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Brexit -So far

And so, here we are, in the Brave, New, Post-Brexit World. But not really – despite the slim majority (52%) on the side of the Leave vote, article 50 – the clause of 2007’s Lisbon Treaty that covers the exit of a member state from the EU – has not been triggered. And may never be so. Cameron, in a clever, if thoroughly spineless, move refused to act immediately on the results of the referendum, saying instead that he was stepping down and would allow the next Prime Minister to move the situation forward. Meanwhile, over in the Leave quarter, we’ve seen more back-pedalling. Nigel Farage has distanced himself from any firm statement on the allocation of that £350 million weekly delivered to the EU, not of course that he has the authority to do anything with it, but the suggestion that this might be redirected to the NHS played no small role in deciding the minds of many. Iain Duncan Smith, much closer to the levers of power, has also downplayed that particular “promise.” On the xenophobic side of the Brexit coin, the Conservative MEP that headed up the Leave campaign Daniel Hannan has admitted that, even with an exit from the bloc, they will not be able to stem migration. A gormless, squirming Boris Johnson has as much as said that he didn’t expect to win. All in all, a pretty pathetic showing from the Victorious.

'What do you mean, we won?'

‘What do you mean, we won?’

And that is merely a portion of what’s going on with the Tories and UKIP. In the country more generally, we’ve seen a continually declining exchange rate for stirling – at a 12% drop last I checked, it represents the most abrupt depreciation for the currency ever, and the lowest rate in 35 years. £125 billion was wiped off the FTSE 100 within 5 hours Friday morning, with continuing damage to the FTSE 250. At close on Friday, markets worldwide saw the loss of approximately $2 trillion, which has only increased in the new week. Last night, the country lost its Triple-A credit rating with Standard and Poor (the last major credit agency to rate them so, others having reduced their rating in response to austerity measures in previous years – though they too reduced their already slashed values). In Scotland, which voted almost unanimously (by area) for Remain, Nicola Sturgeon has begun the drumbeat of Independence once more, whereas Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland have called for a uniting with the Republic, and Plaid Cymru, in Wales, is calling for their own national referendum. The PLP Blairites have, in their wisdom, taken this time to stage a (failing) leadership coup. The arch-quisling Hillary Benn was sacked over the weekend for initiating it, and that rational move has set off a cascade of resignations from the shadow cabinet – 35 at last count.

I was, rightly, criticised for passing over the subject of migration in my last piece. To be fair, I didn’t intend to offer a comprehensive gloss of the situation, rather a background for my more academic concerns, but it has proven to be such a pivotal issue in the whole farrago that to not mention it was a glaring omission. As if we needed proof that, for many, this is the key issue of the referendum, we’ve seen a disgusting uptick in racist rhetoric and action since the results came in Friday. There have been instances of cars and homes leafleted with anti-polish slogans; groups of non-ethnic English verbally harassed up and down the country, even just outside Cambridge; there have been Muslims told “you’re next.” Reports are still trickling in from the weekend of multiple acts of vandalism, windows smashed and exteriors vandalised. Huffpo have an ongoing collection of reports, and it is troublingly long. People, people who have lived here for generations, are afraid in their own country. Although it occurred before the referendum was actually held, I would be remiss not to mention the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox by a white supremacist – Jo Cox who headed the all-party group Friends of Syria, focussing on Syrian refugee response. ANTIFA brigades are suddenly looking a lot less LARP-like.

Racist cards handed out in Huntingdon, just outside Cambridge

Racist cards handed out in Huntingdon, just outside Cambridge

This is something I struggle with in discussing these matters in conversation, choosing the level at which to frame them. Often times, I will, while holding to one level in the back of my mind, say something that accords with another, and later on foul myself up on the contradiction between the two. More to the point, the question – what of the rights of migrants? – has many answers, depending on how the question is framed. At the most normative level, the level of “what should the world be like,” the question is easily answered – acknowledging the illusory nature of borders and illegitimacy of existing power structures, digging into what ought to be available for people, yes, it is easy to say that there should be free movement of people and that they should be extended the protection and rights accorded to all humans vis a vis their humanity. Unfortunately, and this is particularly important when trying to convince someone sceptical of such a position, normativity is not sufficient.

In the world realpolitik, basic human rights, never mind those that are self-evident or supposedly God-given, get short shrift. As ever, freedom issues from the barrel of a gun and force rules the day. The legalese is good for little else than assigning blame once the damage is done, and arguing from a position of how-the-world-ought-to-be when your interlocutor holds to this is unlikely to get you anywhere fast. Thankfully, we haven’t (yet) sunk to that depth. However, there are still the circumstances on the ground to be considered when we ask the question.

In answer to this, then, at least on the level of ‘the hard-nosed, disillusioned realist,’ we must recourse to law. What law protects the rights of European migrants in the UK? Obviously, that of the EU. A set of laws that, if ever the Tories choose to take the plunge, will be rescinded. In this instance, what laws would the migrants have? None, other than those ensured by the UN and whatever invariably-odious writ the Government draughts to replace the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. It’s a safe bet that the rights – economic and otherwise – granted to foreigners in this yet-to-come piece of legislation will be sparse. It is, or will be, a fait accompli, and to have a conversation about it, framed with those parameters, is to accept this. What of the rights of migrants? The rhetorical question presents itself – What rights?

So, as rudimentary as the above all is, it does go some way to illustrating my trouble with the question. But, for we who hold to ideas of a better future, isn’t it our job to push against the ‘facts on the ground,’ to push against the way things happen to be, until they align more closely with they way they ought to be? It is ours then to make the case for why the laws need to be changed, to strive to realign the balance of powers such that we have the weight on our side, the weight enough to actually matter in the realms of realpolitik. Assurances have come from the like of Boris Johnson, saying that the status of EU migrants already present in the country will no change – but, looking at even just his track record of the last few days, you’d be a fool to think he won’t change with the wind. We need to push back against the racism, the scapegoating, the lies, and, in some ways most disheartening, the silence on the part of those who should know better (Lexit campaign, I’m looking at you).

All those are nice and stirring words, but that is about the sum of it without an actual, achievable, plan. Well and good to say that, after the Revolution, everyone will be treated justly and graciously, but it won’t be slogans alone that get us there. Demonstrations, and I stress that they are useful in some, limited, respects, don’t stop wars. We need to grapple with the situation, and that is one of parliamentary democracy. There is still hope for a Labour party run in a social democratic way – far from ideal, but this is about damage control now. There are accusations that Corbyn and his team didn’t do nearly enough for the Remain campaign, and even that they actively scuttled efforts amongst the Labour wing. The fact remains, two thirds of Labour voters, despite the obvious incentives of voting out (generational disenfranchisement, economic punishment by elites, continuing disposable status under the status quo – not all reasons for Brexit were racist) voted remain. Comparing this with 46% of Tory voters who voted to stay in the EU, it seems farfetched to say that Brexit was Corbyn’s fault, that he didn’t deliver (as if the votes of an electorate are some packaged object to be shuttled back and forth) the Labour constituents.


A crowd of Corbyn supporters, thousands strong, assembled outside of Parliament last night in a flash display of solidarity

There is likely to be a leadership race within the Labour party, and, as far as the rights of migrants go, never mind a whole host of other issues, our best bet is to re-elect Jeremy Corbyn. But then we must hold his feet to the fire – it is not enough to simply elect and assume the job is done, we must hold him to his promises. Whatever his past malfeasances, large or slight, unfortunately, there’s no one else in the Labour party who is a better candidate.


Three Elections; or, A Look ‘Round

Three Elections; or, A Look ‘Round

It’s been a while since I posted anything topical (middle of April? Really?). There are three elections looming large on my personal horizon, so, it seems like a good enough time to take a look around and see what’s up.

The first, in time as well as personal proximity, is the Labour leadership election. It’s a relatively exciting time to be a socialist in England, with Jeremy Corbyn riding high in weekly polls, dashing around the country speaking to massive audiences every few days. More importantly, he’s also a politician that has a long record of fighting for workers’ rights, entirely anti-austerity, and anti-imperialist – the only leadership candidate to unilaterally oppose Trident, to have voted against the illegal Iraq war at the time and to have pushed for an inquiry since, to have fought against the metastasising surveillance state, to have voted against the tuition hike…you get the idea.

It’s important to keep in mind the practical limits of an increasingly probable Corbyn victory. Reformism is always, inherently, limited, and this is a pointed case of that. Corbyn is but one man, and, though we’ve seen the ranks of the Labour party swell these last few months (yours truly a new-minted member), the architecture of both it and the government of the nation at large are going to put a hard cap on whatever he might wish to achieve.

That is not to say that it hasn’t been particularly delicious to watch the in-fighting of the careerist Labour rump as they collectively crap their pants. With the grandees of the party shooting off ever more dire warnings about the “annihilation of Labour” (Blair), the new party members as “infiltrators” (Campbell), the party being “unelectable” under Corbyn (Cooper), Corbyn moves from strength to strength. I called it about a week ago, saying that it would be little time before we saw the careerists banding together, with two of the three other candidates (Liz Kendel, Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham) sacrificing themselves to combine the anti-Corbyn vote under one banner. In fact, I was giving them too much credit – coverage in the Guardian today about the row between Burnham and Cooper, each of whom thinks they ought to be the chosen one, neither backing down. How petty these Tartuffes are – unable to release their porcine grasp on an ever-shrinking slice of the party electorate, even for the supposed “good” of Labour. It is clear indication as to their real desire.

Not that they’re alone in their contemptibility – from the start of the swing towards Corbyn, we’ve been hearing calls to arrest the race; MP’s who, initially backing Corbyn out of interest in “broadening the conversation,” now look on in horror, never anticipating the Left winning; and all the blather about the failure of the one member – one vote policy. The Anti-Democratic spirit of some in the Party has been in well-showcased. Most recently, it has been revealed that Lord Mandelson has conspired with other apparatchiks and the three “main-stream” candidates to force a mass-resignation, which would shut down the leadership race. This comes on top of the active witch-hunt against the “entryist scourge,” all those who joined the Party while also being possessed of broad Leftist-affiliations. While I suspect that my low-reader-traffic (hoorah for that!) will protect me, it’s entirely plausible this piece should get me kicked. Pro democracy, right up until the vox populi starts saying the wrong thing.

With four weeks to go, the main-stream may yet find a wrench with which to foul Corbyn’s machine. Ultimately, I suspect we’ll see some splintering – either the rump feeling out of place in a Labour awash with (Old) Labour-sentiments, or a frustrated Labour Left leaving to form a proper Social Democrat party. Either way, exciting times.

Which is more than can be said of back home. Though the actual date of the Federal election doesn’t fall until October 19, our Dear Leader kicked things off at the start of August – one can only assume that extended campaigning is necessary to patch over nearly a decade of draconian, illegal and ineffectual policies. A record as long and varied as Harper’s would try the hand of any politician – if only their competition actually held them to task.

With the Conservatives losing Fortress Alberta to the NDP in an upset general election back in May, this may, finally, be the year they’re ousted from their program of generalised havoc. That being said, it’s not as if the alternatives are that much better.

Trudeau, as has been articulated better elsewhere, is little more than a walking haircut. His vision has been vacuous from the start, chock full of the weasel words that allow for retroactive defence of neo-liberal policies that have guided the Liberal Party since, well, since ever I’ve been around. It’s true that the Grits, contrary to their name, are better on the soft issues than the Conservatives – but then, this is the party that wants to “grow the economy ‘from the heart outwards.’

We’ve seen the souring of the NDP since Mulcair bludgeoned his way to the helm. This is no longer the party of the Conscience of Canada, the party of Tommy Douglas and Universal Healthcare – hell, this isn’t even the NDP of Jack Layton. The Austerity-Lite policies of recent years display the Rightward march of this fresh Neo-Liberal Orange. The constant kowtowing to the petro companies, at both the Federal and now the Albertan Provincial levels, put lie to any environmental policies the Party might softball.

Most troubling of all, however, is the growing opacity of the NDP. Harper’s abuses of the democratic practice, his strident whipping of the party faithful, the thumbing of noses at the electorate and the press, have been some of the most odious and rightly derided elements of his regime. And yet, we see the NDP on the same path – whether it be the questionable way Olivia Chow was parachuted into candidacy, or, more saddening yet, the ejection of (as of this writing) three candidates for refusing to toe the line on Israel/Palestine relations. One of the most egregious, galling insults of the Conservative Government has been the subservience to and unconditional support of the Apartheid State of Israel. To see the NDP doing the same – it’s more than disheartening.

Back during the days immediately following the Charlie Hebdo shooting, I wrote a piece on the concerns of a re-emergence, or perhaps a solidification, of tribalist rhetoric and politics. Nothing I’ve seen since has dissuaded me that this is the path we are on. If anything, we’re further down the road than we were at the start of the year.

Which brings me to the third election. I’d be surprised if you weren’t aware that the Americans have once again entered a Federal election cycle, wherever you might live. The Republican primary this spin has been particularly salacious, due in large part to one man. I recently read a piece hosted on the Crooked Timber blog, written by Corey Robin, on the “family values” of Donald Trump’s fascism – in these latter days of call-out culture and shoot-from-the-hip Social Justice, the term fascist is bandied about more often than I’d like. Here, as Robin shows, it is manifestly appropriate.

Vichy France soft-pedalled its deportation of Jews by keeping the families together. “A human solution to the Jewish Problem,” it was called. This is the same rhetoric used to oppose the emancipation of Black slaves in America eighty years before that. And it is the same rhetoric we are hearing today from Donald Trump in reference to Mexicans.

As the Young Turks were just reporting, the rest of the Republican hopefuls, seeing how popular this has been with the base, have parroted this line, driving the political conversation ever more reactionary. These, the best and brightest of the Party of the Constitution, seek to abrogate it fundamentally. There is nothing further from the true, founding ideals of America than what they are proposing here.

In the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway’s American protagonist converses with a Spanish guerrilla. Wondering about America, the Spaniard asks Jordan if they have Fascists there, too. “There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the time comes,” Jordan responds.

Keep on guard, comrades, lest the hour of that rough beast has come round at last.