We publish here an open letter from Dave Nellist and Coventry Socialist Party, as a response to the calls for a ‘People’s Vote’ on the EU, where we argue that the focus across the trade union movement should instead be on a general election to sweep the Tories out of power.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Tories are in trouble. There is open civil war in the ranks of the government. Recent months have seen high profile resignations from the Cabinet, including Boris Johnson. It is clear to everyone that Theresa May is weak – and that the entire government is in crisis.
This should be of interest to everyone who has experienced the terrible effects of austerity promoted by the Conservatives – whether that be the bedroom tax, the tens of thousands in our city who have had to use food banks, workers in the private and public sector who have not had a proper pay increase, the many on zero-hour con-tracts to name just a few of the pitiless policies that have been introduced.
Key issues facing our movement
The question as a movement we have to ask ourselves is this: how do we get the Tories out of office as soon as possible, and a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government in with socialist policies?
At the time when the Tories are teetering on the edge, unfortunately much of the talk from the recent meeting of the TUC, from some union leaders, and from generally right wing Labour MPs has not been about getting the Tories out.
The main focus for them has been to support a “People’s Vote” regarding Brexit. We want to explain why we think this is a mistaken and indeed dangerous approach to adopt.
Firstly, we want to be clear: a People’s Vote, despite pretences of being democratic, is an attempt to have a second referendum and to overturn the original vote. Its supporters want to see us re-main signed up to the European Union, with all that involves, including the Single Market – the key mechanism for corporations to maximise profits across the continent.
Who are the main forces pushing for a People’s Vote?
Although some celebrities are promoting a People’s Vote, the key movers promoting the campaign are right-wingers such as Tony Blair, Chuka Umunna, various other Blairites, the Liberal Democrats and others. The majority of the British and European Establishment are also supporting this campaign.
George Soros, one of the richest people in the world, has also donated funds (£70,000) to groups such as Another Europe is Possible, who act as the left-wing appendage of this coordinated ruling elite drive. Of all the aforementioned people and organisations – since when have they been champions of ordinary people to have a real say? It was Tony Blair who gutted the Labour Party of virtually all democratic channels – the Liberal Democrats propped the Tories up in government between 2010-2015. How much did Blair want to listen to the people when 2 million marched through London in 2003 against his crazy war in Iraq? None of this motley crew are interested in the democratic rights of working-class people. They act in the interests of the class they represent – ruling elites here in the UK and abroad.
Trade unions and the People’s Vote
The leaders of the unions, particularly the likes of the TUC general secretary and Dave Prentis of UNISON, are completely wrong to support the call for a People’s Vote. When the Tories are on the edge of the cliff, it is the job of the unions not to rescue them (wittingly or unwittingly) with this diversion of the People’s Vote, but to campaign for a change of government and specifically to get Jeremy Corbyn in on a radical socialist programme. It would be a disaster for the unions if they were seen in the eyes of millions of people to attempt to undermine and frustrate the original referendum result.
The danger of the far right
If the unions prevaricate on this and sections of the Labour Party continue to campaign for a second referendum it will aid not just the Establishment, but also the far right in this country. We can’t allow a situation where the unions and the Left abandon the ground to Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson, who will not hesitate to take their divisive and racist politics to working class people who voted Leave. A boost to Theresa May is not ruled out if our movement is seen to be trying to keep us in the EU.
If you support the PV, who will you be uniting with?
It is best to be concrete about this. The People’s Vote campaign is an Establishment operation. Advertised speakers at the Coventry meeting of PV are Anna Soubry MP of the Conservatives and Beverley Neilson, former Liberal Democrat candidate for West Midlands mayor. These two parties were in government together for 5 years, helping to decimate the lives of working-class people in our city. We would urge any trade unionist, any person who is against austerity and wants change, to consider whether uniting with these parties is the way forward.
The capitalist crisis requires socialist policies
Jeremy Corbyn has been at his best when he has pushed back against the policies that enrich the 1%. The call for a general election can unite working class communities, whether people voted Leave or Remain, in an effort to bring a government to power on socialist policies. By contrast, the call for a PV is divisive and is a recipe for disaster. The labour and trade union movement does best when we fight the establishment, not tie ourselves to large sections of it.
We think the movement should fight for a general election to get rid of the shambolic Tories, and for a socialist Brexit in the interests of ordinary people. The crisis and inequality ridden system that is only working for the top 1% and not the 99% needs system change. In or out of the EU they’ll continue their attacks on our services and living standards. But if things are to be changed it will have to be done outside of and independently of the EU, but together with the working and young people of Europe.
The root of the problems facing working class people is the capitalist system of exploitation of the majority by the tiny minority. The EU does, however, act to facilitate that exploitation through the Single Market, its policy of undermining national collective trade union rights, and its favouring of corporations over working class people. It is Thatcherism on a continental scale. We only have to look at the example of Greece, where the Greek people suffered a form of collective punishment from the EU – enforcing privatisations, poverty and anti-trade union laws.
We need genuine international solidarity and co-operation
We are not ‘Little Englanders’ but we do not think we should outsource the valued and necessary internationalism of the working class to international capitalist institutions like the EU.
For example, the Socialist Party is part of a revolutionary international organisation which is present in nearly every single country on the continent, and in nearly 50 countries around the world. We need international solidarity, but it needs to be on our terms, through workers’ organisations such as the trade unions and other campaigns. A Corbyn government introducing radical socialist policies of public ownership, for example, will come under intense pressure from the capitalists.
In doing so our movement should appeal not to Macron and Merkel, but the millions of workers around Europe who will see our fight as their fight. That is the international co-operation that will be vital, not an international capitalist club designed to aid exploitation. These are key questions that our movement faces:
• No to a People’s Vote – Yes to a General Election
• Tories Out now! Labour to power on a socialist programme
• Break with capitalism, fight for a Socialist Europe and a Socialist world
Dave Nellist and Coventry Socialist Party
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