Ranjeet Brar: Brexit, Corbyn, the EU and the imperialist economic crisis

Message to comrades in Bulgaria: the EU offers nothing to workers but an intensifiation of their exploitation, poverty and war.

This speech by Comrade Ranjeet Brar was sent to the conference ‘Bulgaria in the Eurozone – an (inevitable) destiny?’

On behalf of the CPGB-ML, Comrade Ranjeet explains the imperialist essence of the European Union and the communist stance on Brexit.


Comrades, thank you for inviting me to speak. And before I introduce myself, allow me to say that I continue to be inspired by the communist history of your country, which, despite current reverses, has reached a far higher state of development than the British communist movement has ever achieved.

I remember in particular, one of the 20th century’s finest working-class sons: Comrade Georgi Dimitrov.

His defence in the Reichstag fire show trial remains the finest example of a revolutionary using the apparatus of an oppressive state – Hitlerite Germany – as a means not for defending his own life, but for defending the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed, and for passing damning judgement on imperialism itself.

This fine tradition, also used in India by Bhagat Singh and his comrades, of turning the courtroom into a weapon against the accusers was later continued by revolutionaries and national-liberation fighters such as Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela.

Dimitrov: I admit that my tone is hard and grim. The struggle of my life has always been hard and grim. My tone is frank and open. I am used to calling a spade a spade. I am no lawyer appearing before this court in the mere way of his profession.

I am defending myself, an accused communist.

I am defending my political honour, my honour as a revolutionary.

I am defending my communist ideology, my ideals.

I am defending the content and significance of my whole life.

For these reasons, every word which I say in this court is a part of me, each phrase is the expression of my deep indignation against the unjust accusation, against the putting of this anticommunist crime, the burning of the Reichstag, to the account of the communists.

Georgi Dimitrov Mihaylov was general-secretary of the Communist International (Comintern) in the 1930s. After the war, he went on to become the first leader of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria.

Since we recently celebrated 9 May, it is worth remembering, despite the passing of anti-communist legislation in many EU countries, the debt of gratitude we owe to the Red Army, the USSR, the CPSU(B) and the Third International.

My name is Ranjeet Brar. I am a medical doctor and a surgeon by profession, but I have been a lifelong political activist since my teens. I have been a scientific socialist, a Marxist-Leninist, since I was old enough to read and comprehend the works.

I remain a student of Marxism. Of Engels. Of Lenin. Of Stalin. Of the great revolutionary thinkers and leaders. I am involved in building a communist party in Britain – the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), and am a member of its central committee.

We are a small party, operating in one of the oldest capitalist nations, which long ago became a major colonial power, and even with the decline of its empire remains a major financial power and hence in alliance with the USA at the centre of Nato imperialism.

Thus also there has been a long history of alliance between a significant section of the working class (the labour aristocracy, and at times almost the entire working class) and our wealthy imperialist rulers.

The British Labour party and its history reflect this alliance. The corruption of the British labour movement has led to the emergence of ‘Labour party’ social democracy, and Britain’s Labour party remains very much part of the imperialist state machinery and the ruling establishment, albeit playing second fiddle to the classic party of British capitalism, the Conservative (or Tory) party, which has been in office most recently since 2010.

Britain’s trade union movement and broader working-class movement – including the so-called ‘revolutionary’ or ‘extreme’ left – also are overwhelmingly corrupted by the influence of Labour party social democracy, and we have a profusion of small Trotskyite and semi-anarchist parties, of single-issue campaigns (antiwar, Palestine solidarity, environmentalist …) as well as revisionist communist parties that trail in its wake.

Our analysis of the EU and Brexit

I have been asked specifically to talk about the EU and Brexit.

Our party put forward our analysis of the European Union as a project at the time of the Brexit referendum in 2016.

Principally, we put forward the analysis that:

  1. The EU is an imperialist organisation.
  2. The EU represents an alliance of the major monopoly capitalist forces in Europe, which at that time were centred around Britain, Germany, France and Italy, with the Scandinavian, southern and eastern European countries playing a subsidiary but complementary role.
  3. The EU and its policy was set up to preserve and maintain the leading role of finance capital in Europe and the world.
  4. The EU is an organisation dedicated to the maintenance and intensification of exploitation of the European working class – noting the historical differentiation and gradation of that exploitation.
  5. The EU is an organisation dedicated to the maintenance and intensification of exploitation of the so-called ‘global south’: that is, of the formerly colonised countries, the neocolonial and exploited nations and peoples.
  6. The EU is the economic vehicle most closely allied to the military program of Nato – that is aimed at maintaining the domination of Anglo-American and European finance capital. That to all intents and purposes, despite differences between member nation states, these are both vehicles of monopoly-capitalist domination.
  7. The EU stands for a ‘Fortress Europe’ – it is a racist system of states based on colonial principles. As such, southern and eastern European nations enjoy lesser rights and privileges, while Africans, Asian and Latin-American migrants suffer a great deal of racism within its borders.

As such, it was clear to us that we, as communists, should support British withdrawal from the EU, since it would clearly weaken British imperialism, weaken European imperialism (German, French, Italian, Spanish, Belgian, Dutch, Swiss …), and weaken US imperialism.

The question we were asked in the referendum was: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” The responses were:

  1. Remain a member of the European Union
  2. Leave the European Union

We called for workers to vote ‘Leave’. Of course, our influence on British workers was tiny. Still, we put forward our slogan, but without making any false promises that this would solve the immediate economic and political problems of the working class, which are owing to:

  1. Exploitation at the hands of capitalism
  2. The global crisis of overproduction (tendency of rate of profit to fall)
  3. Unemployment and the impoverishment of the working class
  4. The reflection of these phenomena in the extension of credit leading to a mountain of bad debt (housing, cars, credit cards)
  5. The accumulation of bad debt leading to credit crisis of 2008
  6. Ongoing austerity

Since the Brexit vote, these problems have only intensified, owing to:

  1. The drive to war aimed at intensifying the exploitation of the global population
  2. Conflict with all independent states, especially with Russia and China
  3. The exacerbation of global economic dislocation as a result of the sanctions wars
  4. The exacerbation of global refugee problems and environmental problems as a result of imperialist wars
  5. A deepening of energy problems in the EU exacerbated by and exacerbating all the above
  6. The escalation of all these contradictions consequent upon the failure of the regime-change war against Russia

Nonetheless, since the only way out of the crisis, for workers in particular and for humanity in general, is to end this system of exploitation, the weakening of imperialism by any means necessary is in our immediate interest, despite any short-term threat this may present to average living standards in Britain. This threat is there precisely because monopoly capital increasingly transforms the imperialist states into a parasitic body living off the body of ‘third world’ labour.

Campaigning for ‘Remain’

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Governor of Bank of England (Mark Carney), majority of Conservative party, majority of Labour party, LibDem party, Green party, majority of British businesses, David Cameron, Theresa May, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair … In short, the entire imperial establishment.

They were joined by the TUC and the majority of British trade unions, which claimed that ‘workers’ rights’ were being protected by our EU membership!

Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn (even though Corbyn had historically been opposed to the EU) supported Remain. This was the kiss of death to Corbyn in his second general election campaign of December 2019, and the end of the ‘Corbyn Project’ to ‘reclaim’ Labour – which was a fundamentally flawed project from its inception.

Campaigning for ‘Leave’

Boris Johnson and a faction of the Conservatives (European Research Group), who falsely believed that British capital would do better outside the EU, and that they could rekindle a second British empire. Some thought that a ‘special relationship’ with the USA outside Europe would be stronger. This was not the opinion of the US establishment.

Ukip and Nigel Farage. This was the foundational issue for the UK Independence party, and the logic was very much that of the ERG Conservatives. Having created a party to promote this one-point programme, the rise of Ukip threatened to split the Tory party on a number of occasions.

Most of the British ‘left’ stood for remaining in the EU. Their central argument was that leaving the EU meant “standing with racists”. But this reasoning was entirely spurious, since there was no shortage of racists on either side of the leave-remain debate.

Both London and Scotland voted by a majority for remain. The deindustrialised working-class areas of England, on the other hand, voted by a majority (and sometimes quite a large one) for leave.

There is a dual aspect to this. The extent to which immigration rhetoric influenced many voters was considerable. But the vote also reflected a deep sense of anger and betrayal at declining life prospects in many working-class areas, and defiance against the British establishment.

The aftermath of the referendum results

In June 2016, the British people voted 52 percent to leave the EU as against 48 percent to remain. The British ruling class had asked a question, but it was not prepared for the answer.

The result was a total shock to the imperialist establishment, and it went into a tailspin, staging a three-and-a-half-year parliamentary sit-in as it tried to work out how not to deliver on the vote.

The period between July 2016 and December 2019 was dominated by the attempts of Parliament and the establishment to flout the result entirely, or to find some way of watering it down so that a version of ‘leave’ could be presented that was in practice more like remain.

This led to the widespread discrediting of the political establishment and the various bourgeois parties. There was a state of permanent crisis within the Tory party, leading to series of in-fights and the installation of a succession of ever-less-convincing prime ministers and cabinets.

It has become clear to the British workers that none of these charlatans has any answers to our problems. All of them are heavily anti-Russia and anti-China. All of them are in favour of increasing austerity – of passing the burden of the economic crisis onto the backs of the workers.

The 2020 stock market collapse and the ongoing expansion of money-printing to bail out every failing bank and monopoly institution were an extension and a deepening of the economic crisis of 2008.

As global finance capital stalks the globe looking for a way out of its downward spiral, it is increasingly confronted by the rise of China, Russia and the Brics and SCO nations, whose independence robs the financiers of opportunities to maximise profits.

Workers have the answer

Looking at the results of Brexit, it is clear to us that (to the extent it has been implemented) it has indeed exacerbated the crisis of European and British capital, exacerbated the splits between the various sections of our ruling class, and deepened divisions in the imperialist camp. It is for us to build a working-class movement that is able to take advantage of the divisions amongst our enemies and use them to advance the interests of the working masses.

We do not think that there is a ‘way out’ for the European proletariat other than via the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system; by workers taking power into their hands and establishing a working-class government. The truth remains that what we need is the dictatorship of the proletariat; a working-class state that will wrest all capital by degrees from the exploiting imperial class and build a planned economy to meet the needs of the masses.

We are at present not capable of carrying out that programme, but must focus all our efforts on building an organisation that is prepared to bring this outlook and understanding to the working class.

Bringing a correct analysis of the current crisis to the revolutionary working class of all nations remains the shortest route to achieving our goals everywhere.

Our work with the World Anti-imperialist Platform is one contribution to this pressing task of humanity.

Thank you, comrades, for inviting me to participate in this event.