Corbyn’s Brexit capitulation – and the curse of consumer-politics

January 29, 2017 at 2:02 pm (campaigning, capitulation, Champagne Charlie, Europe, immigration, internationalism, labour party, reformism, socialism, stalinism, workers)

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Corbyn’s decision to support May’s plans for triggering article 50 is a craven capitulation to nationalism. It also won’t work: hard-line Brexiteers and racists will remain unconvinced, while to the rest of Joe and Joanne public it just looks like a combination of panic and opportunism – which it is. Even in Stoke Central, the so-called “Brexit capital of the UK”, my local contacts tell me that Brexit isn’t the key issue: the overall state of the party and the credibility of its local campaign, is.

This shambles also calls into question the kind of advice that Corbyn is receiving from the cabal of politically illiterate Stalinists in his inner circle.

It needs to be stated loud and clear that the referendum result represents no fixed-forever “decision of the British public” which obliges Labour to give away the rights of migrant workers (and British workers and young people who want to work, study, or live in Europe) by abandoning the EU and freedom of movement. In fact, since some Leave voters wanted something like EEA status, even on 23 June there was probably a majority for keeping freedom of movement. Plebiscitary democracy — democracy via referendum snap votes, on questions shaped and timed by the established powers — is the thinnest form of democracy. Usually it just serves those already in office. This time a strong sub-section of those in office (Johnson, Gove, etc.) were able to surprise Cameron, in a public debate which was essentially Johnson-Tory plus UKIP versus Cameron-Tory, with Labour voices weak and unconvincing (Corbyn) or ignored by the media (Alan Johnson and Labour’s official Remain campaign).

That does not make it more democratic. The referendum excluded 16-17 year olds, excluded EU citizens living in the UK (though they can vote in local authority elections), was run on poor registers missing out seven million people; and such a narrow snap vote is no democratic authority to deprive millions of freedom of movement and probably impose new borders between England and Scotland and between Northern Ireland and the South.

All but the thinnest democracy includes a process of the formation, refinement, revision, and re-formation of a collective majority opinion. Without such a process, and without organised democratic political parties which collectively distill ideas and fight for them, democracy means only rule by whatever faction of the rich and well-placed can sustain itself through judiciously-chosen successive snap popular votes. It has almost no element of collective self-rule.

Labour should oppose Article 50 and demand a second referendum, at which we advocate remaining in the EU.

Whether Labour activists should ally themselves with the newly-formed Labour Against Brexit remains to be seen, and largely depends upon whether it turns out to be a right wing campaign to simply get rid of Corbyn: something that isn’t as yet clear.

Finally, a frank word to those good comrades who are talking about resigning from the party over this: we are not in politics as consumers who simply buy into a political party when we like the look/sound of what’s on offer. The uncritical adulation of Corbyn in the early days of his campaign and leadership was as silly as the claims now of being let down and the suggestion in some quarters of dropping out of the Labour Party.

Labour under Corbyn was always going to have crap politics, because Corbyn himself has always had crap politics – as demonstrated by his half-hearted stance on the EU and willingness to endorse the Morning Star. Most of the PLP have crappier politics still. We are arguing and mobilising for socialism in a world where politics is shifting to the right and British politics is dominated by questions of Brexit and national identity, which is simply not the terrain on which to build class politics, in the way that the NHS, workers’ rights and inequality is.

Our job is to rebuild Labour as a working class party. That process is only just beginning and will take years. People need to get stuck into their branches, CLPs and Momentum (whatever its faults). Serious comrades need to get their hands dirty delivering leaflets and travelling to Stoke and Copeland.

On article 50 Corbyn is clearly wrong, and we should say so. But instead of getting bogged down on the minutiae of the Brexit process, we need a laser-like focus on the NHS, housing and workers’ rights. Workers need inspiration and hope: maybe Corbyn can’t give it but a mighty battle against tory destruction of the NHS can in a way that article 50 never will.

Finally, socialists should be in the Labour Party now and for the foreseeable future, just as we should have been (and some of us were) under Miliband. What’s crucial is the party’s class nature, not its leadership at any given time. If there was a better Labour leader with better politics we could elect tomorrow I’d be in favour of doing so. But there isn’t and we can’t. We must not follow the example set the right wing Labour MPs who are resigning their seats to cause by elections as a strategy to get Corbyn out. If socialists throw up their hands in despair  because things are not coming up roses just at the moment, how the hell do you think we’ll ever overthrow capitalism?

(NB: thanks to comrade Dave for the closing rant).

10 Comments

  1. Corbyn’s Brexit capitulation | secreteyes4 said,

    […] via Corbyn’s Brexit capitulation – and the curse of consumer-politics — Shiraz Socialist […]

  2. Bazza said,

    Quite right, the fault lies with his inner circle of crypto Stalinist ‘advisers’ such as that idiot Milne. JC has now pissed off a large chunk of his own supporters. Can’t see him lasting much longer after this!

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Good on Corbyn and at last doing something sensible. The working class all over Europe are being ripped aff by this self serving beaurocracy. Unnesesary politicians, lawyers and judges milking it.

  3. Stephen Bellamy said,

    Labour MP’s resigning their seats to precipitate by elections as part of a strategy to get Corbyn out?

    What a touchingly naive soul you are Jim. These guys as voluntary sacrificial lambs……….hilarious.

    • Mick said,

      So long as Labour’s too crap to win an election, Labour’s too irrelevant to completely matter anyway.

      Especially when arrogant Labourites say, again and again, that their consciences won’t let them vote for Brexit.

      But the People have spoken. The PC banshee-wailing which passes for a Labourite conscience is of no issue. Just vote for the damn Brexit and get some dinner!

      • Stephen Bellamy said,

        Corbyn’s legacy will be that his time exposed, even for my sister’s pet canary’s less than bright cousin to see, just how wide and deep the corruption in the LP is. It is beyond redemption. I am all for getting some dinner though.

        It is best left for the ego left to play with. Yes Owen Jones I am talking about you.

        Integral is the exposing of just what horrible people the overwhelming majority of LP MP’s are.

  4. Stephen Bellamy said,

    And there was me fretting about whether you were right and I did have a thinking disability

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      I did mention unnecessary lawyers!

  5. John Rogan said,

    What amazes me is that there are many Labour MPs who say there is a “Tory Brexit” and a “Labour Brexit”. The implication is that the present Govt can somehow choose and implement whatever Brexit conditions they want with the EU27. This helps feed the delusion, on both the Left (Corbyn) and Right (Watson), that Labour could, somehow, negotiate a Soft Brexit. That the EU27 would be much kinder to a Labour Govt for some reason.

    A Soft Brexit is just not going to happen. The leadership of EU27 have enough internal headaches (Le Pen, AfD and Freedom Party) this year to ensure that, if they wish to hold the line against the eurosceptic Far Right, there will be no concessions to the UK. Brexit means Brexit means Hard Brexit.

    Now we have Trump whose possible EU Ambassador, Ted Malloch, seems to gleefully want to see the EU finished. After all, a much weakened EU (or no EU) would help the “America First” agenda of Trump.

    This would also help the agenda of Putin who wishes to exert greater control in Eastern Europe.

    The Trump Putin Pact (wanting to split, weaken and carve up Europe) is another perfectly good reason for EU27 sticking to a Hard Brexit – especially a need for the defence of Eastern Europe.

    Theresa May is actually correct in her sucking up to Trump and Erdogan. If we leave the EU on a Hard Brexit (which we will) then grovelling for some crumbs at their tables is all we will be good for.

    And that is the question Corbyn, Watson and McDonnell have to answer. After a Hard Brexit, who should the UK deal with in trying to get good trade deals? How will we be able to do it?

    If you oppose Trump, you have to oppose Brexit.

    • @pplswar said,

      What amazes me is that anyone could think that Corbyn’s Labour-destroying article 50 three-line whip is a ‘capitulation’ to nationalism when in fact it reflects Corbyn’s original “Lexit” position. Every day Corbyn is in power is a day lost to the struggle for Labour and socialism.

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