Talk of a split by Blairite Remainer MPs has increased, with the Observer newspaper reporting on 3 February that “rebel Labour MPs are set to quit the party and form centre group”.
The Blairites clearly see Brexit as an opportunity to land a blow against Jeremy Corbyn, whether they strike from inside or outside Labour.
At this stage, only six MPs have been identified and it’s far from certain that they would take this step now – either to become independents or form a new formation, possibly with Remainer Tories and Lib Dems.
It would still be a step into electoral uncertainty and hopefully oblivion if they stood outside Labour. But they could act as ‘stalking horses’ – taking a limited step now while leaving the main group of Blairites within Labour should a Corbyn-led Labour government be elected in the next period.
This plotting yet again shows that these agents of the capitalist establishment must be decisively defeated within Labour.
It was Socialist Party members in Unite that moved the resolution that ensured mandatory reselection is the union’s policy.
In such a volatile period, with the next Brexit parliamentary vote on 14 February and with possibly months, if not weeks, before a general election, socialist candidates should be put up against the Blairites in reselection contests.
This is necessary to ensure that the ground is prepared to, in the first instance, win a general election, but also to withstand the big business pressure that will be exerted afterwards.
If necessary, these left candidates should come from fighting elements across the labour and trade union movement, including socialist organisations like ours.
These Blairites are apparently citing Corbyn’s refusal to support a second EU referendum as their main reason for the scheming.
We have criticised Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, along with the majority of trade union leaders, for not leading a left socialist Leave campaign in 2016 that would have changed the dynamic of the EU referendum. Instead, a vacuum was opened to be filled by the Tory right and Ukip. As a result, there is now a polarisation regarding membership of the EU within the working class, which the far right is attempting to exploit. Notwithstanding this, Corbyn has, up until now, been prepared to stand against calls for a ‘people’s vote’ to reverse Brexit – rightly arguing that a real people’s vote would be a general election.
The Trade Union Congress recently claimed that “the strongest possible protection for workers’ rights would come from sticking by Single Market and Customs Union rules”.
But, in saying this, they act like a wing of the CBI bosses’ organisation which, as the true representative of big business, wants the UK to stay in the neoliberal EU or, at least, the ‘softest’ Brexit possible.
Both Corbyn and Unite the Union general secretary Len McCluskey have been the main objects of attack by the Blairites for their stands.
They have also been criticised by many so-called Corbynistas who have mistakenly supported Remain – effectively ending up in an unofficial front with the Blairites – putting a second referendum before a general election.
Corbyn and McCluskey need to use their meetings with May to put forward, and promote widely outside parliament, the key demands for what would constitute a Brexit in the interests of workers and their families.
This approach could, at the same time, expose the real character of the EU and how May and the Tories are only interested in a Brexit that serves the interests of big business.
Such demands should include the repeal of the anti- union laws. When Labour changed its position on the closed shop, which was outlawed by the Tories in 1990, the then Labour shadow employment secretary, Tony Blair, claimed it was necessary to “bring our law into line with Europe… in the run up to the single European market”.
Repealing the 1990 Act and the other anti-union laws; banning zero-hour contracts; lifting the restrictions on secondary action or sympathy strikes; trade union control of agencies; enforcing collective agreements negotiated in sectors to all workers in those industries – all this would completely blow away the Single Market rules and could unite workers.
Corbyn should add to this the demand not to comply any more with EU rules on state aid and against public ownership, which would come into collision with Corbyn’s 2017 Labour manifesto that raised renationalisation of the railways.
It is apt that one of the charges levelled by the Blairites against Corbyn is his refusal to go along with calls for Maduro to be forced out of office in Venezuela.
Another indication of the anti-worker and pro-imperialist character of the EU is that the leading powers within it are supporting what is an attempted US-led, right-wing coup.
Corbyn should go much further in strongly and combatively calling May to account and exposing her. A government led by him with a low-key approach and half measures on domestic and foreign policy would only antagonise Corbyn’s class enemies both inside Labour and outside, while not satisfying workers’ demands.
The Blairite plots are a further indication of a redrawing of the political lines which can barely be contained by the main political parties.
It is therefore necessary to face up to this reality by reconstituting Labour as a federal party that includes all anti-austerity forces across the labour and trade union movement – including the Socialist Party – and that can give a lead to the mass of workers in fighting to force out the Tories and bring in a government on socialist policies.