Labour’s election campaign has got off to a strong start with reports of hundreds turning out for canvassing in constituencies up and down the country. Momentum is signing up teams to hit the streets in marginal seats, to organise mass phone banking and rallies in support of a programme of progressive reforms.

The headline message is that Johnson and his cabal of Tory extremists like Priti Patel and Dominic Raab must be stopped or else incalculable damage will be inflicted when a Tory government sacrifices our health service, education, and environmental protections to a Donald Trump trade deal.   

After nearly ten years of savage austerity to ‘balance the books’, the Tories have revisited Theresa May’s magic money tree – this time bribing voters with promises of more cash for schools, hospitals, and the police. But every Johnson promise is a cheque that will bounce if he gets a majority on 12 December.

A vote for Johnson is a vote for the final instalment of the neoliberal revolution: privatisation and destruction of public services, reactionary social policies, and no chance of meaningful measures to stop runaway climate change. Anti-European chauvinism and racist baiting of migrants and refugees will be cranked up by the Tories and their billionaire press barons to soften resistance to their deregulated, pro-business, low-tax bosses’ paradise.

If the Tories win a majority, the bankers, speculators, and profiteers really will ‘take back control’ – and working people will pay the price.

Why Brexit matters

Labour wants to fight the election on issues its voters care about – healthcare, housing, and the cost of living. It has made substantial and progressive pledges on all three and more. Socialists should fight tooth and nail against the opposition of bosses and backbenchers to make these a reality. But thanks to the Liberals and Scottish nationalists, millions will treat this election as a second referendum on Brexit.

A Tory Brexit means a ruling class offensive that we will have to fight to the finish. But a Labour Brexit is no panacea. A Labour government presiding over Brexit will be in the weakest possible position to implement its ‘borrow-and-spend’ programme against the wishes of a hostile business and financial elite fighting to protect themselves from the consequences of Brexit – or exploit its opportunities.

Red Flag maintains our criticism of Labour’s ambiguity on Brexit, which has failed to deliver the clear support that the party should be commanding when faced with the incompetence and impotence of the May and Johnson regimes.

As opinions have hardened, the electoral terrain in 2019 is different to 2017, when a Tory majority and Brexit seemed a foregone conclusion. Instead of exposing the lies and far-right character of the Brexit project, and advancing a working class programme for tackling the exploitation of migrant workers, the climate crisis, and the international neoliberal institutions on an international level, Labour has spent three years speaking with a forked tongue.

Negotiating a deal that leaves Britain in the customs union and aligned with single market rules, but without a say, runs the risk of repelling Leave and Remain voters who will both view it as an unprincipled compromise. Promising a referendum on this deal, with Labour’s inevitable Remain position subject to a special party conference, is democratic but evasive and irresolute.

The litmus test of the leadership’s opportunism is its opposition to free movement and equal rights for all workers, in opposition to the democratic decision of the party conference. It makes it impossible for the shadow cabinet to credibly make the case that healthcare, construction, and agricultural workers coming from the continent are welcome here and central to our common fight against exploitative bosses, slum landlords, and the scourge of racism.

Far from overcoming the divisions in British society, Brexit will exacerbate them. That’s why Red Flag will be campaigning alongside Labour for a Socialist Europe to make a Labour victory the first step to ending Brexit and uprooting neoliberal capitalism through the fight for a Socialist United States of Europe.  

Tactical vote, strategic error

Liberal Democrat upstart Jo Swinson’s talk of campaigning for a Lib-Dem government is just hot air. Posturing as a progressive party, they are in reality the junior party of British capitalism, always on hand to help the Tories out of a tight spot.

By forcing a general election before Johnson’s dodgy deal could be exposed and defeated in parliament, by ruling out supporting a Corbyn-led government and a final say referendum, the party of the Bedroom Tax and tuition fees have declared – vote Lib-Dem, get Tory Brexit free.

The Scottish nationalists pitched in with the Liberals in giving Johnson the early Christmas present of a December election, believing the threat of Tory-Trump Brexit will boost their own vote and drive up support for Scottish independence. Workers and young people in Scotland should reject this selfish and self-defeating nationalism, and vote Labour to preserve the unity of Britain’s multinational and multiracial working class in its common struggle to preserve the NHS, reverse austerity, and confront the climate crisis.

Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is threatening to field 600 candidates – but this is a gambit to force an electoral pact with the Tories, demanded by Donald Trump who is desperate for a Brexit deal which he knows will be a bonanza for US bosses. However many Brexit party candidates stand in the end, filthy rich city stockbroker Farage is guaranteed plenty of airtime for his migrant-bashing hard Brexit message.

Voting for any party other than Labour risks letting in the Tories, triggering Brexit, and unleashing a carnival of chauvinist reaction that will make workers in Britain easy prey for English, Scottish, and US bosses to finish Thatcher and Reagan’s neoliberal counter-revolution.

The battleground is set. A tactical vote for the Liberals, nationalists or Greens on December 12 will prove a strategic mistake in the years to come.

We cannot be complacent about a Labour victory. But we can be certain that anything other than a majority Labour government makes Brexit more likely and poses an existential threat to our jobs, public services, and standard of living.

Whatever the limitations of Labour’s programme, a Jeremy Corbyn-led government will face the full force of its class enemy, who will regroup and use their dictatorial power over industry, finance, and the media to destabilise, sabotage, and overthrow it.

A combative campaign which delivers a massive Labour vote is the way to mobilise and prepare the working class and youth to defend a leftwing Labour government by fighting for a genuine anticapitalist programme that opens the road to the revolutionary seizure of wealth and power from the few, by the many. That’s the way to achieve the fundamental and irreversible socialist transformation of society.  

December 12 – vote Labour and prepare to fight!

If you agree, join Red Flag, the fighting socialist organisation