Personal Blog of Mark Hoskins – Anarchist Writer and Community Organiser
Dear former comrades,
I wouldn’t have bothered writing this letter if the margin of victory for the ‘leave’ side in the EU referendum had been large. I wouldn’t have bothered commenting if ‘remain’ had won, but you’ve won it. Just like it was The Sun ‘what won it’ for Maggie, it was you, the nominally Trotskyist fringe of British social democracy and your fellow travelers ‘what won it’ for Boris and Nigel. By claiming that there was an outcome that would be a victory against austerity, you took that tiny percentage of voters who both wanted that and believed in your argument to the side of the anti-immigrant right. You have knocked over the first domino of a carnival of reaction that could now spread across Europe and you’ve made me fucking angry.
Now before I go on, let me be clear, there was no possible option in this referendum that could be seen as a victory for the left; there was only ‘very bad’ and ‘much worse’ and thanks to you we got the latter. We’ve got an extra layer of immigration control in a country with a right wing government where anti-immigrant sentiment drummed up by the media over the last two years, has become a pervasive element of popular opinion. When this point was repeatedly raised, you countered that the EU was hardly a paragon of immigrant rights; no one said it was, but unless the Royal Navy is now going to be sent by PM Boris to the Mediterranean to pick up refugees and take them back to Blighty where they’ll be provided with housing and an income then your point has no bearing on the debate.
But, you add, open borders within Europe only benefits EU nationals, why should we prioritise them over non-EU citizens? If anyone on the left was calling for that hierarchy I would wholeheartedly disagree with them, however, removing rights for one group of people does not improve the lot of another. Furthermore, many EU citizens have non-EU families who are here on visas they obtained because their partner is a citizen of the EU. Where do they stand now? Have you, the Lexit brigade even asked? Have you spoken to these people? As Wendy Lyon of Feminist Ire wrote this morning:
I’ve seen a few “Lexit” folks dismiss the significance of EU free movement and citizenship principles on the grounds that they only apply to EU nationals, thus still creating an us-and-them division. What this ignores is that EU nationals frequently have non-EU spouses, partners, parents, children, and siblings who gain a derivative right of residence. It isn’t just the Poles and Romanians who have benefited from Treaty rights, it’s also Iraqis, Pakistanis, Nigerians, and loads of people from other parts of the Global South whose family members are or have become EU nationals. And yes, it’s still shitty that they need an EU national family member to benefit from those rights, but how in fuck is a post-EU, right wing-dominated Britain going to help change that?
Have you thought about, as Wendy adds, what will happen to “the very elderly and unwell Pakistani parents of a naturalised British citizen who have come here to live with him in Ireland because of EU treaty rights?”, or if the same situation arose here in Ireland, “Africans with Irish citizen children living here now under the Zambrano ruling”? And sure you have raised the point that big business uses migrant labour do drive down wages, but your answer to that used to be to unite workers of all nations and fight, not kick them out. And make no bones about it, you have voted to kick them out.
Now, left separatists, answer me this: Have you considered the effect that Brexit will have on women who need to travel to Britain for an abortion because of Ireland’s draconian laws? Sure you say, the common travel area between the UK and Ireland existed before the EU came along, but there was nothing in the referendum to protect that. There is nothing to say that these arrangements won’t be removed, especially due to the fact that so many people who were born outside the EU have become Irish citizens. Even then, think of all the non EU citizens who live in Ireland who now will not be able to travel. And what if new regulations are brought in with regards to healthcare provision that remove the right to obtain an abortion from non-UK citizens? Have you considered any of these things?
I doubt you have, nor is it likely that you considered the implications for parts of the UK that are not England. Scotland and the Northern Irish statelet, both rejected your argument, but now they find the course of their future dictated by a largely English electorate. Furthermore, we now have on the horizon, the chance of another Scottish independence referendum. Many of you were right to support the last one, but will you continue to support Scottish independence if it means Scotland remaining in the EU? Will those of you who have always rejected Irish unity on any basis that is less than socialism now support the right of the people of Ulster’s occupied six counties to determine their own future? Even if that means remaining in the EU?
The center-piece of of your argument was that the EU is a bosses club, that it is undemocratic and facilitates domination by the big banks, and I doubt anyone on the left would disagree with that. But your answer, returning sovereignty to Westminster, the original bosses club, deserves nothing but scorn. The British State, the first where the capitalist class assumed the ascendancy, the first mercantile Empire, will not become a shining example of Democracy, the will of ‘the people’ will not drive decisions on wages, welfare, or austerity. It will be the same bankers and the same old Etonians we are used to. Britain will attempt to replace EU with Commonwealth and try to drain it’s former colonies of their wealth. TTIP will still happen, it will form closer ties with the USA, the biggest bosses club in the world and will become an Imperialist rival of the European Union not a socialist alternative.
Now former comrades, do tell me if you asked yourself any of these questions or if the people whose lives you have willfully thrown into precarity are just pawns in your pseudo-Marxist chess games? Were you sitting in your offices with wall charts outlining possible outcomes based on the immutable science of Historical Materialism? Because if you have a plan, now would be the time to fill us all in. The onus is on you to lead the way to prevent the carnival of reaction I’ve described and make this Brexit a Lexit. As Richard McAleevy of Cunning Hired Knaves wrote:
Well, now that Brexit is a reality, Lexit passes from a catchphrase to something of an imperative: how do you build democratic, socialist and internationalist institutions amid an upsurge in right-wing nationalism? I’ve seen plenty of abstract claims but now would be a rather good time to start seeing those concrete plans and actions.
If you have nothing for us, move aside and take your place in the dustbin of history with socialist aspirations of the parties of the second international who caved in to national chauvinism with the onset of the first world war. If the gamble you took with the lives of migrants, with the fate of women and with inflaming Imperialist antagonisms doesn’t pay off, the finger of blame will point squarely at you.
Yours in scornful rage,
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