Another week and another speech on Brexit - or several of them! Jeremy Corbyn kicked off on Monday with his “alternative Customs Union” proposal... in the interests of British business.
On Friday, Theresa May will respond to this week’s EU Draft Agreement, outlining her latest version of Brexit... in the interests of British business.
Yes, it is all about business: trade, commerce, “services” and banking. Their only concern is to try to slice up the Brexit cake in order to be able to keep feeding the sharks - the company bosses, big shareholders and the City’s bankers and speculators.
So, if the Irish border is to be hard or soft, visible or invisible, with or without Boris Johnson’s congestion charge, the only issue is the “free flow of goods and services”. That says it all.
Where, in all of this, are the interests of the working class? “Things”, that is trade and profits, are all that matter - and at workers’ expense. The bosses have already been using the excuse of an impending Brexit to cut jobs and attack rights.
Of course, it is still hard to believe that, for the sake of their own petty infighting, the Tories launched the whole population into this backward and regressive attempt to recreate a long-lost “Great” Britain. And that today’s guerilla war within May’s party determines everything!
But the detrimental effects on “their” precious economy are worsening - and they know it. Hence the increasingly loud and reactionary rhetoric from Tories no-one has ever heard of, and those like Johnson, (who’d be better-advised to shut up), to try to divert attention from the harsh reality.
Paying with our jobs and pensions
Because more companies are collapsing by the week. Now it is Toys R Us, which will mean at least 3,200 workers thrown onto the street. This company has been in trouble since December - and is, ironically, American-owned. So much for the good deal Brexit promises for non-EU “trade”! If workers simply cannot afford to buy goods, of course retailers will crash. And now Maplins, one of the biggest electronics retailers has also gone bust, putting another 2,500 workers out of a job!
Why is it happening? The politicians are silent on this. But these bankruptcies are clearly linked to the slump in the pound due to Brexit, higher prices and more expensive credit. Like the collapsed Carillion, whose fall-out is ongoing, Maplins found it "impossible" to borrow money from the banks.
And what about Centrica (owner of British Gas) which announced last week that it was cutting 4,000 jobs, but would not cut its dividends to shareholders? How many more companies are going to make workers pay to fill the pockets of the already-wealthy? As if we were not already paying for the ongoing economic crisis!
Yet at the same time, corporate profits in Britain reached an all-time record of £109.3 billion in the last quarter of 2017, alone. As for shares, the FTSE 100 is expected to hit a new all-time high later this year, “no matter what happens with British politics”. And why? Because companies are screwing their workers. Take Royal Mail, for instance. It is looking to rejoin the FT 100 thanks to its anticipated success in cutting workers’ pensions, wages and conditions!
Nation or class?
Worst of all, the politicians, including Corbyn, explain patronisingly that they are preserving the “national interest” while respecting the will of the British “people”. But these “national” interests they speak of are not workers’ interests and never have been. As for respecting the “will” of the people, they would not dare to recall that only 37% of the registered electorate actually voted “Leave” on the day.
So what is this British “nation” whose interests they want to “preserve”, by calling for a customs union, or for a free trade deal with the EU (which is not even on offer!)? What has this got to do with the interests or rights of the working class, which, by the way, has never been a “national” working class, but has always been international? Yes, ever since its birth in the 19th century, thanks first and foremost to the many Irish workers who came to slave in the pits and factories of the industrial revolution!
Indeed, what have these politicians’ self-contradictory proclamations on the Irish border got to do with the interests of the working population, Irish or British? In fact isn’t it about time that border was rubbed out for good and that Ireland was re-united? That would sort out the problem once and for all.
Concealed behind the politicians’ “nation” and “national interest” is the nation of the capitalist class. Their business, not our business. And the fact of the matter is, that, just as they take care of their own affairs at workers’ expense, the working class is going to have to do the same: prepare to take care of its own interests, at their expense.