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 After the result these were out of date.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.