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Brexit: some questions

1) To what extent would a hard Brexit result in a substantial economic downturn from which no recovery would be likely in the short term?

The answer depends on the deal/or none that is eventually concluded. It could be that the EU offers a free trade deal, on the grounds that not to do so would be as damaging to the EU as it would be to the UK. If this was the case most of those who export much or most of what they produce to the EU would have no incentive to move, a major fear if tariffs were imposed, particularly for the automotive industry, although this would obviously also have to apply to finance and services. This would represent a triumph and rehabilitation for May, and put Labour on the defensive, but it looks very unlikely. In any event, such a deal could only be concluded after the UK had left the EU in March 2019, and uncertainty over its likelihood would have probably precipitated substantial movement of firms out of the UK before it was concluded, as appears to already be happening in finance.

If there was no free trade deal, and a hard Brexit, entailing tariffs and WTO rules ensued, it seems clear that this would be economically damaging, even though it is hard to be precise about this, and assertions of catastrophe are not helpful. It would in part depend on the speed with which and extent to which trade deals were concluded. That is unclear, but it doesn’t look promising.

Most of the less partisan comment broadly agrees with this. Even so the effect on opinion has been limited. This is no surprise as there has been no appreciable effect yet on jobs or economic activity even though there been inflation which is cutting into living standards. Indeed the move in opinion against Brexit, based on a deterioration in the economy, could well not happen until after Brexit has gone through. Horses, stables etc!

2) What would the effect of differences over hard and soft Brexit leading to polarisation be in the Labour Party?

Although some on the left think that those wanting a soft Brexit are synonymous with the Labour right, this is just not true, although the Umunna amendment, supported by the ’usual suspects’, made it appear so. In fact, roughly two thirds of Labour members and voters and most Corbynistas support soft Brexit. The effect therefore would be more complex than a left right confrontation.

Because of the greater numbers supporting a soft Brexit position it is doubtful if a hard Brexit position would be carried, but the effect could be electorally damaging, if it created serious and prolonged division, and could mean that any prospect of Labour winning an election was dashed, even if a soft Brexit line was retained. This would be even more the case if a hard Brexit line was adopted, with many leaving, including many soft Brexit Corbynistas. The electoral loss from this element would outweigh the return of some Labour leavers who had switched to the Tories.

I fancy however that what I am saying would be electorally suicidal is well understood by the leadership and will therefore not happen, at least in any major way. Under different circumstances Corbyn (and others) would have pushed a more anti single market line, as he did during the Marr appearance after the election, but before the holidays there seemed to be a general agreement among the leadership and key players that all positions remained open. It is therefore fairly clear that Labour can only retain its appeal on the basis of its current soft Brexit line, although the ambiguity of assuring Labour leavers that Labour respects the leave decision, may be more difficult to sustain in the future, as the negotiations proceed, and Labour will need more precise answers than hitherto as the outcomes emerge. Crucially Labour needs to sort out its position on Brexit before the conference, so that all the leading figures can sing from the same hymn sheet, (even if that means supporting a continued Starmerite fudge). Not to do this could be very damaging.

3) To what extent is the advent of a new party aimed at securing the UK’s remaining in the EU likely? Or could the Lib-Dems fulfil this role? How otherwise could a hard Brexit be averted?

There has been much speculation about this, fuelled in part by the amazing feat of Macron’s En Marche party in France winning spectacularly against the two established parties, although its advent was not directly connected to the EU. Here, for those strongly committed to remaining in the EU (which includes big business and organised labour, as well as about half of the remain vote that do not accept the decision to leave) there is an urgency in that any final decision can be taken no later than about next September 2018, given that the EU governments will need six months to ratify any deal before the deadline of March 2019.

Probably the most likely way of reversing Brexit, or securing a soft Brexit, either through a second referendum or a parliamentary vote, would be for a vote of no confidence to succeed, with an election then returning a Labour majority, or at least a Labour led pro soft Brexit/remain coalition. Labour would then presumably promote an EEA type solution in order to honour the decision to leave that would probably still be acceptable to most other remainers, and to big business, as it would retain membership of the single market, although not to the Lib-Dems and others who would only be satisfied with a second referendum. The problems with this are that it would require the defection of at least twenty or so Tory MPs who might be difficult to find. If Labour did not secure a majority the Lib-Dems would require a second referendum, as would the Tories and many others. This could well go to leave again as many previous remainers regard the 2016 decision as binding, while it is of course quite possible that the Tories win the election as well. This would cement the Tory leave proposals which would now have the backing of the electorate.

Securing a rejection of the Tory proposals could therefore prove difficult, but it obviously would not be attempted if there was not a reasonable chance of it succeeding. However, it would probably stand more of a chance than a new party or a revived Lib-Dems, despite the somewhat greater appeal of its new leader. Even if either of them did relatively well it would almost certainly not be enough to take sufficient votes from Labour for it to win, thus splitting the vote, with the Tories capturing Labour seats and securing a majority.

4) How could the scenario described above develop, and what other scenarios might unfold?

A soft Brexit EEA type solution, based on Labour winning an election following a rejection of the terms for Brexit secured by the Tories, would have the advantage of giving Labour a relatively benign reception, as there would be no fundamental change in economic relations with the EU and therefore no reason for firms to vacate the UK, although there could be some pressure on sterling and the stock markets which could necessitate capital controls. Labour would have time to consider how it was intending to implement those aspects of its manifesto that might be forbidden by EU regulations, although there is a lack of clarity about precisely what those may be.

There would be nothing to stop Labour from playing a prominent role, as the largest left-wing party in Europe, in EU politics, and in particular seeking the sorts of reforms that would enable it to implement its manifesto within the EU, which it would rejoin if that was possible. If it was not, Labour would have to carefully consider whether it wished to go into the next election in 2023 on a left hard Brexit platform, or to continue to seek change within the EU.

An alternative scenario would be for Labour, after defeat by the Tories in 2018, to be preparing to fight the next election on the basis of joining the EEA after economic devastation following the hard Brexit of 2018 and a subsequent failure to secure a trade agreement with the EU.

Speculation of this kind might be considered idle, but all these scenarios plus variants are possible, and exploring their possible consequences is I hope something that can clarify the issues involved.


I wrote the above a few days before Labour’s new Brexit policy was announced on August 27th. What I said was necessary, i.e. a unified policy based on remaining in or retaining access to the single market, now seems to have been agreed by the leadership. This means that it is likely that it would be overwhelmingly endorsed at Conference, and with its wide appeal to remainers it would remove the threat of a resurgent Lib-Dems or a new third party. This does not fundamentally alter Labour’s commitment to Brexit, thus hoping to keep Labour leavers on board, but the long transition period envisaged is of the St. Augustine‘s ‘Lord make me chaste but not yet’ school of thought.

It is probably the only policy that can win Labour an election, although when and if that happens depends on the current negotiations and the degree of cohesion within the Tory party. The outlook for them does not look promising.

YouGov Brexit poll of 12th-13th June 2017

Report of poll of Labour members views on the Single Market

Editorial note: the links at the end of the article were added 31st August 2017


  1. Mervyn Hyde says:

    The first thing to say is that the Tories will lose the election all by themselves, they are clearly trying to scupper the negotiations so that they can bring in an American Neo-Liberal trade deal with Trump.

    They have already had 12 months prior to the start of the negotiations prepare a position and genuine recommendations, only to turn up with not so much as a piece of paper in front of them.

    Now we see they are playing games, which is the very tactic Tories always use so that they can bring the blame game into play.

    The Talk of a hard or soft Brexit is really avoiding the real issue, the Tories are responsible for this mess, and it is the kind of distraction they want to foster in order to drive the last vestiges of our public sector into private hands, thereby emasculating any future Labour Government from taking real control of the economy.

    The private sector will be in a monopoly position, and any government that dares to stand in it’s way will suffer its wrath.

    The Brexit issue is currently in the hands of the Tories who as May said, are keeping their hand close to their chest, so we will never know what they are negotiating. Labour needs to get up to-date detailed drafts of as the negotiations proceed from Europe, as we can’t trust the Tories. Then we can offer real alternatives to what the Tories are proposing whilst exposing their real agenda.

    The next thing is to be clear, we are coming out of Europe.

    Those that want to remain forget that they are in the minority, albeit a small one, secondly do they fully understand what is happening in Europe as a whole and the impact Neo-Liberalism has had on the EU economy.

    This is just one aspect of Europe’s problems:

  2. JohnP says:

    Lots speculative assumptions and selective claims, stated as fact, Peter. There is no “Hard” or “Soft” Brexit… just rhetoric claiming there is. There is leaving the EU and the Single Market and European Court of Justice , and the rule of the Four Freedoms over UK economic policy – and there is NOT leaving (even if in some fudged EEA concoction which still requires compliance), and freeing a future Left Wing Government from this neoliberal straightjacket.

    It is hard to assess quite what Labour’s “new” policy on the Single Market actually is. I certainly have no objection to a transitional phased exit – to assist with a smoother process – even if this did take four years. Implementing a genuine end to unlimited labour supply/Freedom of Movement , with all the indigenous training this requires, would take 10 to 15 years anyway. And couldn’t be done outside of a comprehensive National economic plan. Unfortunately the Labour Right’s “transitional period” is clearly intended to be … Forever. So Labour has a real problem here in trying to sustain the claim that it “respects the Referendum outcome”.

    The reality though is that the Labour Right have absolutely no ideological problem with the neoliberal straightjacket on Left economic policy of EU/Single Market membership – in fact they absolutely welcome it – as do their Big Business backers – as a bulwark against “Corbynism”. Peter ,together with of most of the Labour Left doesn’t want to leave because they see this as too risky – particularly under a rabid neoliberal Tory government. But then it will always seem too risky to most of the Labour Left – as any radical political move always has, let’s be honest . The “Reformed EU” Chimera is just a fig leaf excuse for staying, because the root and branch neoliberal EU isn’t going to be reformed from within – not in a Left Wing direction. There is absolutely no basis for this fig leaf hope with the balance of political movement – ever further to the Right in the EU.

    So the emerging Labour position is a slippery fudge , led fully by the Right, but acquiesced to by the Left, and of course the utterly uncritical , cravenly pro EU TUC bureaucracy, which needs to continue to walk a policy tightrope as it did in the recent General Election, to keep Remainers and Brexiters on board as voters. Unfortunately sooner or later, but probably BEFORE the next General Election, it will become clear that Labour is about to adopt a policy of supporting continued unlimited labour supply as part of some fudge that means the UK wouldn’t actually leave the strictures of the Single Market. This will be a clear contrast with the Tory embrace of Brexit .

    At this point The success Labour had in sitting on the Brexit fence in 2017, and so allowing a focus on our non Brexit policies , will be dead in the water, and the vital issues like the NHS will be submerged in a “brexit” focussed Election campaign. Labour’s working class support base in key heartlands may well collapse, and the “Corbyn” moment of a hoped for radical new Left direction for Labour could well be over…

  3. DannyN says:

    The EU referendum result gave Labour the chance to break free from neoliberalism. By facilitating Keir Starmer’s permanent membership of the European Single Market Jeremy and John have needlessly GIFTED the Right durable neoliberalism.

    Only two possible reasons for that. Either J and J are too stupid to realise that permanent adherence to the European Single Market means permanent adherence to neoliberalism. Or J and J do not actually believe in replacing capitalism with democratic socialism, and their liberalism has collapsed in short order into acceptance of neoliberalism: the Syriza phenomenon. I incline to this latter explanation. It is sad, but on all fours with much else during Jeremy’s tenure, for example J and J’s failure to put public ownership and socialist planning centre-stage in economic policy AND as key determinants of the Party’s response to Brexit. The demands of socialist economic policy (rather than assumptions and predictions about what transnational corporations might do) should have driven and determined the approach to the EU.

    The capitulation to Starmer shows there actually is NO space between neoliberalism and democratic socialism for a non-socialist “Left” to provide a distinctive form of government for the country.

    1. David Pavett says:

      @DannyN. You say that there is “NO space between neoliberalism and democratic socialism” which allow for a distinctive form of government. In other words government must be fully committed to one or the other. This is classic ‘no compromise with the enemy’ thinking which side-steps the need for creative strategies and tactics by resorting simplistic all or nothing judgements.

      This approach confuses the need not to compromise on principles with making a principle out of not compromising. It is true that neoliberalism and democratic socialism are radically different and that no good can come from attempting to adjust the principles of the latter using those of the former. That need to maintain clarity of ideas, however, does not preclude the compromises of all sorts that must be made in political policies in order to further the cause of socialism. This is an old, old argument if course and it is still instructive to read Lenin’s withering criticisms of ‘no compromise’ thinking (whatever else you may think of him). I would go as far as to say that solutions to complex problems virtually always involve compromises of some sort.

      Between fundamental principles and practical policies there is indeed a gap and the connections can be complicated and even paradoxical as is clear to anyone who has ever tried to find solutions to complex problems.

      And that’s where we see so clearly the shortcomings of the simplistic approach that you advocate.

      (1) Regarding the Labour Party you think that policy is all down to Corbyn and McDonnell when very clearly it is not. Had their positions been won on the back of a successful campaign to get the LP to adopt a socialist programme and to develop its policies on the basis of that programme things would be different but that, as you well know, is not what happened. Your binary alternative that they are either stupid or have caved in to neoliberalism is therefore, to say the least, unhelpful.

      (2) Regarding the EU it is not enough to point to its damaging neoliberal policies. These exist for sure but how best to oppose them still needs to be established. There are left arguments for doing that from within the EU (e.g. Diem25). They may be right or wrong but by not even considering your argument is reduced to mere assertion. Secondly, it needs to be established whether or not a Britain outside the EU would be more or less vulnerable to the forces of global capitalism. I am not aware of any attempt to do that.

      It would, in my view, be far better to admit that (a) the arguments are pretty threadbare on both sides of the debate within Labour, (2) that a clear majority of Labour members and supporters currently favour EU/ESM membership and (c) it high time to get down to serious debate that considers the pros and cons of the various positions as the basis for winning LP members and leaders to a clear and coherent position, whatever it might turn out to be. That is the basis on which I believe Peter wrote his article. We need more of that and not hand-waving dismissals of contrary views.

      1. Danny Nicol says:

        1. There’s scant party democracy ,so policy IS down to Corbyn and McDonnell to a very significant extent, or where else did the sudden new stance on Brexit materialise from?

        2. I have already tackled the nonsense of Diem25 in an article on this blog site. The Treaties including the neoliberal four freedoms can only be amended by common accord of the member states so socialistic reform of the EU is dead in the water. Practically the same considerations apply to the neoliberal Liberalisation Directives.

        There is no real argument on this site about the deeper difference underlying arguments over the EU/ESM which is about the merits and demerits the persistent Fake Left liberalism or non-socialism of the Labour Left which has seeped in since the 1990s in the depths of neoliberal hegemony.

        1. Danny Nicol says:

          …as for whether the country would be more or less vulnerable to global capitalist forces, the answer is that ONE otherwise-insuperable obstacle to socialism would be removed by hard Brexit: EU law. Of course many others would remain, not least other supranational organisations designed like the EEC/EU to safeguard capitalism such as the World Trade Organisation. And then there is the IMF which put paid to social democracy in the 1974-9 Labour government… And after that there are further obstacles which are unrelated to supranational law in its many manifestations. There is no question that the primary purpose of the EU is the defend the capitalist system. By contrast I do not subscribe to the Jeremy volte-face idea that leaving the EU would be a bonfire of workers’ rights, most of labour law being national law anyway. I am not sure Jeremy made a very good fist of believing it himself.

          If the Labour Left were not so overwhelmed with liberals and fake leftists, the overcoming of the forces of global capitalism is just the sort of thing on which a blog on Left futures ought constantly to engage.

          1. David Pavett says:

            You did not deal with the ideas of Diem25 in your article. You didn’t even mention them. You say treaties can’t be changed because that would need unanimity. Diem25 proposes a constituent assembly charged to rewrite all treaties.

            In that article you also hold TTIP up as an example of the impossibilty of exerting democratic pressure and yet even without Trump TTIP was on the ropes due to popular protest.

            Is it possible that anyone disagreeing with you on this could be anything other than a “fake leftist”? That’s all you seem to allow for. It doesn’t look like a good listening position.

  4. kurt andersen says:

    Nobody seems to be advocating leave the EU and the European states, at best, it is leave the EU then try to negotiate another deal. Like leaving the FA and then trying to play soccer, you will end up playing by the rules.
    The UK will end up leaving the EU and having rues that comply with the EU, it should stop trying to fool itself with the argument that it will have some special arrangement

    1. Paul Dias says:

      Obvious to anyone with even the most basic understanding of the economy. It is called the Brussels Effect.

  5. C MacMackin says:

    A number of things to say here. First of all, I think we should distinguish between a hard Brexit under the Tories versus a hypothetical one under Labour. If Labour were willing to use left-wing policy tools at its disposal, then I think it could counteract some or all of the economic problems created by Brexit. The Tories, of course, won’t even try to do this in a way that would benefit workers.

    Do you have any sources supporting your statement that “roughly two thirds of Labour members and voters and most Corbynistas support soft Brexit”? I certainly accept that 2/3 of Labour supporters voted Remain and, given Momentum also took this position, it would seem that so did a majority of Corbyn-supporters. However this does not necessarily mean that all of those people also want a soft Brexit. For example, Aaron Bastani of Novara Media voted Remain but has indicated he doesn’t want to stay in the EEA, at least no without opting out of policies in certain sectors (which to me sounds unlikely to be workable). On here, David Pavett was a (reluctant) Remainer but now expresses uncertainty about the best path. Most Corbynistas I’ve seen, even if they regard leaving the EU as a mistake, appeared willing to go along with the party line when it looked like it might be for a harder Brexit. To them, Brexit is just one issue among many and, overall, they still prefer Labour’s policies to the Lib Dem’s.

    I’m somewhat concerned by your statement that “Labour needs to sort out its position on Brexit before the conference, so that all the leading figures can sing from the same hymn sheet”. This seems to be demanding the position be decided from on high. What we should really be demanding is a chance to debate the Brexit position as a party and let the membership come to a decision. As far as I can tell, the party hasn’t really had a proper debate on this issue, simply taking member’s views as they are. Of course, given the state of debate in the party, this demand borders on the utopian. You seem to believe that the effect of having such a debate “could be electorally damaging, if it created serious and prolonged division, and could mean that any prospect of Labour winning an election was dashed, even if a soft Brexit line was retained”. Well, if Labour can’t have informed and constructive debates about serious issues then, as socialists, what are we even doing in the party? One way or another, these sorts of difficult debates will be necessary going forward. You also seem to take people’s positions as fixed, saying that “This [electoral damage] would be even more the case if a hard Brexit line was adopted, with many leaving, including many soft Brexit Corbynistas”. Have you considered that perhaps people could be convinced by debate, at least sufficiently that they wouldn’t actually up and leave?

    There seems to be some confusion about the contents of Labour’s new Brexit policy, which hasn’t been helped by simplistic and misleading headlines. According to my reading, it wasn’t really a new policy at all. As before, the goal is to leave the EEA but retain market access. All that’s changed is they are now calling for EEA membership to act as a temporary “bridging agreement”. Labour has called for a bridging agreement in the past, so all they’ve done now is clarify what it would entail. Frankly, I’d always assumed that it would be something like EEA membership, so to me there was nothing new here. I suppose this could be used as a way to avoid leaving the EEA altogether, but we don’t know that to be the case and, theoretically at least, the leadership could be held to account to prevent such an outcome.

    One final thought, which doesn’t exactly align with the topics covered in this article but does touch on issues discussed previously. Peter has indicated that he thinks a free trade agreement with the EU (if achievable) would be sufficient to retain support of the Remain/soft Brexit camp. For those who really would abandon Labour over a harder Brexit, I’m not so sure this is the case. Many of them seem to be ideologically attached to the European project (and thus reluctant even to accept a soft Brexit). A great deal of the rest want EEA membership because it guarantees free movement of people, which would not be possible under a trade agreement. Those who’s objection to hard Brexit are mostly pragmatic could be convinced by such a policy, but what proportion of the soft Brexit/”hard Remain” crowd are they?

    1. JohnP says:

      Good Post, C.Mack.

      I was very struck by the totally “Guardianista” tone and content of Peter’s article. By that I mean that neither in this article, or any other, has he been prepared to actually detail a critique of the EU from a Left, never mind socialist, perspective. If the profoundly, structurally, neoliberal nature of the EU AND its absolutely inseparable Single Market , and its quite clear “line of future march” to exactly the same utterly Big Business dominated , workers rightsless, ever-reducing welfare provision, state as the Tory globalist Brexiters want to get to in a shorter timescale, is irrelevant, we are indeed on the ideological terrain of the Guardian liberal. In this narrative it is indeed just a debate about whether the UK will be “better ” or “worse off” in or out of the EU. But this isn’t a question that can actually be answered , as socialists should know, in such generalist terms. the issue is how the interests of the UK WORKING CLASS are helped or hindered by staying in , or leaving the neoliberal strightjacket of the EU. I think we all know UK Big Capital will undoubtedly benefit by staying in (which is why the Tory Party are in such a quandary ). But will the UK working class benefit, long term (forget the short term dislocations of Brexit), from the UK remaining, not a sovereign nation state, potentially under a sovereign Left government, but a “flexible Business Platform ” off the European mainland, operating under neoliberal rules which will undoubtedly eventually destroy and privatise our Welfare state, and with unlimited labour supply, further undermine workers bargaining rights and wage levels across all t but the most highly skilled sectors ?

      Like C,Mack, and other commentators on Peter’s many pro-EU posts, I take with a pinch of salt his dodgily sourced “weaponised” stats showing the proportions of supposed LP members backing continued EU and Single Market membership. It is also the case that the narrow margin for the Leave victory in the Referendum was achieved against a background of the most colossal propaganda campaign, from “authoritative state, political elite, and international bodies (IMF, Treasury, Obama, all political Party leaders), assuring us that even VOTING to leave would bring about economic catastrophe IMMEDIATELY.
      Chancellor Hammond has claimed that “nobody voted to be poorer by leaving the EU” – but in fact most anti EU voters did so precisely against the assurances from the Treasury and elite that every citizen would be “£4,600” worse off, and “property prices would collapse ” !

      The largely very middle class Momentum Left (and Far Left) have such weak , Left liberal, politics , without any solid personal roots in the working class that is still Labour’s core vote, that I expect them to vote for continuing “Freedom of Movement”, as a moral liberal self congratulatory act of “virtue signalling” – with no understanding of what this core EU “freedom” is actually about , ie, unlimited LABOUR SUPPLY, and suppression of working class bargaining power – and the robbery of the leading EU capitalist economies of the skilled labour of the poorer ones. Our Party’s middle class membership don’t “get it” but our working class voter base most certainly DOES.

      Having said that, like C.Mack, I’m not convinced there has been a dramatic shift in Labour’s stated position on the Single Market – just co-ordinated crowing by the Guardian and Labour Right that the “transitional leaving” policy is just a cynical wheeze to betray the Referendum result vote of “those terrible unwashed plebs from the estates” ,and a return of political decision-making to the educated political elite “who understand these things so much better “.

      Lastly, I think Peter, the Guardian, and the Labour Right are delusional that they think any of the “stay in” options are actually still on the table from the EU. “Staying in” now would , at best involve the UK grovelling on its collective belly to the EU , to be punished for its temerity in challenging neoliberal capitalism with a democratic vote. We would get a VERY bad new EU membership deal from a vengeful EU – including having to join the Euro , and we could forget the UK rebate too !

      1. David Pavett says:

        John, it is somewhat unfair to complain that Peter has not offered a detailed critique of the EU given that you haven’t done that either. He has said that

        … the EU is a mess, primarily because of the Euro, the depressed state of the economies of most of its members and the continued emphasis on a neo liberal approach …

        But has said that despite that, in his view

        … it remains the only route through which a decent sort of society, let alone socialism, is likely to be achieved for all its citizens, in the UK and elsewhere. It is only the EU which is big and strong enough to create such a society and control the worst excesses of a sizeable chunk of big business.

        So there is not a lot of point in constantly reminding us about the current neo-liberal policies of the EU. We are all agreed about that. It’s not the issue. The issue is whether that can be changed and whether being outside the EU will make us less vulnerable to neo-liberal policies both home grown and international. I think it would be fair to return the argument to you and say that you have made no detailed critique of that.

        Adding words like “profoundly” and “structurally” and “utterly” doesn’t change anything. All those things could be said of our own Parliament. Most of us do not conclude that we should have nothing to do with it.

        My second concern about what you say is your use of the term “working class”. I take it that by this you mean “traditional working class”. You claim that this diminishing group provides Labour’s core vote. You produce no data to back that up. And is not a focus on only traditional forms of the working class while showing considerable disdain for its more modern and growing components (who I think would come largely under your references to the “middle class”). Does this make any economic or political sense. Is a computer hardware repairer less a member of the working class than a car mechanic? In fact could we not ask further if a computer hardware repairer working for a big corporation like IMB actually more a member of the working class that a car mechanic running his own business? It really is time to stop bandying these terms around as if they had an evident meaning clear to us all.

        Thirdly, do you have any evidence to show that the concentration of the anti-EU working class vote in areas of relatively low immigration was based on concern for “suppression of working class bargaining power – and the robbery of the leading EU capitalist economies of the skilled labour of the poorer ones”, that they “get it” where as the “middle class” doesn’t?

        And finally, Labour’s current Brexit policy is a fudge but to claim that there has been no change is strange. We have gone from a position where both Corbyn and McDonnell expressed a variety of, not always compatible, views about the Single Market to one where there is an agreed Party position. If that doesn’t represent significant change then I don’t know what does. Whether the change is a good or bad thing is another matter.

        You may think that Peter’s article has a “totally ‘Guardianista’ tone and content” and that with it “we are indeed on the ideological terrain of the Guardian liberal” and even that he provides “dodgily sourced ‘weaponised’ stats” supported by “The largely very middle class Momentum Left” etc., but perhaps all that is better left aside to explore unresolved matters of fact in order to further the debate.

        1. JohnP says:

          The claim that I have provided no analysis of the EU, is pretty rich , David, as you must be aware I have contributed oodles of critical detail analysis both here and on many , many other fora ,of both neoliberalism in general and the EU in particular. So your claim is simply a baseless jibe aimed at rubbishing my arguments. I have never though ever read any critical analysis of the EU from Peter, just fan mail.

          1. David Pavett says:

            I did not say that you have presented no analysis. I said that you have not presented a detailed critique which is a different order of things. “Oodles of critical detail” does not fit the bill either.

            As so often you cannot resist inflammatory language. My claim is a “baseless jibe” aimed at “rubbishing” your arguments. It is really a shame not to be able to conduct exchanges without this stuff. Why can you not accept that the people with whom you disagree are making as much of a sincere effort to understand as you?

          2. JohnP says:

            I have presented a much more detailed critique of the EU over a huge range of posts than you or Peter ever have, David. But I’m afraid if you agree with Peter that only the EU can provide the hope of socialism in Europe , I am afraid that whatever critique I, or many other anti EU Left wingers, present simply isn’t going to meet your ideological mindset.

      2. Peter Rowlands says:

        JohnP. I’m rather fed up with you continually implying that my position on the EU is no different from that of liberals. In fact you know perfectly well, because I have said it more than once, that I hold a position which is that of the majority of socialist parties in the EU, grouped within the ‘Party of the European Left’, which is that the EU needs fundamental reformin a left direction. I support PEL policies on this, although I think they are rather undeveloped. The DIEM25 initiative is interesting, but unrealistic. The best overall critique and set of alternative policies I have come across is from the European Trade Union Confederation, ETUC. I believe that the EU is large enough to be able to conntrol big capital and successfully lay the foundations of a socialist federation, but that the same is not true of the UK where any attempted ‘left brexit is doomed to failure.
        No, most Labour members do not have a developed understanding of what is wrong with the EU,and support it more on an internationalist cum cosmopolitan basis, although those sentiments are preferable to the xenophobia that powers much anti EU thinking.
        You once again dismiss the polls and surveys that I quote, which I last did in a reply to you on August 17th to a PBC article on a new party. I will re-present this information anyway. I’m sure that JC wasn’t as dismissive of it as you.

    2. David Pavett says:

      Chris, you raise a series of important issues.

      It is worth contrasting hard Brexit under Labour with what it would be under the Tories. But too much is packed away in the view that Labour “could counteract some or all of the economic problems created by Brexit”. That leaves everything still to be said.

      My sense of Labour, Corbinistas and Labour voters is that, as things stand, there would be a clear majority for retaining as many links with the UK as possible. Admittedly I live in London and this will look different in different parts of the country. We will see what Peter says about this when he responds.

      Yes, I was a reluctant Remainer. My position is broadly still the same. If there were to be another referendum when we have the results of the negotiations then, on present knowledge, I would still vote the same way (still with some reluctance, no one in this debate thinks the EU is a great and progressive institution).

      You might be right about the Corbinistas willingness to follow the Party line if it is for hard Brexit. That still leaves the majority of Labour members and supporters to be accounted for.

      I agree with you about the suggestion that a line on Brexit needs to be sorted out before conference. That is clearly not going to happen and the usual suspects are already organising a “Labour” campaign for staying in the ESM.

      You are right to say that the party hasn’t had a proper debate on the issue, but then that is easily established because it hasn’t had a proper debate about anything. It doesn’t know how to do it. I agree with you nevertheless on the need for such a debate. Whatever the majority of members and supporters think their views a currently based on tiny fragments of the arguments involved. The lack of information and debate is almost total.

      I think the Starmer transitional arrangements approach was new in that it established a single line coming from the leadership which has previously been lacking.

      You final question as to whether a free trade deal with the EU would suffice to retain most of the Remain/Soft Brexit is important but I don’t know the answer. I think the number of people who would not be satisfied because they want free movement would be small and located mostly on the right of the Party but also among some on the left who cling to abstract notions of human rights regarding the matter.

      For those who really would abandon Labour over a harder Brexit, I’m not so sure this is the case. Many of them seem to be ideologically attached to the European project (and thus reluctant even to accept a soft Brexit). A great deal of the rest want EEA membership because it guarantees free movement of people, which would not be possible under a trade agreement. Those who’s objection to hard Brexit are mostly pragmatic could be convinced by such a policy, but what proportion of the soft Brexit/”hard Remain” crowd are they?

      1. C MacMackin says:

        But too much is packed away in the view that Labour “could counteract some or all of the economic problems created by Brexit”. That leaves everything still to be said.

        Absolutely fair. After posting, I regretted adding the phrase “or all”. My point was rather that Labour would attempt an industrial policy which would counteract the negative effects of Brexit, although we don’t know how successful this would be. The Tories, of course, would not.

        You have deeper roots in the party than I do, so your reading of sentiment is probably better than mine. I’d expect Oxford to be similar to London on these things. Certainly some members and voters have already been lost over Brexit here and I know at least one (left wing) councilor who is very staunchly Remain. When our (now retired) MP voted in favour of invoking Artice 50 there seemed to be a range of views on this, although most of them were not voiced openly.

        You may be right about the membership being for “retaining as many links with the UK as possible”. To my mind, however, membership of the EEA doesn’t really do this. It means there will be trade, but without any political participation in the EU how would the UK be any more linked with the European Left than outside of the EEA? To be honest, I view EEA membership as the worst of both worlds, being bound by EU directives but having no say in them. Membership would help foster scientific collaboration, but only a tiny minority of members have strong feelings about that. Free movement of people would promote mixing of people and could help lead to greater internationalism on the Left, but otherwise I don’t see how EEA membership is a useful way of retaining links.

        Yes, agreed that the party seems completely unprepared to have such a debate. As I said, my desire for this borders on utopian. What I’ve thought for a long time was that, right after Corbyn was elected, he would have called on the party to debate this. He could have framed it as “practice” for membership involvement, given that we could be fairly confident the decision would have been Remain.

      2. C MacMackin says:

        Also, my apologies for misrepresenting your present views.

        1. David Pavett says:

          You didn’t misrepresent my present views. I said that I would, as things stand, on balance still vote for Remain if the opportunity were to arise. That is still an ‘on balance’ thing and I am still trying to understand the issues sufficiently to be able to make a more sure-footed judgement. So I am listening to the arguments. That is also why I find the shouty abusive approach of some participants in the debate so extremely unhelpful.

    3. Peter Rowlands says:

      1) Left and right brexit. Yes, agreed, I do use the term ‘hard left brexit ‘in what I wrote.
      2) You’re questioning how we can know that previous remainers still hold that position. Well, a poll shows ( Iwill cite the source)about half of them don’t, because as good democrats they accept the ‘will of the people’. The Bale poll for QMC , july 17th, showed 66% of members pro EU.
      3) I agree in principle that there should be open debate, but if JC had pushed a hard left brexit line it would have been very damaging, which is why it didn’t happen. The strong differences involved here would not have allowed for the debate you envisage.
      4)You mean EU for some of your EEas here but I get your point. I agree, it’s an elaboration of the current position, but it holds out greater hope for both sides. For remainers, the transition might not end, for leavers it is finite.
      5) Yes, a trade deal would not satisfy EU purists, but I fancy they’re a minority.

      1. C MacMackin says:

        I agree in principle that there should be open debate, but if JC had pushed a hard left brexit line it would have been very damaging, which is why it didn’t happen. The strong differences involved here would not have allowed for the debate you envisage.

        I’m not asking JC to push a specific position—I’m just asking him to call for an open debate. If we can’t have debates over controversial issues in the Labour Party without causing it to implode then god held us because we won’t be able to achieve anything.

        1. Peter Rowlands says:

          Because there is now no difference, at least publicly, within the leadership, a debate could and should happen.At least it’s not like Trident, where debate was summarily curtailed with no explanation.What is disturbing is that that was accepted with little protest.

  6. Bazza says:

    As long as temporary doesn’t become permanent.
    What worries me is I heard a middle of the road new Labour MP say ‘they’ (implicit Pro-EC) had to be patient but permanent would lose millions of working class voters and our working class/progressive middle class etc. alliance would be over.
    We need UK companies to trade with the EC tariff free (a Labour Govt. may have to pay collectively) but we need to manage labour supply and capital supply.
    Our Migration Triple Lock would be workers from the EC needing job offers, migration adjustment funds for councils, and trade unionise migrant workers.
    People are crying out for some form of management and Labour could best offer this and other EC countries etc. should follow our example.

    1. Paul Dias says:

      “We need UK companies to trade with the EC tariff free (a Labour Govt. may have to pay collectively) but we need to manage labour supply and capital supply”

      What’s French for ‘go whistle’?

      1. Bazza says:

        “Allez Sifflet!”

      2. JohnP says:

        Paul, Your ignorant sneer at Bazza’s post just reveals your neoliberal politics. Many, many, countries, South Korea and Turkey for instance, have major sectorally specific tariff-free deals with the EU, and they don’t have to abide by the “Four Freedoms”.

        How many times do you slavish admirers of the neoliberal EU need to be reminded that the UK BUYS hugely more from the rest of the EU than we sell to them. So, away from the current negotiating bluster, there is definitely a deal to be done , that does not require the UK to stay in the neoliberalism enforcing Single Market beyond a transitional period.

        But you Left liberals don’t actually want to leave the neoliberal EU at all do you , let’s be honest .. having no alternative vision whatsoever of a sovereign Left government led UK, pursuing a radical Left Keynsian economic programme quite impossible under Single Market structures. The traditional socialist principle that Bazza quite correctly identifies ,of managed UK total labour supply (and capital controls), within a comprehensive economic plan, is a concept left liberals obviously find utterly alien to their market-driven neoliberal world view.

  7. JohnP says:

    Good try, David, but no coconut ! I’m sorry, but Peter’s half-hearted ,ritualistic few critical throwaway words on the EU’s “unfortunate neoliberalism” is not an analysis, and entirely fails to see that this IS the EU’s entire purpose today, not some temporary detour from its , for Peter, apparent real purpose, ie (I precis) “…the sole route to a decent society.. and even socialism across Europe” !

    This statement is so incorrect on so many historical and political levels as to show that there is no real shared political frame of reference or shared political tradition between our two camps, other than we all are, for different reasons no doubt, currently in the Labour Party following the “Corbyn Spring”.

    Obviously anyone who genuinely thinks that the bureaucratic,undemocratic, neoliberal EU is the ONLY route to socialism across Europe, cannot but support continued membership of it on any terms whatsoever. This strikes me as akin to continueing to support the Soviet Union , if sometimess nominally “critically” , despite all its crimes, because , supposedly, it was the only route to world socialism ! This type of uncritical semi religious reverence for an actually fundamentally reactionary body, is mirrored in the illusions Peter has in today’s EU.

    As to your quibbles about whst the working class voting cohort is that €Labour depends upon i its key heartlands. The idea that it is only manual working traditional sectons of the class who want an end to unlimited labour supply in particular is a conceit of the middle class liberal Left. The consequence of a reversal of Labour’s assurance before the 2017 Election that Free Movement ends when the UK leaves the EU, will be seen in our Labour heartlands. But we will have to await the real next General Election poll, not tiny sample dodgy opinion polls, to see which of us is correct.

    1. JohnP says:

      I think you will find that I have provided a huge body of critical analysis of both neoliberalism AND the neoliberal EU, across many, many, posts on Left Futures, and in writings on many other fora, David. As you surely are aware. I have never read ANY systematic critical analysis of the EU from Peter , just constant claims about its progressive, essentially benevolent, nature

      1. Danny Nicol says:

        Apart from anything else, the design of the EEC and EU are exactly what was recommended by the grandfather of neoliberalism, Professor Friedrich A. von Hayek, in his writings. He explicitly advocated limited democracy as the only way in his view to preserve any democracy after WW2. To this end free trade had to be placed above popular contestation by force of supranational law. This corresponds precisely to the neoliberal straitjacket of the Four Freedoms and the way they are placed above contestation by the doctrine of the supremacy of EU law and the requirement for common accord in order to amend the Treaty rules.

        The creation of compulsory markets to perform the functions public utilities, as in the Liberalisation Directives, are also entirely in line with Hayek’s teachings, since he regarded public monopoly in any field as the stuff of dictatorship, and of course these directives forbid public monopoly. They were not there at the start of the EEC but are a nice example of Tony Blair ruling from the grave, having been issued during his tenure as PM.

      2. David Pavett says:

        John, it is amazing that you should make these claims.

        (1) You know full well that Peter recognises the neo-liberal setup of the current EU, I even gave you a quote from him to this effect. To claim that he simply makes constant claims about its progressive nature is incorrect and you must be aware of that.

        (2) You have nowhere presented a detailed or systematic critique of the EU. You have made a lot of critical comments about it failings, many of which I agree with as, I am sure, does Peter, but that is not the same thing. You have nowhere evaluated the position of other left and centre parties and the possibility of winning them to the cause of deep reform of the EU. You have nowhere examined the nature of the EU institutions and whether significant reforms have ever been made. How can you claim to have made a critical analysis of the EU? Would you like to give some references to where you think you have done this?

        1. JohnP says:

          Excuse me, it is you who chose to specifically quote Peter on the EU , ie,

          “it (the EU) remains the ONLY ROUTE through which a decent sort of society, let alone socialism, is likely to be achieved for all its citizens, in the UK and elsewhere. It is only the EU which is big and strong enough to create such a society and control the worst excesses of a sizeable chunk of big

          I know Peter states he “recognises the current neoliberal EU set-up.” What does that mean though , really , when he also believes this can be reformed away, and that the EU is the only hope for European socialism ? It means nothing – it is an empty statement – whilst we continue indefinitely with neoliberal business as usual – blocking any Left advance in Europe .

          This is such a fundamental misunderstanding of the root and branch neoliberalism enforcing function and nature of the EU at every level that there is simply an unbridgeable philosophical and political analysis gulf between those of us on the Left like myself and Danny and yourself and Peter . and it isn’t necessary to write a 10,000 word thesis on EU institutions to get to the core of the neoliberal nature of the EU either. I have covered the important features of the EU as reactionary neoliberal enforcement machine and block to Left advance quite well enough for current purposes. But obviously no level of detail will convince those within Left reformism who persist in viewing the EU as both fundamentally reformable, and the only hope for socialism in Europe !

          And sorry too, but I view the opinions of the sundry trades European union bureaucracies , now deeply entwined at a wide range of organisational and personal career levels within the EU systems, as with our own totally uncritical pro EU TUC bureaucracy, with utter distain.

          1. C MacMackin says:

            John, what David is pointing out is that you haven’t (to either of our knowledge, at least) explained why you think the neoliberal nature of the EU will be more difficult to overcome than the neoliberal nature of the British state. I attempted to do this in my 2:31PM comment. Perhaps you could try too.

          2. Verity says:

            The response to C Mack’s point above is that the prospects for the alignment of oppositional forces within one state with a formal democratic parliamentary structure is so much more likely than trying to get an alignment of opposition forces across 27 nations with the intervening supranational laws. Of course there are no certainties with either but the prospects across multi national state complexity is surely much nearer to the virtually impossible in the foreseeable future.

          3. JohnP says:

            Verity has just given a part of the answer, C.Mack. The other rather significant factor is that the arena of class struggle in Europe is still entirely restricted to the individual nation states. Where was the mass solidarity action to assist Greece, or the French workers more recently against Hollande’s attacks ? Nowhere.

            I have explained all this many times, so don’t feel the need to repeat this on every post. That David and Peter choose to ignore this reality and pin their hopes on a massive wave of multi state Left advance sufficient to fundamentally reshape the EU, is on their part an act of faith, not forseeable political development .

          4. C MacMackin says:

            I think you will find that I made similar points in the comment I referenced in the above post. However, John, I am not aware of previous occasions where you have spelled out these positions, or at least not so clearly as you just did. If you had then surely it would not have been too much trouble to humour David and provide him a link?

            Anticipating Peter’s or David’s response to your most recent post, it could be argued that lack of working class solidarity across Europe is just the situation at present and we should look to create such solidarity. As it happens, I don’t think it this is a viable route (as I’m sure you’d agree). A pan-European movement will take decades to build, we currently see almost no efforts in that direction, and it would be difficult to sustain in the face of setbacks when individual states elect Left governments which run up against the strictures of the EU. I give more details of these problems in the linked comment and replies to Peter. But why not try making these arguments, so as to figure out the root cause of your and Peter’s disagreements?

  8. C MacMackin says:

    While David’s August 30, 2017, 12:00 pm comment was in reply to John, I feel it (and subsequent comments) makes some points worth responding to. First, the easy one: the extent to which recent statements represent a change in Labour’s position reguarding the single market. I certainly grant that a variety of, not always compatible, positions have been expressed in the past. However, the mean of these seemed to be some sort of relationship outside of the EEA which retains free trade but not free movement of people. There was some vague talk of a bridging agreement. What recent statements have done is clarify this, particularly around the bridging agreement. I don’t consider that to be a fundamental change. It’s certainly not a U-turn, as some commentators have suggested.

    David asks about analysis of why reforming the EU won’t work. I won’t say that it’s impossible (about the only things I describe as “impossible” are the ones which violate the laws of physics). I do, however, think that it is incredibly unlikely in the time-frame of a potential Corbyn government. In particular, I lay out my critique of the Varoufakis/Diem25 strategy here. Peter replied suggesting that progress will come through the Party of the European Left and in response I explained why I don’t think that is likely on the time-scales we need. One of the issuse which we couldn’t resolve was our assessment of how a Corbyn government would fare trying to implement social democracy in the EU. I think that doing so would provoke a reaction from capital requiring much more radical measures to combat, which would put the UK at odds with the EU. Peter feels that, if not provoked by leaving the EEA, capital would allow the mildly redistributive policies outlined in the manifesto.

    On a detailed look at the structures of the EU and the plausibility of changing them, I can only begin to offer an analysis. I think we can all agree that the way policy-making is currently done is very undemocratic. I would argue it is even more so than in most parliamentary democracies, as those who actually set the policy agenda (the Commission) are not accountable to anyone. Furthermore, there is a great deal of secrecy around decision-making which is not done through the European Parliament, with closed meetings etc. Perhaps the most funadmental issue (although not one which is strictly the EU’s fault) is that without a European demos, Europeans lack a coherant voice with which to hold the whole structure to account. This was the reason why Hayek supported the idea of a pan-European government. Given sufficient time perhaps such a demos could be built, but it would take generations. Meanwhile, even the most Europhilic left parties aren’t really engaging in the work that would be requiredto hasten the process. Instead, as ever, the largely engage as seperate movements in seperate countries fighting seperate battles with only the occasional conference and word of solidarity bringing them into contact with their European comrades. An exception may be the ETUC which Peter has indicated in the past is looking towards a more pan-European labour movement, although my knowledge is limited.

    Even if we did have a substantial pan-Europe left movement, I think reforming it would be more difficult than reforming nation-states. All states were built to protect property and facilitate capital accumulation, but the EU was done so in a particularly neoliberal way from the start. Even going back to the Coal and Steel Community, the emphasis has been on free-trade and internationalisation of capital without a corresponding internationalisation of democracy. This is fundamental to the EU’s purpose. As such, changing the EU into a progressive vehicle would be less a matter of reforming it and more a matter of a revolutionary change whereby it is gutted and rebuilt. I’m not saying this is impossible, but nor and I certain it can be done. In contrast, most other countries do not have neoliberalism built into the constitution in the same manner as the EU (with some exceptions such as post-Pinochet Chile), making them easier to reform. In theory, this is especially true of the UK, with its unwritten constitution, although the House of Lords could make things difficult if it wanted to.

    Finally, even a pan-European movement with majority support won’t necessarily be able to pass reforms. The veto or de-facto veto (depending on legislation) of each member state means that the Left needs to win in all of them at the same time. I’m not aware of any federation in history for which something like this has happened. I’ve pointed out in the past that it in Canada it was about years between the first province getting a social democratic government and the second. This in a country which is far more culturally unified, where it is the same social democratic party in all provinces. Peter has expressed doubt that such a situation would arise in Europe, but it was never clear to me on what basis.

    Some have pointed out that it’s unlikely a country like Lithuania would be strong enough to block changes and we really only need to win over the big members. However, even if we’re just talking, say, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK, that’s a very tall order. This is especially so given that if one of these elects a left wing government on its own, I think that capital would be able to defeat it within the structure of the EU, making them winning another term less likely. That would demoralise the European left and make victories in other countries more difficult.

    Anyway, none of this is meant to be the final word, but I thought I’d try to offer some of the analysis David was looking for.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Thanks Chris for your reasoned reply. I think that your points about the timescale for EU reform and the life span of a Corbyn government are very powerful and have bothered me for some time. Even Diem25 talks about a 10-year timescale for realising its objectives – probably rather optimistic.

      I strongly agree with you about claims of impossibility. They are just another version of TINA and I have always regarded them as politically fraudulent. There is virtually always an alternative. It may be less desirable but that is a matter of evaluation rather sweeping dismissal.

      You have offered a strong case for your views and I need to think about it. I will certainly do that. I hope that Peter will come back on these points. I would be interested to hear what he has to say in response.

      Anyway, thanks again. Plenty to think about.

    2. C MacMackin says:

      Rereading this, I see I should have done a better job proof-reading. One particular error that I notice is that I meant to say “in Canada it was about 20 years between the first province getting a social democratic government and the second.” I had left out the actual number of years. I’ll also point out that this was despite that government (in Saskatchewan) being very successful and popular. Even after all that time, the next province (Manitoba) to get a social democratic government was its eastern neighbour and culturaly very similar. Even today, social democratic parties are only considered potential parties of government in 4 out of 10 provinces—maybe 5 now—and are a perennial third party federally. The point is that while success in one region tends to encourage it elsewhere, it is far from a guarantee. (Of course, social democratic reforms were still accomplished elsewhere, thanks to a strong labour movement and the popularity of such measures.)

      I forgot to mention one way in which attempting to reform the EU could resolve itself. If a significant group of member states had left wing governments which wanted to reform and democratise it but there remained a block which refused, then perhaps we’d see a breakaway. These breakaway states could form an alternative EU on an explicitely left wing basis. Depending on how many/which ones were involved, such a formation might be strong enough to challenge global capital in the way Peter imagines. Of course, in the transitional period there would still be quite a lot of chaos and economic dislocation. Nonetheless, I suspect this is the most likely outcome which could be considered a success.

    3. JohnP says:

      Yes , good post, C.Mack. I’ know I have posted this re the article on Macron, but I repeat this critique from respected Marxist Prof Costas Lapavitsas as a good summary of a credible Left rejection of the “the EU can be reformed from within” view of the likes of David and Peter:

      From “Revolting Europe” on Syriza’s abject failure in Greece and on the nature of the EU more generally , at

      One quote in particular from this article should give the EU reformists pause for thought :

      “The key question is redefining sovereignty. What does popular sovereignty mean today? But we also need to redefine national sovereignty. Transnational bodies of the European Union work against the interests of workers and left-wing governments and maintain the existing hierarchy in Europe. These are crucial issues as they go to the heart of what socialism can be. To this must be added an anti-neoliberal and anti-capitalist economic program: nationalizing the banks, enhancing public investment, strengthening the welfare state … If you think that these goals can be achieved by changing the EU, it means that nothing has been understood about what has happened in the last ten years. It’s impossible. We must fight the mechanisms of the European Union and the power of Germany. It’s not anti-European what I’m saying. It is not nationalism. We must not confuse the international capitalism that has been imposed in Europe for the last thirty years with the internationalism of the Left and the workers.”

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        JohnP. I am amazed that you quote, approvingly, from Lapavistas. Whatever his credentials, this is the voice of left wing national socialism, or Strasserism. He says ‘We must fight …..the power of Germany.’ He says ‘It’s not anti European. It is not nationalism’. It is and it is.He is advocating something that comes close to a form of fascism, and the left should have nothing to do with it, although it is perhaps an inevitable result of seeing national solutions as the answer to the failure of the EU to deliver a decent society for its inhabitants.

        1. C MacMackin says:

          Oh come on. I think it is a big stretch to label Lapivitsas a Strasserite. He is not glorifying state power or nation in a way typical of fascism. He is not embracing a chauvinistic definition of “Greek-ness”. His language is reminiscent of laft-nationalist anti-colonial movements. Such movements are hardly above critique, but let’s keep things in proportion. Lapavitsas is known for his analysis of how Germany has used the single currency to enhance the power of German capital, hence his bellicose language towards that country. While the language may be unfortunate, what he is rerefering to is fighting the power of Germany to impose austerity and exert control over other countries. That is not the same as writing off German workers. You may well disagree with his analysis, but that doesn’t make him a fascist.

          1. Peter Rowlands says:

            Chris. Lapavistas is a sophisticated intellectual who is perfectly well aware of the implications of the words and phrases he uses. He could have said ‘German capital’. He didn’t. No, I don’t think he’s a fascist, but his language is more than ‘unfortunate’, he shouldn’t have used it, it is similar to the phraseology fascists might use and we should deplore it.

          2. C MacMackin says:

            There is a difference between deploring someone’s language and denouncing them altogether.

            I believe he was referring to the German state which is distinct from German capital (although, of course, acts in its interest). I can’t tell whether that interview was conducted in person or in the form of written responses. If the former then it would have been easy for him to use sloppy language. Referring to another country when one means its state is, after all, a common mode of speach.

            I certainly concede that his language does suggest nationalism, whether his intention or not. There may be truth that it is “similar to the phraseology fascists might use”, but it is also similar to phraseology which anti-colonial movements might use. Of course, that’s in a context of much greater oppression than experienced by Greece, hence why we should be more critical in this case.

        2. JohnP says:

          Accusing the principled Marxist academic Prof. Costas Lapavistas, ex Greek Syriza MP, and London-based academic of some considerable repute, of any connection in word or sympathy to “Strasserism” is beneath contempt.

          Even suggesting such a thing simply shows your defeated desperation in trying to defend your indefensible unconditional,
          pro EU position. Utterly shameful. You simply don’t seem able to grasp that the real terrain or arena of class struggle across Europe today is still the individual nation state. This is very unfortunate but absolutely demonstrably true. The Greek state , and more importantly almost its entire people (minus the rich) have been crushed into poverty by the Troika , at the behest largely of the German and French banks. And , as Costas has ably demonstrated in books and articles, the Eurozone , and the Single Market, operates disproportionately to the advantage of German Capital – actually crushing the economies of the less productive EU states, like Greece .

          And yes , C.Mack, some of Costas’s imagery and word usage is indeed reminiscent of Left national liberation movements . Because Greece is today a “debt bondage vassal state” of German and French Capital, complete with a colonial era type Greek “comprador” bourgeoisie and a craven political class administering the Greek state , and its ruinous debt repayments, entirely for foreign Big Capital.

          If Costas sometimes uses language which reflects the distinct national struggle of the majority of the population of the Greek nation against the overwhelming malign power of German-led European Big Capital, I think this is quite understandable. And only someone busy with a large brush of baseless smear would descend to linking Costas Lapavitsas to “Strasserism” in any way, as a cheap debating trick . Nasty one, Peter. You should apologise.

          1. Peter Rowlands says:

            JohnP. As I have said, I do not think that Lapavistas is a fascist, he is a socialist who is sincerely, but hugely mistakenly, advocating a course of action which he believes will best advance the left. It was his use of language I objected to, although I do go from this to say that ‘He is advocating something that comes close to a form of fascism’, and I withdraw this as he isn’t advocating anything of the kind. I meant that those who do might employ the same language that he has used.

            So I am not trying to smear him, and I realise that he does in fact favour a form of European confederation. The problem is that the effective break up of the EU that he favours will in my view inevitably release movements that are Strasserite and worse, based on powerful national sentiments and antagonisms that the left may be unable to control.which is why we have to seek reform on the basis of the current set up. Yes of course the focus of most politics is national, but that crucially includes policies towards the EU, for those states within it, although as I have pointed out the views of CL and yourself on this are, thankfully, still in a minority within the organised left.

            And no, while I deplore the treatment of Greece by the Troika, there is a world of difference between being a colony and being Greece within the EU.

          2. Steven Johnston says:


            Be fair to the French and German banks, as in the period up to 2008 banks from other European countries were buying Greek government bonds as part of the general lending spree which nobody thought would end.

            Surely the Greeks have to take some of the blame for being reckless spenders and yes, the banks were reckless lenders. But banks make money by lending it, they need to be repaid. The banks didn’t cause the economic boom to end but now it has, that is what has cause the problems in Greece. If there were reckless spenders there were also reckless lenders. But the economic boom did end and it is this that has caused the Greek sovereign debt problem.

          3. JohnP says:

            Regular Young Tory Troll ,Steven Johnson, doesn’t think “the banks caused the boom to end”. But the Western Banks and Hedge Funds , with their unrestrained speculative frenzy, did indeed cause the 2008 Great financial Crash, Stephen. Or do you still believe it was government Welfare spending everwhere that caused the 2008 Crash ?

            It is true that the Greek capitalist elite , and their political class borrowed like crazy during the boom years, paid no tax, and simply stole a significant portion of this borrowing – supposedly for productive projects – salted away a good proportion of this loot in the London banking system and property market , and now all live here, and in New York, safe from the economic catastrophe their corruption and economic mismanagement caused the Greek people.

            The German arms industry (and its bankers) is owed vast amounts by Greece – a tiny country, permanently in a state of near war with Turkey with the biggest arms procurement programme in Europe ! The trail of these mad arms contracts is one filled with bribery from German arms companies to the old Greek political class and military. Syriza has been forced to honour these crazy arms contracts as a condition of its regular bail out funds.

            The causes of the current Greek tragedy are many, Stephen, but the banks and corruption by the Greek capitalist and political class run through it throughout. The Greek people as a whole are the VICTIMS of this chicanery, not its beneficiaries.

    4. Peter Rowlands says:

      Chris. I won’t go back over our previous exchanges which you cite, but your points on the difficulties of reforming the EU all have validity. To be fair, the commission is now somewhat more accountable to the parliament, but the differences are not fundamental, and the ‘democratic deficit’ still prevails. No, there is as yet no European demos, although the youth vote for remain here indicates that we are perhaps moving in that direction.Yes, most parties of the PEL are mainly focussed on their own countries, understandably.I’m not sure if you’re right about theEU being neo liberal from the start. I think it is later agreements, particularly the Lisbon treaty, that turned it in a neo liberal direction, but that is not to say that reform would be in any way easy.
      On the difficulty of securing a majority for reform, all I can say is that this would be difficult, but not impossible.
      I don’t want to make your case stronger, but I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned the Euro, reform of which is vital if there is to be progress.

      1. C MacMackin says:

        Yes, I realised after I posted that I had slightly overstated the lack accountability of the Commission. However, in practice there is little difference. In any case, as I’m sure you’ll agree, if we think policy formation should be accountable to the European Parliament then we should just cut out hte middle-man and have parliamentary initiative.

        There is some movement in the direction of a European demos, I grant you, but it remains very, very weak. My generation is certainly more European than previous ones (although I suspect my fellow Oxford grad students give a rather unrepresentative impression of how much progress has been made), but I don’t see any evidence of substantial thought on policy in European terms. I think it would take at least 20, probably more like 40, more years to develop a proper demos if current trends continue—assuming the EU lasts that long. The Left could, in principle, try to accelerate this, but I see little sign of that happening anywhere on the Continent.

        Certainly the EU was less neoliberal at the start, but I think it has always been more about free trade than democracy or solidarity. Class forces were such that it had to make some jestures towards the latter in the early days, but I don’t think those tendencies were ever as strong as those favouring the internationalisation of capital.

        I certainly don’t mean to say that securing a majority for reform would be impossible. Merely that it is unlikely. The problem is that I don’t think there is room for left governments in some countries to wait in a holding pattern for more to appear in other countries. That means you’d have to get left parties elected in all significant countries within a few years of each other. Not impossible, but extremely difficult. Furthermore, I was thinking last night that we shouldn’t write off small countries blocking reform. You can bet that capital would put enormous pressure on them to veto any anti-neoliberal (let alone anti-capitalist) changes. One way this might be overcome would be if the left countries threatened to split the EU in order to achieve their reforms, but they’d have to be willing to follow through on that threat.

        I didn’t mention the Euro for a couple of reasons. One is that it is less relevant to the UK. More importantly, I think the issues I laid out about a democratic deficit and difficulty in reform apply equally to the Euro. Obviously there are massive issues about how the Euro was designed, the independence of the ECB, etc. and it makes it even harder for left governments to survive, but those issues are not fundamentally different from other criticisms of current EU structures and policy. We all know the EU and the Euro are rotten in many ways and, while the Euro differs in having no redeaming features as far as I can tell, that was not the point of my post. Instead I was explaining why I don’t think the rotten features are likely to be reformed away.

        1. Danny Nicol says:

          “Securing a majority for reform” in the EU context actually means securing common accord. This means that all Member State governments must agree to proposals for Treaty changes, with an abstention being counted as a vote against.

          This is why removing neoliberalism from the EU construct is the stuff of fantasy.

  9. Karl Stewart says:

    Thanks for the above article Peter.

    Of course I totally disagree with you (as I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear) but I do like the “Qs&As” style that you’ve presented it in.

    It’s a well-written and thought-provoking read. Thanks.

    I think we on the anti-single market left need to up our game and renew our efforts to win people over to a firm socialist anti-single market position.

  10. prianikoff says:

    “ Labour’s new Brexit policy was announced on August 27th. … a unified policy based on remaining in or retaining access to the single market, now seems to have been agreed by the leadership.
    This means that it is likely that it would be overwhelmingly endorsed at Conference “

    If it was “likely” to be “overwhelmingly endorsed” why didn’t the LP leadership wait for Conference to make the decision?

    The best thing you can say about Starmer’s 4 year pause is that it could be used to split the Tories and lead to a vote of no-confidence in Parliament.

    The worst thing is that it might lead LP supporters into the swamp occupied by the Liberals – a party which has died more times than Doctor Who.

    Labour has to defend jobs, services and extend workers rights. Not the EU’s “4 freedoms”, which defend the rights of the employers by inextricably linking the free movement of capital & labour.

    Labour needs to stand for a socialist Europe, not the capitalist EU.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      You’re totally right. But the fact is we don’t have majority support within the Labour Party for a socialist position on this.

      I very much doubt if Corbs actually likes this current position, but it’s a reflection on the balance of opinion within the party.

      We on the left have not been successful in winning people over to our position and we need to up our game.

      Thankfully, the current LP policy is only for a ‘transitionary period’ and so, although no doubt the Blairites will push hard for this to become a permanent situation, we do have a window of opportunity to make the case for a socialist policy alternative.

  11. Steven Johnston says:

    But will it make a pint of best bitter cheaper?
    If yes, then I’m all for it, whatever it is.

  12. Paul Dias says:

    I do wish Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers, Paul Dacre and Viscount Rothermere , BoJo the Clown and the socialists of the Nazional variety would explain to us poor Remainer fools what exactly it is we would be transitioning TO – assuming the EU goes along with the transition charade.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Paul Dias: You won’t find any of them on here pal.

      1. JohnP says:

        This seems to be the emerging Left liberal Guardianista Remainer attack meme on Left Futures ,Karl – that any socialist with the temerity to want out of Big Business’s neoliberal enforcement machine of the EU and its “Four (capitalist) Freedoms” , must be a Nazi – or even a “Strasserite ” Nazi !

        Beats having to actually justify their illusions in the benevolence of the utterly neoliberal capitalist organisation that (with its Eurozone straight jacket ) has seriously damaged all the economies of Southern Europe, (to provide German Capital a highly competitive Euro for its export economy) and is currently asset stripping Greece to the bone to secure repayments to the German and French banks, for the “odious debts” of the corrupt Greek bourgeoisie.

        1. Danny Nicol says:

          It’s clear too that the Left liberals who presently loom largest on the Labour “Left”, Momentum, etc., now regard the socialists, not the Blairites, as their main enemy. Hence their conversion to the EU/ESM in the face of all the evidence including Greece and the enforcement of permanent privatisation by way of supranational law.

          The crux is that these “Left” comrades no longer seek the replacement of capitalism by socialism, hence their tolerance of the dominance of private ownership by way of EU law. Liberals not socialists.

          Collective realignment by way of “groupthink” is nothing new, same happened in the 1980s with a Left organisation called the Labour Co-ordinating Committee which essentially became the Blairites.

    2. David Pavett says:

      This thread illustrates well the inability of all too many on the left to handle differences without assuming that someone who doesn’t agree must be a trecherous turncoat. This what makes it so difficult to work in a unified way (despite differences).

      Someone who disagrees, on this approach cannot be an honest interlocutor to be pursuaded of a different view. Instead they must be dismissed as “Left liberal Guardianista Remainers”, people with “illusions in the benevolence of the utterly neoliberal capitalist organisation”, “Left liberals” who “regard socialists not Blairites as their main enemy”, “‘Left’ comrades [who] no longer seek the replacement of capitalism by socialism”, “Liberals not socialists”.

      No sensible debate can de conducted in this manner. I think that some people who write like this would not conduct a face to face conversation in the same manner (although I suspect that some would). This keyboard rage is the political equivalent of road rage and is as unlikely as the latter to contribute to better understanding.

      If this were a public meeting I was chairing I would say “Please make your points without denigrating those who disagree or don’t make them at all”.

      The result is an inabilty to hear simple points even when clearly stated. Peter wrote “I do not think that Lapavistas is a fascist, he is a socialist who is sincerely, but hugely mistakenly, advocating a course of action which he believes will best advance the left”. Despite that he is referred to as a “Left liberal Guardianista Remainer” who believes that anyone who wants to leave the EU “must be a Nazi”.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        David Pavett:
        You’re doing this thing again where you dishonestly attack people who are objecting to be called nazis.

        But you completely ignore the actual person who actually is accusing socialists of being nazis.

        So we who object to this revolting smear are scolded by you for objecting to it.

        But yet the person who has made the smear is completely ignored by you as if it didn’t happen.

        This is what Paul Dias wrote, as you seem to have completely missed it.

        “…I do wish Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers, Paul Dacre and Viscount Rothermere , BoJo the Clown and the socialists of the Nazional variety would explain to us poor Remainer fools…”

        Now stop this fake “I’m Mr Reasonable and I only want a nice debate between both sides” rubbish, because all you do is go on to attack socialists for objecting to being called nazis.

      2. Karl Stewart says:

        David Pavett:

        You write about how you would attack socialists for defending themselves if you were chairing a public meeting.

        Would you also make no comment whatsoever about filth like Paul Dias who accuses socialists of being nazis?

        1. David Pavett says:

          You write about how you would attack socialists for defending themselves if you were chairing a public meeting.

          You need to take a deep breath and listen to yourself. Comments like this are just daft.

          P.S. I thought Paul Dias’ comment was near incomprehensible and not worthy of a response. My comments about chairing a meeting would apply to him too.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Glad to hear it David.

            It was Paul Dias’s comments that sparked the anger from JohnP DannyN and myself that you responded to.

            Previous to that, the responses to Peter’s article were reasonably good natured, if robust in places.

            But everything you quoted from John and Danny and myself were responses to the idiot Paul Dias not to PeterR.

            It surprised and disappointed me that you then attacked us for responding in anger to the idiot, while making no criticism of the idiot.

            If you care to look at my responses to PeterR, they’re not angry at all.

            The problem is, we do have a growing tendency from shall we say “AWL” types, to call socialists nazis – and it’s unacceptable.

  13. Karl Stewart says:

    JohnP and DannyN are absolutely right here.

    Paul Dias, is a fake “left” who is acting as the attack dogs for the Blairites with this revolting smear accusing socialists of being nazis.

    It needs to stop and people accusing socialists of being nazis need to be told, firmly.

  14. Peter Rowlands says:

    I broadly agree with David as to how we should conduct debate.
    I find it disappointing that it is only David P and Chris M who have tried to answer some of the points that I raise.
    For Danny Nicol, the majority of the organised left, here and in the EU, cannot be considered socialist, as they do not want to leave the EU. We’ve got the message. I think you probably have more in common with the SWP and other ultra left groups than with what most of the left,here and in the EU, and very imperfectly, is trying to fight for, but as T. Benn said, it’s a broad church.

  15. Jim Denham says:

    Open letter to the deluded pro-Brexit “left”

    Yes, I mean you lot at the Morning Star/CPB, SWP, Counterfire and Socialist Party:

    I take it for granted that as self-proclaimed leftists, you are knee-jerk anti-racists and internationalists opposed to anything that tends to divide, rather than unite, our class.

    And yet you called for a Leave vote in the referendum, and continue to back Brexit! In the case of the Morning Star/CPB, you oppose continued membership of the single market and customs union – in other words you want a “hard” Brexit!

    To its shame, the Morning Star continues with this folly, publishing Daily Mail-style editorials that more or less explicitly back David Davis against the “intransigent” Michel Barnier and the “EU bosses in Brussels, Bonn and Frankfurt.”

    Some of us tried to warn you about the Pandora’s box of xenophobia and racism that you were opening. Yet even when the Leave vote was immediately followed by a sharp increase in racist attacks and incidents (in fact, hate crime in general, such as attacks on gays), you wilfully closed your eyes and stuffed your ears, mouthing shameful banalities like “there was racism on both sides” and “racism didn’t begin on June 23rd.”

    Well, yesterday we caught a glimpse of what the Tories have planned for EU citizens in Britain, or coming to Britain.

    The plans are not yet official government policy, but all the signs are that they soon will be. The leaked document is explicit about ending a rights based approach. EU citizens arriving after Brexit would have to show passports, not ID cards; they would have to apply for short term two year visas for low skilled jobs; they would be prevented from bringing over extended family members and be subject to an income threshold (£18,600 per year) even to bring a spouse.

    Employers, landlords, banks and others would have to carry out checks on paper-work. The hostility towards immigrants Theresa May deliberately stirred up as Home Secretary would intensify, and rub off on all “foreigners” and ethnic minorities, whether from the EU or not. British-born people of colour would inevitably find it more difficult to obtain work and accommodation.

    As immigration lawyer Colin Yeo has commented: ‘The first and most obvious [result] is that the plans would make the UK a far less attractive destination for migrants. This is of course the whole point. The Home Office is protectionist by nature and worries only about security. The economy, consequent tax take, international relations and “soft power” international standing are considered worth the sacrifice. But what would happen to the sectors of the economy dependent on migrant labour, such as agriculture, food processing and hospitality? Are the public ready for a huge recession, massive job losses and reduced funding for public services and infrastructure?’

    Andrew Coates, who knows a thing or two about France, has noted that ‘the scheme is a policy of National Preference, close to the demand of the far-right Front National, for jobs to go to first of all to UK Nationals.’

    Deluded comrades: how are you now going to explain yourselves and your craven role as foot soldiers for the carnival of reaction that is Brexit? Your original arguments and justifications for your pro-Leave stance during the referendum varied from the bizarre (after Farage and Johnson – us!) through the deluded (vote Leave to oppose racism!) to the frankly egregious (immigration controls are a form of closed shop!).

    There was only ever one argument in favour of Brexit that made any sense from a socialist perspective: that EU membership would prevent a left wing government from implementing nationalisations and other forms of state intervention into the economy.

    This urban myth has been perpetuated by leftist anti-Europeans and by Tory anti-interventionists for the last forty years.

    But it’s wrong, at least according Article 345 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU of 1958, which states: ‘The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership. This Article remains in force and makes a nonsense of the claim that existing EU legislation prohibits the kind of nationalisation, or other economic intervention, being advocated by Jeremy Corbyn. But even if it did, is Elliott seriously suggesting that if Corbyn gets elected on a manifesto that includes public ownership, he would not be able to implement it? Nonsense. As the pro-Brexit right continually reminded us during the referendum campaign, Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world, and (unlike Greece) would have little difficulty in forcing the EU to accept a Corbyn government’s right to introduce such relatively minor reforms as taking key industries and services into public ownership. Anyone who’s ever taken a train in France or Germany knows this.

    But, for the sake of argument, let’s say you’re right and I’m wrong: what is the benefit for a social democratic Corbyn-style government, of voluntarily leaving the EU, rather than pushing ahead with its programme regardless, and (in effect) daring the EU to kick the UK out? That’s a question I’ve asked many times in debates with you lot, and to which I have never received a coherent reply.

    As the reactionary, anti-working class and essentially racist nature of Brexit becomes more and more obvious, I cannot believe that anyone who calls themselves a socialist, is not appalled. It’s probably too much to ask the self-absorbed, ultra-sectarian groups that make up the pro-Bexit “left” (together with Frank Field, Graham Stringer, Kate Hoey and the ultra-right, racist wing of the PLP) to simply admit that you’ve got it wrong, and reverse your disastrous policy on EU membership. That kind of intellectual honesty is not part of your culture. But I think internationalists and anti-racists do have the right to demand that you make it clear that you support free movement, oppose a “hard” Brexit and support the maximum possible degree of co-operation and integration between British and European people (and, in particular, workers via their organisations) in or out of the EU.

    Is that too much to ask, comrades?


    1. Danny Nicol says:

      JD – read chapter 3 of my book The Constitutional Protection of Capitalism which is devoted to why Article 345 TFEU is a complete dead letter.

      1. JohnP says:

        I’m afraid that Jim Denham has decided to fit endless bogus facts to his endless accusation that each and every socialist who doesn’t want to stay in the entirely neoliberal EU and its Four capitalist is a dupe of fascism ,or a undercover Nazi, whilst failing to explain what protections the EU has ever provided to workers trying to defend their rights and conditions against business and state attacks. In the cases of Greece ? In the Hollande assault on French workers last year ? In any case where the ECJ has had say in union v big business disputes around the exploitation of Free Movement re Posted workers” ? The answer is that the EU is only in favour of the untrammeled play of market forces. This is not an organisation that socialists should have illusions in.

        Danny Nicol and C.Mack have detailed that Jim’s Guardianista delusions in the benevolence of the EU, is just that, a delusion, based on dodgy data and wishful thinking, and a hysterical abuse of socialists who don’t buy the EU propaganda image.

        As Karl has more than once harshly said , Jim, for a claimed AWL Trotskyist your politics are actually those of a Left liberal, not a socialist. He is correct, your misunderstanding of the nature of the EU , and the key role of unlimited labour supply in the neoliberal project, leads you to your tiresomely repetitive overheated misrepresensention of anti EU socialists. You need to read more socialist theory and less Guardian editorials.

        1. James Martin says:

          Ah the Alliance for Workers Liberty, what a joy. Nowt socialist about them, and hasn’t been for a very long time (I do remember their one Liverpool member ‘Dale Street’ happily mixing with the right wing as they were witch hunting Militant in the 80s and supporting drug dealing gangsters like the Showers brothers who when not importing Class A’s were disrupting Labour rallies and attacking comrades like Eric Heffer). Pro-NATO bombing, pro-EU, pro-racist Zionist, there is nothing that nasty AWL sect won’t stoop to when it comes to trying to undermine the left.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            The AWL are a bunch of angry liberals who try to act tough.

            Tough angry liberals eh…how scary…

          2. Jim Denham says:

            Martin: I’ve called you out on that lie before, and demanded evidence … and got none. I ask you again: evidence, please? Or stand accused of being a bare-faced liar.

        2. Jim Denham says:

          John P: you’re talking anti-Marxist nonsense, of cause (just read the Communist Manifesto, please – never mind “Guardian editorials”): even if you weren’t (for the sake of argument) talking petty bourgeoise, Bennite-reformist bollocks: better to be a pro-free movement “liberal”£ than to give fake-“left” cover to racism, as you you do … “Comrade”!

        3. Jim Denham says:

          As for you, Karl: you’re an ignorant anti-Marxist, not worth engaging with. But better to be a so-called “liberal” than an apologist for Farage, Johnson and their racism, which is you pathetic and shameful role.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            JimmyD, you’re a fake “left” smearing socialists on behalf of the Blairites and big business.

    2. prianikoff says:

      The EU has increasingly tough rules on external immigration and it wants to strengthen these to be in line with the customs controls it imposes at its “external border”.
      It has developed a whole number of measures to do this, including Frontex,FP7 & EUROSUR.

      ‘Fortress Europe’ encourages all of its member states to return illegal immigrants and collaborate in preventing them moving between EU states.

      So complying with EU rules on migration will increasingly prevent the NHS from employing nurses from the Phillipines; British schools from employing teachers from India, Bangladesh, Canada and Australia etc..

      Therefore, to be consistent, you should be arguing for Britain to *leave the EU* and unilaterally abolish all immigration controls.

    3. prianikoff says:

      re. “Article 345 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the EU of 1958”

      You’re about 60 years out of date
      (see DIRECTIVE 2014/25/EU of the EU Parliament and Council, 26 February 2014 on procurement by entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors)

      It’s main thrust is “creating cross-border business opportunities for suppliers and service providers.”

      Even if a public utility is still owned by the state (i.e almost none UK) it has to purchase from suppliers via open public tender.

      Some 70% of the EU market in public tenders comes from the UK!
      So how will complying with EU law stop further PFI?

      The problem is that Tory Brexit will mean even more fanatical devotion to privatisation and opening up Public utitilities to non-EU inward investment.

      Labour needs to stand for social ownership and reject EU, ESM or EAA regulations that hinder this.

  16. C MacMackin says:

    First off, I think it is a mischaracterisation (at least of some people) to say Left-Brexiters took the view “after Farage and Johnson – us!” Rather, the view was that after Brexit the left would still have a chance to take power and use it as an opportunity to pursue socialism. With Labour currently leading in the polls, I don’t think you can rule out this possibility. While Brexit certainly has emboldened some reactionary elements, it clearly has not led to the defeat of progressive ones. That there is an article stating “The Treaties shall in no way prejudice the rules in Member States governing the system of property ownership” does not address the points being made. It is true that there is little restriction on what companies may be in state ownership. Only the misinformed or disingenuous would claim otherwise. The problems come from other sections of EU laws.

    Take rail, for instance. Currently there are state-owned rail companies in countries such as France, Italy, and Germany. However, the Fourth Railway package requires the opening of passenger rail to competition by the end of 2019. This could either take the form of allowing competing services on the same line or of franchising of the type currently used in the UK. There is nothing to prevent a public operator from bidding on a franchise, but it will still lead to the fragmented service typical of the privatised era. Competitors would take away passengers on profitable routes, inhibiting cross-subsidisation. It might be possible to offer a sufficiently good and comprehensive public rail service (without using franchising) that there would be no room for private operators to get a foothold. This would be similar to the model used for bus transport in some cities (e.g. Reading) where a publicly owned company has managed to out-compete the private sector even though buses remain deregulated. However, it would be necessary for the rail network to be entirely self-funding in that case, as any subsidised “public service rail contracts” would need to be put out to tender. Maybe the the government could continue its policy of offering a hidden subsidy to the (now public) rail operator through Network Rail, but I suspect that would be challenged as state aid. Furthermore, given that all rail routes would have legacy private operators who could not be forcibly displaced under such a scheme, it seems unlikely to me that a public operator would be able to re-establish an effective monopoly.

    Another example is energy. A majority of EDF is owned by the French government and all of Vattenfall is owned by the Swedish government. A number of Germany cities have taken the distribution networks back into public ownership. However, this doesn’t address the root problem, which is the EU requirement for a liberalised energy market. As such, it would not be possible to return to the vertically-integrated electricity companies that characterised the post-war era. Instead, the market would have to remain open to private generators and private suppliers of electricity to consumers. The wasteful wholesale market in electricity would remain in place. All of this would make it very difficult, perhaps impossible, to make the long-term investment decisions needed to decarbonise our energy system, as I have previously argued. Now, the manifesto commitments on energy did not go as far as I’m demanding and they would have been compatible with EU legislation, but I really don’t think we should make the manifesto the limit of our ambitions.

    Then there is the prohibition of state aid. This could potentially make state-backed investment illegal, depending on how the law is interprated, especially in big infrastructure. For example, it has been suggested that state-backed investment in new power plants (to be paid off by regulated electricity rates), which was used very successfully by France in the 70s, would today be illegal (you can find the source for this in my linked discussion of energy ownership—I can’t add more than two links to this comment without it getting held up in moderation). If a state enterprise ran at a loss one year, presumably it would be vulernable to a challenge of using state aid. Far reaching investment which isn’t expected to have a return for some time would also be vulnerable.

    None of this is to mention the most immediate problem posed by EU membership: free movement of capital. Capital flight was a bit part of what brought down Mitterand and was part of the attack on Syriza by Greek capital. The UK will need capital controls to combat this, preferably before it starts to get bad. These are not permissable within the Single Market and would almost certainly be challenged if used preemptively.

    I don’t at all agree with the assertion that the UK could get away with ignoring EU directives because of its size and importance. The Comission has brought cases against large countries in the past and won them. See, for example, Case C-112/05 in which (put simply) the ECJ ruled against Germany having a golden share in Volkswagen. Given its neoliberal nature, we can expect it to be all the more aggressive in litigating against a socialist government. Even if it does not, however, private companies would be able to bring cases to the ECJ. We can fully expect energy or rail companies, about to be shut out of those markets, to do this. Given that proper rail and energy renationalisation would clearly violate EU directives, how do you expect the ECJ to rule in Britain’s favour? If the UK were to simply ignore these rulings then things would become interesting, to say the least. The EU could choose to suspect voting rights for the UK. Other than that there aren’t many formally outlined disciplinary actions it could take. However, I really can’t imagine it not retaliating in some way, perhaps starting to erect trade barriers. Compared to all of that uncertainty and chaos, surely it would be better to try to get a decent Brexit deal before things escalate that far?

    Had the Brexit referendum never happened, I would propose starting down a path of knowingly flouting EU directives. However, I believe this would have led the UK to a choice between Brexit and capitulation sooner rather than later. In that case I think the UK should have chosen Brexit before things within the EU got too chaotic. Had the referendum gone Remain then I’d suggest that the UK less openly flout the EU laws, taking advantage of loopholes where possible. This would have reduced the scope for action by a left government and would likely still have led to confrontation with the EU, but would be necessary in order to show that the government is at least attempting to respect the referendum result. However, neither of those are the situation we’re in. I don’t see choosing not to leave only to go back on that decision later as a tenable position. In any case, however chaotic Brexit negotiations might be at the moment, they’d almost certainly be worse if done in a situation where the UK government was already embroiled in a fight with capital and the Commission.

    1. Peter Rowlands says:

      Although we have discussed this before, I am confused about what Chris is saying in his last paragraph.Canhe please clarify.

      1. C MacMackin says:

        I was trying to respond to Jim Denham’s question “what is the benefit for a social democratic Corbyn-style government, of voluntarily leaving the EU, rather than pushing ahead with its programme regardless, and (in effect) daring the EU to kick the UK out?” Had there not been a referendum on EU membership, this would have been the approach I’d want the Left to take. I described in the penultimate paragraph the fact that the EU doesn’t actually have a mechanism to kick out recalcitrant member states, so I speculated on how it would respond if the EU refused to obey ECJ rulings. I feel that it would be best to leave the EU before a situation like that arose, as it would allow Brexit negotiations to be conducted in a friendlier and less chaotic setting.

        I then say that had the referendum gone Remain I think it would be necessary for the British Left to put more effort into trying to follow the EU rules, in letter if not in spirit. However, I think a Left government would still end up with a choice of capitulating to EU-sponsored neoliberalism or trying to leave. What would be possible, although I think unlikely, is that by not blatantly disobeying the directives the UK could buy itself some time before faced with that choice, and maybe enough other countries would have left wing governments by then to allow for reform.

        As it stands, I think it would be an untenable position to ignore the result of the referendum, only to be forced to leave anyway in a few years. Hence why I’m saying we should negotiate to leave and try our hardest not to be bound by the more neoliberal single market rules. It also allows us to conduct Brexit negotiations in a more orderly fashion than if the UK is trying to leave in the middle of implementing a left economic program which is inspiring a pushback from capital and the EU.

        I hope this clarifies everything for you.

        1. C MacMackin says:

          Rereading this I see where some of Peter’s confusion may have come from. If the UK stuck to a left platform within the EU then I think we would see the following sequence of events:

          1. Labour enacts illegal policy (e.g. monopoly nationalisation)
          2. a challenge is brought to the ECJ -> the ECJ rules against the UK
          3. Labour ignores the ECJ ruling and continues as before
          4. the EU reacts in some way

          I’m saying that if Labour doesn’t want to back down on its policy, it would be better to start Brexit proceedings around 3 rather than wait until we are well into 4. This would lead to a more orderly process with fewer hard feelings.

          1. Peter Rowlands says:

            Chris. OK. Hadn’t read Denham properly. However, depends on when Labour takes control. If shortly, which is credible, we would be committed to the Starmer line, this would not rule out nationalisation and conflict with EU arising from that, although Labour right would probably not support this if it was seen to endanger the ESM transition, if that was agreed. This could be the point at which some sort of centre coalition emerged.

  17. Bazza says:

    Labour Campaign for Free Movement read Labour Campaign for Laizzez-Faire Neo-Liberal Capitalism!
    Free movement of labour serves primarily the free movement of capital and we need to control both in every country. I care about working people in the UK and every EC country (and the World).
    With the ‘Four Freedoms’ we will never be able to sort out housing, have democtratic public ownership and will have the likes of vile G4S for ever running some services.
    Labour Campaign for Free Movement I would argue lie prostrate at the feet of Neo-Liberal Capitalsm – and with them it’s crumbs for ever for working people.
    I don’t want crumbs for diverse working people in every country, our labour creates the global wealth and makes societies work – we deserve the table.
    “Only the stars will ride the storm!”

  18. Peter Rowlands says:

    Some final thoughts for the time being.
    1) It is patronising and absurd to deny that those, the majority of the organised left in the Eu and here who wish to remain in a reformed EU, are not socialists.
    2) A left Brexit is likely to fail, because it would not be strong enough against big capital and because it would not be able to overcome the economic crisis that would ensue.
    3) A general break up of the EU is likely to promote national rivalry and antagonism, to the benefit of the right and big business who would be relatively strengthened.
    4) There is no reason why the EU can not be reformed, although it would be difficult and would require left governments committed to it in most of the bigger EU states.
    5) Even if it was right, which I don’t believe it is, it is not possible for Labour to promote a left Brexit line because the majority of its members and voters do not support it. JC and others have now recognised this.

    1. Verity says:

      1. I suspect that the point being made is that if you believe the EU imposes such massive constraints upon radical change and opposition to neo -liberalism, then those who knowingly concede to the constraints are objectively falling into the anti-socialist camp. Of course it should be limited to the knowingly category, e.g Chuka Umunna.

      2. We really have no idea about the economic crisis that will ensue. This applies both to staying and leaving. So much has been promised about the catastrophic failure that I wonder what the arguments could be if a rather more likely muddy outcome prevails. It presumes that an accommodation with European nations or with the EU as a whole will not take place. No accommodation whatsoever seems to me to be highly unlikely.

      3. I agree that it is true that a breakup of the EU will more likely generate national rivalries. This will require the need to get (non EU) agreements. Of course the national rivalries at the moment remain at a more gentlemanly level – they are superficially held in check. The continuing prosperity of some nations (Germany) combined with the almost certain further decline of others (Greece and Portugal) may mean national rivalries may well occur irrespective of the EU standing. The fallout of the UK will no doubt cause further disputes amongst nations as the fight over reduced budgets has to be faced – at whose expense we may wonder – the Greek’s, Polish, Hungarian economy?

      4. A reform of the EU is surely more likely to occur as a result of the UK’s departure than its continuation. What incentive is there to reform when facing no costs or consequences. If a few more national parliaments were to exert their dissatisfaction then reform would be so much more promising. But in any case the alignment of almost the whole of European’s opposition forces whether they be environmental, consumer, trade union or individual workers rights along with all 27 nations at the same point in time with little less of a sense of solidarity than a single nation is about as likely as spontaneous world revolution – and for the same reasons – they all have align together at the same points in time. A single nation state at least has some forces acting in solidarity with others at the same points in time. If nations do have similar interests (how likely that?), it has to be understand at the same conjuncture of decision – making.

      5. The absence of a Left case against the EU for a decade or more has become a problem for the Left Leavers. The Left cannot have expected to fail to take on this debate and then to suddenly turn it around. The Trade Unions preference in battles for administrative fixes as a more promising short term success to challenges the Tory- Liberal – Labour coalitions against industrial-political activity has had a price. The almost monopoly establishment case has had some effect here to. So yes, I concede that much of Labour knows little of the arguments against the EU except perhaps prejudices. It is true that it is the liberal- professional Labour voters that are so prominent in the Labour vote. The working class areas in my own CLP give as many or even more votes to the Tories than Labour (or at least if UKIP were included). But it only takes 10% disillusion in the working class Labour vote for Labour to secure the damaging loss. I don’t find the hostility to the Tories in the working class areas that I do in the liberal professional territory. I fear that even the current prevarication in Labour’s position will have already done some permanent damage to the Labour vote in my own CLP. I perceive their is scepticism that Labour does not fight for, ‘those in the working class like me’.

      1. JohnP says:

        All good points, Verity.

        Listening to the likes of working lifetime TUC bureaucrat, Francis O’Grady, waxing lyrical about the benefits of the EU, I find it impossible to distinguish between the majority of the TU bureaucracy’s position and that of the CBI ! No doubt the trades union bureaucracy have becomes entwined in the endless junketing and career gravy train (for their children as much as themselves)of the EU machine that has so seduced the political classes of the EU states over the years. To the trades union bureaucracy as a special sub-class belonging neither to the working class or the capitalist class, the idea of “socialism” even of a Corbynite Left Keynsian radical reforming kind, is an alien concept , far from their golden pensioned , higher management level salaries and constant hob-knobbing with Big Business and “the establishment ” generally. So it is easy to mistake the pro EU pronouncements of this isolated TU bureaucracy elite as the view of the mass of even the organised UK working class. It isn’t. Also, I listened to Left CAC candidate, Billy Hayes on Daily Politics this week, pontificating about how “unlimited labour supply had been an unmitigated good thing ” for the UK and “working people”. The sheer incomprehension of even Left trades unionists as to what both the EU is about , and specifically what that liberal feel good euphemism ,”Freedom of Movement” in particular , is about, simply demonstrates the extraordinary penetration of neoliberal ideology into the labour movement over the last 30 years.

        To return to the “let’s stay in and turn the neoliberal EU into a “worker’s EU”. mantra. Any independent observer would surely look at the current state of the traditional social democratic parties across the EU today, and see a state of almost utter collapse, politically (into neoliberalism) , in membership, and in voting support. And the supposed “new wave” of more radical Left parties ? Syriza is now a craven creature of the Trioka. Podemos is adrift in opportunism and the consequences of the highly top down leadership structure that exists behind the façade of its unstructured “movementism”. Die Linke in Germany is increasingly compromised by its endless deals and alliances (not surprisingly given its significant roots in the East German Communist Party !). We can all cite better news in a few states ( eg, Portugal currently, with its Leftish coalition government) but the overall reality is the collapse or stagnation of both traditional social democracy, AND the supposed “new Left wave” of radical reformism.

        That being undoubtedly so , holding out vain hopes for Left-led radical change across the EU, is , as Verity says, a reformist Left variant of that old “revolutionary Left” chestnut , that “nothing can be achieved until the entire world simultaneously rises up and creats global socialism”. The roots of this position is actually the same for the reformist Left and pseudo revolutionary sects , ie, a profound fear of actually having to face up to the undoubted massive disruption and uncertainty that any radical shift to the Left will result in. For the Labour Left this is simply the Left face of Fabianism- “Socialism as a long term objective – but not yet oh Lord, not yet “!”

      2. Jim Denham says:

        Educated workers and trade unionists are overwhelmingly pro-EU; anti-racists and internationalists must mobilise them to educate the lumpen anti-EU proletariat: it can be done, and will become easier as Brexit clobbers the lumpens. Of course, that will involve also clobbering the Stalinists, nationalists, Malthusians and racists in our own ranks.

        1. Karl Stewart says:


          “Clobbering” eh? Scary stuff from the angry liberal.

          1. Karl Stewart says:

            Hey JimmyD,

            Is “clobbering” the official policy of your Blairite sect?

            Ha ha ha! What a joke you are

    2. C MacMackin says:

      I’ve been thinking a bit about what would happen if you had Left governments in a few key states but neoliberal governments in others. For the sake of argument, let’s say the left took power in France, Spain, Portugal, and the UK (before Brexit or if it doesn’t happen at all). Meanwhile, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia remain governed by neoliberals of one form or another. Perhaps within one election cycle the Left could sweep to power in the neoliberal states, but that is not guaranteed. I can’t see the neoliberal states giving in to serious reform just because the Left states want it. In that case the Left states would either have to give in or threaten to leave and set up an alternative socialist EU. The latter threat might be enough to force some concessions—it’s certainly the only strategy I can think of which seems to have a plausible chance of success. However, it might not. If it came to that, I’m curious whether you’d be willing to support the establishment of an alternative European federation, Peter.

      1. Peter Rowlands says:

        Chris. Well, it would depend on its chances of success and the possibilities of EU reform – just because a country was not ‘left’ controlled it would not necessarily be opposed to some reform. However, I would say that without Germany as one of the ‘left’ powers the prospects would be poor.

    3. David Pavett says:

      @Peter. I agree with your point (1). That type of excommunicating heresy hunting is practiced by those who practice politics as a religion. They are found on both sides of the argument. We need to ignore their strident hectoring so that we can focus on the arguments.

      Point (2) seems to be hand-waving on an issue that requires detailed argument. What is true is that a post-Brexit government that continued to play by the neo-liberal rules would be even more at the mercy of big capital than if we remained in the EU. But what about a government that would be ready to block the free movement?

      Point (3) the EU is losing support across the menber states without the help of Brexit. The far right is expected to enter the German parliament for the first time since WWII. Big business would would not be strengthened if several states adopted anti neo-liberal policies in a way they cannot do in the EU.

      Point (4), it’s a bit simple just to say there is no reason why the EU can’t be reformed. You agree that it would be hard.How hard, how long would it and how does that compare to the difficulties of winning the support of a smaller group of nation to move in a radical direction? We need transnational European institution but the EU defines itself in capitalist terms and it is too damned powerful.

      Point (5) as we all say at various points you can’t win by simple accepting the status quo and not making the case for what you believe is the best way forward. Labour is beset on all sides by massive ignorance concerning the EU. Why would arguing that case be harder than winning the main member state let alone all the menber states, to fundamental reform to dump the EU’s neo-liberal precepts?

      The problem for me in all this is there is far too much assumption (e.g. Brexit will be an economic disaster) and far too little demonstration (what would be the probable losses to the economy and what would be the probable, or at least possible gains?). And then towering over all that is the issue of the free movement of capital and the power this gives private interests over national governments. I have raised this issue several times as have others. I don’t think anyone arguing for remaining in the ESM has ever tried to answer that point.

      Whichever case is felt to be correct (reverse Brexit/stay in the ESN or break with the EU rules) the LP is in a bind and would need subtle and strong leadership to avoid massive internal conflict and even a split. I accept that the majority of Labour members and supporters want to remain in an EU orbit but they do so mostly on the basis of vague ideas about (a) the positives of transnationalism and (b) because they believe that the EU has given us better guarantees in such matters as the environment, TU rights and human rights generally than we would have had without it. These points are not without force but it seems to me to be a weaker force than the arguments against the EU’s bolstering of the power of big capital and its powerful pressure for marketisation.

      I have previously tried to make the case for staying in the EU and, after Brexit, for staying in the ESM. Now it seems to me that the balance of the arguments is against the latter. I find the arguments of Chris M the most convincing. I have always found there to be something sinister in the EU’s democratic deficit and the trashing of Greece was a horrifying episode. That plus the complete absence of clear proposals for EU reform or of a pathway to achieving them (I have read the Diem25 Manifesto and find it unconvincing) draws me to the view that the EU is an obstacle to progress. I hesitate only because of the equally sinister nature of some of the forces lining up against the EU and also because of the rise of nationalism that a weakening, or even collapse, of the EU would promote.

      Enough thinking out loud.

  19. Peter Rowlands says:

    David, Verity, Chris, JohnP have all replied to my five points, so briefly (and I spoke more fully to some of these in my article), my response:
    1) Yes, I reaffirm that in my view it is elitist, condescending, sectarian and ultra left to dismiss those wanting EU reform as having views incompatible with socialism.
    2) In my article I do say that there could be a trade agreement, and that predictions of catastrophe are over the top, but most commentators agree that the prospects do not look good.
    3) The break up of the EU will inevitably increase nationalism and hostility between its nations, it will render Europe irrelevant on the world stage and will enable big business to play countries off against each other.
    4)We have to reform the EU, as all the alternatives to doing so are worse.
    5) I am talking about Labour’s current position. Yes, of course we should develop a critique of the EU, although it remains my view that a left Brexit is unlikely to succeed.

    1. David Pavett says:

      (3) The break up the EU would promote nationalism. The trouble is though its continued existence also promotes nationalism as we have seen only too clearly. This issue therefore needs a lot more unpacking.

      (4) Your claim is too vague to evaluate. What sort of time period do you allow for achieving EU reform? 5, 10, 20, 30 years? What harm could be done by the EU in blocking national democratic aspirations in the meantime? What makes you think that the route of reforming the EU is better than the alternatives? How do you evaluate that?

      I still feel that the core arguments on both sides involve a lot of hand-waving and hunches plus bits and pieces of analysis and facts selected to suit the arguments. But as I said, and you didn’t reply to me or Chris on this, what looms over everything is the free movement of capital and the EU’s marketising rules.

      I didn’t understand when in your article you spoke of the possible necessity of capital controls while being within the EEA. How so?

      Is this issue not fundamental to any stable left advance in individual states? Or do you believe that such advance is only possible when all the main nations of the EU do it together? If it is the later then, again, what timescale are we talking about?

    2. C MacMackin says:

      As I have said in the past, I think the root of our disagreement lies with two issues: how a Left government would fair inside the EU and how it would fair outside. Not to say that there aren’t other areas of disagreements, but I think these are the most fundamental. Peter believes that a Left government will not be able to survive outside of the EU/ESM but might be able to stay in a mildly social democratic holding pattern within it. I believe that, with a sufficiently well developed economic plan, it would be possible for a Left government to survive outside of the ESM (although a free trade agreement would be preferable). However, I think it will almost certainly be impossible for one to survive within the ESM, following its rules.

      If Peter is correct, then the difficulty of reforming the EU is immaterial; we have no other choice but to fight to do it, while making capitalism more humane in our own countries in the meantime. If I am correct then leaving the ESM would offer a more immediate prospect for left wing advance while advance within the ESM would be considerably more difficult because successive Left governments could be defeated before more have a chance to come to power. Of course, it could be that a Left government would fail either in or out of the EU/ESM, for the reasons Peter and I describe. It’s hard to know what to do in that case, but I guess the best option would probably be to try to form a pan-European movement capable of securing a majority within the European Parliament. We’d have to hope some progress could flow from there, although this would probably still involve messy confrontations between member states and different parts of the EU bureaucracy.

      I think these are the two point where we really need to focus our efforts. I admit that any case for a Left government surviving outside of the EU/EEA remains vague and speculative. However, much the same can be said for the case against and I have yet to here any difficulties suggested which seem truly insurmountable. Meanwhile, I feel that the case against a Left government surviving while following the ESM rules is strong. The best argument I’ve seen suggesting that this is possible is that Germany and Scandinavia currently have many of the sorts of policies outlined in last June’s manifesto. However, these are legacies of a pre-neoliberal era. I’m not sure capital would be willing to put up with such policies being enacted today.

      On Peter’s third point, around nationalism: I agree that increases in nationalism are a big risk and that’s part of the reason why I’m not so blase about the prospect of Brexit as are some. However, as David has said, the EU is also leading to increased nationalism. Furthermore, the extent to which nationalism is increased surely depends on what direction countries take after they leave. If they pursue a left-wing path and explicitly state that they seek cooperation (even confederation) with any other countries wishing to fight against neoliberalism and capitalism, then that isn’t exactly creating an atmosphere ripe for nationalism.

      Such an arrangement would help to counteract the ability of capital to play nation states against each other. We must also remember that capital plays nation states against each other even within the EU, so we are only talking about the degree to which this will change. While the breakup of the EU into competing nation states would not be something to celebrate, I think it is overly simplistic to say that it would strengthen capital. Yes, it would creating competing units for capital to play against each other, but it would also create barriers to trade which would tend to weaken the internationalisation of capital. As such, I don’t think this prospect is quite as dire as Peter predicts, although I don’t mean to suggest that it is desirable either.

      1. David Pavett says:

        With this comment Chris has succintly stated the issues in terms of real possibilities and their attendant unknowns. Framing the debate in this way moves us on from the strident claims, from both sides, as to what will happen if we exit or remain within the EU orbit. That should move us on from the excommunicating talk of who is, or is not, a socialist and require us the exercise real judgement, from a socialist standpoint, in the face of partial knowledge of the likely outcomes of different choices. It also shows that we need to more quality information regarding likely outcomes, over given timespans, to help us make our judgements.

        1. Karl Stewart says:

          You sound a bit Trumpish there with your “both sides are to blame” stance David.

          On the one hand we have socialists making a socialist case.

          And on the other side we have someone smearing socialists as “nazis”.

          It’s not two sides equally to blame here.

  20. Jim Denham says:

    How painful it must have been for the pro-Tory David Davis supporters at the Morning Star to have had to publish this, by exactly the sort of trade union bureaucrat they usually suck up to (except that he still retains some clas consciousness and simple intelligence):

    If we on the left don’t take a united front position against Tory Brexit, it’ll help sink our people, says MANUEL CORTES

    BREXIT ain’t the route to socialism in one country. Still less to world revolution. Disagreements over the best option for our class has split sections of the left since the referendum was announced.

    Sadly, many have been slow to get to grips with the realpolitik, continuing to rehash the 1970s anti-joining positions without much regard for how 30 years of neoliberalism have changed the balance of forces for our side.

    Those who thought that the referendum outcome would be Remain weren’t the only ones who failed to anticipate the Leave vote.

    Neither did Nigel Farage or the three muppeteers Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox, who are committing political hara-kiri on Britain’s behalf on a daily basis.

    The trouble is, if we on the left don’t take a united front position against Tory Brexit, it’ll help sink our people.

    Just like when Labour helped to prosecute the war with Iraq, we must oppose Tory Brexit because it’s “not in our name.”

    Our union was resolutely in favour of remaining. Not because the EU offers any road to a socialist nirvana. But because we feared, rightly, that in Tory hands, Brexit would do more harm than good to working people.

    Handing the Tories carte blanche for Brexit and subsequent trade deals is like TTIP on steroids, which ain’t good class politics. Not for ours, anyway.

    From the perspective of TSSA members working on Eurostar, acquiescing to Tory plans to restrict free movement is to conspire with those in the boss class who seek to divide worker from worker by accident of birth.

    Socialists shouldn’t be resurrecting borders that lock workers out of Britain or, for that matter, confine ours to our soil. Never mind one that could reignite a volatile situation in Ireland where our union organises workers from Cork to Belfast.

    Looking at restricting free movement is already damaging our living standards and public services as EU citizen workers head elsewhere.

    It is a sad fact that some of the people most concerned about immigration — those left behind by globalisation — are the first to be impacted by the flight of EU workers.

    In less than a year the rate of EU nurses coming to work in the UK has fallen from 1,304 to just 46 this April.

    The Health Foundation said there was a shortage of 30,000 nurses in England alone, adding that the NHS could not afford such a drop.

    Last year we hosted some 85,000 seasonal workers through the autumn but now fruit is already withering on the vine and the price of homegrown produce is rising because 26,000 fewer agricultural workers are coming from eastern Europe.

    Recruitment agencies report being hard-pressed to come up with half that number for this coming season.

    The University and College Union is worried about the impact in education. Short-term employment contracts already make higher education a precarious employer so EU nationals, uncertain about their settlement rights, are now choosing to work elsewhere in Europe. Care homes are also in recruitment crisis and unable to access the labour force needed for our old folk.

    Brexit is an economic disaster in the making as inflation is already rising and real wages are falling.

    Worse is yet to come if we end up having to import even more food if there aren’t enough workers to pick and process food on our shores. And a Tory dog-eat-dog immigration policy will simply let the forces of reaction triumph. Building on the For The Many pledges in Labour’s 2017 manifesto we must continue to signal Labour’s route map to a new economic settlement which ensures noone is left behind.

    Let’s put down those shameful “immigration control” mugs and refuse to let migrants be the scapegoats for the many ills we are facing.

    The Tories’ “post-Brexit” plans for immigration will make our country poorer and even more divided. Wages will go further down because as the TUC has already warned, “illegal immigration” will rise, leaving more workers with no rights and no minimum wage.

    Tory Brexit cheerleaders want to create a US-style labour market, where millions of so-called “illegals” toil hard to keep the biggest economy in the world motoring.

    They have no rights and the fear of deportation means they can’t take on their bosses. The authorities pretend to clamp down, but in effect they turn a blind eye as the US economy will collapse without them. This is illegality by design which only benefits the bosses.

    Morning Star readers know that the Tories really don’t give a monkey’s about immigration provided it gives capital a pool of cheap labour to boost their profits.

    So far they have partly achieved this through deregulating our labour market. Brexit is them seizing their opportunity to create an underground economy in which workers don’t stand up to bosses because the penalty is deportation.

    It’s time to call the Tories out on their intentions. Their leaked immigration policy, though a dogwhistle for xenophobes, is clearly in the economic interests of capital. Time now to stop shadow boxing and get stuck in.

    The antidote to the Tories’ freemarket craziness is not restriction of free movement but an end to workers’ exploitation through labour market regulation, a living wage of at least £10 an hour and a trade union in every workplace.

    The Tories seek to divide us. Our job is to create unity and build on Marx’s original vision of a world without borders where workers of all lands unite!
    Manuel Cortes is general secretary of transport union TSSA.

    1. Karl Stewart says:

      Not something your weird little Blairite sect would ever do, but the Morning Star often publishes articles that do not necessarily correspond with its own editorial line.

      The views expressed in the article represent a view held by many and deserve to be heard.

      Unlike idiots such as yourself, this writer doesn’t use the space provided to attack, smear, denigrate and lie about socialists – he just makes his case for his point of view.

      Fair enough – it’s called democracy JimmyD.

  21. Peter Rowlands says:

    Chris and David have both made points that deserve a reply.
    Chris has admirably summarised the differences between us, stressing that there are arguments on both sides.This is so much the right approach. IT is for many of the possible alternatives a question of the balance of probabilities. For example I do not necessarily disagree with what Chris says on nationalism. it’s just that on balance I’m inclined to think that the right will benefit more from it than the left, and insofar as that process has begun, as David points out, then that is happening. Although they didn’t do as well as feared, the populist right have been far more successful in the last year than the left.
    I think we would all agree that trying to equate positions onthe EU with ffundamental socialist beliefs is quite misplaced, although itt has featured a lot in this debate, unfortunately. While all socialists will agree that the EU must be fundamentally changed, there is no principled difference between internal reform and a completely different set-up.It is a question of which best advances the socialist cause, and I wish some comrades were able to see that.
    David asks questions which I don’t think it is realistic to be too precise about, but I do agree that the points he raises on free movement, and many other issues, need to be addressed by those of us who believe that a reformed EU is the best way forward.

  22. Bazza says:

    Just read that the Momentum Consultative Council has backed the Labour Campaign for Free Movement but we are not told what the voting was and if it was unanimous amongst the 50 or so randomly selected reps? Just shows how you should perhaps elect reps based on their political statements and not by random selection?
    It could be argued it shows some political naivety and a lack of reading, and how group think by some (doing what they think is Left) can align themselves with the Right in Labour and laissez faire Neo-Liberal capital.
    It took 20 years for Neo-liberalism to capture the Tories (Thatcher had to be sat in a room by Keith Joseph and others and taught it) then it captured New Labour then Scottish Labour then the EC and this Neo-Liberal economic straight jacket still applies today.
    Some think they are being internationalist supporting free movement but perhaps Labour’s idea to need job offers may help us to MANAGE LABOUR SUPPLY (skilled and unskilled) – it would help to also CONTROL CAPITAL SUPPLY (whilst we are in a capitalist world we may need good capital (good pay, conditions, trade unions) and not bad capital (the opposite and the gig economy).
    It is also Labour policy to bring back migration adjustment funds for local councils plus I would argue we also need to trade unionise migrant workers (and why not refugees?).
    And every EC and other country should follow suit so no longer migrant workers from poorer EC countries serve primarily the rich in the richer EC countries.
    As well as generally better wages in the UK, France, Germany etc. (a pull) we perhaps also have a push from for example a horrible Right Wing Polish government which stops unemployment benefit after 3 months plus evidence shows many of the poorer countries in the EC are losing large parts of their working populations (Bulgaria could lose 50% by 2020 – New Left Review).
    We should perhaps also have a global wage.
    Managing labour supply I would argue is internationalist but perhaps the best thing we can all bring to the table is our independent critical thinking.
    I am confident we can still do deals allowing all current migrants to remain from the date of exit plus UK expats to remain in Spain etc. plus we can do deals on R&D, security, policing, student exchanges, the environment etc. and we could do deals on tariff free access to EC markets by companies without accepting the Neo-Liberal economic straightjacket (but Govt may have to pay collectively something like £10b when I think at present we pay £14b to the EC).

  23. David Pavett says:

    Brexit exercises strong views – and why not? Despite that, and despite the shouty stuff, there has been a lot of good debate here and I have learned from it. Let there be more such exchanges and let the declarations of anathema go hang. Let’s remember that people can be right for bad reasons and wrong for good (but incomplete) reasons. Anyone who thinks politics is simple hasn’t got to the starting post.

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