Anti-racists will have to fight major battles to push back the racist and far right challenge in elections and to defend workers’ freedom of movement. That will be true whatever the manoeuvres over Brexit.
Labour Party leaders will be part of that first struggle. But they have abandoned the second.
Theresa May’s “video to the nation” last weekend included the line, “Now there’s lots of things on which I disagree with the Labour Party on, but on Brexit I think there are some things we agree on.” The first example she gave was “ending free movement”.
Not a squeak of protest came from Labour.
“Insiders” told the Sunday Times newspaper that during May’s talks with Labour over a possible new Brexit deal “an end to freedom of movement” was one of four points of agreement.
Of course it’s not a new development. Labour’s 2017 manifesto said that freedom of movement would end when Britain left the European Union. Successive Labour leaders have wrongly branded migration a problem, diverting attention from the Tories and the bosses—the real culprits for low wages and decaying services.
But it’s new that Labour has now apparently elevated restricting migration to one of its “red line” demands over Brexit.
Arguing that immigration is a threat to workers who were born in Britain stokes conflict between different sections of our class and weakens resistance to bosses everywhere.
It will make it harder to counter the racists in the European Parliament elections which are now due to be held on 23 May. Delays to Brexit forced the Tories to formally begin the election process this week.
Already the racists, the far right and fascists sniff an opportunity to cash in on the anger over the Brexit fiasco. Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said, “I’ll be leading the Brexit Party into those European elections.
“This is the fightback and they’re going to be very surprised by what they get.”
Ukip denounced Farage’s party as “an electoral vehicle for getting snouts back in the trough” and confirmed that it will run candidates across Britain.
Ukip leader Gerard Batten has recruited fascist Tommy Robinson as one of his advisers.
And Mark Meecham—also known as “Count Dankula”—who was convicted of antisemitic hate crime, has said he wants to be a Ukip candidate.
The far right will try to pose as the friend of workers who feel betrayed. They don’t deserve anyone’s support.
The large majority of working class people are not racists—including most people who voted Leave.
Stand Up To Racism will be campaigning to keep racism out of the European Parliament and council elections.
Last weekend in France an assembly of Yellow Vest groups gathered to coordinate activities. Hundreds of delegates agreed a declaration which included a section on the European elections.
It said, “Whatever the result of the vote, we will have to count on ourselves!
“It is by conducting a coordinated struggle against our common exploiters that we will lay the foundations for a fraternal understanding between the peoples of Europe and elsewhere.”
That’s a lot better than all the politicians’ lies that pit different sections of workers against each other.
The ruling class is in crisis—we can beat them through mass struggle
Theresa May flew to Paris and Berlin this week to beg European leaders to allow the Brexit date to be pushed back to June.
But European Union (EU) leaders were expected to demand a longer delay of up to a year. This would involve strict conditions forcing Britain into “sincere cooperation” with the rest of the bloc.
The British parliament this week rushed through a law that said May has to call for an extension to avoid a no-deal Brexit. But it’s the EU that makes that choice.
If any EU country vetoes an extension then Britain was set to leave the EU on Friday this week with no deal.
And in any case what will any extension be used for? It won’t make May’s deal—that has been defeated three times—any more acceptable to MPs.
As the Financial Times newspaper’s lead political writer wrote this week, “If a longer extension is agreed this week, what happens to Brexit? It will become the political equivalent of Chernobyl—a toxic burning vat, encased in a sarcophagus that no one dares go near.”
The Tories have to be driven out. That’s why Labour was wrong to get involved in the trap of talks to reach a compromise deal.
No deal agreed by May and the Tory cabinet is going to be in the interests of working class people.
Amid this chaos there needs to be a clear voice calling to link Brexit to other class issues. These include the destruction of the NHS, squeezed living standards, the brutal Universal Credit regime, the rise of racism, lack of action over climate change and much else.
But neither the trade union leaders nor Labour are doing this.
This is not a time of “normal” politics. The British ruling class faces a generalised crisis. We don’t need talks with May, we need struggle against her.