Brexit day has come and gone with a final flourish of culture war. Trade union and independence activist Suki Sangha says we require level heads to rise above the current discourse around Brexit, and to meet the new challenges we will soon face.
Friday night was a bit much, really. The relatively small rallies and gatherings welcoming in Brexit were greeted by the usual bickering and sniping, so familiar to us after years of this unending and unedifying spectacle.
It is in the character of the unfolding British constitutional crisis, replete with flags, jingoism, panic and fear-mongering, that a clear appreciation of what is really at stake has been hard to achieve.
Watching people pounce on each other and barking insults is extremely off-putting, as is the sentimentality around leaving the EU. Regardless of whether you were Leave or Remain, let’s not lose sight of what the EU actually represents, or the wider processes involved in Britain’s exit.
The EU’s neoliberal policy priorities, which have undermined the living conditions of millions of workers across Europe, have helped to give rise to the far-right.
New authoritarian and xenophobic movements, which many fear will get a boost from Brexit, have been steadily incubated over decades by economic liberalisation, austerity, destabilisation and by the core racism of the EU institutions and its spokespersons. It is harder to create a cordon around Le Pen in France or Salvini in Italy when their centrist opponents and the leaders of the EU endorse their racism, in word and deed. We know only too well about the successive racist policies of the EU and its member states that curtail the rights of black and brown people and that have allowed many to perish in the waters surrounding Europe.
My internationalism was instilled through learning about the struggles of people far beyond this continent. I understand that many wave the EU flag because they are concerned about the curtailing of freedom of movement, an institution they see as unambiguously progressive. But whatever else it may be, EU FoM has always been a legally established privilege for an essentially racialised, overwhelmingly white ‘European’ identity.
Many more support the EU because they are concerned about attacks on workers rights and around the potential threats posed by U.S trade deals, and right we are to be. After the Tory victory in 2019, brought about in part by the failure of the Corbyn project to accept the 2016 referendum result, the Tory party will indeed use Brexit to re-organise British capitalism, and in ways that will advance the interests of the rich against the working class.
But we need to remember that all the rights we currently have came from our ability to fight for them. These concerns always exist whether we were in or out of the EU – a prime purpose of which is also to suppress workers and advance the interests of the rich. That’s why socialists argue for collectivism and are involved in organising!
The back and forward nonsense which has become so common, both in society as a whole and on the left, will not advance those projects. Nor will the sensationalism and fear so widely spread in recent years. Even now, with the rise of dangerous right-wing forces, ‘the fascists’ are not about to take over.
We should remember as well that the present unwinding of both the UK and the EU in the face of huge pressures upon the capitalist system is a long and complex process, with many opportunities as well as dangers.
I have confidence in our ability to win people away from the politics of the far-right. You should too. Our organising and our ability to link with big social movements across borders is what can cause rupture to the current capitalist system. Confidence and action will always be more valuable than cynicism and misdirected anger.
This is the basis for real internationalism. It’s time we regained it.
Picture: Bruce Emmerling