Support for Brexit is no longer a minority viewpoint on the British left

man-hands-reading-boyIn recent years, Euroscepticism has frequently been associated with the right of the political spectrum in the UK, but a number of figures on the left have also voiced their support for the country leaving the EU. Imke Henkel writes that while criticism of the EU’s handling of the Eurozone and migration crises is understandable, such problems should be used as the basis for stronger engagement from the British left at the European level.

Among the British press, which overall shows a bias for leaving the EU, the Guardian is seen as one of the few papers with a friendly attitude towards remaining. However, there are pro-Brexit voices within the Guardian, too. On 20 May, Larry Elliott, the paper’s Economic Editor, made his argument for Britain to leave the EU: “Brexit may be the best answer to a dying Eurozone”. The piece culminated in the provocative conclusion that the EU was “the USSR without the gulag”.

The article sparked a strong response from the Guardian’s former Director of Digital Strategy, Wolfgang Blau. The German born journalist had moved to the Guardian only in 2013 from his previous role as editor in chief at the German digital publication Zeit Online. He left after just two and a half years in December 2015 to become the Chief Digital Officer at Condé Nast International. In February 2015, Blau had been one of four candidates in the internal hustings to succeed the outgoing Guardian-editor Alan Rusbridger. With just 29 votes out of 964 Blau came last by a wide margin. Still, his early departure from the Guardian surprised many in the industry. Continue reading

The Left needs a Better Conversation on National Sovereignty

EU flagAs many parts of Europe continue to suffer from the Eurozone crisis and austerity, and as populist and far-right political parties continue to gain in importance, voices of the left across Europe are reclaiming the concept of national sovereignty. Renaud Thillaye, Deputy Director of Policy Network, examines these arguments, and suggests that the member states might be able to achieve freedom, and the capacity to act in their interests, only in and through the EU.

Gone are the days when talking about national sovereignty was associated with backwardness and narrow-minded conservatism. Everywhere in Europe, a section of the left is standing up to reclaim this concept and explain that regaining control over one’s own country’s destiny is a priority. The debate is particularly vivid in the UK and France.

In the UK, Owen Jones popularised the idea of ‘Lexit’ (the left version of Brexit) in July, which prompted reactions by Caroline Lucas and Philip Cunliffe on the Current Moment blog. More recently, Paul Mason dubbed the EU an “undemocratic semi-superstate”. On the account of Greece’s acceptance of a third bailout package and the sidelining of Yanis Varoufakis, Jones argued that the EU was killing national democracy and that there was no space within the EU for progressive solutions. Over the summer, Jones supported Jeremy Corbyn, whose initial ambiguity over EU membership can be seen as another element of the renewed yearning for sovereignty on the left. Since then, the new Labour leader made clear he would fight for a more social Europe from within. Continue reading

Do Not Fear Austerity: A Public Meeting with Yanis Varoufakis

coinsAlessandro de Arcangelis, UCL PhD student in History, reports on a ‘public meeting’ with Yanis Varoufakis, and his advice to Jeremy Corbyn.

It is shortly after 19.00 when the crowd gathered at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster bursts into a thunderous applause. Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis walks on stage with unassuming composure. The event, organised on 14 September 2015 by the anti-austerity movement The People’s Assembly, sold out in a matter of hours and dozens of people are standing at the back of the room, patiently waiting to hear the polarizing and often controversial Greek politician’s address.

Hanging above the speakers’ table is a quotation from John 10:10, whose towering presence is made rather apposite by the vibrant left-leaning atmosphere: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”. Beneath it, the panel is impressive: Paul Mackney, former trade union leader; Romayne Phoenix, the chair of the People’s Assembly; James Meadway, New Economics Foundation chief economist;  Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International; Diane Abbott, Labour MP; and, obviously, Yanis Varoufakis. Rumour has it that the newly elected Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn may eventually arrive to join the other speakers, but he is at the House of Commons, voting against trade union reforms. Continue reading