Brexit is beginning to take its toll on Britain’s political parties. Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are desperately attempting to hold their parties together in the face of irreconcilable divisions. But neither leader will be able to appease their rebels. Splits and shocks are the order of the day.
We live in a period of great instability and uncertainty; an epoch of sharp turns and sudden changes. The last week’s events confirm this, with the formation of the new ‘Independent Group’ in Parliament, which has added further heat to an already volatile and explosive mix.
Composed of 11 MPs (at the time of writing) from both sides of the aisle, it is clear to all what this new grouping represent: the interests of big business. This has been stated in no uncertain terms by its representatives, with commitments to austerity, the bosses’ EU, and ‘national security’ (i.e. imperialist foreign policy).
The ruling class has lost control of the two main parties. The Tories are no longer reliable representatives of British capitalism, with May held hostage by the kamikazee Brexiteers of Jacob Rees-Mogg and co. And Labour, normally a Second XI that can be called upon in times of Conservative crisis, is no longer under the grip of the right wing, but is being reclaimed by its leftward-moving membership.
In this respect, the creation of this new ‘centrist’ current signifies the establishment seeking to ‘take back control’, to borrow a phrase much-loved by the Brexiteers. And now these so-called ‘Independents’ are acting as a tool of the ruling class, used to apply pressure on May and Corbyn in equal measure, with the implicit threat of further resignations unless measures are taken to avert a no-deal Brexit - or even halt Brexit altogether.
This explains the recent U-turns made by the respective party leaders. For May, there was the announcement that MPs will be offered a series of votes in Parliament: firstly on her deal; secondly, if that is rejected, on a no-deal departure from the EU; and finally, if these both fall, on the option to extend the Brexit deadline beyond 29th March.
Knocked back by the loss of three of her MPs, and faced with the possibility of dozens more following suit, the Prime Minister has crossed the Rubicon and declared war on the Tory Brexiteers. They can now feel their hopes and dreams slipping through their fingers, as May buckles to the pressures of big business.
On the other side, Jeremy Corbyn shocked rank-and-file members yesterday by conceding to the demands of the Blairites, pledging that Labour would offer a second referendum if a ‘viable’ Brexit deal cannot be agreed upon in the House of Commons.
But those advising Corbyn to go down this path are making a mistake. Such compromises will not help. The Labour right wing will never be appeased.
For years, these careerists have been acting as a capitalist tendency within the party, at odds with the elected leadership and the membership alike over everything from cuts to war. And at every turn, attempts to keep them on board have been scorned and rebuffed, paving the way for further waves of sabotage and attacks.
Eight have now split away to form the Independent Group. Several others - such as Frank Field, John Woodcock, and (most recently) Ian Austin - have broken with the Labour whip also. But dozens more of their ilk remain within the party, ready to jump when the time is right.
Indeed, Tom Watson, the Machiavellian deputy leader, has even taken the step of openly organising this big business faction in the PLP. His description of the ‘Independents’ split as “premature” indicates the right wing’s strategy going forwards: maintain their position inside the party, but hang the threat of departure over the head of Corbyn like the sword of Damocles.
In this way, the Blairites - and their capitalist backers - hope to squeeze further concessions out of the Labour leadership, who are desperate to hold the party together at almost any cost. But Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell must stand firm. The past few years have consistently shown that when given an inch, the right-wing wreckers will take a mile.
Nowhere is this more evident than with the hysterical campaign over anti-semitism that has been waged against Corbyn and the left by the establishment.
The truth is that genuine cases of anti-semitic abuse, which should rightly be condemned, have been found to involve only a miniscule fraction of the party membership: 0.01%, as shadow minister Barry Gardiner reported on Sky News.
Unfortunately, leading Labour figures - including left-wingers such as John McDonnell and Jon Lansman - have bent over backwards, seemingly accepting the baseless accusations that the party is “institutionally anti-semitic” and that “not enough action” has been undertaken to root out anti-semitism.
But such olive branches have only been used to fuel the fire. One need only look at the case of Liverpool Wavertree CLP. Here, the whole local party and its activists have been falsely labelled as anti-semitic - simply for protesting against the wrecking antics of right-wing MP, Luciana Berger, who refused to support even the idea of a Corbyn government.
At the end of the day, the Blairites don’t sincerely care about anti-semitism or any other form of racism within society. This issue is merely another convenient stick with which to beat their left-wing opponents. And they will not cease until the left has been subdued and driven back, no matter what measures are taken by Corbyn and co.
The question of the European Union is another case in point. At every stage, the Labour leadership has conceded ground, bending to the Remainers and their demands to stay in the Single Market and protect the profits of the bankers. But this has never been enough for the Blairites. Indeed, appetite has come with eating.
Offering a so-called ‘People’s Vote’ will be no different. The likelihood is that a vote for a second referendum will not gain a majority in Parliament. In this respect, Corbyn might hope that his latest change of tune will be nothing more than an act of ‘virtue signalling’ - satisfying right-wing Remainers who might otherwise walk away. But in fact, the message this sends to the Blairites is the opposite: if you scream and shout loud enough, I will give you what you want.
At the same time, a second referendum will do nothing to resolve the crises facing workers and youth up and down the country. Instead, it will only exacerbate the divisions within society, providing Tory Brexiteers with extra ammunition in their reactionary war of national chauvinism and xenophobia. Already, the chair of the Conservative Party has accused Labour of “betraying the will of the British people” for promising another referendum.
The only thing that can break the Brexit deadlock and offer a way out of capitalism’s impasse is a general election and the coming to power of a socialist Labour government. But the Blairites have actively campaigned against this goal from the start.
Indeed, Chuka Umunna and co. have asserted that they cannot fathom the thought of seeing Corbyn in Number 10. And now they are doing their utmost to ensure against this outcome - breaking away, refusing to call by-elections, and scuppering Labour’s chances of winning the next election.
We cannot let these traitors dictate to the rest of us. We are all for ‘unity’ - but this must be on the basis of the policies and programme demanded by Labour’s members, not by those who are hostile to the working class and the cause of socialism.
So far, all the audacity and boldness seen has been on their side. After all, these ladies and gentlemen are confidently backed by the bankers and bosses in the City of London, and their friends in the establishment media.
These agents of capitalism have been allowed to set the terms of the debate for far too long. But that is because their pressure from above has not yet been met head on by the far stronger force from below. This must be rectified.
Labour has hundreds of thousands of members, ready to be called into action. But these supporters will only be galvanised by a bold socialist alternative. On this basis, we could achieve genuine unity and take the fight to the Tories. If not, we will forever be forced to wage a rearguard battle against the enemy within.
Instead of offering out a hand to the gangsters in the PLP, the Labour leadership should mobilise the membership to kick out these careerists.
Mandatory reselection must be brought in immediately to root out any remaining saboteurs. Momentum and the trade unions should organise trigger ballots against right-wingers. And where MPs have resigned from the party whose ticket they were elected on, local campaigns must be launched to force by-elections.
We have already seen that this can be done. In Anna Soubry’s Nottinghamshire constituency, hundreds were mobilised almost overnight for a mass rally to demand a by-election. A similar day of action is planned in Umunna’s Streatham constituency. Other demonstrations should now be organised up and down the country - not only to call for by-elections where the splitters are still sitting, but as part of a national campaign to kick out the Tories.
Enough is enough. Weakness only invites aggression. No more concessions. It is time to show the backstabbers the door. We say: good riddance to bad rubbish. We are better off without these people. It is time to break with the careerists - and to break with capitalism.
This CLP notes the actions of Chuka Umunna, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker, Joan Ryan, and Luciana Berger in splitting away from the Labour Party. These Tories in disguise have followed in the infamous footsteps of Frank Field and John Woodcock.
They have done this at a time when the Labour Party is advancing the cause of working people under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
This action is aimed at inflicting the maximum damage on the Labour Party, in the same manner as the SDP in the 1980s and Ramsay MacDonald and co. in 1931.
This group of eight used the Labour Party to advance their own personal careers. But their interests were under threat with the victory of Jeremy Corbyn. That is why they have used every means to undermine and attack the democratically-elected Labour leader backed by the Tory press and media.
We must be aware that there are other anti-Corbyn forces in the PLP of the same ilk - other careerist individuals who, when the time comes, will also jump ship. Tom Watson in fact referred to the recent breakaway as “premature”, indicating that he too sees breaking away as a possibility at some later date.
We therefore call upon the NEC, given this sabotage, to immediately introduce the mandatory reselection of all Labour MPs, allowing Labour’s membership to have a real say about who should represent them in Parliament.
Furthermore, rather than benefiting from inflated Parliamentary salaries, we believe Labour MPs should be on the average wage of skilled workers. Labour MPs should be “workers’ MPs on a worker’s wage”. The excess over and above this should be paid into Labour’s campaign fund, for the benefit of the Labour Party. Such a measure would help eradicate the cancer of careerism and ensure that we have genuine class fighters as Labour MPs.