Brexit and the Crisis of British Imperialism

Statement of the RCIT Britain, 08.01.2017,


The decision to leave the European Union has caused an immense crisis amongst the ruling class in Britain. Theresa May, who succeeded David Cameron as Prime Minister, is trying to negotiate Brexit amongst a deeply divided and split Tory party. She is desperate to hold her party together while she negotiates terms to leave Europe by activating Article 50.

A section of the ruling class wants to desperately stay in the EU to have access to the single market. Another section wants to get rid of the restrictions of Strasbourg and other European nations. The situation has been complicated by the legal challenge to Brexit which insists that any decision to leave the European Union must be discussed by Parliament.

“The businesswoman at the centre of the legal challenge to ensure parliament is consulted before Theresa May triggers Brexit have said the landmark case was motivated by her fear that the UK faced a “treacherous future”. In an interview with the Guardian, Gina Miller said she knew the ruling would leave her unpopular with many EU referendum voters, but believed that the UK had failed itself and the rest of Europe by voting to leave the bloc rather than reform it from within. “I was never binary remain or leave. I was very much of the sentiment, and still am, that it was about remain, reform and review,” Miller said. “The UK actually has a very powerful place in Europe ... and we have not just let ourselves down but I think the whole of Europe down by not taking up that challenge.” [1]

Theresa May has argued that she can trigger Article 50 without the approval of Parliament. The court case found in favour of those who wanted Parliament to decide the terms of Brexit. The Government is challenging the decision and has gone to the Supreme Court, but May could find that decision going against her.

“Theresa May is heading for an 11-0 defeat when the Supreme Court justices rule on whether Parliament must approve starting Brexit, a law professor has predicted. Professor Michael Zander QC said the High Court judges who ruled the Prime Minister could not act alone when triggering the Article 50 notice had given a “unanimous and very strong” decision”. [2]


Another Referendum on Scottish Independence?


The Brexit referendum clearly showed that there were majorities to remain in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The leave vote was strongest in England and in Wales. Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party and the Government in Scotland, is opposed to Brexit. She has said that there is a possibility that there may be a second referendum for separation in Scotland. The SNP government is committed to remaining part of the European Union.

The First Minister has already said a new independence referendum is "highly likely" in order to protect Scotland's place in the EU. Speaking to the Sunday Herald, Sturgeon hailed her invitation to the European Green Party event as a coming together of progressive parties seeking to protect Scotland's EU status. She said: “I’m delighted to be speaking at the EGP Council in Glasgow next week. With the challenges currently facing Europe, it’s particularly significant that the Greens have chosen to hold this event in Scotland for the very first time. “Rarely has there been a more critical time for progressive parties to stand together and work together in common cause.” "As the Tories conspire to drag the UK out of the EU and further to the right, Scotland can show unity and solidarity with those across Europe who share our commitment to protect those fundamental rights and freedoms which extend beyond borders.’” [3]


The Labour Party is also divided


The Labour Party with the left reformist Jeremy Corbyn as leader is deeply split. Although Corbyn is nominally leader, the control of the party remains in the hands of the Blairites who as well as controlling the Parliamentary Labour party are in charge of the bureaucratic structures as well. Tony Blair, ex-Labour leader and indicted war criminal, has returned to lead the attack on Corbyn and his supporters in Momentum.

A motion brought forward by the SNP in Parliament to investigate Blair’s role in Iraq was heavily defeated with over 150 Labour MP’s joining the Tories to defeat any suggestion that Blair has anything to answer on Iraq.

“The SNP had called for a parliamentary probe into Blair's public statements while prime minister in the moments leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and those given in private with then-US President George Bush. It comes after the publication of the Chilcot report into the Iraq War in July. The motion, headed by the SNP's Alex Salmond, was presented on Wednesday (30 November). It stated: "This House recognises that the Chilcot Inquiry provided substantial evidence of misleading information being presented by the then Prime Minister and others on the MPs have voted against a motion accusing Tony Blair of misleading parliament in the lead-up to the Iraq War and calling for a fresh investigation. The motion, spearheaded by the Scottish National Party (SNP), was overwhelmingly defeated by 439 votes to 70 after strong opposition from Labour and Conservative MPs”. [4]

The Blairites through the PLP have attempted two coups against Corbyn but have been roundly defeated. The issue of Brexit has given them the opportunity to remove Corbyn and his supporters. Corbyn has capitulated to the Blairites at every turn even inviting some of them into his shadow cabinet. Blair is now involved in setting up a new centre coalition of pro-Europeans including Tories and Liberal democrats. His aim of course is to try and reverse Brexit.

Tony Blair has insisted that Labour can recover from its disastrous general election defeat only if it reoccupies the centre ground of British politics, proudly championing a pro-business agenda and bold new ideas to reform public services. As the party attempts to come to terms with a devastating result that saw the Conservatives returned to office for five more years with an unexpected Commons majority, the former prime minister and three-time election winner said Labour has to be “for ambition and aspiration as well as compassion and care”. [5]

The recent by election results in Richmond where the Brexiteer Zac Goldsmith stood as an independent was defeated by the Liberal democrat. This showed that Brexit is still very unpopular amongst the youth, the middle class and sections of the working class. It was a humiliating night for the Labour candidate who came third and lost his deposit. In the Sleaford by-election strong Brexit territory Labour came fourth behind UKIP and the Liberal democrats. The Blairites and their attacks on Corbin over Brexit shows that the party is deeply split and the right of the party want to overturn Brexit and run a second referendum.


Revolutionary Perspective


The role of the main Centrists in Britain the Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party remains confused and politically dangerous. They both advocated support for a Leave vote and allied themselves with the most reactionary and racist forces in Britain, although they argued that this was a progressive method .The RCIT in its statement pointed out that these so called ‘Marxist’ organizations were adapting to the most reactionary forces in British Politics.

We re-emphasise what the RCIT stated in its Open Letter in June last year after the referendum:

“The results of the BREXIT referendum in Britain have ignited a political crisis not only in the UK itself but throughout the entire European continent. On the one hand, the referendum has obviously strengthened reactionary nationalism, as is reflected in the increasing numbers of hate-crimes against migrants in Britain as well as in the surge of the far right in other Western European countries. On the other hand, the vote to remove Britain from the EU has also created confusion, uncertainty and nervousness among the forces of monopoly capital both in Britain and in Europe in general. Shamefully, in the months leading up to last week’s historic referendum, large sectors of the left in Britain had called either for the country to LEAVE or REMAIN in the EU. In both cases, the proponents of these diametrically opposed positions were guilty of adapting to one of two imperialist camps. Those who supported LEAVE unabashedly adapted to the reactionary “UK First” imperialist camp dominated by the most extreme right-wing forces like UKIP; those in the left who called for a REMAIN vote no less shamelessly adapted to the pro-EU imperialist camp of the big bourgeoisie and the leadership of the Labour Party. Again, we contend that both strategies were and remain nothing more than variants of social-imperialism.

From the moment that the Cameron government committed itself to holding the referendum on the future of British membership in the EU, the RCIT repeatedly stated the dire importance for revolutionaries to oppose both versions of social-imperialism and instead raise the banner of working class internationalism. This meant and continues to mean that revolutionaries must join forces in order to:

1) Unequivocally reject support for both the “UK First” and the “EU First” positions, by abstaining in any such referendums in imperialist countries belonging to the European Union.

2) Organize the working class to struggle against the austerity offensive in all countries – whether inside or outside the EU – and come together to fight against the bosses on an international level.

3) Battle for Open Borders for all refugees, in addition to equal rights for all migrants.

4) Unite the working class in all countries – both inside and outside the EU – in an unrelenting struggle against imperialist wars; specifically: Down with Britain’s and the EU’s military intervention in Syria, Iraq, Mali etc.!

5) Give the highest expression to our struggle for the interests of the international working class by calling for a United Socialist Sates of Europe.

Naturally, as Marxists, we combine such a focused program with a socialist perspective which aims to bring about the revolutionary overthrow of all capitalist regimes and the founding of workers’ republics” [6]

The ruling class in Germany and France are worried that Brexit could lead to other European Countries taking the same route as Britain. The weaker countries of the Euro Zone like Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy are in a terminal crisis brought on by the oncoming crash and the contradictions of capitalism. In Spain election results are inconclusive as they are in Ireland where the economies of those countries are driven more and more into crisis and an inability to govern.

The recent election of Donald trump shows that the contradictions between all the imperialist nations will heighten producing more conflicts throughout the world.

The RCIT in Britain calls for the maximum unity amongst revolutionaries and puts forward the following demands to resolve the crisis of leadership in the working class.

* No to racism –fight to form councils of action in defence of migrants and against Islamophobia

* Self-determination for the people of Scotland

* For a Unified Ireland as a 32 county Workers Republic as part of a United Socialist States of Europe

* For workers defence guards to defend communities against police provocation and fascist attacks

* We call on all workers and oppressed to join the RCIT IN BRITAIN and help to build a World Party for Socialist Revolution.