Dangerous Times

Jack Conrad (Weekly Worker 28 March 2019) says “the UK is in the grip of a profound constitutional crisis” and “the left must reject referendum as a matter of principle” and instead “we need our own programme and our own tactics”.

The first and last of these three statements are undoubtedly correct. A “profound constitutional crisis” and the need for “our own programme and our own tactics” go together. But the meaty “principle” in the sandwich is surely infected with mad cow disease. Nice bread but crap sandwich.

Let us ignore the constitutional crisis and concentrate on programme and tactics by contrasting three examples – Corbyn-Labour, Labour Party Marxists and a working class democratic programme and tactics.

The Corbyn-Labour Party accepts the 2016 referendum result and is in favour of leaving the EU by securing a customs union and close regulatory alignment. Labour calls for a general election and is prepared to support a second remain referendum. This places Labour in a dangerous position just to the left of the Tories.

The Labour Party Marxists seem to support a British (or UKanian) republic etc. This is like the CPGB programme from ten or twenty years before Cameron’s Brexit referendum. It has little or nothing to say about Brexit except to oppose a second referendum.

A democratic programme supports Northern Ireland and Scotland remaining in the EU and England and Wales leaving the EU but not the single market or customs union. Such a democratic exit recognises the ‘will of the people’ which, despite its obvious flaws, remains valid until working class opinion changes significantly.

A democratic exit is totally opposed to every kind of British Exit whether Tory or Labour. Of course no democrat would try to impose a democratic exit on the people. So this includes the democratic demand for a ratification referendum on any deal.

All this is located in the struggle between ‘reactionaries’ and ‘liberals’ which Jack describes in his article. The reactionaries are opposed to another second referendum because they don’t trust the people and fear voters will betray them. The liberals want a second referendum to overthrow the 2016 vote. This must include a Remain question, otherwise it has no purpose.

The EU is, as Jack describes, a capitalist semi-state with “anti-union laws” and a “constitutional commitment to the market and neo-liberalism” which has imposed “barbaric austerity on Spain, Portugal and Greece” and more. Yet this is not a case for leaving the EU because outside will be worse.

Working class democracy is not neutral between ‘reactionaries’ and ‘liberals’. The future of democracy is in Europe not outside it. We need an independent democratic programme which links our democratic future with the future of European democracy. The starting point is the democratic questions thrown up by the 2016 referendum.

Groucho Marx famously said “these are my principles and if you don’t like them …well, I have others”. Labour Party Marxists generally oppose all referenda on principle. But Jack argues they could call a referendum or participate in voting either for or against any proposition on the ballot paper.

I won’t now go over the argument that referenda are tactical questions not matters of principle. Suffice to say that ‘principles’ cannot distinguish between a ratification referendum and repeating the 2016 referendum with the intention of reversing it.

The liberals are fighting for a second referendum. Working class democrats are opposed to that, not because of some fake ‘principles’ but simply because it is the wrong time and the wrong approach to a divided working class.

With Corbyn talking about a deal with May, working class democrats have to make the democratic case that any dodgy deal must be put to working people for ratification in a referendum, whether a Tory or a Labour deal or a Tory-Labour deal.

The problem with Jack’s ‘no referendum’ principles is that it is incapable of distinguishing between a ratification referendum, like on the Good Friday Agreement, and a second referendum like Scotland’s plans for IndieRef2 or recognising the duplicitous liberals using the former as camouflage for the latter.

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European elections

Hardly a day goes by without the ‘Brexit revolution’ taking some new turn. The plot to overthrow May was slapped down when she called the conspirators to her Chequers country palace. Next day in parliament she ruled out ‘no deal’ and pulled the Withdrawal Agreement to avoid a third meaningless vote. Parliament has taken over. Yet her Zombie deal is very likely come back again.

During the debate a series of senior backbenchers highlighted a deep political crisis threatening the Tories. “What on earth has happened to our pragmatism, our self-restraint and our common sense?” asked Tory MP Nicholas Soames. “Like many others, I have found myself truly distraught at the painful, difficult and intractable position in which our country finds itself”. (Guardian Rafael Behr 26 March 2019)

Jeremy Corbyn told May – “The government’s approach to Brexit has now become a national embarrassment. Every step of the way along this process the government has refused to reach out, refused to listen and refused to find a consensus that can represent the views of the whole of the country, not just her own party.” (Guardian Rafael Behr 26 March 2019)

What is wrong with Corbyn Labour’s position? First is the immediate programme. He is not talking ‘democracy’ but about reaching out, finding consensus and listening. Labour has tried to find a middle ground between reactionary Leave and liberal Remain, calling for a customs union and remaining close to the single market. There is no democratic rationale for this.

A democratic programme is not about consensus but taking seriously the votes in Northern Ireland and Scotland to remain and England and Wales to leave the EU. Let us call this, the ‘Republic of 23 June’ and remember that England and Wales did not vote to leave the single market and customs union. Respecting this is consistent with the rights of all UK citizens to move freely around the EU.

Labour should have reinforced its position by making it clear that any settlement would be put to a ratification referendum. Any deal would not be imposed on the people. It is a democratic right to vote to approve whatever comes through. Labour must commit to that.

The one thing that Corbyn does have right is his continued opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement. Yet because of his adoption of ‘consensus’ he is vulnerable to being pushed and pulled to compromise. It is easier to oppose Mays deal on democratic grounds than a ‘consensus’ which has one foot in the Tory cess pit.

Then we have Labour’s tactics. The party has made the call for a general election its first demand and only later a peoples vote. If Labour’s tactics were correct he would be marching at the head of one million people demanding a general election. What other weapons does he have? Wait for the Tory coup? Move a vote of no confidence in May?

In an interview on BBC Radio 4 Today (25 March 2019) Deborah Matinson, from the ‘Britain Thinks’, explained that people are hostile to the idea of a general election. Only 13% thought it would help the Brexit debacle, 45% thought it will make it worse and 32% thought it will make no difference.

People blamed May for the mess but were “bemused” by Corbyn’s call for a general election. They thought a man of principle was now “playing politics” with a national disaster. This was not building up trust in Corbyn or Labour’s leadership. The offer of a ratification referendum is something which engenders trust because it implies Labour trusts working people with important decisions.

Then we have the failure to turn up and support the Peoples march. One million people were not marching for a general election but the right to vote. It is not ruled out by Labour’s own policy. Of course this campaign is being led by liberals to the right of Corbyn who want a Remain question on the ballot paper.

Corbyn needed to be brave enough to explain the distinction between ratification and a second remain referendum which prematurely tries to reverse the 2016 vote and could deepen divisions in the working class. By staying away he left the door open for his arch enemy, Tom Watson, to speak at the demo and offer to back May’s deal in exchange for a second referendum May Deal or Remain.

The crisis is deepening. Now the Leave section of the working class has been abandoned by its Brexit leaders, Johnson, Ress-Mogg, Davies etc who condemned May’s Agreement and are now going to support it. The sense of betrayal by their rotten millionaire leaders will make them angry. They too have a right to ratify. But a referendum on May’s deal versus remain simply cuts them out of the process and should be unacceptable to any democrat.

It is not necessary to revoke Article 50 but democracy and any alternative to May’s deal will require a long extension as offered by Germany. Labour should declare it is ready to fight the European elections and Corbyn should take his message to European working class.

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Putrid Porridge

Tony Blair (Observer 3 March 2019) said “President Macron is right. Any extension of the article 50 process should be for a reason. It should be to eliminate the blind Brexit Theresa May proposes. But first her deal must be defeated”. Blair has put his finger on the key issue – defeating May’s deal. He says “if I were an MP I wouldn’t want to own this putrid porridge of poor political leadership”.

Today May’s deal went down. It has now been defeated in parliament twice. Has it finally been killed off or will it comeback for a third time? While May survives this is surely possible and the Tories are unlikely to get rid of her unless really forced to because they fear a general election.

We are in a peculiar constitutional situation between Crown, parliament and people. The ‘sovereign people’ voted to leave even though they have no place in the constitution. The Crown, through the PM, promised to carry out the will of the people. Despite repeated evasions and defeats in parliament, the PM has continued ‘representing’ the people against parliament.

In the UK constitution the people are not sovereign and have no authority to halt the parliamentary farce by taking control of the decision. Of course, there is no need for a ratification referendum if the May deal is finally finished. But is it? It may now hide in the shadows awaiting a moment to come out again. The people seem powerless to prevent this nonsense carrying on unless they can force a vote on her deal.

The Observer editorial (10 March 20019) says “The principled case for a referendum on May’s deal remains as strong as ever. It is critical that the negotiated agreement is put before voters for ratification or rejection. This is not re-running the 2016 referendum, but about making sense of its result: the government has not been able to secure what voters were promised, and it must give the public the chance to accept or reject the deal”.

Unfortunately liberals, like Blair, are playing a different game. Last week he said if all else fails MP’s should “accept her deal” but “with a Kyle-Wilson amendment for a confirmatory referendum”. This is smoke and mirrors. In the name of ‘confirmation’ Blair and his allies want to us to vote against putrid porridge and for remaining in the EU.

Keir Starmer takes the same line. He calls for a public vote between “May’s deal and Remain”. (New European 6 March 2019) He is backed up by John McDonnell MP and no doubt deputy Labour leader Tom Watson under the banner of a second referendum. Michael White is cautious about this. He says “I am not sure remain will pull it off”. (New European 6 March 2019).

There are two obvious objections to voting for “May’s deal or Remain”. It will be seen as illegitimate by many who voted to leave. There would be no question in this kind of ballot for millions of leave voters who want No-deal. It will be seen as the liberal elite fixing the result.

Polling evidence suggests that public opinion has not changed much among those who voted. It may even have hardened people’s views. But there is a shift towards remain because new young voters have joined the electoral register. Re-fighting the 2016 referendum with a marginal shift among those who voted first time will deepen the divisions and settle nothing.

Hence White says “I remain nervous about the prospect for a second referendum. It is hard for reason to defeat zeal, especially when coupled with anger and mendacity on a scale likely to be far nastier that the last time because leave voters will insist that the 2016 verdict must stand”. (New European 6 March 2019)

Corbyn seems to have been dragged into a ‘confirm or remain’ second referendum because he, his advisors and his supporters don’t seem to have grasped the basic democratic case for a ratification referendum. If May or her deal survives, it is Labour’s only route to an early general election with the prospects of a Labour victory. Otherwise there is a danger the Corbyn will drown in a bowl of putrid porridge, with a Tory dollop of alleged anti-Semitism and a dash of Hezbollah sauce. Let us see what happens when the dust settles.

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Republican Exit

The latest twist in the political crisis has seen the ‘magnificent seven’ Labour MPs forming their break-away grouping. Comparison has been made with 1981 and the ‘Gang of Four’ who left Labour to form the SDP. History seems to be repeating itself but this time something is different.

The tectonic plates of the ‘Brexit Revolution’ are in motion. The English or Anglo-British two party system of Tory and Labour is being overlaid by three shadow ‘parties’. Of course Scotland and Northern Ireland and to a lesser extent Wales are in the same Westminster system and yet work with a different party dynamic.

The three shadow Brexit ‘parties’ in Westminster are Leave, Democratic-Remain and Remain. The seeds of the Remain ‘party’ are now in the open as an independent group. Their policies are for another referendum with a Remain question, the condemnation of Labour as an anti-Semitic party (i.e. support for a Zionist Israel) and total opposition to Corbyn as Labour leader and future PM.

Of course Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. I condemn slanders against him. I condemn the anti-Semitic campaign against the Labour Party, whose main motive is to undermine and overthrow Corbyn by splitting the Labour Party.

The Democratic-Remain ‘party’ are those in favour of remaining in the EU but who accept the result of the 2016 EU referendum. Acceptance does not mean ignoring the gerrymandering by Cameron and the Tories, to exclude most EU residents paying taxes and living in the UK.

Labour under Corbyn is leading the Democratic-Remain ‘party’. I would urge all members of Corbyn-Labour to oppose any repeat and remain referendum or any remain question on the ballot, at least until it is included in a general election manifesto or there is a significant change in public opinion.

Despite not being a member of the Labour Party, I have nailed my republican colours to the Democratic-Remain ‘party’ mast. Republicans should go further and support a policy of a Democratic Exit from the European Union, which leads towards a republican road.

A Democratic Exit accepts it was right to trigger Article 50 whilst recognising that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain and England and Wales voted to leave the EU. There was no mandate to leave the single market or the customs union.

Supporters of a Democratic Exit must take up cudgels for the right of Northern Ireland and Scotland to remain. They should demand a ratification referendum on any negotiated settlement with an extended franchise. This should include all resident EU citizens and 16-17 year olds, enabled in the 2014 Scottish referendum.

Far from defending the right of the Scottish people to remain in the EU, the SNP capitulated. They settled for a British Unionist compromise whereby all parts of the UK to remain in the single market and the customs union.

This was a consequence of paying too much attention to Westminster. The SNP ‘sold out’ the majority vote in Scotland. They failed to promise the Scottish people a ratification referendum on any deal coming from the Crown, regardless of whether the UK parliament grants a UK wide Yes/No referendum.

The SNP failed to use their majority in the Scottish parliament to implement the right to ratify. Instead they played the Westminster game by supporting a Repeat-Remain referendum and lining up with the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, left Tories and Magnificent Seven party. They have acted like British liberals not Scottish democrats.

As a regular reader of Weekly Worker I can’t work out the current tactics advocated by the CPGB. I still see the CPGB as Pontius Pilate mixing his metaphors and casting a plague on all houses. I don’t know if you are backing a Democratic-Remain line, or the Remain line now being advocated by the liberals. So far Weekly Worker seems unable or incapable of recognising the distinction between ratification Yes-No referendum and a repeat In-Out referendum.

This distinction is now crucial for the fight against the Tory government, against the new Remain party. It is important for the Tories winning a general election in May or June if Theresa May’s deal goes through the Commons. Finally there is no recognition by the CPGB of the rights of the Irish and Scottish people to remain in the EU.

Steve Freeman

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May’s unexpected victory

The ratifications crisis continues to drag on as Theresa May runs down the clock until there is no time for Labour MPs to do anything other than vote for her Backstop-Brexit. They will have the added pleasure of stabbing Corbyn in the back, yet again. If her deal passes through the Commons, it will be a triumph. But she will lose the support of the DUP and call another ‘Falkland’s general election’. The plan is already in place.

May has already got 44% support in the opinion polls. It is shocking to see the most incompetent anti-working class government in living memory doing so well. But the people feel sorry for May. There is national sympathy for a women PM struggling against impossible odds with the world against her.

National sympathy can surely be turned into real votes if she gets her deal through the Commons. Yet behind the manufactured sympathy is a cunning and devious politician and a ruthless party. Pretending to negotiate to remove the Backstop is a smart move to keep the support of the Tory right. But when the time is right she will pull the plug on them.

Corbyn is likely to get his general election, but not as he imagined it. Fighting a triumphant May will surely have him recast himself as Michael Foot taking on Thatcher in 1983 Khaki election. Fortunately there is another way to a different kind of general election which takes place after the May is defeated and resigns. This starts with the fight for the democratic demand for the people to decide.

So far Corbyn’s tactics have been unconvincing. He does not seem to have grasped the fundamental democratic argument. In 2016 the people voted to leave. Whichever government comes up with a deal, the people must have the democratic right to ratify it. This is a Yes/No referendum not an In/Out one.

Corbyn must demand a ratification referendum on May’s deal. Labour’s election manifesto should promise a Yes/No referendum if a Labour government negotiates an alternative deal with the EU. However Corbyn must kill off the ‘Remoaners’ idea of a second ‘repeat-remain’ In/Out referendum. He must totally oppose it.

So what is Corbyn’s route to a general election victory? Labour must support the people’s right to ratify any deal. Then Labour puts down a resolution in the Commons for a Yes/No referendum and for the suspension of Article 50 until the people have the opportunity to vote. If the people reject May’s deal she will have no option but to resign. A general election will surely follow.

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Ratification Crisis

Politics is living through a ‘ratification crisis’, lasting over a period of months when nobody knows who, how or whether the Crown’s Withdrawal Agreement will be ratified or not. The crisis began in December when May pulled her deal out of a Commons ratification vote. It continued on 15 January 2019 when her deal was massively rejected by 230 votes in the Commons.

Such a major defeat should have sunk any government, got May sacked and brought a general election. But Brexit has blown away any ‘normality’. There are two ways out of the ratification crisis – getting ratification by parliament or by the people. May is strongest in parliament and Corbyn has more strength amongst the people. So why would Corbyn tie himself to a contest in parliament instead of taking his ratification case to the people.

If May had any idea about democracy she would logically appeal over the heads of the Commons to the people. She would put her Withdrawal Agreement to a ratification referendum. Will the people back May’s deal and over-rule the Commons? But May is no democrat.

What could be worse than allowing the working class to have a vote? Every Minister of the Crown understands the danger of sub-contracting their powers to the people. Look what happened to Cameron? So May fights by parliamentary manoeuvres. She deploys all the powers of the Crown in secret deals, manipulation, bribery and corruption etc.

By these means May can still emerge triumphant from the current debacle. She has switched tactically to the right after her heavy defeat. The chance of a ‘No Deal’ option has enthused the Tory right. They are so desperate that they fell over themselves to believe the ‘good news’. May was listening ‘seriously’ to them after all! How disappointed or angry will they be?

The next step is for May to run the clock down until one minute to midnight. Then comes some cosmetic changes from her Tory friends in Europe. Next by tacking to the ‘left’ get it through the Commons with the help of Labour MPs without the DUP. Finally is the knockout blow. If her Withdrawal Deal is ratified she will gamble on a triumphant Falklands style general election in June.

A ‘great’ national leader, like Churchill and Thatcher, had saved the country against all the odds. Hitler and Argentinean generals were beaten. Now May can big up as the Iron Lady taking on the German Reich. Meanwhile Corbyn could be further destabilised by demands for a second EU referendum and stepping up the anti-Semitism row or ‘Israel’ as some perceptively see it.

If Corbyn doesn’t’ have an answer to the ratification crisis then he will be defeated. He has tried everything and failed. He called a vote of no confidence. Then he wants a general election. Then he refused to meet May unless no deal is taken off the table. Then he met her anyway and demanded no deal be removed as an option. That did not work either. So he has to take his case on Europe to the country through a ratification referendum.

May has set her face against any referendum. But ‘no’ always means possibly if there is no other way out. Meanwhile there is a wide open goal for Corbyn to shoot at. Even Arsenal wouldn’t miss such an opportunity. He has tried every other tactic to overthrow May’s deal except a ratification referendum. If we have eliminated everything else it’s the only thing left.

Corbyn cannot overthrow May by parliamentary means. He cannot win a vote of no confidence nor take no deal off the table until it is too late. Asking or demanding May abandons her main ‘no deal’ weapon which keeps her afloat is never going to work. Demanding a general election while her Withdrawal Agreement is still alive is a waste of time. May has shown that if she cannot get her deal through parliament she can fight on. But if she cannot get it through a ratification referendum then she is as dead as Cameron.

Corbyn should confound May and all his liberal critics in the Labour Party. He should champion the people’s right to decide on May’s deal by proposing a ratification referendum. He should totally reject any idea of a second repeat-remain referendum. It is the only way we can get to a general election before May gets her deal through the Commons and then fights an election on the ground of her own choosing.

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Kill the Bill

UK politics is now in the process of ratifying the Crown’s Withdrawal Agreement. This is the only deal on the table. There is no other. Therefore we have to keep total focus on this. Should it be supported or opposed? If we oppose it, how can it be defeated?

Everything else – general election, exit on World Trade Organisation rules, remaining in the EU, Norway option, Denmark-Greenland option or global socialism – is, if not pie in the sky, then certainly jam tomorrow. We have to start with the enemy in front of us. As football managers like to say the most important game is the next one.

The Withdrawal Agreement has already been roundly beaten by the House of Commons by 432 to 202 votes. That should have been the end of the road for May. But the Crown has the power to carry on. The deal is a dead duck and yet sprung to life again. It serves as her shield. It protects her. She cannot be ousted while her shield remains in place.

So a zombie Prime Minister staggers on. Kill the Bill and kill the zombie. How can it be done? One thing that can trump parliament’s ratification vote is a ratification referendum. Forty five million voters is far more powerful that 635 MPs. Nothing is certain but we should trust the people.

Maybe

May has two options. The first is to bully, bribe and threaten MPs so that sufficient change their minds and get the deal through the Commons on the second or third attempt. If this happens, the world outside parliament will be angry. It will settle nothing. The country will end up with a deal that eighty percent of people oppose. The ‘Great Betrayal’ story will have a larger audience.

The second option is putting her deal to the electorate in a referendum. This is not a second referendum with a Remain and/or no deal question. May has ruled out a second referendum as a betrayal the 2016 majority. But she has avoided the issue of whether people should be able to vote for or against her deal. If she was a democrat rather than a racist politician she would have offered this already.

A ratification referendum on the Withdrawal Agreement is a democratic demand. If it is voted down then May, like Cameron, would have to resign. A new Tory leader is a big step towards a general election. On the other hand if the country decides to support May’s deal we move on. At least if a majority vote for it the betrayal story is detoxified. “Let the people decide on the May deal” and then “Kill the (withdrawal agreement) Bill” is the only democratic road to a general election. Article 50 has to be delayed.

Democracy

Democracy is a gamble. You can never be sure how people will vote. Putting the Withdrawal Agreement to a peoples vote is a democratic way forward. This is not about reversing the 2016 referendum. It is about making the government accountable for what it is being done in our name.

Democratic accountability is the completion of the 2016 referendum. It is not about self indulgence where everybody’s favourite option – remain, no deal, communism, Singapore, Corbyn government etc – is on the ballot paper. It is about making the government accountable for the Withdrawal Agreement and then removing May’s road block.

The Remain camp is divided into democrats and liberals. The ‘democrats’ accept the 2016 result even though there are many violations of democratic good practice. A consistent democrat calls for a ratification referendum and opposes Northern Ireland and Scotland being forced out of the EU against their will. Corbyn has accepted the 2016 result and rejects a second-remain referendum.

The Liberal-Remain camp wants to overthrow or reverse the 2016 referendum. They demand a second referendum which must include the question do you want to remain in the EU? The intention is to overthrow or reverse the result of the last referendum before any deal is implemented. The liberals include Tories, Liberal Democrats, the Labour right the Greens and the SNP etc. Prominent advocates of this slogan include Blair, Major, Campbell, Soubry, Cable, Ummuna, Lucas and on the far left “Another Europe is Possible”.

Corbyn

May has called for ‘talks’ to breathe life into her ‘dead deal’. Corbyn refused to attend talks unless May took “No Deal” off the table. He was right to demand the impossible and not waste time talking about it.

His main target should have been the May deal not the No deal. He should have demanded the May deal is either abandoned or it is put to the people in a ratification referendum. That might have been worth a trip to Downing Street with a democratic message and a chance for Corbyn to view his future residence and see where this furniture would fit.

He should have made ‘Kill the Bill’ his main target. Once that is off the table then no deal is exposed for what it is – a bullies bluff. Parliament and the majority of business, trade unions, citizens and the EU would prevent it. If parliament could not act with sufficient urgency to extend article 50 then we would be facing a major constitutional and political crisis. A ratification referendum is the democratic means to progress.

Corbyn is edging his way to a ratification referendum. Labour has put forward an amendment to the Governments Brexit motion which is aimed at blocking a ‘No Deal option’ and includes the words “Legislating to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition that has commanded the support of the majority of the House of Commons”. This is still ambiguous. “A public vote on a deal” sounds like ratification. The words about a proposition commanding support in the House is either a truism or a door to a repeat remain referendum.

If Corbyn demanded a ratification referendum would the EU refuse to give an extension to article 50? Of course they have no interest in forcing the UK into an early exit on March 29 when there is a democratic process still to be concluded. They are well aware of the balance of parliament and the role of the DUP. They understand that a Corbyn government and the Labour Party is more favourable to the EU.

Another Europe

Another Europe is the left wing campaign which supports the liberals demand for a second referendum. It says “Any public vote on Brexit must, to be meaningful, include an option to remain. Labour should campaign for such a vote – and to remain”. Their resolution for the Labour Party calls for:

“1. That all Labour MPs must vote against any Tory Brexit deal
2. That Labour must demand, and to prepare for, an immediate general election
3. That Labour must campaign for a public vote on Brexit with an option to remain, and include such a vote in our manifesto”.

This resolution misses the mark. The number one issue is completely and fully defeating the “Withdrawal Agreement”. The resolution only calls on Labour MPs to vote against it. They have already done so. It made no difference. Then they call for a general election which is already Labour policy.

Nowhere do they call for the people to be allowed to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. They restrict it to MPs. They want a “public vote on Brexit” which ignores the fact that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain. They are demanding that a referendum is kicked down the road until after the next general election. Hence they call for a remain-referendum to be included in the Labour Manifesto.

It is a misconceived resolution. It does not do anything to “Kill the Bill”. It raises the liberal-slogan for a remain-referendum. This is a stick for May to beat Corbyn. The resolution says in effect wait until after the next general election.

Whether the Labour Party should include a Remain-Referendum in its election manifesto is something to be considered. But if the political situation hasn’t changed significantly then it would be divisive madness to include it. But a Remain-Referendum is pie in the sky unless May’s Agreement is finally killed off.

Calling for a democratic decision on May’s deal is no more than a democratic demand. It is a democratic right for all citizens both Leave, Remain and those who abstained last time. If the people vote to “Kill the Bill” then the search for a new answer can begin again. Then and only then does a general election become possible or highly likely.

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Gordian Knot

The Prime Minister warned that leaving the EU with no deal “would put the future of our Union at risk”. Her deal would do the same. The writing is on the wall. It is just a matter of time before the end.

I am in favour of an Anglo-Welsh exit from the EU. This is what people voted for. The ‘will of the people’ would be economically and socially retrograde but politically enlightening. Many in Scotland and Ireland would be happy to see such a long needed and necessary education now happening at last.

If I had the right to vote I would vote against every version of Brexit or All UK exit, whether the Theresa May, Jacob Reece-Mogg or Jeremy Corbyn version. Why should damage be inflicted on Ireland and Scotland when they voted against it?

Politics is revolving around the eternal triangle of crown, parliament and peoples. The crown is the power and parliament and the peoples are supplicants. (I used the word ‘peoples’ with reference to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – and not forgetting the Irish republic).

Since the 2016 referendum politics has revolved around the idea of crown and the people versus parliament. Even though parliament has just defeated the crown, May will not resign or call a general election. She will claim that in her new ‘republican’ constitution, the crown is still carrying out the ‘will of the people’.

In fact opinion polls say that eighty percent of people reject the May deal and only twenty support it. Unfortunately that is only an opinion poll, and on the scales of politics and power, counts for next to nothing. If opinion polls are right, for example, Corbyn has already lost the next general election!

A ratification referendum breaks the Gordian knot. Parliament has to take control from the crown and ask the people the same question just put to the House of Commons (or any modified deal). Do the people back the Commons against the crown? This replaces ‘interesting’ polls with political facts.

This is not a new or ‘second’ repeat referendum. It is merely the completion of the democratic cycle of accountability from the people to the crown, back to parliament and then returning to the people. The implied question is “Do you accept this deal or not”? Unfortunately Weekly Worker writers have refused to recognise or even acknowledge the democratic distinction which only helps obfuscation by the Labour right who are misleading the working class.

Hence either the people accept the Crown’s deal or vote it down. In the former case the May government wins and continues. But if the people reject the deal there is nowhere to hide and no excuse to keep hiding. She would have to resign just like Cameron did (or be forced out). The Tories would elect another leader before an imminent 2019 general election.

Therefore a ratification referendum is the best route to a general election and then to a possible Corbyn government. That is the obvious line of march. Labour’s current tactics demand a general election if the Crown’s deal is voted down in parliament. They have put the cart before the horse.

May is now heavily defeated by 432 to 202 votes. In the old style politics, a significant defeat in parliament would have brought a general election. But since May is carrying out the ‘will of the people’ she will surely carry on and keep trying. This unholy alliance between the crown and the ‘republic’ is surely doomed when this contradiction works itself out.

Labour’s demand for an immediate general election is thus ‘ultra left’ by trying to take the second step before the first. It leads inevitably to the demand for a vote of no confidence which Labour won’t win. (- and didn’t). May threw down the gauntlet, long egged on by the Liberal Democrats and the Labour right.

The Labour right are trying to split Corbyn from Labour members and voters. They have demanded a vote of no confidence in May to close the door on a general election and clear the way for a remain referendum. Another 50-50 Chukka-Blair remain referendum is a danger of entrenching the divisions in a divided working class. Those who are serious about remaining in the EU should concentrate on supporting action in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Outside parliament I heard a moment of national unity as rival protesters for Leave and Remain cheered in unison at the news of May’s defeat. A ratification referendum would allow them to keep cheering all the way into the polling booth.

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United Ireland

How can working class democrats oppose an all UK exit? The first and foremost demand is to back the working class in Northern Ireland and Scotland who had majority votes for remain. The democratic and indeed revolutionary answer to an all UK exit is a united Ireland. Scotland must exercise its right to self determination and leave the UK to remain or rejoin the EU.

This is the alternative strategy based on working class votes. It is the alternative to the liberal demand for a second-repeat referendum to reverse the 2016 vote. We must totally oppose this liberal demand now. If and only if there is a sea change in working class opinion could a second-repeat referendum even be contemplated.

Yes to a united Ireland and yes to an independent Scottish republic is an urgent demand. But a second-repeat referendum is dangerous, divisive and offers no solutions. Ending the UK is not just an Irish or Scottish question, but for the working class in England and Wales and the rest of Europe. It is the final nail in the coffin of the reactionary and utopian plan to resurrect the British Empire under WTO rules.

The democratic case for a ratification referendum is very different. It is about accountability. The people in England and Wales voted for the principle of leaving the EU without the details. Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) disappeared for two years and then come back with a proposal. The working class across the UK must have the right to vote for or against May’s deal.

Brexit has seen the emergence of three shadow ‘parties’ – leave, remain and democrat. In parliament, the remain ‘party’ aims to overthrow the decision to leave by a repeat-remain referendum. They are united against Corbyn and hope they can to oust him.

Liberal pundit, Andrew Rawnsley, argues that “to stop Brexit, Labour supporters will have to revolt against Corbyn”. He explains that “if they want another referendum, they will have to learn their leader and rebel against him” (Observer 6 January 2019). The Labour right and the liberal Tories see the danger of Brexit as an opportunity to damage or stop Corbyn.

The democratic ‘party’ is comprised of those who support remain but have accepted the result. Corbyn is one of the leaders of this ‘party’ which includes McLusky, McDonnell and probably Abbott etc. The 2016 referendum enabled working class people to vote to remain or leave the EU. As democrats we recognise the value of working people being able to vote in elections and referenda.

This does not mean we are blind to the problems of ballots when money is king and all democracy can be gerrymandered and corrupted. We should never forget the serious failings of the 2016 referendum. This includes the exclusion of nearly three million EU citizens resident in the UK and the exclusion of the 16-17 year olds. Neither can we ignore the misuse of funds or the exploitation of big data.

Nevertheless it is better, on balance, to accept the result but NOT the right wing British nationalist interpretation of it. That must be contested, starting with England supporting the democratic rights of Ireland and Scotland. Furthermore nobody voted to leave the single market or the customs union since it was not on the ballot paper.

Corbyn has adopted aspects of the democratic case – accepting the 2016 result and opposing the call for a repeat-remain referendum. But he has not adopted a full democratic approach. He is an inconsistent semi-democrat. He failed to recognise the importance of Ireland and Scotland or their right to self determination. He has failed to recognise the rights of the working class to ratify or reject the May deal.

Instead of a strong line on democracy, Corbyn has a weak one. These weaknesses in his approach to democracy may enable the Labour right to drive a wedge between him and his younger supporters, especially in London, who are strongly for remain. That is what Andrew Rawnsley is calling for.

Meanwhile May was out campaigning in her own people’s ‘referendum’ on her deal. She told Andrew Marr that ‘on the doorstep’ the vast majority she met were sympathetic and wanted her to crack on so we could get back to normal politics. Business was ‘voting’ for her deal too. The only thing missing from May’s ‘referendum’ is that working class people are not allowed to vote. She doesn’t trust us!

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Democracy and class interests

The report on the CPGB aggregate (Weekly Worker 13 December 2018) provides more evidence for the case that their motion on EU withdrawal failed, as I argued last week, to identify and support the interests of the working class.

The 2016 EU referendum divided the working class into three main camps – Leave, Remain and Abstain/Boycott. After the result these were out of date. Neither Abstain nor Boycott had any significance outside the campaign. New positions appeared, identifiable as British Exit (Mogg and May etc), Remain-Democrats (Corbyn and McClusky etc) and Remain-Liberals (Soubury, Blair and Chuka Umunna etc).

Remain-democrats are remain supporters accept the result not least because of the dangers posed by a divided working class. This means continuing to expose ballot corruption and gerrymandering. But it means accepting some kind of exit at least until a clear majority of the working class recognises the advantages of remain. The experience of the Brexit crisis helps the working class find the truth.

“Some kind of exit” is important here. Corbyn and Labour stand on the right wing of the remain-democrats. They have formulated a programme that all the UK should remain in a customs union which does not undercut EU regulations on workers’ rights etc. Taking the UK out of the single market means abandoning ’freedom of movement’ and is very close to May’s Brexit deal.

Corbyn and the Labour leadership are remain-democrats who have opportunistically adapted to a section of the working class hostile to freedom of movement. This has its roots in right wing chauvinism and racism promoted in Tory arguments about EU migration.

The left wing or left side of remain-democrats stand for a different kind of exit. This recognises the UK as a multi-nation state and accepts that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain. The working class must fight for their right to remain. England and Wales voted to leave the EU but not the single market or customs. This is consistent with maintaining freedom of movement through the UK and the EU.

Remain-democrats must demand the right of the working class to vote for or against it whatever Brexit deal the Tories come up. We demand a national debate and a ratification only referendum. Both leave and remain workers can unite on this whilst being bitterly divided on a repeat-remain ballot.

There are thus Left exit, Left remain and Left remain democrats. The CPGB is so focused on its own battles with Left exit (SWP) and Left remain (AWL) that it has failed to address the central question. This is how to advance working class interests and unity in a world in which a majority of the class were swayed by reactionary arguments.

The CPGB do not align themselves with any of the three mass camps. They rejected both Left exit and Left remain. With no policy, other than criticising other left sects, we end up sounding like Buddist monks practicing their own moral purity.

This is exactly what Moshe Machover criticised the party for at the aggregate. He asks “what is in the interests of the working class” because this is not addressed. The interests of the class “had nothing to do with the state of the left”. Yet the ‘state of the left’ is the only thing the CPGB is concerned about.

Moshe is clear that the working class is better in than out without saying how that can be advanced independently of liberal remain and their left tail. Leaving the EU, as Moshe says, “Would see a decline in worker’s standard of living” etc. He is quite right to say “All this was missing from the CPGB position”.

Mike McNair blamed the working class for this gaping hole. He says that although ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ was a tactical question for the working class “if there was a radical and thriving international workers movement – picking up a good number of votes across Europe, for instance and enjoying an influential presence in the European parliament – we would certainly “want to fight alongside our European brothers and sisters”.

Of course Jack Conrad recognised Moshe’s criticism made the CPGB position indefensible. So after lunch he stressed “the CPGB’s opposition to withdrawal”. Great news, although it leaves open whether the CPGB positions itself on the left wing of remain-democrats (Corbyn etc) or left wing of remain-liberals (Blair etc).

The only fly in the ointment is the failure to recognise the major difference between a ratification referendum for the working class and the liberal’s repeat-remain one for business profits. But if May fails to win a majority for her deal, then she is finished and a general election is more or less inevitable.

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