Almost 700,000 people marched to demand a 'People's Vote' on Saturday (Pic: Socialist Worker)
Almost 700,000 marched for a “People’s Vote” in London on Saturday.
This was a huge mobilisation—the largest in Britain since the 2003 march against the Iraq War. It shows the campaign has struck a chord with sections of those who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum or who have subsequently turned against Brexit.
But that doesn’t make it progressive or in the interests of working class people.
The People’s Vote is a cross party alliance with warmongering spin doctor Alastair Campbell giving leadership. Many people have pointed out that as director of communications and spokesperson for Tony Blair’s Labour Party he ignored a march against the invasion of Iraq which was three times the size of Saturday's.
The organised left were largely absent on the march although there was a number of Labour Party banners. There was virtually no trade union presence.
Unusually, there were Tory feet on the streets. “Everybody’s just trying to stab Theresa May in the back and not support her”, one marcher was overhead saying.
The campaign officially claims it wants a full referendum on the “final Brexit deal”. But it is a serious attempt to stop it entirely—not just have a say on the conditions of Brexit.
Campbell and others are unanimous in insting that a new vote must have Remain on the ballot paper. That’s another referendum.
The argument has sometimes been presented that the People’s Vote is like a trade union leader bringing back a proposed settlement to their members. But in that case the choice is to accept an offer or fight on for a better one. Here the choice will be accept the deal or give up entirely.
The People’s Vote campaign is a desperate bid by sections of the ruling class to maintain the status quo.
Whatever the individual motivation of marchers, it is a vehicle to deliver the big business agenda of defending the single market and the neoliberal, racist EU.
Some marchers were horrified by the racism of the Tories, Nigel Farage and the far right who back Brexit. A handful had come from the Stand Up To Racism conference the same day, or were off to it later.
Anti-racists have to unite whatever their views on Brexit. But in backing the EU such people are backing a racist institution.
On Saturday Labour (Sadiq Khan, Chuka Umunna), Tory (Anna Soubry), Lib Dem (Vince Cable), and Greens (Caroline Lucas) all marched together alongside smaller Remain campaigns. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon sent a message of support.
There was also a strong anger against Jeremy Corbyn for “failing” to oppose Brexit totally. The People’s Vote is clearly a useful vehicle for the Labour right who sense a way to undermine Corbyn when they can’t confront him head-on.
Although it likes to pose as a movement for the young, the march was quite old—older than the protest against Donald Trump on London in the summer.
Hannah, Laura and Gemma were all on their first demonstrations. Hannah told Socialist Worker she wanted to “show my face and make this happen, it’s so much better to be proactive.”
Gemma said the most worrying thing about Brexit was that it threatened freedom of movement within countries in the EU.
“Brexit doesn’t benefit us—we want to work and live where we want to live”.
Gemma, originally from Manchester but now living in London said people voted to Leave because “there was lots of confusion. Up north, people are angry but they weren’t educated about Brexit—the campaign was built on lies”
The idea that those who voted to leave were misled by the official Leave campaign was a common thread in many conversations, placards and speeches throughout the day.
Some preferred to paint the Leave vote as a result of stupidity. Many people wrote off Leave voters as uneducated and foolish.
Martin travelled from Lewes, Sussex to join the demonstration. He wore a T-shirt saying “I think therefore I’m not a Brexit supporter.”
Another demonstrator, Matt, lives in Hampshire and works in transport. “I used to live in Belgium”, he told Socialist Worker.
He echoed a common theme of many placards of the day. “People didn’t know what they were voting for. The vote was flawed—the question was too blunt”, he explained.
The day ended with marchers streaming into Parliament Square.
Addressing the crowd, Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan said, “The government is choosing party politics over the national interest.”
But the concept of a national interest is a myth—the interests of Tory MPs are very different to the interests of ordinary people.
And, seemingly without irony, he called for another vote by saying, “What can be more democratic than trusting the will of the British people? It’s time we took back control.”
A host of radio and TV personalities also took part, including Dragon’s Den investor and millionaire Deborah Meaden.
“If there’s one thing business doesn’t like, it’s uncertainty. this causes business to pause.”
She said Brexit would “actively cut off ties with our largest trading partner. That’s not the future we want for our businesses, our communities, and our families.”
Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party said there was a chance to “reprogramme our economy that fails so many. People’s Vote is an opportunity to transform how things are, not defend the status quo.”
But the People’s Vote campaign is a desperate bid by sections of the ruling class to maintain the status quo.
It demands getting a vote to achieve the result that keeps everything the same.
Instead of campaigning for another referendum, people who want to fight racism and austerity should throw themselves behind the fight to save the NHS, against the Tories’ brutal border regime, and an end to Universal Credit—and for a Brexit that says no to the single market, yes to freedom of movement.