May’s unexpected victory

The ratifications crisis continues to drag on as Theresa May runs down the clock until there is no time for Labour MPs to do anything other than vote for her Backstop-Brexit. They will have the added pleasure of stabbing Corbyn in the back, yet again. If her deal passes through the Commons, it will be a triumph. But she will lose the support of the DUP and call another ‘Falkland’s general election’. The plan is already in place.

May has already got 44% support in the opinion polls. It is shocking to see the most incompetent anti-working class government in living memory doing so well. But the people feel sorry for May. There is national sympathy for a women PM struggling against impossible odds with the world against her.

National sympathy can surely be turned into real votes if she gets her deal through the Commons. Yet behind the manufactured sympathy is a cunning and devious politician and a ruthless party. Pretending to negotiate to remove the Backstop is a smart move to keep the support of the Tory right. But when the time is right she will pull the plug on them.

Corbyn is likely to get his general election, but not as he imagined it. Fighting a triumphant May will surely have him recast himself as Michael Foot taking on Thatcher in 1983 Khaki election. Fortunately there is another way to a different kind of general election which takes place after the May is defeated and resigns. This starts with the fight for the democratic demand for the people to decide.

So far Corbyn’s tactics have been unconvincing. He does not seem to have grasped the fundamental democratic argument. In 2016 the people voted to leave. Whichever government comes up with a deal, the people must have the democratic right to ratify it. This is a Yes/No referendum not an In/Out one.

Corbyn must demand a ratification referendum on May’s deal. Labour’s election manifesto should promise a Yes/No referendum if a Labour government negotiates an alternative deal with the EU. However Corbyn must kill off the ‘Remoaners’ idea of a second ‘repeat-remain’ In/Out referendum. He must totally oppose it.

So what is Corbyn’s route to a general election victory? Labour must support the people’s right to ratify any deal. Then Labour puts down a resolution in the Commons for a Yes/No referendum and for the suspension of Article 50 until the people have the opportunity to vote. If the people reject May’s deal she will have no option but to resign. A general election will surely follow.

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Ratification Crisis

Politics is living through a ‘ratification crisis’, lasting over a period of months when nobody knows who, how or whether the Crown’s Withdrawal Agreement will be ratified or not. The crisis began in December when May pulled her deal out of a Commons ratification vote. It continued on 15 January 2019 when her deal was massively rejected by 230 votes in the Commons.

Such a major defeat should have sunk any government, got May sacked and brought a general election. But Brexit has blown away any ‘normality’. There are two ways out of the ratification crisis – getting ratification by parliament or by the people. May is strongest in parliament and Corbyn has more strength amongst the people. So why would Corbyn tie himself to a contest in parliament instead of taking his ratification case to the people.

If May had any idea about democracy she would logically appeal over the heads of the Commons to the people. She would put her Withdrawal Agreement to a ratification referendum. Will the people back May’s deal and over-rule the Commons? But May is no democrat.

What could be worse than allowing the working class to have a vote? Every Minister of the Crown understands the danger of sub-contracting their powers to the people. Look what happened to Cameron? So May fights by parliamentary manoeuvres. She deploys all the powers of the Crown in secret deals, manipulation, bribery and corruption etc.

By these means May can still emerge triumphant from the current debacle. She has switched tactically to the right after her heavy defeat. The chance of a ‘No Deal’ option has enthused the Tory right. They are so desperate that they fell over themselves to believe the ‘good news’. May was listening ‘seriously’ to them after all! How disappointed or angry will they be?

The next step is for May to run the clock down until one minute to midnight. Then comes some cosmetic changes from her Tory friends in Europe. Next by tacking to the ‘left’ get it through the Commons with the help of Labour MPs without the DUP. Finally is the knockout blow. If her Withdrawal Deal is ratified she will gamble on a triumphant Falklands style general election in June.

A ‘great’ national leader, like Churchill and Thatcher, had saved the country against all the odds. Hitler and Argentinean generals were beaten. Now May can big up as the Iron Lady taking on the German Reich. Meanwhile Corbyn could be further destabilised by demands for a second EU referendum and stepping up the anti-Semitism row or ‘Israel’ as some perceptively see it.

If Corbyn doesn’t’ have an answer to the ratification crisis then he will be defeated. He has tried everything and failed. He called a vote of no confidence. Then he wants a general election. Then he refused to meet May unless no deal is taken off the table. Then he met her anyway and demanded no deal be removed as an option. That did not work either. So he has to take his case on Europe to the country through a ratification referendum.

May has set her face against any referendum. But ‘no’ always means possibly if there is no other way out. Meanwhile there is a wide open goal for Corbyn to shoot at. Even Arsenal wouldn’t miss such an opportunity. He has tried every other tactic to overthrow May’s deal except a ratification referendum. If we have eliminated everything else it’s the only thing left.

Corbyn cannot overthrow May by parliamentary means. He cannot win a vote of no confidence nor take no deal off the table until it is too late. Asking or demanding May abandons her main ‘no deal’ weapon which keeps her afloat is never going to work. Demanding a general election while her Withdrawal Agreement is still alive is a waste of time. May has shown that if she cannot get her deal through parliament she can fight on. But if she cannot get it through a ratification referendum then she is as dead as Cameron.

Corbyn should confound May and all his liberal critics in the Labour Party. He should champion the people’s right to decide on May’s deal by proposing a ratification referendum. He should totally reject any idea of a second repeat-remain referendum. It is the only way we can get to a general election before May gets her deal through the Commons and then fights an election on the ground of her own choosing.

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Kill the Bill

UK politics is now in the process of ratifying the Crown’s Withdrawal Agreement. This is the only deal on the table. There is no other. Therefore we have to keep total focus on this. Should it be supported or opposed? If we oppose it, how can it be defeated?

Everything else – general election, exit on World Trade Organisation rules, remaining in the EU, Norway option, Denmark-Greenland option or global socialism – is, if not pie in the sky, then certainly jam tomorrow. We have to start with the enemy in front of us. As football managers like to say the most important game is the next one.

The Withdrawal Agreement has already been roundly beaten by the House of Commons by 432 to 202 votes. That should have been the end of the road for May. But the Crown has the power to carry on. The deal is a dead duck and yet sprung to life again. It serves as her shield. It protects her. She cannot be ousted while her shield remains in place.

So a zombie Prime Minister staggers on. Kill the Bill and kill the zombie. How can it be done? One thing that can trump parliament’s ratification vote is a ratification referendum. Forty five million voters is far more powerful that 635 MPs. Nothing is certain but we should trust the people.

Maybe

May has two options. The first is to bully, bribe and threaten MPs so that sufficient change their minds and get the deal through the Commons on the second or third attempt. If this happens, the world outside parliament will be angry. It will settle nothing. The country will end up with a deal that eighty percent of people oppose. The ‘Great Betrayal’ story will have a larger audience.

The second option is putting her deal to the electorate in a referendum. This is not a second referendum with a Remain and/or no deal question. May has ruled out a second referendum as a betrayal the 2016 majority. But she has avoided the issue of whether people should be able to vote for or against her deal. If she was a democrat rather than a racist politician she would have offered this already.

A ratification referendum on the Withdrawal Agreement is a democratic demand. If it is voted down then May, like Cameron, would have to resign. A new Tory leader is a big step towards a general election. On the other hand if the country decides to support May’s deal we move on. At least if a majority vote for it the betrayal story is detoxified. “Let the people decide on the May deal” and then “Kill the (withdrawal agreement) Bill” is the only democratic road to a general election. Article 50 has to be delayed.

Democracy

Democracy is a gamble. You can never be sure how people will vote. Putting the Withdrawal Agreement to a peoples vote is a democratic way forward. This is not about reversing the 2016 referendum. It is about making the government accountable for what it is being done in our name.

Democratic accountability is the completion of the 2016 referendum. It is not about self indulgence where everybody’s favourite option – remain, no deal, communism, Singapore, Corbyn government etc – is on the ballot paper. It is about making the government accountable for the Withdrawal Agreement and then removing May’s road block.

The Remain camp is divided into democrats and liberals. The ‘democrats’ accept the 2016 result even though there are many violations of democratic good practice. A consistent democrat calls for a ratification referendum and opposes Northern Ireland and Scotland being forced out of the EU against their will. Corbyn has accepted the 2016 result and rejects a second-remain referendum.

The Liberal-Remain camp wants to overthrow or reverse the 2016 referendum. They demand a second referendum which must include the question do you want to remain in the EU? The intention is to overthrow or reverse the result of the last referendum before any deal is implemented. The liberals include Tories, Liberal Democrats, the Labour right the Greens and the SNP etc. Prominent advocates of this slogan include Blair, Major, Campbell, Soubry, Cable, Ummuna, Lucas and on the far left “Another Europe is Possible”.

Corbyn

May has called for ‘talks’ to breathe life into her ‘dead deal’. Corbyn refused to attend talks unless May took “No Deal” off the table. He was right to demand the impossible and not waste time talking about it.

His main target should have been the May deal not the No deal. He should have demanded the May deal is either abandoned or it is put to the people in a ratification referendum. That might have been worth a trip to Downing Street with a democratic message and a chance for Corbyn to view his future residence and see where this furniture would fit.

He should have made ‘Kill the Bill’ his main target. Once that is off the table then no deal is exposed for what it is – a bullies bluff. Parliament and the majority of business, trade unions, citizens and the EU would prevent it. If parliament could not act with sufficient urgency to extend article 50 then we would be facing a major constitutional and political crisis. A ratification referendum is the democratic means to progress.

Corbyn is edging his way to a ratification referendum. Labour has put forward an amendment to the Governments Brexit motion which is aimed at blocking a ‘No Deal option’ and includes the words “Legislating to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition that has commanded the support of the majority of the House of Commons”. This is still ambiguous. “A public vote on a deal” sounds like ratification. The words about a proposition commanding support in the House is either a truism or a door to a repeat remain referendum.

If Corbyn demanded a ratification referendum would the EU refuse to give an extension to article 50? Of course they have no interest in forcing the UK into an early exit on March 29 when there is a democratic process still to be concluded. They are well aware of the balance of parliament and the role of the DUP. They understand that a Corbyn government and the Labour Party is more favourable to the EU.

Another Europe

Another Europe is the left wing campaign which supports the liberals demand for a second referendum. It says “Any public vote on Brexit must, to be meaningful, include an option to remain. Labour should campaign for such a vote – and to remain”. Their resolution for the Labour Party calls for:

“1. That all Labour MPs must vote against any Tory Brexit deal
2. That Labour must demand, and to prepare for, an immediate general election
3. That Labour must campaign for a public vote on Brexit with an option to remain, and include such a vote in our manifesto”.

This resolution misses the mark. The number one issue is completely and fully defeating the “Withdrawal Agreement”. The resolution only calls on Labour MPs to vote against it. They have already done so. It made no difference. Then they call for a general election which is already Labour policy.

Nowhere do they call for the people to be allowed to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. They restrict it to MPs. They want a “public vote on Brexit” which ignores the fact that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain. They are demanding that a referendum is kicked down the road until after the next general election. Hence they call for a remain-referendum to be included in the Labour Manifesto.

It is a misconceived resolution. It does not do anything to “Kill the Bill”. It raises the liberal-slogan for a remain-referendum. This is a stick for May to beat Corbyn. The resolution says in effect wait until after the next general election.

Whether the Labour Party should include a Remain-Referendum in its election manifesto is something to be considered. But if the political situation hasn’t changed significantly then it would be divisive madness to include it. But a Remain-Referendum is pie in the sky unless May’s Agreement is finally killed off.

Calling for a democratic decision on May’s deal is no more than a democratic demand. It is a democratic right for all citizens both Leave, Remain and those who abstained last time. If the people vote to “Kill the Bill” then the search for a new answer can begin again. Then and only then does a general election become possible or highly likely.

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Gordian Knot

The Prime Minister warned that leaving the EU with no deal “would put the future of our Union at risk”. Her deal would do the same. The writing is on the wall. It is just a matter of time before the end.

I am in favour of an Anglo-Welsh exit from the EU. This is what people voted for. The ‘will of the people’ would be economically and socially retrograde but politically enlightening. Many in Scotland and Ireland would be happy to see such a long needed and necessary education now happening at last.

If I had the right to vote I would vote against every version of Brexit or All UK exit, whether the Theresa May, Jacob Reece-Mogg or Jeremy Corbyn version. Why should damage be inflicted on Ireland and Scotland when they voted against it?

Politics is revolving around the eternal triangle of crown, parliament and peoples. The crown is the power and parliament and the peoples are supplicants. (I used the word ‘peoples’ with reference to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – and not forgetting the Irish republic).

Since the 2016 referendum politics has revolved around the idea of crown and the people versus parliament. Even though parliament has just defeated the crown, May will not resign or call a general election. She will claim that in her new ‘republican’ constitution, the crown is still carrying out the ‘will of the people’.

In fact opinion polls say that eighty percent of people reject the May deal and only twenty support it. Unfortunately that is only an opinion poll, and on the scales of politics and power, counts for next to nothing. If opinion polls are right, for example, Corbyn has already lost the next general election!

A ratification referendum breaks the Gordian knot. Parliament has to take control from the crown and ask the people the same question just put to the House of Commons (or any modified deal). Do the people back the Commons against the crown? This replaces ‘interesting’ polls with political facts.

This is not a new or ‘second’ repeat referendum. It is merely the completion of the democratic cycle of accountability from the people to the crown, back to parliament and then returning to the people. The implied question is “Do you accept this deal or not”? Unfortunately Weekly Worker writers have refused to recognise or even acknowledge the democratic distinction which only helps obfuscation by the Labour right who are misleading the working class.

Hence either the people accept the Crown’s deal or vote it down. In the former case the May government wins and continues. But if the people reject the deal there is nowhere to hide and no excuse to keep hiding. She would have to resign just like Cameron did (or be forced out). The Tories would elect another leader before an imminent 2019 general election.

Therefore a ratification referendum is the best route to a general election and then to a possible Corbyn government. That is the obvious line of march. Labour’s current tactics demand a general election if the Crown’s deal is voted down in parliament. They have put the cart before the horse.

May is now heavily defeated by 432 to 202 votes. In the old style politics, a significant defeat in parliament would have brought a general election. But since May is carrying out the ‘will of the people’ she will surely carry on and keep trying. This unholy alliance between the crown and the ‘republic’ is surely doomed when this contradiction works itself out.

Labour’s demand for an immediate general election is thus ‘ultra left’ by trying to take the second step before the first. It leads inevitably to the demand for a vote of no confidence which Labour won’t win. (- and didn’t). May threw down the gauntlet, long egged on by the Liberal Democrats and the Labour right.

The Labour right are trying to split Corbyn from Labour members and voters. They have demanded a vote of no confidence in May to close the door on a general election and clear the way for a remain referendum. Another 50-50 Chukka-Blair remain referendum is a danger of entrenching the divisions in a divided working class. Those who are serious about remaining in the EU should concentrate on supporting action in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Outside parliament I heard a moment of national unity as rival protesters for Leave and Remain cheered in unison at the news of May’s defeat. A ratification referendum would allow them to keep cheering all the way into the polling booth.

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United Ireland

How can working class democrats oppose an all UK exit? The first and foremost demand is to back the working class in Northern Ireland and Scotland who had majority votes for remain. The democratic and indeed revolutionary answer to an all UK exit is a united Ireland. Scotland must exercise its right to self determination and leave the UK to remain or rejoin the EU.

This is the alternative strategy based on working class votes. It is the alternative to the liberal demand for a second-repeat referendum to reverse the 2016 vote. We must totally oppose this liberal demand now. If and only if there is a sea change in working class opinion could a second-repeat referendum even be contemplated.

Yes to a united Ireland and yes to an independent Scottish republic is an urgent demand. But a second-repeat referendum is dangerous, divisive and offers no solutions. Ending the UK is not just an Irish or Scottish question, but for the working class in England and Wales and the rest of Europe. It is the final nail in the coffin of the reactionary and utopian plan to resurrect the British Empire under WTO rules.

The democratic case for a ratification referendum is very different. It is about accountability. The people in England and Wales voted for the principle of leaving the EU without the details. Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) disappeared for two years and then come back with a proposal. The working class across the UK must have the right to vote for or against May’s deal.

Brexit has seen the emergence of three shadow ‘parties’ – leave, remain and democrat. In parliament, the remain ‘party’ aims to overthrow the decision to leave by a repeat-remain referendum. They are united against Corbyn and hope they can to oust him.

Liberal pundit, Andrew Rawnsley, argues that “to stop Brexit, Labour supporters will have to revolt against Corbyn”. He explains that “if they want another referendum, they will have to learn their leader and rebel against him” (Observer 6 January 2019). The Labour right and the liberal Tories see the danger of Brexit as an opportunity to damage or stop Corbyn.

The democratic ‘party’ is comprised of those who support remain but have accepted the result. Corbyn is one of the leaders of this ‘party’ which includes McLusky, McDonnell and probably Abbott etc. The 2016 referendum enabled working class people to vote to remain or leave the EU. As democrats we recognise the value of working people being able to vote in elections and referenda.

This does not mean we are blind to the problems of ballots when money is king and all democracy can be gerrymandered and corrupted. We should never forget the serious failings of the 2016 referendum. This includes the exclusion of nearly three million EU citizens resident in the UK and the exclusion of the 16-17 year olds. Neither can we ignore the misuse of funds or the exploitation of big data.

Nevertheless it is better, on balance, to accept the result but NOT the right wing British nationalist interpretation of it. That must be contested, starting with England supporting the democratic rights of Ireland and Scotland. Furthermore nobody voted to leave the single market or the customs union since it was not on the ballot paper.

Corbyn has adopted aspects of the democratic case – accepting the 2016 result and opposing the call for a repeat-remain referendum. But he has not adopted a full democratic approach. He is an inconsistent semi-democrat. He failed to recognise the importance of Ireland and Scotland or their right to self determination. He has failed to recognise the rights of the working class to ratify or reject the May deal.

Instead of a strong line on democracy, Corbyn has a weak one. These weaknesses in his approach to democracy may enable the Labour right to drive a wedge between him and his younger supporters, especially in London, who are strongly for remain. That is what Andrew Rawnsley is calling for.

Meanwhile May was out campaigning in her own people’s ‘referendum’ on her deal. She told Andrew Marr that ‘on the doorstep’ the vast majority she met were sympathetic and wanted her to crack on so we could get back to normal politics. Business was ‘voting’ for her deal too. The only thing missing from May’s ‘referendum’ is that working class people are not allowed to vote. She doesn’t trust us!

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Democracy and class interests

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.

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Another Kingdom

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.

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Boycott present difficulties

This was published in Weekly Worker before Theresa May’s deal became public and a new stage of the crisis began. It criticises the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) for hiding behind the idea of boycotting all referenda as a matter of principle.

The recent CPGB members aggregate seems to conclude that “the working class must take responsibility for changing direction” without any clue as to what that might be. It is no good avoiding present dilemmas and contradictions with abstract calls for a socialist Europe.

Boycotting the last referenda and then the next one has the advantage of consistency but the CPGB has boycotted everything in between. Criticising all other views, except those you are ignoring, without stating your own, makes Weekly Worker a commentator on events not an agitator.

The case for a ‘democratic England in a democratic Europe’ is that England must be ‘democratised’ and become the most advanced democracy within a United States of Europe. I make no claims about the future of Ireland, Scotland or Wales or what democratic relationship these nations will want to have with the rest of Europe.

Weekly Worker “What we fight for” statement calls for a “United States of Europe” or as we say a European federal republic. This democratic slogan expresses a very different position from the liberals who want to remain in the existing European Union. It is different from ‘left-remainers’ who want to remain and put Corbyn in charge of the EU.

Longer term democratic strategic aims are significant but what is the link to the present? The CPGB advocates nothing except why everybody else is wrong. Forget about whether another referendum is a good or bad thing. Is the CPGB in favour of remaining in the EU or leaving the EU? You can boycott a referendum. But you cannot avoid the question about whether the CPGB is in favour of remaining or leaving the EU.

So far the CPGB has failed to draw distinctions between remain (and left-remain) versus a democratic exit or between a repeat referendum and a ratification referendum. It is nearly as bad as saying you haven’t noticed a distinction between Chuka Umunna and Jeremy Corbyn when the former is a remainer and the latter supports a (version of) democratic exit.

‘Democratic exiters’ are those on the remain side who accepted the referendum result as the best way of dealing with the problem of a divided working class. It is the duty of communists to draw sharp lines which delineate all positions including shades of opinion. All CPGB writers have done so far is to fudge the differences and thus help to big up the liberals.

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United States of Europe

When an estimated 600,000 march for a Peoples Vote then something significant is happening. The Crown is not going to take any more notice than they did with the Iraq war demo. Add to this the equal pay strike by women in Glasgow and we can see a serious crisis is brewing up. Divisions at the top and people on the streets are a significant combination.

In previous Weekly Workers three democratic demands were highlighted.

• For a democratic exit
• For a ratification referendum
• For a democratic England in a democratic Europe

There is a sharp distinction between “Democratic Exit” and “Remain” (and “Left Remain”). Even an idiot can recognise that. There is also a clear difference between a ratification referendum and a second-repeat referendum. The former says “do you support or reject the Tory deal”? The latter says for a second time “Do you want to Remain in the EU”?

A democratic exit means carrying out the democratic mandate from 2016 when Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain and England and Wales voted to leave. This has been called the Denmark-Greenland option. The Tories never had any intention of respecting the democratic mandates given by the people of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

English chauvinists do not recognise “Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales” as having any political meaning. The Tories recognise their chums in the DUP, helping them to steal the referendum result with the slogan “Brexit means Brexit”. It means whatever they want. May is now desperately trying to construct a deal which satisfies Big Business and the City of London and keeps the Tory Party from destroying itself.

For May and the Tories it is a ‘Deal’ or ‘No Deal’. If ‘No Deal’ then she has failed and must hand over the keys of Downing Street. That will surely mean a new Tory leader and the demand for a general election would become unstoppable. If the Tories then refused a general election the working class would surely take to the streets.

If May comes up with any Deal then there will be a ratification process. Labour and the CPGB have placed their trust in parliament to decide. No democrat would trust a rotten parliament. On democratic grounds, the people have the right to scrutinise the Tory deal and ‘recall’ the government. Any deal with the EU must be made accountable to the people, the vast majority being working class people.

The Labour leadership thinks parliament will block the deal and thus force May out or a general election. But who might back May’s deal and sabotage Corbyn? The answer is surely some Labour MP’s on the Peoples Vote march. In the Evening Standard (23 October 2018) Anne McElvoy says “the opposition, rather than the Government, will decide the endgame of Brexit negotiations”.

She explains “a sizeable number of Labour MPs regard Brexit as too important to be left to the mercies of a leadership (i.e. Corbyn) whose only interest in negotiations is as a tactical tool to bring about a quick general election”. Hence the Tories are counting on securing enough Labour support to get the deal through parliament.

If the Tory Deal gets through the Commons then it is goodbye to a Corbyn government for a few more years. May will be declared a hero who saved the country. Surely Labour MPs would not betray their leader? Downing Street only needs about 20 or 30 Labour traitors who would ‘save jobs’ as an act of patriotic duty and torpedo Corbyn at the same time.

The Israeli embassy could not have come up with a better plot than that. McElvoy reports that “Camp Corbyn is starting to realise it cannot rely on MPs it has treated with disdain to vote down any imaginable deal”. It is naive for the CPGB to support parliamentary ratification against the right of the people to decide. This is why a ratification referendum is the people’s democratic backstop.

The Tory government and the Brexit gang have ruled it out. Labour has not ruled it out but has kicked it into the long grass with much vacillation and confusion. Labour is calling instead for a general election. This is not going to happen unless May is overthrown, either by Tory MPs and the DUP, or the Commons or by defeat in a ratification referendum.

If May gets a deal she is safe from the Tories until the deal is put to parliament. If it gets through parliament she will likely make it to the next scheduled general election. Hence there are three hurdles for May’s survival. The first depends on the Tories and DUP, the second hurdle depends on Right wing Labour MP’s and the third depends on the people, the majority of whom are working class. A ratification referendum will not reverse the 2016 result but it could be the best or last chance to defeat May.

A democratic exit recognises the different mandates given by England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This is compatible with the battle for a more democratic Europe. The democratic aim is a united states of Europe – a fully integrated democratic federal republic which includes the right of nations to self determination. There is no place in a European republic for the Kingdoms of Spain, Denmark, Holland and Sweden. Catalonia, which has voted for a republic, would be welcome.

British liberals are all (constitutional) monarchists and some are even royalists. There is no way they want a federal republic of Europe. They stand for remaining under the undemocratic EU constitution and rule of the EU neo-liberal bureaucracy. Weekly Worker is wrong to ‘big up’ the liberals and fudge the distinction between a liberal and democratic approach to the 2016 referendum.

 

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Democratic Exit

It brings great satisfaction to see Tory Brexit hit the Irish buffers. Those reactionaries who aimed to break up the EU will surely bring about the end of the British Union. Try as they might, the Tories have not managed to square the Unionist circle. It is surely an irony of history that the British border with the EU is in Ireland and this will finally open the way to a united Ireland.

This week polls show that 77% of English Tory members would rather see Scottish independence than abandon Brexit. The same proportion would rather abandon the Irish peace process too. Ireland is in the front line not least because the Democratic Unionist Party has May by the proverbials. Scotland has been in low profile compared to Ireland. But anytime soon the SNP will take up cudgels.

The bigger picture is in England in the battle between the Anglo-British and Anglo-Europeans, divided between liberals and democrats. The Anglo-British reactionaries and ultra lefts are at pains to deny any democratic trend. They direct their fire against the liberals for working hand in glove with big business.

Our job is to uncover and highlight a democratic programme which starts from now and points to the future. A series of democratic demands – for a democratic exit, for a ratification referendum and for a democratic England in a democratic Europe – must be examined.

The Labour conference showed the political distinction between ‘remainer-liberals’ who want a second-repeat referendum and those like Corbyn, McDonell and McClusky who want a general election but may back the democratic demand for a ratification referendum. But what about a democratic exit?

In 2016 Corbyn accepted the majority vote to leave the EU. He supported remain but accepted the majority vote to leave. The reality is that the working class split down the middle. This is dangerous for the Labour Party and the working class movement. Socialists have to overcome that division not make it worse. This is a serious problem for Labour and a trap for Corbyn which so far he has side stepped.

Corbyn was quick to call for triggering Article 50. Liberal-remain Labour MPs attacked him for being weak and claiming he was a ‘secret’ leaver who opportunistically called for remain. Corbyn has made no case that leaving the EU is in the interests of the working class. Rather he says he has accepted the majority vote but wants the best deal for jobs and social protections.

Corbyn has not argued that leaving the EU is a step to socialism. He has not claimed there are any benefits for leaving the EU nor does he look forward to the bright future after we leave. His case is that we should respect a democratic vote. The best argument for the democratic approach is about finding the way to overcome a divided working class. Labour has to relate to the leave voting section of the working class and not leave them to become voting fodder for the Tory right and the fascists.

However Corbyn’s democratic approach is not consistently democratic. There are three key points. First we must keep protesting at the denial of the right to vote to two or three million EU citizens living and paying taxes in the UK. Second we must emphasise that people voted to leave the EU not the single market or customs union. A democratic exit from the EU is consistent with remaining in the single market and customs union.

The final point concerns democratic rights to self determination. Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU. The Tories ignored it. The Anglo-British ignored it. The English chauvinists ignored it. The left followed them. The Tories stand for one nation, the British nation, and one vote, the British vote.

In recognising that Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain we have a radically different view of what a democratic exit must mean. Greenland and Denmark are in the Kingdom of Demark. In 1985 Greenland left the EU and Denmark remained. They are still in one state. It is the Tories parking their tanks in Ireland and Scotland who are marching to the old tune ‘keep right on to the end of the road’. No surrender.

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