Brexit—sovereignist and nationalist demagoguery: no borders between us workers!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
December 28, 2020

There are more than 17,000 trucks blocked in Dover and there are factories closed in mainland Europe like the Toyota plant in Valenciennes which relies on a number of parts produced in Great Britain. There is a risk of food and goods shortages in both French and English supermarkets. It only took a few days to feel the consequences of the decision made last week by several European states, including France, to suspend traffic from Great Britain after the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus.

Despite all the claims made by sovereignists who advocate a return to stronger national borders, trade has created highly interdependent economies around the world to the extent that the slightest interruption can quickly paralyze production in a number of companies. And on top of that, the race for profit has driven a majority of factories to operate on a “just-in-time” basis which means production comes to a stop with the smallest delay.

The way drivers have been treated is also indicative of how the capitalist economy works. On both sides of the English Channel, government leaders and company managers have worried more about ensuring the circulation of goods than about the workers who transport them. While parking lots were set up for the trucks, nothing was done for those for drive them! “We were parked like animals,” some said in anger, “there were no showers, they just set up toilet stalls; we got bottled water, but nothing to eat…”.

The virus isn’t the only thing causing the borders to close. So is Brexit which is set to take place on January 1. After officially leaving the European Union, Great Britain must now definitively leave the single market and customs union. After months of negotiations, an agreement was finally reached on December 24 which guarantees capitalists that Brexit won’t lead to additional taxes and customs duties on goods. For them, the main thing remains intact: business and profit-making can carry on!

For years, a number of politicians in Britain have used the rejection of European institutions as a springboard for getting into power. Their race for influence led to the June 2016 referendum where those in favor of leaving the European Union won. Boris Johnson himself had converted to anti-European demagoguery only to outdo his competitors and become Prime Minister. But contrary to all the false promises he made, there won’t be fewer layoffs, less unemployment or poverty in Great Britain because of Brexit.

It’ll be quite the opposite, in fact, because British employers will want to make workers and consumers pay for all the extra costs, even if only those caused by the reinstatement of administrative formalities and paperwork. Nor will there be any money for the health-care system, hospitals or housing, because the government will be concerned above all with preserving the profits of the capitalist class, just like its predecessors. However, there will be more barriers and obstacles for immigrant workers, including those from the European Union, who will find it more difficult to move around, get medical treatment or obtain a decent wage.

In Great Britain, as in France, nationalist demagoguery only serves to divert social anger away from those who are really responsible and to distill the poison of division among the working class. In this capitalist organization of society based on competition and the pursuit of profit by a privileged minority, national states and borders drawn between populations only serve to protect the interests of the wealthy.

In order to defend their own immediate interests, and even more so to put an end to this unjust and irrational system, the workers will have to unite and oppose the ideas of class struggle and internationalism against national and religious divisions. That’s the only way they’ll be able to constitute a force capable of overthrowing the bourgeoisie and thus bring an end to this crisis which in reality is the crisis of the capitalist system itself.