John McDonnell

Making Labour's proclaimed internationalism a reality

John McDonnell
Making Labour's proclaimed internationalism a reality

LABOUR PROCLAIMS that it is an internationalist party. Now we need to demonstrate what that means in reality; what it means in working internationally with others and what it means in concrete policies.

Labour is committed to an internationalist economic policy agenda, so that a Labour government’s actions beyond British borders promote economic justice just as they do at home. As part of that agenda, I am working with a range of socialists and progressives across the globe to advance the cause of co-operation and solidarity.

DiEM25 (the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025), led by Yanis Varoufakis, is one of our progressive partners among many that Labour is collaborating with. Labour and DiEM25 share many policy priorities. My aim is to work with DiEM25 on pan-European action on three areas: tax avoidance and evasion, changing the rules of the game for multinationals, and knowledge exchange on public ownership. Importantly, the areas of collaboration can be advanced either inside or outside of the European Union.

Tax Avoidance and Evasion

Co-ordination on tax avoidance and evasion is needed internationally. But the UK can work with its closest geographical neighbours to make the case for international action on tax avoidance and evasion.

In 2017 Labour produced a comprehensive tax transparency and enforcement programme. We will take aspects of this forward, seeing whether coalitions of countries can advance the policy proposals there. We want to focus on sharpening a general anti-avoidance rule across multiple jurisdictions; taking multilateral action against tax havens; and agreeing to take simultaneous action against tax loopholes that exist across jurisdictions.

Changing the Rules of the Game on Multinationals

The EU and its member states are some of the most important actors shaping globalisation but are currently putting the interests of multinationals above those of justice and human rights. Many European countries are guilty of a double standard whereby they have high labour standards domestically yet benefit from cheaper prices of goods imported from countries with much lower labour standards.

The EU has also been accused of pursuing a double agenda by refusing “to support binding and enforceable rights for citizens through a UN Treaty on Business and Human Rights, and at the same time expanding and entrenching a system of legally binding and enforceable investor rights and privileges that grants corporations power over governments and communities.”

Labour has expressed support for a binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights. According to documents leaked in March 2019, the EU has dropped out of negotiations on the treaty. Working together with DiEM25 can build support for this across Europe as well as co-ordinating economic policies to reduce international exploitation and corporate human rights violations. In addition, DiEM25 collaboration can sharpen our policy thinking on the best approach to fair taxation of multinationals, an issue I have raised repeatedly in Parliament.

Knowledge Exchange on Public Ownership

Countries across Europe (as well as countries around the world) are responding to failed privatisation experiments over the last 30-40 years by bringing utilities and services back into public ownership. Countries are experimenting with different models of public ownership. Because of geographical proximity and similarities in economic and political institutions, knowledge can be easily and usefully shared, including on common legal and political challenges and appropriate policy innovations.

We will consider with DiEM25 whether a forum on public ownership might be established within Europe. This would involve leading policy-makers working on public ownership, exchanging lessons on: overcoming barriers to public ownership; how to run efficient and high quality public bodies; regulating public utilities; and how to make publicly owned industries participatory and responsive. Leading European-wide NGOs could also be convened, such as the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute. This could, over time, turn into an international forum for the exchange of ideas on how public ownership can be best designed and implemented.

Labour’s Internationalism

In a period when the Brexit debate has generated a rise in xenophobia and racism in our society over the last three years, there is a responsibility on us all to demonstrate just how a commitment to internationalism is at the very heart of our party. This needs more than words - but decisive action. Our link with DiEM25 is just one initiative that will provide a vehicle for translating practically our internationalist principles into action.

Shadow Chancellor, MP for Hayes and Harlington, Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs and Chair of the Labour Representation Committee. John has been involved in Labour Briefing since the early years.