SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Issue 223 November 2018

Brexit stasis and coming storms

How prepared for the events to come are the working-class movement and radicalised young people who have been looking to Jeremy Corbyn’s now three-years’ old leadership of the Labour Party?

The October EU heads-of-government meeting in Brussels, originally slated to finalise a withdrawal treaty between British capitalism and the remaining EU27 member states, resolved absolutely nothing in the ongoing Brexit drama. The only decision made – with the prospect of any withdrawal deal being agreed now more uncertain as another deadline slipped by – was to cancel a special summit pencilled in for mid-November, unless there is ‘substantial progress’ in the continuing negotiations.

Parliamentary paralysis, a run on the pound, the fall of Theresa May, a general election, a Corbyn-led government – all these, and other variants too, remain as possible scenarios in the period ahead. As hundreds of thousands march in London in fear of ‘Brexit chaos’, an internationalist, socialist alternative to a Tory Brexit – and the capitalist character and policies of the EU bosses’ club – is more vital than ever.

Tories’ slow motion implosion

One development in Brussels, although not agreed at the formal sessions, was a commitment from EU council president Donald Tusk to wave through any request by Theresa May to extend the transition period after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU structures and treaties on 29 March 2019. The transition period – which only comes into effect if there is a formal withdrawal agreement treaty – is currently planned to end in December 2020. Tusk declined to comment, however, on how much Britain, a net contributor to the EU, would have to pay on top of the already accepted £39 billion ‘divorce settlement’, opening up another potentially inflammatory issue.

May’s refusal to rule out an extended transition caused fury on the Tory benches, from all corners. Remain supporter Nick Boles MP denounced it as a "desperate last move", leaving many Tories "close to despair". Boles has previously raised the idea that a new, more liberal Tory ‘sister party’ should be formed similar to the National Liberals, who participated in the 1930s national governments and maintained an electoral arrangement with the Tories as a separate party until their dissolution in 1968. The Tory fracture lines widen daily.

Meanwhile, bolstered by their reception at last month’s Tory party conference fringe events, the right-wing ideological Brexiteers evermore loudly declaim that a ‘Brexit betrayal’ is being prepared. The other talk around the Brussels summit, that the EU27 will try to help May assemble a Westminster ‘coalition of the reasonable’ to accept a soft Brexit-in-name-only, Chequers-type orderly withdrawal – sold as the only alternative to a chaotic breakdown – will add to that narrative.

The prospect of the rupturing of the Tory party and a new right-wing populist formation emerging with parliamentary representation is still very much on the agenda.

Complete the Corbyn revolution

How the labour movement should deal with the threat of a resurgent far-right that could be a corollary of such a development is explored in Paula Mitchell’s article, taking up the call made during the summer by shadow chancellor John McDonnell for "a new Anti-Nazi League-type cultural and political campaign". What could a new ANL deliver, Paula asks, that could not be accomplished by transforming Labour into a mass working-class, campaigning socialist party, completing what Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 leadership victory promised?

That the promise of three years ago has yet not been realised, and that the Labour Party is still in the throes of an unfinished civil war, is the theme of Peter Taaffe’s article. This has had consequences – the early hope of a million-member party, for example, has faded. While Labour put on 3.5 million votes in the 2017 general election – its biggest increase between elections since 1945 – its registered membership grew by just 20,797 (to 564,000) during the year, according to the annual returns to the Electoral Commission.

Momentum is stalling. Completing the Corbyn revolution by decisively overturning New Labour’s legacy, politically and organisationally, is key to preparing the movement for the storms ahead. The Socialist Party will continue to play its part in that vital struggle.

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