Conference 2020 – report and final strategy document
A report of our conference and strategy for 2021.31st December 2020
Another Europe conference 2020 took place on Saturday 12 December on Zoom, and was attended by just under 200 people.
There were three sessions at the conference, two of which were recorded.
Session 1, the opening plenary, can be viewed here. Speakers were:
- Clive Lewis MP
- Natalie Bennett, Green peer
- Liza Merliak, Belarusian trade unionist
- Henry Chango Lopez, IWGB general secretary
- Dorota Kawecka, Razem
Session 2, the democratic session, produced our strategy for 2021. You can read it in full below.
Session 3, No Deal Brexit? The fight goes on, can be viewed here. Speakers were:
- John McDonnell MP
- Todd Cretien, Democratic Socialists of America
- Alena Ivanova, Another Europe
- Mary Kaldor, LSE professor and Another Europe
Another Europe is Possible
Our strategy for 2021
Approved at conference 2020
Section One: Perspective
The UK’s departure from the European Union, on terms set by the nationalist right, will mean an attack on the rights and prosperity of ordinary people, including future generations. The dangers of the situation are numerous, and the attacks will come on every front.
The Tories Brexit agenda is not a policy but a project. It is anti-worker but not anti-state. It puts up new barriers to trade with Europe, but seeks deregulation and marketisation ‘at home’. It wants the state to spend big to support big business, especially in tech, is addicted to outsourcing and is disdainful of the public sector. This is pushing Britain towards a new, authoritarian, ‘crony capitalism’. As this becomes unpopular, the other aspects of the Tory agenda – the migrant bashing culture wars and ethnic nationalism – will become more and more important to sustain their political support.
The bare bones deal being negotiated between Brussels and London protects very little in terms of rights and protections, and the economic fallout of Brexit will also be grave. The double-whammy of Covid and Brexit will mean a huge loss to livelihoods. While rhetorically at least the government has broken with the language of austerity used by Cameron and Osborne, the reluctance of the Tories to raise taxes, coupled with the scale of the hit to public finances, mean they are unlikely to be able to resist their own tendencies in this direction. They also almost certainly attempt to further curtail trade union rights and civil liberties in order to make resistance harder.
Like most of the ‘new authoritarian’ regimes internationally, the Tories will mix Keynesian and neoliberal policies as it suits their interests and within their overall project of sustaining the cross-class bloc they have successfully built using Brexit nationalism. Nevertheless, we are entering a period of pronounced conflict over ‘who pays’ for the crisis: capital or labour.
Leaving the Customs Union means that the Conservative government will be able to negotiate trade deals – whether with the United States of America or with other countries with lower standards – which align us with less regulated economies, drastically reducing our food and environment standards and leading to an entrenched privatisation of the NHS. Leaving the Single Market will put a large number of workers’ rights, digital rights, and eighty percent of our environmental regulations, at risk. And ending free movement will constitute the biggest expansion of border controls in the UK’s recent history.
The constitutional situation will also become sharper. The government has already indicated its willingness to break international law and violate the Good Friday agreement. In Scotland, support for independence is growing, but is not matched by a willingness on the part of Westminster to allow a referendum to take place. The simmering, chronic crisis caused by the Westminster voting system – under which Boris Johnson won power despite a majority of electors voting for parties pledged to a public vote on Brexit – lingers in the background.
The ‘Biden effect’?
Brexit, as envisioned by the Tory Right, is the British franchise of a right wing resurgence that encompasses, to varying degrees of conscious alignment, Trump, Bolsonaro, Orban, Kaczyński, Le Pen, Salvini, Erdogan, Netanyahu, Modi, Alternativ für Deutschland, and others.
That project is setting sail just as its most important international ally is failing. The defeat of Donald Trump in November is a cause for celebration across the world, and makes the job of the UK government more difficult: it no longer has a factional ally in the White House.
We should not be complacent about the situation brought about by the election of Joe Biden, however. Realistically, a US-UK trade deal under Biden would also reflect the long-term interests of corporate America – even if aspects of his manifesto have drawn back from the total support for trade liberalisation of the Obama era. The NHS and the rest of our regulatory framework will be on the table, even if the new administration is more likely to set down conditions regarding the Irish border and more likely to prioritise relations with the EU27.
More broadly, we must be sharply critical of the idea that things might now go ‘back to normal’, or that this would be a desirable outcome. The domination of politics in the western world by the neo-liberal elite and the interests of big business is exactly what gave the nationalist right their window of opportunity for projects like Brexit and the Trump presidency. A defeat for Trump in the presidential elections is a defeat of the symptoms of the crisis, but the far right will continue to grow unless we defeat both the deeper narratives of nationalism and the social conditions which drive them forward. The only way to do this is with a radical alternative.
Section Two: Goals
Our long term goals, as laid out in our constitution, are:
- A society run in the interests of people and the planet; an open society, a just and sustainable economy and a pluralist politics.
- Continued and improved freedom of movement, an expansion in the rights of migrants, within and beyond the borders of Europe.
- The defeat of the racism, hate, border controls and right wing nationalism that have come alongside the Brexit moment, and which are part of a wider moment of far right resurgence. We aim to be a space for those parts of the progressive left who share our perspective to come together, cutting across party lines.
- Solidarity between people and across borders, and the building of an internationalist British left, with strong links of solidarity and cooperation with the left across Europe and beyond.
- The end of ‘Europe’ as an exclusionary identity based on race and religion and its replacement as a concept built on ties of humanity and solidarity.
- The expansion of freedom of movement and other fundamental rights beyond just Europe to all the people of the world.
Our immediate political goals are:
- To retain all of the progressive aspects of EU membership, defined as:
- Workers’ rights
- Environmental protections
- Human rights
- Digital rights
- Free movement
- Common frameworks and funding in science and research
- Cultural and educational connections
- Collective measures to tackle the power of corporations
- Consumer protections, food standards and animal rights
- To achieve a close, progressive relationship between the UK and EU.
- To defeat the government’s austerity programme, when it comes.
- To defeat the government’s attacks in particular on civil liberties and the rights of migrants, ethnic minorities, trans people, women and disabled people.
- To strengthen and cohere the left, the workers’ movement and wider social movements, such as campaigns for economic justice and trade justice, Black Lives Matter, the climate movement, campaigns for women’s rights and for LGBT liberation.
- To actively situate the UK left in an international context, and build stronger links with progressive movements in Europe and beyond.
- To achieve as much progress as possible on constitutional and democratic reform, championing the right to self determination for all of the nations of the UK and the people of Northern Ireland, and democratic reforms including a proportional voting system; replacement or abolition of the House of Lords; votes for migrants, prisoners and 16-year-olds; and serious curbs on the security services.
- To achieve a dramatic and urgent curbing of carbon emissions.
- To fight against privatisation and outsourcing and for an expansion of public ownership, as a core element of the fight for economic democracy. This includes the demand made by TUC Congress 2019 for public ownership and democratic control of the banking and financial sector. This is essential for winning the control of resources and economic leverage necessary to meet the multiple crises of income inequality and debt; public health; and climate. We will seek partners to raise this demand internationally.
Section Three: Strategy
The balance of forces in parliament has shifted dramatically in the past twelve months. Except for a few technical votes, or matters on which Johnson might seek to break the law or jeopardise the constitution, it is very unlikely that we will make any progress at all simply by trying to win over MPs.
This situation calls for a fundamental shift in our theory of change: achieving our goals will be a matter of movement-building much more akin to the outlook of the left before 2015.
There are three broad planks to our strategy:
- A push to stop the worst aspects of the Brexit agenda
Despite the shift in parliament, there are some aspects of the Tories’ agenda that we could seek to influence by running public campaigns aimed at pressuring MPs. We identify two such areas, and more may arise in the course of 2021:
- On Settled Status, we continue to fight for a ‘right to stay’ for EU migrants, as well as actively supporting campaigns to close detention and deportations, against health charges on migrants, movements of refusal in certain jobs and professions carry out requirements to report people to the immigration authorities.
- On new trade deals, such as the US trade deal, we will fight for concessions, especially around issues like food standards, the NHS and workers’ right
- Building mass movements of resistance
With a change of government a way off (unless we can bring it down sooner) much of the hope for progress rests on the building of movements which are simply too big, or too disruptive, to ignore. Mass mobilisation can also capture the public imagination and shift the national debate on key issues which we are fighting on. Examples of this include
- The building of a national protest and/or day of action for migrants’ rights in early 2021
- Playing a supporting role in mass movements around racism and climate change
- In the context of an economic crash and a programme of attacks on public services by the Tories, playing a supporting role in industrial struggle, and wider campaigns in defence of public services and for an economic alternative (such as a wealth tax); and drawing the link between the attacks underway and Brexit
- Helping to build and support direct action and worker organising that can directly resist the implementation of the government’s attacks on migrants and other targets that are set to increase post-Brexit (e.g. developing links with anti-raids groups, and with civil service trade unionists, specifically but not limited to those in the Home Office)
- Campaigning to shift the policy of the next government
The road to the next election is a long one, but it is important that we begin thinking about it now, and about the manifestos of the opposition parties. With many other parties already committed to our goals, much of our emphasis here must be on Labour. The key aspects of this are:
- Fighting for Labour to include in its next manifesto a radical policy on migrants’ rights, including free movement, voting rights, the closure of all detention centres and so on
- Campaigning for all opposition parties to have a transformative and progressive policy on the UK’s future relationship with Europe
- Contributing to a major shift in the debate on Westminster’s voting system, and campaigning for the next government to introduce proportional representation
- Pushing for Labour to commit to reversing the damage done by this government to our rights, protections and standards
- Engaging voters and candidates around election periods, including the local elections this May, to inject a politics of internationalism.
- Building international solidarity
The British left is often painfully parochial – especially in relation to Europe. We are often more American in our political interests than we are European. Another Europe swims against the stream here: we have a special role to play as an internationally orientated group. There is also an audience for our projects internationally – with our Zoom events and podcasts having high participation. We need to build on and deepen our international solidarity work.
- Maintain our international orientation to political issues, eg using events to build international links.
- Respond rapidly to issues as they arise – like the Polish pro-abortion rights movement solidarity work, organising events and protests at short notice and in alliance with allies.
- Potentially, in the post-Covid environment organising and fundraising for international solidarity delegations to hotspot countries for political and social struggle.
- Building a pan-European day of action for refugee rights/against Fortress Europe
Section Four: Methods and campaigns
The methods available to us are the usual ones, even though our ability to deploy them has been substantially reduced by Covid: lobbying, digital actions, protests, mass meetings, direct action and so on.
The campaigns and projects likely to be useful in pursuing our strategy in the coming year are:
- The Alternative Mandate, which sets out our full analysis of what is at stake in Brexit and clearly states all of our demands of the process
- The Right to Stay campaign, run jointly with JCWI, which is our vehicle for campaigning on Settled Status and has been endorsed by all opposition parties other than the DUP and Labour
- A loosely networked campaign around the US Trade Deal, which is being run in coalition with Global Justice Now and others
- Labour for a New Democracy, a new project to which we are a co-organiser, which will be organising around the next Labour conference on constitutional reform
- The Labour Campaign for Free Movement, which helped to initiate in 2017
- Let Us Vote, the campaign to give migrants the vote, which we run jointly with JCWI and the3million
- Our academic network and policy function, which has been recently expanded with a new network of volunteer researchers
- The Another Europe is Possible podcast, which has a wide audience
- A new alliance of groups, of which we are one, aiming to organise a national protest around migrants’ rights
- Our partnering with migrant groups in the UK, and activists abroad, in mobilising protests and holding events about developments abroad (for instance in Poland and Belarus)
- Previously, we have made major efforts within the Labour Party – organised drives for local party motions and conference policies – to spark debates and push our values and policies up from the grassroots. Whilst these achieved significant progress within the Labour Party, more activity should have been directed towards organising workers to resist Brexit, and other reactionary and nationalist causes. In future, we will plan similar efforts within the trade unions: mobilising our members and supporters to advance internationalist policies and perspectives within all our trade unions.
Section Five: Our role and alliances
Another Europe has always played three roles: we are the anti-Brexit wing of the left, the left wing of the anti-Brexit movement, and a driver of internationalism with the progressive left.
The “anti-Brexit” aspect of our role is no longer as literal as it once was – not because we have given up on the UK ever getting back into the EU, but because such a project would be a much longer term one. Nonetheless, Brexit is not “over”. It is only just getting started, and the political questions raised by it – on migrants’ rights, the need to combat right wing nationalism, the need for an international strategy for the left, and so on – are only going to get sharper.
The fact that Brexit has been settled for the foreseeable future means that there is now renewed opportunity for us to play a role in putting forward a vision of what the UK might look like after it, and in uniting the left around that vision. We will look to work with anyone and everyone who supports our aims, including those who took a different view to us on the question of Brexit or a second referendum.
Our role as the left wing of the anti-Brexit movement is evolving rapidly and also presents an opportunity to shape its successor projects. The relative inactivity of the pro-European movement since the 2019 general election does not change the fact that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people have been politicised by it in the past few years, many of them on a broadly progressive (if not ‘left’) basis. Whereas many of the more establishment groups have evaporated or fallen into silence, we are still going strong and continue to fight for the politics and values which drove our opposition to Brexit, and this means that we can play a major role in shaping what comes next. Using our platform within the anti-Brexit movement, we will seek to engage and mobilise its mass base. We will also not shrink from continuing to make the case that Brexit is a mistake, and point out that a majority of the population does not in fact want it.
When it comes to internationalism, our role has never been more important. We will fight against the continuing and deepening parochialism of UK politics, including of its left and progressive political forces. All over Europe, huge events and movements are taking place, and though we are no longer formally attached to the EU, these events are likely to shape the development of politics here. Our emphasis will be on giving a platform and a voice to the movements taking place, for instance Strajk Kobiet in Poland and the opposition in Belarus; undertaking practical solidarity and mobilisation for them; and building lasting links between the UK left and its international counterparts.
At the conference, one amendment was remitted for further discussion to the National Committee, and will be discussed in further detail in the coming weeks.
In the Goals section
Add new bullet point to immediate political goals
- “To defeat the Tories’ militaristic agenda and to combat imperialist militarism more broadly: cut military spending and stop proposals for more overseas military bases; unilateral disarmament of weapons of mass destruction; and worker-led repurposing of the arms industry. We demand withdrawal from NATO and oppose proposals for European armed forces, but we also reject alignment with the rival authoritarian superpowers of Russia and China.”
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