LONDON — Faced with fallout from repeated failed efforts to reach some agreement among the capitalist rulers’ fractured political parties over what to do about Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May resigned as Conservative Party leader May 24. The resignation takes effect June 7, with May continuing as caretaker prime minister until a new leader is chosen.
May and most other leading figures in both the Conservative and Labour parties were shocked at the results of the Brexit referendum vote three years ago and are searching for some way to remain in the EU. Millions of workers voted “get out,” protesting successive governments’ grinding assault on living standards, working conditions, job security and rights; their war moves alongside Washington; and the broader social crisis unfolding here. Their anger continues to grow in response to the carnage pressed on them by the crisis of capitalism.
May becomes the third Conservative Party prime minister, after Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron, to be broken by party infighting over the European Union — in fact, over what international role forward for Britain’s propertied rulers in face of the accelerated decline of the U.K. against its imperialist rivals. May’s resignation will do nothing to resolve their deepening political predicament, sharpened by the tearing apart of the European Union itself.
Conflicts between the capitalist rulers in Germany, France and Italy have accelerated over economic policy and trade; military and foreign policy; and immigration. The fiction of a European “Union” or “superstate” is exposed as Berlin boosts trade and investment with Moscow and collaborates with Russian bosses to develop the Nord Stream 2 oil and gas pipeline; as Paris jockeys to challenge Germany’s economic dominance; and Rome signs onto Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative and pushes for a budget and debt mountain that EU officials deem “illegal.”
Tumult in EU parliament election
Signs of political crisis across Europe were reflected in the May 23-26 elections to the European parliament.
The new Brexit Party led in the U.K. with 32% of the vote. Both the Conservative Party with a measly 9% and Labour with just 14% were punished for the crisis facing workers today and the refusal of these parties to honor the referendum. Middle-class layers fighting to remain in the EU boosted votes for the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party. But millions of workers stayed home, reflecting their contempt for the EU parliament talk shop. Turnout was just 37% in the U.K. and 50% across the EU.
Traditional ruling-class parties across Europe were also hit hard. Self-declared “EU savior,” French President Emmanuel Macron, wracked by months by yellow vest protests against his government’s defense of capitalist exploitation and disdain for the conditions faced by workers, farmers and small businesspeople, saw his party pushed into second place by Marine Le Pen’s eurosceptic National Rally.
Parties that had dominated capitalist politics in France for decades, the Republicans and Socialists, polled a paltry 14% combined. In Germany, there was a sharp drop in the vote for Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, and an even sharper drop for her “grand coalition” partner, the Social Democrats.
Climate change catastrophism among middle-class layers fed a rise in the vote of pro-EU Greens. Others who made gains were anti-EU parties from Italy and Eastern Europe.
Nigel Farage, former head of the crumbled UKIP and now leader of the Brexit Party, promised a shake-up in U.K. politics. Speaking at an eve-of-election rally in London, he said that the capitalist rulers’ “two party system that may well have worked in decades gone by … is no longer fit for purpose.”
‘EU — Out Now!’
“When Farage — or May or [Labour Party leader Jeremy] Corbyn — speak of ‘us,’ what they mean is British capitalism,” Andrés Mendoza, Communist League candidate for the East of England EU constituency, told people at a League table outside the event. “The CL starts from the interests of the working class.
“The Communist League calls for leaving the EU den of thieves immediately — there’s nothing to negotiate,” Mendoza said, countering Farage’s new proposal that his party join talks with Brussels aimed at a Brexit deal. Mendoza pointed to the CL signs on the table that read, “EU — Out Now!” “UK/US hands off Venezuela, Cuba and Iran,” and “Unions must organise all workers, native- and foreign-born; amnesty for undocumented workers.”
“It’s good that you’re here even if we don’t agree on everything,” office worker Brian Baxter told the CL candidate, as did others. Fifteen people got a copy of the Militant and chipped in £8 ($10) for Mendoza’s campaign.