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UK: Massive demonstration against Tory Brexit

Saturday 27 October 2018, by siawi3


Massive demonstration against Tory Brexit

by admin

October 21, 2018

From Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square an estimated 700,000 people filled central London on Saturday October 20th protesting against the Tory Brexit writes Andy Stowe. It was the largest demonstration the city had seen since the march against the Iraq war in 2003.

The marchers were demanding a second referendum on Brexit now that the electorate has a clearer idea what it might actually mean in reality. The demonstration was organised by The People’s Vote, a group which mostly comprises sections of the Labour right. Some of its most prominent supporters like Chuka Umunna and Tony Robinson make no secret of their hatred for the Corbyn leadership. They invited the Tory MP Anna Soubry and the Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable to speak but there was no significant figure from the Labour left involved.

To carp on about this is to miss the point. 700, 000 people marched in support of freedom of movement in Europe and in opposition to the racist nationalism that pro-Brexit politicians encourage. As with previous and smaller anti-Brexit demonstrations there was the usual mish-mash of home-made placards, EU flags, union jacks and a lot of those rather distressing blue berets with the EU flag’s stars.

If you think this is problematic, consider what a pro-Brexit march would be like. It could only be an alliance of the hard right of the Conservative Party, Ukip and the emerging neo-fascist organisations. Polling shows that there is a stong link between support for Brexit, racism and Islamophobia.

As on previous demonstrations on this theme the participants were mostly from the more affluent sections of the working class, the people who identify as European as much as British. If they are travelling to London to show that they reject Tory chauvinist nationalism that’s something for socialist to welcome.

If the People’s Vote demonstration had been small the campaign for another referendum would now be dead and the right would be triumphant. The turnout means that there is now a real pressure on MPs to support the demand for a second referendum. Should it happen, the left must call for the electorate to include those EU citizens who are currently able to vote in local government elections and everyone aged sixteen or older. This extension of the franchise to people who will be affected by the outcome of the vote is a basic democratic demand.

This was not a routine demonstration. The organised left was largely absent, there were very few Labour Party banners and only one union banner that I saw. Most of the marchers were not the usual marching sort. That’s an encouraging sign that the fight to stop the racist Tory Brexit isn’t lost yet.



Thousands march against racist Brexit

March 25, 2017

by admin

Try and picture what a march of Brexit supporters would look like in central London, asks Andy Stowe. You immediately get images of portly men dressed in John Bull outfits, Farage gurning in front of the cameras, English and British flags, homemade placards with slogans about WW2 and not so subtle allusions to controlling borders. It would be a Glastonbury for racist English nationalism.

The Unite for Europe demonstration through central London on March 25th certainly had aspects that showed it wasn’t organised by socialists. The organisers’ homepage is decorated with two strips of European Union (EU) and British flags, the liberal way of showing that British people want o be part of the EU. Speakers at the closing rally included former Lib Dem leader and Tory glove puppet Nick Clegg, current Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, someone offering the ex-pat perspective (ex-pat being the correct term for a British person who’s an economic migrant in another country) and Blarite Rottweiler Alistair Campbell.

Almost immediately after the Brexit referendum result was announced there was a large, young and angry demonstration against the result. Those people were largely absent on March 25th. Press estimates of the size range from 25-100 000 but they tended to be older and more affluent. The young Europeans who keep the service industries of London running didn’t turn up. Supporters of Socialist Resistance who were distributing postcards advertising this year’s Fourth International Youth Camp remarked that it sometimes took a few minutes to find someone young enough to hand one to.

However, the demonstration was unequivocally progressive. British flags were substantially outnumbered by that of the EU. The people carrying them were making a statement that they rejected reactionary British nationalism and wanted to identify themselves as citizens of Europe. The home made placards they carried spoke of freedom of movement and being able to work in any EU state. It was a partial rejection of national borders. Coming only three days after an attack by a reactionary terrorist who murdered three people and injured at least fifty, the march was, in an unassuming way, an assertion of the power of mass action by people who want to engage in politics.

Most of the marchers gave the impression that they had no criticisms of the EU. I saw no condemnations of its shameful deal with Turkey to prevent the movement of migrants or the rejection of the will of the Greek people. This of course is not the view of Socialist Resistance and others on the radical left who opposed Brexit. We argued that it’s a supra-national authority which has imposed austerity on the European working class and has reduced most Greeks to utter penury. Our reason for opposing Brexit was that we knew it could only be achieved by a massive xenophobic chauvinist campaign dominated completely by the right. The London demonstration was a rejection of that tidal wave of xenophobia and racism.

Politically the big winners on the day were they Liberal Democrats and they can expect to regain some lost ground by their stance on Brexit. Their membership turned out in strength distributing stickers, carrying placards and setting the tone for the day. A handful of Labour Party banners could be seen but the party had made the mistake of not mobilising for the event and there was no evidence of any organised trade union presence.

Brexit has shifted British politics to the right in a way we haven’t seen since the election of the Thatcher government. The Tories are now pushing through UKIP’s programme and the Labour Party’s response has not appeared coherent to many of its supporters. The Lib Dems threw down a gauntlet to the radical left, the unions and the Labour Party that our side needs to be the one defending freedom of movement, resisting Tory inspired xenophobia and protecting migrants. The Another Europe is possible conference in Manchester next weekend will be an Important place to discuss how best to meet that challenge.