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Can you support Brexit from the Left?

EU_ballotJeff Sparrow in the Guardian (2 January) allows a thoughtful article to be vitiated by an error familiar to all readers of that esteemed organ – a mindless lumping together of those who voted for Donald Trump on the one hand and for Brexit on the other, and branding them all as bigoted and racist. “Progressives”, on the other hand, (defined by implication as those who voted for neither Trump nor Brexit) now need, he argues, to recapture the agenda so as to help the benighted souls who were led astray by the hateful doctrines of the right.

One of the reasons for the failure of the “progressives”, he says, is that they did not register the genuine and understandable grievances of so many who felt that they had been ill-served by the democracy in whose name so much had been promised. The left, he says, needs to re-discover the concept of progress, so as to turn that dissatisfaction into more constructive channels.

One can only say “hear, hear” to that – but some of us were there long before him. We represent a body of opinion whose existence is virtually ignored and denied by mainstream media – so obsessed are they by the need to stereotype both those who agree with them over Brexit and those who don’t.

We have the temerity to assert that the issue of Brexit or not should have been analysed from the outset in the terms advanced by Jeff Sparrow – that the question should have been all along as to whether the way we organise our affairs (and that necessarily includes EU membership) has been fully serving the interests of ordinary people.

Instead, the debate has been dominated – and still is – by those who insist on a convenient polarisation. According to them, ranged on one side are those who are said to have the good sense and purity of spirit to recognise the nobility of the European ideal – not to say the attractions of European culture, food, music – and for whom the day-to-day challenges for some of their fellow-citizens of making a living and bringing up a family are a mere distraction.

On the other side are those who have been encouraged by right-wing demagogues to attribute the harsh realities of their lives to malign forces unleashed by our European involvement, so that the political choices we make domestically are exonerated.

There is no room in this polarised debate for those who argue that the good times enjoyed by a minority over recent years – by virtue of a globalised economy (of which the EU is a subset) – have been bought at the cost of an increasingly difficult struggle for many others, and that the economic and social consequences for those others of EU membership cannot be absolved from responsibility for their plight.

There is, in other words, a “progressive” analysis of EU membership which does not rely on the ignorance and prejudice exploited by the right, but which does not shrink, either, from an analysis of the EU that identifies some of its inherently anti-democratic, pro-capitalist and “free-market” characteristics.

It is, of course, precisely those characteristics that have manifested themselves in the lives of so many pro-Brexit voters. We cannot expect those voters to overlook the impact of those characteristics in favour of the “finer sensibilities” of those who have done well, when that impact includes the decimation of British manufacturing and a perennial trade deficit which together have led directly to the loss of jobs and a more general job insecurity, an inflow of cheap labour which has further threatened job security and wage levels, and a sense that democratic control over their lives has been lost or is at least ineffective.

These impacts are not accidental, but eminently foreseeable – and therefore intended. The EU is consciously an “intervention-free” zone, deliberately created to hand power to unelected bureaucrats so that market forces and powerful corporations are allowed free rein without intervention from elected governments. There can be nothing less “progressive” than to overlook this in the name of the “European ideal” and then to castigate those who register and bewail what they have lost – democracy and self-government – as bigots and ignoramuses.

If we are really to embark on a new progressive agenda, as we surely must, we must have the courage to identify what is and has been wrong and therefore must be changed. It is not an auspicious start to characterise the “progressive” stance as that held by those who have all along prioritised their own sense of intellectual and cultural superiority over any attempt to grapple with the real and practical issues – not least as a consequence of EU membership -confronting so many of our fellow-citizens.

There are many who abhor all that Trump and his British equivalents stand for and who nevertheless understand that EU membership has served primarily the interests of the haves, not the have-nots. If we really want to re-establish the “progressive” agenda, we could do with less castigating and more listening.

Bryan Gould is a former Labour MP and former member of the Shadow Cabinet.

109 Comments

  1. Ric Euteneuer says:

    “Genuine grievances”

    – chippy white blue collar males upset they can no longer charge pensioners £200 for changing a plug

    – pensioners whipped up into a righteous froth by gutter journalistic lies

    1. James Martin says:

      And it is precisely those kind of arrogant, condescending and stereotyping remarks Ric that are part of the reasons so many working class voters ignored the calls to remain in the EU and instead I believe made a cry of despair and revolt. Frankly you should be ashamed of yourself by attacking so many workers in that way, and not even try to explain how militant unions like the RMT strongly supported leaving the EU in a way that of course doesn’t fit into your neat box of insults.

      It is no accident that the largest majorities to leave were in poor, working class and marginalised areas like mine who have suffered hugely following the destruction of much of our local manufacturing industry. It is also by the same token no accident that the largest votes to remain came from areas that were far more well to do, far more wealthy and far more middle class. Any socialist should be pondering that, but instead from far too many we have insults that ape the liberal media (although I suspect that is due to many on the left themselves not being from the working class anymore). The inference from this is always that Leave voters are stupid or racist or both, while in my Leave area I would simply say that we are working class and tired of being kicked by the political elite.

    2. John P Reid says:

      White blue collar workers can still charge pensioners for a plug, EU ones, they just charge 199.99 and the pensioner looks for a bargain

      1. Tim Pendry says:

        Well said, James!

  2. Mervyn Hyde says:

    Bryan as always eloquently states the case, some of us actively campaigned against the EU in 1975, the TUC produced documents showing how economic activity always progresses to the centres of government, hence why we have a north south divide.

    I voted remain not because I am enthralled by Europe but because I did not want the chaos that has ensued.

    Whilst we are all fighting among ourselves the establishment are busy asset stripping and transferring our public services in to the hands of the very people that create this chaos.

    I see Neo-Liberal Europe as no different to Neo-Liberal Britain, that is the war we are waging and that is what needs sorting on both sides of the channel.

    1. Verity says:

      The difference between a neoliberal Britain and a neoliberal EU is the number of tiers involved. The number and levels of control and the consequential rachet effects of the EU structure constraining if not actually prohibiting reversibility options. Imagine two tiers of Tory control backed up by a remote legislative set up, self -satisfying tiers of additional beneficiaries, and three seats of (albeit only quasi- governmental committees) limiting controls and options for democratic reversal change in the future.

      1. Mervyn Hyde says:

        Absolutely Verity, The whole structure works against democratic control.

        My forlorn hope in remaining was that we could influence left wing policies among the other left wing European parties as Janis Varafoukas was trying to do.

        It was always a long shot but appeared the only alternative. I think we are now beyond that and need to oust those Neo-Liberals here that are strangling the life out our economy.

        I continually lambast left wing sites like this with ‘modern monetary theory’, or in other words ‘money creation’ because it is the most potent political instrument we have at our disposal and destroys all Neo-Liberal mythology at a stroke.

        People think and believe that we must pay our way in the world and that money needs to be earned before it is spent, which is true for us as individuals, but not our government.

        In effect through the Bank of England it is the government that creates money. Not lots of little people slaving away producing nuts and bolts.

        Once people take hold of that idea, they very quickly understand that there is a difference between government spending directly into the economy, which is the issuer of our currency and the private sector which is the user of the currency.

        In short it explodes the myth that we need to raise tax in order to fund our public services, which is the myth propagated by Neo-Liberal politicians.

        People have short memories, and I simply remind them that at present we are in the middle of a depression and that the economic measures deployed by Neo-Liberals have deliberately driven us deeper into the depression in order to serve their ultimate ends.

        In support of all my arguments I also remind them that when we have a financial crash, three or four since Thatcher’s big bang deregulation of the City, we found the money to support them, but when we have a crisis of funding in the NHS or other public service, suddenly we are broke.

        These explanations are not rocket science just like finance in the city is not rocket science, what is complicated is the way the city disguises it’s so called financial instruments in order to confuse the purchasers of them so that they buy into their Ponzi schemes.

        People seem in the main not to be able to grasp the importance of who controls the money supply and thereby who’s interest it serves, Shinso Abe came into office with one of the greatest disasters any economy could face, on the back of a 20 year depression that they were unable to extricate themselves from. So he declared on coming into office, that he would apply unlimited Quantitative Easing to fund the state, no one is currently complaining that their economy is crashing or that inflation is out of control, so why can’t people here see it?

        Verity I know you understand this, but I am re-emphasising it because that is what we should all be getting out into the public domain.

        That is our key to electoral success.

        We can afford our public services, the government can create jobs with real pay, as we have witnessed, the private sector although it could pay real wages refused to do so.

        It is up to us all to get those messages out there.

  3. Rob Green says:

    Do you know why Britain really voted for Brexit? It is because British capitalism is a dead duck. Certainly its domestic and petit manifestations. It cannot compete in Britain let alone the ESM or the rest of the world. And of course workers cannot even compete for local jobs because their education and training is so crap because why bother to pay for that when you can get it off the shelf bought and paid for by the taxpayers and parents of poorer countries. Employers don’t even bother to advertise local jobs locally. They go straight to Polish agencies. No Corbyn voting to trigger Article 50 is not enough. We need a Very Hard Socialist Brexit. Labour should be putting forward a radical socialist vision and programme for a post-Brexit Britain and a New European Settlement that leaves the neo-liberal EU in the dust and which favours workers over bosses. Labour must not get sucked into an Unpopular Front for Soft Brexit with the Lib Dems, the Blairites, the Cameroons, Bob Geldof, Richard Branson and Corporate Capitalism. 90s neo-liberal throwback Hillary Clinton lost to a proto-fascist on that sort of programme. Labour’s only chance of survival is to embrace socialism. Let the Lib Dems have Soft Brexit. They are Tory-lite in any case. We need to be taking on the far right over what kind of Hard Brexit.

    Do you really think that voting Remain, voting for the status quo was an option for the poorest workers or small business? Of course not. But of course Brexit on its own is no good either. It is a pity that the left weren’t putting forward the socialist alternative to the far right’s vacuous programme of capitalist isolationism.

  4. David Pavett says:

    Bryan Gould is obviously right to complain about political stereotyping but beyond that I didn’t find much to agree with.

    The debate about the EU should always have been held on the basis of recognising that there are plausible left-wing arguments on both sides. The idea that Remainers were dupes of neo-liberalsm or that Leavers were hopeless captives to narrow nationalism was always idiotic. It is a reflection of the low state of our debates that these things have even to be said.

    The problem with Bryan Gould’s analysis is that have recognised the idiocy of arguing on the basis of steretypes rather than of the best of the case on both sides, he persists with the former.

    He says that we need an “analysis of EU membership which does not rely on the ignorance and prejudice exploited by the right, but which does not shrink, either, from an analysis of the EU that identifies some of its inherently anti-democratic, pro-capitalist and “free-market” characteristics”. Of course, we do. It is just a shame that BG doesn’t seem to recognise that there are many on the left who supported Remain while recognising those deep problems of the EU.

    And then his argument degenerates into the worst sort of implicit abuse.

    We cannot expect those voters [Brexiters] to overlook the impact of those characteristics in favour of the “finer sensibilities” of those who have done well, when that impact includes the decimation of British manufacturing and a perennial trade deficit which together have led directly to the loss of jobs and a more general job insecurity, an inflow of cheap labour which has further threatened job security and wage levels, and a sense that democratic control over their lives has been lost or is at least ineffective.

    Why does BG want to deal with the Remain argument only in terms of the objectionable “finer sensibilities” of those “who have done well”? This is stereotyping on an objectional scale.

    Even claims like “The EU is consciously an “intervention-free” zone” need a lot of qualification. Think of the enforced EU clean up of British beaches, the limitations imposed on Google and Microsoft, the pollution regulations and much else besides. There trouble with this sort of argument is that it takes “free trade” arguments at face value. Trade is never free from regulation. Free trade is entirely dependent on regulation. So arguing in the language of the rhetoric of the self-styled free traders is not likely to be productive.

    If we are to “embark on a new progressive agenda” then the first move has to be to take stock of the best of the arguments about the EU, internationalism, cooperation with the progressive forces of other countries and the real possibilities open to separate nation states. This is something Bryan Gould makes no attempt to do.

    1. James Martin says:

      I agree David that we need to stop stereotyping both sides in the referendum and move on to what we do next. There were valid arguments for staying in, valid ones for leaving. My own views were formed by sadly departed comrades like Tony Benn and Bob Crow, but also by the calls of Greek trade unionists on the eve of the referendum for British workers to vote out as an act of international solidarity with them. Equally I am aware of the internationalist arguments for remaining, although I often saw them as badly confusing a correct desire for European unity with a deeply flawed political construct in the form of the EU.

      The problems for Labour now are profound. I understand that two thirds of Labour MP’s are in seats that voted leave and potentially vulnerable to the ukips, and that of course added to these are Copeland and Stoke. However many other MP’s are in areas that voted to remain and potentially vulnerable to the lib-dims. You can’t deal with that by re-running the in/out debate, but only on a fighting platform of demanding a Brexit that protects workers rights, that fights xenophobia and that sets the stage for a radical Labour government to come. Corbyn is clearly trying to do this, but badly. In the space of a week we have gone from him attacking May for wanting to ‘have her cake and eat it’ (never understood the origin of that phrase, doesn’t everyone always want to eat cake if they have any?!), to now arguing that if we leave the single market we should still attempt to have access to it, which would appear to be having your cake and scoffing the lot. It makes us look ridiculous.

    2. Bazza says:

      Excellent conclusion David.

    3. Karl Stewart says:

      DavidP, you repeatedly strike this pose as ‘Mr Reasonable’ who just wants everyone to stop the insults on both sides etc…

      But yet when a remain poster on here recently started a rabid rant accusing left leave voters of being the enablers of Hitler, the only criticism you made was directed at those he attacked.

      Personally, I think it’s great to see Brian Gould giving the left-remainers some well-deserved criticism after six long months of non-stop bullying, insults and hysterics from them.

      And please stop being so hypocritical DavidP. You want remain-lefts to be free to throw whatever insults they want, but you condemn left-leaves for standing up for themselves – we’re not going to stop standing up for ourselves.

      1. David Pavett says:

        Sorry, you think that my rejection of stereotyping from whatever source is a matter of posing.

        I tend not to respond to arguments invoking comparisons with Hitler whoever they come from. It rarely leads to worthwhile exchanges.

        I certainly do not approve of insults aimed at remainers and I don’t think you can find any examples of me doing so.

        I still think, however, that Bryan Gould’s argument in this piece is very poor for the reasons I gave earlier.

        I was always a sceptical remainer and had no difficulty in understanding the force of many criticisms of the EU. I would therefore not approve of arguments which do not recognise that. The pro-EU case put out by Alan Johnson, Angela Eagle and Hilary Benn on behalf of the Labour Party was not only low key it was also very unconvincing. Labour has argued for years that we should stay in the EU but should call for it to be reformed. The problem is that it has never been able to tell us what reforms it wanted. I wanted a serious debate before the referendum. We didn’t get one. I would like a serious one in the light of the result but I am still waiting. I don’t see how Bryan Gould’s piece can be considered as such a contribution.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          In the debate that followed a previous article by Brian Gould a month or so ago “What lies behind the Brexit vote”, a contributor to the debate, Trevor Fisher, made a highly insulting comparison of left-leave people to those who enabled Hitler to come to power.

          In subsequent contributions, myself and others attacked Mr Fisher’s insults.

          You criticised not Trevor Fisher, but those who had criticised his insults.

          So my point is that it ill behoves you to now pose as “Mr Reasonable” who wants “both sides” to stop the insults.

  5. Bazza says:

    It’s a case of us having to as this is what people voted for and us making the best of it from our perspective.
    But perhaps Labour cracking the free movement of labour issue could help us to gain power.
    To this end former Labour MP, Colin Burgon (Morning Star, 19/1/17) questions the Left’s support for free movement of labour and he has ruffled a few feathers and has received a bit of stick for daring to think.
    Colin was brought up on a council estate in Leeds not too far from mine so I thought I might offer some support;well in my opinion I think Colin is half right.
    Colin suggests that surplus labour drives wages down and even in the 19thC Marx commented on how Irish immigrants were USED by employers to undercut wages (although the Irish contributed much to trade unions and Labour) and the concept of the industrial reserve army is well known but perhaps it is unscrupulous employers who are using migrants to drive wages down and migrants are diverse – from the fruit pickers and packers (doing the jobs that UK citizens don’t want to do) to health workers (helping to keep the NHS going) to academics in universities.
    But perhaps it is Neo-Liberalism and its pursuit of cheap labour that is the root cause?
    Whilst free movement of labour supply was perhaps designed to serve the free movement of capital I support the control of BOTH, and for slightly different reasons to Colin.
    Colin is right to say he hears complaints on the doorstep blaming Eastern Europeans but perhaps we have to think of the role of capitalist hegemony and the drip, drip, drip of the media (Mail, Sun etc) in it’s gross exaggerations about refugees migrants and we need to counter this politically.
    I was one of the first to call for the trade unionisation of migrant workers (and why not refugees?) and what are these groups but unorganised labour who like all of us have to sell their labour to live and this will help to build community solidarity.
    But we perhaps need to think as internationalists and whilst I care for working people in the UK, I also care equally about EC working people (and in every country of the World) and perhaps we should care too about working people in countries like say Bulgaria (although there may be some short-term benefits from overseas remittances and when people return) but according to New Left Review it will have lost 50% of its population by 2020, so is it the role of working people in the poorer EC countries to serve the rich in the richer EC countries (UK, Germany etc.) and don’t we want working people to build socialist societies in every country?
    I do not believe in selfish laissez faire middle class anarchy, I am not an Open Border liaissez faire Liberal, and I am not a free market liaissez faire Neo-Liberal – I am a socialist because I believe in equality and planning and management.
    Yet some have used Marx (like a bible “and Marx said” etc.) to attack Colin but when Marx wrote, populations were small and there were few travel restrictions in the World but the World has changed fundamentally, but I support the control of labour supply and capital supply for all countries so that with Left Wing democratic socialist governments working people get power back from Neo-Liberalism.
    And it would be in a framework of compassion for refugees, allowing all current EC workers in the UK etc. to stay (and our citizens in Spain etc to remain too) but with control of labour supply and capital supply the Left would be distinct from the Tories, UKIP and the Right of Labour in taking on Neo-Liberalism and at least some of us are trying to think independently and critically outside of the box.
    And perhaps on the Left there is some ‘Group Think’ as Orwell said (self-actualising – feeling good about yourself) and (if you don’t suppory a-h you are not a socialist) plus some bourgeois socialism -top down, ready made programmes – some believe in the banking concept of political education -all you need to do is deposit your programme into the heads of the working class and their vanguard will then lead us to socialism – a socialism FOR.
    But whilst Blairism offered a space to the Right of Reformism perhaps there is a space in between Revolutionary Socialism and Reformism – Left Wing, grassroots, bottom up, participatory , democratic Socialism where in simple and brief language we consult the diverse working class/working people to share our ideas and people can amend or improve them -socialism WITH and it could include the democratic public ownership of land, banks, mail, rail, public utilities, water, pharma, some airlines (with ideas to be shared with sister parties in all countries) and if we are successful then we can consult working people in their 3/4 working day weeks and with good pay on a possible transition to a even fairer, greener global economy.
    And we could work this out TOGETHER.
    Oh and I often wondered if Marx’s biggest mistake was making an assumption that the capitalists would passivle accept their fate when of course they paid people to think how to avoid their downfall.
    Just some food for thought and at least some of us are trying to think.

  6. Kimberley Ford says:

    The point that the Brexit stereotypes were unfair is weakened by further stereotyping. There are many arguments for and against but I see few that are for that really help the non-rich. I would argue that leaving a bureaucracy which has enhanced many of our regulations and standards is significantly risky for the less well off. While corporate overreach is a problem which the EU was enabling with regard to our public services, other aspects of the bureaucracy were a safety blanket for those of us concerned about our working and human rights. If we lived in a decent country these issues shouldn’t be a concern. Now we have the possibility of being trapped on an island dominated by right wing politics and a right wing media telling us to like it.

    Other EU citizens are also forgotten about, but anyone watching the Bees vs Bayer battle will be aware of people power on the continent influencing politicians to reject plans to renew licenses for harmful neonic containing pesticides. The battle isn’t over yet but developments have been encouraging. Can we stand up for bees just as well alone?

    Can we then stand up for ourselves without getting sidelined by things we couldn’t personally take advantage of. I never went on an Erasmus scheme but would I deny that to someone else? I fail to see how that makes me better off. In fact, in my failed attempt to educate my way out of poverty I lived with some nice continental European students, who refreshingly could keep a clean house. I should thank Erasmus and the EU for that experience and saving my sanity. We also once made a big homemade pizza together.

    1. Kimberley Ford says:

      Sorry, I should have concluded that if Brexit takes place then we have a difficult job. It’s not impossible, but we cannot afford to divide ourselves further. We cannot afford to resent people who are marginally better off. We have to talk to each other, learn from one another, and work out how to save ourselves and continue to make progress.

    2. Bazza says:

      Kimberley – I was for Remain but believe leaving is now the only game in town and we have to make the best of it for working class/working people in the UK, EC citizens here and our citizens living in the rest of the EC.
      Perhaps we should fight for Brexit deals – it may take us having to pay something like £10b a year to the EC for free access to the single market, workers rights, environmental protections, policing and security, continued HE partnerships and partnerships on R&D etc.
      So we can still all make pizzas together post-Brexit.

  7. We can all agree that it is right and necessary for surpluses generated by workers are reinvested in tangible capital where they live and work rather than, as at present, converted into intangible capital and exported to places where those that control intangible capital can make the biggest returns.
    The EU single market calls for the “free movement” of capital within the EU, a phrase the camoflages the truth: that this guarantees the right of owners of capital to move it around as they see fit.
    The Euro, which removes the capacity of national governments to influence exchange rates and interest rates, is the ultimate expression of this idea.
    The right entry point for any discussion here seems therefore to be about capital, what it is, who controls it and who benefits from it.
    Everything else, including the freedom of workers to move to improve their lives and cultural issues cited by Mr Gould, are secondary issues.
    So here are two questions:
    1 To those that support Remain. How can you direct investment into tangible capital (infrastructure, factories and social infrastruture) when the EU requires as a condition of membership that any such direction is either banned or restricted (particularly within the Eurozone)?
    2 To those that support Leave. In what way and how is investment going to be channeled into tangible capital where people live and work once the UK is out of the EU without stringent capital controls enforced by draconian penalties or corporate tax incentives (otherwise owners of intangible capital will simply ship it out of the UK)?

    1. Bazza says:

      Edmund poses very relevant questions, although I was originally for Remain I recognise that potential framework for potential change has gone; we are leaving, leaving is now the only game in town.
      But Edmund hits the nail on the head, how do we as diverse working class/working people (whose labour creates the wealth and makes societies work) AND WORKING PEOPLE IN EVERY COUNTRY get the full fruits of our industry?
      And until we do perhaps if we have capital controls in every country and a common global corporation tax so capital cannot set one against the other and perhaps a global living wage may help as capital perhaps always seeks the cheapest labour.
      Never has it been more important for Left wing parties around the World to work together.
      Perhaps serious taxes on the rich and corporations, state-led public investment, windfall taxes on big business (to get working people’s share of capital back), a global financial transaction tax would help.
      It is working people who create the wealth and make societies work and we need to campaign for policies to ensure capital knows we are in charge.
      Would be good to hear others ideas.

      1. Bazza. The problem with serious taxes on the rich and corporations is that owners of intangible capital (which accounts for around 90 per cent of capital deployed in the UK by private firms) can simply move it quickly somewhere else. Part of the solution is to encourage companies operating in the UK to hold at least 50 per cent of their balance sheet assets in tangible capital (factories, buildings, machinery etc). This form of capital is far harder (to the point of impossibility) to hide or move quickly. Nailing down capital in a physical form provides workers and the wider community with places where they can create value in a tangible or intangible form. That in turn will reduce the incentive for people to move to improve their lives.

        1. Bazza says:

          Like your idea but I think I did call for co-ordination between progressive countries – it may help to assert power over international capital with international cooperation.
          The capitalists are internationalists for cheap labour and profit (so it should be fun in the US with Trump and the kind hearted capitalists) and perhaps we need to be internationalists too.

          1. Bazza says:

            Afterthought – I hope your recommendation which I like can also apply to economies like ours which are dominated by finance capital and the service sector.
            But you are I feel taking things forward.

          2. Bazza,
            Thank you.
            Work is being done on highlighting the role of intangible capital in advanced economies. It is now superdominant. The hope is to come up with some recommendations that can be developed into actionable policies.
            The priority is to reduce and, preferably, eliminate the dominance of non-tangible/intangible capital through legal, parliamentary and compelling policies that are comprehensible and attractive to the overwhelming majority (mainly the 30+m people in the UK who are waged employees and their families).
            The international perspective is important, but Labour’s now by far the largest left-wing party in Europe. It would be more immediately helpful to everyone if it developed useful and actionable policies at the UK national level that could perhaps be a model for others elsewhere.
            The main point is that people reading Left Futures should focus on essential empirical facts (which is that the mode of production in advanced economies has been radically transformed from the production of tangible goods to the creation of intangible commodities and from being based on tangible capital to being driven by intangible capital). Coherent theoretical debate can then follow.

  8. Bazza says:

    Yes Neo-Liberalism and its drive for cheap labour.
    Privatisation, deregulation, tendering, outsourcing, sub-contracting, zero hours – there lies the culprit!

    1. Bazza says:

      I like the idea of Windfall taxes on Big Business and profits are only the legally nicked surplus labour of working people, so we would be getting chunks of capital back when it is needed.
      But co-ordinated international action would help and ideally if socialist countries were doing similar things at the same time.

  9. Rob Green says:

    Any Labour MP that fails to vote for the triggering of Article 50 that is not de-selected by their CLP should face an independent socialist candidate who would have voted for it. A candidate that is pledged to help form a Corbyn-led Labour government should the numbers be available but who will at the same time criticise from the left Corbyn and McDonnell’s search for a non-existent Good Old British Compromise on the EU. A candidate who will put forward a radical, principled socialist programme and vision for a post-Brexit Britain and a New European Settlement concluded in the interest of workers that leaves the bosses’ neo-liberal EU in the dust.

  10. If Gould wants to be taken seriously he will have to do better than reeling out a list of unsupported assertions about the EU.

    Such as “the EU is consciously an “intervention-free” zone, deliberately created to hand power to unelected bureaucrats so that market forces and powerful corporations are allowed free rein without intervention from elected governments.”

    Or, ” castigate those who register and bewail what they have lost – democracy and self-government – as bigots and ignoramuses.”

    European law and regulation, from the working hours directive to the framework for works councils, (I could list many more) are hardly examples of how ‘bureaucrats’ enforce unfettered market forces. Not are the arrangements that allow European citizens not just free movement to work, but to receive health care (something which will affects hundreds of thousands of UK citizens in Continental Europe) and other social benefits.

    The same applies to regional policy and many other areas.

    Gould seems to think that all laws and regulations are ‘undemocratic’ when created through pooled rather than National sovereignty.

    Brexit, by abolishing these measures, and letting the Tories negotiate with the pro-Brexit billionaire Trump for new trading arrangements, will substantially harm many people, so it’s not surprising that the majority of the left was for Remain and is still hostile to those who backed this lurch into the new protectionist world led by the US.

    As for the mythological claim that the Greek left and people demanded Britain leave the EU… the only people benefiting from Brexit in Europe at present are the far-right, from Marine Le Pen onwards.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Fact is though, that we are leaving the EU. And so for those of us on the left ,the challenge is to develop left-wing Brexit policies.

      It’s like when it rains. Some people like the rain and others don’t, but it continues to rain regardless and the challenge is to deal with it.

      1. Tim Pendry says:

        You make the essential point, Karl. It is going to happen Trying not to make it happen when it is going to happen regardless is a distraction from making it work in the people’s interest. Leave the hope for a Second Referendum to the Liberal Democrats … the party of lost causes.

        1. James Martin says:

          Exactly, this is the period where the Labour Party should be hammering day after day our vision for what *we* want a post-Brexit Britain to look like, that is the way to unite the previous leave/remain sections of both the Party and the voters behind a fight for the future rather than picking over the bones of the past.

          To listen to some who seem to think only the EU can protect workers rights (although I’m sure Greek workers would have have nothing but justified contempt for that view), but it really begs the question what on earth do they think trade unions and the Labour Party were created to do in the first place!

          1. Kimberley Ford says:

            Currently, trade unions are a dirty word for many and membership is uncommon among the young. It was perhaps a matter of time before EU workers legislation would be weakened. I agree that negotiating a deal to protect workers (and indeed everyone else) is the logical fight to take now.

            I think Jeremy Corbyn has been playing the situation very diplomatically until this point with a sceptical “In” campaign. I think it will take a miraculous turn of public support and a significant level of rebellion from within the Conservatives to ensure the outcome isn’t bleak and destructive.

          2. Karl Stewart says:

            Response to Kimberley Ford 27.01 at 10.36pm:

            Can you say where you get the notion that “trade unions are a dirty word for many”.

            Who are the “many” who think that Kimberley?

            I’ve not heard anyone say unions are a “dirty word”. Can you give an example of anyone saying that unions are a “dirty word”?

          3. Kimberley Ford says:

            I got that impression from a lack of union presence and people unwilling to engage with the subject of unions in my work and personal experience.

  11. I voted and campaigned as someone of left against membership in 1975. At least back then those in Labour Party who wanted to remain saw the protection of British industry as a reason.

    Now the EU doesn’t offer protection to jobs, just protection to capitalists with free trade agreements. For the left to justify EU membership now is much harder even without bringing in Benn’s ‘democratic deficit’.

    And yes Ric Euteneuer I am a chippy white blue collar male, but rather than seeing my fellows as overcharging pensioners, I see them as the people who built the Labour Party. That they were white can be explained as that being the colour of the vast majority of the British working class at the time. Now I suspect you would find people of all colours and both sexes that voted to leave.

    I suspect some of those who dislike the chippy working class liked the cheap maids, restaurant staff and prostitutes that free movement encouraged. You may have to pay a bit more for those services Ric, as well as paying an electrician or plumber to fix your building problems.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Well said

  12. Tim Pendry says:

    I for one am fed up being patronised by the likes of Jeff Sparrow so this posting is welcome. As I have said before and will say again, the downright stupid analysis of what Brexit meant to Left Leavers that has been coming from some left-liberals is pushing us further and further away from the sort of Labour Party represented by its apparat and the right-wing reaches of the PLP.

    Only Mr. Corbyn’s carefully calibrated balancing act between the two camps is holding things together. Thanks to the intensity of the debate and what it has taught me and others like me of the essential stupidity of the malign characterisation of the Brexit Left by the Right of the Left, I doubt whether I could ever be associated with a Party that now tried to countermand the will of the people.

    So, I am grateful that, after initial mistakes, Jeremy Corbyn is managing to tread that fine line by accepting that will of the people and then concentrating not on constitutional matters but on the sort of Britain we can have after Article 50 is invoked – a story of rebuilding the NHS, improving social care, bringing people out of poverty, increasing housing provision, avoiding war (though a Tory PM now seems well ahead on this on our last two Labour PMs), rebuilding our economic infrastructure, maximising trade relations, removing the managerialism from education, protecting the vulnerable and ensuring maximum equality of access to power and resources. Brexit is now a side issue so long as it happens.

  13. Jim Denham says:

    “Can you support Brexit from the Left?”

    Good, for once, to be able to give a one-word answer: “No”.

    1. Bazza says:

      This is only your opinion.
      But perhaps leaving is now the only game in town.

    2. Karl Stewart says:

      The year before we joined the EU, in 1972, our union movement was the strongest it had ever been.

      It was the most powerful labour movement in the world.

      In the decade before that, outside the EU, we l
      were the first country to legislate against race discrimination, to legalise homosexuality, and sex equality, and abortion.

      A couple of decades before that, outside of the EU, and out of the ruins of war, this country created a national health service, full employment, nationalised swathes of industry, embarked on a massive council house building programme, and established comprehensive education and the welfare state.

      Every single working-class advance has been achieved outside of the EU. Every single one.

      So yes, of course it’s possible to take a left-wing course outside of the EU.

      Let’s do it.

      1. John P Reid says:

        Well said

        1. Jim Denham says:

          “Every single working-class advance has been achieved outside of the EU. Every single one”: if you believe that, you are an ignorant fool, or a liar, Karl.

          The UK’s minimal race and gender legislation prior to 1973, has been massively strengthened and enhanced by the EU, and extended to other now-protected characteristics such as sexual orientation, religion and belief (which I have my doubts about, as it happens) and sexual re-assignment.

          All this, together with elementary working class and trade union rights, is now up for grabs as May grovels to Trump: good work you “left” Brexiteers, who assured us all we’d be well on the way to a socialist future once we’d escaped the EU!

          As Robert Conquest said: I Told You So, You Fucking Fools.

      2. John Penney says:

        Spot on, Karl.

        1. Jim Denham says:

          From the TUC (unless you want to call them liars):

          The following rights came from the EU, and are guaranteed by the EU. If we vote to leave, they won’t be guaranteed any more, and government ministers can just pick and choose which rights we have.

          Here are just ten of the workers’ rights at risk if we leave:

          1. Paid holidays

          Thanks to EU law, full-time workers are entitled to at least 20 days a year in paid leave. Rightly so. Once the EU law was implemented, SIX MILLION people in the UK gained holidays.

          Our American friends across the pond are entitled to NONE, which gives us a taste of how bad things can get without European protections.

          One of these men has a legal guarantee under EU law for 20 days annual leave. The other doesn’t. Guess which one is smiling.
          One of these men has a legal guarantee of 20 days annual leave. The other doesn’t. Guess why only one is smiling.

          2. Equal treatment for part-time workers

          More and more workers are being forced into casual arrangements like zero-hours contracts and agency work. Unions are campaigning hard to change that, but in the meantime, the EU guarantees that part-timers have the same rights as full-time workers.

          3. Rights for new mums

          EU law says that people who are about to become mums can have time off for antenatal appointments with their doctors, along with protections to stop them getting the sack for simply becoming pregnant.

          4. 18 weeks of parental leave

          In addition to paid maternal leave, parents also have the right to take off some unpaid leave to take care of their kid(s). This is obviously a good thing, but it’s especially important for parents with kids who have a disability.

          The same EU law also gives parents time off for urgent family reasons, like a sick child. Not exactly the sort of EU rights which will make headlines, but seriously important all the same.

          5. Equal pay for equal work

          Obviously we’re not quite at equal pay yet, but it’s listed as a “fundamental right” in the EU, saying that women and men should be paid equally for work of equal value. Until the EU rules in this area, it was extremely difficult to prove that men and women were facing pay discrimination. This is crucial for people who find they’re being underpaid compared to male colleagues, as a member of the Prospect union showed when she took her employer to court over this – and won.

          6. Limits on how long you can be forced to work

          You’ve just crossed the halfway point of this list. Good for you. Mercifully, you’re now allowed to take a well-deserved break.

          Such a break could well be thanks to EU rules. You have a right not to have to work longer that 48 hours a week on average if you don’t want to. This limit gives you space to relax, spend time with your families or just sit on a couch and pleasantly zone out.

          7. Being told what’s going on

          This is a little trickier to explain. Basically, if you have a union rep or other employee forum at work, employers have a legal responsibility to keep them informed about major changes in the company. Most of the time, this isn’t a right you’ll notice. But if you’re facing job losses or a big restructuring, then it becomes a very important right indeed.

          8. Health and safety

          Far from the sexiest of issues, I know, but health and safety rules save lives. The EU plays a massive role in ensuring that you’re not put in danger when at work. Not convinced? Perhaps this meaningless stock photo of a man in a hard hat waving a flag will prove our point.

          iStock_000016130155_Small

          Sold.

          9. Protection if your company is bought out

          Hopefully this is a right you’ll never need. But if your the company you work for is sold, the new owners have to respect the same pay and conditions you previously agreed. Unbelievably, this wasn’t even a right until the EU pushed it forward.

          10. Protection from discrimination

          …on the grounds of religion, sexuality, gender reassignment status, belief, and age. Before the EU rules on this, the UK only had laws for race and gender discrimination.

          What does all this mean?

          Looking through the list, it’s clear that we still have a lot of work to do. Many of these laws aren’t fully achieved, but we need them as a starting point to make work a safer, better, more equal place to be.

          Brexit campaigners will say that these protections could still exist if the UK left the EU. And that’s true, potentially. But it misses the point.

          If we leave, your rights would no longer be guaranteed. You’d have to trust (Tory) government ministers to keep them.

          Michael Gove said that “membership of the EU prevents us being able to change huge swathes of law”. Dom you seriously think he was talking about straight bananas? Or workers’ rights?

          The Tories are going to be in power for at least another four years – do you really trust them with your rights at work?

          Set aside all the arguments about how important the EU is for trade, travel and international relations, and just remember this: the EU certainly isn’t perfect, but it is a guarantee for some of your most basic rights at work – both ones that you use every day, and ones that you’d want if things go bad.

          Removing that guarantee is one hell of a gamble.

          If you want to find out more about the rights at risk, you can read our report on the topic here. It has fewer animated pictures, but far more footnotes and facts.

          The TUC.

          1. John Penney says:

            Thankyou our resident apologist for the neoliberal EU, Jim Denham .

            I think comparing pre-existing pre EU membership UK Rights with the status quo in the US is meaningless. It is also a joke to suggest that, outside of the EU, UK workers wouldn’t have achieved every EU Right anyway, by their own struggles.

            And you seriously think that on the day we leave the EU all the workers rights EU law “guarantees” ( and it is just a fact that most UK worker/employment rights are well above the EU minimum rights, across the entire field of worker rights) will be torn up ? Really Jim ?

            Get a grip – you have bought wholesale into the utter myth that the EU is a benevolent liberal protector of workers rights ! But, where was the EU as “protector” when French workers spent last year in pitched battle with the Hollande government’s vicious battle to reduce French Labour Rights DOWN to this EU minimum ? Nowhere.

            You really don’t “geddit” do you , Jim, that the EU is a neoliberalism enforcement machine, intent, on a longer timescale, in driving all EU member state workers down to a “competitive par” with the typical migrant worker in Guandong Province. Your perpetual Guardinista naivety on the nature of the EU is as perplexing as it is tiresome.

            The TUC is a gutless bureaucracy – totally unwilling to fight Austerity, and terrified of the coming required struggle to defend workers rights under Tory Brexit. The TUC is only too happy to claim that it is the EU that we have to thank for our rights, rather than UK workers self activity over generations. But the TUC bureaucracy are simply lying, Jim.

          2. Karl Stewart says:

            Paid holiday was won by the collective action of the working class, many, many years before we joined the EU.

            Equal pay was won by the striking women of Dagenham – before we joined the EU.

            Health and safety at work was won by the collective action of the working class.

            Part-time working has increased enormously at the detriment of full-time jobs. That’s not a step forward, it’s a step back.

          3. Jim Denham says:

            Little Englanders like John P and Karl P need to stop blustering and address the plain facts about workers’ rights listed by the TUC.
            They also need to address the political climate created by Brexit and Theresa May’s increasingly explicit proposal for a de-regulated economy as she detaches us not just from the EU but also from the single market, and opens the UK economy up to the US – on Trump’s terms.

            Karl’s guff about all working class rights having been won “outside the EU” is simply untrue: the vast bulk of workers’ rights we presently enjoy are due at least in part, to Eu membership. People like karl (and the wretched ‘Morning Star’) veer between their little-England nationalism and a sort of ultra-left syndicalism that comes close to arguing that enshrining workers’ rights in legislation doesn’t matter. I recommend reading Marx and Engels on the struggle to restrict the working day – and the importance of enshrining this in legislation.

          4. Tim Pendry says:

            I must really object to this rather nasty and personal ‘Little Englander’ attack on John and Karl. Why is it that the losing liberal-left have to get personal? IT is like watching Rumpelstilstkin stamp his little foot in rage at not getting his own way.

            Left Brexiters are broadly united in my experience in being strong inter-nationalists – that is, in seeing socialist nation states with distinctive cultures collaborating for common ends through such institutions as the United Nations and regional pacts.

            This is very different from a market-orientated system of top-down regulation in which corporate lobbyists treat trades union bureaucracies and the NGOS (often just job creation schemes for otherwise unemployable middle class graduates) as junior partners in a trickle down model of development that seems to maker a few very rich indeed and the rest simply subjects of mandarin beneficence.

            What is it about democracy for all its risks that the liberal-left does not understand?

            The TUC is not the be-all and end-all of worker representation. Let us be honest about it. It is a bureaucratic operation with skin in the game of being part of that corporatist system. For several decades, it has been a ‘moderating’ force dampening down struggle in favour of a rather futile attempt to ride the tiger of capitalism alongside types like Blair and their counterparts in the European Union – and no one surely takes Hollande seriously any more!

            Yes, of course, we are faced by Tories wanting to de-regulate. That is what they are hired to do. But this utter negativity and pessimism about what the Left could do in a free country is appalling.

            What has happened is that an increasingly small group of professional activists and politicians has disengaged from organisation and political education and simply attempted to bring a sort of ameliorative social liberalism, shorn of democracy, to Britain through a bureaucratic system that is neither particularly competent nor very responsive to the population. Such thinking is an utter disgrace!

            To paraphrase Brecht: “Erst kommt das Brexit, dann kommt der Socialismus” – and if you don’t have faith in that, what the hell are you doing calling yourself Left. The ‘social wing’ of the Liberal Democrats might suit better. Not bad lads (we think of Beveridge) but not actually interested in the actual liberation of the people – once a Whig, always a Whig.

            BTW in case you pigeonhole me as some kind of Commie fellow traveller, I stand on the social democratic and social market side of the Labour Movement where democracy is as important as socialism because one is meaningless without the other. Legislation is important … national legislation.

          5. Karl Stewart says:

            Response to JimD at 1.01pm:

            Jim, the fact is we are leaving the EU. The arguments for and against EU membership have taken place, the UK decided to leave and we’re leaving. End of.

            So, given the fact that we are leaving, the argument now needs to be in what direction.

            The facts are, that is, the historical facts, based on the historical record of things that actually happened in the real world – those facts – that a left wing orientation outside of the EU for the UK is a possibility.

            This is because there is a wealth of historical evidence of the living, real world reality of life in the UK before we joined the EU.

            It is a proveable and verifiable historical fact that, the year before we joined the EU, 1972, the UK trade union movement was far, far stronger than it is today.

            Our forefathers and mothers defeated the employer and the government in national all-out strikes in the coal industry and on the docks in particular.

            The government was forced, by collective action of the organised working class, to abandon its anti union laws at the time.

            This was also a time when shopfloor working-class organisation in manufacturing and also in transport was exceptionally strong compared to today.

            Closed shops were very common, for example, even delivery vehicle drivers from other companies were subject to regular ‘card checks’.

            An example of what is possible outside the EU.

            It’s also a proveable and verifiable historical fact that, in the decade before we joined the EU, the Labour government of 1964-70 legislated against race discrimination, for sex equality, for the lagalisation of homosexuality, and for abortion, also opening many new universities and also creating the Open University.

            Another, evidence-based example of what is possible outside the EU.

            It is also a proveable and verifiable historical that that, in the two decades before that, outside the EU, the previous Labour administration, which came to power in a country devastated by war, with huge parts of our largest cities destroyed by bombing, and our country in the highest levels of national debt than ever before or since created the NHS, comprehensive education , nationalised the commanding heights of the economy, built high-quality council housing for all, and maintained full employment.

            Full employment after WWII was a remarkable achievement when one bears in mind that this took place against such a backdrop of devastation, and in the context of the demobilisation of some four million servicemen and women.

            Another example of what’s possible outside of the EU.

            In all of these cases, there were Tories wanting to go in a different direction.

            In all of these cases, the odds were against our forefathers and mothers.

            But unlike you, JimD, they didn’t sit whining, wringing their hands pathetically and bleating about how difficult it all is.

            They stood up, got together, got organised, worked out what they needed and fought for it.

            JimD, wipe your tears, get over yourself, pull yourself together, and be part of today’s and tomorrow’s fight for a socialist future.

            Stop your whining, stop bleating about all

  14. Jim Denham says:

    All, this guff about “left” Brexiteers being internationalists, is just that … guff. You lot lined up with the most nationalist, insular, reactionary and racist section of the ruling class, giving them a (admittedly small and insignificant) “left” cover. The fruits of this are already being seen in increased racism and hostility to “outsiders” (even gays) … all of which was predictable and *was* predicted by those of us who inhabit the real world as opposed to the fantasy-world of the “left” Brexiteers.

    People who think protective legislation is not crucial for workers’ rights may be surprised by the amount of time Fred Engels spent on the !0 Hour Bill:

    http://hiaw.org/defcon6/works/1850/03/10hours.html

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Tim, the liberal democrats like JimD get personal because they have no logical arguments.

      Being called a ‘little Englander’ is mild compared to some of the insults we on the left have received from the Liberal Democrats and Blairites over this issue.

      For the liberals, every socialist is a ‘racist’, every socialist is a ‘nazi enabler’ and we get threatened with being punched and other threats.

      But they still have no logical arguments.

      1. Jim Denham says:

        Karl, you lying tosspot: you know full well I’m nothing to do with the Lib Dems. If you really want to get into a dick-waving prolier-than-thou contest, rather than debate the politics, that’s up to you. But I promise you you’ll lose.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          I call you a liberal democrat because you’re supporting the liberal democrat policy JimD.

          Perfectly logical description of your political positioning here.

          And you’re foaming at the mouth with all the infantile insults because you have no logical arguments.

          1. Jim Denham says:

            Karl, I’ve spent valuable time and effort attempting to educate petty bourgeois alt-Stalinist clowns like you in the a-b-c’s of class politics. Your ignorance and (I’d suggest) lack of experience of the class struggle renders you incapable of learning, or indeed thinking. The potential damage that you alt-Stalinists will do to our movement, id you’re not stopped, is incalculable. I feel it my duty to expose and denounce people like you. As Marx said, “to allow error to go uncorrected is intellectual immorality.”

    2. John Penney says:

      I ask again, Jim, where was this EU as “protector of workers rights, last year , in France, as the Hollande Government fought the working class to trash their vastly superior rights to the EU’s minimum rights ? And where was the EU when the Tories passed the latest Trades Union Act to restrict further what are the most restrictive anti trades union laws in Europe ?

      What role did the EU play in the Greek Crisis ? The organiser of the smashing of the democratic Syriza government’s oposition to Austerity – on behalf of the German banks !

      Your uncritical acceptance of the utter myth of the EU as a force for any sort of long term support of social progress and support for workers rights is a total delusion, and shows you up as a Left liberal, not any sort of socialist.

      1. Jim Denham says:

        John P: where have I ever said the EU is perfect, or that its (limited) protection of workers’ rights is adequate? Find one single quote from me to that effect, please.

        What I’ve said is that for serious socialists who have an elementary understanding of trade unionism, the real limited legal protection and rights afforded by the EU is clearly preferable, and worth defending, against what will, sooner or later, be the Tory agenda post-Brexit. And that the Tories are inevitably strengthened by the racism, nationalism and anti-working class political landscape created by Brexit.

        Those of us who come from a militant trade union background tend to understand that.

    3. David Pavett says:

      I agree with Tim Pendry (above) that describing the arguments you wish to reject as little Englander” “guff” and as lining up with the most “nationalist”, “insular”, “reactionary” and “racist” section of the ruling class is a pretty unhelpful way to conduct a debate. In fact in is a sure indication of a with to sound off and not understand a different viewpoint. Do we want a genuine debate or just a shouting match? There are clearly committed socialists on both sides of the argument. A debate in which differences cannot be discussed in a calm and rational manner without abuse is no debate at all.

      1. Jim Denham says:

        I believe in calling things by their right name. It’s called political honesty.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          This is the way you guys operate, first the hysterical insults and then this is followed up usually by threats to punch people.

          It’s a smoke screen to cover your political bankruptcy.

          1. Jim Denham says:

            “Threats to punch people”: you really *are* hysterical aren’t you, Karl?

        2. John Penney says:

          No Jim, it’s called “exagerrated emoting in place of political analysis. Where do you seriously think the current neoliberal iteration of the EU is heading ? Do you even remember what the EU has deliberately done to the Greek people and their economy to protect the German banks and the Austerity agenda ?

          You never express any doubts about the EU , Jim, or its entirely capitalist neoliberal purpose. Instead you simply peddle a mainstream Guardianista myth about the benevolent workers rights protecting role of the EU. Try doing some socialist analysis for a change, rather than liberal myth-peddling.

          1. Jim Denham says:

            OK John, let’s spell out some A-B-C’s for the hard of thinking:

            1/ There are only two ways unions can defend and/or progress members’ interests: industrially or through legislation. Agreed?

            2/The unions’ present industrial weakness increasingly puts an onus on supportive social and pro-union legislation. Seen as a totality such legislation creates a floor of rights on which unions and workers’ rights cannot go below. Agreed?

            3/With one major exception (TU recognition) all such legislation in the UK originates from the E.U. Agreed?

            So get real, and understand just how irresponsible to our class and our movement you and the other “left” anti-EU idiots were, and continue to be.

  15. James Msartin says:

    As a trade union official responsible for collective issues and job at risk casework for members I get the importance of legislation. It is why I often think being a H&S rep can be more enjoyable than a regular rep as you can push bosses back with the law behind you, instead of just the hope (or more often panic) that the members have got your back if those bosses call your bluff.

    So when Jim Denham states that EU worker-protection legislation is important I agree, it is. But also much of it is weak and, for example, it is hard if not impossible to enforce the 48 working week EU directive in my long experience.

    But we should also remember that as Karl has pointed out the basis of our equality legislation predates the EU. In fact just about all we still have left in terms of fundamental protection in the workplace is as a result of Labour governments (pre-Blair) and not the EU.

    Crucially we protect ourselves through collective strength and action, that is always how it has been and always will be. The Tories attacked us in the EU, and they will attack us out of it. The capitalist state, whether at UK or EU level can never be trusted and should never be trusted. We have seen that with Greece, where all those EU rights that Jim Denham seems so in awe of were of no use at all to Greek workers who have been completely stuffed by the EU capitalists. In fact, for all his silly talk of little Englanders it is Jim Denham who is the one that constantly seems to ignore the working class outside of our own little island, just as he does when he blames leaving the EU for the rise of the right when in EU state after EU state who are not leaving it the rise of the right has been even more marked and even more openly fascist in flavor. We should pay attention to that, but of course Denham won’t because it would mean thinking rather than flinging insults.

    There is simply no mileage in trying to stop Brexit, not unless you really want to topple Corbyn, rip the Labour Party to pieces and hand large areas of England and Wales to the ukips on a plate, and while Jim Denham seems happy to do this, personally I want us to come back again to what we want and we need for Britain post-Brexit and uniting and fighting for that with the Labour Party leading the way. Those Labour remainers that have still not accepted the referendum result are not only stopping us doing that, but are making the ukips stronger by the day.

  16. Karl Stewart says:

    I think someone’s a bit too keen on the sauce…

    1. James Martin says:

      That may be part of Jim Denham’s inability to hold any type of debate without, as he always does, resorting to lecturing, hectoring, insulting and hysterical responses, but I suspect that ultimately it is related to having to propagate such rotten politics for many years. Pro-NATO bombing and regime change, pro-US imperialist occupation of Iraq, pro-racist apartheid state, pro-political lynching and witch hunts of comrades like Jackie Walker. Being so pro-EU really is the least of it but it does fit a bigger non-socialist picture. When I first came across him on here I genuinely thought he was a Blairite, others did too. Now if newer readers didn’t know better I am sure they would mistake him for a lib-dim, although the picture you get of an old drunk wearing some badly applied EU flag face paint and picking fights with everyone he meets does raise a chuckle 🙂

      1. Jim Denham says:

        Ah, Mr Martin, glad to see the evidence of how you really abhor “lecturing, hectoring, insulting and hysterical responses”, don’t you?

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          Jim, leaving aside all the nonsense rhetoric, do you accept the following facts?

          1. Whether or not one supports or opposes UK membership of the EU, the vote was a majority to leave and the fact is we’re leaving.

          2. While leaving in a left-wing direction is by no means inevitable, the historical evidence from the 1970s, 1960s and 1940s/50s proves that a left-wing orientation outside of the EU is definitely possible.

          What’s your view on these two key points Jim?

          1. Jim Denham says:

            1/ Socialists don’t have to give up what they believe in every time we lose an election (or plebiscite): on that logic the Labour Party would no longer exist. We campaign to change peoples’ minds and then win next time. This is a-b-c democracy.

            2/ What “historical evidence” from the 50s, etc are you talking about? The Peoples’ Republic of the UK that existed before the EU forced us to become capitalist?

            The reality of the present situation is spelled out by one John Rogan (who I don’t know and have no political links with), commenting BTL at Shiraz Socialist:

            “What amazes me is that there are many Labour MPs who say there is a “Tory Brexit” and a “Labour Brexit”. The implication is that the present Govt can somehow choose and implement whatever Brexit conditions they want with the EU27. This helps feed the delusion, on both the Left (Corbyn) and Right (Watson), that Labour could, somehow, negotiate a Soft Brexit. That the EU27 would be much kinder to a Labour Govt for some reason.

            “A Soft Brexit is just not going to happen. The leadership of EU27 have enough internal headaches (Le Pen, AfD and Freedom Party) this year to ensure that, if they wish to hold the line against the eurosceptic Far Right, there will be no concessions to the UK. Brexit means Brexit means Hard Brexit.

            “Now we have Trump whose possible EU Ambassador, Ted Malloch, seems to gleefully want to see the EU finished. After all, a much weakened EU (or no EU) would help the “America First” agenda of Trump.

            “This would also help the agenda of Putin who wishes to exert greater control in Eastern Europe.

            “The Trump Putin Pact (wanting to split, weaken and carve up Europe) is another perfectly good reason for EU27 sticking to a Hard Brexit – especially a need for the defence of Eastern Europe.

            “Theresa May is actually correct in her sucking up to Trump and Erdogan. If we leave the EU on a Hard Brexit (which we will) then grovelling for some crumbs at their tables is all we will be good for.

            “And that is the question Corbyn, Watson and McDonnell have to answer. After a Hard Brexit, who should the UK deal with in trying to get good trade deals? How will we be able to do it?

            “If you oppose Trump, you have to oppose Brexit.”

          2. prianikoff says:

            Denham is arguing for the official position of the Alliance for Workers Liberty.

            http://www.workersliberty.org/node/27478

            While this organisation claims to support Jeremy Corbyn, in practice its arguments repeat what Owen Smith said during the Labour leadership election.

            (Which makes you wonder why the AWL were the only group he chose to attack at the time!)

            Support for these arguments within the Labour party isn’t coming from the left.
            It’s coming from the centre and right; the potential “resigners” who would be attracted to a neo-Blairite, -Liberal – Tory ‘moderate’ coalition if they don’t get their own way.

            They first took hold in the demoralisation experienced within the unions and Labour party in the 1980’s.

            Jacques Delors’ speech to the TUC in 1988, promising them a “Social Europe”, followed the defeat of the 1984-5 miner’s strike and Kinnock’s loss in the 1987 General election.

            It was Kinnock who redefined “internationalism” to mean unity between the Labour Party and right-wing reformist parties across Europe, which wanted to adopt “new realism” and reverse nationalisation.

            His opponent Tony Benn certainly wasn’t a little Englander, he wanted to defend democracy and socialism.
            Nor can there be any common ground with Theresa May and UKIP today, who are increasingly joining the Trump’s racist band-wagon.

            A Labour government should begin to carry out socialist measures, such as re-nationalising rail, the energy and water companies – measures which are impossible within the existing rules of the EU.
            So it should a create a campaign for a federal democratic Europe with its allies across Europe.
            This is the opposite of the “internationalism” proposed by Kinnock in the 1980’s and which Denham has no answer to.

  17. Karl Stewart says:

    JimD, if you really do feel this way as strongly as you seem to, then you really should consider joining the Liberal Democrats – maybe its ‘left-wing’.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      I’ll do that just as soon as you join Ukip.

      Meanwhile, Karl, you may care to educate yourself on the issue of workers’ rights and the EU (in the light of your bizarre and ignorant claim the “every single workers’ right has been achieved outside the EU”) by reading an article by Prof Keith Ewing, widely regarded as a leading authority on employment law and a strong friend of the trade union movement The article appears in (opf all places) today’s Morning Star:

      http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-7a60-Leaving-the-European-Court-of-Justice-what-will-it-mean#.WJCQXLtijwo

      1. John Penney says:

        The idea that our Rights, in employment and otherwise is down to the neoliberal EU is simply a myth. The EU simply wants a “level playing field” for all its constituent state members within the overall capitalist market. As the ever worsening shackling opf trades unionism in the UK, and the wide-ranging attacks on French workers rights lat year, show clearly – the EU is no protector of our rights at all above an absolute minimum.

        This excerpt from a surprisingly good Socialist Worker article this year tackles Jim’s uncritical pro EU mythology head on :

        “1. Wouldn’t we lose our employment rights?

        Union leaders sometimes claim that the EU is the only thing standing between unscrupulous bosses and workers’ rights.

        TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady claimed, “It’s the EU that guarantees workers paid holidays, parental leave and equal treatment of part-timers.”

        In reality, it was the unions that O’Grady leads that won those rights.

        Their struggles mean that some British workplace legislation, such as health and safety, is stronger than the EU demands.

        The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 came out of a mass upsurge in union struggle that toppled Edward Heath’s Tory government.

        It’s been under relentless Tory attack. But the EU’s “Better Regulation” agenda won’t give workers more protection. It makes clear that “suppressing unnecessary administrative burdens” is crucial for business.

        That’s because the EU is no friend of workers’ rights—and that doesn’t only apply in countries such as Greece where it’s imposing brutal austerity.

        It is based on “four freedoms” for bosses. The EU guarantees them the right to set up business, provide services, move capital and hire labour across its member states.

        There was no real mention of “social rights” in the Treaty of Rome of 1957 that founded the EU. It only began adopting some weak measures to sugar the pill.

        EU “directives” have little impact on workers’ terms and conditions, and do not protect union rights. Unfair dismissal rights and the minimum wage have nothing to do with the EU.

        If workers’ rights clash with the “four freedoms”, the EU always comes down on the bosses’ side.

        In 2007 Finnish ferry company Viking tried to operate from neighbouring Estonia to get around a union agreement. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in the bosses’ favour, saying that workers taking action could restrict Viking’s “right” to relocate.

        British Airways bosses used the ruling to stop the Balpa pilots’ union striking against plans to set up a subsidiary with worse terms and conditions.

        Our rights are under attack from the Tories and the EU. Only workers’ struggles will defend them.

        Doesn’t the EU give us equal pay and holidays from work?

        Women strike for equal pay

        Women strike for equal pay (Pic: Ray Smith)

        We don’t have equal pay in Britain—or in the EU. Women workers are paid on average 14 percent less than men, according to official figures.

        The Equal Pay Act, which formally guarantees equal pay, had nothing to with the EU. A Labour government introduced it in 1970 after women machinists at Ford’s Dagenham plant in east London went on all-out strike.

        The Equal Pay Act is now largely superseded by the Equality Act of 2010—legislation that would remain after a “Brexit”.

        Much of EU employment law has also been implemented through British legislation, and is often stronger than the EU requires. For instance, the EU’s minimum annual holiday period is four weeks, yet in Britain it’s 5.6 weeks.

        EU directives on maternity leave guard against some discrimination and all women are entitled to

        14 weeks’ leave. But parents in Britain can qualify for up to 50 weeks of shared leave, 37 of which are paid.

        The Tories and the EU both talk up the importance of “competitiveness”—meaning they want to level down these rights. The bosses will attack them whether Britain leaves the EU or not.

        We can’t rely on any bosses or rulers, in the EU or elsewhere, to protect ordinary people. The key to defending workers’ rights and resisting racism is struggle.”

        1. Jim Denham says:

          John: I know people like you despise “experts”, but it’s come to something when you base your argument on an article from the irresponsible syndicalist fantasists and liars of Socialist Worker. Why not address what the leading employment law expert Ewing says?

      2. James Martin says:

        The real problem Jim is that your position on workers rights amounts to just lapping up what crumbs we are thrown by the capitalist state (at either UK or EU level) rather than what we can fight for. Your position is entirely passive, and seeks to subjugate independent working class activity to hoping that the bosses and public school educated judges are nice to us.

        The fact is that we got workers rights before we joined the EU. We got workers rights in the EU, And we will get workers rights out of it again. Not by supporting Dim Tim Farron and his EU counterparts, but by fighting ourselves. Learn some history, the working class was never given anything, everything was fought for and paid for in blood and sweat. We remember such sacrifices each May Day, each Workers Memorial Day, each Tolpuddle Martyrs, each Durham Miners, each Burston Strike School rally. And when you have learnt how capitalist society treats the working class and its unions, and how the working class can also fight back, then ask yourself how the AWL ended up in such a sorry state of a complete pessimist lack of faith in the class struggle.

        1. Jim Denham says:

          I am perfectly aware., “mate” of the Stalinists’ opposition to European unity throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, reflected by little-England reformists like Benn and Shore. The revolutionary (mainly Trotskyist and semi-Trotskyist) Marxist left didn’t agree, and was either neutral or pro-European unity (even under capitalism – as Marx advocated in the Communist Manifesto) until the pressure on them from the Stalinist and reformist left, became to much to resisit in the aerly 1970s, and the likes of the nSLL, the IS and then forunner of Militnat/Socialist POarty capitulated to nationalism and camre out against the Common Market/EEC. They were wrong then and their successors are wrong now. I and other Mrxistsvbroke with the IS over it in 1975: we were correct then and remain correct now. We won the debate – hands down – in the Labour and TU movement, even though the referendum was lost.

        2. Jim Denham says:

          (To John Martin): No, you syndicalist buffoon: my position is based upon a realistic assessment of the balance of forces: yours is based upon petty bourgeois fantasising about the past – as much use to our class as Morris dancing and real ale.

          Serious working class militants base their strategy and tactics upon a realistic assessment of the present-day political situation and the reality of the position our class finds itself in.

          Why throw away existing rights in the hope that we *might* one day *possibly* regain them? Your kind of ultra-left sun-syndicalist posturing is of no use to our class, and all serious trade unionists know that.

      3. Karl Stewart says:

        Jim, the left had an anti-EU (or EEC as was) position way, way before UKIP even existed mate.

        Opposing the EEC/EU was the standard policy of the left ever since the Treaty of Rome set the organisation up in the first place.

        There is a comprehensive body of left-wing policy and programme outlining our opposition to the EU, the reasons why and the road we should take as an alternative.

        Support for the EEC/EU traditionally came from business, from the Tory Party and from the Liberals in particular, and from elements of the Labour right – but not all of the Labour right.

        I’m surprised you’re not aware of this.

        1. Jim Denham says:

          I am perfectly aware., “mate” of the Stalinists’ opposition to European unity throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, reflected by little-England reformists like Benn and Shore. The revolutionary (mainly Trotskyist and semi-Trotskyist) Marxist left didn’t agree, and was either neutral or pro-European unity (even under capitalism – as Marx advocated in the Communist Manifesto) until the pressure on them from the Stalinist and reformist left, became to much to resisit in the aerly 1970s, and the likes of the SLL, the IS and then forunner of Militnat/Socialist POarty capitulated to nationalism and camre out against the Common Market/EEC. They were wrong then and their successors are wrong now. I and other Mrxistsvbroke with the IS over it in 1975: we were correct then and remain correct now. We won the debate – hands down – in the Labour and TU movement, even though the referendum was lost.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Actually Jim, the Trotskyist left mostly held an anti-EU/EEC position as well.

            Not a Trotskyist myself, but the Trotskyist position was and has remained one of calling for a vote to leave “but build a socialist united states of Europe.”

            The two largest Trotskyist political currents – the SWP and SP/Mil – both called for a leave vote last June.

            So it isn’t a ‘Stalinist v Trotskyist’ political divide Jim.

          2. Jim Denham says:

            Have you actually read what I wrote, Karl?

            This isn’t a matter of agreement or disagreement, but simple comprehension of an account of historical fact. I will correct some typos aand add a bit of further information, just in case it was those that caused your inability to understand what I wrote:

            The revolutionary (mainly Trotskyist and semi-Trotskyist) Marxist left didn’t agree [with the Stalinists and reformists], and was either neutral or pro-European unity (even under capitalism – as Marx advocated in the Communist Manifesto) until the pressure on them from the Stalinist and reformist left, became too much to resist in the early 1970s, and the likes of the SLL/WRP, the IS/.SWP and then forerunner of Militant/Socialist Party capitulated to nationalism and came out against the Common Market/EEC.

  18. Peter Rowlands says:

    Many good points have been made in this discussion, but the crucial problem for Labour has not been addressed, namely how to retain the support of both the roughly two thirds of both members and (2015) voters who voted remain and the one third of the same who voted leave.The Starmer line was the only possible response to that, respecting leave by voting for Article 50 but retaining remain support by arguing for an EEA/Norway type solution which retains access to the single market. This is the only way to prevent Labour’s dwindling vote from suffering a significant downturn, which would be the case if it either adopted Lib-Dem second referendum now position, losing a large chunk of the Labour leave vote,or a left Brexit position for which there is little support among the newer, younger JC supporters, many of whom would leave , far more than those attracted back from UKIP or the Tories. It looks as though the Starmer/Corbyn position will not hold, and Labour divisions will intensify just as we approach two crucial by-elections.Comments on LF might have been more fruitfully directed towards these problems and how Corbyn can be supported rather than speculation about something which at the moment is rather remote.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Peter, the Article 50 vote is simply to formally endorse/recognise the result of the EU referendum.

      As such, it is not in the least controversial. It’s a simple, straightforward procedural step.

      It’s accepted as such by the whole range of Labour Party opinion, from Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbot on the left, through Watson and Burnham in the centre and to Ummuna and Jarvis on the party’s right.

      Yes, there have been one or two examples of infantile foot-stomping from one or two self-absorbed individuals, but it’s frankly a nonsense for you to suggest that these frankly rather ridiculous mini-tantrums mean that the ‘line’ of ordering Labour MPs to nod through this procedural motion ‘will not hold’.

      The hope is that these few individuals will stop making fools of themselves and fall in line with what is an eminently sensible three-line whip.

      (Worth pointing out that not one, not a single one, of the PLP cry-babies actually voted against the holding of the EU referendum when Parliament passed the relevant Act.)

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        I thought I would wait for the vote, Karl, which I’m afraid proved me right and you wrong – unless you think that 47 MPs, 21% of the PLP, is nothing to worry about.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          It’s more than I’d expected Peter. Bur Corbyn’s theee-line whip was absolutely right.

          Now the focus turns to the battles over the various Labour amendments and I’m hoping we can win on the call for unilateral guaranteeing of the residency rights of EU natuonals who settled here before the vote.

          Something that the whole PLP can unite around, and perhaps win.

          1. Rob Green says:

            They haven’t settled here they are job tourists. If they had settled here they’d be applying for citizenship. Do you really think somebody from Poland wants to give up his passport and nationality to live permanently in the UK or somebody from Germany? Why the hell would they and those few who do simply get married and/or apply for citizenship. This is a real red herring. Pseudo radicalism. Any body from the EU who has a job will no doubt be given a work permit for as long as they have and want that job before going home. But we need a regime of full-employment to end this people trafficking.

        2. Jim Denham says:

          Corbyn’s decision to support May was a terrible mistake and capitulation to the Tories.
          I presume this disastrous decision is the result of advice from alt-Stalinist backroom advisors Milne and Murray.
          Serious socialist must make our opposition to Corbyn’s pro-Tory capitulation clear, whilst avoiding joining any rightist campaign to remove him at the moment: a difficult balancing act.

          B ut we should be organising support for the anti-Trump/anti-Brexit protest movement on the streets and raising an outcry against Corbyn’s support for May’s article 50.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Corbyn didn’t support May JimD. You don’t advance your cause by telling lies mate.

            Corbyn quite rightly instructed Labour MPs to vote in favour of the formal Parliamentary endorsement of the referendum result.

            Please don’t lie JimD.

          2. Jim Denham says:

            Karl: “Corbyn didn’t support May JimD. You don’t advance your cause by telling lies mate.”

            My dear “mate” he quite simply did: he ordered Labour MPs to vote in favour of May’s position on article 50: as simple as that. Once again, “mate” you seem unable to grasp simple reality and straightforward facts. If you want to argue why Corbyn was correct to back May over article 50, then please do so. But don’t insult our intelligence, “mate” by trying to deny that Corbyn has just backed May.

          3. Mervyn Hyde says:

            Jim, if you look at map produced by Vox Politics you will see why Jeremy is ahead of you.

            The map of pro Brexit and anti Brexit, show clearly why he took the decision he did, it might be a laudable thing to swim against the tide but in electoral terms the pro Brexiteers have it.

            In truth the referendum was put to the people and those that lost have to accept it, I was against the EU in 1975 and voted to stay in this time as I didn’t want to engage in the distraction we call debate about brexit.

            You seem very keen to paint Jeremy as a compliant Tory supporter when you know that he has campaigned against everything they stand for, the reason for voting yes in the vote was of course because that was the majority view of the referendum, not as you purport supporting MAY.

  19. Karl Stewart says:

    DavidE, what puzzles me is, if you insist on using a pseudonym, why not go for something cool, like ‘Elvislives’ or ‘CheG’?

  20. Karl Stewart says:

    Response to JimD at 6.49pm:

    Jim mate, I’m sorry I didn’t read your whole post. As I said earlier, I’m not a Trotskyist myself and so my interest in the whys and wherefores of the splits among the various groupings back in the 1970s is limited.

    To give you some idea of how uninteresting that stuff is, imagine I posted a long explanation of the different destinations served by the various platforms of Clapham Junction Railway Station and your potted history of 1970s Trotskyism is less interesting than that I’m afraid.

    1. Jim Denham says:

      Karl: you’re the one who raised the question of the Trotskyist record on the Common Market, etc – not me. I’m merely correcting your mistaken understanding of history.

    2. Jim Denham says:

      Karl, “mate”: it was you who started making an issue of the history of UK Trotskyists on the Common Market/EU etc: I’ve merely corrected your ignorance of the history of the subject. I’ve never claimed that this is especially interesting. If you start a debate, “mate” you should be prepared to stay with it, not back out with clever-clever, smart-arsed comments once your ignorance is exposed.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Excellent point JimD,

        I followed your advice this morning when a colleague told me he changes trains at Clapham Junction.

        I replied with details of the number of platforms and which different destinations each of the platforms serve and also some of the history of this service, and when he told me to shut up and stop boring him with obsessive and irrelevant details, I said:

        “Grrr…don’t start a debate if you’re not prepared to stay with it…grrrr…with your smart-arse, clever-clever comments once your ignorance is exposed…grrr”

        Anyway, my general point was that opposition to the EU/EEC has long been a widely held view on the UK left. And this view has been held by all the various political traditions on the left.

        That’s the general point I was making JimD.

        1. Jim Denham says:

          …And you’re plainly wrong.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Wrong about Clapham?

          2. Jim Denham says:

            “Wrong about Clapham?”

            Ehrr? Please explain yourself, Karl, and I’ll then give you a reply.

          3. Jim Denham says:

            AH! It’s a joke: ha-ha-ha!

            You see, Karl, I have a sense of humour – especially when laughing at appeasers of nationalism and racism like you and the other moronic “left” Brexiteer traitors to socialism that have to be exposed and denounced.

          4. Tim Pendry says:

            I’ve been watching this deteriorating debate and I have learned only two things of consequence.

            First, the Left really is in danger of splitting between an optimistic wing that seizes democracy as an opportunity for radical change working transparently with the people for the people and a miserabilist wing that thinks that stealth operations through an ameliorative bureaucracy will eventually bring some simulacrum of socialism, grace and favour of the usual liberal suspects (so long as it is politically profitable for them, of course).

            The other thing I have learned is that Jim Denham seems not to be able to make an argument without personally insulting the political integrity of anyone who disagrees with his ideological stance. I can only hope that socialism never means that such rage and purity ever gets control of a state security apparat … would the rest of us stand a chance 🙂 ? I can feel safe while such attacks on others remain impotent on an online thread … !

            More seriously, if he had good arguments, they would stand up without requiring the attacks on the integrity of opponents. They are, of course, not good arguments and so have probably required a little invective help along the way …

            Personally, I am pleased that Brexit will be off the Labour Party’s agenda soon (except as the odd rumble for a couple of years to keep Remainers happy) and that we can get on with building a better democratic socialist Britain after 2020. The Remainer hysteria was tiresome six months ago. It is now not merely tiresome but utterly utterly futile. What next? AK47s in the pale pink dawn of a new pseudo-Socialist Europe. Hollande? Schulz? Varoufakis? Give us break!

          5. Jim Denham says:

            An honest, objective and impartial observer writes:

            “The Remainer hysteria was tiresome six months ago.”

            So much for you, Mr Pendry.

  21. Jim Denham says:

    This is for the benefit of petty bourgeois elements without practical trade union experience, like Karl S and John P – plus syndicalist idiots like James Martin (and the Socialist Party):

    By Prof Keith Ewing

    (This article first appeared in – of all places – the pro-Brexit Morning Star, on January 31 2017)

    It’s not possible for the Tories to both protect workers’ rights and satisfy their red line demand that the European Court of Justice should have no legal effect in Britain, writes KEITH EWING

    NOW that Brexit is inching closer, a number of questions are becoming more urgent. Not least is the question of workers’ rights.

    What is to happen to the great body of labour law that derives from the EU?

    Social Europe may be dead but there is an inheritance to protect. The Tories have promised that workers’ rights will be guaranteed. But they also promised that Brexit would ensure extra funding for the NHS. How equally hollow is the promise on workers’ rights?

    Hard Brexit will expose workers’ rights on three fronts. In the first place, it means that any new rights that are developed at EU level will obviously not apply in Britain (or to those parts that voted Remain).

    There is not much in the pipeline at the moment. But there are, nevertheless, proposals in the admittedly weak European Social Pillar for the protection of workers in the new tech industries for better transparency in the employment relationship and for EU unfair dismissal laws. These will not apply here.

    A second consequence is that even if Social Europe is dead, rather than dying, there is still the framework of existing rights and the opportunity to develop them through litigation and access to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

    For those on the left, there is of course the haunting impact of the Viking and Laval cases, placing the rights of business above the rights of workers; the right to freedom of establishment trumping (in every sense of the word) the right to strike.

    We are also traumatised by the recent Usdaw case in which the Collective Redundancies Directive was narrowly interpreted to defeat claims by workers who had been employed by Woolies, and before that the Alemo-Herron case in which the Acquired Rights Directive was narrowly applied in the interests of business where public services are outsourced. As a result, workers lost the right to the continuing protection of collective agreements that had previously applied.

    But while all that may be true, there have also been important victories. On equal pay, it was the ECJ that established in Britain the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. And on discrimination, it was the same court that swept away the arbitrary and artificial limit on damages that had been imposed in domestic law. On working time, it was the ECJ that established the right of all workers to holiday pay, removing the Blair government’s denial of holiday pay to Bectu members employed on short-term contracts.

    Also on holiday pay, it was the ECJ that addressed the problem of employers basing holiday pay entitlement on part rather than all of the worker’s normal wages, and the other problem of employers preventing workers in some cases (notably illness) from carrying over holiday pay from one year to the next.

    It stamped out other working time abuses, such as employers not treating as working time the periods spent on call at the workplace, and employers not paying holiday pay because it is already rolled up in (inadequate) monthly or weekly wages.

    True, it will not be a disaster if we are denied access to the ECJ, but it will be a significant loss all the same. If the existing EU rights are “novated” into British law as part of the process of the “Great Repeal Bill” promised by the Tories, the substance of these rights will be determined by the British courts whose decisions led to many of these successful challenges in the ECJ. It will lead inevitably to a two-tier system of employment law in which our EU origin rights will as a result of litigation fall behind those operating in the EU 27.

    Brexit thus means more power for the British courts and more opportunities for British judges to protect workers’ rights.

    There may be some on the left who are content as a result. If so, they have a poor grasp of history.

    But this of course is not the end of it. A third consequence of a hard Brexit is that there is nothing to stop the Tories chipping away at EU origin employment rights, while retaining the basic structure. What is to stop the Tories restoring the restrictions on holiday pay that were ruled unlawful in the Bectu case?

    And what is to stop them revisiting Beecroft and reinstating the limit on compensation in discrimination cases? The answer is nothing.

    After the “Great Repeal Bill” this will all be British law, albeit EU origin British law, and it can be changed with impunity.

    The Tories can keep the agency workers’ regulations, but respond to business demands that they should provide even less protection. They can keep redundancy consultation but follow Vince Cable down the path of limiting the obligations on employers.

    Should these or other steps be taken, there will be no right of access to the ECJ to put a brake on the government. If, as seems likely, our economy is to be tied even more closely to that of the US — as the May government begins to look across the Atlantic rather than the Channel — the prospects of continuing deregulation on a serious scale are by no means unrealistic. But about all that is left to deregulate are the rag bag of EU employment rights whose future existence now relies on the slender thread of a promise by May and David Davis.

    That promise is built on a contradiction: it is not possible for the Tories simultaneously to protect workers’ rights and satisfy their red line demand that the ECJ should have no legal effect in Britain. A choice has to be made. The right choice is clearly set out in the Workers’ Rights (Maintenance of EU Standards) Bill 2016, recently presented to Parliament by Labour and SNP MPs, which in a Schedule reveals the breathtaking scale of our dependence on EU law for protection in the workplace.

    Not only does that Bill seek to preserve these rights post-Brexit as a platform on which a future progressive government could build, but it does so by requiring that in “all legal proceedings [before the UK courts], any question as to the meaning or effect of any EU Worker Right shall be determined in accordance with the principles laid down by and any relevant judgment of the ECJ.”

    The latter is an essential feature of any future settlement. But it is unlikely to be the choice made by May and her hapless government.
    •Keith Ewing is is professor of public law at King’s College London and president of the Institute of Employment Rights

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Well, firstly I’m glad you’re reading the Morning Star mate. Keep at it, you’ll learn some good left-wing politics.

      Maybe also try to read some of the Morning Star articles that take a different view to Mr Ewing.

      I don’t think Mr Ewing’s article is particularly interesting or that he says anything new.

      Yes, he is of course right to warn that the Tories may try to take away workers’ rights – although given that the Tory Party, throughout its existence, has always sought to defend the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the people, this is hardly an earth-shattering piece of political analysis is it?

      But Mr Ewing is wrong to say that there is nothing that can possibly stop them.

      “What’s to stop them…the answer is nothing.” (Par 16)

      What about the organised trade union movement Mr Ewing?

      Seems odd to me that someone who, we are told, is president of the IER, a body with many trade union affiliates, to have made such a statement.

      Anyway, well done to the Morning Star for publishing a dissenting viewpoint, and also well done JimD for widening your choice of reading.

      You should encourage your fellow Liberal Democrats to read the arguments of the left as well mate.

      1. Jim Denham says:

        To Karl and his fellow racism-appeasers on the Ukip-“left”: I read the Morning Star in order to keep abreast of what depths of folly and anti-Marxism the alt-Stalinists can blunder into next.

        You “left” Brexiteers can continue on you course of appeasement of May and Farrage, if you wish. Principled leftists, internationalists and anti-racists will fight you and denounce you every inch of the way. You lot (alt Stalinists) are not just mistaken comrades: you’re the enemy.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          You Liberal Democrats will never win an election with that kind of attitude my friend…

        2. John Penney says:

          “the enemy” indeed ! So, let me get this right… Those still large numbers on the Left who have stuck to the previously universal socialist analysis of the EU (and its Common Market earlier iteration) as a vehicle for neoliberal capitalism , which would block any radical Left reformist advance by a Left government in the UK… are now to be viewed as “social fascists” ?

          The last time that divisive analysis was used to split the Left in Europe it didn’t go well, Jim. Less juvenile name-calling, hysteria, and more sober analysis needed from you, laddie.

      2. John Penney says:

        As you say, Jim, it is most peculiar that Mr Ewing sees no possible defence against a neoliberal , Ayn Randist, Tory Brexit , with a bonfire of workers rights, other than the neoliberal enforcement machine of the EU ! A EU which is currently in the process of another major confrontation with the Greek government over its unending Austerity demands.

        Unfortunately the abject , craven , political cowardice and defeatism represented by Ewing’s view, is duplicated by our craven TUC bureaucracy – AND much of the self-identifying UK “Left”. Hence the widespread illusion across the (actually Left Liberal) reformist AND even much of the “revolutionary” Left, that the UK must stay in the EU, or full cream fascism will occur !

        And also, this is why so many on the “Left” have adopted daft, Right libertarian-sourced non socialist panacea fads like “Citizens Income”, rather than fighting on a mass basis to rebuild our Welfare State. Thirty years of neoliberal ideological hegemony has certainly infected even the self identifying “Left” with a dire political defeatism, which is toxic in this new era of global capitalist crisis.

        1. Rob Green says:

          Whilst agreeing about the fad issue rebuilding the `Welfare State’ is not a worthy aim either. We need a Workers’ State.

  22. Rob Green says:

    Jim Denham: Zionist and imperialist apologist.

  23. Jeannette says:

    What do you think about using meta description on blog posts then?
    I heard told me Matt Cutts said to not bother with them a while a go
    as they are ignored
    You are now part of my weekly website list,
    keep up the good posts

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