We Want a People's Europe
Take this as a report from the front. Because, just as we have all predicted, as we near the prospect of a socialist government being elected, the challenges, threats and struggles inevitably get tougher.
What our opponents can never comprehend is that we take on these challenges with absolute relish as they demonstrate the enormous opportunity we now have before us as a movement and how close we are to power.
This month we have been faced with the challenge of holding our movement together over the approach to Brexit. Of course there have been longstanding differing opinions on the left over EU membership but there is no doubt overwhelming support among our membership and supporters for remaining in the EU. In line with our commitment that we are now a member-led movement, the Labour leadership has stuck religiously to the resolution unanimously adopted at last year's party conference.
We have therefore tried to block May's deal and no deal. We have pressed for a general election and will continue to do so. We have brought forward a viable Labour deal to protect jobs and the economy but have assiduously kept the prospect of a public vote on the table as an option.
In Parliament we have had notable victories in forcing the government to publish its legal advice and its economic impact assessments, plus, of course, securing the requirement of Theresa May to give Parliament the right to a meaningful vote and now to seek an extension of the Article 50 time period. Never before has a Prime Minister been defeated so often and on such a scale. We have witnessed a government in absolute disarray, deeply divided and unable to govern.
We will continue to refuse to support a Tory deal or no deal and will keep the faith on an option of a public vote. Regrettably, against the advice and wishes of the People's Vote campaign, Wollaston, Soubry, Umunna and their friends (TIG) pressed a vote in Parliament on a public vote and it was predictably heavily defeated. The People’s Vote campaign naturally want the vote pressed whenever the best chance exists to win it.
The Soubry and Umunna ploy exposed that even with Labour whipped votes, the motion for a People’s Vote would have been lost. But it also exposed the complete opportunism of the TIG group. They were using the People’s Vote issue opportunistically, solely to try to embarrass Labour MPs. It demonstrated the futility of their splinter group. It also showed that the only role that this group plays is to help the Tories.
The result is that it's been reported many Labour MPs have received a significant level of abuse on social media. In fact in the Commons chamber Soubry and others were shouting at Keir Starmer as he addressed the House. As Wes Streeting commented in the Commons, so much for the supposed new politics. The challenge for the left is that, no matter what the outcome of the Brexit decision-making process and whatever institutional relationship the UK has with the rest of Europe, we have to focus on building a European socialist movement. We are facing a dangerous rise of the right across Europe. It is an alt right movement increasingly linked to the US alt right and that in places verges on fascism.
In addition, the continuing dominance of neo-liberalism in Europe, with its abusive exploitation of our environment, is putting our planet at risk and continues to create grotesque levels of inequality. That's why Labour is taking the initiative of bringing together socialist parties and progressive movements across Europe to seek to determine a common analysis of the system and issues we face, to develop a common policy platform and initiate a Europe-wide campaign plan that will combat the right and provide an alternative vision for the future of our continent.
Of course we want to campaign for and build a Europe for the many not the few but, as importantly, our aim must be to develop the detail of a political programme that could transform the lives of our people. Most of the issues we now have to tackle are transnational including climate change, migration, economic planning, and down to the detail in policy areas like tax evasion and avoidance, corporate governance and trade union rights. The potential for a surge of Europeanwide socialist co-operation is enormous and we hear that many socialist parties in other European parties are looking to the Corbyn-led Labour Party to give a lead. We have witnessed a spontaneous upsurge of direct action by school students demanding action on climate change. The use of social media has provided us with the mechanism needed to enable this type of relatively spontaneous fast mobilisation. Rosa Luxemburg analysed and celebrated the potential of working people for spontaneous action.
Our aim should be to seek to combine conscious progressive movement building across Europe with support for creative spontaneous action. In this way we can confront the right wing attempt to divide us on the basis of crude nationalism and playing on people's fears and insecurities.
We can mobilise behind a fresh, exciting vision of a new, radically democratic, economically and environmentally sustainable People's Europe.
John McDonnell is President of the LRC. This is his column from the April 2019 Issue of Labour Briefing.