Sunday, 16 December 2018

Andrew Gwynne, Labour and Brexit

On Andrew Marr, this morning, Labour's election coordinator, Andrew Gwynne, said that, in the event of a General Election, or another referendum, Labour would enter those contests as a pro-Brexit party. If that is the case, then, for the first time in my life, I would not be voting Labour in the General Election, and I would be opposing Labour's position in the referendum, in order to support stopping Brexit, and remaining in the EU. I suspect millions of other Labour voters would respond in the same way.

I could not, in all conscience, as an international socialist vote for something that was going to so obviously damage the interests of the working-class; not just the working-class in Britain, but the working-class as a global class, and, particularly, across Europe. It would be voting for a policy that acts to deliberately divide workers in Britain from their comrades across Europe, solely, in order to pursue a policy of Stalinoid economic nationalism, that would inflict major damage on workers living standards, and would result in a considerable damage to the socialist cause in the longer-term, by creating disillusionment amongst workers, and driving them towards the arms of the far-right, who would use such disillusionment to double down on their nationalism, hostility to free movement, and hatred of foreigners that has already been fuelled by Brexit. Even less could I vote for a Labour Party whose leadership pursued such a policy in spite of the fact that 90% of Labour Party members, and around 75% of Labour voters oppose such a stance, and favour remaining in the EU! That expression was clearly behind the composite motion passed at Labour Conference, which the Labour leadership have been trying to avoid implementing ever since, and which Gwynne's statement now shows they intend to totally disregard. They are prepared it seems to “respect” the will of the “people” when it comes to a reactionary policy of Brexit, but not to respect the will of the vast majority of party members. This will end very badly. The Labour leadership appear determined to destroy the party, or at least to create a massive split in it that will make it unelectable for a very long time.

In 2017, Labour's Manifesto said that it would “respect” the 2016 referendum result, but that Labour would attempt to negotiate a soft Brexit, based upon Jobs First, and the meeting of its six tests. Had it been me, I would have made no such commitment. I would have said openly that the Brexit decision was a reactionary decision, pushed through by the 70% of mostly elderly, middle-class Tory voters, and to the disadvantage of the 70% or so, of Labour voters that voted Remain. I would have argued for stopping Brexit, in 2017. But, it was possible to continue to support Labour in 2017, because, in fact, this Manifesto commitment could not really be taken seriously. There could be no Jobs First Brexit, nor was it credible that Labour could negotiate a Brexit that would meet its six tests. The reality was that Labour was seen as the only credible party that could stop the Tories hard Brexit, and that is why millions of people, including many Liberals, even some Tories, and many young people angry at the Brexit decision, swung behind the party, some of them actually becoming members.

The dynamic in 2017, was towards a continual hardening of Labour's position against Brexit, as it confronted the reality of the Tories Brexit negotiations, and as it became impossible that the delusions of the Brextremists, but also the delusion that the six tests could be met, were exposed. And, indeed, so it has been. The reality of the chaos of the Tories Brexit negotiations, the fact they had to abandon their red lines, and still could not get a deal across the line, and the fact that it also became obvious that Labour's six tests could not be met, either by a Tory government, or a Labour government, led inexorably to the conclusion that Brexit had to be stopped, either by a General Election, or by another referendum. That is the dynamic that led to the composite resolution at Labour Conference, with the clear implication that Labour would campaign, in either of those situations, for remaining inside the EU. That is the position of the vast majority of the party, and its voters.

It is insane for Gwynne and the Labour Leadership to now be saying, therefore, that they would go into a General Election or another referendum, as a pro-Brexit party. It puts them completely at odds with party members, and Labour voters. It means they are as deluded and detached as is Theresa May. With everything that has happened since 2016, we now know that it's impossible to negotiate a Jobs First Brexit, or a Brexit that meets the six tests. The momentum since that time has been overwhelmingly in the direction of first opposing a hard Brexit, and then of demanding another say on the issue, with the clear implication of stopping Brexit. To go into an election, or into another referendum arguing a pro-Brexit position is unfathomable, other than if you are an ideologically committed Stalinist hack, for whom the promotion of economic nationalism, and the idea of “Socialism In One Country”, overrides every other consideration.

It now becomes clear why the Corbynites did not push through their advantage to ensure the extension of democracy in the party, and the introduction of mandatory reselection. It was to ensure that they were not themselves held to account by the party membership, as they rode roughshod over them. It is also apparent why Labour has engaged in such political cowardice in confronting the Tories over Brexit in parliament, including the refusal to put down a No Confidence motion in them. It is because the Stalinised leadership itself seeks to introduce Brexit, under cover of the Tories.

Trotsky wrote that the position of communists in relation to the labour movement should be “With the workers always. With the workers leaders sometimes.” In 1979, socialists sought to call on workers to vote Labour, but could not do so on the basis of Labour's official programme, or its record in government over the previous five years. We, therefore, established the Socialist Campaign for a Labour Victory, which set out its own socialist manifesto for those elections, under which Labour candidates and constituencies stood, rather than the official Labour Manifesto. I have called for a similar stance in recent years, for the 2010 election, for example, and in relation to a call for a Socialist Campaign for Europe, in the 2016 referendum. If the Labour Leadership goes into a General Election or another referendum, on a policy of Brexit, that is the only basis that I could vote Labour, i.e. by voting for a Labour candidate standing on an international socialist platform of stopping Brexit. Given that 90% of the party back that position it should not be difficult to mobilise such a campaign that would overwhelm the reactionary nationalist stance upon which the leadership seem currently set.

But, it also reinforces why we need to press forward with deselections of existing MP's, and for further democratisation of the party to introduce mandatory reselection.  Stop the leadership's betrayal of the party, and of basic international socialist principles.  Stop the Stalinist coup.

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