Editorial: New act in Tory Brexit drama, but not the last

Amid the fanfare accompanying the announcement of the ‘Windsor Framework’ agreement between prime minister Rishi Sunak and the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, a remarkable interview on the BBC’s Newsnight programme with the Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker (27 February) revealed the high stakes at play for the UK ruling class – and their European counter-parts too – in trying to contain the ongoing combustible contradictions created by British capitalism’s exit three years ago from the European Union bosses’ club.

Baker was a central figure in the campaign to unseat Theresa May as Tory leader from 2018-19 for her not too dissimilar attempt then at a ‘soft Brexit’. Now, his voice shaking and on the verge of tears, the self-styled ‘hard man of Brexit’ appealed “for people to just be sensible and grown up”. Tory MPs, and the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), should accept the deal to modify the workings of the Northern Ireland Protocol aspect of the 2020 UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement or face, as he saw it, the only alternative of “chaos”.

“We have got to move beyond this awful populism we’ve suffered” – said the former chair of the European Research Group (ERG) of Tory MPs; founder of the climate change-sceptical Net Zero Scrutiny and conspiracy-feeding Covid Recovery Groups; member of the ‘small-state’ Conservative Way Forward faction; and opponent of the Same Sex Couples Marriage Act of 2013. And without even a hint of irony!

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Preparing for the tests to come

Following the Socialist Party’s successful national congress, HANNAH SELL draws out some of the key issues that were discussed, particularly on the character of the developing waves of strike action, and also on the Socialist Party’s call for a new mass workers’ party.

The Socialist Party’s 2023 national congress took place from 25-27 February in London. Around 300 delegates and visitors attended. Longstanding Socialist Party campaigners were joined by many more recent recruits, some representing new branches of the party. There was a confident and combative mood, and agreement on the central political perspectives and organisational tasks facing the party. The main political statement presented by the executive committee (see Socialism Today issue No.264) was agreed with only one small amendment.

The high level of general agreement does not mean, however, that the congress resembled a ‘rubber stamp’. The discussions were very rich and helped to deepen the whole party’s understanding of perspectives for the next period and, above all, the role our party can play. In addition to the discussion on political perspectives for Britain, and a shorter discussion on the world situation, there were also important discussions on tasks for Marxists in the trade unions, the demand for a new mass workers’ party and preparing for the general election, fighting for socialist ideas among students, the role of party publications, plus sessions on finance and developing ‘party-builders’ in every branch.

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Where now to consolidate Unite as a fighting union?

As members of Unite prepare to elect a new executive council ROB WILLIAMS assesses how far the union has come under Sharon Graham’s leadership, and what steps need to be taken now to build on that progress.

The first Unite executive council (EC) elections are taking place since the election of Sharon Graham as union general secretary in August 2021. Socialist Party members are standing on the slate of candidates supporting Sharon’s leadership, looking to consolidate her victory and continue the transformation of Unite into a more fighting and democratic union.

This is vital because of the industrial and political conjuncture. The election takes place during the most extensive strike wave for a whole period, in the midst of the cost-of-living squeeze and the threat of new Tory anti-union laws. Action on the scale of a 24-hour general strike is being posed. Unite has been to the fore in the strike movement in all the sectors of the economy in which it has members. It has invariably found itself clashing with Starmer’s New Labour leadership, which is intent on proving its ‘fitness to govern’ to big business and the capitalist establishment.

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An historic crisis shakes Israeli society

Weekly mass protests in Tel Aviv, settler violence in the West Bank, increasing Israeli state repression of Palestinians, AMNON COHEN analyses an unprecedented crisis for the Israeli ruling class.

On Sunday 26 February, hundreds of ultra-right Israeli settlers rampaged through the West Bank town of Hawarwa, torching homes and cars and killing one Palestinian – in what the Israeli press correctly described as a pogrom.

Tens of thousands of Israelis are demonstrating every week against the new ultra-right Israeli government and its ‘judicial reforms’. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the pro-democracy demonstrators as ‘anarchists’. The police have used mounted police, water cannon and percussion grenades and arrests in an attempt to intimidate the demonstrators into staying at home. But the number of demonstrators has only increased further, with 200,000 coming out on 11 March – one of the biggest protests in Israeli history. And while Netanyahu has a narrow majority in the Knesset, polls show only 35% of the public support his ‘reforms’.

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Northern Ireland: 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement

NIALL MULHOLLAND explains the background to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and how the 25 years since its signing have not overcome the fundamental problems underpinning sectarian division in Northern Ireland.

Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, British prime minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveiled the ‘Windsor Framework’. The deal amends the ‘Northern Ireland protocol’, which caused significant trade problems for Northern Ireland and the collapse, last year, of the power-sharing Stormont Assembly after the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) walked out of the Executive. 

No doubt with an eye on the powerful Irish-American lobby in the Democratic party, US president Joe Biden was quick to welcome the Windsor Framework. Biden stated he was “proud of the role the United States has played for decades to help achieve, preserve and strengthen” the Good Friday Agreement. Chris Coons, a Democratic senator and close ally of Biden, introduced legislation that if approved by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by Biden would give the president the authority to negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK. 

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What future for multi-crisis capitalism?

Not all capitalist economists have confidence in their system. TONY SAUNOIS reviews Megathreats by the US economist Nouriel Roubini.

Megathreats: The Ten Trends that Imperil Our Future, and How to Survive Them

By Nouriel Roubini, Hachette UK, 2022, £15

Many bourgeois economists have tended to put a gloss on the deep systemic crisis facing world capitalism. They have often seized upon this or that marginal piece of ‘good’ news to empirically conclude that this or that problem has been fixed – until the next one arises. Now faced with the convergence of a series of multiple crises, economic and political, many have finally been compelled to catch up with what the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) has argued – that a devastating situation confronts global capitalism.

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