I am not voting for the EU, I am voting against Brexit

 

imagesThere are times when the truth is not enough and only the unvarnished truth will do. We have arrived at such a time just days away from the EU referendum on June 23rd.

The unvarnished truth when it comes to the campaign for Britain’s exit from the European Union, Brexit, is that it has unleashed the ugly forces of right wing extremism, racism, xenophobia and British nationalism in a society that had allowed itself to grow complacent when it came to the aforementioned, doing so in the mistaken belief that common human decency was as British as Big Ben; in other words in the belief it could not happen here.

Recent horrific events reveal that it can and has happened here.

Over the past few months of the Brexit campaign we have borne witness to a scapegoating and demonisation of migrants by mainstream politicians and right wing newspaper columnists reminiscent of the way Jews were scapegoated and demonised in Germany in the 1930s, and on the same grounds – i.e. they pose a threat to our way of life; they hold alien cultural beliefs and practices; their values are at odds with our values.

This scapegoating has been so intense, so vehement, it has raised the political temperature to the point where an elected MP who dared raise her voice in solidarity with migrants and for Britain’s continuing membership of the EU was murdered in the street in broad daylight in an act of right wing extremism and terrorism, reminiscent of the way democratically elected politicians were murdered in Germany in the 1930s, depicted as ‘traitors’ from the vantage point of the swamp in which fascism swims.

It is important to understand that the economic and social conditions that existed in depression-ravaged Germany back then have been replicated in Britain and across Europe today on the back of an economic recession compounded by the implementation of austerity, which has been tantamount to a mass experiment in human despair. This recession and resulting Tory austerity have combined to leave millions impoverished, marginalised, angry and fearful, thus perfect fodder for the kind of right wing populism and demagoguery that has underpinned a campaign that has been an insult to common human decency never mind the nation’s collective intelligence.

Without the horrific murder of Labour’s Jo Cox, UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s obscene anti-immigration poster should automatically have marked the point of no return for a Brexit campaign that has from the outset been predicated on exploiting the impact of austerity by politicians who have been among its biggest champions, inferring that the huge pressure brought to bear on the nation’s public services, on the social and private housing sector, and on the NHS is due to immigration rather than the extreme cuts to public spending and investment that have taken place.

As much as the EU needs to be reformed in the interests of its citizens rather than big business and the financial sector, it has been a last line of defense against a Tory establishment that would relish nothing more than to pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights, a statutory requirement of EU membership, and get rid of the progressive legislation that we presently enjoy via the EU on workers’ rights and protections, maternity leave, paid holidays, consumer protection, and the environment. And this is without taking into the account the harm it would do to the economy in terms of investment, exports, jobs, and the value of sterling.

But these issues are trifling compared to the main one, which is the worrying emergence and normalisation of far right nostrums and the ‘othering’ of migrants, minorities, and asylum seekers. It is a toxic brew that has gained traction on the back the growing anger of the millions who have been battered materially, psychologically, and spiritually by a Tory government in whose control the economy has been wielded as a sword to punish the poor and the vulnerable instead of a held up as a shield to protect them from circumstances and factors beyond their control.

A vote to Remain on June 23rd is now a vote for hope rather than despair, for progress rather than regress. It is a vote against the politics of division and hate, against scapegoating and in defiance of a base tribalism that offers the country nothing apart from apartness.

We can no longer delude ourselves that racism is a marginal phenomenon in Britain. It is not. Indeed, it would be hard to recall a time when it has been more prevalent than now. This is not to accuse everyone who supports Brexit of racism, of course not. It is, however, a campaign in which racism has been afforded the opportunity to grow and incubate in a way it has not in living memory.

Warning of the danger of lapsing into complacency when it came to the possibility of fascism re-emerging after its defeat in the Second World War, German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote: “The womb from which this monster emerged remains fertile.”

How those words resonate now, today, in Britain, seven decades later.

My vote on June 23rd will not be cast as a vote for the EU; it will be cast as a vote against Brexit and the ugliness it represents and has unleashed.

My enemy does not reside in Brussels. It resides right here at home.

 

 

9 comments on “I am not voting for the EU, I am voting against Brexit

  1. If you want to understand the utter bankruptcy of the Brexit Left, Dave Nellist thinks that a win for Brexit will lead to the end of austerity.

    Also, a recent editorial in ‘The Socialist’ stated:
    ‘A Brexit vote, and Cameron’s subsequent resignation, would lift the confidence of many workers in Britain who would rightly feel they had managed to land a serious blow on the opposition. At the same time it would be a serious defeat for the capitalist class. The potential would be there for the working class to go on the offensive against the endless austerity that has rained down on us. A 24-hour general strike could quickly be posed.’

    That theSP seriously think this is a realistic scenario, given the existing circumstances in this country, beggars belief.

    Providing left cover for Scottish nationalism in that referendum was bad enough, shamelessly opportunistic. Now, even worse, providing left cover for English nationalism with utter fantasies. They truly have gone so far into La La Land now, there’s really no way back from that organisation’s complete political degeneration.

  2. Doug,

    The SP are sadly not alone in a delusional understanding of what the likely outcomes of a Brexit vote are, and of understanding the forces that have mobilized for Brexit.

  3. George Hallam on said:

    The quote is from the epilogue of ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’, about the rise of Hitler.

    Therefore learn how to see and not to gape.
    To act instead of talking all day long.
    The world was almost won by such an ape!
    The nations put him where his kind belong.
    But don’t rejoice too soon at your escape –
    The womb he crawled from is still going strong.

    Brecht ‘Three plays’ 1987 Methuen p. 214

    There is an alternative version:

    If we could learn to look instead of gawking,
    We’d see the horror in the heart of farce,
    If only we could act instead of talking,
    We wouldn’t always end up on our arse.
    This was the thing that nearly had us mastered;
    Don’t yet rejoice in his defeat, you men!
    Although the world stood up and stopped the bastard,
    The bitch that bore him is in heat again.

    Racism and xenophobia aren’t mentioned. In fact the play was criticised because it didn’t include the German people.

    Brecht’s response was that this was quite intentional:

    “Ui is a parable play, written with the aim of destroying the dangerous respect commonly felt for great killers. The circle described has been deliberately restricted; it is confined to the plane of state, industrialists, Junkers and petty bourgeois. This is enough to achieve the desired objective. The play does not pretend to give a complete account of the historical situation in the 1930s”.

    https:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Resistible_Rise_of_Arturo_Ui

    So the ‘womb’ from which fascism crawled was the establishment – industrialists, Junkers and petty bourgeois – not racist ideology.

  4. George Hallam on said:

    It’s worth remembering that 75 years ago today the Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.

  5. John Grimshaw on said:

    Andy Newman:
    Doug,

    The SP are sadly not alone in a delusional understanding of what the likely outcomes of a Brexit vote are, and of understanding the forces that have mobilized for Brexit.

    Maybe that’s what we need to try to envisage in more detail now. The potential effects of a vote in either direction. Presumably if the vote is leave that does leave Cameron in a very vulnerable position? I’m sure both Johnson and Gove are
    Eyeing up the leadership. Farage and the far right will feel justified and buoyed up. Corbyn may also get a leadership challenge sooner rather than later. I’m less clear what the ramifications of a remain vote will be. We’ll still be stuck with the EU bureaucrats and their version of neo-liberalism. But hey you take your neo-liberalism and takes your chance! Greece will still be victimised and German capitalism will still have the whip hand. Maybe Corbyn won’t get that challenge as soon? However the PLP right will feel smug and empowered. There could be a far right wing backlash or maybe not?

  6. John Grimshaw: The potential effects of a vote in either direction.

    I found this interesting from MIchael Burke:

    http://www.socialistaction.net/Britain/British-Politics/The-EU-referendum-is-only-the-beginning-of-the-political-crisis.html

    By Michael Burke

    The EU referendum campaign began as farcical attempt to set aside divisions in the Tory Party but it has turned into a debacle for Cameron. Overall anti-immigration rhetoric and racism have dominated.

    The entire responsibility for this lies with Cameron, the leadership of the Tories and their allies in the media. Cameron called the referendum for purely venal reasons, to maintain his own position. He gave a series of false and impossible promises on curbing migration with a ‘new deal for Britain’, that even he no longer mentions. He called for the vote to take place in the middle of an austerity offensive and so invited a referendum on his own leadership.

    The campaign itself has been dominated by racism and xenophobia. Under those circumstances the most nakedly racist UKIP/Tory right faction promoting Brexit have won the campaign. From the recent polling evidence, there is a risk they may win the referendum even despite the opposition to leaving the EU of the majority of big capital.

    Cameron has no answer to Farage’s overt racist claims on immigration because he has been humming the same tune in less strident notes for six years. In the middle of the Brexit fight he endorsed an odious and openly Islamophobic Tory campaign against Sadiq Khan.

    To defeat such a reactionary immigration campaign it has to be tackled head on and explained that it is wrong.. It is austerity not immigration that has made people worse off, and without migrants living standards would fall even further.

    The attempt to blame Jeremy Corbyn for the current debacle is a project to shield Cameron and the Tories from paying the price for their own spectacular failures, while opening up a new anti-Corbyn front. The endless repetition of the claim that “less than half of Labour voters know its position on the referendum” does not make it true. It is a straightforward lie as well as an attempt to conceal the situation with the Tories. The YouGov poll used to support this assertion shows 55 per cent of 2015 Labour voters correctly identify a majority of Labour MPs being for Remain. Only 34 per cent of Tory voters could do the same.

    This slur is part of a wider pattern. The two official EU referendum campaigns are factions of the Tory party, sanctioned by the Electoral Commission. Corbyn has been systematically excluded from the debate, with one academic study finding that mainstream media had included a Labour spokesperson in just 4 per cent of TV coverage. The only time a Corbyn speech was reported was to provoke a fake hue and cry because a reporter was hissed. It has been a more important priority to exclude and denigrate Corbyn than to win the referendum. He would only have been allowed into debate if he had shared a platform with Cameron subordinating Labour to the Tories in the same catastrophic way that occurred in the referendum on Scottish independence. Corbyn was absolutely correct to refuse this.

    The vote on 23 June is unlikely to be the end of the matter and an outright political crisis may follow. Even with a majority for Remain Tory divisions will be difficult to heal. In the event of a vote to leave the EU 65 Tory MPs declared they would vote against Osborne’s emergency budget of more cuts – if he dares to introduce it. This would amount to a separate parliamentary formation.
    But it is a law of British politics that the weaker the Tory party, the greater the divisions that must be fomented inside Labour, genuine or otherwise. This explains the Labour fringe MPs supporting Brexit, the charge of sexism specifically among Corbyn supporters and the slur that Labour is rife with anti-Semitism.

    The situation where Remain wins will be followed by repercussions inside the Tory and Labour Parties. But a vote in favour of Brexit is the most uncertain outcome of all.

    The most powerful social structures favour remaining in the EU – the City of London, the Confederation of British Industry, the Financial Times, the Economist, more than 75 per cent of the Cabinet, 75 per cent of MPs, a majority of Conservative MPs and 95 per cent of Labour MPs. There is no prospect that pro-Brexit MPs can form a stable government capable of coherently delivering their programme.

    The governments of every major European country want Britain to remain, as does the US because Britain promotes US interests within the EU.

    There is already a well established pattern in Europe that when referendums on EU matters go against the views of a government then the referendum is either retaken or the result bypassed. In 1992 Danish voters rejected the Maastricht Treaty, so following minor alterations to the treaty, in 1993 there was a second Danish referendum which backed the Treaty. Similarly Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001 and again after minor changes they voted on it again in 2002 to approve it. Ireland also held two referendums on the Lisbon Treaty, the second one in 2009 overturning the rejection vote of the previous year.

    If Leave wins the referendum on 23 June a Remain-dominated government and Parliament will be in charge of negotiating the Brexit terms. Plus even supporters of Brexit want to maintain free trade with the EU, which is only possible by reaching agreement with the EU. So the necessary negotiations with the EU can be used to get round a Brexit vote, either with a straightforward reversal or with measures that circumvent the decision in practice.

    Remain supporters in Britain will certainly consider a second referendum. They could legitimately claim the terms for Britain leaving the EU were not put to the vote this June so the actual Brexit terms subsequently negotiated with the EU should be put to a second referendum, If these terms for leaving were rejected Britain would remain in the EU.

    One way or another the huge social forces that back Remain would continue to fight and the immediate period after a Brexit vote would be chaotic, with the increased possibility of political realignment.

    Throughout the referendum campaign Jeremy Corbyn has kept the correct framework, that “the main enemy is not the EU – it’s the Tories”. It will continue to serve Labour well in any turbulent period ahead.

  7. George Hallam: In fact the play was criticised because it didn’t include the German people.

    The play was set in Chicago, it would have been strange if it had included the German people … I suppose if it had been set in Milwaukee that criticism might have been more valid