By suspending parliament to stop MPs extending the October 31 deadline for leaving the EU, Boris Johnson and his sinister advisor Dominic Cummings have brought the UK one step closer to a catastrophic No Deal Brexit.
Only weeks ago, key ministers had explicitly condemned this idea, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid saying: “You don’t deliver democracy by trashing democracy – you can’t just shut down parliament”. Michael Gove claimed proroguing parliament “would not be true to the best traditions of British democracy”.
Now it seems they can only save democracy by trashing it and trampling on its “best traditions”.
It is an indication of how dramatically the stakes have been raised that Johnson and his cabinet have openly declared that, even if Parliament passes a law ordering them to delay the deadline past October 31, they will not obey it.
That’s why hundreds of thousands are joining the wave of protests and direct action across the country to stop Johnson’s rogue regime. Millions of people recognise this for the coup it is. The suspension of parliament is a Bonapartist coup, i.e. one in which the executive raises itself above, and thwarts the operation of, the democratically elected (and supposedly sovereign) parliament.
It has been carried out using the unelected parts of the British state; the royal prerogative wielded by a prime minister who was not elected by the people but by 90,000 Tory party members. Marxists have long warned that in any deep national crisis the “picturesque pageantry” of Britain’s monarchy can suddenly spring to life and override the democratic elements of the constitution.
The government’s gamble is that the so-called ‘Rebel Alliance’ of Tories, Liberals, Nationalists and Labour will fail to pass a law delaying No Deal. If that is the case, then, with parliament suspended for the next five weeks, it will be virtually impossible to stop a No Deal Brexit by constitutional means. To raise the stakes even higher, Johnson has said that he will regard even a vote to allow the Commons to discuss a delay as a vote of no confidence which would justify him asking the Queen to dissolve parliament ahead of a general election on October 14.
Even so, the Fixed Term Parliaments Act means the government would have to win a majority in the Commons before he could do that. If such a vote is called, Labour must vote against dissolution, otherwise the election would be held on Johnson’s terms – with October 31 hanging like a sword of Damocles over a campaign, which Cummings will run as a true Bonapartist plebiscite – ‘the people vs parliament’.
Labour must insist that, before disssolution, the first step is to pass legislation mandating an extension to the Article 50 deadline. But this must immediately be followed by a vote of no confidence that finishes Johnson off and installs a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn. That government should then request an extension in order to conduct a general election followed by a referendum on the current deal.
Labour should reject any proposal for a caretaker government under a supposedly neutral figure like the Tory Ken Clarke, such a compromise would open the way to unprincipled alliances in the subsequent general election and even to Labour participation in a coalition government with Lib Dems or even the anti-Brexit Tories.
We must step up and keep up the pressure on MPs to make all this happen. Intransigence on Labour’s part will be necessary to force the Liberals and Tory rebels to choose between a Corbyn caretaker government and Johnson’s No Deal. Intransigence over principles is the only realistic policy in this situation.
Meanwhile, the Labour party and the TUC need to throw their full weight behind the mass protests in every town and city until Johnson is brought down. This means protests, occupations, blockades and walkouts. If it proves impossible to remove Johnson by parliamentary means, the TUC must be prepared to call a general strike in October. The movement in the streets needs to prepare itself for this potential next step by setting up committees of delegates from trade unions, Labour parties, and the wider movement to coordinate the resistance.
To carry out a programme that genuinely delivers ‘for the many, not the few’ means launching an offensive against the institutions of international capitalism from a position of strength. That means maintaining our economic and social links with Europe and defying the resistance of the bosses by creating a pan-European movement.
That’s why Labour needs to abandon all ambiguity about Brexit and declare it is opposed to it full stop, is for free movement and will put these policies in its manifesto. It should launch a Europe-wide fight against austerity and the EU’s neoliberal treaties and against the rising racist right, based on democratic international social forums. It should do so in solidarity with the working class movements of the continent under the slogan “Against the Europe of Capital! For a Socialist United States of Europe!”
Labour should denounce the Tories’ promises of billions for education and the NHS as a cynical bribe to buy support for No Deal. Labour should abandon its own timid spending limits and pledge a major investment in housing, public services, and the environment – funded not by borrowing on the bond markets or printing money – but by taxing and expropriating the wealth of the rich, and investing it in a democratically controlled plan of production.
It should make clear it would launch a huge house building and environmental restoration programme, specifically targeting areas that have been left behind since the days of Thatcher. That would give real substance to the talk of a green industrial revolution.
Last, but not least, Johnson’s coup has revealed the undemocratic reality of the British Constitution to millions of people. A Labour government should sweep away the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, and call a Constituent Assembly, elected by universal 16+ suffrage, to sweep away the reactionary feudal rubbish of the monarchy, the Privy Council, the unelected House of Lords and defend the Scottish parliament’s right to call a referendum on independence.
Labour, Momentum and the unions need to mobilise a general election campaign that is radically different from the usual knocking on doors and ticking boxes. We need hustings in city centres, demonstrations, mass political canvassing, mobilising the youth and the working class and black and minority ethnic communities, including EU workers. We need to show beyond all doubt that the people, the real working people, are overwhelmingly on Labour’s side and we must demand a government whose anticapitalist measures will open the road to a social revolution, a socialist republic of Britain within a socialist united states of Europe.
National Committee statement 3rd September 2019