Hong Kong

I thought Corbyn did well against ‘All Mouth and No Trousers’ in the Great Debate. He had the best one liner about suffering nine years under the Tory ‘Coalitions of Chaos’. We nearly went ‘all constitutional’ when Johnson said the institution of the monarchy is above reproach and Corbyn said it needs improvement. Both swore to defend the Union by opposing another Scottish referendum. Johnson will never allow it and Corbyn kicked it somewhere into the long grass and nobody quite knows where.

Republicans call for the monarchy to be scrapped and support Scotland’s right to self determination. The Scottish people must have the right to decide if they want a referendum on independence. It is not for a Johnson or Corbyn government to deny people their democratic rights. Republicans should oppose the whole of the UK leaving the EU (British Exit) but as democrats recognise the referendum result and as socialists recognise the significance of a divided working class.

Republicans understand the mandate from England and Wales to leave and Northern Ireland and Scotland voting to remain. Nobody voted to leave the single market or the customs union. There is no mandate for that. Listening to how people voted and delivering those mandates leads to a ‘Denmark-Greenland’ (one state-two nations) deal. This or any deal must be put to the people in a ratification referendum which allows all resident EU citizens and all sixteen and seventeen year olds to vote.

Corbyn has not adopted the republican position on the EU (or the monarchy or Scotland) but is not far away. He was weakest on the EU where he lacked a clear answer. On Brexit he has a good story to tell. He is a ‘remain-democrat’ who campaigned for remain but accepted the majority (in England and Wales) voted to leave. As a socialist he is right to make the issue of a divided working class central to his position. He has fought every Tory Brexit – the May Deal, No Deal and the Johnson Deal and played a major role in stopping the UK leaving on 29 March and 31 October.

If Johnson wins a majority and can get his deal through the Commons then the demand for a ratification referendum is a valid democratic demand. Republicans should continue to oppose a second referendum or a remain question. If Corbyn wins a majority then Labour has a mandate to negotiate a soft Labour Brexit and then offer a referendum with a remain question.

Corbyn appears to be boxed in by a hypothetical question of how he would vote if he became PM and then negotiated a softer Labour Brexit. He cannot simply say “remain” since this would destroy the credibility of his negotiating plan. But he should say he intends to negotiate a “Great Deal” which can win a majority in the country. Then he will recommend voting for it as the best way to unite people.

However if it turns out he only achieves a “Moderately Good” deal he can tell the people to vote against it. That is what trade union negotiators can do. Once a deal is done and the fine print is clear any honest trade union negotiator could urge workers either to support it or reject it depending on how good it is. Hence Corbyn can say what he will recommend either Deal or Remain which cannot be known until the negotiations are complete.

Neither this TV debate nor even the royal crisis over the ‘Prince and the Paedophile’ is the most significant event this week. The most important is the heroic struggle by young democrats in Hong Kong. They have put up a brave and tremendous battle against the violence of the Hong Kong police fully armed with gas and guns and every possible weapon.

It has been inspiring to see their revolutionary democratic struggle against overwhelming force. It looks like they have been defeated. However it seems they have kept the continuing support of the majority of Hong Kong people who are still coming out on the streets in solidarity and bravely shouting abuse at their brutal police. Hong Kong workers are the key to victory. What starts in Hong Kong cannot stay there. The Tories sold Hong Kong to China without democracy and the right to vote. Hong Kong’s ‘crisis of democracy’ has led to the brink of a democratic revolution which needs actions by millions of working people to win.

20 November 2019

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