'The left and the labour movement must intervene in the debate around Brexit to put forward a working class perspective', Communist Party international secretary John Foster told the party's Political Committee on Wednesday evening (March 15).
'So far, it has been a largely neoliberal dialogue between Prime Minister Theresa May and her pro-EU opponents. Both sides base their arguments on a belief in free-market fundamentalism, whether inside or outside the European Union and its Single Market', he pointed out.
'Exit from EU and Single Market membership opens up greater possibilities for workers to assert their rights through collective bargaining and for a progressive government to support industry and regulate investment, trade and the exploitation of migrant labour', Mr Foster argued.
But he warned that the Tories are prepared to barter these prospective economic freedoms away in order to obtain TTIP or CETA-style trade and investment deals with the EU and countries such as the US, Canada, Turkey and Japan. Access to European and other markets under WTO rules would be preferable to extending neoliberal freedoms for big business.
The Communist Party's mayoral candidate in the West Midlands, Graham Stevenson, pointed out that Single Market or European Economic Area membership would still prevent local councils from pursuing public sector contract terms that favoured workers, equality, trade unionism and local industry.
He reported significant local media interest in his election campaign, with widespread labour movement dissatisfaction with the right-wing Labour candidate.
John Foster's political report also criticised the response of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to the triggering of Article 50 for Brexit.
He accused her of promoting the 'politics of grievance', but claimed that her 'opportunistic attempt' to link a new Scottish independence referendum to Scotland staying in the EU or Single Market was backfiring. She hadn't taken full account of the fact that around a third of pro-independence voters last time were also opposed to EU membership.
'The right of the Scottish people to national self-determination is beyond question, but how we exercise that right should – for workers, socialists and Communists – be determined by class politics', Mr Foster insisted.
'Where lie the real interests of the working class and the Scottish people generally?' he asked.
The Communist Party advocates a fully federal Britain in which national parliaments have full powers to intervene in the economy, combined with a radical redistribution of wealth across its nations and regions to benefit workers and their families everywhere.
'The recent decision of the Scottish Labour Party to embrace this perspective of progressive federalism is overdue but very welcome', Mr Foster declared.
CP general secretary Robert Griffiths doubted whether the SNP stood for genuine independence for Scotland at all.
'What kind of independence would it be which submits Edinburgh governments and the Scottish people to rules and policies decided by the Bank of England or the European Central Bank and membership of the EU and NATO?', he questioned, 'And how would Scottish workers gain from leaving their biggest single market by far – Britain – in order to remain in the relatively insignificant European one?'
Mr Griffiths called for working class and labour movement unity in favour of progressive federalism and the election of a left-led Labour government at Westminster. He announced that the CP would be refining its approach to questions of devolution in relation to taxation, employment and trade union law and the English regions.
Britain's Communists also discussed the possibility that the South African Communist Party and trade union confederation COSATU might stand independent candidates in that country's next elections, separate from those of the African National Congress and its right-wing leadership. It expressed its unqualified solidarity with the SACP, which would face even higher levels of media hostility and distortion in the event of such a rupture.
The CP Political Committee urged support for the following forthcoming events: