I know more Remainers than Leavers. That’s why my posts on Brexit have focused more on delusions common to the former than on those common to the latter. Here’s what I wrote four years ago:
My view of Brexit is not simple. That’s because the issues aren’t. For one thing, despite having the better arguments in principle, Lexiteers (socialists for Leave) never rose to the challenge of showing how in practical terms Brexit could at this juncture, given the prevailing balance of class forces and xenophobic context of the ‘debate’, be other than bad news for British workers.
(We owe that xenophobic context in no small part to the fact that, due to the issue’s greater toxicity for the Tories, we’d barely heard a squeak since the seventies from Labour opponents of the EU.)
For another, though I voted Remain (with peg on nose, as I said at the time) my differences ever since have been with people who voted as I did. I could forgive the confusion of EU with internationalism: that’s par for the course when your worldview lacks class analysis. What I’m less able to forgive are the snobbery and contempt for those Leavers who, having gained little enough from the neoliberalism which is the lifeblood of the Brussels bankers and technocrats, were called out as racists and morons. That’s before we even get to the sheer illiberalism of so many self styled liberals when things don’t go their way. I don’t say they all have second homes in the Dordogne, or are exercised solely by soaring costs for weekends in Amsterdam: just that the outpourings of rage seem bent on making up through spleen and vitriol what they lack in accuracy of focus. (In these things, as in many others, the parallels between reactions to Brexit and to Clinton’s defeat are striking.)
What was especially striking in that “illiberalism of liberals” was a failure to grasp or care that a wafer majority for Remain – the best outcome they could realistically hope for from the second Referendum they craved – would see blood on our streets and a massive boost to the far right.
But the naivete of common or garden Remainers was matched by that of common or garden Leavers. The latter certainly weren’t all the racists depicted by their snooty detractors, but too many were motivated by the delusion – mirroring Remainers’ misplaced faith in Europe – that a UK free of Brussels would somehow be more receptive to their needs and aspirations.
Which wouldn’t have mattered quite so much had Lexiteers not shown equal but less forgivable naivete. They had neither plan nor programme to avert or even mitigate what a smart twelve year old could have foreseen: that loosened ties with Brussels and Berlin would leave the UK more dependent than ever on its ‘special relationship’ – TTIP, chlorinated chicken, one-way Extradition Street and all – with Washington.
And more dependent than ever on those monopoly forms of capitalism risibly referred to as “free enterprise”.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s turn to this story in yesterday’s Mirror:
Amazon is advising ministers on how to buy goods and services after Brexit, while raking in millions of pounds in contracts itself.
The Mirror can reveal the US firm was on a “secretive” panel set up by the Cabinet Office to help shape public sector procurement in future.
Amazon has been awarded 82 central Government contracts, worth £225million, in the past five years and has a deal enabling local councils to buy supplies in one marketplace.
Amazon Business representatives attended two meetings last year with Oliver Dowden, then a Cabinet Office minister and now Culture Secretary.
This year it was represented at two meetings where Lord Agnew, minister for “efficiency and transformation”, was present. The Cabinet Office refused a request from the Mirror to see the minutes of the meetings.
Paul Monaghan, of the Fair Tax Mark, which highlighted Amazon’s involvement on the “secretive” panel, said it was “truly frightening”.
Yeah. Well I sort of agree with you. The EU is at present dominated by neo-liberal forces, and it would need a long and concerted effort to get rid of them, even if the UK was impelled to do such a thing. On the other hand, leaving will result in a huge decline in living standards for most poor and working class people, (but this unfortunately does not apply to the elite), a diminution of effective action towards global warming and human rights, and a vastly declining industrial sector. Leaving will also probably propel the UK into the arms of the failing neo-fascist US empire, for want of any alternative. At present however, under the manic Trump regime, NATO is being disparaged, and the EU is being compelled to distance itself from the US and reach, to a certain extent, accommodations with Iran, China and Russia. The UK should ideally be part of that movement away from the US empire, even if the alternative is a burgeoning EU empire (which will not be nearly so effective(!) or so malignant as the US version.
So overall, I still think ‘remaining’ was a better option.
Your assessment aligns with the thinking of the Diem25 movement and its leading light Yanis Varoufakis – a man who knows better than most the true nature of the EU. I’ve heard Varoufakis denounced by Lexiteers, but if the latter ever formulated a credible alternative – ie one that went beyond the ritual calls for workers to rise up and seize the reins of power – it passed me by. And I was paying more attention than most.