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THE Communist Party’s political committee (PC), reviewing the message coming back from People’s Brexit meetings in cities as far afield as Cardiff, Bristol, Derby, Cambridge, Southend, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, London and Norwich and some workplace gatherings around the country, confirmed the party’s decision to boycott the European elections on April 24.
International secretary Professor John Foster said: “The ‘People’s Vote’ in the biggest poll in British history in June 2016 was to leave the European Union... this should be reinforced by a ‘People’s Boycott’ of the EU elections if they go ahead.
“Britain should have left the EU and its institutions by now, almost three years after the result — but this been prevented so far by a majority of MPs and the Tory Cabinet who want to keep us tied to EU single market and customs union rules if they can’t sabotage Brexit altogether.”
Ironically 2019 is the centenary of the formation of the Communist International, at which Communist Party founding member Willie Gallacher argued against involvement in parliamentary elections. Lenin wrote a famous pamphlet, Left-wing Communism an Infantile Disorder, to put him and others right. Gallacher later became a popular Communist member of Parliament for West Fife. So why a boycott? And why now?
The view of the party is that the vote to leave the EU removes the legitimacy of elections to an EU Parliament that already has questionable credentials.
The EU Parliament cannot initiate legislation and rarely challenges the EU Commission when it dictates draconian austerity and expansionist policy. After recent events in the Ukraine and Libya, EU institutions are moving from an absence of democracy to anti-democracy and this mirrors the decline of social democratic influence and the rise of the right. The argument that we would be better off out has already won majority support. So there could not be any rationale for participation.
A boycott “would send the clearest message to the political and big business establishment,” Foster argued.
Writing in the Morning Star on April 29, Chelley Ryan, noted for her sharp and balanced political analysis and feel for real views held outside the political bubble, wrote: “...I believe people, whether they voted Leave or Remain, deserve political representation.” I agree.
But they need this in elections to a parliament that can take representation and make decisions for which it is accountable.
That is not the EU Parliament. The overwhelming achievements of the workers’ movement, from pensions and social insurance, the NHS, public education and even securing the vote, let alone legislation on health and safety, equal pay and discrimination at work, come from struggle in and out of Parliament in Britain, not Brussels or Strasbourg.
The party’s campaign for an active boycott is the start of something much bigger. We want the maximum pressure brought to bear on parliament to implement the majority vote from the referendum.
If a boycott — in effect a massive “stay-away” — does not sharpen minds, workers taking to the streets and non co-operation in other ways can follow. We need a People’s Brexit and a general election that can return a left and Labour government, which can begin to rebuild Britain for the people, not the bankers.
We recognise that many comrades on the Labour left feel duty-bound to support their party — although a good number have indicated the depth of their dissatisfaction over Labour’s position on Brexit.
In the south east, all Labour candidates are pro-EU – not much choice there. But in this instance, the CP has called on all parties and all voters to turn their backs on the election.
This election was imposed on us by unelected EU commissioners as part of the deal to delay the leaving date. It is a clear attempt to lock us back into EU arrangements and responsibilities, which runs counter to the decision taken in June 2016.
Foster went on to warn Labour: “Most of the Tory-held marginal seats that Labour must win to form a government also voted heavily to leave the EU — and they will not swing over to an anti-Brexit, anti-democratic Labour Party agenda.”
EU rules would halt a future Labour government’s policies for public investment in industry and infrastructure (including housing and public transport), an end to privatisation and outsourcing, cuts in VAT and a ban on the super-exploitation of migrant workers.
Of course the media and hard-line Remain supporters will charge the CP with encouraging apathy. Let’s be honest though, citizens have never been enthusiastic about participation in EU elections.
Ours is to be an active boycott. A campaign of public meetings, street leafleting and social media campaigning has already begun with a special May Day Boycott issue of the CP’s labour movement broadsheet distributed at May Day events. The party’s most popular pamphlet for years, Exit EU Q&A, has been made available free online.
Others will say “what about Yaxley-Lennon?” as if he was the only issue in the election, and as if the campaign against racism has not been underway before, during and is set to continue long after the vote.
A boycott is designed to take support away from all parties including the Brexit Party and Ukip, who have jumped on the desire to exit the EU, while getting their noses in the EU expenses trough.
Ukip was dead and bankrupt, literally, after the referendum and the Brexit Party could not have been invented if those MPs who were Remainers had been true to the democratic decision. The manipulations of the “People’s Vote” campaign has literally given such forces the boost they could not give themselves.
The labour movement also has to look in its own back garden, as many Labour voters are clearly considering voting for the Brexit Party and possibly even Ukip. A boycott argument could carry the day with such voters.
What else are these two parties up to? It may not be a coincidence that the Jobbik party in Hungary and Le Pen’s National Rally gained substantial followings as anti-EU campaigners, only to become converts at the altar. The only way for candidates to prove they respect the referendum outcome is to withdraw from the election, refuse to take their seats, renounce the handsome sinecures that go with the job of being a sell-out. No one should be buying this mob tickets for the Brussels gravy train.
In his closing remarks at the PC, Foster made it clear why we wanted to boycott the elections and hasten an EU exit: “Britain’s Communists emphasise the need for a future Labour government to be free from EU pro-market, pro-big business rules in order to carry out many of its radical manifesto policies.”
Readers of this article are likely to share that aim. Our view is that a mass boycott and stay-away, similar to the tactic used in South Africa when the apartheid government forced local government structures on an unwilling population, will be a massive restatement of the democratic decision to Leave.
Chelley also warned in her article: “So if a voter wants to send a crystal clear signal in the EU elections that they want Brexit delivered, they are left with Ukip and the Brexit Party.” But there is another option — we urge you to join our campaign for an active boycott and say No to the EU elections and Yes to a general election.
Phil Katz is a designer and author and a member of the Communist Party. The latest Communist Party Q&A on Brexit is available at TinyURL.com/CPBrexitQandA
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