By KD Tait
A million people flooded central London demanding a public vote on the Tory Brexit deal in what could be the biggest demonstration in British history.
The fact that the march was organised and led by a coalition of liberal centrists in no way detracts from the fact that the spirit of the marchers was a clear rejection of the nationalist and racist nature of the Brexit project.
The demonstration was noticeable for its big turnout of young people, most of whom were denied a vote in the referendum, and European citizens, also denied a vote, facing compulsory registration and potentially deportation in a climate of xenophobia and violence.
The march was far more politically diverse than its detractors would like to admit. Any march of a million people will reflect a cross section of society. The marchers were overwhelmingly socially liberal and internationalist in their outlook.
This is no surprise since Labour voters comprise the single largest political component of the vote to Remain. Labour Party members, trade unionists, young people, and Black and Minority Ethnic people are all overwhelmingly opposed to Brexit.
Given this, the absence of Momentum, the Labour leadership, or the trade unions in any official capacity is a dangerous abdication of responsibility that gifts a monopoly over the anti-Brexit movement to the continuity Blairites and representatives of big business.
Labour, trade union and left-wing activists formed the left bloc based on solidarity with migrant workers, stopping Brexit, and staring a united struggle with European workers against the neoliberal austerity and Fortress Europe policies of the EU. In short the slogan was ‘Remain and transform.’ Red Flag supporters joined them with our anticapitalist message and the call for a united socialist Europe. The rally held in Park Lane, organised by Another Europe is Possible and Labour for a Socialist Europe heard speakers like MPs Clive Lewis and Kate Osamor, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes, and numerous trade unionists and anti-racist activists from Britain and beyond.
This bloc represented the attitude and politics of organised labour in this country far more than Tom Watson, let alone the fringe Lexiteers who stayed at home applying red lipstick to the carcass of Theresa May’s Brexit.
As Clive Lewis said from the Left Bloc stage, “Lexit doesn’t exist. Brexit is a racist, nationalist project. That’s why – except for a few Tory MPs – you won’t find any Black MPs supporting Brexit. We’ve got a spider’s sense about racism.”
The reality is that the platform speakers and those who get airtime in the media are wholly unrepresentative of the movement they claim to speak for. If the movement against Brexit is apparently dominated by the politics of liberal centrism -– that’s because the leaders of the labour movement refuse to stand up and represent the views of their members.
For the Labour leadership, all politics is subordinate to the question of winning the next election. Corbyn ignores the views of the members because his strategy hinges on taking Remain voters for granted and making concessions to Leave voters. The principal concession that will persuade Leave voters to stick with Labour is the commitment to ending free movement – a self-defeating and racist piece of opportunism.
Jeremy Corbyn’s absence from Saturday’s demonstration was a spectacular own goal. Labour could take the leadership of this movement with ease – because the movement against Brexit is overwhelmingly composed of people who support Labour and support Jeremy Corbyn.
No doubt many people hold illusions about the progressive character of the European Union or its institutions. As socialists we do not share those illusions. But we equally reject the nonsense that a socialist project can emerge like a butterfly from the cocoon of little-England chauvinism that the architects of Brexit are planning to preside over.
Socialists must start from the standpoint of what is the interest of the working class. For a start that means seeing Britain’s multi-national and multi-racial working class as a component of an international class.
The existence of an internationally integrated economy and free movement of workers between nations, are factors which aid the struggle for an international working class movement fighting for a socialist alternative to the war, nationalism and environmental destruction created by capitalism.
That is why we will continue to oppose the far right Brexit project and campaign alongside our European comrades for an EU-wide coordination to link up our struggles and open the perspective for a Socialist United States of Europe.