On Saturday 8 December 2018 a section of the English left met in London to launch Another Europe is Possible (AEIP) as a democratic membership organisation. The English normally disguise themselves in a British cloak and Another Europe was no exception. The machinations of Perfidious Albion were on display on the issue of Catalonia.
An AEIP resolution recognised the right of nations to self determination and said “We condemn the actions of the Spanish government and state in violently suppressing the Catalan people exercising their right to hold a referendum, and call for the immediate release of political prisoners. We support the right of the Catalan people to self-determination”. This was voted down.
At first it seems bizarre that a ‘British’ conference would vote against a resolution in support of Catalan political prisoners and a Catalan republic. This republic stands in sharp opposition to Generalissimo Franco’s Spanish constitutional monarchy. But what has this to do with the United Kingdom?
The Spanish state fears the threat from Scotland in the same way that British nationalists smell danger in Barcelona. If Catalonia is able to leave Spain, then this would create a ‘bad’ example for the UK. Andrew Coates therefore came forward to defend the British Union against the Catalan prisoners.
The best way to make sense of this is through prism of the CPGB motion published in Weekly Worker (1229 November 29 2018). This recognised Left-Exit and Left-Remain as reflecting or tailing the politics of the reactionary and liberal wings of the capitalist class. The CPGB focused its attention on Left Exit – the SWP, SPEW and CPB – and Left Remain – the AWL, Socialist Resistance and Left Unity etc.
However, the CPGB motion ignores the main trend after the 2016 referendum – the ‘Remain-Democrats’. These people voted remain but accepted the majority voted to leave. Jeremy Corbyn is a ‘Remain-Democrat’ as are the Labour Front bench. I identify myself as a ‘Remain-Democrat’ not ‘Left Remain’.
In 2016 I called for England to abstain. But I also called for a ‘Triple Backstop’ whereby people in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales voted to remain. This would curb the mad excesses of Anglo-British chauvinism. So it is nice to see the Tories hung out to dry by Northern Ireland.
The failure of the CPGB motion to identify the Remain-Democrats indicates a big hole in the perspective. Most ‘Remain-Democrats’ have been taken over by the ideology of British Exit which demands limits on free movement inside the EU. The alternative to British Exit is the demand for a Democratic Exit.
In June 2016 the peoples of England and Wales voted to leave the EU and Northern Ireland, Scotland (and Gibraltar) voted to remain. The case for a Democratic Exit recognises the UK as a multi-nation state. It does not deny a UK wide majority which gave the government a mandate to trigger article 50.
Democratic Exit recognises a mandate for the Denmark-Greenland option in which different nations within the same state have different relations with the EU (Denmark is a member of the EU and Greenland is not). There was no mandate to leave the single market or the customs union or for the Norwegian, Swiss or Canadian type deals.
The Denmark-Greenland option would enable HMG to meet the democratic mandates given from nations within the UK but would not require any economic borders either within the UK or between the UK and the Irish Republic or with the rest of the EU. The free movement of working people between the UK and the EU would not be compromised by a negotiated settlement along these lines.
Democratic Exit represents the best interests of the working class in the current crisis of the EU. It takes account of majority voting, a divided working class, and the rights to free movement across the EU and the need for ever closer unity with workers across Europe. It is consistent with the CPGB motion which says the working class is better off in than out.
So whilst Corbyn is a Remain-Democrat, he slips over into an all British Exit and thus concedes to the racist case for immigration controls. The Tories tie Brexit to ending free movement. Before 2016 Corbyn supported free movement but now Labour has embraced the need to ‘control’ immigrants.
Democratic Exit supports a ratification referendum but opposes a second or repeat-remain referendum or a Dogs dinner referendum with three or more questions. The people must be allowed to vote on the Tory deal. A ratification referendum is the nail hammered into May’s political coffin. Then the call for a general election becomes possible, realistic and necessary.
But if she departs without a ratification referendum then Labour still has to deal with the issue in its general election manifesto. Corbyn and his allies do not understand or do not make the distinction between a Ratification referendum and a Repeat referendum. He has dug his own hole which he can’t seem to get out of.
A Ratification referendum can help unite the working class and expose the duplicitous game of the Remain-liberals. A repeat-remain question would further divide the working class and as Mike McNair recognises “Diane Abbott has rightly said that a new referendum under present conditions would probably be won by leave again”.
My criticism of the CPGB motion is not over the united states of Europe or the need to work on a “continental scale” and break with constitutional loyalism and “actually to campaign for the idea that another Europe is possible”. This requires the left in England to address the severe democratic deficit in England, otherwise known as “Britain”.
The CPGB does not deal with immediate questions beyond boycotting everything. No referendum and no general election because a Corbyn government would be worse for the workers movement than the Tories! Stop the class struggle because we are not ready. Perhaps this is like an airplane in a holding pattern circulating around Heathrow airport waiting to land and hoping the bad weather changes before we run out of fuel.