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.
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
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, thre SWP’s Left Alternative or the Scottish
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.
he 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.
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.
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
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.
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.