Below is a dialogue involving Phil Vellender of the Republican Socialist Alliance, Mike Picken (Socialist Resistance) and Allan Armstrong (RCN) and C.B, L.S, J.G., all of the Republican Socialist Platform
This is a follow up E&L‘s recent dialogue, Starmer, the SNP and Brexit
1. Phil Vellender reports on the Another Europe is Possible conference held in London on 12.12.20
In his post from 2019* Allan Armstrong reminded us of the flawed politics of Another Europe is Possible (AEiP) a group under the influence of the equally unsophisticated Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) who, back in late 2018-19, defined their brand of revolutionary left politics by slavishly backing the social democrat Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership on the one hand, while providing the means to undermine it on the other. They achieved the latter by promoting the divisive ‘Second Referendum’. They would play a not insignificant role in further splitting Labour’s working class base, making Corbyn’s life much harder.
By joining in with the People’s Vote (PV), a campaign set up by pro-Union liberals, they lent a pseudo-internationalist, left patina to what was a centre-right, City-financed campaign to reverse the 2016 vote, whose outcome, controversially, Corbyn had accepted. Essentially, AEiP were played by the PV crew, but for a time they served their purpose as ‘useful idiots’.
Tragically, AEiP’s much vaunted, ‘internationalist’ vision did not include talking about two other rather relevant nations, in particular Remain Scotland or Remain Northern Ireland, rather they metaphorically careered off around Europe, flaunting their support for EU citizens resident in the UK who were being badly screwed in the Tory Brexit negotiations.
Instead of AEiP aligning themselves with the undemocratic liberal leadership of the PV and demanding a Second Referendum, which was never going to happen anyway because the parliamentary maths for it didn’t exist for it (for a start 21 Leave Labour MPs were dead set against), AEiP could have adopted a glaringly obvious and democratic strategy, that is, to campaign in solidarity for Remain Scotland and Northern Ireland to uphold their right to remain in the EU. Then AEiP could have demanded that Leave voting England and Wales remain in the single market and the customs union. Along with that step, they could have argued for a democratic, ratificatory, yes/no referendum in a public vote on any Tory deal, including a ‘no deal’.
In effect, this referendum would have been a simple trade union-style vote, something one suspects those leading the AEiP were not really fully conversant with, and would not been seen as an undemocratic move to re-run/ overturn the 2016 referendum, a strategy that could not definitively be shown to enjoy anything like overwhelming support in Leave voting England and Wales (which was where it mattered). This simple, democratic argument was never examined by AEiP. Instead, they lamely fell in behind the glitzy, yet divisive Second Referendum approach of the Unionist liberals backing the PV campaign.
Crucially, given the votes were not there in Parliament, and not being interested in getting shot of their English Left/ liberal Unionist preconceptions and PV allies, AEiP paid the price for their brand of faux, mostly rhetorical internationalism. Because there was an ‘oven ready’, if less ‘sexy’, yet truly internationalist position; that of offering total solidarity with Scotland and Northern Ireland’s Remain voters (from England) who, instead, AEiP imperiously chose to ignore, in a manner entirely typical of the English Left.
After all, it was far more exciting for AEiP to be seen to hyperactively helping to organise those two, one million strong marches and that 6 million strong petition, whose effects, entirely predictably, given the factors outlined above, were to prove, ultimately, absolutely zero, rather than doing the harder graft of building a solidarity campaign for Scotland and Northern Ireland to stay in the EU.
And what happened to the idiosyncratic combo running PV? They fell to arguing among themselves and like a shower on an Arizona highway, evaporated into hot air, to be heard of no more. Sound and fury, signifying nothing but poor strategy and tactics.
Fast forward to 2021: will these new Remain/ Rejoin groups have learned any lessons from the PV/ AEIP 2018-19 debacle? We must wait and see. If they ditch their conservative Left obsession with keeping the UK together, if they remember the political situation in Remain Scotland and Remain Northern Ireland, campaigning democratically and vociferously for their absolute right to rejoin the EU above anything else, then this time, Remain might make some progress. As we show solidarity with Scotland and Northern Ireland, we in England must also focus on rejoining the single market and the customs union, while fighting to restore free movement. It will be a hard road, but this time it will be the right one.
30th January 2021
2. Mike Picken’s report of Another Europe Is Possible AGM, 12.12.20 for the Republican Socialist Platform
I wrote to Michael Chessum (AEiPsecretary) asking for minutes of the conference to help me write a report, but haven’t even had the courtesy of a reply … I assume he’s trying to avoid a public split, but that didn’t stop the Alliance for Workers Liberty from publishing scurrilous lies about me (unnamed) in particular.
So I’ll try to write something about the future of Scotland in Europe that includes the AEIP conference for the RSP blog, but also picks up the longer term debate, e.g. from the European Movement in Scotland webinar a few weeks ago. I don’t have a strong view about tactic for Scotland other than that we need to say self-determination and “Another Europe is Possible” lol, but membership of EFTA and the single market in the short term seems more palatable to me than unconditional EU membership with all the neo liberal baggage that implies.
I’ve pointed out that despite tweeting about everywhere else in the world this week – from Hong Kong to Norway – the AEiP don’t seem to have noticed at all the controversy about the Scottish and Welsh governments attempts to override the UK government unilateral withdrawal of the devolved education administrations from ERASMUS+, and the efforts of 140+ MEPs, led by a German Green, to demand the Commission find a way to enable them to continue against the UK government (previously only full states have joined and of course you don’t need to be in the EU to be in ERASMUS+, there are half a dozen non-EU states in membership, but they’ve never had a non-state body in membership though the Faroe Islands are an interesting precedent).
In one sense, ERASMUS+ is small beer in the huge cesspit of Brexit, but I cannot help feeling that it has enormous symbolism and popular sentiment that seems to have bypassed the Labour-unionists within AEIP.
Fred Leplat (Socialist Resistance) is sceptical about whether anything will come of AEIP in the future.
30th January 2021
3. From Allan Armstrong
Mike’s report was bit of a deja vu moment for me. I attended the AEiP AGM in December 2018 (see link above). Mike asked me to suggest some amendments to the AEiP’s proposed 2020 Strategy document, in much the same way as I had done for the 2018 AEiP Strategy document. The AEiP paper with my proposed deletions and amendments can be seen in the appendix at the end of this dialogue. I don’t know which amendments, Fred Leplat, another comrade of Mike’s in Socialist Resistance took up. But the AEiP’s very British Left unionist politics, prompted Mike to walk out the meeting, when it refused even to back the STUC’s acceptance of Scotland’s right to self-determination, in the event of a majority vote for Scottish independence in the Holyrood’s May 2021 elections.
5th February 2021
4. An Exchange between RSP members
a) L.S. – RPS, Galicia, 29.1.21
The EU is far from perfect but if you see soft euro-scepticism from left wing nationalist parties in Spain, for example, it’s always criticism on some political and economic issues we all know, never an attempt to defend a Spexit. The reasons we are lefties and not mainstream liberals is because we have the ability to analyse things not only in black or white.
Anti-EU sentiment in most Central European countries is far less popular than the media want us to believe. There’s definitely pockets surrounding the extreme right and ultra-stalinists but the majority are in favour of staying because the mainstream liberals have defined the EU as the best project for Europe as there hasn’t been war since the EU was founded.
People are quite critical of the EU model right now, especially in terms of sovereignty, right wing nationalist politics and some racist beliefs but when they look at Brexit it’s a completely different approach
b) J.G.- RPS, Glasgow 29.1.21
Cheers for that Lore, only I would hasten to add there have been wars in the EU, such as in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country, which the EU consider internal state affairs.
You often hear Lexiters repeating the mantra “read ‘Adults in the Room’ by Yannis Vaoufakis” – but it is an irony that he does not want Brexit or Grexit to happen. I watched Paul Mason’s film about the Greek situation, which sort of suggested that the Greek left parliamentarians sold out the people by choosing EU-austerity over a Grexit which had a mandate/
c) Allan Armstrong – RPS, Edinburgh 30.1.21
If Paul Mason can argue that Grexit had a mandate, why did the KPE and Antarsaya do so badly in the September 2015 general election after Syrza’s climb-down? The only Grexit party to make any gains was the neo-fascist Golden Dawn. If most Scots and Irish workers (and others) recognised the dangers of UK re-provincialisation for Scotland and Ireland and hence rejected Brexit/Irexit in 2016, then you can see why Greeks rejected the legacy of the pre-EU days of isolation under the military junta in 2015
d) C.B. – RPS, Dundee, 30.1.21
It’s interesting to see the impact of Brexit on left euro-scepticism across the EU. The furthest left party in Denmark, the eco-socialist Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), has traditionally called for Denmark’s immediate exit from the EU following a referendum. In European Parliament elections, Enhedslisten traditionally supported the trade-union backed ‘People’s Movement against the EU’, which always had at least one MEP since the earliest EU election in 1979. However, they changed their position in light of Brexit! They announced in 2019 that they no longer want a referendum on EU membership and would run in the European Parliament election in their own right. They went on to take a seat at the expense of the ‘People’s Movement against the EU’, which no longer has representation.
Allan’s suggested additions are shown thus.
Allan’s suggested deletions are shown thus.
Another Europe is Possible
Strategy document for discussion and amendment
National conference 2020
Section One: Perspective
The UK’s departure from the European Union, on terms set by the nationalist right, will mean an attack on the rights and prosperity of ordinary people, including future generations. The dangers of the situation are numerous, and the attacks will come on every front.
The Tories’ Brexit agenda is not a policy but a project. It is anti-worker but not anti-state. It puts up new barriers to trade with Europe, but seeks deregulation and marketisation ‘at home’. It wants the state to spend big to support big business, especially in tech, is addicted to outsourcing and is disdainful of the public sector. This is pushing Britain towards a new, authoritarian, ‘crony capitalism’. As this becomes unpopular, the other aspects of the Tory agenda – the migrant bashing culture wars and ethnic nationalism – will become more and more important to sustain their political support.
The bare bones deal being negotiated between Brussels and London protects very little in terms of rights and protections, and the economic fallout of Brexit will also be grave. The double-whammy of Covid and Brexit will mean a huge loss to livelihoods. While rhetorically at least the government has broken with the language of austerity used by Cameron and Osborne, the reluctance of the Tories to raise taxes, coupled with the scale of the hit to public finances, mean they are unlikely to be able to resist their own tendencies in this direction. They also almost certainly attempt to further curtail trade union rights and civil liberties in order to make resistance harder.
Like most of the ‘new authoritarian’ regimes internationally, the Tories will mix Keynesian and neoliberal policies as it suits their interests and within their overall project of sustaining the cross-class bloc they have successfully built using Brexit nationalism. Nevertheless, we are entering a period of pronounced conflict over ‘who pays’ for the crisis: capital or labour.
Leaving the Customs Union means that the Conservative government will be able to negotiate trade deals – whether with the United States of America or with other countries with lower standards – which align us with less regulated economies, drastically reducing our food and environment standards and leading to an entrenched privatisation of the NHS. Leaving the Single Market will put a large number of workers’ rights, digital rights, and eighty percent of our environmental regulations, at risk. And ending free movement will constitute the biggest expansion of border controls in the UK’s recent history.
The constitutional situation will also become sharper. Under the Single Market Bill the Tories intend to roll back the limited democratic rights conceded to Scotland and Wales under the post 1998 devolution deals, the partial economic departitioning of Ireland under the post-Good Friday Agreements ‘and to undermine elected local councils in order to centralise power in the UK state. The government has already indicated its willingness to break international law and violate the Good Friday agreement. In Scotland, support for independence is growing, but is not matched by a willingness on the part of Westminster to allow a referendum to take place. This is leading to a simmering,chronic constitutional crisis. caused by the Westminster voting system – under which Boris Johnson won power despite a majority of electors voting for parties pledged to a public vote on Brexit – lingers in the background.
The ‘Biden effect’?
Brexit, as envisioned by the Tory Right, is the British franchise of a right wing (populist)resurgence that encompasses, to varying degrees of conscious alignment, Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban, Kaczyński, Le Pen, Salvini, Erdogan, Netanyahu, Modi, Alternativ für Deutschland, Vox and others.
That project is setting sail just as its most important international ally is failing. The defeat of Donald Trump in November is a cause for celebration across the world, and makes the job of the UK government more difficult: it no longer has a factional ally in the White House.
We should not be complacent about the situation brought about by the election of Joe Biden, however. Realistically, a US-UK trade deal under Biden would also reflect the long-term interests of corporate America – even if aspects of his manifesto have drawn back from the total support for trade liberalisation of the Obama era. The NHS and the rest of our regulatory framework will be on the table, even if the new administration is more likely to set down conditions regarding the Irish border and more likely to prioritise relations with the EU27.
More broadly, we must be sharply critical of the idea that things might now go ‘back to normal’, or that this would be a desirable outcome. The domination of politics in the western world by the neo-liberal elite and the interests of big business is exactly what gave the nationalist right their window of opportunity for projects like Brexit and the Trump presidency. A defeat for Trump in the presidential elections is a defeat of the symptoms of the crisis, but the far right will continue to grow unless we defeat both the deeper narratives of nationalism and the social conditions which drive them forward. The only way to do this is with a radical alternative.
Section Two: Goals
Our long term goals, as laid out in our constitution, are:
- A society run in the interests of people and the planet; an open society, a just and sustainable economy and a pluralist politics.
- Continued and improved freedom of movement, an expansion in the rights of migrants, within and beyond the borders of Europe.
- The defeat of the racism, hate, border controls and right wing nationalism that have come alongside the Brexit moment, and which are part of a wider moment of far right resurgence. We aim to be a space for those parts of the progressive left who share our perspective to come together, cutting across party lines.
- Solidarity between people and across borders, and the building of an internationalistBritish left, across these islands with strong links of solidarity and cooperation with the left across Europe and beyond.
- The right of national self-determination for nations within the UK and EU member states
- The end of ‘Europe’ as an exclusionary identity based on race and religion and its replacement as a concept built on ties of humanity and solidarity.
- The expansion of freedom of movement and other fundamental rights beyond just Europe to all the people of the world.
Our immediate political goals are:
- To retain all of the progressive aspects of EU membership, defined as:
- Workers’ rights
- Environmental protections
- Human rights
- Digital rights
- Free movement
- Common frameworks and funding in science and research
- Cultural and educational connections
- Collective measures to tackle the power of corporations
- Consumer protections, food standards and animal rights
- To achieve a close, progressive relationship between the UK and EU working class in these islands, the EU and in non-EU Europe
- To defeat the government’s austerity programme, when it comes.
- To defeat the government’s attacks in particular on civil liberties and the rights of migrants, ethnic minorities, trans people, women and disabled people.
- To strengthen and cohere the left, the workers’ movement and wider social movements, such as campaigns for economic justice and trade justice, Black Lives Matter, the climate movement, campaigns for women’s rights and for LGBT liberation.
- To actively situate the UK left in these islands in an international context, and build stronger links with progressive movements in Europe and beyond.
- To achieve as much progress as possible on constitutional and democratic reform, championing the right to self determination for all of the nations of the UK and thepeople of Northern Ireland reunification of Ireland , and democratic reforms including a proportional voting system; replacement or abolition of the House of Lords; votes for migrants, prisoners and 16-year-olds; and serious curbs on the security services.
- To achieve a dramatic and urgent curbing of carbon emissions.
Section Three: Strategy
The balance of forces in parliament has shifted dramatically in the past twelve months. Except for a few technical votes, or matters on which Johnson might seek to break the law or jeopardise the constitution, it is very unlikely that we will make any progress at all simply by trying to win over MPs.
This situation calls for a fundamental shift in our theory of change: achieving our goals will be a matter of movement-building much more akin to the outlook of the left before 2015.
There are three broad planks to our strategy:
- A push to stop the worst aspects of the Brexit agenda
Despite the shift in parliament, there are some aspects of the Tories’ agenda that we could seek to influence by running public campaigns aimed at pressuring MPs. We identify two such areas, and more may arise in the course of 2021:
- On Settled Status, we continue to fight for a ‘right to stay’ for EU migrants
- On new trade deals, such as the US trade deal, we will fight for concessions, especially around issues like food standards, the NHS and workers’ right
- Building mass movements of resistance
With a change of government a way off (unless we can bring it down sooner) much of the hope for progress rests on the building of movements which are simply too big, or too disruptive, to ignore. Mass mobilisation can also capture the public imagination and shift the national debate on key issues which we are fighting on. Examples of this include
- The building of a national protest and/or day of action for migrants’ rights in early 2021
- Playing a supporting role in mass movements around racism and climate change
- In the context of an economic crash and a programme of attacks on public services by the Tories, playing a supporting role in industrial struggle, and wider campaigns in defence of public services and for an economic alternative (such as a wealth tax); and drawing the link between the attacks underway and Brexit
- Campaigning to shift the policy of the next government
The road to the next election is a long one, but it is important that we begin thinking about it now, and about the manifestos of the opposition parties. With many other parties already committed to our goals, much of our emphasis here must be on Labour. The key aspects of this are:
- Fighting for Labour to include in its next manifesto a radical policy on migrants’ rights, including free movement, voting rights, the closure of all detention centres and so on
- Campaigning for all opposition parties to have a transformative and progressive policy on the UK’s future relationship with Europe
- Contributing to a major shift in the debate on Westminster’s voting system, and campaigning for the next government to introduce proportional representation
- Pushing for Labour to commit to reversing the damage done by this government to our rights, protections and standards
- Campaigning for fundamental democratic change
A recognition that the UK state is based on the sovereignty of the Crown-in-Westminster, the Union, and the privileged role of the City of London, The UK does not constitute a political framework in which our economic, social, environmental and political aims can be met or sustained.
A recognition that the EU is a not a state in itself but a treaty organisation between existing states. The politics at any particular time reflect those of the dominant member states, e.g. social market (1956-92), neo-liberalism (1992 to the present)_ with the main challenge currently coming from the further Right populists.
A recogntion that member states have been allowed to resort to repression, (e.g. the death squads used in Ireland by the UK and in Euskadi by Spain), and racist attacks on migrants without any challenge from the EU Court of Justice. The right of national self-determination is not recognised by EU member states or the EU.
A recognition that the EU has tried to maintain and generalise the imperial relationship of its member states (and former member state) with their former colonies through the Lome and Cotonou Conventions. Member states, especially France and the UK, have been involved in continuous military interventions to maintain their imperial interests,
This conference agrees to form a working party which examines the implications of the lack of democracy and neo-colonialism of the UK and EU and reports back with specific proposals.
The working party should be drawn from AEIP members in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, in the Labour Party, independent socialist organisations, Left SNP, Left Plaid Cymru. Left Sinn Fein, Left Green Party (England and Wales),and Left Scottish Greens, who support Section 2 above
- Building international solidarity
The British left is often painfully parochial – especially in relation to Europe. We They are often more American in our their political interests than we they are European. Another Europe swims against the stream here: we have a special role to play as an internationally orientated group. There is also an audience for our projects internationally – with our Zoom events and podcasts having high participation. We need to build on and deepen our international solidarity work.
- Maintain our international orientation to political issues, eg using events to build international links.
- To oppose the continued Spanish state repression of those initiating the Catalan Republic referendum in 2017
- Respond rapidly to issues as they arise – like the Polish pro-abortion rights movement solidarity work, organising events and protests at short notice and in alliance with allies.
- Potentially, in the post-Covid environment organising and fundraising for international solidarity delegations to hotspot countries for political and social struggle.
- Building a pan-European day of action for refugee rights/against Fortress Europe
Section Four: Methods and campaigns
The methods available to us are the usual ones, even though our ability to deploy them has been substantially reduced by Covid: lobbying, digital actions, protests, mass meetings, direct action and so on.
The campaigns and projects likely to be useful in pursuing our strategy in the coming year are:
- The Alternative Mandate, which sets out our full analysis of what is at stake in Brexit and clearly states all of our demands of the process
- The Right to Stay campaign, run jointly with JCWI, which is our vehicle for campaigning on Settled Status and has been endorsed by all opposition parties other than the DUP and Labour
- A loosely networked campaign around the US Trade Deal, which is being run in coalition with Global Justice Now and others
- Labour for a New Democracy, a new project to which we are a co-organiser, which will be organising around the next Labour conference on constitutional reform
- The Labour Campaign for Free Movement, which helped to initiate in 2017
- Let Us Vote, the campaign to give migrants the vote, which we run jointly with JCWI and the3million
- Our academic network and policy function, which has been recently expanded with a new network of volunteer researchers
- The Another Europe is Possible podcast, which has a wide audience
- A new alliance of groups, of which we are one, aiming to organise a national protest around migrants’ rights
- Our partnering with migrant groups in the UK, and activists abroad, in mobilising protests and holding events about developments abroad (for instance in Catalunya, Poland and Belarus)
Section Five: Our role and alliances
Another Europe has always played three roles: we are the anti-Brexit wing of the left, the left wing of the anti-Brexit movement, and a driver of internationalism with the progressive left.
The “anti-Brexit” aspect of our role is no longer as literal as it once was – not because we have given up on the UK ever getting back into the EU, but because such a project would be a much longer term one. Nonetheless, Brexit is not “over”. It is only just getting started, and the political questions raised by it – on migrants’ rights, the need to combat right wing nationalism, the need for an international strategy for the left, and so on – are only going to get sharper.
The fact that Brexit has been settled for the foreseeable future means that there is now renewed opportunity for us to play a role in putting forward a vision of what the UK might look like after it, and in uniting the left around that vision. We will look to work with anyone and everyone who supports our aims, including those who took a different view to us on the question of Brexit or a second referendum.
Our role as the left wing of the anti-Brexit movement is evolving rapidly and also presents an opportunity to shape its successor projects. The relative inactivity of the pro-European movement since the 2019 general election does not change the fact that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people have been politicised by it in the past few years, many of them on a broadly progressive (if not ‘left’) basis. Whereas many of the more establishment groups have evaporated or fallen into silence, we are still going strong and continue to fight for the politics and values which drove our opposition to Brexit, and this means that we can play a major role in shaping what comes next. Using our platform within the anti-Brexit movement, we will seek to engage and mobilise its mass base. We will also not shrink from pointing out and continuing to make the case that Brexit is a mistake, and point out that a majority of the population does not in fact want it. the undemocratic basis of the 2016 EU referendum in denying a vote to non-Commonwealth and non-Irish EU residents and to 16-18 year olds (unlike in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum also organised by Cameron’s government) Had there been a democratic franchise it is likely the vote would have been for Remain
When it comes to internationalism, our role has never been more important. We will fight against the continuing and deepening parochialism of UK politics, including of its left and progressive political forces. All over Europe, huge events and movements are taking place, and though we are no longer formally attached to the EU, these events are likely to shape the development of politics here. Our emphasis will be on giving a platform and a voice to the movements taking place, for instance the 18th October general strike in Catalunya in support of political prisoners, Strajk Kobiet in Poland and the opposition in Belarus; undertaking practical solidarity and mobilisation for them; and building lasting links between the UK left and its international counterparts.
27th November 2020
also see: –