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
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.
Now that it is clear that Respect will not be standing in the European elections in
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
The model Alex Gordon puts forward for this is the refusal of Sinn Fein to sit in
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
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
· 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.