Four speeches from the anti-Brexit demo

These speeches were among those given at the thousands-strong Left Bloc rally at the start of the 23 March People’s Vote anti-Brexit demonstration. The first is Nadia Whittome, a young Labour Party activist in Nottingham. The second is Ruth Cashman, library worker and branch secretary of Lambeth council’s Unison branch. Nadia and Ruth are both members of the national committees of Labour for a Socialist Europe and Another Europe is Possible. The third is Mark Boothroyd, who is a nurse, Unite health activist and member of the L4SE committee. The final speech is Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, one the key players in the next ‘Love Socialism Hate Brexit’ group of left MPs.

All the speeches except Nadia’s are slightly edited to tidy them up for publication.

Nadia Whittome

Our opponents tell us Brexit is a “working-class revolt”.

We know this is a lie that dismisses millions of working-class people, including the vast majority of people of colour and migrants, who opposed Brexit and are set to suffer the most.

We know Brexit is the British franchise of the global enterprise that has put far-right leaders from Trump to Bolsanaro into power.

Our answer to Brexit has to replace the status-quo, big capital leadership of the People’s Vote campaign, with internationalist socialism. It has to address the disillusionment, disenfranchisement and dispossession that drove the Leave vote.

We don’t beat the far-right by giving in to their demands. Over and over, timid centrists have given ground to racism, instead of confronting it. We stand for dismantling Fortress Europe and Fortress Britain. We want to end the hostile environment, welcome refugees, and defend and extend free movement – because the working class has no country.

And climate catastrophe doesn’t recognise borders either.

We have one decade to radically restructure the international economy. It’s not enough to tweak around the edges or to limit ourselves to one country. 

We need to take banking and energy industries into public ownership, and build a decarbonised economy that creates secure, well-paid, unionised jobs in green industries and serves people not profit.

We need a radical Labour government: a government that taxes the rich to fund public services, expands common ownership, and abolishes all anti-union laws so workers are free to stand up for ourselves.

Comrades, it’s up to us not just to defeat Brexit, but to make defeating Brexit the first step in the fight to transform Europe.

Ruth Cashman

The “working-class concerns” we hear about on TV and in the newspapers are always the concerns of white British workers. What about the workers who are worried about their migration status? What about our members, who know that since Brexit it’s more difficult to be black and British in this country?

One real working-class concern is public services that are buckling under cuts, and the answer to that is not attacks on migrants – it’s investment in our public services. The answer to unemployment is not attacks on migrants – it’s investment in jobs, in green jobs in our economy. The answer to low wages is not attacks on migrants – it’s scrapping the anti-union laws, it’s a higher minimum wage and we’re proud to say that migrants in our unions drive up wages!

We think the workers’ movement should be leading the campaign for the next referendum, we think the workers’ movement should be leading the campaign against Brexit, because we know we’re not united by our race, we’re not united by our country, we’re united by our class.

Mark Boothroyd

I’m an A&E nurse in central London. The NHS is on its knees and the impact of Brexit will hit us like a sledgehammer. Due to austerity they’ve closed 20pc of our National A&E capacity since 2010, and we’ve just had the worst month ever for A&E waiting times, the government has closed 5,000 psychiatric beds, while the effects of austerity; benefit cuts, homelessness, precarious employment have caused numbers of patients with mental health crises to soar.

Young people who are suffering severe crises are waiting up to six months in some areas for counselling, patients are dying on trolleys waiting for admission to hospital because we can’t discharge patients in to the community due to social care cuts, conditions are so bad on the wards more nurses are quitting the NHS each year than joining.

Our EU colleagues who have sacrificed so much, who left their homes and families to come and live and work and care for us, have been made to feel unwelcome are leaving in droves, and the economic hit from Brexit will rob us of the funding boost we so badly need just to survive. And we know Trump and the private healthcare corporations are waiting in the wings to descend on us if we Brexit and rip apart what’s left of the NHS. To defend the NHS, we have to stop Brexit!

Clive Lewis

This is a racist Brexit, not fit for the 21st century but for the 19th century. That’s what it represents – deregulation, low taxes, imperialism 2.0. Don’t quote me on that: quote the former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.

As a socialist, I want to see a Labour-led, Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government in this country. I want to see a Europe and a country that works for the many, not just the few. I want to see a fairer society and a fairer economy. When people voted for Brexit, they had been told by the political establishment of this country “You’ve never had it so good”. That was after eight years of austerity and forty years of Thatcherism that has brought this country to its knees.

If we want to bring our country back together, if we want to have a future and a society worth living in, then we are going to have to do that inside Europe, standing shoulder and shoulder with our European comrades, fighting down the far right, and fighting down the bankers and the people who caused the mess in the first place. That’s what we’re going to have to do.

One of the other things you might know as well is this. There aren’t that many black MPs supporting Brexit. Do you know why? We’ve got a bit of a spider sense when it comes to shit like this. We can see that Brexit wasn’t going to end well for us, for black people, when it has targeted EU migrants. EU visitors here – welcome, welcome comrades. You are comrades, not a bargaining chip.

I’ve come on a bit after the climate strikers. I came on a bit after the climate strikers. Weren’t they fantastic? They are our future. My job on the shadow front bench is the first of its kind, it’s for sustainable economics. I understand, as do all of you here today, if we want to be able to tackle climate chaos, tackle biodiversity loss, the destruction of our planet, to have a future for our children and our global civilisation, we’re going to need to work with our European allies, with our American allies, people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we need a transatlantic Green New Deal that protects all. We can only do that, in the time that we have, if we stay as part of Europe.

I’m not talking about “Remain and reform”. I’m talking about “Rebel and transform”, to turn Europe into a global entity that can tackle climate change and rebuild this world.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply? theclarionmag@gmail.com

3 Comments

  1. Since we have been a member of the EU for some time it is not clear to me how this has helped to contribute to the demands for socialism sought by the above speakers. In fact since we cannot even get the UK government to adopt such measures how can continuing with that unchanged approach possibly have an effect on the Romanian or Latvian Governments to adopt a socialist programme. This is especially so if many (non socialist) migrants have travelled and adopted the individualist pursuit of their own narrow economic interests in contrast to the communal engagement with the socialised parts of their domestic economies, like some who have stayed, and not opted out of their own local trade union challenges.

    What is required is a clear and precise assessment of exactly how a further period of continuing with pretty much, the same old, same old advances progress to socialism, rather than the generalised simplicities of a shout for the international workers struggle when none of us hardly, even know which is our corresponding trade unions elsewhere or even if there is one.

    1. Please clarify, have I got your response totally wrong Felicity or are you saying that migrants by the very fact that they have migrated (and especially if for work) makes them not socialist? That to be a socialist you have to stay in the country you were born in and fight for socialism there or you do not count? If so where on earth does that dogma come from? Hopefully I’ve misread your meaning.

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