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Capability Britain. For a country that works
by Will Podmore
i2i Publishing, £10.99
WILL PODMORE’S latest book covers all aspects of Brexit including the nature of the EU, the euro and the Brexit referendum.
Earlier chapters look back to struggles in Britain and across the world for democratic rights (the English Revolution), national self-determination (Vietnam, China, Cuba) and the power of socialist planning (the Soviet Union).
The later chapters make the case for Brexit as the first step towards the same goals for Britain.
The core of the book is the Brexit debate itself. Podmore provides a series of myth-busting chapters against the oft-touted idea that Leave voters were, in the words of Richard Dawkins, “ignorant and misled.”
He discusses, among other themes, democratic accountability, environmental standards, immigration, UK-EU trade, racism and British social surveys.
On this last, Podmore has an interesting quote from the 2013 World Values Survey which found that Britain was “one of the most racially tolerant countries in the world.”
Democratic accountability is a central theme. The points are rather scattered but Podmore records the removal of democratic rights in successive EU constitutions to demonstrate the impossibility of reform.
In this he adds to other works on the globalist project which show that advocates of European federalism promoted a supra-national authority whose rules on freedom of enterprise (affecting capital, goods, labour and people) aimed deliberately and explicitly to curb “mass democracy” and shackle national governments.
The alternative to national independence, he argues, is actually to put “all independence and sovereignty … in the hands of globalised capital.”
A second important theme is the distinction Podmore draws between internationalism and globalisation, the two being often confused in discussions on Brexit on the left.
The EU was a globalist project implemented by and for monopoly capital, which constrains national choices for economic development. International solidarity with working peoples is not in the EU’s remit.
The future is just broadly outlined, geared to indicating how removal from the EU promises the ability to plan the economy, introducing public ownership and state supports curtailed under EU law.
Podmore discusses the environment and the positive effects of abandoning the Common Agricultural Policy and he shows how the NHS can be freed from EU procurement rules which open contracts to private interests. He proposes a national industrial strategy, and reducing the power of the City of London.
Podmore might have said more on national independence in the face of the rest of the neoliberal project embodied in the rules of the WTO, IMF and World Bank and increasingly, the World Economic Forum’s “Great Reset.”
Additionally, better organisation and the inclusion of an introduction and conclusion could have strengthened the book.
Nevertheless the general argument is incisive and sustained. It is supported with a richness of well-referenced quotes, facts and surveys.
In the long struggle for socialism, Podmore’s book clears the ground around the Brexit debate. In so doing he has, as it were, set up base camp for the struggles of the future.
Craggy peaks range ahead. To tackle those, Podmore’s book marks a plea for understanding of the “left” Brexit position and for unity, including among the nations within the UK, to use the “genie of independence” for the next stages of the upward haul.
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