Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are debating what to do about Brexit. Some have added #FBPE to their Twitter accounts, and many of their tweets. The left is split on what to do about this. As far as I’m concerned, at least initially, good people became part of this Twitter ‘movement’. I chose to debate with them. I now follow some, and they follow me. But I’m still not adding #FBPE to my account. Why not?
The ‘FB’ in #FBPE stands for #FollowBack. Essentially we are dealing with a classic ‘Popular Front’. Such strategies subordinate everything to a single issue. Socialists don’t play that game. At least we don’t play by the same rules.
Socialists prefer united fronts which allow us to discriminate on the basis of broader perspectives. We refuse to bite our tongues to protect reactionaries jumping on a bandwagon. And many of the most prolific #FBPE keyboard warriors are deeply reactionary across the board and, as such, are an albatross around our necks. Try debating with these trolls for long and you’ll face abuse if you are a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. These opportunists have adopted #FBPE primarily to identify potential activists for a new Social Democratic Party, one that will revive the role played by the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable.
The SDP never entered government. But they did succeed beyond their wildest dreams by splitting the anti-Tory vote under first-past-the-post. They did this in a way that allowed Margaret Thatcher to form three reactionary Tory governments despite most voters rejecting her at the ballot box. This is what lays in store for progressives if we allow Vince Cable to put together a second electoral pact with Tony Blair’s supporters in the Parliamentary Labour Party. That is their agenda. It’s obvious to me. No one can seriously dismiss this as an idle ‘conspiracy theory’.
Nevertheless, despite the reactionary role played by the Liberal Democrats, by Blairite MPs committed to stopping Jeremy Corbyn entering 10 Downing Street, and by Tory MPs to this day proudly propping up Theresa May, it is possible to map out some common terrain between all the above and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters. Thanks to these narrow but nonetheless real common interests, this rotten Tory Prime Minister lost a key vote on Brexit. This could happen again. And it must happen again. And that is why it would be wrong to rule out cooperation between some #FBPE supporters and Jeremy Corbyn’s voters.
As the best #FBPE supporters reluctantly concede, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister is their best hope of stopping a ‘Hard Brexit’, and/or securing a referendum on any negotiated deal with the EU. They are right on both counts. Trying to split the anti-Tory vote will condemn us to a Nigel Farage dystopia. Alastair Campbell and Vince Cable may not want to admit it, but they both know it is true.
After a preliminary debate on Twitter, some former supporters of #FBPE are now adopting #PCPEU to identify each other. A few use both. For obvious reasons, the latter is better, but it is an unfortunate sounding acronym. I prefer #StopToryBrexit. I recommend all Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters adopt that instead. It is a hashtag all socialists can adopt. And it is one Liberal Democrats, Blairites, The SNP and Greens will find impossible to argue against although many will desperately seek excuses to do that. Even Tory MPs who want to stop Hard Brexit, possibly hoping for a second referendum, will struggle to undermine socialists tweeting under this banner. Consequently, it will place the greatest pressure on Theresa May while simultaneously uniting every single anti-Tory regardless of our respective attitudes towards Brexit in the past.
#StopToryBrexit has one additional advantage for the left. It extends the time available to develop strategy and tactics needed to put Theresa May’s government out of its misery. This hashtag has the potential to unite left wingers who did – mistakenly in my view – vote for Brexit with the rest of us. It places no ultimatum on any leftist to apologize for what they did.
The left needs to get to grips with why Brexiteers won the referendum. Calling everyone who voted Brexit a racist and/or a moron plays right into the hands of Theresa May and Nigel Farage. Furthermore, unless we wake up and smell the rotten politics of those who lead the Remain campaign – David Cameron’s MPs, Liberal Democrats who propped up a Tory government for five years and Blairites -, we’ll never be in a position to win people over who did make a mistake.
As the nominal leader of the Remain Campaign admitted, voting for Brexit would – other things being equal – increase wages. This David Cameron appointee forgot that most of those voting in the referendum would be employees, not employers. According to the laws of supply and demand, voters were reliably informed, they should vote for Brexit.
Liberals have been tying themselves in knots dismissing voters as narrow-minded bigots, necessarily racist, for wanting to increase their standards of living. In reality, many of them want no more than to keep their heads above water. Every socialist needs to empathize with these voters, not abandon them to the clutches of right wing populists like Nigel Farage.
UKIP as well as their Tory fellow travelers in the Conservative Party were given access to the airwaves let a racist genie out of the bottle. But this was never inevitable. And we can put it back in again, provided we exposing the horrendous Thatcherite dystopia awaiting all of us if we leave it to Tory MPs and their unelected appointees to reconstruct the post-EU society.
Many on the left failed to appreciate who would be in the driving seat should Brexit win. It’s not too late to convince them to add their own not inconsiderable political weight within the organized working class and those living in poorest parts of the country to get us out of this mess. Such people are not racists. And they’re not Tories. They can play a key role in stopping Tory Brexit. They too can proudly promote #StopToryBrexit to their tweets.