On Brexit and socialist advance

WHOA-OH, LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER: Labour have alienated 5 million Leave voters since 2017 and gained almost none · Photo: Craig Maclean

by Colin Fox, SSP national co-spokesperson

· With Parliament prorogued for five weeks, the prospect of a General Election has receded temporarily.

The Party Conference season is traditionally a time for posturing. First up, as always, were the Lib-Dems. True to form, Jo Swinson pledged to keep Britain inside the EU, ‘no ifs, no buts’. It was nonsense of course, for she is trying merely to outdo other ‘Remain’ brands by annulling the 2016 Referendum result altogether.

Labour is also in the market for gestures. Next week’s Brighton Conference will see Jeremy Corbyn pressed to end his ambiguity over Brexit. Having come out against ‘No deal’, whilst not actually opposing Brexit, he now risks losing seats in the North of England, Wales and the Midlands by backing Remain.

The SNP made their own ludicrous promise to keep Scotland in the EU some time ago. All such postures fail to acknowledge the fact Britain will of course leave the EU.

And the political bedlam at Westminster will come to an end with the majority of Britons, bored to death by it all, cheering roundly.

Class divisions
But does that mean the forthcoming election will then be fought out over the deep class divisions in UK society? No, sadly Brexit will continue to dominate and it has never been a Left/Right struggle.

In 2016, the SSP highlighted the ‘Hobson’s choice’ on offer, concluding that Remain was the ‘lesser of two evils’. But we stressed it too represented an ugly choice. In the end the neoliberal Europhiles like David Cameron, Tony Blair and Theresa May—no friends of working people—lost.

Yes, the ‘Leave’ side are just as bad but the unavoidable fact is they won the vote. And they did so by tapping into a groundswell of disgust with mainstream politics. That ‘victory’ has to be acknowledged.

To swindle it away by claiming all Leavers were racists and bigots, or ‘they lied’ or that ‘no-one knew what Leave meant’ is a position no socialist should adopt.

That hasn’t stopped Jo Swinson, Tom Watson, Ian Murray or Nicola Sturgeon of course. But the Left’s job must be to turn the EU exit to the advantage of working people.

Extraordinarily as it seems, Johnson intends to fight the forthcoming election as a choice between ‘The People and Parliament’. With him as ‘The people’! Given the low regard in which Westminster is held, no one should underestimate the impact that approach may have.

There was ample evidence of it’s potency in the European elections when Farage won again. Millions intend to hold their noses and vote against Labour for the first time in their lives because they feel betrayed over Brexit.

The job facing the Left today is huge if we are to take ‘The people’s’ mantle away from charlatans like Johnson and Farage.

None of the polls give Corbyn a prayer. And before you start comparing 2019 with 2017 (when he lost less badly than expected) one should reflect upon how much worse his position is this time.

Labour have alienated 5 million Leave voters since 2017 and gained almost none. All the polling evidence suggests the Tories will win a majority. Another Tory Government would block indyref2. The SNP will come under huge pressure to resist Johnson’s mandate.

But they are unlikely to mount an effective opposition given their electoralism. Their campaign for indyref2 has been sidetracked by Brexit. And many will ask what happens to their Yes/Remain strategy after 31 October?

Given this landscape, what should the SSP do? Should we ignore the General Election, making it clear we have no truck with Leave or Remain? Or, mindful that 60 per cent of voters are sick to death with Brexit and want to focus on class politics, should we stand on that basis?

Promoting socialism
We could promote our unique class politics, produce our own material and campaign on issues like: a Living Wage set at two-thirds of average earnings, end zero hour contracts, an independent socialist Scotland, affordable housing for all, public ownership of our railways, electricity supply, oil industry, improve public services, scrap the hated Council Tax, end child poverty, increase taxes on the wealthy, advocate the Tobin tax on financial transactions, introduce free public transport to combat climate change, celebrate multiculturalism, equality and diversity, elect MPs on workers’ wages to oust careerists and corrupt politicians.

Standing in the election could also provide invaluable experience for SSP members ahead of the 2021 Holyrood vote where we aim to get MSPs re-elected.

We have yet to decide whether we will stand but when the election is called, we will consider how best to advance the socialist cause and the case for an independent Scotland.

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