Whatever the outcome, the left will have to unite after the referendum to fight against racism, austerity and war argues Lindsey German.
While it is still in my opinion impossible to predict tomorrow's vote, there are a number of important questions coming out of the referendum campaign which socialists have to address. This is true whether it is a vote to remain (which now looks more likely, especially since the murder of Jo Cox), or to leave.
1This has been an absolutely unedifying campaign from the point of view of anyone who calls themselves anti racist or internationalist. It has scraped the barrel in terms of argument, the fires of racism have been stoked on both sides, and the level of lies, propaganda and speculation on both sides has been extremely high.
2In my experience of discussions with friends, family, work coleagues, neighbours, and people I have encountered randomly in the last few weeks, they have almost entirely approached this question in a serious way, grappling with real issues in the debate, and conscious that they are deciding something important. With some honourable exceptions, the politicians have not lived up to the aspirations of the people they purport to represent.
3I do not wish to rehearse my or my opponents' arguments at this stage because it seems to me pointless. Even the most undecided must be close to making up their minds.
4The crucial question for all socialists now is what happens after the vote. We will be voting in different ways. I understand the motives of those voting remain or of abstaining or spoiling ballot papers, although I am voting to leave. This was not a referendum the left chose, it was chosen by the right who have dominated the discussion on both sides.
5Those on the left who have chosen to concentrate their fire on other socialists they disagree with about this have made a mistake which they need to quickly rectify. The left will, and will have to, unite after the referendum to fight against the attacks which will come from the Tories, and in opposition to the racism which has been deliberately encouraged.
6The vote is likely to be relatively narrow. The political situation will be highly polarised, with millions of disappointed voters on the losing side. If there is a leave win, there will be chaos in the Tory party, and a likely general election before the end of the year, which we should be demanding. If the vote is remain, Cameron will rapidly do two things: make concessions to the racists on immigration controls; and attack Labour and Jeremy Corbyn in particular in order to shore up his own base.
7The EU presidency lies with Slovakia from 1st July, the same Slovakia which has declared Muslims not welcome. Expect this to increase levels of racism in the EU, and expect the Tories if it suits them to support further attacks on free movement or on Muslims.
8It looks likely that millions of Labour voters will vote leave tomorrow, despite the calls from most trade unions and Labour leadership. Labour is in danger of becoming disconnected with its base and needs to reconnect. This is partly about immigration, but it is also about a sense of everything getting worse, of feeling cut off from politicians, and of feeling that work and wages have got much worse (which they have).
9We know that those who say we need to talk about immigration often mean we don't like immigrants. But we do have to talk about immigration in this sense: we need a mass campaign to defend migrants and refugees, and that means talking to working class people about this, not ignoring them or denouncing them all as racists. they are not.
10It also means addressing the questions which so often lead them to blame refugees: the housing crisis, cuts in public services, plummeting wages, worsening work conditions. Until we address and reverse those issues, migrants will be a target for blame (totally unjustifiably).
11If the vote is remain there needs to be a campaign for an alternative constitution for the EU, and campaigns in support of workers rights. France is just the tip of the iceberg; after the election there will be further attacks on Greece and on Spain and Portugal.
12The left has to fight against austerity, racism and war; the protests at the Tory party conference, the Chilcot report and in support of refugees can help to overcome the legacy of this referendum and take the movement forward.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
More articles from this author
- Lindsey German's August reading recommendations
- The internal Tory coup, the cabinet of horrors, and class war - weekly briefing
- Boris Johnson is a racist, sexist, warmonger who must be stopped - video
- Nightmare time: why the left has to come out fighting – weekly briefing
- There’s only one solution to Labour’s problems: the right have got to go - weekly briefing
- Britain is following Trump and escalating the threat of war with Iran
- Labour's lost Leave voters