From Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square, about 700,000 people filled central London on October 20 protesting against the Tory Brexit, writes Andy Stowe. It was the largest demonstration the city had seen since the march against the Iraq war in 2003.
The marchers were demanding a second referendum on Brexit now that the electorate has a clearer idea what it might actually mean in reality. The demonstration was organised by The People’s Vote, a group which mostly comprises sections of the right-wing of the Labour Party.
Some of its most prominent supporters, such as right-wing Labour MP Chuka Umunna and TV personality Tony Robinson, make no secret of their hatred for the left-wing Jeremy Corbyn leadership. They invited Tory MP Anna Soubry and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable to speak, but no significant figure from the Labour left was involved.
But to carp on about this misses the point. Hundreds of thousands people marched in support of freedom of movement in Europe and against the racist nationalism that pro-Brexit politicians encourage.
As with previous, smaller anti-Brexit demonstrations, there was the usual mish-mash of homemade placards, EU flags, Union Jacks and a lot of those rather distressing blue berets with the EU flag’s stars.
If you think that is a problem, however, consider what a pro-Brexit march would be like. It could only be an alliance of the hard right of the Conservative Party, UKIP and emerging neo-fascist groups. Polling shows that there is a strong link between support for Brexit, racism and Islamophobia.
As with previous demonstrations on this theme, participants were mostly from the more affluent sections of the working class — people who identify as European as much as British. If they travel to London to reject Tory chauvinist nationalism, that’s something for socialists to welcome.
If the People’s Vote demonstration had been small, the campaign for another referendum would now be dead and the right triumphant. The turnout means that there is now a real pressure on MPs to support the demand for a second referendum.
Should it happen, the left must call for the electorate to include those EU citizens who are currently able to vote in local government elections and everyone aged 16 or older. This extension of the franchise to people who will be affected by the outcome of the vote is a basic democratic demand.
This was not a routine demonstration. The organised left was largely absent and there were very few Labour Party or trade union banners. Most of the marchers were not the usual marching sort. That’s an encouraging sign that the fight to stop the racist Tory Brexit isn’t lost yet.
[Reprinted from Socialist Resistance.]