To defeat the far right, the left must embrace a socialist and internationalist Brexit

871
The EU enshrines Thatcherism in one continent — the belief it can be reformed from within is deluded.

Paul Mason advocates that Labour must become the party of remain.

To do this he suggested the Labour Party must convince the Labour Heartlands to relinquish our democratic vote, our assertion of democracy, our demand to self-government.

Mason claims:

Framing a no-deal Brexit as a threat to the future of state-funded healthcare should be easy, since President Trump, in one brainless soundbite, provided ammunition that will haunt the Tories at election time. Whether it’s Hunt, Gove or Johnson, the blunt question – will you rule out American ownership of our NHS hospitals after Brexit? – could be a killer one.

Mason wants to teach your Grandma how to suck eggs!

The truth is, it was the left wing leave supporters who first warned of the dangers a US-EU trade deal would bring. It was the remainers that threatened the UK with the loss of such a deal if we voted to leave. The same trade deal Obama and the remain supporters in 2016 tried to use and leverage the reasons to remain. Obama famously telling the UK we would be at the ‘back of the queue’ on this trade deal if we left the EU

But here we are again, Ironically this time remainers are using the same US-UK trade deal as a threat of what we will get if we leave the EU.

Labour and left-wing leave voters are more than aware of the dangers of a TTIP type trade deal. One that would open up the doors to our NHS after Brexit.

It was Left wing leave supporters who pointed out and campaign against this very same trade deal that the EU-US were conducting just three short years ago. A trade deal on our behalf behind closed doors, again we are also fully aware of the same dangers these deals offer while we are in the EU.

In fact, within the EU there is a clear and present danger to our NHS both from the very real trade deal CETA and the ongoing trade talks between the EU-US at the moment, a TTIP V2  the US-EU revamped trade talks that started this April.

In February 2018 Corbyn warned that the NHS was at risk inside the EU with a revived TTIP-style deal with the EU The EU_US trade talks restarted April 2019

Speaking about Labour’s vision for Britain after Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

Both the US and China have weaker standards and regulations that would risk dragging Britain into a race to the bottom on vital protections and rights at work.

“And Labour is implacably opposed to our NHS or other public services being part of any trade deal with Trump’s America or a revived TTIP-style deal with the EU, which would open the door to a flood of further privatisations.

And we are not prepared to ask the British public to eat chlorinated chicken and lower the standards of British farming.

We would ensure there will be no reduction in rights, standards or protections and instead seek to extend them.

A deregulatory race-to-the-bottom would damage people’s jobs and living standards.

And Labour would negotiate a new and strong relationship with the single market that includes full tariff-free access and a floor under existing rights, standards and protections.

That new relationship would need to ensure we can deliver our ambitious economic programme, take the essential steps to intervene, upgrade and transform our economy and build an economy for the 21st century that works for the many, not the few.

Sold out first time round

Most on the Left know exactly what happened on the first trade talks, Chlorine chicken and the sellout of our NHS were the first concessions the EU made. Luckily for us, two things happened.

  1. Greenpeace released leaked documents showing the extent of the EU sell out.
  2. The EU and CETA are a clear and present danger to our NHS
  3. Trump decided that TTIP was a bad deal for the US and shelved the deal. Yes, I realise some of you will argue that TTIP was dead and before Trump shelved the deal but that really is not the case. Start your search on Wikipedia for the truth and not the myth.

The fact that we on the Left collected a massive petition to stop TTIP/CETA meant nothing. The response from the EU on handing in the petition was to say:

We do not take our mandate from the European people

When put to her, Trade Commissioner Malmström acknowledged that a trade deal has never inspired such passionate and widespread opposition. Yet when asked the trade commissioner on how she could continue her persistent promotion of the deal in the face of such massive public opposition, her response came back icy cold: “I do not take my mandate from the European people.” LINK

Too little too late!

Next, Mason uses the loss of British industry or as he rightly puts it ‘what’s left of British industry.“ Masons ivory tower must be windowless, not to notice we are in the EU that this loss of British industry is happening now, not a result of leaving the EU but a systematic decline and relocation that has taken place over the last 40 years.

Now we are leaving after forty years of neglect Mason wants to offer the Labour Heartlands the stuff of dreams or just the old:

PROMISES…

Paul Mason states to win the Labour leave voting areas over:

Labour must start turning its commitments on industrial strategy into concrete, local offers. The plan for a national investment bank, for instance, needs to be translated down to constituency level: Wigan, Sunderland and Stoke-on-Trent will get so many billion pounds each over five years, and we’re calling a local summit to ask what you want it spent on.

Again Mason tries to pull that old Lancashire wool over his reader’s eyes.

I don’t think i need to point out that Mason undermines his own argument at this point. If Labour were in a position to offer the Heartlands these billions then we would be in government and there is no way Labour would conduct a ‘Trump’ trade deal.

However lets point out within the EU there simply will not be billions of pounds or a national investment bank that Labour have promised. The £500 billion for infrastructure and SME’s to kick start our industrial strategy just will not be allowed.

These billions, this state aid is simply not allowed within EU rules, according to this legislation Labour would be unable to set up a UK National Investment Bank as state providers of services must act as private entities according to the rules of the EU Single Market and Articles 59 and 107(I) of the Treaty within member states.

State Aid Rules shape what Member States can and cannot do ‘depending on whether there is a functioning market or not’ (ibid p4) which is a crucial factor within the overall argument.

In practice publicly owned companies must operate within a tightly controlled competitive context where democratic government-led economic interventions can be deemed a distortion of market conditions, and ruled unlawful under Article 87(1). This rule applies if it is shown, the operation of this UK National Investment Bank ‘use[s] state resources’ to ‘distort competition, distort trade between member states or give enterprises a selective advantage’ over commercial entities within markets.

Thus under EU law, a government investing in its own enterprises potentially breaches state aid laws if fresh capital is contributed in circumstances that would not be acceptable to a private investor operating under prevailing market conditions. In short, the limitations against government investment apply precisely in those cases that such investment is most necessary – where it should address basic social needs in order to protect working people from the vicissitudes of the market – as this directly contravenes the operation of a competitive market and profit seeking companies set out in Article 87(1).

The same principle applies with regard to public monopolies in healthcare, energy and rail – all official Labour Party manifesto policies – which are prohibited under Article 107 of the Lisbon Treaty (2009).

The key point is that ‘state aid rules are intended to control the provision of state aid to individual companies to ensure that it can be provided where it meets a public policy goal but cannot be provided where it undermines the single market (ibid p2).

Thus, state providers such as a National Investment Bank would potentially operate under competitive market conditions like any other state or mutually owned bank.

Overall, any type of National Investment Bank could very well be severely restricted in its scope for action to intervene in the UK economy: it will, in effect, be forced to operate in the same market as UK and European commercial banks as a competitor under exactly the same conditions.

Austerity is is EU wide

Never mind the EU fiscal policy the UK has signed up to Article 126 (ex Article 104 TEC) that restrict our spending and budget to austerity levels.

The TFEU obliges EU Member States to comply with budgetary discipline by respecting two criteria: a deficit to GDP ratio and a debt to GDP ratio not exceeding reference values of 3% and 60% respectively, as defined in the Protocol on the EDP annexed to the TFEU. This includes the UK LINK

Mason is selling Newspapers and the status quo

Mason sells Newspapers not reality, when it comes to the EU he plays to his liberal Left remain audience the Guardian readers. A pipedream of remain and reform in what is constitutionally a right wing trade bloc built on a foundation of capitalism, profit and exploitation of workers, one that works against public ownership and promotes Thatcherite neoliberalism as a way of life.

The truth is remain and reform is a very good sound bite but when asked how this could be achieved you are more often than not met with a fresh dollop of pie in the sky or the sound of brushwood passing by.

There is only two ways we will get social change and reform in the UK:

By leaving the EU and voting the Tories out

Paul Knaggs
Editor Labour Heartlands, Labour Party member and activist. Editor NBN.

The EU enshrines Thatcherism in one continent — the belief it can be reformed from within is deluded.

Paul Mason has made an important contribution to the debate on the left about Brexit. It is an important contribution because Mason is the left’s most militant supporter of the EU: an anti-democratic, capitalist organisation which has become a pillar of globalisation and a driver of inequality. His piece was full of the usual McCarthyite tactic of guilt by association against those who oppose the EU. Mason’s attack on Eddie Dempsey, an anti-fascist trade unionist, was a classic example of this. It is vital that we move beyond this kind of politics on the left.

Mason is right to argue that there is a threat of a nasty right-wing reaction. But the truth is that this menace will be intensified if Brexit is abandoned. The decision to leave the EU was taken in a referendum involving the largest-ever vote in British history. This was certainly not an expression of far-right politics but the settled view of millions of Labour voters as well as Conservatives. If voting cannot bring about change then our politics is in crisis. We stand by the priority of democracy. At the last general election, both of the main parties ran on manifestos promising to respect the referendum result. Ukip’s vote collapsed and Labour’s vote revived. It is the unwillingness of the ruling class to deliver Brexit, and not Brexit itself, that is leading to popular anger.

It is also true that the left has been unable to articulate and campaign around a democratic vision of national renewal. Part of the problem is that the Labour’s Eurosceptic left, previously carried by Barbara Castle, Tony Benn, Michael Foot and Jeremy Corbyn, has been smothered by the responsibilities of leadership, while the party’s Eurosceptic right, exemplified by Hugh Gaitskell, Denis Healey, Peter Shore and Ernest Bevin, was eclipsed by the progressive globalisation of the Third Way. The result has been an absence of leadership on the democratic and socialist possibilities of Brexit from within Labour, which has retreated to a denunciation of Labour-supporting Brexit voters as “xenophobes and racists”. We stand by their vote and the socialist possibilities that it opens up through the restoration of democratic sovereignty.

Mason’s argument is a self-fulfilling fallacy in that it surrenders the ground of democratic contestation over the meaning of Brexit and then denounces all who disagree with him as playing into the hands of fascism. Mason has adopted the Hillary Clinton tactic of reducing Brexit voters to a “basket of deplorable”. That allows the space for the far right to claim their political affections.

Our second point is that wherever the social democratic left has adopted a pro-EU politics in Europe it has been decimated. In France it has all but disappeared, in Holland and Belgium it is now marginal, in Germany the Social Democratic Party trails the Alternative für Deutschland in the polls, and in Italy the combined forces of the great communist and socialist traditions could not garner half the votes of the Five Star Movement whose slogan was “go fuck yourself”. The collective paralysis of the continental left, particularly its social democratic wing, is a cautionary tale of the cost of abandoning the possibilities of democratic change within the nation state. There are severe constraints on what can be achieved within the EU and working class voters know it.

The alternative to this story was briefly represented by Labour under Corbyn at the last general election, when the party pledged to “respect the result of the referendum” and proposed policies that were clearly contrary to the constraints of the Lisbon Treaty. This has subsequently been threatened by the drift towards Remain. Labour could have led a democratic, pro-Brexit campaign but has refused to do so. Again, the consequences of this inevitably favour the right.

The emerging consensus around Remain, led by Labour, is based on the Third Way notion that the primary objective of our politics is to preserve and protect the frictionless operations of capitalism.  Capitalism, however, is a voraciously durable and robust economic system that does not require the tender care of constitutional protection. Democracy, in contrast, is the best means of resisting its domination and that is not possible within the constraints of the EU.  It leads either to a depressed politics of disappointment or the rage of betrayal. Neither can be described as a “narrative of hope”. It is more an empty promise that leads to disenchantment.

This relates to the third delusion of the pro-EU left; its refusal to acknowledge the impossibility of reforming the EU. They have built a position around “remain and reform” (Mason) or “revolt and transform” (Labour shadow minister Clive Lewis) that is clearly impossible within the structures of the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties.

The EU is based on treaty law and the ultimate authority of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in resolving disputes. The treaties are based on the priority of the “four freedoms” (of goods, people, services and capital) and the ECJ rules accordingly. Transforming these treaties in a socialist direction is effectively impossible. At least 15 socialist governments would need to be elected simultaneously even to initiate treaty change, and the requirement of “consensus” in any subsequent convention, and of unanimous ratification, permits a veto by any member state.  Syriza’s experience in Greece is proof positive of the hopelessness of the “remain and reform” approach. Mason reported well on that event.

There is a profound distinction between globalisation and internationalism. The labour movement and the left generally would be wise to remember it. The EU is a globalising force that subordinates labour to capital and democracy to treaty law. We do not owe our labour rights or welfare state to the EU but to the political struggle of the labour movement over more than a century.

We are living through an interregnum, a period which Antonio Gramsci described as a time when “the old is dead and new cannot be born, when there is a fraternisation of opposites and all manner of morbid symptoms pertain”. One of those morbid symptoms is the left’s commitment to the single market, the customs union and the sovereignty of the ECJ; to the capitalist eternity of the EU.  We urge instead a politics built around democracy, radical economic reforms and internationalism.

 

The way to defeat the far right is for the left to embrace an internationalist and democratic Brexit.

Maurice Glasman
Maurice Glasman, Baron Glasman is an English political theorist, academic, social commentator, and Labour life peer in the House of Lords. He is a senior lecturer in Political Theory at London Metropolitan University and Director of its Faith and Citizenship Programme.
Support Labour Heartlands

This is a "Pay as You Feel" website. You can have access to all of our online work for free. However if you want to support what we do, you could make a small donation to help us keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

HELP US GROW BY SUPPORTING US

HELP US GROW.

The future can be ours - but only if we work together to make it happen. We've been fighting to make the Labour Heartlands a better, more fairer and equal place for over two years now. With a dedicated team and the commitment from our generous supporters giving small regular donations each month, more if they can afford it, we're winning. But there is still so much to do. We're ambitious, but we can only continue to make positive change and shape our country if more of our supporters join us on this journey. If you believe in the issues we fight for please take action and join Labour Heartlands grassroots think-and-do-tank today. It will make all the difference. And then we can make all the difference for everyone.

Not funded by millionaires or advertisers.
Labour Heartlands funded by the people.