John McDonnell Backs DiEM25 for a democratic Europe.
The Tendance has been impressed by John McDonnell.
I have had some acquaintance with John, over the Kurdish fight for dear life against Daesh, and he struck me as a unifying figure, open to serious campaigns on the left. He was one of the few politicians to advance a number of causes, ignored by the mainstream, such as Boycott Workfare, close to our hearts. He has stuck by the side of the Iranian democratic opposition.
As Shadow Chancellor John has brought an impressive team on his side. Impressive enough for the New Statesman columnist Lim Young to write recently, “John McDonnell’s seminars are restoring Labour’s economic credibility.” ” The Shadow Chancellor’s embrace of new economics backed by clear plans will see Labour profit at the polls, argues Liam Young.
Far from rhetoric we were offered clear plans. McDonnell announced on Saturday that he wants councils to offer cheap, local-authority backed mortgages so that first-time buyers may actually have a chance of stepping on the housing ladder. We also heard of a real plan to introduce rent regulations in major cities to ease excessive charges and to offer support to those putting the rent on the overdraft. The plans go much further than the Tory right-to-buy scheme and rather than forcing local authorities to sell off their council housing stock, it will be protected and increased.
It is of course important that the new economics rhetoric is matched with actual policy. But let’s not forget how important the rhetoric actually is.
So how has John acted during the Referendum debate?
The latest Le Monde Diplomatique contains a monumentally misleading article on the European Union and the British left, and the Labour Party in particular. In Brexit , malaise chez les travaillistes, Renaud Lambert sketches a history of Jeremy Corbyn’s hostility to the actually existing European Union and alludes to a past marked by – it is indeed true – left-wing anti-EU politics.
The author fails to note that this has always been a mixed legacy. On the one side there was a critique of European neo-liberal deregulation, the structures of a marketised public sphere, and the domination of financial and business interests. On the other side the British left has inherited a , cult of the ‘British Constitution’ – Westminster Sovereignty – with all the reactionary baggage clearly visible in Continental ‘sovereigntism’ not least in France itself. The ‘Commonwealth’ – an ersatz ‘internationalism’ was widely touted in right wing Labour circles the 1960s and 1970s.
Today we can see the legacy of this bogus ‘internationalism’ amongst the Lexit left. Eager to denounce the EU’s record on the refugee crisis they are capable of simultaneously jibbing at freedom of ‘cheap’ foreign labour to enter the UK jobs market.
Lambert cites at length the views of the small Socialist Party, the even more marginal Socialist Workers Party (their joint anti-EU slate, No2EU won 31,757 votes in the 2014 European election 0,2% of the vote), and the (respected within his own sphere) Euro-sceptic Director of War on Want, John Hilary (a campaigner on international issues, such as the Western Sahara ) on the Referendum.
On the basis of these authorities he announces that, under pressure from Labour’s right-wing, Corbyn has left behind his “old comrades”.
That the article also indulges in sneers at the expense of Yanis Varoufakis, and suggests that many on the British left has only decided to back Remain out of fear at the anti-migrant rhetoric of the outers is an opinion. Its truth is impossible to establish without the kind of mind-reading ability to which columnists often lay claim.
Whether Owen Jones is right to state that there are still many people – a minority if a not completely negligible one – on the left who will vote to Leave remains to be seen.
The biggest hole in his piece on Brexit, Lambert neglects to examine the views of one ‘old comrade’ of Corbyn, a certain John McDonnell.
The Labour’s Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell has now added his unequivocal support for the principles advanced by DiEM25 to a rapidly expanding list of illustrious backers, including Noam Chomsky, Ken Loach, James K. Galbraith and Brian Eno. DiEM25.
John McDonnell has campaigned stridently alongside DiEM25 co-founder, Yanis Varoufakis, finding enthusiastic responses from Britons of all walks of life, now recognising the existence of a viable humanist alternative.
Yanis Varoufakis affirmed:
“DiEM25 is proud to welcome John McDonnell to its ranks. At a time when Europe is disintegrating under the weight of austerity and its democratic vacuum, our movement is bringing democrats together from across the continent. Together we confront failed policies and an establishment contemptuous of democracy. Together we seek to reclaim our Europe on behalf of its citizens. We refuse to surrender to Brussels but we also refuse to surrender to the soothing fantasy of recoiling within our nation states. As Britain’s Shadow Treasurer, John is working feverishly to create a progressive Labour Party economic agenda for Britain. DiEM25 works towards integrating such agendas into a pan-European agenda. John McDonnell, welcome to DiEM25. We have so much to work towards.”
John McDonnell’s address at the DiEM25/AEIP ‘Vote In’ launch last Saturday energised the assembly by holding forward the fact that:
“For the first time in over a generation, there are movements and political forces…mobilising across Europe to respond to (the challenge of democratically transforming European institutions) – but responding to it increasingly together.
“We have the opportunity now (to recover) a debate about the democratic future of a Europe…that’s vitally needed,…proud of being British,…but also proud of the European future we’re creating in solidarity.”
Yanis Varoufakis reiterated the significance of the event in observing that:
“…to ensure that change is progressive, we have to embed Britain’s democracy in a broader surge of democracy (running) throughout the breadth…of the European Union. This is why I’m here about to sign the London Declaration for a social Europe; a democratic Europe; a dynamic Europe; a peaceful Europe; an open Europe; a sustainable Europe.”
This culminated in John’s signing of the ‘London Declaration’ alongside Yanis Varoufakis, Caroline Lucas, Owen Jones and British comrades, a compact of Europeans committing to the recovery of a democratic Europe in which Britain can prosper. The longer-term significance of the ‘London Declaration’ lies in an unprecedented convergence of support from across the radical and progressive Left, united and oriented toward one simple, succinct, modest proposition – democracy.
John McDonnell’s stoutness and consistency in appealing to the human dimension over sophistry in public life embodies the values and principles which DiEM25 hold forward as fundamental to a European future emancipated from Neoliberal chaos.
I want to see a reformed EU in which we make many of its institutions more transparent and democratic. For the first time in a generation, there is a growing coalition of socialists across the EU who can help us achieve this together. By choosing Labour’s “Another Europe” agenda, our country can stand with others across Europe to make a positive case to end austerity, offer a more humane response to the migrant crisis and protect and expand workplace rights.