Saturday, 25 June 2016

On Remain's Anger

Large numbers of people support a campaign scarred by racism, hate, and deliberate misinformation. Outraged opponents take to social media to make sweeping generalisations of those taken in. They're all thick. They're all bigoted. These people have fucked it up. I've heard it, you've heard it. Thing is, we've heard it all before.

In 2009, 900,000 people voted for the British National Party in the European elections. Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons, now both ex of that crumbling ruin of a parish, packed themselves off to Brussels for all the EU money they could trough. As I said then:
Morality is basic to socialist politics. But moralism is no basis for socialist analysis. The reasons why people vote for the BNP are complex and multi-faceted. In this respect this piece of excellent research commissioned for Channel Four is a good way in. Among the points about BNP voters' attitudes to race and immigration (which, unsurprisingly are more negative than the national average), there are a large minority for whom such concerns are secondary. But these concerns are not new. They have been part of the British political landscape for a long time, predating even the significant influx of Afro-Caribbean and Asian workers after the war.

But when you couple this with the relative lack of security they feel and their relatively low socio-economic status, scandalous media coverage of race and immigration, and the (correct) belief Labour and the other mainstream parties have abandoned working class aspirations, it's small wonder people are prepared to vote for a party that appears to speak to these concerns - whether they have the Mark of Cain or not.
Apart from the stuff about Labour and working class aspirations, the outpouring of Remain complaints, be it the two million-strong petition for a re-run, David Lammy's ridiculous bid to use Parliament to block Brexit, the frantic retweeting of Leave voters suffering "Bregret", and, of course, the name-calling, it is the 2009 bigot blame game writ large.

Of course, you can understand why people are pissed off. I was in a black mood yesterday, and apart from the lone Brexiter it was like someone had died in the office. I spoke to comrades whose reaction ranged from the angry to the despairing. As the economy tipped into the trash can and anecdotal evidence of increased racist behaviour (as predicted) is doing the rounds, there are millions of people horrified at where the country's going. Their venom and bitterness is entirely understandable and, sad to say, for some the shock has proven so large they may never recover. But every crisis has within it seeds of opportunity. And the most immediate is the huge outpouring of anger from millions with the scurrilous campaign Leave waged. Once the disappointment and London independence nonsense has died down, there are signs a wider politicisation is happening. There is a massive opportunity here for the Labour party and the labour movement to articulate this anger and draw hundreds of thousands into politics. It is possible that despite Thursday's awful setback, the future could belong to us.

Friday, 24 June 2016

The Man Who Broke Britain

One man is responsible for today's fiasco, and that is the Prime Minister. Or, thankfully, the soon-to-be-ex-Prime Minister. Dave joins Neville Chamberlain and Anthony Eden - coincidentally Tories too - in the hall of notorious failures. For his political vanity, for narrow party advantage over a hard right insurgency that began petering out before he conceded them the EU referendum, Dave has inflicted incalculable damage on the British economy, on the politics of this country, and goes into retirement trailing a bitter legacy of division and hopelessness. Well done that man. Well fucking done.

There's a lot to be written about the referendum - the character of the people voting leave, what it means for mainstream politics, whether UKIP will do a SNP, and the looming no confidence vote in Jeremy Corbyn. But here, while he's still relevant, I want to concentrate on Dave's miserable figure and the trajectory of his career. And there are a couple of things that stand out. As I've argued before, actually Dave is a proven weak leader but his sole discernible talent is to look the part. Hence when politics is aestheticised and image is everything, that is able to cover for his legion of faults. This brings us to his big problem. Dave, you see, is an addict. A gambling addict, and this frame can be usefully employed to think about his career.

Dave's brinkmanship started small. Upon his election in 2005, he put the party in the bath to hose down the muck of ages and the nasty, bigoted toxins the Tories had accumulated. A lot of members didn't like it, and off they went. At the end of it we had a shiny new entity. "Vote blue go green" was the slogan as our youthful PM-to-be preached compassionate conservatism and made out with huskies in the Arctic. It wasn't long before Dave faced his true test. Going up against a wounded and flailing Gordon Brown, he took a chance breaking with the Tory commitment to matching Labour spending and used the window opened by the financial crisis to oppose the measures necessary to save Britain's banking system. Economically, it was as bankrupt as Lehman's, but politically Dave skillfully - with some help from his media friends - turned a crisis of capitalism into a crisis of public spending. Matters were helped by Brown and Darling deciding that the route back to normality meant passing through a period of austerity. Dave gambled by staking out new political ground, and won by setting the terms of the debate.

The next big gamble came shortly after. His "big, open and comprehensive offer" to the Liberal Democrats to join him in a coalition government was a novelty, and commentators - including not a few Labour MPs - were bowled over by this new "cooperative" approach to politics. In practice, there was little qualitatively different between it and any other Conservative government. But Dave reasoned rightly that the LibDems were hungry for ministerial office, and would cling on for as long as they could knowing another chance may never come their way. A recipe for chaos it was not.

Dave's next big stake was the war of equal marriage. Trying to give the Tories a progressive gloss after implementing their first round of cuts, Dave more or less purged the party of its remaining bigots and homophobes. Tory associations folded and UKIP, then presenting itself as a libertarian party, promptly junked these principles and cleaved to the old school to hoover them up as recruits. A risky gamble because a declining Tory party could ill-afford to dispense with activists, and it gave UKIP the shot in the arm it needed.

His gambling appetite was now whetted. While it had simmered away for a while, Scottish independence wasn't a decisive issue then in Scotland. But with the SNP in power, he thought to lance the boil and go down in history as the British PM to see off Scottish nationalism. I don't believe he was far-sighted or Machiavellian enough to believe the referendum would destroy Scottish Labour, but this was the happy consequence as, somehow, the project fear approach of Better Together won the referendum at the price of immeasurably strengthening the SNP and Scottish nationalism in general. It doesn't matter, as what happened in Scotland allowed him to play the English identity card and scaremonger enough voters in swing seats to grant him a slim majority.

The problem with problem gamblers is, unfortunately, they don't know when to stop. Fresh out of the Scottish referendum, Dave sought to neutralise the UKIP vote in the marginals by offering the in/out EU referendum. Fully expecting it to be negotiated away in subsequent coalition talks that didn't happen, the majority landed him with a promise he'd be hard pressed to wriggle out of. What raised the stakes even higher is Dave went away to Europe with the promise to renegotiate the UK's relationship, and came back with thin gruel. He gambled this would be enough, along with a project fear-style 'it's the economy, stupid' campaign to win again and secure his place in the pantheon of all-time greats. His gamble failed. For the sake of a small number of votes from a minor party in decline, he was happy to risk everything. With the risks so high for a stake so small, why didn't someone make an intervention earlier? It's too late. He lost, and - ironically - it will disproportionately be those who voted against him who will pay the cost of exiting.

Dave's career is one gamble after another, gradually growing in risk and increasingly marked by personal vanity. I always knew Dave would get found out one day, and when that happened he'd be finished. He has, and a dislocated and dysfunctional country is what it took.

What to do After the Referendum

A re-blog from my comrade Lawrence Shaw. Sound advice.

Lawrence's Survival Guide for all in despair at the rise of English and Welsh fascism and the politics of hate and division.

1) Join the Labour Party.

But don't just join and pay your money. Get involved. Go to meetings. Campaign. Stand for election. Work for the greater good politically. Win people gradually to a positive set of ideas.

You don't have to 100% agree with Corbyn or Kendall or Blair or Brown or any particular Labour politician. Just that you support democratic socialist ideas for the greater good of all rather than the few. It's a good place to start. And Labour is the best hope we now have in England, at least.

2) Join a trade union

Do you have a job working for somebody else? Then join a trade union to protect your own interests and campaign for those of everyone else.

There's a wide selection and some workplaces have specific craft unions recognised to bargain collectively, but if you're bit unsure, there are a number of general unions including Unite and the GMB.

Even if you are not in employment, Unite offers community union membership.

3) Switch off the TV news

It's sensationalist, constantly trying to maintain your attention with more and more increasingly bad scare stories and the enemy want you to be scared. The reality is nothing much is going to happen that watching the telly is going to help you with.

4) Go out, see family, see friends, talk to people.

Take time to spend time with people you love and respect. Don't hide away. The enemy want us isolated and afraid. We beat them by being more together and more united. If you're going out to the pub, go out together in numbers to show them we are legion. It's how people historically have got through far worse times than now.

5) Use the Internet to connect and organise good things, not to whinge or get into pointless fights.

I am as guilty of keyboard wars as anyone else, but they are corrosive and pointless. I know I need to follow my own advice here. Those who know me are amused by my rants, but believe me when I say that in person I am nicer. Most people really are. Don't spend all day online - it's not real.

6) Take up a new hobby and become enthused.

Music, cinema, amateur radio, walking, whatever floats your boat. Don't just take it up, but get involved. Meet new people. Share love with new people for your interests.

Above all, remember that the world is still spinning on its axis, the flowers are out in bloom and the world will get over this like it's got over everything else before. The only thing that you can realistically control is your own attitude and your own mind.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Dear Undecided Voter

I'm a socialist who will be voting Remain this Thursday. But don't let that put you off. I'm not going to patronise you with a bucketload of stats, or insult your intelligence by saying this is right and that's wrong. Nor am I about to spring a persuasive piece on you to nudge you in Remain's direction. I'm interested in helping you make up your own mind by giving you things that, I think, are worth considering and thinking through.

In response to understandable confusion about the costs and benefits of Remaining vs Leaving (and vice versa) a lot of people have expressed a desire for "unbiased facts" provided by someone who hasn't got an agenda. I'm sorry to disappoint, but you'll be searching for that someone in vain. When it comes to political questions, invariably those "expert" on the issue will have an opinion on it and use their knowledge and standing to push that position. Yes, it's frustrating, but you're going to have to think about who you trust the most. And if there isn't anyone, think about why leading advocates for each side push the arguments they favour.

Consider the two key figures in the campaign, David Cameron and Boris Johnson. It's down to you to judge the merits of their respective positions, but also ask why. For the Prime Minister, the decision to include an EU referendum in his party's manifesto was to try and stem the electoral bleed to UKIP. For Boris Johnson, well, it's all about Boris Johnson. How about other leading politicians? Jeremy Corbyn's platform combines criticisms of the EU with a support for Remain. Why? Some has to do with party management (Labour is overwhelmingly pro-Remain while Jeremy is EU-critical), but there is also the view that the EU guarantees certain minimum protections the labour movement have fought for since its inception. Ditto Nicola Sturgeon. As First Minister, she believes Scotland is best served by the UK remaining in the EU. The "agenda"? Years of stability and quiet economic growth under the SNP's stewardship enhances their reputation as a responsible government, which down the road makes the jump to independence less of a risky proposition. And Nigel Farage? He has built his political career around leaving the EU. That, of course, is a perfectly principled position to take. But, again, why? It isn't because of an eccentricity on his part: it's the central component of a project to remake Britain in which the market is king, the welfare state is residual, the NHS is governed by an insurance system, and that certain values predominate over others. Whether you find that vision compelling is down to you.

Let's talk a bit about business. As a socialist, you'd expect me not to be big money's biggest fan. And you would be right. Though I will say this about business. Having to compete successfully in market economies requires a sharp awareness of what your interests are and what needs to be done to maintain them. Of course, these interests shouldn't be accepted without question. What's good for a business is not always good for the people who work there, though you might have a different opinion. Whatever the case, the majority of big business and leading business figures in this country are backing Remain. Whether it's growing or stagnating, being able to access a market comprising of 500 million people without the rigmarole of tariffs, custom searches, passports, and so on is something they value. In short, they want to remain because they can make more money. It's that simple. Yet not all business people are on board, the two most prominent calling for an exit is Anthony Bamford of JCB fame and James Dyson of, um, Dyson. The latter in recent days has said Britain can stand for itself without the EU, which is probably true - but that hasn't stopped him divesting here and moving a chunk of production to Malaysia. JCB's business lies primarily outside of the EU. Unsurprisingly there's more demand for construction machinery in developing economies. Yet JCB fell foul of trying to rig the European market for their machines and were fined £22m. Coincidence that its owner is an outer?

Or, like me, you might not give much a fig about what business thinks. Instead, allow me to direct you to the trade union movement. Pay no attention to the common sense view of what unions are about. All they are are organisations of working people that defend and prosecute the interests of working people. Their agenda - decent pay, good conditions, health and safety, protection of pensions and other benefits, fewer working hours and more leisure time - can hardly be described as a vested interest when the overwhelming bulk of the working population would benefit from all of those things. Their agenda, therefore, is your agenda. No hidden tricks. So when every union in the land bar one or two are saying Remain is better for working people, that isn't because general secretaries or full-time officials materially benefit from staying in, it's because life will be easier for working people. Significantly one trade union that hasn't signed up is the RMT of London Underground fame. It parts company with the rest of the labour movement because it sees the EU as a "bosses club" that foists programmes of cuts on reluctant governments across the continent - a position not a million miles away from Jeremy Corbyn's sceptical endorsement of Remain. Why the difference? Other trade unions represent workplaces that are more exposed to negative changes that may come following an exit. The RMT's strength lies in the solidarity between its members and the social power they can immediately exert by shutting down transport systems. For a variety of reasons, the kinds of cohesiveness that feeds their union's militancy is nowhere as present in the majority of workplaces. Effectively, they can look to their own industrial strength to protect what's theirs and it is probably the only union with the power to do so at the moment.

How about friends and family? I'm sure most you've spoken with by now have an opinion. Some will be strongly rigid in their views, a few more non-committal, and a good proportion who'll be happy when the whole thing is done with. But again, the same rules here apply. Why do they have the views they hold? Does the guy who shouts loudly about immigration concerned that his job could be under cut? Likewise, is the other fella who wants to stay in is similarly motivated by a worry over their livelihood? Or those voters talking about taking back control, does it feel to you that this referendum is a way of feeling they have a say, and voting against the status quo is about negating a sense of powerlessness? Are some making decisions purely out of spite, or have made a show about reading the material and making up their minds - and what arguments seem to matter to them?

And lastly, what about you. When you're thinking about your choice, are you voting for yourself? And/or are you thinking about the impacts a Leave or Remain could have on others you care about. For me, I'm not just thinking through the state of politics and our civic life, I'm thinking about what it could mean for my brother who works for a large multinational with substantial plant based here. I'm thinking about my parents and what change could mean for them as they get older. I'm concerned about my friends who work at other universities, my friends from overseas who are terrified by the stirring up of the passions - to put it in an understated way - and I'm worried about the not insubstantial pot of money my city has managed to access from the EU in lieu of government funding.

I'm voting Remain for political reasons and personal reasons. You might end up with an entirely different conclusion, but if you've followed through some of the questions raised in this letter you have thought your decision through. And in a time and a politics dominated by the knee-jerk reaction, a outbreak of more thinking certainly won't do any harm.

Best,
Phil

Sunday, 19 June 2016

EU Referendum: What Would Trotsky Do?

What would Leon Trotsky, architect of the Russian Revolution and founder of the Red Army, think about Britain's referendum on the European Union? You don't have to idle away in speculation. He wrote on this very topic. Well, sort of. In his article, The Programme of Peace from May 1917, Trotsky muses over the war aims of the contending great powers and is quite clear that one of its drivers was economic development, and how it is frustrated in Europe by border posts and tariffs. If Imperial Germany was to be the victor, it would see the imposition of a continent-wide customs union under its hegemony that would allow for greater development, and more profits for German industry. He elaborates on this point of view further in his better known The United States of Europe? from June 1923.

In both pieces, Trotsky is crystal: the slogan 'For a United States of Europe' is part and parcel of a programme for socialist revolution for the continent as a whole. No ifs, no buts. Needless to say his vision was far removed from the present European Union. But then, buried in an aside is this little gem that has - mysteriously - been passed over by nearly every group claiming fealty to Trotsky's approach. He writes:
If the capitalist states of Europe succeeded in merging into an imperialist trust, this would be a step forward as compared with the existing situation, for it would first of all create a unified, all-European material base for the working class movement. The proletariat would in this case have to fight not for the return to “autonomous” national states, but for the conversion of the imperialist state trust into a European Republican Federation.
What we have in the EU is Trotsky's "imperialist trust". The member states have not yet merged into one, but the existence of the single market is gradually tying all the economies of the continent more tightly together, for good and for ill. Turning the clock back, as the left-wing excuse for exit would have it, is from Trotsky's standpoint a retrograde step. It would put a barrier up against the development of a Europe-wide proletarian politics and, it should really go without saying, politically strengthen racism, xenophobia, anti-immigration rhetoric, insularity, and nationalism.

Unfortunately, too many comrades laying claim to Marxism have long given up using it to try and make sense of the world. One of these is socialist hero and scourge of governments past, Arthur Scargill. At a recent Socialist Labour Party rally in front of a thimble full of supporters, Arthur tore into the EU as if it was responsible for the cuts programme gleefully implemented by the Conservatives, and underlined his opposition to the free movement of capital and labour. As something of a Stalin nostalgic, I'm not at all surprised his position hasn't moved on since the 1970s - nor the rhetoric, it seems. But it gets worse. According to someone who was there, Scargill went on to describe working with UKIP as a tactical necessity, much in the same manner as the Molotov/Ribbentrop pact. According to the Stalinist fantasy, this was a move so the USSR could re-arm and crush the fascists later, and so for Arthur his idiot allusion is that after UKIP and the Tory right win, they're actually paving the way for their own defeat. Incredible.

Of course, not all lexit people are as daft as Scargill. But anyone who thinks voting out is a vote against neoliberalism, or would split the Tories, or would objectively strengthen anti-austerity forces and working class politics are kidding themselves. Trotsky's view in 1917 was right then, and 99 years on it's right now. Remaining is preferable to leaving.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Culmination of Toxic Politics

I am heartbroken about Jo Cox. I feel for her kids and family, and share the deep sense of loss that has rocked many of our people to their cores. To have a comrade torn from us who was popular, smart, passionate, and driven to make the lives of our people better is just so wrenching, so shocking. In a world suffused with tragedy and sadness, nothing strikes as deeply when one of our own falls.

For this reason I'm angry. Very angry. Jo was singled out and attacked because she was a Labour person, for the politics she represented and the values she stood on. It was a political assassination during a politically charged referendum by a man who, apparently, shouted a political slogan as he pulled the trigger and is associated with the far right. This cannot be explained away by mental instability, as some are already doing. That's too convenient. It denies agency and scrubs out the political character of the crime. Let's not have any whitewashing: the attack on Jo was an act of political violence.

But you know what the really awful thing about this is? We should have seen it coming a mile off. In most of the advanced Western states, acts of political terror tend to be committed by two creeds of extremist. The Islamist, and the Neo-Nazi. The depths to which the debate around the referendum has plunged has seen Leave, and I'm singling out the Tory right and UKIP in particular, raid the BNP playbook and repeat their attack lines have contributed to a febrile atmosphere where migrants are terrified for their future, and a good many decent people share those fears too. But remember, it's definitely not racist to scaremonger about tens of millions of Turks coming here, about "rapist refugees", about people "with a different culture". This poisonous drivel is all about addressing "the very real concerns people have about immigration", not pandering to racism, whipping up hysteria and hate.

What happened to Jo is a violent culmination of a politics that has played out over decades. The finger should be pointed at every politician who has used immigration and race for their own selfish ends. Farage and Johnson are two well accustomed to the sewer, but all of the Leave campaign have been at it. They more than anyone are responsible for the present climate. But blaming them alone is too easy. The Conservative Party as a whole have played the immigration card repeatedly throughout its history, more recently the PM doing so by portraying Labour as the party of unmitigated immigration and open borders. And idiot Labour politicians calling for restrictions here and peddling stupid pledge mugs there have all done their bit in feeding the drip drip of toxicity. The media as well carry some of the can, especially those regular Daily Mail and Daily Express headlines that scream out as if ripped from Der Stürmer. Their ceaseless diet of Islamophobia and refugee-bashing pollute our politics and ensure its eyes are dragged to the gutter instead of being fixed on the horizon. The press are windows onto the political world for millions of people, and they what they see is tinted with purposive misrepresention and lies. They too are culpable for this mess.

Nor should we forget that women MPs, and Labour MPs in particular routinely receive abuse, rape threats, and death threats and nothing, nothing is done about it. How does that inculcate a sense of respect and mutual recognition? How can it not lead to the conclusion that they are fair game for every sad inadequate, every racist axe grinder and misogynist who wish to do them harm? This is of a wider pattern of generalised dehumanisation, and it's women first who are the main butts of it. Here the finger can be jabbed at venal politicians cavalier with promises and duplicitous with the truth, a media that pulls the seemingly impossible trick of not holding them to account and encouraging cynicism toward them, and at social media companies indifferent to how their platforms are used to stalk, harass, and threaten.

Ultimately, our politics have become so poisonous because it has alienated and excluded ordinary folk. From the brutal crushing of working class politics in the 1980s to last year's ejection of the poor from the electoral rolls for narrow Tory party advantage, we have seen growing distances between representative and represented. And as that gap has widened, so the political vacuum has sucked in the hate and the swill that should otherwise be abhorred. Changing political culture is more than a job of condemning its most egregious abusers, but the difficult job of reversing the trends that have brought us where we are.

What is sad, so unutterably awful is that it's taken the death of a fine public servant and labour movement advocate for these sorts of question to be taken up beyond a narrow audience. If the memory of Jo is to mean anything beyond her tragedy, let it be a legacy of cleaned-up politics.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The Lexit Delusion

Dave and co were hoping a spot of economic determinism would see them through the EU referendum. Unfortunately for them, and all our people who stand to lose should Britain exit, this is proving not to be the case. Drawing deep from a poisoned well sunk by tabloid after politician after demagogue, Leave have doused the referendum campaign in xenophobic and anti-immigration toxicants. As my comrade Lawrence Shaw puts it:
EU referendum debate round-up of the last six months in case you missed it:

Immigration. Immigration. Immigration. Foreigners. Muslims. Immigration. Taking all "our" jobs. Immigration. Immigration. Two whole aisles of Polish food in Tesco's. Immigration. Country is too small. Immigration. Immigration. Foreigners. Immigration. Changing our culture. Immigration. Immigration. Immigrants. Asylum Seekers. They can do anything they want. Immigration. Immigration. Terrorists. Immigration.

And don't forget political correctness. I mean you're not even allowed to talk about immigration these days.
How has this come to pass? Unfortunately, it goes back to this blog's old warhorse: labour movement weakness. The reason why blue-on-blue dominates the airwaves and are hegemonic in their respective camps isn't because Jeremy Corbyn is rubbish at media, it's because - pound for pound - the social forces underpinning big business and finance are so much stronger, cohesive, and assertive. It's a political situation arrived at after the breaking of the labour movement in the 1980s, the promotion of economic and domestic policy designed to continually disperse the sorts of solidarities that underpin socialist politics, and the letting loose of free market fundamentalism across ever greater areas of social life have eroded relationships and replaced them with impersonal transactions. The election of Jeremy to the Labour leadership has shifted the terms of debate, arguably contributing to the government's litany of U-turns and defeats, but underneath the question remains whether a counter-movement to the further weakening of our constituency is occurring. Doubling the size of the party and getting another trade union aboard is but a baby step in the direction socialist politics must travel.

Because our movement is marginal, there was no chance of leading Remain or Leave on our terms. You just have to look at the grotesqueries of your John Manns and Kate Hoeys peddling unvarnished Farageisms, and the idiocy of Alistair Darling lining up with Osborne - again - promising to kneecap pensions and public services. Our people, at least nominally, doing the do on their terms. The question flowing from this is what would be best for our people and the rebuilding of our movement. Or, using the logic of lesser-evilism, what would be least worst.

Here, I think so-called "Lexit" comrades have been cavalier with the dangers pregnant in the situation. Okay, assuming Remain wins, little would change domestically. The Tory Party would carry on, albeit damaged and its government crippled for the foreseeable, and stagger along its path of collapsing membership. UKIP too, also on a downward spiral, would also carry on, albeit under reduced circumstances. The stock market and the pound rallies, and it's back to politics as normal in all its mendacity and beggar-thy-neighbouring. What an inspiring vision to rally around! Though it is worth noting one thing. A Remain vote in the minds of millions, whether they're for or against, is a climax of a culture war. The EU is not an internationalist utopia or anything approaching the sort, but nevertheless and no matter how mistaken they are it is perceived as a repository of hope, a modernity beyond Europe's tragic history of belligerent states, and is a symbol of cooperation across nationalities. It is also these same reasons that motivates opposition to the EU among kippers and the Tory hard right. To this technocratic futurity we find opposed Germanophobia, empire nostalgia, libertarian fantasy, insularity and, of course, the fear of Johnny Foreigner. We've recently peered down one wormhole, so lets go through another: Leave are pushing Britain toward a mini-America with gun controls.

Just think about it for a moment. If Leave wins, who wins? The most backward forces in British society do. The Europhobic Tory right, UKIP, and every two-bit racist outfit. The most socially useless, noncompetitive, and regressive elements of British capital. A strengthening of nationalism - and I'm not talking the fluffy civic kind pushed by the SNP - is likely. Increased hostility to migrant workers. More scapegoating. More blaming the EU for our failings because they presume to "punish" the UK for leaving. These are the self-same forces who cry foul about Osborne's kneecapping budget today, but will be the ones implementing it with relish tomorrow as they squeeze the cost of exiting out of the remaining social wage.

Some comrades of a more economistic bent think exit would destroy the Tories once and for all. We watched Amber Rudd smacking down Boris Johnson. We've seen Michael Gove rubbish his chancellor's claims about the economic dangers. The campaign has played out as an internal party feud with intervals staffed by the other mainstream parties. Yes, an exit would mean no more Dave and the thwarting of Osborne's ambitions, but would that necessarily mean the end of the Tories? Just because the Conservatives are the stupid party doesn't mean they're stupid. Remain Tory MPs are as likely to leave their party as Progress-types are Labour for as long as First-Past-the-Post rules the day. Yes, they might be pains in the arse for an incoming government headed by Johnson, Gove, IDS, and Farage, but the party is likely to limp on in much the same manner as it would after a Remain victory.

Oh, did I just mention Nigel Farage in the same breath? Yep. Because one lesser-spotted dynamic in play is what happens to UKIP in an exit scenario. With a Tory Party dominated by Leave and, in all likelihood, led by Johnson after a perfunctory leadership contest, there is a good proportion of UKIP members for whom the purple party is no longer required. How many would come back and how many voters would follow ex-Tories returning to the fold? I don't know, but far from weakening the Tories they could re-emerge from the chaos of the referendum campaign as a populist, self-consciously patriotic party. Stranger things have happened, and this is more likely than a Tory split fantasy.

And then there is a further, darker scenario. Everyone who pays attention to politics and the European Union know that whatever deal post-exit Britain is able to get, access to the single market will be contingent on accepting the free movement of labour. There is not one single member state that would countenance Britain having the rights of access without the responsibilities attending it. The promises Johnson et al make about immigration now are not worth the air drawn to utter them. Mass migration will continue, and then what? With the promises abandoned and politics seemingly unable to do anything about it, there opens a space for the kinds of forces who are presently marginal but have mass followings on the Continent. Leave the EU to become more like the EU?

The old politics are dying. The constituencies of the previous order are dissolving, but the same ugly politics are as pernicious as ever. Ultimately, this referendum is a choice between what we have now with its problems and opportunities, or a "crisis" trending toward the further empowerment of the hard right, of xenophobia, of nationalism and hate politics. There is no "left exit", only a step into the abyss.

It's All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating ...

A guest post by Caroyln Morell

Despite the date having been written the wrong way round, the Stephen King televised serial, 11.22.63 was enjoyable bingeworthy TV (and is available on NOW TV for those, like me, who signed up for Game of Thrones and now has found fewer and fewer reasons for engaging in a real social life ever since). For the uninitiated, it follows the character of Jake Epping (played by James Franco) who travels back in time to 1960 in an attempt to (eventually) thwart the assassination of JFK on the famous day America lost its innocence.

Much has been written about the long shadow the assassination cast over American history; President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline were young, handsome and vibrant, they mixed with celebrities and enjoyed a 60% approval rating among the general public - even when the country was increasingly divided over race. In fact, it’s amazing what a sprinkling of youthful, distracting stardust will do for any institution. Haven’t Kate, William and Harry done that for a monarchy that looked to be limping towards an inevitable demise as the century dawned?

Equally, much has been written about what would have happened if the murder had not taken place. Would the wholesale, innocent slaughter of young Americans and Vietnamese alike still have occurred? Would Martin Luther King have been dispatched in much the same way as Kennedy himself?

Of course, these questions are impossible to answer. Kennedy was an ardent Cold War warrior who sent "advisors" to Vietnam but who showed considerable political grit in helping bring America back from the brink of disaster during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In most areas, he was a moderate who understood the power of public support for his policies - it’s hard to imagine him sending nearly sixty thousand young American men to their deaths. With regard to MLK, who knows? Courageous political leaders have always been bullet magnets but JFK’s assassination turned a confident, forward thinking country in to a pessimistic one, negative and unsure of its place in the world. In such an environment, murder always becomes a more established method of removal than the democratic process.

The TV show and the book on which it was based gives us a brief glimpse into a world where the fatal bullet(s) had not made their connection and Kennedy had survived. Perhaps as we would expect from the foremost popular horror writer of the twentieth century, it does not look good. After Jake saves the president in a dramatic confrontation which also sees the death of Lee Harvey Oswald (and his fiancée), Jake returns to 2015 and finds a nuclear wasteland. Scant details are given about how the disaster occurred but we discover that Kennedy was re-elected in 1964, to be followed by the crazed segregationist and persistent presidential nominee, George Wallace, who famously announced he would rather stand in the school house door than allow the integration of Alabama’s schools. We discover little more but Jake realises (perhaps like a far more famous literary character, Jay Gatsby), that trying to change the past will always have more serious unforeseen consequences that we can imagine.

It’s often said that history repeats itself and its here that we can easily make comparisons between Wallace’s unsuccessful, real campaign for President in 1968 and the current, (yes, it isn’t just a horrible dream) campaign by Donald Trump. Like Trump, Wallace excited the political interest of the white working class in a way that politicians rarely do. Like Trump he put forward policies that could never realistically be implemented (Bring on the wall!) and his campaign fundraisers were often accompanied by violent scenes. Wallace tirelessly described himself as the champion of the working man and woman despite never having lived amongst them and all the time serving the needs of the elite business circles he mixed in.

What will happen if Donald Trump (unlike George Wallace) actually gets elected? Very sadly, the events in San Bernardino and Orlando have made that more likely, with a frightened electorate unsure about when the next ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attack will occur. Maybe next time, the victims won’t be the members of a subculture offensive to some Muslims and some Republicans alike but ‘normal’ NRA members, or families visiting Disneyworld? Maybe a politician who will ban Muslims from entering the country is the one to plump for? Of course the problem that he has not addressed is that the Orlando shooter was born in the US, whilst others were radicalised via the Internet long after their arrival in the States as children. Will Trump begin by attempting to limit internet access for Muslim people "until we can be sure what's going on?" How long will it be before President Trump, unable to stop every ISIS dedicated terrorist attack establishes Islamic internment camps for both first and second generation immigrants, just as occurred with the Japanese after Pearl Harbour?

It’s entirely possible that such a divisive, polarising President as Trump could be assassinated but this time the trial would likely feature the possibility of a third, fourth, or fifth shooter alongside the one in the book depository - especially when it becomes evident that he is fundamentally unsuitable to run the world’s most influential country (for good or ill). But if this happens, I doubt that anyone in the future would want to slip through a wormhole to prevent it from happening. Whatever the future holds for American politics, it has to be better without Donald J Trump than one with him in it.