LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn finally bit the bullet yesterday afternoon when he announced he would issue a three-line whip to Labour MPs instructing them to vote for Article 50 triggering the EU exit.
or over a week Corbyn has vacillated on this issue, first suggesting he would impose the whip, only to later insist that he hadn’t made his mind up. This show of indecision emboldened the right-wing MPs in the shadow cabinet, four of whom came forward to publicly announce that their constituency vote was more binding on them than the national vote.
Catherine West, one of the four Labour front-benchers vowing to vote against the Brexit bill, said, ‘The best way I can represent my constituents, and indeed protect our national interest, is to vote against invoking Article 50.’ The ‘national interest’ West is determined to protect is the interests of the bosses and bankers, not the interests of the working class.
By invoking constituency interests above the interests of the working class expressed most forcibly in the Brexit vote, these right-wingers were putting two fingers up to Corbyn, the entire Labour Party and the millions of workers and young people who voted to leave. By their logic, these MPs could align themselves with any party, whether it is the LibDems, Tories or any other group, on the grounds that they are representing the views of their constituents.
In an interview with Sky News, Corbyn said of his decision: ‘I say to everyone, unite around the important issue of jobs, economy, security, rights, justice, those issues, and we will frame that relationship with Europe in the future, outside Europe but in concert with friends, whether those countries are in the EU or outside the EU. That’s the message we’re putting out. And I’m asking all our MPs not to block Article 50 but to make sure it goes through next week.’
This call for unity was immediately rejected by the right-wing. On hearing the news, MP Ben Bradshaw said that a ‘considerable number’ of Labour MPs would defy the whip and Labour’s shadow business secretary, Clive Lewis, was reported as threatening a ‘rebellion’ against Corbyn. They are clearly in the mood to defy the leadership and join with the LibDems and sections of the Tory party to attempt to rescue a decaying British capitalist system by clinging to the wreckage of the EU.
These right-wingers have been fighting tooth and nail ever since Corbyn was elected leader to throw him out and return the Labour Party to the hands of the Blairites. What they feared was not Corbyn himself but the fact that millions of workers and young people flocked to the Labour Party because of his opposition to the bankers’ austerity that has seen wages and benefits slashed to the bone while services such as the NHS are being smashed up through cuts and privatisation.
Corbyn has done all he could to appease these reactionary MPs and even now it appears that he is uncertain of what to do to those who defy the party, with a senior Labour source saying, ‘I wouldn’t assume anything about the consequences’ for those MPs who defy party instructions.
There should be no uncertainty about this. Those right-wingers who vote to stop Brexit must be immediately thrown out of the Labour Party and de-selected. There can be no question of these Labour front-benchers just being allowed to resign and slink back to the backbenches to continue their plotting and preparing for a coalition with the LibDems and dissident Tories.
The fact is that a big vote against initiating Article 50 in the House of Commons will encourage the House of Lords to reject this creating the greatest constitutional crisis since the 1640s as the ruling class seek to frustrate the decision of the British people to leave the EU.
This is no time for spineless manoeuvring. Any move to block Brexit must be met with a wave of mass anger in the working class, to mobilise a general strike to put the houses of parliament in their place by bringing in a workers government that will not just quit the EU, but will expropriate the bosses and bankers and make the call for the EU to be overthrown by the workers of Europe and be replaced by a Socialist United States of Europe.
The ruling class is split and divided. One section wants to bend the knee to Brussels and the other to the plutocrat Trump. The working class supports neither. British and world capitalism is in a huge crisis. The only solution to this crisis that threatens slump, a massive banking crash and new imperialist wars is the victory of the world socialist revolution. This is the only way forward!