Allan Armstrong, who attended the ‘Another Europe Is Possible’ conference in London, as a representative from the Campaign for European Republican Socialist Party, makes his political assessment of the event.
ANOTHER EUROPE IS POSSIBLE CONFERENCE, 10.12.18, LONDON
The Left in the UK has not only been hopelessly divided over Brexit, but marginal to Leave/Remain politics. When Brexit is the all-dominant political issue of the day, that is an indication of the Left’s failure. Leave politics have been left in the hands of the Tory Right, the national populist UKIP, DUP, other Loyalists, and the far right BNP, EDL, SDL and WDL on the Brexit side; and Remain in the hands of the neo-liberal Conservatives, Labour Right and Lib-Dems and the constitutional nationalist, SNP, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein and SDLP on the other.
For the most part, Left Leavers and Left Remainers have preferred to slag each other off online, or in their respective journals. Until recently, neither Left Leavers/Lexiters  nor Left Remainers made any real attempt to take their argument on to the streets. This despite the fact that the Lexiters in the UK outside the Labour Party (with the ageing Left Brexiter CPB still retaining some influence upon the trade union bureaucracy), led by the SWP, having a record of being able to mobilise large numbers in the earlier anti-war and anti-G8 protests.
The Lexiters got the Leave vote they wanted, but not in the areas they had mainly raised the issue – London and some university cities. These delivered a Remain vote! The Socialist Workers Party and the Socialist Party both claim to be part of internationals, but the very British nature of their Lexit ‘campaign’ was underlined by their failure to bring over any comrades from elsewhere in Europe to tour the country to put an ‘internationalist’ case for Lexit. Perhaps they did realise that this would be rather difficult. However, that former darling of the Left, the ever self-promoting, Left British populist, George Galloway, was never burdened by any such international pretensions, and characteristically threw himself into he arms of Nigel Farage’s and ‘Grassroots Leave’ along with Labour Right populist, Kate Hoey. This was a step too far for many Lexiters, but it got Galloway the publicity he craved, whereas few people outside the Left came into contact with the Lexiters.
But there was a brief period following the Brexit vote, when UKIP imploded and the Tories were caught up in internal battles. This was supposed to be the situation, Lexiters had anticipated, which would represent a major victory for the working class and a decisive defeat for the British ruling class. To the Left Brexiters and the Lexiters, the further Right in UKIP was seen to be of little wider political significance, but acted as a conduit for working class protest votes. So once Cameron was defeated and UKIP rendered irrelevant, the Left could breakthrough into the political space left by a shattered Tory party.
Theoretically, the Lexiters should have celebrated ‘their victory’ on June 23rd 2016 and organised demonstrations on the streets, in a move to take the political lead of the Brexit campaign. But they had never really attempted to relate politically to Brexit voters in areas that voted to Leave. And, they had made little attempt to relate to those migrant workers also living in these areas, who were always going to be amongst the first victims of any Brexit vote. That would have sent a mixed message to the majority of potential Brexit voters.
So any non-racist Brexit voters living in the Leave voting areas remained passive, leaving the Right Brexiters in the Tory Right’s official ‘Vote Leave’ and Farage’s unofficial ‘Grassroots Out’ unchallenged. Despite their differences, these two campaigns worked in a symbiotic relationship, driving the political agenda further to the Right. This was quite inevitable given the political origins of the Brexit campaign on the Right, and the rampant British chauvinism it always promoted. Given the balance of forces, Left Brexiters and Lexiters could only ever have contributed to the Right’s victory. This was the experience of not only the Left unionist Red Paper Collective, the Left populist, ‘Just Say Naw’, George Galloway but also the liberal unionist, Gordon Brown, after they joined the wider British unionist alliance to oppose Scottish independence between 2012-14.
Brexit, with its powerful Right wing backers, was associated in most people’s minds – Leavers and Remainers – with ‘Take back control’ – strengthening the UK state and cutting back on immigration. And these were the two key issues pushed by the very well-financed Brexit campaigns. And the Leave vote certainly boosted those political forces throughout the UK that are openly British chauvinist and/or racist. The deaths of Jo Cox MP, Arek Jozwik and Dagmara Przybysz highlighted this, as anti-asylum seeker, anti-migrant sentiment soared.
But so thrown were the Lexiters that they had not considered that David Cameron’s ‘defeated’ Tories, would be able to reconstitute themselves as Theresa May’s ‘No Deal is Better than a Bad Deal’ Tories. All the political initiative with regard to Brexit came from even further Right. But the Lexiters did realise, at least subconsciously, following the Leave vote, that if they had organised any demos, the sort of people who would most likely turn up were not likely to be attracted to the Left’s politics! Therefore, once more, they kept their Lexit ‘campaign’ off the streets, and confined their activities over this issue to a continuous litany of ‘EU-bad’ articles in their journals or at Left events.
After the Lexiters’ abandonment of their cheer-leading for Leave, they turned instead to campaigning against austerity and standing up to racism (just ignoring the Brexiteers’ role in contributing to the well-documented spike in racism). And once official politics were reconfigured, under the revamped Conservative Party, the non-Labour, Brexit Left – the Lexiters – became even more marginal. Therefore, it was Farage’s national populist supporters and the various elements of the Far Right, including Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson), which took to the streets again. Lexiters made themselves scarce as Lexiters, reappearing instead as anti-racists, but now forced to confront significantly larger street mobilisations of the Far Right, strengthened by the Brexit vote.
However, the unexpected rise of Jeremy Corbyn, and the surge in Labour Party membership, provided a new lifeline for the Lexiters. Corbyn declared his intention to honour the Brexit vote, and gathered around him an inner clique of long time Left EUphobes, e,g. Seamus Milne and Andrew Murray from an old CBGB/CPB background, Len McCluskey, UNITE general secretary and Karie Murphy, his close ally. But Corbyn and Corbyn supporting MPs also joined the Right of the Labour Party, in dropping any commitment to retaining the free movement of workers within the EU. Thus they provided cover for one of the central aims of the Right Brexiters, which was to ditch such free movement, and replace it with a version of the former German gastarbeiter system, underpinned by the draconian 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts. The Lexiters downplayed the British chauvinism and more shame-faced racism of the Labour Left Brexiters, with their “non-racist immigration” controls. “Oh Jeremy Corbyn” was taken up by many on the British Left beyond the recent Labour Left intake. Corbyn’s now pro-Brexit call to respect the ‘democracy’ of the referendum also accepted the anti-democratic exclusion of EU residents and 16-18 year olds, despite an electoral precedent having been established by the same Cameron Tory government to include these voters in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. And the first suspicions were raised that the Brexit campaign had broken the official electoral finance rules, and resorted to ‘dark money’ channelled from the hard Right in the USA through the UK’s offshore tax havens. However, for Corbyn and his immediate pro-Brexit Left Labour coterie, a cheap appeal to the populist faux-democracy of the Right overrode any championing of genuine democracy.
In the old years of New Labour supremacy, when the Blairite machine controlled the official party, a few Labour Left MPs, like Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, sometimes had to defy the party leadership’s voting instructions at Westminster, in order to oppose the Tories. However, following the Brexit vote, it has been Jeremy Corbyn and his political machine that has been locked into wheeling and dealing with May’s Tories, over a possible Brexit deal. All the Corbyn supporting MPs joined with Centre and many Right Labour MPs, and the DUP MPs, to vote with May’s Tories in initiating Section 50 withdrawal from the EU on January 31st 2017. But in a turning of the tables, 49 Right and some Centre Labour MPs joined the last Europhile Conservative, Ken Clarke, the Lib-Dems, the Greens’ Caroline Lucas, the SNP and Plaid Cymru to vote against the Tories’ dash for Brexit.
Furthermore, May had offered no coherent negotiating stance, just a series of ‘red lines’ to placate the further Right. So, in the absence of any Labour alternative, the effect of 498/114 Westminster Section 50 vote was to move politics towards a considerably harder Brexit. From this point on, Labour’s lack of any effective opposition strengthened May’s position (also buttressed by the state’s bureaucratic Crown Powers), with the main opposition coming from the even further Right, centred round Boris Johnson, William Rees-Mogg’s European Research Group (ERG) and the DUP.
Yet, despite this ominous turn, May’s apparent setback, when she called a general election in June 2017, caused much celebration on the British Left. But Corbyn’s unexpectedly good-showing (he started from a very low base of expectation after the drubbing Labour received in the May 2017 local elections in England) disguised the nature of Labour’s electoral gains. Most Westminster seats were won in strong Remain areas, whilst Labour lost seven long-held seats in Leave voting areas to the Tories.
Since then, the overriding priority of Corbyn and his closest allies has been for Labour to win the next general election. For them this means bending over backwards to accommodate the Right in the Labour Party in the name of party unity. On abandoning the free movement of labour within the EU, they were already united. Now, though to further placate the Right, Corbyn and his allies have bowed before the bogus ‘anti-semitism’ (in reality pro-apartheid Israel) campaign and have opposed mandatory reselection of Westminster candidates. The Tory Right is likely to be far less accommodating to the shrinking band of Remainers in their ranks. The Tories are seeking greater ideological coherence around a considerably more Right wing platform, and any Tory Remainers can either fall into line or just get lost. The Tory Right understand that having only paper party unity undermines their longer term political aims, and whatever unseemly blood-letting is required to achieve unity around a new further Right politics is a cost worth paying.
The Tories weren’t even fazed by the apparent set-back in the 2017 Westminster election. Far from back-pedalling and falling back on some softer Brexit (but still one which would have allowed them to introduce a new gastarbeiter system of migrant control), they lined up with the even more Right wing, national populist and reactionary unionist, ‘Ulster’-British DUP and adopted the Conservative and Unionist Party label. This represented a further Right attempt to roll back the democratic challenge to the UK state signalled by the unexpectedly large Scottish independence vote on September 14th, 2014. Back then, within hours of the ‘No’ vote, Cameron had ditched his liberal unionist Scottish Labour cover in ‘Better Together’, provided by Labour, in particular, Gordon Brown, and begun the Tories’ own reactionary unionist counter-offensive. This was signalled by his announcement of ‘English Votes for English Laws’ designed to woo the Tory Right and UKIP.
This was done to prepare the grounds for an in-house Tory battle between the increasingly Eurosceptic Remainer and Europhobe Leaver wings of the party. Unfortunately for Cameron, in June 2016, it was the further Right who won out this time. His latest version of ‘Project Fear, first directed at those seeking Scottish independence, made so many concessions to the Right Brexiters, particularly with regard to immigration, that it was their ‘Project Hate’ which won out the second time. And, if Corbyn hoped that by accepting the ‘democratic will’ of the 2016 vote, he would undercut the Tories, he was soon to be disillusioned. Theresa May and Sajid Javid, amongst many other Tories, also flipped from Remain to Brexit, and, in the process, helped the hard Brexiteers push politics considerably further to the Right than a hapless Corbyn had ever envisaged. Now it was ‘No Deal is Better than a Bad Deal”. Brexiters had never mentioned ‘No Deal’ in the referendum campaign. Corbyn, by giving the anti-democratic 2016 referendum legitimacy, found that the the content of what that ‘democratic’ referendum vote meant became more and more defined by the hard Right – ‘Leave Means Leave’, and that also meant whatever they said it meant. Thus since 2016, Corbyn has been used and duped by the Tories, just as Brown was in 2o14.
Whilst the Tory Party was reuniting around a further Right platform, Corbyn and his closest advisors fell back on the one thing they had learned from New Labour spin doctors – the ‘black arts’ of political triangulation. These were particularly appealing to Corbyn’s close coterie of Brexiters. They calculated that sitting on the fence over Leave/Remain was the best way of holding on to the new Labour intake, mainly young Remainers. Yet many of these new members began to see that such fence sitting just permitted May, now in alliance with the DUP, to preside over a continuous Rightwards shift in the government’s Brexit stance. This has pushed some Left Remainers in the Labour Party towards the sharper Remain stance of the Green Party, whilst other new less politically aware Labour voters, following the more established neo-Blairites, have turned to the Lib-Dem Remainers. This is a consequence of Corbyn leaving May, Johnston and Rees-Mogg largely unchallenged over Brexit. The once unheard of prospect of ‘No Deal’ became a possibility.
Eventually, the disparity between the minority of Left Brexit supporters in the Labour party, no matter how well entrenched within Corbyn’s ‘inner cabal,’ and the new largely Left Remain supporters, was bound to make its weight felt within the party. And so it proved at the September 2018 Labour conference. An even messier position was adopted to hold together all the factions of the Labour Party for the next general election they sought above all else. This stitch-up had to accommodate UKIP-‘Lite’ (e.g. Tom Harris), ‘Left’ Brexiter (e.g. Milne and McCluskey) and Brexit voter-accommodating Leavers (e.g. Corbyn and McDonnell) on one side, and the neo-liberal Right (Chuka Umanna and Sir Keith Starmer) and the new Left Remainers (still without a prominent advocate) on the other.
Left Remainers were not satisfied. Many knew full well that the Labour Right ‘s Eurosceptic Remainers are as opposed to full free movement of workers from the EU as any Labour Brexiter. They also appreciated that the Labour Right, neo-liberal Remainers want a return to the full Blairite control of the party, where policy-making is for ‘neutral’ experts tested out first on non-party focus groups, whilst members take their orders, pay their dues and knock on doors at election time. So some Left Remainers began to organise. They revived a campaign, which had originally been launched in The Guardian, in the run-up to the 2016 Euro-referendum – ‘Another Europe Is Possible’ (AEiP). Consciously, or unconsciously, AEiP had adopted a key slogan of the Radical Independence Campaign from the 2014 Scottish IndyRef – ‘Another Scotland is Possible’, ‘Another Europe is Possible’, ‘Another World is Possible’.
However, it was the Labour Right who first turned to the tactic of the old much diminished Labour Left in the years of Blair and Browns’ New Labour supremacy – defy the party leadership. They planned to take to the streets! They backed a ‘Peoples Vote’ march on London on October 6th 2018. This united those wanting to rerun the 2016 EU referendum, and those wanting a ratification referendum on any May deal. As well as Labour Right and Centre, Chuka Umunna and Sadiq Khan, the ‘Peoples Vote’ platform included the Lib-Dem’s, Vince Cable, supplemented to right by the Conservative’s Anna Soubry and to the left by the Greens’ Caroline Lucas and by the constitutional nationalist SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon (via videolink).
The carnival-like atmosphere and the composition of the 700,000 marchers, who attended the October 6th demo, were in many ways like the earlier anti-Trump demos. However, the ‘Peoples Vote’ platform was more like that of the 2005 ‘Make Poverty History’ demo in Edinburgh, coinciding with the Gleneagles G8 conference – it was politically liberal. It was appealing to ‘our’ British ruling class to show some moral purpose and see sense. The anti-Brexit platform party wants the British ruling class to abandon the path chosen by the increasingly Right Brexiteers, and return to the ‘good old days’ of ‘peace and prosperity’ within the EU. Their nostalgic vision shared the myopia of the Brexiteers, who instead invoked Empire2 on the Right and the long-gone ‘Spirit of 45’ (thank you, Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown!) on the Left.
The huge ‘People’s Vote’ march coincided with Nigel Farage’s ‘Leave Means Leave’ rally in Harrogate. 1200 people attended this march, a number that should surely not have daunted any Lexiters who wanted to put across their ‘alternative’ to the public. But they continued to refuse any public demonstration of their Brexit ‘vision’, which it has to be admitted is decidedly murky anyhow! Instead they now mainly confined themselves to urging Corbyn and Labour to stick firm on Brexit. They are reassured by Corbyn’s inner coterie of Brexiters. They certainly do not oppose this group’s bureaucratic methods of stifling genuine debate, many of which they also use in their own much smaller political organisations.
However, on the October 6th demo, just as there had been a significant independent, red-shirted, Left contingent on the 2005 ‘Make Poverty History’, so there was an organised Left contingent on the ‘Peoples Vote’ demo in London. In Edinburgh they had mobilised around ‘Make Capitalism History’ banner. In London they mobilised around the ‘Another Europe Is Possible’ banner.
The success of the October 6th demo, spurred the AEiP organisers of to prepare for a conference in London on December 10th. However, both in the lead up to, and on the day of the conference, it became obvious that they were really more interested in organising a ‘Love Corbyn/Hate Brexit’ campaign, confined to the Labour Party in England. Yet key AEiP organisers were already aware of the distinctive political situation in Scotland following their visit to Glasgow in August. The Campaign for a European Socialist Republican Party (CfaESRP) suggested that the December 10th event should address the distinctive anti-Brexit situations in Scotland, Wales, and especially Ireland, the better to unite the Left opposition to Brexit on an ‘internationalism from below’ basis and counter the reactionary unionist wing of the British ruling class’s own all-UK and indeed all-islands strategy. After an initial promise to do so, the AEiP organisers dropped the CfaESR proposal without an adequate explanation.
The Labour Party is not at the centre of anti-neo-liberal, anti-Brexit politics in Scotland or Wales, and doesn’t even officially exist in Northern Ireland. However, the AEiP organisers thought that Scotland and Wales could now be addressed by a mere rewording – using the word ‘Britain’ to disguise the lack of any political perspective beyond England. And they seemed to be oblivious to the existence of the UK state, which also incorporates Northern Ireland. The fact that the Borders Communities Against Brexit is the most broadly based anti-Brexit campaign in the UK and these islands, and the ‘Irish backstop’ has proved to be the most controversial issue around Brexit, seemed to be of even less concern to the British Left AEiP organisers than it is to the Jacob Rees Mogg’s, Brit Right, European Research Group, who recognise the importance of the issue but pretend to see the ‘backstop’ as only a technical problem.
The sad thing is that the Right has a more coherent vision of their future, and how to organise in the constituent parts of the UK, than the British Left. The national populist UKIP, when it was still a significant political force, was united around a reactionary British unionist vision. It organised and was politically represented in all four constituent parts of the UK. Whilst the Tory Right supplement their UK-wide Westminster Brexit strategy, with the activities of their Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Secretaries, the Tory leaders in Scotland and Wales, and the DUP at Westminster and from the suspended Stormont.
Another opportunity was presented when the AEiP organisers sent out their draft Strategy Paper for the conference. The CfaESRP submitted three sets of proposals (see the Strategy paper and suggested Amendments in the Appendix). The first situated Brexit in the context of the global drift to Right national populist politics, highlighted by Donald Trump’s ‘Brexit, plus, plus, plus’ US presidential victory. This oversight by the Strategy Paper drafters was recognised and the CfaESRP amendments covering this were accepted without debate.
But when it came to the series of AEiP amendments addressing the different situations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland/Ireland, and the dangers of a strengthened UK state and the rise in British chauvinism, these were all rejected in favour of maintaining a conscious British Left orientation. This, in practice, accepts the existing UK state (or at least the Great British part of it) as a viable political framework, and is also largely confined to England and the Labour Party (albeit with a brief nod to the Green Party of England and Wales). For the conference organisers, appeals to ‘Love Jeremy/Hate Brexit’ sentiment seemed to override meaningful strategic thinking.
No attempt was made to justify this politically. The chair just rushed through the proceedings, seeing the CFaESRP amendments as a distraction, which were holding things up. The amendment movers were given so little time, that very few in the conference with their British Left background, could appreciate the issues being raised. If the issues had been properly considered, with a prior educational session as requested, and more time for debate been allotted, many might have voted differently Some more questioning and more curious people came up to the CfaESRP speakers after the conference. After discussion, they began to see what the issues really were.
However there was also a number of intransigent Brit Left ultra-unionists at the conference. But they soon realised that they could depend on the rushed nature of the Strategy Paper debate, so they refrained from opening up the brief discussion allotted over the nature of the UK state, British chauvinism and the different political situations in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Andrew Coates left it to third CfESRP set of amendments, which addressed the still semi-Francoist, Spanish unionist state suppression of the right of Catalans to national self-determination, following the Catalan Republic referendum on October 1st 2017. He made a contribution, which sounded much like that of a Vox supporter, in his diatribes against Catalan politicians. No chance was given for a reply and he persuaded the conference to reject the amendment. Coates just accepts the idea of the EU as a treaty alliance of existing states, which includes imperialist and unionist states, just as he accepts the UK state as forming an adequate basis for advancing his Left social democratic politics. You got the distinct impression that his speech in support of the Spanish monarchist union was a surrogate for the speech he night have preferred to have made earlier to support a strengthened UK and British union.
Although the CfaESRP proposal for a prior workshop on ‘Britain’/UK had been rejected, three other simultaneous workshops had been agreed to, prior to the Strategy Paper debates. One of these was entitled ‘Understanding Lexit: what is happening to the British Left?’ Here the shortcomings of the anti-Brexit, Brit Left were highlighted. A significant contribution was made by an Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) speaker. How was Corbyn’s pro-Brexit stance to be explained to so many admirers, dressed up in their ‘Love Corbyn/Hate Brexit’ T-shirts? He put it all down to the influence of Corbyn’s inner clique of “stalinist” supporters – e.g. Seamus Milne and Andrew Murray, formerly of the CPB – who had long subscribed to the ‘British road to socialism’.
However, the AWL also adhere to their own British social unionist politics over Ireland and Scotland (and social imperialist politics elsewhere – Israel, Afghanistan and Iraq). The ‘British road to socialism’ is not just some Stalinist import, but has been hardwired into the British Labour Party from the days of Keir Hardie, and amongst British Marxists from the days of Henry Hyndman – as has support for British imperialism. And the AWL’s own Momentum blog cheerfully adopts the name Clarion. This was the name of the very English/British socialist paper produced by Robert Blatchford in the early twentieth century. He wrote England for the English, later republished as Britain for the British, and supported the Boer and First World wars. So the AWL is even more firmly esconsed on the ‘British road to socialism’ than the old CPGB/CPB!
Worse still, in the AWL’s current apologetics for the Israeli state and the Zionist-backed, Right onslaught on Corbyn supporters (to which ironically some of their own members and ex-members have fallen prey to), has contributed, in their own small way, to an opening for the Far Right. Yaxley-Lennon and Katie Hopkins see Israel’s new Jewish supremacist Nationality Law (June 2018) as the precedent they want for a British supremacist nationality law for the UK. If the CPB’s politics open the door to some decidedly unsavoury Red/Brown alliances (with Putin’s Russia Today operating as a significant media coordinator), the same can be said for the AWL. Only they look to different Left/Right alliances.
But the social unionist (and imperialist), Brit Left politics of the AWL and some on the Labour Left did not dominate the conference. Socialist Resistance (SR) and the now much depleted Left Unity Party (LUP) were also there in some numbers. However, they only reacted strongly to a social unionist amendment from Liam McNulty (ex-AWL) in the Strategy Paper to provide defence for the non-existent British-Irish (these are the unionists who call themselves either ‘Ulster’- British or Northern Ireland British). This provoked Joe Healy (LUP) to oppose and he was successful in this. But, when it came to the other debates, in which SR and some LUP members probably personally agreed with many of the CfaERSP amendments, they remained silent. The key thing was to keep the ‘Love Corbyn/Hate Brexit’ roadshow going. Unfortunately, SR and the LUP have a record of prevaricating when clear political decisions are required. This was shown during the Scottish Independence referendum campaign. Such thinking contributes towards British Left’s inability to see the continuity between the British ruling class’s reactionary unionist offensive after September 18th, 2014 and the Right Brexit offensive straight afterwards, and the key role Northern Ireland/Ireland and Scotland has played in this.
There were some positive aspects to the conference, including a speaker from the European Left – Marina Prentoulis from Greece, and Emiliano Mellino, a migrant worker involved in the IWGB. He emphasised the importance of the still remaining EU laws underpinning workers’ rights. The IWGB had been able to fall back on these successfully when defending migrant worker’s cases dismissed in the UK courts.
Therefore it was a great pity that AEiP could not constitute itself as an all-islands, Left anti-Brexit organisation on December 10th. It remains to be seen if AEiP’s attempt to organise from a mainly England and Labour Party base can mobilise significant numbers. It is likely that the contradictions and illusions conjured up by the ‘Love Corbyn/Hate Brexit’ mantra are not going to be resolved. However politically misplaced the SWP and its splinter organisations, their ‘Love Corbyn/Love Brexit’ is more consistent with his politics. But the Left should long have gotten over its creation of ‘socialist icons’ – Derek Hatton, Arthur Scargill, George Galloway, Tommy Sheridan and now ‘Oh Jeremy’ – and started to organise around its own clear politics – socialist republican and internationalist. If another Europe is to be truly possible, then the Left not only needs to provide its own vision, but recognise the reactionary nature of the UK state .
Allan Armstrong, 20.1.19
 The term ‘Left Brexiters’ to cover two distinct groups. The first, the Left populists, comes from the CPGB/CP tradition of Left British nationalist hostility to the EEC/EU. This is underpinned by the old CPGB vision of a ‘British Road to Socialism’ and fond memories of USSR/UK collaboration against the German Nazis during the Second World War.
The second group, the Lexiters, come mainly from the SWP tradition. They hold some reservations about the Left populists’ belief in ‘non-racial’ immigration controls, but rather than clearly campaigning against all migration controls, they prefer just to brush the issue under the carpet (as during the formation of Respect, where Left populist, ‘non-racial’ immigration laws supporter George Galloway had to be accommodated). Like the CPGB though, they see the British imperialist, unionist and Crown Powers based UK state to be some defence against the EU’s neo-liberalism!
 Later open democracy and Carole Cadwalladr were to expose the very strong likelihood official Brexit campaign had broken the electoral finance rules, and resorted to dark money from the DUP and from the hard Right in the USA channelled through the UK’s offshore tax havens (https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/you-aren-t-allowed-to-know-who-paid-for-key-leave-campaign-adverts/and https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/24/brexit-whistleblower-shahmir-sanni-interview-vote-leave-cambridge-analytica)
 Allan Armstrong (CfaERSP and Radical ~Independence Campaign – Edinburgh) had first come across AEiP, when two of its leading organisers, Kirsty Haigh (Global Justice Now) and Michael Chessum (Labour Party and Momentum) spoke at a meeting in Glasgow on August 30th 2018 organised by the Left Against Brexit. AEiP posted Allan’s report of the meeting on their blog:- https://www.anothereurope.org/holyrood-must-take-the-lead/
Allan Armstrong, 20.1.19
The Campaign for a European Socialist Republican Party (CfaERSP) made the proposed amendments shown in bold. However, those underlined were defeated, whilst the words deleted in the CfaERSP amendments were retained.
ANOTHER EUROPE IS POSSIBLE
Another Europe’s strategy and activities are guided by our aims and principles, which are a part of our constitution. This document is designed as a broad overview of our strategy, and does not include every planned activity. However, if members wish to put forward proposals for specific activities they are free to do so.
- Our immediate strategy
Brexit is a project whose aim is to deregulate the economy, undermine rights and protections, and end free movement and to strengthen the UK state.It is an attack on public services, the NHS, working class people and the communities which the left is supposed to represent. It is build on a narrative of racist scapegoating, and it legitimises right wing narratives on migration and nationalism. Brexit would also reinforce UK dependence on the US corporate business interests, the US state and NATO, leading to increased spending.
In contrast to the franchise agreed by the Conservative government in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the 2016 EU referendum excluded EU residents and 16 and 17 year olds. By these racist and anti-youth concessions to the Right, their illegal overspend and unaccounted sources of finance, a narrow majority for Leave was obtained in England and Wales, whilst Scotland and Northern Ireland voted by larger majorities to Remain.
We do not write off all those who voted Leave, or believe that they are all racists, though we must not fall into the trap of denying the role played by racist attitudes and anti-immigration rhetoric and the appeal to British chauvinism of ‘take back control’. But we disagree with this decision, and we challenge both the final legitimacy of the vote and the idea that there is any mandate for any particular form of Brexit. In a democratic society, we have the collective right to change our minds and persuade others. We assert that right, and demand a referendum on the terms of the negotiated deal – or no deal, if that is what we are left with – with an option to remain in the EU.
The vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal will be put to a vote of MPs on Tuesday December 11th. It is likely that it will fall, and that the political crisis will intensify. The voting down of the government’s deal marks an important point in our strategy. The defeat of the deal will open up a space in which either a general election or a fresh referendum are very likely. It may be necessary to extend Article 50 in order to do either of these.
While we are a proudly cross-party campaign, we understand that the position of the Labour Party particularly in England and Wales will remain pivotal. We have already had a great deal of success in this. While we did not get everything we wanted, our unprecedented campaign in the run up to Labour conference established a sequential logic in Labour policy which is now playing out: to vote against the deal, to demand an election, and to then keep all options on the table including a public vote. Shifting Labour is not just the work of Labour members. The work done by other parties, for instance the Green Party, has been important in pushing Labour forwards.
Our aim now is to ensure that, whatever happens next, the people get the final say. In the event that a general election happens, we will fight tooth and nail to ensure that there is a majority in the new parliament in favour of calling a referendum. Practically speaking, this means campaigning for Labour to have a manifesto commitment to one, and campaigning against the Tories (in the same way that we did in 2017).
If there is a general election, it will be necessary to mobilise a massive campaign inside the Labour Party to demand that the party takes a position against Brexit, in favour of a fresh referendum, and in favour of transforming Europe. It will also be necessary for Labour members who hold this perspective to organise a strong anti-Brexit voice within the Labour campaign. We have been effective at mobilising significant numbers of Labour Party members for our campaigns. However, we are a cross-party organisation, and we must guard against Another Europe’s output being completely dominated by campaigns focused on Labour.
In the dynamic of an election campaign, any campaign aimed at changing Labour’s policy must be free to unequivocally support Labour, which Another Europe cannot do. We will therefore support the creation of a freestanding, independent campaign, open to all Labour members and supporters, with the aim of ensuring that Labour takes the right position, and which allows Labour members who are against Brexit to have a platform in the campaign and a programme of activities.
Assuming that the deal falls and there is no election, a likelihood given the Fixed Term Parliament Act we will continue and escalate our public campaign for a fresh referendum. We need to convince MPs, but our strategy is not just about lobbying. We need bottom-up pressure from constituents, from within the labour movement, those democratic campaigns for self-determination in Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and from public opinion. As well as conventional and digital campaigns and a press strategy, we need to continue the campaign of protests, marches and stunts, and push the anti-Brexit movement to escalate towards direct action and civil disobedience. Another Europe is in a unique position to deliver this.
If any Brexit deal passes, Brexit becomes extremely likely. Our only hope for success in these circumstances would be to create a crisis from the outside of the political bubble. We would have to be part of a movement that brought down the government, or which made the country so ungovernable that the government went back to the people. For now, it is unlikely that the deal will pass – but we will remain alert to one being proposed again.
Throughout this process, we will also work on an understanding and using procedural levers in Westminster and in the EU. We recognise that we are not the campaign with the most knowledge of parliamentary process, and it makes little sense for us to lead on all of this work. But we will make sure that everyone – at every level of our campaign and in the wider movement – understands what we are doing and why. We will attempt to demystify the process.
We support the self-determination of the Scottish, Welsh and Irish peoples, and their right to a referendum on independence and the unification of Ireland. We condemn the actions of the Spanish government and state in violently suppressing the Catalan people exercising their right to hold a republican independence referendum, and call for the immediate release of political prisoners. We support the right of the Catalan people to self-determination.
2. Our relationship with the anti-Brexit movement
Another Europe is part of the wider progressive left. It is also part of a growing and distinct anti-Brexit movement which has grown substantially in recent months. The 700,000-strong demonstration on October 20th was the biggest in the UK since the Iraq War period. While the leadership of the much of the anti-Brexit movement might be dominated by the political establishment, its mass base is hugely diverse both politically and demographically, and it is essential that have a strategy to interact with it.
We do not aim to set out a fully developed perspective on the anti-Brexit movement – which is diverse, complex and contradictory – here. We will aim to improve on our understanding of it in due course. We will continue to relate to the wider movement, including at its marches and meetings, and by building alliances at a local level.
- If our strategy succeeds – our approach to the new referendum
It is increasingly likely that we will end up fighting a new referendum on Brexit. In this scenario, we would work flat out to win the vote, and to do so with our own progressive vision for Britain England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and Europe front and centre. This means foregrounding our support for workers’ rights, environmental protections, human rights, free movement and a broader internationalist politics – not focussing abstract economic arguments. We will make the case that keepingBritainEngland, Scotland, Wales and Irelandin the EU, or defeating the government’s deal, is part of a strategy for transforming society, not the status quo.
We want to use the referendum campaign to win a public argument on a deeper level, and the profile of our arguments in the general campaign will boost the anti-Brexit vote across the board. Strategically, we will focus on voters and demographics where our messages resonate most, and where they will make the most difference. This means campaigning among working class voters, especially Labour-voting Leave voters. It also means a drive for turnout from anti-Brexit strongholds in the previous referendum, both demographically and geographically.
To give our campaign most chance of success, we do not rule out attempting to form part of the official designated campaign, so long as this does not compromise our ability to campaign clearly and honestly. After the failure of the official Remain campaign in 2016, we believe it is important that the same people and ideas do not take the leadership in the next referendum. Therefore we would hope, alongside a broad coalition, to be part of putting forward an alternative designated campaign in a new referendum
Regardless of any attempt to form the designated campaign, we will reach out to form formal and informal alliances with the Green Party, Labour, Momentum, the Left within the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and the Republican Movement in Ireland, trade unions, NGOs and grassroots campaigns.
In 2016, a large proportion of the legitimate electorate was disenfranchised. We support the right of all residents of the UK to vote in any referendum, as well as all UK residents living abroad and anyone over the age of 16.
- If Brexit happens
The going ahead of Brexit would represent a defeat for the progressive left and for ordinary people in Britain England, Scotland, Wales and Irelandand across Europe. It will almost certainly mean a loss of rights and prosperity, especially for the poorest in society and for migrants. It will strengthen the narratives and mobilisations of the far right. And it will have an international effect in the fragmentation of Europe and the emboldening of a global resurgence of aggressive nationalist and racist politics.
Brexit would also represent a major victory for Donald Trump. His national populist politics do not represent a challenge to neo-liberalism but a turbo-charged reconfiguration, the better to assert the supremacy of US state and corporate interests in a post-2008 crisis-ridden world.
Under these circumstances – which we believe are more than avoidable but for which we must nonetheless prepare – Another Europe would seek to play a critical role in bringing together the progressive left for what happens next. This would include a deliberate attempt to coalesce those parts of the grassroots of the anti-Brexit movement who agree with our aims.
Our political aims in post-Brexit Britain would be:
- To campaign for Britain’sre-admission into the EU before the end of the transition period
- To unapologetically make the case for free movement and migrants’ rights
- Not only to resist any further deterioration in workers’ rights, environmental standards and human rights, but also to campaign for the UK to match further improvement EU measures and exceed them.
- To campaign for a serious internationalist perspective, and to provide spaces to build this. We will continue to work with socialist, green, social democratic, democratic campaigns for self-determination in Scotland, Ireland and Wales,and other progressive political forces across the EU to seek fundamental democratic change in the EU’s constitution and decision making process.
- To support the self-determination of the Scottish and Irish peoples, by supporting their right to a referendum on independence and unification respectively.
- If we win and stay in the EU
We have always known that our mission does not end with stopping Brexit. In the event that we are successful in the short term, the real work will begin. This means:
- We will continue our fight for a new, different better Europe, working closely with European Alternatives with whom we reaffirm our affiliation. We will work for the renewal and transformation of the European institutions. Key priorities for reform efforts in the period ahead are: reigning in the power of multinational corporations through tougher regulation, higher (and coordinated) corporation tax at the EU level, and clamping down on systemic tax evasion; creating a humanitarian system for refugee and migrant settlement, ending the policy of fortress Europe; strengthening digital rights for workers and consumers; leveling up standards for labour and the environment across Europe, including clamping down on the precarious ‘zero hour contract’ economy; pioneering a new economy, transforming the Eurozone, ending austerity, introducing a ‘new deal for Europe’, and also creating new forms of economic ownership, which allow for democratic control by workers, service users and the public.
- Campaigning for the British left the Left in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland to have a serious internationalist perspective, and to provide it with spaces to build this.
* Participating in and improving on a debate within the broad European left about if an how we can transform the EU, developing a realistic strategy. We must attempt to learn from the left’s previous successes and defeats. Syriza came to power in Greece in 2015 promising to confront the Troika and overturn austerity, but soon found itself implementing what it had once opposed. A strategy for transformation cannot rely simply on representatives manoeuvring and negotiating within the bounds of institutions at the national or European level. What we possess and our opponents lack, is a power lying outside those institutions – in the streets and in the collective power of organised workers. We will need to build a pan-European left and workers’ movement rooted in that power; that connects us in cross-border, transnational bonds of discussion, coordination, and practical solidarity; that does not hesitate to put extra-parliamentary pressure on parliamentary power; and that keeps the representatives we send into the corridors of government accountable to the democratic grassroots – not the other way around.
- Alongside internal reforms to the current EU migration system, to campaign for a new coordinated strategy designed to tackle the root causes of migration in which western states have some significant historic responsibility.