AN OPEN LETTER TO THOSE LEXITERS* OPPOSED TO A SECOND EU REFERENDUM, BUT TOO NERVOUS TO CALL A DEMO FOR A ‘FREE UK’ TO IMMEDIATELY BREAK WITH THE EU, WORRIED WHO MIGHT TURN UP!
June 24th hasn’t quite panned out as you Lexiters claimed it would. All those workers “justified” in supporting Brexit have not followed up their crushing victory over Cameron by taking to the streets or striking against the Tories’ austerity drive; nor does a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party look particularly likely to replace the Tories in any immediate general election.
You put down that British chauvinism and overt racism in the EU referendum campaign to the leadership of the Tory Right and UKIP. But Johnston and Farage have gone. Yet, there is still a rising wave of hate crimes, which is not being organised by these forces. It represents a much deeper racism that you have been in denial about. Oh, and during your Lexit campaign you seem to have missed out on the fact the majority of people in Scotland and Northern Ireland were not wanting to be dragged down the Brexit road – we know where walking backwards would take us!
You are now worried about a new EU referendum, which given you got it so wrong about the last one is not surprising. I agree that the Left should not be calling for another EU referendum. Nor should it support the other more likely possibility. Referenda only have advisory status under the UK constitution, so this one could be set aside with a majority Westminster vote. Such a move would certainly represent a salutary lesson for all those Brexiters, who were talking about bringing back power to the British people. However it would only provide the Right populist and neo-fascist Brexiters with an even better opportunity to organise. Although, I would not write off the possibility of certain Left groups forming a Red-Brown alliance in such a scenario, given their cheering on the ‘Red’/Brown alliance in eastern Ukraine at the moment.
Now that attacks on migrants and non-white UK residents have greatly increased since the Brexit vote, I think it is imperative to highlight the exclusion of non-UK and Commonwealth EU migrants from the EU referendum vote. 16-18 year olds, who would suffer the longest effects of any Brexit, or follow-up compromise, were also excluded. Yet both these groups were given the vote in the Scottish independent referendum, so there is a clear precedent. This also goes a long way to highlight the political difference between the two referenda campaigns
The two main wings of the Scottish independence campaign (SNP and the non-official campaigns such as the Radical Independence Campaign) clearly supported ‘Yes’ on a civic national basis (anybody living in Scotland who wants to be part of Scotland is welcome). In contrast, the two wings of the Brexit campaign, led by Johnson and Farage (with the support of the mainstream Remain unionist parties) clearly promoted an ethnic version of Britishness, excluding huge numbers of non-UK EU residents who wanted to remain. Their refusal to extend the vote to 16-18 year olds is an indication of their conservatism.
However, the Brexiters can not complain if a general election is held to decide on the way forward, where candidates can openly state where they stand. The Brexiters provided no programme for Brexit negotiations and sold their followers ‘a pig in a poke’ – demonstrated by their ditching any increased funding for the NHS within a day (shades of Cameron’s sudden support for ‘English Votes for English Laws’, straight after the Scottish independence vote). The SNP government had at least published an extensive White Paper in 2014 (whatever we may think of its political limitations) to show the electorate what it was going to do after any independence vote.
The most legitimate resolution, at present, is a general election, where parties put forward their programmes for the new political situation. I think the Left could create an independent political profile by saying that we oppose the EU set-up too, but want to remain united with migrant EU workers and other non-UK subjects.
During the Scottish independence campaign, RIC fought on the basis of ‘Another Scotland is Possible’, ‘Another Europe Is Possible’, ‘Another World is Possible’, Now that the focus is on the EU/Europe (two different things) we need to put forward a clearer idea about ‘Another Europe’ should be – i.e. a federated, secular and social European Republic. This challenges the implicit politics of the mainstream unionists – ‘Another UK is Possible’, ‘Another EU is perhaps Possible’, ‘Another World is Impossible’, and to the reactionary Brexiters ‘ – ‘Back to 1972/1956/1939/1914’ (take your choice), ‘Fuck Europe’, ‘For a White Christian World’.
What makes this ‘Another Europe is Possible’ a possibility under the current political conditions? Some of us have argued for the latent reality of a European Democratic Revolution. The Scottish independence referendum and the Catalan independence struggle have already shown this. The vote of the Greek people to defy the EU bureaucracy was another indication of this. It is to the credit of RIC, in the context of its own contribution to the democratic revolution, that we recognised this. With the support of the STUC, we organised the biggest demo in the UK in solidarity with the Greek people.
The EU bureaucracy’s hostility towards these challenges shows that they too were aware of this possibility. Unfortunately the myopic ‘Brit Left’ can’t see this, but want to go back to either 1975 or 1945 on their British road to the past. The bureaucratic British Labour Party and the British revolutionary sects are caught in a time warp, reflected in their anti-democratic behaviour and organisational practice. In relation to these, Jeremy Corbyn must surely be having his eyes opened, but his loyalty to the UK state will likely prevent him drawing the necessary political conclusions.
The Syriza leadership did not have the politics to address the situation in Greece, and it would have needed solidarity support on the scale of the 2003 anti-war protests to force the EU bureaucracy to back down. I would argue that the Podemos leadership is even less prepared, when it sees the way forward as forming a coalition government with the Spanish Socialist Party. The best that can be said about current conditions of political stalemate in Spain is that the ruling class there is being thwarted for now. This is similar to the situation in the UK now opened up by the majority Remain votes in Scotland and Northern Ireland in particular – but maybe we are also witnessing the People’s Republic of London challenging the City of London’s unionist and imperial empire!
It is the latent reality of a European Democratic Revolution which makes any Brexit so reactionary. It is as if, whilst workers prepare themselves for a major struggle against their bosses, you decide not to join that struggle, but take your lead from those who say, “Hey no, some sub-managers have offered us a way out by giving us employment in a new local arms-length management unit. Let’s follow them”!
Another possible Europe is already latently present in all those migrant communities across the EU, in constant communication with their original homelands. They should be very much a focus for the Left’s attentions in the current situation.
It’s time for you Lexiters to realise you made a major mistake. We can oppose the EU, but only by fighting for another possible Europe alongside all those migrant workers who have contributed so much. They already represent the seeds of that new united Europe living in our midst.
Yours in struggle,
Allan Armstrong, 3.7.16
- Lexit is an alliance of the Communist Party of Britain, Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Labour Party, Counterfire, the Indian Workers Association (GB), Bangladeshi Council of Britain and Scottish Left Leave – the Red Paper Collective, SWP, Elaine Smith, Labour MP and Jim Sillars (SNP).