Studied Ambiguity

Carla Roberts (Weekly Worker 1255 13 June 2019) reports on the Peterborough election which highlighted the crisis in the Labour Party over the Brexit referendum, anti-Semitism and trigger ballots to recall Labour MPs. She describes Corbyn’s policy on the referendum as “studied ambiguity” which the Labour Party Marxists have also signed up for.

Carla says “from a limited electoral perspective Corbyn’s position still makes a lot of sense. Coming out firmly on either side of the binary debate will do nothing to increase Labour’s chance in the ballot box”. She adds that “Corbyn quite rightly refuses to pick a side, he has also not attempted to break out of his false ‘in or out’ dichotomy”.

Corbyn has taken sides. He has refused to side with the Ultra-Leave or Ultra-Remain, but has taken his stance as a ‘Remain-Democrat’. He is somebody who campaigned to remain but accepted the decision to leave. This is what the Labour Party did in 2016 and in the 2017 election manifesto. He has tried to find a version of leave which protects working class interests.

This is an honourable approach to take. More than this, it is political good sense not least because of the divisions in the working class, the Labour Party and amongst Labour voters. My criticism is not about compromise, but that he has not found the right kind of compromise. He should have looked more carefully at the democratic mandate from 2016 and married this with the interests of the working class.

However this is not simply about Corbyn. It is Labour policy that should be examined not least because Corbyn doesn’t stray far from it. Labour’s 2018 Brexit resolution includes the following: “Conference accepts that the public voted to leave the EU” and that “Conference believes we need a relationship with the EU that guarantees full participation in the Single Market”.

“Conference also believes a no-deal Brexit should be rejected as a viable option and calls upon Labour MPs to vigorously oppose any attempt by this Government to deliver a no-deal outcome”. A number of Labour MPs did not act in line with this policy recently in parliament. They should be called to account and face a trigger ballot.

Along with the Zionist inspired ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign, the key issue to oust Corbyn and defeat the socialist movement is the liberal demand for a second-referendum with a remain question. This is being pressed by Alistair Campbell, Tom Watson, Emily Thornberry, Paul Mason, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Another Europe etc.

This Ultra-Remain attack cannot be defeated or even beaten back without deploying the weapon of working class democratic demands. The Labour Party conference, influenced by working people through their trade unions, spells out the answer. “Conference notes that when trade unions have a mandate to negotiate a deal for their members, the final deal is accepted or rejected by the membership”. It adds that if the government gets a deal which benefits working people “they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public”.

Trade unions enable working people to vote to ratify or reject negotiated deals. The People voted ‘Out’ say the Ultra Leavers (Farage, Rees Mogg etc ) but ‘Out’ only means ‘Out’ when the people (i.e. a majority) decide what ‘Out’ means by voting on it. We have to be able to debate and vote on the actual deal we have been offered, not the vague fantasy Brexit from 2016.

Carla praises Corbyn for refusing to “pick a side” between Ultra Leave and Ultra Remain, but criticises him for not attempting to break out of this false ‘in or out’ dichotomy”. I blame the Labour Party Marxists who have done nothing to help Corbyn break out of this trap. The democratic trade union practice of ratification replaces “this false ‘in or out’ dichotomy” with democratic dichotomy between ‘yes or no’.

Carla and the LPM have offered us a false choice between the Stalinist opposition to the working class having the right to vote in a referendum and the liberal demand for a second referendum slogan to overturn the first masquerading as democracy. Neither Stalinism nor liberalism has the answer to the democratic problem posed by the 2016 referendum.

The 2018 Labour conference never called for a second referendum with a remain question. The resolution said “Should Parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no-deal, Conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate General Election”.

It adds that “If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote”. There is no reason for “studied ambiguity” on this. A public vote is no more than a ratification referendum. It was Keir Starmer and the right wing of the Labour Party who have tried to turn “remaining on the table” into a ‘remain question’.

The Labour Party Marxist policy, whether it is Stalinist opposition to the working class having the right to ratify, or merely “studied ambiguity” over diffent kinds of referendum helps the right wing of the Tories, the right wing of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats who are aided and abetted by socialists like Paul Mason and Another Europe who are acting as their ‘useful idiots’.

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