16 January 2019
So May’s Withdrawal Agreement was proved to be dead in the water - as everyone had predicted - when she managed that “historic” 230-vote defeat on Tuesday night.
In fact, she must have expected this. Because, after years of turning her nose up at trade-union leaders, on the eve of the debate, she had suddenly remembered their existence. Of course, she wasn't likely to get much joy there. And not just because they more or less support Labour's call for a general election. But why would they do any favours for a prime minister so obviously on her way out?
So, after over two years of horse-trading - with Brussels, of course, but above all, with the warring factions of her own party - May produced a dead duck! Was it worth two years of nationalistic posturing, politicking and economic chaos?
A host of fake options
What happens next, though, is anybody's guess. The only certainty for the working class is that none of the options offered by politicians, all claiming to represent the "national interest", can deliver anything positive for its future.
On one side, there are those "hard-Brexiteers" who keep hailing, against all evidence, the wonders of Britain going it alone after a "cliff-edge" Brexit: floating away from Europe and reclaiming its past imperial grandeur as a "world power"!
Except that, in today's world, this is a dangerous delusion, for which workers would be made to pay dearly: only a drastic increase in the exploitation of labour and brutal cuts in social expenditure, would allow British capital to make up for losing its free access to the huge EU market.
Then, on the other side, there are those who argue for a "good" Brexit or for a "good" way of remaining in a "reformed" EU. Either way, the aim of their game is to ensure that British capital keeps as many of the benefits it has enjoyed thanks to EU membership, as possible.
Except that there is nothing "good" for the working class in either of these options. Whether Britain is a "partner" or a "member" of the EU makes no difference: the aim is to shore up the profits of the bosses. It's not for nothing that big British companies are rushing to set up shop on the Continent today - they want to ensure that they have their cake and eat it, and they can!
For the working class, however, there is no "cake" on offer. There are no options on the table which offer anything for workers.
This is why, if and when May tries to resolve the present standoff between the Westminster factions by "giving a choice to the people" in the ballot box, this will be another fake choice for the working class - in which it has no stake, just as in the 2016 referendum and in the 2017 general election.
A question of balance of forces
Ultimately, the Brexit saga serves only to fuel the nationalist illusion that British institutions are better for workers than those of the EU.
This is exactly the same illusion that Corbyn and McDonnell are trying to feed in their campaign for a general election, in the hope that Labour will win. But what for?
In his 2017 manifesto, Corbyn insisted that his party would be "business-friendly" and would only ask the capitalists to pay a "little more" in taxes. And he offered his services, to negotiate a better Brexit than May, for Britain's "national interest".
Today, Corbyn claims that under Labour, the state will be "nicer" to workers and that, having "regained its independence from the EU", it will introduce progressive reforms.
But what if the City disagrees? Would Labour order BMW to make the thousands of agency workers at its Oxford plant permanent? Would it force JLR to cancel the 4,500 job cuts it has just announced? It wouldn't, because Corbyn respects the capitalists' control over the economy.
And what about the free movement of labour, the main positive change that came with the EU, as new, young, foreign blood reinforced workers' ranks here? The political establishment is against it - because they don't want workers' confidence to be reinforced by this kind of freedom. But Corbyn and his allies are also against free movement. Didn't Unite leader Len McCluskey explain that under Labour, free movement would be subject to "labour market regulations" - in other words it wouldn't be free any more?
No, the working class can expect nothing either, from the likes of Corbyn. But what it can do, is to mobilise its ranks - across all sectional and national divisions - in order to tip the balance of forces in its favour and challenge the dictatorship of capital itself. Because, in this society, changing the faces of MPs cannot change anything for the working class. Real change only becomes possible when the working class makes the capitalists fear for their profits!