Corbyn, Venezuela and a “no deal” Brexit

The last few weeks have seen an (inevitable) intensification in the number of articles critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s ongoing support for the government in Venezuela. Most are based on comments from Conservative ministers and MPs who accuse him of wanting to implement in the UK a similar political and economic model to Chávez and Maduro, one which has led to massive food shortages and a lack of availability of other basic goods, a currency collapse, out-of-control inflation, an exodus of investment, troops on the streets, a suspension of democracy, mass emigration, and a pariah status on the international stage, with the country economically and politically dependent on allies that do not share its much-vaunted commitment to democracy and human rights.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Government is pushing ahead with preparations for a “no deal” Brexit. It has been widely and repeatedly predicted that in such a scenario Britain will face an indefinite period of massive food shortages, a lack of availability of other basic goods, a currency collapse, out-of-control inflation, an exodus of investment, troops on the streets, a suspension of democracy, mass emigration, and a pariah status on the international stage, with the country economically and politically dependent on allies that do not share its much-vaunted commitment to democracy and human rights.

Asked to comment on reports that business leaders are deeply concerned for the future of British capitalism, Boris “Bolívar” Johnson, one of those most enthusiastically advocating a “no deal” scenario and himself an aspiring líder máximo, said simply: “Fuck business!”.

This, in all seriousness, is how the Brexit deadlock can be resolved

Martin Kettle’s article does an effective job of setting out the current deadlock: there’s a parliamentary consensus that a no deal solution is unacceptable, but there’s no agreement with regard to an alternative. Well, I’ve thought of one: someone (ideally May, but she appears to be psychotic, so probably somebody else) introduces an amendment to the following effect: it’s her deal, or no Brexit. This would force those who really do want Brexit to accept that there will never be a version of it that appeals to their particular proclivities, and to either forget the whole thing or abandon their principles (and destroy their own careers) by voting to make the country much poorer for no good reason. It would also marginalise those outright ideological nutters like Rees-Mogg who aren’t even that bothered about the EU as such but just want to bring everything crashing down so they can profit from the wreckage. Now there would be all sorts of complications, such as how the Labour leadership would handle the delicate task of owning up to Leave voters that the bag they were sold contained nothing but a dead pup, but I think that given the standoff that Kettle describes, and given that there will be no consensus with regard to an alternative for the foreseeable future, and given that the ticking sound we all hear is not actually a clock but a bomb, it might just serve as a last-gasp solution – hopefully it will in fact be this very scenario that we end up with/in. The sticking point at the moment is that she knows she’d lose, and so do those who oppose her deal. After all, if there’s one thing that Brexiters can stomach even less than foreign booze and vegan sausage rolls it’s…Actual Brexit. If Farage, Hannan, Carswell, Cummings, Raab, Johnson, Davis (et al) had genuinely thought the UK would be better off outside the EU, they would have worked a serious, detailed plan that went beyond winning the Referendum, and sought to promote it while the negotiations were going on.

But they never had such a plan (update: quite deliberately, it turns out). Their Brexit is a scorched earth one, the ultimate iteration of the Shock Doctrine, a British version of Year Zero, and it’s far beyond time for their bluff to be put to the test.

UPDATE: This was written before the Kyle/Wilson Amendment was devised, so maybe it was…my idea?!

No-deal Brexit and ‘acting as if’


I’m sure someone like Zizek would have something of interest to say about the government’s almost certainly ill-fated pretence that they are serious about leaving the EU without a deal. It may go something like this: the purported audience for the no-deal charade is the EU leadership. (I think threatening them to renegotiate might be what linguists call the illocutionary force.) However, as John Harris has reported here, the actual (unintended) audience for the no-deal rhetoric is lots of angry people across the UK who voted to leave but who no longer trust anything the liberal media tells them*. (That’s the perlocutionary effect.) They now believe that no-deal is not just a plausible but a desirable option, and are immune to any appeal based on pointing out that their desire to get Brexit over with so we can all get on with our lives will make it impossible to get on with our lives. Major companies are also putting contingency plans together, including, one can only assume, sacking all their UK staff, despite Philip Hapless Hammond having phoned them up last week to tell them it was all a big massive jape. This plays straight into the hands of the full-on ideological psychopaths who never actually wanted Brexit to ‘work’, but who see it as an excellent means to create chaos, seize power and implement their Pol Pot-esque Shock Doctrine agenda: Farage, Raab, Cummings, Rees-Mogg and so on. (You could also add to that list certain power-crazed sociopaths who genuinely do not give a fuck what happens as long as they stand a chance of becoming PM – no need to name names on that score.)

In recovery fellowships they talk about ‘acting as if’: pretend that you’re an emotionally healthy person who doesn’t need a drink to get out of bed, and eventually, one day at a time, you will be. In various other fables, the wind suddenly backfires and the wolf mask you only ever donned for a lark is stuck to your face for good, and so on. Or, in the more deftly-chosen words of Kurt Vonnegut, “we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be”. Ultimately, once the government has stopped absolutely wasting everyone’s fucking time, the country will end up doing whatever suits the interests and prejudices of Rupert Murdoch and his friend Steve Bannon, although in this case it will, bizarrely, be the SWP and the Morning Star wot believe they won it. The question of whether Prime Minister Rees-Mogg will end austerity overnight and appoint George Galloway Minister for Catsuits first thing in the morning is, at this point, moot. (I’d imagine he’ll probably enjoy a leisurely breakfast of duck-eggs-on-soldiers served up by “nanny”, surveying his legoland country estate, as the rest of the country starts to riot and starve to death.) But the pro-Brexit Left certainly deserves some sort of reward, because if it hadn’t been for the feinted left hook that was the ‘Lexit’ campaign, the hard right wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as it has been in implementing what is basically a slow-motion coup au visage de la démocratie, the eventual outcome of which will lie somewhere between Pinochet 1973 and Johnson 2005.

As for Corbyn, his party’s manoeuvres to stave off a nightmare Brexit are welcome, but if Labour had started much earlier on demolishing the case against a no-deal outcome, it might have stood much more of a chance of success. Right now he’s going against the tide – starting today’s PMQs by mentioning Holocaust Memorial Day is bound to be greeted in some quarters with fears that he might, heaven forfend, upset the far-right….

*Although of course they’re happy to take as gospel any old shit Russia Today posts on their Facebook feeds, and as for The Sun, well it’s the Sun innit.