Jack Conrad makes many useful insights and observations on the crisis faced by Corbyn and the socialist movement. (Weekly Worker 3 October 2019). But he ruins it with his central theory that “Communists reject referendum. These are a con – a means of fooling the people”.
The first statement is untrue or worse a lie, that is an untruth repeated when it is known to be false. The second statement is true. But it doesn’t mean all people are fooled all of the time, unless you think the masses are biologically ignorant or stupid. Even then, a communist answer to ignorance is participation in struggle not the principle of boycott.
I won’t repeat all the evidence on boycott except to remind readers that the Bolshevik programme advocated a referendum as a means of a (relatively) peaceful and democratic resolution to the national question. The right of nations to self determination without the right for a nation to vote on separation is a ‘con’. To put it simply the Bolsheviks preferred and advocated a referendum to having a civil war between nations.
Jack’s fundamental mistake is to raise one way of voting in liberal democracy as uniquely bad as “a means of fooling people”. This is the method of anarchism or ‘con-munism’. The list is massive. Capitalism (con), general elections (con), Labour Party (con), universal suffrage (con) are all means of “fooling the people” and not forgetting my favourite the ‘republi-con’.
Politics, in capitalist societies, in all its guises is designed as “a means of fooling people”. No communist should disagree with this. But anarchists believe that boycott is the answer, unless they change their minds. They would boycott the Irish referenda on gay marriage and abortion. They would change their minds if it seems a good idea or is not worth being condemned as a reactionary. As Groucho Marx said “these are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others”.
Now we turn to poor old Jeremy, who is doing better than most ignorant and stupid people imagine. He is in a hole. So he turns to Labour Party Marxists for advice. He believes they are a voice of the working class and not a con. He might ask “what is the road to socialism”? Labour Marxists might say “I wouldn’t start from here if I were you?” They might say “give up because con-munism is the only answer”.
Alternatively they might say “lets fight together to defeat Johnson with a working class strategy and tactics related to the actual balance of forces”. Should Corbyn call for a referendum? (No) Should he demand a general election now (No) or sooner or later (No)? Should he try to remove the dangerous Johnson from office? (No) Should he call a vote of no confidence? (No) Should he become a Caretaker PM? (No) Should he support another MP as Caretaker PM? (No) Should he call for a government of national disunity? (No) Is there anything else that makes sense? (No)
Jack has blocked and barricaded up every escape route and not just the blind alleys. The LPM seems no better. They have no answers and no way out of the cul-de-sac, having blocked off all the exits. Since it is easy to argue against every option, it is only fair to rise to the same challenge.
The Tory referendum has given the mantle of ‘democracy’ to the Right. The democratic answer to these reactionary ‘democrats’ who are ‘fooling the people’, is to listen to the people.
In 2016, the collective view of working people through their majorities was for England and Wales to leave the EU and Northern Ireland and Scottish to remain. Nobody voted to leave the single market or customs union. This is what every democrat should demand. This deal or any other deal (including a no-deal ‘clean break’) must be put to the people in a ratification (Yes/No) referendum.
This is simple, democratic and easy to understand. But it is impossible to fathom if your head is full of English (or Anglo-British) chauvinist and unionist crap which of course swamps the Labour Party. Corbyn was moulded politically in the same swamp.
Yet the interesting point is that it is close to, but different from, the position he and the Labour Party have taken. Corbyn has ignored the voters on Northern Ireland and Scotland. He hasn’t fully embraced the single market including EU free movement. Corbyn’s instinct is for the trade union idea of a ratification referendum, but as Jack says, he “has been dragged into adopting a second referendum”. As Jack recognises it is a big mistake to feed red meat to the reactionary ‘democrats’.
Of course the main task is to defeat Tory Brexit including the danger from No-Deal. Stopping Tory Brexit – whether defeating a Johnson deal or stopping no-deal – is the key to a Labour government. He could be ousted by a temporary caretaker government to call a general election or defeated in an election he calls.
The caretaker option is extremely unlikely because the liberals and reactionaries fear Corbyn more than Brexit or Johnson. Of course there can be no support for anybody other than Corbyn while he is leader of the Labour Party and Her Majesty’s Opposition. If by some miracle Johnson gets a deal that must be put for ratification to the people, because parliament might agree with a section of Labour MPs voting for it.
So far because of his principled opposition to all referendum, Jack has failed to recognise the distinction between a ratification and a second or repeat referendum with remain option. However he says “while opinion polls show a clear majority wanting a “say” on any final Brexit deal, the result of a second referendum is far from certain”.
This tells us everything that we need to know. The people want to ratify or reject any deal (having a “say”) but are divided over the wisdom of re-running with a remain option reinforcing divisions in the working class.