Sunday, October 21, 2018

On having missed the "People's Vote" demonstration...


Back when I blogged more often I used to describe the regular readers of this blog as “Sid and Doris Blogger”. I can only hope that they both now enjoy their retirement from UNISON, since I blog so infrequently.

This weekend, a combination of family commitments and fatigue (attributable to hormone therapy for my prostate cancer) kept me from a number of important political activities (including the “Super Saturday” in Hanover and Elm Grove and a fundraising quiz in Patcham).

One activity I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way for even if I could have was the “People’s Vote” march. I do like a good demonstration, but not all mass protests are necessarily progressive.

Back in 2000, I recollect some fairly juvenile elements on the left got quite excited about the truckers’ protests over petrol prices – though wiser souls saw their essentially reactionary nature.

Two years later, the “Countryside Alliance” march was – rightly – generally seen as an expression of the impotent rage of the foxhunting rural elite and their forelock-tugging hangers-on.

The “People’s Vote” march was not like either of these purely reactionary protests – and not only because it was in opposition to the policies of a Conservative, rather than a Labour Government. There are, however, those on the left who are simply critical of the march, and its demand for another referendum before the UK exits the EU.

Those on the political left who made the tragic error of failing to update their views about global capitalism (and hence the European Union) for more than a generation (and therefore – in 2016 - backed a “Leave” campaign which was led from the far right and legitimised racism) see the drive for a second referendum as simply a cover for the creation of a new “centrist” Party.

This is daft. There will no more be a successful new political Party in the (largely mythical) political “centre ground” than there will be a “Lexit” (a left-wing exit from the European Union as advocated by those who have neither political power nor any credible programme to achieve such power).

In 1981 the Social Democratic Party was established by Labour right-wingers of some stature. There were none such marching yesterday. Chukka Umunna is as likely to rise to real power in this country as the Morning Star and the Socialist Worker are to hegemonise the workers’ movement for their different visions of “socialism in one country.”

There are no significant or impressive figures on the right-wing of today’s Labour Party and neither the post-Blairite Europhiles on the Labour right nor the senile “Leninists” who stand (proudly and foolishly) outside the Labour Party offer any sensible way forward for workers in this country.

The campaign for a so-called “People’s Vote” is, from the point of view of the interests of working-class people, a contradictory creature.

On the one hand, it expresses the interest of our class in preventing the UK leaving the EU (which will not only fail to achieve any of the objectives claimed by either “Brexiteers” or “Lexiteers” but will materially weaken us as it empowers reaction). For these reasons, the “People’s Vote” campaign is in our interests.

On the other hand, the demand for a “second referendum” is not only posed as an alternative to the General Election which we really need, but also used – cackhandedly and by those who know they cannot win – as a stick with which to beat the Party leadership within the Party. For these reasons, the “People’s Vote” campaign is contrary to our interests.

As a socialist, and a Labour Party member (always in that order), I want to see a Labour Government which acts in the interests of working-class people. I want that not because I believe that legislation alone can liberate us, but because I believe that a socialist Labour Government, which legislates in our interests, will also encourage and empower our movement to place ever further and more progressive demands upon our own Government.

Among the many things which any sensible socialist Government would need to do would be to prevent the United Kingdom from crashing out of the European Union – and not only because we know we cannot build socialism only in one country.

As we would have a socialist Government in office governing an advanced capitalist economy, we would need policies which would empower and strengthen our movement within that context – the impact of a so-called “hard” or “no-deal” Brexit would, of course, be the exact opposite of what we would need.

An incoming Labour Government should not implement any prior decision to leave the European Union (and with luck the European Court of Justice will have ruled that the United Kingdom can unilaterally withdraw the notice which it has given to leave the EU).

The Party’s well-established position is that we can only support a “Brexit” deal which meets the “six tests.” Although these tests are based simply upon promises made by “Leave” campaigners, they cannot possibly be met. Therefore, an incoming Labour Government ought not to implement the “decision” of the 2016 Referendum.

We ought not to have had the referendum in the first place (and the Labour right-wingers running the Party at the time of the Parliamentary vote are responsible for the Party’s failure to oppose the referendum in Parliament). In office, “New Labour” were – of course – quite keen on referendums (which have been the tool of despots rather than democrats throughout history).

The same “centrist” politicians who did not oppose the referendum are responsible for leading our Party over the generation during which it (we) failed to defend and promote the interests of working-class people, including in the areas which voted heavily for “Leave” in the referendum.

The political tradition which led the “People’s Vote” march is almost entirely responsible for the outcome of the referendum which gave rise to the need for the march to take place – and is quite incapable of answering the demands to which it seeks to give voice.

A socialist Government will – if it is serious about the transformation of our society – need to find a way to avoid the UK leaving the EU (since that course of action will set our objectives, and the interests of our class, back a very long way). That should not need another referendum.

Indeed, unless and until we have a written constitution (which I don’t necessarily want to see), I would rather we don’t have any more referendums at all.

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