On Saturday 2 July, tens of thousands came to London to demonstrate against Britain leaving Europe. There were people of all ages on the march and, while many had come from outside London, the majority were probably what the right-wing press like to call London’s “metropolitan elite”.
The political flavour of the march was very “liberal” and far from socialist. It was reminiscent of the pro-EU marches that take place in Eastern European countries like Hungary or Ukraine whose population is split between pro- and anti-EU camps. Revolutionary socialists were a very small minority on the march but nevertheless interesting conversations were had.
Some disliked Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party and sought to blame them for the Brexit result, but there were also plenty of Corbyn supporters on the march. The fact that some of the anti-Corbyn demonstrators seemed to have a contemptuous attitude towards “ignorant” and “stupid” (actual words I heard) working-class people was a sign that they didn’t understand why the referendum was lost.
Although many working-class people voted for Brexit, and were convinced by racist and chauvinist arguments, the way to counter those views is to put forward a clear socialist programme addressing housing shortages, unemployment etc. Dismissing people as being stupid is offensive and not a winning strategy. Likewise the call from many for either a second referendum or Parliament to overrule the results seems to have also missed the point and would only lead to an huge increase in support for UKIP, as they would be vindicated in their demagogic claim that “Westminster elites” don’t listen to ordinary people.
Speakers at the end rally at Parliament Square included journalist Owen Jones, Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham who has suggested that Parliament should overrule the referendum results, and pro-EU millionaire Bob Geldof.
The demonstration helped to express the discontent among a large group of people, and the organisers probably expected to achieve no more. It was good that Workers’ Liberty was there to argue that the best way forward is for the Labour Party to win back the millions of working-class people it has neglected and lost to the likes of the SNP and UKIP, through clear socialist policies that address people’s real concerns and refuses to pander to the myth that immigration is the cause of people’s problems.