LeFT: campaigning for Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit

By Sacha Ismail, Labour for a Socialist Europe steering group

A new “left-wing” campaign for Brexit, ‘Leave – Fight – Transform’ (LeFT), has been launched with great fanfare in the Morning Star.

The initial signatories on its founding statement confirm that this is an initiative of the Communist Party of Britain and other bits of British Stalinism. More on that below.

What is striking about the content of the statement is not just that it indulges in an extravagant version of the Lexit fantasy – the idea that some form of Brexit is necessary to and can help bring about working-class and socialist progress in Britain. Much worse than that, it is essentially a petition in support of Boris Johnson’s Brexit policy.

The statement is not opposed to a No Deal Brexit. Not at all. Although it does not use the words “We support a No Deal Brexit”, that is clearly and logically what it is saying. Nor does it counterpose a better, Labour-led alternative Brexit (a fantasy in our view, but nonetheless) to what is actually happening. LeFT is a campaign, in so far as it is a campaign, for a Johnson-led No Deal Brexit.

A supporting article for the campaign on LabourList, by Sarah Cundy, also supports a hard Brexit, and calls for “a break from the [EU’s] ‘four freedoms’” – one of which is free movement of labour.

On one level, this is quite shocking. But it is not surprising when you consider that the CPB and Morning Star already support a No Deal Brexit, with Britain’s economy moving to “WTO rules”.

So just at the point where the dominant faction of the Tories, with the wind of the Brexit Party behind them, are pushing full-speed into a scorched-earth neo-liberal, radically authoritarian and anti-migrant national populist Brexit – these “left-wingers” step up to help them by shouting “Ensure the 2016 referendum result is implemented” (to quote their statement).

The statement has nothing to say about the burgeoning threat from the right in Britain and instead presents the EU as the main driver of the attacks we face.

It leans heavily on the “argument” that “the working class” drove the Brexit vote. This has already been debunked comprehensively. There is, of course, a large working-class Brexit constituency. But even in 2016, before the shift in opinion against Brexit, the majority of people in employment voted Remain – to say nothing of ethnic minorities, people in big cities and young people. The determination, in particular, to erase the views of the bulk of BME workers (not to mention European ones) is disturbing. In addition, it is working-class Labour voters who have shifted most strongly against Brexit since the referendum.

Even more ridiculous, when one considers the world and people as they actually are, is the identification of being pro-Brexit with being pro-Corbyn.

It’s worth considering who has signed the statement. It’s not (yet, at least) a hugely impressive list – eighty people in all. Some of the key names of the Stalinist-influenced Labour left are on it, but not that many. Who knows what internal politics or divisions are involved there?

Key figures in the CPB, its associated organisations and its milieu are well-represented – including CPB General Secretary Robert Griffiths. Some of the Labour Party signatories are very close to the CPB, eg Marcus Barnett and Eddie Dempsey (the latter is the one who said that Tommy Robinson supporters are “right to hate the liberal left”). It’s worth noting that these were the organisers of a campaign for people to boycott the European elections, ie to refuse to campaign or vote for Labour even – or it might be more accurate to say because of – the Brexit Party surge.

Some comrades have speculated that this new organisation was launched because a pre-existing one, “The Full Brexit”, was too discredited by a number of its founders supporting and in one case – James Heartfield – standing for, the Brexit Party. This group distinguished itself by publishing an article from two of its leading people denouncing Irish republican groups as “the armed wing of the European Union” and calling for violent British state action to crush their opposition to a hard border.

But TFB has been quick to get a statement out supporting and trumpeting its involvement in LeFT. And the initial LeFT signatories include Phil Cunliffe, a central participant in the same ex-Revolutionary Communist Party/Spiked network as Heartfield, fellow Brexit Party candidate (now MEP) Claire Fox et al – and himself a supporter of the Brexit Party! Plus another Spiked writer, George Hoare.

This is not an initiative any self-respecting socialist should have anything to do with.

It was therefore genuinely disappointing to see that LeFT’s signatories include a number of supporters of the anti-Stalinist (ex-SWP) socialist group RS21: I recognised the names Jen Wilkinson, Brian Parkin and Colin Wilson. It seems surreal that these comrades could put their names to such a thing.

Consider that the statement, despite pro forma references to “abuse of migrants” and “the structural racism of fortress Europe”, says nothing about the actually existing assault on migrants or what the left should say or do to oppose it. How could it, given both what it is supporting and who is behind it?

In the 1930s, the German Stalinists dismissed proposals for a labour movement united front to beat back the Nazis, and in effect downplayed the Nazi threat, with a blithe declaration that after Hitler came to power, it would soon be their turn. “After Hitler, us”. Meanwhile they competed with the Nazis’ nationalism, insisting that they shared a common goal of “national liberation”.

Johnson is no Nazi, of course, but the political issues are comparable. The signatories to the LeFT campaign are essentially saying “After Johnson’s No Deal Brexit, us”.

Except this is, at least on one level, worse politically. For all their disgraceful behaviour, the German Communists didn’t actually want the Nazis to come to power (Stalin may have, but that is another matter). LeFT do want Johnson’s Brexit plans to go through.

6 thoughts on “LeFT: campaigning for Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit

    1. You Brexiteers say that now, but you didn’t at the time of the referendum campaign:

      (From the BBC’s Reality Check): Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab claimed that he had talked of the possibility of a no-deal Brexit during the referendum campaign in 2016.

      “We made clear – those in the campaign – that we should strive for a good deal but, if that wasn’t available, that we should go on and make a success of Brexit,” he said

      “I was questioned on it by the BBC almost every time I appeared and so was Michael Gove… There’s all sorts of interviews which said that of course we’d prefer a deal, but that there would be a risk,” Mr Raab told the BBC on Monday.

      This was in response to presenter Mishal Husain asking him whether the 2016 vote had given the government a mandate to leave without a deal.

      Deal or no deal?

      Mr Raab, a prominent campaigner for Vote Leave, repeatedly said during the campaign that there was no doubt that the UK would get a deal with the EU.

      The closest we have been able to find to an acceptance that there might not be one was on 2 March 2016. That was the day the Treasury released a report looking at a number of Brexit scenarios and concluding that a no-deal or “WTO Brexit” was the most damaging option for the UK economy.

      A WTO Brexit would mean trading on rules set by the World Trade Organization.

      On BBC 5 Live Breakfast that day, Mr Raab initially said “there would be a free trade agreement”. When pressed on the risk of a WTO Brexit, he repeated that it was unlikely because EU barriers to trade would “hurt them far more” and added: “That’s the worst case scenario – average tariffs of 3.6%.”

      Mr Raab has since pointed to this appearance on BBC Radio 5 Live, and also to a David Davis speech to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors where his fellow Leave supporter “talked in detail about it”.

      Mr Raab argued that “all eventualities” including a no-deal Brexit had been discussed during the referendum.

      After days looking through the archives, we have not been able to find any other clear examples of Mr Raab talking about the possibility of a no-deal exit before the referendum on 23 June 2016. Channel 4 News and The Guardian both came to the same conclusion.

      BBC Reality Check searched for mentions of no deal in:
      ◾BBC programme running orders and transcripts
      ◾Today programme interviews
      ◾Vote Leave’s campaign material
      ◾Texts of keynote speeches
      ◾Articles written by Mr Raab and Mr Gove

      There are plenty of examples of him saying the UK would secure a deal, on the other hand.

      ‘New deal’

      In March 2016, Mr Raab told the BBC that there was “no doubt” the UK would negotiate a new agreement with the EU.

      “We’re the fifth biggest economy in the world. European firms sell us £59bn more than we sell them. Of course we’d strike a new deal, and relatively soon, with transitional arrangements if necessary,” he said.

      That April, he said that mutual self-interest suggests “we’d cut a very good deal and it’s certainly not in the Europeans’ interest to erect trade barriers”.

      Writing in the Daily Telegraph in February 2016 he said the idea that the EU would erect trade barriers after Brexit was “not remotely credible”.

      As for his colleague Michael Gove, two days before the referendum he told the BBC: “We’ll be in a position I think to secure a better deal than the one that we have now.

      “No-one is seriously arguing that Britain would be outside that free trade area, that tariff barriers would be erected and that Britain’s manufacturing goods would be at a disadvantage.”

      He had earlier in the campaign written a letter alongside other MPs including Labour’s Gisela Stuart, saying that it was “in everyone’s interests to do a free trade deal”.

      Free trade

      Mr Gove told the Daily Mail in March this year: “We didn’t vote to leave without a deal. That wasn’t the message of the campaign I helped lead. During that campaign, we said we should do a deal with the EU and be part of the network of free trade deals that covers all Europe, from Iceland to Turkey.”

      It was not suggested during the referendum campaign that a withdrawal deal would have to be done on the terms of the UK’s exit before free trade could be discussed.

      Mr Gove consistently voted for Theresa May’s withdrawal deal. Mr Raab voted against it twice but voted for it on the third attempt to pass the deal on 29 March.

      A search of the Twitter accounts of Mr Raab, Mr Gove and the official Vote Leave campaign reveals no mention in the six months leading up to the Brexit vote of any of the following terms:
      ◾”No deal”
      ◾”Without a deal”
      ◾”World Trade Organization” or “WTO”

      Searching more widely, Reality Check found that in the fortnight before the vote, Nigel Farage – who was not part of the official Vote Leave campaign – did say that leaving with no deal would be better than the UK’s membership of the EU.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair point, but I am not a Brexiter & the vote certainly was not to remain.

        If the UK leaves without a deal and it’s not what the voters wanted, then surely they would sweep into power, a party that promises to renegotiate with the EU.


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