No Muslim, Bruv

I was planning to comment on last week’s paper but we have been overtaken by the terrible tragedy in Manchester. It is a city I love, having lived there for four years. So I want to record my condolences for all the families and friends who are suffering, all who died or are in hospital, and solidarity with all the people of Manchester.

It is important to make a sharp distinction between Muslims and terrorists. Muslims aren’t terrorists and terrorists aren’t Muslims. Of course terrorists might dress up as Muslims and even pray five times a day. It isn’t fooling me. Neither am I fooled when fascists fire bomb a mosque and call themselves ‘Christians’. As a young man shouted out during a terror knife attack in London “You ain’t no Muslim Bruv”.

So we have to be in solidarity with Manchester and with all Muslims whilst condemning this and all terror attacks on people. It is important to say that these terrorists are like fish that need water to swim in. If we can drain all the water they are left flapping about on the bottom of the lake. Calling terrorists “Muslims” is like filling up the lake with fresh water.

These terrorists are not Muslims and they aren’t going to heaven. For this reason we need to be in solidarity with all Muslims, who the fascists and the right wing Tory press are going to target. I would add that Muslims don’t need to start apologising any more than anybody else.

But we cannot duck the question as to why this stupid moron was so filled with hatred as to do such an inhumane anti-Muslim act. We all know the answer even if nobody likes to mention it. It is not an excuse just a fact of life. The UK has been waging war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria since 2003. Fourteen years later the UK remains in a state of permanent warfare. The UK is dropping massive bombs on Syria and Iraq right now. Some will say that Britain drops bombs humanely, only killing terrorists and not innocent children. If you can believe that you will fall for anything.

More tragedies like Manchester are not going to stop until there is peace in the Middle East. At the top of the list are the Palestinians who are often forgotten. The British bombing of Syria and Iraq is part of the problem not the solution. So don’t just blame the last Labour and Tory governments but Labour MPs like ‘bomber Benn’ who made one of the finest speeches on the need for massive bombing in the Middle East that the House of Commons has ever cheered.

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About fifteen years ago Leeds United went bankrupt and sold their ground, Elland Road, to a property business. The fans and the club have been paying for that mistake ever since. It has cost a small fortune in rents. It is like a private tax on supporters. Selling the ‘family silver’ is easy profit for the landlord class but a disaster for ‘consumers’ – fans, students, patients and passengers etc. We have all been screwed and we know it.

Privatised gas, electricity, water, railways and postal services have also proved expensive. Water is a basic monopoly yielding easy profits for the water barons. These profits are flowing abroad and mainly hidden in tax havens. We have to keep paying because we can’t do without water or indeed lots of the other stuff they own.

With a democratic revolution we can get it all back for free. But otherwise we have to pay. Labour is quite right not to include the cost of buying water back in their taxation and spending calculations. This is capital investment, and like all good capitalists, in planning to invest we have to borrow some or all of it. Trump did not become a billionaire without massive borrowing.

But how much will the country need to take out a mortgage on all our reservoirs? We can’t take out a mortgage on a house until we know the price of the house. We cannot know the price of these water assets until Corbyn has been elected. One current estimate is £42 billion. But the actual price is unknowable, not least because if Corbyn is elected the price of water assets will drop. Shares in water will dive as the owners try to run away with as much loot as they can stash in their pockets.

So I hope Leeds United will buy back its football ground and the country takes back its water assets. It is a price well worth paying. Otherwise we will continue to be screwed by the Water Mafia who can’t believe their luck. They are realists and know their licence to print money cannot go on forever and a day.

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Democratic Manifesto

Democratic Manifesto

The BBC’s Laura Tory Kunsberg asked Corbo the classic trap question “have you stopped beating your wife”? It was wrapped up as ‘will you leave the EU under all and every circumstance?’ Any sensible person would have to think before answering that hypothetical. Corbo repeats “we are leaving the EU”. “Yes but” says Tory ‘what if it is really really bad?’ ‘Will you back a totally shit Brexit? Yes or No?’ So here is headline news for the BBC and the Tory press.

It is not the sort of question anybody would ask May who says we are leaving the EU, the single market and the customs union no matter how disastrous. If necessary we will have a trade war with Germany. [Don’t forget we have the nukes just in case!] The Tories are ruthless. They would sacrifice anybody and anything for the good of their party. They want to harvest the votes of all the Anglo-British chauvinists. Nothing like ‘war’ and war mongering to ignite the UKIP wing of the Tory Party.

There are really three separate elections going on in parallel universes, which only become one because we vote on the same day. The first two elections are in England and Wales. The Tories are running a plebiscite on “strong and stable leadership” provided by a weak and unprincipled opportunist. Why does the country need an elected dictator? Because of the dangers of Brexit, silly! This is the Tory Brexit election plebiscite and so Laura Tory was on message with her question.

May’s record of twisting and turning is there for anybody to see. Never forget her two London vans with adverts of the side telling any immigrants to ‘go home’. It was a publicity stunt for May. She didn’t actually use the second van. It was only there so she could say there was more than one. The Tories are experts in wasting tax payers for the sake of vanity and a bit of racist publicity.

Of course her behaviour contrasts with the everyday Tory story of ‘Corbo-the-Weak’. For a man who has had more bombs dropped on him than the Second World War and emerges smiling from his bunker, it is truly remarkable. Strong leader battles on against all the odds. No wonder they hate him. Nobody is more dangerous than a man, or women, who doesn’t know when they are beaten. Corbo will not be the next Prime Minister or I will eat my porridge. If the polls are right it will be a heavy defeat. But a score draw would be a great result for Corbyn and equally bad for May. So it is all to play for.

Labour are running a different, and in some ways a more normal, election. They are focused on issues like health, education, taxing the rich and “for the many not the few”. We have yet to see the manifesto. Whatever it’s finer points we have to recognise that Corbyn is currently the political leader of the working class movement. However we should give no support to Labour’s fifth column of right wing (or New Labour) MPs whose main aim is to sabotage Corbyn at every opportunity. So we should give critical support for Corbyn and oppose all his right wing enemies in the Tory Party AND the Labour Party.

A third election is taking place in another country. The battle lines are drawn up in Scotland around the constitution and the related issue of a second independence referendum. On one side are reactionary or simply conservative Unionists who include the Orange Order, the Tories, UKIP, Liberal Democrats and Scottish Labour. The present period has seen the growth of the Tories, who under Davidson have become the hard core militant fighters defending the British Union against ‘nationalism’.

On the other side are the national democrats and internationalist democrats, or anti-Unionists. All are demanding more democracy and self government for Scotland including the right to decide on remaining in the EU. These include the SNP, Green Party, Scottish Socialist Party, Rise, Left Unity and the SWP. Looked at from England there is only one position to take. We must critically support anti-Unionists and totally expose and condemn the Anglo-British chauvinists, especially the English social chauvinists.

So in conclusion the socialist movement needs to fight this election with its own independent democratic manifesto and not see it as simply or primarily about ‘supporting’ this and ‘opposing’ that. I would propose the following democratic demands for consideration.

• Democratic Exit from the EU
• Repeal the Act of Union
• Parliament for England
• Commonwealth of England
• Democratic NHS and public sector
• Democratic republican United States of Europe

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Repeal the Union

Repeal the Union

The Tories, UKIP, Liberal Democrats and Labour have all refused to recognise that Scotland voted, as did Northern Ireland, to remain in the EU. This is the one fact that every democrat, never mind socialist, should recognise and defend.

As socialists we should be campaigning for a Great Repeal Act. Not the one the Tories want for Europe, but the repeal of the 1707 Act of Union. At a stroke the Scottish Parliament and people would secure their sovereignty and hence the right of the Scottish people to decide for themselves whether to remain in the EU and maintain free movement and existing workers rights or not. It is their decision. Only the Tories and the other English inspired chauvinist parties would deny it.

Repealing the Act of Union does not rule out any closer relationship with England. It does not as such preclude any decision to be part of a new republic. On the contrary political action from ‘England’ to end the Union makes genuine internationalism possible. Indeed it is a precondition for it. This is a policy for the international working class, not some opportunism designed to help Corbyn win the general election. It is too late for that. The die is already cast on Labour’s Manifesto.

It seems like only yesterday that I stood as a Republican Socialist in Bermondsey and Old Southwark against Simon Hughes and Neil Coyle. Since Coyle won his seat he has become one of the Jeremy Corbyn’s chief tormentors and back stabbers. I stood as the first anti-Unionist socialist candidate in England. I started my campaign in Glasgow, one of the best places to highlight the need for English anti-Unionism.

On May Day 2015 I launched the “Manifesto For Democracy” outside the parliament calling for the Palace of Westminster to be closed down before it fell down. The democratic message was well received by those who heard it. But it wasn’t a vote winner. The opportunist politicians were fanning the flames of English chauvinism not least Simon Hughes in his infamous article in the London Evening Standard. Cameron himself played the anti Scottish card a big factor in his victory.

The good people of Bermondsey did not support my campaign with their precious votes. I don’t blame them. Somebody claimed that Cameron got the most votes in England and I got the worst. I felt it was a neat juxtaposition of the past and the future. In a conservative country the past is way more popular than the future.

A year later the past was in the bin, no doubt making a small fortune for services rendered, only to be replaced by something even worse. I am pleased report the future is making steady progress not least when Left Unity adopted an anti-Unionist stance.
Many more socialists have rejected the 1707 Act of Union. I am not surprised that one of Queen Anne’s vilest Acts is now hated and despised by anybody who has thought about it. There are hardly any communists and no real democrats left who don’t condemn it.

The 1707 Act of Union secured stability for the ruling class at home and the bloody profits from slavery abroad. Queen Anne abolished the Scottish parliament because she did not want it to be used as a platform for rebellious subjects. She wanted to secure the future of the monarchy as a protestant institution. All this was tied up by bribery and access to slave plantations in the West Indies.

This law was intended to make sure Scotland would never have self determination. Scotland would be welded to England ‘forever’. There was no getting away from it. Scotland could only be represented at Westminster where Scottish MPs would be a permanent minority. In 1998 the arrival of a Scottish parliament undermined the 1707 Act. It blew a hole in the great ship ‘Britannia’. Now we can see the water flooding in.

Little did I realise that there would be a referendum within a year of the last general election. Brexit has given a new boost to Anglo-British chauvinism. In these conditions supporting this law is ignorant and short sited and amounts to political scabbing and a betrayal of the working class. It is not good enough to keep quiet or hide in a corner. A general election is a time to expose the poison of Anglo-British chauvinism which is slowly killing the English left.

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Really Palestine

Really Palestine

The battle over Palestinian rights and the oppression of the Palestinian people is being fought out in the Labour Party in the guise of an increasingly vindictive witch hunt against Ken Livingstone. The Zionists supported from the Israeli embassy, backed by the Tories, the Labour Right, the BBC, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel have mounted a campaign to damage Corbyn’s reputation, weaken his leadership and divide the Labour left. They have settled on Livingstone as their prime target.

Last Saturday Left Unity National Council passed a draft resolution which “condemns unreservedly the witch-hunt against Ken Livingstone”. Hopefully the full edited statement will be published in Weekly Worker next week. It is important that we all work together on this.

Left Unity is a separate party. But this is not just some internal Labour Party matter. If the Labour Party cannot take on the Palestine-witch hunt issue and ends up eating itself in a Zionist whirlwind, socialists outside Labour have to step up to the front. This is an issue for the whole working class and for Jewish and non-Jewish workers alike. Already many Jewish socialists in the Labour Party have spoken out against the witch hunt. But their voices are being ignored in the media.

Last Sunday I attended a timely meeting organised by CPGB to oppose the witch hunt. The meeting was addressed by Tony Greenstein and Mike McNair who examined the historical record of Nazi and Zionist politics in the 1930s and the political and legal aspects of the Livingstone case today. It was argued that most of the left had capitulated to the witch hunt beginning with Corbyn and Abbot, Momentum and the Alliance for Workers Liberty and the Socialist Workers Party. Tony Cliff would not be a happy at that.

The Zionists have deployed the weapon of Fake News to create the idea that ‘antisemitism’ has taken over the Labour Party since Corbyn was elected leader. Nobody had the effrontery to claim that Corbyn is antisemitic. So the story was fabricated that Corbyn has been soft and tolerated racism against Jewish members. Thanks to the BBC and the capitalist press everybody has heard about the ‘rise’ of antisemitism now engulfing Labour.

After searching for victims and picking for example on Jackie Walker, a socialist with a Jewish background, the hunters settled on Ken Livingstone. He has a record of support for Palestinian rights. When under attack he said, albeit in a slightly clumsy fashion, that Hitler and the Nazis had made agreements with Zionists to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine in the early 1930s, before the Nazis adopted the policy of mass extermination.

This story is historically accurate. Stating the facts is not antisemitic. It is part of the historical experience of Jewish people and in the interests of democracy and free speech that such facts are more widely known. The Haavara agreement involved the Zionist Federation of Germany and the Nazi government. No doubt it saved the lives of some German Jews sent to Palestine. But it saved the Nazis from a Jewish led international economic boycott which was weakening them.

It is valid to ask whether Zionism in the 1930s undermined the international antifascist movement. Yet this misses the point. This is not really about the 1930s. It is about Palestine and the policy of the Zionist Israeli government today. It concerns a struggle to oust Corbyn and restore a right wing pro-Israel Labour Party. Campaigning to expel Livingstone is a lever against Corbyn.

Zionism justifies colonial expansion, the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories and a Jewish supremacist state. The socialist answer is to condemn the witch hunt against Livingstone, defend the right for free speech on Israel and Palestine, and oppose Zionist ideology. Socialists have to turn the tables by transforming the witch hunt into the biggest Palestinian solidarity campaign the Labour Party has ever known.

Corbyn has to be criticised for failing to bring Palestine into this battle and make racism against Palestinians the central issue for the Labour Party. In the early 1930s a ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ type campaign nearly halted the Nazi regime, not least by giving encouragement to antifascist resistance in Germany. We must redouble our efforts to make sure the suffering of the Jewish people and their resistance to the Nazis can today inspire the Palestinian people and all who want justice and peace in the Middle East.

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There is a great deal I agree with in Steve’s article. In a later contribution to this discussion, I would like to develop Steve’s historic analysis, going back to the days of the Levellers, through the Chartists and on to the Suffragettes. However, in these observations, I will confine myself to the issue of federalism.

The political origins of the idea of British federalism go back to the first attempts to hold together the British Empire in North America, when faced by the challenge of American republicanism. It failed. The challenge of Irish republicanism and the War of Independence from 1919, led to a Westminster Speakers’ Conference. This recommended a federal solution for the UK. It too failed. Although it did, after Loyalist pogroms and reactionary unionist Partition, produce the earliest form of political Devolution in the UK – Stormont. No wonder, it was difficult for others later to win support for devolution in Scotland and Wales, when Stormont formed the precedent!

The idea of federalism appeared again in Gordon Brown’s last minute attempt to head off a ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. It has since reappeared in certain Labour circles, once again in response the challenge of a possible Scottish IndyRef2.

Steve’s article goes a long way to show why federalism is incompatible with a UK state based upon the Crown Powers. However, this incompatibility is also linked to the unionist nature of the UK state. It is these together, which make the UK incapable of ever being reformed beyond ‘Devo-Max’. But, even this is something for which the political forces are barely existent at present. Since Brexit, under May’s Tories, reactionary unionism rules the roost at the Westminster, and is thoroughly undermining the recent liberal unionist coalition over the constitution supported by Cameron’s Tories, neo-Blairite /neo-Brownite Labour, and the Lib-Dems -Devolution-all-round along with continued membership of the EU.

The politics of federalism, whenever it has been raised within the UK, has always represented a last ditch unionist attempt to preserve the UK. A federal UK has been Liberal Party policy for over a century, with no obvious effect on the UK constitution. Gordon Brown could not even see the difference between Devo-Max (where sovereignty remains with the Crown-in Parliament) and Federalism (where sovereignty is divided between an overarching federal assembly and the constituent nations making up the federation). But then Brown celebrates Union and Empire, so the republican principle of sovereignty lying with the people is of little concern to this particular Great British subject.

As Steve points out in his article, it was Tony Benn who produced the most thought out challenge to the existing UK constitution ever to reach Westminster. His 1996 Bill proposed a democratic and secular Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Wales. Significantly, this was also a time of rising national democratic challenges. And, mainly for the reasons Steve gives, Benn’s proposals quickly vanished leaving little trace.

Benn was for ending the monarchy and the UK’s sovereignty over Northern Ireland (the rump of Ireland still remaining in the UK after 1922). In this he was far more radical than any federal proposals ever likely to come from the current Labour Party leadership. Jeremy Corbyn may have been Benn’s seconder in 1996, but it is very unlikely that ending the monarchy or severing the UK state’s link with Northern Ireland will figure in Labour’s constitutional proposals. Corbyn is constantly looking for political fudges to keep the party’s dominant neo-Blairite party MPs, MSPs, MWAs and party apparatchiks on board. Underscoring this compromise between Left and Right. John McDonnell, a left federal convert and key Corbyn ally, will be working with Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour leader and neo-Brownite, federal convert, to come up with a new political smokescreen to defend the UK state.

Corbyn is not prepared to democratise his own party, so he is hardly likely to challenge the UK’s anti-democratic state in any fundamental way. Thus, any future Labour federal proposals can only amount to be another form of Devo-Max, to be wheeled out as a diversionary empty promise in any future Scottish independence campaign, just as we saw with Gordon Brown. However, unless things get really desperate, May and her reactionary unionist allies, who are now in control of the `UK’s constitutional future, are more likely to ignore any Labour Party ‘federal’ proposals this time and keep Gordon Brown locked away in the cupboard – where let’s admit it, he belongs anyhow. The time for any concerted liberal smokescreen to defend the UK state has largely passed. May has taken the Brexit vote as a mandate to “take back control” and reinforce all the most reactionary elements of the UK state. Any elements of the existing liberal unionist ‘Devolution-all-round’ settlement which get in her way will be overridden.

However, Steve, in his article, goes on to raise the possibility that, “the UK may one day be replaced by a federal republic of England, Scotland and Wales, as envisaged by Tony Benn”. I would argue that both the current global economic and political situation has made this not only pretty unlikely, but potentially retrograde step. Indeed any such attempt to follow this political path would more likely represent a last-ditch attempt to preserve the so-called gains of the British Union/UK. This would be similar to what happened in 1991, when the Union od Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) gave way, first to the attempted, but never realised, Union of Sovereign States under Gorbachev, before settling upon the Commonwealth of Independent States. Trying to defend the continued economic and imperial interests of Russia, with the aid of local former USSR satraps, now facing real challenges to their power, was the motive behind these moves. It doesn’t take much imagination to see a similar situation emerging in these islands, as the UK began to break up.

During and since the Brexit campaign, not only strong anti-immigrant sentiment, but also a disturbing depth of Little Englanderism and a Britishness, often, understood as Greater Englanderism, has been revealed within sections of the working class and the Labour Party in England. Thus, faced in the future with a more immediate prospect of the break-up of the UK, such unionist forces, with help from any remaining Labour unionist politicians in Scotland and Wales, could well attempt to salvage the situation with a new Union or Commonwealth. The left unionists would also draw upon the USSR experience, which they are so wedded to.

The one thing that the Brexit experience has surely taught us is that the best way to promote genuine internationalism amongst our class, throughout these islands and beyond, is not to promote the chimera of a “Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Wales”. We now have 2.9 million EU member country citizens living in the UK. The other states of the EU have many more millions of workers from other European countries, including the UK, living within them. To preserve and advance greater working class unity, we need to be fighting on the grounds of a federal, secular and social Europe.

Response by John Tummon

I agree with your argument and would, additionally, refer to the more general application  of federalist solutions to imperialist problems, always to protect and strengthen centralist hegemony.

Federal solutions were the preferred option in each of the ‘white colonies’ of Canada, Australia and South Africa, to deal with tensions between French and British settlers, white settlers and native Aborigines, Boer and British, on each occasion building centralism through the back door. The USA took the same route to dealing with the tensions and contradictions between an economy based on slave labour and one based on waged labour within the same state. The British Raj used federalism to hold together those states in which London ruled directly with those it ruled indirectly via native Princes, as well as to counter religious communalism In Nigeria, Lugard approached the differences between the Muslim north and Christian south in the same way. The imperialist powers of Britain and France applied federalist solutions to the former territories of the Ottoman, Romanov and Habsburg empires in 1919-24, creating federal states in the Balkans (Yugoslavia), as well as Czechoslovakia, Syria and Iraq. This continued the creation of compound territories in much of colonised Africa from the 1880s onwards. Sudan, French West Africa, Cameroon, the Congo and Kenya are key examples in which religious, linguistic and ethnic differences were dealt with by burying differences within compound territories which gave way, after nominal independence, to unionist states with federalist elements.

Much of this has been falling apart for some time and now, even the unionist states within Western Europe such as Spain and Britain, have had to adopt federalist solutions to retain centralist hegemony.

Imperial Federation was the early 20th century movement within upper class British circles which sought to bring the ‘white dominions’ and Britain together within the same formal state; inspired by Cecil Rhodes and funded from his legacy of plunder, it went through various guises before eventually giving way to Atlanticism, then European Economic integration, then back to Atlanticism.

Federalism has a long global history in the service of imperialist domination, as a means of achieving more economical rule, of dealing with differences within subject populations and of maintaining metropolitan power centres.

It is one of those concepts that has been uncritically adopted by the Left at various times out of a kind of social liberalism allied to spurious democratic notions of partial autonomy, Christian notions of ‘giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s’.

It has been temporarily halted by Brexit, but the long-term direction of history involves a gathering challenge to it and this is one that we need to support. Unionism and Federalism are two sides of the same coin.

John Tummon.

Reply by Allan Armstrong

When it comes to the role of federalism in the UK and British Empire I agree with John. However, I also think a difference has to be made between ‘federalism from above’ to maintain as much as possible of the existing socio-economic set-up (as the Federalists wanted in in the infant USA) and ‘federalism from below’ as a step towards greater unity, as in say a campaign for a federal, secular and social European Republic, or a United Socialist States of Europe.

There is also a need to draw a distinction between attempts to federalise non-national units, again the example of USA (e.g. Massachusetts, Alabama), and the example of the post-war German constitution imposed by the Allies (e.g. Westphalia and Bavaria); and attempts to federalise various nations (whether from above or from below). In the USSR the constituent republics were seen as nations, whereas the Russian Soviet Republic was itself a constitutional federation based on ethnographic-linguistic (not nation) units, such as Karelia, Yakutia and Chechenya.

The USSR was the only other specifically unionist state by title that I am aware of (Spain is a sort of half way house between a unionist centralised state, but with centrally approved asymmetrical devolved powers to constituent nations, e.g Catalunya and Euskadi and to regions. e.g. Andalucia). In the case of the UK, the Crown Powers deny any constitutional right to self-determination. In the case of the old USSR, each constituent republic had the constitutional right to self determination. However, the USSR constitution also gave a privileged role to the CPSU (which in practice meant it was a one-party state). Anyone seriously raising the issue of self-determination for any of the USSR’s constituent republic was quickly condemned for nationalist deviationism and would quickly find themselves in jail or worse. So the exercise of any meaningful self-determination was very much a Catch 22 situation. Or, another way of looking at it is that it was the CPSU which held the ‘Crown Powers’ – perhaps something understood in the USSR by those people who called Stalin the Red Tsar!

Allan Armstrong




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Open War

Open War

On 22 January 2017 Left Unity’s national secretary received a draft for an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn on rights of the Scottish people. On 9 February Left Unity Executive Committee replied. They decided not to write to Corbyn on this matter. The idea was raised at the RISE conference on 4 March. RISE took a similar view and rejected any such letter or a campaign.

The letter was drafted through consultation between three members of RISE and Left Unity with the intention that it would become a joint letter signed by both organisations. At least both anti-Unionist organisations did not fall out. If we cannot unite to do something at least we can to unite doing nothing.

It was an opportunity missed. It is always a good idea to get ahead of the game rather than follow sheepishly along in the wake of battle. A battle royal was surely about the kick off. This week it did when the elected Nicola Sturgeon stole the thunder from the unelected Theresa May by declaring the intention to hold a referendum.

May is fighting for a hard Tory Brexit. The Tories will be screwed if Scotland and Northern Ireland remain in the EU. Scotland, having previously voted to remain in the UK and the EU, cannot now do both. One way to solve this contradiction is force – forcing Scotland out of the EU against its will as expressed in 2016 referendum.

Force starts with imposition and ends in war. The Tories want to block or prevent a consultative referendum. But they are realists. If they can’t stop it they will delay it to a time of their choosing. If they can’t do that, they will mobilise all their forces in the state, the loyalist parties and the media to prevent the end of the UK. It would be an irony if the unintended consequence of Brexit was a new Anglo-Welsh world super power.

Letters are neither here nor there. It is the politics that counts. Open letters are a long established method of political struggle connected to the united front. Left Unity and Rise would jointly declare war on the Tory government and the policy of the Labour Party. But this is only part of the story. The Open Letter is aimed at a united front between Corbyn’s socialist Labour, Left Unity, RISE and Momentum and indeed the rest of the left in order to fight Tory Brexit.

The main enemy identified in the letter is the Tory government determined to impose a hard anti-working class Tory Brexit on the whole UK. They gerrymandered the referendum by excluding sizable groups of voters. The letter does not identify Corbyn with the Tory enemy but appeals to him saying “the Tory referendum on the EU presents us with the challenge of finding a progressive democratic and internationalist way out of the mess they have landed us in”.

Opposition to an anti-Unionist united front comes from the Tories, UKIP and the right wing of the Labour Party committed to the interests of the British ruling class. They are demanding Corbyn joins their popular front to defend the UK. The socialist wing of the Labour Party is thus caught on the horns of a dilemma. Should they back the Tories, as Gordon Brown did, whilst trying to keep a safe distance to deceive the working class? Or should they adopt a novel or indeed ‘revolutionary’ approach. Left Unity and RISE have to show they are relevant to this battle if they are to be relevant at all.

One explanation for the reluctance of Left Unity and RISE to unite and fight the class enemy is simply that both organisations are not ready to fight or are simply too weak. We can respect that if it is honestly admitted but not if it is concealed by excuses and general flim-flam.

The other obvious reason is sectarian politics which rejects the fight for the united front. In Scotland a strong opinion among ultra lefts and sectarians that Corbyn is irrelevant. This is parochial nationalism of the worst type. Corbyn is still seen as dangerous because he encourages working class action. There is no doubt that Corbyn is connected to the working class and trade union movement in England where by far the largest section of the working class is concentrated.

International socialists in Scotland recognise this fact and it figures in their calculations about building an anti-Unionist alliance with international socialists in England. Anti-Unionism has to be fought both sides of the border and especially among the English working class, as does the inevitable growth of national chauvinism especially in England.

Left Unity and RISE are embryonic anti-Unionist socialist parties. They are stronger campaigning together and weaker apart. This open letter did not bark. It is a wakeup call. There is no future for parties that are not ready or able to fight over the big political issues of the day. There is no bigger issue than the very future of the Kingdom.

Draft Open Letter January 2017

Dear Jeremy,

In the EU referendum England (53%) and Wales (53%) voted to leave the EU. Scotland (62%) and Northern Ireland (56%) voted to remain. Given the position of the Irish Republic then there is a majority to remain in the whole of Ireland. We should not forget the Tories distorted the result by excluding 1.6 million EU citizens living in the UK and all 16-18 year olds from the ballot.

The Tories will try to impose their version of Brexit on the whole of the UK. It is vital that the Labour Party and the trade union movement respect the democratic votes in Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain in the EU. It is clear that Scotland and Northern Ireland cannot remain in the EU and the UK, particularly in the face of hard line Tory Unionism.

British Exit is creating or adding to a constitutional crisis. Hence we note your call for a “constitutional convention” as recognition of the need for radical democratic change. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell called for a “radical federal” UK. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called for a “new Act of Union”.

BBC News reported your views on an independence referendum. You said “the agreement has been that a second one could be held” if it was wanted by the Scottish Parliament. You added: “I don’t see the need for one, I’m not asking for one, I don’t think she (Nicola Sturgeon) should call one.” (BBC News 12 January 2017).

The United Kingdom is a multi-nation state and a constitutional right of nations to self determination must apply to Scotland, currently partitioned Ireland and Wales. It is not for the English people to impose on Scotland or part of Ireland the decision to leave the EU, in defiance of their democratically expressed will. It is vital that democrats and socialists stand for the rights of these nations to make democratic decisions on whether to remain in the UK or the EU.

The Tory referendum on the EU presents us with the challenge of finding a progressive democratic and internationalist way out of the mess they have landed us in. The most radical and democratic solution is for Scotland and Northern Ireland to leave the UK. This would enable workers in Scotland and Ireland to benefit from free movement and build closer links with European workers. However this is for the Scottish and Irish people to decide by democratic means.

We are calling, as a matter of urgency, on you, the Labour Party, Momentum and all progressive forces to pledge that the Scottish and Irish people can hold a referendum on leaving the UK. This must be included in the Labour Party Manifesto.

In comradeship

(National Secretaries)

On behalf of Left Unity and RISE

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English chauvinism

English chauvinism

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, addressed the Scottish Labour Party conference to tell them that “seeking to break up the Union will only to fuel harmful divisions caused by the election of the controversial US President and the Brexit Vote.” (1) Khan condemned the SNP plan for a referendum. He claimed that the right response to the Brexit vote was “to build a more United Kingdom”.

Surely a better response to Trump and Brexit is for the people of Scotland to remain in a Union with the Germans, French and Spanish and a few more nations too numerous to mention. It is what they voted for in the most recent referendum. What is so important about England that it trumps all other considerations? Khan speaks as an English nationalist. What is best for his nation is best for all. It does not enter his head that Scotland might be better off with Denmark, Ireland and Sweden than remaining in Theresa May’s pro-Trump Brexit Britain.

Khan is not the first English chauvinist blinded by his own national arrogance. It is patently untrue that “there is no difference between those who try to divide us on the basis of whether we are English or Scottish and those who try to divide us on the basis of our background (he surely means class), race or religion”. (1) Khan is not the first Englishman to come up with this theory of “no difference” between a bus driver and stock broker or that supporting Scotland or Ireland’s right to self determination is no different from racism, fascism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. He certainly won’t be the last.

Look no further than Cameron. On the day of the 2014 Scottish referendum result, Cameron stood on the steps of Downing Street to call for ‘English votes for English laws’. Here is one ‘difference’. Scotland has a parliament and England does not. Of course in a federal system there would be an English parliament elected by voters in England. The present constitution is a horrible mess of complexity and confusion, unbalanced by semi-federalism. It cannot last much longer.

But this wasn’t a rational discussion on the byzantine complexity of the UK constitution. Cameron was playing the ‘English card’ as a Tory dog whistle for alienated English. He was fanning the embers of resentment against enemies on the other side of Hadrian’s Wall. The theme of Tory chauvinist propaganda is that Scottish people are living the life of Reilly at our generous expense. Of course the Tories love conservative law-abiding Scots but hate the ungrateful Scottish nationalists who, in Khan’s words, are “seeking to break up the Union”. They love workers as much as they hate ‘divisive’ strikers!

The EU referendum showed the ‘Prisoners of Mother England’ are angry and some are mad as hell. Some of her prisoners are on drugs and others are into self harm. Many want to kick the crap out of their fellow prisoners. Her Majesty’s prison warders, in charge of the hell hole, have tried desperately to distract them with fake news about immigrants, the European Union, the troublesome Irish and last but not least rebellious Scots.

Great English chauvinism is a weapon of the British ruling class. Cameron deployed it in the 2015 general election to finish off Milliband’s version of New Labour. The Tories kept their best weapon for Liberal Democrat voters in the key marginal constituencies. They tested Milliband’s patriotic virility by claiming that a vote for Labour would help the SNP. He was not found wanting. There was no way he would have an alliance with the nationalist SNP. He would rather lose the election than suffer that ignominy.

Like fear of immigrants, fear of the SNP caused panic in Labour ranks and persuaded voters in key marginals to back the Tories. It is ironic that Cameron’s anti-Scottish election victory delivered a solid block of fifty SNP MPs, opened the way for Jeremy Corbyn, led the country out of the EU and to the brink of a Scottish exit from the UK. Cameron acted out his ‘Flashman’ role as the upper class opportunistic English chauvinist. It ‘worked’ for him. As Khan has shown, since Brexit it is a card that Desperate Labour is ready to use. But the real problem is closer to home. The left in England is terrified of the English question and guilty of chauvinism by neglect. In that neglect are the seeds of the radical lefts failure to connect with the people.

Steve Freeman
Rise and Left Unity
(1) Independent 25 February 2017

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Article 50

Professor A C Grayling told his audience at the recent Putney Debates in St Mary’s church that he had been opposed to Scottish independence in 2014 but had now changed his mind. He was now in favour of it. What had changed his mind was Brexit. He says “a mere 37% of the gerrymandered electorate voted Leave”. He blamed this on Cameron who “lazily and thoughtlessly allowed the referendum to be poorly organised” by excluding young people and EU citizens living and paying taxes in the UK. He concluded “had they voted in the EU referendum the result would have been markedly the other way. Their exclusion was gerrymandering.” (1)

This week the issue is the triggering of Article 50 to start negotiations. Corbyn is in a no win situation – damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. This is generally how Corbo gets a bad press whatever he does, every day of the week. On article 50 he really is between a rock and a hard place. What should he do?

Hard Brexit is the hardest anti-working class policy not only for UK workers but for workers in the EU. Hard Brexit must be fought tooth and nail, the only question is how? First the working class is seriously divided and that must be recognised and taken into account. Second hard anti-working class Brexit will not be defeated in parliament. Nobody should have any illusions in the House of Commons or Lords.

The Commons is out of touch and will prove once again to be a pliant tool of the Crown. Nobody should have any faith or belief that the Commons can or will defeat anti-working class Brexit. If there is endorsement or rejection of the dodgy and corrupt deal Her Majesty’s government will come up with, it is far better to put it to the people. Who should vote on the Tory deal? Trust the people or trust MPs? It is no contest. There should be a referendum on the final deal. Let the case be made, tested and contested in the workplaces, on the streets and in our communities.

The real battle over Brexit will have to take place outside Parliament. This phoney struggle between MPs and parties inside parliament is only useful in so far as it educates working class people about the true state of affairs and what is to be done by the working class movement to unite and mobilise working class direct action.

Corbyn has done one thing correctly. He has put the parliamentary Labour Party behind the idea of a democratic mandate on Article 50. The question is what is a democratic mandate? Is it a British Unionist or UK mandate? Is it a mandate from local constituents? Is it a mandate from the people of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales? The latter is the only democratic mandate that Corbyn should accept. It is the only option if you are prepared to do battle outside parliament.

The people of Scotland and Northern Ireland (and the rest of Ireland) have voted to remain in the EU. The people in England and Wales voted to leave. These votes are a nail in the coffin of the UK. All people around the world who have been victims of British imperialism will rightly be happy about that. Brexit is about a revamp of British imperialism, more firmly dependant on and subservient to the United States and the newly elected King Donald the First.

The parliamentary Labour Party has split between British Unionists who will be voting under their three line whip to trigger Article Fifty and localists who take their mandate from their constituencies. It would be political suicide if every Labour MP voted along the lines of their constituency. It would split the Labour Party even more deeply than the Tories have been divided over Europe.

If we were standing in Corbyn’s shoes what should we do? Or to put it another way what would a revolutionary democrat do in the face of this dilemma? In the first case Corbyn should instruct his Scottish MP to vote against Article 50 taking the mandate from the Scottish people. This is what the SNP has done. He should instruct his English and Welsh MP’s to vote for triggering EU negotiations. If he did this he would send out a signal to people outside parliament how the battle is going to go.

On the other hand a revolutionary democrat would recognise the right of nations to self determination and the sovereignty of the people. Conservative Tories, liberal unionists and conservative communists have one overriding principle in the preservation of the British Crown and British Union. Defending the Great British nation instead of ending it as quickly as possible is nothing other than reactionary stupidity. In the post Brexit world the British Union is heading backwards towards the British Union of Fascists.

Corbyn’s socialism is rooted in liberal democracy not revolutionary democracy. He is right to attend to the ‘will of the people’ and a democratic mandate not least because of the divisions in the working class. But he has no more recognised the democratic rights of the Scottish or Irish people than Theresa May. May, a hard line Unionist and anti-working class Brexiteer has already declared she will drive her tanks all over Scotland and Northern Ireland. Corbyn is now tying himself into that with fatal consequences.

(1) Professor AC Grayling The New European 27 January 2017

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Devolution in Reverse

Devolution is not just going in reverse. The Devolution settlement is a dead duck, swept aside by the Brexit counter-revolutionary steamroller. In a moment of crisis it turns out the Scottish parliament has no power and Scotland can look forward to a decade of Tory rule as a prisoner of the greatest neo-liberal trader and tax haven on the planet.

There is no democratic mandate for the Crown to take Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the Europen Union. In 2014 Scotland voted to remain in the UK and in 2016 voted to remain in the EU. This is a contradiction which overturns assurances given to Scottish voters in 2014 that remaining in the UK was the way to stay in the EU. It may be possible to patch it up with a dirty deal between Sturgeon and May. But the democratic solution is for the Scottish people, not politicians and bureaucrats, to vote and decide in a referendum.

There must be a second referendum in Scotland. This must ask the Scottish people if, in the light of England’s decision to leave the EU, they want to remain in the UK or in the European Union. This is too important to leave it up to Sturgeon and the SNP. This is not a repeat of the 2016 Tory referendum but is consequential to it. Ireland faces the same problem.

The situation in Ireland has its own logic. In the North fifty three per cent voted to remain in the EU and there is even larger support in the Republic. Yet once again, as it has been for centuries, the position of Ireland will be decided by the British Crown. The ending of the Stormont government by Sinn Fein because of the “cash for ash” corruption scandal reflects the worsening relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein. Bring into this explosive mix the border question, and the carefully constructed ‘Power Sharing’ house of cards may be in serious trouble.

The constitutional problems continue to mount. Devolution is not federalism but a barrier to it. It is not self determination but a road block against it. In devolving some powers, the Crown retains what it needs whenever it needs it. It must seize all the power it can get right now, taking back power from the Westminster parliament and from the devolved assemblies. It is a power grab brought on by the crisis of Brexit.

The Supreme Court has partly derailed that. The judges ruled that the powers of the Crown, so-called prerogative powers, cannot be used to bypass parliament on Article 50. They decided by eight to three it requires parliamentary approval. However the Devolved assemblies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have no powers or rights in this matter. Her Majesty’s judges were unanimous on this.

The Court pronounced that “on the devolution issues, the court unanimously concludes that neither section 1 nor section 75 of the NIA is of assistance in this case, and that the Sewel Convention does not give rise to a legally enforceable obligation.” Lord Neuberger said that “relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK Government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions.” Assurances given were not worth the paper they were written on.

Lord Neuberger recognised that “withdrawal from the EU will alter the competence of the devolved institutions, and remove the responsibilities to comply with EU law.” Blair’s Devolution settlement has been exposed as a hollow shell. The Scottish people and Scottish Parliament have to wait to be told their fate as the biggest constitutional and economic change is forced on them against their will.

Christian Allard, a French Scot, who served as an MSP for the SNP between 2013 and 2016, said: “Devolution is an illusion, devolution is no more. And the ruling is proving that devolution is just an illusion. Devolution died today. No surprise, just a proof that power devolved is power retained.”

England’s crisis is Ireland’s opportunity. If Ireland is ready to fight to remain in the EU then the battle over the Irish border is set to commence. Together Scotland and Ireland can finally end three hundred years of British Unionism, which is no more than an excuse for English chauvinism and bossy Thatcher type bullying.

Brexit is the greatest crisis that England has faced since the Second World War. Devolution saved the Union and Brexit has wreaked it. We are in a period of the phoney war like early 1940. No bombs have started to fall. The war of words is brewing up. Various war plans were being put in place. Corbo is leading his troops into the Tory-Unionist trenches. Very soon, in the next year, all hell is going to break loose.

Steve Freeman
Left Unity and Rise

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