After the giant march: where now for the anti-Brexit left?

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Saturday’s giant march – the biggest in Britain since at least 2003 – was an inspiring event. Our congratulations go out to all who attended, and especially those on the Left Bloc organised by Another Europe Is Possible and Labour for a Socialist Europe.

As comrade Coatesy notes, “The million strong march was marked by good humour, noticeably more younger people than the previous demonstration,  and the participation of a strong Left Bloc as well as other Labour anti-Brexit contingents”.

Brilliant as it was, we know (eg from the ultimate failure of the crowds who marched in 2003, hoping to prevent the Iraq war) that big demos may be good for morale but they don’t in themselves assure success.

We don’t know what will happen over Brexit in the next weeks or months. Neither does anyone else.

The ruling class is divided several ways on the issue. That creates an opportunity for the left and the labour movement to change outcomes.

Unlike many issues on which the ruling class divides, this is one where the labour movement and socialists have much to win or lose.

We can win or lose the free movement within Europe which has brought 3.8 million citizens of the EU27 countries to enrich our culture and our labour movement.

We can win or lose the economic integration across outdated borders which provides a higher platform for our battles for social and democratic levelling-up.

We can win or lose the openings to win Europe-wide democratic mechanisms. Those could generate some real countervailing power against global capitalist market constraints and for environmental rationality: it’s much more difficult for small countries.

The ruling-class minority which supports Remain (the majority having swung to backing something like Theresa May’s formula) sees the risk of the left going on from an anti-Brexit victory to further Europe-wide democratic and social gains as remote.

It depends on the will, energy, and stamina of the rival forces. Like the immediate Brexit issues — yes or no, “no deal” or May’s deal, etc. The outcome is unpredictable because the will, energy, and stamina of the rival forces is decided by what we do rather than what we “predict”.

Labour for a Socialist Europe was set up in December, with the support of Another Europe Is Possible, but as a specifically-Labour group autonomous from the “cross-party” AEIP.

It is campaigning for a Labour Party special conference. Discontent with the Labour leaders’ equivocation is spreading in the labour movement.

Is Labour for a new public vote and Remain? or for Theresa May’s deal, only tweaked to add a permanent customs union? or for “Norway Plus”?

The equivocation means that the Tories, despite their impasse and disarray, have been well ahead in almost all opinion polls since late January.

Quite possibly Labour will be contesting Euro-elections in May. Quite possibly Labour will be contesting an early general election.

What will Labour say about Brexit? A fudge like the one in the 2017 manifesto will not serve this time.

Labour for a Socialist Europe is fighting to swing Labour against Brexit, and, if we can’t swing the whole party machine, to establish a clear anti-Brexit voice within the Labour campaign.

Labour for a Socialist Europe is also fighting for left-wing and socialist policies. L4SE’s conference on 9 March voted almost unanimously to support public ownership of the banks and high finance, and for links with the left across Europe (the same public ownership policy was voted down at the Another Europe Is Possible conference in December 2018).

We face four big obstacles in the weeks ahead.

First, the fact that the majority of the would-be radical left are pro-Brexit. Embarrassed, they are doing their best to ignore the issue now, talk about something else, and hope it goes away.

Second, that the Morning Star, paper of the old-style Communist Party of Britain, carries influence in the “upper” ranks of the labour movement (including Corbyn’s office) and is pro-Brexit.

Third, that sections of the Labour and trade union rank and file beyond those influenced by the “don’t mention Brexit” radical left, or by the pro-Brexit Morning Star, still defer to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership, and are reluctant to speak out against equivocation.

Fourth, that there is widespread “Brexit-weariness”.

The activist left of the coming years will be shaped by those with the will and energy to break those obstacles.
Leon Trotsky wrote about the French left in the late 1920s:

“Comrades who are capable of such initiative and such personal sacrifice are revolutionaries, or can become such, because it is in this way… that revolutionaries are formed. You can have revolutionaries both wise and ignorant, intelligent or mediocre.

“But you can’t have revolutionaries who lack the willingness to smash obstacles…”.


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