on said:

    john Grimshaw:

    The Irish nationalists were trying to find a way to gain independence for an oppressed country. Home rule had been defeated by the most reactionary forces of the British state. What other tactics were they left with?

    Armed struggle is a bit more than a tactic: it’s a strategic choice.

    For the conspiratorial group of nationalist that organised the insurrection it was an easy choice because violence was their preferred option.

    As Pearse, wrotein December 1915:

    “It is patriotism that stirs the people. Belgium defending her soil is heroic, and so is Turkey . . . . . .
    It is good for the world that such things should be done. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields.
    Such august homage was never before offered to God as this, the homage of millions of lives given gladly for love of country.”

    “Peace and the Gael”, in Patrick H. Pearse, Political writings and speeches, Phoenix, , (1924) p. 216, National Library of Ireland

    Personally I give barmpots who talk like that a wide berth.

    Let me correct myself, I’ve never heard anyone talk like that, but if I did I’d get away from them as fast as I could. I’m very open-minded about who I work with but I can’t imagine ever having dealings with such people.

    Obviously, Connolly didn’t see things the way I do.

  68. jack ford on said:

    That pieces comes from “Peace and the Gael”, and it’s been quoted rather selectively by people for a while now. To get a better taste of what he actually meant:

    “The last sixteen months have been the most glorious in the history of Europe. Heroism has come back to the earth. On whichever side the men who rule the peoples have marshalled them, whether with England to uphold her tyranny of the seas, or with Germany to break that tyranny, the people themselves have gone into battle because to each the old voice that speaks out of the soil of a nation has spoken anew. Each fights for the fatherland. It is policy that moves the governments; it is patriotism that stirs the peoples. Belgium defending her soil is heroic, and so is Turkey fighting with her back to Constantinople.

    “It is good for the world that such things should be done. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields. Such august homage was never before offered to God as this, the homage of millions of lives given gladly for love of country.

    “War is a terrible thing, and this is the most terrible of wars. But this war is not more terrible than the evils which it will end or help to end. It is not more terrible than the exploitation of the English masses by cruel plutocrats; it is not more terrible than the infidelity of the French masses to their old spiritual ideals; it is not more terrible than the enslavement of the Poles by Russia, than the enslavement of the Irish by England. What if the war kindles in the slow breasts of English toilers a wrath like the wrath of the French in 1789? What if the war brings France back to her altars, as sorrow brings back broken men and women to God? What if the war sets Poland and Ireland free? If the war does these things, will not the war have been worth while?”

    There’s a lot above I have problems with, especially the reference to bringing the French back to the altar (considering Pearce’s nationalism if not secular was very much “pluralist”, but of course he was always a strongly religious person). What’s written above could potentially be interpreted in a number of ways, but I personally don’t think it’s as bloodthirsty as some have suggested.

    Of course perorations on the greatness of patriotism and the glory of war were not at all unusual at the time. In current mainstream Irish commentary are other contemporary figures who said the same sort of things pathologised for it in the way that Pearce is – or only those who are connected to the Easter Rising?

    I’d doubt that mainstream politicians had much to say about patriotism other than it was good or about war other than it was glorious – and if this is so, I wonder if their sentiments are not normally judged by the standards of the time.

  69. George Hallam on said:

    jack ford:
    That pieces comes from “Peace and the Gael”, and it’sbeen quoted rather selectively by people for a while now. To get a better taste of what he actually meant:


    t this war is not more terrible than the evils which it will end or help to end.”

    Yer, that worked well didn’t it.

  70. George Hallam on said:

    jack ford:

    Of course perorations on the greatness of patriotism and the glory of war were not at all unusual at the time. In current mainstream Irish commentary are other contemporary figures who said the same sort of things pathologised for it in the way that Pearce is – or only those who are connected to the Easter Rising?

    I’d doubt that mainstream politicians had much to say about patriotism other than it was good or about war other than it was glorious – and if this is so, I wonder if their sentiments are not normally judged by the standards of the time.

    When all else fails appeal to cultural relativism.

    That works as a defence of Pearse, but the main actor is discussion is concerned with is Connolly and his standing as an international socialist.

    The war was not just a nasty thing that killed a lot of people, it also caused a crisis in the working class movement as leaders abandoned internationalism and embraced nationalism.

    It seems to me Connolly joined in the stampede, albeit with the twist that he supported the imperialism of the other side.

  71. George Hallam on said:

    jack fordWhat’s written above could potentially be interpreted in a number of ways, but I personally don’t think it’s as bloodthirsty as some have suggested.

    To test this I suggest that you treat the passage as a précis exercise.

    If you ignore the examples, rhetoric, etc., and just summarise the main points in your own words then you may change your mind.

  72. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: #89 But it’s not Connolly you’re quoting, but Pearse.

    As I said.

    Pearse’s speech is relevant because it raised the question of why Connolly allied himself with such a person.

  73. jack ford on said:

    Connolly on nationalism and socialism back in 1899:

    “Let us free Ireland! Never mind such base, carnal thoughts as concern work and wages, healthy homes, or lives unclouded by poverty.

    Let us free Ireland! The rackrenting landlord; is he not also an Irishman, and wherefore should we hate him? Nay, let us not speak harshly of our brother – yea, even when he raises our rent.

    Let us free Ireland! The profit-grinding capitalist, who robs us of three-fourths of the fruits of our labour, who sucks the very marrow of our bones when we are young, and then throws us out in the street, like a worn-out tool when we are grown prematurely old in his service, is he not an Irishman, and mayhap a patriot, and wherefore should we think harshly of him?

    Let us free Ireland! “The land that bred and bore us.” And the landlord who makes us pay for permission to live upon it. Whoop it up for liberty!

    “Let us free Ireland,” says the patriot who won’t touch Socialism. Let us all join together and cr-r-rush the br-r-rutal Saxon. Let us all join together, says he, all classes and creeds. And, says the town worker, after we have crushed the Saxon and freed Ireland, what will we do? Oh, then you can go back to your slums, same as before. Whoop it up for liberty!

    And, says the agricultural workers, after we have freed Ireland, what then? Oh, then you can go scraping around for the landlord’s rent or the money-lenders’ interest same as before. Whoop it up for liberty!

    After Ireland is free, says the patriot who won’t touch socialism, we will protect all classes, and if you won’t pay your rent you will be evicted same as now. But the evicting party, under command of the sheriff, will wear green uniforms and the Harp without the Crown, and the warrant turning you out on the roadside will be stamped with the arms of the Irish Republic. Now, isn’t that worth fighting for?

    And when you cannot find employment, and, giving up the struggle of life in despair, enter the poorhouse, the band of the nearest regiment of the Irish army will escort you to the poorhouse door to the tune of St. Patrick’s Day. Oh! It will be nice to live in those days!

    “With the Green Flag floating o’er us” and an ever-increasing army of unemployed workers walking about under the Green Flag, wishing they had something to eat. Same as now! Whoop it up for liberty!

    Now, my friend, I also am Irish, but I’m a bit more logical. The capitalist, I say, is a parasite on industry; as useless in the present stage of our industrial development as any other parasite in the animal or vegetable world is to the life of the animal or vegetable upon which it feeds.

    The working class is the victim of this parasite – this human leech, and it is the duty and interest of the working class to use every means in its power to oust this parasite class from the position which enables it to thus prey upon the vitals of labour.

    Therefore, I say, let us organise as a class to meet our masters and destroy their mastership; organise to drive them from their hold upon public life through their political power; organise to wrench from their robber clutch the land and workshops on and in which they enslave us; organise to cleanse our social life from the stain of social cannibalism, from the preying of man upon his fellow man.

    Organise for a full, free and happy life FOR ALL OR FOR NONE.”

  74. George Hallam on said:

    jack ford: Connolly on nationalism and socialism back in 1899:

    Isn’t it funny how people can change their ideas over fifteen or sixteen year.

  75. JOhn Grimshaw on said:

    George Hallam: Isn’tit funny how people can change their ideas over fifteen or sixteen year.

    Maybe this blog should change it’s name to “Barmpots unity”?

  76. JOhn Grimshaw on said:

    Actually George thinking about it. Where I come from a barmcake is a big flatish tasty roll for putting your cheese etc in. Don’t know if there’s any connection.

  77. George Hallam on said:

    JOhn Grimshaw:
    Actually George thinking about it. Where I come from a barmcake is a big flatish tasty roll for putting your cheese etc in. Don’t know if there’s any connection.

    Forgive me for lapsing into the vanacular. I was merely suggesting that someone who, for example, celebrated the mass slaughter of young men on opposing sides of a conflict was, well, less than rational.

  78. Andy Newman on said:

    jock mctrousers: Need I mention Namibia’s Hereros? Sadly, though, that is indeed probably small potatoes compared to the Brit Empire’s sins.

    In terms of scale, the British Empire was worse; but the legal order for the extermination of the Herero people by the German state was unprecedented in crossing the line between a policy that would knowingly lead to mass murder and a deliberate policy of legalised genocide.

  79. Andy Newman on said:

    George Hallam: For the conspiratorial group of nationalist that organised the insurrection it was an easy choice because violence was their preferred option.

    I think that is correct, but the reasons are complex. There are a number of layers to the politics of nationalism, firstly is the sometimes contested question of what constitutes a national community, secondly the question of whether that community becomes collectively aware of their shared nationality, thirdly whether the shared feeling of nationality leads to a political expression; and then whether that national political expression decides to favour independence.

    The ideology of nationalism and the expression of political nationalism are separate issues from whether the nation exists; and political nationalism arose with the paradigm of revolution, in Venezuela and in 13 British Atlantic colonies in North America.

    So while England and Holland had already become nation-states through the process of a capitalist social revolution in states which were largely accidentally coterminous with the boundaries of the people of that nation; the next wave of nation-states from the New World popularised both an ideology of nationalism, and the paradigm of revolution.

    Added to which the question of the autonomy of violence, that once the Great War was embarked upon, then the threshold for introducing violence into politics was dramatically lowered; and the stability of the existing social order looked much more fragile and susceptible to change.

    Pearse himself has always struck me as somewhat of a nerdy mystic on the edge of fascism.

    George Hallam: Pearse’s speech is relevant because it raised the question of why Connolly allied himself with such a person.

    Connolly’s understanding of nationalism was under-theorised in my view. “Labour in Irish History” is a very fine book, entertaining and informative, but Connolly’s expansive style, rhetoric and sweeping narrative obscure the fact that he makes no attempt to define what the Irish nation actually is. However, I think that the closing argument of the work does give a glimppse of why he aligned with the likes of Pearse, as Connolly believed that once the juggernaut of Irish national rebellion was set in motion then it would inevitably take on a socialist character and the likes of Pearce would become incidental figures.

  80. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman:

    Connolly’s understanding of nationalism was under-theorised in my view.

    That’s what the evidence suggests. But not just nationalism, Connolly’s understanding of just about everything was “under-theorised”.

    He was an avid trades-unionist with a taste for direct action and a commitment to ‘socialism’. No one can doubt his physical courage. So it’s easy to see why people who read SU admire him.

    The mistake is to assume that Connolly’s TU/working-class/socialist outlook fed into his actions in 1916.

    The more likely explanation is that nationalism just supervened.

    Hence his generous assessment of German imperialism, contempt for Scottish and English draft-dodgers, acceptance of the position of junior partner in an alliance with some very odd nationalist, etc., etc.

  81. George Hallam: Connolly’s understanding of just about everything was “under-theorised”.

    Nonsense. Connolly’s theoretical work cannot be detached from the specific historical period in which it is located. Nor can it be isolated from the wider European Marxist movement at the time, wherein Marxism had morphed into historical determinism, with the near-religious belief in capitalism as an economic and social system that had reached the end of its historic role in the onward development of human society and was pregnant with the birth of socialism to take its place. It is not difficult to understand why this should be so given the utter immiseration suffered by the European proletariat in the late 19th-early 20th century, and this is without factoring in the devastation of the First World World.

    Is it so difficult to understand the enormity of this war and how it must have seemed to herald the collapse of the status quo? Of course not.

    Then there is the fact that like Lenin, Connolly’s work served two purposes – theoretical and agitational. He was above all a revolutionary, someone who – like Lenin, like Rosa Luxemburg – was driven by the all-consuming goal of revolution. His writing therefore was designed both to educate and call the working class to action.

    But even on the reductive and pithy terms of your fatuous comment, you are woefully incorrect. Perhaps you haven’t read much of Connolly’s work, or as is more likely to be the case, you haven’t read enough of it. Perhaps you don’t understand it. I don’t know.

    Regardless, I direct you to his work on ‘Labour, Nationality, and Religion’ or on his early advocacy of women’s rights and his understanding of the centrality of those rights being embraced by the trade union and socialist movement. In both fields he was a visionary and ahead of his time.

    In fact, his writing on the revolutionary character of early Christianity is up there with the work of Erich Fromm on the same subject, writing almost a century later. It elevates Connolly above Lenin, Trotsky, et al. on the religious question, who remained a prisoner of the superficial treatment of religion by Marx.

    Connolly understood all too well the cul de sac of Irish nationalism and was under no illusions about the struggle that would still need to be fought if the Rising met with success. Why else did he tell his men to keep hold of their weapons if such an outcome came to pass, and why else did he rail against the chimera of hollow nationalism in his writing on the National Question?

  82. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman: I think that the closing argument of the work does give a glimppse of why he aligned with the likes of Pearse, as Connolly believed that once the juggernaut of Irish national rebellion was set in motion then it would inevitably take on a socialist character and the likes of Pearce would become incidental figures.

    That is a plausible line of argument.

    There are short-term and long-term variants:
    a) short-term, as you suggest, the logic of the rebellion itself could lead to the socialism coming to the fore.
    b) long-term, after nationalism independence had been won and foreign oppression had been ended, the Irish economy would be free to develop. The decks would be clear for ‘normal’ class struggle.

    However, I don’t think Connelly thought along those lines, even in an under-developed way.

    I think the War and his hope of a victory for German imperialism are the real reason for Connelly’s alliance with Pearce and Co.

  83. George Hallam on said:

    John: ‘Connelly’?

    At least give a man who died for the liberation of the Irish people from British colonialism the respect of spelling his name correctly.

    Thank you for pointing that out.

    My sincere apologies.

    Andy Newman,

    It was a fair comment. I do regard these things as important, not least because they can distract attention from the discussion.

  84. George Hallam: Thank you for pointing that out.

    My sincere apologies.

    Andy Newman,

    It was a fair comment. I do regard these things as important, not least because they can distract attention from the discussion.

    Fair play George. Absolutely no need to apologise either. I was being sarcastic in such a way I know that you, more than most, would appreciate.

  85. George Hallam on said:

    John: I was being sarcastic in such a way I know that you, more than most, would appreciate.

    Yes, I did appreciate the humour, I felt duty bound to apologise for my error.

    John: I dedicate this song to you George, especially:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22sESnUOXls

    Thank you.
    Now for some serious pedantry.
    The song contains a reference to the “English” bombarding the Four Courts. It is true that on Wednesday 26th an 18-pounder near the Grattan Bridge fired with four shots that hit the east wing.
    The gun was brought into action by a Daimler-Guinness tender, a lorry protected by armour improvised from locomotive parts.
    However, the photograph in the video show two 18-pounders sheltering behind two Lancia armoured tenders.

    There were two Lancia armoured tenders, basically armour-plated lorries: the IZ and the Triota. The IZ only went into production in 1916 and as far as I know none were deployed to Ireland that year. The Triota date from 1921 and where used by the RIC. So the photograph can’t have been taken in 1916.

    The Free State army inherited these vehicles.
    Clearly, the photograph shows the 1922 siege of the Four Courts.

    It’s a common mistake.
    For example, ‘The Pictorial History Book’ (no date, circa 1954) has a coloured drawing based on the same photograph (p. 157). Amazingly, the caption reads “Shelling the G.P.O., a Sinn Fein stronghold.” (!)

    Otherwise, it’s an excellent book.

  86. George Hallam on said:

    Andy Newman:
    George Hallam,

    Except that the argument in Labour in Irish History is consistent with my understanding, not yours

    As I said it’s plausible. However, ‘Labour in Irish History’ was published in 1910.

    I think there is evidence of a change in Connolly’s thinking following the outbreak of war. This is tied up the sort of independence the hard-line nationalists associated with the IRB wanted. This n way beyond national sovereignty. I’ll explain later.

  87. John,

    The harshness of tone of many comments to what you have written, was probably sparked by your comment that the Left who support Brexit are the foot-soldiers of the right. You probably realise now how self-defeating that comment was. Exactly the same can be said of the Left who oppose Brexit.

    The craven way in which the EU carries out every commandment from the White House, shows me that there is no prospect of radical reform within the EU. The US flag is planted in Brussels, and the Commission worship it. They celebrated the fraudulent Paris COP21 charade. They support Obama’s process of muscling through the TTIP (and did anyone notice that Obama claims himself the saviour of the world in Paris, but excludes any environmental protections in TTIP. The mendacity is astonishing.) The EU has gone along with Obama’s narcissistic and paranoid crusade against Putin, and as a consequence bankrupted thousands of European farmers.

    Where John misses the point is that of course, the British workers’ struggle against neo-liberalism will face formidable obstacles, whether Britain is in or out of the EU. But with Brexit, the people of Britain will be able to fight directly. They cannot fight against an unelected EU cartel representing US hegemony in Europe.

  88. Vanya on said:

    George Hallam: This is tied up the sort of independence the hard-line nationalists associated with the IRB wanted.

    And also that the majority of the Irish people wanted, as demonstrated by the election results in 1918.

    The Rising may not have attracted the sort of active support that was necessary for it to succeed at the time, but I hardly think it likely that public opinion would have changed that massively in a couple of years.

  89. John on said:

    Vanya: The Rising may not have attracted the sort of active support that was necessary for it to succeed at the time, but I hardly think it likely that public opinion would have changed that massively in a couple of years.

    I’m currently reading a fantastic book on the Rising by Kieran Allen, which I recommend. It explores the social, economic, political, and religious landscape in which the Rising was located and also the trajectory of the guerilla campaign, Civil War, and Free State thereafter. He isn’t very kind to Arthur Griffiths or Michael Collins, claiming quite persuasively that they mounted a counter revolutionary process which led to the hegemony of Irish capitalists such as Griffiths and the Catholic hierarchy, responsible for turning the Republic into a de facto right wing Catholic theocracy.

    The major question remains what would have happened if Connolly hadn’t been executed? How would he have impacted events after the Rising?

  90. George Hallam on said:

    Vanya: And also that the majority of the Irish people wanted, as demonstrated by the election results in 1918.

    True. But this majority support had been an established political reality for the previous forty years.

    Arguably, the collapse of support for the Nationalst Party owed more to their feeble opposition to the extension of conscription to Ireland in 1918 than anything to do with the rising over two years previously.

    Don’t forget Sinn Fein wasn’t advocating physical force and didn’t initiate the War of Independence (that was done by young enthusiasts).

    Go back and look at Irish election results. In particular look at the votes for Unionist parties. I think that the evidence supports the view that the nationalist cause made no inroads in the Protestant heartlands of the North. In other words, there is no evidence that there was a shift in public opinion because of the rising.

  91. George Hallam on said:

    John: I’m currently reading a fantastic book on the Rising by Kieran Allen, which I recommend. It explores the social, economic, political, and religious landscape in which the Rising was located and also the trajectory of the guerilla campaign, Civil War, and Free State thereafter.

    Sounds good. Anything that explores the social, economic, political, and religious landscape of an event before leaping to conclusions should be worth reading.

  92. George Hallam on said:

    John: The major question remains what would have happened if Connolly hadn’t been executed? How would he have impacted events after the Rising?

    Had he lived and been freed he would have had to justify both his decision to launch the insurrection and his military leadership.

    This would have been very enlightening. Most probably, the ensuing debate would have damaged the romantic image of ultra nationalism.

  93. Vanya on said:

    #117 Just read that review.

    Hardly a revelation that the Irish Republic’s establishment are commemorating the Rising on the basis of legitimising their state and for different reasons than left wing republicans would.

  94. Vanya on said:

    #114 Sinn Fein may not have been advocating physical force, but the armed revolt following the 1918 election results was clearly a defence of the legitimacy of that victory.

    What I’m more interested in to be honest is how left republicanism developed through to the Civil War period and beyond.

    For example there is evidence that Liam Mellows was moving close to the Communists when he was executed by the Free Staters.

  95. Vanya: For example there is evidence that Liam Mellows was moving close to the Communists when he was executed by the Free Staters.

    Is that from the biography from C Desmond Greaves about Mellows? I haven’t read it this many a year