Felicity Dowling writes: Brexit is causing still more uncertainty and still further crises, in an already difficult time for working class communities. The bombast and lies from Johnson and co are risking food shortages, clogged ports, further job losses, and still more instability in a time of unprecedented crisis. Then we will see longer term economic social and political damage.
Brexit will hurt working class communities in the UK. Left Unity acknowledges that a no-deal Brexit will also harm people in other parts of the EU, and we will continue to work for a better world along side our friends in the European Left Party.
This country is rich enough to feed all its children, to care for its elders and address the climate crisis. Imagine the £875billion spent in 2020 on quantitative easing being spent on our people, on housing, decent benefits, green jobs and a living wage. We in Left Unity want a green ecosocialist revolution in employment that could make people healthier, happier and end poverty. The refusal to tackle poverty, the housing crisis and the climate crisis is conscious and political. These crises are unnecessary. They are the result of Conservative (and right-wing Labour) political choices and the greed of the extraordinarily rich. Our task as socialists is to win the people to the ideas that can change society. The capacity to make that change already exists.
Despite its huge majority this government is far from stable and has been forced to react to public pressure and internal strife. The many millions who voted for Corbyn are still there and will return to the struggle (if not to Starmer’s Labour). It is possible to build a grass roots force for change.
Solidarity amongst and within all working-class communities has never been more necessary. Solidarity in looking out for each other and in challenging, at work, the terrible wages that leave workers in poverty. Improving wages by the power of organised workers is far from easy but is essential. There is not much point in hoping the Government or the big corporations will change their spots and give us all a higher standard of living. Power concedes nothing without a demand. We should demand pay fit to raise children in dignity. The violence of austerity is increasing, our children go hungry, children in the care of the state are not safe, and homelessness is a lasting wound to many children.
The climate disaster lumbers on unimpeded, shown here in floods and extreme weather and polluted air. The air in many cities is polluted from traffic, homes are poorly insulated, and have inefficient and polluting heating systems. A huge movement to demand climate action is building, hindered somewhat by the pandemic, but it is a movement with real impetus.
The public health system is in tatters, the NHS is struggling after years of cuts and the malicious ministrations of blood-sucking privatisers. Inequality and poverty damage our lives. Women and especially mothers and grandmothers carry a massive weight of low wages, poor pensions and attacks like the bedroom tax, and the loss of many years of pensions. Our youngsters are denied decent housing allowances as the housing crisis, the pandemic, and winter threaten further harm and long-term stress.
Migrants face the hostile environment, denial of health care rights, unjust deportation, and vicious anti-migrant press. Migrants more than ever are vulnerable to exploitative bosses. As we hit winter many people will not be able to afford to heat their homes. Unemployment rises, sick pay is laughable, and the pandemic rages unchecked, in major part because of Government corruption and careless incompetence, accompanied by #mylittlecrony corruption. Local authorities are facing the worst financial crisis yet.
Into this toxic mix we now see the probability of a no-deal Brexit. Brexit itself, fudged deal or no deal will damage many lives. The Bank of England report makes this clear. We must challenge the narrative that blames our economic ills on the pandemic, harsh though the effects of the pandemic are, especially on the most deprived areas.
The British economy was in trouble even before the pandemic. Lack of investment and the damage to national public infrastructure were already presenting problems but we now face a cluster bomb of crises.
The economy is globalised by decision. Supply chains for the (limited) UK manufacturing sector and the building sector are global, with goods coming from across the globe and just in time. Supply chains globally are complex. Sometimes a supplier of a component itself has a supply chain from another country and in the pandemic, companies have discovered they do not even know the supply chains that feed their product. As the UK ports clog, this system is itself in crisis.
Our communities were not given a choice about the deliberate changes to the UK employment structures over many decades. The miners did their best to make a stand but were left to face bitter defeat. The changed shape of the UK economy over three decades has been by decision of government, financial institutions and big business. These decisions were presented through deceit and lies, presented as inevitable and as unstoppable as the tides. These changes were never agreed or endorsed by the working people involved. They were the decisions of our rulers and not replicated in every economy though the US model is close to it. Germany’s economy is significantly different.
Migration has been a feature of all wealthy countries, reflecting the linking of all economies through globalisation. Millions of workers came to the UK from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Africa and from the EU and brought considerable talent and created wealth for all of us.
The EU did not cause the structural change in the UK economy. That was the decision of the ruling class in the UK. However Left Unity challenges also the austerity policies of the EU. We no more support the right-wing policies of the EU than we support right-wing policies of the Conservative Party. We no more support the policies of the ECB and the rest of the Troika that did so much harm to Greece than we support the Crown and the House of Lords. In the UK, Left Unity opposes Brexit and campaigns with socialists in Europe for democratic reform across Europe
Left Unity has always named Brexit as a reactionary project of the extraordinarily rich, and of a particular reactionary segment of that social group. The leading Conservative Brexiteers are not British nationalists though at present they choose to use that language. Their approach to the history of colonialism, their approach in the casual use of racist language and their investment in modern extractivism and pollution more clearly demonstrate their beliefs. They are themselves linked to global capitalism in their wealth, their work and their ideology. They are linked to other right-wing governments like those of Trump, Bolsonaro and Orban.
Describing Brexit as a project of white northern working-class men is false. It is far from this “Because of differential turnout, a narrow majority of Leave voters lived in the South of England and most were middle class. Areas of high immigration voted to remain.” http://www.dannydorling.org
Talks with the EU we are told are foundering on issues around fishing but it’s not the rights of trawler men that concern Johnson but the interests of the handful of companies that own the industry. The people owning these rights are not all British. “Many parts of the quota were sold by English fishermen in the 1990s when fishing rights were cut dramatically. Cod fishing, for instance, was almost entirely stopped for several years.
Foreign companies then bought it up as a long-term investment, and experts say the quota market has been allowed to develop in an unregulated way ever since.”
Brexit was characterised by lies. This archive from Led by Donkeys shows the extent of Johnson’s lies. The misuse of social media by the likes of Cambridge Analytica over Brexit and the use of lies by the Conservative Party in its facebook posts in the last election are well known. There is the technology to send lies directly to the individual, individuals whose concerns and prejudices had previously been harvested. The crisis of December 2020 will be itself over written with media manipulations; we in Left Unity want to make our position clear before the fog descends.
Johnson wants to be able to deal with the EU without any constraints, he wants to interact with Europe on his own terms, but this is not just bombast and incompetence. He represents a specific faction of capitalism. His idea is of minimum state regulation except as it favours the extraordinarily rich. At its most toxic, this ideology is seen in Rees-Mogg and his father. Rees-Mogg has already made money from Brexit. It is not the individuals, gross though they are, that matter though, Brexit represents unchained capitalism, and deepening exploitation of the UK working class.
Brexit gives a global message of the power of the warlord capitalists. The response of organised UK workers must be internationalist to strengthen our own self defence and to offer solidarity in some small way with the defensive response of workers in other countries.
The style of domestic economics espoused by Johnson is unclear, probably unclear even to himself. He speaks against austerity, yet perpetuates it, grants huge sums of government funding to some businesses without checks or restrictions, yet is happy to see other businesses fail. There will be no lack of government spending under Johnson, but restrictions on pay, on funding for public institutions and on welfare seem set to remain. There will be state aid for the rich whilst our children go hungry. Rees-Mogg describes the UNICEF feeding hungry children in the UK as playing politics. This exposes their contempt for our communities. What does a hungry child matter to them, let alone thousands of hungry children? Marcus Rashford shows that response must come from those who know that pain.
The extraordinarily rich Chancellor has spent vast sums on the pandemic. The Bank of England has created huge sums of money on “fiscal stimulus” in quantitative easing.
Following the additional programme of QE announced in November 2020, our purchases of UK government bonds will total £875 billion. In addition, £20 billion of sterling non-financial investment-grade corporate bonds have been purchased. That means the stock of assets held in the Asset Purchase Facility will total £895 billion.
This is money paid to the rich whilst our children go hungry. Stark contrasts of wealth and poverty beset this country.
Left Unity understands that the majority voted for Brexit, but we continue our opposition to it, just as we would continue opposition to a vote for war or slavery. We recognise that not every leave vote was reactionary, but the project was originated and guided by this segment of the ruling class.
The British ruling class has spilt on this issue with the faction who support Brexit being that which favours asset stripping, hedge funds and speculation. Monbiot describes the Brexit faction as “warlord capitalism”, which has contempt for democracy.
The UK government in the EU helped push EU policies further towards austerity and gross neoliberalism. The UK economy is significantly globalised by decision of Conservative governments and their masters in the owners of finance. They were not forced to implement austerity, economic restructuring and outsourcing by the EU, that was their own policy since Thatcher.
Left Unity supports the free movement of people. We recognise migration as a fact of this globalised economy, offering many benefits. However, many of the 65 million on the move globally are driven by poverty, lack of opportunity and war or persecution. Socialism has always to be internationalist. It was not migrants that caused austerity, outsourced jobs, or closed factories. We all need a better world, and millions are working for that.
Nearly every family in our communities knows that the future looks grim. They know that unless there is change, living standards are not set to rise. UK born or migrant, the problems are similar. We need decent housing, better health care, better-funded schools, decent social security, and action on the climate catastrophe. The EU citizens living in the UK need safety and security as do all migrants. In classrooms across this country there are youngsters worrying about what the future holds, none more so than those who face racism and xenophobia, heightened by Brexit.
We express and demonstrate solidarity to all migrants living in the UK, and in this crisis especially the millions of EU citizens who have made their UK their home. Simply we say please stay and help build a better life for all of us here and across Europe. We express solidarity also to UK citizens living in the EU who face problems with healthcare and pensions.
As we face winter 2020-21, we call on all organisations of the working class to organise mutual aid to ensure as many of our people as possible survive this period. This is the rainy day we have saved for in all our institutions. We recognise that socialists will be involved in mutual aid.
Solidarity amongst all working-class communities has never been more necessary.
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