In the 18 May Morning Star, CPB (Communist Party of Britain) secretary Rob Griffiths indicts those he calls “Labour’s pro-EU fanatics”: “They have succeeded in scuppering the talks with the Tory government by demanding that a permanent customs union and a second referendum form part of any new Brexit package”.
Leave aside that a permanent customs union is agreed Labour policy, endorsed personally by Jeremy Corbyn time and time again, and a second public vote is conference policy. What I’m struck by is that phrase: “They have succeeded in scuppering the talks with the Tory government.” Does Griffiths think the Labour leadership was wrong to break off those talks? Does he think that Corbyn should have reached a deal with May? That would seem to be the only possible way to understand what Griffiths is saying.
And now that May is talking about a new withdrawal agreement bill with (supposedly) stronger commitments on workers’ rights and environmental commitments, would comrade Griffiths, the CPB and the Morning Star advocate support for it?
It’s difficult to believe that they would. It would surely create an outcry within the labour movement if they did. But that seems to be the logic of their wretched, nationalist politics. Griffiths was writing in what the front page of last Saturday’s Morning Star promised to be “The Big Europe Debate” — Richard Burgon MP “makes the case to vote Labour on May 23”, and Griffiths “argues against going to the polls at all.” That sounded promising: a proper debate in the pages of the Morning Star for a change. But no. Sadly, it was a case of false advertising: there was no “debate” between Burgon and Griffiths: just two separate articles.
The supposed “big debate” within the labour movement and the left over whether to vote Labour or support a “people’s boycott” is simply a figment of the fevered imaginations of the CPB and the Morning Star. Has anyone witnessed any public debates about a “people’s boycott”, any rallies, stalls or even leaflets advocating it? No: this “campaign” had no real existence at all because it is based upon a premise no different to that of Farage.
Griffiths claimed that: “... the poll in Britain on May 23 is illegitimate. It is an insult to all those who participated in the June 2016 referendum in good faith, whether they voted leave the EU or remain [...] the people have already decided to leave the EU and their decision must be implemented.” But, said Griffiths, people must not vote for either of the two parties that are standing on precisely that basis: Farage is reactionary, anti-immigrant and Trump-loving, while “a vote for Ukip is a vote to endorse its open collaboration with fascists and racists” (all perfectly true, of course).
Why not stick to the CPB/Morning Star’s usual position of calling for a Labour vote (something they did throughout the Blair years)? For Griffiths, the problem is that “most Labour candidates have made clear their support for remaining in the EU. Many have announced that they want a second referendum in which they would campaign for such an outcome.” Worse still, such candidates “use their disruptive pro-EU position to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership – itself the result of yet another democratic election for which they have no respect.”
On the subject of democracy, what of the relentless campaign of the CPB/Morning Star and its co-thinkers in and around the Labour leader’s office, to water down and undermine the policy on a public vote passed at Labour’s last conference?