Britain: New left alliance for EU elections
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.
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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
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.
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.
``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.''
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.