The Intensification of Calamities: Catalonia’s Unlikely Cheerleaders

Of all forms of war, the ancient Greeks recognized that civil war was the worst and most destructive form of human conflict.  This is because civil war shatters the bonds that hold societies together, tearing families, neighborhoods and communities apart, unleashing hatreds, divisions and conflicts that can only be resolved, not through negotiation, compromise or a peace treaty, but through the complete and utter destruction and defeat of one side by the other.

We have seen this again and again throughout history, most recently in the former Yugoslavia, Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.  Spain knows this as much as any country in Europe;its politics have been haunted by the memory of the civil war even during the democratic transition.

As a result of its unilateral declaration of independence, the Catalan parliament has now ushered in a dangerous new phase in its ongoing confrontation with the Spanish state, in which civil conflict is a very real possibility.  It isn’t only that the Catalan parliament doesn’t have a clear mandate to take such a drastic and far-reaching decision; the nationalist movement simply does not have the ability to transform this decision into political reality.  It has taken a reckless political gamble and  picked a fight that it cannot win, and which poses a direct threat to the lives and well-being of millions of people in Catalonia and in Spain.

This does not mean that the Spanish state is in the right.  Rajoy and his awful government could hardly have acted worse than they have.  The police repression of the October 1 referendum was an abomination that deserves only universal condemnation.   It was also confirmation that Rajoy has a political tin ear to make even Theresa May look like a visionary stateswoman   But state repression and the imposition of direct rule cannot in themselves justify the extraordinarily reckless decision taken by the Catalan parliament – a parliament from which 53 MPs who represent more than half the voting population of Catalonia were missing.

Such a decision not only disregards the persistent polls suggesting that half the population of Catalonia do not want independence: it also shows a startling and shocking indifference to the potentially catastrophic consequences that are already beginning to unfold.  If there was ever a crisis that needed compromise, deescalation, dialogue and conflict-prevention it is this one,  yet there is no sign of any of this from the Spanish government or their Catalan opponents, each of whom seem determined to make the situation worse.

And they aren’t the only ones.  Beyond Catalonia, certain sections of the left and the European ‘alt-right’ are now falling over themselves to support the Catalan separatist movement, who seem equally indifferent to its consequences.   Right wing politicians have condemned Spain’s repression of the Catalan movement.  In the UK, Counterfire, Tariq Ali, Julian Assange and Lindsey German are calling for progressives to support the ‘Catalan Republic’.  Lindsay German has praised the Catalans for ‘laying Franco’s ghost’ – when it would be more accurate to say that the Catalan movement is in danger of digging up Franco’s corpse and bringing it back to life.  In a mindnumbingly irresponsible  Facebook post, Tariq Ali has even called on the Catalans to form popular militias to defend their new republic.

Such breathtaking idiocy cannot be explained by a concern for Catalan human rights and civil liberties.  You can very easily oppose Spanish cops who beat up elderly women for voting without cheerleading a process that is leading inexorably towards a far bloodier confrontation.  But that does not mean that you have to uncritically accept everything that the Catalan nationalists say about themselves.

Personally I respect the principle of self-determination, in Catalonia and elsewhere.  I recognize that there are legitimate historical and cultural reasons why millions of Catalans would seek to be an independent nation.  I admire the passion, skill and commitment that the Catalans have brought to their cause.

At the same time I don’t accept the victim narratives that have been refloated again and again over the last few years. I do not believe that Catalans are any more ‘oppressed’ than millions of Spaniards who have also been victims of austerity.  In the last forty years Catalonia has become one of the richest regions in Spain.  It has wide powers of autonomy and self-government.  Its capital city is one of the most popular in the the world.

All this has been achieved through negotiation and cooperation within the framework of the post-Francoist democratic state.  Does this mean that Catalans do not have the right  to seek independence? Of course not,  because every coherent nation-in-waiting has the right to choose the form of government it wants.  But the balance of forces within Spain is such that Catalonia cannot become an independent republic without a negotiated process that involves the consent of the Spanish population.

Anything else has the potential to unleash civil conflict and the reawakening of the most chauvinistic, reactionary and dangerous forms of Spanish nationalism that have caused such havoc in the past.  And in a world that is saturated with violence, extremism and the potential for even worse conflicts,  the principle of self-determination needs to be weighed not only in terms of the desirability of independence, but in terms its wider potential consequences, and that is the main reason why I think that last week’s unilateral declaration of independence is a catastrophic mistake

Yet as we saw during the Brexit referendum, there is a certain breed of leftist that cannot distinguish between the bad and the worse, and which actively seeks to turn a bad situation into a calamity – particularly if it has anything to do with the European Union.  Thus Ali, like Paul Mason and many others, blamed the EU for Spain’s treatment of the Catalans, and attributed Rajoy’s authoritarianism to a sinister alliance between ‘Berlin’ and ‘Madrid’ that supposedly echoes the Hitler/Franco alliance during the Spanish Civil War – as though the Spanish government is acting under Angela Merkel’s tutelage.

It here, in is this absolute and unrelenting loathing of the European Union, that the right and left really find a kind of common ground in their newfound love affair with Catalanism.  On the British left, the most enthusiastic supporters of Catalan independence tend to be the same individuals and organisations that supported ‘Lexit’.  At the other end of the pro-independence spectrum we find politicians like Nigel Farage, a demagogue who lies as easily as he breathes, reveling in the fact that Catalonia represents a  greater threat to the European Union than Brexit.  For Mr Toad, Catalonia is ‘Juncker’s worst nightmare’  and promises to make ‘Brexit look like a Sunday afternoon picnic.’

Farage clearly can’t wait to see that happen.  So when he talks about Catalan ‘human rights’ or criticizes the ‘monstrous’ way ‘the international community have ganged up and tried to crush’ the Catalans, we need to take such indignation with a very large handful of salt.  No one heard much from Farage when the Spanish police were shooting indignados with rubber bullets in 2011, and no one would expect him to, because like his hero Steve Bannon,  Farage is an ethno-nationalist who would strut around in a fascist uniform as soon as history gave him the opportunity, and only cares about human rights when they suit his ‘anti-globalist’ agenda.

For Farage, Gert Wilders et al, the crisis in Catalonia is another stick with which to beat the EU, regardless of the fact that Catalan nationalists want to join the European Union, and that is the beginning and end of their support.  The Lexit pro-Catalan left has the same aspiration, albeit  for different reasons.  It sees the Catalan crisis as another crack in the European wall and another crisis that it can use to its own advantage and perhaps bring about the ‘decisive rupture’ that will bring down neo-liberalism, etc, etc.

The result is a grotesque spectacle, in which both sets of cheerleaders – supposedly at opposite ends of the political spectrum – are applauding the  independence movement because they hope it will pave the way for their respective ethno-nationalist or ‘socialist’ utopias.

Neither side seems concerned if the ongoing confrontation results in civil conflict within Catalonia, the collapse of Spanish democracy, or even a new civil war.  And such is their obsessive loathing of the EU that you can’t help sensing that there are many among them who really wouldn’t mind if it did.

On Writing and Silence

A loyal follower of this blog and Internet friend asked me last week why I haven’t blogged much recently, so I thought I should explain to those who are interested. There are three main reasons.  In the first place, I’ve been extraordinarily busy.  I’ve been writing two books, one of which required a lot of rewriting.  I’ve also been helping to organize the One Day Without Us campaign, which really has eaten into my working day, particularly in October, when it was almost impossible to do anything else.

Secondly, so many horrific,depressing – and complex things have happened this year that I have felt unable to keep up with them or say anything meaningful about them in the time that I have had.

My inability to speak out about Trump, Brexit, Syria, Yemen and so many other things is also related to an ongoing personal political crisis that I have yet to resolve.  In November last year, one of the people who criticized my ‘international brigades’ post asked me why I kept writing things.  I told him I wrote because there wasn’t any choice for me.  It’s what I do and what I’ve always done.   At the same time I’ve always asked myself what value writing has – not just mine – but any writing.  What does it do?  What does it achieve?

One of my favourite writers is the great Austrian satirist Karl Kraus ‘ the master of venomous ridicule’, as Stefan Zweig once called him.  Kraus’s venom and his ridicule sometimes bordered on the misanthropic – not a position I’ve ever wanted to find myself in – but he wrote with real brilliance about the nationalist insanity of World War II, in his essays and also in his sprawling play The Last Days of Humanity.   In an essay on the outbreak of World War I, Kraus said that essentially that the world had become so corrupt and debased to the point that language itself had not meaning and therefore the only thing writers could do was step forward and say nothing at all.

Of course he didn’t do that – he was a writer after all.   But one writer who did retreat into silence was Isaac Babel.  Estranged from Stalinist literary culture and from Stalin himself, he decided to write nothing and say nothing.  In Stalinist Russia that wasn’t good enough of course.  Silence was a political position, because it wasn’t support for the regime.  Because Babel didn’t loudly proclaim the revolution and its inane cult of socialist realism, he was objectively counter-revolutionary and that’s why he was eventually shot, in effect, for saying nothing.

My own temporary silence on this blog owes more to Kraus than to Babel.  It isn’t that I consider silence a statement, but lately I have just not been able to find the words with which to respond to the depraved lunacy and collective stupidity that is sweeping my country and the Western world lately.

And that isn’t all.   I’ve always thought of myself as on the left and of the left and I still do, but there’s so little I admire or respect about the British left right now it’s really hard to feel I ‘belong ‘ to it. On one level I never did . I didn’t call my blog ‘notes from the margins’ for nothing. If I had any use as a writer writing about politics, it was from that marginal critical position, which didn’t pin me to any established party or network or make the representative of anything.

That changed somewhat when Stop the War began posting my pieces – something that I was ok with until I found myself accused of ‘representing’ positions that I didn’t have.   But 2016 has been a kind of critical rupture for me, following the debacle of last November w/ the ‘international brigades’ fiasco and the almost complete abandonment of critical faculties by sections of the left back then – which still continues albeit in trickles – , not to mention Stop the War’s cowardly abandonment of myself and Chris Floyd.

Then there was Brexit,and it’s little wannabe sister Lexit, propagating the cynical/opportunist and downright foolish idea that a no vote was somehow ‘progressive’ – coupled with a refusal to recognise the racism unleashed and legitimised by it, and a willingness to effectively throw some three million EU citizens under the Brexit bus in the vague hope that something good might turn up out of the mess for the left, or the working class or the revolution.

Let me make it absolutely clear – a left that behaves like this and thinks like this, no matter how cleverly, is not a movement that I feel anything in common with or want to ‘belong’ to, or speak for or speak to.   There really aren’t any words to express how disgusted I am by this and how shameful I find it.

And now we have McDonnell, McCluskey and Lewis coming from the soft left promising to ‘listen to concerns’ about immigration, when they should be challenging them.

And then there is the left and Syria. It isn’t just the ‘revolutionary’ posturing by people who would never go anywhere near a Syrian battlefield, many of whom are busy picking up MAs and PhDs while spouting platitudes about armed struggle.Or the vicious insults if you don’t accept their starry-eyed vision of the Syrian revolution. Fascist bag carrier. Truther. Ghouta denialist. Assad supporter. Piece of shit. ISIS lover – I’ve heard it all from these great humanitarians over the last few years.

It isn’t just the certainty about things that are not always certain. Or the jostling for a morally superior position, using Syria as an excuse to pursue old sectarian vendettas in a new form. There are also the leftists who talk about Assad as if he were the good guy in this, and a representative of the ‘axis of resistance’ etc, and now t’s all Israel’s fault etc

To me the Syrian war is an unmitigated horror. Is that the ‘correct’ line? Is it enough? No. Do I know the ‘truth’ about Syria?  No.   But I find it astounding that Syria has suddenly become a test of how left or how moral or how revolutionary you are. I do not accept that we ‘have blood on our hands’ for Aleppo and not for Yemen, or South Sudan, or Mosul, or Gaza.

Why does the ‘left’ play games like this? Why, when faced with wars, do so many leftists believe that you always have to support one side or the other? Suppose you don’t think any of the sides are ‘good’?

In the end I don’t know  why the left behaves like this, but like I said, I don’t admire or respect it (hey don’t worry, i know the feeling’s mutual), and it’s made it very difficult for me to write blog posts or even facebook posts – except on racism and migration.

The thing is, for much of my life I felt that the left were the good guys – regardless of the many historical crimes that some leftist regimes have carried out, and that the left, with all its contradictions, still offered answers to the various scourges of militarism, racism, war, poverty and social justice that it was incumbent on my generation to try and solve.

Now I’m not sure if that’s true. I’m not even sure the left, especially the ‘revolutionary’ left has any future at all except as a subculture – and a forum to attack anyone who isn’t Marxist enough for it or as revolutionary as they think they should be.

In fact I’m not really that sure about anything right now, and that’s why I haven’t written very much on this blog.   That doesn’t I’m going to retreat into silence or withdraw from the world. It doesn’t mean that I intend to follow the Nick Cohen route.

I have no intention of shutting down the Infernal Machine permanently.  After all,  I might have Karl Kraus whispering in one ear, but I also have Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s great poem Bol! [Speak} next to my desk, which declares quite rightly:

Speak, this brief hour is long enough
Before the death of body and tongue:
Speak, ‘Cause the truth is not dead yet,
Speak, speak, whatever you must speak.

So I wish you all a peaceful ending to this year of lunacy, and I look forward to seeing you all again in 2017, ready to wage the many struggles that still have to be waged.

Freaky Friday

In  the Jamie Lee Curtis comedy Freaky Friday, a mother and teenage daughter wake up to find themselves trapped in each other’s bodies as a result of a magic spell.  Yesterday I underwent a similar but even more disturbing transformation.   On Thursday night I dreamt that Remain had won the referendum.  Early on Friday morning I woke up to find Nigel Farage crowing about ‘Independence Day’ and celebrating a victory for the ‘real, decent people.’

Over the next twenty-four hours, along with millions of my unreal and indecent fellow-citizens, I found myself trapped in a country that I didn’t want to be in, facing a horrible future that I couldn’t escape from.

No one can say the country was in good shape before Brexit.  Large swathes of the population were clearly not doing well.   Food banks; zero hours contracts; worsening labour conditions; wage stagnation; cuts and atrophied public services; pressure on schools and GPs surgeries; high rents; social cleansing’ gross social and regional inequality; a lack of affordable housing; a succession of paedophile scandals involving high-level institutional collusion; and the near-collapse of the British steel industry – it wasn’t Shangri-la and it wasn’t Jerusalem.

At the same time, the country wasn’t exactly hell on earth. .It wasn’t in recession. Unemployment was at a 10-year low (even if that outcome was partly due to a rise in part-time work and austerity-induced precarity).   Our much-loathed immigrants came here to work, not in order to drain the nation’s bodily fluids,  and they did so because there was work available.   Contrary to what many of us have been told, their presence, according to a 2014 UCL, was good for us, providing a net gain of £20 billion to the country’s public finances. Northern Ireland was not at war with the British government or with itself, partly because of the money provided to the region through the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation and other structural funds. .

As a result of Thursday’s decision, none of that can be taken for granted.   We now face the possibility of  a national and possibly international recession, at a time when the global economy has barely recovered from the last one.  We are likely to witness the breakup and collapse of the United Kingdom; the secession of Scotland; the disintegration of the European Union on terms set entirely by the far-right.   We might also see the collapse the Irish Peace Process and the Belfast Agreement, as EU funds disappear and the reappearance of Ireland’s neutral border reopens sectarian divisions that have been held in abeyance for nearly two decades.

After decades of painstaking agreements and negotiations that have made it possible for Britons to live,work and study anywhere on the continent, and for Europeans to do the same here, we now face the curtailment and elimination of these rights.  We face years and years of painful negotiations as a succession of almost certainly weak governments attempt to disentangle themselves from the agreements that their predecessors voluntarily entered into.

No one can say for sure how all this will turn out, but it is difficult to imagine that the dangerous clowns who led us into this mess can negotiate their way through its consequences, and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that the final outcome will be worth the massive waste of energy and the turmoil and uncertainty that it is almost certain to engender. .

Already their efforts have divided and polarised the nation, after what is perhaps the dirtiest, ugliest and most dishonest political campaign in British history.   After decades of moving away from a society that once had signs up saying ‘No blacks or Irish’, this campaign has unleashed and legitimized toxic hatreds, prejudices and expectations that will be difficult, if not impossible to put back in the bag.

Brexiters – both left and right – would like to pretend otherwise – but xenophobia, bigotry, and outright racism have been the decisive components of this referendum, which produced the dramatic shift towards Leave in the last two weeks.  The fake promises from Boris Johnson to ‘heal’ the nation – the same Johnson who profited politically from Farage’s dogwhistling and engaged in it himself – would be laughable if they weren’t contemptible.

This was a campaign in which an MP was murdered because she supported EU membership, supported refugees and immigration, yet more than half the population chose to vote for the exact opposite of what she stood for.  Faced with arguments from Nobel Prize-winning economists and political scientists who warned of the calamitous consequences of Brexit; they chose to follow instead a motley crowd of mountebanks, chancers, ideologues and demagogues who engaged in what legal expert Michael Dougan called ‘dishonesty on an industrial scale.’

These same politicians told the public not to believe in the ‘experts’, and when their arguments came apart they coolly, cynically and willfully stirred up fear and hatred towards everything foreign, whether it was ‘bureaucrats in Brussels’, rapist refugees, Turks or ‘immigrants’ in general.

It’s clear that some of those who listened to this siren song are already beginning to regret it.   Even Cornwall, which voted to leave, is now asking for the government to replace their EU fund.  They won’t be the only ones, when other regions discover that the EU actually gave them money as well as taking it.  For all the Christmas hamper promises that Brexiters made during the campaign, there is about as much chance of bailouts from the gaggle of rightwing libertarians and Tory free market zealots who brought you Independence Day as there is of snow falling in the Sahara.

It’s also questionable whether there will even be much wealth to redistribute.  China is already looking askance at further involvement in the UK financial services industry.   The EU has made it clear that the UK won’t get the same access to the single market that it had before.   The creepy fraud Farage has already been rowing back on the campaign promise that the EU’s mythical £350 million per week will go to the NHS.  Those pensioners who voted in such high numbers for Brexit may well see their state pensions decline.

And as for immigration – that great obsession of the British public, don’t expect miracles there either. Many of those who voted imagine that the 13 percent of the population that is immigrant will miraculously vanish.  But if ‘control’ over immigration means bringing numbers down to the ‘tens of thousands’, that won’t happen unless Britain withdraws from the single market.

Even then it will require even more draconian enforcement measures than those we already have to stop people coming and strip the rights from immigrants who are already here.  Expect tougher restrictions, curtailment of rights, exclusionary practices.  Expect an escalation of immigration raids, deportations, detention, ID checks etc, so our newly-independent nation can make that distinction between insiders and outsiders, natives and aliens, absolutely clear.

We might also expect an increase in street-level violence as the openly fascistic and belligerent chauvinists who welcomed Brexit see their hatreds legitimized.   There is also likely to be more anti-immigrant scapegoating as ever-more embittered sectors of the population watch the economy nose-dive  and their Brexit dreams turn sour.  We can expect an increase in verbal and physical attacks on people of colour and people with foreign accents who aren’t ‘like us.’

One of the great lies of the Brexit campaign was the notion that a post-Brexit government would welcome immigration from outside the EU – a promise that ignored decades of legislation intended to prevent entirely that outcome.  No one should hold their breath and expect this phony cosmopolitanism to be realised any time soon.

This is what we voted for on Thursday, even if we didn’t know it, thanks to a reckless gamble carried out by the most useless and destructive prime minister in the history of the country, a PR man who epitomises the arrogance and fecklessness of the British ruling class.

Some historical tragedies and catastrophes are not chosen but are inflicted by others. Like an invasion by a foreign army, say.  Others are the result of specific decisions taken from a set of options and possibilities that were also available.  The British public did not have to do what it did on Thursday, and I suspect that historians in the future will ponder for many years over the massive wound that the electorate inflicted on itself, and will struggle to understand rational reasons for that choice.   Some have described the triumph of Brexit as a victory of the ‘quiet people’ against arrogant Brussels ‘elites’.  Others have characterized it as a rebellion against the ‘establishment’ in this country.

Some sections of the left have seen Brexit as a revolt against neoliberalism and austerity. Never mind that the EU didn’t dictate the austerity policies inflicted on the country by two extremist Tory governments that used the 2007/08 crisis as a pretext for an all-out class war and an assault on the welfare state.   Never mind that many of the newspapers and politicians who supported that process are also part of the ‘establishment’ and the ‘elite’ that supported Brexit.

As anti-establishment rebellions go,  this was the political equivalent of shooting yourself in the head, or wrenching the wheel of a truck because you don’t like the direction of travel, simply in order to drive it off a cliff.

Of course there are many who don’t believe this, who think that Britain has recovered its national ‘destiny’ – as if there is such a thing.  The Daily Express – a paper that would have fitted comfortably into Nazi Germany, if you substitute the word ‘migrant’ for ‘Jew’ celebrated the triumph of its ‘glorious crusade’ today.

Brexiters may raise their glasses and jeer and tell me and others to leave. the country – I expect that we will hear a lot more of this kind of talk in the months and years to come.   Lexiters may dream of a brave new world of internationalist struggle, but I see nothing good whatsoever about the decision that was taken on Thursday and the politics that made it possible.

‘ Make good choices, ‘ Jamie Lee Curtis tells her teenage daughter in Freaky Friday.  On Thursday, the British electorate made a very bad choice indeed. Some of those who made it will be dead before these dreams and fantasies come crashing down.

The tragedy is that millions of people who didn’t make that choice will also pay for it, and will remain trapped inside a country that is now locked into a very bleak trajectory of conflict, disintegration, bitterness and anger that will dominate its politics for decades, and is likely to transform the country into something far nastier than many of us once thought possible.

 

In the gutter with Boris and Nigel

I don’t know if you’re enjoying the referendum readers, but I can tell you that I’m not.  I can’t think of any national political process that has taken place in my lifetime that I’ve found so constantly dispiriting and depressing on an almost daily level.  It now looks at least possible that Brexit could win, despite the fact that its three most prominent representatives, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage are three of the greatest charlatans who have ever slouched across the national stage.

That these three are not simply laughed off every forum they appear on,  is one level a testament to to the biliously rancid nationalism that is spreading across the country at the moment.  Never mind how often these three lie almost every time they open their mouths, and smoothly oil the wheels of racism.  Let them  attribute  Barack Obama’s support of the EU to his Kenyan ancestry, or warn of a mass influx of 76 million Turks.  Let them tell British women that the EU has endangered their security by allowing refugee ‘rapists’ into the country.

Such statements should be shameful, but in the current debased climate they are entirely normal, and even work in Brexit’s favour.  Every lie, every note of the dog whistle, every nudge nudge hint defamation of Johnny Foreigner  only makes these three Pied Pipers stronger, as they promise to ‘take back control’ – from a coalition of nations that Britain entered into voluntarily, as they promise ‘independence’ – from the European ’empire.’

It’s now clear that dangerously large sections of the British public, in the end, just can’t stand to share their country with foreigners.   Of course there are other ideas driving the Brexit process, but this is the big one, the driving passion that has dominated this ghoulish process   Let’s not kid ourselves that most ordinary members of the public go around worrying about.’EU red tape’ or ‘bureaucrats from Brussels’.   And as for ‘sovereignty’ – this is only a popular issue insofar as the lack of sovereignty is seen as an inability to ‘control our borders’, deport ‘foreign criminals’ etc.

Is Brexit a Trump-like rebellion of the disenfranchised against the political elite – and the detested Cameron in particular?  Maybe, up to a point, if you put aside the fact that the Tory Party’s divisions over Europe are essentially a quarrel between different sections of the ‘elite.’ No, this is ultimately about public ‘concerns’ over immigration – concerns driven by fear, prejudice and misinformation that have been whipped up relentlessly for decades by the media and the British political class.

Now we’re reaping those fruits, and boy, do they taste bitter.   In 1919 Colonel Charles Repington, a former British intelligence officer and an opponent of the Channel Tunnel, warned that the construction of a tunnel would lead to ‘the loss of our insularity and the easy access of shoals of aliens upon our shores’.  Repington was particularly worried that these ‘shoals’ would impregnate British women and ‘Latinize’ the national ‘stock.’

Brexit is a 21st century expression of this same desire for ‘insularity. ‘ Its Major Evans-Gordon and the British Brothers League, Enoch Powell and. Thatcher’s ‘swamping’ all distilled into the cheekie  chappie ex-stockbroker Nigel Farage.  In a country where too many people have come to regard immigrants  as parasites, intruders, criminals and terrorists, who give nothing, contribute nothing and take everything that ‘we’ have, the EU is evil empire that lets in too many immigrants, and leaving it offers the possibility – however remote in practice – that immigration can be stopped.

The result is a political phenomenon that represents everything that I fiind despicable about the British and the English in particular when they act collectively  – chauvinism, xenophobia, thinly-veiled racism, nativism, and selfishness.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t regard a Remain campaign led by Cameron and Osborne as a plus to put against that minus.   Nor do I see the European Union as a bastion or guarantor of progressive values.  But I have to choose between the Brexit version of Britishness or Englishness and the EU’s admittedly truncated and increasingly debauched version of internationalism, it’s no contest – I’m voting in. .

I know that the Lexit campaign would like us all to embrace a wider movement of solidarity and internationalism that extends beyond Europeanism, and if that was a realistic choice, then I would choose it.  But in practice, it isn’t.  I accept many of the Lexit criticisms of the EU, even though I think some of them are overstated.   For instance, I think that Lexit – like Brexit – has a tendency to portray the EU as much more powerful than it actually is, and too easily overlooks the fact that EU policy – on refugees for example – is dictated largely by its most powerful member states.

I also find it crudely reductionist to describe the EU as if it were nothing more than a ‘bosses’ club’ that exists solely for the ruthless exploitation of the working class.  That the EU can be ruthless is not in doubt, as in the case of Greece for example – though once again it was the weight of particular states and the absence of pan-European resistance that made that outcome possible.

But the European Union is also the largest and – until recently – the most successful attempt in history to transcend the bordered world that came into existence in the first half of the twentieth century.   Those who underestimate or downplay the significance of that achievement seem too willing to forget the destructive history of European statebuilding and interstate competition that brought about two world wars and countless others.

For sure, that outcome has to some extent been predicated on the ‘hardening’ of  the EU’s new ‘external’ borders and its catastrophic response to undocumented migration from outside the EU,  but freedom of movement within the EU, however much it serves the interests of ‘the bosses’, has also allowed millions of working people the opportunity to change and improve their lives and live outside their own borders.

Many of these people can be found living all over the UK.  What is wrong with them being here?  Why should I support a movement that essentially despises them or regards them as nothing but a problem?  Would I like to see that same freedom of movement, and the mechanisms that made it possible, extended to other countries beyond the European Union?  Yes I certainly would.

But Brexit obviously has no such agenda.  Cameron and Osborne clearly don’t have it either and prefer to bray about ‘Britain stronger in Europe’ than talk about international solidarity or opening borders.

But  Brexit, far more than Remain,  is an explicit rejection of any notion of transnational solidarity, cooperation and internationalism.  It rejects Fortress Europe only because it wants to fortify the UK even more than it already is, and these objectives are only likely to debase our political culture even further than they already have.

In this context, Lexit’s call for a ‘real’ internationalism sounds to me like a pretty chorus trying to sing Kumbaya at a gathering of satanists.   The Lexiters, like the Brexiters,  would like to demolish the entire structure of  the European Union, for very different reasons admittedly,  but the former don’t seem to me to have clear idea of what would replace it except a great deal of optimistic speculation, and – as far as I can see – no real power to replace it with anything.

Do I have any idea of what will happen if Remain wins?   No, not really.  I don’t regard a Remain victory as something to celebrate – except that it would represent a defeat for Brexit – and a demonstration that the British public rejects the shrunken, inward-looking and xenophobic nationalism that drives the Leave campaign.

That would be something to celebrate.   Apart from that, I think that the Tory party would definitely be weakened whether Remain wins or loses – the divisions have been too sharp and vicious for the contenders to miraculously converge.   On a European level, the same challenges will remain that already exist; struggles against austerity; against Fortress Europe; for greater democracy within the EU.

Can the EU be reformed, as Yanis Varoufakis and others insist it can be?  Perhaps not.   And if we get a situation where a coalition of leftwing governments decide it can’t be, and want to leave or create a different kind of union, then I know what side I’ll be on.

I find it touching that so many Lexiters who once had nothing good to say about bourgeois democracy have suddenly rediscovered their faith in parliament, if only to counterpoint it with the EU, which they now say can’t be reformed, whereas in this country we can get rid of our own government in an election.

Well we can – in theory.  But in practice we’ve had Tory governments for more than thirty years now, broken by three rightwing Labour governments.  Even after four years of one of the most extremist governments in British history, after food banks, massive cuts, work assessments, forced academisation and so much else,   the public voted in a Tory government again.

Of course that could change – conservatism isn’t written into any country’s DNA – but I don’t see how a Brexit driven by the hard right is going to make it any less so.  In fact I think the opposite is more likely to be true, and that the political forces that brought about our ‘independence’ will be strengthened and vindicated.   So I may be pessimistic, but more than that I’m alarmed, outraged and horrified by the grim, nihilistic jingoism that is driving this process closer to that outcome.

If we leave, it will be Brexit, not Lexit, wot wun it.   As the English fans in Marseille sang ‘ Fuck off Europe, we’re all voting out’.

They might be, but not all of us are, John Bull will never get my vote, even if he has blonde hair and holds a pint in his hand.