Time to end the tailism
With the United Kingdom in the grip of a profound constitutional crisis, Jack Conrad says the left must reject referendums as a matter of principle. Instead we need our own programme and our own tactics
People’s Vote claimed a million for its March 23 London demonstration.1 Amongst those who spoke were Justine Greening (Tory), Nicola Sturgeon (Scottish National Party), David Lammy (Labour), Jo Swinson (Liberal Democrat) … and Tom Watson. He is, of course, principal sponsor of the social democratic group of Labour MPs, and, amazingly still occupies the office of Labour’s deputy leader. A few days later, the ‘Revoke article 50’ petition shot pass the 5.5 million mark - an all-time record. Meanwhile, Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, successfully levered Jeremy Corbyn into backing a second ‘ratification’ referendum. And, with MPs having ‘taken over’ the Brexit process, Theresa May’s deal now faces a dizzying array of alternatives: option M, a second “confirmatory” referendum; option B, a no-deal exit; option J, leave the EU but with a customs union; option K, a Norway + customs union and a trade alignment with the EU; option H, join EFTA but without a customs union; option D Common Market 2.0; option L, cancel article 50; option O, extend article 50. Of course, not one of them gained a majority.
If a settled consensus does eventually emerge, then it will surely require a fully functional executive to carry through renewed negotiations with the European Union to the point of fruition. Can it be headed by Theresa May? Surely not. Indeed she had already promised to stand down ... if her deal is agreed. But, of course, the Tories are hopelessly split. The European Research Group operates as a party within a party. Remainer Tories threaten to split if Boris Johnson replaces Theresa May as Tory leader. As for the DUP it remains wedded, at least for the moment, to the ‘no, no, no’ mantra of its founder, Ian Paisley.
Added together, things point to at least the possibility of a national government. It would have to consist of a good section of both Tory and Labour MPs (and maybe, and not just for show, the Lib Dems, the Independent Group and SNP). Objectively, the People’s Vote is a campaign for such an outcome.
Launched in April 2018 by Chuka Umunna, Anna Soubry, Layla Moran and Caroline Lucas, People’s Vote demands another referendum. That, of course, is its stated objective. Yet, given the present fog of uncertainty, there is no longer a clear, simple, binary choice. Hence, People’s Vote maps out three strands of options: (1) a deal, no deal, or staying in the EU referendum; (2) a single two-way question - negotiated deal versus ‘remain’, negotiated deal versus no deal, no deal versus ‘remain’; (3) a two-question referendum - negotiated deal versus no deal, ‘remain’ versus no deal, ‘leave’ versus ‘remain’.2
People’s Vote is, of course, the flagship of a veritable armada: European Movement, Labour for a People’s Vote, Best for Britain, Best for Europe, Healthier IN the EU, Open Britain, Our Future Our Choice, Scientists for EU and Wales for Europe. All work closely together under the overall direction of the Grassroots Coordinating Group - which also includes under its umbrella the All-Party Parliamentary Group on European Relations. Chuka Umunna of the Independent Group is the officially registered chair. Tongue-in-cheek, this network of ‘grassroots’ organisations has been dubbed ‘project GCHQ’ by leading staff.
However, the campaign boasts offices not in Cheltenham, but on the first floor of Millbank Tower - just a few minutes’ walk from parliament and the TV studios at 4 Millbank. There are said to be 150 affiliated local groups and 500,000 individual supporters. Together The Guardian and The Independent act as their collective organisers, agitators and propagandists. George Soros’s Open Society Foundation has donated more than £800,000 to anti-Brexit causes (including £400,000 to Best for Britain, £182,000 to European Movement UK and £35,000 to Scientists for EU).3 Topping that though, Julian Dunkerton - co-founder of the fashion label, Superdry - handed People’s Vote a cool £1 million in August 2018: he wanted and got a polling blitz.4
Clearly no-one on the principled left should have anything to do with People’s Vote. Marching alongside the Lib Dems, the Labour hard right, TIG splitters, Tory rebels and Green naives is to march in the interests of big capital and a national government. Ditto, promoting subsidiary organisations - eg, Labour for a People’s Vote - is to constitute oneself a junior partner. But, pathetically, that is exactly what Clive Lewis (shadow treasury minister), Kate Osamor (till December 2018 shadow international development minister) and Marsha de Cordova (shadow work and pensions minister) have done. So has Dave Prentis (Unison), Tim Roache (GMB) and Manuel Cortes (TSSA). So has Open Labour, Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Socialist Resistance and Left Unity.
The embodiment of such abject opportunism is Another Europe is Possible. Its perspectives are thoroughly reformist; its attitudes craven, tailist and accommodating. AEIP’s stated aim is to “work across party lines” on the basis of campaigning for “democracy, human rights and social justice”. “Brexit,” says AEIP, “is a national disaster for Britain.” In that bipartisan spirit, AEIP promotes a range of anaemic establishment politicians, charity-mongers, liberal journalists, Keynesian economists and trade union functionaries. A recent panel included The Guardian’s Zoe Williams, Green MP Caroline Lucas, Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos, Portuguese prime minister António Costa and Asad Rehman, executive director of War on Want.
Interestingly, there are bitter opponents of the CPGB who share our basic assessment. The AWL’s Martin Thomas describes AEIP as an “NGO operation” and dismisses the “mostly rubbish speakers they choose”. Then there is the “head honcho”, Luke Cooper, “who is only very soft left, if left at all.”5
AEIP bemoans what it considers to be a loss of “faith” across Europe for the “project of unity” and the ability of “European democracies to deliver social justice by working together for the common good”. AEIP wants to “rebuild this hope”. Reviving illusions in the capitalist states of Europe combines with a treacherous endorsement of the EU’s supposed “core values” of “peace, democracy and ever closer union”. Doubtless, Konrad Adenauer, Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman would have approved.
Communists, by contrast, strive might and main to expose the class reality of the capitalist states of Europe. How what passes for democracy serves as a means of mass deception. How democracy is limited, hollowed out and always countered by all manner of checks and balances. How the EU capitalist states act to uphold wage-slavery and the global system of exploitation. Naturally, we advocate reforms. The struggle to win them organises and trains the working class. But the aim is to overthrow each and every capitalist state through closely-coordinated revolutionary action. Suffice to say, that does not mean perfecting, but defying, violating and finally sweeping aside, the European constitution.
AEIP, in fact, provides a “progressive left” flank for People’s Vote and therefore the interests of anti-Brexit big capital. Unsurprisingly, given such services, AEIP has received some substantial financial grants and donations. Figures for February 2016 to May 2017 reveal £45,000 from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, £2,000 from a certain C Lucas, £4,000 from LUSH Ltd, £5,000 from N Marks, £5,000 from Open Democracy and £2,000 from Unison.
Note, the “values” of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust “are rooted in liberalism and Quakerism”. Its board of directors is stuffed full of Liberal Democrats. LUSH Ltd is a privately owned cosmetics company committed to ‘ethical’ capitalism. Open Democracy is a political website funded by a number of “philanthropic” organisations, including George Soros’s Open Society Initiative for Europe, the Mott Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, Ford Foundation, David and Elaine Potter Foundation, LUSH, Andrew Wainwright Trust and the Network for Social Change. And from June 2017 to May 2018 the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust upped its AEIP contribution to £75,000 … more recently still, George Soros chipped in with £70,000.
The more stupid amongst AEIP’s paid employees, partisans, allies and dupes claim that taking such money is essentially no different from the Bolshevik leaders, Vladimir Lenin and Gregory Zinoviev - along with a range of other leftwing Russian émigrés - negotiating with the German authorities to travel from their Swiss exile back to revolutionary Russia in 1917.
There is, in fact, no such parallel. The Bolshevik leaders did not agree to opt for Germany over Russia in the inter-imperialist war. Getting Lenin and Zinoviev back to Russia suited the German high command - that much is true. But the only condition the Russian revolutionaries agreed to was trying to secure the release of a corresponding number of captured Germans (a common practice between the belligerent powers).
And, needless to say, Lenin and Zinoviev in no way compromised their commitment either to a democratic peace or the overthrow of Europe’s crowned heads. No German gold was accepted - that despite the numerous offers made by Alexander Parvus (a leading figure on the German far left, who became a key conduit for regime-change funds provided by the kaiser government).
Accepting money from individual capitalists is not automatically wrong, corrupting or treacherous. The cause of working class self-liberation wins all manner of fine people to its ranks. Eg, the reluctant capitalist, Frederick Engels. The Bolsheviks too had their rich donors. What counts, what decides the matter is whether or not there is an unbending commitment to uphold the Marxist programme. True for the Bolsheviks, but hardly the case with AEIP.
AWL leader Martin Thomas concludes that “the [AEIP] operation is run so as to get money from Soros”. In other words, AEIP exists for the sake of AEIP. In receipt of a “lavish supply of money”, AEIP boasts a “relatively large paid staff”. Amongst those on a “lot of money for short hours” are, though, he admits, AWL chums such as Michael Chessum and Ed Maltby.
The Weekly Worker has rightly rounded on the acceptance of Soros money. It shows that AEIP is more than acceptable to bourgeois liberal opinion. Yet, revoltingly, descending to the level of the gutter press, defensively, wracked by guilt, AEIP paid employees, volunteers, allies and dupes have responded with utterly baseless accusations of conspiracy-mongering and anti-Semitism. Just like Viktor Orbán, Breitbart News and Glenn Beck, AEIP paid employees, volunteers, allies and dupes highlight Soros’s Jewish background (he was born in 1930 in Hungary to well-off anti-Semitic Jewish parents).
In the context of Brexit, Soros’s Jewish heritage is totally irrelevant, except in so far as his horrendous experiences of the 1940s inform his liberal world outlook and heartfelt detestation of blood-and-soil nationalism and Stalinite ‘official communism’ alike. In London, as a young man, he was famously a devoted pupil of the anti-Marxist philosopher, Karl Popper. What matters to us, though, is that Soros is one of the world’s richest men: he is a capitalist magnate and currency speculator with a personal fortune estimated at some $8 billion (his foundation is worth some $18 billion).
It is still unlikely that there will be a second referendum. The bulk of the Conservative Party in parliament will not go for it … though the Tories are exceedingly glad that Jeremy Corbyn has fallen into that particular elephant trap. Yet imagine, for one moment, that People’s Vote succeeds. What would the result be? Labour, presumably, is hammered in any subsequent general election: seven in every 10 of Labour’s constituencies voted ‘leave’ in June 2016. Meanwhile, though opinion polls show clear majorities wanting a “say” on any final Brexit deal, the actual result, if there was a second referendum, is far from certain. The latest Survation polls (February 18 and March 15) are extremely narrow: 47% ‘remain’ and 44% ‘leave’; 51% ‘remain’ and 45% ‘leave’; don’t knows were 8% and 4% respectively).6
Both Tony Blair and Justine Greening therefore argue for a multiple-choice referendum (obviously in order to guarantee their desired result). Eg, choice one: agree with Theresa May’s Brexit terms negotiated with Michel Barnier and the EU 27; choice two, leave the EU without an agreement; choice three: remain in the EU. In other words, soft Brexit, hard Brexit and no Brexit.
Through perpetuating such a blatantly dishonest trick, argues David Jeffrey, a lecturer in politics at Liverpool university, it is theoretically possible for just 34% of voters to decide the “winning option”.7 Such a referendum would see two bitterly opposed ‘leave’ camps and a comparatively aloof ‘remain’ campaign. The prediction being that on the Brexit side issues of principle will clash and end up in a hopeless muddle.
If a preferential vote is added to the formula, then the least popular choice would be eliminated and there would be a run-off between the last two questions. Voters would be asked to rate in order choices 1, 2 and 3 … and, so ‘remain’ would, so goes the calculation, emerges the winner with over 50% of the vote.
Even barring such transparent forms of cheating, say ‘remain’ narrowly won in a straightforward two-option referendum, what do we expect the 49% (or whatever) - ie, those who want to leave the EU - to do?
There are those on the left - many of them good people - who believe that Brexit represents an existential threat. Brexit, they say, points squarely in the direction of a low-tax, low-regulation, low-rights economy. The working class can only but suffer. Already Brexit has made Britain poorer, reduced investment and squeezed the tax revenues vital for public services. Migrants and minorities get the blame.
So play down the EU’s anti-trade union laws; play down the constitutional commitment to the market and neoliberalism; play down the barbaric austerity imposed on Spain, Portugal and Greece; play down the far-right governments in Italy, Poland, Hungary and Austria; play down the centrifugal forces pulling the whole project apart. It is absolutely vital, say the left remainers, to fall in behind Tom Watson, Chuka Umunna and Vince Cable, in order to defeat Brexit.
But will the forces of chauvinism and xenophobia easily surrender? The Daily Telegraph, the Express, The Sun, the Tory right, Ulster Unionists, the Brexit Party, Ukip, Britain First, the Football Lads Alliance will surely bang the “grand betrayal” drum as loudly as they can.8 Barry Gardiner, Labour’s shadow foreign trade minister, has warned that a second referendum would boost the far right and could lead to “civil disobedience”.9 In a similar vein, Andrew Duff, a former Lib Dem MEP, claims that another referendum might “even pitch the country into a revolutionary situation”.10 Such fears are not entirely baseless. The far right will passionately argue that the ‘leave’ campaign won the June 2016 referendum fair and square. That the votes of 17.4 million people have been scorned, treated with contempt. That Britain remains shackled to Europe as a “colony” because of a sinister conspiracy involving Brussels bureaucrats, George Soros, Whitehall mandarins, the self-serving political elite, the City, big business, trade union bosses … and their leftwing allies.
Sinclair Lewis chose the ironic title It can’t happen here for his 1935 bestselling novel. The plot line has a charismatic and crazily ambitious American politician, Berzelius ‘Buzz’ Windrip, promoting traditional Christian values, winning the trust of the wealthy, denouncing Jews, fuelling hatred for Mexicans and promising impoverished electors instant prosperity. In short, America will be made great again. Buzz easily defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the presidential race and goes on to establish a horribly autocratic regime: Congress and the supreme court are emasculated. “Irresponsible and seditious elements” are physically crushed by the Minute Men - a ruthless paramilitary force, acting under the direct command of the president. Many thousands are interned and many more flee north to Canada.
Could it happen here? Following the script carefully crafted by the master of the dark political arts, election ‘guru’ Sir Lynton Crosby, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson - otherwise known by the mononym ‘Boris’ - has skilfully positioned himself over Brexit and on well chosen occasions has blown the anti-Muslim dog whistle: “letter box” and “bank robbers”. He is, as a result, hugely popular amongst the “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” who make up the Tory rank and file ... and, given a contest, it is they who make the final decision. Johnson will get their votes.
Within the next few weeks, or maybe a couple of months, Johnson expects May to finally fall on her sword. Then will come his leadership bid. If he can secure enough Tory MPs to get into the final two-horse run-off - a big ask - Johnson would win by a mile. Not Sajid Javid. Not Andrea Leadsom. Meanwhile, a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn - a Labour Party that has been manoeuvred, albeit against his better judgement, into a commitment to hold a second referendum - would surely find itself vulnerable.
Not that our objection to a second EU referendum is based on getting Jeremy Corbyn into No10 or appeasing Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage, etc. True, the popular support base enjoyed by the Brexiteers has to be won over. It is surely stupid to dismiss the 51% who voted ‘leave’ in June 2016 as a single reactionary bloc. The same goes for the 49% who voted ‘remain’. They do not constitute a single progressive bloc.
Referendums, by their very nature, are undemocratic. They bypass representative institutions and serve, in general, to fool enough of the people, enough of the time. And yet referendums have the great virtue of appearing to be the epitome of democracy. That explains why Harold Wilson, Tony Blair and David Cameron have used them. Complex issues are simplified, drained of nuance, reduced to a crude choice that cuts across class loyalties. Hence, today, one half of the working class is found in the ‘leave’ camp, while the other half is with ‘remain’.
Our objections to referendums are principled and long-standing. The CPGB opposed the operation in relation to the ‘Vote for the crook, not for the fascist’ presidential election in France in 2002. Before that the CPGB urged an active boycott of Tony Blair’s 1997 referendum in Scotland. Then the 1998 Good Friday referendum in Ireland and the Scottish independence referendum of 2014. All offered a bogus choice. In June 2016 the CPGB called for an active boycott. Admittedly our results were very modest - 25,000 spoilt ballot papers. (Note, the Socialist Workers Party seems to have recently been won around to considering an “active abstention”, given a second referendum.11)
Needless to say, David Cameron’s objective in 2016 was not to give power to the people. On the contrary, he calculated on outflanking Ukip, wrong-footing Labour, satisfying his Europhobes … and hanging on as prime minister. No reason, therefore, to give him any support whatsoever.
Antonio Gramsci, writing in June 1921, can usefully be cited here:
The communists are … on principle opposed to the referendum, since they place the most advanced and active workers, who make the greatest sacrifices, on the same plane as the most lazy, ignorant and idle workers. If one wants direct, individual consultations, then this must take place in assemblies, after an organised debate, and a vote must presuppose knowledge of what is at stake and a sense of responsibility.12
However, it ought to be emphasised, this general principle does not translate into automatically refusing to call for a referendum vote under all circumstances; nor does it translate into a general principle of always responding to a referendum organised by our enemies with a corresponding call for an active boycott. To vote this way or that way, to set about an active boycott campaign, etc, is always a tactical decision.
Eg, the CPGB urged a ‘yes’ vote in Ireland’s May 2015 referendum on gay marriage - the same with Ireland’s May 2018 referendum on abortion. And, in the UK, while being critical of the Liberal Democrat proposal for reforming the parliamentary voting system, we called for a ‘yes’ vote in the May 5 2011 referendum. Despite the glaring inadequacies, our judgment was that, on balance, getting rid of the ‘wasted vote’ syndrome would be a “small gain” and provide better conditions for the left to develop than the first-past-the-post system. Needless to say, the CPGB is programmatically committed to a thorough-going proportional representation system, party lists and the right of the party to recall MPs, MEPs, councillors, etc.
However, our principled opposition to referendums stands. They are not a higher form of democracy than the election of well-tested working class representatives, Marxist politics and extensive public debate. Referendums, on the contrary, tend to divide the working class, weaken its party spirit and produce the strangest of bedfellows.
In terms of our tradition, things unmistakably date back to Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The Marx-Engels team knew all about the undemocratic nature of referendums, especially given their comrades bitter experience of Louis Bonaparte and his ‘self-coup d’état’ in 1851, and then his self-elevation to emperor in 1852 (each autocratic power-grab being legitimised by a referendum). Bonaparte went on to impose press censorship, restrict demonstrations and public meetings, savagely repress political opponents (mainly red republicans) and force thousands into exile - amongst them the celebrated writer, Victor Hugo. Initially a supporter, Hugo furiously denounced Bonaparte’s referendums as a means to “smother men’s minds”.13 In the same defiant spirit, George Sand (Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin) damned referendums as “an infamous snare”.14
Marx and Engels, along with their co-thinkers, Jules Guesde and Paul Lafargue, presented their alternative to the post-1871 third republic - in essence a reformed version of Bonapartism - in the minimum section of the Programme of the Parti Ouvrier. Here it is explained that the creation of a workers’ party “must be pursued by all the means the proletariat has at its disposal, including universal suffrage, which will thus be transformed from the instrument of deception that it has been until now into an instrument of emancipation”. The party will fight for the confiscation of church wealth; removing restrictions on the press, meetings, organisations, etc; and abolishing the standing army and replacing it with the “general arming of the people”.15
The Marx-Engels position of opposing referendums became the common sense of the Second International, including both its far left and its far right. Arturo Labriola, the Italian syndicalist, wrote his Contro il referendum in 1897. He castigated referendums as a cruel trick. In 1911 Ramsay MacDonald, Labour leader and future prime minister, came out in similar terms: referendums are “a clumsy and ineffective weapon, which the reaction can always use more effectively than democracy, because it, being the power to say ‘no’, is far more useful to the few than the many”.16
Note, the still widely venerated constitutional theorist, AV Dicey, promoted an all-UK referendum in the 1890s as a means to scupper Irish home rule - Ulster Unionists ran with his referendum proposal and demanded that it be integrated into the constitution; in 1910 Stanley Baldwin included the promise of a referendum over tariff reform in the Tory manifesto, and challenged the Liberals do the same with Irish home rule; in 1911 Lord Balfour tabled his ‘People Bill’ in the House of Lords, allowing 200 MPs to petition the crown for a referendum and thereby potentially block unwelcome government legislation; in 1913 Lord Curzon floated a referendum as a democratic way to prevent the extension of the franchise to women; and, as the reform bill giving women over 30 the vote was passing through parliament in 1918, 53 peers wrote to The Times urging a referendum.17
However, there were those useful idiots on the left who were attracted to the idea of referendums and the right of the people to initiate them. Karl Kautsky, the celebrated pope of Marxism, chose Moritz Rittinghausen, a German social democrat, as his main polemical target over the issue.18
Kautsky’s Parliamentarism, direct legislation by the people and social democracy (1893) was designed to shoot down referenda nostrums and uphold the strategic perspective outlined in his hugely influential commentary on the Erfurt programme, known in English as The class struggle (1892). Even if referendums could replace existing representative institutions, as extreme ‘against elections’ advocates still want, this would represent not a step forward for democracy, but a step backward.
Kautsky fields three main arguments.
- Firstly, he stresses that there are very few situations where there is a simple binary choice in politics. Eg, even assuming that there is a straightforwardly ‘right thing to do’, it is rarely obvious what that is. Very frequently, there is not a choice to be made between options 1 or 2, but options 1 to 7 and within these options, 1 (a) (i), 1 (a) (ii), 1 (b) … and so on and so forth. To reach a decision, then, it is necessary to reduce the range of options. That is, of course, why Kautsky advocates extending representative democracy and the process of debate, motions, detailed votes and binding legislation.
- Secondly - and this is no less important - Kautsky wanted to strengthen the system of party politics. In the transition period between capitalism and communism, it is, he said, vital for the broad mass of the population to think about, to organise around and to vote for competing party outlooks. That has the advantage of bringing to the fore class divisions. Referendums, on the other hand, have the disadvantage of blurring, overriding, deflecting the fundamental conflict in society between class and class, and the respective conflict between party and party: precisely the opposite of what Marxists want to see.
- Thirdly, Kautsky stresses the point that Marxists strive - particularly through their emphasis on a working class party - to bring about a situation in which the state is as weak and the people are as strong and organised as possible. He draws a vital distinction between, on the one hand, ‘the people’ as an unorganised mass, who do not think about national or global issues in a coherent fashion; and ‘the people’ organised into, or by, a workers’ party. One is to be the perpetual victim of lies, fraud and humbug. The other readies itself as the future ruling class.
The reason why the left has largely forgotten the history of opposing referendums in the name of extending representative democracy surely stems from a number of factors. Above all, though, it must be the general decline in political culture. A working knowledge of Marxist theory, socialist literature and the history of the revolutionary movement can no longer be taken for granted. There is certainly no common understanding of the necessity of a minimum programme and emphasising the battle to win democracy.
Once there were mass Marxist parties; now we have a plethora of leftwing confessional sects. They produce little or nothing worthwhile in terms of ideas. True, the Labour Party has well over 550,000 members, but while Labour has always had plenty of socialists in its ranks, it has never been a real socialist party. Disgracefully, we are still lumbered with the managerial guff Tony Blair substituted for the old clause four in 1995. However, the old clause four, agreed in 1918, was socialist in name only. What the Fabian socialist, Sidney Webb, produced was a recipe for a British empire version of state capitalism: colonial peoples would remain nationally oppressed; workers would remain wage-slaves.
An unacknowledged Fabian socialism survives in the form of Momentum, the Labour Representation Committee, Labour Briefing (Original), Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, etc. Take the all too frequent claim that a Labour government can deliver full employment, an equal society and an economy that works for all. Impossible, of course, without abolishing the capitalist system. Showing that will never happen, certainly not with a Corbyn-led government, we already have the criminal silence over the ongoing ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt, the backtracking on Trident and the craven appeasement of rightwing Labour MPs.
We are absolutely clear. Our goal is a Labour Party that, in the words of Keir Hardie, can “organise the working class into a great, independent political power to fight for the coming of socialism”.19 We therefore campaign for the affiliation of all trade unions, the automatic reselection of MPs, a radical democratisation at every level and a rule change which would once again allow left, communist and revolutionary groups and parties to affiliate - as long as they do not stand against Labour in elections. Such changes can only but strengthen Labour as a federal party. Nowadays affiliated organisations include the Fabians, Christians on the Left, the Cooperative Party and, problematically, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Business. We say, encourage the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Party in England and Wales, Left Unity, Socialist Appeal, the Morning Star’s Communist Party of Britain, etc, to become affiliated parties.
As a matter of urgency we support the adoption of a new clause four. Not a return to the old 1918 version. Labour should commit itself to “replacing the rule of capital with the rule of the working class”. Socialism
introduces a democratically planned economy, ends the ecologically ruinous cycle of production for the sake of production and moves towards a stateless, classless, moneyless society that embodies the principle, ‘From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’. Alone such benign conditions create the possibility of every individual fully realising their innate potentialities.20
Towards that end, Labour, as a united front of a special kind, would fight for democratic republic: abolish the standing army, the monarchy, the House of Lords and the state sponsorship of the Church of England - all must go. We likewise support a single-chamber parliament, proportional representation and annual elections. Labour would seek to win the active backing of the majority of people and to form a government on this basis.
Conceivably, that is what socialism in Britain will look like.
Experts put the demonstration at between 312,000 and 400,000. Whatever the exact figure, it was impressive in terms of size - see https://fullfact.org/europe/peoples-vote-march-count.↩
J Kerr et al The roadmap to a people’s vote London nd, p13. See www.peoples-vote.uk/how_it_could_happen.↩
The Guardian February 11 2018.↩
The Guardian August 18 2018.↩
AWL external list (Amongourselves), ‘What we do with Left Against Brexit’.↩
BBC Radio 4 Today August 21 2018.↩
Socialist Worker ‘SWP conference debates where next for the left?’ January 1 2019.↩
A Gramsci Selections from political writings 1921-1926 London 1978, p50.↩
V Hugo Napoleon the little London 1852, p144.↩
G Sand The letters of George Sand Vol 3, New York NY 2009, p192.↩
See L Morel and M Qvortrup (eds) The Routledge handbook to referendums and direct democracy Abingdon 2018.↩
See V Bogdanor The people and the party system: the referendum and electoral reform in British politics Cambridge 1981, pp9-94.↩
See B Lewis, ‘Referenda and direct democracy’ Weekly Worker September 18 2014; K Kautsky, ‘Direct legislation by the people and the class struggle’ Weekly Worker March 31 2016.↩
Independent Labour Party Report of the 18th annual conference London 1910, p59.↩
Labour Party Marxists September 21 2017.↩