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Britain: New left alliance for EU elections

Bob Crow.

March 24, 2009 -- Spectrezine -- Last week saw the launch of the ``No2EU -- Yes to Democracy'' electoral front, which is critical of the European Union and opposed to the Lisbon Treaty. The alliance is an initiative of Bob Crow, head of Britian's biggest transport union, the RMT. Below, Crow explains why activists have taken the decision to challenge British Labour Party complaceny on this viciously anti-working class treaty.

* * *

It's not every day I agree to head up a new left-wing EU-critical electoral alliance to stand in the European elections, but it wasn't a decision taken lightly. My union has been following developments in the European Union for many years and has debated the impact of EU treaties and various directives each year at its annual general meetings. Many RMT members have suffered as the result of EU diktats such as the one which led to the privatisation of our rail network.

The EU drive to push market mechanisms into our public services has now appeared with the part-privatisation of postal services. The EU mania for imposing increasingly discredited neoliberal economics on more than 500 million Europeans is also enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, the renamed EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. The treaty forces governments to hand public services over to private corporations. That means handing fat cats control of railways, schools, postal services, energy and even social services across Europe.

According to the EU constitution, "A European framework law shall establish measures to achieve the liberalisation of a specific service." That provision remains in the Lisbon Treaty.

The current economic crisis was created by this right-wing economic dogma, yet, under the Lisbon Treaty, these policies become constitutional goals.

EU rules demanding the "free movement of capital, goods, services and labour" within the EU have also encouraged widespread social dumping where vulnerable exploited workers from across the EU are being used to drive down wages in member states. Successive EU directives and European Court of Justice decisions have similarly been used to attack trade union collective bargaining, the right to strike and workers' pay and conditions. As a result, working people are feeling increasingly betrayed by a political elite that seems more interested in implementing neoliberal EU rules than representing those who elected them. This crisis of working-class representation, along with the growing economic crisis, has led to a deep disillusionment, cynicism and general mistrust of politicians.

That is one of the reasons why Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty in June last year -- because they too did not want an EU constitution that took away their hard-won democracy and effectively turned the EU into an undemocratic superstate. Yet the resounding ``No'' by Irish voters was ignored by politicians across Europe who are clearly more wedded to EU institutions than their own electorates. That is why Gordon Brown's government reneged on Labour's 2005 manifesto promise to hold a referendum and instead forced the treaty through parliament with Liberal Democrats' and Tories' help.

The Irish electorate has been told that it must vote for a second time on the Lisbon Treaty by October 2009, having voted to reject it in 2008. Why? Because EU and Irish politicians have decided that voters in Ireland must be overruled.

To counter this assault on democracy, No2EU -- Yes to Democracy is fielding candidates on June 4, 2009, to give a voice to voters who feel betrayed by the main parties. This crisis of democracy and the very serious economic situation is leading to a rise in support for far-right, fascist parties such as the British National Party.

Yet the BNP has no answers. It peddles hate and seeks to undermine organisations that working people rely on to protect them such as trade unions.

No2EU -- Yes to Democracy is an electoral platform and not a party. Our candidates will not sit in the European Parliament in the event of winning any seats. Our candidates would nominally hold the title MEP but would not board the notorious EU gravy train.

This is because the European Parliament is, in fact, not a parliament but a very expensive talking shop with no law-making powers. Those powers lie with the unelected European Commission. A recent report showed that MEPs can make over £1 million from a single five-year term by claiming various allowances and even for assistants for whom no record exists.

British MEPs' pay will even rise by almost 50 per cent after June's election to over £120,000. While in the real world banks go under and hundreds of thousands of workers are losing their jobs, EU elites continue to enrich themselves at the taxpayers' expense.

Lend us your vote on June 4 and we will continue to campaign against the EU privatisation drive and the widespread corruption that goes with it.

It's clear that millions of people would reject the Lisbon Treaty if they were given the chance to and demand the repatriation of democratic powers to the member states.

The time has come to give these people a voice. Vote No2EU -- Yes to Democracy on June 4.

[Bob Crow is general secretary of the RMT (Transport Workers' Union).]

Left alliance set to shake up EU elections

STEP FORWARD: RMT leader Bob Crow, No2EU nominating officer Brian Denny and former Labour MP Dave Nellist speaking at the platform's launch in Westminster on Thursday.pic: ANDREW WIARD

March 19, 2009 -- Morning Star -- Eurpoean elections on June 4 will be electrified by new left-wing electoral alliance No2EU -- Yes to Democracy, which launched on today. Candidates are set to reach out to millions of voters across Britain, forcefully challenging the neoliberal economic onslaught from the authoritarian EU.

Rail union RMT general secretary Bob Crow, who is convener of the new platform, said millions of working people "feel abandoned by the main political parties." At the Westminster launch event, Mr Crow warned of a grave danger that, in the midst of the economic crisis, too many voters will be duped into voting for far-right parties such as the BNP.

He denounced the EU as "basically an arm of global capital designed to extend privatisation and make bigger gains for big business".

He explained: "No2EU -- Yes to Democracy is an electoral platform, not a party, and our candidates will not sit in the European Parliament in the event of winning any seats."

Coventry councillor and former Labour MP Dave Nellist said that, once the EU elections were over, supporters of the new platform would hold a convention to discuss tactics for the future. Mr Nellist declared that the new alliance would "shake up the political establishment" and that, otherwise, there would only be a "sterile debate" in the EU elections. He added that "you cannot get a cigarette paper" between the three major parties.

He warned of "the risk of the rise of xenophobia and the far-right parties unless a working-class alternative is put forward in this election."

The risk was particularly strong in the West Midlands and Yorkshire, he reported.

The No2EU website went live yesterday morning. It exposes the EU constitution, now called the Lisbon Treaty, as a vehicle for imposing Thatcherite economic policies at a time when "this discredited neoliberal agenda is falling apart".

A host of political activists and trade unionists have already signed up to support the new alliance. Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths is among prominent supporters, along with Young Communist League general secretary Ben Stevenson.

Morning Star circulation manager Ivan Beavis joined the launch, declaring that the paper's support was consistent with its "long record of solidarity with the labour movement".

Socialist Party deputy leader Hannah Sell slammed the Lisbon Treaty as a "bosses' charter" and hailed the new electoral alliance as "part of the process of helping to solve the crisis."

The British people "do not want a return to the 1930s," she said.

Indian Workers Association vice-president Avtar Sadiq slammed the EU internal market rules for creating "a race to the bottom in terms of wages and conditions inside the EU and a fortress Europe mentality".

Mr Sadiq said the association's support for the new platform was in line with its 70 years of anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggle.

Visit www.no2eu.com for more information about the platform.

 

Comments

No2EU -- More British sectarianism and left DISunity

From http://groups.yahoo.com/group/leftist_trainspotters/

The RMT union has decided to back a
European elections slate called "No2EU - Yes to Democracy", coming out of the
campaign group Trade Unionists Against the EU Constitution.

The groups involved at this point are the Socialist Party, the Communist Party
of Britain and Solidarity Scotland's Socialist Movement. As I understand it,
Respect, the Socialist Labour Party and the Alliance for Green Socialism are
considering their position.

According to a leaked CPB circular, the SWP, AWL and CPGB/WW are not considered
eligible to join.

******

According to the CPB circular:

"Whilst this is a very broad campaign, SWP, AWL, Weekly Worker and other ultra
left groups have not been considered eligible, these having sharply criticised
the Lindsey strike movement. A leading figure within that strike will be one of
the East Midlands candidates."

I emphasise that this comes from a CPB internal document and not from No2EU
itself. Therefore I don't think its complete accuracy can be vouched for.

Another detail I forgot to mention is that the faction of the Indian Workers
Association associated with the CPI(Marxist) is to participate.

******

1) The reactions of some of the left groups which are not at this point
described as affiliates or as "considering their position":

The SWP have said nothing about the initiative that I can see. The leaked CPB
circular says that they are an "ultra-left" group and wouldn't be eligible
because of their line on the Lindsey strike.

The AWL have posted up articles criticising the initiative on their website and
have tried to gain access to planning meetings only to be turned away. They are
also described as "ultra-left" and ineligible in the CPB circular.

The CPGB/Weekly Worker in one of their customarily bizarre outbursts carried "No
support for Crow's Nationalist Stunt" as the front page headline in the Weekly
Worker last week. This week they announce that this was a mistake and that
instead say that they should intervene into the campaign. They are categorised
with the AWL and SWP in the CPB circular.

Workers Power have put out an open letter of the time honoured "don't do that,
do what we want instead..." variety. One can only presume that even though they
aren't mentioned by name by the CPB, they would fall under the same category as
the above groups, given that they actually opposed the Lindsey strike.

The CPB (ML) are as always invisible, but it seems likely that they are
involved, given their views on the EU. It simply isn't possible to tell, unless
you know the individuals involed.

The Lambertists, I understand, have a tiny grouplet that has been in long term
hibernation inside New Labour. However, this initiative is likely to prove
attractive to them and we may see some faint stirrings.

2) It's worth noting that it is very unlikely that the CPB would have a veto on
the inclusion of any group that the RMT want included, so it's difficult to know
how seriously to take the contents of their circular. Whether its take on the
groups involved is the policy of the slate as a whole or is simply the take of
the CPB isn't clear from the outside.

3) The Socialist Party has a statement up on its website explaining its decision
to back this initiative. Of note to spotters is that it says that the SP is in
favour of expanding the initiative to include a broader swathe of the left.

*******

And you can see a list of their supporters here

http://www.no2eu.com/supporters.html

There were a lot of CPB members of the list - for example Graham Stevenson, Mary
Davis, Robert Griffiths, Ben Stevenson, John Foster, Mick Costello, Ivan Beavis,
Martin Levy, Bill Benfield, John Haylett and no doubt a few more. I think there
were also quite a few CWI people there. (I assumed that the supporters with the
surname "Taaffe" are CWI)

Apart from Bob Crow...

**********

Socialist Party Statement (CWI) on No2EU-Yes to Democracy

Socialist Party Statement

The European elections and working-class representation

IN AN important move, the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers’ union (RMT) has announced its support for an electoral alliance to contest the forthcoming European elections in June.

A ‘political party’ has been registered - as required under electoral law to contest elections - under the name No2EU-Yes to Democracy, with the RMT general secretary, Bob Crow, as the official leader. Its platform includes opposition to the European Union (EU) constitution (now re-packaged as the Lisbon treaty), the EU’s pro-privatisation directives, and the anti-trade union and ’social dumping’ rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The platform takes a necessary stand against the racist far-right British National Party (BNP), and in defence of international workers’ solidarity.

At present funds are in place for No2EU-Yes to Democracy candidate lists to appear on the ballot paper in a minimum of six of Britain’s eleven electoral ‘regions’, including Scotland and Wales, but more may well be contested.

This is an electoral coalition, with initial support from the RMT, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Britain (publishers of the Morning Star), Solidarity - Scotland’s Socialist Movement, and a number of trades union councils. Respect is still considering its involvement; the Socialist Party, for its part, would favour the broadest participation of all left and working class organisations.

No2EU-Yes to Democracy is a temporary platform for the European elections only, with the RMT representatives at the inaugural meeting stressing, unfortunately, that they were not launching a new workers’ party. But that does not negate its significance as the first electoral challenge to New Labour initiated by a national trade union, the RMT, the most militant industrial union in Britain.

The European elections might not loom large in workers’ thinking, as the economic crisis intensifies. But the EU’s neo-liberal directives and rulings, enthusiastically implemented by the New Labour government, are linked to the avalanche of job losses, wage cuts and continued privatisation.

Nowhere was this more clearly revealed than in the Lindsey oil refinery construction workers’ dispute earlier this year. It was under the EU ‘posted workers directive’ and subsequent ECJ rulings that the Italian-registered company, IREM, was able to employ workers not covered by the union-enforced national construction industry agreements. The part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, the first step to its complete sell-off, is also linked to EU directives to introduce a deregulated postal services market.

The No2EU-Yes to Democracy campaign can expose the reality of the EU’s neo-liberal agenda to millions of workers, while arguing the case for a workers’ alternative to pro-market politicians - whether in Brussels or Westminster! And June’s Euro-poll will be the first national electoral expression of the enormous anger accumulating at the devastating consequences of the capitalist crisis.

But where will that anger go? The 2004 European elections, in a completely different economic climate, still saw a big protest vote, which primarily went to UKIP, the UK Independence Party. Labour could well register an even worse result than its disastrous performance then, when it at least enjoyed opinion poll leads as the most ‘economically competent’ party.

UKIP, meanwhile, is likely to suffer a big loss of support. Promoting themselves as having been elected to ‘take on the corrupt Eurocrats’, two of its MEPs were soon implicated in benefit and EU fraud investigations, the egomaniacal Kilroy-Silk departed, and membership and donations have slumped. The Tories can expect to make big gains but there is a real threat that the far-right BNP could win seats in June.

This fear has also been a powerful impulse behind the RMT’s move to organise an electoral challenge. As Bob Crow reported to the inaugural meeting, RMT members had already been contacting the union asking who the national officers thought they should vote for in June. The only alternative to backing a union-initiated electoral coalition would be to urge a vote, as anti-fascist groups like Searchlight advocate, for ‘the mainstream parties’ to stop the BNP.

Another factor behind the RMT’s decision was the lessons of the Lindsey dispute. Firstly, it brought to wide attention in a way not done before in Britain, the role of the EU’s anti-worker directives.

The RMT is currently balloting, or has taken strike action, in nine separate disputes over job losses and privatisation proposals. Is it so hard to imagine the RMT facing ‘barges in the Thames’ of sub-contracted EU ‘posted rail workers’ - as the IREM workers are being billeted in Grimsby docks - as the New Labour government, or an incoming Tory government, under the impulsion of the crisis, looks to confront one of the most powerfully organised sections of the working class?

Lindsey also highlighted another aspect of the situation now existing in Britain. As previous reports in The Socialist have shown, Lindsey was a victory for the working class. But it took the conscious intervention of the strike leadership, including Socialist Party members, to cut across any national or racial divisions that could have derailed the movement.

The same burning need for a clear lead is true on the political plane. That’s why the RMT’s electoral initiative, despite any weaknesses it may have, is so important.

In response to Labour’s 2004 Euro-elections debacle the leaders of the Labour-affiliated trade unions issued another round of verbal broadsides and threats to withdraw funding.

At the Unison public sector workers’ union 2004 conference, for example, the general secretary Dave Prentis promised not to “keep our heads down, gobs shut for Labour, if this government continues to put forward rightwing policies” (The Guardian, 23 June, 2004). And yet, of course, that is precisely what has happened - with the union leaders continuing to pour their members’ money into Labour’s coffers.

The RMT, on the other hand, has moved. There are, inevitably, potential difficulties. Because of the constitutional bar on union officials holding parliamentary seats, and its view that Brussels is ‘a fake parliament’, the RMT is insisting that victorious No2EU-Yes to Democracy candidates will not sit in the European parliament - although they would still campaign, alongside any other European workers’ representatives who are elected in June, against EU attacks on the working class. And a convention of the forces involved in the campaign would be held to work out exactly how to proceed.

Most importantly, socialists could not participate in an electoral block or coalition which made concessions to racist or nationalist prejudices. But that is not the case with the proposals agreed so far around the RMT’s electoral initiative which, while its programme is limited, is at bottom a pro-worker block.

There is no easy or straightforward path to re-build working class political representation. The German party, ‘Election Alternative - Jobs and Social Justice’ (WASG), the initial dynamic component of what is now the Left Party, was not formed, back in 2004, with a fully developed programme or democratic structures. But it broke the logjam.

And so, potentially, could the RMT’s electoral initiative. The train is moving. The task of socialists, while not holding back from arguing for our ideas on the way out of the economic crisis, is to lend a helping hand.

British Socialist Worker (SWP) on No2EU

No To EU - RMT launches election campaign

The RMT transport union has initiated a challenge in June’s European elections, to oppose the dominant neoliberal policies of the European Union.

No to EU–Yes to Democracy candidates will stand in at least six of Britain’s Euro constituencies.

They will stand on a platform which stresses opposition to the Lisbon Treaty – the repackaged EU constitution thrown out by Irish, French and Dutch voters that aims to increase privatisation of services across Europe and to dilute workers rights.

No to EU also takes a clear stand against the fascist BNP.

The fact that a major union is prepared to back an election challenge to New Labour and the Tories is to be welcomed.

But there are some concerns that the campaign nods too far in support of arguments that led to the slogan “British jobs for British workers,” by attacking free movement of labour.

Yet in the coming months European trade unions are launching co-ordinated protest action over the recession.

If “No to EU–Yes to Dem-ocracy” can link with this Europe-wide resistance it can provide a welcome break with a debate in Britain over the EU, which centres solely on preserving “our” sovereignty and “our” pound.

——————————————————————————–

The National Steering Committee (NSC) of Solidarity, Scotland’s Socialist Movement, decided last Saturday to “support and participate” in the No to EU–Yes to Democracy campaign.

The Solidarity statement described the initiative as an “historic and courageous attempt by a union… to offer a working class alternative”.

Concern was voiced by some delegates about aspects of some of the policies of No to EU.

The Solidarity NSC expreressed a worry that the campaign has stated that, if elected, it would not take up any seats because they “will not board the notorious EU gravy train”.

Although the organisation has been put together very quickly, with little chance for extensive debate, Solidarity has agreed to put forward candidates, including Tommy Sheridan, for the Scottish No to EU list.

SR: Left Euro-election campaigns are a welcome development

March 23rd, 2009

From Socialist Resistance (http://socialistresistance.org/?p=433)

Last weekend’s revolutionary regroupment meeting adopted resolutions welcoming the decisions of the north-west Green party and the RMT-backed No 2 EU alliance to run progressive campaigns in the European elections.

Both Respect and the Scottish Socialist Party will finalise their election policies in the new few weeks. The resolutions are below:

We are supportive of the RMT’s decision to get involved in the European elections and see this as a welcome part of the process of realigment on the left. We will actively engage in this process.

We will support Respect candidates where they stand. A decision on this is to be taking at the upcoming national council.

We support the decision by Respect in the north west to throw its weight behind Peter Cranie.

 

SSP will stand in European elections

Interestingly, while the Scottish organisation Solidarity (of which Tommy Sheridan is a leader) is taking part/ allowed to take part (bear in mind that significant sections of the British left - such as the SWP - have apparently been deemed "ineligible" to join), the Scottish Socialist Party is running its own candidates in the EU elections:

http://www.scottishsocialistparty.org/index.html
SSP will stand in European elections
The Scottish Socialist Party will stand candidates in the June 2009 European
elections.

The decision was taken at the party’s annual conference, this year being held
on the island of Arran.

Delegates voted 2-1 to put forward a Scottish Socialist Party list for the
European Parliament election on June 4th.

SSP co-spokesperson Colin Fox said;

“The Scottish Socialist Party will contest the European elections on our unique
anti-capitalist programme, as we have done in all elections in the 10 years
of our existence.

“The SSP looks forward to our part in a European wide protest by the left,
socialist and anti capitalist parties at the terrible consequences for working
class people of the financial catastrophe that the banks and big business have
brought upon us.

“In the forthcoming European elections the SSP will be once again ask voters
to mark their cross beside the SSP, for socialism, independence and internationalism.”

Socialist Resistance: Euro campaigns need grassroots democracy

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 Lisbon Treaty
Workers’ rights
The EU gravy train
Public services
Keep out the BNP
The economic crisis
EU militarisation
Civil liberties

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.

No2EU Fringe Meeting

http://liammacuaid.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/no2eu-fringe-meeting/

``Roy Wilkes reports from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) Conference in Cardiff and suggests that No2EU may be more open than some might think.''

image No2EU held a very interesting fringe meeting at NUT conference on Monday.  Rob Griffiths and Dave Nellist spoke.  There were about 60 people in attendance, including quite a few SP members (many of them youth) from Cardiff , plus NUT delegates from a variety of currents. 

Rob Griffiths spoke about the importance of a national trade union fielding candidates against New Labour.  He said that they were aiming to include workers in struggle on the lists, and that the convener of one of the Visteon plants had agreed to stand.  No2EU has already raised £55 000 and will be standing in every Euro constituency, and in two of the constituencies (the North West and the West Midlands I think) they will be mailshotting every household. There will also be television broadcasts.  Griffiths said that the emphasis on opposing the posted workers directive was important because under that directive it is the bosses who control the movement of labour and they do so in a way that undermines trade union terms and conditions.  Instead of accepting this situation, the approach of the left should be to resist it, but we should also oppose all racist immigration laws.

Dave Nellist explained that other left-of-labour initiatives hadn’t worked but that this one was different in that it was based on an important left wing trade union. Indeed, it has been the railworkers who had been instrumental in setting up the Labour Party in the first place.  He said that after the Euro election there would be an evaluation of the initiative, based not only on votes received but more importantly on the strength of the alliance that was generated, with a view to exploring the possibility of a longer term alliance.  Nellist said that after the election, any MEPs elected would meet with No2EU supporters in their constituencies to discuss what they should do next.  He said that taking a worker’s wage was popular when he did it as an MP, and that this was the pledge of No2EU. The MEPs would concentrate not on sitting in Brussels but on campaigning both in Britain and beyond, including making links with other workers parties such as the NPA.

A member of the AWL criticised the initiative for pandering to nationalism, and said that the campaign should not be about the EU.  I responded to that contribution by suggesting that opposing the Lisbon treaty wasn’t pandering to nationalism but was an essential component of any intervention into what is after all a European election.  I referred to the ‘non’ campaign in France , which had been led by the LCR and which had marginalised the FN. I welcomed Rob Griffiths’ opposition to racist immigration laws but said that this should have been featured in the platform of the initiative.  Socialist Resistance comrade Stuart said that the phrase ‘social dumping’ should not be used, and that the defense of industry, agriculture and fisheries was not class based.  Interestingly, members of the SP in the audience were also critical of the No2EU platform as it stands and suggested that it should be more explicitly socialist. 

Dave Nellist and Rob Griffiths both agreed with the criticisms that had been made by myself, Stuart and the SP members, and said that No2EU was a work in progress, and that the leaflet we were referring to was an early leaflet which had been rushed out.  Nellist hoped that a convention would be held after the election to take the initiative forward.  Rob Griffiths responded to criticisms from the AWL, who said that some people had been excluded from the initiative, by saying that the only people excluded were those who had opposed the initiative and wanted to prevent it from happening. Any left group that supports the initiative can be involved.

There seems to be an openness to this process which many of us hadn’t previously acknowledged. And it would seem that the platform of No2EU, and of whatever might follow it, is not a closed book but an evolving process.

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