SR: Supporting ‘no2eu-yes to democracy’ on June 4th

In our national aggregate of March 21st and our statement on March 31st we welcomed the launching of no2eu-yes to democracy campaign. We repeat that here. The scale of the economic and environmental crisis, and the need for a working class response at both the industrial and the political level, makes tackling the crisis of working class representation ever more urgent.

What the no2eu platform represents is the involvement a militant national trade union in an electoral initiative against Labour. This is a significant development. It is evidence that some sections of the working class are looking for a political alternative to Labour’s neo-liberalism and has the potential to contribute to a realignment on the left in Britain.

As the success of Die Linke in Germany has demonstrated radical sections of the trade union movement can play a crucial part in the development of a broad political alternative. In fact it is difficult to build broad left parties without the involvement of the trade union left — particularly in Britain where the organised left is chronically divided and lacks social weight.

From this point of view it would be a mistake not to recognise the importance of the RMT’s involvement in no2eu yes to democracy. Britain is now well behind many other parts of western Europe when it comes to the development of such parties.

Now that it is clear that Respect will not be standing in the European elections in London or anywhere else on June 4th we will be building support for no2eu in England and Wales where Respect is not endorsing any other candidate. We will get involved in the campaign and work to maximise its vote. How many votes no2eu-yes to democracy will attract is difficult to predict, of course. It has a very small budget on which to fight a European election in all constituencies.

The size of its vote, however, is not the main thing to be taken into account when its longer-term significance is assessed. What will also be important is:

  • How it conducts itself politically during the campaign;
  • How the coalition around it develops;
  • What relations it establishes with other sections of the left;
  • How the campaign is taken into the rank and file of the RMT.

The emergence of no2eu has raised some important issues for Respect. We in SR, and more broadly in Respect, have long held the view that Respect must actively seek to be part of a broader recomposition of the left. In fact we have argued that such a recomposition is essential if a genuinely broad working class party is to be constructed. If no2eu represents even half step in that direction then Respect has to develop a relationship with it.

One debate in Respect has been around whether it would be wrong in principle for Respect to stand against no2eu once it was launched. There was rightly a debate over the resources for the campaign which was a big problem (both for Respect and for no2eu), but the over-riding issue for some was whether Respect should automatically stand aside in favour of no2eu or not. We in SR held the view that it would have been perfectly legitimate for Respect to stand if it had so wished and that in principle it should have stood in London if it could have gathered the resources for a credible campaign together.

If Respect is to maximise its chances in the general election, where it may be the only radical alternative, it needed where possible to keep its name on the ballot paper and in the public eye in the interim. Respect, despite its weaknesses, is an established left party with a high profile MP and a number of successful councillors. It is the party of the left with the highest public recognition and best electoral record for many years. It has important bases amongst Asian communities in South Birmingham and East London and plans to stand in several Parliamentary seats in the general election next year. It has just been central to Viva Palestina, the hugely successful aid convoy to Gaza, which has enhanced its reputation. Jerry Hicks, as a high profile leader of Respect, has just achieved a remarkable result in the Amicus elections.

It is not reasonable, or sensible, therefore, to expect such a party to automatically step aside for a new and unproven initiative. This is especially true when we consider that no2eu has brought together a strikingly diverse range of organisations and yet did not make any approach to Respect, the SWP’s Left Alternative or the Scottish Socialist Party (Organisations involved so far are the RMT, the CPB, the Socialist Party, the Indian Workers Association, The Alliance for Green Socialism (AGS), Solidarity (Scotland), and the Liberal Party — a libertarian-liberal group which split from the original Liberal Party after the Liberal Democrat party was formed).

It is important that Respect defends and develops the gains it has already made — which are actually gains for the whole of the left — as well as looking for new opportunities. If it loses these gains, the left will have far less to bring to any future broad party which might emerge.

Nor is it at all clear that the RMT, or any other of the main players in no2eu, ever regarded it as a problem if Respect had stood in a couple of constituencies — particularly since the voting overlap would have been very small. Otherwise they would have approached Respect at an early stage and sought to bring Respect on board.

The politics of no2eu

In supporting and getting involved in the no2eu campaign we will be taking up some of the political problems, which in our view, have emerged since it was launched. It is important that these are debated, and openly debated, if, as we would hope, no2eu is going to have longer-term significance.

The most significant of these is its top-down structure and method of organising. There are signs that this is breaking down in some regions and that is all to the good. But all of its policy making decisions were taken at invitation-only meetings and our information is that what are termed ‘ultra-left’ groups are not welcome in it. We also understand that support for the Lindsey dispute was made a criterion of inclusion.

This top-down approach needs to change otherwise no2eu will be campaigning to democratise the EU when it lacks democratic legitimacy itself. Any organisation which wants to be represent a diverse range of opinion which rejects New Labour and wants to fight for the interests of working people has to allow a plurality of views and offer the space to put them forward.

For Socialist Resistance this is important, for while there is much in the list of demands that no2eu makes that we enthusiastically support such as rejection of the Lisbon Treaty; opposition to EU directives that privatise public services and the repeal of anti-trade union ECJ rulings there are aspects which are concerning. One example is the rejection of “the so-called ‘free movement’ of labour”. We support the right of any worker to work anywhere, with the same rights, with equal access to jobs, and to hold the union leaders to account for not defending wages, pensions and working conditions.

An important political task which faces any left-wing campaign against the EU is to clearly separate itself from the much bigger right-wing nationalist campaign against the EU — led by the Tories, UKIP and the BNP. Otherwise things can go badly wrong. Respect did this very well in 2004 making sure that it projected a high profile left-wing agenda. In fact in 2004 Respect did not focus its campaign mainly on the EU as an institution, as no2eu does, but made the election a referendum on Tony Blair and the invasion of Iraq.

No2eu has been weak on this aspect. There is nothing in the large print on its leaflet which defines it as a left-wing campaign — and first impressions are important. Most worrying was the decision of a key RMT organiser within the no2eu campaign recently to speak on a Campaign Against Euro federalism platform along with former Tory MP Teddy Taylor. This is a bad sign and needs to be corrected quickly. No2eu has to make very clear that it is a campaign in favour of the rights of working people and has nothing in common with Tory or UKIP style euroscepticism.

It also needs to be much stronger on the environmental issues. It is a real step-back in today’s conditions to find that the environment is hardly mentioned, especially considering the RMT’s campaigns for environmentally sustainable transport. One of the organisations involved, the AGS, which regards itself as ecosocialist must be in a very uncomfortable position. No2eu would greatly strengthen its appeal if this weakness could be corrected.

The other problem with no2eu is its decision not to take a seat if it wins one. The press pack distributed at its press launch said the following: “No2eu is an electoral platform and not a party and our candidates will not sit in the European Parliament in the event of winning any seats”. There have been some debate around this and some signs of a more flexible position. This debate, however, was addressed directly by Alex Gordon of the RMT executive (and a no2eu candidate), in the Morning Star on Saturday April 18 and he didn’t give any ground on it. He argued that since the European Parliament is ‘not a proper parliament’ and is riddled with corruption it would be wrong in principle to attend it. No2eu would, therefore, he says, nominally hold the seat if it won one but would refuse to attend the Parliament even if censured as a result.

The model Alex Gordon puts forward for this is the refusal of Sinn Fein to sit in Westminster. But Sinn Fein is a very different matter. It is understandable to its supporters that whilst leading a national struggle its leaders would not be prepared to swear allegiance to the imperialist power. It would be far less understandable to no2eu supporters as to why they would not be represented in the European Parliament if they voted for someone who was elected. How can you tackle the crisis of working class representation by refusing to represent your voters if you are elected?

Of course it is hard to compete with the European Parliament when it comes to the gravy train and the democratic deficit. But illusions in national Parliaments should be also avoided. The difference is only a matter of degree. Many, even most, of the arguments Alex Gordon makes again the European Parliament could apply to Westminster — which is not so great in the democratic legitimacy stakes either, and is up to its armpits in sleaze and corruption. Most people who consider the European Parliament irrelevant won’t vote in this election whilst those who think it does have an effect on their lives will want to be represented if the party they voted for wins a seat.

What potential voters want in this situation is not that politicians of the left to abstain from such an institution. They want them to demonstrate, consistently in practice, that they are different, and on the basis of that use these institutions as a platform to defend the interests of, the working class and the oppressed.

· We welcome the emergence of no2eu.

· Where Respect is not endorsing other candidates in England and Wales Socialist Resistance will encourage its supporters to vote for no2eu.

· We will get involved in the campaign

.· We will argue inside Respect and no2eu that they actively seek to develop a working relationship with other forces seeking to build a working-class and green alternative to New Labour.

Socialist Resistance published this statement on April 27, 2009.

17 Comments

  1. The next few paragraphs will discuss the issues that I, Gayle O’Donovan, and the political liason for the Green Left Andy Hewitt feel about the newly formed NO2EU-Yes to Democracy slate which has been put forward as the Left alternative in the upcoming Euro elections…..

    Climate change is the biggest threat to the international working class yet the no2eu platform singularly fails to formulate any policy to tackle this. No2EU only mention environmental issues when claiming that migrant workers are bad for the environment. This in itself highlights the nationalist tone of the no2eu platform contradictory to any claim they may have to be representative of international workers solidarity. The nationalistic tone of the literature and the policy platform is quite vulgar, and although it may be argued that this is to divert votes from the BNP, to borrow straight from the BNP copybook in stirring up nationalistic sentiment is giving the BNP agenda recognition and kudos. The no2eu strap line is “it’s a Black and White Issue” is loaded with racial overtones.

    By standing candidates in a rushed and ill-prepared manner could be damaging to the work done by the UAF and the anti-fascist movement, and by taking potential votes from other parties in direct competition with BNP for seats could allow the fascists to win in the PR system.Organisations which have decided to support No2EU have done so with a number of reservations about the nature of the platform, including the nationalistic element of its policies.

    The claim to be a democratic organisation is confounded by the apparent lack of democratic process in organising and in selecting candidates. As they don’t exist in a party format there is no accountability to any membership, instead all decisions appear to be taken by a small self selected committee, indeed there appears to have been an absolute lack of consultation with RMT branches and grass roots members in entering into this arrangement, and little in the way of democratic decision making involving the RMT membership. However, at least £45,000 of their political fund has been used to fund the campaign.There is a legitimate case to be made for criticising the democratic deficit in the European Parliament, however it is also worth considering that 90% of British Environmental legislation comes from Europe, for which our Green MEPs have worked long and hard, and 50-60% of domestic legislation comes from Europe.

    The British Government continues to opt out of legislation which is existent to protect and benefit the working class, for example opting out of the Working Time Directive allowing capitalist exploitation of its workers for the benefit of business. This is an example of a piece of legislation from Europe which is of benefit to workers across Europe, but ignored by various Governments who only seek to enforce the neoliberal aspects of social and economic policy. By not taking up their seats if they were elected, and not fighting for change and enacting NO2EU candidates are singularly failing to represent the interests of the working class whom they claim to champion in ensuring that their interests are fought for when legislation is drawn up.

    The original Green Party Trade Union motion endorsed by Green Left:

    GPTU is disappointed by the decision of the RMT to stand candidates in the forthcoming Euro elections. We had hoped for RMT support for a coherent environmental plan, including an ecologically sustainable public and publicly owned transport system. We fear that the current RMT electoral platform does not offer this within the context of a sensible political program and may have damaging consequences such as splitting votes and allowing the election of far right racist candidates, or endangering the seats of green Euro MPs who have a very good record of promoting workers’ rights in Europe.In spite of this GPTU will continue to actively support the RMT’s legitimate Trade Union activities and it’s campaigning for an ecologically sustainable public and publicly owned transport system, but we cannot currently advise a vote for RMT candidates, which would currently be a wasted and dangerous vote.

  2. if you are serious about ecosocialism and developing joint work with left greens, you should be advocating a green vote/and campaigning. Advocacy of notoeu is a blow to this work.

  3. Hi Simon. I appreciate that Green party members, like yourself, sincerely support a vote for the Greens. We support Green Left’s Peter Cranie in the NorthWest, and we campaigned for Green Left’s Sian Berry for London mayor. But Green Party members have to evaluate what the significance really is of the No2EU campaign. For a national trade union to challenge Labour in the elections is of really historic significance. It’s a big long-term contribution to the recomposition of British politics. You should try to see it in that perspective.

    As the polling stands at the moment, it’s not going to get the BNP elected, and it’s not going to take enough votes to defeat a Green MEP. Loyal Green party people have to dispute that for the next month but, after the election, we will see that is the case.

    Duncan.

  4. Socialist Resistance has decided to support the NO2EU electoral front. You should ask yourselves, what are the politics the N2EU campaign is pursuing in the working class? It certainly isn’t internationalist politics. Nor is it even socialist politics (the campaign does not mention the word socialism).

    Go to its website, read its leaflets, you find the old CPB politics – reformist, anti-EU, pro-British industrial capitalism nestling alongside a protectionist economic programme. This is the politics that the NO2EU is trying to convince the working class of – and Socialist Resistance are helping them do it.

    Just to give a couple of examples. Your campaign wants to “Defend and develop manufacturing, agriculture and fishing industries in Britain.” We don’t. Socialists want to expropriate them from the bosses and place them under the control of the workers – we want to abolish the scourge of unemployment and produce for need not profit. In contrast your campaign wants to “revitalise the economy, Britain must return to creating wealth based (economy?) especially in manufacturing, hi-tech and trade across the world”, ie forward with British imperialism!

    Your campaign tells us that “Nation states … and their governments are the only institutions that can control the movement of big capital and clip the wings of the trans-national corporations and banks.” Really? Us socialists always thought it was the working class that could do this, unless of course you believe the British Parliament can do it for us?

    Your campaign wants “protection of home industries”. In the context of capitalism, protectionism means exporting unemployment to other countries, supporting “our industries” against foreign competitors and stoking up economic nationalism. The NO2EU campaign comes dangerously close to extending this economic nationalism to campaigning against foreign workers. It attacks the EU “for promoting the social dumping of exploited foreign workers” and also seems to oppose the free movement of labour across Europe.

    How does Socialist Resistance swallow this when you could not even bring yourselves to support the Lindsey workers in their struggle against the posted workers directive?

    Stuart from PR

  5. Stuart, I guess you’ll be voting Labour instead? The choice in these elections is not which campaign makes the best revolutionary propaganda, but which campaign is giving the trade unions a voice. You may disagree with the RMT’s politics, but it represents a stance against neoliberalism and for workers rights. It also stands for “democratic control of the major banks, including the Bank of England, and full public ownership and democratic accountability of railways, postal services, NHS, and the energy industry.” If your tendency could spot the difference between the RMT and CPB, on the one hand, and New Labour on the other then you’d be able to progress from modest propaganda to modest action.

  6. Poor Duncan always first up to defend the indefensible.

    But what “voice” is this campaign giving trade unions Duncan? – a rather nasty nationalistic, anti-EU voice. Do you really support referring to workers from Europe who come to work here as “social dumping”? Are you, like your campaign apparently is, opposed to the free movement of labour in Europe?

    And surely you know nationalisation in the context of a capitalist state is a capitalistic measure, a reformist one. Which is why Gordon Brown has taken most of the banks into “public ownership” – at our expense! (see our article at: http://www.permanentrevolution.net/entry/2688)

    I don’t know whether we will call for a vote for Labour on June 4th but I do know that the Party of European Socialism, the 33 socialist, social democratic and labour parties common manifesto, puts forward a 6 point programme of progressive promises as equally vapid and reformist as the NO2EU campaign’s. But it does call itself socialist (unlike your campaign) and it is less nationalistic and little-Englander than yours.

    Isn’t THAT an indictment of the campaign you are supporting?

  7. There are serious problems with the no2eu campaign unfortunately. I posted this on the PR site
    “Stuart is right on this I think though the issue does deserve wider discussion and clarification.
    It is not entirely surprising (perhaps I have a hint of disagreement here with Stuart!) that sections of the far left or indeed some class militants may in the absence of anything else be drawn to flirting with this campaign. After all, the idea of trade union militants standing against Labour’s attacks has been something advocated by many on the left for many a year: also sadly has been the tendency to substitute for this something else, cheer led by sections of the left.
    The big and decisive problem with NO2EU is the pandering to nationalism: for example on migrant labour claiming “to ferry workers across Europe to carry out jobs that local workers can be trained ot is an environmental, economic and social nonsense.”
    This suggests, wrongly, that foreign labour is a problem. Bosses try to divide worker against worker- along craft lines, using sexism, racism, nationalism and other forms of chauvinism- but the problem isn’t foreign workers. The problem is bosses. The answer is to organise together.
    The Lyndsey workers quite rightly demanded the right to work and used strike action against job losses and demanded all workers to be on equal pay and conditions. The Socialist Party militants played a creditable role on the whole.
    Patrick is of course right that if groups of workers came together to fight class politics through united action and also standing candidates in elections this could be a step forward. If grassroots meetings were held with rank and file democracy it is unlikely that a revolutionary program would be adopted. Socialists of course should fight for demands that mobilise the class and link this to the need for workers’ power and socialism- revolution- but we would not win the fight immediately. Of course not. And it may well be that a fighting reformist program that emerged in this manner would be worthy of enthusiastic critical support- pointing out where it should go further but endorsing candidates.

    However, if formulations that pander to nationalism could not be defeated it would mean carrying on the argument in the context of united action but not calling for a vote.

    NO2EU fails on both counts. It was not built by the rank and file in a participatory manner and it does make unprincipled concessions to nationalism.
    However, we should be very patient and open in engaging workers in discussion proposing concrete action such as workers’ strikes and occupation against pay cuts, job losses and organising all workers irrespective of either immigration status or national origin in a united fight. To that end this discussion is fruitful and refreshing.”

    Of course voting Labour is hardly something to be enthusiastic about but in the absence of any worker militants or other candidates of struggle standing what do you suggest? Abstention.

    We should organise class struggle- that’s far more important than who we vote for. But in an election we should have tactics towards the working class- use campaigns to demand what policies are needed; ideally stand candidates of struggle against Labour. But yeah in their absence of ocurse we’d vote Labour as indeed Socialist Outlook have also argued for years I think.

  8. Copy of open letter sent to No2eu. Open also for your comments or whatever.

    Hello, I am very concerned about the politics of the subject group. I have debated this with a number of people who have been consistently Socialist and active in this area. I have also debated this with many young people and the local IWA and our many other Asian supporters. We genuinley believe that the left should be united.

    The person who is the most respected on your ‘left list’ is Dave Nellist, although we recognise that this cannot be a personality issue. We surely must concentrate on limiting the BNP’S vote. However, we are very concerned about a self selecting group, formed with secretive meetings and being more akin to Stalin than democracy. A very good example of this is Pete Mclaren, the Socialist Party and the CPG. Sorry, but this has become almost a historical fact in this area. We are also not certain of the direct Trade Union link. It is very strange that the local anti-racist group, many Trade Unions and indeed others, who have literally battled with the National Front and the Fascist BNP for many years have simply been ignored. How democratic is that? Despite financial limitations the left can surely do better than this!

    As such we are very likely to vote Green in this area, due to your group simply not being democratic and the Green Party at least making an impact and seemingly having more progressive policies.. We are also concerned about the nationalistic and black and white perspective as per your web site and your lack of environmental concerns. Some of us may attend the meeting at Nuneaton and await to hear your policies before deciding, but we unfortunately are likely to be focusing on limiting the scope of the BNP vote, which is of paramount importance. Ivor Timson Nuneaton and North Warwickshire,

  9. I have received a number of responses to my draft e-mail and if you wish you can remove the names and moderate/alter were you feel fit. However, thirty plus people have e-mailed me about the draft and some felt so strongly they want to picket the planned No2eu meeting at Nuneaton, organised in conjunction with the Indian Welfare Association, yes you got it right, not now the Indian Worker’s Association. I do not agree with a picket and I will recommend ignoring their meeting and continuing our campaign against the Fascist BNP.

    It all Sounds very much like the ‘old broad left’ to me who have been extremely destructive in the past to any left and progressive movement developing; and who played a very minor role in our demonstrations etc against the wars. Ivor Timson.

  10. We have viewed the No2EU site and other sites and agree with Ivor’s and other comments on this and on this issue. We will probable vote Green in this area of North Warwicshire on this occasion only. Dave Manning, David Colledge, Martin Folan and Jane Hewson. Jane.

  11. Jane

    What seems strange to me is you (and the others) listed would rather vote Green than vote for Dave Nellist in the Euros. Surely Dave has a proven socialist record – just seems amazing that you have the chance to vote for a decent socialist and you will go out and vote for the pro-capitalist Greens instead!

  12. Clive

    Its not a case of voting or not voting for an individual – the electorate are faced with a ‘party’ list.

    The key is who can stop the BNP gaining a seat – it is fairly clear that no2eu will not do this – despite the hard work of some good people – only the Green Party may have enough votes to stop the BNP – Come the 8th June – whats worse a Green MEP and few votes for no2eu or the BNP gaining MEP’s?

  13. At some stage people have to vote for what they believe in and not just tactically vote for those ‘nice’ Greens. As Dave Nellist is top of the list it is a case of voting for an individual, in the West Mids you can vote for someone who only took the average wage of the people he represented when an MP, i.e. Dave Nellist or vote for a pro-capialist i.e. all the other parties’ candidates including the Greens.

  14. Its no use just saying we must stop the BNP, who are the only ones actively out campaigning against the far right?. The left and not the right of centre, pro-capitalist Greens. The only way to defeat the BNP facist thugs is to be there every week fighting the case. If we adopt Roy’s theory, we might as well vote UKIP. Somewhere, socialist principles should come in. Also the defeatist thinking of tactical voting and not on principle gets us nowhere, kids would be still down the mines and women without a vote that way. Stand up and be counted on June 4th and vote No2Eu Yes to democracy.

  15. UKIP are not the Green Party – a big difference – by the way have you not noticed that on the ballot paper it will be GREEN PARTY – SAY NO TO RACISM. A CLEAR PROGRESSIVE STATEMENT!

    Your name on the ballott paper will say ‘NO2EU – SAY YES TO DEMOCRACY’ which Sounds like a mix between nationalism and support for the existing Bourgeoisie Democracy.

    The Green Party wants to change society so that ordinary people have a future! Hardly sounds like UKIP etc.

  16. Roy you missed my point about tactical voting, UKIP have more chance of stopping the BNP than the Greens look at the whole picture and not just a tiny peice. As for No2Eu supporting the bourgeoisie democracy it’s the opposite we want to support a workers Europe, so we all have the same wages and conditions when we move to another country to work. Unlike at present driving down wages and conditions. It’s not nationalism but internationalism!

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