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(en) Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement awsm.nz: Brexit - Against Britain and Europe

Date Mon, 26 Aug 2019 08:08:00 +0300

Analysis of Brexit from an Anarcho-syndicalist, World Systems Analysis perspective arguing that both the EU and the British state must be opposed. ---- In 2016 the British public voted in a referendum to leave the European Union. Now the British state is clamoring to secure some kind of exit from the supranational institution. Theresa May's successive attempts at scoring a deal failed, one by one, eventually leading to her resignation as Prime Minister and the ascent of Boris Johnson to the office. Johnson has promised to carry out the exit by October 31st, even if it means not striking a deal with the EU over how to handle trade with Europe, protections of Brits living in other European countries, and the flow of goods through Britain from and to Europe.

Despite the nationalist and xenophobic bent to the leave vote leftists have taken to the leave campaign, arguing that it is a needed step in fighting neoliberal attacks by capital against labor and the environment. This conception of the EU as a mechanism of capital against social change goes back to the 60s when socialists believed that EU legislation would prevent nationalization of industry. Thus leftists have called for "Lexit", i.e. British exit from the EU on the basis of popular movements against neoliberal policy and for democracy and equality. For the British population who voted leave, the issue is two fold. Firstly, the EU as a bureaucratic institution, seemingly above the member states themselves, has fueled the sentiment that the EU is a barrier to national sovereignty. Second, tied to this conception of national sovereignty is the idea that the EU's authority will, is, or could force Britain to take in migrants and immigrants.

Thus the choice seems to be between Brexit for leftist, or reactionary reasons, or remaining in the EU for stability, economic, or social equality reasons. This choice is a false one. The reason on the part of the British ruling class for leaving is that EU imposed regulations that protect labor and the environment would no longer hold capital back from exploiting the former two. Yet the EU is not a mechanism that protects labor and the environment from capital, nor is it a mechanism of democracy.

The EU was created during the cold war as 1; a bulwark of states against the threat of the Soviet Union and 2; a pan-European institution for the development of the common accumulation of capital in the world economy. With the end of the Cold War the EU's function has turned fully to the latter, especially in the late 20th century when Europe's production of surplus value.1 severely declined. The EU being an institution of the capitalist world economy, as all political institutions are, has come to favor the core states that control the profitable industries, as a mechanism of control against the peripheral states which control the least profitable industries and thus have the weakest political and economic control (Germany's domination of the EU is well known, for example). It is thus a bureaucracy over the European working class that facilitates the exploitation of the former by capital. The EU even imposes austerity policies on it's member states.

Despite the EU's function as a bulwark over workers in favor of capital Lexit is not a meaningful path to positive social change. What Lexit seems to ignore, forget, or both, is that the British state is no less a bulwark over labor, for capital, than the EU. It's hard to believe that a former colonial power, which produced the leading figure of the neoliberal offensive against labor in Thatcher, and who's labor party has been controlled by the right for years, achieving autonomy against the EU will somehow lead to social justice.

Of coarse the desire for national autonomy is a farce. In the first place Britain is not one of the peripheral states that the EU exploits through loans. Nationalism, when all is said and done, is an ideological mechanism of legitimization for the capitalist state, itself the political unit of the capitalist world economy, itself based on the exploitation of labor by capital. Equally obvious is the fact that the demonisation of immigrants and migrants is based on the racist nationalist ideology that those who are not arbitrarily designated as "citizens" are fundamentally different than us and a threat to us.

The Brexit situation is fundamentally one of the interstate system of the capitalist world economy. The British state and the EU are doing and will do only what is in their interests as units of that world economy. Meanwhile the situation is further fueled by nationalist ideology, racism, and public alienation from the EU bureaucracy. There is no horse in this race for popular transformation of society towards democracy and equality. As an alternative to leaving, or staying, an international socialist movement should be built up on the European continent. This movement should be created through and facilitate the direct action of workers against the British State and the EU bureaucracy, and the capitalist world economy as a whole, in the interest of workers and oppressed peoples as a whole.

1. Surplus value is the mass of commodities produced by workers which are then extracted by capitalist firms to be sold on the market.

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