In Weekly Worker (2 October 2018 No. 1220) Paul Demarty analysed “the poverty of left-remainers” which he identified with activists supporting ‘Another Europe is Possible’. There is much Paul says that we can agree with, not least his history of the battle for European unity. However rather than make an account of points of agreement let us concentrate what is missing.
Paul’s last paragraph sums up his conclusion. He says “We leftists are in this mess, in large part, because one such crisis has followed another, and the only constant has been the abiding sense that something must be done right now and there is no time for teasing out the treacherous subtleties of the issues before us”. Yes, we need to think about strategy and not simply what to do next.
He explains the battle over the EU which “unites Michael Chessum with Tony Blair on one side, and the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain and Jacob Rees-Mogg on the other, must be posed differently altogether for the workers’ movement to make any serious purchase”. Again, we can agree with that.
Paul hints at a “leftist” alternative as an “argument about the relationship between the British state and a EU bureaucracy, which ignores the reality that both are in enemy hands, and that both must be destroyed, and a genuine socialist internationalism put to work replacing them”. The best interpretation of Paul’s position is surely the old SWP slogan “neither London nor Brussels but international socialism”.
The problem incorrectly posed by Paul has another answer. The EU referendum divided England down the middle. Since ten million people in England abstained, we should go beyond the 2016 labels of “remainers” or “leavers”. I will use the terms ‘Anglo-British’ and ‘Anglo-Europeans’.
On the Anglo-British side are the reactionaries and ultra lefts (using Paul’s shorthand “Jacob Rees-Mogg” and the “Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain). They are on the British road to socialism or the British road to neo-liberalism. So far so good.
In contrast the Anglo-Europeans are divided into liberals and democrats. Paul does not agree with this. His blinkers only allow him to see liberals who are represented by Tony Blair and Another Europe is Possible who because of “a hysterical sense of crisis that leads well-meaning left remainers to cash George Soros’s dirty cheques”.
Paul has awarded the contract to represent the Anglo-European trend to the liberals. Instead of highlighting or giving support to the democratic and hence working class answer to the European crisis, he has liquidated it. He does not recognise any democratic trend in theory or practice.
We may have different views about the content of the democratic programme. There was certainly a case for democrats and revolutionaries in England to actively abstain in the referendum. However the result divided the working class and gave a majority to the reactionaries and ultra lefts. In the face of this situation we need a clear response.
• For a democratic exit
• For a Ratification Referendum
• For a democratic England in a democratic Europe
This is not the time to elaborate on the slogan “for a democratic England in a democratic Europe”. Suffice to say that if the working class is going to win the battle of democracy then we have to “take control” not only in England, but across Europe. A democratic perspective is necessary.
The second bullet point on a “Ratification Referendum” has already been argued. The recent Labour Party conference showed a clear distinction between the slogan of a “second referendum” designed to re-run the 2016 referendum and the democratic demand for a “ratification referendum”. The latter is no repeat but the first time people have an opportunity to pass a verdict on the Tory’s dirty deal.
So whilst liberals, like Blair and Chuka Umunna, back a “second remain referendum”, the democratic demand for a “ratification referendum” is supported by McLusky, Corbyn and McDonald. It is no coincidence that these Labour leaders and trade union leaders supported ratification not repeat. A divided working class is reflected in the trade union movement. The liberals have their links to the board rooms and not roots in the union movement.
The crisis in the relations between “the British state and an EU bureaucracy” is a crisis in the British Union as well. Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU and this is where a storm is brewing. So in discussing the “the poverty of left-remainers” we must not forget “the poverty of the Anglo-British” who “forget” to mention the urgent demand for a united Ireland and a Scottish republic.