August 2016        

Brexit reverberates in the corridors of power

Eugene McCartan

The decision by a majority of the people within the British state to leave the European Union continues to reverberate through the corridors of corporate power.
     The mass media, both private and state-owned, went into overdrive, predicting doom and gloom if the people voted to leave. Then the people were condemned for not taking that advice. The English working class in particular were singled out for attention, all being roundly condemned for being racist and ignorant.
     In recent decades, western governments have gone to war to impose “democracy” upon the peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and many other countries and peoples, killing millions to make them free, laying waste whole countries. They have subverted and overthrown governments around the globe, armed, trained and financed fascists and religious fanatics, who murdered and slaughtered their way through cities, towns and villages from Ukraine to Syria. And the political elite and their media conduits continue to lecture such countries as Venezuela and Cuba for not being “democratic.”
     Yet when the majority of people within the British state voted to leave the EU, that carefully crafted veneer of democracy slipped. The state and the media continue to pillory the people, dismissing the result as a vote of ignorant people or bigots, asserting that big decisions should not be made by the people but by those who really understand what is at stake. The people have increasingly become an obstacle to what global corporate power needs to achieve.
     Finance capital, in the form of the City of London, has not yet given up on winning back its position within the EU. The battle is on between those who want a complete departure and those who advocate “Brexit Light.”
     The Lexit campaign, made up of trade unions, the Communist Party of Britain and other political forces, while small, made a very important intervention in the referendum debate. To secure a progressive exit will require the mobilising of working people to fight for their own demands.
     The ruling elite can see no other way forward for the peoples of Europe but the one they impose upon us. Their contempt for the people’s vote in Britain is just another indicator of their shallow commitment to democracy and to the opinions of the people. This contempt for the people is built in to the very structures of the EU, which is being constructed to remove the possibility of change from the people at both the national and the EU level.
     Here in Ireland we have the spectacle of a party, some of whose members fought a thirty-year war to end British interference in Ireland and to establish an independent, sovereign Irish republic, now surrendering to that very corporate power. At one time it was a major opponent of membership of the “rich man’s club” and of the many treaties that have been passed to facilitate the construction of this bastion of corporate power.
     Along with other democratic forces, including the Communist Party of Ireland, it resisted these treaties—and history has shown our criticism to have been correct—bringing to the attention of the Irish people the grave dangers posed to national democracy and sovereignty by the constant drive for greater centralising controls, as contained in these treaties, the constant attempts by the EU to marginalise the people and remove from them any possibility of changing economic and social policies at the national level. The EU is being constructed to subvert the democratic will of the people and to prevent any alternative to capitalism emerging at the national level.
     That party has moved from opposition to the EU to being one of the main conduits for promoting the illusion among working people that the EU can be reformed from within; it has become a vehicle for disarming radical voices here in Ireland. It has fallen for one of the oldest ruses of the establishment: Come into our political tent and you can reform it for us.
     What has been exposed is the way this party views the world through a very narrow nationalist prism and the shallowness of its anti-establishment rhetoric.
     Another fact revealed by the Brexit vote is the complete marginalising of the people in the north-east of our country. They have little or no power to change anything, to change in any real sense their economic or social conditions. What has also been exposed is the fact that many of the services that people have come to rely on are discretionary, there so long as external funding is available from either the British exchequer or the European Union.
     Many of these services are absolutely needed by working people. Hundreds of services receive sufficient funds to keep them on life support but not enough to exist independently. Those involved need to recognise these as mechanisms of control and not as a means of empowerment. The lack of democracy is the essential weakness of the internal settlement in the north-east of our country, just as it is of the European Union.
     The people in the north-east experience the highest level of social deprivation, the lowest wage levels (on average £108 per week), the highest rate of zero-hour contracts and precarious employment. No amount of pleading for special treatment from either London or Brussels will end this blight upon the people’s existence.
     Now is not the time to retreat or to see our world through a narrow nationalist or loyalist prism. We can defeat the EU only with a clear anti-imperialist, anti-corporate understanding of the forces that are the obstacles faced by our people, to the right of the people to change the economic and political system, to develop a strategy for placing real economic and political power in the hands of working people.
     All wealth is produced by the hands and brains of labour—by working people. The wealth that is produced by workers is not owned or controlled by us but rather by those who own and control the means of producing wealth. True democracy can only be brought about when wealth and the means of creating wealth are held in common ownership by the people.
     Membership of the EU is for preventing a new, different Ireland emerging. If the people are to achieve real and meaningful change this will be in spite of and in opposition to the EU, just as political institutions established by partition were not established to meet the people’s needs but rather the needs of British imperialism.
     These institutions are not vehicles that can bring change but instead have to be replaced for a new and radically different Ireland to emerge.

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