PROTESTS and rallies being planned with admirable speed by the People’s Assembly and allies will see significant turnouts up and down the country in coming days.
Line-ups such as that of London’s September 3 demonstration, with firebrand socialist MPs Laura Smith, Richard Burgon, Dan Carden and Laura Pidcock joining trade union leaders Kevin Courtney and Mark Serwotka and campaigners against imperialism Tariq Ali and Lindsey German among others show that the left is well placed to shape the nature and message of the campaign to stop Boris Johnson proroguing Parliament.
That will be vital if Johnson’s strategy is to be frustrated. The Prime Minister knows that millions of citizens are fed up with Parliament delaying Britain’s departure from the EU again and again. He knows that complaints from the likes of Speaker John Bercow that the House of Commons will be deprived of the ability to scrutinise the terms of departure will ring hollow when it has had more than three years to decide on a way to implement the 2016 referendum result, but has not done so.
He banks on proroguing Parliament being popular with this constituency and on opposition to it looking and talking like a bid by elites to frustrate Brexit. If so, whether or not Parliament manages to defeat him in a vote of no-confidence next week — something which the house journals of British capitalism the Financial Times and the Economist have now both called on it to do, despite their fear of even a temporary Jeremy Corbyn-led government — he will be well placed to ride to election victory on a sea of Leave votes.
That’s why it’s important demonstrations make this about democracy and about the pressing need for a general election as the way to break a deadlocked Parliament, and avoid a specific association with the Remain cause that would not merely dissuade Leave voters from supporting the protests, but actively provoke them into potentially supporting Johnson.
The Leave Fight Transform (LeFT) grassroots campaign to press for leaving the EU and reshaping British politics in a socialist direction has denounced Johnson’s act as “an affront to democratic politics.” Its supporters as well as numerous Leave-supporting socialists in Labour and other parties and the trade union movement will form integral parts of the campaign to stop the PM.
There are significant numbers of Remain supporters who will see this fight as primarily about stopping Brexit, and — as at yesterday’s emergency demo in London — they are likely to be a visible presence bearing EU flags.
That must not be the overall impression of the movement, though a mass media divided between pro-EU liberal voices such as the BBC and Guardian and Johnson-supporting hard-right ones such as the Mail and the Sun will do its best to depict things that way. Trade union and CLP banners, red and communist flags and placards making the case for an election and radical change will be needed to counter that threat.
While the number of demonstrations planned is impressive and growing all the time, tens of millions will not be directly reached by them and the hard work of this campaign will be to ensure that we do not simply talk to each other. Local meetings, People’s Assembly, LeFT, Labour and Morning Star street stalls and sales can seem modest in impact but mass movements start local and the stakes are high.
The radical left should have no truck with appeals to the Crown, the courts or even Parliament to stop the prorogue, but should aim to mobilise popular pressure on a scale the government cannot withstand with the goal of bringing down the government and moving on — not restoring the status quo.
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