Thursday, 11 April 2019

Labour's Brexit Narrative Is Now Like Nails Scratched Across A Blackboard

Labour's Brexit narrative was always stupid, contradictory and unachievable. Everything we have learned in the last two years of Brexit negotiations acted to confirm that that was the case. Yet, despite that, and with Brexit itself having been shown to be a reactionary pipe dream, Labour continues to parrot the same old Brexit narrative. That means that annoying should now also be added to the adjectives listed above. 

Labour's narrative was stupid for many reasons. The basic reason was the claim that Labour had to “respect” the 2016 Brexit vote. No such requirement exists. If an election is won by Tories that does not mean that Labour has to facilitate them in implementing Tory policies! If I am a shop steward, and my members vote for action calling on the employer to sack black people, or women first, in a round of redundancies, that does not commit me to implementing such a reactionary decision. My duty, as a socialist, to oppose that reactionary decision takes priority over any question of my democratic mandate, as an elected shop steward. I would stand down, rather than implement it, and fight tooth and nail to get it overturned. 

Labour fought the 2016 Referendum campaign on the basis of Remain, and just because Leave won that referendum by a very small majority does not, in any way, commit Labour to implementing it. If all those who wanted Leave to be implemented, actually were that committed to that outcome, they should have voted for MP's that support Leave, such as those from UKIP. But, the fact is that they didn't. In fact, UKIP have never been able to get its MP's elected to parliament, and now as it falls apart, looks even less likely to be able to do so. 

Labour's narrative was stupid because it was based upon this false principle of respecting the Brexit vote, as meaning that it was itself thereby somehow committed to implementing a policy which it massively opposed! It is democratic primitivism, not any concept of socialist principle that has guided Labour's position. In fact, had Labour vigorously fought the 2017 General Election on a position of committing itself to opposing Brexit, the chances are it would have won a majority. As it was, Labour's opposition to a “hard Tory Brexit”, was enough to win over Liberal, Green and even some soft Tory voters, as witnessed by the gains in seats it achieved. 

The converse of that was shown in the Newport West By-Election, where Labour's continued adherence to the narrative of pushing through Brexit, just not a hard Tory Brexit, resulted in it haemorrhaging votes to other parties that openly oppose Brexit. The writing is on the wall for Labour in upcoming elections, and any General Election that might be weeks away, that its continued stubborn adherence to a policy of supporting Brexit, will see it lose seats, either directly to parties backing Remain, or an alliance of those parties, or else to the Tories, as Remain supporting voters see no difference between Labour and Tories, on this crucial issue of the day, and so register a protest vote against both. Newport West showed a large fall in the share of the vote for Leave supporting parties, and a large rise in the share of the vote going to parties opposing Brexit, and that is before the latter even form any kind of electoral alliance, or are joined by the Small Change UK party. 

Finding itself mindlessly committed to implementing Brexit, Labour has had to find a narrative to justify its failure then to support the government's attempts to implement Brexit. But, the truth was that Labour's Six Tests could never be achieved, either by a Tory government or a Labour government. The choice always was, therefore between a hard Brexit or No Brexit. Or to be more precise, it would have been possible for there to be a “soft Brexit” whereby Britain effectively remained in the EU, but did not have any participation in its political institutions, such as the European Parliament, Council of Ministers, or Commission. It could have committed itself to being in the Customs Union and Single Market, and thereby all of the EU regulatory bodies; it could have accepted the need to abide by the rules and regulations they formulated; it could have agreed, thereby, to a continuation of free movement, and the jurisdiction of the ECJ; it could have agreed to pay its budget contributions, and so on. But, what on Earth would be the advantage in doing all of that, whilst giving up your right to take part in formulating the rules and regulations of those bodies, by being outside the political institutions? It would be to turn yourself into a vassal state, to accept taxation without representation. 

And, the fact is that Labour's position, as it has been formulated in recent months is indiscernible from the position contained in May's Withdrawal Agreement. That is a fact that John Heeley and other Labour Ministers have had to confirm. It is also why the Tories, therefore, demanded that Labour then support the Withdrawal Agreement on its own, separate from the political statement. As all of the promises made in respect of Brexit crumble to dust, and as time itself has shown that there can be no such thing as a good Brexit, or a “Jobs First Brexit”, the continued parroting of the old Labour mantra, therefore, just becomes increasingly, bum-clenchingly annoying. 

The good thing is that with the Brexit date pushed back to October 31st. Labour members have time to flood Labour conference with motions demanding that Article 50 be revoked. Its time that Labour dropped its position based upon democratic primitivism, and adopted a principle based upon socialist internationalism, to scrap Brexit and to work towards a Workers Europe, based upon a struggle with other socialists, and progressive social-democrats from within the EU. Yet, the continued talks between Labour leaders and the Tories, are still a massive threat. The leadership around Corbyn appears prepared to set itself against 90% of party members, and 75% of Labour voters to try to bureaucratically impose some form of Brexit, in cahoots with our most vicious class enemies, represented by the Tories. They appear to be doing so in furtherance of their own reactionary nationalist agenda, that derives from the theory of Socialism In One Country promoted by the same Stalinists that Corbyn has brought in as his closest advisors. 

Labour members, should, therefore, still demand an emergency conference to set out an anti-Brexit stance, ahead of the upcoming European Elections, and ahead of any General Election. We should demand that the existing talks between Corbyn and May be stopped. No collaboration with the class enemy. 

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