U.S. imperialism battered by Brexit
Friday, April 5, 2019 at 11:35AM
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The political sideshow of Brexit, Britain’s chaotic divorce from the European Union, reflects the international crisis of capitalism. In Britain, as elsewhere, masses of workers have lost all confidence in the institutions that have sustained the bosses’ profit system since World War II. Prime Minister Theresa May is a dead woman walking. In the latest poll, only 7 percent thought the government had handled the Brexit negotiations well (Guardian, 3/26). Upon resigning last November, the British transport minister called the Brexit mess “a failure of British statecraft on a scale unseen since the [1956] Suez crisis” (Reuters, 11/9/18). That was when the fading British Empire was forced to withdraw its troops from Egypt by a newly dominant U.S. imperialism.
Now the tables have turned. Rising Russian and Chinese capitalists are expanding their influence in Europe at the expense of a U.S. ruling class in decline—a trend that will accelerate if and when Britain, the most reliable U.S. ally, actually leaves the EU. Throughout Europe, ultra-nationalist and outright fascist parties are gaining strength at the expense of mainstream rulers. Post-World War II alliances are breaking down. As capitalism worldwide struggles with a lower rate of growth, sharper competition for markets and resources, and growing social unrest, the collapse of the U.S.-led liberal world order is accelerating.
Leave or stay, workers lose under capitalism
For the working class, the bosses’ split over Brexit is a lose-lose proposition. If the “leave” faction prevails, up to 750,000 workers in Britain will lose their jobs (Forbes, 12/11/18). The British auto and aerospace industries could be decimated as foreign companies pull their factories out of the UK. Diabetics are stocking up on insulin out of fear that pharmaceutical imports from Europe will be disrupted. The UK’s economy is contracting as the British pound loses value against the U.S. dollar, which makes almost everything—including fruits and vegetables—more expensive (New York Times, 4/1).
On the other hand, the “remain” faction, led by the finance capitalists centered in London, has already proven it has nothing to offer workers but a life of misery. These Big Fascists created the anti-working-class austerity program that fueled Brexit:

[T]he protracted campaign of budget cutting, started in 2010 by a government led by the Conservative Party, has delivered a monumental shift in British life. … crime rates, opioid addiction, infant mortality, childhood poverty and homelessness point to a deteriorating quality of life. … By 2020, reductions already set in motion will produce cuts to British social welfare programs exceeding $36 billion a year compared with a decade earlier, or more than $900 annually for every working-age person in the country (NYT, 5/28/2018).
Meanwhile, a competing group of bosses—the Little Fascists—used racism to shift the blame from themselves to the EU and its relatively open immigration policies: “The number of EU migrants in the UK nearly tripled between 2004 and 2015, from about one million to over three million, almost totally due to an influx of citizens from newer members including Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania” (Council on Foreign Relations, 1/16).


As a result, the UK’s foreign-born population has doubled over the last 15 years, to nearly 15 percent of the population. As British capitalists took full advantage of the cheap labor of white immigrants from Eastern Europe, they promoted the racist myth of African and Middle Eastern “terrorists” immigrating to the UK and taking workers’ jobs. In fact, refugees and asylum seekers represent less than one-quarter of one percent of Britain’s population, and barely 12,000 refugees from war-devastated Syria had been resettled there as of early 2018 (BBC, 4/24/18). These lies were promoted by mainstream liberal and conservative politicians, as well as more open fascist elements like British billionaire Aaron Banks, a close associate of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer, two of President Donald Trump’s most influential supporters. Banks worked with Little Fascist Nigel Farage in a dirty tricks campaign that helped the pro-Brexit campaign win a narrow electoral victory in 2016.
Brexit weakens U.S. in Europe
The post-World War II liberal world order was based on the U.S. funneling cheap Middle East oil to Western Europe while discouraging Soviet expansion with a “nuclear umbrella.” Within the European Union, the UK, a major player in the oil industry and the largest foreign investor in the U.S., could always be counted on to defend the U.S. bosses’ interests. Once the UK exits, German and French capitalist bosses, among others, will be freer to pursue their own interests. The EU will become less an ally and more a competitor for U.S. imperialism.
Today’s EU is split on local economic issues as well as international policy issues. Germany backed the Nordstream-2 gas pipeline from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany, despite opposition by France and Denmark. When the U.S. fought hard against Nordstream-2, the German bosses made it clear they weren’t willing to pay a big premium for natural gas piped in by the U.S. versus cheaper Russian gas.
On the military front, Poland, Romania, and Lithuania want U.S. bases on their soil to deter Russian expansion. But other EU countries, including Greece, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands, are less enthusiastic about an expanded U.S. military presence. Turkey, a NATO member outside the EU, recently bought Russia’s S400 anti-missile defense system despite U.S. threats not to sell Turkey its costly (and unproven) F35 fighter jets.
Under Donald Trump, the U.S. is using economic sanctions as a hammer to stop EU companies and countries from trading with Iran and China. This bullying tactic doesn’t seem to be working, however. Italy has agreed to join China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative to facilitate trade with Eurasia, Africa, and South America. At a March 26 meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Germany and France appeared to be less hostile to OBOR than in the past. China just bought 300 jets from the pan-European Airbus, “a huge blow” to U.S. Boeing (abcnews.go.com, 3/26). And the EU continues to resist U.S. demands to ban China’s Huawei equipment from its next-generation, 5G telecommunications network (CNN.com, 3/2).
Assuming Britain does indeed leave the EU, more of these military and economic moves will go against the U.S. According to the “Thucydides Trap,” war often ensues when a dominant power is threatened by a rising one. The probability of global war between a weakening U.S., a rising China, and a resurgent Russia is growing by the day. It is up to Progressive Labor Party to build our international communist movement to smash capitalism and turn imperialist war into a class war for communist revolution.

Article originally appeared on The Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party (http://www.plp.org/).
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