Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Good luck comrades

Since it took me twenty minutes the other day to manage a five minute walk round the block I am not one of the hundreds of thousands demonstrating against the suspension of Parliament today, but I am pleased and proud to see the scale of the opposition which is being expressed around the country.

Johnson’s plan is clearly to set things up for a General Election in which he will seek to stand for “people” against Parliament – but the actual mobilisation of the people is taking place in opposition to his Government.

This mobilisation offers the possibility of carrying forward the momentum of opposition to prorogation into support for Labour’s socialist policies in a General Election (and beyond that, into the mass popular mobilisation which will be necessary if a socialist-led Labour Government is to be defended for long enough to be able to do any good).

Labour politicians calling for support for today’s protests are doing exactly the right thing, as are the Labour Party members who are – as I write this – in the streets of towns and cities up and down the country.

Johnson’s audacious move in announcing the prorogation of Parliament won’t be the last move from this reactionary Government, which is aiming at the twin goals of a hard Brexit and a Tory majority in Parliament – and we need to be prepared to respond with similar audacity and with agility if we are going to defeat our enemies.

The movement which has arisen in response to Johnson’s announcement is only beginning to unfold. Labour Party activists can neither predict nor direct how the movement will develop – but we can do all we can to win the respect, and therefore assume the leadership, of this emerging movement.

To win respect we must show respect – and we cannot build unity by lecturing any of those who are coming out on to the streets. EU flags may – in truth – be as irrelevant to the needs of the moment as SWP placards, but those who turn up with either are an audience for our views. Whilst the movement which is developing is (unavoidably) opposed to Brexit no one prepared to defend democracy can be (or will be) turned away.

The anger which has been sparked by the undemocratic Tory manoeuvre could now be focused into support for an alternative (Labour) Government (and beyond that for social transformation and constitutional change) – or it could dissipate and presage no more than a decade of defensive struggles against the majority Tory Government that is Johnson’s central objective.

Congratulations to all those protesting today. This is only the beginning.

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