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COMMUNIST PARTY members and supporters are gathering for a key meeting of its Anti EU & Popular Sovereignty Commission in Birmingham on September 28, from across England, Scotland and Wales.
The commission has been meeting regularly for more than a decade. Its role is to advise the party executive and members of developments in the European Union, conduct research into long-term trends and increasingly to mobilise CP and Young Communist League activists for campaigns such as the recent boycott of the sham EU elections.
It was the commission that called and organised an anti-EU week of action early September, during which members and supporters leafleted housing estates and public centres and held street information stalls.
Such activity also has the function of feeding back the views of workers in local communities where there are strong regional variations and their concerns and ideas on political developments.
The feedback from that week of action was revealing. It has become clear, that in the labour movement, a united CP has become recognised (to friends and detractors alike) as a principled force in favour of a clean-break exit, but based on the need for respecting the referendum result, a change of government, with a plan to rebuild Britain for the people.
Among those views were many — an important cohort — who had voted Remain and regretted it as a result of the experience of the way the EU Commission conducted itself.
There is also a pressing need to create meeting space where Remain voters who want to respect the outcome of the referendum exchange with those who voted Leave. This group numbers millions and some of their number told street campaigners: “We just need to get on with it now.”
Combined, these could be a mighty force for social change and for implementing measures called for by a left-led Labour government.
But CP members on the street and at this year’s TUC are quick to point out that few such measures could be implemented if we remain within the EU straitjacket.
It is positive for Labour to return to grapple with the ideas lost when clause four was jettisoned, but none of that clause could be implemented within EU rules, directives, regulations, treaties and rulings of the EU Court of Justice.
Communists believe that the current situation, which appears dire, with a Remain position of the Labour leadership and a Conservative Party in tacit alliance with the Brexit Party, organising a neoliberal exit, can be turned around.
Indeed, the commission will be opened by CP general secretary Robert Griffiths who will speak on “Winning the arguments against the EU and for popular sovereignty.” This will be filmed and published on Facebook and YouTube.
An important role for the commission is to look ahead and this of course is difficult when there is so much pressure to keep Britain in, or half in, and to frustrate the popular mandate to Leave.
But for Communists, known in the labour movement for their attention to strategy and longer-term thinking, there is equally a need to deal with issues from the standpoint of when we have left the EU.
So there will be a report-back from the TUC Congress and discussion about how to change labour movement policy towards the EU.
Kristian Carter will lead a discussion on the recent elevation of controversial German ex-minister of defence Ursula von der Leyen to president-elect of the EU Commission.
Communists are concerned at her initial speeches calling for a stepping-up of the arms race and a “buy EU” arms policy requiring steep rises in military budgets, joined later by her creation of an appointment to “defend the European way of life.”
This, says, Carter, speaking to the Star, “is all the more alarming with the EU drive to the east in economic policy and geopolitics. Eastern non-EU states, including Serbia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine, should be very concerned at this apparent new phase.”
The commission will be attended, for the first time, by guest speakers from the campaign organisation, LeFT Leave-Fight-Transform.
These will explain the growth of the organisation and take part in a general discussion about how to press the case for an exit as part of the process of transforming society.
The CP commission will discuss ideas such as establishing a councillors’ network for those on the left who oppose the EU and the setting up of local networks and trade union networks of Leave supporters.
Commission convener and veteran anti-EU campaigner Robert Wilkinson will lead a discussion about the impact of EU membership on Britain’s food and farming.
“It will,” said Wilkinson, “be necessary to look at the impact of membership of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy, both of which resulted in food mountains, drinks lakes, price hikes in essentials as a result of high EU tariffs on non-EU produced foodstuffs and the destruction of fish stocks in British waters.
“Communists in rural areas and food-related jobs are looking positively to harnessing an exit from the EU that will enable tackling monopoly ownership of the food and drinks supply chain, directing major resources into domestic food production, especially in the labour-intensive organic and small farming sector.
“We shall be working to support the extension of collective bargaining to rural communities and a food industry that is crying out for job security and wage rises.
“It’s equally a real opportunity to tackle labour gangmasters and people-traffickers, encouraging class unity between migrant and indigenous workers, united by common trades union membership and collective agreements on wages and conditions of employment.”
There will be a discussion of how best to explain the development of CP policy towards the European bosses’ club, in the context of next year’s party centenary.
This began with opposition to the then European Coal and Steel Community, which Britain refused to join because it involved “supranational institutions” and supranational authority.
Communists, unlike any other political party in Britain, can point to a consistent opposition to various European capitalist ventures under premierships spanning Churchill, Eden and Macmillan through to Wilson, Heath, Callaghan, Thatcher, Blair and now Johnson.
The commission is open to non-members and activists by invite. If you are interested, go to facebook.com/CPBritain and message us for more information.
Phil Katz is Communist Party eastern district secretary.
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