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.