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Socialist Case for Exit

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From: The Socialist issue 936, 15 February 2017: March to save our NHS

Search site for keywords: EU - Labour - MPs - Socialist - Jeremy Corbyn - Labour Party - Austerity - John McDonnell - Brexit

What we think

Corbyn needs to stand up to Brexit rebels

photo Paul Mattsson

photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

  • Fight for a mass workers' party

While most Labour MPs have no problem with defying the large-scale opposition of their constituents to austerity, it's a different matter for a section of them on the issue of the EU referendum.

Many of the 52 rebel Labour MPs who refused to obey the leadership's three line whip on voting for the triggering of Article 50 (the start of the two year Brexit process), referred to a majority 'remain' vote in their constituency as justification. Among shadow ministers who resigned their posts was Clive Lewis, who has been known as a Corbyn supporter. 60% of Lewis' Norwich South constituency voted 'remain'.

Other reasons clearly lay behind the decision of many of them: to act as good representatives for the 'remain' desire of much of big business; or to create more disarray and instability for Jeremy Corbyn to reduce his authority and further destabilise his position. It was yet another indication of the determination of the Blairites and others to never reconcile themselves to Corbyn's leadership but rather to wear him down and as soon as possible force him out.

Ten front bench ministers and three Labour whips were among those who defied the whip. Unfortunately, in the face of these multi-faceted and concerted attacks, Jeremy Corbyn once again reacted mildly, in a continued attempt at impossible reconciliation. Focussing on the issue of the majority 'remain' constituencies, he expressed 'understanding' for the dilemma of the MPs concerned. But the electorate of those constituencies, as with other areas, voted first and foremost for a party rather than an individual and the overall policies of that party are what fundamentally matters.

If the Labour Party was to unite behind a policy of exposing the interests of big business in wanting to stay in the EU, of forcefully opposing the racism of the likes of Ukip and of calling for a Brexit on a pro-working class, internationalist and socialist basis, it could attract support from a substantial layer of those who voted 'remain'.

Although it won't last, the Tories are managing to stage a show of relative unity behind Theresa May at present, putting the class interests of the top 1% in society a firm first. Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell will only be able to turn around Labour's electoral fortunes by placing the class interests of working class and middle class people as the sole driving force of the party and unifying - through democratic debate and discussion - all those prepared to back that position.

Continued efforts to placate those who adopt policies reflecting the interests of the super-rich owners of the top corporations is the road to ruin, as the Socialist Party has repeatedly argued.

Draining away

On that basis there will be a further draining away out of Labour from the influx of new members who had hopes in Corbyn, those hundreds of thousands will no longer be there as a means of carrying through mandatory reselection of MPs, and the party will continue the process of haemorrhaging electoral support. The Brexit vote at root was an expression of great anger and disillusionment towards all the main pro-capitalist parties, Labour included, due to the decades-long erosion of living standards they have delivered.

New left formations like Podemos in Spain and left individuals like Jean Luc Melenchon in France are attracting support away from former traditional workers' parties that have moved to the right. The new formations at this stage have got undeveloped democratic structures and draw only in a limited way on socialist ideas. However, they show that there is growing interest in a left alternative that can be built to challenge capitalism's inability to offer a decent future for the overwhelming majority in society.

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