After the Referendum, the Coup.
An astonishing moment in British politics and the attempted coup is underway. David Cameron is gone and the knives are out and sharp for Jeremy Corbyn. Now, more than ever, do we need that man to stay as Labour leader, hoping that he can forge a coalition with SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens and that we have a progressive, decent government after the next election. With a whole load of vacant jobs in the shadow cabinet and a vote of no confidence underway, there is potential either for our last hope to be crushed or for something to be reborn that could re-ignite progressive movements in the UK. The vote of no confidence was set in motion by an MP who is blaming Corbyn for not “getting a clear message” to Labour voters on the EU referendum. This is Margaret Hodge, MP for Labour-run Barking, where 63% voted to leave EU – as opposed to a YouGov survey results that suggested a national trend of 69% of Labour voters voting to remain. How much more could Corbyn or any other Labour really have done?
The message has to get out there that a Labour government under Corbyn would be actually materially better for those who have voted for a protectionism that is not going to be delivered by neo-liberal parties. Instead we will have more trade deals with USA and China and a further corporate take-over, eroding the last vestiges of workers’ right
Cameron needed to go. He is deeply unpopular. Even before the Panama revelations nearly 60% of those polled said he was ‘doing badly’ as PM. For the Tories, most of whom didn’t want to leave the EU, this result works out as well as it could. Cameron can now resign in the most dignified way. Tory MPs who had been baying for his blood, publically pledged unity before the referendum and the fall of the Prime Minister can be dressed up as a democratic response to the British public, not some internal petty dispute. Cameron bowed out with a pathetic little speech, resigning as ‘captain of the ship’ and whining about how really he stood for a ‘multi-racial, multi-faith democracy’ Britain. He can now slip away to the comfortable job of expanding his $50 million net worth on the boards of companies and round the conference circuit.
Worse even than this, though, is that the resignation of the acting PM has been hidden behind the news of the attempts to oust Corbyn. Everywhere, we need to unite behind him, not because he is the messiah, but because he genuinely threatens a different dimension in UK politics. His parliamentary MPs are frothing at the mouth to pull him down and will happily sabotage their own party’s chances of re-election as best they can in order to get him out.
This moment in history, with climate change scientists issuing ever more dire warnings and with the near-collapse in popular support for the neo-liberal project (the project itself continues), means that we simply cannot go on like this. The establishment have been forced to pander to and encourage further xenophobia, blaming the inherent racism of the working class. Overwhelmingly, it seems the people who voted out were concerned about jobs and immigration. There are, however, other answers.
Nobody wants to see a world where people are forced to leave their homelands. Refugees are created by war, climate disaster and severe inequality. So we must push for political, peaceful solutions to conflicts and work to drop third world debts that hold back development. The West must remove the obstacles that they have placed in the way of poorer countries leading themselves towards a more human standard of living in a way that, like Frantz Fanon said, is not driven “by the desire to catch up with Europe.”
Except in times of crisis, there will only ever be a small minority who have the restless or adventurous urge to leave behind their language, their family and friends, culture and climate to seek out new lives. Granting refuge to those who have been forcibly displaced is a human thing to do, but clearly it is more desirable that this displacement doesn’t happen in the first place.
Border controls are as tight as they have ever been. Refugee status is never been harder to obtain since the concept was invented. You are not going to stop the movement of displaced people by further militarisation.
Instead you will get illegal migration which is a bad solution for everyone involved. People without status will work for lower wages in the most desperate conditions. Border control creates illegal immigration and this is what will depress the cost of labour.
Corbyn’s solution of raising the minimum wage, investing in industry and social housing and improving workers’ rights are sensible ways to benefit labour. Rather than Gordon Brown’s BNP-inspired ‘British jobs for British workers’, decent jobs at decent wages means that native English-speakers will retain an advantage in the job market. The oft-repeated line that British workers are somehow racially or culturally inherently too lazy to work is plainly nonsense. Like any other human being, they don’t want to do rubbish jobs at rubbish pay. But rubbish pay is relative to what you can obtain elsewhere. At better pay, more British people would want the work, and in which job is it not useful to be able to speak the native language?
For now, the neoliberal order has not found a way to replace industrial manufacturing jobs with much other than mind-numbing retail, hospitality, construction and service industry. Mostly, these are not attractive jobs on the wages and on the contractual terms on which they are offered. Over industrial investment, I would personally prefer jobs in nationalised public transport; renovation of existing and bought-back empty homes to convert to social housing; organic, high-labour, ecological agriculture; green energy projects; state-funded child care and elder care; and hospitals and schools. These are jobs that cannot be replaced by automation and are also socially vital. They involve looking after ourselves, not just the creation of need and the selling of pointless goods made by the exploited, dispossessed of the Global South. We want to live in a society that is self-sufficiently producing good quality food; that provides homes for everyone; that cares for children and old people; where people are properly looked after in hospitals, and educated well. A society that is ecological, not reliant on imported food nor imported or outsourced labour that is exploited along racial lines.
The hiring of labour from places where wages are low or jobs non-existent, and taking that labour over to Britain to depress labour costs in the UK, is not the free movement of people. It looks more like indentured labour. Corbyn’s call for “lower levels of disparity” makes much more sense compared to the public-school competition logic of Adam Smith capitalism. If you can only ‘succeed’ at the expense of others, the resultant inequality will come back to bite you. What is better for one is better for all, and vice versa.
If people in the poorer parts of Europe cannot be helped to advance the quality of their lives there will be migration regardless of border control.
To ask for something different is not utopian. It means building international links with other social struggles and wrenching control of the economy, not from the EU as such, but from the corporations for whose benefit all laws are made. It is only in their interests that we waste our lives in poor housing, poorly educated, buying pointless consumer goods on credit that we attempt to pay back working tedious alienating jobs under idiotic middle-managers, selling coffee with a smile to recruitment agency workers or sweatshop-made trainers and electronic goods to people who have plenty of trainers and electronic goods anyway.
Making ourselves ill with stress and anxiety and depression, consuming the current banal brand of artless entertainment and cheap, subsidised, synthetic foods, then waiting long times for treatment, is the austerity present we are living in. We are taught to rage against our fellow humans for their supposedly uncivilised culture or their criminal delinquency and to release our stress on mind numbing computer games, bullshit retail or over-professionalised sport. And the first thing we need to do in the UK is to get Corbyn as PM. Knowing that the 1%, whose interests this horror-show of a society serves, will use all of their darkest arts to stop it happening, should only make us redouble our efforts to get the message out there. If you don’t believe the establishment are still capable of removing democratically elected left-wing leaders, go ask the people of Honduras or Brazil.
The Right recognise, as Naomi Klein’s book explains, that a crisis is a good time to push their agenda and thus the Blairites in the Labour Party are attempting to take back the party from his ecological, multi-cultural social politics and his semi-planned economy. The Left must realise that this is our time too. Their are a multitude of ideologies that carry and dispute the nature of that banner, but from social democrats to eco-warriors, from anti-racists to social liberals, anarcho-syndacalists, feminist marxists and just about everyone who wants a better, fairer society – all should realise that a Labour under Corbyn is the only ally they will find in the (English) seats in Parliament.
 The Wretched of the Earth; https://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/fanon/conclusion.htm