Toby Abse to CPGB/Weekly Worker: are you moving towards support for a hard Brexit?

Above: Toby (bearded, on right) with Coatesy on the People’s Vote demo

Toby Abse is an affable cove and a very sincere, independent-minded, leftwing comrade. So it’s long been a bit of a mystery why he writes for the nasty little CPGB sect’s Weekly Worker reg (mainly on what seems to be his specialist subject, Italy). Toby’s also firmly on the anti-Brexit left, which the Weekly Worker increasingly isn’t. The following letter appears in the present issue:

Eddie Ford’s reporting of the October 20 demo and the Brexit debate in general seemed to be moving away from your allegedly neutralist/abstentionist, ‘working class independence’ position towards support for a hard Brexit of the kind favoured by the Communist Party of Britain/Morning Star (‘Establishment fights back’, October 25).

By describing what he calls ‘Brino’ (‘Brexit in name only’) as “the worst of all worlds”, he implies that what is popularly described as the ‘Norway’ option (ie, soft Brexit) is worse than the hard ‘Canada’ option or the very hard ‘No deal’ favoured by Jacob Rees-Mogg, etc.

He contemptuously described the People’s Vote march as “essentially a gathering of liberals – a demonstration in defence of the status quo”. It is, to say the least, interesting that The Socialist, whose avowed stance is for a “socialist Brexit”, took a much more sympathetic view of the mass of participants on the march, as opposed to what they rightly call “the capitalist politicians who headed it”, pointing out that “some were marching to show their internationalism and opposition to the ‘Little Englander’ Tory hard Brexiteers, others because of worries about job losses and economic dislocation”.

Whilst I regard the SP’s belief in the possibility of a “socialist Brexit” as delusional, they are correct in saying that “No Brexit negotiated by the Tories will be in the interests of the majority” – a much clearer stance than that taken in recent Weekly Worker articles, whose fire has been entirely concentrated on ‘left remainers’. Given the current miniscule size of the Marxist left in the UK and the sharp decline in the number of trade unionists in recent decades, any very large demonstration in London (with the possible exception of the TUC-sponsored March for the Alternative in 2011) is bound to include many people who you might sarcastically choose to characterise as “liberals”, but, significantly, you did not choose to dismiss the February 2003 demo against the Iraq war, or more recent large demos in defence of the NHS, in this way.

I would also like to point out that the speaking tour promoted by the AWL was entitled ‘The left against Brexit’, not ‘The left for Europe’, as comrade Ford carelessly claimed – this is not nit-picking, since the actual title had a clearer, more activist focus that did not imply either uncritical support for the EU or nebulous visions of ‘Europe’. His assertion that “there is nothing leftwing about Another Europe is Possible” is outrageous. As somebody who marched with their bloc on October 20, I would point out that the group were carrying red flags, not EU flags, chanted pro-migrant slogans, as well as anti-Blair and anti-Clegg slogans, at various times sang the Internationale, the Red Flag and Bandiera Rossa and, because many of them were wearing ‘Love Corbyn, hate Brexit’ T-shirts, got quite a lot of anti-Corbyn abuse from Lib Dems (and/or Blairites).

I would add that the Europe for the Many conference on October 26-27, organised by Another Europe is Possible, was predominantly “leftwing” in terms of both speakers and attendees – most of those I spoke to were Corbynite members of the Labour Party, and there were some interventions from the floor by members of Left Unity and Socialist Resistance.

Doubtless, what seems to be an obsessive emphasis on George Soros in recent Weekly Worker articles on Brexit is not intended as an endorsement of Ian Donovan’s more bizarre theories, but surely you are aware how central Soros has become to the rhetoric of Viktor Orbán and Matteo Salvini, and indeed to the actions of the Trumpite US terrorist bomber? A number of other wealthy businessmen have subsidised various ‘remain’ campaigns, and the sources of ‘leave’ finances are even murkier – Arron Banks’s funding of Trade Unionists against the EU is merely the tip of the iceberg – so a little sense of perspective is in order here if you wish to keep your distance from the conspiracy theories of far-right Brexiteers.

Finally, your continuing use of the front-page strapline, “Towards a Communist Party of the European Union”, seems to contradict your current position on Brexit – I can’t be the only reader puzzled by this apparent lack of coherence.

Toby Abse


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s