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Editorial: Myriad problems remain amid ruling class division over Internal Market Bill

BORIS JOHNSON’S partial retreat over his latest wheeze — the rejigging of his Internal Market Bill, originally presented as the solution to the problems caused by British imperialism’s grip on its colonial dependency in the north-eastern bit of Ireland — is still not enough to get him out of trouble.

The Prime Minister conceded a little ground to his critics in the parliamentary Tory Party by agreeing that the Commons will be able to approve — at some subsequent date — new powers he wants in order to re-engineer the critical portions of the EU Withdrawal Treaty.

Kicking this problem into the long grass may be enough to divert Tory rebels but it won’t solve the myriad problems that the continuing division in our ruling class presents to this most incompetent of premiers, or for that matter the unresolved question of Irish national unity.

At its first appearance the EU Withdrawal Bill was presented as the mechanism to break the deadlock and a failure to offer it unqualified support was enough put Tory MPs on the purge list. The more obdurate Tory Remainers were put to the sword.

Now only a willingness to repudiate key elements in the treaty is a sufficient test of Tory loyalty.

How these tensions play out in the committee stage next week and later in the Lords will show whether the deal concocted between No 10 and the Bill’s Tory critics can survive.

With Keir Starmer’s clear signal that Brexit is a done deal — and the country should move on — there is more misery in the ranks of those Remainers who don’t quite get the point that the warring wings of our bourgeoisie are finding a way of working with the new reality.

Getting Brexit done is the new orthodoxy that is leaving shoals of innocent Remainers stuck in a muddy mess of their own making as the tide goes out on a project that was as much about stopping a Corbyn-led Labour government as any other objective.

The principal driver for the Brexit vote was a strong sense that membership of the EU compromised national sovereignty and this sentiment stretched across class and political divides to mobilise a big proportion of working-class voters who had abandoned, or never participated in, electoral politics.

No-one should think that the left-wing case for leaving the EU — centred on the possibility that breaking free from the neoliberal EU would allow for a new economic strategy based on capital controls, public ownership and state investment in productive industry — was decisive. 

But allied with the prospect of a left-led Labour government, it alarmed the decisive centres of power in big business and the banks.

If Labour’s renaissance over the last few years represented a threat to the way politics is traditionally done in Britain, Labour’s present restorationist regime is essentially a force for capitalist stabilisation — a guarantee of Labour loyalty to the system.

For such a project to work and for illusions about the reformability of the capitalist system to recover there needs to be some prospect of Labour taking a turn at forming a government.

In this connection Starmer’s stark realism is the foundation of a revived attempt to reconstitute Labour’s electoral challenge.

Any revival in Labour’s electoral credibility with the working class and wider sections of the population is welcome, but Labour’s challenge needs to be based on a serious attempt to promote precisely the policies which the Labour leader made the foundation of his appeal to party members.

There is no future for Labour in a revival of New Labour’s circling around an imaginary centre.

A combination of the Covid-19 crisis and the intensified class contradictions since the 2008 capitalist crisis increasingly allow little room for tinkering with the system.

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