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Being anti-European Union and pro-Brexit does not make one a nationalist

The European Parliament elections start today and finish at the weekend (May 23-26). The Europe Elects site provides updated information about the opinion polls and seat projections, although given the disastrous showing of the polls in last Saturday’s Australian federal election, one should not take the polling results too seriously. But it is clear that there is an upsurge in the so-called populist parties of the Right at the expense of the traditional core political movements (centre-right and centre-left). It is also easy to dismiss this as a revival of ‘nationalism’ based around concepts of ethnicity and exclusivity and dismiss the legitimacy of these movements along those lines. However, that strategy is failing because the ‘populist’ parties have become more sophisticated and extended their remit to appeal more broadly and make it difficult to relate them to fascist ideologies. The fact that the progressive (particularly Europhile variety) continue to invoke the pejorative ‘nationalist’ whenever anyone begs to differ on Europe and question why they would support a cabal which has embedded neoliberalism and corporatism in its very legal existence (the Treaties) is testament to why the traditional Left parties are showing up so badly in the polls these days. The British Labour Party, for example, should be light years ahead of the Tories, given how appalling the latter have become. But they are not a certainty if a general election was called and the reason is they have not understood the anxieties of the British people and too many of their politicians are happy to dismiss dissent as being motivated by racism. The Brexit outcome so far is a good case study in that folly.

Latest EU polling trends

The EU elections polls are currently predicting the following:

1. Left-wing: GUE/NGL down 1 seat to 51

2. Greens/EFA up 4 to 54

3. Unaffiliated (Pirate Parties) up 5 to 5

4. Centre-left: S&D down 39 to 152

5. Liberals: ALDE (incl. Macron’s Renaissance) up 42 to 109

6. Centre-right: EPP down 48 to 173

7. National conservative: ECR down 11 to 59

8. Unaffiliated (Italian M5S and allies) up 25 to 25

9. Eurosceptic populist: EFDD down 48 to 0

10. Unaffiliated (British BREXIT) up 28 to 28

11. Right-wing: ENF/EAPN up 45 to 82

12. NI (Nazis, Satirists, Communists) down 2 to 13

So quite a major decline in the seats held by the mainstream centre-right and centre-left parties and a rise in the the so-called ‘populist’ parties.

Remember that in the European Parliament elections, voters from the 28 Member States vote for national parties which then seed candidates to create the pan-European groups listed above. These groupings share similar (but not identical) ideological positions.

The Eurosceptics (Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy) were made up of AfD, M5S and Ukip is gone given the rise of the Brexit Party in the UK and the defection of AfD into EAPN.

Within the UK, the two major parties have been decimated in the polls (Labour down to 18 per cent, Conservatives to 12 per cent) while the Brexit party has around 35 per cent of the expected vote.

The Brexit Party among Londoners scores 20 per cent with Labour up to 24 per cent and the Conservatives languishing at 10 per cent.

There is a strong regional divide in British opinions.

In Germany, Diem 25 is standing (Yanis Varoufakis and others) under the guise of Demokratie in Europa and expressing a strong Eurofederalist agenda, as one would expect.

After much fanfare, the expected polls are not looking good for this group – hardly recording an intended vote!

Interestingly, in a campaign pitch, Yanis Varoufakis dismissed Brexit as “a mere sideshow compared to the muffled, but more fundamental disintegration taking place across the European Union” and declared that “Nationalism is on the march everywhere” (Source).

He said that:

With Brexit from the north and the Italian government’s deployment of xenophobic anti-Europeanism from the south, “ever-closer union” is becoming a farcical symbol of the disconnect between reality and the EU establishment’s propaganda.

So we are tying Brexit with nationalism.

The nationalist put down

Last week, the usual Twitter anti-MMT crowd claimed that in supporting Brexit and the dissolution of the EU, Thomas Fazi and I were promoting a crude nationalism. Apparently “left nationalism is still nationalism”.

This sort of attack followed statements by one of the gang inferring that MMT was somehow linked to Hitler because the latter had used expansionary fiscal policy to stimulate Germany during the early years of the Great Depression.

You have to give it to them for imagination.

Of course, the term ‘nationalism’ in the way the Diem 25 leader was using it above and the attention-seekers on Twitter were using it is pejorative and designed to invoke what is known as ‘ethnic nationalism’, aka racism.

The Remaining Left in Britain have indeed inferred that the 2016 Referendum result was largely driven by racism. The UK Guardian has been particularly vocal along these lines.

The other excuse that the Remainers use to ‘explain’ the fact that they lost the Referendum is that the Leavers are otherwise just stupid.

Stupid and racist.

So they want the put the matter to the people to decide once and for all!

I loved this Independent editorial (February 16, 2019) – Let us march once more for a Final Say on Brexit – claiming that:

There is still time for democracy. There has to be …

The Independent has long demanded – a Final Say on leaving the EU.

And the UK Guardian article (January 14, 2019) – How and why Britain might be asked to vote once more on Brexit:

Can we just call the whole damn thing off? Could Brexit be stopped so that Britain can get on with the rest of its life? … Another reason is because such a massive issue was decided by such a tight margin in the summer of 2016.

There is still time for democracy! 52 per cent voted to Leave – that was democracy.

The Australian government was reelected last week with a tighter margin than the Leave vote achieved. Should we just say that we scrap that vote and let the people decide … again?

During my recent trip to Scotland, I was also reminded of a 2006 book I had read when I was writing my 2015 book – Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale.

The book – Ethnicity without Groups (published by Harvard University Press) – by American sociologist Rogers Brubaker is a study of group formation and the way stereotypes are formed.

He outlines a concept of “groupism” as:

… the tendency to take discrete, sharply differentiated, internally homogeneous and externally bounded groups as basic constituents of social life, chief protagonists of social conflicts, and fundamental units of social analysis …

In the domain of ethnicity, nationalism and race, I mean by ‘groupism’ the tendency to treat ethnic groups, nations and races as substantial entities to which interests and agency can be attributed.

His work aims to disabuse us of these neat categorisations. He presented a rather interesting way to understand group formation which incorporates cognitive psychology, cultural practices and political struggles.

But the point of raising this is not to have that discussion but to consider his discussion about the differences between ethnic and civic nationalism.

He wrote:

This has been used to suggest that there are, fundamentally, only two kinds of nationalism: civic nationalism, characterized as liberal, voluntarist, universalist, and inclusive; and ethnic nationalism, glossed as illiberal, ascriptive, particularist, and exclusive. These are seen as resting on two corresponding understandings of nationhood, based on common citizenship in the first case, common ethnicity in the second.

There is a tendency in the literature to distinguish between “one’s own good, legitimate civic nationalism from the illegitimate ethnic nationalism found elsewhere”.

Why my Scottish sojourn reminded me of all this, and just before the Tweet heroes accused me of being “nationalist” and had Hitler in the same conversation, was that Burbaker wrote:

Scottish National Party (SNP) leaders emphasize even more strongly the party’s civic nationalism, especially its inclusive, residentially based definition of Scottishness …

… after the narrow defeat of the Quebec sovereignty referendum in 1995, notoriously blamed … on the ‘ethnic vote,’ SNP leader Alex Salmond said that “Quebec is not Scotland and Scotland is not Quebec … The linguistic and ethnic basis of their nationalism is a two-edged sword … we follow the path of civic nationalism.”

Civic nationalism relates to the shared rights of citizens.

In the 2009 article, Civic Nationalism and Language Policy by Anna Stilz, we read about “civic nationhood” which describes:

… describe a political identity built around shared citizenship in a liberal-democratic state … [the state] … need not be unified by commonalities of language or culture (where ‘culture’ refers to the traditions and customs of a particular national group). It simply requires a disposition on the part of citizens to uphold their political institutions, and to accept the liberal principles on which they are based. Membership is open to anyone who shares these values. In a civic nation, the protection or protion of one national culture over others is not a goal of the state.

(Reference: Stilz, A. (2009) ”, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 37(3), Summer, 257-292, https://www.jstor.org/stable/40468467)

In practical terms and on the same theme, Jurgen Habermas concluded that immigrants should only be required to:

… assent to the principles of the constitution within the scope of interpretation determined at a particular time …”

(Reference: Habermas, J. (1998) ‘Struggles for Recognition in the Democratic State’, in Cronin, C. and de Greiff, P. (eds.) Inclusion of the Other, (Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press).

So there are no notions that there might be “preferred members of the political community” as in the concept of “liberal culturalism” which is predicated on the view:

… that the state ought to privilege and endorse particular national cultures, those that have historically been associated with a given territory.

This doesn’t mean that other rights are trampled on. Just that the state should “protect the identities of its historic nations(s)”.

In civic nationalism theough there are no concepts of ‘in groups’ and ‘out groups’. But that demarcation becomes border-specific.

In the SNP case, all those within the current borders of Scotland are Scottish and those outside are not.

The recent Social Europe Op Ed – Understanding the far-right populists: focus on their political message (May 16, 2019) by Daphne Halikiopoulou, draws on these concepts in an attempt to explain the way in which the far-right political movements are achieving acceptability and booming in the polls at present.

She challenges the notion that the:

… rise of the far-right populists is down to a popular cultural backlash. What’s really happened is they have broadened their support through a civic-nationalist narrative.

She makes the point that the GFC, post-GFC austerity and the rising European inequality should have spawned increasing support for the “left-wing populist parties, pledging to cater for voters’ material concerns”.

Instead, the Left has vacated that space while it panders to the EU-centric neoliberals and the voice of anguish has been expressed by the:

… far-right populists, with their promise to restore ‘national sovereignty’ in the name of ‘the people’, which have capitalised more effectively on social insecurities.

One version of the “‘backlash’ story” relates to “cultural grievances” – specific groups demand action such as “stricter immigration policies”.

But the author says that this sort of story misses the point as the “populists” have increasingly made “their message more appealing to broader sectors of the population”.

So the right-wing groups are “shaping” opinion rather than necessarily reflecting it.

These parties are thus moving beyond the normal appeal to “angry white men”, reflecting traditional insecurities relating to deinstrialisation, and are now appealing to broader cohorts with “multiple insecurities”.

In this way, they have evaded crude characterisations that they are fascist and gained a certain legitimacy for a “spectrum of voters” who would not normally support an “explicitly racist party”.

I think of the Brexit Party in Britain which contains people who are clearly not racist (for example, the ‘Full Brexit’ crowd) but who understand the neoliberal, corporatist nature of the EU and the fact that these ideologies are embedded in the legal structure of the Union and will be difficult to expunge without dissolution (and exit for particular nations).

The Social Europe article notes that the new populist strategy is not to create an “outgroup” on the basis of “ascriptive or organic criteria (as deployed by fascist or conventional extreme-right parties) but rather is done through civic distinctions—seeking to exclude those who supposedly do not espouse ‘our’ values of democracy and tolerance.”

So we are seeing a spread of a “civic-nationalist narrative” which allows for a normalisation of “exclusion”.

This is the way the formerly right-wing extremist racist parties are gaining favour – “permitting … [them] … to appeal to a wide spread of social groups with different backgrounds and preferences.”

Which then begs the question – how are these groups different to, for example, the SNP?

Sure, we can be suspicious of their true motivation (racist) and conjecture they dress this raw motivation up in the more high-end civic nationalism.

But how would we ever be able to test that proposition?

But the point is that the Left parties have not been able (or refuse to) give voice to these ‘multiple insecurities’ that working people now face as a result of neoliberalism.

They have typically gone down various holes – identity, fiscal austerity, Eurofederalism and similar.

Their obsession with reforming the EU as a progressive force means they do nothing more than write stacks of papers with a new gee-whiz reform proposal that spawns are talkfest and gets lost in the reality of a European system that is resistant at the core to fundamental change.

Being anti-EU is not ‘nationalist’

Now I wonder what these attention-seeking Twitter heroes have in mind when they accuse Thomas and I of being ‘nationalists’?

It is clear this hostility is related to our views on the European Union and Brexit, specifically, which are articulated in their most coherent form in my 2015 book – Eurozone Dystopia: Groupthink and Denial on a Grand Scale (published May 2015) and our 2017 jointly authored book – Reclaiming the State: A Progressive Vision of Sovereignty for a Post-Neoliberal World (Pluto Books, September 2017).

It is interesting though that this crowd blur their disdain for our position on Europe and Brexit with my work on MMT. They seem to think they have to go feral against MMT as part of a discussion about Brexit.

As I said in Birmingham the other day, MMT is agnostic about Europe. What MMT allows us to understand are the consequences of particular currency arrangements, for example.

My support for Brexit is values based – I prefer to promote democracy and dislike neoliberal cabals that cannot be reformed easily – and I think the British government has all the fiscal tools available to shield the British economy from significant adverse consequences arising from exit.

As to concepts of nationalism, in ‘Reclaiming the State’ we go into some detail our conception of the state and specifically eschew any reference to ethnic exclusivity.

We wrote:

The fact that the vision of national sovereignty that was at the centre of the Trump and Brexit campaigns, and that currently dominates the public discourse, is a reactionary, quasi-fascist one – mostly defined along ethnic, exclusivist and authoritarian lines – should not be seen as an indictment of national sovereignty as such. History attests to the fact that national sovereignty and national self-determination are not intrinsically reactionary or jingoistic concepts – in fact, they were the rallying cries of countless nineteenth- and twentieth-century socialist and left-wing liberation movements.

We went on to write:

… a progressive vision of national sovereignty should aim to reconstruct and redefine the national state as a place where citizens can seek refuge ‘in democratic protection, popular rule, local autonomy, collective goods and egalitarian traditions’, as Streeck argues, rather than a culturally and ethnically homogenised society … This is also the necessary prerequisite for the construction of a new international(ist) world order, based on interdependent but independent sovereign states.

We support dissolution of the EU in its current form and a return to fiscal power of the nation state because under the current arrangements currency sovereignty has been abandoned for at least 19 of the 28 Member States (we could add in nations such as Denmark, which doesn’t use the euro but pegs to it).

We also support the dissolution (and Brexit in particular) because democratic freedoms are compromised to more or lesser degree for all 28 Member States in favour of neoliberal, market oriented corporatism.

That has nothing to do with ethnicity.

The structure of the European Union and its most advanced expression the EMU demonstrates the reluctance of citizens (and their leaders) in the Member States to consider the concept of ‘one Europe’ in a fiscal sense.

The structure of the Treaties is testament to that.

No permanent fiscal transfers.

No federal fiscal capacity.

No central bank bailouts.

The whole structure is built on suspicion of each other – suspicion by the Germans or Dutch that the Italian government might go crazy and spend like there is no tomorrow – suspicion that the Greeks might want to introduce a more generous pension system than some other country.

There is no sense of civic-nationalism within Europe as a whole. Only within individual states.

Where we draw the boundary line of an individual state is determined not by race but by the willingness of citizens to permit its polity to transfer resources between groups for the betterment of all.

There is no Europe in that sense.

So our objection to the EU is based on our belief that currency sovereigny is paramount and democracy should not be compromised by ideological constructs which create structures that suppress the legislature and privilege corporatism.

Conclusion

So I get it that the accusation that Thomas and I are ‘nationalists’ is just a red flag to try to invoke some weird connection to Hitler or some other unsavoury concept to discredit our work within these Europhile-type communities.

But the fact that those ‘communities’ operate in that way is symptomatic of the whole decline of their political voices and the success of the right-wing forces that have become much more sophisticated in their framing and messaging.

It is also the reason why, despite all the horror stories that the middle-class, Left media pumped out in the lead up to the 2016 Referendum, 52 per cent of the voters still said they wanted to leave.

But then we have to restore democracy don’t we and have another vote!

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2019 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 46 Comments
    1. Hi Bill,

      Can you please clarify who’s in the full brexit crowd in the brexit party who arent racist? I wouldnt call Nigel Farage as anti-racist.

    2. It’s become a bit of a truism (since at least twenty years ago I would guess) that the invocation of Hitler’s name in any and all contexts regardless of relevance is an infallible marker of the utter destitution of intellectual merit of the invoker’s argument.

      “Truism” as in:- “so manifestly true as to be self-evident”.

      The instance Bill cites is a classic demonstration of that.

    3. When I posted this on Facebook just now James Meadway made this comment:
      “Hmm. Suspect if he doesn’t want people to link MMT to Hitler, it’s not a great idea to cite economic policy under Nazi Germany as a positive example of MMT policies.” Is it worth your responding, Bill?

    4. Dear Carol Wilcox (at 2019/05/23 at 8:16 pm)

      Poor old James. Failing as usual. He continues to make things up. It was his lot that invoked the link between MMT and Hitler.

      It is not worth responding to him.

      At least he is reading my work. It might sink in eventually.

      best wishes
      bill

    5. Bill wrote:-
      “But the point is that the Left parties have not been able (or refuse to) give voice to these ‘multiple insecurities’ that working people now face as a result of neoliberalism.

      They have typically gone down various holes – identity, fiscal austerity, Eurofederalism and similar.

      Their obsession with reforming the EU as a progressive force means they do nothing more than write stacks of papers with a new gee-whiz reform proposal that spawns (a) talkfest and gets lost in the reality of a European system that is resistant at the core to fundamental change”.

      For me. that verdict is the last word – an obituary. R.I.P.

    6. I fully agree with your assessment of the political situation here in the UK. In terms of the ‘left’ (or rather, specifically the Labour Party) Brexit has in fact uncovered the fundamental divide between the traditional left that bases itself on the struggle of the working class against those who own and control the economy, and those who have become so fully immersed in neoliberal ideology that they cannot separate their political ideas from the needs of that ruling economic elite.

      Within the party there is a misrecognition of neoliberalism; it is seen as interchangeable with austerity. Hence a large section of the ‘left’ which opposes austerity thinks that it is thereby opposing neoliberalism. But this is incorrect. In the years prior to 2007 New Labour did not carry out austerity and yet New Labour is a fundamentally neoliberal political ideology since it gives primacy to the needs of ‘the market’ (i.e. the interests of large corporations and rich individuals), and places decisions affecting that primacy out of the realm of political (democratic) discourse. That is the crux of neoliberalism.

      Those within our party who are wedded to that ideology are unable to see beyond the idea that ‘corporations prefer membership of the Single Market and so the consequences for a political decision to leave are cataclysmic’. They genuinely believe that is true. You have to break intellectually with neoliberalism and assert the primacy of political will over the levers of the economic power in order to support Brexit. In this regard MMT is pretty much essential otherwise there is no way to understand how the UK Govt can regenerate the economy outside the EU.

      I expect that the European elections will precipitate yet another leadership challenge within the Labour Party. It might well lead to a split and re-organisation of the political landscape. It ought to leave a party that is free of the shackles of neoliberal ideas; one which can reconnect with the disaffected working class that is supporting Farage in large numbers. I think that is both unavoidable and desirable.

    7. I’ve been spending some lovely days in Italy and it has become quite clear to me that most people fail to grasp even simple concepts like
      the EU not being one and the same entity than the Eurozone. Accordingly, the debate has become one around a binary choice between the “reckless, racist nationalists” and the “economically responsible, progressive Europeans”.

      I fear things will have to become a lot worse before they get better.

      On a happier note, a couple of days ago “die ZEIT” in Germany published online an interview with Warren Mosler making it the second one with a MMT-core member in just a couple of weeks after the one with S. Kelton. This time around there was just a little bit less scepticism and a bit more curiosity to be found in the comment section. Of course, I linked to this blog on almost any possible occasion. Hopefully the site’s visitor numbers and the sales of the MMT-Textbook skyrocket in the coming days!

    8. Hi Bill. Would you be OK to advice Alexander Soros? His contact form is here:

      https://alexsoros.com/contact/

      George Soros supports ending the war on terror and has anti-Saudi and anti-Isreali views so I am trying to get him as Secretary of State (USA Foreign Secretary) in the 2024 or 2028 election (dependent on if Biden or Trump win) in exchange for funding a campaign. Part of the foreign policy is JG implemented in USA, Canada and EU via EU Common Treasury and EU JG.

    9. The kind of nationalism that Bill and Tom embrace in “Resisting the State” is succinctly and elegantly expressed in the Preamble to America’s Declaration of Independence. The polar opposite of xenophobia, it is a universal ideal of statehood toward which ALL nations are invited to move, each in its own way. Citizenship in such a nation knows no color or ethnicity, knows no creed other than the universal values of the best in the Enlightenment tradition. We who support what Bill stands for–and fights for–would be well-served by using this historic Preamble (yet to be fully embodied in ANY nation) to explain what we mean by nationalism, patriotism, etc.–and what we do not.

      https://www.elcivics.com/us_declaration_preamble.html

    10. Henry
      Thursday, May 23, 2019 at 19:27
      Hi Bill,
       
      Can you please clarify who’s in the full brexit crowd in the brexit party who arent racist? I wouldnt call Nigel Farage as anti-racist.

      Bill has posted a link to “The Full Brexit” website/blog. They should not be confused with the Brexit Party (the very recent creation of Nigel Farage). They are very much “Lexiters”, i.e. left-wing people who argue in favour of Brexit, and therefore poles apart, generally speaking, from Nigel Farage. The concept of Brexit is the only thing that unites them. And unfortunately, no one has founded a “Lexit” party. Therefore some people on the left have taken the pragmatic decision to support the Brexit party in the current EU Parliamentary elections. These include “The Full Brexit”‘s James Heartfield (see his “Analysis #26 Why I’m standing for the Brexit Party” James Heartfield 13 May 2019), and Claire Fox, a well-known UK commentator and former member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. George Galloway, a one-time Labour MP who is probably well to the left of any current Labour MP wanted to stand as a Brexit Party MEP, but failed to be nominated (I’m not sure why). He has made it clear that his politics in all other respects apart from Brexit are very different from those of Nigel Farage.
       
      Farage has been accused of all sorts of things, including racism. However, I don’t think he is any more racist than anyone else in the UK. He’s even been accused by some of being a fascist, which I think is absolutely laughable. I think at heart, he is basically an old-fashioned Conservative who thinks that the Conservative Party has let the country down. I would not want to see him in government, but then, I don’t want to see a Conservative government, although we’ve had one since 2010 (partly thanks to those wonderful, pro-EU Liberal Democrats, who supported the Tories in their austerity drive in the late, unlamented Coalition government, and who now want “the people to have the final say on Brexit”. (What they really mean is they want to stop Brexit – they say as much in their copious literature, and they want the people to keep voting until they get it “right”).

    11. In the 2016 exit polls asking the reasons for voting for Brexit 77% said their reason was “brown” people. Nigel Farage went to parties where black people were in attendance and gave them watermelons and danced around making ape noises. I see everyday so-called liberal websites promoting the idea that deficits are destroying whichever country. Neoliberal austerity has created real problems and real angst. Voting Brexit might be a demonstration of that angst but the public’s chosen solution is not using MMT analysis for their economies.
      Brexit is a con by con artists using any means fair or foul to seize control.
      All generalizations are lies I understand that but when the dog whistle of nationalism blows most of those voters feel they know what is being said to them and it is not pretty.

    12. ‘I think at heart, he is basically an old-fashioned Conservative ‘

      Mike, if that were the case he’d be more vociferous in supporting the welfare state In fact he has been on record advocating private medical insurance schemes which is more in tune with modern conservatism.

      As to racism, it’s hard to prove he is unambiguously racist but anyone using that ghastly poster as he did in his UKIP campaign could not be blind to the likely effect. Perhaps it was pure ‘civic nationalism’ but the effect spilled over into channels of racism as increased attacks on Eastern Europeans occurred at that time. I think he KNEW what he was doing.

      He also completely misinformed the public about the housing bubble saying it was a supply side issue and that immigration was putting pressure on housing – zero explanation of how the banking system blew the bubble up.

      He’s a ghastly charlatan and shyster of the worst sort-channeling discontent without providing authentic explanations for it having benefited financially from the City himself. He has, of course, prospered by the abject failure of the Left. The fag and pint ‘man of the people’ bollocks is pure, unadulterated piss-take of a dumbed down to hell populace with a Left that could not form a better narrative if its life depended on it.

    13. Mendès-France in 1957: “L’abdication d’une démocratie peut prendre deux formes, soit le recours à une dictature interne par la remise de tous les pouvoirs à un homme providentiel, soit la délégation de ces pouvoirs à une autorité extérieure, laquelle, au nom de la technique, exercera en réalité la puissance politique, car au nom d’une saine économie on en vient aisément à dicter une politique monétaire, budgétaire, sociale, finalement “une politique”, au sens le plus large du mot, nationale et internationale.”

      These europhile leftists who accuse MMT of nationalism or even ethno-nationalism are themselves the reason this kind of nationalism exists today.

    14. Farage is an old fashioned dog-whistle racist, the common or garden Tory variety – he’ll obliquely allude to the ‘other’ for political gain. Tories have been doing that for a long time so he’s nothing new. He draws so much fire of course because he helped deliver a slap to the neoliberal establishment in 2016 and they hate him for that. The traditional technocratic right especially – they’re more than happy to indulge a bit of dog-whistle racism themselves and play as dirty as they like when it suits them – but they’re not too shameless to pivot 180 degrees and accuse their fellow travellers of being racist when they’re outflanked themselves.
      The interesting (and sad) thing is these tactics are now being mirrored on the left with the likes of Meadway, Mason et al. They’ve lost the argument, and they know it. They can only appeal to Hitler, Stalin, ethno-nationalism and a utopian sepia tinted pan-europeanism which only exists with the pixies and elves at the bottom of the garden. Make no mistake, MMT is a threat to their cosy club for numerous reasons – their professional reputations, their core beliefs, their policies, their cultural and political certainties – the very authority they wield is upended. Ultimately their only tactic is to smear, straw-man and engage in dreary whataboutery.
      These people actually don’t give a crap about poverty, the NHS or unemployment. First and foremost its their massive egos – they trundle about the media stage claiming to be empiricists, but start crying Hitler! the moment they’re shown to be wrong.
      They are pathetic.

    15. Meadway has an article in Tribune: Against MMT. I have a digital copy which I have not read yet but no doubt it will need a response from a leading MMTer so that Tribune readers are not deceived. Jon Meyer and I have been arguing with him on Facebook and pointing to this article was his final response, despite being challenged by both of us to explain Japan.

      I cannot input apostrophes here – it throws you out of Comment box. Amazing how many times I need them – took me some time to work out what was going on.

    16. I don’t have any real problem with the idea of a positive nationalism providing that it doesn’t extend to a hatred of anyone else. I’d always support England against the Aussies at cricket, for example, and I’d fully expect Bill and his fellow Australians to do just the opposite. Most of us have some nationalistic sentiments.

      Support for the EU, and pan Europeanism in general, isn’t any different in principle and is itself just another form of nationalism – but on a larger scale. Anyone who has seen the barbed wire fences the EU are erecting on their Eastern borders can see it not at all about internationalism. Trump might make a lot of noise about walls and fence. The EU just gets on with it much more quietly.

    17. Dear Carol Wilcox (at 2019/05/24 at 6:24 pm)

      Thomas Fazi and I have a response coming out in The Tribune very soon. They requested a response and we sent them the draft this week. There will be a longer version published on my blog once the shorter version comes out in The Tribune.

      best wishes
      bill

    18. Heim wrote
      Friday, May 24, 2019 at 5:33

      “In the 2016 exit polls asking the reasons for voting for Brexit 77% said their reason was “brown” people”.

      That’s the second time you’ve made that assertion. The first time Larry asked you for your source for it.

      You never responded. Now you’ve repeated it.

      So now I repeat Larry’s request: what is your source please? I too really would like to know how authoritative it is.

      Or are you just trolling?… or knowingly purveying fake news?…

    19. “But then we have to restore democracy don’t we and have another vote!”

      I look at this from a pragmatic perspective… currently our parliament is so divided, that there simply aren’t sufficient numbers to decide anything. And I have already sat through several agonising weeks where parliament decided that it didn’t like no deal, it didn’t like the deal, it didn’t want to revoke article 50, and it didn’t like any of the compromises. I expect to sit through many more come october…

      This situation will be made no better by the departure of May… we have a good chance of substituting the maybot with a gaffe prone narcissist suffering from empire delusions. And after going through another interminable round of parliament deciding it can’t decide anything, our favorite narcissist will be heading off to Brussels to ask for another extension, because parliament managed to pass a law preventing the UK exiting without a deal.

      And so we are left with the gamble that having an election might just sort this mess out, except of course if the polls are anything to go by, it doesn’t look like the parliamentary arithmetic will add up to anything other than more deciding no one can decide anything.

      And we as a nation do have to decide what we are going to do about Brexit, and if someone has a better idea than holding a referendum to get an unequivocal answer as to what we do next, then I am all ears.

    20. Dear Mark Redwood (at 2019/05/25 at 6:37 pm)

      You ask: “What do we do next”

      I say:

      1. The people voted to Leave in June 2016. That was unequivocal.

      2. The Government invoked Article 50.

      3. There were agreed time frames, they were varied, but currently point to an exit on October 31, 2019.

      4. That will implement the peoples’ choice.

      5. The Government should be working on what happens once you are independent.

      What more do you actually want?

      best wishes
      bill

    21. Hi Bill,

      My question, although I didn’t phrase it as a question, was is there a better solution than holding a referendum?

      And like I said I want to stay with practical realities – that is a decision needs to be made, and currently the system we rely on, a parliamentary democracy is unable to reach such a decision.

      ” 3. There were agreed time frames, they were varied, but currently point to an exit on October 31, 2019.”

      Now I checked – the no deal was an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and now this is dead no longer applies. So… the Government could simply deny parliamentary time to debate a bill which would prevent an exit on 31st October, because it is very likely that if one got tabled it would pass.

      Except of course the Government is a minority Government which has a confidence and supply agreement with the DUP, who are ideologically oppposed to a no deal scenario.

      So if the Government go down this route we are very likely to see a vote of no confidence, tabled to allow enough time to elect a new Government before the 31st October.

      The second problem for the Government assuming they survive such a vote would be an inability to govern. They would have difficulty passing legislation, in the time leading up to the exit and the weeks and months following it.

      so on the point…

      “5. The Government should be working on what happens once you are independent.”

      Yes I agree with you, but looking at the current track record of this Government so far, (dismal) and the current political climate around them, I have no reason to believe that it has much hope of becoming less dismal.

      Demanding competence from a fractured political system is like demanding the tide does not come in.

    22. @ Mark Redwood

      Have you thought through the ramifications of what you (and others arguing similarly) are advocating?

      In what way would the outcome of another referendum be somehow “more conclusive/indisputable” than the one we already had? How many referenda have to be held before the “right” one is arrived-at? Who decides what the “right” result *is*, if not the one we already arrived at in June 2016?

      What you’re advocating is infinite regress. An absurdity.

      You say: “… we as a nation do have to decide what we are going to do about Brexit”. We already did. It was – by 52-odd percent to forty-eight/nine percent IIRC – TO LEAVE.

      So let’s get on with it.

      All Parliament has done so far is obstruct the people’s will, which it promised before the referendum it would implement. It has been breaking that promise (spectacularly) ever since. On what grounds should it continue to be excused from keeping it?

    23. @ Mark Redwood
      “Except of course the Government is a minority Government which has a confidence and supply agreement with the DUP, who are ideologically oppposed to a no deal scenario”.

      Any quotes to back that statement up ? (It was news to me but maybe I missed something).

    24. One can wonder about “nationalism” and EU, how does the time from about 1950 to let’s say mid 80s compare in economic progress for the common people in western Europe compared på to the period thereafter where EU got a increasingly tighter grip on what was allowed economically and political in Europe?
      How does the progress of postwar decades in western Europe compare to the post-soviet decades for eastern Europe when they where blessed with “anschluss” to capitalism and EU?
       
      Ill guess neither comparison will be in favor for the neoliberal EU project.
       
      So, we have all these pesky nationalist right-wing extremists, especially in eastern Europe.
      So, before Orban and so on eastern members where democratic beacons? Not corrupt rather authoritarian societies that e.g. discriminated romas and minorities?
      A bit funny how EU woke up to eastern “anti-democracy” when they started to be EU-critics and then especially of ECB and financial and media domination from the “global” institutions.
      Both Hungary and Poland where and are to big degree totally dominated by foreign interests when it comes to finance racketeers and media.
       
      What are the EU-elites real concern about these “nationalists”? Democracy? Or maybe the challenge to financial institutions and EU neoliberal order?


    25. One could also notice the “economic struggle” EU and not least the “economic engine” Germany have to renew and maintain all kind of society’s infrastructure inheritance [road, bridges, schools, health care and so on] from the postwar economic boom decades where the large part of growth did go to common people.
      Isn’t it a bit strange what could be achieved when “we” where so much poorer?

    26. @Robert H

      Well, technically they are opposed to a “hard border” and also opposed to the backstop arrangement, they are also opposed to any form of regulatory alignment with the EU, and opposed to being in the customs union.

      They are opposed to pretty much everything as far as Brexit is concerned, except the idea of Brexit, and that is pretty much their policy… so maybe not opposed to a no deal specifically, but they are opposed to a hard border, which should be somewhat interesting if/when a no deal scenario raises it’s head, because I am sure Arlene Foster will be beating down the door of the PM as soon as.

    27. @ Mark Redwood

      Thanks for that clarification.

      Personally I have to admit to having only the haziest idea what a post-no-deal Brexit border between N.I. and the RoI might look like (but i hardly think I’m the only one!). One thing’s for sure:- there aren’t going to be any customs posts or other physical barriers – however much the EU might huff and puff – if only because they’d no sooner be put there than they’d be blown-up, and Brussels is well aware of that.

      The EU’s backstop is a dead duck either way – Withdrawal Agreement (Mark 2) or no-deal Brexit.

      That being so, what would the DUP have to object-to? Their dearest wish – no border between N.I. and rUK – is met. What’s not to like?

    28. @RobertH

      “That being so, what would the DUP have to object-to? Their dearest wish – no border between N.I. and rUK – is met. What’s not to like?”

      This is my take on it. The DUP are a unionist party, their driving motivation is to ensure that they remain a part of the UK. The background to this is that the Good Friday allows for a United Ireland if there is a majority in favour in Northern Ireland.

      So from the DUP perspective anything that might threaten that is an anathema – such as the original proposal which had the customs border at Liverpool, and regulatory alignment for NI only.

      I don’t really understand their dislike of the current backstop agreement, except that I believe there is still some separation from rUK, specifically their argument is around how the proposed backstop would impact negatively on trade between rUK and NI.

      Reconcilling a commitment to “no hard border” with a desire to exit the EU is clearly a rather tricky stance to take, although it is understandable in the sense that separation from the EU makes re-unification of Ireland more difficult.

      The whole thing is a complicated mess, and not just the border between Ireland & NI either. A central plank of that is there is not a consensus on what Brexit means, which has also been a defining feature of the UK negotiating stance with the EU.

    29. @ Mark Redwood

      I don’t disagree with your take (and neither do I hold myself out as any sort of pundit) but I think you may unwittingly be underestimating the head of steam behind the unionist position. (I of course could be overestimating or otherwise misunderstanding it – I am after all seeing it from my armchair which might not be the ideal vantage-point!)

      We all know that there are very strong passions on both sides, with very deep roots going back centuries. They’re not to be lightly dismissed, nor mistaken for mere tactical manoeuvring, eg:-
      “I don’t really understand their dislike of the current backstop agreement, except that I believe there is still some separation from rUK, specifically their argument is around how the proposed backstop would impact negatively on trade between rUK and NI”.

      Trade has little or nothing to do with it. There is visceral opposition to anything which weakens or dilutes the unity of N.I. with the rest of Great Britain. It’s not for nothing that the name our country bears is “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”. For many (most?) unionists that unity is their lifeline. The history has made it that way. Many (most?) of us English just don’t comprehend that.

    30. Dear Carole Wilcox (at 2019/05/26 at 6:28 pm)

      Yes, after my meeting with Chris in London recently I have been keeping in regular contact with him.

      best wishes
      bill

    31. @RobertH

      “In what way would the outcome of another referendum be somehow “more conclusive/indisputable” than the one we already had? How many referenda have to be held before the “right” one is arrived-at? Who decides what the “right” result *is*, if not the one we already arrived at in June 2016?”

      The first referendum was confirmatory only, and the reason for that is because the bill that enacted it, only committed the Government to holding one, not to actually enacting the result.

      The point is for a 2nd one, it would need to hold legislative power, that is a legal commitment to enact the result, and currently there are 3 possible options – revoke article 50, leave on oct 31st without a withdrawal agreement, leave on the terms of the withdrawal agreement.

      That is the decision facing parliament at the moment – it won’t change much, the only thing that is within parliament’s power as far as the withdrawal agreement is concerned is the terms of the political statement which determines the direction of the future negotiations with the EU.

      “All Parliament has done so far is obstruct the people’s will, which it promised before the referendum it would implement. ”

      No parliament absolutely did not promise to enact the will of the people, the Government did! They are two separate bodies.

      Parliament’s duty is not to enact the will of Government, it is the Government’s duty to convince parliament to enact it’s will. This is why we have an official opposition, their job is to act as a check on Government power. And clearly the Government have spectacularly failed to convince parliament.

      That is how the UK democracy works.

      Also an MP’s duty is not to enact the will of the people, your MP is your representative in parliament. Their role is to act in your best interests and the best interests of the nation. Your MP is not your delegate, they are your representative. This is a defining feature of the UK parliamentary democracy. And quite clearly a very large number of MP’s do not believe that the Government’s withdrawal bill is in the best interests of the nation as a whole.

      It is therefore the Government’s responsibility to bring forward legislation that can secure the agreement of parliament, not parliament’s duty to enact Governmental promises, manifesto’s or even ensure that they enact the Queen’s Speech.

      And parliament so far do not believe that revocation of article 50, leaving without a deal, or the Goverment’s withdrawal bill are in the best interests of the nation as a whole.

      And this result is hardly surprising when you consider that the reasons behind holding a referendum were entirely partisan – they were about the threat posed by UKIP, and Cameron never believed he would ever have to hold one.

      The campaign was beyond ridiculous on both sides.

      May took a risk and ran a dismal and ill-fated campaign to increase the conservative majority, and ended up not only decreasing her majority she ended up having to rely on the DUP, which was never going to end well.

      The Government’s negotiation of the withdrawal agreement was at best amateurish. When your own chief ambassador to the EU is telling you are doing it wrong and you decide not to listen, it’s never going to turn out well. And then you factor in the absurd secrecy that operated in the negotiating teams, so that no one was really sure what the objectives were – May is rather infamous for being extremely opaque. As well as a complete misjudgement of just how the EU team would negotiate, and what their priorities were.

      And then there was the disastrous expectation management – “Brexit means Brexit”, “No deal is better than a bad deal”, “the easiest trade deal in history” And then there was May’s speech, the one where she basically repeated the op ed which was written for a German magazine, and pissed her EU opposite numbers off by patronising them.

      The list of crappola just goes on and on and on…

      So the question is… with all that going on… would you vote for the withdrawal bill?

    32. I agree very much with Mark Redwood, but I would like to add a comment on the referendum(s). The first point is to remember that the 2016 referendum was the second on the question of Europe. The first, in 1975, resulted in a large majority to tie our future in to the developing European Community. It can, of course, be argued that much changed and that vote was not for the EU as currently constituted, but all changes have been made with the consent and active participation of the democratically elected UK government. The second referendum only took place because a vociferous minority of Conservative MPs refused to accept the result. Having eventually achieved their aim it seems unfair to ignore the precedent and refuse to let others campaign for a rerun.
      The other point is that, as we are all aware, the 2016 referendum plumbed new depths for the lies told and the blatant manipulation by a partisan media. Actual electoral fraud was committed by at least one side, so that, had the referendum had any legal force, it would have been disallowed and presumably rerun. Regardless of which side one supported, and indeed regardless of the merits of the various arguments, it is deeply morally unsatisfactory that the future of the country and generations to come be decided in such a manner.
      Of course although it must be possible to enforce higher standards in any third referendum, given the truly appalling moral standards of many of the people involved it is quite likely that the same thing would happen again.
      I want to keep rerunning the referendum, not until it gives the result I want but until it achieves acceptable standards of probity!

    33. Mike Curtis wrote:-

      “I want to keep rerunning the referendum, not until it gives the result I want but until it achieves acceptable standards of probity!”

      A laudable and honourable aim, I agree.

      But one, by your own frank admission, impossible of attainment. So it gets us precisely nowhere.

      Mark Redwood:-

      “No parliament absolutely did not promise to enact the will of the people, the Government did! They are two separate bodies”.

      You are choosing to ignore the inconvenient facts that both of the main parties promised before the result to abide by its result and that they both promised likewise in their 2017 election manifestos (which is to say, after the referendum had delivered its “leave” result).

      Your idealised, un-nuanced, picture of how our highly imperfect democracy actually works in practice completely ignores the part played by the existence and operation of the party system. One may or may not deplore that but what one can’t do, realistically, is just ignore it.

      Voters vote in the main for parties. Whoever they elect as their MP is inevitably going to be constrained by his/her party’s policy line and its manifesto promises.

    34. @RobertH

      The labour 2017 manifesto does indeed say they would honour the result of the referendum, but they also said they would…

      “build a close new relationship with the EU, ”

      It then goes onto say…

      “We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union”

      And it then says…

      “Labour recognises that leaving the EU with ‘no deal’ is the worst possible deal for Britain and that it would do damage to our economy and trade. We will reject ‘no deal’ as a viable option”

      And it seems to me that the Labour party have very consistently followed this manifesto in whipping it’s MP’s to follow these pledges. Particularly if you follow how the party where whipped to vote during the indicative vote stage – Ken Clarke’s custom union proposal for instance.

      So out of the options that are on the table… they can not support a no deal scenario, nor can they vote for the Government’s withdrawal Bill, nor can they support revocation of Article 50.

      And isn’t this what has happened?

      (I was aware of what the labour manifesto said when I wrote my point above, it just seemed to me you were conflating a promise made by the Government as also being a promise made by Parliament, when this is not how the UK parliamentary democracy functions, and I am aware that there is also a party system which is part and parcel of the UK political system)

    35. @RobertH

      So is not the issue here, the Conservative priorities for Brexit?

      Which were a) frictionless trade and flexibility in services, b) no hard border, and c) the freedom to negotiate free trade deals.

      a) & b) conflict with c) do they not?

      And this is what the rupture in the Conservative party is about, is it not?

      So what should a Government do, when the promises it has made turn out to be undeliverable?

    36. the referendum and parliamentary democracy are at odds.
      Wishful thinking will not change parliamentary numbers.
      A no deal Brexit was not on the referendum ballot paper.
      The only way it happens is by a very far right new tory pm excluding
      mp’s from the process.
      Even a new general election may return a similarly split parliament.
      Referendums are generally bad ideas. A government committed to a radical
      egalitarian manifesto which faced EU opposition would have been an ideal
      scenario for backing exiting the EU.A right wing government trying to appease
      its even more right wing opponents threatened with rising UKIP votes by
      promising a referendum was the very worse way .

    37. Mark Redwood wrote:-

      “a) frictionless trade and flexibility in services, b) no hard border, and c) the freedom to negotiate free trade deals.

      a) & b) conflict with c) do they not?”

      No, they don’t. a) is (in this form) so compressed as to be almost meaningless (to me anyway). b) concerns exclusively the Irish border issue, the position it takes on which is that the EU’s backstop condition for a Withdrawal Agreement is rejected unconditionally. c) does not conflict with b); it might or might not with a) but prima facie it it doesn’t appear to (I can’t be sure without about the actual meaning of a) being clearer).

    38. @ Kevin Harding

      I agree with most of that.

      Where I would take issue with it is the relevance (either way) of “A no deal Brexit was not on the referendum ballot paper”.

      Nothing whatever about HOW Brexit would be accomplished was on the ballot paper. The “how” at that juncture was the whole of what might come to be negoitated-about – if the referendum should result in a vote to leave. You can’t encompass that in a referendum question.

      Referenda aren’t like that:- they deal only in binary questions able to be answered either yes or no. The 1975 referendum question was just as binary, and resulted in a no less un-nuanced answer – the other way.

      I also happen to think you’re deliberately loading the dice by continually conflating advocacy of a no-deal Brexit with a right-wing (or, gilding the lily even further) “even more right-wing” faction in the Tory party. You must know perfectly well that there are significant numbers of opponents of continued EU membership on the left. If you doubt that I suggest you take a look at The Full Brexit website (which Bill linked-to).

    39. @ Mark Redwood,

      You ask “is there a better solution than holding a referendum?” Well, yes. Not holding one!

      Perhaps you’d like to clarify what the question would be on this referendum and maybe you could persuade me otherwise? As I understand the intentions on most PV advocates it is to offer the choice between remaining in the EU and accepting some variant of May’s deal.

    40. @Peter Martin

      It has to be the same 3 questions facing parliament

      1)revocation of article 50
      2) Accept the withdrawal agreement
      3) Leave on 31st October without the withdrawal agreement

      I really can’t see that you can leave any one of those options out. It won’t happen of course… there will not be another referendum.

      And yes seeing as I did ask if there was a better option than holding a referendum, then perhaps you have a solution… maybe you think we should just ask for endless extensions, until the EU gets fed up and says no, forcing our hand… or maybe we should just go for no deal, which doesn’t mean no more negotiation, it just means more wrangling over the same questions which parliament has been wrangling over… just with the EU instead… or more likely means we will be forced into a general election, which should be fun.

      Although watching Boris, or worse Raab generally fuck things up, now that will be entertaining.

    41. Even a civic-state which has any type of management over migrations flows, distribution of resources is considered too “nationalist”. After all why discrimate between citizen and non citizen. What particular right to people living in a location have to the State furnishing resources at their disposal over people who don’t live in that location or who want to.

      What right does the state have to utilise a polities resources and assets for the benefit of only citizens and locals.

      What right do the commoners have to local commons? Isnt that too tribalism and territorial.

      Surely we need a global Liberal marketplace where people dont share in the local wealth but a free to compete anywhere.

    42. @ jake: “Surely we need a global Liberal marketplace where people dont share in the local wealth but a free to compete anywhere.”

      Free to compete anywhere? If you want to look at the global picture, surely it’s also important to implement Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights ie the right to above-poverty participation in the economy.

    43. @RobertH

      “No, they don’t. a) is (in this form) so compressed as to be almost meaningless (to me anyway). b) concerns exclusively the Irish border issue, the position it takes on which is that the EU’s backstop condition for a Withdrawal Agreement is rejected unconditionally. c) does not conflict with b); it might or might not with a) but prima facie it it doesn’t appear to (I can’t be sure without about the actual meaning of a) being clearer).”

      The phrases are lifted directly from the Conservative manifesto on Brexit, and you will not be particularly surprised to learn that the few extra word don’t add anything to understanding what they are referring to.

      However on the frictionless trade statement, and we refer to trade with EU, then it’s hard to imagine anything being as frictionless as what we have now – regulatory alignment within a customs union coupled with tariff free trade. Being outside this would require checks, although we could negotiate with the EU for selective access, e.g. Turkey is part of the customs union for industrial goods.

      As far as our trade deals with other nations. then Liam Fox has achieved very little in rolling over 40+ trade deals.

      But my point is that the current impasse, and indeed division is in the Conservative Party centers on a conflict between these 3 aims.

      When it comes to avoiding a hard border, the UK proposal was a “technological solution”, which was resurrected as “alternative arrangements” in the malthouse compromise. This got rejected by the EU on the grounds that there was no where in the world that such a system existed, and while they do not reject the notion that one is possible they wanted a solution that was workable within the withdrawal agreement, hence the border checks at Liverpool, with NI within the customs union and regulatory alignment with EU, was rejected by the DUP. Which then was followed by May’s insistence, with the whole of the UK being included in the NI arrangement.

      Except of course the backstop as it was known had that phrase “unless and until” in it, which meant that it could become a defacto permanent arrangement. And that meant no UK negotiating it’s own trade deals, hence Rees Mogg refusing to vote for the withdrawal agreement because he said it broke a manifesto commitment. (although he did vote for the third version)

      So indeed b) did very much end up conflicting c) – and a) got lumped together with b) if you are talking about EU trade. Although in a no deal scenario, then ensuring a) for EU trade is going be rather complicated if you specifically want to ensure you can do c)

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