With a title like that, how could I resist posting this article by Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times to this site?
Mr O’Toole is very much opposed to what he calls “The Great Disruption”, but he can see that it is happening. Speaking as one who sees the Disruption, or the Realignment, or whatever you want to call it (though I am not a fan of Mr O’Toole’s other term, “The Rapture”) as a hopeful development with attendant risks, rather than as a new Pandora’s box from which will be unleashed all manner of disasters with hope as a weak afterthought, it is incumbent on me to look all the harder at those parts of the Great Realignment that I would prefer not to realign.
Mr O’Toole writes,
Welcome to the Rapture. Like religious cults waiting for the end of the world and the inauguration of the Kingdom of Heaven, political Utopians are waiting for the Great Disruption of a no-deal Brexit. But it is a sign of our weird times that there are three groups anticipating the Apocalypse, and each of them has a very different vision of the Utopia that lies beyond it. Those groups are the hard-right revolutionaries around Boris Johnson; the far-left revolutionaries around Jeremy Corbyn and, we can now say with some certainty, Sinn Féin. They do not want the same things, but if a no-deal Brexit happens it will be because their actions and inaction have coincided to bring it about.
The first – and at the moment by far the most decisive – group of Great Disruptors consists of the disaster capitalists fronted by Johnson. Their Utopia is Singapore. They believe, as Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Liz Truss and other Tory young Turks wrote in Britannia Unchained in 2012, that the British have grown lazy and useless, their buccaneering spirit sapped by a culture of dependency. They see no-deal as the Big Bang that will blow the welfare state, environmental standards and labour protections to smithereens. Out of this chaos will come a new Global Britain of very low taxes for the rich, unregulated hyper-capitalism and boundless “free” markets.
The second group is the high command of the Labour Party around Jeremy Corbyn. Their Utopia is Socialism in One Country. They believe that a no-deal Brexit will free Britain from the wishy-washy social market capitalism of the EU and thus ultimately from capitalism itself. They have their roots in the socialist distaste for the European project that was, it is easy to forget, once the mainstream of British Euroscepticism. In that mentality, the EU was seen as a last, desperate attempt to shore up a dying capitalist system. Thus, on the far side of a no-deal Brexit, lies the workers’ paradise that is the inevitable outcome of history.
The third group of Great Disruptors is Sinn Féin. Their Utopia is, of course, a United Ireland. They ostensibly oppose a no-deal Brexit, and indeed Brexit itself. But beneath this opposition lies the belief that the worse Brexit is, the quicker we will have a Border poll and the more likely it is that Protestants in Northern Ireland will swim for the green lifeboat to avoid going down with the British ship. Alongside the disaster capitalism of Johnson’s faction and the disaster socialism of Corbyn’s, there is this disaster nationalism. It does not deny that no-deal would be awful – it welcomes this awfulness as the Great Disruption that completes the Irish national revolution.
This is why Sinn Féin reacted with such extreme and immediate hostility to my suggestion that it could stop a no-deal Brexit by destroying Boris Johnson’s majority in the House of Commons. I wrote very respectfully of the party’s mandate for abstentionism and tried to find a way to honour it while activating the power of the seven seats it holds at Westminster.