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The fight is on for a People’s Brexit

At the first meeting of the Communist Party’s newly elected executive committee last weekend, ROBERT GRIFFITHS delivered the main political report. The Morning Star publishes here an edited version of it

BRITAIN’S political crisis is deepening by the day. The traditional party of the capitalist class, the Tory Party, is divided and possibly heading towards a rupture. No longer can it be said that “loyalty is the Tories’ secret weapon.”

The roots of the present crisis lie in the great financial crash of 2007-8. The neoliberal offensive unleashed after the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and the socialist states of eastern Europe collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions. 

The over-accumulation of capital — much of it fictitious — and the short-term greed of largely unregulated financial market forces brought neoliberalism to its knees. 

Only state intervention and public money on an unprecedented scale rescued the capitalist system from total collapse in Britain, the US and other leading capitalist economies. 

Austerity and a new wave of privatisations were the means by which the ruling class made the working class pay for a way out of the financial crisis.

But politically, the public credibility of politicians, bankers, economists, pundits and the mass media so damaged by the Great Crash has not recovered. 

In 2010, the Tories and Lib Dems had to form a coalition government in order to drive through the ruling class austerity and anti-trade union programme.

In the 2015 general election, the Lib Dem vote collapsed and split three ways as the result of its betrayal of the progressive intelligentsia, while the advance of the SNP in Scotland — winning 40 seats from Labour and 10 from the Lib Dems — ensured that Labour could not form a government.

But any hopes that political stability could be restored by a majority Tory government were challenged by the magnificent response of the People’s Assembly and other anti-cuts campaigners to the May 2015 result. 

Marches and demonstrations erupted across England, Scotland and Wales, reflecting the growing awareness that even more austerity measures were not necessary and grossly unfair.

The political crisis was intensified by the result of the June 2016 EU referendum campaign. That was a defeat not only for the government of prime minister David Cameron and chancellor George Osborne. It was a stunning defeat for Britain’s ruling class centred on the finance monopoly capitalists in the City of London. 

By a majority of one million, 17.4m voters refused to be frightened by the political Establishment, big business, the economic experts, the pro-EU media, the Nato and intelligence chiefs, and voted for Britain to regain full sovereignty over its own future.

What was intended as the culmination of a strategy to see off the challenge to Tory rule of Ukip backfired spectacularly in a victory for popular sovereignty.

British state-monopoly capitalism’s political crisis deepened still further in the June 2017 general election. The Tories lost their parliamentary majority at Westminster. 

Under a left-wing leadership propelled into office by hundreds of thousands of extra-parliamentary campaigners against austerity, privatisation and imperialist war, Labour won 40 per cent of the votes — one of its best performances since 1970. 

Now the ruling class and its favourite politicians are in great difficulty. Their efforts to derail Brexit have not been successful so far, despite having a majority in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. 

EU supporters have been divided between those who would settle for a Brexit that would keep Britain aligned with the EU single market and customs union and their pro-big business, anti-working and anti-socialist rules; and those who believe that Brexit can be prevented and full EU membership retained.

However, the predominantly pragmatic sections of British monopoly capital fear the further instability that might result from cancelling Brexit, especially if done by parliamentary decree rather than at the ballot box. 

For them, business and profits trump even British participation and representation in Brussels. Continued alignment with the EU single market’s big business freedoms, policed by the EU Commission and the anti-trade union EU Court of Justice, is paramount.

For Prime Minister May’s government, much depends on whether a revamped Withdrawal Agreement can be negotiated with the EU and secure a majority in the House of Commons.

The pressure is building up in Germany and other member states for the EU to help May and Chancellor Philip Hammond get a Withdrawal Agreement through Westminster. 

May wants to use the March 29 Brexit Day deadline to drive enough MPs into the lobby for her Plan B, which differs very little from Plan A. It’s a game of “chicken” and Hammond is already squawking. 

As the main representative of big business in the Tory Cabinet, he does not want to risk the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

Of course, MPs might vote to extend Article 50 and postpone Brexit Day. Some Tory and Labour MPs will want to use the extra two- or nine-month delay to ensure that a pro-EU deal is finalised and approved, whether by the Westminster Parliament or in a second referendum.

Others are playing for time to legislate for a referendum which — they hope — would cancel Brexit altogether. Shamefully, scores of these are Labour MPs whose dedication to EU membership exceeds any dedication they may have to winning a Labour government at the next general election.

The Communist Party calls for a “People’s Brexit” as the only way out of the political crisis that would serve the interests of the working class and peoples of Britain. Why this position?

First, the people have spoken. We had the “People’s Vote” in June 2016. Election results should be implemented — not cancelled by the losers in a second referendum.

Second, we uphold popular sovereignty. Brexit provides the opportunity to return more than 100 decision-making powers not only to Westminster but also to local government, regional assemblies and the Scottish and Welsh legislatures in a federal Britain. 

Third, Britain needs a general election now.

A general election will provide the opportunity to elect a left-led Labour government that represents the interests and aspirations of working people and their families, including in negotiations on Britain’s future relations with the EU. 

Fourth, we urgently need left and progressive policies. But a left-led Labour government must be free from EU single market and customs union rules in order to introduce policies that serve the interests of the working class majority, not the capitalist few.

Fifth, such a government must invest to mend “broken Britain.” A People’s Brexit would mean that EU rules and directives would no longer outlaw policies to promote infrastructure investment, manufacturing, economic planning, public ownership and regional development.

Six, we demand full rights for all workers here in Britain, whatever their race or nationality. In place of the EU big business “freedom” to super-exploit migrant workers, labour markets should be regulated by collective bargaining and progressive legislation. Equal rights are best protected by trade union strength, not by the anti-worker rulings of the EU Court of Justice. 

Seven, we reject membership of a militarised, imperialist European Union. Leaving the EU must also include Britain withdrawing completely from all the military structures and programmes authorised by the 2009 Lisbon Treaty. 

This is the alternative not only to membership of the anti-democratic, pro-monopoly capitalist, pro-Nato “Fortress Europe,” but also to a neoliberal or xenophobic Brexit.

Now we must promote it with our allies wherever we can over the next two months, in local communities and the labour movement. And in the campaign that lies ahead, we should emphasise that opposition to the EU comes not only from the right. We have the joint declaration signed by 28 Communist and workers’ parties condemning the EU, pointing out that it is “unreformable” and urging instead the construction of a workers’ and people’s Europe.

The fight is on for a People’s Brexit, for a general election, a left-led government and an independent foreign and defence policy for Britain, based on solidarity with the oppressed and exploited, renouncing Nato membership and nuclear weapons, acting sincerely as a force for peace and environmental security.


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