Labour Parties EU stance: The Good the Bad and the Ugly
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met union leaders this week to discuss a shift in the party’s position on a second Brexit referendum.
Corbyn has already conceded that Labour will support a referendum on any Brexit deal.
But he did not say what Labour thinks should be on the ballot paper, or what Labour’s voting advice would be. He went no further than saying that a second referendum would need to contain “real choices” for both Leave and Remain voters.
This seems not to be good enough for the centralist in the Party who are determined to see the Labour Party lose its core support in the Labour Heartlands.
This demand-driven for three years by big business—has been spearheaded by deputy leader Tom Watson. But it has also seemed to attracted support from some left-wing MPs.
Watson who formed the ‘Future Britain group’ to influence and push centralist policy seems hell-bent on destroying the Corbyn project.
The Group consisting manly of the 2016 coup plotters are also staunch advocates of the remain camp they boast two former EU commissioners within their ranks, Mandelson and Kinnock.
Mandelson just happens to be the chief architect of the People’s vote and the director of the very similar named ‘Open Britain’ They continually ignore the Leave voting constituencies and the democratic choice to leave the EU.
Jeremy Corbyn declared Labour the Party of the working class but which working class? The centralist parliamentary members care little for the working class of the traditional Labour Heartlands, just like a depleted coal seam or the last whistle of a closing factory our use ended.
We the working class of these traditional Heartlands have been neglected for the last 40 years the investment never came and the promises never ever paid the bills or put a meal on the table. The Northern Powerhouse was always an impossibility within an EU-UK that imposes austerity on its people.
The one thing we always had was the firm commitment to socialism and the Labour movement. The one thing we demand as Labour members, supporters and voters is that the ‘basic principles of democracy’ are carried out. When we vote our vote must be respected, we should not be told:
You voted wrong, do it again!
Just like the Party announced after the referendum when Keir Starmer made his passionate speech in the commons telling both leave and remain supporters:
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Keir Starmer Quote:
We lost the referendum. Yes, the result was close. Yes, there were lies and half-truths—none worse than the false promise of an extra £350m a week for the NHS. Yes, technically the referendum is not legally binding. But the result was not technical; it was deeply political, and politically the notion that the referendum was merely a consultation exercise to inform Parliament holds no water.
When I was imploring people up and down the country to vote in the referendum and to vote to remain, I told them that their vote really mattered and that a decision was going to be made. I was not inviting them to express a view.
Although we are fiercely internationalist and fiercely pro-European, we in the Labour party are, above all, democrats.
HAD THE OUTCOME BEEN TO REMAIN, WE WOULD HAVE EXPECTED THE RESULT TO BE HONOURED, AND THAT CUTS BOTH WAYS.
A decision was made on 23 June last year to leave the EU. Two-thirds of Labour MPs represent constituencies that voted to leave; one third represent constituencies that voted to remain.
THIS IS OBVIOUSLY A DIFFICULT DECISION. I WISH THE RESULT HAD GONE THE OTHER WAY—I CAMPAIGNED PASSIONATELY FOR THAT—BUT AS DEMOCRATS WE IN THE LABOUR PARTY HAVE TO ACCEPT THE RESULT.
Not withstanding the lie on respecting democracy what about the pledges?
It is not a secret only a constant denial the Labour Party cannot carry out it’s manifesto pledges within the EU, from Nationalisation, state ownership to its National investment Bank the EU rules and articles stop our socialist agenda. But for some in the Labour Party theses things are just the old traditional pie in the sky lefties dreams. the mainly centralist PLP have never been behind the real socialist values of the working classes. We witnessed that with tree terms of Blairism, Now it seems that old saying of has come to play
when a party no longer represents the people, then party must get a new people
‘Remainia’ the citizens of the status quo.
The claim is the new Labour Heartlands are the metropolitan cities a new working class the young millennial’s of “Remainia”. If this is remotely true Labour would be abandoning its traditional heartlands and settling for perpetually in opposition. Yet it does seem the malaise of some politicians show with their lack of vision for a UK outside the EU a 21st century socialism a lack of passion and spirit the same spirit that Nye Bevan brought. His vision was to build but he also warned of the EU or EEC as it was known at the time saying:
in the absence of a wider sovereignty, all the conception of a common market does is to elevate the market place to the status now enjoyed by the various European parliaments. Is it the disenfranchisement of the people and the enfranchisement of market forces? Are we now expected to go back almost a century, reject Socialism, and clasp free trade to our bosom as though it were the one solution of our social evils? … The conception of the Common Market… is the result of a political malaise following upon the failure of Socialists to use the sovereign power of their parliaments to plan their economic life… It is an escapist conception in which the play of the market forces will take the place of political responsibility…
Jon Cruddas MP describes this new working class of “Remainia”
Traditionally, the left’s “base” was the working class. For Marx, it was “the class to which the future belongs”.
Yet recently both the social-democratic and radical left have sought to assert a new progressive “base” A leading advocate of this historic rethink, Paul Mason, recently suggested that “a new strategy must be based on the realisation that Labour’s heartland is now in the big cities, among the salariat and among the globally oriented, educated part of the workforce”. He identifies this as the “new core of the Labour project”, a distance away from the classical left proletariat. The new “base” is to be formed around “networked individuals” residing in “Remainia”.
The argument is that Labour should ditch a sentimental attachment to the notion of a working class based in traditional heartlands; one that electorally offers diminishing returns. The party also suffers from a serious problem of attrition among older voters. The best electoral strategy is to, therefore, build a future coalition around younger remain voters; a renewal that goes far beyond the repeated search for the “former Labour voter”. There exists a radical new Labour-supporting cultural demographic and a new political geography reflected in the referendum result. Labour should hold its nerve and accept casualties in its traditional seats as we transition towards our new remain heartlands, safe in the knowledge that the working class is dying and increasingly doesn’t vote for us anyway.
For advocates of this position, two key drivers are rewiring progressive politics. First, for 20 years or more, there was much talk of “freedom’s children”, who would entrench a new modernity in the era of globalisation. Parochial attachments were being dissolved, replaced with a radical individualism and strengthened democracy, especially among the more educated and the young. The future would see the desire for “world citizenship” and global political action triumph. The future lay among the post-national, urban, networked, educated youth.
Those on the radical left pronounced the nation dead, given the amorphous power of capital whose modern rule suggested a declining relevance attached to questions of territory and country. For today’s left, this has brought forward the political possibilities offered by a transnational multitude to challenge global capital – a radical new form of political agency. The global, urban networked youth have replaced the workers.
Second, the working class is described as being destroyed through automation, leading to an embrace of “post-workerism” and a backing of universal basic income. While future prosperity will be driven by the production of knowledge and intangible assets, the working class, old Labour and the foundations of leftwing thinking are disintegrating. This argument has reappeared today on the radical left with a very specific, optimistic reading whereby technological change destroys the working class and takes us to a vaguely defined place called “post-capitalism”. This political reorientation privileges the urban sites of knowledge work as the means of left advancement. Urban youth is the new left change agent to confront capital. “Networked youth” is destroying capitalism as the information economy is incompatible with the market economy.
As a result of this debate, in Labour today it is increasingly difficult to disentangle the politics around a second referendum – which would divide the party’s leave voters from its remainers – from a conscious strategy to separate progressive politics from the economic emancipation of the traditional working class. Much fashionable thinking tends to neglect the significant role work plays in our lives. It remains a source of dignity and belonging; of overall human wellbeing. Moreover, there are real difficulties with a politics that embraces a global network rather than being anchored around more parochial concerns of place, community and nation. These issues underlie the Brexit challenges the party now faces.
Labour is in danger of privileging certain sections of the electorate at the expense of others. It is very difficult to see how, having redefined the base of the left into such restricted demographic groups, it might create the necessary alliances across classes and geographical settings to gain and retain power. Talk of the “many not the few” cannot cover this up for long.
Jon Cruddas is Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham LINK
We are not abandoned yet!
More than 26 Labour MPs have written to Jeremy Corbyn to urge him not to go “full Remain” as the party reviews its stance on another Brexit referendum.
They warn another referendum would be “toxic” and empower the “populist right” in many Labour heartlands.
They call on the leadership to abandon their pursuit of a “perfect deal” and to back an agreement by 31 October.
They state another referendum would be “toxic” and empower the “populist right” in many Labour Heartlands. For anyone who canvased during the locals or the EU elections, they would certainly know the emotions are running high and the feeling of betray is may never go away. LINK
On Tuesday the shadow cabinet met.
Corbyn is reported to have told shadow ministers there would be further consultation with the unions and a decision on the next step taken in the coming weeks, to the frustration of several present including the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.
Speaking at a car industry conference on Tuesday, McDonnell said, “I’ve said personally, I’d vote for Remain.” He added that the party’s policy would “evolve over the next week or so because there are more party consultations.”
We asked John McDonnell a question he still refuses to answer how can we carry out our manifesto and end austerity while still in the EU?
Labour should oppose the Tory visions of Brexit but not line up with the demand for a second referendum or Remain. It would be a gift to racist Nigel Farage who could pose as the champion of democracy and the voice of the 17.4 million who voted Leave.
And it would mean trying to give a left wing gloss to the EU that acts as an enforcer of austerity across Europe and whose anti-migrant policies lead to mass drownings.
Writing in the Guardian last week, Costas Lapavitsas, a former Syriza MP in Greece, said, “It is deeply unfortunate that Nigel Farage, a right wing populist has again been able to make inroads into the natural constituency of the left.
“His success makes it vital for the Labour Party to offer fresh leadership, while maintaining its working class roots. For that, Labour must not side with remain.”
He added that:
for Labour to become openly wedded to remain would detach it from its historic roots, ruin Corbyn’s socialist project and directly undermine his personal position as leader.
It is also likely to destroy Labour’s electoral support in precisely the marginal constituencies that the party must win.”
European Union: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
So for anyone who as got this far well done! John Hilary, The Labour Party head of trade policy. former, Executive Director of War on Want, ‘The Good the Bad and the damn right ugly’ that everyone on the left should read in making an informed decision about the EU. LINK
The Left’s stance on EU membership has fluctuated since the UK first entered the Common Market back in 1973. Dismissive of the ‘capitalist club’ that had been created by the Treaty of Rome, the TUC threw its weight behind the ‘No’ campaign in the 1975 referendum. At its April 1975 conference, just two months before the referendum, the Labour Party voted against continuing EEC membership by a margin of 2:1, and Prime Minister Harold Wilson was forced to allow cabinet members to campaign on either side of the debate. Seven of the 23 members of cabinet joined the Labour Left in pressing for a ‘No’ vote, while those on the right of the party joined the Conservatives and Liberals in the victorious ‘Yes’ campaign.
As workers’ rights and trade union freedoms in Britain came under sustained attack from the Thatcher government during the 1980s, Left opposition to the EU came under review. The promise of a ‘Social Europe’ made by Jacques Delors to the TUC’s 1988 Congress convinced many trade unionists that the EU might act as a bulwark against further Tory onslaught. While the 1992 Maastricht Treaty championed by Delors was primarily designed to deliver the business-led agenda of economic and monetary union, it also contained a social chapter that would balance out some of the negative effects expected from transition to the single European market. In addition, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) would be granted the right to be consulted as a partner in a new ‘social dialogue’, along with business, on any future social legislation to be introduced at the European level.
The years following the signing of the Maastricht Treaty saw the introduction of a number of positive social and environmental directives at the European level. Framework agreements were negotiated that guaranteed the right to parental leave; rights for part-time, fixed-term and agency workers; a maximum 48-hour working week; and rights for workers being transferred between jobs (TUPE, in the UK). On the environmental side, EU directives have been adopted since Maastricht to improve air quality, wildlife protection and standards of bathing water around the continent’s beaches.
For some on the Left, EU membership is still regarded as a defence against the downgrading of social standards by the UK’s ruling elite. The tendency towards deregulation in favour of business has traditionally been more pronounced on this side of the Channel than elsewhere in Europe, and right-wing Eurosceptics openly speak of Brexit as a means to achieving an even more extreme neoliberal settlement than is possible within the EU. While there is little talk of our environmental standards being immediately at risk, workers’ rights are an explicit target of Conservative and UKIP supporters seeking to leave the EU. This would be a strong argument for remaining in the EU, were it not for two factors.
The first is that EU membership offers no guarantee that UK citizens will enjoy its social benefits. John Major’s Conservative government negotiated a full opt-out from the social chapter of the Maastricht Treaty, excluding British workers from its positive elements while exposing them to the worst impacts of the single market. Having demanded a special protocol in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights to ensure that it could not apply fully in the UK, Tony Blair then secured an opt-out from the EU Working Time Directive so that British employees are allowed to disregard its 48-hour weekly limit. David Cameron’s efforts to negotiate further opt-outs from EU employment laws underline that the British people will remain vulnerable to this erosion of social standards, whether or not we stay in the EU.
The second, more compelling factor is that the EU has long ceased to be a source of progressive legislation. In Brussels, indeed, any talk of ‘Social Europe’ has now been relegated to the sidelines. Since the adoption of the Lisbon agenda in 2000, and even more so since the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, the institutions of the EU have devoted themselves to the business mantra of ‘competitiveness’, code word for an all-out assault on the European social model.
Rather than enhancing labour rights and raising standards in order to protect the peoples of Europe, as we might wish it to do, the EU has now embraced the sinister programme of ‘better regulation’ that seeks to downgrade social and environmental rules to the bare minimum. ‘Social Europe’ was replaced in 2006 by ‘Global Europe’, an explicit reengineering of the internal market for the benefit of transnational capital and a hard-nosed imperialism on behalf of European business abroad. Even the ETUC concluded that the social dialogue had failed.
No one on the Left claims that the EU is currently fit for purpose. If there was any doubt, the contempt shown to the people of Greece in 2015 when they called for a fair renegotiation of their debt confirmed that there is zero tolerance in Brussels for any challenge to the fiscal compact that underpins neoliberal capitalist rule. ‘Austerity Europe’ is the brutal regime imposed by the institutions of the EU on its peoples, just as ‘Fortress Europe’ is the face presented to those fleeing disaster on its borders. There is no alternative.
Nor is this dogma simply a reflection of the political tendency of the EU member states, as some have argued. The institutions of the EU are themselves deeply committed to the twin agenda of competitiveness and austerity – and none more so than the European Commission, whose unique powers render it far more influential than any normal civil service. The Commission is known for its close collaboration with the business lobbies that swarm around Brussels, and through its ‘right of initiative’ takes the lead in promoting the most extreme pro-corporate policies for adoption by other EU bodies. It was the European Commission that joined forces with industry lobbyists to promote the infamous Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently under negotiation between the EU and USA, which threatens to wipe out any positive social gains won at the European level. At the same time, the Commission is pressing ahead with a unilateral, business-friendly agenda of deregulation that has already seen the downgrading of key environmental directives on fuel quality, air quality and waste recycling.
The European Commission is not the only EU institution dedicated to promoting this extreme neoliberal agenda at the expense of social and environmental rights. The European Central Bank, the core institution tasked with upholding EU economic and monetary union, has joined with the Commission in imposing the harshest discipline on those European states that sought debt relief in the wake of the 2008 financial and economic crisis; small wonder that its Frankfurt headquarters have become the regular target of angry protests by Left forces from across the EU. The European Court of Justice, final arbiter of all disputes arising from EU treaties and legislation, has issued a string of judgements that have effectively overturned the most fundamental rights at the heart of the EU’s single labour market.
This institutional commitment to neoliberal capitalist discipline over and above any social or environmental agenda must be a central consideration in deciding whether to vote for or against continuing EU membership. Is there any genuine possibility of submitting the institutions of the EU to the kind of radical reform needed to convert them to a progressive social agenda? Or must we accept that those institutions, unelected and unaccountable as they are, will never be amenable to the change necessary to make them serve the people of Europe? If that is the case, a vote to remain in the EU is automatically a vote for the continuation of austerity and neoliberal capitalist rule.
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This brings us to the final element in the equation: the democratic deficit that lies at the heart of the EU. Expressing concern at the “power of Brussels” in his final speech to parliament back in 2001, Tony Benn listed the five democratic questions he had developed over a lifetime in politics: “What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And how can we get rid of you?” He added: “If you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system.”
The European Commission is unelected and acts unashamedly in the interest of big business. Even if the European Parliament were to flex its muscles and call for the resignation of the full cabinet of 28 EU commissioners, as it is theoretically able to do, the executive power holders within the Commission’s directorates would still remain to do the bidding of the business lobbyists who give them their orders. The European Central Bank, for its part, is governed by the heads of the central banks of the Eurozone countries, who in turn appoint the president and other members of the executive board. The judges and advocates-general that make up the European Court of Justice are all appointed, and choose their presidents among themselves.
As regards the balance of power between Brussels and national governments within the EU, the Lisbon Treaty that came into force at the end of 2009 affirmed that EU treaties have primacy over the national laws of EU member states. Yet it was the Greek debt crisis that showed how democracy itself no longer has any meaning within the EU, as the will of the Greek people was bulldozed by the demands of the central EU elite. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, had already cautioned against any romantic belief in democracy at the time of the elections which swept the anti-austerity party Syriza to power in January 2015:
To suggest that everything is going to change because there’s a new government in Athens is to mistake dreams for reality… There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.
More disturbing still was the intervention of the President of the European Parliament, German social democrat MEP Martin Schulz, who called for the removal of the elected Syriza government and its replacement by a technocratic dictatorship that would impose the full will of the EU institutions on the Greek people until a new and more compliant government could be installed. The anti-democratic force of Schulz’s comments revealed just how complicit the social democratic parties of Europe have become in the EU’s programme of neoliberal rule.
Even those who defend the EU concede that it now faces a crisis of legitimacy. Brussels has abandoned any last vestiges of the European social model in favour of its regime of austerity, privatisation, competitiveness and the erosion of fundamental rights. The battle lines are now clearly drawn between those who defend such a system and those who oppose it. There is no third way.
While it is appealing to call for reform from within, experience shows that there is no realistic chance of diverting the EU institutions away from the principles of capitalist rule that lie at the heart of the European project. Those of us who have fought for years against EU policies on trade and other issues have regularly pointed out that, for all our victories, we are never able to alter the basic ideology that drives forward the neoliberal programme. Like it or not, a vote to stay in the EU means a continuation of the status quo.
At the same time, the vote to leave the EU has brought the British people face to face with the reality of life in a country which has traditionally backed the programme of neoliberal capitalism more forcefully than any other in Europe. The difference is that, despite the best efforts of the current government to close it down, we still have a democratic space at the national level in which to rally the opposition. The upsurge in popular anger and political enthusiasm since the May 2015 general election has shown that there is a genuine hunger for an alternative to the Tory project of permanent austerity. That is why commentators such as War on Want patron Owen Jones have made the case for Lexit: a radically different, Left variant of Brexit based on “building a new Britain, one of workers’ rights, a genuine living wage, public ownership, industrial activism and tax justice”.
Only a rupture with the institutions of austerity will create the space necessary for the development of a People’s Europe. We need a new union that gives people’s rights primacy over and above the interests of transnational capital, and that defends the free movement of migrants not just within Europe but also from outside it. The EU mask has slipped and what it reveals a picture of corporate Europe.