Euro-election campaigns need grass-roots democracy, say SR and ISG

The RMT transport union is backing a national alternative in June’s European elections. ‘No2EU – Yes to Democracy‘ aims to provide a working class alternative in the elections, and has been able to gather the support of the Communist Party of Britain, the Socialist Party and the tiny Liberal Party as well as the Indian Workers’ Association. Socialists have to welcome the groundbreaking action of a union contesting Labour and the BNP nationally. It’s unfortunate that the alliance has announced that it won’t take any seats it wins and that Respect, the Scottish Socialist Party and the SWP’s Left Alternative were not drawn into planing the project.

Nevertheless, the alliance is raising a broad range of demands and presents a working-class alternative on a wide range of policies:

The organisations involved in No2EU have not decided to continue the alliance beyond this election. Because of that, they are not building an open grass-roots organisation. That’s unfortunate. Respect, the SSP and the SWP will all need to evaluate how to encourage the forces involved in No2EU to work more broadly across the left in future elections.

We are in favour of Respect standing in the Euro elections in London, if it is able to generate the resources to do so, in order to preserve its electoral base and build on the success of Viva Palestina — whilst supporting No2EU in most other constituencies.  We would urge that the issue of climate change and its impact be given prominence in the campaign in order to capture the imagination of young people. These campaigns can maintain and build democratic, grass-roots organisations which are important assets for the left.

Despite the frictions that democratic functioning can produce, our experience is that transparent, participatory, grass-roots decision-making mobilises and activates supporters. It builds a stronger foundation for the future and optimises electoral success.

This statement was agreed on March 30th by a joint meeting of the Socialist Resistance steering committee and the political committee of the International Socialist Group.

16 Comments

  1. The decision of the RMT to support a platform to the left of Labour across the UK (excl NI) is unprecedented and the ISG is correct to welcome this action which was unexpectedly launched in recent weeks. It is true that there are limitations to the programme of NO2EU, however,what policies there are can be supported. On the issue of not taking seats,this is technicaly inaccurate as if elected, seats will be technically taken up, thus preventing the BNP say taking these seats – the emphasis is on no personal benefit to candidates elected, No to the Gravy Train. Also if anyone is elected a conference will be held to discuss in practise what happens.
    For this reason Solidarity’s National Steering Committee decided to back the platform, in line with our National Aggregate decisions on promoting Left Unity. We also issued a public call to the SSP to support the platform and are disappointed that according to your report this has been ruled out at their conference by a casting vote of their chair.
    The SSP, Respect and the SWP have all been aware of the initiative for as long as other groups and can still support the platform, indeed I believe they must be encouraged to do so. There will be insufficient resources even with a united left to effectively campaign against both pro capitalist parties and the racism of the BNP. Moreover, current resources only permit standing in a small number of seats and limited propoganda.
    For this reason, I believe it is a mistake for the ISG to support Respect standing in London where NO2EU will be standing. Far better for Respect to back NO2EU in a united campaign and increase the effectiveness of its propoganda.
    Gordon Morgan, Solidarity: Scotland’s Socialist Movement, Treasurer

  2. Unlike No2EU, Respect will be contesting elections in London in 2010 in both the council elections and general election and is defending 9 council seats and 1 parliamentary seats with possibilities in a range of seats. As the Euro elections are the last electoral contests in those areas before the council and general elections, it is important that Respect maintain its electoral support in this area, which is on a scale that the left has achieved nowhere else in the country. Defending these seats should be a priority for all the left, not just Respect, and therefore should support a Respect campaign in London over that of No2EU, which can stand in a number of regions in the country without left seats being endangered.

    It is regrettable that the key organiser from the RMT of No2EU is speaking at a meeting in London on Saturday sharing a platform with right wing former Tory MP Teddy Taylor. The meeting is the AGM of an organisation that in its latest bulletin hails Norman Tebbit as a defender of British sovereignty and approvingly quotes from the Chair of the ultra-right Freedom Association, an anti-trade union strike breaking organisation. For the RMT and No2EU to be associated with such forces raises serious questions about its credibility and direction.

  3. Respect in Greater Manchester has already agreed to support the Green Party list in the North West, headed by ecosocialist and Green Left supporter Peter Cranie who has an outside chance of winning a seat in the European Parliament. His election would also most likely deny the BNP a seat there.

  4. Gordon, the tactical decision about whether or not Respect can stand in London is a complex one. I don’t think we’re really well placed to give decisive guidance on tactics in each others’ countries. If Respect does not stand then it’s unclear that most of its voters could be swung over to support No2EU. If Respect supported No2EU in London, it’s not clear that we would be really integrated into its organisation. You’re right that we read the rumours on the blogs that something like this was coming, but the reality is that if the comrades running No2EU in London really wanted us involved then they’d have reached out to us.

  5. I can see this argument about standing in London from both sides. Whatever the outcome, i hope Respect will engage positively with the RMT and other left-led unions, as well as other parties on the left, to work towards a new broad left-led trade union initiated socialist party. Maybe the forces in no2eu and the RMT will launch a new initiative or party after the euros. Hopefully a new democratic workers’ party on a socialist programme that can unite all forces together to fight for workers interests and against the capitalist system. Fraternal greetings, ks.

  6. Given the undemocratic nature of the formation – their programme seems to have been decided already and has nationalist overtones (withdrawal from Europe , not taking up seats and against social dumping)- they approached one of our well known SSP members directly and he correctly advised them to speak to the SSP which of course they have not. I would be in favour of uniting all left forces under a democartic umbrella where the programme we are standing on is hammered out by democratic debate and discussion.

    I am pleased that the SSP is standing on an anti-capitalist platform that links up with anti-capitalist left in Europe and that offers a programme will solve the crisis in favour of all of Europe working class and poor.

  7. Why exactly any established socialist group such as the SSP or Respect should stand aside for a front organisation of the Stalinist CPB and fellow travellers is beyond me. Remind me what the UPS/CPB vote was in London in May 2008 again?

  8. The problems with this late arrival to the options for the EU elections are well-documented and already been made here.

    To Solidarity it was a decision based on it being in line with other initiatives, part of a process of left unty.

    We have to choose whether to stand alone or with this initiative. It was more in line with the curent mood in Solidarity to join in.

    I can understand the reasons for not joining expressed by Respect.

    But raphies explanation of why the SSP didnt get involved is silly. Solidarity were also aproached through an individual. That individual brought it to the party rather than telling No2EU to do it. Within days we had a delegate selected (not the individual who was contacted) and were taking part in the talks. A few weeks later, we decided to go ahead with it. Perhaps if the individual in the SSP had done the same they might have had more information to base their decision on.

    If the SSP had one this they would have known about the level of autonomy for the scottish campiagn and the movement over the ideas of not taking up seats.

    But I cant criticise them too much for not taking part, as it was a ‘late entry’ and was a big decision. That is reflected in the SSP conference vote that was split and had to be decided on the chairs casting vote.

    One thing that confuses me is why the SSP had left the decision on whether to actually stand in the EU election until so late in the day.

    Is it possible that they would have not have been standing at all until this RMT initiative came up? It seems very late to decide to take part in an election.

    But I do wish that the SSP, and Respect were involved.

    Still, talks on joint working on the UK elections are going better and we have more time to get them right rather than just being asked to join in at the least minute.

  9. Please remove the commnent made by a fake ruth tenne on 31st March . The person who posted the entry to which I refer tries to smear my campaign for the Palestinin cause by posting false comments under my own name on various websites. I have published a significant numer of article,book reviews and comments regarding my full support and campaign for the Palestinians, and about my critical views of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestinian land (re. Palestine Chronicle, Media Monitor Network , International Socialism , Socialist Review and other socialist publications).
    In no way would I write the comments made under my own name by the imposter ruth tenne . I should ask you to remove , or post a disclaimer of the false entryposte by ruth tenne on the 31st March .
    Ruth Tenne ( a Member of Jews for Justice for the Palestinians and of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign )

  10. I am an ISG and Respect Party member based in Greater Manchester and I have been considering this issue for nearly two months now, having found out about the No2EU Euro-election initiative via Alec McFadden at a meeting of the Salford Left Forum in February.

    It is a very complex issue as Duncan states and ultimately what tactical line we take a matter of political judgement, the correctness or otherwise of which can only be evaluated over time.

    I am personally convinced it is tactically correct under the current circumstances for us to throw our small weight behind the initiative, notwithstanding all the correct criticisms made by others already about the limited nature of the No2EU platform, the top-down way it was set up, and who we might end up working alongside.

    As Marx said: “One step of real progress is better than a thousand programmes” and that is the case here. A small but important Trade Union deciding to support an electoral challenge even of this limited nature is quite definitely a qualitative leap in development in political terms, and we need to be involved in it.

    Indeed we should seek to play a leading role in it, as I am intending to in the North West, this with a view to utilising the No2EU platform as an additional means of bringing together and helping to organise and co-ordinate larger class struggle forces across the North West than any individual left group is currently able to, and as a limited but nevertheless practical step towards building a broader independent working class electoral alternative to Labour in subsequent local and national elections.

  11. Comment by Ruth Tenne on 15 April 2009:

    Hi Duncan,
    Thanks for posting my (genuine) entry on your website. I have definitely seen the posting of the fake “ruth tenne” on your website- dated 31st March. The posting amounted to two lines which , as far as I remember, started with the words “this silly woman”. I did not bother to try to decipher to whom the posting does refer (certainly not to myself ), but having detected in the past about eight fake postings under my name, I decided to post my genuine entry on your website . However I sent my posting twice with an interval of about one to two days . I guess that having sent my first complaint entry, someone from your website has already deleted the fake entry by “ruth tenne”. That may explain why you have not seen the false entry ,assuring me that it was never posted on your website .

    I wish to add that a number of my colleagues in Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP) and Jewish Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) have been subjected to the same practice by an imposter who uses their name on various websites in order to undermine their/ours campaign for justice for the Palestinians. It may have nil impact but it may confuse some readers who know have knowledge of our dedicated campaign and of our held views
    Ruth Tenne

  12. Well we are weeks away from the Euro elections and I see no plans for any Respect Euro election either in London or elsewhere.How ever this was used as the main reason for Respect not supporting the No2EU campaign, so whats going on? As a member of the Respect NC I have heard of no plans for a London Euro campaign or even its inclusion on the next NC agenda.
    Respect never had either the manpower, resouces or branch membership for a Euro campain either in or outside London and we have missed an opportunity to link with others in a broader caolition whatever its many faults (and there are many as listed on other posts). Respect ofcourse must defend its council seats in Tower Hamlets next year and try to win seats for two possible MP’s in the next election but this is and should not be the be all and end all of Respect politics. From current activity at national level(or lack of it)I can only assume that it is.
    Most Respect branches are stagnant with little new growth with little if any attention payed to this while we rush into the latest iniative set up by one or two key members (often without discussion in depth at the Respect National Council). This is no way to build a Party and we certainly cannot build one on our own which is why the missed opportuntity that No2EU gave us is a setback to those of us in Respect that still belive in buiding a larger more inclsuive “Coalition of the New Left”.
    Its make or brake time for Respect over the next 12 months.

  13. Hi Neil,

    Socialist Resistance does support No2EU, of course, but not everyone in Respect does. It was clear at our last branch meeting, in south London, that the resources are not there to run a Respect campaign. Our branch is backing No2EU, but not everyone in Respect in London will agree with us.

    Duncan.

  14. Duncan pleased to hear about your branch vote – I presume it was Southwark Respect who made the right decision in my opinion. Had the Respect membership known that there were going to be no Respect Euro campaign in any part of the UK despite the false arguements made at the last poorly attended NC I am sure the majority of the Respect membership would have supported the N2EU campaign (not withstanding our need to honour the undertaking in Manchester to the Greens previously made – it will be interesting to see if they keep their end of the agreement at election time).

    Other than the East End of London and South Birmingham it would be crazy for Respect to stand in the general election (only one year away) other than in some form of coalition/pact/agreement with other left groups/parties and the work for that needs to have started . What comes after the election is as important as the election itself. And here lies the problem – this work has not started with the Respect inner leadership keyed up only for the fight for three parliamentry seats and little else. Now this campaign is important, dont get me wrong (and one we need to try to win), but if Respect branches stagnate and decline (as they are doing) there will be no party to support any canpaign other than to use Respect supporters as cannon fodder during elections just like the Labour Party do – this is not the new Party I thought we we making (led from bottom to top not top to bottom)and even the word “Party” has been a struggle to use as it implies some form of programme, discipline, structure and agreements appliable to all from top to bottom which some would appear to want to avoid.

    Remaining silent is not the answer for Respect’s future. We are at a crucial crossroads for the heart and soul of Respect. Is it to be a Socialist, progressive part of a larger Socialist coalition at the next election and beyond or is it to remain a small, isolated pressure group located in just two small parts of the UK acting as no more that a “support group” for one or two “star” MP’s or Councillors that may or may not get elected? From the activity of the last six months I fear it may turn out to be the later option which is why the committed Socialists in Respect must speak out loud and clear and now!

  15. Hey Neil. It sounds like you and your colleagues on the NC have a lot to discuss. We have a meeting in Southwalk coming up to discuss elections down here. If we can stand then that would help us maintain the base we have built up. That’s why it’s been so important to develop common activity: in Viva Palestine, No2EU, the Peoples Charter and in the Respect Paper.

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