Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 49 Number 1, January 26, 2019 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Deepening of Brexit Crisis: May Government
Continues in Denial over the Political Impasse

Which way is Theresa May to turn? Every move she makes deepens the crisis, chaos and turmoil over Brexit. The postponed "meaningful vote" is due to take place on Tuesday, January 29, but apparently it is not to be so meaningful.

Theresa May has set a number of "red lines", which she refers to as "principles", and which she refuses to set aside in order to seek a resolution of the crisis. Meanwhile, actual principles of working out a solution that favours the people are never considered, and May keeps repeating that because she allegedly is honouring the decision of the June 2016 referendum to leave the EU, the only choice is between "her" deal, "no deal", or no Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn for his part is manoeuvring within the situation, demanding that May take the option of "no deal" off the table, and refusing to meet with her until she does so. The experience of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and others who have responded to No.10 overtures, including leading trade union general secretaries such as Len McCluskey of Unite, and Dave Prentis of Unison, is that May's conception of negotiation is nothing but to demand that they fall in behind her deal. Her conception is to use their influence to attempt to get her deal, her Plan B (very similar to Plan A), to scrape through a Commons vote.

As Corbyn and others have pointed out, Theresa May is in denial over the depth of the political impasse, over the wiggle-room that the EU leaders and negotiators are prepared to offer, and of the damage that the impasse and political chaos are inflicting on the polity. Not least in effect of this damage is the attempt to polarise the polity and divide it between Remainers and Brexiteers. Corbyn himself cogently pointed out in his Wakefield speech that the concrete conditions facing both Remainers and Brexiteers are the same, and are not to be sorted out through what amounts to a civil war between them. Indeed, Theresa May, despite her protestations of seeking "social cohesion", is stoking the flames of unrest. It is clear that May is also prepared to use the police powers to underline that the state must preserve itself against the people's rebuke of "Not In Our Name!".

Neither does May see a General Election as a way out of the impasse, as she clings onto office, having had her fingers burned over the last time she was advised to go to the country. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party he leads are using the tactics provided by the Fixed-term Parliament Act 2011, brought in under David Cameron, to maximise the possibility of an imminent General Election. Certainly the ruling elite do not see a General Election as favourable to them. It does seem at this time as though a General Election would bring a Labour government to power, or, if resulting in a hung parliament, would allow Labour to form alliances with other parties at present in opposition and hence form a government. Would this resolve the political crisis? Although naturally Jeremy Corbyn and his allies argue that it would then be plain sailing, he still has vested interests and the European Union bureaucrats to contend with.

Jeremy Corbyn leader of the Labour Party speaking in Parliament for the opposition

Corbyn has the advantage of having the social movements, of which he has been part, not only as political support, but as an important reservoir of activists and vote bank. But is this sufficient to ensure his policies of "For the Many, Not the Few" are implementable if a General Election is called and the Labour Party assumes the role of government?

And what is this European Union? The EU itself is riven with crisis, not least the European project to make the EU a single political entity. To focus on the so-called "four freedoms", as though all the 28 EU member states subscribed to a united outlook, is misleading. This project went into crisis some time ago, not least because of the people's opposition to the neo-liberal agenda of the EU. And the prospect of a "social Europe" within the status quo is looking like a total illusion. It is partly the internal contradictions between the big powers of "Old Europe" themselves, partly the striving of these powers to dominate the other member states, and partly the movements of the people themselves against austerity, for their rights, and to demand a decisive say in the direction of society, that are besetting the EU with its own impasse. Meanwhile, the financial oligarchies demand to maraud wherever they wish, and the US seeks itself to dominate and dictate the agenda for Europe, which also is arousing resistance.

Thousands marching in London in support of the NHS on March 4 2017

Within this situation, what should be the outlook of the working class and people of Britain? We are of the opinion that the people cannot get caught in the trap of siding with one of the two warring factions, Leave and Remain, in the sense that there is a matter of principle at stake in siding with one or the other, when the working people themselves are not involved in setting the agenda of what it means - Leave or Remain - and their consequences. The ruling elite themselves cannot find a champion that convinces the people one way or another, or that favours the private interests that dominate economic and political life, let alone a course of action that favours the people.

Furthermore, we reject any suggestion that the people are to blame for any aspect of this crisis, whether it is the face of xenophobia, racism or chauvinism that the ruling elite represent. This reaction is being imposed on the people.

So within this situation, the working class and people must participate in working out themselves what favours their interests. In our opinion, the vantage point that we must adopt is one where it is grasped that the struggle in the real world is between the forces representing what is old and deeply reactionary, and those representing the new and a progressive future in which the interests of the people are firmly put at the centre. It can be seen that the way the battle of Brexit is being fought out, causing deep rifts in the polity, starving the people of information as to what is at stake and creating diversionary categories so that the people are prevented from having their own outlook, is blocking the people from taking the stand: A plague on both houses of the ruling elite! Let us take a stand for our own interests!

In our view, this is what Brexit is calling on us, the working people, to do. We should fight for the New. In the face of the all-round crisis, we should organise for the alternative. What this means is to recognise how Parliament has become completely dysfunctional, not even recognising what its own norms are and certainly not capable of sorting out a way out of the impasse, and instead to take a stand in defence of the rights of all. It is to take a stand in favour of the people's empowerment.


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