Very clear piece by Martin Hall on Keir Starmer’s refashioning of Labour’s Brexit position announced in the Observer over the bank holiday weekend.
I’d underscore or make a couple of points:
1) The campaign for a left Leave vote last year was modest (as was every intervention by the socialist left in the referendum). But it was outward going. It did bring a welcome of unity of purpose among people on the left from various traditions, thus making a positive contribution to overcoming a disabling degree of fragmentation.
2) Of course, the division on the left over which way to campaign in the referendum was sharp, and at times unnecessarily bitter. But from January of this year there was a moving on and focus from most serious people upon how to make working class and left positions central to the Brexit discussion. And as Martin puts is very well here: the position put in the Observer by Starmer is as far from "Remain and Reform" as it is from a People’s Brexit.
It is to stay in the single market – the heart of the EU and its treaties interpreted by the undemocratic European Court of Justice – for five to seven years or longer. But the "reform" sought is a special restriction on European new arrivals in Britain.
This is not a position of the left – whether you were for left Leave or progressive Remain. It says nothing about using the negotiations to attack the neoliberal architecture of the EU. The agony of Greece is absent, when it remains vivid for all on the fighting left in Britain, in more ways than one.
3) So there really is a basis for building a left response to this, arising from serious debate and common initiatives. But that cannot happen if the left sinks back to the situation where the politics of Britain and Europe is seen solely as some parliamentary theatre. It was 30 years of doing that which led to the marginalisation of all the left in last year’s referendum.
4) There is clearly an establishment push going on. And recognising that is the beginning of wisdom. It can avoid inadvertently ending up being a claque for what is the majority position of the British ruling class.
Take Boris Johnson. A media operation is underway against him from the Tories and mainstream right wing commentators. Not for a moment does that mean "defending" him, whatever that would amount to.
But it does mean there is no point at all in any on the left calling for Theresa May to sack Boris Johnson or just jollying ourselves with anti-Johnson quips. That’s because the government is not of Johnson, but of May – and increasingly Davis and Hammond.
We should not be deflected from the central front – to drive out the Tories as soon as possible, not in five years time, and to deepen the radicalisation which has brought a moment in working class politics in Britain which conventional wisdom told us would never return.
That radicalism has to extend to Brexit and the Europe question also.
And we need maturity and seriousness at a greater level than was perhaps at times shown in the referendum campaign and immediately after last year.
This article does speak to a serious purpose and seeking to unite a left response to a move which is against the left.
However, if these places are too familiar to you, let’s take Vietnam tour 10 days to make your trip more exciting.