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What Chuka Umunna’s amendment showed us

“We will scrap the Conservatives’ Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union – which are essential for maintaining industries, jobs and businesses in Britain. Labour will always put jobs and the economy first.” There you go, clear as day. Labour’s position from the 2017 manifesto on the Brexit negotiations. That nicely prefaces a look at Chuka Umunna’s rebel amendment on retaining single market membership that was put to the Commons yesterday.

I would like to make a basic distinction between the people who rebelled between the principled and the self-serving. On the one hand you have those who retired from shadow positions and appeared to vote out of conviction, like David Zeichner and Rupa Huq. I do have some sympathy with their position. Dis-integrating Britain from the European economy after 40 years is incredibly damaging and a complete waste of time when there are more pressing problems, not least climate change, structural reform of the economy, etc. And it should be rowed back on were the casting aside of a majority decision, flawed and as slight as it was, not an unacceptable precedent to be set in a democracy. I would therefore hope they could come back in the future and that the door be left open for them. Completely different are the dismal band of familiar names, the suicide squad of the Progress and Primadonna tendency. Without seeing a list you could guess who I’m talking about, they’re all there. Chuka himself, Chris Leslie, Jess Phillips, Wes Streeting, Alison McGovern, Mike Gapes, Stella Creasy – a who’s who of the entitled, the vain, and the ridiculous. You might believe they too were making a principled stance about the kind of Brexit Labour should be shooting for, except a) the manifesto that ensured their reelection to the Commons was explicit on the matter as per above, and b) the amendment wasn’t sponsored by someone who believes sacrificing single market membership is a price worth paying for ending free movement. Nor, it must be noted, are any of these people synonymous with the principled defence of free movement across the European Union. Indeed, it was Progress supporters in the PLP who demanded Labour wallow in the immigrant-bashing gutter to win votes on a prospectus set by The Sun and the Daily Mail editorial offices.

There’s the hypocrisy and there’s the politics. Never team players unless they were the managers, did they stop to think for a moment that reopening divisions or, to be blunt, parliamentary party divisions seeing as the membership are minded to get on with Brexit as per the manifesto, might damage the party’s standing? Of course they did but they do not care, as nearly two years’ worth of backbiting and whingeing demonstrate. Yes, I note a dubious argument has done the rounds justifying die-hard remainism. You have probably heard more than a few pundits, the ones that get everything wrong mention it. This is the view (the hope) people will find out Labour is a party committed to following Brexit through, and the realisation is going to pull our new coalition of voters apart. The problem with this drivel is the assumption Labour voters are thick and didn’t realise what the party’s position was, despite it being in the manifesto and having got raked over many times during the campaign and since. This justification is no justification, a cobbled together rationale from a dying faction in a bid to stay relevant. It says more about their desperation than the real state of affairs.

Nevertheless, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Chuka and his mates for their cynical amendment. In the prevailing good mood post-election, some Labour folks were happy to overlook recent PLP behaviour that crippled our party and cost us a better result. There were even people arguing that Jeremy should bring some of the personnel managers back to the front bench in a big show of reaching out. By cynically and pointlessly putting down their own amendment to the Queen’s Speech, Chuka has dosed the party up with a helpful spoon of reality medicine. We are reminded that they are never going to reconcile themselves to a left-led Labour Party, regardless of the votes the party receives or the extent to which it has redefined the terms of politics in this country. Success is on their terms only, and that is measured by column inches, media portraits, front bench positions and, ultimately, the ministerial chauffeur. Whereas others are keeping their heads down and biding their time, in a display of brilliant politics we are reminded that they are fundamentally opposed to the direction Labour is taking. This means there is no way around it. If Labour and the country are going to be remade to reflect the interests and aspirations of working people, they need to be deselected and replaced by MPs prepared to stand up and be counted.


  1. Dr Paul says:

    The problem is that Corbyn is at heart one of those old Labour lefts, influenced by Stalinism, who never liked Britain’s membership of the Common Market four decades back, and are still looking for a way out of the EU, and essentially think that May is doing their job them, and need only to add a few riders about jobs to put a pink gloss on an ‘out’ agenda. Corbyn’s chief advisors are ‘Little Britain’ Stalinists.

    As it is becoming increasingly clear that Britain’s departure from the EU will be a disaster for the working class, surely if Labour is to be a real opposition, it should be mobilising public opinion against leaving the EU. What about the referendum, I people ask… Well, that was a snapshot of public opinion a year back, before the dreadful impact of leaving the EU was at all clear. It’s not a set-in-stone, irreversible decision.

    From my experience, a majority of Corbyn’s supporters both within and outwith the Labour Party back staying in the EU, notwithstanding our criticisms of its neoliberal policies and economic warfare on Greece. There is thus a major contradiction between Corbyn and his advisors and the bulk of his supporters: if this is not sorted out soon, the Labour right will be able to use it against us, and the Tories will be let off the hook.

    1. Karl Greenall says:

      Your wonderful evocation of Stalinism at the start of your reply completely invalidates any further points you later make. Well done!

    2. Janet Marks says:

      I think Corbyn made it clear that he’s nothing like an “old Labour left” (whatever that is – can you give me an example?). He campaigned harder than any other Labour MP for Remain. He had to contend with media bias and collusion from people in his won Party, and then a ridiculous mass resignation – all actions that damaged the Party. Your post argues for things not to be set in stone, and yet your attitude to Corbyn and his advisors is exactly that.

    3. James Martin says:

      Paul, you are being very simplistic in your inference that opposition o the EEC/EU is ‘Stalinist’ (whatever that means these days when not talking specifically about the history of the Russian Revolution/USSR).

      While it was and is the case that groups like the CBP/Morning Star that came out of the CP are anti-EU (as they were anti-EEC), and that they can be put in the anti-Trotskyist pro-Stalin communist tradition (although these days things are not so simple and far more nuanced in fact), there are other communists that have not been so anti-EEC/EU at all, and indeed you will find I’m sure some of the 57 varieties of Trotskyist grouplets that are even more anti-EU than their ‘Stalinist’ fellows. So what you end up with when you use the word ‘Stalinist’ in this type of debate is distracting name calling and little else.

      Besides, Corbyn’s tradition, like that of Dennis Skinner, is heavily linked to the politics of Tony Benn, and while those in turn overlapped with communist influenced anti-EU positions from people like Bob Crow (who of course was never in the Labour Party) and George Galloway (who is as consistent in his anti-EU positions as he is with his anti-Trotskyist ones), Benn was very much in the left Labour tradition of post-war nationalisation and state led economic policies to redistribute wealth and power that were perceived (correctly in my view) as not being possible in the way the EEC/EC has consistently opposed such socialist measures in favour of neo-liberalism, and where capitalist free trade, like free movement of labour, acts to drive down wages and undermine collective trade union responses.

      Where you are correct is seeing that the majority of those often young activists in groups like Momentum (and I am not a Momentum supporter myself, or young for that matter) are very pro-EU, to the extent that I would describe their position as being essentially a radical liberal one rather than socialist. This creates problems, as solidly pro-Labour areas like mine in Lancashire (where the ukips never got much support even at their height) voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU (as I did myself, being someone who is proud to still be called a Bennite).

      So how do we balance these diametrically opposed pro/anti-EU positions on the left of the Party? Well Corbyn it seems to me is doing a pretty good job of it, so your criticism would appear very wide of the mark. My own view is that workers are going to be attacked whether we are in the EU or out of it, in the single market or out, the crucial issue is how we can best collectively mobilise to defend ourselves against those capitalist attacks to increase the rate of exploitation and to prevent our collective responses (trade unions etc.) from being further weakened. Greece has show exactly what the EU is about. Brexit has shown exactly what the anti-EU Tories are about (and the pro-EU ones too for that matter). Our task is to fight for a socialist response against both, not a liberal one.

      1. Will says:

        Support for Brexit can not possibly continue at 50% + once voters experience the mass unemployment and revenue crises resulting from loss of access to the Single Market and withdrawal from the customs union.
        The Fallout from Hard Brexit would negate the benefits of Labours program.
        Corbyns ambiguity on Brexit might well be expedient now, but risks Labour sharing the blame as the predicted disaster unfolds.

        1. James Martin says:

          Will, I have experienced periods of mass unemployment while the UK was a member of the single market and customs union. In fact I was unemployed for 3 years under Thatcher, so please don’t fool yourself that being in the EU is beneficial to the working class when in or out we still have the capitalist system and bosses to deal with regardless.

          Whether your project fear doom predictions will come to pass I don’t know. The world-wide capitalist system is due another downturn and one that could be far worse now due to the new financial bubbles created by QE. If this happens it will not be due to whether we are in the EU or not. In theory, and given the serious problems in the EU and Euro zone, things could be far worse for countries in the EU than for a UK out of it. On a capitalist level there are economists who have pointed out that if the UK was able to negotiate its own trade deals then it could be a positive for the UK economy and not a negative (as it has been for our now destroyed steel industry). Equally, given the incompetence of the current coalition of crackpots this transition may not be possible. Either way, please tell me how the Greek working class has benefited from being in the single market themselves, assuming that you count yourself as an internationalist that cares about such things?

          1. Will says:

            Yanis Varoufakis has warned that the EU will inevitably come out of negotiations with a deal restricting access to EU markets if we don’t accept FOM. He has gone as far as to recommend a deal approximating to ” the Norwegian Option” which would preserve jobs and trade, while postponing any long term settlement in the hope that the political valence in the EU might change.

            I agree that it is quite possible for the UK to experience mass unemployment inside the EU, however that doesn’t mean we can extricate our selves painlessly, Tarrifs and other restrictions on trade will cost jobs, possibly lots of jobs, and lost government revenue. Lower economic growth.
            Those economists you mention who say we can negotiate trade deals outside the EU admit, when pressed that there could be a time lag of years, if not decades.
            I agree that the world is overdue for a recession, the risk increased by the asset bubble created by the QE used to paper over the cracks in the financial system. Any economic problems caused by Brexit would be on top of any cyclical downturn.
            I am confident that in a few years time falling living standards and insecurity will lead to a reaction against Brexit ( which is only supported by many so long because they believe there is no economic cost)
            The neo liberal fantasy of a UK able to trade anywhere in the world, free of the EUs petty rules and regulations on health, safety , environment and labour standards, is just a fantasy. The Lefts version is just as much a fantasy which could turn into a nightmare.

        2. JohnP says:

          Will, you are capparently completely uncritical of the fundamental neoliberalism enforcement straightjacket role of the Single Market rules and structures. No even mildly radical Left Keynsian reforming government could carry out ANY significant measures, like selective re-nationalisations and protective tariffs or subsidies on strategically important industries, whilst the UK was within the Single Market. Also within the Single Market any direction of capital flows or capital controls would be impossible. And of course unlimited labour supply would continue to keep wage levels, and trade union power , suppressed, as business can dip endlessly into a “reserve army of the unemployed” now Europe-wide.

          So all you are arguing for, and apparently in favour of, is the neoliberal EU status quo – ie, a EU and Single Market aimed at the reduction of EU wages and workers rights and social wage benefits reduced ever closer to those of a migrant worker in Guandong province.

          If a reforming Let Keynsian Corbyn government does come into office (not “power”, that sits elsewhere) on our current reforming Manifesto it would immediately be in confrontation with the rigid Single Market rules in relation to innumerable Manifesto commitments,. And no doubt in a simultaneous politico-economic context of huge anti sterling currency manipulation by the markets, and general economic sabotage familiar from Greece under Syriza. A Corbyn government would then have to choose , ie, forward to implement our Manifesto , and use capital controls and nationalisation to steady the economy and currency – OR forward to the Syriza sell-out, as pliant collaborators of domestic and global capitalism.

          You clearly have no vision of a society moving beyond the neoliberal status quo, Will. Many of us on the socialist Left do however. And there will inevitably be “trouble and strife” ahead in the confrontations with Capital that this involves.

          1. Danny Nicol says:

            One mercy about the shifting of the debate from EU membership to single market/EEA membership is that as a non-Member State of the EU there is no scope to reform the single market or EEA Agreements; therefore the “Another Europe is Possible” arguments (deeply unconvincing at the best of times) go completely out the window.

            So support for the single market is indeed support for permanent neoliberalism, which is of course what Chuka and the Blairites crave.

          2. Will says:

            There is no need to accept the rules of the single market as they are, Socialist and radical groups can campaign to change them. This is not impossible in the EUs ( admittedly, rather cumbersome and undemocratic) institutions. Historically the UK, under our usual neo liberal governments, has pushed through many of the measure on capital controls you now cite as a reason for leaving.
            Protective tariffs and subsidies on strategically important industries are implemented across the whole EU, not just one country ( as we will fins to our cost following Brexit.
            As regards movement of Labour, there is little evidence that wages have been pushed down, rather the extra stimulation given in a growing economy leads to growth and higher wages. Further, when we do hit a period of high unemployment following a Brexit induced recession we will no longer have the option of seeking work in the booming economies of the EU.
            I would suggest that those attempting to create “socialism in one country” have the limited vision the UK is almost permanently ruled by the neoliberal Right, the counties of the EU are much more fertile ground for creating new economic models, cooperating with allies in the EU will soon lead to reform of its institutions and a new direction in economic policy.
            As it is the influence of the UK which has been largely responsible for the neoliberal direction of EU policy they will probably do much better with out us, If we leave our role will be t act as a warning on where the pursuit of narrow National interest leads a country!

          3. JohnP says:

            Sadly , Will, you quite obviously have no idea even what “neoliberalism” is ! No “neoliberal” government has imposed capital controls in the UK – because “neoliberalism” is a very recent buccaneering, deregulated, free enterprise form of capitalism dating back only to the break up of the more “statist” postwar “butskellite” consensus, with the advent of the radically unfettered free enterprise supporting Thatcher government of 1979. Don’t you know about the unleashing of the financial sector under “Big Bang” ?

            The Single Market ” competition policy” on state aid specifically forbids protective tariffs or subsidies by any
            individual state to advantage any domestic sector. The UK wasn’t even allowed to impose tariffs on Chinese steel dumping to protect our steel industry – because this contravened EU- wide agreements ( and yes I know the UK government was itself an advocate of NOT using protective tariffs – so in the pocket of China were key Tories)

            There is no chance of a Left UK government changing the neoliberal rules of the single market – up against an overwhelming majority of Right wing neoliberal EU states, each with a vote.

            Your belief that unlimited labour supply hasn’t kept wage rates, particularly in lower skilled jobs, down, is much peddled by the neoliberal apologists , but is utter nonsense, and vast evidence exists to show that unlimited labour supply keeps wages down (and weakens traders unions) . The Laws of capitalist economics dictate that unlimited supply of ANY commodity reduces its price.

            Wake up, there is no “booming EU economy”, Will, even with a recent modest upturn),the EU is actually stuck in stagnation , with youth unemployment hugely higher in most EU states than in the UK. There won’t be a “booming” EU for Brits to go to to work in huge numbers even if the EU economy recovers – Brits are too expensive compared to an unlimited supply of labour from Poland, Rumania, Greece, Bulgaria, etc.

            You appear to be entirely ignorant about the reality of the EU or its neoliberal structures – or what “neoliberalism” even is. Are you a Tory or Progress student Troll having a laugh ? If so throw away your copy of the Economist and actually try to learn what neoliberalism and the EU is actually about .

          4. C MacMackin says:

            I think JohnP is wrong to accuse Will of being a troll. The argument he is extolling is essentially that of Yanis Varoufakis. Varoufakis says that a Left government should stay in the EU and flout the rules, demanding that the EU address its structural economic problems and democratic deficit. I believe he also proposes making its presence felt by vetoing everything they can.

            Now, had the Brexit referendum never happened, I would suggest this as an opening strategy for a Corbyn-led government. Where I differ with Varoufakis is that I do not believe a country would be allowed to get away with this for any period of time. In the interview where I heard him describe this strategy, Varoufakis seemed to suggest that this was his approach in Greece. If so, then I think that suggests the abject futility of such actions. Even before Greece surrendered to the Troika, very little progressive action was carried out. There were some symbolic measures, such as rehiring the cleaners in the finance ministry, they adopted a somewhat more humane policy on asylum seekers (which doesn’t seem to have lasted), and the public broadcaster was reopened, but that was about it. Meanwhile, Varoufakis conceded a massive amount of ground to the Troika in a matter of weeks and raided money from every branch of government imaginable in order to make loan repayments. Throughout all of this, the EU didn’t give an inch.

            Now, Britain would be more difficult to boss around than Greece. Having its own currency, it wouldn’t be at the mercy of the ECB. The economy here is also much stronger than in Greece and the EU might be reluctant to lose access to the City (and I don’t think it is simply a matter of it moving to Frankfurt, given that the City comes with a considerable amount of expertise, a lax regulatory environment, and a cozy relationship with the government). I don’t think a Corbyn government would be forced into the same level of paralysis as was Syriza. But the EU would still try to make life very difficult and governments susceptible to a left-wing challenge (e.g. Spain, perhaps France if Melanchon makes a comeback) would be particularly aggressive.

            What does this mean? I think any serious attempt at a Varoufakis-type strategy would quickly make life inside the EU intolerable for the country trying it. If there were a few sympathetic governments within the EU (or just one other big one) then perhaps they could force some reform. However, given that election cycles often don’t line up and looking at the current balance of forces, I don’t think this is likely to happen within the next five years, barring something unexpected in Spain. Without any allies in Europe, a Corbyn government would likely have to either give up its Left program or leave the EU/single market. So, a Varoufakis strategy may be useful as a way to convince people of the need to break with the EU and to buy time to prepare for leaving, but I don’t think it will accomplish anything else.

            Now, given that the Brexit vote did happen, we are going to be sitting down with the EU to negotiate. Overruling the referendum to stay in, only to decide to leave after all a few years later is untenable. So, I think we should be trying to get some form of tariff-free access for goods, or at least certain sectors of goods, but not be bound by liberalisation directives (which, although they don’t forbid public ownership per se, do forbid public monopolies in many sectors and tend to force the state enterprises to behave as though they were in the private sector). If the EU refuses to grant that, then we might consider accepting full membership but ignoring the directives. In that case it would likely only be a matter of time before the UK would be forced out, but we could use that time to adopt an industrial plan which would be able to restructure the economy so it could better survive outside of the single market.

          5. JohnP says:

            C.Mack, I stick by my suspicion that “Will” is simply a Troll. His oquite bvious complete ignorance as to what contemporary “neoliberalism” is, or the restrictions the Single market ” four freedoms” rules impose on each EU government, rather discredits the claims he makes on the “reformability” of the EU/Single market, and his repetition of the neoliberal argument for beneficial impact of unlimited labour supply.

            However I do agree with your critique of the immeasurably more sophisticated “Varoufakis position” on “staying in to reform it”. Given the crushing rebuff this initial Syriza reformist strategy received in the case of Varoufakis’s negotiations with the Troika, to retain such optimism regarding the EU’s supposed reformability is little short of bizarre . But then Varoufakis has flitted off from his homeland’s ongoing EU imposed economic/social disaster, as a footloose global academic media star , and hasn’t had to stay to face the dire reality of the utter failure of his “stay in and negotiate” strategy in Greece.

    4. Let’s consider the things about the EU that we can do without:
      1 The Common Agricultural Policy: around $50bn a year in subsidies, mainly to landowners
      2 The Common Fisheries Policy
      3 The Customs Union. Why does the every country in the EU have to have exactly the same tariffs on merchandise imports when their economies are so different? But the average on non-agricultural goods is less than 3 per cent and consequently no big deal (particularly if sterling floats against the Euro). The average tariff on food imports (around 8.5 per cent) is too high and mainly punishes low-income developing countries dependent on farm exports. Ideally, they should come down to the non-farm good tariff (or lower).
      4 The large net UK contribution to the European Commission budget, which is difficult to defend
      5 Free movement of capital within the EU. This wouldn’t be so bad if more than 80 per cent of the capital of large companies wasn’t in intangible assets (financial instruments etc). Practically none of it is going into essential physical and social infrastructure so why does anyone need it (though it’s a good way of avoiding tax)?
      Unless free movement of capital is ended within the EU, then it’s impractical and wrong to prevent workers from countries losing capital to follow it to other EU countries.
      6 Single market in services. This is largely incomplete and only seems to work for financial services firms. Why should they get special treatment? Establishing common rules for all service sectors in all 28 countries is impossible and can only be achieved through a degree of centralised regulation that would make Stalin look like Margaret Thatcher.
      If these things can be sorted out, then a single market in goods (becoming less significant due to the rise of services) and free movement of labour are sustainable. If capital can be fairly shared across the EU, then the incentive for workers to move to improve their lives would decline.
      It would also radically reduce the powers of the EC bureaucracy without any need to strengthen the EU assembly.
      Does this form the basis for an approach to the EU negotiation that Remainers and Leavers can support?

  2. Bazza says:

    It took 20 years or so for Neo-Liberal Right Wing Think Tanks to capture the Tories, then the bonus prize was New Labour then Scottish Labour then the EC – it took 10 days to capture Labour’s Right Wing Neo-Liberals.
    As a brilliant theorist in the New Left Review pointed out the EC was originally set up to counter the then perceived threat of the USSR, to promote capitalism in Europe, and to be fair to the then social democrats (crumbs for working people) they also wanted to give Europe a more powerful voice in the World.
    De Gaule of France originally vetoed the entry of the UK because he believed it would act as a Trojan Horse for US Big Business which eventually happened and the dollar was soon to dominate – hence I would argue from some the desire for the Euro
    But I would argue some socialists are asking the wrong questions – I would argue it is not Remain or Stay but how can we build a left wing democratic socialist society?
    (As an example to other countries).
    There were always 2 potential frameworks for this and both are difficult – firstly via the EC with our potential sister party partners and EC trade unions or secondly via independent nation states cooperating.
    Both as I say would be difficult but I argued from a Left position for Remain (to try collectively to break EC Neo-Liberalism) – I thought the UK would just vote to Remain (despite a lack of a positive campaign which I warned about) but it took me half an hour to reflect as a socialist the morning after; to accept the result and to realise it must be option two!
    I would argue the free movement of labour primarily serves the free movement of capital and capitals only interest is PROFIT and it doesn’t give a damn about the social impact of its practice (and of course the Tory and Lib Dem removal of migration adjustment funds from councils didn’t help).
    But to support the free movement of labour and the single market with its Neo-Liberal straight jacket I would argue is to lie prostrate at the feet of capital.
    Whilst giving all current EC migrants the right to remain from the day of exit (and our citizens in Spain too plus compassion for refugees) I support Labour’s policy on new migrants needing job offers – some would say we are pandering to fears but no we are socialists, we are not open border liberals or right wing free market Neo-Liberals – we believe in planning and citizens and crying out for management – so we manage labour supply, bring back migrant adjustment funds for councils and to complete the triple lock on migration government we should encourage migrant workers to join trade unions and yes trade union organisations need to get in Polish etc. shops, cafes and barbers etc.
    Oh and look at controls on capital ie whilst we are in a capitalist society we need good capital (good wages, conditions, trade unions) and not bad capital (the opposite, zero hours etc).
    But it would help every EC country etc. to follow our model, I believe it is internationalist.
    It is argued after “the shock supply of labour” after the collapse of former so-called Communiist satellites that countries like for example Bulgaria will have lost 50% of its population by 2020 – so are workers in the poorer countries there to serve the rich in the richer EC countries?
    But as well as in comparison the richer countries offer decent wages – a pull, in some countries such as Poland there is a push (its horrible right wing government denies any benefits to those who are out of work after 3 Months).
    Oh and if anyone says what about Roma (who are treated abysmally in E Europe) and some of whom I buy a Big Issue from we should grant refugee status and whilst we are at it why are we not trying to trade unionise refugees and asylum seekers.
    A high Hong Kong Finance worker (a socialist in the New Left Review) also once argued how a global minimum wage (by country) could help billions of individual workers and the global economy and I fully endorse this too.
    And as for the EC if we negotiate as intelligent left wing democratic socialists we may be able to get tariff free access to European markets (but may have to pay something like £10b or so a year collectively as Govt instead of individual companies – Deal or No Deal?) without the Neo-Liberal straight jacket but I believe we can also do deals on the environment, fishing, policing, security, R&D, student exchanges etc.etc.
    All it takes is a bit of left wing democratic socialist imagination but remember as Terry Pratchett once said: ‘Those with imagination are often criticised by those with none!”
    Yours in international solidarity!

  3. David Pavett says:

    The distinction made of “the people who rebelled between the principled and the self-serving” is spurious. First, there is no clear way in which personal interests were advanced by supporting the bound to fail amendment. Second, it requires a rather big political blind spot not to see that people you disagree with might also have principles. Principles that one rejects do not thereby cease to be principles.

    Daniel Zeichner and Rupa Huq are said to have voted in a principled way although it is not explained what those principles are. It should be noted that both of them voted for the PLP no confidence motion last year which was clearly aimed at forcing the resugnation of the leader chosen by the members. Was that ‘principled’ too?

    If there is a matter of principal involved in this issue it is that those elected to work for the success of a party should at all times work in way likely to maximise its unity and therefore its success. When that turns out, as it can, to be difficult or even impossible then those encountering that difficulty owe to the rest of us to explain their position and their reasoning as to why they think that breaking rank is their best option. That they all failed to do.

    The point is not whether or not membership of the Single Market is a good thing. Opinions can legitimately differ on that and Labour’s position is far from clear. There is room for debate within the party. That is something that, to my knowledge, none of the 50 Labour MPs supporting the Umunna amendment have done.

    So just seven days into the new parliament and after a general election which gave a historic lift to Labour the 50 MPs decided to make public display of Labour disunity by supporting an amendment that stood no chance of succeeding. Just what principle was behind that I would like to know. Can Phil B-C explain that?

    1. James Martin says:

      Excellent post David.

    2. Peter Rowlands says:

      Yes, absolutely, very well argued. There is nothing to stop Umunna and the others from airing their views in public, and Labour must move to some clarification of its position.But to embark on this sort of divisive behaviour so soon after a convincing win for the party leadership, should elicit a response, at both PLP and CLP level , that actions like this can no longer be tolerated. We need unity and reconciliation, and those that cannot accept that should consider their futures.

  4. Bill says:

    I was born in 1956 and active in politics and USDAW the shop workers union in 1976. Even in 1976 there were various factions of trots.commies.etc. These were at the outer fringes and insignificant even then. Stalisists and Trots are totally irrelevant and almost none existent. Why people on here keep mentioning Stalisists I don’t know.

    1. David Pavett says:

      It’s due to intellectual sclerosis. Some people stop thinking for themselves at a certain point (presuming that they ever started) and just repeat the same things over and over again.

    2. JohnP says:

      “Stalinism” (and in a hugely less significant historical way, Trotskyism) is political shorthand for the hijacking of workers power (whether in a trade union or political party, never mind a state) by a self-serving bureaucratic elite . This elite claims to wield its stolen power in the interests of the workers it in fact fears and oppresses.

      In a “Stalinist” state, the elite claim that all the nationalised state resources are used to benefit the workers (or workers and peasants) , but it is the interests and personal security and consumption of the elite that is their primary motivation.

      Whilst “Trotskyism” has withered into a semi religious cult today world-wide, incapable of new analysis, “Stalinism” , the usurping of genuine self-aware workers power by self serving bureaucracies remains a huge demobilising and cancerous current or tendancy within all socialist or trades union workers movements.

      As a phenomenum “Stalinism” is far from irrelevant, even though the last bastion of a large scale “Stalinist” state “Communist ” China is now far advanced in its conversion to a conventional private property based capitalist state, with the complete restoration to power of a conventional capitalist bourgeoisie , built largely out of the personnel of what for so long claimed to be the Communist Party cadre “safeguarding socialism” !

      Sneer at history and terminology based on historical experience, and we are doomed forever to repeat our disastrous mistakes .

      “Stalinism” as a bureaucratic phenomenum is alive and well in the Labour Party and trades unions in the Uk today

      1. David Pavett says:

        John, Stalin died in 1953 and the USSR collapsed in 1989 I.e. over a quarter if a century ago. Your definition of “Stalinism” clearly includes any sort of autocratic trade bureaucracy even those not remotely connected to Stalin or his supporters.

        The term “Stalinist” has far more abusive than analytical or descriptive content. It is meaningless to young people born after the collapse of the USSR. Its continued use is just a marker of old people still fighting battles of the past and not making an effort to keep up with changing references frames. It is, as I said, a sign if political sclerosis. All us old ones need to fight against that and to realise that Stalin versus Trotsky is no longer a vibrant part of left-wing concerns for the great majority. It would be helpful to step away from such outdated terminology.

        1. David you are right. But followers of Left Futures do enjoy a bit of Left Pasts. It can be argued that the Single Market is in fact a derivative of Socialism in One Country policies.

  5. John P Reid says:

    Shame Diane Abbott suddenly felt unwell tovote on implementing article50 after saying ,all brexiters were racist,and all white peope were racist,and Clive Lewis abstained on voting against the austerity bill

    Not sure if I’d live to see say a non Blairite like Catherine west deselected under Chris Williamsnon idea,as she voted with Chuka.

  6. Robin Edwards says:

    With this amendment Umunna and the party right were signalling to the pro-Remain Tories and Lib Dems that they are ready to cook up a deal when they are which could include a Government for National Unity and Austerity tied into the EU’s neo-liberal agenda. It was also a major attack on the Corbyn leadership and an attempt to halt the momentum behind him. In addition they push the illusion of all neo-liberal Remainers that Brexit will be a disaster for the economy. It will be of course but what they don’t understand is that Britain voted Leave because British capitalism has failed and cannot compete even in Britain let alone the ESM. Remain was never an option and will be equally disastrous for the economy. What Corbyn and Co really need to be pushing is a Socialist Brexit in contradistinction to the Capitalist Brexit being put forward by the Tories that will see Britain completely de-regulated and opened up to the chill winds of global competition from the likes of China, India, Indonesia, America, etc. Mass bankruptcies and mass unemployment is the aim, creative destruction the game. Thatcherism 2.0 if you will but this time on the back of an economy with zero assets and a bankrupt state and finance sector.

    Socialist Brexit would be about leaving the ESM and Customs Union. Negotiating access as possible but mainly restoring democratic control over immigration and putting into action a programme for working class power and the transition to socialism to include a regime of full-employment, a state bank with a monopoly of credit lending at base rate to small business and facilitating economic investment in accordance with a democratic and sustainable plan and the socialisation of the mega profits and property of the corporations and super rich to fund debt repayment and world class public services. Only the working class offers the whole of society a way out of the capitalist impasse and decay.

    Of course socialism in one country is not an option so at the same time Corbyn and Co, instead of banging on about the bloody ESM, should be putting forward its vision for a New European Settlement that puts the interests of workers ahead of those of corporations mainly by not treating them like migrating cattle or leaving them behind in sink communities to rot on the dole. Britain under a radical socialist Labour government could in fact offer the whole of Europe a route out of the capitalist disaster ahead. I suggest they get on with it.

  7. Will says:

    What do you mean by ” restoring democratic control over immigration “?

    1. JohnP says:

      Robin Edwards probably means the right of a sovereign state to manage its labour supply in line with a socialist comprehensive national economic plan, that prioritises the wellbeing of the majority of citizens of that state .

      Rather than the UK being viewed, as neoliberalism does) as merely a deregulated “capitalist market-driven platform for globalised business activity” – with no real permanent “citizen” population possessing effective democratic control over their government – just an ever-shifting unorganised, rightless workforce, drawn from a limitless EU wide “labour Supply pool” .

      1. Robin Edwards says:

        Got it in one. Wonder what he thought I meant.

  8. C MacMackin says:

    The EU seems to be clarifying its position on trade:

    If taken literally then “no sector by sector participation in the single market” would seem to preclude the “Swiss option”. However, given that Switzerland does have some sector-by-sector participation, that might just be an opening position for them.

    The other thing to note is that some sort of free trade agreement (i.e. tariff-free access) which does not require free movement of people or capital is not ruled out. There would be “non-tariff barriers” (delays and inspections, etc.) in that case, but I’d think these would be considerably more manageable. For example, NAFTA doesn’t make trade nearly as frictionless as the EEA, but there is still very tight integration in e.g. the Canadian and US auto-industries. So continued participation in the Airbus consortium should be possible.

  9. Peter Rowlands says:

    To CMac. A more sophisticated argument than most, but, to take your last point first, I have no faith that a left Corbyn government would survive for very long outside the EU, for reasons I have spelt out several times, and could well be replaced by something much nastier than the current shambles.
    We can only make progress on the basis of EU wide reform.Yes, this requires left governments in most of the bigger members states, which is not currently the case, but the situation is fluid, the populist right appear to have been seen off for the moment,and left parties are growing.These, grouped under the banner of the Party of the European Left, are committed to reform (There are admittedly others that are not).It is here, rather than with the Varoufakis DIEM25 movement, that I think progress may occur, and when, hopefully, we have decided not to leave the EU after all we should play our part in that. And no, a Corbyn government could not fully implement its manifesto within an unreformed EU, but there are quite a lot of decent things it could do.Meanwhile important elections loom in Germany.

    1. C MacMackin says:

      Several points here.

      First, it doesn’t look like the EU has ruled out a trade agreement (possibly not even the Swiss option). They just finished negotiating one with Japan, after all. It would have some non-tariff barriers to trade, of course. Are you saying that these would be impossibly damaging to the British economy? To me it looks like they’re the sort of thing which can be offset by a decent industrial policy. Second, the route I’m proposing if single market membership is the only way to get a decent trade deal would not see the UK withdraw from the from it immediately. We’d have a few years in which to prepare an alternative economic strategy and to start restructuring the economy. Even if we don’t plan to use it, we should probably try to develop this, just as the Treasury had developed their own version of the AES and kept it locked away in case of emergency. The other point against leaving the EU is that it would leave the UK more vulnerable to international capital. Capital controls, which you concede the need for, would help with this a lot, as would nationalisation of finance. A run on the pound will be a threat whether we are in the EU or not. I’m not clear on what other threats you have in mind.

      A disintegrating Europe may well make things more difficult for the UK. But it is not clear this will necessarily happen, especially given that you believe the populist right to be on the retreat. I’m also not certain that it would necessarily lead to ruin for the UK, although might be convinced depending on your argument. In any case, I think the UK should remain open to partnerships with other left-wing European governments, potentially allowing a new Europe to be built out of the ashes of the old. However, I don’t think such governments will emerge quickly enough to make the EU hospitable for a left-wing UK.

      There have been some Left parties which have been growing in Europe, but overall things are not as rosy as you portray. Die Linke is essentially stagnant. Ditto for Bloco de Esquerda and Podemos/Izquierda Unida (although that could change). If anything there has been a decline of the left in Scandinavia. Syriza looks set to lose the next election. Melanchon did fairly well in France, but it remains to be seen whether his support can be built into something more permanent, given the lack of a traditional party. I gather that the Belgian and Slovenian parties aren’t doing too badly, I grant you. I’d also note that the most dynamic of (Bloco, Initiative for Democratic Socialism in Slovenian, Red-Green Alliance in Denmark) tend to be Eurosceptic, as is Melanchon. The Workers’ Party of Belguim would be an exception to this, I suppose. Even the more Europhilic parties seem to propose disobeying EU directives, which you appear to write off doing.

      I don’t share your enthusiasm for the German elections. The SPD has been at least as pro-austerity as the CDU. They seem to have swung slightly leftwards of late, but I’m not convinced that it is sincere or that it would extend to other parts of Europe. I also don’t think they’d be terribly interested in the sort of reforms a left Labour government would need to come from the EU—not necessarily hostile in all cases, just indifferent. Even if they do rely on Die Linke in a coalition, Die Linke’s record in state governments do not suggest they will get much in return (this is the case even when they are leading the coalition). The fact that the SPD is clearly so comfortable working with the CDU will also put Die Linke in a weak negotiating position. For that matter, the SPD has declined somewhat in the polls again, so there’s no guarantee they’d even be leading a government.

      Most importantly, when I say that Corbyn could not fully implement his manifesto without a reformed EU, I’m not saying it just because of the liberalisation directives. They’d pose a challenge and prevent us from doing things properly, but the manifesto was vague enough that creative legislation might allow it to be fully implemented. The real problem is that I don’t think we can implement the manifesto without resorting to more radical measures. Your strategy seems to be adopting minimal social democratic policy until the situation in Europe changes sufficiently to allow more to be done. However, the material conditions for social democracy died long ago. Capital almost certainly won’t tolerate it and will simply move out of the country to avoid higher taxes. Capital controls would immediately be required–ideally pre-emptively, which would make them even harder to justify to the Commission. There would most likely be aninvestment strike and an attack on the bond rating (even very moderate social democratic governments have experienced this), which would require bank nationalisation to overcome. Other industries would probably need to come into public ownership as well. Procurement policy would be needed as part of an economic plan.

      It is these measures which I don’t think the EU would allow. We can also expect it to use dirty tricks and unsympathetic readings of the laws to undermine a left government. All of this being the case, I don’t think a Corbyn government could last even a full term without taking actions which would fundamentally put it at odds with the EU. At that point it would only be a matter of time before the UK either had to leave the EU or revert to neoliberalism.

      It’s possible that other left-wing governments would be elected by then to successfully reform it, but I highly doubt enough of them would be. We’d be talking about, at best, a five year window or so in which it would have to happen. We’ve already missed one chance with France this year. We’ll be unlikely to get a sufficiently sympathetic government in Germany this fall either. There is no significant left-wing force in Italy which could take power. It’s possible Podemos/IU get elected in Spain, possible with a Socialist Workers’ Party which has shifted somewhat leftwards and perhaps on the edge of imagining you’d get left-wing coalitions in Portugal and Slovenia. Beyond that, I really can’t see any short-term opportunities for the Left. None of these are countries which would have much weight in getting things done, perhas with the partial exception of Spain. Yes, things can change quickly (although I don’t share your optimism at the apparent demise of the populist right—I think they’ll be back) and perhaps the unexpected will happen, but we can’t pin all of our hopes on it happening without planning our response if it doesn’t.

      Now, our two readings of the situation are not mutually exclusive. It could be that survival of a left wing outside of the EU is impossible and that survival inside the EU for long enough to reform it is also impossible. It would be a case where the “old is dying and the new cannot be born”. Let’s hope one of us is wrong.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        Thanks for your long and detailed response.
        On left parties, I was not implying that they were on the verge of becoming a major force, and you are right that there hasn’t been much movement recently – there had been growth up to about two years ago, as evidenced in the 2014 EU elections. No ,I don’t hope for a major breakthrough in Germany, but we might see progress there. There is little hope as you say of anything much in Italy and it’s going to take the French at least two years to see through Macron.
        Yes, a trade deal may be on offer, but I doubt it. Leaving the EU cannot be made to appear easy, and I do think that a hard Brexit would have serious economic consequences that we should not lightly dismiss. It would make it difficult for a left government to survive.
        I think there is more leeway than you think for a left government that had avoided a hard brexit to make some advances without incurring the sort of response from big capital that you envisage.After all, most EU governments are tinged with some sort of social democracy which capital has to accept. But no, this isn’t good enough, but until Germany and at least two of the other big states move to the left I cannot envisage progress. Yes, let us hope one of us is wrong! .

        1. C MacMackin says:

          Yes, it’s true Germany and Scandinavia feature many of the policies in the manifesto. But these are, to a great extent, legacies of a time when labour was much stronger. There’s no guarantee they could achieve these things now. Of course, one of our goals should be to strengthen the labour movement in this country, which may allow us some more room to maneuver. Unfortunately, as a student, I can’t do too much to help with that one. Capital in Britain also seems to be considerably more short-termist, uncooperative, and hostile than in many other countries. This appears to have always been the case, hence why the sorts of economic planning systems seen in post-war France and Japan were never successfully implemented here. And, sorry to keep coming back to this one, but given the urgency and scale of addressing climate change we really can’t afford to put off some form of economic planning into the indefinite future.

  10. Danny Nicol says:

    Personally I cannot even support the Corbyn mantra “tariff free access to the European single market” since any such agreement would by the same token eliminate a Labour government’s own ability to place tariffs, quantitative restrictions and import bans on goods from other countries, which we may need to do in the interests of working people.

    The merits and demerits of free trade versus protectionism are actually contestable. Free trade was endlessly promoted by Margaret Thatcher both in opposition and government, whereas the position of the pre-New Labour Labour Party was planned trade not free trade. Sadly Mrs Thatcher seems to have convinced a lot of people even Jeremy to some extent. Isn’t it rather obvious that we cannot have a planned economy based on public ownership without planning our trade in goods. And from a constitutional point of view, to treat free trade as an incontestable “good” which deserves to be elevated by treaty above democratic contestation is not justified.

    Some people are still plugging away at the notion of reform of the EU! This was always a dead duck. But we will soon no longer be a Member State. Under the Treaties only EU Member States can reform Treaty provisions (including the fundamental rules of the Single Market which are enshrined in the Treaties) and may only do so through common accord of all EU Member States. The common accord requirement made the idea of socialistic reform of the EU absurd from the outset. But to reform the Single Market once we have left the EU is EVEN HYPOTHETICALLY impossible.

    Rather than this endless genuflexion to the idea of tariff free access to the single market, Labour would be better off devising an economic policy to the people once we are free of the neoliberal shackles of EU membership, one based on massive public works programmes carried on by a new public sector employing overwhelmingly our own nationals (including a massive house building programme), the substantial extension of public ownership through democratically-accountable state monopolies, and substantial state aids to the new public sector. All entirely illegal, by the way, under European Single Market rules.

  11. Will says:

    Leaving aside the pros and cons of attempting to reform the EU for the time being.
    Brexit is a massive bomb primed to explode sometime after the next election presenting the new government with lost trade, job losses, balance of payments problems and a short fall in revenue.
    The EU negotiators are Lear that tariffs would inevitably follow an end to FOM.
    The incoming government will have its work cut out without all this additional hasslw .

    1. C MacMackin says:

      Do you have a reference for tariffs inevitably following an end to freedom of movement? The quotes I saw in the Guardian’s live-blog today indicated that trade will no longer be “frictionless”, but they were only referring to non-tariff barriers.

      1. Will says:

        Michel Barnier said today that ” the free movement of persons, goods , services and capital are indivisible”

        This talleys with Yanis Varoufakis description of his ” negotiations” where the EU proved completly unwilling to make any compromise.
        Labour could find itself coming into power just as the EU shuts off trade. We won’t even be able to blame the Tory’s for the chaos if we go along with the myth that a deal excluding FOM is possible.

        1. C MacMackin says:

          If you read the speech, it is clear that by “free movement of goods” he means far more than just no tariffs. He’s talking about goods crossing a border with no inspections, paperwork, checks for compliance with regulations, etc. just as they would between Scotland and England or between US states. He says nothing to the effect that the end of free movement of people meaning that tariffs must be put in place. All of the impediments to free movement which he lists are non-tariff measures, just as you have between, e.g., NAFTA members.

          Doubtless these things have consequences which need to be evaluated. It is true that the UK would not be able to retain “all of the benefits” of single market membership (as I believe the Labour leadership-endorsed amendment to the Queen’s speech put it) without accepting all of the four freedoms. However, that does not mean that “tariffs would inevitably follow an end to FOM” and it certainly does not mean that we’re necessarily facing a situation where the “EU shuts off trade”. The latter would be hyperbole even if the dangerous “no deal” situation comes to pass.

          1. Will says:

            He is quite clear that FOM is not up for negotiation and the U.K. refusing to compromise on this would result in NO DEAL.
            He continues.
            “Here also, I want to be very clear: in a classic negotiation, ‘no deal’ means a return to the status quo. In the case of Brexit, ‘no deal’ would be a return to a distant past.
            ‘No deal’ would mean that our trade relations with the United Kingdom would be based on World Trade Organisation rules. There would be customs duties of almost 10 % on vehicle imports, an average of 19 % for alcoholic beverages, and an average of 12% on lamb and also fish, for which the vast majority of British exports go to the EU.
            While leaving the customs union would in any case involve border formalities, ‘no deal’ would mean very cumbersome procedures and controls, without facilitation, which would be particularly damaging for companies that operate on a ‘just in time’ basis.”

          2. Will,
            Barnier’s statement about tariffs is compelling, but a report by the House of Commons reserarch service published on 4 July says “The trade-weighted average EU tariff for non-agricultural products was 2.3% in 2014 and 8.5% for agricultural products.”
            This suggest that, outside the EU Customs Union, UK manufacturers of tangible goods that aren’t farm products will face a small increase in customs duty.
            Non-tariff barriers (checks etc) are a two-way irritant that serve no good to anybody.
            There are misunderstandings about the WTO. It seeks to reduce tariffs generally and sets no tariff minimums. After leaving the EU, the UK will be once again independently represented in what should be the world’s most influential trade body. And there’s nothing to stop the UK from reducing import duties on selected goods (to zero if required). This would be particularly welcome on food imports; the 19 per cent duty on imports of wine from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, US, Argentina etc, which the EU membership requires, should go.
            All this suggests that the main problem is not dishonesty (though it might be argued that Barnier’s comments about post Customs Union tariffs were misleading).
            It’s ignorance.
            People need to know more about the CAP, the CFP, the Customs Union, the ECJ and the Single Market.
            Here’s the House of Commons report.

          3. C MacMackin says:

            He only says FOM is not up for negotiation if the UK wants to remain a member of the single market. He doesn’t say that a trade deal (which the EU has with a number of of other countries) is off the table. He acknowledges this possibility when he says “I don’t know the details of the British positions on our future partnership. I certainly don’t want to jump to conclusions. But I know that you will be vigilant – as I will – to ensure that any trade agreement with the United Kingdom will guarantee fair competition and the protections we regard as essential”. In the text you quote he is referring to the “no deal” option, which the Conservatives have kept open as a possibility. I’m certainly not suggesting that Labour entertains that option.

  12. Robin Edwards says:

    Proposal for a Resolution for Labour Party Conference 2017 for Discussion at CLPs.


    Conference welcomes the decision of the PLP to respect the outcome of the EU Referendum and to support the triggering of Article 50.

    Conference further welcomes the decision to campaign in the General Election on a position that made it clear that Brexit means leaving the ESM followed by negotiations for access on terms that defend workers rights, jobs, trading standards, the environment and the UK economy. This decision, by `shooting May’s fox’, allowed the party to fight the election on what it was really all about: Tory austerity.

    Conference instructs the PLP to continue to support a Proper Brexit but to go further and make it a Socialist Brexit. Labour’s vision for a post-Brexit Britain must be socialist in character leaving the failed neo-liberal model behind. At the end of the day Britain voted Brexit because British capitalism has failed catastrophically. It cannot compete in Britain let alone the ESM and of course we need not speak of the Tories and their fantasies of a new trading empire.

    At the same time as putting forward its socialist programme for Britain, Conference further instructs the PLP to outline its vision for a New European Settlement that puts the interests of workers ahead of those of corporations and which leaves the failed neo-liberal EU behind. Brexit in the hands of socialists can not only lead Britain out of the capitalist impasse in which it finds itself but Europe too. In the hands of the Tories it spells ruination.

    1. Will says:

      The negotiations boil down either accepting the four freedoms or leaving the single market to trade on WTO terms.
      Passing motions instructing a Labour government to leave the ESM and then negotiate a deal “defending workers rights, jobs, trading standards the environment and the U.K. Economy” is just as delusional as anything proposed by Liam Fox, Boris Johnson, Theresa May et al.

      1. Robin Edwards says:

        Truth is it is highly unlikely that the EU would talk to a socialist country anyway which is why the resolution demands that it accompanies its post-Brexit programme for a socialist Britain with its desire for a New European Settlement that leave the wretched EU far behind and that favours workers over bosses mainly by not treating them as migrating cattle or leaving them behind in sink communities to rot on the dole unable to compete for the crummiest local job. After all you cannot have socialism in one country.

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