Thursday 10 January 2019

John Mann's Red Wash

"Desperate Theresa May caves in on workers' rights to save Brexit deal". Well done The Mirror for getting the scoop, but what does it mean? Since losing her majority, May's approach to Brexit has proceeded more with an eye to Tory party management than actually getting her deal through the Commons. Then, during last Autumn's party conference season the penny belatedly dropped and the PM realised that intransigent opposition from the government benches meant she needed Labour MPs onside. Since then, nothing. And now at the 11th hour, we learn she's been having chats with John Mann, Caroline Flint and others about accepting an amendment on the protection of workers' rights.

The amendment seeks to fix existing EU workers' protections in British law, and would also give MPs a future vote should the EU decide to enhance employee rights in the future. Justifying his amendment, Mann argues that it makes May's deal more attractive to Labour MPs by improving on the vague sentiments expressed in the original deal text. Flint went on to say that she hoped the amendment would be backed by the front bench. Unfortunately for the "20 MPs" who are prepared to back the Mann/Flint amendment the likelihood of that support forthcoming is up there with a Simon Danczuk comeback.

John McDonnell and Angela Rayner have piled in, branding its acceptance by the Prime Minister as a cynical act of self-interest, adding that the Tories can't be trusted on workers' rights. This is more than the usual argy-bargy of parliamentary rhetoric. We should not forget that May has proven more underhanded and happy to lie than even her predecessor, her ruling out of a general election before calling one and pulling the meaningful vote on her deal the day before it was originally due to take place should set the alarm bells screaming "she's not to be trusted!". Likewise as Tim Roache of the GMB observes, if she really cared about workers' rights then there were ample opportunities to get trade unions around the table. Also, it's pretty meaningless. EU workers' protections have meant little as the Tories and, disgracefully, New Labour took Britain to the bottom of the league for employee rights in Western Europe. Workers in Germany and France still enjoy greater rights at work, despite us all (for the moment) being part of the EU. And for her part, while May is hardly the workers' friend she has not pledged to scrap protections or anything like that - this being a hobby horse of the hard right of her party - so accepting the Mann/Flint amendment comes at zero political cost to her.

What John Mann and co. are doing then is providing red wash for May's deal. Assuming she loses the vote next week, when she returns to the Commons with her Plan B it will, in all likelihood, be in the form of a cross-party appeal for further amendments. Clearly this is what both Mann and Flint expect as both have framed their intervention around workers' rights as the beginning of a process that incorporates more of Labour's red lines. And from May's point of view, the more new amendments are bolted to her deal, the more the clock ticks down to exit day, the more likely sundry Labour MPs are going to back it to prevent the disaster of no deal.

No Labour MP should have anything to do with getting May's deal through. While all Brexit options aren't good, some are less harmful than others. Contrary to efforts aimed at muddying the waters, Labour's position is clear and straightforward: a deal based on a customs union with single market access. This softest of soft Brexits guarantees continuity for EU residents as well as established trading relationships, and delivers on the 2017 manifesto. A position, you'll remember, that was able to bridge the gap between Labour remain and Labour leave constituencies when everyone else was predicting electoral catastrophe. By going along with May's deal, Mann and friends are advocating a harder Brexit than what could be achieved. They have forgotten, whether purposely or not, that the biggest danger to our people - their constituents - is the continuation of the Tories in power, and are on a course that would keep May and the rest of them in government. Such a position for a Labour MP is unforgivable, and makes their future as Labour MPs untenable.


Phil said...

Such a position for a Labour MP is unforgivable, and makes their future as Labour MPs untenable.

I agree in principle, but I don't think you'll get many takers for deselecting Lisa Nandy, or Gareth Snell. What's got into those two is another question.

Boffy said...

The Labour Right share similar nationalist tendencies with the Tories, and the Stalinists. They are all prepared to blame "foreigners" for the ills of British capitalism, and even just British government policy. It simply takes different forms. This is also the danger of Corbyn's capture by the small group of Stalinists. The Stalinists have always and continue to argue for immigration controls, for example, a position that is tacitly shared by the Socialist Party. It is an adjunct of the economic nationalism that promotes things like import controls to throw the burden of the crisis on to foreign workers, via job losses, and on to domestic workers via the resultant higher prices and taxes to subsidise British capital.

May's proposal is a sham. A Brexit Britain would have every reason to try to undercut EU businesses, by reducing workers rights. They might do it initially by not matching EU improvements, but it would take only government action to overturn any current decision to simply roll back existing rights. A Britain outside the EU would quickly stagnate, as the decisions by JLR, Ford, Honda, Toyota etc. show, so in order to balance the budget, and try to keep UK profits up, they would be forced to impose increased austerity, and to reduce workers wages and conditions.

That's why Corbyn's Stalinist, nationalist economic agenda is also reactionary. But, the idea that Corbyn could negotiate a better deal, let alone a deal that meets its six tests of being in the Customs Union and so on, with the right to a veto, or to have its own trade agreements etc. is an obvious lie. No socialist should perpetuate that lie to workers.

I agree that Labour should press for a General Election, rather than another referendum - though in any such referendum if Labour argued forcefully for Remain, Leave would now lose by a substantial margin - but if there is a General Election, what will Corbyn say? Its why I think May will call one, given that Labour's position is seeing it sink further and further back into irrelevance. If Corbyn fights a General Election on the ridiculous platform of continuing with Brexit, they will lose terribly and the Corbyn project will die, leaving the Blair-rights with a clear run to return. <ay at every point will refer tot he fact that Corbyn is a General with no army behind him supporting his Brexit policy.

If Corbyn fights a General Election saying he will call a referendum, they will just ask "And what will you be calling for in that referendum." Which will expose the lunacy of his position again.

The SWP even seem to be realising the reactionary nature of Brexit, and their former nonsensical advocacy of Lexit, and Paul Mason also now seems to be realising the need to push Corbyn away from the current Stalinist position, to clear advocacy of opposition to Brexit. The only people continuing to support the current reactionary position are the tiny cabal of Stalinists around the Morning Star and Socialist Action, and the internet trolls, who are waiting for their next hobby horse to start flame wars around.

Unknown said...

Boffy - It is an unfortunate quirk of the first-past-the-post system that even though Labour voters are firmly remain, the labour voters that matter (i.e. the ones in constituencies with Labour MPs) voted quite firmly to leave.
You say that if Labour stand on a platform of continuing with Brexit they will lose terribly - and you might be right. However, the same can probably be said if they stand on a platform of halting Brexit or having another referendum.

Aside from that, in general you tend to make quite sweeping statements about the left which are often quite wide of the mark. Moreoever, there is a big difference between Keynsianism and (what you refer to as) Stalinism, which you don't seem to acknowledge.

Boffy said...

It's not true that Labour voters where there are Labour MP's voted firmly to Leave.

Labour MP's did best in London, for example, where the Remain vote was the largest, and where around 75% of 2017 Labour voters voted Remain. Labour also did best in metropolitan areas where the largest vote for Remain is also to be found. Few Labour voters in Scotland voted Leave, and if Labour is to have any chance of winning a parliamentary majority, it will have to win back Scottish seats from the SNP and Tories. It has no chance of doing so whilst being seen to be backing Leave.

But, as John Curtice and the BES have shown the idea that Labour voters in Labour seats outside those areas voted "firmly for Leave" is totally false. Even taking the 2015 GE vote, a majority of LABOUR voters in those seats, voted Remain, and di so by only a marginally smaller margin than in those Labour areas that voted strongly for Remain. Based on the 2017 parliamentary vote, even in those Labour constituencies that voted Leave, around 60% of Labour voters, voted for Remain.

What won a majority for Leave in those seats is the fact that the Tory/UKIP/BNP vote for Leave was higher, as they saw the potential for venting their spleen in a way that they could not effectively do in a parliamentary election. What further enhanced that, as Channel 4 showed recently is that around 3 million non-voters, i.e. that backward layer that usually does not participate in political activity, was mobilised in the same way that fascistic/populist movements have done in the past. They were specifically targeted using the facilities of Cambridge Analytica etc.

The idea that Labour should chase after these reactionary elements, in the vain and mistaken belief that may be potential Labour voters, is fatally flawed.

George Carty said...

Pleb James -- it's not quite that, it's a problem of Tory/Labour marginal constituencies that voted firmly to leave. And even in those constituences a majority of Labour voters voted Remain.

The problem is that the minority of Labour Leave voters in those constituencies hold the balance of power between the Labour Remain voters and the Tory Leave voters. This is why the evidence that those particular voters are at last turning against Brexit gives us a glimmer of hope.

And another issue is that about a quarter of Remain voters in spite of everything still voted Tory in 2017. Obviously those voters:

a) see Brexit as a low-priority issue (otherwise they would have switched to the Lib Dems), and
b) are anti-Labour for reasons other than Brexit.

DFTM said...

The irony of Boffy is that it was Marx who warned of the dangers of pro imperialism in relation to Ireland and the deleterious effect this would have on the working class. Yes Brexit was reactionary but it was a reaction caused by Britain’s colonial past and imperial present, as well as by constant bile from the tabloids and the msm, such as the BBC (much lauded by Boffy incidentally). It is the chauvinist policies of the liberal centre Boffy is so much in love with, epitomised by the Yvette ‘I don’t want free movement’’ Cooper and Hilary ‘please lets bomb Syria’ Benn that have contributed so much to the sense of superiority held by British people. I mean no one talked about immigration controls more than the liberal centre Blairites and Boffy wants us to get into bed with these people to stop nationalism (you have to laugh)!! Yet he condemns so called Stalinists for talking about import controls!

“The Labour Right share similar nationalist tendencies with the Tories, and the Stalinists. “

Just a few days ago Boffy was saying he wanted to align with the Labour right against the left, I think “Corbyn out” is his new slogan! And of course in his madcap world Corbyn has been captured, it’s the only way he can really justify to himself the awful position he has taken. Just a shame it is a total fabrication!

“they are all prepared to blame "foreigners" for the ills of British capitalism”

Boffy really does need to name and shame and provide more concrete examples, so we can a) ascertain whether they are Stalinists and b) ascertain whether they blame foreigners. Boffy, a thoroughly dishonest way, implies the Socialist party blames foreigners in, if we applied the same method to Boffy we could say he blames foreigners for the ills of society which is why he wants free trade, which more often favour the stronger nations! We could say that Boffy wants a stronger EU in order to protect British interests in a rapidly changing world and to meet the threat of nations like China. Boffy talks of free trade like a bagman of free trade, like one of its more servile and obedient sycophants – free trade abstracted to nonsense. We should remember that.

Incidentally Boffy’s definition of a Stalinist appears to me to be that they support the NHS, want utilities under public control (quite the norm in the EU) and they think the too big to fail banks should be brought under the control of the nation (again not uncommon in the EU)?

“A Brexit Britain would have every reason to try to undercut EU businesses,”

That is because they operate in a capitalist market and is a sine qua non of being a capitalist firm in a capitalist market! It wouldn’t make any difference whether they operated within or outside the EU, they will look to undercut other businesses whether that business comes from the EU, the UK or Mars. The EU is a neo liberal organisation and there is no intention to do away with the values of capitalism. The gig economy grew up in the bosom of the EU. We should remember that.

“But, the idea that Corbyn could negotiate a better deal, let alone a deal that meets its six tests of being in the Customs Union and so on, with the right to a veto, or to have its own trade agreements etc. is an obvious lie”

Of course it isn’t an obvious lie as Theresa Mays’s pretend back peddling on workers’ rights shows, also note that Corbyn and his team has actually met EU negotiators whereas Boffy hasn’t. We should remember that.

Boffy said...


Its also not true to say that Labour would lose if it clearly backed Remain. All of the survey data shows that Labour would currently be around 20 points ahead if it were to be arguing clearly for Remain, whilst the data shows that Labour stands to drop by up to 16 points behind the Tories if Brexit goes ahead. The Tories will be the ones that will be mostly held responsible for a No Deal Brexit, were that to happen, but it won't. They will also be the ones held mostly responsible for the damaging effects of any Brexit, but that won't stop Corbyn also taking part of the blame for that, because of his failure to oppose Brexit. It will simply strengthen the Blair-rights.

In the referendum campaign, Corbyn took the same position as me, of essentially calling for a Socialist Campaign for Europe, so as to distance ourselves from the pro-EU stance of Cameron, and the Blair-rights. It was the same position we had held 40 years earlier, when I first met him, when we were founder supporters of the Socialist Campaign for Labour Victory. But, where given his support for building a social movement was the large rallies and demonstrations, and the combined activity with European socialists, and people from Syriza, Podemos the Portuguese Left Bloc etc. Then after the referendum, all we heard was that he would not oppose Brexit.

On sweeping statements on the left, I think that you have misunderstood the statements I have made. The vast majority of the Corbynite Left does not support his stance. It wants him to oppose Brexit. Sections of the far Left since the 1970's abandoned their previous principled position on the EU, and became Little Englanders, for fear of losing their periphery to the Communist Party. Those elements are a tiny minority, and have continued to shrink in relevance. They lined up with Enoch Powell and the NF to oppose the Common Market in 1975, and with Farage and the BNP in more recent years, via No2EU.

But, everyone knows that Corbyn is a long standing supporter of the Stalinist Morning Star, and his close advisors are Stalinists in that vein. Socialist Action, which years ago became a Castro fan club, have sunk into a similar Stalinist stance, and have in recent weeks justified Corbyn's, Brexit stance in terms of a defence of the idea of Socialism in One Country. As Irish Marxism described.

Not all Keynesians are Stalinists, but all Stalinists are keynesians. Stalinism decades ago abandoned Marxist economic theory along with all other Marxist principles, in favour of promoting state capitalism, and Keynesian solutions in one country. The trouble is that not only does keyensianism provide no solution to the regular crises of capitalism - it is really a rehash of the ideas of underconsumption and the proposal for dealing with it by unproductive consumption, proposed by Malthus 200 years ago - but even in the conditions where it can act to ameliorate recessions, or help provide some kind of framework for investment, it long since went past the stage where that could be done within the confines of the nation state. Which is why after WWII, keynesianism became an international project with the creation of the institutions created at Bretton Woods, and indeed with the EU itself. Its why every nation state on the planet, more or less is trying to form such intra-national institutions. That is why the Stalinist proposals for Keynesianism in One Country are so particularly bizarre and reactionary.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article that provides a slightly (actually totally refutes it) different perspective to the one provided by Boffy.

Boffy said...

Bur no one takes skawkbox seriously!

Boffy said...

Lots of people have now trashed the skwawkbox heavily biased interpretation of the poll.

But, a further point I would make is that I have not called for another referendum! I have set out several times why I am OPPOSED to another referendum, so the argument by our brave anonymous poster is rather irrelevant.

I have argued throughout that Labour should press for a General Election. But, the point about calling for a GE is that it only makes sense if Labour is arguing for it as the means of it opposing Brexit. The Survation poll shows that a clear majority continue to support Remain, as against Leave, and the proportion of Labour voters backing Remain is increasing.

But, the other point is that if Labour were to call for a General Election on the basis of the position that Corbyn has argued for of continuing to press ahead with Brexit, but just a pale pink version of it, I can well understand why many Labour voters would then vote Liberal, or for some other party!

Similarly, if Labour calls for another referendum, but on the basis of Corbyn's current stance of arguing for some form of Brexit, its obvious that many remain voting Labour supporters would back Liberals, Greens, Plaid, SNP etc.

As usual, the data has been heavily manipulated to present a picture that is not justified. For one thing, it depends heavily on what line Labour adopts ahead of any such GE, or referendum, in terms of for or against Brexit.

Unknown said...

If Maybot's plan passed, the DUP would support a vote of no confidence.

Boffy said...

It appears now that Corbyn and his Stalinist advisors are also becoming detached even from John McDonnell, who whatever Skwawkbox night be trying to foist upon us, is now saying clearly that if there was a referendum he would back Remain.

Now we just need Labour to commit itself to a General Election which it will fight on a Manifesto committing it to scrapping Brexit, and working with the EU working-class and labour movement to build a Workers Europe!

GW said...

Phil - people on the Left are supposed to have some kind of international dimension to their analysis.

The idea that a 'better Brexit' could be negotiated at this stage, after all the loss of trust that the previous calling of Article 50 without having a clue about what they wanted, then all the bullshit and brinkmanship that followed, is something that only insular Brits could entertain.

How much better is a left 'have your cake and eat it position' any more do-able than a right wing one? Especially one still involving giving ground to the right on immigration?