by Phil Katz
For the first time in its 99 year history, the Communist Party (CP) has called on members and supporters to campaign for a boycott of an election in Britain, in this case, the EU election on 23 May.
The CP political committee (PC), reviewing the message coming back from many People’s Brexit themed meetings – in cities as far afield as Cardiff, Bristol, Derby, Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, London and Norwich – and some workplace gatherings around the country, agreed the decision last night (24th April).
International secretary Professor John Foster stated at the PC, “the ‘People’s Vote’ in the biggest poll in British history in June 2016 was to leave the European Union… this should be reinforced by a ‘People’s Boycott’ of the EU elections if they go ahead.
“Britain should have left the EU and its institutions by now, almost three years after the result – but this been prevented so far by a majority of MPs and the Tory Cabinet who want to keep us tied to EU single market and customs union rules if they can’t sabotage Brexit altogether.”
Ironically 2019 is the centenary of the formation of the Communist International, at which, CP founder Willie Gallacher, argued against involvement in parliamentary elections. Lenin wrote a famous pamphlet ‘Left Wing communism an infantile disorder’ to put him and others right. Gallacher later became a popular Communist member of parliament for West Fife. So why a boycott? And why now?
The view of the CP is that the vote to leave the EU removes the legitimacy of elections to an EU parliament that already has questionable credentials. The parliament cannot initiate legislation and rarely challenges the EU Commission when it dictates draconian austerity and expansionist policy. After recent events in the Ukraine and Libya, EU institutions are moving from an absence of democracy to anti democracy. The argument that we would be better off out had already won majority support. So, there could not be any rationale for participation.
A boycott, “would send the clearest message to the political and big business establishment that the referendum result must be honoured, Foster argued.”
We recognise that many comrades on the Labour Left feel duty bound to support their party – although a good number have indicated the depth of their dissatisfaction over Labour’s position on Brexit. But in this instance, the CP has called on all parties and all voters, to turn their backs on the election. It is a clear attempt to lock us back in to EU arrangements and responsibilities, and this runs counter to the decision taken in June 2016.
Foster went on to warn Labour, “most of the Tory-held marginal seats that Labour must win to form a government also voted heavily to leave the EU – and they will not swing over to an anti-Brexit, anti-democratic Labour Party agenda.”
Of course the media and hard-line Remain supporters will charge the CP with encouraging apathy. Let’s be honest though, citizens have never been enthusiastic about participation in EU elections. Ours is to be an active boycott.
A plan has been rolled out to explain the decision to allies and leading trades unionists. Members and supporters are being supplied – via a ‘download day’ – with up-to-the minute analysis, campaign materials including speakers notes, films, posters, leaflets, stickers, Facebook and Twitter cards – part of a social media strategy. The focus however, is on holding face to face discussion meetings whenever and wherever possible.
Every Communist Party branch is being asked to approach local Labour movement allies, especially Labour Party members to work together to hold meetings where those who voted Leave, Remain or not at all, are encouraged to enter into dialogue. These forces will be the hub of the movement to leave the EU and galvanise support in Brexit-voting areas for a change of government.
In the Eastern district where I am secretary, we have worked with allies to hold meetings in Norwich and Southend, four in Cambridge alone, with another to follow in May and more planned. We aim to focus our meetings in areas such as Great Yarmouth and in north Essex where support for Brexit is strong, and to expose the aims of Farage and the Brexit party.
In his closing remarks at the PC, Foster made it clear why we wanted to boycott the elections and hasten an EU exit, “Britain’s Communists emphasise the need for a future Labour government to be free from EU pro-market, pro-big business rules in order to carry out many of its radical manifesto policies.”
Readers of this article are likely to share that aim. Our view is that a mass boycott and stay-away, similar to the tactic used in South Africa when the apartheid government forced local government structures on an unwilling population, will be a massive restatement of the democratic decision to Leave. We urge you to boycott and say No to the EU elections and Yes to a general election.
The latest Communist Party Q&A on Brexit is available at TinyURL.com/CPBrexitQandA
Phil Katz is a designer and author and Eastern district secretary of the Communist Party writes…