1st January 2022
Brexit – getting Johnson done?
Historically, capitalism has so far found ways to reinvent itself, intensify its exploitation of human, animal and material resources across the world and still exert control over large swathes of the planet. The heroic efforts of the Soviet Union and its allies, to take human history in a more progressive direction, lasted little more than seventy years. The defeat of that effort has undoubtedly set the clock back and, despite the growing economic power of China as a counter weight to US imperialism, the momentum of the Soviet alliance through the world communist movement has clearly been diminished.
That is not to say that all is lost. Capitalism is inherently a cutthroat business made up of shifting and unstable alliances, with each player out to gain the upper hand. The banks falling over themselves to lend more and generate more profit led to the 2008 financial crash and the subsequent austerity drive to make the working class pay off the banks’ gambling debts. That scramble saw some banks go to the wall while others had to rely on state bail outs. The free market is ultimately only as free as the capitalist system wants it to be.
Similarly, the British exit from the neoliberal strait jacket of the European Union has not only exposed the faux internationalism of the bloc but also illustrated that international relations must be based upon mutual respect if they are to work. The British position in recent negotiations has been to get one over on the EU while, likewise, the EU cannot be seen to let Brexit work. The impasse means that the British people end up with the worst of both worlds, unable to be fully free of the EU, while equally failing to carve out an independent position in the world, based on mutual respect and a true socialist internationalism.
The British political establishment has been divided over Brexit for a long time. Up and coming challenger to Boris Johnson, the recently appointed Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, was a pre-referendum Remainer but has since reinvented herself as a darling of the Tory right wing with growing support amongst grass roots membership. Far from ‘Getting Brexit Done’ as Johnson proclaimed at the 2019 General Election, it may yet be that Brexit gets Johnson done, sooner than he would have liked.
The assertion of foreign policy independence by the Johnson government, through proclaiming its Global Britain policy, would be laughable if it were not so tragic. The only sense in which Britain is remotely global is in tying itself to US foreign policy objectives and tagging along as a junior partner. This has been the case for many years, with Britain functioning as little more than a US airbase and a forward base for US nuclear weapons, through the Trident nuclear submarine programme.
The lunacy of the so called independent nuclear deterrent is only surpassed by the billions it is proposed to spend to replace Trident. More money in the pockets of the US military industrial complex, less in the Treasury pot for schools, housing and the NHS, surely all more pressing priorities for the British people.
Just as the Tories do not speak with one voice on EU membership, the military establishment is similarly divided over Trident. Not that the Chiefs of Staff are arguing for more hospitals, they would much rather see increased spend on conventional weapons, but there are divisions there which a skilled Opposition could exploit.
Sadly, the major skill the Opposition appear to possess at the moment is that of supporting the Tory line on most major questions. Certainly, there is no dissent on the Labour Front Bench regarding spending billions on Trident. There is no departure from the Tory line on NATO membership and kowtowing to the United States in foreign policy priorities.
Having conspired to lose the 2019 General Election, through ditching Labour policy to honour the referendum outcome, as well as playing a leading role in the so-called People’s Vote campaign, Kier Starmer is looking increasingly well placed to play a caretaker role as Prime Minister, should the Tories not sort out their leadership issues in time for the next General Election.
The Labour Front Bench does not however reflect wider opinion in the Labour Party, with a range of more progressive policies being adopted at Labour Conference providing the basis for a continued push from the Left, for policies which will serve the interests of the people and challenge the vested interests at the heart of the political system in Britain.
The broader international picture also holds out some hope. China continues to travel an anti-imperialist path of development, as does Vietnam and, in spite of the ongoing illegal US blockade, so too does Cuba. The wider picture in Latin America remains encouraging with progressive governments continuing to hold sway in Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and more recently Chile.
The surge in Labour membership in the 2015-17 period in particular, with progressive policies being articulated during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, also shows that policies in favour of the many, not the few can gain traction beyond the confines of Party conference, even in reactionary Conservative Britain.
The year ahead will certainly hold challenges for those arguing for a shift in the balance of power in Britain in favour of the working class. In spite of the positions taken by the Labour Front Bench there remain key allies in Parliament among progressive Labour MPs. Their voices, combined with mass extra Parliamentary action, will be vital in shifting the debate towards the real needs of the British people, rather than continuing to defend the interests of the banks and corporations which the Tories represent.
Now is no time to dwell in darkness, it is time to shine a light into the murky corners the Tories wish to hide and flush them out!
Avanti in 2022!