Brexit Shocks the System

June 27, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


It is difficult to overstate the importance of what is being called “Brexit,” the recent vote in Britain (also called the United Kingdom) to leave the European Union (EU).

Bringing Forward Another Way

Bringing Foward Another Way is an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in 2006.

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The EU is one of the main pillars of the capitalist-imperialist world order and system, and this pillar has been shocked and shaken. While there is nothing good for people in Britain or anywhere else in the vote to leave the EU, it is important to grasp, as Bob Avakian put it, “The essential question is not whether there will be chaos or no chaos, or whether it will end up affecting people everywhere, in one way or another. The question is: What will this all lead to, what will come out of it, what kind of world will emerge out of all this?” (From Bringing Forward Another Way)

Brexit—A Shock to a Key Pillar of the Imperialist World Order

The economic integration of the countries within the EU—including a common market with free flow of goods and people—was closely tied with the U.S.-led military alliance NATO. From the beginning, this was a bloc (group) of imperialist countries very closely aligned with the U.S. and against the rival Soviet Union. From the beginning, EU has been a group of vicious, rapacious exploiters, competing with each other while benefiting from and fighting to keep most of the world in chains, under imperialist domination.

EU map

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, countries formerly under its domination, mainly in Eastern Europe, were allowed into the EU. The EU went through a major spiral of expansion and growth, overlapping with “globalization”—and became more closely knitted together—economically, politically and with freer flow of people and trade across borders.

While the EU has often and largely been a reliable ally of the U.S. (such as against a resurgent Russia and the past sanctions against Iran), it is also relatively autonomous and competitive to the U.S. within the larger imperialist framework. Britain has had a special place within this—as the U.S.’s most faithful ally in every military aggression from World War 2 to today (the rulers of the two countries call it “the special relationship”). Until now, the British ruling class has used the EU to fight for Britain’s own particular imperialist interests (keeping its own currency but also wanting access to European markets), but also in service of its alliance with the U.S.

Brexit is occurring in the larger context of economic slowdown in the world economy following the 2008 financial crisis, affecting countries like Greece and Spain severely, and the growth of reactionary Islamic fundamentalist jihadist movements and ideology. Within all this instability—in an overall period characterized by what Bob Avakian has called a period of transition with potential for great upheaval (see “The New Situation and the Great Challenges”)—the EU (with Britain a member) has been a stable pillar of the imperialist order and systemallied closely with the U.S.   

For these reasons above, Britain’s popular vote to leave the EU has come as giant shock to the stability of the whole world capitalist-imperialist system. No one can predict what the exact consequences of this decision will be. There is a serious possibility that Britain itself will split apart, with Scotland deciding that it is better to split with England and stay in the EU. (Scotland together with England, Wales and part of Ireland has been part of the “United Kingdom” for hundreds of years.) David Cameron, the prime minister who advocated for Britain to “remain” in the EU, has announced he will resign in the face of this vote. There could be other departures and further systemic shocks related to and contributing to the potential unraveling of the EU itself—economically and politically. There are forces in most other countries of the EU similar to those who spearheaded Brexit in Europe, and who have received a boost with this.  

Why Did This Come About?

While there are many complex political, economic and historical reasons that help explain Brexit, it is the giant turmoil around migration that has powered and colored the Brexit debate and gave it such an ugly xenophobic (hatred of strangers or foreigners) character. In some key countries in the near East, and most especially Syria, round after round of reactionary warfare has left millions desperate to escape the daily horrors of bombardments by the government and its allied forces such as Russia and Iran, or drone attacks from U.S. and its allies, or from bloodthirsty religious fanatics trying impose Sharia law, and risk everything to try to get to Europe. (See “‘Leaked’ Memo Signals Danger of Stepped Up U.S. Aggression: Syria Needs a Real Revolution—Not an Even Worse Reactionary Bloodbath”

Because of the workings of the imperialist system, there is an ever-widening chasm between the minority of wealthy imperialist states such as the U.S., Britain and the EU and the majority of the world’s people, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This drives hundreds of millions off their lands and into desperate conditions.

The reality for these millions is so dire that even many of those comfortable in their home countries have had to chance the terror of leaky, overcrowded boats. Thousands have died in the Mediterranean trying to enter Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

The same breakneck capitalist development and “globalization” is undermining and transforming traditional forms of society in much of the world, including having a profound impact on the socio-economic reality of Europe itself. A large section of the most oppressed and exploited  people in many of the European countries, including Britain, come from or have family origins in countries with large numbers of people who are Muslims.

On a world scale, the further penetration and dislocations caused by the workings of Western capitalism-imperialism and its policies have fueled a conflict with and strengthened the equally outmoded and reactionary Islamic fundamentalism. For more on this, see “Why Is Religious Fundamentalism Growing in Today’s World,” from Away with All Gods! by Bob Avakian, at

In a deadly dynamic, each new drone attack leads to new recruits for the Islamic fundamentalists, and each beheading drives more people to seek safety behind imperialist tanks and drones. A section of the youth of Islamic background in Europe has been caught up in reactionary Islamic fundamentalist thinking, and a few among them have committed vicious terrorist attacks such as took place in Paris and Brussels recently.

All of this has been seized upon by virtually all of the traditional political parties (the mainstream Left like Labour in the UK as well as the traditional right-wing parties) and public opinion makers in Europe to whip up all sorts of racist, reactionary sentiments and push through new repressive measures. But even while a reactionary consensus in the ruling circles emerges and hardens about the need to “get tough” and clamp down, restrict civil liberties, “control the borders,” etc., in most every imperialist country, real divides are intensifying among the rulers and the leaders of this system. How to respond to the growing threat of Islamic fundamentalism—within the society and around the world? How to respond to the “migrant” or “immigration” problem: with rhetoric and some degree of “inclusiveness” and “tolerance” in a multi-cultural liberal democratic society—or more exclusivist policies to keep migrants out, especially from countries with large numbers of people who are Muslims. The latter was one of the main arguments—explicitly and through innuendo—of those advocating for Brexit, who said that Britain leaving the EU would free it from the overall EU policies and regulations regarding the flow of migrants and people from other EU member countries (including potentially Turkey, which is a prospective member).

In addition to and as part of the whole political spectrum shifting toward a more reactionary position, in many imperialist countries there is the emergence of powerful more-or-less openly fascist political forces with new-found “respectability” as major players. They argue for an outright rejection of anything and everything that is not the traditional British (or German or French...) “identity,” by which they mean Christian, patriarchal and white-supremacist as well as extremely chauvinist. In the U.S., much of this is personified by Donald Trump, and it is no accident that Trump loudly trumpeted the Brexit vote. Economic depression and slowdown, with loss of jobs and lowered living standards and job security among sections of people in these countries, have also led people to blame free trade and immigration for this, including from poorer European countries like Greece and Poland—sentiments ruthlessly exploited by these forces, including those advocating for Brexit.

All of this is putting strain on the old order and a sense that “the center is not holding.” But spontaneously, none of it is fundamentally in the interests of humanity.  

What’s Really Needed in the UK—and Around the World!

The same contradictions and forces which led to Brexit—and will continue to influence its aftershocks—also provide a basis for a completely different and liberatory alternative. But for a different future to be ripped out of the tumultuous reality of the present world, there must be real communist leadership, based on the most advanced science and theory of communism.

This is represented by Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism. He has qualitatively resolved the critical contradiction that has existed in communism so far, between its principally scientific character and aspects that ran counter to it.* On this basis and with this method and approach, Bob Avakian (BA) has scientifically summed up the past experiences in communist revolution, its positive achievements and its shortcomings and errors, and re-envisioned the socialist transition to communism.

There is an actual, scientifically based—and radically different and emancipatory—alternative. To the “Brexiteers” and Donald Trump, to the more traditional “mainstream” defenders of the world capitalist order like Hillary Clinton or David Cameron, and to reactionary Islamic jihadist ideology—all of which flow from and are part of the world imperialist system in different and complex ways. There IS a way out of this madness and horror—radically liberating—and it is the only real and viable emancipatory alternative.  

Unless and until even a small core of revolutionary communists emerge in the UK on the basis of BA’s new synthesis, even the best people will be continually thrown hither and thither by forces remaining mysterious, and people will continually be forced to pick from poisoned choices, trying to preserve the existing system in one form or another.

On the other hand, it is at times of shocks and turmoil that a correct (scientific, real) view of society can rapidly win followers and become a material force. This is complex, and in the midst of other forces seeking to influence and shape such events towards their interests—and requires science and a revolutionary orientation based on the highest and most fundamental interests of humanity. This is why it is urgently needed that Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism be introduced in a major way into the political life in the UK as well as elsewhere, and that people who want to change the world learn about, take up, wield and organize on the basis of this new synthesis for a new stage of communist revolution.


Updated/corrected on June 30

*See Six Resolutions of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, issued January 1, 2016, and SCIENCE AND REVOLUTION: On the Importance of Science and the Application of Science to Society, the New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian, An Interview with Ardea Skybreak, available online at [back]



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