Kevin Ovenden – Trump’s Syria Move, Fossil Fuels and Growing Crisis in the Mediterranean

A summit meeting between Greece, Cyprus and Israel took place in Cairo yesterday.

It came amid mounting tensions in the eastern Mediterranean, which may intensify sharply when the expected Turkish invasion of northern Syria takes place – and with it an intensification of the Syrian regime’s offensive in Idlib.

The tripartite pact of Greece and Cyprus acting alongside Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s dictatorship in Egypt and Israel is a continuation of a deep policy pursued under the former Syriza government and is at the centre of the Greek state’s strategic ambition in the region.

There is already an escalating standoff with Turkey. Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has recklessly broken off the semblance of a peace process with Turkish northern Cyprus and has unilaterally moved to begin exploiting the gas fields off the island.

Despite control over the maritime zone being disputed, Anastasiades’s right-wing government has been parcelling up the area and selling off drilling licences to France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and other fossil fuel giants.

Observers in Nicosia say the Cypriot government and its big business backers are behaving as if they have discovered Eldorado.

They have been intimating that the involvement of French, Italian and US multinationals means they can rely on those states to back Cyprus in the face of strident objections from the Turkish state.

But the months of provocation have produced a reaction from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A couple of days ago, he sent two Turkish ships into the middle of the zone to begin his own drilling.

There’s now a very dangerous crisis. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias flew to Nicosia to make theatrical noises that gunboat diplomacy “belongs in another century.”

But Erdogan’s move has exposed something of the bluff in the Cypriot position. Neither France nor Italy show any inclination to deploy naval force to confront the Turkish presence or pose as deterrent.

The Greek military and diplomatic strategy in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean has been to try to exploit tensions and divergences between the US and its other major Nato ally in the region, Turkey.

That is a continuation of a settled Greek state policy going back decades. This, incidentally, gives the lie to “left-patriotic” claims that Greece’s outsized military machine is somehow progressive because in confronting Turkey it is “challenging US imperialism.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed a new defence deal with Greece in Athens on Saturday, extending the licence of the Souda naval base on Crete and expanding the number of bases for US forces.

Greece is the only country other than the US to have the highest level of military co-operation with Israel — a policy secured by Alexis Tsipras.

Since Saturday, it is not only the Turkish naval deployment that has brought this Greece-Cyprus expansionism up against reality.

Even more so is Donald Trump’s decision to pull back US forces from northern Syria, facilitating Erdogan’s plan for a huge military operation to destroy the quasi-independent Kurdish entity there.

Trump is running into opposition from hawkish Republicans, progressive Democrats and the Pentagon. The last time he tried to do this, it brought the resignation of his defence secretary.

The US opposition is nothing to do with loyalty to the Kurds. It is everything to do with fear that a drawdown and pullout from Syria would signal the collapse of any pretence of US hegemony in the region, already seriously wounded from Iraq onwards.

It’s also a major blow to Greece and Cyprus — hence the emergency summit with Sisi and Benjamin Netanyahu, the latter facing possibly a third general election in a year.

The Greek gambit has depended on Washington constraining Turkish ambition and Greece benefiting from the unstable balance. If Trump gets away with shifting that balance, it will strengthen Erdogan, but in a more chaotic situation.

There are the flashpoints off Cyprus and also in the Aegean.

Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria are meeting with the EU to come up with more emergency and brutal methods to prevent a major refugee flow anticipated from the Turkish offensive in Syria and Damascus’s advance into Idlib.

Erdogan is also using the Syrian refugees as an instrument. He wants to remove large numbers from Turkey.

He’s used the “threat” of them crossing the Aegean to extract billions from the European Union through the infamous deal with Angela Merkel.

Now he wants to repopulate the zone in northern Syria, ethnically cleansed of Kurds, with Sunni Arab Syrians dependent on Turkish military overlordship.

The impacts cascade from the north Aegean to Cyprus — home, of course, to Britain’s sovereign military bases that give it some prestige in the region.

Trump is running up against the same problem Barack Obama did and, despite the erratic current administration, there is continuity with what went before.

Obama wanted a lighter touch in the Middle East, a “pivot to Asia” and to leave the regional powers to stabilise things in concert.

But the regional powers have their own interests, overlapping sometimes but also in conflict. That is seen from Yemen and the Gulf, through the disaster of Syria, to Cyprus and the Greek-Turkish conflict in the Aegean.

It has been suppressed over the decades only by the cold war and then by continuing US power holding the ring between its two allies.

This is all breaking down. And the EU is not going to fill the gap, except on the anti-refugee front.

The need for vigorous anti-war movements guided by the internationalist principle of confronting your own imperialist war machine is growing.

This applies to Britain, where — thanks to the hangover presence in Cyprus from the days of empire — British governments still feel their interference in the region is required.

As climate change protests continue, it is also a point not lost on many that a critical centre of this morphing crisis is the exploitation by fossil fuel companies and rival states of massive gas deposits. One estimate is that gas fields under the sea between Cyprus, Lebanon and Israel (Palestine) rival those of Algeria’s, a major gas producer.

The case for leaving it in the ground is not only about future impact on the climate. It is about stopping the spread of war right now.

Kevin Ovenden is a journalist, political activist and signatory to the founding statement of LeFT. This article was originally published in the Morning Star.

Dan Evans – Some Brief Thoughts on Wales and Brexit

The Merthyr Uprising (1831)

In the 2016 EU referendum, unlike our Celtic cousins in Northern Ireland and Scotland, Wales voted to leave. There were significant regional variations in the vote. Welsh speaking rural areas of Gwynedd and Ceredigion voted to remain, alongside Cardiff and its hinterland, the Vale of Glamorgan. All of the former industrial areas of south and west Wales voted to leave, as well as the ‘British Wales’ areas of Pembrokeshire, Powys and the north east Wales border counties. Only 5 out of 22 local authorities voted to remain, and of those, Monmouth and the Vale of Glamorgan were remain by an incredibly narrow margin.

Turnout in the EU referendum was higher in Wales than in Scotland and Northern Ireland, at 71%, dwarfing the usually tiny turnout in the Welsh Assembly elections, which has not passed 45% since the first ones were held in 1999.

In Merthyr, one of the Welsh towns that has since become synonymous with Brexit, turnout was 67%, compared to 60% in the 2017 General Election, 53% in 2015, and 58% in 2010. In Blaenau Gwent, turnout for the referendum was 68%, higher than any general election since 1997. In Bridgend, where I’m from, and in many other parts of Wales, this surge was repeated.

This wasn’t meant to happen. In the popular imagination, Wales was a social democratic (and by extension, pro EU) country. What’s more, Wales had received over 4 billion pounds worth of EU ‘Objective One’ funding since 2001- surely it wasn’t going to bite the hand that feeds?

But, it did. Wales has since become a worldwide case study for short sightedness, for people allegedly voting against their material self-interest, in a way reminiscent of Thomas Frank’s case study of Kansas.

Since the result, journalists have descended on the Welsh valleys in their droves, measuring people’s heads like colonial anthropologists as they attempt to get to the bottom of it all. With honourable exceptions, these John Harris- inspired walking tours of the valleys have been patronising and simplistic, reliant on clichés and stock imagery.

The stories blend into one: This area depends on EU money but voted to leave! How could they do this! They hate immigrants but there ARE no immigrants!

Articles bemoaning the leave vote when Wales is ‘entirely dependent on EU objective one funds’ were (and continue to be) written without a hit of irony, as if being entirely dependent on the whims of footloose foreign capital or surviving on handouts is a good thing, or that shiny new buildings or roads could genuinely compensate for the lack of jobs and sense of deep despair in leave voting areas.

Of course, there were myriad reasons as to why Wales voted to leave. Wales is not just ‘the valleys’ but is a remarkably diverse place which contains middle class areas, migrants from all over the world, as well as huge amounts of English born people. In some ways, the leave vote usefully exploded annoying, entrenched narratives weaponised by Labourists over the years in Wales- that Welsh speaking areas were parochial and racist, that the valleys were beacons of socialism and progressive politics(nowhere is innately anything).

Yet this cardboard cut-out caricature has been replaced with a new one: that ‘the valleys’ are full of racist, ungrateful morons, whilst Welsh speaking areas are all full of cosmopolitan Europhiles, (something undermined by the fact that the Welsh speaking anthracite coalfields of West Wales also voted leave).

In Wales, some academic analyses (or more accurately, polling) have also strongly intimated that Wales’ leave vote was down to the English population, something which cannot explain the fact that the highest leave voting areas in Wales- the valleys- are also those with the highest % of Welsh born and Welsh identifying people.

The English population in Wales is extremely diverse and in all likelihood the ‘English’ also contributed significantly to the remain vote in Ceredigion, Monmouth and the Vale of Glamorgan, as well as contributing to the leave vote in places like Conwy.

It has also been rightly pointed out that, unlike Scotland, Wales has no national media to counter the xenophobic British press, nor a popular leading party that could offer a relatively coherent case for remain as the SNP did in Scotland.

Whilst there is some truth to all these analyses- and indeed they are often combined together as people try to make sense of it all- focusing on them can obfuscate the most glaringly obvious reasons as to why people voted to leave: capitalism has destroyed Wales, ‘politics’ has failed Wales, devolution has failed to do what it promised to do, and that most people (whether Welsh or English) were upset about being ignored and exploited. Sometimes the most obvious explanation is the right one: the leave vote in Wales was a vote for political change rooted in material conditions and exposure to austerity.

Brexit is the logical outcome of alienation from the political and economic system. Whilst the Welsh ‘devolution industry’ ignores established academic norms that decreasing turnout in elections represent symptoms of distrust and a rejection of politics, there are other, ‘non-political’ indicators that we live in a deeply broken country. How about the rapidly increasing suicide rate?; or our mass dependence on painkillers?.

It would of course be dangerously complacent to deny that there wasn’t an anti-immigration element to the leave vote in Wales, but like in other cases, this is not articulated as blind xenophobia, but is instead a proxy for economic precarity and decreasing wages. It is vital that socialists stand in solidarity with migrants and those groups who may be feeling vulnerable during the present moment and begin a campaign of political education to eradicate national chauvinism.

As the LefT campaign has made clear, the leave vote in Wales was not about Europe per se, but about alienation born of poverty and a hollowing out of democracy. It is important to realise that the conditions that led to Wales’ alienation are of course not unique, although they are exceptionally sharp here and have longer roots.

These symptoms, whilst glaring to those of us who live and work in working class communities, were ignored by Wales’ political and media establishment prior to Brexit, and three years hence, continue to be ignored by the same people- those who have made their careers off the back of our communities, who have profited from devolution and who have remained insulated from austerity.

People who claim with a straight face that a 35% turnout in the 2011 referendum on further powers to the Welsh Assembly was resounding and evidence that devolution is the ‘settled will’ of the Welsh people; who wouldn’t have dreamed of re-running the 1997 devolution referendum despite it being far narrower than the 2016 referendum, have done all they possibly can to overturn the result and pour scorn on the communities who voted to leave.

For these people the idea of people losing faith in the political system, of being angry, of being hurt, is clearly inconceivable.

Most of Wales’ Blairite Labour MPs- who are largely responsible for the sharp decline of the Labour vote in Wales since 1992 — are heavily involved in the Progress/ultra remainer bloc in the PLP, and have been at the forefront of the campaign to depose Jeremy Corbyn. Naturally, they blamed Jeremy Corbyn for the 2016 referendum result rather than face up to their own culpability of meekly accepting and administering the economic paradigm which has created the conditions which drove the leave vote in Wales.

Welsh Labour in the Senedd, despite the election of the deeply underwhelming ‘Corbyn supporter’ Mark Drakeford, remains similarly dominated by pro-EU ultras. Whilst Drakeford feebly tried to hold Labour’s original, principled line of respecting the referendum result, he has gradually been bullied into going hard remain and supporting a second referendum, a position which is sure to cost Labour votes in Wales.

In 1975, Plaid Cymru campaigned against the EC, arguing that an overreliance on EU aid simply confirmed Wales’ position as a dependent periphery, and that regional aid policies were simply designed to reconcile places like Wales to their subordinate position and to open up Wales to foreign capital.

In 2016, many nationalists interpreted the leave vote as representing an existential threat to Wales itself, similar to the trauma of the failed 1979 referendum vote. In response, Plaid have now transformed into an ultra remainer party, even calling for article 50 to be revoked. Indeed, their old socialist leader, Leanne Wood, was deposed last year, allegedly for her principled stance that Plaid Cymru in Westminster should not collaborate with pro remain Tories.

Plaid’s strategy is somewhat bizarre given that poll after poll suggests that significant numbers of Plaid Cymru voters voted to leave. Plaid’s cognitive dissonance over the EU’s silence in the face of Spanish repression of their Catalan allies is a sight to behold, and they similarly stubbornly refuse to engage with those who point to the treatment of the peripheral states by the EU- clear evidence that the same fate would undoubtedly await an independent Wales within the EU.

The arrogance of this response by Wales’ two tokenly left parties is typical of the Welsh political class, unused as they are to any scrutiny or accountability or to having to answer to their constituents. This is a group of people who have been perfectly happy to accept the steady decline in democracy in Wales as long as they keep getting returned by default.

What is to be done?

Earlier this year, the Brexit Party predictably won the EU elections in Wales, simply because they were given an open goal: they could legitimately claim that a democratic vote is being ignored by a political elite. This came as no shock to anyone other than Wales’ political establishment, which even now, refuses to acknowledge the resilience of the leave vote; the reasons why people voted to leave; or the sheer gravity of how what they are doing- overruling a democratic vote– is perceived by working class people.

They are not interested in solving the issues that drove Brexit, only in returning to ‘stability’ (i.e., the old status quo) as soon as possible .

Whilst we of course need to offer radical redistributive policies to people, democracy is ultimately the most powerful tool we have as socialists. Democracy and socialism should always be intertwined- you cannot have one without the other. To win, socialists have to harness people’s anger at the status quo. If we don’t, then the right will. We must ultimately prioritise and empower the people we profess to speak for, the working class, rather than keep them at arms- length from the decision making process (this undemocratic paternalism is, after all, what killed the welfare state).

The transformative power of democracy has been completely forgotten by many on the left in Wales. This is not surprising. Politics here is something which happens to people, not something we have an effect on ourselves. The idea that we could ever have a say over the issues that impact our lives seems fantastical, because for most of us, our votes have never counted: Labour will win no matter who you vote for on the national level, and we will be governed by who the English vote for regardless.

Over time, the idea of democracy itself has faded from view in Wales, reduced to a banal, unthinking ritual for those people who still bother to vote. Certainly, the enthusiastic defence of ‘EU Democracy’ by many Welsh left remainers- the EU parliament cannot pass legislation- suggests that many people have just accepted that democracy is not that important to a socialist programme, that EU handouts are more important than having a say in the decisions that affect your lives.

Yet the democratic deficit- your voice not mattering- is what drove campaigns for Welsh home rule in the early twentieth century, and later, devolution. It is what is driving the growing, vibrant Welsh independence campaign, and a lack of democracy is why socialists like myself who support Welsh independence are similarly against the EU.

In 2016, people who had stayed away from politics for years exercised their right to vote and influenced the result for the first time in generations. Any left project simply cannot be seen to be overruling this vote, cannot be seen to be on the side of establishment politics.

It is the responsibility of leftists in Wales and beyond to re-emphasize the power of democracy, to make it something that is tangible and possible again to all the communities in Wales. This takes on new urgency and relevance given the democratic crisis that is currently unfolding in Westminster.

Dan Evans is Welsh sociologist and founding signatory of the LeFT Campaign, this article was first published here.

Powers to the Peoples! – John Foster & Vince Mills

John Foster and Vince Mills of Radical Options for Scotland and Europe ROSE argue the return of legislative powers from Brussels to the governments of Scotland, Wales and the English regions could lead a revival of regional economies once State Aid bans imposed under EU competition law are removed

This summer workers in Glasgow’ s Caledonian Rail workshops repaired their last train and walked away. This once mighty centre of Scottish industry closed. After dominating global rail manufacturing for over a century, ‘The Caley’ was cast adrift by rail privatisation, sold on by a series of venture capitalists until the business ended up in the hands of a German holding company, Mutares AG.

Despite pleas from trade unions either to take the railway workshops into public ownership, or provide state aid for worker management, the SNP government claimed it was powerless to act.

The same story can be repeated for dozens of other workplaces in Scotland, Wales and England’s regions. State aid, other than in exceptional circumstances, violates EU competition law. As does public ownership if seen to threaten ‘free competition’ and the rights of private businesses.

Now, however, change appears possible. Withdrawal from the EU provides the opportunity to regain such powers at regional and national level. But this restitution of powers won’t happen automatically. Our Labour movement must fight for powers to be returned to our peoples now.

Theresa May’s ‘Withdrawal Agreement’ incorporated EU prohibitions on democratic intervention in the economy by accepting EU Single Market competition terms. Almost certainly, any EU exit involving trade deals with the United States negotiated by Boris Johnson will do likewise.

Only Jeremy Corbyn has identified the key demand to accept health, environmental and employment rights aspects of the Single Market, but not those restricting democratic control of industry. Corbyn’s spelt this out in his 2018 Coventry speech on regional industrial policy and has
done so repeatedly since.

The link between Brexit and regional (and national) industrial policy is critical. There can be no true revival of the economies of Scotland, Wales and England’s regions without ending bans imposed by EU competition policy. Nor can there be any real power for regional assemblies or the parliamentary institutions of Wales and Scotland unless economic powers are returned.

This is why delegates at this year’s Scottish TUC Congress in Dundee unanimously agreed a resolution from Clydebank Trades Union Council calling on the STUC to lobby the Scottish government to ensure that, as part of an EU withdrawal deal, these powers should return to the Scottish Parliament.

“Return” is important. Because under the terms of the 1998 Scottish Parliament Act all powers not specifically reserved for central government, are vested in Scotland. These include most aspects of industrial policy including public ownership and state aid. If people regionally and locally are to have real power to change lives, these powers must be returned.

So also, must powers to invest in infrastructure, save declining industries and invest in new ones. Labour’s spending plans would transform the Scottish economy, principally through a proposed National Investment Bank. A two term Labour Government would see an additional investment of a transformative £70 billion in Scotland. EU State Aid rules, however, call into question whether the proposed NIB could even be set up in the first place.

This return of powers is critical for democratic renewal in Britain and particularly for progressive federalism defined, as it has been in Scotland, by the Red Paper Collective and Pauline Bryan.

It is progressive because it is designed to change the balance of power between capital and labour giving people the power to exercise democratic control over regional and national economies, combined with a strong central parliament at British level that can challenge the power of big business and ensure more equitable distribution of wealth between Britain’s component nations and regions.

In Scotland this campaign is currently the focus of ROSE (Radical Options for Scotland and Europe). ROSE was established in 2016 and has affiliations from a majority of Scotland’s trades union councils and several major trade unions. Its object has been to bring together both Leave and Remain supporters to campaign for an EU withdrawal on democratic terms that serve the needs of working people.

This month ROSE campaigners have been out on the streets of Scotland with a petition to the Scottish parliament putting the demand s of Clydebank’s STUC resolution. People readily understand the need for powers to halt the loss of jobs and the need to regenerate regional and
national economies.

This is why ROSE also agreed at its aggregate meeting this month to support the work of Leave-Fight-Transform: the LeFT Campaign calling for a Left withdrawal from the EU. On it depends the future of our democracy.

John Foster and Vince Mills are joint secretaries of Radical Options for Scotland and Europe (ROSE)

Labour’s Brexit slide – Martin Hall

As Boris Johnson and the Tories cling to power, many people could be forgiven for wondering what is going on in the Labour Party. Having rightly had a stated policy of prioritising a general election these last two years, it has now turned down the chance to have one twice in under a week. Furthermore, its stated reason for doing so the first time – the need to ensure the bill forcing the government to seek a further extension of Article 50 and prevent no deal passed – had evaporated by the time it refused an election on Monday night.

Why is this?

There is no answer to this question that makes any sense other than seeing this as an another retreat, as evidence of the tack rightwards, and of the balance of forces pushing Labour away from being anything resembling an insurgent movement and back to being a party of moderation and accommodation.

What we are seeing then in Labour is a further shifting in the balance of power within the party towards those forces that are against both the left and honouring the 2016 EU referendum. Labour went into the 2017 general election with a policy of enacting a People’s Brexit. By the end of that summer, this had started to slide, first via an announcement that a transitional deal would be sought, followed by the phrase ‘People’s Brexit’ leaving the Labour lexicon, to be replaced by a ‘jobs-first Brexit’, then the fudge agreed at conference in 2018. Since then, after huge pressure from the pro-remain (and anti-Corbyn) majority, this has become a policy of putting any deal that a Labour government could get back to the people with remain on the ballot. There has even been talk this week of potentially putting May’s deal, with a tweak or two, up against remain. While Jeremy Corbyn’s speech at the TUC today was welcome in its criticism of what the Tories plan to do after Brexit, as was his emphasis on class, trade unionism and Labour’s plan to extend workers’ rights, he did also confirm a referendum on a deal vs remain as Labour’s policy.

This slide has had other pit stops along the way, but that is a general summary of what has happened. While there are many socialists who support remain and a radical, transformative government under Jeremy Corbyn, it is not them who are calling the shots. Labour has got itself into an alliance with the Lib Dems, the SNP, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and a rump of rebel Tories. The effect of such alliances is to subordinate the left’s needs to those of capital, and that is exactly what is happening here. Witness the relative praise coming out of the serious capitalist press this last week or two. Of course, the vast majority of capital wants to remain, and would cope with a defanged Labour government far more than a no deal Brexit.

Last night in parliament, endless voices from the so-called ‘rebel alliance’ were asking for a second referendum having just refused a general election. The Lib Dems were talking about revoking Article 50 while calling for political change. Labour’s current position is politically incoherent and, we should suspect, can’t hold. No party can expect to be taken seriously going into a general election saying they will allow their own front bench to campaign against their own negotiated deal. Moreover, when Kier Starmer sits down in Brussels, those across the table from him will know that he will himself campaign against what he is trying to achieve. That is a negotiating position that makes Syriza’s in 2015 look like a card sharp holding a Royal Flush. Therefore, the logical conclusion of this drift is to go full remain and simply go into the election promising to hold another referendum.

In the context of a Tory party presenting itself as anti-establishment and for the people against an obstructive, rump parliament, a left movement of insurgency and transformation at a time of great crisis cannot hope to resolve that crisis in its favour by returning to its position as the second party of capital. That is what the establishment has wanted since 2016. At times when the Tories cannot function as the first party of capital, in this case because it cannot resolve the contradictions that Brexit has caused for it, the ruling class looks to a right social democratic Labour party to maintain its interests. Jeremy Corbyn in the leader’s chair had put paid to that. They couldn’t unseat him in 2016. Manufactured crises have had little effect on the polls. Therefore the tactic has been to push the party over time towards positions that stymie the ability of a Labour government to affect radical change. This has led to a situation where John McDonnell is saying that Labour is putting ‘country above party’. What this really means is country above class. There is no national interest. There are our interests, and there are theirs.

Despite all this, sections of the Labour left are acting like the leadership are playing an intricate game of chess. Wishful thinking and hopes and dreams will get us nowhere. Politics is concrete, and based on material reality and the balance of forces. There must now be the greatest pressure put upon Labour to go into the election promising to campaign for a deal that will benefit the working class and allow it to implement a radical programme free from EU rules and regulations. The confrontation with British capital and the establishment will be tough enough, without also having to take on the EU in legislative and judicial terms.

LeFT says this to the labour movement:

If you want a radical, transformative government, whatever your views on Brexit, it cannot be achieved by siding with people who’ve spent the last four years trying to destroy the growing left in the UK.

They don’t want what we want.

They will attempt to subordinate our politics to theirs. This is already happening.

As soon as the election comes, they will tack even more rightwards.

Labour need to distance themselves now and go into the coming election arguing for a Brexit in the interests of working people. Only by doing that can it free up space to talk about everything else.

David Jamieson – After the Tory Cannibal

Since the coronation of Boris Johnson, the British state crisis has reached a new peak. This has revealed all the morbid symptoms of the systemr that socialists have, for years, insisted lies behind Brexit. The conspiracy theory of a Machiavellian elite faction bent on ‘disaster capitalism’ has lost credibility (among those paying attention) with every dire turn in the Brexit story.

The repeated defeats of Theresa May should have put paid to this tired concept. The rise of Boris Johnson and his senior adviser Dominic Cummings gave it new life.

Many on the left are so traumatised by decades of defeat that they view every blunder of the rich as a power-play. Every squalid manoeuvre and failed initiative to emerge from Downing Street in recent days has been heralded as part of a long game that doesn’t exist.

The undead conspiracy theory took another bound into irrationality with the notion that Johnson’s threat to prorogue the parliament represented a ‘coup’. This misunderstood both the class character of the British state and the position of weakness currently occupied by the ruling class, including the ramshackle faction around Johnson.

The commitment to prorogue parliament did not indicate the overturning of the constitutional form of the British state. What it did indicate was both the elevation of that constitution to its natural anti-democratic height, and simultaneously its point of essential dysfunction.

The British constitution could be thrown together so haphazardly through the formative history of British capitalism because the state could rely on a hegemonic party – the Conservative party.

That party has been able, in every generation (with a few key Labour interventions), to construct a bloc sufficient to rule British capitalism through the travails of the international system and internal class tension.

What we are witnessing is an historic moment in the collapse of that party’s cohesion and therefore of the whole functioning of British politics.

The diverging strategic orientations which have presented themselves to the Corbyn project and wider left throughout its development are now presented again in the most blatant terms; is the left’s mission to stave-off the crisis and restore order to a battered system, or to ride the tiger of the crisis and assert a radical programme that favours the working class?

There are worrying indications in this regard. The business press is warming to Labour, and this was preceded by a more co-operative tone from John McDonnell towards the City, and promises to secure the independence of the Bank of England.

In a fit of self-delusion, some on the left are telling themselves and anyone who will listen that the Overton window is shifting, a new Bretton-Woods settlement is in the ascendancy, and the radical left is hegemonising the centre via a ‘Popular Front’ – or some other flippant nonsense, armed with the lowest kind of historical analogy.

The more accurate description of these dynamics is the most obvious; it is the left that is being incrementally hegemonised by the centre.

Right now British capitalism is like a man falling down the stairs. With the Tory party no longer by his side, he lashes out a hand to grab something, anything, to break his fall.

If what he finds is the Corbyn project and wider layers of leftwing opinion, then the radical potential of those forces will be rapidly spent.

What then follows in the wake of the Conservative party’s decline is not a radical social alternative, but a reactionary alternative.

Corbynism must attack the political system with a demand for a general election which will be a referendum on the entire social order. Socialists must tell the country in plain English that the current state of affairs cannot continue and that sweeping change on every front is urgently required. The politics of the defence of institutions, from the parliament to the City to the EU, will result in certain failure.

David Jamieson is a writer, socialist, editor @ConterScot and @TheCommonSpace and a signatory of the LeFT Campaign’s Founding Statement. This article was first published on Conter.

Picture: Francisco Goya – Antropos

Ray Morell – From No Deal to A Green New Deal

As the world economy slides towards recession, tension with existing international trade arrangements grow and the economic order that has led to the downgrading and downsizing of jobs is looking increasingly shaky. These changes at a global level combined with the vote to leave the EU all point to a recomposition of the global economic order as we know it This presents positive opportunities for workers and environmentalists.

Globalisation has led to unsustainable increases in global carbon emissions which were 67% higher in 2013 than 1990. These massive increases in emissions map directly to the growth of the integrated trading networks over this period. Unless we change the way society produces and trades goods we are going to experience runaway climate change. The challenge for the radical left is to make sure this current crisis leads to change that starts to reverse the growing carbon emissions and benefits working class communities.

In this emerging situation there will be an enhanced role for the nation state. It will no longer be good enough for politicians to fob off working class communities with the idea that globalisation is an unstoppable force of nature against which they are powerless to act. A greater possibility could exist for the powers of the state to be used to retain and direct jobs to social and green ends. The idea that inequality, industrial decay, runaway climate change and stagnant living standards are something we have to suck up won’t wash any more. But if the left doesn’t challenge the status quo then people will increasingly look to the radical solutions of the right.

The vote to leave the EU must be seen in this context of deep seated problems for the world economic order. The left needs to urgently develop an agenda that aims to put the climate and working class communities front and centre with the environment, jobs, migrant rights and workers’ rights to the fore.

No Deal

Whatever your perspective on leaving the EU, the left needs to work out how it deals with a no-deal Brexit. The looming prospect of no-deal provides both threats and opportunities for the labour movement. On trade, migration, fiscal policy and the integrity of the United Kingdom itself, no deal could have profound consequences. We need to establish what this will mean for the labour movement and prepare accordingly. The LeFT campaign wants to help develop alternative solutions for each of these issues and we will highlight how the labour movement can try and take the initiative as Britain leaves the EU.

One of the major issues with a no deal scenario will be the increased uncertainty of life and work in Britain. No transition period means that working people will have to respond immediately to changes resulting from leaving the EU. There is no clarity, or precedent for what happens next and whatever occurs will definitely not be predetermined. It will ultimately be decided by the pressure of contending forces. In LeFT, we believe the labour movement can make a decisive impact on the outcome to jobs that a no deal scenario presents.

One of the key areas is the situation faced by union members whose jobs are currently threatened by the breakdown in global supply chains. The automotive, aerospace and shipbuilding sectors alongside their supply chains will be massively affected by any no deal Brexit. In the automotive sector, investment crashed more than 70 per cent to just £90m in the first six months of 2019. Additionally, UK car production fell by 20 per cent during the first half of the year, with June being the thirteenth consecutive month production has declined. The automotive sector is already in crisis with or without a Brexit deal.

At the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port about 1000 jobs are being threatened by the employers. The French owners, PSA have said that they will use alternative plants in Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

At Honda, the owners have announced plans to wind down the plant with Brexit cited as one of the reasons for ending 30 years of production at Swindon. Honda’s decision to close its only UK factory will devastate the workforce and the entire community. If the closure isn’t stopped 3,500 jobs at the plant will be lost with a further 12,000 or more across the supply chain and region at risk.  So far the campaign to prevent the closure hasn’t yet created enough pressure to reverse this decision.

At BMW in Oxford, plans are afoot to build the electric model of the Mini at the Cowley plant which employs about 4,500 people. However, production is tightly integrated with wheels produced in plants in Southern Germany. Threats are already being made to shift production to the Netherlands in the event of a no deal Brexit. Finding a solution that saves the jobs at Cowley will mean breaking with the neoliberal status quo. If EU rules make the existing production arrangements prohibitive then we should assemble all the components here. If BMW decide to move the plant then we should campaign for the plant to be renationalised.

Throughout Britain, 850,000 workers depend on the automotive sector. These jobs bring skills, wages and the promise of future skilled work to communities across Britain. We have to fight for a future for each and every job. But maintaining skilled, well paid employment on this scale will need new thinking and a strategy that directly confronts the EU and neoliberal capital.

Breaking the Impasse

The Harland and Wolff (H&W) shipyard brings into focus both the problems and potential solutions for manufacturing workers faced with closure. There has been a long term decline at the yard—from a peak of 35,000 workers there are now 130 workers fighting to save their jobs.

The men and women, who are members of Unite and the GMB, can’t afford to look back to the days of mighty ocean liners and battleships for their future. Instead, they have evaluated the productive assets of the yards and plan to use them as part of the necessary industrial capacity that can begin to turn the tide against climate change.

They have combined their technical skills with their knowledge of the H&W facilities and a vision of how they can fabricate the wave, wind and tidal units that can harness the vast renewable resources that can provide clean, affordable and abundant energy.

However, Boris Johnson’s Tory government and their DUP lackeys, some of whom are constituency MP’s for the workers in the shipyard, are opposed to the occupation and the workers plans for survival. They have refused to nationalise the yard which is in occupation. At the time of writing, the workers have won a guarantee that their jobs and skills will be protected. The occupation continues to make sure that promises of job security are realised. The current occupation at H&W is a critical example of workers fighting for their jobs and a new set of priorities. The occupation tactic raises the stakes with workers holding ‘hostage’ the yards assets allowing them to dictate the terms of any outcome from a position of real power which is already yielding results.

The example of H&W highlights the necessity of saving these manufacturing jobs with a strategy for conversion to energy renewables. However, the struggle in Belfast also shows how we need to break with the failed priorities of the neoliberal agenda with a radical struggle against the employers, the Tories and their priorities that continue to fail ordinary workers and the need to combat climate change.

Where plant, jobs and communities are threatened in manufacturing with no deal and the break-down of global supply chains there should be no reason why these plants can’t be nationalised.  If we allow them to close they will be gone forever. Today we see the possibilities for real change. The Scottish government has recently added to an original £45 million investment by taking steps to nationalise the threatened Clyde Ferguson Marine shipyard which it sees as a vital industrial asset. Ferguson is the only yard in the world with the technology to build hydrogen powered vessels that are free of carbon emissions. So, saving Ferguson Marine becomes a priority not just for the 350 permanent and 60 agency jobs – as well as the local community- but for their state-owned assets to become world leaders in the development of alternative technologies that can help us cut carbon emissions.

On the left, it’s understood that nationalising assets for the ‘public good’ is forbidden under EU competition and state aid rules. So what’s going on?

The EU allows for temporary ’emergency’ nationalisations, or where there is no private firm willing to bid for a service (like East Coast Main Line). What is forbidden, partly under the competition laws, is ‘ideological’ nationalisation on the grounds of public interest. In this case, the Scottish Government was already the main creditor of the private business. According to the SNP Cabinet Secretary for Finance, David MacKay, EU state aid rules meant that the Scottish Government could not simply bail-out the private company – as this would be to show preference for it on an arbitrary basis. So the Scottish government’s ability to nationalise the yards depended on the fact that most of the private yard’s business was coming from the Scottish Government. However, EU state aid rules could make it difficult for the yard to compete for future contracts.

So, in these unique circumstances where private capital isn’t ‘threatened’ by the takeover, EU rules will permit government intervention. Clearly, different rules will apply to any radical government looking to renationalise utilities or transport infrastructure.

While union reps will continue to do all they can to save existing jobs, we can see how the employers’ priorities aren’t the same as ours and we need to develop alternative strategies to protect our jobs and fight for our own interests. If we are to drive electric cars in Britain, then we should build them in Ellesmere Port, Swindon and Cowley. At H&W, the yard should be nationalised and reps’ plans to build renewables should be developed in partnership with workplace committees.

In the LeFT campaign we want to work with others to build a movement in workplaces and communities that campaigns for threatened plants to be nationalised with plans developed to retrain and retool workers, plant and machinery. This approach could protect jobs while allowing them to be incorporated into strategies that will make the Green New Deal a reality today. The LeFT campaign wants to see the immediate repeal of all anti-trade union legislation and the beginning of an urgent debate on how best we increase working class democracy with workplace committees having direct involvement in the governance of nationalised assets under public ownership and controlled by working class people.

What Next?

The election of Johnson means the stakes are high for all sides. The ruling elite are split about the Tory leadership and Brexit; however, there is also a sense of paralysis on the left. A radical challenge must come from outside of the establishment to break the impasse. The question facing the movement, no matter how difficult it may seem is to try and work out how we resolve the political crisis in favour of the working class and the labour movement.  The prospect of a potential Corbyn government without the constraints of the EU is a nightmare scenario for the British ruling class. Yet, the Corbyn project is coming under increasing pressure to adopt a Remain position and support a second referendum. Instead of moving towards Remain, Labour should be supporting workers fighting job cuts and closures today while highlighting how any potential Labour administration would protect workers from the likely impact of Brexit – deal or no deal.

As a general election looks increasingly likely, the LeFT campaign wants to work with others in the labour movement to help prepare the working class movement to take advantage of the new situation and freedom of action a future Labour government would have outside of the EU. It’s time we gathered our strength and took advantage of the weakness of the establishment. The fight to turn any no deal Brexit into a Tory nightmare should begin with building solidarity with the workers occupation at H&W who are demanding that it’s nationalised.

Messages of support to H&W workers can be sent to Susan.fitzgerald@unitetheunion.org

Ray Morell is a Unite Rep in the Aerospace and Shipbuilding sector.

Tommy McKearney – Brexit and the Future of Ireland

A recent article in the Irish Times reported retired Irish diplomat Sean Ó hUigínn quoting Edmund Burke’s remark that the English have only one ambition in relation to Ireland, which is to hear no more about it. Undoubtedly, with the Brexit backstop causing turmoil in the House of Commons, senior members of the Conservative party would very likely secretly share that view. Many in Ireland might well suggest that had the English acted on Edmund Burke’s observation and left Ireland way back then, they might be experiencing fewer problems at the moment. However, we can’t change the past and the Irish question has returned to torment Westminster.

Whatever about history, the Brexit debate does not follow the same line of argument in Northern Ireland, as it does in Britain. Local protagonists make different, although paradoxically related, calculations when deciding their position on this issue. Moreover, London and Dublin are also playing the Ulster card, yet more often than not they both conceal the entirety of their reasoning for doing so.

Underlying every political issue in Northern Ireland is the constitutional question of whether the area should continue to be governed from London or have sovereignty transferred to Dublin. Magnifying the importance of this now are two crucial facts. In the first instance there is the perennial fixation on changing demographics, which are indicating the inevitability within the coming decades of a majority in favour of ending the union. This is compounded by the obvious failure of the Six Counties to function as a normal political entity.

It is not that people in Northern Ireland are unaware or indifferent to Brexit. It is however the case, that for the most part, they see it as secondary. A contributory factor to this outlook is the attitude of the British and Irish governments with the former speaking of the need to preserve the precious union and the latter raising alarm over a hard border. Unsurprisingly therefore, the two major local political parties, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein have focussed on the constitutional impact of Brexit.

The DUP favours the hardest of withdrawal options in the hope that it will result in creating maximum divergence between north and south and thereby reinforce the partition of Ireland. While this position wins favour in Unionist heartlands (and among the European Research Group), it has caused concern among some middle-class Unionist supporters who fear economic disruption. Nevertheless, the party’s greatest fear is losing its niche as the principal defender of ‘Protestant Ulster’ and therefore feels obliged to persist with its policy.

Disappointingly for those on the left who wish to rupture with the EU, Sinn Finn has changed its long-time opposition to the EU. Instead of highlighting the neo-liberal threat from Brussels it now takes the flawed ‘Remain and Reform’ position. With a 55% majority in the Six Counties in favour of remaining, Sinn Fein is making the obvious case that London disregards the will of the Northern Irish. The party has also led a campaign that focuses on the possible, albeit greatly exaggerated, difficulties posed by a hard border.

Meanwhile the British and Irish governments are spinning their own self-serving tales around Brexit.

British Prime Minister Johnson rejects the backstop option claiming this is because of his deep and abiding affection for the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In reality, this love affair is based firmly on Commons arithmetic. To stay in office and fend off a general election, the Tory party has had to retain DUP support. Nor is the Irish government completely frank either with its statements about the impact of Britain leaving the European Union. Dublin has focused greatly on the threat that this poses to the Good Friday Agreement in general and to the maintenance of peace in particular.

Alarmist claims about a return to the pre-1994 ‘Troubles’ are overdone. In spite of the recent death of journalist Lyra McKee, there is little evidence of any real appetite for a return to the widespread conflict of previous decades. If anything, the tragedy illustrated the depth of opposition to armed groups. Moreover, it should also be born in mind that Britain leaving the European Union will not, in itself, alter the constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the UK whether there is a withdrawal deal or not.

Let’s not forget either that both the British and Irish governments have stated categorically that they will not create infrastructure along the border. Boris Johnson has repeated on several occasions that the UK it will not impose tariffs on goods moving northwards. This means that any checks that may arise from a no-deal Brexit would be carried out in the Republic and there is every indication that these will take place well away from the frontier. Incidentally, since the island was partitioned almost a century ago there is no record of republicans ever attacking a southern Irish customs post.

In a nutshell, the Brexit debate in Ireland, North and South, has largely missed the essential elements of the argument. Northern Ireland is one of the poorest regions of the United Kingdom. Average income is 8.5% less than in Britain and average disposable income is less than 40% of that in London and the economy is in ongoing decline as evidenced by the difficulties faced by the once iconic Harland & Wolff shipyard. The economic situation in the Republic appears to be infinitely better. However, this disguises an increasingly unequal society with tens of thousands homeless, a two-tier health service leaving the less well-off at a major disadvantage and increasing number of workers in either low-paid or precarious employment.

On both sides of the border the answer to this lies in breaking with free-market capitalist economies, whether controlled by neoliberals sitting in London or in charge of the European Union. This in essence is the left wing case in relation to Brexit and applies to Ireland as much as it does to Britain. Instead of working people discussing the necessity of having democratic socialist control of the economy, the powers that be have diverted attention towards a highly unlikely resumption of armed conflict, export delays and possible traffic jams at border crossings.

Above all else, clarity and transparency around this issue are essential here in Ireland as well as in Britain. The LeFT campaign is therefore not just timely but very necessary and is entitled to all the support we can give it. 

Tommy McKearney (@Tommymckearney) is an Irish socialist republican, political activist and writer.

Martin Hall and Phil Katz – The LeFT Case for Leave

Protesters hold a banner during a rally in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. A nationwide 24-hour general strike called by unions against austerity measures disrupted public services across Greece on Thursday, while thousands marched in protest in central Athens. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

As the clock ticks ever closer to Britain’s deadline for leaving the EU, people might be forgiven for wondering why a new socialist group pushing for the importance of getting the UK out of the EU is required. However, a quick look around at the political environment should make it clear that the socialist case has not made it into the majority of workplaces, trade unions nor our mainstream media.

The referendum in 2016 was presented as a battle between two opposing wings of the establishment: a Tory right high on post-imperial delusions versus a pro-EU establishment supported by the vast majority of big business, the CBI, the Bank of England and the Treasury. The working class was talked down to by both sides, with the assumption being that reactionary positions on immigration were the key to victory. When exit polling showed that the principal concern of leave voters was sovereignty, this made no difference to the narrative being pushed.

The reality is that in June 2016, for a multitude of reasons, the EU was rejected in the biggest democratic exercise in the UK to date. It was the first time citizens could vote for or against membership. In June 1975 no such vote was allowed, only a confirmatory vote to ‘stay in’, where membership was already locked in. During that first vote, the left strongly argued the case against remaining in. LeFT draws on that tradition and the case for a Left leave has never gone away.

Many argue that Leave is a lash up between right wing forces. How then to account for the millions of Labour voters who voted leave? Thousands of these had spent decades fighting austerity, to save the post office from privatisation, to stop pit closures, and to keep open a local library, or nursery. LeFT believes there was a strong left element to the Leave vote. But this voice was stifled by a near monopoly on media and a skewed democratic process that stopped alternative voices from being heard. 

Yet as soon as the opportunity for a real vote appeared, a majority of the working class voted to get out. Scare stories of shortages must not be allowed to spread panic and force us into hasty choices that do not suit the interests of working people. We remember only too well, the food mountains and wine lakes, and the throwing of excess dead fish stocks back into the ocean, whilst price hikes took such items out of reach for families facing austerity.

Once we leave there is a national debate to be had about the type of trade we engage in and with whom. LeFT intends to play an active part in arguing for a new kind of trade, especially with developing economies and advanced countries such as China, Russia, India and Brazil, that previously was funnelled through EU institutions, rules and regulations. It is possible to trade in a way that is different from EU trade treaties that are all too often grossly exploitative. 

It is in the interests of leading fractions of capital, tied as they are to markets in the EU, to suggest that the 17.4 million people who voted Leave did so because they were ignorant, or manipulated. But the picture is more complicated. Millions of Remain voters also had an intense distrust of the EU but were frightened by the consequences of a Leave vote, did not like some of the forces arguing for Leave (also true of many Leave voters) and thought that a Leave vote would align them with racists. 

One of the achievements of the EU has been to position itself as a defender of liberty and anti-racism. Yet a look at its Fortress Europe policy, its dirty deal with Turkey and its 800 kilometre wall to incarcerate millions of Syrians fleeing conflict suggests different. Then there is the use of ECJ rulings to provoke mass movement of working age citizens, the gutting of local economies and the make-up of its institutions and staffing, which actively discriminates against BAME citizens: all paint a very different picture. We recognise there is a job to be done to expose this reality.

If activists want to challenge neoliberalism and its symptoms, a task that can sometimes appear monumental, then a good place to begin is with a struggle against the EU, which alone in the world, as Tony Benn pointed out, enshrines capitalism in its constitution in a state-like organisation, but one without a mechanism for political contestation. Remain and Reform is an empty slogan. There has been forty years to try that approach and year on year, the centre has grown more powerful, democracy has been eclipsed, and austerity imposed in exchange for bail-outs, most strongly within the Eurozone.

No deal, soft deal and hard exits are false choices. None of these terms existed prior to the vote in June 2016, and were introduced into the language by a capitalist class seeking to limit the damage to itself that the Leave vote could bring about. LeFT seek a clean break, which is what people voted for. The pressing need is for a change of government so that a new left politics can govern the future pathway: based on investment, sustainable jobs, high skill, socialised medicine, health and welfare services and a radical change to the pension system. There must be a policy of peace and support for progressive governments abroad.

We cannot allow a position whereby the main force in opposition to privatisation and austerity, militarism and imperialism is divided into Remain and Leave. This is not the divide in our society, and we will not give credence to such vapid notions as culture wars, promoted by both the far right and the liberal centre. LeFT exists to bridge the growing gap on the left and bring the movement back together, to understand our common interests and concerns so that it can apply itself to transforming political alignments in Britain (and across the globe) in order to provide the threat of a good example to the working class everywhere. We are committed to creating places where working class remain and leave voters can discuss, understand and re-forge politics together.

Democracy is essential to any future. And democracy has been hollowed out in a number of ways in the last 40 years. One of these is the EU taking on more and more power while allowing for less and less contestation. The working class has to be united because in a class society, only the united strength of workers can keep the power of capital at bay. Once we leave the EU, that unity becomes more important as we seek to change the politics of the country in a radical and new direction.

Threats to this possibility come in a number of different guises.

One is the threat of a ‘government of national unity’, which is being trumpeted within the Westminster bubble and by a pliant media, with has-beens from the right and centre such as Ken Clarke and Harriet Harmen being suggested as figures to ‘bring the country back together’. In reality, in the context of having Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition, this is nothing but an anti-left wrecking operation.  The events of the last few weeks, in which the most anti-Brexit forces in the land – the Lib Dems, for one, as well as the Greens – have refused to back Corbyn’s attempt to prevent a no deal Brexit, should have made it clear that the principal aim of the People’s Vote brigade is to prevent a Corbyn-led Labour government, in or out of the EU. We deeply regret the extent to which Corbyn and those who respect the referendum result in Labour have been forced into a corner, perhaps fatally damaging its chance of winning the general election that is just around the corner.  We also unreservedly oppose any attempt to set up a national government. It would have a similar impact on Labour as did the Ramsay MacDonald National Government of 1931, from which it took a generation and a war to recover. We say to Labour, before you go down that road, check the batteries on your smoke alarm.

After the exit from the EU politics will realign again and again. This will reflect class struggle and the relative balance between opposing classes. The return of an element of sovereignty, especially in Scotland and Wales, but also to Westminster will put those who want to go back into the bosses’ club on the back foot. Space will appear to bring larger numbers together for a politics of change. 

Institutions that the EU had hollowed out into little more than debating chambers will become relevant again and susceptible to mass action, protest and pressure. This is what many MPs in Westminster, Holyrood and Cardiff fear. It’s a huge opportunity for our labour movement.

Unions, which in some cases had been so weakened that they looked to Brussels for a veneer of legislation and aid, have come badly unstuck. EU grants have been used to shift jobs around, and – true to its origins – EU policy and institutions have speeded up the destruction of manufacturing jobs, while its ‘competition’ laws inhibit state intervention to rescue ailing companies and sectors. Whole communities have suffered as a result. With the power to act and intervene returning to government, unions can focus campaigns and struggle on new laws to protect workers and new initiatives to create jobs and sustain existing ones.

Attempts have been made to put the left case for leave in the past. In LeFT we wanted to gather the different forces from trades unions, large working class constituencies, local labour parties, and a range of socialist organisations to develop a coherent, principled left-wing perspective on the Brexit conjuncture. And we wanted to bring new forces in. Ours will not be a debating society. Nor will it have elaborate policies that all have to sign up to. It will include a high degree of exchange of views, but the emphasis is on campaigning and fighting for change.

We are a campaigning organisation, with an agreed set of core values and politics, enshrined in our founding statement. The aim is to build the power of the working class so that we can ensure the decision to Leave is implemented in the interests of the working class. We will campaign in working class communities for political change, to ensure there is no going back in. We invite you to campaign with us. Set up local groups. Hold public meetings and go into the market and city centres, and onto estates and workplaces and make the case for Leave – Fight – Transform

In this process of struggle for change, we will ally with and extend solidarity on the basis of internationalism. But this will not be limited only to those in struggle within the EU. Africa, Latin America and the Middle East face an ongoing onslaught from the power of the EU, and our solidarity is with the communities standing up to that.

We urge you to read our founding statement. Take it into work with you. Discuss it in your community groups, education establishments, and in any place where people congregate. If you agree with it, let us know. Sign up! And join the struggle to Leave – Fight – Transform

Martin Hall is a trade unionist, socialist and founding member of LeFT; Phil Katz is Designer, Author and Eastern District Secretary of the Communist Party.

Sean Shirley-Smith – Leave – Fight – Transform

This article by Sean Shirley-Smith, a founding member of the LeFT campaign, was originally published by Labour Hub.

Leave – Fight – Transform, or LeFT, is a grassroots campaign aiming to give voice to those on the left that desire a clean break with the European Union, to fight neoliberalism, and transform society. Founded by trade unionists, socialists, and community activists, it seeks to present a genuine alternative to the hard-right narrative of a Tory Brexit, as well as to the impossible demands of the ‘Remain and Revolt’ camp.

The vote to leave in 2016 was a vote for a fundamental change in society, as working-class people across the country uprooted the status quo of the old neoliberal economic model embodied by the European Union. The privatisation of our public services, and the brutal austerity implemented in the aftermath of the recession, may have been carried out by a Conservative government (enabled by the ever willing Lib-Dems) here in the United Kingdom, but it was in no way mitigated by the EU. Indeed, in regard to privatisation the EU has only sought to encourage it, as seen through the Fourth Railway Package that alters regulations in an attempt to create a single rail area and prevent the nationalisation of that industry.

It is for that reason among others, organisations such as the trade union RMT called for a vote to leave in 2016, and continue to advocate leaving the European Union today. The left’s failure to seize this crucial moment in history has seen us falter, with the argument to leave being dominated by a xenophobic and inward looking right, and the argument to remain dominated by liberals and centrists that are content with the pre-referendum status quo. Neither option is acceptable to any socialist, and it is why now more than ever we need a radical and transformative alternative.

The reasons to support a clean break with the European Union from a left-wing perspective are innumerable. From the long history of left Euroscepticism across the labour movement, at least until that fateful Jacques Delors speech at the Trade Union Congress in 1988, to the racist policies of the EU through its ‘Fortress Europe’ and imperialist customs union. The European Union is not a democratic structure; with its treaty-based obligations to impose regulation on state aid and competition in the market. It is not a reformable structure; with unanimous agreement needed from every EU member state to amend treaty law in order to remove the explicit pro-market and pro-capitalist ideals. It is not a progressive structure; with its willingness to ignore abuses of human rights in Hungary, Poland, and yes, the UK until very recently with its failure to do anything about the archaic abortion laws in the north of Ireland.

Many in the labour movement will know these terrible faults of the European Union, though the media often chooses to ignore them in favour of stoking anti-migrant hostilities or backing the status quo. Despite that, the dominant narrative at least on the national stage has been leaving the EU is regressive, anti-migrant, and dangerous. That is why LeFT is campaigning for an anti-racist, progressive, and socialist alternative.

The political reality means that come the next general election it is likely we will have already crashed out of the European Union with a Tory Brexit or ‘no deal’ situation. The Left and by extension Labour cannot simply campaign to immediately re-join the European Union, in what would be an affront to democratic principles. Instead we must enter an election pledging to utilise the greater latitude given to a government outside the constraints of the EU’s neoliberal order, to end austerity once and for all, to fundamentally transform the economy.

In 2017 the Labour manifesto pledged to renationalise the rail industry, to create a National Investment Bank, and to bring utilities under public ownership. Outside of the EU these pledges would actually be possible, unlike under EU membership as outlined by LeFT’s Alex Gordon and Jonathan White in the Morning Star back in 2017.

If by the time of the general election we remain in the EU despite Conservative promises to have left, there is an extraordinary opportunity to enter an election campaign pledging to exit the European Union on left-wing terms, assuaging the fears of many who are not unsympathetic to our cause but fear any exit under a Conservative government. A radical and transformative manifesto pledging investment in all nations and regions of the UK, alongside diversification of the economy and an end to a legal regime that privileges the rights of capital over people, would not only give hope to millions of working-class people, but ensure that the old logic of neoliberal capitalism was at last ended.

An election is coming, and the left needs to decide what it will do when that time arrives; whether in or out of the EU. Leave – Fight – Transform is not a negative campaign seeking to promote old memories of imperialism or narrow English nationalism. It is instead a positive and transformative campaign seeking to build something new. Capitalism is in crisis once again, class politics is back, and a new generation are determined to build socialism in our lifetime. Join our campaign to leave the EU, fight neoliberalism, and transform society.

Sarah Cundy – LeFT: Why we’re campaigning to leave, fight and transform

This article by Sarah Cundy, a spokesperson for the LeFT Campaign, was originally published by LabourList

‘Democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world’ – Tony Benn

The capitalist world order is in crisis. The politicians we were told to trust with our planet and its people have engineered a situation of wage stagnation, spiralling debt, and a growing sense of powerlessness – a widening gap between the people and those who govern them. Throughout all of this, the imperative for constant growth has undermined the very ecosystem in which we exist.

The European Union is fundamentally an organ of this world order. Within its boundaries, irreconcilable conflicts between the nations who have organised the EU along the lines of their own economic and political interests have pushed the Euro towards collapse as internal crises are shifted onto their own periphery nations – often the ones hit hardest by the 2008 crash. As these internal crises weigh upon the people subject to them, the policy of Fortress Europe enforces inhumanity on the refugees on the Union’s own Mediterranean border.

Here in the UK, successive neoliberal governments have pursued this economic war on the working class in tandem with the EU: they have gutted our industries, housing and public services, and slashed rights for workers, migrants and the unemployed. These governments decided that prolonged suffering by working-class communities was a sacrifice worth making for the preservation of their system. As the government led by Margaret Thatcher speculated on the prospect of a “managed decline” for working-class communities across the country, ordinary people were left to pick up the pieces.

To the astonishment of the ruling class, the working class has demonstrated a desire for change, which is reflected both by the Corbyn movement and the vote to leave the EU in 2016. As socialists, it is our job to lead the way for a truly transformative programme, overcoming neoliberalism and working towards a radical, democratic, environmentalist and socialist agenda.

The potential is there in Labour’s left-wing programme – the fact that we are besieged by the representatives of the ruling class on a daily basis is evidence of this. Our programme has the potential to unite the working class in the fight for a truly democratic economy, and to combat the racist nationalism of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson by preventing them from cynically appealing to a disaffected working class with their disaster capitalist agenda.

In the pursuit of these aims, we must refuse to align ourselves with a so-called “progressive alliance” alongside the cheerleaders of austerity, or to abandon our transformative potential through a “government of national unity”. Instead, we must unshakeably lead on leaving the EU and building a mass movement for a radical alternative.

The success of our programme and our movement depends on us not abandoning the working class, and on holding true to our promise to deliver a democratic, worker-led economy when in government. This requires a break from the economic and constitutional infrastructure of the EU – a break from the ‘four freedoms’, a break from the preservation of economic competition over economic justice, and a break from the undemocratic authorities that impose these restrictions on member states.

Leave – Fight – Transform was formed to champion this cause. We are a grassroots network of socialists, trade unionists and community activists committed to democracy, internationalism and socialism.