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HUNDREDS of labour movement activists packed Hamilton House in central London last night to demand a Brexit that serves working people.
Economists, trade unionists and socialist campaigners rejected Theresa May’s deal with Brussels and said the left’s priority must be to fight for a general election to return a left-led Labour government which would negotiate a new deal.
Unison North West regional convener Paula Barker, speaking in a personal capacity, said the left should be “wary of those pushing Labour towards a second vote. Many who voted leave had never voted before. Labour must not ignore working-class communities.”
IPPR research fellow Grace Blakeley said it was vital any deal with the EU allowed Labour to “implement everything the party has democratically agreed to do.
“We must go back to the EU and say: ‘We need a deal that allows expansive state intervention in the economy. We want limits on the mobility of capital. The deal on the table now will not allow a government to pursue a socialist agenda.”
She warned against a “failure to see through the veil of liberal institutions to the power relations behind them, which is a failure to understand capitalism itself. The EU is a mechanism for the enforcement of a particular set of power relations.”
Throughout the negotiations the EU had prioritised maintaining restrictions on public ownership and state aid in Britain, she argued, saying EU chiefs might be worried about being undercut by London on corporation tax but “they are much more worried about a socialist UK off the coast demonstrating what socialism looks like to millions of disenfranchised citizens across Europe.”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said it was vital to remember that “coming out of the EU will allow us to rebuild manufacturing, protect seafarers and nationalise rail.” Staying in would prevent all of this: “The reality is that the EU is a bosses’ club and my union has given up on expecting it to be anything else.”
Labour MP Graham Stringer agreed: “If we want nationalised rail we have to leave. If we want to reverse Royal Mail privatisation we have to leave. If we can’t make those decisions, we don’t really live in a democracy. The answer is a general election as soon as possible.”
Brexit ‘is an opportunity to reshape our society’
BREXIT should be understood as a “delayed reaction to 2008” and is an opportunity the left cannot afford to miss, Guardian economics editor Larry Elliott told the People’s Brexit meeting in central London last night.
The global financial crash demonstrated that the neoliberal economic model was bankrupt, he argued, but the left had failed to seize the moment and allowed the right to accelerate cuts, privatisations and attacks on working-class people.
“We have a second chance to get it right. If we don’t, history will never forgive us.
“Everything Tony Benn said has come true. The EU is a zone of low growth, high unemployment, austerity economics run on monetarist lines. And it is an economic disaster zone.
“Why is the left arguing for frictionless markets? Friction to [capitalists] means trade unions, it means controls on capital. I’m in favour of more friction – not less.”
Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths said expecting the “unelected and largely unaccountable” European Commission to protect workers’ rights went against its entire record and assumed “the labour movement is completely powerless, as if the rights we fought for were given us by the EU. I don’t believe in flying the white flag. Let’s fly the red flag.”
And former Syriza MP Costas Lapavitsas said he was “amazed” at the presentation of the EU as stable, prosperous and democratic in the media.
Conflict between the core and the periphery was intensifying “an existential institutional crisis” across the bloc, which had worked for decades to “depoliticise economic and social policy in Europe. Vote for who you like, but the same policies will be applied. Democratic deficit? The EU is a democratic abyss.”
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