Labour movement begins to face down the coup
Jeremy Corbyn encouraged people to take to the streets on Saturday 31 August to protest against Boris Johnson’s attempt to shut down Parliament writes Andy Stowe. A massive crowd filled Whitehall blockading Downing street vocally demonstrating their opposition to what is widely perceived as a coup by the extreme right of the Tory party.
Corbyn was at another event in Glasgow but the Labour leadership was represented by Dawn Butler, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell. The London event was dominated by pro-remain, pro-Corbyn supporters. This felt like the day that Labour both put itself at the head of the anti-Brexit movement on the streets and energised its supporters for what will be a ferocious general election campaign.
Demonstrations took place in several towns and cities, including places like Windsor, Bournemouth and Clitheroe which don’t usually feature on listings for radical political activity. A national protest movement was born.
TV coverage of the event switched back and forth between the demonstrations in Britain and the inspiring, increasingly militant protests happening in Hong Kong. It was a good juxtaposition. In both cases people were on the streets in defence of their rights opposing governments they see as corrupt and anti-democratic. And just as the Hong Kong protests have become more intense so too the British assemblies have changed gear. In London calls for civil disobedience, direct action and daily protests were met with resounding cheers.
Michael Chessum, one of the demonstration organisers told the crowd “we’re here to force him (Johnson) to back down. That means civil disobedience and being willing to disrupt things.”
A hint of things to come was a semi-spontaneous transformation of the static protest into an impromptu march through central London. Extinction Rebellion have done this sort of thing but it is a new tactic for the Labour and anti-Brexit activists. People understand that the situation needs new methods.
Siân Berry spoke for the Green Party. Given that the slogans on the backdrop behind the speakers were “fight for democracy, defend migrants and stop the coup” it wasn’t too much of a surprise that figures like Anna Soubry and Chukka Umunna weren’t there. This was the sort of politics they just don’t understand. When they hear organisers like Alena Ivanova of Another Europe is Possible saying what we need to organise in defence of freedom of movement and take to the streets in defence of migrants or a London demonstration starts singing Bella Ciao, they know they don’t belong there. So, while we thank them for their work in fragmenting the Tory party, we know we don’t need them. Saturday 31 August was when the labour movement began to respond on the streets to Johnson’s coup. It’s also shown him that he is much more vulnerable that he thinks in the election. The essential thing now is to keep up the tempo of actions in England, Scotland and Wales to exploit a constitutional crisis which has revealed the Brexiteers’ underlying weakness.
Keep up to date with protests near you by regularly visiting Another Europe Is Possible’s site – and if there isn’t one near you organise your own.
Protests took place in Cardiff, Swansea and Haverfordwest. Both Cardiff and Swansea attracted several hundred people while over 100 took part in Haverfordwest, a town not exactly noted for demonstrations. In Cardiff the protest was joined by Welsh and Irish rugby fans, in town for the international match at the Millennium Stadium. In both Cardiff and Haverfordwest there was strong pro-EU support with EU flags and placards. Swansea, by contrast, was much more focussed on Johnson’s attacks on democracy. The pro-Lexit Socialist Workers Party played a major role in building the protest. A number of Labour Party members participated, including Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East. Ms Harris pointed out that one of the effects of Johnson’s closure of Parliament is that bills on domestic violence and pensions for women in their 50s will fall. Attacks on women are, of course, completely normal for Johnson. The overwhelming demand of the Swansea demo was for a general election, a demand that united people on different sides of Brexit.
In Brighton there was a militant demo of about 1500? Large for the city, and interestingly even a pro-Brexit member of my local LP branch turned up (and a few others I think) – they were against prorogation. After many speakers (including Caroline Lucas), the demo moved off and took well over one hour to reach the end (I and a couple of others dipped out just beforehand). The makeup of the demo was lots of young people, quite a few ardent remainers and parts of the Left. Banners from Unison, GMB and the teaching union amongst others were present, but not great in number. As might be expected, the Green Party had a banner and the SWP had a stall and a few sellers.
Some images of the demo gathering at the Level (a park in central Brighton):
Some right wingers jeering at the march (and getting jeered back again):
Brexit… what next?
Brexit is getting closer, and in spite of mass protests and parliamentary opposition, it’s looking increasingly likely that Johnson, Cummings and their cronies will get their way. Up to now we have rightly focused on stopping it, but assuming that it fails and more likely than not it will be no-deal, what should happen next?
On Brexit itself I think the various legal challenges will probably fail. I think the law and precedent allows the government to prorogue as it has done. I also think that calling for a General Strike sounds nice but is deeply unlikely to occur, at any rate before Brexit. And the various parliamentary options for stopping it are also likely to fail.
First, we need to consider the precise circumstances under which it will happen –
As a default while parliament is suspended during a pre-election period? This would surely result in a massive response; the anger would be huge. For this reason, I think BJ will avoid this particular wheeze unless all else fails.
As a result of a forced and deliberate decision with BJ still in charge – again, massive anger. Apparently the government has the power to further prorogue parliament with the possibility of going beyond the Brexit deadline of 31st October. Such a decision would again be highly provocative
A general election? This seems very likely as the government’s majority remains as thin as it can get. It cannot ignore parliament for ever (or could it? – seems unlikely as some parts of written bits of the constitution seem to require that it does.
If Corbyn were to win such an election, could Brexit be reversed? On the face of it, not without considerable difficulty. The EU will treat the UK as an outside applicant and it would lose all its “privileges” and the terms of entry could be onerous such as a pledge to join Schengen and moving to adopt the Euro. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if some bending of the rules would be done to heal the immediate wound and/or some negotiations to accept the original Theresa May agreement might be done. There would then be a battle to regain Freedom of Movement which we would support.
If Corbyn loses/or the government otherwise stabilises itself and implements the reactionary measures already announced (more cops, repression, right-wing changes to schooling etc), there needs to be massive resistance to the implementation of Brexit; I am not sure how this would work but we need to see how it pans out.
This is a beginning, but I am sure it can be added to!
As the days go by it is clear that the Johnson Regime is politically damaged and much weakened and is starting to lose control.
Johnson himself is clearly out of his depth and will feel(as much as he has any depth of feeling) personally wounded and humiliated by his successive Commons defeats and today by the much publicised loss of support of his MP brother and Cabinet member.
He is in a corner but still has much ‘Leave’ support throughout the country , as well as from much of The Establishment, The City and the tory media.
The sympathetic and bias BBC ‘election’ coverage is more subtle and insipid than the usual “do or die” support from the usual suspects, The Scum, Daily Express and Daily Mail, who all of whom as if on cue, no doubt under immediate instruction from Dominic Scummings, work on presenting or attempting to present Jeremy Corbyn with a “big girls blouse” and portray him as a ‘”frit” “chlorinated chicken” and while trying to make out the The Labour party is avoiding a General Election as they cant win it.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Today,Johnson’s ‘staged’ appearance in a street(his security trying to stay hidden) in Wakefield shows his intentions to ‘attempt’ to present himself as ‘The Man of The People’ against the undemocratic Parliament.
Any other such future staged walkabouts have to be fully disrupted when and where possible.
Just as the STOP THE COUP street protests and demonstrations against the Johnson Regime must continue and multiply, so The Trade union movement needs to enter the stage.
The TUC needs to put it’s money where it’s mouth is and use next week’s TUC congress to fully outline and expose in detail THE FULL EXTENT OF DAMAGE that a Johnson(Trump-Netanyahu-Bolsonaro) No-Deal Brekshit would have on the British economy, jobs and living standards of not just trade unionists but working class people throughout the country.
On top of the ongoing tory Austerity cuts, on top of the massive damage Tory Austerity cuts have had over the last 10 years.
What is necessary is we all want a Corbyn led Left Labour Government then THE LABOUR PARTY, THE LABOUR MOVEMENT AND THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT have to work as one and organise like never before for mass mobilisation, mass protest and where possible well organised, well co-ordinated, well supported and concerted strategic and surgical and effective strike action against this vile Government in order to defeat it.
We have to reach and win over working class Labour ‘Leave’ voters who are being drawn to supporting Johnson and Farage.
The dirty underhand operations of Dominic Scummings has already caused much concern by riding roughshod over workers with the Civil service and as I understand it, some civil service trade union branches are now discussing possible action within their unions.
The Johnson Regime will fight hard for as long as it can by going on the offensive using all the vast resources and every ‘dirty’ mechanism at its disposal.
We have to ensure they do no succeed and throw everything we have at it, including as many kitchen sinks as there are.
It has to be defeated ,it can be defeated….and it will be defeated !
Johnson has shot himself in the head and the foot and we need to ensure he shoots himself fully in the face and ends up “dead in a ditch”.
United we stand ! Divided we fall !