Time for direct action

Alena Ivanova says Brexit is an existential question for Labour

That a Tory Government with no majority has squandered the precious little time we had to deliver a serious negotiation process to begin with is indicative of the arrogance of a party completely delusional when it comes to this country’s significance on the global stage. Yet, unbelievably and ridiculously, we are nowhere near an outcome where the Labour Party steps in to ‘rescue’ us from this madness.

Developments since Labour’s conference in autumn have demonstrated that a parliamentary strategy alone is simply not enough when it comes to influencing the Brexit process. Despite the truly unified voice with which the whole party voted to reject a Tory deal, we are seeing increasingly bold voices of dissent from all corners of the PLP, with MPs openly discussing accepting Tory bribes or compromising on Labour’s lines to bring the party and the government closer to an agreed position and pushing Brexit through Parliament.

This is dangerous because, as Clive Lewis warned recently, the Tories have a lot less to lose from such a strategy. While their MPs are divided, their supporter and voter base is nowhere near as pro-European as Labour’s.

Ultimately, they can get rid of a weak leader and wash their hands of responsibility when Brexit inevitably results in job losses and reduced living standards. In contrast, facilitating the Tory Brexit will cost Labour among its own supporters and voters, and crucially, will undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, which is not something we can afford at present.  

So what is to be done? Well, parliamentary process is clearly important. We must absolutely keep the pressure on our representatives, and trade union leaders, and Corbyn’s office, to follow policy and produce the most effective whipping operation Labour is capable of delivering, with real consequences for MPs even considering breaking the party line.

But more than this, with mere weeks left to Brexit day, we really ought to be taking to the streets! Those car factory workers should be staging protests and strikes for their jobs, NHS staff should be marching together against the othering of their foreign-born colleagues, Labour party members should be occupying the Home Office in our droves and mass revolt should be the real threat that the government seems to be preparing for half-heartedly already. Our civil disobedience should not be over limited food supplies in the local supermarket, however. We should be ready to rise against a government uniquely inept and criminally cruel to working people in this country, but also to show in no uncertain terms that far from being a fringe middle class concern, Brexit is an existential issue for the soul of the Labour Party.

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