Two things which are NOT the same - Reflection on the Demo against Brexit
by Ray Goodspeed
A demonstration in March 2003, which was desperately trying to stop the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq in the naked interests of US imperialism, with UK imperialism as a junior partner. This was going to be carried out on utterly fraudulent grounds by Blair, a Labour Prime Minister consciously acting as the tool of the British ruling class, against the overwhelming opposition of his own party and a very large number of his MPs, but supported by the Conservatives.
This demonstration, like the many others around the world on the same day, was organised mainly by a coalition of the reformist and revolutionary left in and around the Labour and Trade union movement, along with activists from many broad anti-imperialist, anti-war, single issue campaigners, such as CND. One of its main leaders was Jeremy Corbyn who later (miraculously!) became leader of the Labour Party. It also involved people on a religious basis, either on pacifist grounds or through fear of the imminent deaths and maiming of many Islamic co-religionists in Iraq. Many of these religious groups, it is true, did have views on other social and sexual issues that were not great or sometimes really terrible. The movement also dragged into its orbit an extraordinarily wide range of “normal” people, non-political people of all kinds, from many different classes and social groups who had all kinds of confused or “wrong” political views on many subjects.
Yes, the leader of the Liberal Democrats was (controversially, even then) asked to speak, as he had courageously opposed the drift to war (only to bottle out later). In fact, at that time, the Liberal Democrats were better (more “progressive”) than Labour on a whole raft of civil liberties, human rights and immigration/asylum issues, and even on taxation and spending policy.
THE SECOND THING
A march organised, bought and paid for by one faction of the divided bourgeoisie (probably the majority) alongside their centrist agents in, or recently departed from, the Labour movement in order to re-run/overturn the result of a referendum decision for the UK to leave an openly anti-working class, neo-liberal trading bloc which has an imperialist relationship with the global south. The EU is their method of choice to extract profit from the working class in all European countries, rather than the Brexit faction’s alternative methods. The march was advertised by banner front pages in, for example, the London Evening Standard, edited by George Osborne, who, as Tory Chancellor was the architect of the most savage attacks on working people for decades. The anti-Labour BBC covered it extensively on all their platforms.
It was actively promoted in the press and on TV by Tony Blair. Remember him? He was the guy they were marching AGAINST in the other thing, you know – the war criminal. Another leading figure is Blair’s lying and scheming advisor at the time of the war, Campbell. The official leaders of the “Peoples Vote” campaign include Anna Soubry, who happily voted for 9 years for every single piece of savagery imposed by the government, from the benefit cap, to the bedroom tax, to cuts in family credit for third children, to the hostile environment to universal credit and the failure to take more than a derisory number of refugees from Syria. She is an inveterate opponent of the working class and the trade union movement. Her new friend, Chuka Umunna, is another desperate opponent of the move to the left in the Labour Party and openly plots to prevent Labour under Corbyn from winning, in order to protect the capitalist system to which he is completely wedded. Tom Watson was personally responsible for campaigning in an election on an explicitly anti-refugee platform, calling the LibDems opponents soft on refugees, and he is currently plotting against the Labour left.
The key speaker, of course was Michael Heseltine, the minister personally responsible for the final pitiful destruction of the nation’s mining communities in the early 90s, which in itself contributed massively to the Leave vote.
Yes, there were some trade unions represented and all sorts of people, good and bad, turned up for a variety of good, bad or confused reasons. Some fringe elements of the revolutionary left also showed up, notably one which was conspicuously bad on issues of imperialism back in 2003 (and still is today). The organisers and most speakers were united in their hatred of the bloke who organised the 2003 demo, Jeremy Corbyn.
If you are my facebook friend, then you are bound to be a good person, and I am sure that many of you attended the demo on Saturday with your own well-intentioned, complex motives. But what nobody has the right to do is use the First Thing as justification for their participation in the Second Thing.