Anthony Barnett https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/456/all cached version 17/01/2019 16:13:06 en What does the unprecedented Brexit defeat of the UK government mean? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/into-vortex <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We are headed into the vortex</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="AB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2019-01-16 at 09.59.03.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screenshot 2019-01-16 at 09.59.03.png" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="AB">It was the oddest ‘historic’ day in Westminster politics. What was really unprecedented about it – and in this sense genuinely ‘historic’ – was that a hugely important decision was not taken. The country’s leaders declared in the most resounding fashion that they could not make up their minds! </p> <p class="AB">The prime minister, Theresa May, responded to the landslide rejection of her negotiations by saying, "It is clear that the House does not support this deal. But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support”.</p> <p class="AB">The near identical point had just been made by the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, in his summing up. Foreseeing the defeat of the premier’s proposals he stated, “it is not enough for this House to vote against the deal before us and against No Deal. We also have to be for something”.</p> <p>But what is the House of Commons for, what does it support? </p><p>Corbyn emphasised that MPs had “to consider all the options available”. </p><p class="AB"><em>openDemocracy</em> readers around the world are not the only ones to find themselves baffled as to what is going on.</p><p class="AB">The crux of the problem is that the leaders of both the government and opposition want, sensibly, for the UK to remain a trading partner within the EU’s regulated space. At the same time they don’t want the UK to be governed by it. The result is an irresolvable tension. Because they cannot resolve, it could tear the political system apart.&nbsp;</p> <p class="AB">This is Jeremy Corbyn attacking May’s deal last night: “The vague Future Partnership document says it: ‘can lead to a spectrum of different outcomes… as well as checks and controls’. There is no clarity whatsoever. And there is not even any mention of the ‘frictionless trade’ promised in the Chequers proposals. The former Brexit Secretary promised a ‘detailed’, ‘precise’ and ‘substantive’ document. The Government spectacularly failed to deliver it. So I confirm that Labour will vote against this deal tonight because it is a bad deal for Britain”.</p> <p class="AB">But Theresa May was merely keeping her options open for the future trade agreement. </p> <p class="AB">For his part Corbyn wants a deal that ensures the UK stays in the EU’s Custom Union, one that will also, “guarantee our participation in European agencies and initiatives. Losing this co-operation undermines our security, denies our citizens opportunities, and damages our industries”.</p> <p class="AB">In which case, what is the point in leaving? </p> <p class="AB">A question that right-wing pro-Brexit commentators have raised in objecting to May’s approach. </p> <p class="AB">So there is something very uncanny about the impasse. At the heart of a massive typhoon of a crisis are two leaders who seem personally rather similar in their inflexible commitment to being half-in and half-out. </p> <p class="AB">Nor do either the prime minister or the leader of the opposition back the obvious solution for their immediate problem.</p> <p class="AB">For May, this is to amend her deal by saying it has to be ratified by the voters in a referendum or we stay. This simple move would enable her to put her deal, which she says delivers the “instruction” of the voters, to the voters themselves to confirm that it does indeed do so. Thus amended her deal would immediately command a majority, if a small one, in the Commons. </p> <p class="AB">All Corbyn needs to do is… exactly the same. Put aside his once convenient but now implausible notion that he could negotiate a better Brexit and propose an amendment to May’s deal that it must be backed by the people, or the UK stays in the EU. He might not get a majority for this if the government opposed it, but he might.</p> <p class="AB">Of course, in any such referendum May would be advocating her deal and Corbyn would support staying in, so the same amendment would not bring them together. </p> <p class="AB">However, they are united in resisting a new referendum or People's Vote. Some people say it is because Corbyn is a Brexiteer. Others say May is committed to her deal and won’t risk its fate in a public vote. I suspect something else is at work.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB">For the key to understanding Brexit is not to think that Brexit is about Brexit or the realities of Europe and the UK’s relationship with it. </p><p>It is about Britain and how the country is ruled and its political culture and self-regard. </p><p>At the centre of this for both May and Corbyn is the Westminster system in which they have spent their lives. Each believes in it and senses that institutionalising referendums ends the sanctity of its sovereignty. Neither liked the 2016 referendum itself. Both seek to “respect” its outcome not because they thrill to its democratic audacity but because they want to limit its impact and redirect energy and public loyalty back into the House of Commons. </p><p>For example, their supporters say that to even risk going back on the decision of the 2016 referendum would lead to a "loss of trust". What they mean is that they do not trust the people but want the people to trust them. Far from embracing the democratic radicalism of the moment, they want to shore up traditional form of winner-takes-all power and the UK's very centralised forms of&nbsp; government, albeit for contrasting social and economic objectives. Foolishly, they think that "delivering" on the result of the referendum will re-establish the battered authority of Parliament.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-right">"they do not trust the people but want the people to trust them"</p><p class="AB">But there is an additional twist that makes this a genuine drama for the sustainability of the system as a whole. </p> <p>For the divisions over ‘Europe’, which are in reality over what it means to be ‘British’, run more deeply through the Tory party than in Labour. The Corbyn leadership’s strategy is to encourage the division of their opponents so as to wreck the Tories and inherit power long-term as they implode. But this is a risky precisely because Brexit is not about Brexit. It isn’t a policy, as many Labour figures seem to think, when they compare it to the divisions over the Corn Laws over which the Tories split in 1846 for a generation. A binary decision has to be made by them as well, one that has profound cultural and class consequences from which Labour as we know it may well not emerge either way. </p><p>By taking a traditional, parliamentary approach Labour may in fact blow up themselves. They are not going to easily survive a ‘no deal’ their approach makes more likely. Article 50 is like an anvil, it forces Britain out of the EU on 29 March unless the Commons can agree on a course of action. Meanwhile the Trump administration is like a hammer, backed by Murdoch’s Sun, driving the Brexit ultras on. They know what they want. Time is on their side. </p><p>The Brexit ultras may be a minority but they can only be frustrated by opponents who also know what they want and will fight for it by persuading voters to change their decision. There is no other way of staying in or now it seems half-in the EU. But England, unlike Scotland, does not yet have a coherent, positive leadership that could win a new referendum with the necessary élan – just outstanding individuals, above all Caroline Lucas. If May and Corbyn, the two main party leaders and their teams, stay opposed to a new referendum they won't be able to match the force of the hard Brexiteers. Equally stubborn, mutually uninspiring and jointly parliamentarian, May and Corbyn are taking the UK into the vortex. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/trumps-visit-marks-start-of-shock-doctrine-brexit">Trump&#039;s visit marks the start of shock doctrine Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/caroline-lucas/how-do-we-ensure-that-project-hope-overcomes-project-fear">How do we ensure that Project Hope overcomes Project Fear?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK Democracy and government Brexit Anthony Barnett Wed, 16 Jan 2019 03:34:07 +0000 Anthony Barnett 121301 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An Englishman, a Scotswoman and Irishman talk about Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/englishman-scotswoman-and-irishman-talk-about-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Fintan O'Toole, Lesley Riddoch and Anthony Barnett grapple with the 'Strange passions of Brexit'. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe width="460" height="260" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/lOSj6WYCiEU" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture"></iframe></p><p>Many outside the UK are baffled by what is going on with Brexit and the cultural implosion that seems to be taking place. This short discussion may help. It is not about policy - instead it addresses the strucure of feeling in England. On Friday 11 January, an <a href="http://www.theconvention.co.uk/">emergency Convention</a> on a People's Vote over Brexit and how to 'Think Anew, Act Anew' was held in London, convened in just over a week by Henry Porter. It was opened by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/caroline-lucas/how-do-we-ensure-that-project-hope-overcomes-project-fear">Caroline Lucas</a>, whose powerful message set the direction of the day. A sequence of panels of often young speakers set a new spirit for popular opposition to Brexit. Videos of all the sessions can be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLsTjk0TnUbc_Wn4R4IcaJA/videos?view_as=subscriber">watched here</a>. I was fortunate enough to be on a panel with Fintan O'Toole, author of <a href="https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Fintan-OToole/Heroic-Failure--Brexit-and-the-Politics-of-Pain/22970459">Heroic Failure</a>, chaired and moderated by Lesley Riddoch, author of <a href="https://wordery.com/blossom-lesley-riddoch-9781912147526?currency=GBP&amp;btrck=TkVsZFgyVDlaZ1FMRVRpT3RNVE1MbjFIQllhaGpKQ0owY1lSeVRjcDFaV2l5eHh1eVgrUUZCMnYrNXhjUHZWSA&amp;utm_source=bing&amp;utm_medium=cpc&amp;utm_campaign=ShoppingGB&amp;msclkid=a0143c66cb7c17970052605b310c431f">Blossom, what Scotland needs to flourish</a>. She got us to tackle some of the issues closest to the bone, not least the nature of the English support for the Brexit vote and its relationship with Britishness and Europe.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/think-anew-act-anew-convention-on-brexit-and-peoples-vote">Think Anew, Act Anew: a Convention on Brexit and a People&#039;s Vote</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/caroline-lucas/how-do-we-ensure-that-project-hope-overcomes-project-fear">How do we ensure that Project Hope overcomes Project Fear?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Anthony Barnett Tue, 15 Jan 2019 15:24:44 +0000 Anthony Barnett 121295 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Think Anew, Act Anew: a Convention on Brexit and a People's Vote https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/think-anew-act-anew-convention-on-brexit-and-peoples-vote <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An emergency, public gathering in London will take place this Friday ahead of the big parliamentary debate on the UK and the EU. Come along!</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="AB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/https _cdn.evbuc_.com_images_54386347_204136176092_1_original.20181228-113814.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/https _cdn.evbuc_.com_images_54386347_204136176092_1_original.20181228-113814.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="AB">An emergency <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-convention-another-vote-is-possible-tickets-54163607809">Convention</a> on the need for a second EU referendum will take place in London this coming Friday, 11 January. Organised at very short notice by Henry Porter under the banner of <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-convention-another-vote-is-possible-tickets-54163607809">‘Think Anew, Act Anew’ </a>its aim is ambitious. </p> <p>A second referendum may prove to be the only way to break the deadlock in the House of Commons over Brexit. Perhaps for this very reason, many MPs don’t want it to happen, sensing that it will confirm Parliament’s unique role as our sovereign is now past its sell-by date (which many of us anyway think was 1832). </p><p>But, however unlikely, a People's Vote is the only plausible way out of the immediate impasse in Westminster. It is therefore a real possibility and it would be reckless not to be prepared. For if it happens it will be the most important public engagement of our time in Britain as a whole. And it will offer a chance to bring the country together around what is best for the UK’s future and its young people. </p><p>Provided, that is, it is not conducted in the same way as the last referendum. It has to be fought in a radically different manner to the 2016 vote. Certainly the so-called ‘Remain’ campaign need a positive focus on the benefits of EU membership such as free movement, as well as on the profound faults in British politics that have led to so much division and alienation. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-convention-another-vote-is-possible-tickets-54163607809">Convention</a> will, therefore, draw on new voices from within and outside Parliament, with a focus on fresh thinking by Caroline Lucas, who will open the day, and other high profile speakers such as Eloise Todd, Ian Dunt, Joanna Cherry, James O'Brien, Fintan O'Toole, Femi, Adam Ramsay, Laura Shields and Jarvis Cocker. To declare my interest I’ve been assisting Porter and his team and will be speaking with O’Toole and Leslie Riddoch. </p><p>For me the most important thing is to show MPs, journalists and broadcasters that we can conduct a new referendum in a different fashion. They need to be able to tell the wider public that it will not be about ‘cancelling’ the last one or seeking to revert back to the status quo. There was a powerful, democratic impulse in the original vote for Brexit, which should not just be ‘respected’ it should be embraced. In this way, a new referendum and a positive vote for staying in the EU but not the Eurozone will help build democracy across the UK, not undermine it. The <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-convention-another-vote-is-possible-tickets-54163607809">Convention</a> will explore how this can happen. </p><p class="AB">It is surely undeniable that we need to talk and listen, debate and question, assess and prepare, and the <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-convention-another-vote-is-possible-tickets-54163607809">Convention</a> is a most welcome way of assisting this as the country moves into its greatest peacetime crisis for a century.</p> <p class="AB">So <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-convention-another-vote-is-possible-tickets-54163607809">come along</a>! Tickets are £6 and selling fast. Date and Time: Friday 11 January 2019, 09:30 – 17:30 GMT, Emmanuel Centre, 9-23 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 3DW </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-campaign-for-people-s-vote-is-changing-politics-again">How the campaign for a People’s Vote is changing politics (again)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/andrea-pisauro-rosemary-bechler/people-s-vote-without-people-s-debate-won-t-bring">A People’s Vote without a People’s Debate won’t bring about Another Europe</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/caroline-lucas/we-have-answers-to-brexit-s-causes">We have the answers to Brexit’s causes</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> London </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk London UK Democracy and government Brexit Anthony Barnett Tue, 08 Jan 2019 10:03:58 +0000 Anthony Barnett 121222 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No one rules Britain https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/no-one-rules-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A first hand account of a country and an economy led by lemmings taking the wider public with them over the cliff edge.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Reckless opportunists.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Reckless opportunists.jpg" alt="" title="" width="320" height="500" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><em>Reckless Opportunists</em>&nbsp;is an astonishing account of the British ruling class in decomposition. It is the result of twenty years of intense research, over 350 interviews with the heads of corporations, senior civil servants, journalists, politicians and public relations firms. </p><p>There are now many books on why Brexit happened, but none like this. Aeron Davis reveals how those in charge have become incapable of exercising a shared sense of responsibility for the fate of the nation. His unique report is a frontline account of the way the political, industrial, financial and media elites are disabled by their own culture and methods from acting in the collective interests of the country. </p> <p>Davis sets out his argument in nine short chapters, action‐packed with revealing quotes from his many interviews. Particularly interesting is the way he shows how both the worlds of government and commerce are chronically insecure, run on “self‐deception”, much of it embedded in the self‐serving systems of “communication”. While those at the top may be doing nicely in terms of incomes, they face precarious employment just as much as the ‘precariat’. </p> <p>The safest way to survive and prosper in such an environment is to join with everyone else in playing the system. Davis tells the story of Tony Dye. A top analyst and fund manager, Dye foresaw the dot‐com bubble of 2000, but “too early”. The value of his holdings did not rise with the market when others did. He was fired. When the crash occurred, they lost massively and he was vindicated. Did they laud his foresight and re‐hire him or offer some compensation? Hell no, for that would have meant they'd have had to fire themselves for screwing up. The moral drawn by his colleagues was to play it safe and get it wrong like everyone else. </p> <p>Davis's gripping account reveals a country and an economy led by lemmings taking the wider public with them over the cliff edge. After twenty years of interrogating the managers and politicians of the UK, he finds their leadership to be “solitary, rich, nasty, brutish and short” when it could and should be “connected, modestly paid, nice, civilised and long”. He provides a two‐page list of reforms that might help.</p> <p><em>Reckless Opportunists</em>&nbsp;has changed my mind on how Britain is governed. But its overall grasp of why it has become the way he describes is uncertain. The book provides the ingredients for a new analysis of Britain's Lords of Misrule, though they are still undercooked and await a historical theorisation. Davis starts&nbsp;<em>Reckless Opportunists</em>&nbsp;with a generous reference to&nbsp;<em>The Establishment: And how they get away with it,</em>&nbsp;by Owen Jones and to Robert Peston's&nbsp;<em>Who Runs Britain?</em>. Both texts are recent, justified diatribes against the extreme inequality being generated by the UK's current arrangements. But neither has any sense of postwar history. Jones is a wonderful polemicist and interviewer, but he simply presumes the existence of a coherent ruling elite that he then assaults. Peston does not go even that far. He uses no concepts at all and does not answer the question posed in his catchy title:&nbsp;<em>Who Runs Britain</em>?.</p> <p>In the 1950s and ‘60s, ‘The Establishment’, as mapped by Anthony Sampson and others, was almost exclusively white, male, public school, Oxbridge and did run the country. Today, this order has been overturned. Bi‐partisan policies of neoliberalism have undermined public service and hollowed out the support essential to ensure a well‐governed society. Davis illustrates how the City is now driven by rough-necked outsiders alongside public schoolboys in hock to ‘greed and ruthless self‐interest’. The result is an unstable, disunited system far more extensive than the financial sector alone. He observes, “self‐interest and competition has left politicians willing to destroy their parties, civil servants their departments, chief executives their companies, and journalists their publications”.</p> <p>The downfall of the system began with the triumph of late Thatcherism and the reforms of Blair. First, there was Thatcher's confinement of the trade unions and the Big Bang deregulation of the City as well as the full‐scale privatisations of the 1980s. An expanded public sector followed under New Labour but it was crucified by demands for simulated ‘competition’, targets, outsourcing and internal markets.</p> <p>Davis's systematic account convinces me that it is simply wrong to assume that there is any longer a unifying, governing interest at work across the political, financial, commercial and industrial systems of government in the UK. It is not that ‘The Establishment’ is failing. There isn’t an ‘Establishment’. The individuals involved may be connected in the way of all elites – collaborating as well as competing in the short term. But what he shows with unrivalled detail is that there is no longer an economic ruling order consciously united by a shared view of a larger British interest.</p> <p>For an outsider, Brexit is the consequence of this non-system having a breakdown rather than the outcome of a well‐governed society choosing which way to relate to its continental partners. Davis has revealed the chaotic, profiteering vertigo of a rudderless system beyond government.</p> <p><em>Review: Reckless Opportunists: Elites at the End of the Establishment, by Aeron Davis. Manchester University Press. 149 pp. £9.99.</em></p><p><em>This is a short version of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-923X.12627">review essay</a> published in Political Quarterly which can be read for free <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-923X.12627">here</a> until 7 February 2019. </em></p> <p>Anthony Barnett will be speaking with Fintan O’Toole and Leslie Killoch at <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-convention-another-vote-is-possible-tickets-54163607809">The Convention</a> on 11 January 2019. </p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anthony Barnett Tue, 08 Jan 2019 09:08:11 +0000 Anthony Barnett 121219 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit can be a good crisis https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/brexit-can-be-good-crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"Brexit is not about Brexit. Certainly not just about Europe. It poses matters both economic and democratic simultaneously as it demands an answer to the kind of country we are."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39230377.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-39230377.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>One of over half a million protesters who demanded a Final Say at the People's Vote March, London, October, 2018. Ik Aldama/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>With his powerful combination of intimate knowledge of the UK, a foreigner’s overview, a passion for democracy and first-hand experience of Brussels realpolitik, Yanis Varoufakis has published a <a href="https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/british-brexit-debate-democratic-opportunity-by-yanis-varoufakis-2018-12">brilliant intervention</a> in the Brexit debate. Calling on us to stop being negative and turn Brexit into a ‘Celebration of Democracy’, he proposes the country holds a three year People’s Debate that puts our own government into order before making a call on EU membership.&nbsp; </p><p>His argument has three parts. He sees an eightfold hydra-headed challenge to the status quo in Britain: eight different national, constitutional and economic issues exposed by the referendum over EU membership that combine to form the Brexit impasse. I’ll come back to these. Their clarity, brevity and completeness make them the authoritative starting point for any assessment of what should be done about Brexit. </p><p>Varoufakis points out that none of the proposed solutions on offer resolves the extraordinary situation the country finds itself in. On the contrary, each will worsen the crisis. They are familiar: the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement, to crash out with ‘no deal’, or rescinding Article 50 to stay in. </p><p>What few have dared to say Varoufakis does. Namely, that the fact that there is no clear majority for any of the three in either parliament or the public is a sign of the country’s good judgment. Because none of them will in fact deal with the deeper, eight-fold test the country now faces. In their different ways each, he argues, whether delivered by parliament or People’s Vote, will only exacerbate the system breakdown under way. <span class="mag-quote-center">Put Brexit on hold, have a People’s Debate.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Hence Varoufakis calls for the whole framework to be shifted. Put Brexit on hold, have a People’s Debate starting in regional assemblies, that lead to a constitutional convention out of which Parliament generates the questions that then go to a new referendum and a ‘People’s Decision’ in 2022. There are similarities with the approach <a href="https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/Gordon-Brown">Gordon Brown takes</a> and also with the call for a Citizens' Assembly to advise on the way forward proposed by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/19/brexit-citizens-assembly-forum-ireland-abortion">Neal Lawson</a>. All seek to break free from the confinement of the current Brexit options. Thus the former Prime Minister calls for a people’s version of a ‘Royal Commission’ made up of a citizen’s jury, to use deliberative processes to confront the profound democratic discontent Brexit has exposed. </p><p>Their shared weakness is how the course they advocate can come about. Implicitly all call on the Labour Party to adopt a much more creative approach. I’m a supporter of a People’s Vote and want Labour to support the option of remaining in the EU put to the voters. At least this is something that the Labour conference put on the agenda as an option, if only as a last resort. </p><p class="AB">But I’d applaud parliament if it put the issue into the hands of a Citizens' Assembly and I’d gladly see a new referendum ask whether or not to hold a constitutional convention on how we govern ourselves before we take our decision on EU membership. Indeed, more than any other path, this would deliver on the call to ‘Take Control’ and in this important sense fulfil the ‘cry’ of the referendum vote. &nbsp;</p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">This would deliver on the call to ‘Take Control’ and in this important sense fulfil the ‘cry’ of the referendum vote.&nbsp;</span></p><p>The question Varoufakis’s intervention highlights for supporters of a People’s Vote, is how to ensure we deliver more and better democracy if his option does not convince the Corbyn leadership. Here we, just like Varoufakis and indeed the entire country, come up against Labour’s stubborn yet underpowered effort to bypass the golden opportunity Brexit offers to take on the system as a whole. </p><p>Apparently many Labour supporters share the weird belief that they can inherit power after Brexit and deploy the existing British state to deliver egalitarian social and economic policies. Varoufakis’s list shows what nonsense this. For Brexit has simultaneously brought to a head eight linked issues: the question of who rules Ireland; Scotland’s autonomy; England’s lack of representation; the rigid two-party system; the lack of real democracy; the need for a parliamentary constitution people believe in; the inequities of austerity and how this generates moral panic over immigration; and the chronic dependency of a de-industrialised, finance-dominated economy.&nbsp;</p><p>I believe that Varoufakis is right to insist that the Brexit impasse is the expression of this concatenation of issues. It means that no government whether May’s, Corbyn’s or any other, can focus on delivering just one set of them as if the storms around the others will conveniently subside. Each demands attention at the same time and all are linked. The compelling significance of Varoufakis’s diagnosis lies in his combination of the well-formulated issues he itemises. Brexit is not about Brexit. Certainly not just about Europe. It poses matters both economic and democratic simultaneously, as it demands an answer to the kind of country we are. </p><p>Hence Brexit can indeed be welcomed as a chance to tackle the UK’s acute economic challenges by replacing the vulture state responsible for them – to use <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/trying-milk-vulture-want-economic-justice-need-democratic-revolution/">Adam Ramsay’s formulation</a>. What used to be called 'constututional reform' was seen as a centrist project beloved by anoraks. Now it is clear that urgent need for economic equality that generated the Leave vote in England's northern and midland constituences demands deep democratisation of the way we are governed. </p><p class="AB">Why is it, however, that the country’s parliamentarians are unlikely to grasp what Varoufakis calls our “rare opportunity to come to terms with the country’s great challenges while re-thinking the UK’s relationship with the EU”? At the moment, none apart from <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/caroline-lucas/we-have-answers-to-brexit-s-causes">Caroline Lucas</a>, show much stomach to do so. A few have stepped forward to make passionate, far-reaching critiques of the politics of Brexit. Especially women, for example <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/19/sarah-wollaston-pushes-for-mps-vote-on-second-brexit-referendum-doctors-amendment-corbyn">Sara Wollaston</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/nov/09/tory-mp-anna-soubry-the-young-will-never-forgive-my-party-brexit">Anna Soubry</a> among Conservatives, <a href="https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/layla-moran-lib-dem-conference-1-5693952">Leyla Moran</a> for the Lib Dems, and <a href="https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/politics/bridget-phillipson-mp-why-a-new-referendum-is-the-only-way-to-sort-out-the-brexit-mess-1-9479659">Bridget Phillipson</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/29/theresa-may-extend-article-50-no-deal-brexit">Lisa Nandy</a> for Labour (and outside the Commons, Nicola Sturgeon is outstanding as Scotland's First Minister). But apart from Lucas none have yet called on the country to build on the democratic radicalism of Brexit implicit in its rejection of the old elite - something that certainly will not be delivered by Brexit itself.<span class="mag-quote-center">Varoufakis says, rightly, that any “People’s Debate must address… the British constitution."</span></p><p>Women politicians across the spectrum are demonstrating the capacity to rise to the ooccasion. But the UK’s profoundly male-dominated political-media operators fear the loss of their British self-importance. The bogy that spooks them is the country’s national question. Varoufakis says, rightly, that any “People’s Debate must address… the British constitution, including the creation of an English parliament or multiple regional English assemblies…” and that this needs a “national convention”. But for the UK this can only be a <em>multi-</em>national convention and here is the rub. For what if the Scots don’t agree or the English decide they do not wish to share authority over their historic country with much smaller ones?&nbsp;</p><p>I’ve argued, most recently in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ksdrYYUY2w">Albion’s Call</a>, that the country has the capacity to achieve a popular, federal Britain. But a constitutional convention cannot but be a convention of the nations as well. Who knows whether the younger generation, who will rightly dominate it, might prefer the Irish example over the Westminster model. In other words, they might prefer to express their fluid cultural Britishness unrestricted by the political institutions of an all-British state and embrace independence all-round within the EU. This choice cannot be foreclosed in any process of the kind proposed by Varoufakis or indeed Gordon Brown. <span class="mag-quote-center"> Brexit is terminating the epoch of parliamentary absolutism to replace it with popular sovereignty.</span></p><p>Brexit is terminating the epoch of parliamentary absolutism to replace it with popular sovereignty. Given the dangers of the latter, a&nbsp; democratic constitution has to be on the way. As the outcome can only be achieved by persuasion not pre-emption, whether it will lead to a federal union or separation is an open question. The other major question is how long this will take – three years or thirty?&nbsp; Like Varoufakis, I think we should start now and make it three. Instead of being in fear of ‘letting go’ our political leaders and their media supporters should welcome the opportunity. Then, indeed, Brexit can be transformed into a celebration of democracy. </p><p><em>Anthony Barnett is a member of DiEM25 and author of <a href="https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Anthony-Barnett/The-Lure-of-Greatness--Englands-Brexit-and-Americas-Trump/21151451">The Lure of Greatness: England’s Brexit and America’s Trump</a></em></p><p><em><a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-convention-another-vote-is-possible-tickets-54163607809"><strong>ADVERT!</strong> COME ALONG TO THE CONVENTION ON BREXIT AND ANOTHER VOTE IS POSSIBLE: THINK ANEW, ACT ANEW</a><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="u-mb-se article__title--main article__title cell xlarge-7 large-offset-2 large-8 medium-offset-1 medium-10 small-12" dir="ltr">See <a href="https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/british-brexit-debate-democratic-opportunity-by-yanis-varoufakis-2018-12">'Turning Brexit Into a Celebration of Democracy'</a> by Yanis Varoufakis, December 26, 2018. </p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/yanis-varoufakis/call-to-take-break-from-brexit-for-general-election">A call to &#039;take a break from Brexit&#039; for a general election</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/neal-lawson/brexit-citizens-assembly-rising-to-crisis-in-democracy">Brexit Citizens Assembly: rising to the United Kingdom&#039;s crisis in democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/film-albion-s-call-brexit-democracy-and-england">Film: Albion’s Call: Brexit, democracy and England</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Anthony Barnett DiEM25 Thu, 03 Jan 2019 08:50:37 +0000 Anthony Barnett 121168 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Remainers must change their tune https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/anthony-barnett/remainers-must-change-their-tune <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For Remainers to win a People's Vote, they need to make a positive case</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="AB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/ImageVaultHandler.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/ImageVaultHandler.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Image: Parliament.uk</span></span></span></p> <p>Theresa May has postponed the parliamentary vote on her Withdrawal Agreement but it cannot be put off indefinitely. There is only one sure-fire way for it to get through the House of Commons and that is with an amendment that it must be also ratified by voters in a referendum, or the country will stay in the EU. This would achieve three things. It would allow the Commons to sweep aside the call for a Trump-style ‘No deal’. It would accept, if through gritted teeth, that May’s negotiations define what Brexit means. It would give voters the ability to pass their verdict on it. </p> <p class="AB">Instead, she has just told parliament that another referendum “will divide the country”, as if her agreement with its commitment to a long process of further negotiation will not do so. She is right, of course, that referendums are divisive and there is nothing wrong with that if they are based on honest arguments. Then, as in Scotland in 2014, they will gain losers consent. What was poisonous about the UK’s wretched plebiscite of 2016 was its contrived and dishonest nature, on all sides.</p> <p class="AB">That does not mean a new one will necessarily be better. The Daily Mail Survation poll shows 48% want a Peoples Vote while 34% oppose it. But 47% say staying in the EU would damage Britain’s standing. Only 24% disagree with this and overall, 52%, the same proportion that voted for Brexit in 2016, think May’s is the best deal on offer. </p> <p class="AB">There are other polls showing a significant switch to Remain, such as <a href="https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/b4b/pages/857/attachments/original/1543940050/MRP3_red_online.pdf?1543940050">today’s analysis</a> by Best for Britain and Hope not Hate. But the New Statesman’s political editor Stephen Bush has, rightly, just warned pro-Europeans of the need “to overcome decades of unchallenged cultural Euroscepticism and a largely hostile press. Don't forget that the biggest and most widely shared content&nbsp;on Facebook in the last referendum wasn't anything devised by Cambridge Analytica but the&nbsp;Daily Express… it is not at all clear how that cultural opposition to British membership of the European project can be overcome.’ And he concludes more emphatically to predict that any new referendum will confirm a Brexit supremacy, “until those things change, pro-European victories in Britain will continue to be confined to the courts”.&nbsp;</p> <p class="AB">His point is well made and must be confronted. Given this, I have a message for the Remain side, which I support. We have to change our tune. The dire Europhobia Bush warns against is already being eroded, led by young campaigners against Brexit and Caroline Lucas in parliament, but much more is needed. </p> <p class="AB">For example, many People’s Vote supporters now gleefully parrot the argument made by hard Brexiteers that the Withdrawal Agreement is “worse” than being in the EU. But this accepts the premise that being a member is bad in the first place. Were we to win a referendum having branded the outcome in advance as a form of national loss in this way, resentment is bound to follow, but it also makes it much more likely that we will lose. </p> <p class="AB">It reproduces the approach David Cameron took when he launched the referendum in the first place, that blew him out the water. He decided he had to appeal to voters’ “heads not hearts”, as if these can’t be in unison. As the then prime minister’s spin doctor, Craig Oliver, revealed in his inside account, Cameron defined the choice as a matter of calculation not principle. He reinforced the country’s dislike of the EU and said we were in it to make a profit.</p> <p class="AB">The referendum was in part a great democratic moment that rightly rejected this way of thinking about ourselves. We should not be talking about whether voters should “buy” May’s deal. Napoleon was wrong. England is not a country of shopkeepers. The de facto alliance of Cameron Conservatives and New Labour leaders, aided by Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, deserved to be shown the door. Together they had become a narrow, unrepresentative political caste who made money out of gaining public office. </p> <p class="AB">But the European Union was not responsible for their baleful, grasping influence on Britain. </p> <p class="AB">Our membership of the EU, outside of the Eurozone, was good for Britain as a country, including our democracy. But those of us who advocate a return to it must make it clear we will brook no reprise of the old manipulating elite. </p> <p class="AB">Whatever you think of them, at least May and Corbyn have distinguished themselves by their rejection of the fast boys of 21st century Westminster politics. They both share an honourable commitment to public service. Neither are in it for the money and each resist rule by American corporate interests, although Corbyn of course is a genuine opponent.&nbsp; </p> <p class="AB">However, too many supporters of a People’s Vote have failed to make the same break from the recent past. They still bang-on exclusively about the economic self-harm of leaving the EU, using corporate language. They threaten a return to pre-referendum Britain. This hands Leave campaigners, including even those who want a hard-Brexit, an inestimable and undeserved advantage: of being the ones to make positive arguments, especially on democracy and ‘taking control’. It also gives them an easy path to accuse Remain supporters of failing to love their country.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB">Carry on like this and Bush will be proved right in any future referendum. The Remain side must advocate its own positive and honest version of democracy and sovereignty. Otherwise it doesn’t have the right to call for a People’s Vote and doesn’t deserve to win one. Two defining issues can help: regulation and nationalism. </p> <p class="AB">Boris Johnson has made his career out of denouncing regulation. The most popular advocate of a hard Brexit, he compares the EU to a “Hitler-style super state” and calls May’s Agreement an “appalling sell-out”. His evidence for the latter is that British citizens in Northern Ireland will have to “obey EU rules on everything from lawnmower noise to the description of preserved sardines”. Well, Britain did not fight Hitler because he threatened to impose quieter lawnmowers or ensure packaging is honest. Johnson and his fellow Brexiteers commit a fundamental error when they claim regulation is an extension of classical sovereignty, as if rules about food safety are the same as matters of war and peace. </p> <p class="AB">Over the last half-century, regulation has become a new branch of government alongside executive power, the legislature and the judiciary. For example, rules about data privacy and the exchange of data are a vital part of modern life that require international adjudication. People understand this from their own experience, which is why EU regulation, especially on the environment and food and medicines, is popular.</p> <p class="AB">Indeed, as Theresa May has discovered, the UK can no more leave the single market, which is built on shared regulation, than leave the internet. It is not <em>impossible</em>. But it is hugely expensive, diminishes our freedom and does not restore ‘national sovereignty’. Membership of the Single Market that Britain played a vital role in creating is a gain in terms of modern sovereignty not a loss. Yet many on the Remain side are still reluctant to make this case with confidence and panache.</p> <p class="AB">Perhaps a shared longing for Britain as a world leader prevents this. It stretches back not so much to ‘Empire’ as to the effort (and failure) to create a ‘British nation’ after 1945, analysed by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/nick-pearce/peculiarly-british-nationalism-book-review">David Edgerton</a>. As a consequence an unresolved national question is locked within the UK, whose compulsions led to Brexit.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB">This brings us back to Stephen Bush’s scepticism that a new referendum would achieve a different outcome. For should there be a new vote we can be certain of one set of results. Scotland, Northern Ireland and London, which had Remain majorities of 24, 12 and 20 per cent respectively, will vote in even larger numbers for EU membership. While recent <a href="https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/b4b/pages/857/attachments/original/1543940050/MRP3_red_online.pdf?1543940050">polling</a> shows that Wales, which supported Brexit by only 80,000 (it has a population of 3 million) in 2016 has definitely changed its mind with 56% of voters now in support of Remain. </p> <p class="AB">Brexit happened because of a country we can call England-without-London. Its 46 million inhabitants backed Leave by an 11 per cent majority. It is not clear that, apart from those under 30, it has shifted away decisively from its hostility to the EU. This is the land of the Daily Express followers that Bush refers to: the land of old England.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB">Another referendum will therefore divide old England-without-London from the UK as a whole. Uneasily aware of this, some Remain supporters speak disparagingly about a narrow English nationalism. In fact, England suffers an acute and peculiar democratic deficit as a historic nation, as it has no parliament, assembly or even think tanks or other institutions, whether business, trade union or civil society, that embody its national interest and concerns. Instead, our natural desire to be represented has been sucked into an anachronistic passion for Great Britain. On the right this leads to hostility to the EU, stretching from the nose-holding instrumental kind of David Cameron to varieties of bigoted, free-market Anglo-exceptionalism of Farage, Johnson and Rees Mogg. On the left, to a blurred internationalism and desire for progressive global influence.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB">The contrast with Scotland is striking. Its first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, passionately supports both national independence and membership of the EU. Like most Scots she does not experience them as opposites. Her country and Ireland have moved ahead of England in this, and become normal democracies at ease within the European single market. For democratic nationalism today is cosmopolitan – it is about joining the world and bridging differences, not belligerence and creating divisions. </p> <p class="AB">As I have tried to show the issue here is more about democracy than identity. Democracy needs institutions that demonstrate its essential plurality. It is now essential to offer England-without-London a route into the contemporary world if Britain is to find its home in Europe. One inspired, for example, by the spirit of Gareth Southgate’s football team, which is a model for young England: open, diverse and hard-working; its creative energy at home in the larger continent of Europe just as the whole of Britain needs to be. </p><p class="AB">Remain supporters need a leadership that promises no return to the past and helps young England find its voice. Otherwise we will not overcome the cockeyed Great British notion that freedom, true sovereignty and self-determination mean hauling up the drawbridge and being oneself alone, and the incipient civil war will deepen. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/brexit-torpedoed-jo-johnson-boris-johnson">Brexit (and Boris) torpedoed</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/anthony-barnett/trump-or-brussels-brexit-and-art-of-no-deal">Trump or Brussels: Brexit and the art of &#039;No deal&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/film-albion-s-call-brexit-democracy-and-england">Film: Albion’s Call: Brexit, democracy and England</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Brexit Anthony Barnett Mon, 10 Dec 2018 18:47:18 +0000 Anthony Barnett 120942 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit (and Boris) torpedoed https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/brexit-torpedoed-jo-johnson-boris-johnson <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The battle of Brexit has finally been joined as Boris Johnson is blown out of the water by his own brother.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/image.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="295" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Jo Johnson's surprise resignation over Theresa May's Brexit plans have been criticised by his brother, Boris. Image: PA Images.</span></span></span>When the Argentinian dictatorship of General Galtieri seized the Falkland Islands, known to them as the Malvinas, in 1982, Parliament echoed with the rage of wounded, Anglo-British patriotism. It endorsed the dispatch of a “task force” to ensure Britain’s claim. As the ships sailed across the equator the balance of public opinion opposed the use of force. Then, Thatcher ordered HMS Conqueror to torpedo the antiquated Argentinian battleship Belgrano. The nuclear-powered submarine sunk its target. Over 300 of its crew drowned in the South Atlantic. The ruthless display ensured war would follow. Opinion swung decisively behind the Prime Minister. While some of his soldiers and pilots fought hard, Galtieri's bravado display of puffed up aggrandisement collapsed, humiliated by an utter lack of preparedness for a real battle.</p> <p>Today, it is the Generalissimo of Brexitannia, Boris Johnson, who has been torpedoed. After two long years of preparation the battle of Brexit has finally been joined by a well-aimed, perfectly executed strike which has holed the Leave campaign that he led below the water line. The torpedo was the stunning <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/jo-johnson-s-damning-resignation-statement-in-full-70jt677j3">resignation statement</a> of his younger brother Jo Johnson MP. Johnson junior was Theresa May’s loyal Minister of Transport. Now, he has pulled out of the government denouncing its negotiations with the EU as a catastrophe of statecraft while clinically skewering his brother’s braggadocio. He has pledged to vote against the prime minister’s deal with the EU should it reach the House of Commons, where its defeat is now likely. He has called for a People’s Vote instead, to endorse remaining in the European Union. </p><p>Johnson junior was a Remainer, like all ‘sensible’ ruling class conservatives including the prime minister, and he backed her attempt to deliver a Brexit that ‘works’. But the prime minister could not escape its contradictions. As I <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">have shown</a> the EU is above all a union of regulation. This is its central achievement: a customs union and single market, accomplished with the British, who played a central role in its creation over the course of 40 years. Regulation is <em>not</em> the same as sharing traditional sovereignty and for EU members like the UK who are outside of the Eurozone the classic pillars of sovereignty remain overwhelmingly national. Such is its strength, whatever happens to the common currency, Europe’s regulatory union will continue. Its advantages explain the commitment to continued membership of countries strongly opposed to many of the EU policies. It offers over 500 million people a growing cosmos of opportunity across all their nations with shared human rights and high environmental, safety and employment standards as well as an exceptional open market for capital and business – both manufacturing and services.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">&nbsp;The proponents of hard-Brexit desire an Anglo-America dominated globe of deregulated capitalism.</p><p>The vote for Brexit led by Boris Johnson claimed that Britain could have all the economic advantages of participating in the European space without applying its rules. Behind this absurd claim was and still is an alternative worldview. The proponents of hard-Brexit desire an Anglo-America dominated globe of deregulated capitalism. For all of his apparent indifference to leaving the EU, for which he is rightly criticised, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has been consistent – and consistently right – in pointing this out. Describing his desired version of Brexit <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/interview-with-labour-leader-corbyn-we-can-t-stop-brexit-a-1237594.html">to Der Spiegel</a> last week he said, “we wouldn't be trying to face towards the deregulated economy of the United States, which the one wing of the Tory Party is trying to do all the time”. </p><p>Viewed from within the parochial insanity of Britain’s Brexit breakdown, the argument seems to have become an incomprehensible squabble about whether or not it is “vassalage” for the country to endorse an Irish “back-stop to the back-stop”. Step outside and the issue is clear and important. Should a country like the UK remain within the European regulated space and its model of capitalism (supported by Japan and China) or should it seek to embrace a deregulated model spearheaded by the Trump administration (supported by Russia and Saudi Arabia)? </p><p class="AB01">Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn prefer the former while wishing to “respect” the referendum. Both want to retain regulation and ensure continuity of trade. Their shared desire for a pragmatic outcome collides with the reality that it is not possible to remain within a regulated space while not being regulated by it. At least, there is no point to it. This simple truth is driven home by Jo Johnson in his statement. Rightly, he ignores the Irish backstop and concentrates on the core issue. He summarised his judgment to the <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/pa/article-6374301/PM-s-Brexit-plans-pressure-Jo-Johnson-resignation-DUP-warning.html">Daily Mail</a>:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p class="AB01"><span style="font-style: normal;">“[Brexit] was meant to be about a brave new future as a deregulated economy. But we’re signing up to the common rule book on standards and health and safety, the environment and all the rest of it. It’s completely incoherent”. He added, it is “riddled with such contradictions as to make no sense at all now at any level”.</span></p></blockquote> <p>This devastating, undeniable verdict describes the deal the cabinet will try to come to and then present to parliament. It may not get that far. If it does Jo Johnson’s intervention has probably ensured it will be voted down. For, simultaneously, he has strengthened three blocks of votes against the deal. </p><div><ul> <li>•&nbsp;He has inspired Tory remainers like himself to risk a demand for a People’s Vote, as he has spelt out why any such deal is far-worse than staying in.</li> <li>•&nbsp;He has made it much more difficult for his own party’s Brexiteers to support the deal as a 'step in the right direction'.</li> <li>•&nbsp;And he has made it harder for Labour MPs to cross the floor and support the government, on the grounds that the deal will deliver Brexit and thus ‘respect’ the referendum, for as he shows, it fails to do so.</li> </ul></div><p class="AB01">The alternative is a so called ‘No-deal’. This means <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/anthony-barnett/trump-or-brussels-brexit-and-art-of-no-deal">in fact</a> a deal with Washington. Given the forces working for such a change of direction and their influence, the possibility should not be underestimated. Their weakness is that they hide their aims and the costs from public gaze. Jo Johnson is clear about this too. He describes the immense “real pain” after studying the consequences, from medical shortages to the strangulation of supplies through Dover, as set out in detailed government briefing papers. He does not deny that the country can “ultimately survive”. But he states:</p><blockquote><p class="AB01"><span style="font-style: normal;">“my message to my brother and to all Leave campaigners is that inflicting such serious economic and political harm on the country… cannot be what you wanted nor did the 2016 referendum provide any mandate for it”. </span></p></blockquote><p class="AB01">The last point is the decisive, democratic one. Brexit supporters have no right to impose any such outcome even if secretly they believed this is what it would involve. </p> <p>As for his brother himself, Boris Johnson seems never to have bothered to think about the realities, other than his own self-projection. In today’s <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/11/11/brother-right-mrs-mays-deal-biggest-statecraft-failure-since/"><em>Daily Telegraph</em></a> he dismisses Jo’s measured, fraternal rebuke and claims ‘No deal’ would be no problem at all. “There might be some temporary effects, but as with the Millennium Bug I do not think the planes would fall from the sky or that medicines would have to rationed, or any of the other nonsense”, he writes. </p><p>If acted on, this vacuous phrasemaking, waiving aside all analysis, would cast a million people into unemployment. Napoleon advised that, “To understand the man you have to know what was happening in the world when he was twenty”. Boris Johnson was 18 in the Falklands War and 20 when Thatcher hit her prime in its aftermath. He dreamed of becoming her. At the conclusion to the final TV referendum debate, Boris Johnson summoned his countrymen to declare “independence” and speak up for “hundreds of millions” across the EU deprived of their democratic voice, as if he was the blessed Margaret leading those groaning under Communism to the freedom of the West.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">It seems poetic justice that a state, once so skilled in divide and rule, should see its last days flicker with the jealousies of sibling rivalry.</p> <p>Instead, he became the United Kingdom’s home-grown would-be Galtieri only to be deflated by his own brother. It seems poetic justice that a historic, empire state, once so skilled in divide and rule, should see its last days flicker with the jealousies of sibling rivalry.&nbsp; For the second time in a decade the future of British politics has been shaped by fratricide, following on from Ed Miliband’s devastation of his older, Blairite brother’s ambition to lead the Labour Party. But theirs was a mere argument in opposition, over how to best recover from defeat. A quarrel dispatched into history by Jeremy Corbyn. This week, the showdown over Brexit within the ruling Tory government has brought late-Britain’s family-pandyism to a different magnitude of seriousness as battle is joined over the country’s role in the world.</p> <p class="AB01">When battle is joined, outcomes are hard to predict. The Leave campaign promised an easy, money-saving separation from the EU. But the country might still end up paying the costs of breaking from European regulations to embrace a Trump-style free market nationalism. For the danger of the People’s Vote campaign as advocated by Jo Johnson is the way it is purely about restoring the UK’s role within the European marketplace. That a member of a British government should demand more democracy is as welcome as it is surprising. But a campaign to reverse Brexit entirely based on a negative critique of its costs will not convince anyone who has set their face against being “ruled by Brussels”. If a new referendum on Brexit is also led by a Johnson, let alone two, we already know the outcome: the country will be the loser.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB01"><em>Anthony Barnett’s recent talk on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ksdrYYUY2w">Albion’s Call</a> can be watched on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ksdrYYUY2w">YouTube.</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/anthony-barnett/trump-or-brussels-brexit-and-art-of-no-deal">Trump or Brussels: Brexit and the art of &#039;No deal&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/film-albion-s-call-brexit-democracy-and-england">Film: Albion’s Call: Brexit, democracy and England</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Brexit Anthony Barnett Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:57:19 +0000 Anthony Barnett 120538 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trump or Brussels: Brexit and the art of 'No deal' https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/anthony-barnett/trump-or-brussels-brexit-and-art-of-no-deal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Even if the UK parliament approves a Brexit agreement it will satisfy no one. The real choice the country faces is beween re-entering the EU or becoming a satellite of Washington. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Borisblah.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Borisblah.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><h2><strong>The Question</strong></h2> <p class="AB03">How is it <em>possible </em>that Britain is contemplating a ‘No deal’ breakdown of the Brexit talks only weeks away from their deadline? How can it be conceivable that the Chancellor of the Exchequer while warning against it, is budgeting £500 million for scoping out a ‘No deal’ as the authoritative S&amp;P Global Ratings publishes <a href="https://www.capitaliq.com/CIQDotNet/CreditResearch/RenderArticle.aspx?articleId=2121981&amp;SctArtId=462210&amp;from=CM&amp;nsl_code=LIME&amp;sourceObjectId=10751413&amp;sourceRevId=2&amp;fee_ind=N&amp;exp_date=20281030-00:51:48">a financial analysis</a> that shows “A no-deal Brexit could push the U.K. economy into a moderate recession and lower the economy's long-term growth potential [leading to] the economic loss of about 5.5% GDP over three years”? Which means, the agency spells out, “a loss per household of £2,700 in income per year, 2019-2021”. A more hair-raising overview of the likely consequences is elegantly presented under 29 headings in the <a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n21/swati-dhingra/what-would-it-be-like?utm_source=newsletter&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=4021&amp;utm_content=ukrw_subs">London Review of Books</a>. For a thorough description of what a ‘No deal’ could be like we have to turn away from the London media to <a href="http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/the-dangers-of-a-no-deal-brexit-a-1228487.html">Der Spiegel’s</a> Peter Müller and Jörg Schindler, to learn what could happen on 30 March 2019 if Britain leaves the EU without any agreement. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="AB03">The New Statesman’s political editor, <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/10/brexit-trap-there-any-way-out">George Eaton</a>, quotes Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer MP as saying ‘No deal’ is inconceivable: Parliament, would not let it happen. Eaton himself says a ‘No deal’ would represent “The greatest failure of statecraft in British post-war European history”. Nonetheless, his colleague Steven Bush, in his lucid ‘Morning Call’ emails, insists there is no “plausible path to a parliamentary majority” for any agreement the Prime Minister brings back from Brussels and therefore “unless the politics shift” the UK will indeed leave “without a deal”. When the ex-Secretary of State for Brexit, David Davis MP <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/brexit-deal-will-pass-as-terror-will-win-david-davis-says-pfxkc2ft3">appeared to disagree</a>, saying “Terror… the fear of no deal… That will win and there will be a deal”, he promptly recanted the next morning on Twitter to predict that no agreement between the Prime Minister and Brussels will pass the Commons. </p> <p class="AB03">With such high stakes and uncertainty it’s natural for everyone to be obsessed with what happens next and miss the larger picture. Brexit is not just a bizarre, unpredictable dispute between Westminster politicians over the supposed ‘will of the people’. It has become a battleground in a much larger war: between two forms of capitalism in the post-crash age. One seeks to maintain a regulated, law-based world that manages competition between nations and alliances, the other to unleash a deregulated, to-the-victor-the-spoils model of traditional, international rivalry. </p> <p class="AB03">This is why it is a mistake to perceive ‘No deal’ as being a “failure”. For sure it will be a defeat for those on the left. But it will be a victory for the other side, and will be greeted as such by influential figures on the British right - while a can of diet coke will be raised in celebration by the ogre in the White House. For there is no such thing as a ‘No deal’. There is either a deal with the EU or with the US. An agreement between the UK government and the EU is probable and might not be voted down by the Commons. But even then it will satisfy no one. The polarisation inherent in the referendum is intensifying. Britain will have to choose between remaining within the European regulated space – ideally by reversing Brexit after a People’s Vote - or affiliating to an American-led deregulated one. </p> <p>These are not polar opposites. Both are forms of globalization, as Quinn Slobodian <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/22/opinion/trump-far-right-populists-globalization.html#click=https://t.co/zpuQhzXm3i">points out</a> in a masterly, forensic demystification of the hard right. In their different ways both desire competition, need some regulation and aim to manage democracy. The centre of the conflict lies within the United States, whose government is now impatient with a world order its predecessors created but which it feels no longer ensures that America comes first. With Brexit still unresolved, however, the UK has become the frontline of the conflict. Given the polarization unleashed by the American president and his supporters, the UK could become the first satellite of the Trumpian, American space. This is the aim of British supporters of ‘No deal’. They deploy the language of independence and don’t openly advocate subordination to Washington. Nonetheless, this will be the consequence of an outcome once thought incredible. </p> <p>This is not because Donald Trump takes any special interest in the United Kingdom, on the contrary. In a wonderful new book, <em>The Fifth Risk</em>, Michael Lewis provides a jaw-dropping account of President’s destructive hostility to government. Combining gripping reportage with a conceptual grasp of the larger consequences, Lewis shows at first-hand how vital aspects of America’s exceptional government - its energy safety, its nuclear waste, its meteorology, its funding of start-ups - are being wrecked by the administration in a concerted effort to devastate the public sphere. What matters is not the man, with whom Americans are far too obsessed, but the lasting effects of his policies. The White House has becoming a wrecking ball. Internationally, the main structure that stands in the way is the European Union as it has begun to set global standards for regulation. Brexit is a delightful opportunity to maim if not destroy Brussels and all its stands for.</p> <p>Like most commentators I regarded such a ‘no deal’ scenario as near inconceivable. On the eve of Trump’s visit to the UK in July this year, Adam Ramsay argued in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/trumps-visit-marks-start-of-shock-doctrine-brexit">openDemocracy</a> that shock doctrine supporters of the US president want a hard-Brexit, supported by right-wing think tanks such as the IEA, the Institute for Economic Affairs, and the dark money that supports their causes. I was sceptical of such alarmism. Now, from a very different political perspective, Sir Ivan Rogers has <a href="https://share.trin.cam.ac.uk/sites/public/Comms/Rogers_brexit_as_revolution.pdf">set out</a> a compelling account of the role and worldview of what he calls the “Brexit revolutionaries” and the likelihood of their success. There are few with a more intimate knowledge of both Westminster and Brussels than Rogers. He was the UK’s Ambassador to the EU, negotiated the deal that Cameron put to the country in 2016. When he advised Theresa May that her approach was unrealistic, she fired him. So far, all his warnings have been vindicated. </p> <p>If asked, a large majority of Britain’s voters would reject subordination to an American model. Yet their referendum may make this their fate. The external reasons are clear, given the Trump administration’s goals and the think tanks that are its praetorian guard. The domestic reasons for the Calvary of Brexit are more opaque. They can be traced to the ‘impossible desire’ shared by leaders of the United Kingdom that lies at the root of Brexit; the desire to be a completely ‘sovereign’ and ‘independent’ country. </p> <h2><strong>The shared self-deception behind the lies of Brexit</strong></h2> <p>This is not simply an expression of imperial nostalgia as the EU negotiator Michel Barnier has <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6294069/Merkel-Macron-tell-Barnier-flexible-Brexit-talks.html">just claimed</a>. Britain renewed itself in far-reaching ways, first under Labour after 1945, then with Margaret Thatcher after 1979. Both episodes involved social, economic, political and military transformations, dedicated to ensuring a new role for the country in world affairs. Both saw towering domestic achievements that appeared to vindicate a proud belief in Britain. But neither succeeded. The result today is frustration and England’s sense of impasse needs to be understood not as the consequence of decline but of failed renewal. It is this that generates the incoherent, thwarted energy expressed by Brexit, which is far from being the mere dying spasm of a spent regime. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have different stories).</p> <p>England’s rage was especially evident in the Leave side’s conduct of the referendum: the role of dark money, outright illegalities, absurd claims of the financial benefits of exiting the EU, and vile, anti-immigrant untruths perpetuated via social media. </p> <p>Its sense of frustrated renewal also helps to explain a more significant deception that cast its spell over the entire referendum campaign. One that was reproduced by both sides, continues to this day and originated with those who called the referendum. Even as he prepared the public for a vote on EU membership, the then Tory premier David Cameron opened the way for his own defeat by perpetuating its untruth. “Let’s be frank”, he <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/britain-would-do-okay-outside-the-european-union-david-cameron-says-a6727031.html">told voters</a>, often a sign that self-deception is on its way, “Britain is an amazing country. We’ve got the fifth biggest economy in the world. We’re a top ten manufacturer. We’ve got incredibly strong financial services. The world wants to come and do business here… The argument isn’t whether Britain could survive outside the EU. Of course it could”. </p> <p>Just like Cameron, Theresa May, who was his Home Secretary, opposed the UK leaving the EU. But she too agreed that the country was perfectly capable of doing so. When he lost the referendum, Cameron resigned and she seized the opportunity to succeed him. She then doubled down on the conceit involved. In her keynote speech to the <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-speech-tory-conference-2016-in-full-transcript-a7346171.html">2016 Tory Party conference</a>, her first to it as party leader as well as Prime Minister, she told her Conservative colleagues, “We are leaving to become, once more, a fully sovereign and independent country”. Three months later, in January 2017, at London’s <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2017/01/17/theresa-mays-brexit-speech-full/">Lancaster House</a>, when May set laid down her principles for Brexit, she described the referendum as, “a vote to restore, as we see it, our parliamentary democracy, national self-determination, and to become even more global”. </p> <p>May was channelling the main advocate of Brexit, Paul Dacre&nbsp;who edited the <em>Daily Mail </em>for 25 years. Defending Leave voters against their critics, he&nbsp;<a href="https://www.pressreader.com/uk/daily-mail/20180209/281483571838308" target="_blank">described</a>&nbsp;their main motive as being “a deep-seated human yearning to recover our national identity and independence”.&nbsp;Which is why, he explained, arguments of economic costs fail to persuade them to change their minds.&nbsp; </p><p class="AB03">The source of this self-centred British nationalism is not directly that of empire, which embraced subjects around the world, but its remotest depot, the Falkland Islands. The Conservatives, both Remainers and Brexiteers, are the children of Thatcher’s triumph in the 1982 war. One that allowed her <a href="https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/104989">to proclaim</a>, “There were those who would not admit it… but had their secret fears that it was true: that Britain was no longer the nation that had built an Empire and ruled a quarter of the world. Well they were wrong. The lesson of the Falklands is that Britain has not changed…”. In their wet dreams, the advocates of Brexit see Britain as once more astonishing the world with its defiance and a magically quick victory, that opens the way to a decade of economic growth. In reality they are recycling the detritus of the South Atlantic while the European Union is not Argentina. It has not declared war on even a toenail of the British Isles, however much they seek to turn it into an aggressor (“similar to Hitler”, Boris Johnson; “Mafia”, Jacob Rees Mogg; “like the Soviet Union”, the current Foreign Secretary). So Barnier is not completely wrong, there is a nostalgia, but it is for a recent triumph. One that echoes in Nick Timothy’s recent column in the <em><a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/10/31/radical-brexit-speech-theresa-may-could-still-make/">Daily Telegraph</a> </em>(Timothy was for a long time advisor and speech writer to Theresa’s May and drafted her original Brexit programme): “if we want Brexit to be a success, we must be bold. We can quiver and fail, or dare and succeed”. </p> <h2><strong>The truth of the matter</strong></h2> <p class="AB03">The dishonesty of such post-crash, regurgitated Thatcherism has never been publicly called out by any of the country’s political leaders. Britain is indeed a resilient, enterprising and significant country. But Thatcher’s legacy wrecked much of the indigenous manufacturing industry, bloated its finance sector and privatised the state, turning the UK into perhaps the most dependent and vulnerable middle-range economy in the world. It is no longer capable of being a “fully sovereign, independent country”. To take three snapshots:</p> <blockquote><p>It has a chronic balance of payments deficit, currently 4% of its GDP. As a result the value of the British pound “relies on the kindness of strangers” as the head of the Bank of England <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-boe-banks/bank-of-england-says-uks-reliance-on-kindness-of-strangers-for-finance-is-rising-idUSKCN1GS12P">put it. </a>There is much talk now by those advocating Brexit about the opportunities to strike independent trade deals. But Britain has long been unable to sell enough to itself. Italy has a healthy trade surplus by comparison.&nbsp; </p><p>Most of the UK’s stocks and shares are held abroad. At the end of 2016, the rest of the world <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/investmentspensionsandtrusts/bulletins/ownershipofukquotedshares/2016">owned 53.9% of the UK stock exchange</a>. A higher proportion than the 51.9% that the Leave campaign got earlier that year. </p><p>A new <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/3ee09db6-cbb8-11e8-b276-b9069bde0956">IMF analysis</a> reports that the UK government’s net worth is a negative liability of £2 trillion. As a percentage of the public balance sheet this is the worst for any advanced economy, with the sole exception of Portugal. </p></blockquote> <p>It is hard to quantify the sheer penetration of direct foreign ownership of the UK’s strategic assets, from its railways and water supply and power infrastructure to its leading newspapers and hi tech sector, not to speak of its car manufacturing. The marketization initiated by Margaret Thatcher, deepened by Tony Blair and intensified by David Cameron, has left the country acutely unequal and lopsided. One <a href="https://newleftreview.org/II/105/tom-hazeldine-revolt-of-the-rustbelt">analyst shows</a> that the UK now has the greatest regional inequalities of any country across the whole of the EU. </p> <p>It is particularly galling to listen to arch-Brexiteer Boris Johnson when, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-speech-britain-is-back-east-of-suez">as Foreign Secretary,</a> he lauded London as being the “Eighth Emirate”, because so much of it is owned by Middle Eastern potentates including London’s tallest building, its poshest store, its Olympic village, a leading football club and its main exhibition centre - not to speak of the country’s historic merchant shipping company P&amp;O – the Pacific and Orient - now owned by Dubai. Johnson concluded the final TV debate of the referendum by declaring that victory for Leave would be “independence day”. He was rightly criticised for propagating the lazy notion that the UK is a ‘colony’ or victim of the EU. The shaping falsehood behind it is the assumption that Britain is capable of being ‘independent’ in the traditional sense. </p><p>It isn’t. </p> <h2><strong>The necessity of regulation</strong></h2> <p>There is nothing shameful about this reality, even if the UK is more exposed than most to the necessity of being part of a larger market place whose rules it cannot unilaterally decide. Indeed, under Thatcher the UK played a pivotal role in the formation of what is the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">finest achievement</a> of the EU, the creation of an international regulated space. This is not at all the same as a sovereign power. It has generated a zone of shared freedom, which far from subjugating the UK or any of the member states enhances their economic and social life. What Britain lacks is the patriotism that expresses this. </p> <p>Instead, Brexit nationalists proclaim that an economic nirvana awaits the UK outside of the supposed confinement of the EU’s customs union, with only the most minor adjustments. The evidence suggests otherwise. To bring it to life, recently, as the negotiations hit an impasse, on just one day, 15 October, three foreign companies (who have been understandably low-profile) issued <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/oct/15/ford-u-turn-carmaker-says-no-deal-brexit-could-force-it-to-leave-uk">unusual public warnings</a>. Ford said a no-deal was a “red line’ for its car manufacturing in Britain; Nissan warned of “serious implications”; and the drugmaker AstraZeneca which employs 7,000 in the UK, announced it had put UK investment “on hold”. </p> <p>Prime Minister May is loyal to a vision of one-nation conservatism that embraces the need for workers and towns to prosper. She has not faltered in her judgement that this means the UK must stay close to the EU. Initially she wanted the advantages of membership while hoping to escape the obligations of its rules. As she slowly learnt this was not possible she sought to stay within the EU’s rulebook for manufacturing but not services. She persuaded her Cabinet to agree to this, in what is now called the Chequers proposal, named after the Prime Minister’s country house. For all the talk about the Irish border, the heart of the government’s difficulty is simple: how to remain within the EU’s regulated space without being regulated by it. </p> <h2><strong>Show manufacturing the door</strong></h2> <p class="AB03">It can’t be done, a point made by Boris Johnson who resigned from the Cabinet after Chequers, claiming any attempt to accept May’s priorities would turn the UK into a “vassal state”. What, then, is his and his fellow Brexiteers’ response to the many concerns of manufacturers? Johnson summed it up in two words, which were reported in their full Anglo-Saxon without asterisks by both the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8075e68c-7857-11e8-8e67-1e1a0846c475">Financial Times</a> and <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-44618154">the BBC</a>. I quote, “Fuck business”. </p> <p class="AB03">We have to take this reaction seriously. It is no joke. The hard Brexiteers see destruction as essential to clear the way to their vision of Britannia reborn. The president of the CBI (the Confederation of British Industry) <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8fc6f5a2-6edb-11e8-852d-d8b934ff5ffa">warned</a> that outside the Customs Union, “ ‘there are sectors of manufacturing society in the UK which risk becoming extinct,’ pointing to the car industry in particular”. Ian Duncan Smith, another leading anti-European and ex-Minister <a href="https://brexitcentral.com/car-industrys-prophecies-doom-must-not-allowed-prevent-brexit/">argued</a> in response that car manufacturing only accounts for 0.57% of the UK’s employment and 0.8% of gross value added. So let’s not be “obsessed” by it. The Chief Executive of Philips <a href="http://www.cityam.com/266371/philips-chief-executive-warns-no-deal-brexit-hit-british">says</a> the future of the UK as a manufacturing hub is at risk. The country’s most profitable export sector, British chemicals industry, has <a href="https://www.cia.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/Policy%20Position%20Statements/171207%20REACH%20letter%20to%20Michael%20Gove.pdf?ver=2018-01-04-162410-830">long stated</a> its need to remain in the customs union just like the British manufacturing economy as a whole which is integrated with the EU’s and needs a customs union with it. Not to speak of agriculture. But let's not be "obsessed" with all that. An "adjustment" will be necessary as the price of freedom. Jacob Rees Mogg, another leading Brexit advocate, laundered and ironed Boris Johnson's filthy language, the benefits <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jacob-rees-mogg-economy-brexit_uk_5b54e3b5e4b0de86f48e3566">will be reaped</a> "over the next fifty years" </p> <h2><strong>Three sources for a Hard Brexit</strong></h2> <p>How, then, is it possible that such an outcome can be gathering support? While the passion may be a thwarted Anglo-British nationalism, the economic answer is three-fold. First, there is the free-market tank prospectus, second the City of London is indifferent and, most important of all, the United States is keen to break the EU. </p><p class="AB03">The fantastic economic policies of the hard Brexiteers have been dissected by <a href="http://chrisgreybrexitblog.blogspot.com/">Chris Grey</a> and <a href="https://mainlymacro.blogspot.com/">Simon Wren-Lewis</a> and the insane politics and insufferable self-deceptions by <a href="http://www.politics.co.uk/author/ian-dunt">Ian Dunt</a>. Their arguments are met by silence. So we have to turn to Steve Baker MP for a summary of the Brexiteer world-view. He resigned from the government to become the organiser of the ERG group of parliamentarians for a hard-Brexit. When his hopes <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/07/09/could-not-stay-brexit-minister-knew-could-have-free-trade-not/">were high</a> he proclaimed the need for “boldness, vision, ambition and resolve to recover our democratic self-government and help change the world for good”. </p> <p class="AB03">Inflated by such hopes, he felt Britain “is on the cusp of catalysing a transformation in world trade”, no less. “If we can combine a comprehensive EU tariff-free trade deal, together with accession to the Pacific Rim CPTPP, with a US bilateral deal and a new platform agreement for financial services, then we will improve the prosperity and prospects of hundreds of millions of people”. As deflation set in, Baker blamed the CBI for being nothing less than “a grave menace to the political stability and economic prospects of the UK”. He looked back with longing to the proposals of the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brendan-montague/how-legatum-has-written-hymn-sheet-for-dirty-brexit">Legatum</a> Institute Special Trade Commission (for which see openDemocracy's <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan/legatum-who-are-brexiteers-favourite-think-tank-and-who-is-behind-them">Peter Geoghegan</a>) and the Institute for Economic Affairs (for which see <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/revealed-how-uk-s-powerful-right-wing-think-tanks-and-conse">Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan</a> who have also reported in the <a href="https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/brexit/2018/10/liam-fox-s-american-friends?fbclid=IwAR08NkTcmqlAaAbXcUMZZtSq93hPc08y6xLvEP_1pmpRzjeHdMKWL-gybD4">New Statesman</a> on another Cabinet Brexiteer, Liam Fox, and his connections to right-wing US institutions and his dream of frictionless trans-Atlantic trade). Taken singly, the shock-jocks of Brexit are easily mocked. But they represent a well-connected, very well-funded worldview, capable of playing a long game. For them a 'No deal' would be like winning the lottery while an incoherent agreement that takes the UK out of the EU leaves all to play for. </p> <p>The UK’s genuine economic strength is located in its financial services sector, which does play a nodal role in the world economy. The EU is only a small part of its business. The <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/7a318a42-cb9f-11e8-b276-b9069bde0956">Financial Times</a> explained one part of the background: “Clearing houses, largely run by exchanges, sit between parties in a deal and manage the impact to the market should one side default. London is the heart of the global business. Its three clearing houses — LCH, ICE Clear Europe and LME Clear — process more than $450 trillion in interest-rate, credit, forex and metals-related swaps from around the world”. It also <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/c2519f62-cbd4-11e8-9fe5-24ad351828ab">points out</a>, “the European Central Bank estimates 90 per cent of interest-rate swaps coming from the EU are cleared through London. But for LCH [the London Clearing House], derivatives business secured from EU banks is just 14 per cent of the global total”.</p> <p>Alongside the legitimate lubrication of the entire world economy in which the EU plays only a small part, the City also sits at the centre of a permissive network of money-laundering supported by a global network of tax havens under British suzerainty, from the Channel Islands to the Caymans. Recently brought to life by the TV mini-series <em>McMafia</em>, this network of activities also regards the EU as relatively marginal.</p> <p>Whether smoothly managing derivatives or tax avoidance, the networks of the City of London are used to working around national barriers. They will set up offices inside the EU where necessary. Already <a href="https://www.capitaliq.com/CIQDotNet/CreditResearch/RenderArticle.aspx?articleId=2111891&amp;SctArtId=461208&amp;from=CM&amp;nsl_code=LIME&amp;sourceObjectId=10729660&amp;sourceRevId=1&amp;fee_ind=N&amp;exp_date=20281010-15:06:25">they have</a> “passed the point of no return” in planning for an organised Brexit. As <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/tamasin-cave-kenneth-haar/deal-or-secret-deal-eu-uk-trade-deal-looks-even-more-secretive-than-tti">Tamasin Cave and Kenneth Haar</a> have shown, the financial sector has exploited its unrivalled access to both Brussels and the British government to secure their sectoral interests. Meanwhile, its more audacious hedge funds are outright opponents of the EU’s regulatory impulses. Rarely can a wealthy capital have been so indifferent to the larger fate of its country. If the City of London had been as opposed to Brexit as is manufacturing, neither a hard Brexit nor a no deal would be on the cards. </p> <h2><strong>Trump’s foe</strong></h2> <p>While the City is merely relaxed about Brexit, Britain’s traditional global ally sees it as a positive opportunity - to diminish Europe. On his way to meet President Putin this summer, Trump was asked by <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-interview-cbs-news-european-union-is-a-foe-ahead-of-putin-meeting-in-helsinki-jeff-glor/">CBS News</a> to identify his "biggest foe globally right now" and he replied, “I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe”. Just this month, in a <em><a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/donald-trump-full-interview-60-minutes-transcript-lesley-stahl-2018-10-14/">60 Minutes</a></em> interview with Lesley Stahl he said, “I mean, what's an ally? We have wonderful relationships with a lot of people. But nobody treats us much worse than the European Union. The European Union was formed in order to take advantage of us on trade, and that's what they've done... You know what's hostile? The way they treat us”.</p> <p>On 10 October, shortly before his <em>60 Minutes</em> interview, there was a striking example of the way Brexit is intensifying US enmity to the EU. Trump’s head of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Christopher Giancarlo issued an astonishing threat. The administration would <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/9935d5c8-d2da-11e8-a9f2-7574db66bcd5?segmentId=6132a895-e068-7ddc-4cec-a1abfa5c8378">bar</a> EU banks from using “US clearing infrastructure” in retaliation if Brussels decided to regulate the financial trading of its derivatives when the City of London leaves the EU. Soon after the <em>60 minutes </em>interview, the White House <a href="https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?js=RAW&amp;maximize=true&amp;hide=true&amp;position=absolute&amp;hl=en-GB&amp;emailsLink=true&amp;sk=true&amp;titleBar=false&amp;border=NONE&amp;eventCallback=ParentStub1277142299567&amp;zx=imv0xvp0h9i&amp;shva=1#inbox/WhctKJVBBcBKZCztskNBPHNjkJkHlXWBChgDpfsZSFNvQfhCrdtHcmpmWhmSDXZJvdnnjSV">gave Congress</a> the necessary 90 days notification of its intension to open trade negotiations with the United Kingdom. Should the UK reach agreement with the EU, this may have to wait until the UK actually leaves. But if there is a ‘no deal’, Washington will be standing by. Making its announcement now sends a message of encouragement to the hard Brexiteers as their moment arrives. </p> <h2><strong>Trump’s men</strong></h2> <p class="mol-para-with-font">The British politician <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/13/world/europe/trump-may-brexit-sun.html?module=inline">singled out</a> by Trump to integrate the UK into the President’s project is Boris Johnson. For his part Johnson <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/brexit-boris-johnson-donald-trump-all-sorts-of-chaos-says/">has said</a>, “I am increasingly admiring of Donald Trump. I have become more and more convinced that there is method in his madness. Imagine Trump doing Brexit… He’d go in bloody hard … There’d be all sorts of breakdowns, all sorts of chaos. Everyone would think he’d gone mad. But actually you might get somewhere. It’s a very, very good thought.” </p> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Brexiteers are thinking such thoughts more and more, calling in advance for cuts to taxes, streamlined regulations and opening up the UK markets to the US (to summarise Daniel <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/10/14/brexit-theresa-mays-terms-would-worst-worlds/">Hannan</a>). There are apparently strong supporters for such an eventuality in the Cabinet. Among them the current Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6172943/Sweeping-tax-cuts-workers-help-no-deal-Brexit-Sajid-Javid-told-Cabinet.html">is reported</a> to have told his colleagues in September that if the EU did not accept the UK’s demands, Britain should just leave while implementing, “sweeping tax cuts and deregulation on workers' rights, scrapping automatic enrolment into pension schemes and ditching environmental regulations… He referred to it as a shock-and-awe strategy”. Perhaps he had forgotten how this phrase echoes the disastrous assault upon Iraq. </p> <p>Any such strategy will need the tabloids to whip up a chauvinistic atmosphere, led by the Sun, owned by Trump’s fellow billionaire American, Rupert Murdoch. Brussels will be pilloried for its punitive intransigence, even as the UK’s Japanese and Indian-owned car companies load their robots onto lorries for production lines on the other side of the channel. The Brexiteers won’t mind. This is the key point: an irrevocable disintegration will have taken place as Britain’s ties to Europe are severed. The more savage the better, as this will then justify the economic losses as the population is rallied against Brussels. The disruption will provide an ideal environment for populist mobilization, to create an irreversible breach in European solidarity. </p> <p>In all likelihood May will get an agreement that keeps the UK in the EU’s regulated space for the time being, even if the Brexit revolutionaries condemn it as years of “vassalage”. The problem for May is her lack of a nationalist counter-argument to theirs. For if Britain is to be within its influence why leave the EU at all? Incapable of admitting a change of mind and without media or popular support, the Prime Minister may therefore fail to get the necessary parliamentary backing. If, then, the House of Commons is also prevented from calling for a second referendum, the Brexit revolutionaries will have their way and it will be no-deal. Once more they will proclaim Independence Day. But Trump and all he represents will be waiting for them, welcoming the UK into his anti-EU alliance with generous terms that cannot be refused in the otherwise dire circumstances and Britain will enter the US sphere of corporate servitude. </p> <p><em>Anthony Barnett’s recent talk on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ksdrYYUY2w">Albion’s Call</a> can be watched on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ksdrYYUY2w ">YouTube.</a> </em><em><span>This article is based on a public lecture organized by the<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://www.history.ucla.edu/">Department of History</a><span><span>&nbsp;</span>and the<span>&nbsp;</span></span><a href="http://www.international.ucla.edu/euro/">Center for European and Russian Studies</a><span><span>&nbsp;</span>of UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), 15 October 2018 (with many thanks for the feedback).</span><br /></em></p> <p><em>&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-campaign-for-people-s-vote-is-changing-politics-again">How the campaign for a People’s Vote is changing politics (again)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">How to win the Brexit Civil War. An open letter to my fellow Remainers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/tamasin-cave-kenneth-haar/deal-or-secret-deal-eu-uk-trade-deal-looks-even-more-secretive-than-tti">&quot;Deal&quot; or &quot;Secret Deal&quot; – the EU-UK trade deal looks even more secretive than TTIP</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK EU United States Democracy and government Brexit Anthony Barnett Fri, 02 Nov 2018 15:49:17 +0000 Anthony Barnett 120423 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Film: Albion’s Call: Brexit, democracy and England https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/film-albion-s-call-brexit-democracy-and-england <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexit has ignited a fire under Britain. It is altering forever the way we see ourselves. This has to be confronted boldly and in an open-minded way</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4ksdrYYUY2w?autohide=1&showinfo=0&rel=0" width="460" height="259" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><p> Here is a film on Brexit, democracy and England. It’s an illustrated talk plus discussion especially aimed at those of us in England. It comes to 1 hour and 8 minutes. “Oh, no”, I hear you say, “not a hour on Brexit! How unbearable is that!” But think of all the packages and items you’ve heard, seen and read about Brexit over the last two years and how many hours and hours of your time they have taken up. What changed your mind or even made you think? Very little, I suspect. </p><p>I talk about the realities of powerlessness, the rip-off state, massive inequality, identity politics, the Irish example, why the Scots are different, what it means to be English, the need to reimagine ourselves and what unites Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. Along with images.</p> <p>Brexit has ignited a fire under Britain. It is altering forever the way we see ourselves. This has to be confronted boldly and in an open-minded way.</p> <p>I want a People’s Vote with a big majority for Remain. To achieve this the Remain campaign must change from 2016, and how! The response to my lecture is led by Rowenna Davis who opposes a People’s Vote. I didn’t shift her view and may not change yours. But I hope I make you think twice.</p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-its-english-stupid">Why Brexit? It&#039;s the English, stupid.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">How to win the Brexit Civil War. An open letter to my fellow Remainers</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Brexit Anthony Barnett Thu, 11 Oct 2018 09:01:41 +0000 Anthony Barnett 120047 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How the campaign for a People’s Vote is changing politics (again) https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/how-campaign-for-people-s-vote-is-changing-politics-again <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new generation is making the campaign for a People's Vote on Brexit the next insurgency for change in Britain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="AB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Pmarch.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Pmarch.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="172" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="AB">The call for a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal, conceived by Caroline Lucas, was adopted early this year by a broad coalition of people and organisations who want the British to think again. The concept is a neat one. It is not a demand to re-run the referendum. It is a claim that those who instructed the government to negotiate Brexit must have the final say. It is a demand for continued democracy. Or, to borrow a phrase, for voters to ‘take control’. Which means that Leavers can support it too.&nbsp;</p><p class="AB">While I liked it for these reasons, it seemed to me unlikely to happen and I&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">feared</a>&nbsp;that if it did it would deliver the same result. Now, it looks as if I was wrong on both these counts.&nbsp;</p><p class="AB">Since the Cabinet met at Chequers and set out what it wants for the country’s relationship with the EU to be, the Brexit alliance has disintegrated. There is a good chance that whatever deal the Prime Minister now achieves, it will be voted down by the Commons. If so, a People’s Vote has become more likely than not, as the only way out of the impasse.</p><p class="AB">More important, poll after poll shows opinion has started to turn against Brexit with&nbsp;<a href="https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/b4b/pages/397/attachments/original/1534497318/HNH_B4B_Report_2018-August_BrexitShift_%281%29.pdf?1534497318">most constituencies</a>&nbsp;now showing a majority for Remain. This is an essential development to reassure those MPs who fear that another plebiscite will deepen not resolve the division in the country.&nbsp;</p><p class="AB">It seems like a paradox. A People’s Vote has to be about democracy. But Labour’s English MPs in particular need to see in advance that a new referendum can unify the country. While nothing is certain they want to know that a major shift is taking place in the ‘people’s will’, or at least the will of their own supporters; one that can gain consent rather than empower the right.</p><p class="AB">Such a shift has not yet occurred but it is on the cusp of happening.</p><p class="AB">It has been a three stage process. The first was the stubborn refusal of Remain supporters to swing behind Leave. You would expect a bold, democratic adventure like Brexit to generate public support. It had the press, the government and institutions such as the BBC in lock-step support of what they accepted as the country’s historic choice. Yet for two long years the division expressed in the referendum barely changed. This will come to be seen as the great, strategic failure of the Brexiteers. They had their moment and lost it.</p><p class="AB">A second stage began in July after Chequers. The Cabinet decided it was in the best interest of the UK to remain in the EU’s regulated space, at least for manufacturing. This was a wise call and potentially popular, had May addressed the country to explain why it is essential. Instead, she pretended nothing had changed, her government split, and the costs of exiting the EU became clearer. A large&nbsp;<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-referendum-millions-leave-voters-best-for-britain-no-deal-theresa-may-conservative-government-a8521346.html">Focaldata analysis</a>&nbsp;shows 2.6 million largely Labour supporters have switched to Remain while only a million Remainers, mainly Conservatives, now back Leave. If a referendum were held tomorrow, Brexit would lose its 2016 majority. Remain has the momentum.</p><p class="AB">This is not enough yet to convince nervous MPs they should return the decision to the public. Nonetheless, an essential second-stage boost took place. Now, fuelled by fresh leaders, new arguments and an affirmative engagement with the EU, Remain is about to go into orbit. It is seizing the mandate for change as it becomes the insurgent opposition to the Brexit status quo.</p><p class="AB">The emergence of fluent younger advocates is a vital part of this. Femi, of Our Future Our Choice and Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson of FFS are both part of the People’s Vote Alliance. Eloise Todd and Layla Moran signal the emergence of sophisticated women able to challenge the boy’s game of Brexit. Todd, a northerner, heads Best for Britain; Moran a new Lib Dem MP, is an emerging star, with Palestinian heritage. The feminine leadership of the call for a rethink of Brexit is reinforced by the TUC’s General Secretary, Francis O’Grady and her demand for a ‘ballot on the deal’. While in terms of experienced, credible politicians, who are not tarred with the ongoing, sectarian disputes of the main parties, Caroline Lucas is in a league of her own.</p><p class="AB">Along with fresh faces, People’s Vote is generating attractive new arguments. It is hard to over-estimate the importance of this. It is now possible to rethink Brexit and appeal to Leavers’ judgment, rather than slagging them off. The disastrous ‘Stronger In’ campaign of 2016 sank under the weight of its euroscepticism. Its patronising insistence that we could not afford to leave the EU, only served to reinforce a sense that we should if we could. It also immunised Leave voters from rational consideration of the costs. An attitude vented by Boris Johnson, while still Foreign Secretary when was asked at a diplomatic reception about business’s concern with Brexit. He replied, “Fuck business”. Both the Financial Times and the BBC quoted the full Anglo-Saxon without asterisks. Yet his supporters still cheer him on. If&nbsp;<a href="https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-panasonic-headquarters/japans-panasonic-to-move-european-headquarters-to-amsterdam-in-october-nikkei-idUKKCN1LE2S2">Panasonic</a>&nbsp;move their headquarters to Holland it’s one up to Blighty!</p><p class="AB">In the referendum the Brexiteers positioned themselves as the anti-elite democrats. Now Johnson has exposed himself as a hard-right, tax-cutting supremacist. The revelations of its secretive off-shore money and illegal backing by&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/carolecadwalladr">Carol Cadwalladr</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/trumps-visit-marks-start-of-shock-doctrine-brexit">openDemocracy</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.byline.com/column/67/articles">Byline</a>&nbsp;have spotlighted Brexit as a project of the privileged.</p><p class="AB">It also turns out that issue Johnson, along with other leading Brexiteers such as the ex-Secretary of State for Brexit David Davis and Jacob Rees Mogg, lead on can be turned against their cause. They define Brexit to mean the rejection of a “common rule book”. It is, Johnson wrote in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6604089/boris-johnson-full-british-brexit-eu-regulation/">the Sun</a>, "the freedom to bust out of the corsets of EU regulation and rules - to do things our way". Voters, however, want European regulations. They like clean beaches, environmental protection, high food standards, safe cars, medicine that is scientifically checked, fair employment laws and ease of business. They don’t want chlorinated chicken, or roaming charges if they go to Spain, and they do want to be reimbursed if an airline cancels their flight. A careful&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ippr.org/files/2018-03/1521809277_leaving-the-eu-briefing-part2.pdf">IPPR investigation</a>&nbsp;shows that people overwhelmingly support sharing regulations with the EU, including a third of Leave voters. Lord Ashcroft has reported a similar finding. The EU is above all a union of shared regulation not sovereignty. Brexiteers make a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">big mistake</a>&nbsp;when they muddle the two.</p><p class="AB">From this starting point of mutual benefit the EU becomes a positive addition to our democracy. It becomes a means for regular people to have more not less control over our lives.</p><p class="AB">The referendum’s outcome was Albion’s shout-out against elite entitlement. It was a just revolt against powerlessness, the hollowing out of democracy and uncontrolled inequality. Those who voted Leave can congratulate themselves on having given the old order a fatal kicking. However, it is now becoming clear that Brexit itself will simply revive the same old clowns in worse form without changing the way we are ruled. Gove and Johnson are indeed hardly different from their university chums Cameron and Osborne&nbsp;</p><p class="AB">Helped by vivid stories about the cost to regular people’s lives as businesses are shredded, voters have begun to understand that Brexit promises even more incompetent version of the old greedy order. In response, People’s Vote, with its fresh leaders, optimistic arguments, and fearless attitude to the EU, is inspiring a revulsion from Brexit that will remake democracy in Britain.&nbsp;</p><p class="AB"><em>Anthony Barnett is the author of The Lure of Greatness. His lecture on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/albions-call-democracy-meets-globalisation-anthony-barnett-on-england-nationalism-and-brexit-tickets-49051172377">‘Albion’s Call: Democracy meets Globalisation’</a>, is on 19th September at Kings College London. </em></p><p><strong><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lure-Greatness-Englands-Brexit-Americas/dp/1783524537">The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit &amp; America’s Trump</a>&nbsp;</strong></p><p><span class="blockquote-new">“Brilliant”,&nbsp;<strong>Suzanne Moore</strong>, “Blistering”,&nbsp;<strong>Zadie Smith</strong><br />“A dazzling, all-encompassing, big picture analysis of the Brexit vote, easily the best of its kind in print, brilliantly written and endlessly thought-provoking. Do read it.”&nbsp;<strong>Andrew Sparrow, Editor, Guardian Politics Live</strong><br />“Responding to momentous events with deep and passionate arguments… for his verve, range and insatiable urge to take on vast themes, Barnett deserves loud applause… this is a very good book.”&nbsp;<strong>John Harris, New Statesman</strong><br />“The best book about Brexit so far… brilliantly caustic, there is some comfort in that Barnett has been right about so much before.”&nbsp;<strong>Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times</strong><br />“One of the most important political books of 2017”,&nbsp;<strong>The Guardian Editorial on Renewing the United Kingdom</strong>, 1 January 2018<br />“Essential reading for students of politics, constitutional law and international relations.”&nbsp;<strong>Professor David Marquand</strong><br />“A wonderful and compelling page turner that artfully weaves together debates on freedom, security, liberty, sovereignty and nationalism... This is a book that deserves to be read.”&nbsp;<strong>Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths Professor of Media and Communications</strong></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anthony Barnett Sat, 15 Sep 2018 10:22:43 +0000 Anthony Barnett 119669 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Boris Johnson’s resignation letter is the halitosis of a rotting body politic https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/boris-johnson-s-resignation-letter-is-halitosis-of-rotting-body-politic <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The UK is in the midst of a multi-layered political and constitutional breakdown.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/PA-26651414.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/565030/PA-26651414.jpg" alt="Boris Johnson speaks at a Vote Leave campaign event, 2016." title="" width="460" height="298" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Boris Johnson speaks at a Vote Leave campaign event, 2016. Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Images.</span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">At last. After two years of weird, stifling repression, a realisation. There cannot be a Brexit ‘Independence Day!’ There can be only different ways of being within our European domain. Boris Johnson, formerly the UK’s Foreign Secretary and the face of Brexit, and David Davis a long-time anti-European who headed the special Brexit department, were finally obliged to sup with reality and threw up.</p><p dir="ltr">Both resigned from their high offices of state after a cabinet away-day meeting at the Prime Minister’s country house of Chequers, on Friday 6 July. This agreed to propose to the EU a future relationship based on a single ‘rule book’ for goods that will in effect be adjudicated by the European Court of Justice. The approach is spelt out in the <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/724982/The_future_relationship_between_the_United_Kingdom_and_the_European_Union_WEB_VERSION.pdf">White Paper</a> issued yesterday. The inescapable reason for this is, as I’ve shown, that our lives in the UK are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">inextricably</a> part of Europe’s magnificent regulated space – one that Britain helped to create. Given this, the Chequers’ proposals are the least form of integration possible. But a form of integration they are. In the words of the White Paper: “the UK would make an upfront choice to commit by treaty to ongoing harmonisation with the relevant EU rules… [with] participation by the UK in those EU agencies that provide authorisations for goods in highly regulated sectors”. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-right">Boris Johnson and David Davis were finally obliged to sup with reality and threw up</p><p dir="ltr">Over the weekend the two senior ministers decided they could not advocate such an outcome – although they are incapable of proposing a credible, worked out alternative. For none exists this side of either the EU agreeing to abolish itself, or the de-industrialisation and deregulation of the UK behind hard borders along with a flight of capital. (Polly Toynbee has a compelling <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jul/09/cabinet-brexiteer-vision-chilling-neo-thatcherite">description</a> of this as advocated by hard-Brexiteer Patrick Minford.)</p><p dir="ltr">Are the resignations and divisions now roiling the Tory party a sign of “chaos” or clarification, disintegration or coherence? The difficulty, especially for those outside Britain trying to make sense of events here, is that they are all these things at once.</p><p dir="ltr">The showdown will continue. The immediate confrontation with the hard-line full Brexit brigade will be of momentous importance. In the longer run Brexit is doomed and renewed British membership of an EU that is itself likely to change considerably will take place.</p><p dir="ltr">As for the current showdown, two leading advocates of a complete rupture with the EU are Johnson himself and Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, who has denounced the White Paper as “yellow”.</p><p dir="ltr">In terms of the two resigning personalities, we don’t need to spend time on David Davis. He was a noble and courageous fighter for liberty in 2009. The lone member of parliament to take action when he saw that our fundamental freedoms were threatened by New Labour’s database state and detention without trial. Since 2016, however, his role as Secretary of State for Brexit has been hapless. It is brilliantly dissected <a href="http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2018/07/09/david-davis-in-the-end-there-was-nothing-behind-the-swagger">by Ian Dunt</a> who sets out how there was “nothing behind the swagger”.</p><p dir="ltr">Johnson’s resignation is more interesting because he hopes it will provide a launch for his desire to become Prime Minister. He let it be known immediately that he regarded the Chequers meeting and its outcome to be the equivalent of “polishing a turd”. This was reported verbatim across the press <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44755049">and by the BBC</a> and I apologise for reproducing the Foreign Secretary’s view of his colleagues’ efforts. They in turn thought, “It takes one to know one”.</p><blockquote data-lang="en" class="twitter-tweet"><p dir="ltr" lang="en">I am proud to have served as Foreign Secretary. It is with sadness that I step down: here is my letter explaining why. <a href="https://t.co/NZXzUZCjdF">pic.twitter.com/NZXzUZCjdF</a></p>— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) <a href="https://twitter.com/BorisJohnson/status/1016373750395277313?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 9, 2018</a></blockquote><p dir="ltr">The way he spent his last hours as Foreign Secretary is a perfect warning. Johnson hired a professional photographer. The results show him from multiple angles posing over his letter of resignation, expensive fountain pen in hand. The lighting is perfect, the hair tousled just so, the eyes focussed on the viewer with a seductive look, while historic wall panels and leather-topped desk emit an ill-deserved patina of tradition. He only left his official residence for the last time after the newspapers had gone to press so that the swiftly released, stage-managed images of him could dominate the front pages. For two years his stint as Foreign Secretary may have been a continuous stream of diplomatic gaffs and blunders that damaged Britain’s standing thanks to his laziness and incompetence. In contrast, Johnson’s command of detail when it comes to his projecting himself is unmatched.</p><p dir="ltr">The would-be leader of the country’s independence revolution is a narcissus who sees no further than his own reflection. The shine is wearing off, however. Most papers declined to act as his mirror.</p><p dir="ltr">To grasp what is really happening you need to understand that the UK is going through a multi-layered political and constitutional breakdown. Brexit is no mere expression of its disintegration. It shapes it and makes its own significant contribution. It amplifies the damage, while postponing the necessary solutions.</p><p dir="ltr">Like all false opportunities, it cannot achieve its aims. As the prime minister has discovered, the only possible Brexit is one that means the UK remains within the orbit of the EU, which the nationalist spirit of Brexit requires us to leave.</p><p dir="ltr">For Johnson the result means the country will have “the status of a colony”. It is easy to mock such claims. But they were responsible for winning the referendum. They also give the inhuman economics of Brexit a form of nationalist appeal. They need a determined, positive response.</p><p dir="ltr">This in turn demands that we make sense of the apparently senseless. Liam Fox gave the most exquisite articulation of the breakdown Brexit represents. Fox is a long time hard-line, free-trade Leaver. May promoted him to be international trade secretary. Last July, he <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jul/20/liam-fox-uk-eu-trade-deal-after-brexit-easiest-human-history">told the BBC</a>, “The free trade agreement that we will have to do with the European Union should be one of the easiest in human history”. Everyone laughed, even at the time.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s important to look back to what was said last year when the hopes of Brexit were still fresh. For their long drawn-out frustration is generating an intense fury. Except for Caroline Lucas the solitary, towering Green MP, none of the parties are capable of addressing the rage sweeping through Brexit supporters.</p><p dir="ltr">His explanation was flabbergasting. The “only reason”, Fox said, that it might not prove to be so very easy, would be if “politics gets in the way of economics”.</p><p dir="ltr">Rarely has a nutshell so neatly contained the kernel of its own self-contradiction. I remember shaking my head, both at the self-assurance in Liam Fox’s tone of voice and the dismissive way he referred to “politics” as if it was ‘mere politics’ – some silly obstacle from a by-gone, collectivist age.</p><p dir="ltr">How could politics not “get in the way” when the European Union is a political project (even if its character is contested)? More important, with respect to Britain and Brexit the motivation for exiting the EU is political. What else is the cry of ‘take back control’? So to suggest that Brexit will be easy unless politics “gets in the way” is absurd. This was the greatest deceit of the referendum. One for which both sides were responsible, the Remainers led by David Cameron just as much as the Leaver side led by Boris Johnson. It was not that the Leave side said it would release money for the NHS when it would not, or that the Remain side said it would lead to an immediate economic disaster when it wouldn’t. It was that they both said it was straightforward and could be done. The choice they jointly offered was a falsehood. Only an already broken political system would have allowed this.</p><p dir="ltr">An even more extraordinary expression of the breakdown is the emergence of Jacob Rees-Mogg, not just as the leader of the hard Brexit group of MPs known as the European Research Group, but as a figure of real influence. It seems that the country’s fate now lies with his calculations as to whether or not to his group should sink the May government and her Chequers proposals (assuming Europe agree to a deal along the lines it sets out, after the necessary further concessions). </p><p>Last Autumn Rees Mogg was touted as a possible challenger to lead the Tory Party and occupy 10 Downing Street. The Daily Telegraph ran one of those <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/13/dont-want-prime-minister-conservative-party-would-do/">false denials</a> which lift the skirt to flash ambition. It was modestly headlined, “I don't want to be Prime Minister, but if I was, here's what the Conservative Party would do.” In effect, it is Rees Mogg’s manifesto. He is an extraordinarily wealthy hedge fund speculator who has made tens of millions without the ability to sharpen a pencil let alone manufacture one. This lent his grasp of economics special authority and understandably he felt the need to share it with the public as he set out his stall. “There is no money at all”, he told us, “except for that earned in the private sector”.</p><p dir="ltr">This was not a slip of the tongue in an interview, it is part of Rees-Mogg’s considered pitch for power, a principle for the country’s government.</p><p dir="ltr">By way of explaining his claim (to repeat it, “There is no money at all, except for that earned in the private sector”) he helpfully provides an example: “Public sector workers may pay tax, but that merely circulates money between departments; tax paid by NHS workers comes and goes from the consolidated fund with some administrative expense in between”. I suppose it follows that if the employment of an NHS nurse is taken over by a private for-profit provider at the same rate of pay, it becomes money. But I won’t ask any reader to comprehend such a worldview. Except to say it is the logical conclusion of a neoliberal ideology – in which only the market generates value.</p><p dir="ltr">First, such a statement is clearly mad, being profoundly dissociated from reality. That a person holding such a view can be seen as credible spokesman for the future of the UK is itself evidence of the British breakdown. Second, all of us can hold bizarre views, especially when it comes to economics. Rees Mogg’s claim embellishes the larger breakdown because it has never been called out. The failure to deal with his nonsense so that it remains no more than marginal, reproduces the larger, cultural collapse of the British political world.</p><p dir="ltr">From the tortured lipstick of the Prime Minister’s smile, via Tony Blair’s lavishly-funded Institute for Global Change, to the flexing tattoos of the builder saying Out means Out and Boris Johnson’s grotesque language (“fuck business” was <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/8075e68c-7857-11e8-8e67-1e1a0846c475">his response</a> according to the Financial Times when asked about concerns of corporations), the United Kingdom has entered the white-water passage of the end of a regime.</p><p dir="ltr" class="mag-quote-left">The United Kingdom has entered the white-water passage of the end of a regime</p><p dir="ltr">To conclude with Boris Johnson’s <a href="https://reaction.life/boris-johnson-resignation-letter-full-pretty-good/?utm_source=MEMBERS&amp;utm_campaign=354ce44c95-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_26_COPY_57&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_ce241a39cc-354ce44c95-151062253">resignation missive</a> itself, which he and others regard a rallying cry. It smells like the halitosis of a body politic rotting from the inside. Its central claim is that to accept the sway of EU regulations is to go into negotiations with “white flags fluttering” as we will have be “surrendering control over our rulebook for goods and agrifoods”. In this he echoes the lengthy, supposed <a href="https://briefingsforbrexit.com/the-chequers-conclusion-a-memorandum-by-martin-howe-qc/">demolition</a> of the Chequers proposal by Martin Howe, who concludes that the UK will be “firmly stuck in the EU’s regulatory tar-pit”. Apparently this will prevent the UK from “developing our economy away from trade with the EU towards trade with high growth areas of the rest of the world”. Howe is right that the UK will be inside the EU’s regulated space. But this does not prevents trade with other areas, on the contrary.</p><p dir="ltr">As for being a tar-pit… Johnson makes the Chequers acceptance of EU regulation the central reason for his denunciation of the proposal in his letter of resignation. Doing so, he pens the incoherence of Brexitism to perfection. When he was Mayor of London, he tells us, the EU prevented him from making large lorries safer and less likely to kill cyclists. He adds, young female cyclists in particular. Even if we allow him this embellishment to improve ‘the story’, his account is the opposite of what happened, as the EU supported his call while it was the UK government that dragged its feet. The dishonesty was widely reported. The Channel 4 <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-boris-johnson-lied-about-eu-safety-regulation-in-his-resignation-letter">Fact Check</a> concluded, “Boris Johnson lied about EU safety regulation in his resignation letter”. </p><p dir="ltr">It is no mere dishonesty, however. Johnson deploys his story to prove his principle point, that within the EU the UK is not an “independent country”. Johnson claims that it was the UK’s subordination to it that frustrated the wishes of the British. He writes, “If a country cannot pass a law to save the lives of female cyclists - when that proposal is supported at every level of UK Government – then I don’t see how that country can truly be called independent”. Actually, in 2014 when he was Mayor of London, UK officialdom resisted the desired changes to make lorries safer. It was the EU parliament that sought to have them legislated! The BBC <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25942323">quotes Johnson saying at the time</a>, “I am deeply concerned at the position of the British government and urge them to embrace this vital issue.”</p><p dir="ltr">It is true that Johnson was onto the danger and the need for regulation first. But it was the EU and not the British government that then supported the cause. The opposite of the claim made in his letter of resignation. The episode demonstrates the advantages of affiliation to Brussels, compared to slothful rule by Westminster. Indeed not only can a country be independent within the EU, perhaps it can’t be truly safe outside it. Even with the scandal of ‘dieselgate’, when it comes to vehicle safety, as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/dave-ward/car-crash-brexit-how-uk-is-set-to-become-second-hand-dealer-in-eu-automotive-regulation">David Ward shows</a>, the “tar-pit” of EU regulation has saved tens of thousands of lives.</p><p dir="ltr">Also, let’s not forget when it comes to the question of Britain’s independence and Boris Johnson, that <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/foreign-secretary-speech-britain-is-back-east-of-suez">he celebrates</a> the description of London as the “Eighth Emirate” and revels in the sale of the country’s assets to Arab states.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">What will happen now? The Prime Minister appeared relaxed, even happy, as she defended the Chequers proposal in the Commons. She must feel that she has put up with the insults and opportunism of Boris Johnson for two years but in the process provided so much rope he has finally hung himself. Now, she needs to face down the threat from Rees Mogg and his ultras who want a no-deal outcome as the only way to sever the country from the EU. Britain will therefore be faced with a choice between the inconceivable, which neither business, the unions nor the civil service can allow and the sad: a country in but not of the EU still searching for its soul.&nbsp;</p><p> <i>This is the third of a mini-series. The first is on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">winning Britain's Civil War,</a> the second on <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">the unsung role of Regulation </a></i></p> <blockquote><p><b><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lure-Greatness-Englands-Brexit-Americas/dp/1783524537">The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit &amp; America’s Trump</a> </b><b>–&nbsp;</b><span>Anthony Barnett</span></p><p><span><br /></span></p><p><span class="blockquote-new">“Brilliant”, <b>Suzanne Moore</b>, “Blistering”, <b>Zadie Smith</b><br />“A dazzling, all-encompassing, big picture analysis of the Brexit vote, easily the best of its kind in print, brilliantly written and endlessly thought-provoking. Do read it.” <b>Andrew Sparrow, Editor, Guardian Politics Live</b><br />“Responding to momentous events with deep and passionate arguments… for his verve, range and insatiable urge to take on vast themes, Barnett deserves loud applause… this is a very good book.” <b>John Harris, New Statesman</b><br />“The best book about Brexit so far… brilliantly caustic, there is some comfort in that Barnett has been right about so much before.” <b>Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times</b><br />“One of the most important political books of 2017”, <b>The Guardian Editorial on Renewing the United Kingdom</b>, 1 January 2018<br />“Essential reading for students of politics, constitutional law and international relations.” <b>Professor David Marquand</b><br />“A wonderful and compelling page turner that artfully weaves together debates on freedom, security, liberty, sovereignty and nationalism... This is a book that deserves to be read.” <b>Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths Professor of Media and Communications</b></span></p></blockquote><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">How to win the Brexit Civil War. An open letter to my fellow Remainers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/nick-inman/6-comforting-lies-about-brexit-and-why-hard-brexiteers-are-being-un-british">6 Brexit myths – and why both Hard Brexiteers and Ultra Remainers are being un-British</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Democracy and government Brexit Anthony Barnett Fri, 13 Jul 2018 11:08:26 +0000 Anthony Barnett 118853 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexiteers like Boris Johnson inhabit an outdated form of sovereignty. A new realm of power - regulation - demands shared authority and is the EU's greatest achievement. Britain helped create it and can't leave it.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <div><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/leviathan.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/leviathan.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="328" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Leviathan T-shirt thanks to <a href="https://www.redbubble.com/people/ofmooseandmen/works/21852168-leviathan-thomas-hobbes?p=t-shirt">Red Bubble T-Shirts</a>.</em></div><div><em><br /></em></div><p>Regulation, reinforced by human rights, has become a new sphere of government. It is now as essential to modern society as executive power, legislative authority and courts of law. The way we experience this is also novel. It does not stem from the influence of politicians, the role of authority whether national or local, or fear of justice. These familiar locations of power continue, but a new force has joined them as our intimate lives have become strangely politicised, from our health and diet to our metadata. The famous frontispiece of Hobbes’s Leviathan shows the people inhabiting the ruler. Today, rules have entered the bodies of citizens - and we want to know who is in charge of them and whether they enhance or imprison us.</p><p>Brexit forces into the open this change, which has been underway since the 1970s. In the UK, those who support Leave have failed to understand the epochal significance of its development, while those who back Remain have failed to articulate it. The European Commission, too, does not grasp its centrality. Brussels as well as Brexiteers are captives of 20th century notions of sovereignty and its unsustainable illusions of grandeur - illusions that are now being tested to their destruction, most immediately with Brexit.</p> <p class="AB">I stumbled across its significance of regulation and am only beginning to get a measure of it. Denunciation of the EU’s over-regulation was the starting point of the long campaign against British membership. Now, a revealing <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/marley-morris/no-appetite-for-deregulatory-post-brexit-britain-new-finding-on-public-attitudes">analysis</a> in openDemocracy reports staggeringly high rates of popular support in the UK for European levels of regulation. They run at between 70-80% - incorporating large majorities of those who voted to Leave. While the big boys bang on about sovereignty, regular people, women somewhat more than men, prefer regulation. Brexit has a weird, old-fashioned veneer because it is so male-dominated and self-important, giving the issue its end of epoch feel. The campaign against it risks being drawn into similar routines and perhaps recognising the centrality of regulation can help prevent this.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Brexit has a weird, old-fashioned veneer because it is so male-dominated and self-important</p> <p class="AB">The significance of regulation came home to me when I recently attended a meeting with a senior member of the Cabinet who is an influential Brexiteer. The UK government will leave the EU, he said confidently, and no longer submit to the ECJ, the European Court of Justice. However, it would seek 'association agreements' with respect to nuclear materials, air travel, pharmaceuticals, automobiles and chemicals. Such agreements would have ECJ oversight. All international agreements necessitated arbitration, he told us, helpfully. The rules would be accepted at every point in the production process. When someone said such ongoing arrangements would come at a high cost, he nodded assent. In effect, the Brexiteer told us, all our manufacturing needs to be within the aegis of the EU’s regulated space. </p><p class="AB">Shortly after&nbsp;<em>Open Europe</em>, which is directed by Brexit-supporting Henry Newman who once worked for Michael Gove, published <a href="http://2ihmoy1d3v7630ar9h2rsglp-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/180601-FINAL-PAPER.pdf">Striking a Balance</a>, a report that recommends an across-the-board agreement on these lines. Its justification: “The EU is our most important goods’ market and the most highly-regulated sectors – electrical, automobiles, and chemicals – are the areas which we trade most with the EU and are growing the fastest”. Unlike Boris Johnson, who I'll come to in a moment, Brexiteers who study the evidence <em>want</em> the UK to be in the Single Market for goods. The government <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/94ef2bb0-6b31-11e8-b6eb-4acfcfb08c11">will apply</a> “to stay in the European standards system for industry products and services”.&nbsp;</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Brexiteers who study the evidence&nbsp;want&nbsp;the UK to be in the Single Market for goods</p> <p class="AB">It is easy enough to ask, as we should, what, then, is the point of Brexit? Another <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/c62bba24-7543-11e8-b6ad-3823e4384287">good question</a> is whether the EU will agree to the request. I want to ask why even passionate Brexiteers now see no way out of the EU’s regulated space, certainly in traded goods. The crux of the answer is that that there is no way out of regulation. </p><p class="AB">By regulation I don’t just mean high profile financial regulation. I mean its ongoing, background role in ensuring the quality of the air we breathe, the medicines we take, the food we consume and the safety of the flights we board. You could undertake the enormous costs of building custom checks for goods going between the UK from the EU. But what is the point, if you then have to recreate and duplicate inside the UK the entire apparatus of regulations, with their ongoing autonomy from parliamentary 'sovereignty'? The idea that once the UK left the EU Britain could ‘do away’ with regulation from Brussels, because it is mostly unnecessary, has proven to be an utter fantasy. Britain’s wannabe Donald Trump, Nigel Farage,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/nigel-farage-says-britain-could-be-worse-off-after-brexit-8005665lm">told</a> the BBC, “we will finish up perhaps in an even worse place than we are now because we won’t be free to de-regulate”. But no modern democracy would wish to deregulate. It is not the road to freedom. And as the UK government is learning, public opinion will not let it deregulate. This is a fundamental lesson of Brexit. </p><p class="AB">The lesson is related to, but goes further than, Will Davis's <a href="http://www.perc.org.uk/project_posts/liberalism-after-brexit/">notable response</a> to the referednum result in 2016. Drawing on David Graeber's <em>The Utopia of Rules</em>, Davis emphasised that in an important way "<em>capitalism is regulation</em>" and concluded that the ideology of Brexit is illusory. &nbsp; </p> <p class="AB">In the UK, these dire, Brexit-times have bred impatience, shallowness and lack of reflection. I want to resist these and examine an activity which may seem petty and irritating but isn’t. A misconception needs to be undone, an everyday prejudice that certainly had me in its grip, and has blinded us to a reality that cannot be escaped. To comprehend why I will start with a glance at the conceptual inheritance embedded in the notion of sovereignty itself. It makes for a long article but the reward is that I will show it is impossible to ‘take back control’ in the way the Leave campaigners promised. They are living in the past. It is desirable and possible for countries to retain lots of democratic legislative, executive and judicial independence within the European Union. But with respect to the new, fourth branch of government we are <em>hard-wired</em> into a union of regulation. Something that is also, and not incidentally, to our huge mutual, personal and bodily benefit.</p> <h2><strong>The separation of powers </strong></h2> <p class="AB">The dominant, early modern justifications of state power, from to Bodin to Hobbes, were concerned with the absolute nature of sovereignty, how to justify it, exercise it and ensure consent. In the eighteenth century the concept of the separation of powers was developed, most notably by Montesquieu. He looked at the nature of government not from the point of view of the ruler but from that of property owners. They needed good, strong government to ensure their rights. They also needed to preserve their privileges from the danger of such government becoming a tyranny over them. Montesquieu's solution was to elaborate on the way government involves three forms of activity: the legislative, the executive and the judicial, and to argue that their seperate autonomy was essential for the preservation of liberty. Each would check the others and thereby protect society from arbitrary power. Thus the executive (whether a monarch or those ruling in a monarch’s name) could not tax or expropriate except with the agreement of the parliament or assembly and only then within the rule of law. </p> <p class="AB">Recognisably modern, republican claims that there ought to be independent authorities within the realm were not new. Section IV of the Leveller’s <em>Agreement of the People</em>, lists 'reserved' or 'native' rights such as freedom to worship and equality before the law – rights that its proposed elected parliament could not alter. At the end of the 18th century the separation of the three functions of government were famously institutionalised in America’s pioneering constitution. Abroad, as ‘Commander in Chief’, the president had the military powers of a king. But at home his executive authority was circumscribed by both the independence of the legislature in Congress and the arbitration of the law by the Supreme Court. (Today, when Trump <a href="https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/1003616210922147841?lang=en">claims</a> he has the absolute right to pardon himself, he seeks to resurrect a monarchical authority which still casts its shadow across America’s founding document.) </p> <p class="AB">The extreme nature of the separation of powers in the United States proved exceptional. Even there, they overlap and interact. Congress approves presidential appointments to the Supreme Court. Currently it does so on party lines and as a consequence the court has become politicised - in effect its independence is diminished more than in many European constitutions. </p> <p class="AB">The practical reality of the three functions became the matrix for describing other law-based systems. In Britain, Bagehot, in his famous mid-19th century account of what he called <em>The English Constitution</em>, praised the efficient way the Cabinet '<em>fused'&nbsp;</em>executive and legislative power, so that members of the legislature exercised executive government. The legacy of this <em>undivided&nbsp;</em>sovereignty remains central to the trauma of the Brexit referendum. In practical terms, the Victorians feared the consequences of the all-powerful fusion, should the extension of the franchise bring the unwashed to power. They ensured the independence of the executive arm by creating a permanent civil service that could not be replaced by an incoming government. But the mentality of parliamentary absolutism defined the horizons of the British system. In 1885, in what became its defining tome,&nbsp;<em>The Law of the Constitution</em>, A.V. Dicey described it as "the despotism of the King in Parliament". He summarised a tradition that goes back to Hobbes, whose <em>Leviathan</em> in the same famous frontispiece holds the public sword "unconstrained". To this day this remains, "<a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/from-humanism-to-hobbes/708CE52707E26EF4A71E4EF65398128F">the very definition of sovereignty</a>" in the United Kingdom. We have not left centuries of history behind us. </p><p>Not so in most of Europe, where the earlier tradition of constrained power re-emerged in the codified constitutions of the later 20th century, creating a tide of protection and extending the rights of citizens. In a grim <a href="https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/how-brexit-will-erase-your-rights">article</a> in Prospect, Vernon Bogdanor analyses and laments the UK's looming loss of rights if it abandons the 'protected' constitutional model of the EU to revert back to Hobbes. It is a traditional argument well put but insufficient. Today, we are surrounded by a new kind of agency that does not oversee the exercise of power, judge who breaks the law or administer the armed forces or public services. Instead these agencies regulate.</p><p>If you embrace the Hobbesian, Westminster notion of the state, as Brexiteers do, then power is zero-sum. Either one has it or the other does. In contrast, the powers of regulation are an exercise in mutual collaboration with the aim of collective gain. The process is win-win not win-loose. For the&nbsp;Anglo-British this cannot define the nature of power - because sovereignty <em>cannot</em>&nbsp;be shared, it can only be singular. There are endless examples of this taken-for-granted assumption across the commentariat, both Remainers and Leavers. To take an example at random, <span>Oliver Wiseman, the editor of <span class="MsoHyperlink"><a href="https://capx.co/">CapX website</a></span>, says he </span><span><span>prefers</span> "the return of powers from an undemocratic supranational organisation to a democratic national government”. The assumption: that power is something you have or do not have and it can be returned. But in many fields there is no such possibility. The power of regulation resides in relationships that are negotiated. The process needs to be democratised but it can't be 'returned'. The underlying premise of Brexit is that sovereignty is simple. It is not. If it ever was, it isn't simple now. It is complex, multi-layered and in the age of corporations no longer something nation states can monopolise over their territory. Hence Brexit cannot be 'Brexit', as in Boris Johnson's call for a "full British Brexit". Sovereignty is no longer a meal we can eat alone. <br /></span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">The power of regulation resides in the relationships that are negotiated. How this happens needs to be democratised but they can't be 'returned'. The underlying premise of Brexit does not hold</span></p> <h2><strong>The rise and nature of regulation</strong></h2> <p class="AB">I owe much of my thinking about what has happened to Frank Vibert, author <em><a href="http://www.cambridge.org/gb/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/comparative-politics/rise-unelected-democracy-and-new-separation-powers#b0QP8Gc4xeSC2zup.99">The Rise of the Unelected</a></em> and <em><a href="https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/the-new-regulatory-space">The New Regulatory Space</a>, <a href="https://www.e-elgar.com/shop/the-new-regulatory-space">Reframing Democratic Governance</a></em>. He describes how over the last half-century unelected bodies, from economic regulators, to science and medical councils, and now digital watchdogs, backed by a new range of auditors and ‘risk managers’, have proliferated. Democracies need regulation for a wide variety of reasons that have grown out of an increasingly complex, science-based, long-range market-place. New relationships are being created between the state and the market, while ethical questions of safety, accountability, privacy and consumer and employee rights have emerged. The internet and the explosion of digital platforms has intensified the process greatly.</p> <p class="AB">Regulation goes back to the first British Factory Acts. It was strongly developed in the USA in the New Deal to rein in business. In 1991, Cass Sunstein wrote a pioneering account of this in <em>After the Rights Revolution, Reconceiving the Regulatory Space</em> and attempted to set out legal principles to govern regulation within the framework of the US constitution. This year, Paul Tucker, who was deputy director of the Bank of England, published a massive, thoughtful account, <em><a href="https://www.hive.co.uk/Search/Keyword?keyword=Unelected%20Power%3A%20the%20quest%20for%20legitimacy%20in%20central%20banking%20and%20the%20regulatory%20state&amp;productType=0">Unelected Power: the quest for legitimacy in central banking and the regulatory state</a>.</em> He argues that it is dangerous for democracy if regulation over-reaches itself to become a fourth branch of government and he sets out principles to ensure it remains accountable. His arguments are echoed by David Currie, outgoing chairman of the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/competition-and-markets-authority">Competition and Markets Authority</a>. In a <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/david-currie-on-why-competition-matters-to-the-whole-of-the-uk">valedictory lecture</a> he emphasised how its regulatory power is wholly independent of parliament and ministers and is deployed “even when no one is breaking the law” to investigate whole markets (such as the price and practice of <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/cma-investigates-funerals-sector">funerals</a>). Yet because its authority is set out by parliament and subject to judicial review, Currie sees it as subordinate to the traditional structures. </p> <p class="AB">This is arguably true for high-profile regulators taking specific decisions with what Ed Balls <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1961&amp;v=eiM2WLRXDPA">calls</a> “first order distributional consequences”. But even if they are answerable to elected politicians they govern their specific domains independently and continuously, outside the legislature and executive. <em>The New Regulatory Space </em>is detailed and pathbreaking<em>. </em>Vibert shows that in addition to its high profile role there is now such a wide use of regulation it can no longer be regarded as a subordinate activity deployed to address specific issues. Instead, regulation, “needs to be seen as a system... the regulatory space performs a role of social coordination as basic as those provided in other domains.” </p> <p class="AB">A parallel example would be the way ‘cyber-space’ has now added a new dimension to land, sea and air, without replacing them. We live in the same physical world as the twentieth century but not in the same way.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Regulation has become a parallel form of authority over how we live</p><p class="AB">Regulation has become a parallel form of authority over how we live. This has enormous dangers. We now need to ensure it answers to citizens democratically; which in turn presents a new kind of constitutional challenge that will not be met by traditional political responses. Otherwise, our democracy, such as it is, could be replaced by hi-tech dependency that subordinates us to a networked ‘social-credit’ regime of the kind being pioneered in China to pre-empt democracy there. </p> <p class="AB">With the danger comes the possibility of a more human, decentralised self-government. That is for the future. Here, I simply want to examine what it means in the present; starting with three perspectives: that of the law, for a single industry and for us as individuals. </p> <h2><strong>A view from the bench</strong></h2> <p>In March, Ian Forrester, a member of the General Court of the European Union since 2015, gave the <a href="http://www.advocates.org.uk/media/2724/forrester_macfadyen_lecture.pdf">MacFadyen lecture</a> in Edinburgh. He addressed the consequences of Brexit on “the technical regulation of our daily lives” from a judge’s point of view. I am going to quote from his lecture at some length. He provides an exemplary summary of how, in the EU, “the research, consultation, debate, and decision making are done collectively, usually involving expert agencies or committees”. his account shows the dynamic, continuous nature of regulation in fast-changing environment: </p> <blockquote><p>Independent EU agencies are responsible for regulating pharmaceuticals, food safety, security, animal feed, maritime safety, aviation and many other topics. The agencies are located in… cities across the EU. The extent of the responsibility of each agency varies but each of them is engaged in enforcement, investigation and other regulatory actions. These agencies employ experts and produce recommendations or opinions. These technical recommendations are then considered as policy and political questions by the Member States who try after debate to reach a common position… Thousands of individual problems arise on subjects such as food safety, customs, health, environment, data substances, privacy, animal welfare, private international law and the rest. These debates are resolved within the technical committees… there are scores, maybe hundreds, of technical or advisory committees staffed by national experts. The purpose of these mechanisms is to help form and implement the language of the legislation — making it work in the real world…. As technology has advanced and as technical choices have become more sophisticated, an ever wider and deeper mass of regulation has emerged. The CBI (Conferderation of British Industry) has estimated that the roles of 34 EU agencies will need to be replicated in the UK to perform for the UK the elaboration of technical regulations parallel to those currently produced under the auspices of the EU…</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p class="AB">As of the date of a Brexit, the process of rulemaking and enforcement within these expert entities will not stop, and indeed should not stop, since new dangers will be identified, new products will be proposed, new licensing requirements will emerge and adverse events about existing products will be reported. To take one example, pharmaceuticals are today subject to successive tests in the laboratory, then on animals, then on healthy human volunteers, then on selected patients in order to demonstrate safety and efficacy. Once approved, the performance of the medicine is regularly monitored and apparent problems (adverse health events) reported, for corrective action to be taken. Animal feed in line with the advice of the Scientific Committee on Animal Nutrition is subject to comparable but lighter rules, as are food additives and cosmetics.</p><p class="AB">&nbsp;</p><p class="AB">The need for a process to approve or disapprove products or standards is of obvious importance. The decisions taken can have serious economic, human and environmental consequences… Regulation is an ongoing process. Science and industry keep discovering new techniques and technologies and creating new products. It is not practical to decide each new inclusion on a white list or a black list via a Parliamentary vote, still less a vote by 28 parliaments. The answer to the democratic impossibility of parliamentary voting is expert advice, followed by the adoption of secondary legislation. …</p></blockquote> <p class="AB">It seems that the EU has in this way developed over 11,000 regulations, set over 60,000 standards and its different agencies have taken over 18,000 decisions on interpreting regulations and laws. Forrester notes that it could take ten years to incorporate them into British law, if each is accorded scrutiny. This alone shows that a process has been taking place that is beyond the reach and capacity of traditional legislatures. The result was acknowledged by the prime minister in her Mansion House <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-on-our-future-economic-partnership-with-the-european-union">speech</a> in March when she finally set out ambitions for Brexit, “the UK will need to make a strong commitment that its regulatory standards will remain as high as the EU’s”.</p> <p class="AB">The continuous development of the rules that we need, to manage the dangers of science-based progress that we enjoy, can’t be legislated by traditional parliamentary institutions or overseen by traditional executive power. Regulation is an ongoing process of investigation, consideration and enforcement, different from both while it also has a quasi-judicial role. This is now integral to the everyday life of government in an age of international trade. We live in a regulated world.</p> <h2><strong>Britain’s most profitable export sector and its Foreign Secretary</strong></h2> <p class="AB">A lucid, <a href="https://www.cia.org.uk/Portals/0/Documents/Policy%20Position%20Statements/171207%20REACH%20letter%20to%20Michael%20Gove.pdf?ver=2018-01-04-162410-830">two-page letter</a> in December last year explains why we live in a regulated world, from the viewpoint of just one critical industry. It is addressed to Michael Gove as the Secretary of State for the Environment. The author is Steve Elliott, Chief Executive of the UK’s Chemical Industries Association, a sector, he points out, that is “the UK’s largest manufacturing export earner”. </p> <p class="AB">Ten years ago, the EU created <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/reach/reach_en.htm">REACH</a> (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), whose landing page explains its regulatory aims and justification. When it was set up, Elliott admits, the industry “was very concerned about the regulatory/testing costs”. Now, he reports, while imperfect and in need of changes, they have embraced it. It has worked, and is setting global standards that customers want. He makes a strong “plea” that the UK remains in REACH, sketches some of the chilling costs of leaving, and points out that if it does, given the huge importance of the EU market, his members have to respond to “two regulatory bodies”. This would make a “mockery” of the “regulatory simplification” promised by Brexit. </p> <p class="AB">Why two? Because here in the UK the chemical industry needs and desires regulation and would have to create its own version of REACH: “our industry would wish to highlight that it recognises the need for robust regulation. We are a high hazard sector and it is only right that we are regulated accordingly, giving confidence to our workforce, our local communities and consumers of our products”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">The chemical industry needs and desires regulation</p> <p class="AB">The UK’s most successful manufacturing export sector demands ongoing regulation to assist its success. It needs to participate in the regulatory processes it has invested in, being conceived and implemented by the EU, that are becoming global standards. Elliott acknowledges that Britain is capable of creating its own regulatory framework for chemicals. But his mention of the cost to his industry is an understatement. The companies are determined not to suffer such duplication. Slowly but surely industry will have its way. As Ivan Rogers, the UK’s most experienced Ambassador to Brussels (who was fired by Theresa May for giving honest advice on the realities of the EU) <a href="https://policyscotland.gla.ac.uk/blog-sir-ivan-rogers-speech-text-in-full/">points out</a>, Britain’s industries are “making it clear that they have no intention of replicating, at great cost, regulatory capability which already exists”. This, he adds, “is yet another reason why the EU side has long since concluded that the UK would not walk out. Because it could not.”</p><p class="mag-quote-center">You would expect after two years that his advocacy of Brexit would be more than hot air</p> <p class="AB">In terms of what passes for the debate about Brexit, it is important to register that there has been no serious, counter-argument to the detailed, reasoned case, based on the realities of regulation. No one, therefore, can be in any doubt about the imperative need for a regulatory regime outside normal, parliamentary legislation and the impossible costs, practical and financial, of attempting to duplicate one. No one, that is, unless you are Boris Johnson oblivious to evidence. It is striking, watching Johnson in action, how he is unable to move on from the referendum campaign of 2016, that he led. You would expect after two years that his advocacy of Brexit would be more than hot air. Instead, it is as if he already knows that it was the high-point of his influence and he clings to its tropes and his now wearisome bonhomie. In a diatribe to fellow MPs, leaked to <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexspence/theresa-may-has-been-urged-to-sack-boris-johnson-but-shes?utm_term=.wf2822z7qn#.wkEQooWlM6">Buzzfeed</a>, the man who is its Foreign Secretary attacked his own government’s negotiations in case they end up, as he knows they must, with the UK “locked in orbit around the EU…and not having freedom with our regulatory framework”. The casual suggestion that Britain can benefit from the “freedom” to regulate for itself shows Johnson’s lack of seriousness. This is confirmed by <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6604089/boris-johnson-full-british-brexit-eu-regulation/">an article</a> in the <em>Sun </em>on the second anniversary of the Referendum. Johnson demands, "the freedom to bust out of the corsets of EU regulation and rules - to do things our way" and not "some perpetual pushme-pullyou arrangement". &nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p class="AB"><span>&nbsp;</span>There is not a scintilla of evidence that he has read the letter from the Chemical Industries Association or similar ones from every sector of industry, or from Japanese and European foreign investors, with respect to regulation, or even that he absorbed what the prime minister said in her Mansion House speech when he sat in front of her. Gove at least appears to have registered the evidence. Yet Brexit is personified by Johnson more than anyone.</p> <h2>Regulation for you and me</h2> <p class="AB">What does regulation mean for us as individuals? I’ve cited various experts and regulators and quoted a judge and the spokesman for the chemical industry. All this associates regulation with top-down authority. But the strength and vitality of the regulatory transformation of government is rooted in popular demand. There are two reasons why this is not obvious. Wealthy, speculative enemies of good government have funded the populist drumbeat attacking ‘regulations’ as ‘elitist’. Second, in our everyday lives, while we worry about the purity of what is sold to us, we only think about regulation when something goes wrong. This needs to change. We need to be able to challenge and improve regulation when it is clumsy, stupid or disempowering - to do so we need to make regulation democratic.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">we only think about regulation when something goes wrong, while unconsciously assuming its existence</p> <p class="AB">Today, we rely on regulation. Back in the mid-twentieth century Britain if you wanted a take-away meal you might go to a locally owned chippy and pay cash. Today, you are just as likely to order and pay for it over the phone or even online, from a pizza chain. In doing so you have a set of expectations. Even if these do not include concern for working conditions in the kitchens and for the delivery workers, as they should, you will certainly expect that your card details are secure and the food healthy. The latter is especially important as those fullfilling your order may be temporary employees with no direct responsibility for the content of what you are eating. You do not want state surveillance of your activity. But in the background you expect it to have ensured oversight of banking and payment systems and rules about what goes into our food.</p> <p class="AB">We expect official standards to be in operation in the background of our everyday lives in a way that is historically novel. Even for simple activity. Previously if you were poor you wrapped a cloth around your hand to take something out of the oven, should you be cooking for yourself and your family. Now we buy oven gloves. We do not expect these to melt or burn easily. If they contain synthetic materials these must not be emit toxic fumes if singed. If you want free trade in oven gloves they could be made anywhere. Standards are required so that wholesalers know that even the cheapest are minimally safe. This requires regulation. </p> <p class="AB">In Trump’s United States, the corporate lobby holds sway. It has just <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/07/us/politics/epa-toxic-chemicals.html?emc=edit_th_180608&amp;nl=todaysheadlines&amp;nlid=304438610608">been reported</a>, the chemical industry has “scored a big win” and persuaded the Environment Protection Agency that when it assesses the use of dangerous chemicals it will “exclude from its calculations any potential exposure caused by the substances’ presence in the air, the ground or water’”. Think about that. However callous the USA, at some point its victims will capture popular sympathy when it suffers its version of Grenfell Tower, which now stands as a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-3-burnt-alive">witness</a> to the consequence of permissive deregulation. As the fridge&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/06/grenfell-tower-inqury-kitchen-fire-resident-behailu-kebede-media-scapegoat">caught fire</a> in Flat 16 of the fourth floor of Grenfell Tower on the 14 June 2017, it sucked a whirlwind of inadequate, flawed, ill-enforced regulation and cuts in fire-brigade risk assessment and enforcement, into a murderous inferno. It was nothing to do with the EU but it would never have happened had the EU set the UK’s building standards and their implementation.</p> <p class="AB">The result is that people want there to be regulations. In a remarkable<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/marley-morris/no-appetite-for-deregulatory-post-brexit-britain-new-finding-on-public-attitudes"> article</a> drawing on a research and polling by IPPR, Marley Morris analysed how, historically, the call for deregulation was a keynote of the anti-EU campaigns and the creation of anti-EU sentiment. In 2013, freeing British business from “excessive regulation” was singled out by then Prime Minister David Cameron, as one of his main aims, when he announced the party’s commitment to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and then call a referendum. The EU could not concede. As the referendum approached the Leave side was justifiably accused of seeking to strip the public of such regulations as the Working Time Directive, which limits hours of work. Then their polling and focus groups reported that such de-regulation was very unpopular. So the Leave campaign dropped its call. Morris explains, </p> <blockquote><p class="AB">“The root cause of this shift was simply that there was – and indeed still is – no public appetite for a deregulatory agenda. Our own <a href="https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/leaving-the-eu-not-the-european-model">polling</a> with Opinium has found widespread public support for some of the most controversial EU-derived employment, environmental and financial legislation… Renewable energy targets – another bugbear of earlier Eurosceptics – are endorsed or considered too low by 74 per cent… more than 80 per cent of the public are <a href="https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/have-your-cake-or-eat-it">opposed</a> to lowering food safety standards. When confronted with this wall of public opinion, it is no surprise that leave campaigners adapted their position as the referendum date neared”. </p></blockquote> <p class="AB">The anti-EU campaign is one of the strangest on record. It began by demanding an end to European regulation while increasing trade with the EU. Its triumph has led it to embrace less trade with the EU while retaining its level of regulation! But when it comes to 80% you can’t argue with “the people’s will”. Or as Theresa May put it in har Mansion House speech that Johnson praises but ignores, in "areas like workers’ rights or the environment, the EU should be confident that we will not engage in a race to the bottom in the standards and protections we set. There is no serious political constituency in the UK which would support this – quite the opposite".</p> <h2>The nature of the European Union </h2> <p>We can now see the full significance of the European Union. It is the continent's regulatory space. Chris Gray put it well in a passionate and despairing <a href="http://chrisgreybrexitblog.blogspot.com/2018/05/forty-years-of-failed-political.html">post</a> on the British political class’s “failure of leadership”. With respect to Europe, their</p> <blockquote><p>fundamental misunderstanding [is] about the single market, ironically since Britain was in large part its architect. The core of that misunderstanding is to regard the single market as an economic entity or international trade area whereas, in fact, it is more precisely a regulatory entity and area. It is this which has enabled the EU to dismantle non-tariff barriers to trade, including trade in services, in a way that goes beyond anything that exists anywhere else in the world. But, inevitably, this entails a shared legal and political infrastructure. How else can market-wide rules and regulations be made and enforced? The failure to understand this basic definitional fact, allied with the ‘in 1975 we were told it was just a trade bloc’ myth, gave rise to all of the ‘bendy banana’ type stories that ended up with the ‘take back control’ slogan of 2016.</p></blockquote><p>In his recent <a href="https://policyscotland.gla.ac.uk/blog-sir-ivan-rogers-speech-text-in-full/">lecture</a> Ivan Rogers makes a similar point in much starker terms:</p> <blockquote><p>The correct way to think of the EU in economic terms is as a “regulatory union”, with the appetite and ability to extend its rules extraterritorially: the so-called Brussels effect. The EU is a superpower in no other respect. But in this critical one, it is. And the idea that, on its own, the UK, can compete with massive regional trading blocs – the EU, the US, China – as a standard setter, on industrial goods to data, is an illusion. And leaving a regulatory union, including a Customs Union is really much more difficult than leaving a free trade area.</p></blockquote> <p>We have to go further. The way to think about the EU in terms of constitutional sovereignty is as <em>the European union of regulation</em>. This is its core achievement and greatest attainment. It is so fundamental that whether or not the Euro survives, and however much the Union may fail on critical issues like migration, it is not going to break up. It has achieved an enormous, ongoing material and human advance by responding to the need for the new and now essential domain of government.</p> <h2>Who knew?</h2> <p>Why hasn’t the significance of regulation for the EU been recognised? Routledge have just published a densely researched <a href="https://www.routledge.com/Routledge-Handbook-of-the-Politics-of-Brexit/Diamond-Nedergaard-Rosamond/p/book/9781138049369">Handbook on Brexit</a>, edited by Patrick Diamond, Peter Nedergaard and Ben Rosamond. It has 23 scholarly articles and aims to set out a “systematic academic overview” of the Brexit process. They encompass the special character of the British state, the English and Irish questions, the role of the city of London, the flaws of the EU and the need to rethink theories of its nature. But regulation only figures as an aspect of financial policy for the City of London. The respected Centre for European Reform published a 50 page overview of how to <a href="http://www.cer.eu/sites/default/files/report_relaunching_eu_nov17.pdf">Relaunch the EU</a> in November last year. It is sober, thorough and addresses the need to make the EU more responsive. But it does not mention regulation or the need to make this accountable. The arguments that Vibert has developed remain peripheral to mainstream thinking. </p> <p class="AB">There is a prejudice against regarding regulation as anything other than a secondary activity or an add on. This extends back to the origins of the EU’s creation of itself as a regulatory space in the 1980s. In his classic account of the EU, <em>The Passage to Europe,&nbsp;</em>Luuk Van Middelaar recounts that when Jacques Delors was appointed President of the Commission in 1984 he was ambitious to create a sovereign Europe. He toured the capitals of the then EU to see if they would support a unified army, a common currency, or institutional reform. Instead, they only shared an interest in an improved internal market. Quotas and tariffs had been banned but a “maze” of rules and regulations prevented trade. A disappointed Delors accepted what he could get. He applied the EU’s approach pioneered by its founder Jean Monnet, aptly described by <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/953-the-new-old-world">Perry Anderson</a> as “incremental totalization”. Delors proposed an 8 year timetable of 300 legislative measures each member state should adopt to create what we now know as the Single Market. The Commission’s paper justified this to itself, explaining, “Economic integration has to precede European union”. As Middelaar dryly comments, “Europe was escaping into low politics again, while longing to engage in high politics”.</p> <p class="AB">Regulation was regarded as the dull but necessary preparatory work of the kitchen. The justification for it was the future feast in the dining room of global sovereignty. This may still be the hope for some. But the feast was and is a fantasy. Democratic nation-states are not going to fuse into a superstate. As the current President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/31/italy-cancelled-league-rallies-signal-political-impasse-may-soon-end">just emphasised</a> with respect to Italy, if only to shield the EU from responsibility for it, “A country is a country, a nation is a nation. Countries first, Europe second.” But meanwhile, in the kitchen, something else has been cooking, an autonomous continental-wide system of regulation that now provides many essential safeguards for Europe’s economies and consumers, whose standards for hazardous products and materials are becoming a benchmark around the world.</p><p class="mag-quote-center">Regulation is the Cinderella of the Union.</p><p class="AB">Regulation is the Cinderella of the Union. It is despised by the stepmothers of the media, and obliged to undertake the routine chores while the Euro and its ugly sisters enjoy the silk sheets of endless attention. But midnight has struck for the ball of ever-closer union and super-statehood. On whose feet will the glorious slippers of the European Union fit, if not regulation? </p> <h2>Holding regulation to account</h2> <p>What are the principles we need to ensure regulation is answerable to us as citizens? Paul Tucker sets out some bold ones for first order agencies like the Bank of England, including clear mandates set out by parliaments. All bodies that undertake regulation should be independent of those whose activities they regulate. This might seem obvious, but regulatory capture is often the name of the game – especially when it comes to sweetheart auditing. The greatest recent scandal dramatically confirms the life and death need for robust regulation, outside of political control in an age of corporate power. The Volkswagen emissions disaster saw the German company sell eleven million cars that filled cities around the world with lethal nitrogen oxide fumes. <a href="http://fortune.com/inside-volkswagen-emissions-scandal/"> Fortune</a> published a gripping description of how this was permitted by the crony networks of German politics. At one point it describes how regulation was “watered down to the point of meaninglessness...[when] the German government amended its rules so that inspections of emissions performance would be based solely on readings from a car’s own ‘onboard diagnostic’ system, effectively ceding total control to the automakers”. It was also a grotesque failure by the EU to ensure independent oversight of testing.</p> <p class="AB">Another principle is that every agency should have a duty to explain itself in clear language to the public as well as the workforces and businesses directly affected by it. Such reports should also be subject to open challenge and questioning. Regulation must be answerable and should relish explaining itself, as a rational form of policy making with the public interest at heart. Only if different national publics are able to see that continental-wide regulation makes sense for them and is rooted in their own interests, will it be experienced as a gain of control and democratic mastery.</p> <p class="AB">An additional principle is needed to build on this. Regulation should protect and encourage diversity and empower responsible judgment - and not create costs that only corporations can fulfil. Like nature, progress consists of generating an abundance of variety. Sometimes the EU does achieve this. Thus its regulations for <a href="https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32012R1151&amp;from=en">Protected Designations of Origins, EU 1151/2012</a> covers nearly 1,500 food products, from Stilton to Parma ham within the EU and without, to ensure that no description can suggest that products “originates in a geographical area other than the true place of origin...”. </p> <p class="AB">The democratic politics of regulation has yet to begin, outside of the Green movement. There is much to learn. But the fundamental point is that regulation must be brought out of the kitchen to be recognised as an extension of our democratic interests and intelligence, rather than being caricatured as the negation of self-government. For this to happen, the European Union and its Commission need to abandon their presumption that their calling is to replace national governments. Instead of regarding it as the dirty-work preparing the foundations for a super-state, regulation needs to be treated as the EU’s towering, irreplaceable achievement. One that assists national governments. On behalf of its member states the EU has created the new domain of sovereignty – regulation - with huge savings and advantages for all. Its accumulation of agencies, rules, and decision-making may seem to Brexiteers like the mere threads tying down the British Gulliver. But they are neither Lilliputian in strength nor chains of restriction: they are the inescapable and potentially liberating liaisons of a <em>union of regulation</em>. A union that empowers citizens across the continent, a union from which Britain should not wish to escape and, as we are now witnessing, cannot.</p> <h2><strong>Personal note</strong></h2> <p class="AB">Last month I published an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">open letter</a> to my fellow Remainers in the UK about how to win the civil war that has broken out over Brexit. Millions of UK voters said <em>Basta</em> – enough! – when asked whether they wanted things to continue as they are. This was captured by the slogan 'Take Back Control'. To combat this we need a positive story about EU membership that engages with sovereignty and immigration as well as the combattive one attacking the oligarchs who back Brexit. This is not difficult for me because, while I'm critical of the EU, I regard myself as an English European. I delight in Europe and take an interest in how it and the UK are governed. When I wrote&nbsp;<em>The Lure of Greatness</em>&nbsp;in the aftermath of the referendum I forensically examined the decomposition of the British constitution thanks to the Brexit crisis and how resolving this is central to overcoming Brexit. But the vast majority of my compatriots <em>including</em> most of those who voted Remain don't yet share my interest in sovereignty and the constitution.&nbsp;</p><p class="AB">Why, then, do millions show such stalwart, unwavering desire to repair the breach with the EU, while they remain indifferent to its institutions? Why do they regard Brexit as bonkers when they care little for Brussels and have no interest in how it works, apart from perhaps regarding it as tiresome and self-important? Something practical and not at all about the high institutions must be going on which has normalised living as part of the European Union. Something like the widely <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1uJaJddzP4">shared interview</a> with a van driver who rang James O’Brien’s call-in programme and explained how Brexit would destroy his livelihood. Although no one uses such a mouthful, he was singing the praise of its shared regulatory space. Maybe, I thought to myself, I too have got too caught up in traditional notions of high politics and sovereignty while the nature of government has moved on. </p> <p class="AB">The defining ideologist of Brexit is the <em>Daily Mail. </em>It <a href="https://www.pressreader.com/uk/daily-mail/20180209/281483571838308">describes</a> the main motive for leaving the EU as, “a deep-seated human yearning to recover our national identity and independence”. Must it be the case, then, that those of us who voted Remain are indifferent to, or have no yearning for, national identity and independence? I think not. I claim that we are more free in a fundamental way as persons - as English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish and British persons - inside the EU. Our liberty is enhanced within it, for all the dangers. You could answer that it is a false binary: that we can enjoy both patriotism and partnership, national identity and international regulation. Indeed, but such an answer takes a side. The spirit of Brexit insists on a single priority. For the <em>Daily Mail</em> our national identity and independence are being lost and must be “recovered”. It sees mass migration and the European Court of Justice as invaders that have penetrated our national space. It demands they be repelled to save our country and its great institutions. If judges show themselves to be “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemies_of_the_People_(headline)">enemies of the people</a>” and peers of the realm have become “<a href="https://forums.digitalspy.com/discussion/2281029/daily-mail-brands-house-of-lords-traitors-in-ermine">traitors in ermine</a>” they merely confirm how far subversion has reached. </p><p class="AB">The Prime Minister shares this view. In her first <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/05/theresa-mays-conference-speech-in-full/">speech</a> to a Conservative Party conference as its leader she warned, “if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere”. This is the <em>Daily Mail</em>, Brexit point of view: our national identity is singular. The opposite, pro-European point of view has just been powerfully described by <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/david-marquand/england-ireland-scotland-wales-time-for-all-to-jump-in-to-debate">David Marquand</a>: all of us have multiple identies. How, then, is it possible to share more than one identity and live with others who have their multiple allegiances - and not fall into the vertiginous vacuum of nowhere? How can the country – any country – hold together, if its people are <em>not </em>joined by the same, single “deep-seated, human yearning”? The answer is that regulation and human rights make multiple identities nationally feasible, by providing a practical framework for living together. They could hardly be more important for us.</p><p class="AB"><em>This is the second in a mini-series. The first is on the <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">Brexit civil war</a>. Next, <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/boris-johnson-s-resignation-letter-is-halitosis-of-rotting-body-politic">The Brexit breakdown</a>.</em></p><p><strong><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lure-Greatness-Englands-Brexit-Americas/dp/1783524537">The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit &amp; America’s Trump</a>&nbsp;</strong><strong>–&nbsp;</strong>Anthony Barnett</p><p><span class="blockquote-new">“Brilliant”,&nbsp;<strong>Suzanne Moore</strong>, “Blistering”,&nbsp;<strong>Zadie Smith</strong><br />“A dazzling, all-encompassing, big picture analysis of the Brexit vote, easily the best of its kind in print, brilliantly written and endlessly thought-provoking. Do read it.”&nbsp;<strong>Andrew Sparrow, Editor, Guardian Politics Live</strong><br />“Responding to momentous events with deep and passionate arguments… for his verve, range and insatiable urge to take on vast themes, Barnett deserves loud applause… this is a very good book.”&nbsp;<strong>John Harris, New Statesman</strong><br />“The best book about Brexit so far… brilliantly caustic, there is some comfort in that Barnett has been right about so much before.”&nbsp;<strong>Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times</strong><br />“One of the most important political books of 2017”,&nbsp;<strong>The Guardian Editorial on Renewing the United Kingdom</strong>, 1 January 2018<br />“Essential reading for students of politics, constitutional law and international relations.”&nbsp;<strong>Professor David Marquand</strong><br />“A wonderful and compelling page turner that artfully weaves together debates on freedom, security, liberty, sovereignty and nationalism... This is a book that deserves to be read.”&nbsp;<strong>Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths Professor of Media and Communications</strong></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">How to win the Brexit Civil War. An open letter to my fellow Remainers</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/boris-johnson-s-resignation-letter-is-halitosis-of-rotting-body-politic">Boris Johnson’s resignation letter is the halitosis of a rotting body politic</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Brexit Grenfell Tower Fire Anthony Barnett Mon, 25 Jun 2018 12:05:52 +0000 Anthony Barnett 118541 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to win the Brexit Civil War. An open letter to my fellow Remainers https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Brexit has already begun. Any attempt to deny this and merely ‘stop Brexit’ will fail. To succeed we must overthrow the Brexit project with another, positive one.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/word clouds_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/word clouds_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="171" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Dear Fellow Remainers, </p><p class="AB02">We are failing to keep our country in the EU. Even as Brexit softens to the point of complete incoherence positions are hardening. Normally I write for all interested readers whatever their particular views. But here I just want to address you. Not because I want to close off what I’m saying from those who support Leave. But because we Remainers are not engaging with Leave voters in the way we must. So I’m writing to you about how we should communicate with Brexit supporters. </p> <p class="AB02">To do so we have to face up to reality: we are in the midst of a deep struggle over the future of our country. It is not just a matter of opposing views but the nature of the antagonism. </p> <p class="AB02">For over a year competing Remain campaigns had no coherent vision and made no impact. At last, thanks in good part to the efforts of Henry Porter, Director of the <a href="http://www.theconvention.co.uk/">Convention on Brexit</a>, most of us are uniting around support for <a href="https://www.peoples-vote.uk/about">People’s Vote</a>. Its demand is that if a deal is formulated, voters should have the final say: is the proposed actual Brexit one we want, or should we stay in the EU? When I went to visit the crowded office of People’s Vote last month in London’s Millbank tower, nine organisations were working together, mobilizing support for a large demo on Saturday 23 June, and a tenth, Better Britain is cooperating.</p> <p class="AB02">I support People’s Vote to the hilt. But we should be careful what we wish for. Despite significant shifts towards Remain in Northern Ireland and Wales, there is a good chance that if there is a referendum we will lose - while a narrow win without an energetic, positive follow-up could put Nigel Farage in No 10 within five years. </p> <p class="AB02">We have to aim for the long-term as a full-spectrum contest is underway. This being Britain, it is mainly argued about in terms of trade, business and how to organise economic growth. The forces that unleashed it, however, are fired by patriotism rather than pragmatism – on both sides. To put it in terms of opposing, negative caricatures: a passionate rejection of losing our independence to the EU is up against our stubborn refusal to embrace Great British isolationism. Each side is committed to a future unacceptable to the other. </p> <p class="AB02">Most Remainers and Leavers are understandably reluctant to see themselves as initiating such an alarming confrontation. The Tory Brexiteers hoped success would be like the advent of Thatcherism. There would be cries of pain and continued opposition from multi-cultural leftists. But they expected the political order as a whole to accept the outcome, rally to their vision, and continue the British tradition of ‘losers consent’, while Whitehall delivered Brexit. In a parallel fashion, leading Remainers wilfully hoped good sense would prevail, as the impossibility of leaving the EU while retaining the benefits of membership sunk in; then Brexit would be abandoned like the Poll Tax, and the country would revert back to business as usual. On both sides, leaders saw their opposition to the other as a way of returning the country to its old normality. </p> <p class="AB02">In fact, a political revolution is the ineluctable consequence of the Brexit vote. There is no way back to how the UK was governed before 2016. The question is whose revolution will it be. Dominic Cummings, the mastermind of the Leave campaign, has just published a furious <a href="https://dominiccummings.com/2018/05/23/on-the-referendum-25-a-letter-to-tory-mps-donors-on-the-brexit-shambles/">open letter</a> to Tory MPs and donors on the “Brexit shambles” accusing them of failing to understand this. His devastating critique of the May government’s hapless approach to Brexit (“The Government effectively has no credible policy and the whole world knows it”) seems as unanswerable as his core argument: that “Brexit cannot be done with the traditional Westminster/Whitehall system”. His final warning: “If revolution there is to be, better to undertake it than undergo it… Best wishes”.</p> <p class="AB02">In a separate <a href="https://dominiccummings.com/2018/05/24/on-the-referendum-24j-collins-grandstanding-empty-threats-the-plan-for-a-rematch-against-the-public/">blog</a><a href="https://dominiccummings.com/2018/05/24/on-the-referendum-24j-collins-grandstanding-empty-threats-the-plan-for-a-rematch-against-the-public/">post</a>, Cummings applied his warning equally to those Remainers like Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson (who in effect chaired the disastrous ‘Stronger In’ campaign for the Remain side in the referendum), and ex-Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, and all those who hope a second referendum will return the country to being ruled by their successors. Cummings tells them that such a re-run will leave SW1 – his shorthand for Whitehall and Westminster – a “smoking ruin”. </p> <p class="AB02">Finally, the penny seems to be dropping on our side. To take a dramatic example, Andrew Adonis and Will Hutton, both of whom played significant roles in the reproduction of the Blairite political order, open their new book <em><a href="https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Will-Hutton/Saving-Britain--How-We-Must-Change-to-Prosper-in-Europe/21785291">Saving Britain</a></em> with a ringing declaration: “<em>Brexit voters were right. The status quo is insupportable</em>”. </p> <p class="AB02">Adonis, who was a minister under Blair and is now in the House of Lords, and Hutton, who edited the <em>Observer</em> and is now a columnist for it, have entered the process that <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/michael-j-sandel/populism-trump-and-future-of-democracy">Michael Sandel</a> and <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/jon-cruddas-response-to-michael-sandel">Jon Cruddas</a> have called for: an essential reckoning with the recent past. Adonis and Hutton accept that a despotically over-centralised UK state was responsible for delivering the country into the hands of a neoliberal form of globalisation, which then generated its Brexit repudiation. They rightly insist that the source of the problem is in Britain itself and not the EU and that staying in Europe is essential to repairing the damage. </p> <p class="AB02">The bitter paradox is that the democratic cry of ‘Take Back Control’ has been captured by hedge-funded bigotry. Were Brexit to succeed, it will deliver not independence or an honest democracy but rule by oligarchs and their financial servants, such as the hard-right Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, under a mendacious exploitation of the rhetoric of sovereignty. The two authors call on us to resist this outcome with all our might, and conclude their book with Tolstoy’s sober warning in <em>War and Peace</em>, “A battle is won by those who are firmly resolved to win it.” </p> <p class="AB02">As anger rises on both sides, Martin Wolf, the influential Chief Economics Commentator for the <em>Financial Times</em>, who rarely comes to a judgment without at least two supporting graphs, <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ddb1ab46-0b57-11e8-8eb7-42f857ea9f09">observes</a> that the result is a form of “civil war… over the sort of country this is”. He sees a clash between two “irreconcilable… evenly-matched” sides. Although he’d have loved for Brexit to be halted, he advocates “damage limitation” and a deal that keeps the UK in the customs union because frustrating Brexit will “tear the country apart”. In response, Ian Dunt, editor of <em>Politics.co.uk</em> and a coruscating critic of Brexit, tweeted that for him it is already a form of civil war and to cease calling for a reversal of Brexit would be to accept a defeat he has no intention of embracing. </p> <p class="AB02">On the Leave side, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the <em>Daily Telegraph’s</em> columnist on global economic affairs, <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2018/04/25/let-us-have-snap-brexit-election-decide-poisonous-customs-union/">thundered</a> that the compromise Wolf wishes for will in fact result in exactly what he hopes to avoid. Leaving the EU while staying in the customs union is a “Brexit from Hell. Such an outcome would risk a slow slide towards civil war”. Evans-Pritchard predicts fury, “volcanic fury”, if Britain remains in the Customs Union,</p> <blockquote><p class="AB02">“How can any British parliamentarian support such a formula? It cannot plausibly lead to a settled outcome. It must chafe so badly that passions erupt with volcanic fury within five years or sooner, further poisoning British relations with Europe, and nurturing a lethal sentiment in much of British society that this ancient island democracy has been subverted by a self-interested elite”.</p></blockquote> <p class="AB02">Adamantine language goes back to the immediate period after the referendum, when regular people in working class constituencies were asked if they would accept any other consequence than ‘Out’. Just watch <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/sky-views-will-there-be-civil-war-if-brexit-isnt-delivered-10716408">this clip</a> from a fish and chip shop in Burnley, which voted 67% for Leave. Speaking calmly and steadily from over the counter Liz Pugh tells Michelle Clifford of Sky News it will be “civil war” if politicians do not deliver. </p> <p class="AB02">Two years on there is a shift of tone and class, wending its way via UKIP’s Neil Hamilton in 2016 <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/10/ukip-conference-celebrates-brexit-victory-and-looks-to-challenges-ahead">threatening</a> “armed revolution” to Farage <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nigel-farage-brexit-rifle-pick-up-uk-eu-withdrawal-ukip-leader-liberal-democrat-a7741331.html">saying</a> in 2017 that he would “pick up a rifle” if Theresa May does not deliver Brexit. Now, it is the arriviste political-media elite who speak of violence. Unlike Pugh they lose their cool. Allison Pearson observed the House of Lords debate on May 1 for her Telegraph column. Her response is worth reading at length as it reeks of the stench of right-wing cordite, </p> <blockquote><p class="AB02">"Watching the debate, I was absolutely disgusted. Who were these unelected toads dripping with condescension for the British people? Lord Bilimoria actually said that Parliament knows what is “in the best interests of the people and the country”. No, mate, you are the servants and we are the masters. Hard to compute in your ermine-lined ivory tower, I know, but the clue is in the word “democracy”… Theresa May should tell the Tory rebels, ‘This is a matter of confidence’… the Lords if they have any sense… will accept the Commons verdict, if they don’t then I’m afraid it’s war. The British People vs Parliament. I’m looking for a tank on eBay. Do they really think we will be told we voted the wrong way by an elite no one voted for at all?"</p></blockquote> <p class="AB02">Leave aside the vile, pseudo-plebeian swagger - no proletarian worth her salt would write about people as “mate” in this manner - as Sunder Katwala observed, if Pearson had been a Muslim who tweeted she was searching for a tank on eBay, the police would be knocking on her door. The Telegraph removed Pearson’s article from their website but it is cached in <a href="https://www.pressreader.com/uk/the-daily-telegraph/20180502/282376925200064">Press Reader</a>. </p> <p class="AB02">The <em>Daily Mail</em>, being better edited, is careful not to incite violence directly. But when its front-page headlines denounce judges as “enemies of the people” and members of the second chamber as “traitors” (in response to the same debate Pearson wrote about), its language is more seriously inflammatory, because so much more prominent.&nbsp; </p> <p class="AB02">Brexiteers don’t have a monopoly on virulent, polarising rhetoric. They are expressing their frustration more loudly now. Immediately after the referendum, along with an appalling rise in bigotry, Remainers belittled Leave voters in a vile fashion and were also responsible for the initial hardening of positions; as the Brexit-backing Claire Fox’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/claire-fox/it-s-time-for-remainers-to-stop-caricaturing-leave-voters-as-stupid-dupes">recent testimony</a> demonstrates. </p> <p class="AB02">What is needed is not more alarmism but a cool grasp of the forces at work. These are not rational or transactional ones. The <a href="https://www.pressreader.com/uk/daily-mail/20180209/281483571838308">Daily Mail</a>, at least, has an understanding of the difference: </p> <blockquote><p class="AB02">“The truth inveterate Remoaners cannot grasp is that it was not wholly, or even principally, on economic grounds that the country voted to leave. No, the decision owed far more to a deep-seated human yearning to recover our national identity and independence by taking back sovereign control of our borders, laws, money and trade. For this precious prize voters were prepared to risk taking a knock to their standard of living, at least in the short term, should Project Fear’s scare stories prove true”.&nbsp; </p></blockquote> <p class="AB02">Everything we know about the referendum confirms this is how it was seen, certainly by the English outside London, who voted by an 11 per cent majority for Leave. These two contrasting word-clouds illustrated what happened:&nbsp;</p><p class="AB02"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/word clouds.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/word clouds.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="171" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="AB02">Researchers, Chris Prosser, Jon Mellon, and Jane Green of <a href="http://www.britishelectionstudy.com/bes-findings/what-mattered-most-to-you-when-deciding-how-to-vote-in-the-eu-referendum/#.WoSTRYLLjUJ">The British Election Study Team</a> asked a large cross sample what mattered to them in the referendum. The word-clouds map the answers. Remainers were overwhelmingly concerned with their economic future. Leavers said ‘immigration” but “were actually more likely to mention sovereignty related issues overall”. The conclusion? “The referendum campaign was not a fight about which side had the best argument on the issues… Instead, the fight was about which of these issues was more important.” </p> <p class="AB02">Both sides argued past each other and dug in. Here is the picture, courtesy of YouGuv, of how opinion has stayed divided.</p><p class="AB02"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 17.29.59.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 17.29.59.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="218" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>When the Prime Minister embraces a form of customs union as she must, suppose she calls a snap referendum to deal with her back-bench hard-liners and any Cabinet dissent? Even if Labour supports Remain in such a referendum, are we going to win England - if we are calling for free-movement, are all over the shop on sovereignty, and say we should stay in an EU that is visibly in crisis and screwing Italy? I doubt it. </p><p class="AB02">Three things are necessary. </p> <p class="AB02">First, we have to get our tanks onto their word-cloud. We have to engage with issues like immigration, sovereignty, regulation, and ‘taking control’ as well as economic policy. Above all, we need to make the democratic impulse locked within Brexit our own. Confining the argument to economic consequences, especially when the Euro is on the edge of a meltdown and there could be another global financial crash, won’t cut through (nor should it). Brexit is about how we are governed not how much money the country makes. Like Adonis and Hutton, we must embrace the referendum’s verdict on the UK’s democratic failure - and come up with credible solutions to it. We need to begin this now or, if we have to scramble for unconvincing answers in October, we will be positioned as nostalgic for a failed status quo. We have to show, in a principled fashion, why the EU enhances our capacity to govern ourselves, how we can manage free movement, that we need not be afraid that Brussels will undermine our democracy or stop us improving our way of life, that there is no such thing as “our” oligarchs, and that fleeing into their arms in any EU crisis only leaves the fat for the fire. And we need to sum this up in a clear positive story.</p> <p class="AB02">Second, we must not indulge in infantile, self-defeating bouts of verbal terrorism against the other side that simply consolidate their sense of grievance and defiance. We must not treat them as if they are simultaneously venomous and inconsequential; A.C. Grayling, for example, <a href="https://twitter.com/acgrayling/status/983023540915003392">tweeted</a> that if we stop Brexit, the episode will evaporate like a “nasty, temporary, hiccup, soon forgotten” - as if the judgment of 17 million people was a mild outbreath of halitosis. Even those who take the forces of Brexit very seriously, like Timothy Garton Ash, can use language that implies it is a passing danger, as when he <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/29/six-months-foil-brexit-vote-parliament-influence-mps">called</a> on us to “foil” Brexit as if it was a mere thrust, potentially deadly but not in itself of lasting significance. This is especially important in terms of respect for Labour MPs. Some with North and Midland constituencies share what their voters feel. Our starting point for every argument about the need to remain in the EU should be “<em>Brexit voters were right. The status quo is insupportable”.</em></p> <p class="AB02">Third, mobilising to march through London, speeches that rally the converted, poster campaigns that reposition the EU in a positive way, exposing the economic dangers especially to employment, are well-tried methods of strengthening one’s own side and shifting opinion. But what is happening is unprecedented and Brexit will not be reversed by traditional techniques alone. We need to be gathering in Leeds, where 49% voted Leave, as well as London, or <a href="https://www.facebook.com/adamramsay/videos/10101667580732251/">Doncaster</a> (69% Leave) as well as Westminster. We need to talk with those who think anyone seeking to stay in the EU is trying to “kill democracy”, see January’s vivid <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jan/26/uk-brexit-voters-mansfield-bristol-torbay-leeds-post-referendum">Guardian survey</a>.&nbsp; We could create more citizens assemblies on Brexit like <a href="https://citizensassembly.co.uk/brexit/about/">the Manchester one</a> and give them national publicity. We need to learn from last month’s Irish referendum. As Fintan O’Toole <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/may/29/brexit-ireland-referendum-experiment-trusting-people">describes</a>, those who won decided to “talk to everybody and make assumptions about nobody” and they did not “jeer back”. </p> <p class="AB02">If we want another referendum the work needs to begin now to make it an honest one. O’Toole emphasizes that the best thing about the Irish referendum was the way voters shared their own stories, which proved a vital antidote to hi-tech marketing. This is hard to emulate when it comes to EU membership, which is so remote that people project their bogies and fantasies onto Brussels. Yet something personal is taking place. Jon Trickett is, in effect, Corbyn’s Shadow Secretary for the constitution. In an important <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/jon-trickett/england-is-restless-change-is-coming">speech</a> on why “the change that is needed can’t be achieved by the existing arrangements” (as he put it in the discussion afterwards) he emphasised, “For many, the sense of community, of purpose, of who we are, and of the place we inhabit, is so disrupted that the future now feels more dangerous than the past”.</p> <p class="AB02">Fear. Fear is an important ongoing reason for Brexit. Fear of&nbsp; the future, fear of loss of security, fear of cuts, fear of being without a government that knows what it is doing, fear of a government that does know and is indifferent to you, fear of a general ‘loss of control’. Fear and precarity are generated by a culture of competition and a form of capitalism that feeds off anxiety, insecurity and debt. Well justified fear. The EU, while not wholly innocent, is not primarily responsible. And it is <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-its-english-stupid">the English</a> who fear most of all. We must heed these fears in one of the richest countries of the planet, if we are to reverse Brexit. The Irish Yes campaigner’s showed us how to do it. They listened to people’s fears, assuaged them and went positive - instead of going negative and playing on people’s fears, as the UK’s Remain campaign did in 2016. </p> <p class="AB02">Brexit has already begun. Any attempt to deny this and merely ‘stop Brexit’ will fail. For we have to reverse a fundamental challenge over the nature of our country; one that is well advanced. Already, it has ensured that we can never return to the Britain of 2016 in any of our country’s four constituent nations. Let’s strain every sinew to rescind Article 50, but to succeed we must overthrow the Brexit project with another positive one - a more democratic patriotism of diversity. Fail to recognise this and we will lose the civil war. </p> <p class="AB02"><em>This is the start of short series of pieces on Brexit, next: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">Sovereignty and Regulation</a><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">: a fourth branch of government</a>. Article updated on 24 June 2018.<br /></em></p><blockquote><p><strong><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lure-Greatness-Englands-Brexit-Americas/dp/1783524537">The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit &amp; America’s Trump</a> </strong><strong>–&nbsp;</strong><span>Anthony Barnett</span></p><p><span class="blockquote-new">“Brilliant”, <strong>Suzanne Moore</strong>, “Blistering”, <strong>Zadie Smith</strong><br />“A dazzling, all-encompassing, big picture analysis of the Brexit vote, easily the best of its kind in print, brilliantly written and endlessly thought-provoking. Do read it.” <strong>Andrew Sparrow, Editor, Guardian Politics Live</strong><br />“Responding to momentous events with deep and passionate arguments… for his verve, range and insatiable urge to take on vast themes, Barnett deserves loud applause… this is a very good book.” <strong>John Harris, New Statesman</strong><br />“The best book about Brexit so far… brilliantly caustic, there is some comfort in that Barnett has been right about so much before.” <strong>Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times</strong><br />“One of the most important political books of 2017”, <strong>The Guardian Editorial on Renewing the United Kingdom</strong>, 1 January 2018<br />“Essential reading for students of politics, constitutional law and international relations.” <strong>Professor David Marquand</strong><br />“A wonderful and compelling page turner that artfully weaves together debates on freedom, security, liberty, sovereignty and nationalism... This is a book that deserves to be read.” <strong>Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths Professor of Media and Communications</strong></span></p></blockquote><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Political polarization Anthony Barnett Trans-partisan politics Love and Spirituality Wed, 06 Jun 2018 10:00:00 +0000 Anthony Barnett 118262 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why I am not a Liberal and how we need to fight bin Trump and Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/i-am-not-liberal-but-if-i-have-to-get-into-bed-with-them-i-will <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p style="text-align: left;">Trumpism cannot be defeated by seeing it as merely irrational - nor by withdrawing from Europe.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/trump.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/trump.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Image: US President Donald Trump, March 2018. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Images, all rights reserved</p><p>In the year 2000, when post-1989 globalisation was at the zenith of its self-confidence, four of us got together in North London to plan how to respond to what we experienced as a growing problem with the way the world is governed. We felt the need for a serious space to question the suffocating future being offered us, with the socialist left defeated everywhere except Brazil. Along with Paul Hilder, Susan Richards, David Hayes and others, I initiated <em>openDemocracy</em>. </p><p>Perhaps because he confuses my commitment to openness with liberalism, Jan Zielonka, Oxford professor of European politics, has just <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/jan-zielonka/how-to-contain-hard-right">tagged me </a>as a Liberal; in openDemocracy, in his contribution to a vitally important debate over how to frustrate the hard right. The exchange began in March, when the historian of Liberalism, Edmund Fawcett, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/edmund-fawcett/hard-right-and-its-threats-to-democratic-liberalism">called</a> for liberals like himself and leftists to unite in the face of danger. I then responded and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/to-beat-hard-right-we-ll-need-to-change-too-response-to-edmund-fawcett">welcomed</a> Fawcett’s positive challenge. How to confront the grim international setting matters far more than my personal politics. And new and surprising allies, such as the ex-Director of the CIA, have emerged. I want to take the opportunity to explore the significance of this, especially for the United States as Trump shreds the Iran nuclear agreement.&nbsp;</p><p>But first, I want to be clear about the direction I'm coming from to explain why Zielonka gets me completly wrong. While liberal in my personal views I have never been a ‘Liberal’ politically. I am an advocate and organiser of political openness, which is quite different. The way politics is conducted remains closed, indeed it invents new forms of closure. The brilliant <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation">Transformation</a> section of <em>openDemocracy</em> now focuses on this with a coverage that is both granular and general. As its editor Mike Edwards recently <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/beauty-of-bothand-mind">argued</a>, an open approach, "runs counter to the realities of modern politics, media and knowledge production, but the other options are much, much worse: a slide into authoritarianism, enforced artificial unity, or permanent division". </p><p class="AB">I am not a Liberal with a capital ‘L’ because the nature of its embrace of individualism is inseparable from capitalism, and I want to see the replacement of capitalism. By capitalism I mean a world run in the interests of those for whom accumulation is the measure of value and success. I am not saying we know how this will happen or that it will be soon, but I live my politics as a refusal of our present circumstances. In any society, however, a precondition for replacing capitalism is a robust constitutional democracy and openness. Rightly, voters will not trust a more collective form of government without a rock-solid framework of human rights, privacy, active toleration, freedom of expression and organisation and the equality of all persons. <em>Liberty Before Liberalism</em> was what Quentin Skinner titled his exploration of what this might mean. Liberty after liberalism, while standing on its shoulders, might describe my anti-capitalism. </p> <p class="AB">In terms of British political parties I am also not a Liberal (nor Liberal Democrat, to use their current name), although I vote tactically for them where they are the best alternative to the Tories and I hold that progressives should work together – especially now. One of the drawbacks most (but not all) Lib Dems suffer is that they seem to represent only the interests of those who think like liberals. This can create a holier-than-thou righteousness and encourages a fatal conceit that they know best. (I can tell a few stories about this from British politics. From Ashdown via Kennedy to Clegg, I have been assured by Liberal leaders that they had no need for advice from the likes of me, before they toppled from the cliff). Alliances demand a two-way learning process inimical to self-righteousness, which is one of the reasons I welcome Edmund Fawcett’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/edmund-fawcett/hard-right-and-its-threats-to-democratic-liberalism">call</a>, that initiated this exchange. </p> <p class="AB">I am much closer to being a Green than Liberal and the Greens should be part of this debate as they offer a universal platform. They have also done one thing of inestimable value in addition to their attempts to save the environment. The Labour Party in Britain, and Social Democrats across Europe, embraced the sectional interest of the organised working classes. As the industrial proletariat shrunk, social democrats switched their allegiance to globalisation and embraced neoliberalism as the vehicle to fund welfare. Often they achieved considerable gains for those in need. But social democracy lost the capacity to argue from the point of view of humanity as a whole. The Greens preserved, one might even say rescued, a dynamic sense of the totality. Not just in terms of saving the planet, but with their critique of the consequences if the human race continues to manufacture, trade, consume and speculate as it now does. </p> <p class="AB">Before we launched <em>openDemocracy</em>&nbsp;I was the first organiser of Charter 88, from the late 1980s to the birth of Blairism. It campaigned for a new democratic constitutional settlement in the UK. That sure was liberal! Yet it has so far proven too revolutionary for the denizens of the British state. Nonetheless, patience is a revolutionary virtue and I have spent half a lifetime spelling out how democratic reform is a precondition for sustainable, egalitarian economic reform in Britain. I <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">support</a> the call for a constitutional convention set out by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/stuart-white/will-constitutional-convention-democratically-refound-british-state">Stuart White</a>. Recently, I showed how such an approach would have prevented, and must now be part of any response to, Brexit; in my recent book on Brexit and Trump, <em>The Lure of Greatness</em>. </p> <p class="AB">So Zielonka could hardly be more wrong when he claims, "The question is, why do even the most enlightened liberals such as Fawcett and Barnett not really try to offer a set of specific policies…". Not just because I am not a liberal but because if anything I propose too many policies. In <em>The Lure of Greatness</em> I also respond with all the force I can muster to the vitally important issue Zielonka rightly poses: how have we got here? He is again wrong, therefore, to claim, "Both Fawcett and Barnett… stop short of asking why, in one country after another, voters have deserted liberals". Not only have I made a point of asking this, I set out the multi-layered answer: what I spell out as the ‘combined determinations’ that led to the victories of the hard right in 2016, with respect to Britain and the United States.</p><p class="AB">That's enough of my politics, now to return to the present and its all-important history.</p> <p>In June 2014, a year after Edward Snowden revealed America’s massive programme of illegal, warrantless surveillance, I <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/michael-hayden-anthony-barnett/all-i-can-say-is-that-you-are-uninteresting-exchange-with-general-mic">interviewed</a> General Michael Hayden. As head of the American NSA (National Security Agency) from 1999 to 2005, he oversaw the creation of the system before becoming Director of the CIA. I twinned the interview with a probing <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/william-binney-anthony-barnett/%e2%80%9cwe-had-to-wait-for-snowden-for-proof%e2%80%9d-exchange-with-william-binney">encounter</a> with William Binney, who had resigned from the NSA in 2001 and went public as soon as he realised what was being done. My purpose was to publish a human, accessible and authoritative understanding of the hi-tech reach and nature of American power and its political project – along with its integration of such allies as the British state. It never occurred to me, or presumably Hayden although he cheerfully regarded me as ‘uninteresting’, that we might find ourselves on the same side against the White House. Yet today, perhaps because he has a special duty to protect the system he created from Trump’s unrestricted use, Hayden has called on the intelligence community he once headed to prepare to defy its Commander in Chief, even to the point of joining forces with journalists and academics. He has just written in the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/28/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-intelligence.html">New York Times</a>: </p> <blockquote><p class="css-1psrv1x">There have to be limits… These are truly uncharted waters for the country. We have in the past argued over the values to be applied to objective reality, or occasionally over what constituted objective reality, but never the existence or relevance of objective reality itself. …intelligence agencies are in the bunker with some unlikely mates: journalism, academia, the courts, law enforcement and science — all of which, like intelligence gathering, are evidence-based… The historian Timothy Snyder stresses the importance of reality and truth in his cautionary pamphlet, “On Tyranny.” “To abandon facts,” he writes, “is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power because there is no basis upon which to do so.” He then chillingly observes, “Post-truth is pre-fascism.”</p></blockquote> <p>Traditionally, Hayden continues, the US relied on the "truth-telling" of its intelligence agencies "to protect us from our enemies". Now, he concludes, "we need it to save us from ourselves". </p> <p>I could gloat. I could say that my opposition in the face of his reassurance has been vindicated. Four years ago, in response to my questions, Hayden agreed that there is a "potential for abuse" - but he insisted that the intelligence the US agencies gathered on citizens was just that, raw information not based on "suspicion". It would not be used to deprive people of their liberty and therefore its gathering was not <em>"Stasi</em>-like" (The <em>Stasi</em> were the East German communist state security). Today, Hayden knows better than anyone the full <em>Stasi</em>-like tyrannical consequences, should Trump smash aside the USA’s constitutional restrictions as fake, and access at will and for his own purposes America’s security and surveillance systems. But of course I’m not gloating. It is tremendously important and very welcome that Hayden is appalled by the dangers of Trump unleashed. </p> <p>Yet it seems (I’ve not read his forthcoming book) that Hayden seeks a straightforward restitution of America’s Enlightenment principles. What, however, if these are broken rather than being merely under threat? The three billion dollars a year spent on lobbying has captured Washington. Gerrymandering and voter suppression is being coordinated by the American oligarchy and its media. Domestically, the politics of what is now happening in the USA goes back to the neoliberal assault on government itself, launched by Ronald Reagan when he proclaimed that government is the problem not the solution. Abroad, recklessness was reinforced by the attempt to conquer Iraq. Those who fight a monster must beware of becoming one. Instead of treating him as a vile criminal, the US declared a trillion dollar ‘war’ on Bin Laden. The result is that it now has its own megalomaniac, pornophile, hirsute if bouffanty son of a property developer as its leader, who also supports teleological fundamentalism in the Middle East. </p> <p>Hayden is right to see the arrival of bin Trump in the White House as a rupture. It does indeed represent a qualitatively new threat. All hands are needed to defeat it or catastrophe could ensure. But as part of this we are also obliged to take a measure of the forces that drive Trumpism. </p> <p>The excruciating paradox of Trumpism is twofold. First, it is rooted in the anti-political, let-it-rip economics of Reaganism and the deceits and over-reach of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld: it is an extreme <em>expression</em> of the deceitful era that gave birth to it. Second, at the same time it rides the rage of <em>opposition</em> to that era and its consequences and presents itself as the most ferocious opponent of the fraudulent elite - which Trump in fact personifies. </p> <p>This is a painful matter to try and understand; let me try to show what I mean with an example. In 2002, at the same time as Hayden created the machinery of warrantless surveillance under the order of George W. Bush, <em>New York Times</em> reporter Ron Suskind interviewed a Bush advisor. The advisor taunted Suskind as being from the ‘reality-based community’. Suskind responded by calling on enlightenment values and empirical facts, just as Hayden does now. He was waved aside and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/faith-certainty-and-the-presidency-of-george-w-bush.html">was told</a>, "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality". The advent of ‘post-truth’ that Hayden rightly excoriates did not begin with Trump, even if he takes it to a new, worse level. Hayden seeks to restore a tough-minded reality-based government, as if it remains intact beneath the debris of 2016 waiting to be saved. He was, I’m afraid, part of the advance wrecking team that began its demolition at the start of the century. </p> <p>It follows that Trump supporters are not completely mistaken in seeing the American constitutional and economic order as rigged. It was and is rigged unfairly against regular citizens. In a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/michael-j-sandel/populism-trump-and-future-of-democracy">formidable and compelling talk</a>, Michael Sandel points to the undoubted truth of this, now also published as part of the openDemocracy debate on the future of democracy. Of course, in all their whiteness, many Trump supporters seek an intolerable supremacist outcome. But even they want a society that works for and includes them in a way that the neoliberal settlement of the last thirty years increasingly did not. Today, what America needs is a democratic refounding of the republic, if it is to achieve principled, honest government. </p> <p>This means we have to take Trumpism and the hard right seriously not only as an irrational threat capable of destroying the checks and institutions essential to democracy and liberty, but also a force that does have an empirical claim on reality. Its repudiation of the previous order has some justice to it, even if its response does not. Simply calling for Trump to be stopped is too feeble a response, therefore, and is unlikely to succeed; as Hungarians have just learnt with Orbán and the Brits are learning with Brexit. We have to dig deeper. The Hard Right is an ongoing process. Its claims need to be challeneged by an alternative vision and a different direction. It is not credible to call for a reversion to the way politics was conducted before 2016.</p> <p class="AB">In America a small torrent of post-Trump books are struggling with this issue and its ominous implications – generating a ‘crisis of democracy’ literature. In a magisterial review of seven of them in <a href="https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/normcore-trump-resistance-books-crisis-of-democracy">Dissent</a>, Jedediah Purdy observes, "What is missing from these works, and the commentariat that they represent, is a genuine reckoning with twenty-first-century questions: whether we have ever been democratic, and whether the versions of capitalism that have emerged in the last forty years are compatible with democracy". </p> <p class="AB">At least in his new book, <em>Counter-Revolution, Liberal Europe in Retreat</em>, Zielonka poses the issue of whether democracy and neoliberalism are incompatible. He does not provide an answer; yet he emphasises, correctly in my view, there can be no way forward without a confronting what went wrong. In his article that started these exchanges Fawcett agrees that there has been a "long failure by the liberal centre to keep democratic liberalism in good repair". He provides a vivid list, both conceptual and strategic, from misbegotten wars to the financial crash. Yet the metaphor of repair suggests that these were merely accidents and there were no fundamental flaws with the way the world was run after 1945. </p> <p>Seeking to flush him out, Zielonka concludes by posing a British question: </p> <blockquote><p>If liberals want to forge an alliance with the left, as Fawcett suggests, then the questions regarding the common program become pertinent. Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto envisages limited renationalisation, a state investment bank, £250 billion borrowing program, and a £50 billion tax redistribution plan. Are liberals happy to endorse this package? I hope they are, or else they can forget about a common front against the hard right’. </p></blockquote> <p>I’m looking forward to Fawcett’s answer. Mine is twofold. Certainly I support what seems to me a moderate, Keynesian effort to share the wealth and potential of a rich but grossly unequal country. I also back the radicalism implicit in it, of breaking from austerity. However, Labour will not be in a position to implement any such programme unless it also prevents Brexit. </p><p>Brexit is a hard right project, framed by xenophobia and certain to generate adverse international conditions that will frustrate any egalitarian expansion of the UK’s economy. ‘Lexiteers’ - those on the left who support a left-wing version of Brexit - <a href="https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/04/brexit-labour-party-socialist-left-corbyn">claim that</a> leaving the EU will free a Corbyn government to pursue a socialist path unconstrained by Brussels. They seem to believe that Wall Street and Frankfurt will become Corbyn’s friends; and will help ensure that Britain’s chronic balance of payments deficit continues to be funded so that the City of London can be taxed by radical social democrats who seek a new model of egalitarian government. In fact, of course, if it is outside of the EU the markets will exploit the UK’s isolation to break any such progressive project. The point of the hard Brexit sought by hedge-fund millionaires like the leading Brexiteer MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is to ensure the United Kingdom’s vulnerability to global finance. Which takes us back to the need for alliance building against the threat of the hard right.</p><p> In my country, the starting point is to be positively European. Whatever the drawbacks of the European Union, especially its governing Lisbon Treaty, our continent is the battle ground for our future. The English need to be there to help win it, or our democracy could be lost.</p><p>---------------</p><blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lure-Greatness-Englands-Brexit-Americas/dp/1783524537">The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit &amp; America’s Trump</a> </strong><strong>–&nbsp;</strong><span>Anthony Barnett</span></p><p><span class="blockquote-new">“Brilliant”, Suzanne Moore, “Blistering”, Zadie Smith<br /><br />“A dazzling, all-encompassing, big picture analysis of the Brexit vote, easily the best of its kind in print, brilliantly written and endlessly thought-provoking. Do read it.” Andrew Sparrow, Editor, Guardian Politics Live<br />“Responding to momentous events with deep and passionate arguments… for his verve, range and insatiable urge to take on vast themes, Barnett deserves loud applause… this is a very good book.” John Harris, New Statesman<br /><br />“The best book about Brexit so far… brilliantly caustic, there is some comfort in that Barnett has been right about so much before.” Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times<br /><br />“One of the most important political books of 2017”, The Guardian Editorial on Renewing the United Kingdom, 1 January 2018<br /><br />“Essential reading for students of politics, constitutional law and international relations.” Professor David Marquand<br /><br />“A wonderful and compelling page turner that artfully weaves together debates on freedom, security, liberty, sovereignty and nationalism. Cutting across a range of themes from the power of the press to the problems with the political establishment and manipulative corporate populism, this is a book that deserves to be read.” Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths Professor of Media and Communications</span></p></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mary-fitzgerald/trump-s-folly-with-iran-means-europe-must-show-what-it-stands-for">Trump’s folly with Iran means Europe must show what it stands for</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-its-english-stupid">Why Brexit? It&#039;s the English, stupid.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/michael-j-sandel/populism-trump-and-future-of-democracy">Populism, Trump, and the future of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/sam-altman/what-i-heard-from-100-trump-supporters">What I heard from 100 Trump supporters</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kristian-thorup/dangerous-zombie-identities-of-those-left-behind-by-global-capitalism">The dangerous &#039;zombie identities&#039; of those left behind by global capitalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-fox/on-anthony-barnett-s-lure-of-greatness">On Anthony Barnett’s ‘Lure of Greatness’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/simon-tunderman/trump-s-paradox-critique-of-populism">Trump’s paradox: a critique of ‘populism’ </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk EU United States Anthony Barnett Thu, 10 May 2018 06:50:28 +0000 Anthony Barnett 117740 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hungary threatens the European Union – a photo essay from Budapest https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/anthony-barnett/orb-n-get-lost-to-tulipy-cunt-hungary-threatens-european-union-photo-essay-from-buda <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"I joined a massive demonstration against the Orbán supremacy a week after the election, on Saturday afternoon 14 March. It completely filled Budapest’s wide avenues between the Opera and Parliament."</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4907.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4907.JPG" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘Orbán, get lost to the tulipy cunt.’ A famous Hungarian curse put to a new use. All photographs the author's own.</span></span></span>The election victory of Viktor Orbán – his third in a row – in Hungary last week is a much greater danger to the European Union than Brexit. A clearly undemocratic Premier now threatens to overturn the rule of law and install himself as an effective dictator based on popular mobilisation, stirred by noxious racist and xenophobic strobes. </p> <p>The menace follows his overwhelming election victory last week on Sunday 8th March. The recipient of billions of euros in EU support, much of which is apparently misappropriated by regime corruption, and benefiting from German permission, Orbán is arguably now coming to represent actually existing Europe. </p> <p>Hungary’s capital city voted against him and his party, Fidesz. The town is still covered in election posters. Idealistic images of the leaders of the fragmented opposition parties stare out from lampposts. From Jobbik, the rightist party that came second, to centrist and leftist movements – like Momentum, founded last year, that gained just 3% of the vote and failed to enter parliament. A <a href="https://dailynewshungary.com/election-2018-result-fidesz-secures-sweeping-victory-third-successive-term/">brief post-election report</a> is filled with their now gloomy faces in defeat and resignation. </p> <p>The thought that together they had 51% of the total was little consolation. The electoral system introduced by Orbán loaded the votes in his favour and gave him a two-thirds parliamentary majority, enough to do as he wishes with the constitution. </p> <p>The countryside of this modest, 10 million strong people, backed Orbán to the hilt, after two terms in power and outrageous examples of corruption, support for Fidesz <i>grew</i>. “Basically a significant part of Hungarian society wanted this type of governance to continue. This is not because these people are stupid, tunnel-visioned, or unprincipled”. The words are those of <a href="https://budapestbeacon.com/marton-gulyas-hungary-belongs-to-viktor-orban/">Márton Gulyás,</a> a brilliant, 32 year-old opposition leader, whose Country for All movement did not run in the election but attempted and failed to persuade opposition parties to cooperate and ally against Orbán, to prevent his gaining the two-thirds parliamentary supremacy that now offers him unlimited power.</p> <p>Behind the alarm and disappointment there hangs an overwhelming reality. Orbán’s campaign was one of unmitigated fear and loathing. He had no programme and offered no manifesto, against which his achievements could be held to account over the coming four years. Instead, he set out his strategy <a href="https://visegradpost.com/en/2017/07/24/full-speech-of-v-orban-will-europe-belong-to-europeans/">in a speech</a> on 22 June last year, and proposed to defend Hungary from a campaign organised by George Soros and the European Union to dissolve Hungary and Christian Europe in a tide of Muslim migrants. </p> <p>I knew things were grim in Hungary but until going there did not understand how bad they are, or how it feels. It was like going to the USA after Trump has won a third term. If you can, imagine Trump being in office for eight years, building his southern wall and amending the constitution so he could run again. Then, winning. Not only that, third-term Trump has increased his popular support, has two-thirds majorities in the Senate and House made up of his hand-picked candidates, looks forward to filling a majority of seats in the Supreme Court. While, immediately after the election, the New York Times and Washington Post announce their immediate closure as no longer commercially viable. </p> <p>It is not the likelihood of such a scenario that is concerning, although this year white rural America support for Trump <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/04/15/trumps-approval-rating-is-back-near-first-100-day-levels/?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.036d797a6484">has grown</a> from 50 to 65 per cent since January. It is what it would mean – and what has happened in Hungary. It is no ordinary election that can be reversed at the end of a four-year term. It promises a transition from law-based elections to plebiscitary Bonapartism, arbitrary dictatorship and a chauvinist crushing of liberty and free-thinking.</p> <h2><b>Goodbye reality</b></h2><p> One of the many election posters filling the Budapest bus-stops is a fake. It is a photo-shopped picture of Soros embracing four of the opposition party leaders. Proclaiming “Let’s Stop Soros’s Candidates”.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4865.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4865.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“Let’s Stop Soros’s Candidates”. </span></span></span>This image has no basis in what used to be called reality. The four parties attempted to take its deployment to court and failed, it was ruled to be free speech. Apparently across much of the countryside the picture was taken to be of an actual get-together.</p><p> Along with it are other posters claiming that the opposition wanted to dismantle the wall built by Orbán on Hungary’s southern frontier. Another, taken from the same image of young male refugees made infamous by Nigel Farage in the Brexit referendum, proclaimed STOP about something that is not happening.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4844.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4844.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Proclaiming STOP to something not happening.</span></span></span>To use Miklos Haraszti’s description, a propaganda state has been created in Hungary. It combines post-truth anti-Semitism, such as the anti-Soros mantra in which the ‘J’ word is not mentioned, with explicitly anti-Muslim bigotry. Using this vile propaganda Fidesz has mobilised support across a countryside weakened and threatened not by immigration but by the scale of emigration, as the best of the younger generation flee the country for opportunities abroad. </p><p> With the opposition parties reeling from the devastating scale of their political annihilation, a civil-society network came together to call for a rally of protest via Facebook. For a spontaneous demonstration the turnout was astounding.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4948_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4948_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>To our left.</span></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4949.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4949.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>To our right.</span></span></span>These two photos are taken from the same spot as we gathered in the avenue leading to the Opera House before marching on parliament.</p> <p>The demonstrators were very mixed. The red striped flag of Jobbik supporters joined the Momentum generation. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5046.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5046.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>There were the young.</span></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5019.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5019.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The serious</span></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5009.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5009.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>And the patriots</span></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5117.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5117.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Some demonstrators came in peace and carried daffodils that were handed out</span></span></span></p><p>The posters were often witty and intelligent.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4910_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4910_0.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘Dictators of the world, unite?’ A pertinent question.</span></span></span></p><p>Two placards were especially visible by the screens in front of the parliament building as we listened to the speeches.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5205.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5205.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>This shows Chancellor Merkel saying ‘We cannot give you as much as you steal’.</span></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5199.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5199.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Warning finger: ‘Don’t Cheat Don’t Steal Don’t Lie Because the government cannot tolerate competition’. </span></span></span></p><p>Others were more scholarly.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5098.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5098.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>‘Rights are not what they give but what they cannot take away.’</span></span></span>The regime’s destruction of the opposition press was highlighted.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5082_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_5082_0.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Propaganda machine is no media. </span></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4981.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/IMG_4981.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The press is squeezed. </span></span></span>At the end of the speeches, in the huge space in front of the parliament, the organisers declared they would sing the Hungarian national anthem followed by the European Union’s. In clear, firm tones the great crowd sung their national anthem. Then the speakers blasted out Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Its words were not familiar and as the glorious choir began, spontaneously people began to turn on their phone searchlights. </p> <p>This 35 seconds gives you an idea of the size and the presence of the people of Hungary that the EU ought to be supporting.</p><p> <iframe allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_rr5_GuH2cQ" width="460" height="259" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>The speeches at the end of a great rally are usually symbolic not substantive. But inspired by the force of the mobilisation one of the organisers declared that they will gather ‘next week’. </p> <p>There were loud protests next to me. Rightly so. It can hardly be bigger. A numbers game will be played. Some organisers will disagree leading to negative publicity.&nbsp; </p> <h2><b>European solidarity</b></h2> <p>This problem is a familiar one of recent years for the spontaneous, open-minded opposition to the well-funded organisation of closure and narrowness. Without clearly achievable demands, a civil society movement cannot grow into an immediately effective force. </p> <p>Any attempt to simply defy the authorities will be ground down, by techniques now quite well established and shared by security forces around the world; who are only too happy to crush the diehards when support peels away. The only time such protest has been completely successful in its own terms was the indignados in Spain in 2011. They occupied the main squares of Spain, starting in Madrid and then in 81 towns and cities. </p> <p>They generated an intense learning experience and almost immediately debated when to disperse, doing so within three weeks. Unlike the Occupy movements in Wall Street and London, they didn’t try to hang on indefinitely. Instead, they pivoted to engage with the poorer areas of Spain to challenge the way the economy was being run. Out of this came not only a new and relatively successful political party but also municipal victories in Barcelona and Madrid. </p> <p>No such opportunity to defy the authority of Viktor Orbán was on offer in Budapest or could be. After all, he had just won an election with a significant increase in support. He felt the force was with him <a href="https://visegradpost.com/en/2017/07/24/full-speech-of-v-orban-will-europe-belong-to-europeans/">last July</a>, when Orbán declared, ‘Twenty-seven years ago here in Central Europe we believed that Europe was our future; today we feel that we are the future of Europe’.</p> <p>The task that confronts the urban demonstrators is to prove this wrong – which they cannot do without Europe itself refusing Orbanism as its future. </p><p> <i>Anthony Barnett is currently a visiting fellow at the IWM Vienna<i>&nbsp;</i> </i></p><p style="background-color: #f7f9fd; padding: 20px 30px; border-left: solid 2px #aaa;"><i><b><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lure-Greatness-Englands-Brexit-Americas/dp/1783524537">The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit &amp; America’s Trump</a> </b><b>–&nbsp;</b>Anthony Barnett<br /><br />“Brilliant”, <i>Suzanne Moore</i>, “Blistering”, <i>Zadie Smith</i><br />“A dazzling, all-encompassing, big picture analysis of the Brexit vote, easily the best of its kind in print, brilliantly written and endlessly thought-provoking. Do read it.” <i>Andrew Sparrow, Editor, Guardian Politics Live</i><br />“Responding to momentous events with deep and passionate arguments… for his verve, range and insatiable urge to take on vast themes, Barnett deserves loud applause… this is a very good book.” <i>John Harris, New Statesman</i><br />“The best book about Brexit so far… brilliantly caustic, there is some comfort in that Barnett has been right about so much before.” <i>Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times</i><br />“One of the most important political books of 2017”, <i>The Guardian Editorial on Renewing the United Kingdom, 1 January 2018</i><br />“Essential reading for students of politics, constitutional law and international relations.” <i>Professor David Marquand</i><br />“A wonderful and compelling page turner that artfully weaves together debates on freedom, security, liberty, sovereignty and nationalism. Cutting across a range of themes from the power of the press to the problems with the political establishment and manipulative corporate populism, this is a book that deserves to be read.” <i>Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths Professor of Media and Communications</i><br /><br /><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7Cvqas8-b28" width="460" height="259" frameborder="0"></iframe></i></p><p></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beatriz-p%C3%A9rez-anthony-barnett/we-have-broken-silence-fresh-from-madrid-member-of-communications-team">We have broken the silence: Fresh from Madrid, a member of the Communications team of the 15 May Movement </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/miklos-haraszti/shared-sense-of-media-freedom-is-alive-and-ready-to-strike-back">A shared sense of media freedom is alive and ready to strike back</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/gabor-scheiring/hungary-s-regime-is-proof-that-capitalism-can-be-deeply-authorita">Hungary’s regime is proof that capitalism can be deeply authoritarian</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democracy-newright/article_358.jsp">The &quot;real&quot; Viktor Orbán</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/battle-for-taksim-square-and-gezi-park-commune">The Battle for Taksim Square and the Gezi Park Commune</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hungary </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU Hungary Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Internet Anthony Barnett Tue, 17 Apr 2018 08:18:14 +0000 Anthony Barnett 117316 at https://www.opendemocracy.net To beat the hard right we’ll need to change too – a response to Edmund Fawcett https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/to-beat-hard-right-we-ll-need-to-change-too-response-to-edmund-fawcett <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Joining forces demands a democratic renewal that will dig deep into our cultures and our nations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34587660.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34587660.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The formidable Karin Kneissl, with Johannes Hahn, EU commissioner for Neighbourhood policy and enlargement (left) and Foreign Relations Minister of Belgium, Didier Reynders at the EU Foreign Ministers Council in Brussels, 22.01.2018. Wiktor Dabkowski/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>In lucid and compelling prose, Edmund Fawcett, the leading historian of liberalism, &nbsp;<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/edmund-fawcett/hard-right-and-its-threats-to-democratic-liberalism">has set out a case </a>for socialists, social democrats, greens and liberals like himself, along with all of us who believe in the rule of law and democracy, to combine against the rising forces of the right. Indeed his argument could almost be set out as a chant:</p> <blockquote><p>In order to defeat the Hard Right/</p><p>Left and liberals must now unite. </p></blockquote> <p>I, for one, am persuaded that cross-spectrum cooperation is needed to frustrate the forces he describes. In particular the left has to embrace the defense of the rule of law and human rights – an argument also made recently from the left <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/second-trench-forging-new-frontline-war-neoliberalism/">by Paul Mason</a>. But is Fawcett’s case sufficiently robust? In this response, made in a positive spirit, I want&nbsp; to query whether Fawcett goes far enough. </p> <p>Let’s be clear about the strengths of his analysis. He is exceptionally lucid on the international nature of the enemy. After Hitler came to power some of those who fled immediately to Paris called home to ask when they would be able to return. Naively, they believed that the arrival of the Nazis in office was the beginning of the end of their threat. One of the refreshing and well argued aspects of Fawcett’s article is his demonstration that the Hard Right are <i>not </i>fascist (but are plural), so I hope he will excuse this example. But across the centre-left especially there is a long and disabling history of believing that right-wing successes and advances are merely temporary and about to fail. </p> <p>In America, many hope that Trump’s wild tweeting signals a coming decomposition of his White House and they will soon enjoy a sigh of relief as normality is resumed. In France, whatever they think of Macron, those on the left and centre delight in the defeat of Le Pen, as if a third of French voters have left the stage. In Germany, the AfD is seen as being frustrated by the renewal of the coalition between the Social Democrats and Merkel government, even though the same coalition instigated its rise in popularity. In the UK, many are also in denial so far as Brexit is concerned. Seeking its reversal is one thing, hoping that it can simply be frustrated assumes that the politics which drives it will abandon its claim on the steering wheel. </p> <p>Fawcett will have none of such wishful non-thinking. This makes <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/edmund-fawcett/hard-right-and-its-threats-to-democratic-liberalism">his call</a> refreshing and his argument immensely important - if it is true, as it almost certainly is. He observes that the forces of the Hard Right are <i>just starting </i>to reshape North Atlantic politics and society. We face years of their rise and influence – unless the fight back is fast, effective and international. This means we have to analyse what the Hard Right shares in common, across the different national variations, not caricature them as neo-Nazis. Above all we need to see that the challenge is not confined to the periphery (even if this now includes England) but is central and redefining. </p> <p>Furthermore, the ‘periphery’ is not unimportant. I am writing this in Vienna where the Austrian government has given the Ministries of Defense and of the Interior to politicians from the FPO, the Freedom Party whose lineage goes back to actual Nazis, while the new Foreign Minister, the formidable Karin Kneissl, is its nominee. Just across the border in Hungary, Victor Orban, the swashbuckler of openly anti-Semitic, illiberal democracy, has won a third term with a super-majority of two-thirds of the parliament, enabling him to amend the constitution at will. While in India, which in global terms is certainly central, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/openindia/l-k-sharma/cut-throat-competition-distorts-democracy-in-india">the poison of Hindu nationalism</a> generates intense polarisation in what is still a parliamentary democracy. Then there is China, Russia and Turkey. We have entered an era of reaction – escaping from it and minimising the damage demands a huge and, above all, concerted effort.</p> <p>Fawcett advances his argument against both self-proclaimed liberal Brexiteers as well as a general sense of complacency. David Goodhart, <a href="https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/david-goodhart-liberals-are-set-on-a-collision-course-with-democracy">for example</a>, believes Trump’s ‘bark is worse than his bite’, sees Polish and Hungarian illiberalism as “a worry” but one that is confined to their unique location and recent history, and concludes we are witnessing what he holds to be a mere ‘legitimate rebalancing after a long period of liberal technocratic domination’.&nbsp; </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34728612.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-34728612.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460"/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (R) and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban meet to discuss 'the ongoing migration issue', in Vienna, Austria, on Jan. 30, 2018. Pan Xu/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2><b>Hard right appeal </b></h2> <p>A second important contribution is Fawcett’s description of the attractions of the Hard Right - free from snide asides and belittlement. He takes it seriously. He shows how in Germany, France, the US and the UK, Hard Right ideology appeals simultaneously to the very rich and the hard-done by: offering tax cuts and popular benefits at the same time. Obsessed with the economic, not to speak of intellectual, incoherence of this appeal, critics fail to appreciate the vitality of its toxic alliance. One held together by simple, appealing tropes. </p> <p>Fawcett singles out ‘decline’ and the need to ‘reverse’ it along with the claim that self-serving elites who are not like us and immigrants who are foreign to us have penetrated and ‘captured’ society. An ethos of ‘victimhood’ threads through such claims, reflecting and intensifying insecurity. Anyone reading or listening to Brexiteers in the UK will immediately recognise how apt this observation is, as they obsessively re-fight the referendum as if they are the losers.</p> <p>But Fawcett underestimates the strength of Hard Right politics. He agrees that liberal democracy conceded too much to the market and the primacy of profit. He accepts that the loss of trust in those who govern America and Britain especially was to some extent justified by the slackness and complacency of the governing liberal democratic elite. He acknowledges what he describes as the need for traditional liberal democracy to be ‘repaired’ as he appeals to the left to join in the defense of its legacy. </p> <p>This is a very important and welcome part of his analysis. It recognises that the governing caste who claim to rule in the name of democracy and liberalism are <i>complicit</i> in the rise of the Hard Right. They embraced not only the joys of borderless capitalism, but also the rise of inequality, the unravelling of social solidarity and trade unionism, the privatisation of the public realm and the technocratic depoliticisation of government. By so doing they opened the hatches to the growing influence of bigotry, corporate media and the nativist polarisation. </p> <p>As a consequence there is a dreadful kernel of truth in the arguments of the Hard Right. Fawcett is justified in scorning the many vile mystifications of Hard Right discourse. For example, western societies have not ‘declined’. We have witnessed a transformation in levels of health and education and communication. The US, far from ‘declining’ has created a new form of ‘platform capitalism’ whose young corporations now exercise an unprecedented global reach. The notion of decline that Trump rode so hard and successfully, functions to arouse fear, feeds a longing for ‘strong leadership’ and is exploited in bad faith. </p> <p>Yet at the same time the falsehood offers an explanation for something real. American power, assisted by its side-kick the UK, did not <i>decline</i>, it suffered an utter strategic and military <i>defeat. </i>The aim of the conquest of Mesopotamia was eloquently articulated by Tony Blair in his memos to President Bush. These have now been published thanks to the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War. The strategy they describe was to create a single, Washington-centered world order. Instead, the decision to go to war, the highest calling of the state, unleashed an immensely expensive and draining humiliation for Washington and Westminster - when military triumph remains an essential component of popular support for their institutions and leadership. </p> <p>I discuss this in <a href="https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Anthony-Barnett/The-Lure-of-Greatness--Englands-Brexit-and-Americas-Trump/21151451"><i>The Lure of Greatness</i></a>, where I argue that the ruling order of the CBCs &nbsp;- Clinton (Bill), Blair, Bush, Brown, Cameron and Clinton (Hilary), <i>lied</i> about an immensely expensive war; then even more important <i>lost</i> it; then went <i>bust</i> as the financial system they had embraced crashed, and then <i>bailed themselves and the bankers out </i>,thanks to quantitative easing. Meanwhile, the rest of us are paying with flat-lined incomes and precarity. The combination of these factors led to the downfall of the trans-Atlantic liberal order for which Fawcett grieves. The Hard Right’s vile, exclusivist and nativist ideology that he rightly condemns, exploits a deserved repudiation<i> </i>of the disastrous way our countries have been governed. </p> <h2><b>Two ‘guilty’ verdicts</b></h2> <p>However opportunist, the politics of the Hard Right includes within it, therefore, at least two judgments: two ‘guilty’ verdicts on the last thirty years. First, liberal democracy failed to impose its leadership on the world in the way its Anglo-Saxon leaders assured voters that they would; and, second, that they have created a system that proclaims itself to be unaccountable while its leadership profits from it. </p> <p>The punishment – rule by the Hard Right! – will hardly make things better. It is certain to make matters much worse. But we need to distinguish between the punishment that now faces our countries and the two verdicts that precede it. </p> <p>The verdicts are justified. Defeat in war, for example, did not lead to a ‘loss’ in trust in the historic institutions, as so many commentators complain – as if the people are to blame for abandoning faith in fundamentally wise leaders. Popular trust was cynically betrayed by callous leaders who have undermined the legitimacy of the institutions they represented – through illegal war and, above all, by the reckless way they abandoned the responsibility of government as they assigned precedence to the market. </p> <p>This was not a question of degree – of merely granting too much power to ‘the market’. It meant the financialisation of human and political value&nbsp; – as public service was subordinated to competition. Those who governed us sought to excuse themselves of their duty to be answerable for the outcomes of their policies, not least when it came to migration. Popular anger about this is not wholly irrational.</p> <p>Even though their desire is being exploited, it is understandable that voters want to ‘take back control’. A popular refusal is under way to reside any longer in the house of what can be called Neo-liberal post-democracy. Replacing the rotten window-frames, modernizing the central heating and giving it a new coat of paint will not persuade voters to willingly reoccupy it and call it home. </p> <p>For it is an abode of permanent precarity not secure ownership, where the government and landlords collaborate to say that it is not their responsibility to secure the infrastructure and environment that makes a house a home. Voters may feel obliged to stay because they have no choice, as it is the only roof over their heads. It is not surprising that many who do so vote for revengeful opportunists. </p> <h2><b>Dig deeper </b></h2> <p>The necessary alliance against the Hard Right has to offer more than mere repairs, therefore. I am not saying that no alliance can be made that does not commit itself to the replacement of capitalism. We are miles away from that and the continued rule of the Hard Right postpones it even further. Rather, in the spirit of Fawcett’s call, I think we need to dig deeper to find the basis for the alliance he demands so urgently. </p> <p>For, if all that is offered is a return to the way we were, no re-grouping of forces at the top will persuade voters to recoil from their support of the Hard Right. Fawcett does not argue that it should. But nor does he go far-enough in persuading me that he would not settle for a reversion to the 1990s with some repairs. </p> <p>Why won’t this do? Because if, indeed, the Hard Right is as significant an international phenomenon as he says, the partners in any counter-alliance to it are themselves going to be changed by the experience of reversing its challenge. It is not going to be a short-term, tactical coalition of convenience, from which participants can emerge in pretty much the same shape, strength and spirit as they entered. Rather, in a strategic alliance of an epochal kind that Fawcett advocates everyone is bound to be altered inwardly by the ongoing effort and collaboration. </p> <p>A defining issue here is the question of what openDemocracy’s Rosemary Bechler terms the ‘National-Us’. The Hard Right appeals to a monocultural National-Us. Something sought after by those who feel humiliated, smaller and less influential than they want to be, and who seek a knockout blow to achieve power – stimulated by fear of the other. A classic example has just been provided by Prime Minister Orban and his ludicrous claim to preserve the purity of Hungary from Asiatic hoards funded by George Soros working in tandem with the European Union. </p> <p>Too often the liberal response has been simply to assert a better ‘National-Us’. This concedes the terrain to the Hard Right who thrive on monoculture. In the UK, for example, Remainers assert that another referendum will give them the required 4% majority to re-claim the singular ‘National-Us’ they feel was stolen from them when they lost by that margin in 2016. Or as A.C. Grayling recently tweeted, if Brexit “is stopped, it will have been a nasty temporary hiccup, soon forgotten”. This is delusional. </p> <p>I support another referendum to stay in the EU even at the risk of losing, which at the moment is more probable than not. But a vote to remain will inflame not asphyxiate the Hard Right in the UK, and the whole of British politics will continue to suffer until the core issues of representation, democracy and accountability are confronted and worked through, not least in terms of the nation question and the British being a plurality of many peoples. </p> <p>Above all, we have to rediscover the richness of difference, across and within nations. This doesn’t mean sacrificing cultures. It does mean forgoing the emphasis on a singular cohesion, which still seems to lurk in Edmund Fawcett’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/edmund-fawcett/hard-right-and-its-threats-to-democratic-liberalism">compelling call </a>for us all to join forces to save liberalism, fundamental rights and the rule of law. </p> <p><i>Anthony Barnett is the co-founder of openDemocracy and a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences, IWM Vienna. </i></p> <p style="background-color: #f7f9fd; padding: 20px 30px; border-left: solid 2px #aaa;"><b><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lure-Greatness-Englands-Brexit-Americas/dp/1783524537">The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit &amp; America’s Trump</a> </b><b>–&nbsp;</b>Anthony Barnett<br /><br />“Brilliant”, <i>Suzanne Moore</i>, “Blistering”, <i>Zadie Smith</i><br />“A dazzling, all-encompassing, big picture analysis of the Brexit vote, easily the best of its kind inprint, brilliantly written and endlessly thought-provoking. Do read it.” <i>Andrew Sparrow, Editor, Guardian Politics Live</i><br />“Responding to momentous events with deep and passionate arguments… for his verve, range and insatiable urge to take on vast themes, Barnett deserves loud applause… this is a very good book.” <i>John Harris, New Statesman</i><br />“The best book about Brexit so far… brilliantly caustic, there is some comfort in that Barnett has been right about so much before.” <i>Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times</i><br />“One of the most important political books of 2017”, <i>The Guardian Editorial on Renewing the United Kingdom, 1 January 2018</i><br />“Essential reading for students of politics, constitutional law and international relations.” <i>Professor David Marquand</i><br />“A wonderful and compelling page turner that artfully weaves together debates on freedom, security, liberty, sovereignty and nationalism. Cutting across a range of themes from the power of the press to the problems with the political establishment and manipulative corporate populism, this is a book that deserves to be read.” <i>Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths Professor of Media and Communications</i><br /><br /><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7Cvqas8-b28" width="460" height="259" frameborder="0"></iframe></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/edmund-fawcett/hard-right-and-its-threats-to-democratic-liberalism">The hard right and its threats to democratic liberalism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> India </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> India UK United States EU Anthony Barnett Tue, 10 Apr 2018 08:09:20 +0000 Anthony Barnett 117145 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How should we think about Cambridge Analytica, Facebook, Russia and shady billionaires https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/how-should-we-think-about-roles-cambridge-analytica-facebook-russia-and-shady-billio <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An authoritarian surveillance state is being built in the US, while a massive land grab for power, by billionaires via our data, subverting British democracy, is well under way.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="AB"><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/24416222648_abf9964e52_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/24416222648_abf9964e52_z.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Alexander Nix, left, CEO, Cambridge Analytica, and Matthew Freud, Founder & Chairman, Freuds, on Centre Stage during day three of Web Summit 2017 at Altice Arena in Lisbon. Flickr/Sam Barnes/Web Summit. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The scandal deepens. What were the roles of Cambridge Analytica, the abuse of Facebook data, the permissiveness of Mark Zuckerberg’s company, shady funders and Russian bots in Trump’s election, Brexit and other dark abuses of democracy? One part of the story is the extraordinary passivity of the corporate media in face of glaring evidence. Another, the courageous role of reporters and ‘mavericks’ such as the Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr and the UK’s ByLine (with whom openDemocracy partners). Cadwalladr’s riveting <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump">interview with Christopher Wylie</a> being just the latest example. Their persistence helped to break the complicity and have now brought in bigger news organisations like the New York Times and Channel 4. </em></p><p class="AB"><em>They, at last, are providing the resources needed to expose more of the truth and force legislators and regulators to act – or at least to appear to act, what will actually result remains to be seen. This breakthrough also opens the way for the larger argument to take place about what such corruptions mean and how they relate to the social and economic influences on voters and the political choices we are offered. Here, American in-depth analysis is outstanding, two recent examples being by Tamsin Shaw in the <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/04/05/silicon-valley-beware-big-five/">New York Review of Books</a>, Jane Mayer in <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/12/christopher-steele-the-man-behind-the-trump-dossier">the New Yorker </a>and Lily Hay Newman <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/eternalblue-leaked-nsa-spy-tool-hacked-world/">in Wired</a> (on how NSA hacks are widely available); all essential reading. I made a modest contribution to such coverage last December in the <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/daily/">NYRB Daily</a> under the title ‘Democracy and the Machinations of Mind Control’ which has kindly given permission for us to republish it here given the renewed relevance of the issues.</em> Anthony Barnett</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p>The British are catching up with an American awareness of the intertwined political influence of the secretive super-rich, social media, and the Kremlin. In America, illicit support for Trump has been investigated by intelligence agencies, Justice Department officials, and major media organizations. Uncovering election interference in Brexit-Britain has been a more freelance business. About a year ago, Carole Cadwalladr, a regular contributor to <em>The Observer </em>newspaper, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/04/google-democracy-truth-internet-search-facebook" target="_blank">started researching</a> the “right-wing fake news ecosystem” and its capture of web searches through Google especially. This line of inquiry has also been followed by <em>ByLine</em>, a crowdfunded investigative journalism initiative, which hosts a regular&nbsp;<a href="https://www.byline.com/journalist/jamespatrick/column" target="_blank">column</a>&nbsp;by J.J. Patrick, who has been mapping the scale and penetration of Russian trolls and bots sowing hatred and division via social media.</p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage" target="_blank">Cadwalladr’s reporting</a> led her to uncover the part played by Cambridge Analytica in the Brexit referendum. This company, London-based but US-owned (principally by the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/us/politics/cambridge-analytica.html" target="_blank">hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer</a>, who was <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency" target="_blank">one of Donald Trump’s biggest donors</a>), generated the <a href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mg9vvn/how-our-likes-helped-trump-win" target="_blank">“220 million” data sets</a> of US voters’ details that underpinned Trump’s Facebook campaign. This employed so-called black ads only seen by targeted voters, a process that bypasses and undermines the shared political community essential for democracy. Cadwalladr found that the firm had also <a href="https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/16/15657512/cambridge-analytica-trump-kushner-flynn-russia" target="_blank">acted on behalf of</a> the Vote Leave campaign in Britain – though Cambridge Analytica denied elements of her reporting.</p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage" target="_blank">In a follow-up article</a>, she described how “a website called CNSnews.com… dominated Google’s search algorithm,” flooding it with reports that established media outlets are “fake” and “dead”; <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-mercers-bannon-trump-20170318-story.html" target="_blank">this site was backed</a>, too, by Mercer’s foundation. Cadwalladr also met with Andy Wigmore, who had been the director of communications for Nigel Farage, the former head of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and leading Leave campaigner who has subsequently emerged as a Trump acolyte. Cadwalladr learned that Farage was friends with Mercer and, as Wigmore told her, that Mercer had directed Cambridge Analytica to help the Brexit campaign. According to the UK’s election law, all gifts in kind must be declared for their monetary worth and none can come from overseas donors. The UK’s Electoral Commission is now investigating this apparent double breach; Cambridge Analytica, meanwhile, is pursuing legal action against <em>The Observer</em>.</p> <p>In March, Farage was spotted going into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge. As Farage left the embassy, a <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/marieleconte/wait-what?utm_term=.temnABqK7#.illNpgdjE" target="_blank">BuzzFeed News journalist asked</a> what he was doing there. Farage replied that he could not remember. In <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy" target="_blank">an overview</a>&nbsp;in May, Cadwalladr pieced together various ties between the Trump campaign, Nigel Farage, and Russian “influence” efforts (including the alleged leaking of hacked information to WikiLeaks). British democracy, she concluded, had been “hijacked”:</p> <p>There are three strands to this story. How the foundations of an authoritarian surveillance state are being laid in the US. How British democracy was subverted through a covert, far-reaching plan of coordination enabled by a US billionaire. And how we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored. Whoever owns this data owns the future.</p> <p>As Cadwalladr was developing her thesis about this new machinery of political subversion, the UK editor of <em>openDemocracy</em>, Adam Ramsay, made a discovery of his own (I was the first editor of <em>openDemocracy</em> but was not involved with this story). With Peter Geoghegan, Ramsay <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts" target="_blank">showed</a> how large sums of money were sent to the Vote Leave campaign during the EU referendum via a small, hard-line Loyalist party in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). (By curious serendipity, Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to form a coalition government with the DUP after her Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority in the general election of June 2017.) The loophole-ridden regulations governing British elections permit Northern Irish parties the unique privilege of not having to declare the source of their donations. A policy once justified by security concerns during the Troubles was abused by as-yet unidentified Brexit supporters to channel a secret, roughly <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/election-dup-brexit-donations-saudi-arabia-tale-tories-theresa-may-a7782681.html" target="_blank">half-million-dollar donation</a> through the DUP to be spent mostly in mainland Britain.</p> <p>In September<em>, openDemocracy</em> <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo" target="_blank">followed up with further reporting</a> on a story originally broken last year by the satirical and muck-raking magazine <em>Private Eye</em>. A twenty-three-year-old fashion student had set up his own campaign for Brexit, which he called “BeLeave.” During the period immediately before a referendum, such operations must register with the Electoral Commission. They are permitted a maximum expenditure of £700,000 (about $935,000), while the designated lead campaign on each side is permitted up to £7 million ($9.35 million). Vote Leave led for the Brexit side and as it reached its limit, it gave £625,000 ($835,000) to the tiny BeLeave, that apparently paid it to AggregateIQ, a Canadian data analysis company that was assisting Vote Leave. AggregateIQ is, again, linked to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/may/07/the-great-british-brexit-robbery-hijacked-democracy" target="_blank">Robert Mercer</a>. The protests that followed this <em>openDemocracy</em> report led, at length, to the Electoral Commission’s opening an inquiry into the payment;&nbsp;<em>openDemocracy</em> also published an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/how-did-arron-banks-afford-brexit" target="_blank">analysis</a> of the dubious finances of Arron Banks, the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/arron-banks-brexit-referendum-finance-rules-break-investigation-ukip-donor-leave-eu-a8031086.html" target="_blank">major British funder</a> of UKIP and its anti-immigrant call for Brexit. On the basis of Banks’s multimillion-pound funding of Brexit causes, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/world/europe/russia-brexit-arron-banks.html?_r=0" target="_blank">one lawmaker called for</a> the Electoral Commission to investigate whether Russian meddling was involved in the Leave campaign. Banks has dismissed reports of Russian money as “bollocks.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 13.12.36.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 13.12.36.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="182" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Screen shot: Sun, June 13, 2016.</span></span></span></p> <p>As Cadwalladr <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/nov/25/vote-leave-dominic-cummings-online-guru-mystery-letter-dark-ads">continues to report on</a> the effects of Vote Leave’s “dark campaign” and its funding, she acknowledges others’ arguments that Brexit was also caused by, for example, “rising inequality, frustration with elites, economic uncertainty.” I would add to those factors the resurgence of a particular English nationalism based on the dream of a resurgent “Great Britain,” which was seduced by the pro-Brexit campaign slogan “Take back control.” Nationalist sentiment of this sort will not be undermined by any revelations about Russian trouble-making or covert support from American billionaires – any more than Trump’s base seems likely to abandon the president over what the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller may discover.</p> <p>In both the US and the UK, investigations into the deployment of these shadowy forces are still in progress. In close contests, every influence counts. There is, therefore, an understandable temptation to emphasize that without secretive billionaires, or the Russians, or Facebook, the outcomes of the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election would have been different. And as elections are likely to carry on being close-run, it is important to track down and expose systemic manipulation. But it does not follow that slush funds, algorithms, and alleged conspiracies were primary causes of the electoral shocks of 2016. <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/21/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-popular-vote-final-count/index.html" target="_blank">Nearly 63 million Americans voted</a> for Trump, although Hillary Clinton outspent him by half a billion dollars. In the UK, 52 percent of voters backed Brexit. A widespread revolt against elite entitlement and genuine resentment against a rigged system are the most important explanations in both cases.</p> <p>Trump, at least, can be voted out of office in three years’ time. Britain’s referendum decision to quit the European Union will not be so easily reversed. Should the UK leave the EU on schedule at the end of March 2019, impoverishment and humiliation are likely; even a successful Brexit, if such is possible, will pitch the UK into permanent competition with the Continent. Either outcome is repugnant for large majorities of voters in London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. With the stakes so high, anything that undermines the legitimacy of Brexit fills its Remain-voting opponents with hopes of a reprieve. This could be a dangerous delusion.</p> <p>The emerging picture of efforts to manipulate the outcomes of the US election and the Brexit referendum leads to an awkward paradox. For the first time in a long time, voters who recognized the rigged nature of the system voted in large enough numbers to overthrow “the swamp” of “politics as usual”; at the same time, the system itself was perhaps more rigged than ever, thanks to the new-fangled methods. While it is vital to expose how these worked, it is even more important also to develop a politics that validates voters’ legitimate repudiation of a corrupt establishment, rather than dismisses them as ignorant and gullible. The risk of exaggerating the effect of novel methods of subversion is that it will only reinforce cynicism about politics and government in general—and that would be a win for billionaires like Robert Mercer, and their friends and helpers like Nigel Farage, and all they stand for. <span class="mag-quote-center">Voters who recognized the rigged nature of the system voted in large enough numbers to overthrow “the swamp” of “politics as usual”; at the same time, the system itself was perhaps more rigged than ever, thanks to the new-fangled methods.</span></p> <p>This is the trap from which democracy in Britain and America must now extricate itself. There will have to be a credible alternative and not a return to the status quo that led to the revolts of 2016. In Britain, the advocates of Brexit captured a wish for self-government with their slogan “take back control”—a desire for democratic accountability that must be freed from the grasp of demagogy, not derided. As for the US, <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/full-transcript-trump-job-plan-speech-224891" target="_blank">Trump pledged</a> in Pennsylvania that he would speak for “the millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.” By all means, mock his hypocrisy, but the only way to combat his influence effectively will be by a politics that <em>does</em> speak for millions of workers.</p> <p>It is possible to spring the trap. Behind both Brexit and Trump was a widespread repudiation of entitlement. Part of its energy in Britain has now gathered around a resurgent Labour Party, which made unexpected gains in June’s general election despite vicious attacks from the right-wing press on its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. In the US, the current of opposition and resistance is running through the #MeToo wave of revulsion at sexual harassment and male abuse of power. A groper-in-chief president faces his own public reckoning, as more and more voices – this week, a <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/12/12/trump-lows-ever-hit-rock-bottom-editorials-debates/945947001/">blistering denunciation</a> from the editorial board of <em>USA Today –</em>call out his presumption of the right to belittle and humiliate. Trump remains in office, and Brexit proceeds, but unearned entitlement is everywhere on the run. The enemies of democracy – from oligarchs to billionaires – have reason to be fearful.</p><p><em>This piece was<a href="http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/12/14/democracy-and-the-machinations-of-mind-control/"> originally published</a> in the New York Review of Books on December 14, 2017.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> digitaLiberties UK United States Russia Democracy and government Internet Facebook Cambridge Analytica Anthony Barnett Tue, 20 Mar 2018 13:34:56 +0000 Anthony Barnett 116765 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 100 days! Osman Kavala and Turkish democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/osman-kavala-turkish-democracy-on-anvil <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The leading representative of Turkish civil society faces jail</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was originally published </em><em><em>on 3 November 2017 </em>under the title: </em>Osman Kavala, Turkish Democracy on the Anvil<em>. It was not long after Kavala had been jailed. Now he has been in prison for 100 days. We are republishing it to mark this dark anniversary which shames Turkey. Three weeks after it was published it was generously quoted by Kavala's <a href="http://www.osmankavala.org/en/statements-about-osman-kavala/229-statement-by-the-classmates-of-osman-kavala">high school class-mates</a> outside his prison. In December we carried a personal history of his family's love for Turks by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/nigel-osborne/turkophilia-and-common-life-pledge-bond-and-very-special-appeal">Nigel Osborne,</a> that ends with a call for solidarity with - and the release of - Osman; and a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/international-network-of-artists-who-came-together-through-salzburg-global-seminar-s-program-conflic">Petition to the President</a> of Turkey. Many other acts of solidarity, statements of support and articles on the significance of his role have appeared and can be found on the <a href="http://www.osmankavala.org/en/">Free Osman Kavala website</a> and at <a href="https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&amp;vertical=default&amp;q=%23FreeOsmanKavala">#FreeOsmanKavala</a>. Including a short letter by Osman himself to the wonderful <a href="http://www.dokuz8haber.net/english/hrant-dink-press-freedom-2018-commemoration/">Hrant Dink </a>on the anniversary of Dink's assassination in January 2007. Dink wrote two articles for openDemocracy and we publlished <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democracy-turkey/hrant_dink_4266.jsp">our tributes to him</a> and an overview of his role after he was gunned down. openDemocracy will continue to support Dink's and Kavala's call for tolerance, human rights and openness.&nbsp; </em></p><p class="AB"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Osman_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Osman_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="ab">No one should read and hear said about themselves what I am going to write and say about Osman Kavala.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">There is a certain point where the praise of a good man or woman ought to be left for their eulogy. Not just to spare them the embarrassment, but for ourselves as well. How can we live up to being in their presence, when we have said that they are the incarnation of all that is good, generous, careful and humane? And what if they then faltered? No one should have to shoulder the burden of such praise. &nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">Nonetheless, I am going ahead. I have known Osman Kavala for more than thirty years. He is the incarnation of all that is good, generous, careful and humane. He is endlessly considerate, without snobbery, concerned equally for all, tireless and endlessly intelligent in his love for his country and its peoples.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">There are those who try to be good. There are those who are good. And there is Osman Kavala, who is in a league of his own. I have never known anyone as virtuous.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">That such a person should be alive gives everyone who knows him some hope, and this ripples out to those who are lifted by his unstinting efforts to overcome the pain of injustice and support dialogue and understanding.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">Now, after two weeks of being held in detention, Osman Kavala is faced with trumped up charges and ridiculous fabrications with the intention of incarcerating him for years.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">There are times when an appalling outrage is only an arbitrary miscarriage of justice; it may cry out to be overturned but is not systemic. On other occasions – for there is some truth in the saying that few good deeds go unpunished – scandalous injustice can befall those who are noble thanks to jealousy and resentment.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">But the threat to Osman Kavala is different. To say what is being done to him is wicked is not enough. Its consequences signal the potential implosion of a vast and beautiful country symbiotically joined to the Middle East, the Caucasus, Europe and Russia.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">First, there is the utter outrage that such a man should be behind bars. Everyone knows he is a person of peace. But second, he is very careful. He has always been aware of the dangers of seeking reconciliation. He has taken the time to build a network of connections within Turkey and internationally to ensure the standing and legitimacy of his efforts. I am not writing about a defiant or stubborn saint, but an exemplary networker and conciliator.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">Only a force that is coldly and deliberately hostile, therefore, could conceivably regard Osman Kavala as an enemy to be physically punished and confined. Unfortunately, the President of the Turkish Republic has put himself at the head of such a force. Perpetrating a travesty of justice, the President described Kavala as funding a terrorist network even before charges were made. Meanwhile, to accuse Osman Kavala of being a funder of terror is as ridiculous as accusing a giraffe of being a crocodile.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">It seems that President Erdogan went on to say that Osman Kavala is “trying to shoot this nation from inside”.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">This is an extraordinary phrase. It shows that Osman Kavala has got under Erdogan’s skin – in the way that only those who are good manage to infuriate and enrage those who are selfish.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">The President recognised this in his own way, telling his listeners that “They” will attempt to “deflect from the target” with claims like “he was a good citizen.” Whereas, Erdogan continues, “The connections have been revealed. Who are you trying to kid?”</p> <p class="ab">The connections are of a different kind. There is nothing secret that needs to be revealed. Osman Kavala represents Turkish civil society as a whole and the secular half of his country too, in a special way. He has sought to lift the stigma against Kurds and Armenians especially, to strengthen a secular, tolerant democracy. He works with neighbouring Greeks on shared environmental issues and to recognise the history of the population exchanges and Turkey’s Hellenic inheritance.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">The current, ongoing trials and jailing of journalists and human rights workers in Turkey are no less unjust than the threat that now faces him. But in a narrow way they could be seen as the regime defending itself. To jail Osman Kavala is closer to being an open declaration of civil war, one already experienced by thousands of innocent government employees purged from across the civil service, the universities and the judiciary, not to speak of Kurds under seige.</p> <p class="ab">So let me say a little about him. Tall, athletic and considered in his movements, he has a striking physical presence. Slow to respond, when he smiles he lights up everyone around him. He listens, a rare enough quality in itself. He absorbs arguments and weighs them. He is practical in a rather special way: he wants to help organise a better world.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">He is not a theoretician or a writer. He inherited a fortune from his father’s shipping company but is not himself primarily a businessman. Rather, he is exactly what all civilised societies need. A person who, thanks to being well-off and well educated, can dedicate their lives to the public good and understand the need to build access to culture and a sense of history.&nbsp;</p> <p class="ab">He applied himself to peace. In Turkey, this means acknowledging the harm done to minorities and giving them a full and equal place in the society. He worked tirelessly to bring the Armenians and the Kurds into the community of Turkish society. He has done so over decades, to help them to gain domestic legitimacy and international recognition, always abjuring the use of force. He has supported the peaceful, truthful expression of their history and experience, along with that of Greeks and Christians, to be shared by all Turks. He has worked to create spaces of shared truthfulness: galleries and exhibitions; helped historical restorations and assisted the organisation of seminars and research. At the same time he seeks to educate and persuade his fellow citizens of the need for liberty and freedom.</p> <p class="ab">This is why, to jail Osman Kavala is to imprison democracy itself.</p> North-Africa West-Asia Anthony Barnett Thu, 08 Feb 2018 00:01:00 +0000 Anthony Barnett 114444 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need to talk about Europe https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett-simon-maxwell/we-need-to-talk-about-europe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify;">What are the Brexit answers – and what indeed are the right questions? Anthony Barnett’s new book, ‘Lure of Greatness’ triggers a lively exchange of opinion with Simon Maxwell.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Brussels_Great_Market_Square.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/Brussels_Great_Market_Square.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="326" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Brussels Great Market Square, WikiCommons.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal">Dear Anthony</p><p class="MsoNormal">Congratulations on your challenging book, ‘<a href="https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Anthony-Barnett/The-Lure-of-Greatness--Englands-Brexit-and-Americas-Trump/21151451">The Lure of Greatness: England’s Brexit and America’s Trump</a>. Well done, too, on finding so many people to crowdfund publication. There are 541 of them listed at the back of the book. I counted.</p><p class="MsoNormal">This is a flamethrower of a book, which leaves behind the charred remains of the British establishment, the past and current leadership of the Labour Party, the ideological underpinnings of neo-liberalism, and the vaunting ambition of the EU elite. You don’t seem to have many heroes. </p><p class="MsoNormal">I took away the key idea that Brexit should be seen as an expression of specifically English dissatisfaction with our internal constitutional arrangements in the UK. Those who argue that the key swing voters were the losers from globalisation in England’s decaying industrial towns have missed the point, or at least part of it. I would expect no less from a veteran of Charter 88. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Your enthusiasm for ‘citizenship’, proportional representation, devolution and an English Parliament all remain undimmed. That made me smile. Knock down Buckingham Palace! Turn the Palace of Westminster into a museum! Others give more weight to the economics, especially <a href="http://www.simonmaxwell.eu/images/stories/documents/OsloSM.pdf">the impact of globalisation on vulnerable groups and forgotten places</a>, and less to the deep Faragist sentiments we are all alleged to harbour. But the two explanations of Brexit are not mutually exclusive.</p><p class="MsoNormal">I can see how your frustration translates to EU constitutional arrangements, and especially to the Lisbon Treaty, both the top-down process by which it emerged, and the substance. You don’t say much about constitutional reform in the EU, which is a pity. I could sign up, for example, to an EU wide election of the next President of the European Commission.</p><p class="MsoNormal">In fact, you don’t really talk about Europe at all until Chapter 27, on Pg 263. That’s Chapter 27 out of 35, so quite near the end, and you don’t stay for long. By Chapter 31, just 40 pages later, you have kind of changed the subject, and are onto immigration. And most of the EU chapters are concerned with how the referendum debate was played in the UK. </p><p class="MsoNormal">That is a pity, because the question of why we might need the EU deserves more careful scrutiny. In the first part of the book, you wear your heart on your sleeve as an ideological European, and are scathing about the merely instrumental and transactional approach of especially David Cameron. I think that is a mistake. There is nothing shameful or disreputable in making a case for European Union membership which looks at the present day costs and benefits, alongside the emotional attachment and historical achievements. </p><p class="MsoNormal">The value of combining head and heart are central to all <a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.490.9400&amp;rep=rep1&amp;type=pdf">thinking on collective action</a>, and by extension on sovereignty. Think of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mancur_Olson">Mancur Olson’s work</a> on rationality, &nbsp;or come to that the work by this year’s Nobel prize winner in economics, <a href="https://www.chicagobooth.edu/faculty/directory/t/richard-h-thaler">Richard Thaler</a>, on how to bring psychology to bear on brute economic arithmetic. My own work has emphasised the need for both <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dpr.12197/abstract">culture and calculus</a> to be brought to bear on reform of the EU. </p><p class="MsoNormal">We can take culture as given, you and I, at least for a friendly and long-term partnership with other European societies – which I agree, before you complain, is not quite the same as a deep cultural commitment to the political and administrative arrangements we call the EU. Still, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-governments-negotiating-objectives-for-exiting-the-eu-pm-speech">like Theresa May</a>, by the way, I would like the EU to thrive, and I imagine you would too.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Calculus is more difficult, and needs a clear-eyed analysis of why collective action through the EU will benefit the subjects, sorry, citizens of the UK. It is not pre-ordained that global collective action problems and solutions can best be approached via a regional grouping. Sometimes, the UN will provide the best answer. On some topics, NATO. Or the Commonwealth. Or the Council of Europe, which includes countries not members of the EU. Why Brussels, and not, e.g., New York?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Can we have that conversation? Let’s start with the ‘great intractables’, the global problems that really require global collective action. Climate change is top of my list, but that is because it is a topic <a href="http://www.simonmaxwell.eu/">I work on</a>. Global poverty reduction is on the list, too, for the same reason. Security? Pandemics? International terrorism? Financial stability? Some would say containing Germany. </p><p class="MsoNormal">I can make the case for Europe-wide collective action on the topics I have listed – <a href="http://www.simonmaxwell.eu/european-development-cooperation.html">and have done so, many times</a>. But what is your list? And why?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Best wishes</p><p class="MsoNormal">Simon </p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">Dear Simon,</p><p class="MsoNormal">Thank you for reading <em>Lure of Greatness</em> and for feeling moved to write to me to start a public conversation headlined: ‘We need to talk about Europe’. Yes, let’s. I’d like that very much. But not by starting with global problems as you suggest, like climate change, pandemics, terrorism and poverty. All ways of <em>not</em> talking about Europe! </p><p class="MsoNormal">This brings me straightaway to something that has struck me since <em>Lure</em> was published and which I think you demonstrate too. A reluctance by the pro-European English to engage with the real causes of Brexit, while hoping we can stop it without having to change anything in British society. </p><p class="MsoNormal">This exchange started when I responded to your invitation to join an initiative designed to achieve exactly this. Namely, to write to Angela Merkel and other European leaders to ask them to adjust their policy on migration in a way that would help solve their own domestic problems and allow the UK to rejoin the EU. It is a sign of your importance, standing and network of connections that we can be confident that if not Merkel then certainly her advisors would take note of such an appeal. </p><p class="MsoNormal">I suspect, however, that they will say to themselves, even if they are too diplomatic to say it to you: “Surely, in these circumstances, you have to make some sort of reckoning with yourselves, along with asking the EU to change”.&nbsp; </p><p class="MsoNormal">This is what I set out to do in my book. It is a reckoning with a purpose. We are both Remainers. We both want to frustrate Brexit if it can be done democratically. This is should be the starting point for us to talk about Europe. But your letter points the other way. While you are generous in congratulating me on the book you say it is “a flamethrower”. This implies it is indiscriminate, which I reject. More important, the reader is left assured that you at least are completely un-scorched by its pyrotechnics. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Attempting to summarise a key argument you identify my concern with the destruction of the UK’s constitution and the disorientation which this generates in the English. Your response? “Fine. I would expect no less from a veteran of Charter 88”.&nbsp;(This is the campaign for constitutional reform I helped launch under Thatcher that then influenced Labour.) I’m sure you meant it as a friendly pat on the back. But I’ve had this response before from mandarin circles. Allow me to dramatise the process, if unfairly. When the Grenfell Action Group repeatedly <a href="https://grenfellactiongroup.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/kctmo-playing-with-fire/">published warnings</a> of fire hazards I bet those who ran the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said to themselves, “I would expect nothing less from people who live in tower blocks”. The technique is to pigeon hole so as to neutralise and ignore. </p><p class="MsoNormal">I make the constitutional arguments forcefully; you tell me this makes you “smile”. I set them out in a 21st century way, very different from Charter 88; you applaud my “undimmed” passion.&nbsp; All this amusement, smiling, expectation, are ways to avoid the question. The same question the leaders of the Royal Borough should have asked themselves when they got those complaints from Grenfell residents. Namely: “Is this true?”. </p><p class="MsoNormal">I show that Brexit was the result of large, deciding majority across “England without London”. <em>Is this true?</em> I propose this is the expression of a frustrated Englishness that can only identify as Anglo-British. <em>Is this right? </em>&nbsp;I spell out how the British Kingdom, as an uncodified multi-national entity, cannot but feel threatened by membership of the larger, codifying multi-national entity of the EU. <em>Is this true? </em>I show how New Labour shredded the old constitution without replacing it, placing our democracy in danger. <em>Surely this is so? </em>I argue that now, it is only by normalising England that can we can become the European country that we are. <em>Do you agree?</em></p><p class="MsoNormal">Another of your evasion techniques is to say you give “more weight” to other factors and to add that it is right to consider “costs and benefits, alongside the emotional attachment”. This implies I present a lopsided argument, saying that emotions are all that matter. Of course, I don’t. I do the opposite. I make a case for “combined determination” and list the economic situation, the loss of trust in the British state and our democracy, the nature of the EU, and the lack of any alternative democratic vision for the EU, as equally important causes. Brexit was the explosive outcome of a long process. To make an explosion you mix ingredients. What matters is not how much one part weighs vis a vis the other but the mix, for it is the combination that is decisive. I argue that our then Prime Minister David Cameron was catastrophically mistaken to base the whole Remain campaign on an appeal to costs-benefit without making any positive case for European membership. This does not mean I do not agree that there are huge practical advantages. Of course, head and heart are both vital to any defining international policy. </p><p class="MsoNormal"><em>How can our country become European?</em> This is the question we have a duty to answer, to earn the right to talk about how to best reform the EU and as a contribution to opposing Brexit.&nbsp; I have proposed my answer in the spirit of enquiry, passionately perhaps but not dogmatically. What is yours?</p><p class="MsoNormal">With many thanks for starting this exchange, looking forward to hearing from you,</p><p class="MsoNormal">Anthony</p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">Dear Anthony</p><p class="MsoNormal">Thank you for your letter. Please don’t mistake a conversational writing style for arrogance. I enjoyed your book, and am perfectly happy to acknowledge that constitutional infelicities may have played a part in the Brexit vote: ‘Take Back Control’ was a powerful slogan, as Tim Shipman shows in his book on the referendum, ‘<a href="https://www.harpercollins.co.uk/9780008215170/all-out-war">All Out War</a>’. </p><p class="MsoNormal">It’s just that I suffer the handicap of being an economist, and spend a lot of time thinking about the winners and losers of globalisation and technical change: ‘Who gains? Who loses?’ is a fundamental question in my field of development studies. </p><p class="MsoNormal">I can certainly tell you that the economic issues were evident to all of us canvassing the streets last year, even in the prosperous Southeast (I live in Brighton). In any case, we can agree: ‘combined determination’, as you put it, explains the vote. So, let’s move on.</p><p class="MsoNormal">You avoided answering my question about the instrumental case for the EU, so let me help out. Shared values. Economies of scale. Lower transaction costs. Diplomatic and military might. A certain degree of political neutrality in relation to former colonies. We see those play out through the single market and the customs union, but also, for example, in the global climate change negotiations, the World Trade Organisation, or the <a href="https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/area/geo_en">17 military and police missions</a> that the EU is currently supporting overseas, in Iraq, Somalia, the Sahel and elsewhere. The EU played a crucial role in the talks leading up to the Paris climate agreement, <a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-15-6320_en.htm">helping to create the High Ambition Coalition</a>, and working especially with the poorest countries. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Seen from the desk of a British Minister, therefore, looking out on the world, the EU adds to the options available when it comes to tackling global problems. It combines the financial clout of the World Bank with the political reach of the United Nations. That means it is sometimes easier for the EU than either the World Bank or the UN (but making use of both those institutions) to broker global deals, pursue human rights abuse, or support economic and social development in poor countries. And it is why calculus comes into play as well as culture in making the case for the UK as a European country. Piracy in the Horn of Africa? Peace in the Balkans? Iran? Putin? British ministers surely have reason to be glad of the EU.</p><p class="MsoNormal">But here, then, come three crucial points, on which I hope we can agree. </p><p class="MsoNormal">First, the case for Europe can be made as strongly in the other 27 countries as it can in the UK – in fact more strongly in smaller countries without the economic power or international networks that characterise the UK. Self-interest is the essential matrix which binds the EU together.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Second, and few topics are more discussed in the capitals of Europe, radical change is needed for the EU to fulfil its potential. Juncker, Macron, Merkel and Renzi have all made this point, as have the populists in every country. Whether integrating the Eurozone, managing migration, reducing inequality, or securing sustainable growth, the EU needs reform. Of course, visions compete. Perhaps the Europe-wide ‘<a href="http://international.blogs.ouest-france.fr/archive/2017/09/29/macron-sorbonne-verbatim-europe-18583.html">democratic conventions’ that Emmanuel Macron has proposed</a> might not be such a bad idea.&nbsp; </p><p class="MsoNormal">Third, and this to my mind is the killer, the matrix which binds the EU will fracture without the UK, and progress will be harder to achieve. If the UK leaves, the EU will, at a stroke, <span>lose its leading financial centre, 15% of its population, income and budget, half its seats on the UN Security Council, one of its two nuclear powers, nearly 20% of its scientists, all 4 of its global top 20 universities, and a market worth £300bn a year to the rest of the EU. We might add to that list a pragmatic and progressive voice on global affairs. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>If I were an EU leader, I would be quaking – and would be hastening to the negotiating table. You were kind enough to reference my </span><a href="http://www.simonmaxwell.eu/blog/roadmap-to-remain-an-open-letter-to-angela-merkel-and-emmanuel-macron.html">open letter to Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron</a><span>, suggesting that only they could break through the stalemate and act to keep Britain in the EU. Free movement and reform of the European Court of Justice are the two arenas where reformers on both sides of the Channel coalesce. &nbsp;</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">You ask about the steps we must take to become a European country. My answer is that we should recognise our self-interest, but also help Europe to be truly the indispensable alliance.</p><p class="MsoNormal">But how do we raise the UK debate to a more constructive plane?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Best wishes,</p><p class="MsoNormal">Simon</p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">Dear Simon,</p><p class="MsoNormal">Thanks for your reply, you are not arrogant in the slightest and I didn’t take your letter in that spirit. It is I who should apologise for being too personal. But I am trying to get through to you something that I have so far failed to communicate. </p><p class="MsoNormal">For example, the British minister at his desk may gain added clout from EU membership when he or she looks out at the world, as you say. But do the people in towns across England, whose local government has been decimated, gain a similar added clout? I say their loss has nothing to do with the EU. It was wrongly scapegoated, not least by politicians who led the Remain campaign saying globalisation can’t be defied. But in combatting Brexit we have also to deal with this question of our democracy and the lack of control that voters fear. Not instead of, but at the same time as taking on the Brexiteers. </p><p class="MsoNormal">The argument to remain in the EU was clearly right. But <em>the</em> <em>way in which</em> <em>it was argued</em> was wrong. Not just tactically wrong, but cowardly and evasive. Given that they had the money, the initiative, world opinion, and by far the best case, it is the leadership of the Remain campaign who are primarily responsible for the disastrous outcome. Unless this is faced up to, it will not be reversed. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Facing up to it means acknowledging that a driver of Brexit was a frustrated English nationalism that expresses itself in “Great Britishness”. (I show this in <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-its-english-stupid">an article</a> I’ve just published.) I asked you point blank, do you agree. You reply is that you are, “perfectly happy to acknowledge that constitutional infelicities may have played a part in the Brexit vote”.&nbsp; </p><p class="MsoNormal">Can’t you see that this is an evasion? The English on the war path are not a constitutional infelicity. They are force that must be countered. If you can’t agree to its existence of such a force you can’t possibly counter it, and Brexit will not be reversed.</p><p class="MsoNormal">You counter-claim that I’ve “avoided… the instrumental case for the EU”. No, I regard this as obvious: no disagreement here. Similarly, you suggest I deny that “the economic issues were evident” in the referendum. I don’t. I make this point strongly in <em>Lure of Greatness</em>. Drawing on Shipman’s account I quote the Prime Minister’s head of communications, who ruefully but emphatically observed after the referendum how successful they were in getting the economic message across to the public - but that the first law of politics no longer held. “It was not the economy, stupid”. Practical, instrumental and transactional arguments about the advantages of EU membership remain most important. But the argument for membership cannot rest on them alone. The EU is also a political project about sovereignty. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Perhaps, as you say, being an economist you confine your view to ‘Who gains?’, ‘Who loses?’.&nbsp; Simon Wren Lewis <a href="https://mainlymacro.blogspot.co.uk/">in his excellent blog</a> has struggled with the same problem. Being an economist he sees the self-harm and regards this as a disturbance that needs to be diagnosed. But membership of the EU is about <em>more than</em> a matrix of self-interest, as you put it. It concerns nationalism and democracy and ‘who we are’. President Macron gets this when, in the Sorbonne speech you link to, he projects the economic interests of Europe in terms of a European sovereignty. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Will Brexit put an end to this, and fracture the EU? Clearly other EU leaders sense this and are moving to ensure it does not. Macron suggests in his speech that after Brexit the UK’s 72 seats in the European Parliament should not be distributed to its remaining members by an obscure process but should be assigned to a trans-European vote based on the EU as a single constituency. &nbsp;In this way he is trying to use Brexit to reinvigorate the EU. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Which brings me back to my initial concern about your writing to him and Chancellor Merkel. Even if they want to change to make the UK’s readmission possible, which would be wonderful, they are entitled to ask how, for our part, we in Britain will change to become more pro-European. </p><p class="MsoNormal">I feel I am trying to wake you up with a call you just don’t want to hear. You resist recognising that we on the remain side got something fundamental wrong. You don’t see that Brexit was a demand for change that had good cause although the wrong solution. You need to recognise that we must offer our fellow citizens a better form of change, more and better democracy, if Brexit is to be stopped. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Many thanks for starting this helpful exchange,</p><p class="MsoNormal">Anthony </p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">Dear Anthony.&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">Thanks for another stimulating letter.&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">I am not going to be drawn on whether constitutional reform to tame the beast of English nationalism would have been enough on its own to swing the referendum. It might have helped. It might even have been necessary. It was certainly not sufficient. Which is not to say, by the way, that constitutional change does not have intrinsic merit, independently of any decision about membership of the EU. There, I've said it. Happy?&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">Where I can agree with you unequivocally is that 'remain and reform' would have been - is - a better slogan than either 'remain' or 'leave'. I tried to make that point to those in charge, as I'm sure did you. We were both trumped, it seems, by focus groups. And stymied, in the end, by the unsatisfactory outcome of David Cameron's negotiation of the terms on which we might remain. Not so much Pompey's head on the plate, more a small portion of over-sweetened fudge. I wonder whether Angela Merkel regrets not offering more?&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">A huge frustration about the EU is that it so often privileges vision over implementation, the ecstasy engendered by new initiatives over the hard grind of making them work. Never mind freedom of movement, which is problematic in many countries, not just the UK. How on earth were leaders allowed to get away with such a poorly designed and implemented common currency? Or such an unfair and horribly managed migration policy. No wonder voters are angry. I'm angry.&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">That's why I want to hear the British lion roar - <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41489674">Boris style</a>. But not for British or English nationalism. Not even for Global Britain, independently of the EU. I hope for a vision of the world which is enthusiastically internationalist, for reasons of both culture and calculus, and which brings to bear on the design of institutions those virtues of practicality and pragmatism for which we are supposedly famous. An EU, with Britain in it, which excites our passions, in a good way. And an EU which commands respect by dint of good administration and careful, well planned, incremental evolution.&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">But how do we get there? The Brexit boil has to be lanced, and there are only two alternatives. The first is that we are left dangling until we change our minds. Explicit or not, that is the import of proposals by the likes of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/sep/09/brexit-eu-withdrawal-bill-second-referendum">Andrew Adonis</a> or <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1115718/how-to-stop-brexit-and-make-britain-great-again/">Nick Clegg</a>, or of the position taken by those who want a vote in Parliament at the end of the negotiation. The economic damage of such a course is already evident. The alternative rests with the EU 27: make us an offer which can be&nbsp;characterised as a material change and which will justify a second referendum, soon. Then we can put all this behind us and hurry on with championing change in Europe. If the objective is win-win, for them and us, this, surely, is it.&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">A final point, before I give you the last word, on what leaders must do. As much as anything else, this is about framing, about reaching what Jonathan Haidt, in <a href="http://righteousmind.com/">The Righteous Mind</a>, calls the five taste buds of the mind: care, fairness, loyalty, authority and sanctity. His key insight is that none of these can be ignored. I've been through this in thinking about how to <a href="https://cdkn.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Simon-Maxwell-OpinionPaper_Final_WEB.pdf">make the case and win the argument on climate change</a>. Fear on its own won't do it. Nor will science, even, apparently, when led by experts. Nor, I hate to say, will constitutional&nbsp;change. Our conversation about Europe, framed by those we follow, must be values-led and practical, optimistic, inclusive, respectful of history but looking to the future. I am up for that. Are you?&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">Thanks again for a fun and practical exchange.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Simon</p><p class="MsoNormal">&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal">Dear Simon, </p><p class="MsoNormal">I’m aghast. It is like the terrible fascination of watching a car-crash you can’t prevent, terrible because people I love and respect are in the vehicle. Yourself included.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Brexit is not a boil. Your image suggests something very unpleasant but superficial which when ‘lanced’ will go away, leaving only a slight scar. But as I have shown, Brexit is a breakdown thanks to structural tensions that must be addressed. </p><p class="MsoNormal">As well as a socio-economic response, there needs to be a democratic one. This is a matter of the gravest political consequence. You persist in regarding my call as a mere plea for “constitutional reform”. We are well past that. I’m talking about responding to a popular force, not the need for legal adjustment that fiddles with the existing parts. </p><p class="MsoNormal">If I have failed to communicate my argument clearly enough, let me quote <a href="https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/the-lure-of-greatness-the-best-book-about-brexit-so-far-1.3215931">Fintan O’Toole</a>,</p><blockquote><p class="MsoNormal">'If there are occasional tinges of “I told you so” in <em>The Lure of Greatness</em>, they are entirely justified. He did tell them so. What Barnett was telling them – which is to say the establishment he labels “the political and media caste” to emphasise the fluid movements of its members between journalism and PR and Westminster – were, in part, things that any sane observer could have said in any western democracy: that the disruptions of neoliberal globalisation and its rising inequalities would have profound political consequences. But he was also telling them something very specific to Britain: that English nationalism was on the rise and that it had to be given a political form in keeping with its best democratic and egalitarian traditions. Otherwise, it would become an enormously disruptive force.’</p></blockquote><p class="MsoNormal">This is what we have to confront, not a boil but an enormously disruptive force. Read <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/14/brexit-eu-referendum">John Harris’s vivid description</a> of the “backlash that would be sparked” if it is ignored. </p><p class="MsoNormal">In your opening paragraph, you concede that giving the English nation a political form might have been “necessary” to swing the referendum but not “sufficient”. I never said it was sufficient. But let’s focus on that necessary. If it was necessary before the referendum it must be necessary now to reverse Brexit.</p><p class="MsoNormal">As you are an environmentalist, you will understand the argument of proceeding on the precautionary principle. If responding to the lack of English democracy <em>is necessary </em>this has mighty consequences. As it <em>might</em> <em>be</em>, we had better proceed as if it is. </p><p class="MsoNormal">In which case dealing with it is a priority. But neither of your “two alternatives to Brexit” address it. </p><p class="MsoNormal">I’d love to move on to the role of care, fairness, loyalty, authority and sanctity, as you suggest. But before we get to them we must talk about democracy, self-determination, sovereignty. </p><p class="MsoNormal">In a striking <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/oct/28/leftie-yes-and-proud-to-be-upholding-enlightenment-values">Observer column</a> last week, an old mucker of mine in Charter 88, Will Hutton, responds to a vile attack on him by the Daily Mail. He says it is us and the enlightenment versus them and their populist darkness. Like you he posits internationalism against nationalism. But the Enlightenment triumphed (insofar as it did) thanks to the American and French revolutions, i.e. to national claims for self-government. Like you, he too walks around the national question packed into Brexit.</p><p class="MsoNormal">At least Hutton sees that a Brexit reversal must include “a credible offer of change to the left-behind, white working class and the parts of the country in which they live and recognition of the vital need to shore up threatened identities”. I show in my book why this clichéd description is inappropriate, but that’s another matter. The crucial point is that you can’t treat the judgment of 17.4 million voters as pus. </p><p class="MsoNormal">If you do, if you turn around to a large majority of the English and tell them that their views are no better than some infected bacteria that must be lanced and drained, they will not take it kindly. The disruption will be very dangerous indeed. In the country that emerges, you and I are unlikely to be exchanging friendly emails on an open website. </p><p class="MsoNormal">This is why it is so misconceived to want an outcome where, you put it very honestly, “we can put all this behind us and hurry on with championing change in Europe”. What you are calling for is literally a <em>fuite en avant</em>, a hurry into the future to avoid the verdict of the present. Were this to happen the outcome is bound to be dire. Which is why I am aghast.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Many thanks for your patience and for initiating this exchange,</p><p class="MsoNormal">Warm regards </p><p class="MsoNormal">Anthony</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/mary-fitzgerald/lure-of-greatness-video">Lure of Greatness, the video</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-its-english-stupid">Why Brexit? It&#039;s the English, stupid.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/revolt-of-natives-britain-after-brexit">The revolt of the natives: Britain after Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-anthony-barnett/how-starting-and-losing-wars-in-iraq-and-afghanistan-helped-create-co">How starting – and losing – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan helped create the conditions for Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-fox/on-anthony-barnett-s-lure-of-greatness">On Anthony Barnett’s ‘Lure of Greatness’ </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Brexit Simon Maxwell Anthony Barnett Sun, 05 Nov 2017 09:14:31 +0000 Anthony Barnett and Simon Maxwell 114460 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Brexit? It's the English, stupid. https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-its-english-stupid <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A response to a vigorous polemic against a core argument in the author's <em>The Lure of Greatness</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>A month ago, Jeremy Fox published <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/jeremy-fox/on-anthony-barnett-s-lure-of-greatness">a severe reprimand </a>for what he regards as the erroneous flaws in my book <a href="https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Anthony-Barnett/The-Lure-of-Greatness--Englands-Brexit-and-Americas-Trump/21151451">The Lure of Greatness</a><a href="https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Anthony-Barnett/The-Lure-of-Greatness--Englands-Brexit-and-Americas-Trump/21151451">: England’s Brexit and America’s Trump</a>. He is generous in his praise too, saying it is thoughtful and at times inspiring. Then he plunges straight into his criticisms. These are wide-ranging. We both agree that a key cause of Brexit was the economic and political failure of neoliberalism, but Fox thinks my description of it is inadequate. On another, central and for many the most painful issue, however his disagreement is more findamental. It is this that I will respond to. It can be put in the form of a question: should the English declare themselves to be politically English?</p><p class="AB">It is a very strange question, but Brexit is a weird business. Asked in the context of leaving the EU, the question is not a conundrum of identity but an immensely important practical concern. Fox’s reply is ‘No’. My answer is ‘Yes, because it is essential to reversing Brexit’.</p> <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/c6wn20L0tD0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> <p class="AB">I wrote the <em>Lure of Greatness</em> with the aim of unveiling how we can return to Europe. By this I don’t mean that leaving is inevitable. Article 50 can be stopped. If it isn’t, then leaving can be severely limited, for example, by a long transition, or by staying in the single market with the jurisdiction of the European Court. Thanks to the populist forces unleashed by the referendum, however, the rage and frustration at any such outcome will be huge. Hostility will be magnified by the economic downturn already under way thanks to the May government’s incompetence. In these circumstances, to be defeated, Brexit must be counter-attacked. </p> <p class="AB">A fully successful counter-attack will involve changing the nature of the EU. Here, I agree with Yanis Varoufakis and DiEM25 and, indeed Jeremy Fox who has written brilliantly about the current nature and drawbacks of Brussels. But the question in this exchange is how we in the UK can return to the union of our continent while governing ourselves democratically. </p> <p class="AB">This means dealing with Brexit for what it is. Not as a rational policy but a profound breakdown in our political system. To defeat it, we must understand it. Rather than repeat myself, you can watch a handy summary posted above and here <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6wn20L0tD0&amp;feature=youtu.be">on Labour Tube</a> where I also talk about how, along with more familiar factors, it was the response of ‘England without London’ that determined Brexit. </p> <p class="AB">I’ll cut to the chase with some brutal simplifications of a rich and embedded society that I write about at depth in the book. </p> <p class="AB">Brexit is an act of British nationalism. It is a claim that Britain can and should be a global force on its own, and that the participation of Britain in Europe is a form of subordination to a European empire. </p> <p>But Scotland, Northern Ireland and London voted by very large majorities to Remain. The source of this British nationalism is a frustrated England without London.</p><p>The large majority of the English who backed Brexit are frustrated in one obvious political sense. There is no institution that represents the interests of England. Instead, they identify with ‘Great Britain’ and this turns them against Europe. </p><p class="AB">They have not put the Second World War behind them. Their – our – broader society has changed a lot. It is energetic and contemporary. We are not looking at a response to ‘decline’, but at a failure of renewal. A two-part renewal, first Thatcher’s then New Labour’s. </p> <p class="AB">The failure lies in our defining institutions. They have not changed their spirit while the rest of our society has. Enter the routines of Britain’s Westminster politics and you enter a parallel universe. One in which ‘absolute sovereignty’ generates the logic of legitimacy. This may seem ‘abstract’, such is the impoverished nature of public discourse in Anglo-Britain. In fact it is a lived reality. (in Scotland or Ireland, what I say is blindingly obvious.) </p> <p class="AB">Absolute sovereignty is an imperial form of rule. It generates an immensely strong structure of feeling within the parliamentary universe of Westminster politics. So strong, it has been able to resist the contemporary world despite all the change around it. Aided by the way – and this is an important part of my argument – its bellicose winner-takes-all culture feeds and is fed by the media values of Murdoch and the Daily Mail. </p> <p class="AB">The consequence is dire. </p> <p class="AB">The United Kingdom is an old, multi-national uncodified entity. An arrangement that cannot but feel threatened within a larger, younger, constitutionalising entity. The latter, the EU, is about sharing sovereignty. The core principle of the former, the UK, is absolute sovereignty. </p> <p class="AB">The two worlds of the UK and the EU could cohabit the same home uneasily and to mutual material benefit. But for such a relationship to be sustained one partner had to change more than the other. Given its size and dynamic, this meant the UK had to change - by constitutionalising itself. It began to do so, with the Scottish parliament, the London Mayor and the Human Rights Act. But these changes never reached the centre which clung to its old regime routines when it had to become a European democracy to flourish in the context of the EU. Not because the EU is democratic. I am fierce in the book about how it is not. But in order for the British to participate in the essential battle to make it democratic. Because what happens to Europe happens to us. </p> <p class="AB">The dire consequence is that such was the grip of its old regime the UK did not change politically. This meant that British politicians and the country’s leaders were – and are still – unable to express any <em>positive desire</em> to be part of the EU, without threatening the sacred character of the Kingdom’s sovereign, uncodified nature. The issue put to the public in the referendum was ‘Do we belong to the EU?’. All that the leaders on the Remain side could say was, ‘We can’t afford not to’. </p> <p class="AB">This pathetic argument was upstaged by the deceitful rhetoric of Leave because the Brexiteers also had something positive to say. They called on the public to rally to ‘Global Britain’, code for Great Britain. A significant, vocal and persistent body of politicians, many with knighthoods, believed in Brexit with all their heart. They clobbered us. There was no equivalent political passion for Europe from any of our Westminster rulers. The only significant exception, Caroline Lucas of the Greens.</p> <p class="AB">So, how can we break free of Britain’s now Brexiteering Empire State and its structure of feeling that is so antipathetic to sharing sovereignty and becoming part of the modern world? This is the question my book asks. The obvious answer is to embrace a democratic, written constitution. But since the advent of the Scottish parliament this is no longer straightforward. A constitutional convention called to forge a democratic constitution would have to consider federal options and permit independence if this is what the nations want. Otherwise the Scots would not participate in it. </p> <p class="AB">It is imperative to democratise the way the UK governs itself, to safeguard against further populist exploitation of its centralised structures. This can't be achieved except by a process that is itself both pluralist and democratic. None is conceivable that would <em>prevent<em> England from having its own political voice and therefore being free to chose. </em></em></p> <p class="AB">Rather than beat about the bush, I simply advocate that England should have its own government, with Scottish and Welsh independence and the unification of Ireland. Then we can all co-operate in a Council of the Isles while being part of the EU. British<em>ness</em> as a culture, something that many other countries share in as well, can also then flourish, freed from its Britannic integument. </p> Above all it means replacing the Westminster state. But as I try to emphasise, the objective of my advocacy is nations that are all in the EU, where we will be sharing sovereignty. This is a cardinal principle for me. I’m against any reproduction of competitive, exclusive nationalism - such as Brexit Britishness. <p class="AB">An alternative is a federal solution that gives England voice. I'm not against this if such an outcome has democratic assent. The crucial point is that all the nations of the UK must be rid of the Anglo-British regime that comes between us and being European. </p> <p class="AB">In arguing this, Jeremy Fox thinks I am advocating English nationalism. I am not, I am advocating pluralist constitutional democracy. </p> <p class="AB">I don’t call for an English parliament, for example, something that the millions who live here and are not English might feel excludes them. I point out that we already have our “house of the common people”, the House of Commons, to represent our civic democracy. </p> <p>I am not calling on us English to ‘be nationalists’, as Fox thinks. On the contrary I’m saying we should be ourselves in the sense that we recognise ourselves institutionally as what we are – and become like other people instead of pretending to be better than them. I think many fear the English. They think only by being caged in a more civilised Britain can the English hooligan be kept safely away from trashing civilisation. I think the opposite, that the English are at least as creative and fair-minded and supportive of human rights as anyone else. And it is the arrangements that force us to be subjects of Britain that provoke resentment and generated the 'up yours' sentiment of Brexit.</p> <p>I can see that I might have been even clearer in <em>The Lure of Greatness. </em>This issue is personally difficult for many, especially those on the left in our country. I tackle the difficulty head on in the apparently unlikely form of Paul Mason, whom Fox defends. I think Mason is outstanding. In terms of his range, arguments, politics, courage and commitment he is world class. Unlike many a prevaricating columnist, when it comes to the heart of the matter he is unembarrassed. This led him to be frank about a feeling many share but dare not utter when he wrote in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/10/snp-english-national-identity-class-cultural-divide">a Guardian column</a>, “As an English person I would like to declare up front: I do not want to be English”. </p><p>He goes on to say that English as a world language is sufficient to define him, “don’t try to burden me with yet another layer of bogus identity politics. The only identity I need can be created by speaking and writing in the most malleable language on earth”. I go on to show how, ironically, the belief that one does not need a national identify <em>is the form taken by English nationalism</em>. It can indulge itself in the privilege of not needing the burden of ‘being English’, because it was historically, the first-mover, the first modern nation and originator of industrialisation. While other nationalisms had to prove themselves by struggling into existence against the domination of foreigners, above all the English and their Empire, the English alone did not. </p><p>The English presumption that they do not need to ‘be English’ allows them to dominate, while asking in all innocence what the fuss is about should the others complain. One example I give is the Daily Mail front page that shouted in a huge banner headline, ‘WHO WILL SPEAK FOR ENGLAND?’ when its Editor feared no leading politicians would step forward to support Brexit. In the editorial below he added, “of course, by England… we mean the whole of the United Kingdom”. It is just one example of the way the English slip into ‘Great Britishness’, and presume a right to determine the future of Scotland and Wales, not to speak of Northern Ireland. </p><p>How do we get away from this other than by simply normalising English government? </p><p>I don’t believe in 'identity politics' and am not advocating it. What matters is membership of a civic community, in terms of what layers of government you can vote for. This is the starting point of democracy. Just as the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone, is connected to the knee joint, so democracy is joined to the constitutional is joined to the national. </p><p>The Brexiteers understand this. Their connected trinity starts with a plebiscitary, winner-takes-all democracy, in which accountability is defined as the right to ‘kick the buggers out’. Their constitution will continue to be an informal arrangement so weak it bows and scrapes before Murdoch and the Mail in return for their trumpets of support. Freed from Europe, this toxic combination will allow them to celebrate a Great British show-the-world-our-willy nationalism. </p><p>Realising that this is unlikely to wash north of the border, less febrile Brexiteers such as <a href="https://reaction.life/gordon-brown-forever-trying-divide-england/">Iain Martin</a>, following the lead of Robert Salisbury, propose a federal Kingdom, turning the House of Commons into an English parliament and replacing the Lords with a British chamber. Thus, they would import the Johnny Foreigner principle of shared sovereignty into the land, to make a success of wiping his dust from our shoes! And in the case of Salisbury, at least, seeking with some guile and seriousness to evade genuine normalisation and a codified constitution.&nbsp; </p><p>What is a feasible alternative? It has to be constitutional democracy, founded on the sovereignty of the people and fundamental human rights for all, satisfying the rightful claim for some political control over policies, and able to share sovereignty with our European neighbours. The latter is essential so that we can participate in and make a claim on the fate of our continent as a whole. </p><p>Such a settlement will displace and replace the 'absolute sovereignty' claim of the once great Empire State, that now blows the minds of British politicians. In such a process, England needs to become a normal European country with its own representative institutions, hopefully with Jeremy Fox as one of its citizens. This is the road back to Europe that will defeat and not just frustrate Brexit, because it is also a response to the justified fury at the appalling way we have been ruled. This is what I mean when I say that those of us who are English persons need to become politically English. &nbsp; </p><p class="AB"><strong>Join us to discuss this and other aspects of Brexit with Caroline Lucas MP, Clive Lewis MP, Suzanne Moore and Anthony Barnett, chaired by John Harris. Tuesday 31 Ocotober, the Emmanuel Centre, London </strong><strong>SW1P 3DW. <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/can-we-return-to-europe-tickets-37996705168">Tickets here&nbsp;</a> </strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/remainers-dont-use-our-investigations-as-excuse">Remainers: don&#039;t use our investigations as an excuse </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-fox/on-anthony-barnett-s-lure-of-greatness">On Anthony Barnett’s ‘Lure of Greatness’ </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anthony Barnett Tue, 24 Oct 2017 10:12:45 +0000 Anthony Barnett 114230 at https://www.opendemocracy.net David Widgery: instigator of Rock Against Racism https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/david-widgery-instigator-of-rock-against-racism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As a new generation confronts the possibility of a transformation of capitalism and the realities of fighting ascendant fascism, Anthony Barnett reflects on someone who, insofar as one&nbsp;person can, embodied ‘the revolution’ the ‘68 generation sought and lost.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 2.51.35 PM.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 2.51.35 PM.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="311" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Widgery. Image used under Fair Use: Vagabond Voices.</span></span></span>David Widgery was the comrade who, in the seventies, lit the fire of Rock Against Racism that drummed the British Nazis out of town. He died 25 years ago, when he was only in his forties<em>. </em><a href="https://www.vagabondvoices.co.uk/contemplations/against-miserabilism"><em>Against Miserabilism</em></a>, an anthology of his essays, has just been published; described by former <em>New Statesman</em> editor Stuart Weir as a collection from the keyboard of ‘one of the finest writers and critics ever produced by the revolutionary left’. Indeed. As a new generation confronts both the possibility of a transformation of capitalism and the realities of fighting ascendant fascism, its publication has made me look back on a friend and a medical doctor who, insofar as one&nbsp;person can, embodied ‘the revolution’ the ‘68 generation sought and lost - and was as complete a revolutionary as there might be.</p><p>He was only 21 in the breakthrough year of 1968. But David Widgery emerged like a boyish Venus from its waves, his voice and politics perfectly formed to express its raging currents even as his judgment rightly scorned the mass of surrounding foam.</p> <p>He rocked to the music, he trained to the science of medicine, he practiced as a doctor in working class London, he agitated with the strikers, he wrote, read and argued without cease, fighting racism instinctively and he embraced the feminism that emerged in reaction to the misogyny of sixties hedonism and was present at its founding moment in the UK. With his skills, intelligence, sensitivity and generosity, Widgery was the living spirit of intelligent solidarity.</p> <p>Perfect? Revolution is a deeply human activity, which can be hurtful and dangerous. It is only to be tolerated in those who fear the pain and instinctively concern themselves with the moral consequences. Such was Widgery. Almost all ‘professional revolutionaries’ especially in the Leninist tradition are instrumental power seekers, if not for themselves then for a larger egoism of ‘the working class as a whole’. For them, tenderness is weakness; with their revolutionary desire rooted in a yearning for victory not compassion. In this way, being upside down, their desire generates sectarianism and defeat.</p> <p>He was hardly perfect. Emotionally Widgery was promiscuous, politically he was loyal, well as loyal as he could be, to IS, the International Socialists (who later renamed themselves with the improbable moniker of the Socialist Workers Party), who were daft and destructive to put it mildly. He was often over-bearing, he was said to be hard to work with although I never found him so, and he was trapped in a doomed sectarian ecosystem which generated its own morbid egoisms that he resisted but could not escape. But he was Widgery, careful as well as careless, inspiring, loquacious, fluent, immensely well-read, interested in life in all its forms including right-wing ones, learned as a Doctor, passionate against any inhumanity, generous towards weakness and ferocious when he witnessed oppression and prejudice. He was a force of nature and yet at the same time intensely cultivated: scientifically, culturally, musically and politically.</p> <p>I can see him now, with his rolling gait due to childhood polio, and the lurking of the unexpected behind his exceptionally large forehead. He thought fast, wrote like a dream, worked tirelessly as a militant, had no airs or fastidiousness (of the kind I suffered from as we will see). He punctured pretentiousness, sought a strategic way forward, yet was clear sighted about defeats. He wanted to see the working class overthrow the capitalists and put an end to inhumanity and exploitation. Such beliefs can sit quite genuinely in the brain of thin-lipped academics or even accountants whose lives proceed as they must, earning a living without changing the world. Widgery made the revolution. When he couldn’t he shook the bars, and when he couldn’t shake the bars he shook those he lived and worked with.</p> <p>The tectonic, political year of 1968 was longer than 12 calendar months. Against the background of half a million murderous US troops deployed in Vietnam, it started the previous summer of 1967 when Berlin saw the demonstration against the Shah of Iran and the occupation of its Free University; France, the Situationists in Strasbourg, and London, the Dialectics of Liberation; all before the Tet Offensive in January inflamed resistance everywhere.</p> <p>My first memory of Widgery, who was five years younger than me, dates from that year. At least I think it does. He had just become a member of the International Socialists. I was on the board of <em>New Left Review</em> refusing to join any of the then burgeoning Trotskyist and Trotskysan groups.&nbsp; Yet I was thrilled to see Widgery at work, enraging speakers with his contrarianism at a conference before 1968. What it was all about or precisely when I’ve no idea, but I vividly recall the taste of freshness to his provocation rather than the usual dull knowingness of correctitude. He was unforgettable.</p> <p>In a generous salute to Widgery in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/david-hayes/david-widgery-1947-92-against-oblivion"><em>openDemocracy</em></a> on the twentieth anniversary of his death, David Hayes notes his precociousness. You can see it in the opening essay collected in <em>Against Miserabilism</em>, ‘When Harrods is Looted’, which was published in <em>Oz</em>, the hippy magazine, in 1968. Barely an adult Widgery already speaks with sweeping confidence and range, not just of Fleet Street, universities and German capitalism but also the nature of the time itself. He has no need of Gramsci to reflect on the old dying and the new being unable to be born:</p> <blockquote><p>‘For until this struggle against capitalism and for popular power is finished, we remain in this logjam at the middle of the century - slung, as Arnold wrote, “between one world dead and the other still powerless to be born”.’[1]</p></blockquote> <p>Both his attraction to the ribald, ‘Labour has simply been taking its pleasure too often on the bed of Capital, for us still to be crying rape’; and the intensity of his commitment - it was one I certainly shared – are present in the article:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote><p>‘Those who are fond of asking why we don't join the National Liberation Front should not suppose that the workers and intellectuals of the Spanish war are the only people who meant what they said when they declared that they would die for what they believed’.</p></blockquote> <p>(The National Liberation Front were the Vietnamese fighting to liberate what was then South Vietnam. It may be hard for later generations to grasp what it meant to know that tens if not hundreds of Vietnamese civilians were being uprooted and often massacred every day by an army fighting for ‘our’ democracy.)&nbsp; Widgery’s interest and knowledge of hippy radicalism and his urge to demystify it also stands out:</p> <blockquote><p>‘how much more important is a single busman on strike than five thousand critics campaigning to legalise pubic hair’.</p></blockquote> <p>Above all, he is for arousing the working class to the ‘tradition of European revolutionary socialism and the activist heart of Marxism within it’, already confident that he has a full grasp of its significance.</p> <p>The reference to Arnold reveals another quality that distinguished Widgery from many leftists, a discerning interest in the intellectual range and potential of ‘bourgeois’ radicals, which you can see in his fine 1970 tribute to Bertrand Russell, or his critique of <em>Private Eye</em> republished in the collection. Forensic as well as scathing about the other side in the class war, he tried to apply the same critical intelligence to those who supported the working class – without whose strength Marxism, however activist, was condemned to weakness. Writing in the short-lived insurrectionary newspaper <em>Black Dwarf</em> in October 1968, Widgery reports on the SDS, the German Socialist Students, Frankfurt Delegate Conference. He uses his report to warn against over-heated prophecies, lack of realism, ‘vicarious involvement with the struggles of the Third World’ and ‘Germanic taste for complex academic debate’. While he observes the need to ‘build from scratch contacts with organised workers’ he doubts that ‘these campaigns will go beyond photogenic demonstration and political spectacle’ and concludes with a wider sense of foreboding – just before Britain’s Vietnam solidarity movement was to be ignominiously outmanoeuvred by the authorities, ‘After one spark set France alight, the rest of us are committed to throwing lighted matches around the room’.</p> <p>What set France alight in 1968? The massive, rolling strike that took the student protest out of the universities and into the factories. The British student movement had yet to peak, but what followed over the next three years appeared to vindicate the International Socialist focus on factories and working class struggle, as strikes took off across Britain to match the level of the 1920s.</p> <p>Yet the language of Widgery’s almost elegiac response to the Pilkington strike of 1970 seems to reluctantly prefigure the lack of revolutionary impetus within Britain’s proletarian defiance. The strike, in the huge glass factory in St Helens, Lancashire, was a spontaneous demand by skilled workers for better wages. If ‘First and foremost self-respect’ was what had been won, then while deference may have been ended, which is no small achievement in recently militarised, imperial society, it remained a long way from ‘revolutionary consciousness’. Widgery ends the piece looking forward to a future where the great glass works are run not by Lord Pilkington but by ‘the rank and file’.</p> <p>This semi-military term, 'rank and file', conjures up serried rows of proletarian labour that now belongs to another age. In this one, Pilkington is today wholly owned by Japan’s Nippon Sheet Glass, not by its workers. A decade later, Widgery is clear about the defeat of the ‘working class insurgency’ of the early seventies. The essay ‘Whatever did happen to the revolution?’ is especially fascinating to read now because of when it was written, just after ‘the winter of ‘79’ by which he means the winter of 1978/79 the third coldest of the twentieth century and months <em>before</em> the election that brought Margaret Thatcher to number 10 in May 1979. Today, such is the loathing she generates on much of the left, Thatcher is often seen as a harridan whose monstrous policies vanquished the sensible progress being administered by a progressive Labour government. To read this essay now is to feel for ourselves the overwhelming sense of defeat and frustration that <em>pre-existed </em>Thatcher, as well as the revulsion at the complacency of Jim Callaghan, the then Labour Prime Minister. The feeling was not confined to revolutionaries. Indeed, you can also sense why so many felt the need for a right-wing ‘broom’, or any broom at all - for something was needed to sweep away the humiliations of a decade of frustration.</p> <p>‘As for our Left’, Widgery concludes,</p><blockquote><p>‘bedraggled but alive, we are still infants. We have not yet come of age and are far from the height of our powers. But we survived and, in Tom Mann's words, intend to grow more dangerous as we grow old.’</p></blockquote><p>Within a few months, he sensed a different danger and this time writing in <em>Socialist Worker</em> he backed the party line to vote for the despised Labour Party in the face of the alternative. He recognised that in Thatcher the Tories had embraced a new kind of class-conscious leader ready to take on the unions already tamed, if not broken, by the experience of Wilson and Callaghan. He could not draw openly on Stuart Hall’s analysis, who was the first to recognise Thatcherism as an ‘ism’ and see it as a response to the ‘decomposition’ of Labourism, for this appeared in the dreaded pages of <a href="http://banmarchive.org.uk/collections/mt/pdf/79_01_hall.pdf"><em>Marxism Today</em></a> that no member of the SWP could quote from with approval. But Widgery is compelling in his parallel analysis of the dangerous novelty Thatcher represented and how it was also a response to the decomposition of the old right:</p> <blockquote><p>‘The High Tory ring, bounded by Anglican piety, public school decency, Oxbridge loyalty, Stock Exchange insights and safe seats, is disintegrating… the rise of Mrs Thatcher…&nbsp; marks a new course… By announcing an official end to Tory compassion… Thatcher moves the Tory Party away from its traditional claim to mediate, rather like the Church of England, between all class interests… Something called ‘Freedom’ is the battlecry. ‘Freedom’, it soon becomes apparent, is closely connected, if not identical with, money. Mrs T will grant us the freedom not to have any obligation towards fellow humans who are ill, out of work or incapable so that we can have the freedom to select whichever private ward, public school dorm, restaurant or townhouse we wish for ourselves.’</p></blockquote> <p>An analysis familiar to us thirty-five years on.</p> <p>There could have been another course, for example had everyone on the left drawn on the creative energies that propelled the GLC, the Greater London Council, to prominence in 1981 – its heritage website <a href="http://glcstory.co.uk/">is here</a>. Widgery would have been open to this, as a short piece by him in the collection shows, but the SWP was not, despite his efforts. A fine example of his trying to get his comrades to listen to him is his jewel of an article (now online) about Allen Ginsberg, called <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/widgery/1985/11/ginsberg.htm">Howling to the Beat</a>. It should have been included in the collection as it combines his political and cultural forcefulness and erudition to perfection in the briefest of essays. It is, in effect, an open letter to his comrades in the SWP. Its aim, to persuade them to see that there is more to revolution than reading Trotsky, indeed that if they just read Trotsky they might miss the revolution altogether. ‘Howling to the Beat’ displays Widgery's exceptional grasp of post-war USA and America’s energies. In one brilliant short passage, he joins and juxtaposes the simultaneous development of the poetry of the beats, the invention of abstract expressionism and the music of modern jazz in their resistance to corporate orthodoxy of the 1950s. ‘It is also worth reminding ourselves’, he tells his comrades, ‘that movements of popular revolt against long periods of reaction, such as we have been enduring for the last decade, often come in unpredictable, impetuous, and in infuriatingly subjective idioms’. He was describing exactly how they saw him.</p> <p>He had a special relationship with Ginsberg and a disturbing one. I learnt of it in the mid-80s when I edited a short-lived imprint at Chatto &amp; Windus called Tigerstripe and commissioned Widgery to produce <em>Beating Time: Riot 'n' Race 'n' Rock 'n' Roll </em>- a book about his defining political experience in the mid-1970s. We were leaving a meeting together going in the same direction on the London tube. We got around to talking Ginsberg for some reason. I said how I’d seen him in 1965 at the poetry happening at the Albert Hall – now allegedly regarded as the moment ‘alternative London’ was born. Widgery had been there too. I told him how I was appalled at the way Ginsberg asked at the end if anyone would sleep with him, and revealed my fastidious revulsion at Ginsberg’s abuse of his star role to pull in such a shameless fashion. Widgery responded by telling me he had gone to the green room afterwards to interview Ginsberg. And then had himself been laid by him! I had no idea that Ginsberg was gay. While I was trying to assimilate this remarkable information Widgery went on, ‘Yes, and anal penetration is surprisingly enjoyable’. Not an easily forgettable conversation for the tube.</p> <p>I report it not because it is memorable and now makes me laugh, but to show how Widgery was genuinely emancipated – and I was not. He may indeed have been ‘unpredictable, impetuous, and infuriatingly subjective’. But while most of us revolutionaries were trapped in our psychodramas, un-liberated while dreaming of liberating others, Widgery was also – helped by the doctor in him – lucid, clinical and unashamed – and did not feel the victim of this abuse of power [2].</p> <p>Two essays in <em>Against Miserabilism</em> demonstrate Widgery’s unabashed tenderness. They are in the section on ‘Personal Politics’ introduced by Sheila Rowbotham. ‘Women Are Goddesses or Sloppy Beasts’ is a superbly ferocious assault on Norman Mailer’s misogyny (and a glancing blow at Orwell’s). He repudiates Mailer’s claim that men become men and demonstrate their prowess over women ‘in the full rigours of the fuck’. On the contrary, we both become each other, writes Widgery, as ‘Embraces are cominglings… not a pompous High Priest entering’, quoting Blake. And he develops this in a lavish description of why such unruly doings are bad for ‘industrial relations’ and must be kept under control by capitalism in, ‘Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Hearts’.</p> <p>The two essays are rooted in Widgery’s exceptional genius, which is to hold in play with equal perceptiveness his class politics and cultural sensibility. With most of us Marxism usually withers sensitivity while personal insight squishes political judgment. Widgery, with his acute sense of bodies, achieved the capacity to combine politics and culture in order that they reinforce each other to deliver exceptional clarity and insight. A brilliant example is his 1976 essay on James Baldwin, republished in the new collection for the first time. He contrasts Baldwin with Eldridge Cleaver, then the most famous and polished Black Panther, who was in exile in Algeria. Of the two Americans, in terms of reputation at the time, Baldwin was a mere literary figure and Cleaver the radical. Widgery’s perceptiveness is a model for how to assess rhetorical revolutionaries.</p> <blockquote><p>‘They share an understanding of how North American capitalism operates, they differ about why and how to fight it. Cleaver is apparently to the left with his muscular talk about the struggle, a fast line in sexual insults and quotes from Che Guevara… this sort of tough talking appealed most to the male radical students… its politics were intensely individualistic. The revolution becomes an act of will undertaken as proof of manhood’.</p></blockquote> <p>He then describes a film of Cleaver in Algeria, ‘with a gracelessness peculiar to Americans overseas’ and delivers his conclusion: ‘when that heady individualism falters, as it did for so many of the celebrities of the black revolt, it falls asunder. Because it doesn’t understand itself, it can’t afford to pause lest it disintegrate’. James Baldwin, by contrast, who does understand himself, ‘speaks much less explicitly but in a more profoundly political way’. In contrast to Cleaver, he has ‘a different kind of strength and leadership’ that has more in common with the early student movement, the non-violent movements and women's liberation. Shortly after Widgery wrote this, Cleaver returned to the States where he converted to Christianity and later became a right-wing Republican. Baldwin’s reputation rises still, as a witness of America’s racial capitalism.</p> <p>Which brings me to the central question of Widgery’s political life. This is not ‘Why did he become a Trotskyist?’ The end of the 60s was a time of experimentation and pleonastic energy and many did. For them it was, in effect, a learning experience. The question is, given Widgery’s extraordinary sensitivity and that it governed such a far-sighted strength of judgment, why did he <em>remain</em> a member of the SWP until the end of his life?</p> <p>When I learnt of his premature death in 1992, he was just 45, I felt three things acutely: my heart went out to Juliet Ash and their young children at the shocking news; I suffered the usual regrets at not having seen more of him, not having made that extra phone call and had the evening with him that I intended but never planned; and finally, I felt something quite strange, ‘Trotskyism is definitely over’, I said to myself.</p> <p>By then I had long felt that whatever formal insights it might have, Trotskyism was a form of death cult. Yet while one of its organisations retained the loyalty and active membership of David Widgery there remained the chance, however improbable, of a Lazarus-like resurrection. For Widgery personified the unexpected in his creativity and energy. The news of his death extinguished the last chance that life could flicker back into a benighted tendency.</p> <p>To ask why he stayed in the SWP is to ask in the first place what he was up against. Perhaps the most gentle way of answering this is to quote from Bob Light’s obituary in the SWP’s <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/widgery/biog/light-obit.html">Socialist Review</a>. It’s a genuine attempt at a eulogy and expression of personal loss: ‘First and foremost I’ll remember him as a friend and a comrade; a lovely and warm man, who it was always a pleasure to bump into.’ But Light goes on,</p> <blockquote><p>‘when Dave stood for our National Committee in the 1970s [he] described himself as a ‘reluctant Leninist’. That’s a bit of an understatement, I’d say.</p><p>I suppose Dave saw himself as the human face of the SWP, and maybe, in a way, he was. What Dave really cared about was people and their lives. That sounds soppy, I know, but I think it’s true. Dave was like Peter Sedgwick: a radical humanist intellectual on permanent loan to revolutionary socialism. And what’s wrong with that? If we had all been like Dave, the SWP would have dissolved itself into the East End Jazz Club or the Hackney Empire years ago. That’s true.</p><p>But we need, we will always need comrades like Widgery and Sedgwick to remind us that socialism starts and finishes with human beings and their needs. We need to be reminded that there is a world outside industrial sales and contact visiting. But what Dave only fitfully understood was that without that humdrum work of organisation and routine, the world will be condemned to stay a shit-hole forever.</p></blockquote> <p>This is infuriatingly well-meaning and utterly patronising. In essay after essay, packed with hard reading, Widgery painstakingly explains why if their politics is to succeed revolutionaries <em>must</em> listen to the powerful voices and experience of artists like Allen Ginsberg. And the comrades he seeks to address say to themselves, ‘There he goes again with his radical humanism. &nbsp;No worries. He is just on loan. Of course, it’s good to be reminded there is a world ‘outside’. Now pass the leaflets and get on with humdrum Leninism’.</p> <p>At least Bob Light liked Widgery and embraced the importance of his helping to create Rock Against Racism (which I will come to). The chilling and more official obituary in the <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/widgery/biog/sw-obit.htm"><em>Socialist Worker</em></a> by Chris Harman one of the SWP’s then leaders was worse still. It tried to turn him into a gatekeeper against ‘beat’ culture, quoting two of Widgery’s fine excoriations of the hippy left, with no acknowledgement at all that his concern was to open the door to the energy of its radicalism. Harman does not even <em>mention</em> Widgery’s unique engagement with anti-racism. That H-word, however, turns up,</p> <blockquote><p>‘Dave, like any good socialist, did not always agree with everything the leadership of the party told him. His vision of revolution involved more than the humdrum tasks of socialist organisation. But he knew those tasks had to be done’</p></blockquote> <p>The emotional hollowness and orthodoxy of Harman’s politics can be felt from the next sentence of this attempt at an epitaph,</p> <blockquote><p>‘Twenty-five years after becoming a revolutionary socialist he continued to sell this paper, taking a regular five copies a week, and to attend weekly meetings when he could’.</p></blockquote> <p>Imagine little more than this being said over your grave by one of your leaders in return for 25 years of service! A quarter-century of commitment, passionate arguments and much humdrumming, as well as being a GP; after many articles, reviews and regular columns in the SWP press; after creating a genuine public following through his books; after helping initiate the most successful anti-racist intervention of the period; after playing a vital role in smashing a latent fascism movement; in <em>no way</em> do the party’s official obsequies permit any suggestion that its leadership learnt anything at all from Widgery. They cannot allow that he might have contributed to their understanding of the times through which they struggled together. Despite his evidently being amongst the most brilliant of their thinkers, party members were not permitted for a moment to entertain the idea that revolutionary leadership had any other source than the actually existing leadership of the SWP.</p> <p>If this asphyxiating refusal of originality was what he was up against in the SWP, what on earth led Widgery to stay?</p> <p>Part of the answer demands talking about his polio. It would be wrong to say it left him a cripple, not because he would in any way object to the political incorrectness of the term, but because in so many ways it did not. If anything, the disability of a foreshortened leg and a legacy of pain strengthened him. But the long convalescence through his teenage years marked him out as different. When he identified with blacks and Asians there was no artificial sense of his projecting onto them a longing for the authentic that he lacked, nor any liberal concern for fairness. His body was like theirs in that it inscribed him as an outsider. The anti-racism of this well-educated English middle-class boy was, if I can be allowed the word in this context, natural. So too was his immediate identification with women’s liberation in the UK that started in 1970. The bodily, by which I mean the intimate, physical urge for equality, was intrinsic to his own experience. It led him to support from their beginning the two transformative movements that came out of the sixties to challenge the exclusive white patriarchy of the British Establishment: feminism and multiculturalism.</p> <p>The working class ‘insurgency’ of 1972 and 1974, to use Widgery’s description, had led to a second Harold Wilson government after two elections in 1974. This incorporated the trade unions into a social contract. Meanwhile, in 1975, with inflation running at 15 per cent, Margaret Thatcher took over the Tory leadership. The far-right in the form of the National Front or NF also mobilised. In August 1976 Eric Clapton used a concert to speak out for Enoch Powell, the totemic figure of racist alarmism. Enraged, Red Saunders, a radical photographer, wrote an instant letter that was signed by six friends and ran in <em>Musical Express</em>, <em>Melody Maker</em> and <em>Sounds</em>, telling him, 'Come on Eric…you’ve been taking too much of that Daily Express. Own up. Half your music is black.’ And with that letter, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/rarukofficial/posts/764139483755772">Rock Against Racism</a> was born.</p> <p>Loaned office space by the SWP’s <em>Socialist Worker</em> it hammered out its own ideas, launched an explosive propaganda broadsheet, <em>Temporary Hoardings</em>, overseen by the graphic designer Ruth Gregory. Widgery wrote its <a href="http://leftunity.org/david-widgery-dissident-marxist/">first editorial</a> in manifesto prose:</p> <blockquote><p>‘We want Rebel music, street music. Music that breaks down people’s fear of one another. Crisis music. Now music. Music that knows who the real enemy is. Rock against Racism. Love Music Hate Racism.’</p></blockquote> <p>RAR organised numerous events and concerts. It was supercharged by the simultaneous arrival of Punk, without whose energy it might have faltered, and its vulgar up-yours to the fatuous monarchism of the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977.</p> <p>This was the moment when everything came together for Widgery. The mad anarchism of Punk ‘was another response to the same social crisis which produced the NF’s successes’. Violent and sexist, it could have gone in any direction politically, he argued, but punk was working class and coming from the bottom, despising liberal pieties. Widgery’s political intelligence and cultural radicalism, so often in tension, had found a joint home and clunk-clicked. In August RAR mobilised its raucous supporters against the National Front in the battle of Lewisham.</p> <p>The NF’s leader the ‘veteran fascist John Tyndall’ was so shaken by Lewisham he declared ‘the Third World War has just started’, Widgery writes:</p> <blockquote><p>‘As for our side, we were frightened and brave and proud and ashamed all at the same time as the day became more brutal and frightening and the police, furious at their failure, turned to take revenge on the counter-demonstrators. There was one big flash of recognition on the faces of the groups: between dread and socialist, between lesbian separatist and black parent, between NME speedfreak and ASTMS branch secretary. We were together.’</p></blockquote> <p>Out of the events at Lewisham the SWP decided to establish a broader front against Fascism, the Anti-Nazi League. Supported by up and coming politicians such as Peter Hain and Neil Kinnock, the ANL whacked the stuffing out of the National Front. Apparently Martin Webster, the chief NF organiser, believed that,</p> <blockquote><p>‘prior to 1977 the NF were unstoppable. Then suddenly the ANL was everywhere and knocked hell out of them… He said that the sheer presence of the ANL had made it impossible to get NF members onto the streets, had dashed recruitment and cut away their vote. It wasn't just the physical opposition to their marches, they have lost the propaganda war too.’</p></blockquote> <p>Widgery argues that what they achieved was historic:</p> <blockquote><p>‘if such a campaign as the ANL and RAR had not been launched in Britain, there is every reason to suspect that the mid-70s electoral surge of the NF might have been sustained. The evidence is in France where Jean-Marie Le Pen, now the leader of Europe's largest movement of the extreme right, advanced from a mere 0.2 per cent in the March 1982 local elections…&nbsp; to a total of 2.5 million votes in the 1984 Euro election.’</p></blockquote> <p>This claim and the earlier quotes come from <a href="https://www.abebooks.co.uk/Beating-Time-David-Widgery-Chatto-Windrus/13190220504/bd"><em>Beating Time, Riot ‘n’ Race ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll</em></a> written by Widgery and designed by Ruth Gregory and Andy Dark as a graphic photo book laid out with the style and energy of <em>Temporary Hoarding</em>. The episode is situated in the longer experience of British racism by Paul Gilroy, in <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/There-Aint-Black-Union-Jack/dp/0415289815"><em>There Ain't no Black in the Union Jack</em></a>. He observes that RAR had an extensive rather than narrow definition of racism which connected to the much wider social-political struggles in Britain at that time. Gilroy also recognises the effort RAR made to communicate an anti-authoritarian appeal,</p> <blockquote><p>‘The effect of punk on RAR's ability to function effectively was not confined to its pronouncements on ‘race’ and nation. Punk style, like its anti authoritarian ideology, was also borrowed, used and developed by RAR. It became an integral part of the movement's capacity to operate in a truly popular mode, a significant component in its ability to be political without being boring at a time when the NF was identified as being ‘No Fun’. This can be seen most clearly from an examination of the visual design of RAR broadsheets and magazines. In breaking from what was felt to be a dour and therefore self-defeating leftist approach, almost as devoid of fun as drab fascist propaganda, RAR's designers, Ruth Gregory and Syd Shelton, David King, Roger Huddle, Red Saunders, Andy Dark, Rick Fawcett and others laid great emphasis on the visual appeal of their publications.’</p></blockquote> <p>Gilroy regrets the loss of this wider energy in the shift from Rock against Racism to the Anti-Nazi League with its narrower focus and demagogic striving for a patriotic wartime appeal. The move may have helped crush the National Front definitively but it let British racism live on to find other forms. At the same time the combination of RAR and the ANL laid a foundation stone for multicultural London, if not yet the rest of Britain. It culminated in the Victoria Park mobilisation and concert in 1978. In his account <a href="http://leftunity.org/david-widgery-dissident-marxist/">Dave Renton</a> quotes the historian Raphael Samuel reporting that it was ‘the most working class demonstration I have been on, and one of the very few of my adult lifetime to have sensibly changed the climate of public opinion’.</p> <p>Written in the mid-eighties and published in 1986 <em>Beating Time</em> was critically reviewed in <em>International Socialism</em> by one of Widgery's party comrades, Ian Birchall. He reprimanded it for ‘the absence of an adequate theoretical framework’ and for ‘missing… a concept of ideology’. An interminable put-down suffused with the spirit of an ideological apparatchik and stuffed with routine quotes from Marx, Lenin and SWP leader Tony Cliff, Birchall scorns Widgery’s celebration by asking in effect, if RAR and ANL were so good, why were there so few new recruits for the SWP?[3]. Widgery’s reply is droll and restrained except about the format of the book, which he defends with a brilliant, forceful account of the need to embrace new visual means to communicate the possibilities of change. As for the reason that RAR and the ANL did not recruit large numbers of new members for the SWP? ‘RAR and the ANL activity was an upsurge within a downturn’[4].</p> <p><em>An upsurge within a downturn! </em>If you want a five-word introduction to Widgery’s politics you can’t do better. And what an upsurge he and his fellow creators of Rock Against Racism were!&nbsp; Against the reactionary tide of mid-1970s Britain, he wove a revolutionary’s dream of working class youth, new music, defiant lèse majesté, graphic invention, confrontation and celebration, outside and against the official structures – overcoming police lines to do so. And did this with purpose, helping smash the UK’s incipient fascist movement with lasting effect.</p> <p>This brilliant fight was not a defensive politics to rescue a community’s dignity, fine and hard though that can be. Rather, he had helped inspire and organise a shape-shifting claim on his country’s political culture that broke a racist movement forever and laid a framework for active multi-culturalism in an old imperial society. Also, it was not done in the top-down Leninist model of bringing ‘revolutionary consciousness and strategy to the masses’ that so hypnotised orthodox Trotskyists. It was done with – not to – the young working-class who mobilised against racism, learning from its language and spirit [5].</p> <p>All this meant that for 18 months Widgery lived the revolution that he dreamt of. Which in turn meant he learnt how it needed organisation. He could never have done it alone, meaning in his case without the resources of the SWP. It is hard to leave an organisation which has gifted you such an experience. I’m speculating, but the legacy of polio meant he knew intimately that he needed the strength of others. Many remain members of sects out of psychological weakness and a need for the authority and security they seem to provide, a mental state of affairs that can preserve the pathology that creates the bond. Mentally, Widgery was fit and free and at ease with his own judgements and feelings. This was why he was never trusted by the SWP, he acknowledged the need for discipline without surrendering his liberty. Also, he could see that the SWP needed him while stupidly refusing to recognise the fact, which must have been immensely frustrating. But, surely, they would learn? Surely, the moment would come, for he understood that there can be no revolution without the wider unruly energies and resources of popular democracy, which Widgery, unlike them, had the capacity to hear and mainline.&nbsp;</p> <p>He died before he learnt that no such opportunity would come within a usual lifetime. Probably he would have left his party by drifting away rather than publicly denouncing the SWP, under the pressures of his medical practice and writing. Where would he be now, had he lived into the age of the internet? &nbsp;He wrote that he intended to become more dangerous as he grew old. And he would have been more dangerous. In his introduction to <em>The Left in Britain, </em>which he edited in 1975, he wrote, ‘Because such a small group of people actually find written words convincing, I half wish that it wasn’t a book at all but some species of talking poster…’.&nbsp; A talking poster is what the graphics of Rock Against Racism and Temporary Hoardings strove for. What else is the World Wide Web but a format for talking posters? It would have been home from home for someone as fast, opinionated, engaged, visual, provocative and knowledgeable as Widgery. Russell Brand would have had little chance up against him.</p> <p>A couple of years before he died, probably in November 1989, he, his partner Juliet and their children Jesse and Annie (<em>Beating Time</em> is dedicated to the three of them) came to stay for a fireworks night with me and my partner Judith and our daughters Tamara and Portia. A vicious bug had struck me down. I found myself prostrate in bed, unable to join them outside to watch the pyrotechnics that I love. Widgery checked me out. He asked careful questions, then told me firmly that I had to wash my hands twice in future after going to the loo, which indeed I have done ever since (I hold him responsible for wasting enormous quantities of soap). Tender and professional, he assured me I would recover. I can see him now, Doctor Widgery. He is leaning over me still.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Thanks to Juliet Ash, Paul Gilroy, Richard Kuper and Ross Spear for helpful comments.</em></p><p><em>_______________________ <br /></em></p><p>[1] ‘Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse’ by Matthew Arnold, and I discover on checking that another aspect of Widgery’s prodigious fecundity was also present, a slightly inaccurate quotation. It should be: ‘between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born’.</p> <p>[2] Peter Whitehead’s <em>Wholly Communion,</em><em> </em>a 33-minute hand-held, close-up documentary of the 1965 Albert Hall ‘International Poetry Incarnation’, shows Ginsberg was pretty much out of his head. It also features Adrian Mitchell reading <em>Tell Me Lies About Vietnam,</em> which distils the rage and pain the war created in many of us. You can see it on the BFI DVD, <em>Peter Whitehead and the Sixties.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p>[3] Ian Birchall, <a href="https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/birchall/1986/xx/beatingtime.html">‘Only Rock and Roll?’</a> an article you could not make up if you wanted to caricature it. I can’t resist quoting one hilarious paragraph in full: ‘What is needed in this situation is not a vague ‘mentality’ of good-will, but hard politics. And that politics has to be backed up by organisation. But just as Widgery underplayed the role of the revolutionary party in fighting reformism, so he fails to point to the role of the party in cultural struggle. One of the very few bands that has preserved its political and musical integrity over the recent period is the Redskins. Firstly, because membership of the SWP has given them a clear political framework. And secondly, because every time they appear on stage or television, they know they are being watched by SWP members muttering: ‘Beware of your deviations and <em>faux-pas</em>, we shall not miss a single one.’’ Just as Birchall’s ‘review’ was gate-keeping, to ensure that any comrades who felt tempted by the spirit of Rock against Racism were aware that they had to put the party first, so good popular music need to be guarded from the deviations of punk by making sure that whenever you played the collective policeman of the SWP was keeping an eye out for the slightest deviation or even <em>faux</em>-<em>pas</em>! What was the fate of such musical inspiration? According to Wikipedia, ‘The Redskins released one full album, <em>Neither Washington Nor Moscow</em>, and two final singles before splitting at the end of 1986’. I should add that when, after he had given fifty years of loyal service to the party, Birchall could take no more <a href="http://grimanddim.org/political-writings/2013-letter-of-resignation/">and resigned in disgust</a> over its ‘Comrade Delta’ rape scandal in 2013, he listed the SWP’s achievements across his five decades of membership. They included, ‘Our initiation of the Anti-Nazi League played a major role in blocking the rise of the far right in Britain’.</p> <p>&nbsp;[4] Widgery, <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/widgery/1987/xx/beatingtime.html">Reply to Ian Birchall</a>. The phrase ‘upsurge within a downturn’ is also a form of code for the initiated. The SWP had an ‘upturn/downturn’ analysis of the times they lived in, emanating I presume from Tony Cliff. It gave its members a sense of measuring their place in the rhythm of the class struggle and whether their duty was the hold the line and preserve their forces (a downturn) or escalate confrontations to maximize the opportunities of the conjuncture (an upturn).&nbsp;</p><p>[5]&nbsp;<span>Here is how Widgery saw it, writing in </span><em>Beating Time</em><span> in 1986 (p.54): ‘In his 1977 study of nationalism and social crisis, the </span><em>Breakup of Britain</em><span>, Tom Nairn looks forward to a ‘new progressive and generous cultural movement which will be an alternative to the </span><em>nationalist</em><span> revival and may one day serve as a cultural bond between sectarian Marxism and a wider popular movement’. Nairn predicted exactly what Rock Against Racism became. But RAR's own strength was that it was not a decision of the intellect. It came out of the cultural experience of the first generation to have grown up in a multi-racial inner urban Britain. It was a generation who mixed loyalty to the spirit of the commune, Bolshevism and the German revolutionary left with post-war, post-electronic modernist culture. So RAR was not started by university graduates but by rock autodidacts working in photography, the glossies, Theatre, rock 'n' roll, graphic design and fashion. When we were finding our way to Marxism in the 1960s our common influences were not only Mayakovsky, El Lissitzky, Tatlin, Brecht, Grosz and Heartfield, but surrealism, Tamla Motown, Village Voice, Cadillac fins and American pop art. We plagiarised from far wider sources: Hanoi banana labels, Istanbul daily papers, Vivienne Westwood's clothes, Cecil Beaton, the US air force, Matisse (for colour), Man Ray, the underground press, Kraus’s Die Fackel, mid-period Jean Luc Godard, Situationism, always backed by the music of Jamaica and the American cities.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/david-hayes/david-widgery-1947-92-against-oblivion">David Widgery, 1947-92: against oblivion</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Anthony Barnett Wed, 11 Oct 2017 14:02:24 +0000 Anthony Barnett 113940 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How starting – and losing – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan helped create the conditions for Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-anthony-barnett/how-starting-and-losing-wars-in-iraq-and-afghanistan-helped-create-co <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Anthony Barnett discusses one of the key arguments in his new book on Brexit and Trump, <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit"><em>The Lure of Greatness</em></a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7Cvqas8-b28"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-style: italic;">Adam Ramsay: You argue that one of the causes of Brexit (and Trump) was what you call four great breaches of trust. Two of those relate to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (with the other two relating to the financial crisis and response to it). The claim that Brexit and Trump are a response to the flatling of income, increased insecurity and ballooning of ultra-wealth since the financial crash of 2007-8 is familiar. But your first two ‘breaches’ less so. Can you describe them briefly? Is it really fair to argue that Britain and America lost the war in Iraq?</span></p> <p>Anthony Barnett: Tony Blair’s aim was for him and Bush to be acclaimed as liberators by the people of Baghdad just as he was celebrated by Muslims as a liberator of Kosovo. To grasp how badly Washington and Whitehall have lost, therefore, you need only consider what it would be like had they won as intended. Victory would have meant that today a pro-American government, established after a short war and welcomed by the Iraqi people, would be the legitimate representative of a unified, peaceful Iraq, with large US bases astride its oil-fields. There would also be a stable Afghanistan. ISIS or Daesh would not exist. Trump’s complaint that America needs to start “winning again’ would be otiose. The British belief in their capacity to project world power as a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satrap">satrap</a> of Washington’s world order would have been confirmed. Their regimes would have ‘stood tall’ in terms of their own legitimacy, lauded by the media. Calls for Brexit would have been brushed aside.</p> <p>In brief the four breaches of trust are that they lied, they lost, they screwed the economy and then cashed in. The latter two are familiar, if you will excuse my vulgar shorthand: the financial crash and the ballooning of asset wealth by the ultra-rich after 2008. Together they have broken the economy hegemony – in the sense of an untouchable right to rule, there being no alternative – of neoliberalism. But the first two undermined the military political hegemony of the Anglo-Saxon order that appeared unquestionable after the collapse of Communism in 1989. The combination was fatal to their overall, global power and internal, domestic assent.</p> <p>Of the first two, that you are probing, the deceit undermined belief in the integrity of the system of government. But equally if not more important, losing militarily exposed the fundamental over-reach and catastrophic judgment of those whose claim to rule was that they are wise and the streets foolish and short term.</p> <p>Let me add something about the wrongdoing that led to the war. Blair knew the immediate history here. Thatcher’s complacency permitted the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands in 1982 and she should have paid for it – but victory atoned her. The Kosovo war was illegal as it had no UN sanction but success made this irrelevant. Blair and Bush knew Saddam Hussein was not a military threat, that the claim about weapons of mass destruction was contrived and that he would be easily overthrown. It was an illegal act of aggression not a defensive war of necessity. They bet on a swift and complete political victory that would then vindicate their judgment. At which point all the fuss, as they saw it, about legality and truth would become mere dust, while they, as I quote from Blair’s memo to Bush, would create a single world order centered on Washington.</p> <p>Instead, as the US army swept towards Baghdad, Paul Roger’s forecast in openDemocracy a thirty-year war not a three-month campaign. He has been proved right. Trillions have been spent, thousands have died and been wounded, there is no end in sight, while Iraq has a pro-Iranian government. This is no ordinary defeat. It means that the architects of the post 1989 order: the Clintons and Blairs especially, lost their claim on the loyalty of patriots.</p><p>As for the British Army, its assignments to pacify Basra in Iraq and then Helmand in Afghanistan led to its complete humiliation. <br /> <br /> <i>AR: If that's the case, why has almost no one said that before?<br /> </i><br />AB: In one sense I have written <i>The Lure of Greatness</i> to answer just this question! It is about busting denial. With respect to the UK and Brexit, both Leave and Remain share the same culture of denial in different, opposing forms. Which is why the clash between them seemed so weird and shallow. Nether wanted to address what was really at stake: are we a European country, or rather a union of European nations? Cameron was a Eurosceptic who wanted the UK to have the best of both worlds while loathing Europe. Johnson was even more Eurosceptic yet wanted the UK to have its cake and eat it while leaving the EU. What a choice! Neither for a moment wanted to see the British become Europeans in a political sense. This would mean having European style proportional representation and an institutional and constitutional revolution. Labour and Lib Dems too have gone along with parallel forms of denial if in their own ways. Only the Greens and the SNP think of themselves as also being part of the European polity, i.e. the real world.</p> <p>How does this relate to the humiliations of military Blairism in Basra and Helmand? And why does no one talk about them? How can they! To confront defeat you need a framework. Has an empire been defeated, has the country been invaded, has a campaign been frustrated? None of this describes the situation. A pretension was exposed and then spun by media handlers, leaving an after-sense like the profound smell of something rotten, along with many dead – but not <i>vast</i> numbers.</p> <p>Let me tell you an incident I recall vividly. Memory can deceive and I’ve searched for this online and not found it. But shortly before the invasion of Iraq as the US military build-up was reaching its mighty zenith, Blair was interviewed. I <i>think</i> on Newsnight. The interviewer was supportive and gave the prime minister plenty of time to make the case for war. Blair was at his most eloquent about the immediate threat to our entire way of life posed by Saddam and his Iraq regime. Carried away by his prime minister’s hypnotic conviction of the imminent danger we all faced, the interviewer responded with enthusiasm and said something like, ‘So we would have to invade Iraq even if America decides not to?’</p> <p>There was a silence. Suddenly both the interviewer as well as Blair realised they were exposed and it was all hot air. The curtain had been drawn back to reveal the reality by an act of accidental enthusiasm. The entire performance by the two of them was a charade. Blair flannelled adroitly, the relieved interviewer moved on. The danger passed. But for a moment reality flashed out from the TV screen: the only decision the UK could take was whether-or-not to support America.&nbsp;</p><p>This is the context. the long-distance projection of serious military power by the UK is part of a larger shared fantasy. Fantasies don’t get defeated. The media and political parties are unable to address Britain’s military defeats in the way you ask for, as this would mean confronting the fantasy and highlight the 'stories' of individual heroism, scandals and sacrifice. We should, instead, be addressing what kind of country we are and can be and facing up to the end of ‘Great Britain’. Hence my book.</p> <p><i>AR: The number of Americans who have served in these wars – literally over a whole generation – is in the millions. You make this point in your chapter on the four breaches of trust. Mostly - in both Britain and America, these are the children of the communities which have suffered most from deindustrialisation. Yet there seem to be very few films or TV series about the Iraq and Afghan wars. In both the USA and the UK, there seems to have been very little cultural processing of these calamities, beyond attempts to wave the flag and rally around the returning troops. Would a more active attempt to tell the stories of the wars - as seen with Vietnam - have helped draw the poison out of the wound in our society?</i></p><p><i> </i>AB: I belong to the Vietnam generation and the coverage of it did not draw out the poison. But you are right that something different is going on. First, it is important to register that Vietnamese resistance was a just cause – which is why they won. Saddam was a murderous dictator. The Taliban are obnoxious. Apocalyptic Islamic caliphatism is the abnegation of human and democratic rights. Although this does not vindicate wars of intervention, they are enemies of humanity. So how you tell the story of the conflict is more complicated. There is also an important difference between the US and the UK. Here we have never had a leader in power who has renounced the Iraq war. The US had Obama, who defeated Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008 because he opposed Iraq as a “dumb war” months before it was launched and foresaw the dire consequences of the US intervention. He then oversaw a strategic retreat shielded by drone warfare to ensure there was no Vietnam-style rout. Again, this does not make for a clear-cut story. All the more reason to tell it, of course. &nbsp;</p><p><i>AR: You talk in the book about various "pre-shocks" to Brexit. Should the parades at Wootton Basset and the vast (5 million people) turnout at the poppy installation at the Tower of London in 2014 "blood swept lands and seas of red" be added to this list?<br /> </i><br />AB: Yes for Wootton Basset, perhaps not for the Tower of London. For readers, especially round the world, who don't know what they are let me explain. As the dead from Afghanistan were flown back into the UK their coffins were driven to the receiving place through a small town in Wiltshire: Wootton Bassett. Spontaneously, the locals began to salute them as they passed through. The gesture grew into mass public routine, turning each journey into a semi-official funeral, with flags lowered and flowers thrown on the cars and public displays of grief that got increased media coverage. It was a form of protest: that military sacrifice should not be made in vain or without good cause. The authorities were quite concerned, they understood it was a rebuke and it showed them that there was no public support for escalation. Typically, they gave the town the accolade of Royal to show appreciation for its patriotism, and its name is now Royal Wootton Bassett as they shifted the destination of coffins to another airfield thus bringing the parades to an end. The reason why this was a form of pre-Brexit shock is that it was a demonstration of <i>unofficial</i>, spontaneous public self-belief. It was a <i>reprimand</i> to the order of the day. It was a sign of the distancing of a once loyal, people from the state. The Brexit vote was the greatest of these.&nbsp;</p><p>The display of ceramic red poppies at the Tower of London goes back to the extraordinary losses of the First World War and a nostalgia for a deep past and a desire for a more coherent identity, by looking back to a period when we knew ourselves well enough to say, ‘Never Again’. The display was imaginative but also officially organised and never threatening. I think it was much more a celebration of old Blighty than a reprimand.</p> <p><i>AR: If these wars were one cause of Brexit, then surely we have to look to the causes of the wars to understand it – namely, the interactions between the long shadow of the British empire and the chaotic end of the age of oil?<br /> </i><br />AB: I’m not convinced we have to go back to the 'causes of war' to understand this specific era of the human condition. Central to my argument is the concept of combined determination. That different kinds of causes came together with equally important influences. This can be so because the fate of the contemporary world is far more dependent on willed action than pre-industrial and early industrial societies.</p> <p>I see broadly three sets of causes. First the failure of the neoliberal era both in its military-political manifestation we have just talked about and in its economic and financial one. Second, the specific character of the Anglo-Saxon states and their breakdowns. The US need not have gone into Iraq after 9/11 and would not have done had Al Gore been president as he should have been. But the Bush presidency was deeply rooted in the American post-war regime. As for the Brits, I show how the ending of the old unified constitution has unleashed a national question that the structures cannot manage. England without London then took its revenge in the form of Brexit. Third, in addition the Trump response and the Brexit outcome were the result of votes that could easily have gone the other way.</p> <p>This latter point is very important to hold onto but not in the way the current Remain argument seems to be doing in the UK. This is in danger of becoming a form of self-satisfied glee at the disaster the Tories are making of Brexit. But that vote was an act of democracy which must be confronted, and can only be confronted by more and better democracy. This will have to mean a rejection of what went before – which led to Brexit. They cannot be – and, as important, we should not want there to be – a return to the status quo before Brexit and the regime of Cameron and Osborne privately advised by Mandelson and Blair. They, with their sly opportunism, were the authentic representatives of a deceitful and murderous era marked by its defeat in Afghanistan and Iraq.&nbsp;</p><p><i><strong>Please join Caroline Lucas MP, Suzanne Moore, Anthony Barnett and others to debate ‘<a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/confronting-brexit-and-trump-tickets-37996705168" target="_blank" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en-GB&amp;q=https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/confronting-brexit-and-trump-tickets-37996705168&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1506000956620000&amp;usg=AFQjCNF4s4nH9qdxHa3akTaB2hr69KPGgQ">Confronting Brexit and Trump</a>’ at London's Emmanuel Centre, 31 Oct 2017 7.30 to 9.15. Tickets <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/confronting-brexit-and-trump-tickets-37996705168">here</a>.</strong></i></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jeremy-fox/on-anthony-barnett-s-lure-of-greatness">On Anthony Barnett’s ‘Lure of Greatness’ </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/princess-diana-monarchys-brexit-moment">Princess Diana: the monarchy&#039;s Brexit moment</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/leave-may-have-lied-but-it-was-bush-blair-and-cameron-who-killed-political-honest">Leave may have lied, but it was Bush, Blair and Cameron who killed political honesty</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anthony Barnett Adam Ramsay Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:32:19 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Anthony Barnett 113487 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Princess Diana: the monarchy's Brexit moment https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/princess-diana-monarchys-brexit-moment <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the 20th anniversary of Diana's death, an edited chapter from the author's The Lure of Greatness</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563544/966.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563544/966.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="276" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Public domain</em></p><p>The one exception to the story of degeneration and loss of belief of the central, defining institutions of the United Kingdom is the monarchy. However galling for republicans, the monarchy played a long game helped by the Queen’s personal longevity, and saved itself. With the next three kings lined up, it is already projecting its claim into the twenty-second century. How it achieved this and at what price helps to demonstrate the larger argument. The traditional, constitutional settlement built around the absolute sovereignty of the core institutions of the Commons, the Cabinet, the Lords and the Crown, have lost their claim to a pre-modern form of allegiance.&nbsp; The monarchy went through its own equivalent of a Brexit shock with Princess Diana. It then found a way back, but only after discarding its precious freight of untouchability.</p> <p>Three key moments were 1992, when Andrew Morton’s revealing book on the marriage of Diana and Charles was published and they separated; 1995, when Diana gave her <em><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/politics97/diana/panorama.html">Panorama interview</a></em> setting out her claims directly; and 1997, when she died. The Queen publicly described 1992 as her <em>Annus Horribilis</em> – a horrible year. She had good reason to. As well as the open conflict between the heir to the throne and Diana, with lurid personal tapes of conversations between them and their lovers filling the tabloids, two of her other children ended their marriages and Windsor Castle caught fire. Her acknowledgement shared the crisis of the royal family with the public, an unheard-of breach in protocol. It was a permission to debate the nature and role of the monarchy and its future in a potentially influential fashion. It is hard to convey the force of the post-war taboo preventing such discussion. The monarch had been satirised from the sixties, and derided by the Sex Pistols on her Silver Jubilee in 1977. But the unwritten prohibition of serious discussion only began to erode in 1980s. After 1992, the Crown was still worshipped, but it became an institution that could be publicly criticised <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-Throne-Monarchy-Debate/dp/0099393115">and debated</a> without the critics being pilloried.</p> <p>Three years later Diana gave her extraordinary interview. Looking back, it is easy to see why Donald Trump, as well as talking about how he wanted to ‘nail’ her in his usual disgusting way, virtually stalked her after the break-up with Charles. Selina Scott <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mogul-sought-trophy-wife-lbdfn7rxngr">described</a> how, ‘He bombarded Diana at Kensington Palace with massive bouquets of flowers, each worth hundreds of pounds . . . Trump clearly saw Diana as the ultimate trophy wife,’ while Diana commented: ‘He gives me the creeps.’ Trump, inevitably, <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mogul-sought-trophy-wife-lbdfn7rxngr">reported</a> that they had ‘a great relationship’.</p> <p>During an extraordinary, hour-long interview, watched by over 20 million, Diana said:</p> <blockquote><p class="Display">I think the British people need someone in public life to give affection, to make them feel important, to support them, to give them light in their dark tunnels . . . I would like a monarchy that has more contact with its people – and I don’t mean by riding round bicycles and things like that . . . I’d like to be a queen of people’s hearts, in people’s hearts . . . I don’t think many people will want me to be Queen. Actually, when I say many people I mean the establishment that I married into, because they have decided that I’m a non-starter . . . because I lead from the heart, not the head . . . I think every strong woman in history has had to walk down a similar path, and I think it’s the strength that causes the confusion and the fear. Why is she strong? Where does she get it from? Where is she taking it? Where is she going to use it? Why do the public still support her? When I say public, you go and do an engagement and there’s a great many people there . . . And I want to reassure all those people who have loved me and supported me throughout the last 15 years that I’d never let them down.</p></blockquote> <p>The main elements of what we can now recognise as <em>celebrity populism</em> are in play. An attack on a cold-hearted Establishment for its calculated indifference to regular people. The attack being made by a member of the Establishment, with all the authority of knowing it at first hand, who has gone rogue. A position of being truly on the side of the public and understanding their pain, along with a liberal use of the word love and sharing one’s love (something Trump now does a lot). Measuring ‘the people’ by the size of the crowds and media attention. And at the same time, at length in other sections of the interview, attacking the media for its destructiveness while using the media to broadcast this attack.</p> <p>When Diana died two years later, Blair declared she was ‘The People’s Princess’. The use of ‘The People’ entered British political vocabulary with a new meaning, perhaps for the first time. Not because of the prime minister but because ‘The People’ occupied the huge spaces of the royal Mall in an enormous, spontaneous mobilisation. Quite unlike official events, such as celebration of royal marriages, the crowd was completely outside of official control. It also stayed with a sense of resolve. The People would not have the princess scorned. In her Balmoral Scottish fastness, the Queen declined to have the royal flag flown at half-mast over Buckingham Palace. She and her family responded just like the cold, heartless, oppressive ‘Establishment’ that Diana had warned about. Had this standoff continued, the Palace and the royals could have been overwhelmed. Elizabeth conceded to the prime minister’s unequivocal advice, flew to London, made a TV address and briefly joined the crowds to examine the myriad of bouquets. The day was saved. It was a harbinger of Brexit, of the public willing to separate itself, calmly and deliberately, from a distrusted, traditional authority; with quiet resolve, to borrow a phrase from Theresa May.</p> <p>It transformed the relationship of the Crown to the public for ever. Millions continue to love the Queen and remain attached to the monarchy as an institution. But its sanctity has gone – destroyed by Diana’s attempt to modernise it. Absurd as it might seem, Diana, like Charles and the rest of the royal family, believed in divine right. This is what she signals when she says she is against them ‘riding round on bicycles and things like that’, as immensely wealthy Dutch and Scandinavian royals do, who act as if they are normal. They may be privileged but they do not pretend to be different. It was the opposite for Diana. She was more royalist than the royals and believed in reviving the curing, royal touch. The interview was her call for them: to up their game, reach out and provide ‘heart’ to the people. It was an attempt to revamp the royal family. She sets out her aim in the last part of the interview, clearly prepared in advance: to get Charles to stand down as being unfit to be king so that the succession goes straight to William, divine right having made its way to him through her loins.</p> <p>The ridiculous scenario of Diana orchestrating the succession as queen of people’s hearts shows she was partly deranged by the adulation she so skilfully encouraged. Her death saved the royals from an internal civil war. The people would have been persuaded not to follow Diana, but she would have retained a noisy, devoted following obsessed with the injustice she had suffered. When she died, however, ‘The People’ came together as one and obliged the sovereign to bow her head and salute the Princess in her catafalque. A shift of influence took place, a kind of democratisation, if the word can be used in this context.</p> <p>The royal family, which has a small committee to consider its plans and prospects, learnt how celebrity populism that lionised their esteem was a fatal temptation. They organised a careful, managed retreat which included minimising media intrusion. A form of normalisation was adopted. William was sent to university at St Andrews – small, traditional, good quality, isolated, and as far away from London as it is possible to be. He was allowed to marry a commoner whom he met there. Security will keep him off bicycles on the public highway when he is king, but he has been given the ambition of appearing to be ordinary and becoming human rather than being ‘above us’. This is the price the monarchy is paying for its institutional survival. If a written constitution comes their way, as it should, he will not have a problem swearing a coronation oath to uphold it. It will then define his role, and divine right will come to an end.</p> <p>The larger issue is one of identification. The Queen is already seen as embodying the past. For the opening of the Olympic games, she was used in a James Bond sequence and a stand-in dressed as her parachuted into the arena in a stunt. This gave her the common touch but also put her in her place. At her coronation in 1953 she was heralded as the face of a ‘New Elizabethan age’. Then, the monarchy was at the centre of imaging the country’s future. Still flushed by emerging intact from the war, at the height of Churchillism, with the great man himself as her prime minister, the Queen could take the weight of representing the country’s aspirations. She was still surrounded by supporting institutions that she personally headed and which defined us: the armed forces (she took their salute on horseback), the Church of England, the civil service, and indeed the hereditary House of Lords, not to speak of debutantes coming out in their annual ball at Buckingham Palace and round-the-clock deference. In his wonderful account of the web spun by the monarchy and its grip on the British mentality, <em>The Enchanted Glass</em>, Tom Nairn has a hilarious but also troubling discussion of how the Queen was adored and entered people’s dreams, thoughts and imagination. The monarchy with its associated glamour of backwardness was central, he argues, to multinational British nationalism. It was a relationship willed by people who wished to remain subjects. He quotes John Buchan writing in 1935: ‘The essence of the British Monarchy is that the King, while lifted far above the nation, should also be the nation itself in its most characteristic form’. The royals carried this essence through the war and Queen Elizabeth took it to new heights.</p> <p>Forty years later, after a slow deflation, Diana bid to rekindle a new version of Buchan’s essence: as the Queen of people’s hearts, the light in their dark tunnels. She saw that only a populist monarchy could be the personification of today’s cruder, grasping nation. Diana’s was a loathsome, patronising pitch. The car crash saved the day. But the response that followed as the people occupied the Mall and clapped the coffin taught the royal family never again to put themselves forward for such a role. The route to normalisation is much safer, if this is the choice a demotic age imposes on them. They have survived – but no one would now describe Britain’s story as the ‘second Elizabethan age’.</p> <p>Thanks to Rupert Murdoch we are<a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1078504/revealed-queen-backs-brexit-as-alleged-eu-bust-up-with-ex-deputy-pm-emerges/"> told</a> that the Queen supported Brexit. The Palace promptly denied the report, as the issue is too divisive. With a form of civil war stretching ahead, they cannot allow themselves to be the focus of massive public ire by either side. It is a long way from 1953. Also, there is something healthy about Brexit that harmonises with the republican spirit, in its anti-elitism and demand to ‘take back control’ rather than be controlled. This too is dangerous for them. Looking back, the millions who lined the streets to applaud Diana’s shattered body can be seen as the people mourning the end of their hope – a hope of renewing a Britishness they could enjoy by dreaming of her. If so, there is no longer the same urge, looking past Elizabeth, to dream of Britain. The Family continues. But a peculiarity of Great British nationalism was that it needed a pre-modern personification, because of its primitive, seventeenth-century formation. Without an adored monarch to define it, Britishness and the monarchy can live on, but 'Great Britain' as a state may not long survive.</p><p><em>This is an edited chapter from the author's <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1115086/the-lure-of-greatness/">The Lure of Greatness: England's Brexit &amp; America's Trump</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-3-burnt-alive">Burnt Alive, Grenfell Tower is watching us</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/melvyn-bragg-anthony-barnett/melvyn-bragg-versus-anthony-barnett-on-magna-carta-today">Melvyn Bragg versus Anthony Barnett on the Magna Carta continued</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anthony Barnett Thu, 31 Aug 2017 07:50:03 +0000 Anthony Barnett 113112 at https://www.opendemocracy.net John Berger and the Booker Prize https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/john-berger-and-booker-prize <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Clarity is more important than money.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_2153.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Paris 1974: the campaign is launched (photo, Judith Herrin)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_2153.jpg" alt="" title="Paris 1974: the campaign is launched (photo, Judith Herrin)" width="460" height="327" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Paris 1974: a campaign is launched (photo, Judith Herrin)</p><p><em>BBC 3 presented a three-hour radio tribute to John Berger on Sunday, 23 July called </em><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08yrm17"><em>Ways of Listening</em></a><em>. Its centre-piece was a re-broadcast of the dramatization of his novel, </em>To the Wedding<em>, directed by Simon McBurney and created by Complicité. It included tributes, reminiscences and John Berger’s own broadcasts from the BBC archive. The producer Tim Dee asked me for a short reflection and I talked about the time shortly after I got to know him. Here it is in full, followed by the Booker Prize speech in full. The programme can be heard </em><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08yrm17"><em>on iPlayer</em></a><em> until 28 August 2017.</em></p><p>I want to talk about two episodes in the 1970s, which back then we might have referred to as being about the “conditions of production” of John’s work, and in these neoliberal days his “cash flow”. His getting the Booker prize, denouncing it but taking half the money. Second, his being funded to write novels about peasant life starting with <em>Pig Earth</em>. </p><p>The two are linked by something which, today, may seem hard to believe. He was at a pinnacle of his career. <em>Ways of Seeing</em> was still fresh from its being broadcast by the BBC. The book of the four programmes was just becoming a bestseller. <em>G </em>had been published and acclaimed. Yet John was without financial support. British society made every attempt to discard and marginalise him in return for his radicalism – with success. Tolerance can be ruthless in this respect. He was nearly crushed by it.</p> <p>John read out a careful statement to his fellow diners when the Booker was announced in the Autumn of 1972. He was prepared because it was still early days for the prize and those shortlisted might not turn up. Unlike today when the jury decide just before the gathering and surprise the winner as everything is live streamed – not only did the jury decide in advance but winners were told in confidence to ensure their attendance.</p> <p>John came to see me with the news. He hated the idea of the prize but he could not afford to refuse it. It was worth £5,000. He was desperate for funds to research a book on immigrant workers. It would become <em>A Seventh Man</em>. He got me to help him finalise the text that explains his decision: to keep half the money for his costs and donate the other to the London Black Panthers to recognise the tainted origins of the Booker McConnell corporation in the West Indies sugar plantations and slavery. </p> <p>When John came back to his table after reading his statement the critic George Steiner was furious for his not even refusing it outright. He whispered at him in a rage: “You Leninist”. John seemed proud of this when he told me about it the next day, it was a recognition of his cunning.</p> <p>35 years later Steiner recalled the moment for the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/sep/06/bookerprize.40years">Guardian</a>,</p> <blockquote><p>I fought very hard for John Berger to win for <em>G</em>, and then he threw it in my face by giving half the prize money to the Black Panthers. It was a very grim experience. I was in a very precarious position at the time and I literally thought it was the end for me in this country. I thought I would have to pack my bags and go.</p></blockquote> <p>Steiner was an outsider, like John. Unlike him he desperately wanted to succeed in the British establishment. Yet he retained an intellectual integrity and recognised and welcomed the European ambition and scale of G. </p> <p>If John had merely rejected the prize outright, he’d have been mocked for copying Jean Paul Sartre as if the Booker was the Nobel prize for literature. Both he and it would have been damaged. Instead, he struck at the underlying and still unresolved bad-faith of British culture with respect to the part played by slavery and racial prejudice in its success. Ironically, this may have helped to elevate the prize to its present importance, ensuring that somehow it matters. </p> <p>But the marginalisation of Berger proceeded. It meant that after he had written <em>A Seventh Man</em> he could see no way to support his immersing himself in one of the last peasant communities of western Europe in the Haute Savoie, to write what would turn into his fiction trilogy <em>Into their Labours</em>. </p><p>He was convinced that he was doomed, and would be brought down by what he called his “Demon”. I went to meet him in Paris in 1974 and launched a campaign to get him to a fellowship at the <a href="https://www.tni.org/en">Transnational Institute</a>. This had been created by left-wing Americans and was based in Amsterdam. The main difficulty was to persuade John – to overcome his resistance, to defy his Demon and apply. Eventually he did, in January 1975. He asked for a modest three-year fellowship. They said “yes” and gave him $6,000 a year. When he got the news he telegrammed me: </p><blockquote><p>YOUR SUCCESS STOP DEMON DEPARTED TO BECOME YOUR </p><p>GUARDIAN ANGEL&nbsp;&nbsp; JOHN</p></blockquote> <p>Without this support from across the Atlantic I don’t know what would have happened to John, for his life-source welled up from his implacable stubbornness. The Britain that celebrates him now should not forget this. He rightly fought its class system which, wrongly, shut him down as best it could, hoping to asphyxiate his exceptional genius. It remains a country profoundly hostile to his still vitally necessary radicalism – whether in its demonic or angelic forms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Speech by John Berger on accepting the Booker Prize for Fiction at the Café Royal in London on 23 November 1972</strong></p> <p>Since you have awarded me this prize, you may like to know, briefly, what it means to me. The competitiveness of prizes I find distasteful. And in the case of this prize the publication of the shortlist, the deliberately publicised suspense, the speculation of the writers concerned as though they were horses, the whole emphasis on winners and losers is false and out of place in the context of literature.</p> <p>Nevertheless prizes act as a stimulus - not to writers themselves but to publishers, readers and booksellers. And so the basic cultural value of a prize depends upon what it is a stimulus to. To the conformity of the market and the consensus of average opinion; or to imaginative independence on the part of both reader and writer. If a prize only stimulates conformity, it merely underwrites success as it is conventionally understood. It constitutes no more than any other chapter in a success story. If it stimulates imaginative independence, it encourages the will to seek alternatives. Or, to put it very simply, it encourages people to question.</p> <p>The reason why the novel is so important is that the novel asks questions which no other literary form can ask: questions about the individual working on his own destiny; questions about the uses to which one can put a life - including one’s own. And it poses these questions in a very private way. The novelist’s voice functions like an inner voice.</p> <p>Although it may seem somewhat inappropriate on my part, I would like to salute - and to thank - this year’s jury for their independence and seriousness in this respect. All four books on their shortlist demonstrate the kind of imaginative non-conformity I’m talking about. That they gave a prize to my book gave me pleasure - because it represented a response, a response from other writers.</p> <p><em>G.&nbsp;</em>took five years to write. Since then I have been planning the next five years of my life. I have begun a project about the migrant workers of Europe. I do not know what form the final book will take. Perhaps a novel. Perhaps a book that fits no category. What I do know is that I want some of the voices of the eleven million migrant workers in Europe and of the forty or so million that are their families, mostly left behind in towns and villages but dependent on the wages of the absent workers, to speak through and on the pages of this book. Poverty forces the migrants, year after year, to leave their own places and culture and come to do much of the dirtiest and worst-paid work in the industrialised areas of Europe, where they form the reserve army of labour. What is their view of the world? Of themselves? Of us? Of their own exploitation?</p> <p>For this project it will be necessary to travel and stay in many places. I will need sometimes to take Turkish friends with me who speak Turkish, or Portuguese friends, or Greek. I want to work again with a photographer, Jean Mohr, with whom I made the book about the country doctor. Even if we live modestly as we ought to and travel in the cheapest way possible, the project of four years will cost about ten thousand pounds. I did not know exactly how we would find this money. I did not have any of it myself. Now the award of the Booker Prize would make it possible to begin.</p> <p>Yet one does not have to be a novelist seeking very subtle connections to trace the five thousand pounds of this prize back to the economic activities from which they came. Booker McConnell have had extensive trading interests in the Caribbean for over 130 years. The modern poverty of the Caribbean is the direct result of this and similar exploitation. One of the consequences of this Caribbean poverty is that hundreds of thousands of West Indians have been forced to come to Britain as migrant workers. Thus my book about migrant workers would be financed from the profits made directly out of them or their relatives and ancestors.</p> <p>More than that, however, is involved. The industrial revolution and the inventions and culture which accompanied it and which created modern Europe was initially financed by profits from the slave trade. And the fundamental nature of the relationship between Europe and the rest of the world, between black and white, has not changed. In&nbsp;<em>G.</em>&nbsp;the statue of the four chained Moors is the most important single image of the book. This is why I have to turn this prize against itself. And I propose to do so by sharing it in a particular way. The half I give away will change the half I keep.</p> <p>First let me make the logic of my position really clear. It is not a question of guilt or bad conscience. It certainly is not a question of philanthropy. It is not even, first and foremost, a question of politics. It is a question of my continuing development as a writer: the issue is between me and the culture which has formed me.</p> <p>Before the slave trade began, before the European de-humanised himself, before he clenched himself on his own violence, there must have been a moment when black and white approached each other with the amazement of potential equals. The moment passed. And henceforth the world was divided between potential slaves and potential slavemasters. And the European carried this mentality back into his own society. It became part of his way of seeing everything.</p> <p>The novelist is concerned with the interaction between individual and historical destiny. The historical destiny of our time is becoming clear. The oppressed are breaking through the wall of silence which was built into their minds by their oppressors. And in their struggle against exploitation and neo-colonialism - but only through and by virtue of the common struggle - it is possible for the descendants of the slave and the slavemaster to approach each other again with the amazed hope of potential equals.</p> <p>This is why I intend to share the prize with those West Indians in and from the Caribbean who are fighting to put an end to their exploitation. The London-based Black Panther movement has arisen out of the bones of what Bookers and other companies have created in the Caribbean; I want to share this prize with the Black Panther movement because they resist both as black people and workers the further exploitation of the oppressed. And because, through their Black People’s Information Centre, they have links with the struggle in Guyana, the seat of Booker McConnell’s wealth, in Trinidad and throughout the Caribbean: the struggle whose aim is to expropriate all such enterprises.</p> <p>You know as well as I do that the amount of money involved - as soon as one stops thinking of it as a literary prize - is extremely small. I badly need more money for my project about the migrant workers of Europe. The Black Panther movement badly needs money for their newspaper and for other activities. But the sharing of the prize signifies that our aims are the same. And by that recognition a great deal is clarified. And in the end – as well as in the beginning – clarity is more important than money.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/John_Berger-2009_(6).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/John_Berger-2009_(6).jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><strong><em>Anthony Barnett's <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">The Lure of Greatness </a>will be published next month</em></strong></p><p><strong><em><br /></em></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/john-berger/rostia-kunovsky-fen%C3%AAtres-lettres-0">Rostia Kunovsky: Fenêtres Lettres </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/john-berger-witness-to-human-condition-1926-2017">John Berger, witness to the human condition (1926-2017)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tom-overton/art-and-property-now-room-5-redrawing-maps">Art and Property Now: Room 5, Redrawing the Maps</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/tom-overton/art-and-property-now-room-4-vertical-line-%E2%80%93-radio-edit">Art and Property Now: Room 4: The Vertical Line – Radio Edit</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tom-overton/art-and-property-now-room-3-to-be-continued-by-reader%E2%80%A6">Art and Property Now: Room 3: To be continued by the reader…</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/tom-overton/art-and-property-now-room-2-ways-of-seeing-and-g-at-40">Art and Property Now: Room 2: Ways of Seeing and G at 40</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/tom-overton/art-and-property-now-room-1-painter-of-our-time">Art and Property Now: Room 1: A Painter of Our Time </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/john-berger/shame-not-individual-guilt">Shame, not individual guilt </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk United States UK europe Caribbean Anthony Barnett Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:35:35 +0000 Anthony Barnett 112489 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Burnt Alive, Grenfell Tower is watching us https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-3-burnt-alive <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A high-rise of death - that seems alive and watching us. A photo-essay.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong><em>This was originally published on 4 July 2017. Two weeks before, I had written <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-2-inferno">a piece </a>from afar on the Grenfell inferno as a hecatomb - a mass sacrifice - to neoliberalism. Here, I simply bare witness to what I experienced. It is republished to mark the start of the official inquiry. AB</em></strong></p><p><strong>When I went to Grenfell Tower I noticed the way passers-by glanced up at it, with a wary acknowledgment. Their look had a quality I'd never seen before. They cast their eyes at this<br /></strong></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1730.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The tower"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1730.jpg" alt="" title="The tower" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><strong>Like much of London the tower is hugger-mugger with buildings of other periods and styles. It can pop out unexpectedly <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/incidet response.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/incidet response.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1606.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1606.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>Or rise up behind the clutter of London</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/cluter2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/cluter2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>You see it alongside a passing train<br /></strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/passing train2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/passing train2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>or standing in the distance at a bus stop</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Bus stop.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Bus stop.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></strong></p><p><strong>or, incongruously, hidden by the green trees of the estate</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/behind trees 3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/behind trees 3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>It disappears from view as you walk down Bramley Road, even though you are getting closer <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/behind2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/behind2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="282" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br /></strong></p><p><strong>The streets and passageways around the tower are filled with a galaxy of posters, flyers, notices and memorials, which cluster togther and become more intense the closer you get to the tower itself </strong></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1677.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1677.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><strong>This is St Clements to the south of the tower</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/St Clements.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/St Clements.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>and this is the Methodist Church to the north. Note the yellow line, it has notices on it forbidding the press from crossing. The public space behind it is for grief whose expression is not to be exploited<br /></strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/methodist church.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/methodist church.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="318" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>In many places testimonies have been covered to protect them from the rain</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1652 2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1652 2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="587" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>New ones are being added:</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1651.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1651.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>Everywhere are pictures of those almost certainly consumed by the fire, often desperately proclaimed as missing. Here are a dozen</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1717.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1717.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1665.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1665.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/consumed1_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/consumed1_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1664.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1664.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1666.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1666.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1667.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1667.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1668.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1668.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1669.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1669.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/consumed2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/consumed2.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/consumed3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/consumed3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1716.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1716.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1663.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1663.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1648.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1648.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="516" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>To the right of the missing notice for Steven Power above is a photo of a young man with RIP in the top left corner. It was put up while I was there by a young woman. She was taping copies within the various displays. She told me he was her cousin, "Three brothers, with their mother and family, on the 21st floor. No help." </strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/cousin.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/cousin.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>That was when I understood the look cast by passers by. </strong></p><p><strong>Many go to visit Grenfell as I did, to bear witness, pay respect, recognise responsibility. Last week, among the wanderers on the afternoon I was there, the women showed their distress while men like me took photographs to hide theirs. It is also a busy part of town. Many pass by on the way to work or shop or return home. Before they'd have barely noticed the high rise. Now its presence is proclaimed by the posters as you approach. Instinctively you check it out.&nbsp;</strong></p><p><strong>If we have to pass a pit bull terrier, or some other breed of dangerous animal, we keep an eye on it without seeking to provoke it. Our glance is a momentary cocktail of loathing, respect, caution, fear and repugnance as well as a touch of curiosity. It is a familiar, instinctive reaction. </strong></p><p><strong>Never before have I seen it cast upwards, high into the sky, as if the aim is to skirt a monster. </strong></p><p><strong>The glance shows that people react to the tower as if it is alive. </strong></p><p><strong>It is alive. </strong></p><p><strong>While the remains of the beautiful young man and his brothers and their mother and their neighbours lie on the top floors open to the elements, the tower is an unconsecrated high rise - occupied by the souls of those to whom we have not yet said farewell. </strong></p><p><strong>It is alive with their restlessness. </strong></p><p><strong>With injustice.</strong></p><p><strong>And with significance. The building still pulses with a dark </strong><strong>inferno of neoliberal greed and inhumanity that deregulated, cut costs, outsourced and clad it; a system that strips responsibility from government and says there is no alternative. </strong></p><p><strong>When Martin Moore-Bick was appointed to head the enquiry into what happened at Grenfell, he went there and told <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40446579">the BBC</a>, "I can honestly say that I have never seen anything like that building which has been completely gutted so that you can see through it". </strong></p><p><strong>It is also the other way round. It is as if the the building sees through us. </strong></p><p><strong>Will his inquiry record what this means or </strong><strong><strong>defend society from what it reveals</strong>?<br /></strong></p><p><strong>You do not get the exactly same sense of the tower as a witness from afar. The victims are not as close. But it is a sentinal. Viewed from the motorway it is a shocking welcome to London. <br /></strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/westway1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/westway1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>And it watches us as we leave.</strong></p><p><strong>Up close, it also becomes a battlefield - in a new round of conflict over fairness, justice and humanity<br /></strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/estate.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/estate.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/underneath.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/underneath.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1650.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1650.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1587.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1587.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>I flew to New York soon after the 9/11 attack. openDemocracy had just committed itself to reporting and debating the flaws in global government. Suddently we were engaged with the significance of an unexpected epicentre at the tip of Manhatten. I went to the site of the World Trade Centre. The jagged remnants of its&nbsp; trademark exterior were still standing. Already there was a viewing platform. </strong></p><p><strong>Around it were pictures of the missing, in far greater number than Grenfell. What I remember most vividly was the thick dust that coated the surrounding buildings. </strong></p><p><strong>The New York skyscrapers had collapsed under the impact of huge planes bloated with jet fuel. The city, the country and most of the world, rallied against an assault on the innocent that was from outside. Of course, it should never have been exploited in the way it was. But at that moment it called forth solidarity with America even if you regarded its policies provocative. Grenfell is different. The assault has come from within our society.</strong></p><p><strong>Here, solidarity with the victims does not lead to sympathy with a system of government.The tower is a great remonstrance against the way both Labour and Conservatives this century have abandoned us to the market. The political and moral implosion of the country's richest Borough of Kensington and Chelsea should be the start of a great unwinding. As Grenfell looks on</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1580.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/IMG_1580.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="613" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><strong>and we leave our tributes</strong></p><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/flws3.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/flws3.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="555" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></strong></p><p><em>All photos by Anthony Barnett, taken with an iPhone and published by opendemocracy under Creative Commons license.</em></p><p><em>Edited since first posting.</em></p><p><strong>Anthony Barnett's, <a href="https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Anthony-Barnett/The-Lure-of-Greatness--Englands-Brexit-and-Americas-Trump/21151451"><em>The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit and America’s Trump</em></a><a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">,</a> will be published shortly. <br /></strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-2-inferno">The Grenfell Inferno</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/john-berger-witness-to-human-condition-1926-2017">John Berger, witness to the human condition (1926-2017)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/jeremy-corbyn-catches-spirit-of-brexit">Corbyn catches the spirit of Brexit, then terror strikes</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Grenfell Tower fire Grenfell Tower Fire Anthony Barnett Tue, 04 Jul 2017 11:00:01 +0000 Anthony Barnett 112033 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Grenfell Inferno https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-2-inferno <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The meaning of Grenfell was immediately understood. It was a hecatomb to neoliberalism, a public sacrifice to the ideology that denies it has a name.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-31704411_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/PA-31704411_0.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>After Grenfell: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn comforts a local resident. David Mirzoeff/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Elated by the upset of Theresa May’s authoritarian election plans, I began what I intended to be a quick series of short posts on the Age of Corbyn. The first set out how he has become the most powerful man in the land. The second was to be on the general election’s manifesto moment, that changed the UK’s public conversation so decisively.</p><p>Then the inhabitants of the upper floors of Grenfell Tower were incinerated alive. The sight of families waving as the flames from the ‘low cost’ cladding engulfed them put everything on pause. For this was not just an accident, or even an accident ‘waiting to happen’. It was also the murderous consequence of neoliberalism.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">There was no need to make the argument. Everyone understood.</p><p>But to say so, to rush straight into a condemnation of the political-economy that burns the hopes of so many of the population only more slowly (on the stake of precariousness, debt, insecurity and extreme competition), felt like an abuse of the victims of this enraging tragedy.</p><p>Rapidly, it became clear there was no need to make the argument. Everyone understood. Witnesses gave immediate, live testimony to larger causes. Eloquent videos soon made the connection between the way we are governed and the Grenfell inferno. <a href="https://www.channel4.com/news/david-lammy-mp-remembers-friend-grenville-tower-fire-london">David Lammy</a> the MP for Tottenham wept over the fate of the young artist <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/06/21/tate-britain-displays-art-khadija-saye-memory-grenfell-tower/">Khadija Saye</a>, who died alongside her mother on the 22nd floor. He did not draw back from blame. Nor was it just the left that pointed the finger. As locals stormed the Borough’s offices it became clear that Grenfell is a turning point.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ut77efwLcCw?ecver=1" height="259" width="460"></iframe></p><p>Angela McRobbie’s <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/fire-in-neo-liberal-london">widely read account</a> in oD’s Transformation shared what it is like to live in neoliberal London if you are not rich. She linked the catastrophe, the public management theories of outsourcing and diminished responsibility in local government. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/19/tragedy-grenfell-tower-disaster?CMP=twt_gu">Sam Webb</a> gave an architect's view, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/20/engels-britain-murders-poor-grenfell-tower">Adita Chakrabortty</a> a fine economist’s denunciation of austerity as systemic violence. There are many more similar accounts joining the connections from across the political spectrum, as the tabloid press, sensing public rage, stirred up demands for revenge.</p><p>Prepared for terrorist attacks caused by others, the government had no plans for a calamity caused by its own. The richest, overwhelmingly Conservative local government in the land, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, went into meltdown. It had outsourced its social housing and welfare (apparently even making a ‘profit’ from so doing) and was incapable of organising any response, despite accumulated reserves nearing £300 million.</p><p>It is alleged that 14 members of the Borough’s ruling council have property interests. Their inability to respond and assist the victims was so catastrophic that the London Evening Standard was reduced to congratulating the Council’s deputy leader, <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/news/londoners-diary/londoners-diary-kc-s-deputy-rock-feildingmellen-avoids-bash-at-his-family-estate-a3568101.html">Rock Feilding-Mellen</a> for the wise decision to stay away from weekend celebrations at his family’s 5,000 acre estate in Gloucestershire, because pictures of his quaffing champagne would have produced “bad optics”. Thus even this act of public service for the people of ‘Royal’ Kensington and Chelsea was an act of self-interest.</p><p>The Prime Minister suffered from her own failure to appear to sympathise with the victims or take control of the situation. Her hapless response was widely held to be a self-administered political <em>auto</em>-<em>da</em>-<em>fé</em> that doomed her grip on office. In the opening statement to the new parliament she made a far-reaching apology, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-40358672/theresa-may-apologises-grenfell-response-not-good-enough">as you can see</a>, saying it was a “failure of the state, local and national, to help people when they needed it most”. She accepted responsibility for her role in this.</p><p class="mag-quote-right">The blackened hulk of Grenfell became an instant symbol of extreme unfairness.</p><p>Her words were widely reported as Theresa May's, as if she had conceded that the Grenfell disaster was a failure of the state, local and national, as it clearly was. But – as you can also observe – she said nothing of sort. She merely admitted a failure to <em>help and</em> <em>assist </em>its victims after the event. She did not in any way accept the state’s responsibility for the cataclysm itself.</p><p>Unlike great disasters such as train collisions, the meaning of Grenfell condemns a form of government. It is not just about the decision to install inflammable cladding alongside venting that acted as fire bellows. Two even more significant issues were illuminated by the relentless inferno, each of which characterise the neoliberal United Kingdom.</p><p>The first is the creation and permission of a sheer inequality which means the maltreatment of the poorer, working communities living side-by-side with and often working for the stratospherically well-off. The blackened hulk of Grenfell became an instant symbol of extreme unfairness.</p><p>The second, the hollowing out of government. This is why it is essential to name the process as neoliberal – a form of capitalism that seeks to deny it has a name, claims competition as natural and seeks to subordinate government and its revenues to ‘the market’. One aspect is the war on ‘regulation’ described by <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/neweconomics/grenfell-ending-murderous-war-protections/">Christine Berry</a>. As important is the pressure on the national and local government to sell-off and outsource its services. Eloquent accounts appeared of how architect and building departments had been replaced by experts in contracting. The result is the end of ongoing responsibility. Whatever the regulations might have permitted, no one who was going to live in the buildings with their inhabitants would have clad it in what was in effect firelighter for the sake of a few pounds. Among the many aspects of this: the decimation of legal aid which deprived the residents of the ability to press their claims for proper maintenance so that they were left helpless, blogging with foresight that only a fatal accident would force the authorities to respond to their concerns.&nbsp;</p><p>In the aftermath, Jeremy Corbyn rose to the occasion by being simply and straightforwardly human and accepting our responsibility. The profound consequences of this, set out, for example, by Ann Pettifor, will now find political expression. It should never have needed the bitter ashes of Grenfell Tower to make this happen.</p><p><span style="font-weight: bold;">Anthony Barnett's,&nbsp;</span><em>The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit and America’s Trump</em><span style="font-weight: bold;">, can be&nbsp;</span><a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit" style="font-weight: bold;">pre-ordered from Unbound</a><span style="font-weight: bold;">&nbsp;to get your advance copy this month. It will be published and in the shops at the end of August.</span></p> This was originally titled The Age of Corbyn 2: Inferno<fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-i-most-powerful-person-in-land">The Age of Corbyn I: He is now the most powerful person in the land</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/jeremy-corbyn-catches-spirit-of-brexit">Corbyn catches the spirit of Brexit, then terror strikes</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Grenfell Tower fire Grenfell Tower Fire Anthony Barnett Thu, 22 Jun 2017 10:08:43 +0000 Anthony Barnett 111826 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Age of Corbyn I: He is now the most powerful person in the land https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/age-of-corbyn-i-most-powerful-person-in-land <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The political and media elite are in denial about the Labour leader's success</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31630235.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-31630235.jpg" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves Labour Headquarters, London on June 9, 2017. NurPhoto/SIPA USA/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>From the Times to the Financial Times, if you read broadsheet accounts of Conservative party responses to their election disaster you can see that it is not just the Prime Minister who is among the walking dead. The whole lot of them are so shell-shocked they don’t know what has hit them – or how short their life-span has become. &nbsp;There is talk of how good it is that someone as clever as Michael Gove has been put in charge of agriculture because the complications of rural subsidy and food supply “post-Brexit” will be formidable – as if Gove will be mucking out with the farmers for the years to come. ‘The party’, we are told, is ‘not yet ready’ for a leadership contest now – or even in six months. Vicious disputes amongst Conservatives are familiar from the early years of this century. The same fumes of entitlement still waft over from the last one. The Tories, and not just the Tories, believe they are born to exercise power while Corbyn is not seen as ‘serious’. They are in denial.</p> <p>The most entertaining example of such denial comes courtesy of Peter Mandelson in the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-4592416/Peter-Mandelson-says-party-moderates-stand-PM.html">Mail on Sunday</a>. Entertaining because he was the most ruthless of the Blairite exterminators, telling anyone who queried even mildly their version of neoliberal globalisation that they were yesterday’s story. Most followers of Tony Blair and David Cameron were confident that they were on the side of history. Mandelson has a special position amongst them: he not only divined the way the cookie crumbled, he crumbled it himself. Only four months ago <a href="https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/political-parties/labour-party/jeremy-corbyn/news/83500/lord-mandelson-i-do-something-every">he said</a>: </p> <blockquote><p>The problem with Jeremy&nbsp;is… that he literally has no idea in the&nbsp;21st&nbsp;Century how to conduct himself as a leader of a party putting itself forward in a democratic election to become the government of our country… Why do you want to just walk away and pass the title deeds of this great party over to someone like Jeremy&nbsp;Corbyn? I don't want to, I resent it and I work every single day in some small way to bring forward the end of his tenure in office. Something, however small it may be – an email, a phone call or a meeting I convene – every day I try to do something to save the Labour party from his leadership.</p></blockquote> <p class="mol-para-with-font">Two days after the election and writing for millions of readers Mandelson shows us that he is the twentieth century politician. He instructs the ‘moderates’ among Labour MPs to… &nbsp;support Theresa May! Addressing the prime minister, he tells her she must now show ‘flexibility’ and abandon her ‘head-banging’ version of Brexit. If she does so, then the country ‘will back her’. In which case, Mandelson continues, it ‘would be churlish for people like me and other Remainers not to give her political backing’. This is desperate stuff, conjuring up straws to cling to. There is no mention of Jeremy Corbyn or his achievement. Just this,</p> <blockquote><p>Mainstream Labour MPs, who worry about the impact of the continuing Corbyn revolution on centrist voters, should be prepared to stand by the wounded PM, and likewise she should welcome their approach in the national interest.</p></blockquote> <p>Only a few weeks ago the whole thrust of Mandelson's contemptuous opposition to Corbyn was that he was incapable of appealing to voters in the centre, thus dooming the Labour Party to irrelevance. Now it is the very fact of his appeal that must be opposed.&nbsp; Before the election he was deemed marginal, now he must remain marginal. What happened to him in the meantime goes unrecognised.</p><p>Denial is not confined to the Blairite extremes. All the cold talk among the Tories as to when to defenestrate May and how long to retain her in suspended animation, is also a form of displacement activity, like Mandelson’s imagining that May will turn to him for advice. The defining reality of current British politics they cannot bring themselves to admit is that Jeremy Corbyn is now the most powerful person in Britain. It is not that he won the election. Labour is still the smaller party. Corbyn's success is that he has changed the nature of the game of politics.</p> <p>This means that the immediate future of the United Kingdom is in the hands of an allotment-loving, vegetarian, abstemious, republican, peacenik who sticks to his principles. Jeremy Corbyn, a man brave enough to defy the tabloids and tell the country immediately after a terrorist atrocity, that foreign intervention can help stir up the beast of terrorism. His power and authority has three sources, a novel twenty first century combination of old and new: personal integrity, parliamentary arithmetic and popular mobilisation. </p><p>His standing, now that he has undergone the ordeal of the election campaign, in a hung parliament makes the nature of Brexit his call. If he wants Britain to have a soft Brexit that is what it will have. If he decides that some form of membership of the EU customs union is essential, then that is what will happen. Should he conclude, as he might well, that it is best for voters to witness the full horrors of an extended Theresa May premiership, then this will proceed. If he is determined that she must go, immediately her position will become impossible. </p><p>It is not about who won and who lost the election in terms of seats. Corbyn does not have legislative power. And just as it has flown to him, if it is misuded it can ebb quickly, because of it smoral nature. But, entirely of her own volition, ‘while walking in Wales’, Theresa May took the most momentous political decision a prime minister can and asked the country to demonstrate how it was united behind her. She called for her position to be strengthened, confident that it would be. Morally, strategically and democratically, there is no way back for her now so many voters have declined her call and she is a weakened failure. The Tories can see this <em>about her</em>. What they and the traditional political-media caste are still unable to process is how and why Corbyn has his commanding authority and holds the final fate of May in his hands, as the universe of British politics turns on his decisions.</p> <p>As someone who did not expect this outcome I am in no position to advise him how best to proceed. He will be himself and we will all wonder at where this will take the country. The first thing to recognise, however, is what he and his team have achieved and the way they have done it. The answer is simple, elemental and yes – just what Mandelson failed to perceive – utterly twenty first century. They have turned Labour from a parliamentary party into a social movement. </p> <p>The commentariat, trapped by the limitations of its old media platforms and parliamentary expectations, gossips about who Corbyn will promote into his shadow cabinet. This is not without its importance. But he is never asked about how Momentum is organising which is now much more significant. Corbyn's authority is not rooted in his House of Commons support but in his capacity to call millions onto the streets to save the NHS should he say the word.</p> <p>Social movements are not forces that can be presumed. Their staying power and appeal are in the early stages of growth. For an article that combines experience, witness and analysis of the revolution they bring, see <a href="https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/the-new-politics-the-revolution-will-be-digitised">Paul Hilder’s account</a> written just before the UK election was called:</p> <blockquote><p>So tear up your old maps. Get out of your comfort zone. Find new allies—or suffer the consequences. Economic systems are failing; old political cartels are losing their legitimacy. Elite populists and democrats are duelling. The need for transformational movements has never been greater—and at last they are rising up.</p></blockquote><p>How did so apparently unlikely a figure as Jeremy Corbyn become the head of a new, defining force in British politics? An important part of the answer lies in the election campaign's manifesto moment, that I will look at next. </p><p><strong>Anthony Barnett's, <em>The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit and America’s Trump</em>, can be <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">pre-ordered from Unbound</a> to get your advance copy this month. It will be published and in the shops at the end of August.</strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/jeremy-corbyn-catches-spirit-of-brexit">Corbyn catches the spirit of Brexit, then terror strikes</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Jeremy Corbyn Anthony Barnett Mon, 12 Jun 2017 18:49:48 +0000 Anthony Barnett 111568 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Corbyn catches the spirit of Brexit, then terror strikes https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/jeremy-corbyn-catches-spirit-of-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May has lost her snap election, even if she wins it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Cross of generations.jpg_large.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500164/Cross of generations.jpg_large.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><strong>Sunday 4 June: this updates an article originally written on Friday 2nd.&nbsp; </strong></p><p>When it was called, it looked like the greatest foregone conclusion in election history. Prime Minister May’s standing among the public could hardly have been higher while Labour under Jeremy Corbyn appeared divided and archaic. The unassailable would crush the unelectable as the Conservatives were set to sweep to a majority of even 200.</p><p>Theresa May had called her ‘snap’ election deceitfully. Her true aim was to cover up the EU’s confounding of her plans for Brexit, as I explained immediately she made her announcement in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnet/why-is-she-frit">Why is she Frit? </a>&nbsp;Despite this, even the Labour leadership thought the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Tory domination was confirmed in the local election results on 4th of May. It was not just that Labour did badly and the Tory polling lead was humongous. UKIP collapsed. Should most of its 4 million Brexit-lovers swing behind Theresa May, as seemed inevitable, a tremendous victory for May was assured, thanks to Britain’s winner-takes-all electoral system. Eventually, it would turn out badly for her, I predicted, but her immediate triumph seemed certain. </p><p>In one of the strangest of elections, it is Corbyn who has captured the anti-system, anti-elitist spirit of Brexit while the Prime Minister embodies the crepuscular condescension of the old regime. He appears to be the populist and she the hateful elitist. He is the energetic insurgent seeking change and she is the evasive, manipulative representative of the status quo. With the polls swinging wildly, who knows what the outcome will now be? UKIP supporters in crucial northern constituencies are not natural Tories and might break for Labour or simply abstain. If so, May’s hopes of a massive plurality could prove to be no more than dust.</p><p>Then, on the evening of Saturday 3 June, seven people were killed in London by deranged, so-called Islamists, defaming the name of their prophet, one of whom apparently regarded voting as a form of blasphemy. The morning after, the prime minister emerged from Downing Street to report to the country on what had happened the night before. </p><p>In an effort to pull back the advantage, May launched into <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-statement-following-london-terror-attack-4-june-2017#history">a four-part programme</a> on how the country should respond, saying. "Enough is enough" and&nbsp; "We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are. Things need to change...". In this way, she exploited the campaign's pause to define the days news coverage as it opened the final, potentially decisive week of the campaign. She did so in the most effective way there is, by appearing to be 'above politics'. As she demanded powers over the internet, said the country and especially 'the public sector' had been 'too tolerant' of extremism and this attitude must be 'stamped out' to secure 'one truly United Kingdom', she sounded comfortable with herself, for the first time since since the campaign began.&nbsp; </p><p>She is, however, on the defensive. I am among those caught up in the embarrassment of upturned expectations. Just before the election was called I finished <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">a book </a>on the causes of Brexit and Trump that, among other things, looks at the remarkable similarities of last year’s campaigns – the referendum and the US presidential. Both the rebellions of Brexit and Trump, were marked by an apparent ‘authenticity’. They seemed to be the ‘real thing’ demanding change, while both the Remain campaign in the UK and the Clinton bid for the presidency were alike in being contrived and ‘artificial’. </p><p>But the UK’s Leave campaign was divided. After the vote Theresa May stormed through the detritus of potential Conservative candidates to grab the premiership. In doing so she seemed to personify a new majority. A Remainer, she spoke for the millions of Remainers who had secretly wished in their hearts to leave the EU. At the same time, May’s message to Brexiteers was that she would deliver the full Monty – the people have spoken, she was their chosen vehicle, <em>her</em> Brexit would mean ‘Brexit’. Assisted by the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">Daily Mail</a>, May’s commuter-belt ‘anti-elitism’ was reinforced by a far-reaching ‘one-nation’ conservatism, an endorsement of Brexit’s social ‘revolution’ and a ruthless destruction of the Cameron-Blairite cohort that had led the UK for the previous six years - or was it nineteen? </p><p>If my book’s analysis of Brexit and Trump may help explain the current swing to Corbyn, it did not predict even limited success for him. On the contrary. When I looked at the huge contrast over globalisation between President Trump and May’s philosophy of Brexit, I mocked Daniel Hannan, the most eloquent advocate of her ‘Global Britain’. So confident was Hannan that the zeitgeist belonged to him and his fellow globalisers, he had dismissed the prospect of Trump becoming president out of hand. I wrote, May “has embraced a Conservative Party vision of Brexit, whose master theoretician, the Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, thought (how wrong can you be?) that Trump was the Jeremy Corbyn of US politics.” </p><p>How wrong can you be, <em>indeed</em>. With YouGov predicting a hung parliament and the momentum apparently in Corbyn’s favour, the delightful, if still most unlikely possibility arises that Jeremy Corbyn could become the President Trump of British politics! If so, both Hannan and I will be upturned (although he will not be celebrating). </p><p>The giant cross in the graph at the top of this article explains why such an upset is conceiveable. It plots the staggering generation gap that now commands British politics. Nearly 70% of those between 18 and 24 support Labour while over 65% of those over 65 prefer the Tories. “Age rivals social class as a determinant of political behaviour in Britain”, Nick Pearce and Gavin Kelly <a href="http://www.ippr.org/juncture/dont-stop-thinking-about-tomorrow-labour-social-democracy-and-the-2020s">argued in April 2016</a>, to be vindicated three months later in the referendum where the old <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/brexit-is-old-people-s-home">won the day</a>. The pensioners turned out while the young stayed in their lodgings rather than vote Remain, thanks to David Cameron and Peter Mandelson’s lacklustre campaign to remain members of the EU. It was only afterwards that the Kingdom’s youth woke up to the consequences of losing a continental freedom they took for granted. </p><p>This time they have been urged from the get-go to register and vote. Not so much by traditional politicians as by the masters of grime (see Dan Hancox in the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/opinion/labour-jeremy-corbyn-british-hip-hop-grime.html">New York Times</a>) and websites like <a href="https://www.facebook.com/rizeupuk/">RizeUP UK</a> and <a href="https://www.grime4corbyn.com/">grime4corbyn</a>. On the final day for registration, a quarter of a million under 25s got their names onto the electoral roll. Perhaps they were encouraged by Labour’s sudden pledge to write-off student loans for those currently in college (surely the largest direct election bribe since Thatcher said she would sell voters their council homes below market value). Polls now suggest high commitment among the young to turn out and vote on the day. We will see. But there is an enthusiasm for Corbyn amongst his supporters, old and young, which is not matched in the public appearances of Theresa May. Her voters may prove to be determined, clearly the core of her older support is, nonetheless, as the referendum showed, passion and excitement attracts extra numbers to the polling stations.</p><p>A striking analysis of social media responses across the web, by <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/corbyn-s-catch-up-shows-the-shallowness-of-may-s-campaign-gfh92hr5r">Jimmy Leach</a>&nbsp;writing in the Times, shows the positive impact Corbyn is making and the disasterous growth of negative responses aroused by Theresa May.</p><p>The election, then, will be decided by the turnout of the old. Their patriotism and longing for the past was stirred by the promise of Brexit. In the final week of this campaign the Prime Minister has reached in their direction to rally them to her cause. The generation gap was on full display in the final set-piece, TV appearance of the two leaders. May refused a debate in which she could be challenged by Corbyn and voters could compare them in direct combat. Instead, first May then Corbyn took questions from a blunt-speaking audience. Towards the end men who were past their prime challenged the Labour leader on his support for the IRA and unwillingness to press the nuclear button. Younger members who grew up after the Cold War and knowing only peace in Ireland were unmoved by obsessions with archaic forms of security. </p><p>But the Prime Minister’s older supporters are reportedly aghast at the so-called ‘dementia tax’ proposed in the Tory party’s over-confident manifesto. It is a reasonable policy. If someone needs social care for a long-debilitating illness then the costs should be borne out of the value of their property after they die. For, as the Conservative manifesto puts it rather primly, “many older people have built considerable property assets due to rising property prices”. They propose to ring-fence £100,000 of inheritance should a person’s estate be worth this (four times the current level). However, a sacred taboo was broken by this responsible suggestion. A Tory prime minister was suggesting a <em>tax on wealth.</em> The shock has still to subside, even though May ordered a rapid U-turn to cap the amount as the protests rose. The consequence of her forced change of mind, however, was even more damaging image-wise. It led to an instantaneous loss of her tough-girl persona as the strong leader capable of taking on the EU and her opponents derided her as ‘weak and wobbly’ not ‘strong and stable’. Since then she has been unable to recuperate. She has fled from debates and looked uncomfortable with voters outside her privileged constituency. </p><p>They say that elections are never really changed by the short campaign and are decided by the prior settlement of opinion. Were that so, May cannot lose. But if you play ‘snap’ maybe the rules do not apply. More important, it is clear and now widely recognised that the prime minister has been tremendously damaged by her exposure in the campaign. She called it to be about Brexit. But she has nothing new to say about Brexit. As Labour says it accepts Brexit must take place, the issue has no traction and has been removed from under her. The clash she genuinly wanted was over who is in charge - which she thought she would win easily. What Britian needs is a serious debate about what kind of Brexit it wants, how it will work, what strategy the government intends. On this, where leadership could have been proven and Labour too put to the test, there is nothing. In effect, the breakdown that is Brexit continues - and is part of a larger breakdown. </p><p>To understand this we need to to take a step back and look at the manifestos of the two main parties. They share a common rupture from the dominant neoliberal approach of the last 35 years, with its anti-state philosophy of market competition. In the night of media silence the old form of economic government is slipping below the waters, as the British public distances itself from an epoch of military failure and financial crash. This extraordinary and far-reaching development has not been discussed on the BBC or in most of the media as they cannot use the term ‘neoliberalism’. By depriving themselves of any word to describe the UK’s still dominant political-economy they are unable to ask how its approach is being repudiated by both the main parties. The only exception being a long and intelligent overview in the Economist by <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21722846-brexit-both-cause-and-symptom-countrys-troubles-britains-election-offers-little?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/britain_s_election_offers_little_respite_for_its_woes">Adrian Wooldridge</a>. </p><p>Of the two documents, <a href="https://s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/manifesto2017/Manifesto2017.pdf">the Tory manifesto</a> is more philosophically explicit about its break from the past, better written and presents a sweeping redefinition of its party’s approach: </p><blockquote><p>We will run public services in accordance with their values as important local and national institutions. We will not only guarantee but enhance workers’ rights and protections. And we will develop our ambitious modern industrial strategy to get the economy working for everyone, across the whole of our nation. </p><p>we will need a state that is strong and strategic, nimble and responsive to the needs of people. While it is never true that government has all the answers, government can and should be a force for good – and its power should be put squarely at the service of this country’s working people. </p><p>We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality…. We know that our responsibility to one another is greater than the rights we hold as individuals. </p></blockquote><p>May’s Manifesto is not lacking in the modern either. It confronts the ‘gig economy’ and supports the development of ‘electric cars’, neither mentioned by Labour, and states, “we pledge to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.” </p><p><a href="http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/Images/manifesto-2017/Labour%20Manifesto%202017.pdf">Labour’s Manifesto</a> has no such general overview of its political philosophy. It gets straight down to business saying the rich are getting richer and instead we need to help the poor. Its commitment to a strategy of industrial investment parallels the Tory document while it is far more interventionist and egalitarian, calling for nationalisation of basic services. </p><p>In one way Labour’s manifesto is the more old-fashioned, seemingly setting out a return to the 1970s without even the zip of Tony Benn at his most radical. Its section on democracy makes no dangerous commitments that might directly threaten parliamentary socialism. But its pledge to explore options for a possibly full-scale constitutional convention that can consider 'the option of a more federalised country', along with the ambiguities and contradictions of its approach to Brexit, means, if I can use a form of double-negative, that a transformation of the way the UK is governed has not been ruled out.</p> <p>The opposite is the case with the Conservative prospectus. While the energy released by Labour's approach is inventive, for all its 1970s Bennism, the spirit of Theresa May's approach is (as Wooldridge reports) a passion for the 1950s. The document demonstrates her sense that democratic reform endangers ‘Our Precious Union’. So May promises to reverse what her manifesto calls previous governments’ attitude of ‘devolve and forget’ towards Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It says we must be ‘strong and united’ to take a ‘leading position in the world’. It builds on a theme already clear from May’s speeches as Prime Minister – a conscious aim to forge a <em>single</em> <em>nation</em>, ‘We are a United Kingdom, one nation made of four’. To this end, the electoral system will be reinforced not reformed with personal identification being introduced at polling stations to prove your right to vote.&nbsp; All this will prepare the way for the ‘repatriation’ of power from the EU. </p><p>The authoritarian nature of the Tory manifesto runs against the grain of popular protest. It defines ‘take back control’ as concentrating power in ‘our’ prime minister for whom strength means not revealing her hand - not sharing it with self-governing citizens. The fetishization of 'strength' chimes with the attitudes of many an older voter, Labour as much Tory. And not just older ones.&nbsp; The image of her responding to saturday night's London terrorist attack and calling for action will reinforce this. The press will assail Corbyn for his alleged colusion with 'terrorists' in the past, and will do so without respite or granting any mercy to truth or fairness (for a vivid picture of their slant see <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/media-blog/2017/jun/04/theresa-may-u-turn-rightwing-press-change-tack-roy-greenslade">Roy Greenslade</a>). The problem for May is perhaps less the Manifesto’s approach than the fact that it was composed in the spirit of the centralisation it advocates. </p><p>In effect, its drafting was a ‘coup’ within the Conservatives. Today, what passes for democratic debate in the oldest political party on earth is a private exchange of views between Theresa May’s joint chiefs of staff. If you are lucky there are anonymous reports that they have had a disagreement. The Cabinet were hardly brought into the discussion of the manifesto, its language and commitments. Its policy initiatives and wording were not shared or argued through. That is not May’s ‘style’. It is not just that ‘the public’ does not like being taken for granted. The journalists and commentariat who are eager to shred Corbyn and his politics still retain a modicum of professional self-respect and cannot abide being taken for granted. </p><p>A devastating profile <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/3c07ba14-4777-11e7-8d27-59b4dd6296b8">in the Financial Times</a> by George Parker and Roula Khalaf quotes a ‘former Tory minister, fighting for re-election’. He said: ‘People don’t like the cult of personality and the apparent Stalinist control. The public can now see it and they don’t like it.’ It is not often that a senior Tory accuses the party leader of Stalinism.</p><p> The FT report continues,</p><blockquote><p>Senior figures in the Labour campaign privately agree voters are not about to gamble on Mr Corbyn in Number 10. Most Tory MPs also believe their prime minister will hold on, but some fear that this most unpredictable election campaign could leave her weaker rather than stronger if she is returned to Number 10 to negotiate Brexit. “We will have had a bad campaign and win: Corbyn will have had a good campaign and will lose,” says one minister. Then the minister adds: “If she carries on like this, she will destroy herself. That’s the truth.” </p></blockquote><p>May is carrying on “like this”, in a defensive, patronising fashion, because she is hiding something: the dishonesty of her stated approach to Brexit. She is now running the final days of the campaign by proposing herself as the strong leader able to take on an “aggressive” European Union. To this end she declares, as often as she can, that “No deal is better than a bad deal”. Corbyn is not alone in saying that the UK is not at war with the EU and that there will have to be an agreement. No government can possibly risk a ‘no deal’ as <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/83396e2a-45ef-11e7-8519-9f94ee97d996">Martin Wolf</a> has set out in his description of the idea as ‘absurd’. The price in terms of disruption is one the financial and exporting sectors cannot permit and will not allow. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/03/britain-being-led-to-epic-act-self-harm-brexit">Will Hutton</a> reinforces the point, conjuring the spectre of the 14,000 lorries that cross the channel a day, tailgating at Calais and the supermarkets running out of food. Theresa May knows this, of course. She is just strutting. Her claim that she will countenance ‘no deal’ is just bluster. </p><p>Such posturing can work. However, the election has exposed the prime minister’s deeper strand of contempt for democracy and openness. After she first laid out her stall I argued that the Daily Mail <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">has taken power</a> and that May’s politics were the expression of that paper’s editor, Paul Dacre, whose views, hammered out across thirty years, every Tory knew by heart. Dacre is notoriously averse to giving interviews or permitting himself to be held accountable. Although a far-more original and intelligent figure than May, he is a controller. She reproduces his dictatorial culture. To this can be added the ethos of the Home Office that she headed for six years and its blinkered, judgemental culture as described by <a href="https://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n21/william-davies/home-office-rules">Will Davies</a>. Her statement yesterday after the Borough Market attack perfectly captures the combination of the Mail and the Home Office. It has given us a premier whom many in the public find increasingly repellent. Except, perhaps, when it comes to terrorism</p><p>The latest <a href="http://lordashcroftpolls.com/category/ashcroft-model/">Ashcroft poll</a> suggest a Tory majority of 60 and most doorstep reports confirm hostility to Corbyn. In other circumstances this would be a comfortable plurality for the Tories. Today, for May, it would be a rebuff. She needs at least 80 if not 100. When May called the election, she asserted that the country was united behind her plan for Brexit but Westminster was not. She felt obliged, therefore, to bring parliament into line with the people. At this rate, however, she will have divided ‘the country’ even if she wins. Theresa is holy no more. She has lost her shine, and no longer personifies ‘the nation’. The main aim of her election gambit has failed. </p><p>A complete upset and a Corbyn victory of any kind, such as a hung parliament will be a tremendous blow against her ‘hard and dirty Brexit’ - and could open the way for a more creative relationship with the European Union. As Theresa May's election strengthens opposition to her within the Tory Party and across the country, and breathes a new form of life into the Labour Party, her control over the meaning of Brexit has been badly damaged. What Brexit means is no longer just up to her. A process I thought would start only five to ten years hence might begin within a week. </p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Anthony Barnett, <em>The Lure of Greatness, England’s Brexit and America’s Trump</em>, can be <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">pre-ordered from Unbound</a> and will be in the shops at the end of August.</strong></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anthony Barnett Mon, 05 Jun 2017 02:27:10 +0000 Anthony Barnett 111378 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why is she frit? https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnet/why-is-she-frit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What is the British prime minister afraid of? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/ladynotforturning.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/ladynotforturning.jpeg" alt="lead lead " title="" width="460" height="615" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>So, the prime minister is for turning. The reason that Theresa May set out for her 'cut and run' general election is not convincing. The personal cost to her will be very great. Huge, of course, if she loses. This is most unlikely - but nothing is impossible should Labour pro-Remain voters swing behind the Lib Dems tactically. A Tory majority of 35, double their present advantage, would be a more than significant, moral defeat. </p><p>And even if May gets the majority of 100 plus she hopes for, the prime minister is irreparably damaged. She had record-breaking personal ratings because she seemed to be different, a woman who did what she said, someone who did not, as she put it, ‘play games’. A woman of quiet conviction. Less belligerent than Thatcher, but all the more Christian and less self-interested. A woman of her word, who got on with the job. Now she has broken her word. One that was much pledged since she declared her candidacy and stated there would be no general election until 2020. A pledge she and her spokespeople have repeated firmly ever since. </p> <p>Now all this has evaporated. She is just like the rest, only worse. She is no longer a woman who keeps her word, she plays the game, she is a fixer like the rest of them. But without the charm, guile or reading, or even a good excuse.</p><p>Why has she risked such a cost? Her claim that ‘the country’ is uniting behind her vision of Brexit but <em>Westminster</em> is not doing so, hardly bears consideration. To blame the weakest opposition in recorded history for forcing her to U-turn is implausible. Millions of people must go to the polls because Jeremy Corbyn is not being cooperative enough? Pull the other one.</p><p>This morning she explained her change of mind saying, “Since I became Prime Minister I have said that there should be no election until 2020, but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take”. </p><p>But what <em>has changed</em>? She does not tell us. What are ‘the decisions she must take’ that she wants voters to support? She does not spell it out. It is not the decision over Brexit, that has been taken.</p><p>As general rule, if you smell something fishy, there is a rotting fish. </p><p>The only real clue is where May says, “If we do not hold a general election now their political game-playing [i.e. the ‘game playing’ of the opposition parties] will continue, and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election. Division in Westminster will risk our ability to make a success of Brexit and it will cause damaging uncertainty and instability to the country". </p><p>This is about as opaque an explanation as it is possible to get. In fact it is an attempt to confuse. To understand what she is saying you have to turn to the real power in the land for the next few years at least, the European Union. Everyone who wants to know what is going on in Britain today needs first to read the EU’s official&nbsp; response to May’s letter triggering Article 50. The Council’s guidance on the Brexit negotiations. It is reproduced here by <a href="https://ig.ft.com/eu-brexit-guidelines-annotated/">the<em> Financial Times</em></a><em> </em>with handy side notes by Alex Barker.&nbsp; </p><p>Two passages stand out, first: ‘nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed’. This means that the costs the UK must pay for leaving, the rights of EU citizens and their families, the initial terms of a post-EU trade deal, everything remains in the pot to be stirred until March 2019 when everything will have to be finalised. There may be some agreements in principle beforehand, but nothing will be completed. It means there is going to be considerable uncertainty for the City and business right up until the last day and night of the negotiations. The EU will want a good trading relationship with the UK and at the same time it will want Brexit to hurt and has said it must do so. The best way of achieving this is for the EU to draw the process out. But all the vested interests of the UK's finance and business have told the government they want less uncertainty and a good transition. So May and company are already well on the back foot.&nbsp;</p><p> They will have to go for a transitional agreement. The EU has said they can have this. But, the EU memorandum states firmly – oh, and if you think the language the EU uses is that of a commanding authority to a minor power, this <em>may</em> be because of the EU’s illusion of grandeur in the run-up to the French elections, or it may just reflect reality – anyway, the EU states: </p> <blockquote><p>To the extent necessary and legally possible, the negotiations may also seek to determine transitional arrangements which are in the interest of the Union and, as appropriate, to provide for bridges towards the foreseeable framework for the future relationship. Any such transitional arrangements must be clearly defined, limited in time, and subject to effective enforcement mechanisms. Should a time-limited prolongation of Union acquis be considered, this would require existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory and enforcement instruments and structures to apply</p></blockquote> <p>The FT’s Alex Barker explains: </p> <blockquote><p>This will make British officials in Whitehall recoil. In far more explicit language than expected, the EU is saying that a gradual transition out of the single market — the prolongation of the acquis — will basically require Britain accepting all the obligations of membership. In other words, that means adopting EU laws, even when they change. It means accepting the European Commission’s right to check those rules are properly applied. It means paying budget contributions, and accepting the supervisory decisions of EU regulators and agencies. And perhaps most difficult of all it means accepting the "enforcement" structures of the EU — which ultimately runs to the European Court of Justice. This passage cuts straight across many of Theresa May's objectives for Brexit, including leaving ECJ jurisdiction and taking control of free movement.</p></blockquote> <p>This is what has changed. Across the last two weeks it has become clear to May’s team that there will have to be an extensive transitional period. As <a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/british-government-realises-brexit-is-a-mistake-official-says-1.3048046#.WPUBVLv0If8.twitter">the <em>Irish Times</em> reported</a>, a senior Irish official in close contact with the UK over Brexit said, “I see signs in the contacts that we’re having, both at EU level and with the UK, of a gradual realisation that Brexit in many ways is an act of great self-harm, and that the focus now is on minimising that self-harm’. The only way to do this is with a transition agreement. But the EU has now told the May government that if this is what the UK wants it is fine by the EU; however, the UK will have to remain within the full legal framework of the EU <em>and this is non-negotiable</em>. </p> <p>In short, what has changed is nothing to do with Westminster, or the balance of power in the UK. It has dawned on the Prime Minister that by the time of a 2020 election, instead of the UK having left the EU with a trading agreement as she dreamt, it will still be paying its dues <em>and </em>paying a large leaving bill <em>and </em>still be under European Court jurisdiction <em>and</em> may still even have to accept free movement. Only by 2022 at best can she hope to have realised her Brexit.</p> <p>The EU response to their Article 50 letter ruined May's hoped for 2020 election scenario. To have simply pushed ahead meant an election suffering the worst of all worlds, a hard Brexit in principle and continued membership in fact. Ideally, the best response would have been to call an election next year, so they could go to the country again in 2023. But that would have meant calling for a mandate in the middle of detailed Article 50 negotiations and disrupting a time-constricted process. Whereas now, before the EU heads of government have yet to meet to confirm their approval of the proposed guidelines, and prior to the negotiations starting there was a chance - a last chance. If they wanted to push back the next election, they had to go straightaway or not at all.</p> <p>The case of the cut and run election of 2017 has nothing to do with what the Prime Minister claims it to be. It is not due to the strength or awkwardness of the opposition. She is cashing in her cards as a woman of conviction to position herself for re-election in 2022, thanks to the EU busting her plans for 2020. She is no longer a woman of her word, but a woman running scared, knowing she will have to compromise, afraid of the insane hard-liners in her own back-benchers who have never trusted a remainer like her anyway, wanting to ‘be in control’ over the whole Brexit negotiation, including its compromises, running for presidential authority over it. </p> <p>If she gets her way now, it will end badly. The best outcome is that she does not. All those opposed to her authoritarian approach, whether you are for Brexit or not, should join forces and support the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservatives in any constituency that they might win.</p><p><strong>For Anthony Barnett's overview at the start of the final week of the election see: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/jeremy-corbyn-catches-spirit-of-brexit">Corbyn Catches the Brexit Breeze </a></strong></p><p><em>If you want to buy a subscriber copy of Anthony Barnett's <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">THE LURE OF GREATNESS: England's Brexit and America's Trump</a>, you should get your copy by June. Otherwise it will be published at the end of August. You can get it from the <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">Unbound website</a>.</em></p><p><em><strong>Contribute to openDemocracyUK's snap election coverage: <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/civicrm/contribute/transact%3Freset%3D1%2526id%3D24">chip in £10 today</a>.</strong><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnett/brexit-is-old-people-s-home">Brexit is an old people’s home</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/anthony-barnet/brexit-has-killed-sovereignty-of-parliament">Brexit has killed the sovereignty of Parliament </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">The Daily Mail takes power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk UK EU Anthony Barnett Tue, 18 Apr 2017 14:39:33 +0000 Anthony Barnett 110199 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit is an old people’s home https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/brexit-is-old-people-s-home <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>... And it's English, not British.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Churchill Parliament Sq.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558532/Churchill Parliament Sq.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="594" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Churchill slated to REMAIN in Parliament Square. openDemocracy. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>As the UK government hands across its letter to the EU triggering Article 50, a poll was published showing that the judgment British voters made on 23 June last year has remained steady. There has been a very slight movement of opinion in support of leaving. Within the generations, the differences remain as striking as they were in the vote itself: <em>there is no majority for leaving the EU amongst those under 55</em>. Those between 55 and 64 favour Brexit by a mere 52%. It is the over 65’s who swing the outcome as they break 59% for Leave. In contrast, the under 25s are 55% for staying in the EU and only 32% for Leave. Brexit is government of the old, by the old, for the old - and it will perish with the old. Maturity could still mean that it is the right thing to do; only in Theresa May's hands Brexit has become an attempt to restore a 17th century version of sovereignty that is bound to fail.&nbsp; </p><p>How long will this take, how long? The slow, drawn out process of modern aging can be interminable. Or fast. Incrementalism and sudden death exist side by side in the over 65s, so no clear prediction of when and how the nations of the United Kingdom will renew their engagement with the European Union is possible yet. Nor whether they will do so separately, jointly or in sequence. Nor how significant a change in the EU itself will be required, as it learns from its own crisis. Last week, the arch federalist Wolfgang Schäuble conceded in an interview with the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/b7018d6c-0fc8-11e7-b030-768954394623">Financial Times</a>, “The federal idea has not gone away but at the moment it has no chance of being realised… there are no broad majorities to give additional shares of national sovereignty to Brussels… we have to improve… our intergovernmental methods”. </p><p>If that’s Schäuble’s view, what was the point of Britain leaving? The monster of neoliberalism and (as German finance minister) nemesis of Yanis Varoufakis is on his way out, while Varoufakis’s DiEM25 movement to reform Europe deepens its critique, proposing a <a href="https://diem25.org/end/">European New Deal</a>. There are therefore three ways of seeing the exchange of the British letter and the EU’s immediate response. </p><p>The one that will get the media limelight is the exchange itself, the terms they set, the actual argument over the next few months, the rows on both sides about the negotiation.</p><p>Much more important will be the two inner processes within the EU and the UK that will be unleashed: the internal reorganisation necessary to deliver the external objective of defining, achieving and selling the outcome over the next two years. </p><p>But by far the most important will be the EU’s. If all goes according to intentions, in about 18 months’ time an agreement will be concluded that each of the EU’s 27 member states must ratify. An intense period of reflection will then take place to define how the EU relates to its most important neighbour in each country’s legislature covered by its own domestic media. It is wrong to see Brexit as akin to a divorce between two single, separate beings. The EU is not a ‘super-state’. It shares but has not merged sovereignties. The nature and future of its “intergovernmental method” is now in play. </p><h2><strong>Europe and the gift of Brexit</strong></h2> <p>A striking measure of the EU’s potential maturity (I emphasise potential) is that, just as it enters this defining period, the most ferocious advocate of centralisation relaxes his efforts. At the same time a feeble <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/white_paper_on_the_future_of_europe_en.pdf">White Paper</a> presenting “Reflections and Scenarios for 2015” was prepared for the leaders’ 60th anniversary summit by the EU Commission itself. It opens the way to doing less differently with a multispeed EU placed on the agenda. Ever closer centralisation is recognised as a has-been. </p><p>Until now, while each EU country has debated its own relationship with the Union in terms of its interests and desires, discussion about the nature and future of the EU itself and the actual ‘European project’, has been jealously guarded by the centre. The Commission and the growing Eurocracy that surrounds it has always sought to shield the project from the earthy localism of national legislatures and popular assent. There was one disastrous exception when the EU’s proposed constitution was put to referendums in 2005. The Spanish agreed, but French and Dutch emphatically did not. The leaders of the EU, with Tony Blair and the Brits actively amongst them, set about defying the popular verdicts. They created today’s Lisbon Treaty which delivered the constitution in all but name by anti-democratic means – turning the EU into an autonomous legal entity for the first time with its own diplomatic service and giving the European Court in Luxembourg hugely enhanced powers. </p><p>Since then, the EU has avoided entanglement with the domestic politics of the member states like the plague. Ireland was constitutionally bound to put Lisbon to a referendum and that took the embarrassment of two attempts. Now Brexit has vindicated its aversion. The terms of Brexit, however, will go to each member’s legislature to ratify. Nationally elected representatives will debate in their own parliaments what they think of the separation. In the process each country will have the opportunity to consider what it sees in the EU as a whole, and how it sees itself within a complex, probably multi-speed union. Done well, this could start to repair the democratic damage of Lisbon, by building a relationship between the EU and European citizens through their elected assemblies. A two year ‘legitimation process’ could be initiated, ironically enough, as the gift of Brexit.</p> <h2><strong>Theresa May’s power grab</strong></h2> <p>In the UK, however, a very different internal process is being demanded by the Westminster government. Not a democratisation, decentralisation and re-legitimisation of its political system now it has won back ‘independence’, but the opposite. The referendum was won with the cry of “take back control” and an aura of democracy hung about the slogan. The claim of a restoration of ‘sovereignty’ from Brussels carried with it a sense that the British people would enjoy self-government, once liberated from the oligarchy of the EU. </p><p>Instead of the much-needed democratisation of the British state following on from Brexit, the opposite is happening. The absolutism of the ‘absolute sovereignty of parliament’ that is coming to the fore. The most vivid, immediate demonstration has been north of the Scottish border. Here we can start to see what is going to happen to all British politics in the Brexit process. </p><p>The Scots voted 62% to 38% against Brexit in the referendum. A huge majority. They have a Scottish National Party government that was elected with a clear manifesto commitment that if the material circumstances of Scotland’s position in the world were altered it could hold an independence referendum – specifically designed as an option if the country were to be taken out of the EU against its will. But when the prime minister went to Glasgow on 3 March <a href="http://www.scottishconservatives.com/2017/03/theresa-may-speech-to-scottish-conservative-conference/">to address the Scottish Conservatives</a> she made her priorities brutally clear. </p><blockquote><p>Strengthening and sustaining the bonds&nbsp;that unite us&nbsp;is a&nbsp;personal&nbsp;priority for&nbsp;me... We must take this opportunity to bring our United Kingdom closer together… the&nbsp;fundamental unity of the British people which underwrites our whole existence as a United Kingdom… We need to&nbsp;build&nbsp;a new ‘collective responsibility’ across the United Kingdom, which unites all layers of government…&nbsp;I am determined to ensure that as we leave the EU, we do so as one United Kingdom… the UK&nbsp;Government serves the whole UK… That places on us a unique responsibility to preserve the integrity and future viability of the United Kingdom, which we will not shirk. </p></blockquote><p>Instead of being intimidated by this bullying tone, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, declared that the UK government was being uncooperative. She demanded the authority to call a referendum between the Autumn of 2018 and the Spring of 2019, when the actual terms of Brexit become clear and are debated by parliaments across the EU.This has now become a formal request of the Scottish parliament.</p><p>The substantive issue behind Sturgeon’s stand is quite stark, although it has received almost no coverage in the London media who have no interest in understanding how things look from anywhere else. The EU is currently in charge of agricultural and fishing policies, two issues of great importance for Scotland. If these powers went to the Scottish parliament and government after Brexit, their responsibility would be increased considerably. This was the potential upside of Brexit for her, that Sturgeon expressed an interest in immediately after the referendum vote went against Remain. It would mean, however, that when London wants to negotiate new trade agreements with other countries round the world, it will need Scotland’s approval for any terms that cover trade in food and fish stocks. Instead of a ‘nimble’ UK government negotiating with the US, for example, on the import of their cheap, hormone-raddled steaks in return for exporting financial services, Edinburgh will object because of the need to protect its Angus herds. The prime minister has warned she is in no mood to permit this. In other words, what Theresa May calls “the&nbsp;fundamental unity of the British people which underwrites our whole existence as a United Kingdom”, could turn out to mean the authority to sell out Scotland in the name of her, “new ‘collective responsibility’”. </p><p>Gordon Brown was the UK’s last Labour prime minister and is a Scot. He attempted to intervene himself between Scotland’s First Minister and Westminster’s current prime minister by trying to upstage them both. In addition to agriculture and fisheries, Brown demanded that environmental regulation, the right to levy and adjust VAT and the £800 million that he calculates the EU spends in Scotland, should all be assigned to the Edinburgh parliament, to head off independence. Brown <a href="https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/political-parties/labour-party/gordon-brown/news/84376/gordon-brown-calls-more-powers">stated categorically</a>, </p><blockquote><p>The status quo has been overtaken by events because unless powers now with the European Union are repatriated from Brussels to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the regions, Whitehall will have perpetrated one of the biggest power grabs by further centralising power. </p></blockquote><p>But power grab is what Theresa May seems to have in mind. She was coldly dismissive of Sturgeon’s demand that the Holyrood parliament be given the right to call an independence referendum. To make her point she flew to Glasgow for a second time in a month and delivered another adamantine and even more <a href="http://www.conservativehome.com/parliament/2017/03/we-will-put-the-interests-of-the-union-both-the-parts-and-the-whole-at-the-heart-of-our-decision-making-mays-scottish-speech-full-text.html?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=Tuesday%2028th%20March%202">extraordinary speech</a> so revealing it needs quoting at length, &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><blockquote><p><em>When this great union of nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – sets its mind on something and works together with determination, we are an unstoppable force. </em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>That is why the Plan for Britain I have set out… has as its heart one over-arching goal: to build a more united nation…</em><em> </em><em>fully respecting, and indeed strengthening, the devolution settlements. But never allowing our Union to become looser and weaker, or our people to drift apart.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>So, as Britain leaves the European Union, and we forge a new role for ourselves in the world, the strength and stability of our Union will become even more important…</em><em> </em><em>for the good we can do together in the world, as a Global Britain… and as we face this great national moment together… the more united Britain that I am determined we should be once we emerge from this period of national change… And when we work together and set our sights on a task, we really are an unstoppable force. </em></p></blockquote> <p>There are three very striking aspects to this speech delivered in open combat with Sturgeon and the SNP. First, she will “never allow” that “our Union” becomes “looser and weaker”. Clearly, proposals for taking over the EU’s say over VAT is a loosening of the Union. She has set herself against Brown as well as Sturgeon. Should her intransigence provoke Brown into making an alliance with Sturgeon, Scotland will be free of England’s bullying.</p> <p>Second, May’s language of “the nation”. She has given other speeches where she has referred to the nations of the UK and to then Britain itself as a nation. This time she has gone much further. Having acknowledged the separate national characters of the four countries of the UK she sets out as her “one over-arching goal” the building of a single, “more united nation”. She then emphasizes that Britain faces a “great national moment” and “a period of national change”. For her, Brexit is an exercise in nation building. May is seeking to fuse the countries of the UK into one nation. At the conclusion of her speech earlier in the month, she said: “We are four nations, but at heart we are one people”. Out of “one people”, one nation will emerge. So far as Scotland is concerned, this is an attempt to reverse the momentum of devolution altogether. It is not just a power grab, it turns the devolved administrations into a form of local government, denying them any distinct and separate national voice.&nbsp;</p><p>What kind of united nation will emerge from the fire of Theresa May’s Brexit? Her answer is “an unstoppable force”. She concludes her speech by repeating this to make sure we get the point. “together… we really are an unstoppable force”. Even Margaret Thatcher never claimed anything quite so balmy. Donald Trump does though. In his <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/20/politics/trump-inaugural-address/">inauguration</a> speech: “When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.” Such boasting is shameful enough when it comes from the most powerful politicians on the planet. From an unelected UK prime minister it is ridiculous. That May and her speech writers think it could inspire the Scots to join the English to lose themselves in a single British nation committed to global enterprise suggests the prime minister is already starting to lose her judgment under the pressures of Brexit. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>I have laid out Theresa May’s claims on Scotland because the consequences of the direction she is taking seem so dire and it is important to base the stark conclusions on some careful evidence. We British are to regard ourselves as “one people”. <em>Ein Volk.</em> Those who stand in the way are… enemies of the people. What is going on here? Last October, after May’s first speech to her own party conference, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">I showed</a> how she was mainstreaming the <em>Daily Mail</em>. If that is the origins of her politics, what is its destination? This too is now clear. She is seeking to restore the absolutism of the absolute sovereignty of parliament, using the referendum to legitimate not the sovereignty of parliament but executive supremacy over it. </p><p>There was a moment when, after the referendum, it might have been possible to use the democratic impulse within the Leave campaign that was directed against the unaccountable nature of Brussels. Use it here in Britain to inspire the decentralisation of power and create a popular democratic Britain. I am not saying it would have been easy, but the direction would have been future oriented. Building on the openness and audacity of the vote, Brexit might have been used to launch the decentralised constitutional democracy England especially needs. Instead, Theresa May has set her sights on restoring a mythical period - when the Queen was young and the country united around her. This is why Brexit is an old people’s home. It need not have been , but in Theresa May’s hands it is. I don’t mean that it is associated with aging as such, but with nostalgia for a specific form of the past. To achieve this regressive vision, Brexit is forcing her to centralise, to subordinate parliament to her will, and use the surveillance state she has helped to build to ensure the necessary discipline. By centralising rather than sharing, closing not opening the process, insisting on strict terms, she has brought all the strains of leaving the EU onto herself and her government. It isn’t fascism. Nor is it the imperialism that gave the English the space to recruit Scotland especially into a joint enterprise around the world. It is an attempt to regenerate the authoritarian powers locked in the UK’s pre-democratic absolutist system and give them a national form. </p><p>The nation she claims this to be is Britain – which is not a nation. Nor can it become one in her uninspiring hands. The reason lies at the heart of Brexit. There is a national passion but it is English. An English nationalism that expresses itself in a longing for Great British institutions. I show in <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">the book</a> I have been writing about Brexit and Trump, English nationalism is without its own home and its politicians need Britain as their base. Any Scot or Welshman or Irishman reading May’s speeches in Scotland hears a cold, commanding English voice, not a British one. The frustrated, democratic impulse behind Brexit’s call for control was English. Rather than use the opportunity to release the English nation from its imprisonment in a centralised Britain, May along with the <em>Daily Mail</em> &amp; co demand the opposite. Their centralised Britain, were they to realise it, would once more deny the English the chance to find their own voice. </p><p>It won’t work. The appeal to a fused, single people is as unattractive south of the border as it is to the north, or the west with Northern Ireland and Wales. Everyone outside England witnesses what <a href="http://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/the_problem_with_the_english_england_doesn_t_want_to_be_just_another_member_of_a_team_1_4851882">Nicolas Boyle</a> describes as, </p><blockquote><p>the willed triumph of illusion over reality revealed by the referendum result… most damagingly still at work in the determination of the English to cling on to their old exceptional status as anonymous masters of the United Kingdom and of the other nations with which they have to share the Atlantic Archipelago. </p></blockquote><p>It won’t work even for the English for whom the United Kingdom was always a means to achieve wider influence. This, indeed, is why the old establishment joined the UK to the EU in the first place. They fully understand that sharing sovereignty threatened their form of domination at home, but regarded this as a price worth paying for influence within the EU and with the United States as part of the larger North Atlantic alliance. &nbsp;No such political prize is on offer from being an off-shore trading depot. In so far as the City of London might cash in to global freeloading, this will exacerbate all the regional and social inequities that led to the Brexit explosion. To cap this by making the “precious” Union with Scotland and Northern Ireland her main priority makes sense only for those who are psychically obsessed with the Union. </p><p>They are becoming fewer. The <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/culturalidentity/ethnicity/articles/ethnicityandnationalidentityinenglandandwales/2012-12-11#national-identity-in-england-and-wales">2011 census</a> found that “70.1 per cent of people residing in England associated themselves with an English identity”, while “English as a sole identity (not combined with other identities), was chosen by 32.4 million people (57.7 per cent)”. This shift is finding its way into the Conservative party itself, as the ground gives way below the Prime Minister’s strong words. <a href="http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/tory-talk-of-union-hides-soft-underbelly-of-english-nationalism-1.3025164">Paul Goodman</a> writing in the Irish Times reports that a survey of conservative party members undertaken by Conservative Home and the John Denham’s centre at Winchester University shows that “Only 33 per cent said it would inflict serious damage on the power, influence and well-being of the remaining parts of the UK” while 29% looked forward to it ending Scotland’s “unreasonable demands on England”. Previously, UK prime ministers never had the Union Jack in the Cabinet room in Downing Street. Such displays were for lesser countries striving to assert themselves. That May should feel the need to breach this deep symbol of superiority shows what a backward step is being undertaken by her authoritarian turn. </p><p>A final contrast illustrates the miserable turn of events. The conclusion to the EU’s White Paper is a low key, back of the document affair. Someone was clearly instructed to write a few paragraphs to wind it up. The tone is sad. One of them states, &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><blockquote><p>Change in all things may be inevitable, but what we want from our lives and the European values that we hold dear remain the same. We want a society in which peace, freedom, tolerance and solidarity are placed above all else. We want to live in a democracy with a diversity of views and a critical, independent and free press. We want to be free to speak our mind and be sure that no individual or institution is above the law. We want a Union in which all citizens and all Member States are treated equally. We want to create a better life for our children than we had for ourselves.</p></blockquote> <p>This feels all the more authentic for not being pompously self-important. Most of it is standard rhetoric. One sentence stands out: “We want a Union in which all citizens and all Member States are treated equally”. The argument for Brexit was that the EU was stifling its member states in an old-fashioned, centralising fashion. Now we discover that it aspires to treat all of them equally, whereas in the United Kingdom such equality would be regarded, to quote the Prime Minister, as “drift” undermining the “precious union”. No equality of treatment here? I know all about the centralising and exploitative realities of the EU. But aspirations matter also. What Theresa May’s definition of Brexit aspires to is unsustainable. </p><p><em>Anthony Barnett has just finished the first draft of <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">THE LURE OF GREATNESS: England's Brexit and America's Trump</a>. It will be published at the end of August but you can buy a pre-publication hardback for the end of June on the <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">Unbound website</a>.</em><a href="http://bit.ly/2nrbLAW"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u555700/Article_Banner_v2%402x_0.jpg" alt="" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay/10-things-you-can-do-to-resist-hard-brexit">10 things you can do to resist hard Brexit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/adam-ramsay-anthony-barnett/abdication-of-commons-how-article-50-saw-parliament-vote-against-its-">The abdication of The Commons: how Article 50 saw parliament vote against its sovereignty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnet/brexit-has-killed-sovereignty-of-parliament">Brexit has killed the sovereignty of Parliament </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Sovereignty Scotland Europe EU Britain Anthony Barnett Tue, 28 Mar 2017 23:41:32 +0000 Anthony Barnett 109740 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The abdication of The Commons: how Article 50 saw parliament vote against its sovereignty https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay-anthony-barnett/abdication-of-commons-how-article-50-saw-parliament-vote-against-its- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Westminster voted tonight to pass responsibility to the people, ending centuries of its sovereignty just as Trump rampages through America's rules.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 22.40.57.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2017-02-01 at 22.40.57.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>MPs voting to trigger Article 50 tonight. ParliamentTV, fair use.</span></span></span></p><p>If you believe the most passionate Remainers, tonight’s vote in the House of Commons will be a disaster for the British economy. And it may well. If you believe John Nicolson, the SNP MP for East Dunbartonshire, then tonight will in future be seen as the coup de grâce which finished off the UK. And it may well. If you believe many of those who follow Labour’s internal politics, the decision to back the government on Article 50 will spell the beginning of the end for Jeremy Corbyn. And it may well. <br /><br />But what we know for sure is that this vote did the opposite of what many of its most ardent proponents wanted. Westminster voted against its own sovereignty.<br /><br />Most MPs believe that triggering Article 50 and leaving the EU will be bad for the country. Most voted Remain in the referendum last year. And yet tonight, most have voted for a Bill which amounts to the most extreme form of Brexit, because, they argue, the people voted differently from them in a referendum.<br /><br />Whether you think this is the right decision or not, the logic employed by MP after MP in the debate over the last two days is worth looking at closely. Members from each of the two biggest parties gave remarkably similar justifications for their choice: they had voted Remain, but they must accept the outcome of the referendum. <br /><br />These MPs argued, in other words, that they must subordinate their belief on this vital matter to that of the majority of the people; that there is a greater power than their own. If you feel a pain in your neck, then it may be a case of constitutional whiplash.<br /><br />After all, just last week, the government’s position was that this profound decision was one which they could take through Royal Prerogative. In other words, sovereignty over a serious matter of constitutional change lay with the prime minister, acting on behalf of the monarch. Though, of course, if we trace the history of such notions to their roots, they are predicated on the divine right of kings. And so, in a sense, the government’s argument was that their authority stemmed ultimately from God.<br /><br />Then the Supreme Court, by a vote of 8 to 3, struck down the notion that the government could make such a decision, and repeated the most important constitutional principle the UK has: that parliament is sovereign. If this&nbsp;strikes you as odd, you’d be right, it is. The UK has only had a Supreme Court since 2009. Before that it had&nbsp;‘Law Lords’ who themselves sat in parliament. If parliament really is sovereign, why didn’t it have the gumption to instruct the government to bring the matter of triggering Article 50 before it? If the Supreme Court has to say so, doesn’t that make it in some way, well,&nbsp;sovereign and so undermine parliament? (This, by the way, is a crude summary of the views of the dissenting three.)<br /><br />The question is redundant. What parliament declared tonight, in the form of huge numbers of MPs’ speeches, and the vote of those MPs who chose to trigger Article 50 despite not wanting Britain to leave the EU, is to respond to the Supreme Court with a rather surprising “not us, guv”.<br /><br />For as we pointed <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnet/brexit-has-killed-sovereignty-of-parliament">out here on openDemocracy</a>&nbsp;some time back, it was one thing for parliament to approve a referendum in the belief it will&nbsp;confirm what MPs already think best. But a referendum which must be respected even if it upturns the views of MPs kills off parliamentary sovereignty. It is the people of Britain who are sovereign now.<br /><br />For a democrat, this is a good thing in many ways. It ought to be the people of this country who have the ultimate power to decide on the most important matters. But, here’s the problem.&nbsp;What we can now refer to as the old constitution had rules and&nbsp;procedures and, at least on good days, checks and balances. Also, the processes of a quasi-democratic&nbsp;‘elected dictatorship’ were legitimated by a parliament where the ‘main’ parties came from across the&nbsp;three nations of mainland Britain. Now not only has the referendum blown away its historic, Burkean legitimacy, but the SNP, by seizing all but three of&nbsp;Scotland’s 59 seats, has driven a stake into its union&nbsp;pretensions.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br /><br />If we are to accept the new reality – that the people have spoken and must be heard; that it is us, the citizens of this country, who are the ultimate arbiters, then that means we too need rules and&nbsp;procedures. We need to figure out how we are to organise our new-found power. We need, in other words, a democratic constitution. Because without codification, the abstract idea of popular sovereignty is a path to tyranny. The people must be in charge, but that means we must organize ourselves to ensure minorities are respected, that there are proceedures for us to change our minds, and that the information put before us is honest. <br /><br />The vote to trigger Article 50 started the formal process of Brexit and may have set a line of constitutional dominoes toppling. One of those is that Westminster voted tonight to accept that it is the people of Britain who are the final arbiters. And it’s vital that we figure out what that means.<br /><br />And this has got more urgent. For, in another constitutional twist, Donald Trump is unravelling the kind of United States government that post-war Britain relied upon. In one sense, the UK’s throwback of a constitution survived after 1945 only because it flew under the protective wings of the American democratic eagle. <br /><br />This so-called&nbsp;special relationship was never one of equals. It was one of great convenience to the USA but an&nbsp;existential&nbsp;necessity for the UK.&nbsp;Domestically, generations of post-war British politicians, journalists and broadcasters, especially from the centre left, trained in America and felt that its norms were theirs. In a way, its liberal, constitutional legitimacy provided the excuse and cover for Britain’s quirky absence thereof. The wobble of Nixon was triumphantly overcome by his impeachment. <br /><br />Trump is something else. He is openly contemptuous of both America’s much-admired constitution, and of the EU. Even in an unusually short press conference with Theresa May, he&nbsp;denounced it as a "consortium”, implying that he wants to see it broken up –&nbsp;in front of the British prime minister. Inward looking and destructive when not outwardly bigoted and provocative, with every blow Trump delivers to American democracy something dies in another British heart, one that failed to create a system to&nbsp;believe in back in Blighty. &nbsp;<br /><br />Trump makes Brexit profoundly ill-timed, whatever else you might think of it. At the very point when the UK needs to share and support&nbsp;Europe's sovereignty for the sake of democracy and openness everywhere, a broken House of Commons sells the pass, divides our continent and blames the people. <br /><br />Fine, let’s take the blame and take over properly. A&nbsp;mighty&nbsp;rolling-up of sleeves is called for.</p><p><em>PS: Chris Hanretty, from East Anglia, has <a href="https://medium.com/@chrishanretty/voting-on-the-european-union-notification-of-withdrawal-bill-2016-e9c83f2fc466#.2829rh7uh">a very useful breakdown of the voting</a>. He calculates that 328 MPs who had declated for Remain voted for the Brexit bill. <br /></em></p><p><em>Anthony Barnett is writing <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">THE LURE OF GREATNESS: England's Brexit and Trump’s America, which can be ordered here.<br /></a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/anthony-barnet/brexit-has-killed-sovereignty-of-parliament">Brexit has killed the sovereignty of Parliament </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anthony Barnett Adam Ramsay Wed, 01 Feb 2017 22:47:12 +0000 Adam Ramsay and Anthony Barnett 108520 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Back to 1971: she may not frighten Europe but the prime minister frightens me https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/back-to-1971-she-may-not-frighten-europe-but-prime-minister-frightens-me <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Theresa May sets out her view of what kind of country she wants Britain to be.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Theresa May 3.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Theresa May 3.jpeg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May's speech - image, number 10.</span></span></span></p><p>Theresa May’s historic speech at Lancaster House will go down as one of the last manifestoes of English imperialism and perhaps its final call. The latter depends on the response of the other European powers as well as Scotland and whether they have the will and capacity to call her bluff.&nbsp; </p><p>The ostensible purpose the speech was to set out the U.K.'s Brexit strategy. But May stated at the start, “That means more than negotiating our new relationship with the EU. It means taking the opportunity of this great moment of national change to step back and ask ourselves what kind of country we want to be”. Her answer, “I want us to be a truly Global Britain”.</p> <p>She mentioned "Global Britain" eleven times. The phrase was branded on the lectern as well as the wall behind her. If it strikes you as more than accidental that “global” alliterates with “great” you would be right. For the phrase Global Britain is capitalised in the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/the-governments-negotiating-objectives-for-exiting-the-eu-pm-speech">official text</a> of the speech on the Downing Street website. Global is not used as a regular adjective, it has become part of the country's proper name. It is no longer credible to boast of ourselves as Great Britain. But rather than lose the imperial brand, we can replace it with Global. Greatness modernised! </p> <p>There was another twist to the imperial subtext when she addressed herself directly to "our friends across Europe". She wanted to explain to them – the audience was made up of ambassadors from EU countries – the reason for the referendum’s outcome is that the country wants “to restore, as we see it… national self-determination…”. Coming from the mouth of Downing Street, which has had to grant national self-determination to many a colony, usually under duress, this a provocative dig at the imperial pretentions of the EU. It is an endorsement of Brexit as a liberation from an occupying power. And it plays that familiar gambit of bullies everywhere, it makes out that Britain is a victim.&nbsp; </p><p>At the start of her description of the kind of country she wants us to self-determine, May said, “we will put the preservation of our precious Union at the heart of everything we do. Because it is only by coming together as one great union of nations and people that we can make the most of the opportunities ahead”. And, “A stronger Britain demands that we do something else – strengthen the precious union between the 4 nations of the United Kingdom”. She mentions three of the nations by name, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There was no mention of the fourth. Yet at the end of this section she spoke in a commanding, possessive tone, saying the government was determined that there will be no new barriers “within our own union”. </p> <p>Then she added, and, “as we do this, I should equally be clear that no decisions currently taken by the devolved administrations will be removed from them”. This looks like a gesture of respect if not generosity. In fact it is an outrageous claim. It presumes she has the unilateral power to reduce the authority of the “devolved administrations”, should she so wish. Who is occupying whom in this case? It is not just up to her as to whether decision making will be “taken” from the Scots and the Welsh, or without the agreement of Dublin from the Northern Irish. Nor are they simply “devolved administrations”, these are governments authorised by their own parliaments. This is not an acknowledgment of other governments within the Kingdom but of “devolved governance”, as if to recall the phrase of Enoch Powell’s “power devolved is power retained”.</p> <p>What we are witnessing in Theresa May is an English voice, full of its own conceit, presuming itself to be in sole charge of its&nbsp; “precious union”, so as to bend Britain to its will. Doing so, she told the Europeans, because: </p> <blockquote><p>Our political traditions are different. Unlike other European countries, we have no written constitution, but the principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty is the basis of our unwritten constitutional settlement. We have only a recent history of devolved governance – though it has rapidly embedded itself – and we have little history of coalition government.</p></blockquote> <p>This sets her face against any constitutional reform at this moment of profound change. We are not going to update the UK or become a modern country with a written, democratic constitution. We will stay as we are. The reference to coalition is a signal to her own party that we don’t want any more of <em>that</em> if we can help it – and there will be no change to the voting system. It is also an aggressive push back against Scotland too.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p><p>But Scotland today enjoys a government based on popular not parliamentary sovereignty. Its constitution is not yet written down in an independent document, however, its powers are codified, its legal tradition is rooted in Europe’s codified one, and its parliament is permanent. As Adam Ramsay set out in an <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/adam-ramsay/scotland-isnt-different-its-britain-thats-bizarre">openDemocracy article</a> widely read in the approach to Scotland’s independence referendum of 2014, it is not Scotland that's different it is Britain that's bizarre. </p> <p>The prime minister called for both sides in the coming negotiations between the UK and the EU to show “imagination”. If Europe’s leaders were to show some real imagination and stop pushing Scotland out of the EU against its wishes, they would offer it generous economic terms to ensure it remains. If they did, Theresa May’s proclamation of continuity would be just words. </p> <p>She is aware of this vulnerability. Hence the extraordinary threat that she made, behind her smiling pitch for a free trade agreement. Agree, or it will prove to be “an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe”. Because if the EU does not do as she wishes, it “would jeopardise [its] investments” in Britain as well as its trade with “one of the biggest economies in the world”. So there!&nbsp; </p><p>She backed up her menacing talk by claiming, “if we were excluded from accessing the single market – we would be free to change the basis of Britain’s economic model”. As Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform <a href="https://www.cer.org.uk/insights/what-does-theresa-mays-speech-tell-us-about-how-britain-will-leave-eu">notes,</a> this is a hollow threat. If she tries to turn the UK into a low-regulation Singapore undercutting the EU, the prime minister will upturn the one set of positive changes she pledges for Britain after Brexit: robust workers’ rights and – perish the word – a European industrial strategy. </p> <p>The more significant incoherence is institutional. Whatever the tensions in negotiation with the EU, Global Britain, she says, will be unified at home, “Because after all the division and discord, the country is coming together”.&nbsp; In May’s view, “The referendum was divisive at times. And those divisions have taken time to heal. But one of the reasons that Britain’s democracy has been such a success for so many years is the strength of our identity as one nation…”. </p> <p>Hold on, "one nation"? This is the same person who in the same speech refers to “the 4 nations of the United Kingdom” and our “union of nations” has collapsed them into one? Some cognitive dissonance.</p> <p>One nation style unity is on the way because, “the importance we attach to our institutions means that when a vote has been held we all respect the result. The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the outcome. And the country comes together”. </p><p class="mag-quote-right">in this speech, there is not the slightest concession to anyone this side of UKIP</p> <p>This is a very striking claim. May supported Remain but she speaks here as if she is a victor. But where is the magnanimity? the word implies not simply telling the losers to accept the outcome, but stretching out to them with some concessions to meet their concerns. Yet she makes not the slightest concession to anyone this side of UKIP. This is not a formula for coming together or unity. After May made her first speech about Brexit in October last year, I showed how <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">the Daily Mail had taken power</a>. When they are magnanimous, she will be. Until then, if you are not with her, you are an enemy of the people.</p> <p>Which brings me to the NHS. The word 'England' may have been missing in her utterly English presumption about the country’s sovereignty, but its absence is an old trick. What is more surprising is the absence of any reference to the NHS. The campaign for Brexit was notoriously tattooed with a pledge to pump money into it. If there is one institution everyone, whether Remain or Leave, attaches importance to it is the Health Service. About this, and its desperate need for funds there is silence. Under Blair, New Labour pledged to bring UK expenditure of the NHS up to European levels, of over 10 per cent of GDP. Current projections seem to suggest it will sink back to below 7 per cent by 2020. Is this a preparation for the prime minister’s threat to alter the country’s “economic model”? Inflicting calamitous harm on the institution that most unites the country, in “one of the biggest economies in the world”. It does not make sense – unless the Daily Mail has taken over your brain. &nbsp;</p> <p>The media understandably focused their response to the speech on the big story of what Theresa May is saying about Brexit. But her setting out “what kind of country we want to be” is as important. At the start she heralded a “great moment of national change”. Yet she is not proposing that Britain changes the way it is governed one bit. Instead of offering the Scots a federal settlement, giving the English who drove Brexit a voice (see Nicholas Boyle’s <a href="http://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/the_problem_with_the_english_england_doesn_t_want_to_be_just_another_member_of_a_team_1_4851882">recent philippic</a>), proposing an inventive solution for Northern Ireland, and acknowledging that London, a world city with its own directly elected mayor, voted to remain by 60:40, she insists we can make our greatness global and appears to want to take the country back to 1971, if without its then troublesome trade unions. Her Daily Mail approach has led the prime minister to place too much emphasis on firmness. What works for a headline does not good policy make. Every holder of her office is now haunted by the way Margaret Thatcher reshaped the country. But Thatcher's conviction was harnessed to a formidable programme of genuine domestic transformation and a new culture of government, whether you liked it or not. There is no such depth to May’s announcement of her beliefs. </p><p><em>Anthony Barnett is writing <strong>THE LURE OF GREATNESS: England's Brexit &amp; America's Trump</strong> <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">which can be pre-ordered here.</a></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/sovereignty-bites-back-and-media-take-on-judges">The Media Monarchy: the press versus the &#039;people&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">The Daily Mail takes power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Anthony Barnett Wed, 18 Jan 2017 02:44:43 +0000 Anthony Barnett 108174 at https://www.opendemocracy.net John Berger, witness to the human condition (1926-2017) https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/john-berger-witness-to-human-condition-1926-2017 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>He sought to protect and if necessary salvage humanity from the inhumanity of consumer capitalism. This gives all his work the quality of resistance. Defiant resistance in the face of likely defeat.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/johnanthony.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Oysters in Paris. John Berger and Anthony Barnett. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/johnanthony.jpg" alt="" title="Oysters in Paris. John Berger and Anthony Barnett. Some rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="100" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Oysters in Paris. John Berger and Anthony Barnett. Some rights reserved. (Photo Judith Herrin).</span></span></span></p><p>The world is a much colder place. A source of indefatigable energy has completed its physical life. The fires John lit in so many of us will live on. None with his intensity.</p> <p>John’s laughter, over a table, down the phone, filled your lungs. Accompanying its shared pleasure there was always the thrill of menace. His wicked intelligence and extra-ordinary sensitivity could tumble your own perception. And you grew. Anyone he engaged with enjoyed a conspiracy of discovery with him. A sprinkle of his attention could make people blossom. Also his pauses: no one paused better than John. Or could give what, for you or me, would be a passing word such careful hesitation. He could consider an “and” for what seemed like minutes as if he was a nervous shopper uncertain that an apple was ripe but unable to put it down.</p> <p>He is inside me. Since I got to know him in the early seventies the steel of his judgment, the resilience of his politics, the tenderness of his attention, has shaped my own. He showed me how to take grapes from a bunch, to cook and eat artichokes, to breathe before performing, to open oysters and later, to chop wood.</p> <p>How the two of us struggled, hands sore, opening oysters in Paris without oyster knives! Now we have a new home and Judith just bought a dozen oysters for 1 January. We had not had any since we moved in. While I opened them we talked about John. When we sat down, I said “I feel we have finally arrived”. As we set their thick, rocky shells, with their exquisite, pearl-like layered insides, and gentle, almost flowering bodies resting on them, between us, on a plate of ice and lemon, without our knowing it was the night John lay dying.</p> <p>A few, immediate stories.</p> <p>When John was called up by the army in 1944, aged 18, he was sent to Northern Ireland on an officers’ training course. He may have run away from his St Edwards boarding school that he hated but he was still ‘officer material’. After he had went through the course he informed those in charge that he would refuse a commission. He was not a pacifist but he did not want to become an officer. They took their revenge by making him a corporal and ordering him to take the trainee officers through the course, time and again, for the rest of his two years. I think of him running with heavy weapons, crawling through the mud, dealing with the reactions of the upper-class boys. It made him extremely fit and strong. It may have saved his life too, as many of those from his initial training course were to be sent to the front line of the invasion of Normandy.</p> <p>The experience also gave John a route out of England’s ridiculous and then very confined class system. It meant he knew, from experience, that he was more than the equal to the upper class while he shared something of what it could be like to be a young, working class man who had to suffer their shit. He became an outsider to the system who carried no chip on his shoulder – it gave him a rare social purity in post-war Britain.</p> <p>John was a Communist. He was the only true Communist I have ever known and perhaps the only true Communist there ever was after 1945. That’s to say, a Marxist revolutionary who supported the Soviet Union but whose soul and integrity was untouched by Stalinism. It is hard to communicate the horrible pressures of the mid-century domestic cold war on anyone who supported the Soviet Union against the west. The existence of Communists was tolerated if closely spied upon in Britain. Any attempt to break out into larger influence was ruthlessly stifled whenever possible. When, as a critic with a growing reputation writing for the <em>New Statesman</em>, John asked to join the Party, they said that perhaps it would be better for them if he did not. Later, they asked him to join the Party - and <em>he</em> said that perhaps it would be better for them if he did not. Thus, technically, he never was a member of the Communist Party and was never compromised by when he had to leave. That made us laugh. In one of his last political essays he wrote about Rosa Luxembourg. She was his kind of Communist, who warned against the threat of Stalinism that she foresaw. And, of course, with Nella Bielski, John wrote deeply about the Gulag.</p> <p>In 1972 he won the Booker Prize for <em>G</em>. In his speech, he condemns the way prizes create a culture of competitive celebrity. In those early days, this did not include deciding the prize just before the ceremonial dinner and then announcing it with all the shortlisted present. Instead, to ensure the winner was there, John had been forewarned. That is why his speech is so carefully crafted. You can read it <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/john-berger/clarity-is-more-important-than-money">here</a>. He tried it out with me beforehand. He was particularly adamant that, desperately broke though he was at the time, he could not take all the prize money as it had originated in the slave plantations that were the foundation for Booker’s sugar interests. But, as he explains in the speech, he needed funds badly to write what became <em>A Seventh Man</em>, on the migrants in Europe. He announced he would therefore share the prize with the London Black Panthers. After he sat down, George Steiner, who I think was on the jury and must have argued for <em>G</em>, was furious, especially with the cunning way John did not give it all away in a gesture of indifference. “You Leninist”, Steiner snarled. At least, that is the story John told me, with some pleasure.</p> <p>In everything he did John addressed the human condition. This was his genius. In his novels, his essays or when he wrote about art, he was always exploring aspects of what it means to be human, and the many ways there are of being human. He sought to protect and if necessary salvage and certainly to defend humanity from the inhumanity of consumer capitalism, doing so by revealing the truth of the specific. This gives all his work the quality of resistance. Defiant resistance in the face of likely defeat. The poor, the ill, animals, the prisoner, especially the political prisoner, the migrant, the peasant, the Palestinian: he saw none of them as failures. All in different ways were up against our human fate, so that their experience is the truth of what is being done to us all. He was not sorry for them; it was not a patronising sympathy that he extended. On the contrary he strove to see life through their eyes – as they see truly.</p> <p>I was never completely convinced. Once he had joined us for a holiday in Italy where we were staying on the outskirts of a village. As we walked through it, there were two mentally disabled men sitting together on a step. Finally, after many years of thinking that I had been completely diplomatic, in my total enthusiasm for his <em>Pig Earth</em> trilogy, I plucked up my courage and said quietly, that there is also such a thing as rural idiocy. He replied, “You know, Anthony, what I admire about you is your patience”. I report this only to demonstrate John’s capacity for tolerance which is not much noted.</p> <p>When he was talking on the phone about the book that was to become <em>King</em>, he described how he was writing an account of the life of squatters as narrated by an alsatian. “You mean, from the point of view of the underdog?”. He laughed and laughed with delight. He saw the truth as belonging to the poor – it was all they had. I thought of <em>King</em> and its dramatic denouement when the refugee Jungle at Calais was dismantled. Such was his premonition.</p> <p>We had only one direct disagreement where neither gave way. I did not approve of his writing that Salman Rushdie’s <em>Satanic Verses</em> should be withdrawn. John was right to see Rushdie as part of an elite he himself was in no way comfortable with. But he was wrong to equate the fatwa with the protests of the oppressed that had to be respected, as it was a ukase of the most authoritarian kind that had to be resisted.</p> <p>When he addressed the human condition, he did so in the most complete way possible. Simon McBurney calls him a philosopher and this is right. But he was against any ‘philosophy’ abstracted from the human condition that it is supposed to address, or formulated for the classroom or university. In his thought, writing and enquiry John, while intensely learned, was utterly hostile to official writing that separates us from the truth of our condition. For the whole of his life, despite the great influence he sought and exercised, he would never join the officer class.</p> <p>Perhaps the best way to describe how he worked and lived is to say that John sought to be a true witness of the human condition. Which is why he never attempted to create a system, or build a framework that could only get in the way. The act of witnessing joined his writing to his constant drawing and watercolours.</p> <p>To witness something, whether it be singing, or light, or time, or digging, or a tree, or the nature of sex, or love, or language, or money, it has to pass the only test that matters: that of being shareable – by being shared. Hence John’s love of collaboration. And of images which exist as shared experience. And also of inspiring letter writing in a beautiful hand.</p> <p class="p1">To be a witness is to make something recognisable. This involves a great effort of exploration that leads not to a conclusive definition but to the question that follows an act of discovery: “Is this not so?” With extraordinary fierceness John battled to retain an openness that was never soft and gave him a capacity for listening and compassion that have been widely saluted. Most important was the reaching out. It was fierce and people loved John for it. He ended a form of isolation in many he never met. Those who did meet him often never recovered. Why would you want to?</p> <p class="p1">He could be distracted, but no one could slow down the energy. There was a very tough side to John – an uncompromising, focused self-belief. He was elemental. He had to be, to tackle the human condition in a way that could be shared and therefore changed by being shared. Here is an example of his writing about this, in a essay on the credibility of language:</p> <p>“One does not look <em>through </em>writing on to reality – as through a clean or dirty windowpane. Words are never transparent. They create their own space, the space of experience, not that of existence. Clarity of the written word has little to do with style as such. A baroque text can be clear; a simple one can be dim. Clarity, in my view, is the gift of the way the space, created by words in a given text, is arranged…. Authenticity in literature does not come from the writer’s personal honesty…. Authenticity comes from a single faithfulness: that to the ambiguity of experience. Its energy is to be found in how one event leads to another. Its mystery is not in the words but on the page.”</p> <p>The other side of his discussion of language was a lifelong assault on mystification, guff, words intended to still the spirit and steal from the pocket, the infernal noise of consumerism. </p> <p>Being a witness demanded being accessible and this could lead, sometimes to exaggerations and simplifications that the ‘sophisticated’ could mock. This usually hid an embarrassment at what he revealed and a discomfort with his adamantine contempt for venality and arse-licking. But he did have a weakness for performance. A wonderful reader of his own work especially, he longed to be a singer and tried to act. In this supreme art he seemed to me to be hopeless. There was too much John in him and so he was always John-trying-to-act.</p> <p>He wrote a short essay, “13 Theses on the Economy of the Dead”, which was contrived. The final one is among the best.</p> <p>“How do the living regard those who are dead? Until the dehumanisation of society by capitalism, all the living awaited the experience of the dead. It was their ultimate future. By themselves the living were incomplete. Thus living and dead were inter-dependent. Always. Only a uniquely modern form of egotism has broken this inter-dependence. With disastrous results for the living, who now think of the dead as the <em>eliminated</em>.”</p> <p>John, capitalism is in big trouble and you will not be eliminated.</p> <p><em>____________</em></p><p><em>PS: For a thorough obituary see Tom Overton's in T<a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2017/01/03/john-berger-marxist-art-critic-booker-prize-winning-novelist/">he Telegraph</a>. His account of John's wartime Northern Ireland experience is more accurate than my recollection of what John told me, John trained working class recruits not officers.<br /></em></p> <p><em>Anthony Barnett is writing&nbsp;<a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">The Lure of Greatness: England’s Brexit &amp; America’s Trump</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/john-berger/clarity-is-more-important-than-money">‘Clarity is more important than money’</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/john-berger/time-we-live">The Time We Live</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/conflict-vision_reflections/palestine_3176.jsp">Undefeated despair</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Anthony Barnett Tue, 03 Jan 2017 18:46:54 +0000 Anthony Barnett 107924 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit has killed the sovereignty of Parliament https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnet/brexit-has-killed-sovereignty-of-parliament <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As Britain's Supreme Court hears the evidence on whether Parliament must trigger Brexit, it's all over for Britain's old regime.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/420px-The_Seven_Bishops_committed_to_the_Tower_in_1688_from_NPG.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/420px-The_Seven_Bishops_committed_to_the_Tower_in_1688_from_NPG.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Group portrait of the Seven Bishops whom James ordered imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1688, but who were acquitted of charges of seditious libel. National Portrait Gallery. Unknown artist. Public domain.</span></span></span></p><p>When David Davis, Secretary of State for Brexit, responded to <a href="https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/summary-r-miller-v-secretary-of-state-for-exiting-the-eu-20161103.pdf">the High Court’s decision</a> that only parliament can trigger Article 50&nbsp;he became unusually incoherent: “Parliament is sovereign, has been sovereign, but of course the people are sovereign”. </p><p>The issue might appear baffling and not only to readers around the world who are not British. The UK government exercises power in the name of the crown. The monarch's once absolute sovereignty is now commanded by Parliament in domestic matters. But abroad, the executive still retains an unchecked imperial absolutism, at least in theory. It can go to war or make peace using its royal preogative. The government claims that therefore it does not need Parliament's consent to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start what it says must be the irrevocable process of leaving the EU; because it is a foreign treaty it has prerogative power. The High Court decided that on the contrary, as it also means undoing what is now domestic law, given the EU's regulation of people's rights, the government has to have parliament's agreement, or parliamentary sovereignty would be undermined. This is the decision the goverment has appealed and on which the Supreme Court will now decide. </p><p>The ‘sovereignty of parliament’ is a unique feature of Britain’s once durable, un-codified arrangements. These fashioned an immensely successful form of imperial government that dated back to the revolution of 1688. Monarchical absolutism, aristocratic privilege and capitalist energy combined into a new form of rule: cabinet government accountable to a parliament of Commons and Lords under the Crown. It created an engine of global conquest that was centralised yet flexible with built in checks that protected the Kingdom from both would-be dictators and, especially, democracy. No effort or skill was spared to ensure domestic consent. But this was, and was seen as being, the opposite of popular sovereignty or “government by the people”.</p> <p>This is why the Brexit referendum is constitutional dynamite for Britain. The assumption was that it would confirm the status quo and that deference, self-interest and fear of the consequences, would renew consent to elite rule. Instead, consent was withdrawn. <span class="mag-quote-center">Instead, consent was withdrawn.</span></p> <p>A new sovereign, ‘The people’, has now displaced the old. Unless 'the people' changes <em>its</em> mind, the Commons and Lords – both with Remain majorities - must obey and vote to leave the EU. It is no longer a matter of acting on the basis of their own judgment. By terminating the 1972 European Communities Act, 'parliamentary sovereignty' will only be restored as a technicality. For in fact and in spirit the referendum drove a stake through its heart. The 'Will of the People' must now prevail. Those who resist are 'Enemies of the People'.</p> <p>This is the raw meat of dictatorship. </p> <p>To protect us from it and ensure our rights, a democratic constitution is now essential; one that rests on popular sovereignty but protects the rights of all. </p> <p>To achieve it we have to reawaken England’s passionate constitutional culture. From the Levellers to the Victorians the constitution was a matter of intense debate, concern and pride, a measure of the country’s self-belief. Coleridge even wrote a book about its essentially Christian nature. </p><p>Poets no longer refer to the constitution at all as something that stirs the passions of the self and public. In the twentieth century with the decline of Empire and the appropriation of self-belief by Fabianism, the culture withered. Today, to express an interest in the constitution runs the risk of being perceived as weird. So we have to start with first principles to establish why it matters to all of us and is not a lawyers’ plaything.<span class="mag-quote-center"> A constitution sets out the rules for how a society’s rules are made or changed.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In a sentence, a constitution sets out the rules for how a society’s rules are made or changed. Every country has one whether or not this is written down in one place, or many, or not at all. And all constitutions do three things.</p> <p>First, they establish the authority that different centres of power have towards each other. Can the upper chamber frustrate the lower? What can local government do? This is where the famous separation of powers comes in, or, in the case of the UK, do not come in: between the executive (the government and civil service), the legislature (that makes laws but does not administer them), and the judiciary (which adjudicates what is lawful when this is disputed).</p> <p>Second, all constitutions define the powers and rights of citizens, in our case, citizen-subjects. Do individuals have the right to vote, to assemble, to free speech, to property, to equal treatment? How are such rights protected?&nbsp;Can the executive imprison us or invade our liberty through surveillance without cause? If not, how must it establish due cause?</p> <p>Third, all constitutions express the aspirations of their society: the direction they wish change to take. This might be to be non-racist (South Africa), to be Islamic (Iran), or to be liberal and not fascist (Germany) or universal (France). Aspiration need not be part of the main constitutional text, thus “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, the aspiration of the US constitution, is in the Declaration of Independence. Historically, England-Britain, as the firstborn nation, felt it had no need of vulgar aspiration when, after all – everyone else aspired to be like us.&nbsp;</p> <p>You can see immediately that because constitutions are about the way a whole society relates to itself they are living things. How a constitution is lived is always more important than what is written down. A constitution can be a defining, codified document; but the way a country defines its constitution is always more important than the way the constitution defines the country, as we can see in the United States today. (One of the measures of the collapse of a constitutional culture in the UK is the widespread belief that a written constitution means being like the United States, as if these are the only two alternatives in the world.)</p><p>When the then Prime Minister of the UK, David Cameron announced the referendum on 20 February he said, “The choice goes to the heart of the kind of country we want to be… You will decide”. This compressed together all three aspects of our constitution: how power is exercised, the rights of citizens, and our aspiration as a country.&nbsp; </p><p>When Cameron did not get the desired answer the old order was submerged. The High Court decision is like the instruction King Canute addressed to the incoming tide. Not so fast, the judges said, the government cannot use the Royal Prerogative to overrule Parliament. This would undo everything since the seventeenth century that protects us from despotism. To which the government’s and, more&nbsp;important, the Daily Mail’s, reply is that it is the people’s prerogative that is now sovereign.&nbsp;</p> <p>Thersa May and the Mail are right. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/daily-mail-takes-power-0">There is a new power in the land</a>. The tide of the people’s determination cannot be reversed by a historic formula. Whatever the Supreme Court decides, an uncodified&nbsp;constitution offers no protection from&nbsp;‘The Will of the People’ once this is unleashed. The danger of an intimidating populism is obvious and can even be given a name: Faragism. <span class="mag-quote-center">The danger of an intimidating populism is obvious and can even be given a name: Faragism.</span></p> <p>The flexibility that was once the system’s greatest strength has folded. Its weakness has been evident ever since the UK joined Europe in 1972. Once, when he was head of the civil service and secretary to the Cabinet, Robin Butler was asked by a student “What is our constitution?” He replied, “It is something we make up as we go along”. Butler’s ‘we’ was not the ‘we’ of “We, the people”. He meant those like himself. Today, Butler’s establishment has been driven from power by an even narrower political-media caste. Now our constitution is something Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre make up as they go along.</p> <p>A key to their success lay in the way Butler’s predecessors joined Europe. They were worse than deceitful in pretending it did not undermine the sovereignty of parliament. Britain became a member of the EU in bad faith: pretending that our continental partners’ far-reaching political-cultural project was for us only a matter of economics and instrumental advantage, which left our constitution intact. Yet it clearly put the UK, an uncodified multi-national entity, inside a larger multi-national entity set on codifying its reach. The nature of British rule could not but be threatened by such exposure.</p> <p>The only way of staying in the EU in good faith was, and is, by becoming European. Britain needs its own written constitution, with a ‘constitutional patriotism’, proportional representation and a constitutional court capable (even if we leave) of testing the claims of the EU – to take three examples from Germany. (For how to create a constitutional convention see <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">the debate edited by Stuart White</a>) </p> <p>This was the argument many of us made that influenced New Labour. We got our Human Rights Act, a Scottish parliament, a London Mayor, Freedom of Information and rid the Lords of most hereditary legislators. Together the reforms broke the informal checks and balances of the old regime while unleashing the national question. But Blair preserved its now unrestrained executive power, rather than be held to account by a new democratic settlement.</p> <p>Worse, he replaced traditional concern for consent with public relations, which eventually degenerated into dodgy dossiers, while the embrace of market-fundamentalism treated the population as mere natives.&nbsp;The promise of New Labour was to restore trust in government: instead it was shattered. <span class="mag-quote-center">The promise of New Labour was to restore trust in government: instead it was shattered.</span></p> <p>The referendum was a <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/anthony-barnett/revolt-of-natives-britain-after-brexit">revolt of the natives</a>, headed by a cynical media and Tories with roots stretching back to Enoch Powell. Victorious, their embrace of executive dictatorship is already more extreme than Blair’s, as in the name of the people they break resistance to Brexit and declare a final battle against the elitism of the old order. It may take a ten or twenty-year confrontation but the framework of 1688 cannot determine "the revolution” unleashed by Brexit.</p> <p>Not least because Northern Ireland and above all Scotland have already started their own constitutional revolutions, which is why they felt safe enough to vote to stay in the EU. Now it is England’s turn. </p> <p>The irony is that whether or not we leave the EU, by voting for Brexit we English now find ourselves in need of grownup, European-style arrangements. The outcome could be a federal UK, if Scotland agrees. That is for the future. What is clear is that England must bury its arbitrary, hyper-centralised empire-state to secure its once legendary tolerance. For even a newfangled supreme court cannot preserve the unwritten constitution being shredded by Brexit.</p><p><em>PS:&nbsp; I have altered my mind after listening to the Court and some further reading. There are two ferocious lectures by Oxford academic legal specialists denouncing the High Court and insisting that the government can use the Royal Preogrative by <a href="http://www.lincolnsinn.org.uk/images/word/education/Sir%20Thomas%20More%20Lecture%20-%20Professor%20John%20Finnis%20FBA.pdf">John Finnis</a> and <a href="http://judicialpowerproject.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Endicott-2016-Parliament-and-the-Prerogative.pdf">Timothy Endicott. </a>I had assumed that the High Court decision was so clear as to be irrefutable. But it seems possible that the Supreme Court could over-rule it on what to me would be technical grounds. If so, politically the government's defeat will be far greater than if it has to submit to pushing a short Bill though parliament. The idea that the country is 'taking back control' by having Theresa May do the job without consultation will turn the remain side into constitutional revolutionaries for sure, and we have the young on our side. </em><em>The <a href="https://www.supremecourt.uk/live/court-01.html">live stream of the Supreme Court in session is here</a>, as well as helpful twitter streams: <a href="https://twitter.com/faisalislam">@faisalislam</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/carlgardner/with_replies">@carlgardner</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/JoshuaRozenberg">@joshuarozenberg</a> - who has summaries for each half of the day. </em></p> <p><em>Anthony Barnett is writing <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">THE LURE OF GREATNESS: England's Brexit and Trump’s America, to be published by Unbound<br /></a></em></p> <p>This is a longer version of an article that was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/30/why-britain-needs-written-constitution">published in The Guardian</a>, reproduced with thanks.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/jamie-mackay/blimey-it-could-be-brexit-book-so-far">Blimey, it could be Brexit! Download Anthony Barnett&#039;s on-line book </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK openJustice Anthony Barnett Sun, 04 Dec 2016 23:16:34 +0000 Anthony Barnett 107358 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trump or Clinton: a choice between two forms of violence https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/trump-or-clinton-choice-between-two-forms-of-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>12 things we can't ignore as America votes.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558533/PA-28876173.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Credit: Rick T. Wilking AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558533/PA-28876173.jpg" alt="lead " title="Credit: Rick T. Wilking AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Two forms of violence." Clinton and Trump debate at Washington University in October. Credit: Rick T. Wilking AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong><span><em>For John Berger at 90, whose uncompromising tenderness and compassion shows us how to look hard yet be full of care.</em></span></strong></p><p><strong>1.</strong> There should be a plural term for violences. This would let us talk about how to choose between violences. Today, this would mean judging between different ‘brands’ of violence in the sense of product lines. Calculated, targeted and intimidating violence - the violence of drones, for example, compared to inflammatory, provocative, intimidating violence – the violence of terrorism. Tomorrow the American people will have to choose between two forms of violence. The system, represented by Hillary Clinton, and an anti-system conjured up by Donald Trump.</p><p><strong>2.</strong> It is essential to be able to distinguish between different kinds of evil and judge them accordingly. Dante’s Inferno had 9 circles that differentiated the punishments of hell befitting the severity of wickedness.</p><p><strong>3.</strong> As a rule, therefore, never talk about ‘fascism’ or ‘Stalinism’ in political or polemical writing. The terms function to stop thought and end judgment by precluding discrimination. They are used to mobilise an attitude that pre-empts scrutiny. And even interest. If something is fascist we should be able to ask what kind it is and how bad it might be, but the concentration camps make such an approach taboo.</p><p><strong>4.</strong> For the first time I break the rule. Donald Trump is a fascist. He draws on all the violence of the extreme market place, combines it with the inhumanity of the games-show, and applies it to mobilising para-legal enmity and violence against minorities. It’s not a matter of his personal character; it is what his defects as a human being permit him to encourage, enable and mobilise. There is a famous photomontage by John Heartfield of Hitler making his salute and the large figure of a banker-businessman slipping marks into it. Trump pays himself. Such is his narcissism. This does not make his politics merely personal.<br />&nbsp;<br /><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558533/Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 13.12.14.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Wikimedia/John Heartfield. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558533/Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 13.12.14.png" alt="" title="Wikimedia/John Heartfield. Some rights reserved." width="375" height="491" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Front page of the Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung showing Adolf Hitler taking money from an exemplary industrialist. Wikimedia/John Heartfield. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>5.</strong> It is also a weakness. He is on his own. There are not Trump stormtroopers. He has not created an organised movement. He is the personification of the late capitalist spectacle. He draws a crowd, creates an audience, goads them into exhuberence and as a master of the political branch of the entertainment industry, gets votes. This is a politics of turnout, not organising or creating a machine. It abhors anything to which it might be accountable. Organisationally, everything turns on it capturing the presidential component of state power.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>6.</strong> Trump draws his support from the energy of the thrill of <em>violation</em>. The American media and marketplace is constantly stimulating people and putting them on edge, yet is remarkably dull and bland. It makes the violation of norms seem authentic and ‘real’. By violating people and processes, speaking the unspeakable, and breaking the will of the conventional, Trump creates a new ‘reality’. Everyone knows it is an old one – <a href="https://twitter.com/mbieseck/status/795423658776862722">lynching</a>. This too is thrilling. Now, in the last weeks, there is even patience to his appeal. He has already made the incitement of undifferentiated violence, the foundation of fascism, his calling card. He can bide his time without more provocations.<br />&nbsp;<br /><strong>7.</strong> If he wins it leads to war or dictatorship because these are the only ways to control the expectations and forces such a call unleashes. America won’t tolerate dictatorship so it will lead to war, external against whoever and internal against Latinos and blacks.<br /><span class="mag-quote-left">The American media and marketplace is constantly stimulating people and putting them on edge yet is remarkably dull and bland. It makes violating norms seem authentic and ‘real’.</span></p><p><strong>8.</strong> But violence of a different, less overt kind has already been taking place against Americans of colour and those who are poor. Over 50 million who are eligible are not registered to vote. And over the last decade more than ten million in homes and households where people are registered have lost jobs in manufacturing. In Brexit Britain we are told that many voted to leave the EU because the health service is under pressure, housing is costly when it exists, incomes have flatlined. But in the United States there is no universal health service or equivalent welfare system. It is a brutal country. Its wealth makes this worse. Trump supporters are not the poor whom its crushes as a matter of course. They are those sufficiently well-off to experience the frustration of their expectations and now the fear of being crushed.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>9.</strong> Hillary Clinton personifies the system-violence of the last thirty years that created this situation. From the industrial incarceration of blacks, the job losses of globalisation without counter-measures, to the Iraq war. Now she agrees invading Iraq was a mistake, but she remains an interventionist and cold warrior, fully engaged with the traditional projection of American power, and of course Wall Street. Those who simply want to remove American politics from the inferno altogether find it hard to distinguish between its circles. This is worse than naive.</p><p><strong>10.</strong> The great tragedy of this year is that Bernie Sanders could not take on Trump rather than Clinton. Sanders’ challenge to the system being far more coherent, he would have both mobilised positive support and appealed to the less bigoted of Trump's enthusiasts. The paucity of Clinton bumper stickers and posters shows how shallow her support has been. The debates did little to compensate for this. She played them with consummate professionalism, her strategy was to let Trump destroy himself especially by provoking his contempt for women. As personal duels they had a lurid fascination. As a debate over policy they were tedious. At no point did Clinton address the problem faced by America, in effect she accepted that she is the candidate for continuity not change when change is badly needed. She did not even make an issue of climate change. <br /><br /><strong>11.</strong> The most positive thing is that American macho will be irreversibly wounded – provided Hillary wins. When Obama won 8 years ago there was the hope, which I shared, that this would finally marginalise America's racial hatred not galvanise it. But Obama did not run as a 'black candidate' in the way that Hillary is running as a feminist. The full equality of women has never been an issue at the heart of US politics, she has put it there.<br /><br /><strong>12.</strong> But her promise is nonetheless a continuation of traditional American violence. Barack Obama described his foreign policy as “Don’t do stupid shit”. This is an intelligent approach if you are the dominant world power and being challenged by the rise of others. Hillary Clinton attacked it as not “an organizing principle” worthy of “great nations.” On the contrary. Today its miserable imperative is an essential instruction as to how Americans should vote: don't do stupid shit!</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Anthony Barnett is writing a book on Brexit <a href="https://unbound.com/books/brexit">you can pre-order here</a></em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Anthony Barnett Mon, 07 Nov 2016 13:57:31 +0000 Anthony Barnett 106538 at https://www.opendemocracy.net