Jan 24 2020

THE IMPACT OF THE DECEMBER 12TH GENERAL ELECTION ACROSS THE CONSTITUENT PARTS OF THE UK

Allan Armstrong follows up his article, The Continued Rise of Right National Populism and Reactionary Unionism in the Run-up to the December 12th General Election (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/12/09/the-continued-rise-of-right-populism-and-reactionary-unionism/). He examines the impact of the general election results across the constituent parts of the UK and the prospects for the immediate future. 

 

THE IMPACT OF THE DECEMBER 12th GENERAL ELECTION ACROSS THE CONSTITUENT PARTS OF THE UK

 

 

a)    The three possible outcomes of the December 12th Westminster general election

b)    How Corbyn’s Left social democracy, its complicity in British chauvinism and racism and its support for the UK state helped to pave the way for Johnson

c)    Other factors undermining the Corbynista challenge to Johnson

d)    The election results in England

e)    The election results in Wales

f)     The election results in Scotland

g)    The election results in Northern Ireland

h)    Conclusion

_________________

 

a) The three possible outcomes of the December 12th Westminster general election

In an article, published on December 9th [1], this author envisaged three possible outcomes for the December 12th general election. The first was a Jeremy Corbyn-led minority government, dependent on support from the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens. If elected, this would have been highly unstable. Should Corbyn have made any serious attempt to introduce Labour’s Its Time for Real Change manifesto, his government would have come under concerted attack by British capital, led by the City, with the backing of the Tories, Trump, the Right-wing media and Corbyn’s internal party enemies. This is not because the Labour’s manifesto put forward real challenges to the capitalist order, but because even its quite moderate social democratic proposals were threatening to British business profitability in the post-2008 crisis-ridden world. Furthermore, if Corbyn came to any IndyRef2 accommodation with the SNP, he would be subjected to immediate attack by reactionary and conservative unionists, who between them have the majority support of the British ruling class. And, Corbyn’s inner coterie, especially his senior trade union official backers, would have joined with other union officials to pull out all the stops to prevent their members from ‘rocking the boat’ and fighting back effectively.

The second possibility, either almost immediately after the election, or as the consequence of an early crisis overwhelming any Corbyn-led minority government, would have been the formation of a National government. A high proportion of post-December 12th Labour MPs would be on the Right and Centre of the party. They would have ranged from eager to persuadable when it came to ditching Corbyn. They wanted to cobble together a Right/Centre Labour, Lib-Dem and pro-Remainer/soft Brexiter Conservative coalition government (with Northern Irish politicians added if necessary).  However, a National government would also have been unstable, despite its willingness to bow to the economic demands of British capital. It would have been split over ‘no Brexit’ or ‘soft Brexit’, as well as the challenges posed by the national democratic movement in Scotland, and possibly Ireland too.

The third possibility was the election of a Boris Johnson-led Tory government. This ever-growing possibility had been underscored by a number of important developments. The 2016 Brexit vote had provided the key link to the global ascendancy of Right Populism, ousting earlier neo-Liberalism’s previous global domination. This had been badly undermined by the 2008 Crisis. Trump and the US Hard Right were closely involved in the Brexit campaign. When the Brexit vote was announced, Trump launched his ‘Brexit plus, plus, plus’ campaign for US presidency. He took office 5 months later, signalling the global ascendancy of Right populism.  This was an uncanny repetition of Thatcher’s and Reagan’s neo-Liberal displacement of Social Democratic global hegemony in 1979/80 [2].

With powerful corporate and Right-wing forces behind him, Johnson decided to push much further than May to advance the Hard Right’s political agenda. In this, unlike May, he had Trump’s support. May had co-opted Farage’s UKIP agenda, whilst Johnson co-opted Farage’s Brexit Party agenda. Johnson also had the advantage over May of being a real populist politician. Whereas the Corbyn-led official opposition and the alternative Right Remainer opposition were trying to cobble together wider alliances, either within the Labour Party in Corbyn’s case, or across parties in the Right Remainers’ case; Johnson was trying to unite the Tory Party around a single hard Brexit policy, with the backing of wider Right Populist forces. .

The neo-Liberal Right Remainers assumed they enjoyed British ruling class support (as did many Left Brexiters). But the British ruling class was split., with different sections leading both the Remain and Leave camps.    Johnson and the Hard Right dangled the prospect of a US-backed abandonment of remaining workers’, consumer, environmental and many human and civil rights. More and more sections of the ruling class were won over. The culmination of this was on October 19th 2019, when Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, announced that he supported Johnson’s proposed Brexit deal [3].

Indeed, the fact that Right Remainers had to take to the streets from 2018 to try and win wider support for their ‘People’s Vote’, was an indication of their loss of much ruling class institutional and global corporate backing. So, despite their often claimed Remain electoral majority, any opposition organised by the Right Remainers soon fragmented.  This was highlighted by the changing tactics they pursued. Their attempt at a French Macron (or earlier British SDP) style new party, Change UK, if not virtually still-born at launch, was delivered a quick death blow in the June Euro-elections.  When other Right Remainers supported the Lib-Dems, this long-established party received just under 20% of the Euro-vote compared to the 5 months old Brexit Party, which got over 30%.

With growing desperation, the Right Remainers gave their December 12th general election backing to three ‘respected’ Conservative ex-ministers who had been amongst the 21 Tory MPs suspended by Johnson on 3rd September. It was hoped that, if elected, they would put some backbone into those former Remain Tories, who along with the Labour Right, Lib-Dems and possibly others, could form a National government, which marginalised both Johnson and Corbyn. The fact that 4 of the 21 MPs soon backed down and signed up for Johnson, whilst 12 did not stand again did not augur well for this last Right Remainer electoral ploy.

But surely the British ruling class would not allow Johnson, the arrogant new Tory leader and PM to ride roughshod over Westminster?  In September the supreme court overthrew Johnson’s August proroguing of parliament and his misleading of the queen. But the wider British ruling class remained unmoved. They looked with increased anticipation at the prospect of utilising the even deeper and more reactionary aspects of the Crown-in-Westminster, with the possibility of creative new additions better suited to operating in a crisis-ridden world.

Like Tony Greenstein [4], this author feared the worst, especially when looking at the electoral options available. There was no independent Socialist challenge (outside of Northern Ireland) and only individual socialist and republican candidates standing for other parties, e.g. Labour and the SNP. These two parties offered little prospect of being able to solve the constitutional crisis, far less the post-2008 economic crisis.

Therefore, when the general election results came in, very aptly on Friday the 13th, Johnson’s electoral victory was far from unexpected. However, the Tories’ ability to win an 80-seat overall majority on 43.6% of the vote, with a 103-seat lead over the Labour opposition on 32.2%, represented a considerable political setback. The SNP, though, performed even better in Scotland than Johnson’s Tories did throughout the Great Britain (along with Northern Ireland) which they claimed to represent. But, the SNP leadership’s independence strategy, which seeks a UK government approved IndyRef2, was based on a making deal with a liberal unionist Westminster. This prospect is now closed off for the immediate future, stymying the SNP, and opening up the likelihood of open division in the party.

Johnson’s victory at the all-UK level confirms that Right populism is in the ascendancy, following a brief Maybynist [5] transition. Basing himself on his voter majority in England and falling back on the state’s Crown Powers in the other constituent units of the UK, Johnson, the self-proclaimed Minister of the Union, sees the Tories being a minority outside of England as of little consequence. Indeed, the presence of constitutional nationalist parties in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is seen to be a useful butt for Johnson’s English/British nationalism. The Tories hold no seats in Northern Ireland, a small minority in Scotland and a larger minority in Wales. Instead, these two particular nations and one part-nation, along with the North and Midlands of England, are to be treated as British provinces. They are to be offered major new ‘post-Austerity’ infrastructure projects, which will provide a bonanza for big business, and be imposed with little regard to people’s real needs.

A Europhobic offensive barrage has also been planned to accompany the prolonged post-Brexit negotiations. Past wars with Germany and France, along with past British imperialist ‘triumphs’, will be invoked and celebrated. This is all to build up to a new ‘Festival of Britain’ in 2022. But none of this ‘bread and circuses’ approach will be able to disguise the fact that the UK will become even more subordinate to US imperialism. And that means jumping to the orders of global top dog, Donald Trump. Johnson’s support for Trump over the US state-terrorist killing of Qasem Solemani is an early indication of who calls the shots in this ‘America First’/‘Britain’ Second’ ‘special relationship’.

 

 b) How Corbyn’s Left social democracy, its complicity in British chauvinism and racism and its support for the UK state helped to pave the way for Johnson

However, as the very different election results in Scotland and Northern Ireland show, the triumph of Right populism and reactionary unionism, with its linked British chauvinist, racist anti-migrant and anti-asylum seeker politics, does not hold sway across the whole of the UK. A much wider range of forces in Scotland and Northern Ireland understands that the prospect of Brexit represents the further strengthening of the UK state and their own nation’s or part nation’s growing marginalisation and provincialisation. Many can see that this would lead to the rolling back of the liberal unionist concessions made to counter earlier national democratic challenges, most notably that of the Republican Movement in Northern Ireland/Ireland, but also the pressures which led to the establishment of a Scottish parliament. And many of those opposing Brexit also understand that the Right Populists’ intentions are not confined to the constitutional but are also preparatory to a stepped offensive on workers’ rights, pay and conditions, amongst many other things.

But British ethnic (cultural) chauvinism and racism have become hard-wired into the Labour Party.  Gordon Brown (followed by Michael Gove) had tried to draw up a list of cultural criteria before somebody who had moved to the UK could be considered a British subject.  In the process various groups were ‘othered’, particularly Muslims, who had previously been considered Pakistani- or Bangladeshi-British.  Brown had also mainstreamed the old fascist slogan ‘British jobs for British workers.’ As migrants and asylum seekers become a major target for attack, Corbyn and his immediate coterie have been unable to challenge this effectively, because so many British Left social democrats accept much of this earlier New Labour thinking, They even equate ‘Britain’ with ‘internationalism’, completely ignoring the UK’s unionist-imperialist nature.

In contrast, Sturgeon’s SNP government has been able to attack the Brexiteers frequently over migration. The SNP’s official notion of Scottish citizenship is based not on ethnic but civic national criteria – anybody who chooses Scotland as their home is Scottish [6]. In contrast, Corbyn included the ending of the free movement of EU migrants in his 2017 election manifesto, took no action against those Labour MPs who helped May get the first reading of her draconian new Immigration Bill through the House of Commons on January 31st 2019. Corbyn’s ally, Len McCluskey, a shame-faced supporter of ‘British jobs for British workers’ (disguised under the mantra of ‘non-racist’ immigration controls) worked overtime to marginalise the 2019 Labour conference policy, which overturned the anti-EU migrant 2017 manifesto.

Brexit has been intimately linked to the strengthening of the anti-democratic UK state and stepped-up attacks on migrants and asylum seekers. So, obstructing its progress has been vital to fend off the Right populists’ offensive. The ‘majority’ Brexit vote had been obtained on racist grounds by excluding EU residents from the franchise in 2016. It also excluded 16 to18 year olds. Yet both these groups had been included by another Cameron-led government in the Scottish IndyRed1 in 2014 [7]. Many on the Left, including Corbyn, went on to accept the ‘democratic’ legitimacy of the Brexit vote. In this were behaving like those in post-Reconstruction USA, who accepted the ‘democratic’ legitimacy of a franchise which excluded Black voters in the Jim Crow South.

The 2016 democratic deficit was further accentuated in the lead-up to the 2019 general election. Tens of thousands of long-resident EU citizens, who were meant to be on the electoral roll, found they had been disenfranchised through the UK state’s deliberate  failure to update the electoral register [8].  Corbyn and the official Labour Party made little effort to challenge this, leaving it largely to the party’s Left Remainers. But Johnson feeling relatively little pressure, and keen to play to an anti-European migrant worker gallery, went ahead in defiance of the electoral law.

And Corbyn, far from obstructing ‘Brexit’, not only assisted its parliamentary progress, bur contributed to the ongoing redefinition of Brexit in further Right terms, helped by the other Brexiteers in Labour. Corbyn sanctioned the original Article 50 application in January 2017, despite May providing no plans as to what her Brexit meant.  He ensured that a 3-line whip was imposed against the soft Brexit proposal coming from Chuku Umanna in June 2018. He failed to hold Labour MPs against a ‘No Deal’ Brexit vote in June 2019; or to prevent some Labour MPs assisting Johnson’s Withdrawal Amendment Bill in October.

Corbyn and British social democrats (Left and Right) see the existing UK state as an adequate vehicle for their proposed social democratic reforms. This is why the Its Time for Real Change manifesto had no complementary constitutional policies to challenge the state’s anti-democratic Crown Powers. The ruling class can always resort to these – whether its party of first choice is in on or out of office.  The essence of the Right’s Brexit appeal has always been ‘take back control’. And, whatever impression the Right try to give to wider sections of an atomised and alienated electorate, they have never wavered from their own priority when it comes to imposing this. They want to further centralise the power of the existing UK state.   And if that means posing as anti-Establishment in order to tighten up centralised control even more, then Right populists know how to turn this to their electoral advantage. They take particular delight at any liberal outrage or calls for a return to ‘British democracy’.

Corbyn and his allies, with their constant retreats over Brexit and migration (as with his predecessor, Ed Miliband) helped to open up the political space in which the Right Brexiteers’ overt British chauvinism and racism has become mainstreamed. Corbyn has been greatly helped in this by most trade union leaders’ open or tacit support for ‘British Jobs for British Workers’. And whilst Right trade union leaders have never pretended to question the existing war-based imperialist order, seeing this providing ‘good’ jobs in the arms industry, Left leaders, like McCluskey, are equally complicit in this, hence his support for Trident renewal. The Right, inside and outside of the party, also use open or thinly disguised racist smears against Corbyn’s supporters to increase their support amongst the atomised, marginalised and alienated amongst the electorate. This is sometimes given an ‘anti-racist’ cover in their spurious campaign against ‘anti-semitism’ [9].

And for the Hard Right, ‘take back control’ has another key element.  Ever since the shock the British ruling class experienced over Scottish IndyRef1, many former liberal unionist advocates of ‘Devolution-all-round’ have retreated to a conservative unionist defence of the constitutional status quo. But alongside their support for a ‘hard Brexit’, the Right populists have gone further and advocate a reactionary unionism, designed to roll back the post-1998 ‘Devolution all-round’ settlement. In Northern Ireland, the Loyalists and their main party, the DUP, want to end ‘parity of esteem’. In Scotland, the Tory Right want to severely curtail the powers of the Scottish parliament, which have provided a political base for another independence challenge.  The earlier ‘Better Together. promises of the ‘equality of the four nations’ have been disregarded by both May and Johnson. They have proceeded with their Brexit negotiations in total disregard for the UK’s devolved assemblies, and with the obvious intent of marginalising them further.

But just as the conservative Cameron was able to browbeat the social democratic Miliband into refusing any post-election deal with the social democratic SNP, so Corbyn, bowing to the Right, in both his 2017 and 2019 Its Time for Real Change manifestos dismissed the possibility of IndyRef2. However, seeing the poll evidence, John McDonnell began to realise there was no chance of a Labour majority government, and backpedalled. In order to get SNP support, he suggested that Labour wouldn’t obstruct a future Scottish IndyRef2.  However, this was so obviously based on cynical   electoral calculations (he was also making overtures to the DUP), that the Right now had two avenues of attack. They demanded that Labour stick to its past and current manifesto commitments opposing IndyRef1, a policy shared by the conservative and reactionary unionists.  Otherwise, Johnson attacked Labour for being in  alliance with Nicola Sturgeon “the yokemate of destruction” [10].

 

c) Other factors undermining the Corbynista challenge to Johnson

Corbyn, like many other Left social democrats, believes that the only way to win a general election is by holding together the Left, Centre and Right wings of the party together. The Right, though, are far more prepared to ditch the Left, preferring to get sympathetic media support from the likes of Rupert Murdoch. Corbyn’s appeasement of internal opposition is also diametrically opposed to the strategy pursued by today’s Hard Right Tories. Johnson has shown how to make use of transient independent parties, whilst at the time uniting the Tories around a single Hard Right platform.  He has been quite prepared to suspend even senior Tories who block his path.

Johnson’s methods are repugnant both to liberals and democrats. But Corbyn had an alternative way of uniting his party around a Left social democrat platform. This would have involved the mandatory reselection of parliamentary (and other) candidates. Yet, with the assistance of Corbyn’s inner coterie, the 4M – Len McCluskey [11], Andrew Murray and Karie Murphy, all from UNITE and Seamus Milne, Labour’s Head of Communications and Strategy – this proposition was defeated at the 2018 Labour conference. A byzantine trigger ballot system was substituted, which was mere grist-to-the-mill to these long-term bureaucrats. It was also understood by the Right, even if they prefer their own chosen bureaucratic methods. However, these cynical ploys sickened many and alienated new members.

Democracy in a party or other campaigning organisation is of vital importance to ensure members remain in control. But, under today’s political conditions, when it comes to winning wider electoral support, such democratic deficiencies are not seen to be so important. Voters look at the ability of party leaders to stand up to attacks. And this is much more important for a party which claims that it wants to take-on the ‘powers-that-be’. The Its Time for Real Change manifesto was always going to be opposed by British capital. As in the past, the employers would have quickly turned to their own ‘industrial action’ – investment strikes, organised runs on sterling, attacks on workers’ pay and conditions, etc – all to a shrill chorus of attacks from the Right-wing media, should a Corbyn-led Labour government have been elected.

Yet, even in the face of spurious anti-semitic accusations from apartheid Israel, its Zionist apologists and their British Right wing backers; Corbyn, his 4M and Momentum allies just caved in. This has led to the suspension of more Left Labour members than had occurred under Tony Blair! But Israel and its Zionist supporters (Jewish and non-Jewish), although undoubtedly an influential lobby, are far less central to the UK politics than the City and other British corporations. So, Corbyn and his allies’ continued retreat did not augur well if Its Time for Real Change manifesto ever came to form the basis of a Labour government programme. For Labour would soon become the target of even more vitriolic trumped-up attacks on ‘Marxists’, ‘Stalinist 5-year Plans’, etc.  To the annoyance of many on the Right, especially the neo-Blairites, there is widespread popularity for some Its Time for Real Change policies. However, faced with Corbyn’s political retreats when attacked, many began to see these policies as utopian rather than practical. They either looked elsewhere to give their votes or just abstained.

But  the majority of the wider electorate probably also take the ‘antisemitism’ attacks with a pinch of salt. It just does not correspond with their experience. Despite the cynical claims of the Tory-led, Jewish Board of Deputies, the UK is not remotely like pre-1933 Germany, with its daily physical attacks on Jews, their exclusion from particular jobs or social facilities, a rabidly anti-Jewish press, widespread anti-Jewish graffiti and defilement of Jewish cemeteries.  And to the extent that people are the subject of discrimination and violence in the UK, this is far more prevalent against women and Muslims, with both misogyny and Islamophobia very actively promoted by the Right. And this includes Johnson and many other Tories.

Corbyn and his allies hoped that as the election campaign progressed, popular elements of Its Time for Real Change manifesto, such as the defence of the NHS, would come to the fore, and awkward constitutional issues would recede into the background. In contrast, the Tory Right populists fully understood that their draconian economic and social counter-reforms required constitutional change. Thus ironically, they were often able to pose in anti-Establishment colours. They fell back on the fictional Italian Prince of Salina’s 1860 understanding that, “Everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same” [12].

Most liberals and Corbyn, along with his allies, fell back on a defence of British ‘democratic’ values and the non-existent sovereignty of the House of Commons (never mind popular sovereignty). Many people have long come to the conclusion that the existing British political set-up is deeply flawed and corrupt, but in England it is only the Right populists who are making use of this to further their own wider agenda. The deep-dyed economism of the Labour Party (Right and Left) believes that electoral success lies in  ‘bread-and-butter’ issues, or “It’s the economy stupid!” But when the whole political set-up is in crisis, then economic and social issues can’t be separated from major political issues – “It’s the constitution stupid”!

 

 d) The election results in England

In England, Johnson’s Tories won 47.2% of the vote and ended up with 345 MPs a gain of 47, shattering Labour’s Northern and Midlands ‘Red Walls’. Although the Tories only gained an extra 1.7% of the vote since the 2017 general election, this compared well with Labour, whose vote fell by 7.9% to 33.7%, costing them 47 seats and leaving them with only 180 MPs in England.

The Brexit Party won no seats, and the Tories would still likely have won, if the Brexit Party had stood in Tory-held seats. Johnson’s backers had made an astute move in refusing to make any deal, which involved the Tories’ standing aside for selected Brexit candidates. Nevertheless, the Brexit Party saved its deposit in many seats, gained over 10% of the votes in 20 seats, and came second in Barnsley Central and in Barnsley East. This provides a basis for another Farage party to keep up the Hard Right pressure, once the post-January 31st negotiations with the EU begin.

Ironically, the Lib-Dems made the biggest percentage electoral gain on December 12th with a 4.6% improvement in their vote, but they lost 2 and only gained 1 MP in England, leaving them with 7 MPs there. Such are the vagaries of the first-past-the-post system [13].  The author’s earlier article had predicted the likely poor election outcome for the Lib-Dems caught up in their own hubris. As it turned out, the general election even cost them their British leader, Jo Swinson. But after losing her East Dunbartonshire seat in Scotland [14], she is at least saved the inconvenience of travelling from her permanent London home to meet her ungrateful constituents! And none of those neo-Liberal, ex-Conservative or ex-Labour MPs standing as Lib-Dems or Independents held on to their seats.

As with Corbyn hoping a defence of the NHS would provide Labour with extra votes, the Greens hoped they would become the electoral conduit for the growing concerns over environmental degradation and the Extinction Rebellion protests. But the Greens only increased their overall vote in England by 1.2%. The first-past-the-post electoral system pushes many supporters of smaller parties into giving their vote to other parties. It is likely that some Green supporters voted for certain Labour candidates and the party’s Green New Deal. Sitting Green MP, Caroline Lucas, however, standing in Brighton Pavilion, on a manifesto not dissimilar to Labour’s, increased her support by 5%, winning 57.2% of the overall vote. She pushed down the vote of Labour (-4%) and the Tories (-1.7%), with the Brexit Party (1.3%) and UKIP (0.3%) both losing their deposits.

 

e) The election results in Wales

On December 12th, all four of the constituent units of the UK state – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – showed different patterns of voting behaviour. These reflect the continued relevance of the ‘National Question’ in a unionist state. In Wales, the Labour Party retained its leading position in terms of MPs, holding on to 22. However, as predicted in the author’s earlier article, Johnson’s Right populist Tories made substantial gains in Wales. The overall Tory vote rose by 2.5%, a greater percentage than in England. They gained 6 new seats bringing their total number of Welsh MPs to 14. Labour’s vote in Wales fell by 8%, as badly as in England. Furthermore, the gap in Wales between Labour’s support with 40.9% of the vote and the Tories with 36.1%; and the gap in England, where the Tories got 47.2% of the vote and the Labour only 33.7%, is considerably narrower. The Tories are the main challengers in 21 of Labour’s 22 Welsh seats. The Brexit Party came 2nd in the other and 3rd in another 10. As this party folds, the Tories are also likely, in the short term at least, to inherit some of their support.

The post-December 12th political situation is going to put a considerable strain upon Welsh Labour.  It has tried to maintain an all-Wales orientation based around the promotion of a gradual liberal unionist extension of the UK’s devolved powers for Wales. Since the foundation of the Welsh Assembly, Welsh Labour has also had a positive attitude to the Welsh language. This liberal unionist approach has been pursued in alliance with the Lib-Dems, Plaid Cymru and the now almost extinct liberal unionist Welsh Tories. Most Tories have gone over to support Johnson’s reactionary unionism and their numbers have increased.

However, Johnson’s imminent Hard Right threat could lead to a revival of conservative unionism in Welsh Labour’s ranks. This was a strong feature of pre-devolution Wales. Welsh MPs were amongst the 32 Labour MPs who did not turn up to vote against Johnson’s final EU Withdrawal Act on 9thJanuary 2020. This despite the act’s final removal of safeguards in relation to workers’ and consumer rights, the environment, EU nationals living in the UK and child refugees. And a Tory Right Brexit means curtailing existing Welsh devolved powers. If a post-Corbyn Labour Party is going to update the New Labour tradition of tail-ending Thatcher’s Tories over neo-Liberalism, then this particular Right-wing Welsh Labour group could be a component of a future Labour Party which tail-ends Right populism. In this it would be following a path already established within the party by ‘UKIP-Lite’ Blue Labour.

Plaid’s Cymru’s overall vote fell back by 0.5% to 9.9%, although its decision not to stand in 4 seats, as part of localised electoral deal with the Lib-Dems and Greens, probably explains this. Plaid held on to its 4 seats but was second in no seats, third in 14, fourth in 12, fifth in 4 seats, whilst it lost its deposit in 10 seats. Despite the deal with the Lib-Dems, which brought this party no electoral gain, the demise of the Lib-Dems at Westminster (and their continued decline in the Welsh Assembly and local councils) will probably benefit Plaid. Plaid has replaced the Lib-Dems as the most pro-European party in Wales shown in the June EU election results, where it came second after the Brexit Party. But it is also more likely to be critical of the EU, with its failure to defend democracy in Catalunya. Whilst many compare Catalunya with Scotland (and in the past Euskadi with Northern Ireland), the political significance of the language issue in Catalunya and Wales also connects the political situation in these two nations.

Johnson’s closing off of further liberal unionist devolutionary reform in Wales poses a problem for Plaid. Does it try to come to a deal with Welsh Labour’s liberal unionists (if they still remain dominant in the party)? This would involve replacing the Lib-Dems as Welsh Labour’s main ally.  Or does it use Johnson’s reactionary unionist roadblock and Welsh Labour’s and the Lib-Dems’ inability to get around this, to come out more clearly as a Welsh independence party? This route means taking their lead from the constitutional nationalist SNP. Plaid’s leadership (unlike the SNP’s) has already committed it to the openly pro-independence ‘All Under One Banner’ (AUOB) strategy of mass mobilisations to build support for an independence referendum. And AUOB (Cymru) has taken its marches to Labour unionist and Brexit-voting Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales and intends to march in now Tory unionist and Brexit-voting Wrexham in north east Wales.

The new political situation could also have an effect on the still small Green Party in Wales, which is an autonomous section of the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW). Although the Welsh Greens increased their percentage vote from 0.3% to 1%, this was mainly because of the greater number of seats they stood in. Clearly, they are still a small political force.  So far, the Welsh Greens have acted as a part of the wider Welsh liberal unionist alliance. They will be now be faced with a decision as to whether to remain part of this alliance, or to opt for the Scottish Greens’ independence strategy. In making this decision, they face a similar choice to that facing Plaid Cymru – continuing to defend what remains of the existing Welsh liberal unionist devolutionary order, or joining with Plaid, if it decides to opt for the constitutional nationalist road to Welsh independence. If this happens, the Welsh Greens would likely change from being an autonomous section of GPEW to becoming an independent party like the Scottish Greens.

However, it is also necessary to look at the Welsh results through the prism of  three distinctive areas making up Wales –  the English-speaking Welsh Borders, its north Wales coastal extension and Pembrokeshire outlier: the former coal and steel industry based South Wales and its north east Wales outlier; and Welsh-speaking north and west Wales. The first has been marked by competition between the Tories and Lib-Dems in the Borders and between the Tories and Labour elsewhere. The second has long enjoyed almost complete Labour hegemony. The third has seen the rise in the domination of Plaid Cymru.

In the December 12th general election, the Tories took all the seats in the Borders and its extension and outliers. This wiped out the Lib-Dems’ last Westminster MP, who was also the Welsh Liberal leader. The Lib-Dems had been removed from their last South Wales seat in 2015 (by Labour) and their last west Wales seat in 2017 (by Plaid). So, the loss of their last MP in the Welsh Borders, their remaining Welsh base, represents a considerable blow for the Lib-Dems. They have also been on retreat in the Welsh Assembly, so despite being in coalition with Welsh Labour at Cardiff Bay, this arrangement is likely to come under increasing strain.

In South Wales and its north-eastern Wales outlier, Labour has long been dominant. However, December 12th produced the first Tory breach in Labour South Wales at Bridgend, whilst they took 4 of the 5 Labour-held seats in north east Wales. They came second in all but one of the Labour held seats in these areas. This will lead either to a hardening of Labour’s current Welsh Assembly-based liberal unionism, bringing it into greater conflict with Johnson’s reactionary unionist project; or it it will lead to Labour in Wales joining those sections of Labour in the former ‘Red Wall’ constituencies in the North and Midlands of England, in trying to develop a new regional Britishness, subordinate to Tory Right Populist whims and US imperialist designs.

In north and west Wales, Plaid Cymru was confirmed as the dominant party. It managed to hold on to its 4 existing seats, increasing its percentage vote in the 3 most Welsh-speaking constituencies, but falling back relative to the Tories in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (where the Brexit Party standing probably saved Plaid the seat). The Tories are now the main challengers in the other 3 seats, and the Brexit Party saved its deposits in 2 of these. Plaid’s biggest disappointment, though, was its failure to take its target seat of Yns Mon, which it holds in the Welsh Assembly. Plaid increased its vote here by only 1.3%, (which probably came about as a result of their local electoral deal with the Lib-Dems). In contrast, the Tories increased their vote by 7.7% being the main beneficiaries of the 11.8% decrease in the Labour vote. The Tories took Yns Mon.

Wales is currently in another period of political flux. Back in 1979, as Margaret Thatcher took over, her conservative unionist Tories made considerable gains in Wales. In Yns Mon, an English-born, Welsh language learner became the MP. Instead of Welsh political devolution, which had just been crushed in the 1979 referendum, the Tories offered cultural devolution, particularly for Welsh language speakers – a new Welsh language TV channel, S4C in 1982 and eventually a Welsh Language Act 1993. This all required considerable external pressure, including a 1982 hunger strike by former Plaid MP, Gwynfor Evans and a massive campaign of civil disobedience led by Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society). However, Tory Welsh language cultural concessions fitted in with their overall divide-and-rule strategy. This had already been used with considerable effect against Welsh political devolution, to split English and Welsh language speakers.

It took Thatcher’s defeats of the miners’ strike in the largely English-speaking south and north east of Wales in 1985, and of the slate-workers’ strike in largely Welsh speaking Gwynedd in 1986, to bring some sections of the Welsh Labour party together to promote another wider liberal unionist campaign for Welsh political devolution, and a more positive attitude to Welsh speakers. There have been a number of highpoints for this wider liberal unionist alliance, with Welsh Labour at its centre, but also involving the Lib-Dems and Plaid.

In the 1997 Westminster general election, the conservative unionist Tories were wiped out in Wales, with 35 seats going to Labour, 3 to Plaid and 2 to the Lib-Dems. This was followed by the Welsh devolution referendum in 1997 where the decision to set up a new Welsh Assembly was endorsed. However, this was only achieved by the narrowest of margins (50.3% to 49.7%). The closeness of the result was due to Labour’s own mainly Right-conservative unionists joining with the Tories in opposition. This divide was reflected in the three distinct areas of Wales. North and west Wales and the north and west of the South Wales coalfield voted Yes’ and the Borders, their north coast extension, Pembrokeshire outlier and the south and east part of the South Wales coalfield voted ‘No’. But perhaps the real highpoint for liberal unionism was the 2011 Welsh devolution result, which approved new powers for the Welsh Assembly by 63.5% to 36.1%. This time only Monmouthshire voted ‘No’. Labour-led liberal unionism had created a broad base for a new Welsh-British nation.

But the Brexit referendum has torn that British-Welsh nation asunder, something confirmed by the December 12th general election results. It’s not Thatcher’s conservative unionism that now rules the roost in the UK, but Johnson’s reactionary unionism. One aim of reactionary unionism is to break up this liberal unionist Wales. The Border counties, their extension, outlier, and possibly north-east Wales, will be encouraged to adopt a counties-based or other localised form of Britishness, akin to those of the English counties just over the border. South Wales, though, with its more distinctive identity, will be encouraged to adopt a regional Britishness, akin to the English North and Midlands. This will celebrate past contributions to the Union and Empire, accept the Right populists’ Europhobia and their willingness to jump at Trump’s bidding.  Welsh-speaking Wales will be treated more like the ‘Ulster’ Unionists treat the Irish Nationalist minority. And in contrast to the Thatcher governments’ preparedness to give backing (often under some pressure) to cultural Welshness, under the Right Populists, Welsh language culture is more likely to be reduced to providing niche marketing opportunities for tourists.

The likely severity of the Right Populist attack, and the absence of any liberal unionist allies at the UK level, could very well push one-time liberal unionists in South Wales to look to a new way to maintain their previously united Wales. A Welsh movement for national self-determination, which so far has been the least challenging at a political level to the UK state (although with an impressive record of civil disobedience around cultural rights) could well come to the fore. This will depend on two things. First its ability to break out of the Welsh-speaking areas and break back into English speaking South Wales; and secondly a close alliance with those other national democratic movements challenging the UK state. And, as in Scotland, this will involve a growing rejection of the ‘British’ suffix of the UK state-promoted Welsh-British identity and the reinforcement of the ‘Welsh ‘prefix, with ‘European’ replacing ‘British’ amongst Welsh internationalists.

 

f) The election results in Scotland

 The author’s earlier article anticipated gains for the SNP. These were larger than anticipated. The SNP increased it vote by over 8%, gaining 45% of the vote in Scotland and winning an extra 13 seats, bringing its Westminster total to 47 (+ 1) [15] out of a total of 59. Although not reaching its 2015 highpoint of 56 out of 59 MPs, following Scotland’s 2014 ‘democratic revolution’, the SNP already had the largest number of MSPs and local councillors (since the 2016 elections) and MEPs (since the 2019 Euro-election).  The December general election result reinforced the SNP’s current hegemony over Scottish politics. It also confirmed the mainstreaming of Scottish independence as a wider political and electoral issue in the UK.

The election had been preceded by a series of ‘All Under One Banner’ demonstrations held across Scotland, culminating in the 150-200,000 strong demo in Edinburgh on October 5th. The Tories, Labour and Lib-Dems put ‘No to IndyRef2’ to the fore of their election campaigns. The Tories lost more than half of their MPs, being reduced from 13 to 6; Labour was reduced from 6 to 1; and the Lib-Dems lost their leader. Only in North East Fife and Edinburgh South were the Lib-Dem’s and Labour’s cross-unionist electoral appeals successful, although even in these two seats, the SNP increased its vote by over 7% and 3% respectively.

The Tories, in their attempt to be seen as the most unionist party, have tried to appeal to the old bigoted Orange vote (in which they face competition in some local quarters from Labour!) They have largely abandoned any attempt to sustain a more widely supported Scottish unionism. Their MPs just take their orders directly from Johnson (as they did from May). In this they differ from the reactionary unionist DUP. Whilst trying to resurrect Northern Ireland’s pre-1973 Loyalist supremacy and undermine the post-1996 Good Friday Agreement’s ‘parity of esteem’, the DUP also managed to extract a £ multi-million bung from May’s government. On paper, the Scottish Tories had been in a stronger bargaining position with 13 MPs compared to the DUP’s 10. But they asked for and got nothing. If mounting opposition to Johnson’s stonewalling over IndyRef2 necessitates a tactical retreat, it could well take the form of the Tories joining with the DUP, Labour Right and Lib-Dems to call for Westminster to impose a 66.6% majority clause in any future Scottish independence or Irish border poll referendum arrangements.

Whilst the days of widespread popular support for the Scottish Conservatives and Unionists (1955-9) and for a Scottish-British union (up to 2011) have gone, Johnson’s Tories can still fall back on all the UK state’s undemocratic Crown powers, and the backing of Trump to maintain their hold over Scotland. And when push comes to shove, Labour and the Lib-Dems can usually be expected to accept this. But this acquiescence to the Tories brings its own problems. Scottish Labour faces a bigger problem than Welsh Labour. During the IndyRef1 campaign, Scottish Labour abandoned liberal unionism to join the British Tories and Lib-Dems in the essentially conservative unionist ‘Better Together’ or ‘Project Fear’. Scottish Labour provided a superficial liberal gloss to this campaign. Gordon Brown fell back on this with his infamous ‘Vow’. This did not last beyond the announcement of the ‘No’ victory on September 18th, 2014. Labour had handed over the custody of British Scotland to the Tories.

In the run-up to the December 12th general election, Labour tried to compete with the Tories in Scotland on a conservative unionist basis, only to find that the Tories had moved the goalposts even further to the Right. They were now mounting a reactionary unionist campaign in support of a Right populist future for Scotland as part of the UK. The Scottish Tories played down the ‘back Boris’ or ‘get Brexit done’ rhetoric, which had little wider appeal. Right-dominated Scottish Labour looked for an election which would lead to a National government, where both Johnson and Corbyn would be dropped, Brexit stalled, and any Holyrood appeal for IndyRef2 ignored. But Johnson now holds power, and Brexit will go ahead, although the Scottish Labour Right will support him over blocking any IndyRef2

After Corbyn’s resignation, the Scottish Labour Right is looking to get a new lead from their London head office. Their only MP, the Right-wing Iain Murray, is on a joint ticket with equally Right-wing, Jess Phillips. Phillips is standing for British Labour leader, Murray as depute leader. Like Murray, Phillips strongly opposes IndyRef2. But maybe Murray has been over-hasty in his choice of running mate. Another Right-wing leadership candidate, Lisa Nandy, provided the example of Spain, as a success story in dealing with ‘nationalism’ in Catalunya! [16] Nandy is completely blind to Spanish and British imperialist nationalism – that’s her ‘internationalism’. The Scottish Labour Right has also turned on Corbyn’s man in Scotland, Richard Leonard. Whilst previously prevaricating, Leonard has now decided, for his own opportunist reasons, that the election result in Scotland justifies Labour support for IndyRef2, with a ‘federal’ or ‘Devo-Max’ option.

The relatively small Scottish Labour Left faced an even more daunting challenge in the run-up to the election. Its Campaign for Socialism (Scottish sister organisation to Momentum in England and Wales) had 2 sitting MPs out of Scottish Labour’s 6, although some other Centre MPs backed Corbyn as long as this enhanced their immediate political careers. But apart from their 2 MPs, none of the Scottish Labour Left’s other candidates were seen as having a chance of being elected [17]. As it turned out, even the CfS’s two sitting MPs, and the other Centre and Right MPs were ousted, leaving only one, Ian Murray, as the last man standing in Scotland. And Murray is the very bete-noir of the CfS – and not without good reason!

The CfS had opposed Scottish independence in IndyRef1 under the banner of the Red Paper Collective (seeing Gordon Brown’s 1975 Red Paper as their political antecedent). Some of their key members and CPB allies had also signed up to a Left Brexit campaign. They were on the winning side in both campaigns, but it was the conservative unionist Right not the Left who were strengthened on the unionist side by the ‘No’ vote; and it was the Hard Right, not the Left who were even more strengthened  by the ‘Leave’ vote. When it came to the December 12th general election, CfS fell back on the Left’s economism, claiming  constitutional issues were unimportant compared to ‘bread-and-butter’ issues. But, if really pressed, like Gordon Brown, a ‘federal’ option was there in ‘the back of the cupboard’. Federalism is impossible under the UK’s Crown-in-Westminster constitution, which upholds Westminster sovereignty. And such a policy would not be well-received by Labour (Left or Right) in England.

If the Scottish Labour Right looked to a National government to save their bacon, then the Scottish Labour Left hoped for a Corbyn-led government. One problem with this, was it also meant voting for Labour Right candidates, who once elected, were more likely than many SNP MPs to try and bring down Corbyn! Furthermore, the Labour Left also had a difficult job attacking the SNP’s poor anti-Austerity record, when the SNP had been able to maintain several health, educational and welfare reforms that had been abandoned under Blair’s New Labour and Miliband’s One Nation {read One State} Labour. There was also the inconvenient fact that Scottish Labour had openly joined up with the Tories to take control of Aberdeen City council, and also had tacit agreements with the Tories elsewhere – North Lanarkshire and West Lothian. Then there have also been Labour overtures to the Orange Order in Glasgow and Ayrshire!

But, following Corbyn’s resignation, at least the Scottish Labour Right is spoiled for choice when it comes to British leadership candidates. The Corbynistas have only one candidate.  Rebecca Long-Bailey launched her campaign in The Guardian [18] on 29.12.19, counterposing ‘progressive {English/British?} patriotism’ to the nationalism of the Tory Right. Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland didn’t get a mention. Coupled with her belief in a softer Brexit, because the working class had voted for one (although not in Scotland, not in the Republican/Nationalist areas of Northern Ireland, not the non-white working class elsewhere and not the excluded EU residents), this was beginning to look like a watered-down Labour adaptation to Tory Right populism.  Realising this had not gone down too well, Long-Bailey issued a stronger appeal in The Guardian on 16.1.49. This called for “popular remedies to deal with the three linked crises our country faces: of democracy, the economy and the environment”. It culminated in a call for a “democratic revolution” [19], albeit one limited to scrapping the House of Lords. It would be nice to know that, if elected leader, she would depart from Corbyn’s practice of appointing people to this anti-democratic British institution. But in her article, Long-Bailey also ignored the ruling class’s huge armoury of other anti-democratic Crown powers.

And when it comes to the most immediate ‘democratic’ issue, the right of the Scottish people to right of self-determination, strikingly highlighted by the results of the election on December 12th, Long-Bailey had initially just ignored this. Then somewhat grudgingly, rather like John McDonnell angling for SNP support for a minority Corbyn-led government, she said that she would not stand in the way of a second Scottish independence referendum. However, she also emphasised, “I’m fully committed to the union and I don’t think that should be shaken in any way” [20] – truly a voice of the British Left!

And when pressured by the Tory-led Board of Deputies, she retreated even faster than Corbyn. She has signed up to their ’10 Pledges’ [21], which give support to apartheid Israel, with its oppression and expulsion of Palestinians, Jewish supremacist nationality laws, and its demand for a witch-hunt against those supporting Palestinian rights and self-determination, especially the Jewish Voice of Labour. But more amazingly, Long-Bailey said “she’d be prepared to use nuclear weapons”, something that the hapless Jo Swinson was rightfully pilloried for. But Long-Bailey unintentionally revealed the real scenario in which such a horrific possibility could occur.  She said, “I’m not going to be warmonger foaming at the mouth” [22]. In other words, the decision to go to war would have been taken by a warmonger elsewhere. She would just be acting upon instructions. This highlights the real relationship of those with their ‘finger on the button’ of UK’s Trident missile system to those in charge of the US wider nuclear armoury. Swinson is now well away from any targeted Faslane Trident base, in the event of a US-backed nuclear war, but how safe is Long-Bailey in Salford and Eccles? And why has she remained silent do far over Johnson falling in behind Trump’s Iran provocations?

On January 12th, the Right-wing dominated Scottish Labour Executive took the King Canute-like decision to deny a special conference to discuss the possibility of backing IndyRef2. However, this has led to some rumblings of discontent in Scottish Labour’s diminishing ranks, especially from Scottish Labour for Radical Democracy (SLfRD) formed days after Scottish Labour’s general election rout [23].

The independent Scottish Greens performed in the election very similarly to autonomous Welsh Greens in GPEW. Their vote share increased from 0.2% in 2017 with 3 candidates to 1% in December 2019 with 22 candidates. However, the Scottish Greens still low percentage vote share shows that, despite having 6 MSPs and 19 local councillors, and the growing concern over environmental degradation, the SNP’s domination of the independence movement places constraints upon them almost as severe as those faced by the smaller Welsh Greens. Although these are of a different nature, since the Welsh Greens do not confront a dominant Plaid Cymru in Wales. But unlike the Welsh Greens, the Scottish Greens are no longer in   the liberal unionist camp but have been  in the constitutional nationalist camp for quite a number of years.

A lot is expected of the SNP leadership now that the party holds 47(+1), or 81% of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats. The SNP stood in the 2016 Holyrood and 2017 Westminster election seeking a mandate to hold IndyRef2. Although the SNP failed to get a majority in the 2016 Holyrood elections, the election of 6 independence supporting Scottish Green MSPs still provided a Holyrood mandate for an IndyRef 2. And although the SNP won an overall majority of Scottish MPs in 2017 – 35 out of 59 – their loss of 21 MPs was interpreted by the unionist Right as signalling a decline in the independence movement. A shameless media boosted Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson as the next Scottish first minister. But Davidson’s resignation and demise in August 2019 preceded the demolition of support for the Scottish Tories’ prime ‘No to IndyRef2’ policy on December 12th.  The size of the SNP contingent places the party in an analogous position to the Irish Parliamentary Party in pre-1914 Westminster days, only now with the SNP’s ‘Independence-Lite’ replacing the IPP’s Irish Home Rule [24].

The SNP leadership has been caught between its own long-term ‘Independence-Lite’ strategy for winning Scottish independence under the Crown, British High Command, NATO and the EU bureaucracy, and the much more radical grassroots independence movement which changed the nature of Alex Salmond’s intended, low-key, IndyRef1 campaign between 2012-14. This led to a ‘democratic revolution’ where 85% of the electorate voted. The SNP saw the taming of this ‘democratic revolution’ as its first priority [25]. It conducted a major membership drive which led to it being the largest party per head of population in the UK. The party used this membership to good effect in the 2015 Westminster general election, taking all but three of the Scottish seats and becoming the third largest party in Westminster (and given the divided nature if the Labour Party, sometimes the main opposition too).

The SNP membership drive also won over many people whose thinking on social and economic issues was similar to those who were later to join the Jeremy Corbyn campaign in the Labour Party in England and South Wales and the Bernie Sanders campaign in the Democrat Party in the USA. But like those who joined the Catalan republican movement (partly inspired by IndyRed1), many of those joining the SNP are decidedly more critical of the state in which they live, in this case the UK.

In the pre-2008 Crisis days, Alex Salmond had tried to outbid Gordon Brown in the neo-Liberal stakes, especially with regards to the deregulation of the two Scottish headquartered banks. These were central components of the City of London set-up and major global operators. The taxes from finance sector profits were meant to provide trickle down funding for Scandinavian-style social democratic reforms. But following the financial 2008 Crisis, Salmond’s north eastern Atlantic ‘Arc of Prosperity’ turned to the ‘Arc of Insolvency’ – particularly the Republic of Ireland and Iceland. But Brown’s and Darling’s greater commitment to Austerity saved the SNP and contributed to their 2011 surge in the Holyrood elections.

In the run-up to IndyRef1, the ultra-neo-Liberal proposals of John Swinney (flat rate taxes) and Michael Russell (East Asian levels of social spending) were quietly ditched. And following the pressure from the wider ‘Yes’ movement, greater emphasis was placed on the social democratic element of SNP thinking. And in line with the more radical IndyRef1 political atmosphere, a new emphasis was placed on getting more state funding by dropping key items of UK state expenditure after independence, e.g. costly Trident and the bloated expenditure involved in maintaining the illusions of imperial grandeur at Westminster (especially the House of Lords)  and Buckingham Palace (the SNP wants to trim down the expenses of maintaining the monarchy). Scotland was to take its place on the EU stage as a small, progressive, modern nation. The ‘anointing’ of Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader on November 2014 followed by the ‘miracle of the 56’ in the May 2015 general election, cemented the party’s position as a social democratic-type party, with an emphasis on progressive redistribution of wealth (or at least when compared to Westminster).

However, just as the trickle-down wealth of the debt-laden Scottish financial sector was no longer available (indeed wealth is now being siphoned up to pay the banksters’ debts) so, without independence, Holyrood could not get its hands on its share of the UK funding wasted maintaining a costly British imperialist façade. Even the SNP’s old trusty, ‘It’s Scotland’s Oil’, no longer had the same appeal to new young members looking to a green future. In 2016 they managed to force the Sturgeon to replace Right wing, neo-liberal energy minister, Fergus Ewing, who was trying to come to a behind-the-scenes fracking deal with INEOS boss, Jim Ratcliffe.

But the SNP leadership has never abandoned its commitment to a neo-Liberal world order. Furthermore, this is linked to a central aspect of the SNP leadership’s independence strategy, which is to build up a new business-based Scottish ruling class. Their aim is a junior managerial takeover of the UK’s assets in Scotland. This underlies the neo-Liberal thinking behind the SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission, (SGC). In this, ‘sustainable’ is not related to the renewability of resources, but to the growth of profits within the existing corporate-dominated world order. The SGC was chaired by former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, founding partner in the business consultancy firm, Charlotte Street Partners. Scottish FE bosses resorted to this firm to undermine a national agreement made with the EIS, the college lecturers union. The SGC included 6 academics, 4 politicians and 4 people from business, but not even a token trade union official, never mind a single worker or actual producer of economic or social wealth.  The role of the SGC has been challenged within the SNP, but it remains the basis of the leadership’s key long-term economic strategy. Those supporting the SGC are in charge of SNP economic policy. This is meant to ensure that despite the SNP’s social democratic and anti-Austerity electoral rhetoric, the business community in Scotland still knows they enjoy a favoured position, now and in any future ‘Independence-Lite’ Scotland.

Furthermore, the SNP government is promoting neo-Liberal managerial methods of running devolved services inherited from their unionist predecessors. Education and health are run by a hierarchy of overpaid executives and senior managers presiding over a market-inspired system of target setting. This is designed to impose discipline over employees with little regard to meeting service users’ real needs. And beyond this is the continuous hiving off of public sector service provision to voracious private sector companies like SERCO.  Neo-Liberals, like SNP education minister John Swinney, buy into this wholesale. A one-time more critical voice, Joan Freeman, the SNP health minister, has come to accept this managerial set-up. She has had to take the flack for senior management failures tied to secretive corporate business deals. And should any senior manager be eventually brought to account they will get a massive pay-off and probably re-emerge in an a near-equivalent job in some other sector.

Meanwhile, the SNP got its hands on greater levels of patronage through its control   over Scottish local government and Holyrood; by getting greater bargaining power through being the majority Scottish party at Westminster and Brussels/Strasbourg. But most of all the SNP strategy means pursuing business-friendly policies at Holyrood and St. Andrews House and kow-towing before corporate lobbying.

In this it is following the tradition of the neo-Liberal Convergence and Union party (CiU) in Catalunya. The CiU presided over the Catalan parliament (the Generalidad) from 1980-2003 and again from 2010 [26]. Because of their support for closer business/politician links, two successive CiU leaders, Jordi Pujol (and other members of his family) and Artur Mas, were involved in the almost inevitable corruption such links bring (highlighted by Mark Thatcher’s  involvement in an BAE arms deal with Saudi Arabia, former New Labour minister, Peter Mandelson’s links with Indian and Russian businesses, and also seen in Northern Ireland under Arlene Foster with the DUP in the ‘Cash for Ash’ scandal). As Spanish government intransigence grew in the face of rising demands for greater Catalan self-determination, the CiU became an obstacle to an effective fightback. It took mounting pressure, mobilising independently on the streets, and politically from Catalan Solidarity for Independence (with 4 deputies in 2010) and from the Popular Unity Candidacy (with 10 deputies in 2015) to force the Junts per Catalunya (the renamed CiU) to ditch Mas, and come out for an openly republican challenge to the Spanish state in a Catalan parliament-backed independence referendum on October 1st 2017.

And now the SNP faces, not the last throes of liberal unionism, seen in the Con-Dem government’s granting of the legal 2014 referendum, but the intransigent reactionary unionism of the Johnson government. It is unlikely that any of the SNP government’s legal challenges or international appeals will bear fruit. But at the same time, the SNP leadership’s real strategy of using the devolved institutions to build up support for a Scottish ruling class in-the-making is going to be limited by UK state encroachments upon its powers. Scottish-based businesses can easily adapt to this, once they see where the power of patronage lies. However, Johnson’s encroachments are also designed to clear the way for even greater privatisation of public services and deregulation of business, underpinned by new trade deals, particularly with Trump’ Right populist US regime. Wooing Scottish business and addressing the growing demands for more radical independence are eventually going to lead to division within the SNP, just as they did within the CiU.

The other side of the challenge facing the SNP leadership can be seen in the succession of AUOB matches in Scotland. Sturgeon and the SNP leadership eventually decided to try and take the lead of this movement, just as they had of the wider IndyRef1 ‘Yes’ movement in 2015. On November 2ndSturgeon addressed a rally in Glasgow. But this was only attended by 20,000. The AUOB demonstrations have considerably wider appeal, highlighted by the 80,000 who attended their latest demo on January 11th, despite the foul weather. With all the other avenues likely to be blocked, the SNP leadership will try to keep this wider movement behind them, and delay any expectation of IndyRef2, until after the 2021 Holyrood elections.

How happy Scottish independence supporters will be with this further delay remains to be seen, especially if Johnson’s government resorts to obvious provocations and English nationalist rhetoric to underpin Tory rule; and, if, even following a further electoral mandate in 2021, Johnson continues to say, ‘No surrender’. Then the likelihood of the current SNP leadership and its strategy holding are going to decrease considerably.

At the moment, there is a politically disparate opposition to the official SNP strategy. Its furthest Right element, the ultra-nationalist Soil nan Gaidheal, a currently marginal force, will welcome the largely English-based ethnic nationalist politics promoted by Johnson’s Tory government. This will be used in order to justify their own Scottish ethnic nationalist based politics. Stuart Campbell, the Right nationalist blogger of ‘Wings Over Scotland’ [27], is trying to put together a Right-wing slate for the Additional Member seats in the 2021 Holyrood elections. If any of these MSPs were to be elected, their role would be to counter the existing Leftist pressure and to shift the SNP further to the Righ., particularly over social and cultural issues.

With the Alex Salmond trial looming, the nationalist Right, the more politically ambiguous Left/Right populist Scottish Resistance and others will apply pressure to open up the suppressed divisions in the highly centralised SNP political machine. Some want to move Scottish politics on to a more ethnic nationalist, misogynist, anti-gay and transphobic basis. Indeed, some of those involved in the current ‘culture wars’, within the SNP and wider nationalist movement, particularly over transgender recognition, are using these issues to make possible future challenges to the SNP leadership over its IndtRed2 strategy.

 

g) The election results in Northern Ireland

The main talking point over the December 12th general election in Northern Ireland has been the loss of the DUP’s overall majority at Westminster. The number of DUP MPs fell from 10 to 8 out of the Northern Irish total of 18. The DUP lost its Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, something that brought cheers to many, especially as he is on the even further Right Loyalist wing of the DUP. He was replaced in Belfast North by Sinn Fein’s John Finucane, son of the Irish human rights lawyer, Pat Finucane, murdered by Loyalist paramilitaries activated by the UK state.  The DUP’s other loss – in Belfast South – (this time to the SDLP) of Emma Little-Pengelly, with her own close links to the Loyalist paramilitaries, was also welcome. Both Belfast North and Belfast South had been subjected to recent Loyalist sectarian attacks [28].

The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI) (sister party to the Lib-Dems in Great Britain) increased its vote by an impressive 8.8%, but, as predicted by this author, it only gained 1 MP – in North Down. APNI does not form part of the official Unionist/Loyalist block but supports a non-sectarian Northern Ireland within the UK. It is a liberal unionist party primarily based in the traditional unionist held areas. Underscoring APNI’s unionist nature, it performed best in seats where its intervention would not cost the unionists an MP; although APNI’s 2550 votes in Fermanagh & South Tyrone may have saved the seat for Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew. She was only 57 votes ahead of the UUP contender, also backed by the DUP.

Elsewhere, the improvement in APNI’s vote outside the very 5 safe unionist seats (where its voter support range was between 10,165– 19,055), and the 4 relatively safe unionist seats (voter support range between 5921-8190) was more modest (voter support range between 1267-6916). As a non-sectarian liberal unionist party, APNI is able to attract middle class Catholic voters, but it also competes with the constitutional nationalist SDLP in this arena. This was shown by the APNI’s poorest showing – the Foyle constituency – which includes Derry City.

Despite some now claiming there is a pro-Irish unity electoral majority, this is not the case. In a breakdown of the votes (and it is the sum of individual votes that would count in any prospective new Border Poll), the unionists (DUP, APNI, UUP, and Northern Ireland Conservatives) gained 59.5% of the vote. The Irish nationalists – those most likely to vote ‘Yes’ (Sinn Fein, SDLP, Aontu, People before Profit and the Irish Freedom Party) – only gained just under 40 % of the vote. And like the unionist camp, split between official Unionists/Loyalists and the liberal unionist APNI, there are divisions in the Irish nationalist camp.

The official Republican/Nationalists are represented by two constitutional nationalist parties – Sinn Fein and the SDLP. On the basis of the majority in Northern Ireland voting against Brexit, and the ending of the DUP holding the majority of MPs, Sinn Fein wants to move towards a Border Poll to bring about Irish reunification. However, Sinn Fein’s share of the vote fell by the biggest share of any party on Northern Ireland – 6.7% compared to DUP’s fall of 5.4%. Within the official Republican/Nationalist camp, the SDLP increased its share of the vote by 3.1%, easily taking Foyle from Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein had already lost overall control of Derry City council in the May local elections. The substantial growth of APNI is more likely to make sections of the SDLP think in terms of an alliance to try to reform Northern Ireland, than to follow Sinn Fein in pushing for a new Border Poll.

This further emphasis upon the institutions of the Northern Ireland sub-state could well be reinforced when it becomes clear that the continued Unionist/Loyalist veto at Stormont leaves little the prospect of a Border Poll getting past first base. Furthermore, Irish prime minister/taoiseach. Leo Varadkar wants to close down any future Irish reunification option. He does not want a post-2008 crisis-hit Republic of Ireland having to shoulder the cost of the UK subventions to Northern Ireland, nor any possible Loyalist armed opposition. Faced with making an EU-backed deal with Johnston’s post-Brexit UK, Varadkar is keen to raise the voting barrier for Irish reunification from 50%+1 to 66.6%. This is quite  likely to gain the support of the UK government, eager to re-establish better relations with the DUP, now they have been taken down a peg and no longer have any Westminster bargaining power.

And, as predicted in this author’s earlier article, the new UK government increased the pressure upon Sinn Fein, the DUP, SDLP, APNI and UUP to restore the Stormont set-up. The Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly were reconstituted on January 9th and 11th. Neither the DUP nor Sinn Fein fancied the alternative, which was another NI Assembly election, where both parties would likely lose seats, primarily to APNI and the SDLP respectively, although possibly to others as well. Stormont’s reconstitution has been welcomed, not only by the UK government, but by Varadkar and Bill Clinton. This emphasises the general election’s role on helping to close off the possibility of a constitutional road to Irish reunification.

At first glance, Johnson’s reconstitution of the NI Executive and Assembly appears to be going against Tory reactionary unionist attempts to curtail the powers of the devolved parliaments elsewhere in the UK. However, that is because the political nature of Stormont is different. The setting up of Holyrood and Cardiff Bay were genuine liberal unionist measures (whatever their political limitations); whilst the post-1998 Stormont acted a liberal cover for a conservative unionist order, which retained partition but in a new form. And on this basis, it did not take long before a reactionary unionism based on old Ulster-British unionism, expressed through the Loyalists, the various Orange orders the DUP, sections of the UUP, TUV and PUP to once more making its influence felt.

Taking advantage of May’s lack of a Westminster majority, Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds had thought that they could influence UK state policy. They made the same mistake as Sir Edward Carson, who thought he could dictate the UK’s post-World War 1 coalition government’s Irish policy. His ultra-unionist opposition to partition, then to the setting up of devolved Northern Irish assembly, were abandoned by the UK government, when the need for US backing in the maintenance of British imperial power necessitated more pragmatic arrangements with a nascent Irish Free State.

But in 2019, it was Johnson himself who performed the U-turn over the Irish Backstop.  Once he had used and dispensed with the DUP, it was time to re-establish longstanding UK policy towards Northern Ireland. In this, Stormont’s role is to act as an arms-length devolved body that keeps Northern Ireland’s unsavoury aspects away from Westminster and hence wider public scrutiny in the UK. Under this arrangement, it is also the job of the leading Ulster unionist party (today the DUP) to confine its activities to upholding the unionist order in Northern Ireland, in return for which there will not be too much Westminster scrutiny of the methods used. However, the particularly sensitive area of policing (the former RUC, now PSNI), is now kept under the control of a UK state-appointed Chair Constable (who, since 2002 had also served in English or Scottish police forces).

Back in August 2019, Sinn Fein MLA, Connor Murphy, in response to Johnson’s proroguing of Westminster, said he wasn’t  looking to a British parliament  but to “Leo Varadkar, head of the Irish government, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Junker, heads of the EU, or Trump-led Capitol Hill… to defend the interests of the Irish people” [29]. Varadkar and the heads of the EU have no interest in Irish reunification, whilst Trump’s backers on Capitol Hill have more in common with the  DUP. Sinn Fein has been boxed into a corner at every turn. It will have to abandon any immediate Irish reunification plans if it is to keep its influence within the post-Good Friday Agreement institutions. So, this will need to be supplemented by talk of the ‘inevitability of reunification’. This is something that even Varadkar can support – in say 50 years’ time; the same time that Jacob Rees-Mogg believes the UK will finally see the benefits of Brexit!

Apart from the challenge from the more moderate constitutional nationalist SDLP, Sinn Fein has also been attacked from its Left by People before Profit (PbP). On December 12th, PbP increased its vote in West Belfast by 5.8%, coming second with 16% of the vote.  However, PBP’s unfortunate support for Brexit in 2016 had placed it alongside the Loyalists (keen on bringing back border posts) and dissident Republicans (eager to launch military attacks on such posts). This cost PbP heavily in the 2017 Westminster general election, when it lost nearly 30% of its 2015 general election vote.  Since then, PBP has backpedalled over Brexit/Irexit, preferring to join others in an opposition to a post-Brexit hard border.

In the absence of a Sinn Fein as target for criticism in a Stormont suspended since January 2017, PbP became the earliest party to support Stormont’s re-establishment. In August 2018 PbP backed the middle class and trade union bureaucrat supported #wedeservebetter campaign, which had this objective in mind [30]. So PbP’s paper support for Irish reunification is not going to come into effect until others make this call a reality, and that is not going to happen any time soon. In the meantime, PbP will concentrate its  attention upon ‘bread and butter’ economic demands to win over trade unionists and social demands which are popular with younger people. Constitutional matters will largely be left to others.

But Sinn Fein is also being challenged within the nationalist camp from the Right. Aontu was formed as an anti-abortion party by Peadar Toibin, Sinn Fein’s Meath TD, in January 2019. This was in response to Sinn Fein’s decision, taken at its June 2018 ard fheis, to belatedly back the Irish government in the referendum over repeal of the Eighth Amendment. Aontu sees the EU as being responsible for creating a more liberal social framework throughout Ireland, which has undermined traditional Irish conservative Catholic morality over abortion and gays. Therefore, along with the reactionary Irish Freedom Party (IFF) [31]. Aontu supports Brexit and Irexit. Up until 2018, Sinn Fein had passively gone along with ‘liberalisation from above’ in order to hold on to both progressive and socially reactionary voters. In February 2018, the IFF had already organised an Irexit/Brexit conference in Dublin to which Nigel Farage and CPI fellow-traveller, Anthony Coughlan, were invited to speak (such Left/Hard Right line-ups have a long history in CP circles). In the 2019 Westminster general election, Conor Rafferty stood for IFF, in Mid-Ulster. Just as the economic logic of Brexit leads the UK into even deeper dependence upon the USA; so, the logic of Brexit/Irexit, would lead to Ireland becoming a British neo-colony once more, with increased ties to the USA. So, it is easy to see why Farage was interested in the conference. And one-time official Brexit leader, prominent Thatcherite Tory, Nigel Lawson, had even toyed with the idea that Brexit provided the opportunity for the Republic of Ireland to rejoin the UK!

On December 12th, Aontu’s 7 candidates and IFF’s 1 candidate received between 1.2% and 4.4% of the vote. There was a greater total vote than for the PbP (partly due to standing more candidates). But Aontu overtook PbP in the Foyle constituency. In the Northern Ireland local elections in May, Aontu had gained 1 councillor in Derry City, whilst an SDLP councillor defected to Aontu in Mid Ulster. However, with Stormont up and running again, the immediate possibility of Aontu standing and joining a conservative alliance with the DUP over socual issues has been thwarted. Yet Aontu is going to field 20 candidates, including 2 of their 3 local councillors in the Republic of Ireland in the forthcoming elections to the Irish Dail.

The one thing that is clear is that the re-establishment of the NI Executive and Assembly will not lead to any longer-term improvement for the vast majority. Johnson’s new union-jack flagged funds and infrastructure projects, targeted at Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the North and Midlands of England, are going to be somewhat stretched. They will be blown away in the event of another economic crisis. But whilst they are still being dispensed, they will be diverted away from the devolved parliaments and handed over to shady politicians with their personal business links, ensuring very little gets into the hands of local working-class communities. Nations, regions and cities will be locked unto competition for money and projects; whilst any social funds will be diverted through NGOs, locked into competition with each other to get time-limited funding and staffing.

So far, it has been widely supported social movements – over gay rights and abortion – fighting against socially conservative and reactionary values, both south and north of the border, which have produced the strongest all-Ireland responses. However, the role of British (especially Scottish-based) banks in the housing crisis south and north of the border is another arena in which an all-Ireland socio-economic movement could make an impact. And, even on the immediate pressing issue of the Border itself, there would seem to be all-Ireland possibilities beyond the Sinn Fein/SDLP backed Border Communities Against Brexit, which places its main emphasis on lobbying the European parliament; or the dissident Republicans’ desire to rekindle an armed campaign against any new border posts and their personnel. And a neglected issue, with consequences for the current border, is the plight of migrants, under attack north and south.

But for any possibility of success, those leading all-Ireland campaigns would have to move beyond just pressuring the Dail or Stormont. These two institutions are locked into a subservient role, the first directly, the second indirectly, within British imperial set-up. This is supported by the US, and will likely soon be backed by the EU as part of any post-Brexit deal. Both the Irish government and the Northern Irish Executive continue to back partition whatever modifications are found necessary to ameliorate its negative effects. The British ruing class cannot surrender any UK territory and maintain itself as an imperial (or ‘America First’/ ‘Britain Second’) contender on the world stage. And, if the UK does not have a sufficient economic base in the EU to take on its ‘big boys’; then the Republic of Ireland is one state, where the it has enough economic muscle, particularly through the City of London, to exert counter-pressure.[32]

Merely pressuring the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), the Northern Irish Committee of ICTU and their affiliated union bureaucracies does not lead to a fundamental challenge to either the EU’s ECB or UK’s City of London. The ICTU has long been involved in Social Partnership deals which reduce trade union leaders to acting as personnel managers for the state-business directed management of the Irish economy. NIC-ICTU’s similar Fresh Start deals tie it to upholding the bi-sectarian Stormont set-up, in the hope this will ameliorate the attacks being made by the UK state and Northern Irish business leaders, with the assistance of the NI Executive.  It will require independent action, ready to defy ICTU in the Republic of Ireland and its NIC in Northern Ireland, to counter this more effectively.

 

h) Conclusion

The consequences of the underlying economic crisis dating from 2008, and of the longer standing, but ever graver environmental crisis, were issues that most on the Left wanted to draw attention to, during the campaigning in the run-up to the December 12th general election. However, these issues have become refracted through a constitutional crisis over the future of the Union and the UK’s relationship with the EU.  The Right populists, in the ascendancy since 2016, have been acutely aware of the link between the shortcomings of the existing UK constitution and the limitations imposed by continued EU membership for their counter-reforms to roll back workers’ rights, pay, conditions, consumer and environmental protection, attack migrants and asylum seekers  and to diminish other human and civil rights.

This is why, during its three years of post-Brexit vote campaigning, the Hard Right have foregrounded their constitutional proposals under the populist rhetoric of ‘take back control’. In essence this amounts to tightening up the UK’s anti-democratic Crown Powers and pushing for a hard Brexit. Indeed, the Hard Right’s  concentration on the constitution is partly designed to cover up their own socio-economic proposals, which will worsen most workers’ lives, and bring the UK into even closer alliance with a bellicose US.

The Labour Party Left, and its wider Left supporters, have largely denied the need for constitutional reform, preferring to concentrate on ‘bread and butter’ issues. Where the Left has taken up constitutional issues, it has often fallen in behind one wing or other of the British ruling class, or its constitutional nationalist challengers.  This was apparent during IndyRef1, when one section of the Left tail-ended the SNP’s immediate constitutional proposals. These were largely accepted as an adequate vehicle for delivering the Left’s social democratic reforms. The fact that the SNP’s Independence-Lite proposals were tied to transferring many of the UK state’s existing constitutional features – the Crown, and subservience to the City – to Holyrood was not countered with an immediate social republican alternative, based on transferring sovereignty to the people.

But at least that section of the Left which joined the wider independence movement was in some ways aware that the democratic issue of self-determination was at stake. The other wing, the British Left, did not see this. They see the existing UK state as aadequate for its own social democratic reforms. It was their effective denial of the right of self-determination that placed them in the anti-democratic camp, along with the conservative and reactionary unionists.

But the issue which has caused greatest confusion on the Left has been Brexit. This time, many of those who had also been opponents of Scottish independence in 2014 (as well as others, who had supported Scottish independence but had now retreated to their earlier ‘British roads’) were taken in by the Right populists call to ‘take back control’. They interpreted this as a struggle for British/UK national self-determination against an EU super-state. Hence the emergence of the Left Brexiters (including Lexiters and the Socxiters [33]) They saw Brexit as a fundamental challenge to the British ruling class and the Tories, which is why they joined the Brexit campaign. But the two main Brexit campaigns were never a challenge to the British class. They represented a growing post-2008 division within the ruling class. However, even when divided, they were able to keep control over developments and to ensure a somewhat bumpy transition from neo-Liberal hegemony to and Right Populist hegemony and from conservative to reactionary unionism. The December 12th election result confirmed this. This placed the Left, particularly in England, in weaker position than it has been for a long time.

However, in Scotland, Northern Ireland (and to a lesser extent in Wales) the continuing relevance of the ‘National Question’ produced different electoral results. Johnson’s Right populists do not enjoy hegemony here. However, if the Scottish, Irish and Welsh Left just follow the English/British Left, leaving the constitutional issues to others – the constitutional nationalist SNP, Sinn Fein (even the SDLP) and Plaid Cymru, then they will be missing a massive opportunity, and assisting Johnson in his aim of achieving complete hegemony, for Right populism and reactionary unionism. With neither constitutional nationalists, nor the ever-shrinking band of liberal unionists, having any viable strategy to counter this, Socialists need to develop a social republican. ‘internationalism from below’ strategy to break the logjam.

(The second part of this article will look at the weaknesses of independent Socialists and examine the prospects for these being overcome)

 

Allan Armstrong, 20.1.20

 

 

Footnotes and References

 

 

[1]        Allan Armstrong, The Continued Rise of Right Populism and Reactionary  Unionism in the Run-up to the December 12th General Election – http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/12/09/the-continued-rise-of-right-populism-and-reactionary-unionism/

[2]          https://allanarmstrong831930095.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/national-populism.pdf – Chapter 1

[3]           https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50101866

[4]           Tony Greenstein – 3. Expect the Worst, Hope for the Best, http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/12/09/the-continued-rise-of-right-populism-and-reactionary-unionism/ and my own comment at the bottom, dated 11.12.19

[5]          http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2019/02/19/from-blatcherism-to-maybynism/– Chapter 10

[6]          This doesn’t mean Socialist should get trapped into a certain Scottish nationalist mythology that there is no racism and that “We are all Jock Tamson’s bairns”. The Scottish component of the wider British ruling class has been deeply implicated in all the most repressive aspects of British imperialism, including slavery ,and occupying army regiments,  and most of the Scottish sub-state institutions have been bequeathed by the UK state (with everything that implies, e.g. the police killing of Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy in 2015)

[7]            Liberal opponents of the EU referendum result attacked the utterly false claims and hatred-stoking methods used by the far Right, as if the liberals’ own ‘Project Fears’ (e.g. over Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” and accompanying ‘anti-terrorist ‘Islamophobia) had not been designed to deliberately mislead.

[8]           https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/deniedmyvote/

[9]           The manner in which this campaign has been conducted, backed by Israel and British Zionists, far from combatting anti-semitism, is more likely to have  the effect of stoking it up. At the same time, it creates an exaggerated sense of fear amongst many Jews living in the UK. But Israel has long had a preference for anti-Semitic forces and regimes outside Israel itself, and British Zionists have sometimes linked up with the British Far Right.

[10]            https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/general-election-2019-boris-johnson-calls- jeremy-corbyn-and-nicola-sturgeon-yokemates-of-destruction-a4281641.html

[11]            McCluskey is one of the highest paid trade union bureaucrats, enjoying an income, privileges and lifestyle far removed from his members. Milne is paid £104.000 p.a. Murphy £92,000 p.a. (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7797811/Jeremy-Corbyns-aides-Seumas-Milne-Karie-Murphy-face-demands-QUIT.html) In contrast to  Milne, Dominic Cummings receives £99,999 p.a. (https://www.itv.com/news/2019-12-21/pms-chief-aide-dominic-cummings-paid-three-times-average-uk-salary/). The Tories seem to have got a far better value-for-money deal!

[12]            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Leopard – The plot

[13]           But back in 2011, the Lib-Dems, then in coalition with Cameron’s Conservatives ditched their long-standing support for Proportional Representation and opted instead for the least democratic of all electoral systems, the Alternative Vote, designed to artificially boost centre parties.  Not surprisingly, this proposal was heavily defeated in a referendum.

[14]           On an otherwise very disappointing night, this result, along with the defeat of the Islamophobic Zac Goldsmith, and the Loyalist paramilitary-courting Nigel Dodds and Emma Little-Pengelly, provided some lighter personal relief! Even if, in the case of Goldsmith, it was to be short-lived as he was elevated to the House of Lords so he can participate in Johnson’s cabinet.

[15]          The SNP had withdrawn its official backing for their candidate, Neale Hanvey, in Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy. He had circulated a Kremlin backed, anti-semitic article in Sputnik, portraying the Jewish Hungarian financier, George Soros as a puppeteer holding world leaders in his hands. It is somewhat ironic that this now widespread antisemitic trope is also peddled by the Hard Right populist leader of Hungary, Victor Orban, an ally of Benjamin Netanyahu PM of Israel.

[16]          https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/15026/labour-leadership-hopeful-lisa-nandy-under-fire-over-comments-defeating-nationalism

[17]          https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/leftwing-labour-mps-corbyn-selections-unite-momentum_uk_5dcd737be40a794d1fc1071

[18]         https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/dec/29/rebecca-long-bailey-labour-party-britain

[19]          https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/16/power-people-labour-party-voters-democratic-revolution

[20]         https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/jan/12/rebecca-long-bailey-wants-to-abilosh-the-house-of-lords-scottish-independence

[21]          https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/board-of-deputies-demands-labour-leadership- conrest-race-candidates-sign-up-to-pledges-antisemitism-1.495274

[22]         https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/rebecca-long-bailey-says-shed-21230115

[23]         https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2019/12/15/open-letter-scottish-labour-for-radical-democracy/

[24]         Allan Armstrong in Unstated – Writers on Scottish Independence, edited by Scott Hames, pp. 25-31

[25]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2015/02/24/british-unionists-and-scottish-nationalists-attempt-to-derail-scotlands-democratic-revolution/ – section 3, The SNP leadership’s strategy to contain the ‘democratic revolution’ – Moving from Independence to Home Rule and hoovering-up the ‘Yes’ supporters

[26]          CiU received its 2010 electoral boost because the still semi-Francoist, Constitutional Court of Spain overthrew key elements of on 2006 Statute of Autonomy. Spain’s political equivalent of the UK’s reactionary unionists were already making their influence felt. This was at a time when liberal unionism was still advancing in the UK, shown by the Con-Dem government’s support for enhanced devolutionary powers in Wales in 2011.

[27]         https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Wings_Over_Scotland

[28]         http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2020/01/10/sectarian-intimidation-in-north-belfast-2/ and http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2018/07/19/we-are-the-sacrifice/

[29]          phttps://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/sinn-fein-on-brexit-and-absentionist-policy-1-6240398

[30]         http://www.socialistdemocracy.org/RecentArticles/RecentTheWedeservebetterFantasy.html

[31]           Johnson’s other targets for getting support are the racist anti-migrant, anti-Gypsy and often anti-semitic, hard Right populist governments in eastern Europe, e.g. Kaczynski’s Poland and Orban’s Hungary. `

[32]           The Lexiter (Left Brexit) current was largely initiated by the SWP, the Socxister (Socialist Brexit) current by the SP. Both tried to join forces with the trade union bureaucrat, ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ and ‘non-racist’ immigration controls advocates.

 

_________

 

also see:-

 

THE CONTRADICTIONS UNDERLYING BREXIT AND SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE

It’s the constitution stupid – After the Boris ‘coup’ let’s fUK it!

FROM BLATCHERISM TO MAYBYNISM

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Oct 22 2019

THE CONTRADICTIONS UNDERLYING BREXIT AND SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE

Allan Armstrong sent  this article to Conter, on September 13th, hoping  to open up one of the debates on the Left in relation to Scottish independence, before and during the Radical Independence Campaign conference in Glasgow on October 26th. There has been no acknowledgement of this article by the Conter editor, despite Allan being a member of RISE, Conter‘s main sponsor. This seems to reflect a unwillingness, highlighted at the founding of RISE, to discuss controversial  issues.

However, since then articles have appeared in Conter, or by RISE members writing for CommonSpace, which have been pro-Lexit. Allan’s article was written in an attempt to ensure that a fuller range of Left opinion was addressed on a specifically Socialist site claiming  to promote wider debate. This could then contribute to  the best traditions of RIC, where such controversial issues have been openly debated. A Left that is afraid to debate issues, in a democratic and respectful manner, is doomed to irrelevance.

Fortunately, both Socialist Resistance (http://socialistresistance.org/the-contradictions-underlying-brexit-and-scottish-independence/18211) and bella caledonia (https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2019/10/24/republican-internationalism-from-below/) have now posted this article. 

 

THE CONTRADICTIONS UNDERLYING BREXIT AND SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE

 

To date articles in Conter addressing Brexit have concentrated more on the neo-liberal opposition, and those on the Left perceived to be tail-ending this section of the British ruling class. There has been no real analysis of the aims of the hard right and national populist advocates of Brexit, whether the Boris Johnson-led Tories, or the Nigel Farage-led UKIP and now his Brexit Party. Brexit  has not been adequately placed in the context of the global rise of right national populism, highlighted by Donald Trump’s ‘Brexit, plus, plus, plus’, US presidential electoral victory in November 2016.[1] These people are still seen by some on the Left as political outsiders, despite now having their hands  on the US state’s anti-democratic presidential powers and the UK state’s anti-democratic crown powers. Nor have the machinations of such ‘left’ Brexit union leaders as UNITE’s Len McCluskey been addressed.[2]

 

The RIC conference on 26.10.19

The Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) has formed an important arena for discussing such issues.[3] Indeed RIC’s Scottish internationalism is highlighted on its banner – ‘Another Scotland is Possible; Another Europe is Possible; Another World is Possible’. Hopefully, the October 26th RIC conference in Glasgow will extend this opportunity for discussion related to the situation we now face. Understanding the political forces, which the Left is up against, is essential, not only in the UK and wider world, but for us in Scotland, when we consider the future for Scottish independence. Continue reading “THE CONTRADICTIONS UNDERLYING BREXIT AND SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE”

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Jan 25 2019

ANOTHER EUROPE IS POSSIBLE CONFERENCE, 10.12.18, LONDON

 

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  [1] 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), with  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 were to vote 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  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-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 Europhobes, 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 such an electoral precedent having been established by the same Cameron Tory government, over the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. And the first suspicions were soon 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.[2] 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. For, one of the first jobs to be done under ‘taking back control’ was to strengthen the Union. May brought back the old Conservative and Unionist Party label, in 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 debate 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 the 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, and 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, as in the February 2017 vote to initiate Section 50, 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. And 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 confine 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 share, 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 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.[3] 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, although even they recognise 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, and 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 being given for a reply and  he persuaded the conference not to accept 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 have 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 [4].

Allan Armstrong, 20.1.19

 

 

References

[1]          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!

[2]          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)

[3]          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/

[4]          The Campaign for a European Republican Socialist Party distributed a leaflet which argued this case.

 

Allan Armstrong, 20.1.19

 

_____________

APPENDIX

 

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 

OUR  STRATEGY

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.

  1. 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 Waleswill 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.

  1. 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 BritainEngland, 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.

  1. 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
  1. 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.

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A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY CORBYN AND BRITISH LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

 

GRASSROOTS UNITE LEADERSHIP CANDIDATE ATTACKS COYNE’S AND McCLUSKEY’s CAPITULATION TO ANTI-MIGRANT POLITICS

 

WHICH WAY NOW – ‘BREXIT’ OR ‘EX-BRIT’?

 

FROM FARAGE’S BREXIT TO TRUMP’S “BREXIT PLUS, PLUS, PLUS”, AND ON TO ‘MADAME FREXIT’?

 

REPORT OF MEETING TO SET UP THE CAMPAIGN FOR A EUROPEAN REPUBLICAN SOCIALIST PARTY

JUNE 24th – THE FUKers’ BLACK FRIDAY OR RED FRIDAY FOR A EUROPEAN DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION?

AN OPEN LETTER TO LEXITERS

 

A POLITICAL COMPARISON BETWEEN THE 2012-14 SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE AND THE 2016 EU REFERENDA CAMPAIGNS

 

 

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Aug 09 2017

A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY CORBYN AND BRITISH LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY

Socialists are now confronted with the unexpected rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the re-emergence of British Left social democracy. This first part of this article by Allan Armstrong will examine the significance of this and make a critical appraisal of their future prospects in the face of the current global multi-faceted political, economic, social, cultural and environmental crisis.

Contents of Part 1

   1.      From May 2007 to June 2017 – the SNP rules the social democratic roost in  Scotland.

   2.     The rise of Jeremy Corbyn and British Left social democracy

   3.     The prospects for Corbyn and British Left social democracy when handling economic and social issues

   4.    The limitations of Corbyn and British Left social democracy when dealing with matters of state

             A.  Brexit

             B. The National Question

a.  Conservative, liberal and unionist attempts to maintain the unity of the UK state since the nineteenth  century

               b.  Corbyn and the National Question in Ireland

               c.  Corbyn and the National Question in Scotland

               d.  Corbyn and the National Question in Wales

 

 

1. From May 2007 to June 2017 – the SNP rules the social democratic roost in Scotland

i.     Following the demise of New Labour and its successor, ‘One Nation’ Labour, the SNP has been the most effective upholder of social democracy in the UK. In 2007, the SNP won 363 council seats; 425 in 2012, and 431 in 2017. In 2007, the SNP won 47 MSPs; 69 in 2011; and 63 in 2016, (still easily the largest party at Holyrood). In 2010, the SNP won 6 MPs; 56 out of 59 in 2015, but fell back to 35 in 2017 (still having the largest number of MPs from Scotland by some way). Continue reading “A CRITIQUE OF JEREMY CORBYN AND BRITISH LEFT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY”

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Jul 07 2017

TWO REVOLUTIONS?

Steve Freeman reports on the politics displayed at the Left Unity Party’s conference held on June 24th in London. This was first published as a letter in Weekly Worker (http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/1162/letters/)

 

TWO REVOLUTIONS?

Jeremy quite happy with the Crown

On June 24, Left Unity members met in conference to consider the way ahead in the next period. Members are aware of the powerful forces pulling the party to the right. But conference revealed a struggle over whether the party should respond by moving to the right or shifting to the left. The general election sharpened up the issues. Should Left Unity carry on as before, or join the ‘Corbyn revolution’, or become the party of ‘democratic revolution’?

A resolution from Birmingham says: “The ‘Corbyn revolution’ has for the foreseeable future closed the electoral space to the left of Labour.” It has “unleashed expectations which can’t be met within the confines of the existing structures of the Labour Party”. This will spill onto the streets, in campaigns and communities. Like a whirlpool, this ‘revolution’ is pulling LU down the plug. Continue reading “TWO REVOLUTIONS?”

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Jun 08 2017

LEFT UNITY AND THE GENERAL ELECTION  

We are posting this position paper from Steve Freeman (Republican Socialist Alliance and Campaign for a European Socialist Republican Party) first posted on the Left Unity blog. 

SCOTLAND AND THE TORY BREXIT ELECTION

The general election is an opportunity for the working class in Scotland to build a stronger and more militant opposition to Tory Brexit and all anti-working class austerity policies whether from Tory or SNP governments. It is an opportunity to organise a stronger democratic movement against the Union, including preparing for a referendum on self determination, seeking closer unity with the anti-Unionist workers in England and more broadly with the European working class.

Left Unity will not stand candidates in the 2017 general election in Scotland. We will support any RISE or Scottish Socialist Party candidates whose policies are close to our own. Left Unity is clear in its commitment to socialism and will use the election to advance the following policies aimed to strengthen the working class internationally – opposition to austerity, imperialist wars, Trident, NATO, TTIP; anti-Unionism and support for the right to self determination, republican democracy, migrant rights and Pan European socialist organisation. Continue reading “LEFT UNITY AND THE GENERAL ELECTION  “

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May 25 2017

RIC-EDINBURGH STATEMENT ON THE JUNE 8TH GENERAL ELECTION

The Radical Independence Campaign- Edinburgh has produced the following statement in response to forthcoming Westminster General Election.

 

 

Theresa May’s forthcoming general election is not a normal election. It is being called in defiance of the Tories’ own 2011 Fixed Term Parliament Act. It bears a strong resemblance to a presidential-style plebiscite. But in the absence of actual presidential powers, such as those now wielded by Trump in the USA, May still wants to be able to override Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont altogether. Continue reading “RIC-EDINBURGH STATEMENT ON THE JUNE 8TH GENERAL ELECTION”

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Dec 26 2016

SCOTLAND’S REPUBLIC

Steve Freeman of the Republican Socialist Alliance, RISE and LUP, looks at possible futures for the UK in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

 

SCOTLAND’S REPUBLIC

In her speech to the Tory conference Theresa May promised the Brexit revolution which would bring power back to the UK. She declared “change is going to come” in what she described as a “quiet revolution”. The “roots of the revolution run deep” in Britain because this was “a revolution in which millions of our fellow citizens stood up and said they were not prepared to be ignored anymore” (1).
Continue reading “SCOTLAND’S REPUBLIC”

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Nov 08 2016

REPORT OF THE LEFT UNITY PARTY CONFERENCE IN LIVERPOOL ON 29.10.16

Steve Freeman of the Left Unity Party and RISE goes a report of the LUP Conference held in Liverpool on 29th October.

ConferenceHeader

ANTI-UNIONISM

The Tories, UKIP, the Democratic Unionists, the Liberal Democrats, and the Labour Party are all British Unionist parties. Last weekend Left Unity (LU) conference took a significant step forward. It became an Anti-Unionist party and thus drew a sharp distinction with Corbyn’s Labour Party. LU took the first steps to realigning the party with the democratic movement in Scotland, not least in demanding the abolition of the 1707 Act of Union.
Continue reading “REPORT OF THE LEFT UNITY PARTY CONFERENCE IN LIVERPOOL ON 29.10.16”

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Oct 18 2016

THE REALITY OF THE EUROPEAN DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION

Allan Armstrong has prepared the following paper for the meeting to be  held on October 15th, in Edinburgh, to set up a Campaign for a European Republican Socialist Party. This meeting is being organised to implement the decision of the RSA meeting held in Wakefield on June 23rd (http://republicancommunist.org/blog/2016/08/05/report-of-the-republican-socialist-alliance-meeting-in-wakefield-23rd-july/)

 

THE REALITY OF THE EUROPEAN DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION

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Many, particularly amongst the British Left, seem to have forgotten that before the First World War, European Socialists had seen the creation of a United States of Europe as their goal (1). They have developed their current perspective in the context of the past defeats of this prospect.
Continue reading “THE REALITY OF THE EUROPEAN DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION”

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