The struggle for democracy against British Exit and for a fully democratic Europe
The Tory Brexit deal negotiated by May will be used to damage and divide the working class. Left Unity should oppose it by mobilising the working class to vote against it in a ratification referendum to take place in early 2019. If the Tories are defeated then there would be a strong case for a general election.
Of course the case for a ratification referendum has not been won. The Tories oppose it and Corbyn is unsure. We should mobilise our allies (for example Another Europe) and the trade unions to back a call for a referendum. The case is basically a democratic one. The people, not parliament or the Crown, must have the opportunity to vote for or against Tory Brexit.
We should not re-run the case for remain or leave. Most remain supporters say that whilst they think leave will damage British capitalism (profits, employment, and workers rights etc) they accept the ‘democratic mandate’. Left Unity should not simply fall in behind that and say we accept British Exit as a valid democratic interpretation of the result.
Left Unity should question the democratic legitimacy and meaning of the EU referendum rather than simply follow Corbyn’s view. This is not because we want to re-run the first one again as happened in Ireland. The undemocratic features of the first referendum and the biased conclusions drawn by the Unionist parties, demands the working class have the opportunity to vote on the deal once we know those details made public (rather than the hidden clauses or secret deals). We should strongly oppose those who deny the right of the working class to vote on this vital issue.
Undemocratic features of the 2016 EU referendum
1. At least 3 million were excluded from the vote – some EU residents, for example French but not Irish, and all 16 to 17 years olds.
2. A recognition that 13 million abstained or 29 million did not vote for Exit compared to the 17 million that did. As democrats we do not claim that 13 million abstentions can overturn the majority. However every public commentator ignores the abstentions as if they did not exist. We should demand that the leave majority does not behave like a dictatorship and take no account at all that the majority did not vote to leave.
3. Although people had mixed motives for voting – people voted for the official question on the ballot paper to leave the EU. People did not vote to leave the single market. It was not on the ballot paper.
4. As democrats we recognise the sovereignty of the nations in the UK and their right to self determination. We recognise that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU and this should be recognised as a negotiating aim. No Tory or Unionist recognises the rights of the Ireland and Scotland to self determination.
Left Unity should be raising these points in any forum, such as Another Europe, Momentum, Rise in Scotland, in the trade unions, NHS campaigns etc. We are raising these points to encourage EU citizens, young people, and the people of Northern Ireland and Scotland to fight harder against British Exit because their democratic rights have been denied by the Tories.
Many in the liberal establishment with elitist views think it was a mistake to allow people (or plebs) to vote on EU membership. They think it should be decided by Ministers or by a vote in parliament. This is not the view of consistent democrats. All elections and referenda in capitalist societies are biased because money and control of media is a powerful factor. Recognising and exposing the many forms of bias does not mean we oppose elections and referenda. The political involvement of the working class is better than their exclusion.
The best answer to biased elections and referenda is to expose the corrupt practices and have more of them. Democracy is a learning curve which should enable people to vote again and confirm or change their minds. (Why should we have to wait to 2022 to vote out the Tories?).
We should therefore call for a Ratification Referendum to vote for or against the Tory Brexit Deal. It cannot be left to Ministers of the Crown to mark their own homework. Neither should we leave it to Westminster which is controlled by capitalist interests and acts as a rubber stamp.
The Scottish Parliament is in a special position to call for a Ratification Referendum because the SNP with the Greens has a parliamentary majority. Scotland voted to remain and it should be given the opportunity to see if they back Tory Brexit or continue to reject it and thus enforce their claim of right to self determination. If Scotland votes to reject Tory Brexit then the case for a second Indie referendum becomes stronger and more urgent. It would strengthen the Irish case too.
The Future of the EU
Brexit is not simply a failure of democracy in the UK but a failure of democracy in Europe. It is this European non-democracy that has failed the people of Greece. The lack of effective democracy requires a radical answer. For some it is to ‘restore’ national democracy (hence Brexit) and for others it is to replace the EU constitution with a full democracy – a European federal republic (or a republican united states of Europe).
This can only come ‘from below’ by a democratic mobilisation across Europe or a pan-European democratic revolution. The struggle for a Pan-European Republic does not contradict the struggle for democratic change in any one country. Hence the struggle for democracy in Ireland, Scotland and Catalonia goes with or is part of the European democratic revolution.