2010s >> 2019 >> no-1382-october-2019

Editorial: Neither Brexit nor EU but World Socialism

By now most people are fed up with hearing about Brexit and just want the issue to be settled one way or the other, many not particularly caring which way. They are right. The point at issue is the trading arrangements of the British capitalist class, and this is a matter of indifference as far as the class of wage and salary workers is concerned. Customs union, single market, free trade area, tariffs, World Trade Organisation terms, the terminology speaks for itself.

This is not how the partisans of Brexit or Remain see it. They are making all sorts of claims to get workers to take their side. The Brexiteers are promising ‘sunny uplands’ while the Remainers are promising that ‘if we stop Brexit, then we can build an economy that works for everyone’ (as a LibDem leaflet puts it).

But we have heard such promises before – at every general election – and we know from experience that they are not worth the paper they are printed on. Capitalism, as a system of class ownership and production for profit, cannot be made to ‘work for everyone’. And capitalism will continue to exist whether the UK is in or out of the EU. In other words, so will an economy that can only work for the few who own and control the means of life.

While government economic decisions cannot make things better for people, they can make them worse. A no-deal Brexit, for instance, even if it wouldn’t be the end of the world that Remainers predict, would temporarily cause great inconvenience for ordinary people. It would also cause problems for the capitalist class; which is why those in parliament representing (consciously or not) the interests of the dominant section of this class, which never wanted to leave, have gone to great lengths to try to prevent it. Even the Johnson government says it wants to avoid this and most of its members probably genuinely do. But it could still happen by accident, given the personal and political ambitions of MPs.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron has now revealed that he realised from the start that his fellow Tory Boris Johnson was an unscrupulous opportunist prepared to put his personal ambition ahead of the national capitalist interest. On the other side, the Remainers could overplay their hand with their politicking and provoke a no-deal outcome.

It is not up to socialists to advise the capitalist class and its politicians how to manage their affairs, but if they would settle the differences between them without causing any collateral damage to the working class, this would clear away an irrelevant issue. The real issue of our time is not Brexit but: capitalism or socialism? Class ownership, production for profit and rationing via the wages system or common ownership, democratic control, production directly to satisfy people’s needs, and distribution on the principle of ‘from each their ability, to each their needs’?