Nov 29 2016

LITTLE ENGLAND

We are posting the following letter by Steve Freeman of the Left Unity Party and RISE  which addresses some of the politics underlying Brexit.

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LITTLE ENGLAND

The iconic picture of Trump with Farage reveals a certain truth about Brexit. Here we have a glimpse of reality, entirely absent from the Tory referendum. We can invent our own dialogue. Farage says: ‘Donald, I am handing you the UK on a plate.’ Trump, thumbs up, replies: ‘Thanks. I’ll take Scotland as my golf course, the NHS and more tax breaks for American multinationals. I want free trade deals to benefit America and no more wind farms.’
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Apr 03 2015

THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP – THE TTIP OF THE PACIFIC

Cynthia Phinney of Labor Notes (USA) writes on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which she dubs the “NAFTA of the Pacific”. However, we in Europe will also be able to recognise it as the ‘TTIP of the Pacific’.

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SHOWDOWN NEARS ON FAST TRACKING OF THE BIGGEST FREE TRADE DEAL YET 

This spring the battle is coming to a head over several threatened trade deals, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a “NAFTA of the Pacific.”

President Obama announced in this year’s State of the Union address that he would ask Congress to grant him fast-track authority for trade agreements with Asia and Europe. The announcement unleashed a torrent of lobbying in favor of Obama’s request, and galvanized fair trade activists against it.

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Aug 24 2004

European Anti Capitalist Left Manifesto

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 08RCN @ 2:29 pm

Anti Capitalist Manifesto for a Different Europe: social and democratic, feminist and ecologist, peaceful and in solidarity. (The EACL manifesto for the June 10 Euro elections.)

February 15, 2003, was a historic date: tens of millions of people, all around the world, demonstrated to stop the war. Moreover, these unprecedented mobilisations show a strong political will to impose universal peace, justice, international solidarity and social equality on those in power. That day a new Europe was born. A rank and file Europe that is confronting the European Union and the ruling classes whose instrument it is.

The world of labour has remobilised. In almost every country the working classes have come out for demonstrations and strikes – sectoral, multi-sectoral and general. After Italy, Spain, Greece and France, which led the way, countries like Germany and Austria have shown an exemplary militancy and shaken Europe’s most powerful and monolithic trade-union bureaucracies. Agenda 2010 is running up against stubborn resistance; and Schröder, discredited, has had to give up the SPD presidency in order to save his party from defeats in future elections. The shock wave of the anti-war movement is still far from exhausted. Demonstrations in the streets, a year after Bush launched his war, have once again been very large, above all in Spain, Italy and Britain. They are continuing to have an impact on ‘official policies’. Contrary to all expectations, Bush’s friend Aznar was thrown out in parliamentary elections, thanks to a spectacular intervention by the people; the people took its revenge for Aznar’s flagrant defiance of their massive opposition to the war and his contemptible official lies. The conclusion is clear: the policy of ‘unlimited war’ and neo-liberal policies are unpopular and have been rejected.

Right-wing governments thrown out by popular vote are succeeded by centre-left governments that don’t break with neo-liberal and imperialist policies. The social strength of the anti-war movements and European Social Forum should extend onto the political terrain, in elections, and in the formation of a broad, pluralist, anti-capitalist political movement.

The June 2004 European elections will be an opportunity to fight for demands and proposals that the European global justice movement has fought for unceasingly: against the EU’s reactionary, undemocratic and anti-social constitution, against imperialist war and European militarism, for peace and general disarmament – starting in our own countries -against neo-liberal policies and for a social, anti-capitalist programme.

A decent life for all of us, in Europe and the rest of the world.

Social matters are the most important to the lives of millions of people. It is the priority: Each man and woman has the right to a stable, full-time job, a decent wage, unemployment benefits, sick pay, disability benefits or pensions, a house to live in, education and professional training and quality health services. And to enjoy and ameliorate those rights we need to recover all that has been taken from us during the last twenty years. This implies for sure a radical improvement of women’s position on all levels: social, political, legal and institutional. Moreover, environmental conditions are part of our well being. It is impossible to separate economic policy from the necessary criteria of sustained development, urban and rural planning, mobility and transport systems, rational use of natural resources, agriculture and food security.

In their struggle to maximize profit, employers and governments pretend that all that is impossible and unworkable. But since 1970, wealth created in the European Union (before enlargement) has doubled while population has not grown. It has been the ruling classes who have profited from the enormous leap forward of productivity (technical progress, longer and more intense work and restructuring of manufacturing systems). It will suffice to tackle this huge social inequality by distributing wealth to the working classes and breaking open and reorganising the public sector. We have to stop the growing privatisation of the biosphere, which subordinates our lives to capitalist profits.

If these conditions are fulfilled, then we can say: yes, our societies and economies can provide wealth for all of us.

Break away from the neoliberal system: People before profit!

The European Union has established an institutional framework through the Maastricht Treaty that imposes strict budget limitations. The European Central Bank has become the inflexible guardian of this orthodox neo-liberal monetarism. That kind of policy leads to drastic cuts in social expenditure and makes any alternative economic policy impossible. By pushing the mass of the population into poverty and squeezing the budget of the public and social sectors, they are trying to make privatisation unavoidable. In this way capital finds lucrative new fields for investment. Its objective is not economic growth but re-establishing its rate of profit. These economic policies and their institutional framework must be changed. We need to break the hard core of European neo-liberalism and suppress the Maastricht convergence criteria and the Stability Pact. Like the global justice movement, we support the Tobin-Tax as a step to attack neo-liberal capitalism and its international institutions, struggle against financial speculation and to favour a genuine social policy. We struggle in our countries and on a European scale for social equality through full employment, expansion of the public sector, social investment, a decent guaranteed minimum wage.

A peaceful Europe, against the European Super-State!

The Lisbon Summit in March 2002 adopted as its goal to become the strongest and most productive economy of the world as the European Union’s main objective! That can only happen if it strengthens its economic, monetary, technological, political, cultural, media and military capacities to confront the two other major world powers, the US and Japan. It means exploiting the countries in the periphery of the capitalist world system and the working classes that labour in the European Union.

For the first time, the ruling classes most identified with European construction have obtained some legitimacy from the European population by opposing the US ruling class, thanks to President Bush’s illegal and wild policies. However, we hold no illusions about what the European Union can do. Our position is: No to war! The European Union must renounce to the use of war as a way to intervene in international conflicts.

No support for US policies of permanent war and preventive military interventions. We are against its anti-terrorist war, whose first victims are our civil rights and freedoms! No to NATO! No to the new European militarism! Withdrawal of European imperialist military forces, whether they are under an EU flag or those of its member states! No to ‘humanitarian’ military operations! The Eurocorps and its special brigades must be dissolved!

All weapons of mass destruction – nuclear, chemical or biological – must be destroyed!

No to the creation and development of the European arms industry! End weapons exports! Close the existing military industries and reconvert them to civilian production!

Defend our democratic freedoms

The strategy of ‘unlimited war’ has been a powerful lever for attacking democratic freedoms and narrowing the space in which the popular masses can act. By creating a permanent atmosphere of uncertainty and fear, the ruling classes seek to force a choice on us: ‘to guarantee your safety, we have to reduce your freedom’. In the name of the struggle against terrorism, Bush has legalised state terrorism. And Sharon is right in step with him.

As early as September 2001, the EU had used ‘the struggle against terrorism’, not to attack terrorist groups that didn’t exist at the time in Europe. In fact it took the opportunity to outlaw trade-union, social, feminist, anti-racist and political movements and their public, democratic activities, which it can now call

offences internationally committed by an individual or a group against one or more countries, their institutions or people, with the aim of intimidating them and seriously altering or destroying the political, social or economic structures of a country.

Since then the EU has been strengthening the panoply of repressive means at a European level: the European arrest warrant, Europol, faster and more complete information exchanges, closer cooperation with the CIA, repression of immigrants, creation of spaces where the rule of law no longer exists, etc. – even though rivalries among member states’ state apparatuses are slowing down this operation. Capitalism is in difficulties. From below it is discredited and is once more being openly and massively challenged. At the same time it is restricting or even repressing movements and mobilisations.

Defending and extending threatened democratic freedoms is once more becoming imperative.

Defend immigrants, refugees and the right of asylum! Against Fortress Europe, against the far-right!

Millions of workers of both sexes around the world are victims of capitalist globalisation or repression by the state. They survive in steadily worsening conditions. Some of them try to cross the fortified borders and get illegally inside the imperialist fortress. The European Union has built such a fortress with its 1985 Schengen Agreement.

However, the European employers have since requested and obtained a selective legal immigration policy. It is applied according only to their needs for labour. Citizenship rights are denied to immigrants without protest to exclude them from social benefits as workers and taxpayers. As a result of these policies the human situation of these immigrant workers is unbearable. At the same time there is ruthless competition between the poorest sector of the native working classes and the new defenceless immigrants without rights. The far right and Nazi parties (and sometime also traditional parties of both right and left) profit from this latent conflict so as to encourage racism, xenophobia and hate.

We are in favour of the free movement of persons ! No to the Schengen Agreements! Equal citizen and labour rights for all immigrant workers! For quality social infrastructure and public services for all! We are against all forms of xenophobia and racism, whatever their origin or pretext! The working class movement has to struggle so that immigrants, both male and female, do not suffer any discrimination in wage levels or rights at work. It should be not only a political and social priority but also a moral one for the trade union and social movements.

We offer our solidarity to all those who have to demand asylum, who have to escape repression because their struggle for liberty, civil rights, freedom of conscience, democracy, their social or revolutionary convictions or simply a better life.

No to the anti-democratic Constitution of multinational Capital

The bourgeoisies are struggling to put an end to the inconsistencies of the EU state apparatus. This is the expressed will of the financial industrial oligarchy and the biggest imperialist states in Europe.

First, they need urgently a strong regime in the perspective of a European superpower. This apparatus is developing a semi-authoritarian democracy: the European executive (Council of Ministers, Commission, EC) is not elected on the European level and it dominates the Parliament, which is elected by universal franchise, putting the parliament under its tutelage. This process undermines all democratic rules and institutions.

Second, the Constitution sets the principles of today’s capitalism in stone: absolute priority to the market principle, protection of private ownership of the means of production and exchange, and even the current neo-liberal, monetarist policies. On the other hand, it excludes labour legislation, obligatory rules and norms, and inter professional (national) collective bargaining between trade unions and bosses from the European level. But, financial, monetary, commercial and economic policies are supported by a powerful centralized apparatus on the European level. This leads to ongoing competition between the working classes of the member states. It introduces an uninterrupted downward trend of all living and working conditions in all EU countries.

Third, it opens the way for and organises European militarism, an indispensable part of a European imperialism: the obligatory and systematic rise in military spending; organisation of a European armament industry; a continuing link with NATO while opening the gates for an autonomous European armed force; and integration in the “unlimited war on terrorism”.

Fourth, the reinforcement of the European executive bodies (European Commission, European Council, Inter-Governmental Conferences, ECB) worsens the democratic deficit. It is leading to more EU control over national state apparatuses, more control by the big member states of the smaller states, and the negation of ‘minor’ peoples by the national states. The undemocratic nature of the Constitution corresponds perfectly with the method which has been used to create it: behind closed doors, a harsh selection of reliable people led by ‘eminent statesmen’, and tight control by the big states.

One thing is certain: this constitution has nothing to do with the European peoples’ will ! For all these reasons, we are opposed to the EU constitution. It is illegitimate, undemocratic and profoundly anti-social ! It cannot be reformed. It can only be thrown out! In order to attain this objective we support the organization of the referendums.

We struggle for a different society and a different Europe, which will be social and democratic, ecologist and feminist, peaceful and in solidarity with the South. It is up to the peoples and nations of Europe to decide how and under which social and institutional principles they want to live together. We believe that all power must be in the hands of the sovereign peoples.

We recognise the right of the nations without states to determine their future, and we are in solidarity with the left forces that struggle in that direction, whatever our own political analysis may be. Since the electoral campaign coincides with the preparation behind closed doors of the constituent Inter-Governmental Conference, we will use this opportunity to denounce this pseudo-constitution and develop our alternatives.

Break with social-liberalism! Another Europe is possible!

Yes, but this will require an extraordinary mobilisation of all progressive forces. Governments are more fragile, but the EU has become, notwithstanding its repeated crises, a formidable imperialist force in today’s world It is a machine to destroy the social and democratic gains that the working classes have won in 150 years of battles.

This EU is in the first place the child of the bourgeoisie and its parties. But it could never have triumphed without the active collaboration of Blair, Schröder, Jospin, Felipe Gonzalez – that is to say European social democracy. They were in government for years. They dominated national governments and the EU leading bodies (Commission, European Council, even the ECB) at key moments. But instead of breaking with neo-liberalism they became social liberals themselves! Nothing suggests that have any intention of breaking with that policy.

We will not leave the neo-liberal, imperialist system in a gradual way. We need a radical political break and an alternative, anti-capitalist strategy and programme.

This struggle is in the hands of the other Europe, the Europe from below. This movement is growing and maturing through the anti-war demonstrations, social and ecological struggles, the citizens’ initiatives, the women’s mobilisations. It is progressing through the activists and the organisations: trade unions, peasant organisations, ecological groups, the movements of those ‘without’ (the jobless, homeless, undocumented, asylum seekers), anti-racist networks, academic and intellectual initiatives, Third World campaigns and NGOs.

The European Social Forum has created an extraordinary framework, democratic and unitary, a new movement of emancipation on a European scale.This social movement is already a force that counts for something. But it has to conquer the political field yet.

Under its pressure, the traditional trade union movements who for twenty years have fallen in line with the EU and its policies, have taken action again, but without developing, for the time being, a coherent strategy to reverse the tide and struggle for a strong social alternative.

Yes, another Europe is possible, but it depends on the radical forces involved – anti-capitalist and ecologist, anti-imperialist and antiwar, feminist and for citizenship, anti-racist and internationalist – whether they are ready to mobilise in the streets and at the ballot box, in struggles and elections. The alternative to capitalism is raising again its head: a socialist and democratic society, self-managed from below, without exploitation of labour or women’s oppression, based on sustainable development and opposed to the growth model that threatens the planet.

Brussels. 29 April 2004

Signatures:

  • Left Bloc (BE, Portugal)
  • Red Green Alliance (RGA, Denmark)
  • Scottish Socialist Party (SSP, Scotland, UK)
  • RESPECT-Unity List (England, Wales)
  • Socialist Workers Party (SWP,
    UK)
  • Revolutionary Communist League (LCR, France)
  • The Left (LG/DL, Luxemburg)
  • United and Alternative Left (EuiA, Catalonia, Spain)
  • Alternative Space (EA, Spain)
  • Coalition Radical Left (Greece).

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Aug 24 2004

Another Europe Is Possible

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 08RCN @ 2:23 pm

The Left and the Euro-elections Allan Armstrong assesses the state of the left in Europe after the Euro elections

A euro-sceptic SSP?

The SSP has in the past described its attitude towards Europe as pro-Europe; anti-EU. In the run up towards the Euro-elections, held on June 10th, Alan McCombes subtly shifted the emphasis stating, We are taking what some might call a eurosceptic stance(SSV 176). And certainly, nowhere else in this report of the SSP’s Euro-manifesto launch was there any mention that we stood on a joint Euro-election platform with other socialist parties and groupings in the EU. Our scepticism seemed to cover, not only the EU itself, its careerist MEPs and big business backers, but the whole of the Left, including our allies in the EACL! Although the EACL Manifesto is displayed on the SSP website, it went unannounced in the Party press. Now the RCN has consistently pushed for an ‘internationalism from below’ stance in the SSP, particularly in relation to fellow socialists and socialist republicans in England, Wales and Ireland. We have often received verbal assurances from the leadership, and won occasional written policy concessions, but have found it harder to penetrate the wall of indifference when it comes to practical proposals for greater unity throughout these islands.

Despite our continued support for the SSP as an independent organisation and our championing of it as the best model available for other socialists, such moves are still seen as a possible threat by the leadership to their ‘Scottish road’. Yet, on paper anyhow, the ISM, the majority platform in the SSP leadership, also claims to stress the international nature of our struggle and sees the highest point of internationalism as the building of a workers’ international (Aims of the ISM in Frontline).

However, this year’s SSP Conference, held in Edinburgh on March 27th and 28th, gave us the opportunity to put the ‘internationalism from below’ stance into a new, perhaps less threatening context, with the opportunity provided by the Euro elections on June 10th.

We put forward a motion which called for a joint platform {to} include:-

  • a) Opposition to the permanent war drive.
  • b) The expansion, not the erosion of human and civil rights internationally.
  • c) Support for asylum seekers and migrant workers and opposition to ‘Fortress Europe’.
  • d) Opposition to privatisation, labour flexibility and austerity drives.
  • e) Opposition to trade union/employer/state partnership deals.
  • f) Support for a more democratic and accountable Europe.

This motion was not opposed or even mildly criticised by the leadership or any other platform for that matter! It was passed with nobody voting against. The Conference gave our leadership a mandate to seek a common platform with our allies in the EACL. A common manifesto, which incorporated these demands, was indeed achieved on 29th April, at a meeting of the EACL held in Brussels. There are points in this much broader manifesto which could be questioned (such as the belief that capitalists can renounce war), yet, despite some weaknesses, the final manifesto was broadly consistent with SSP Conference policies – therefore, so far, so good.

Yet this joint manifesto wasn’t acknowledged in any subsequent Scottish Socialist Voice, or even the May/June Members’ Bulletin devoted to the Euro-elections, despite its promising headline, ‘Another Europe is possible’. The prospect of launching a genuinely internationalist election campaign, with visiting prominent speakers from our fraternal organisations in the EACL, was not considered. What is even more remarkable is that the very nationalist BNP did bring the well-known French fascist, National Front leader, Jean Le Pen, to address meetings in England and Wales in April for their election campaign. It’s a sad day when British nationalists show more ‘internationalism’ than Scottish (English or Welsh) socialists!

Therefore, with our leadership consciously placing the SSP in the euro-sceptic camp, it is not surprising that we found our message somewhat swamped. The voters were spoilt for choice amongst the eurosceptics. The UKIP fought with the Tories for the British chauvinist vote, characterised by The Times letter writer, ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’; and with the BNP for the xenophobic, Union Jack T-shirt wearing, lager swilling, British tourist abroad vote. Now Alan certainly wanted the SSP to distance ourselves from such “Union Jackwaving, Rule Britannia singing Great British supremacists” (SSV 176); but just how successful can you be, whilst simultaneously claiming to be part of what is a Right dominated euro-sceptic camp?

UKIP received more votes in Scotland than the SSP, despite it coming across as overwhelmingly English, white, male and middle class! Whilst, in the short run, UKIP probably thwarted BNP electoral growth (hindered both by its fascist politics and ‘British’ label in Scotland), the prominent media coverage given to UKIP and its policy of withdrawal from the EU enabled it to overcome its own electoral disadvantages. In a Euro election it helps if you have something distinctive to say about Europe – in contrast to UKIP the SSP’s European message was decidedly muffled.

Now, of course, the SSP did far better than UKIP in the Scottish Parliamentary elections last year, when we did have something distinctive to say about Scotland (as well as the war in Iraq). UKIP itself is unlikely to present a permanent political barrier for the SSP. It is a top-down creation, with few real roots, and many of its members see themselves as a pressure group on the Tories, rather than as a long term party. This would mean adopting a raft of other potentially divisive policies, causing a split, benefiting the Tories and the BNP.

Scottish euroscepticism

However, the backwash from the rising tide of euro-sceptism isn’t just confined to those who wave the Union Jack. Saltire wavers, particularly in the SNP, are feeling its impact too. For many years the SNP was pro-Europe. In the late 1970s Jim Sillars and Alex Neil, from the old SNP Left, persuaded the party to ditch its then anti-EEC stance and to adopt a policy of ‘Independence in Europe’. This was meant both to simultaneously neutralise Labour’s ‘separatist’ label for the party and to place the SNP clearly in the camp of European social democracy. This was at a time when there was a more distinctive European social economic model, compared to the rising Thatcher/Reagan neo-liberal juggernaut. The Left wing ‘79 Group, also attempted to reorientate the SNP away from its base in former Tory areas, particularly in the north east, to Labour areas, particularly in the Central Belt. This meant less emphasis on farmers, fishing boat owners and small manufacturers and more on the needs of workers and their families.

The SNP has clearly failed to make this switch, and with the growth of the SSP, especially in the west Central Belt, is even less likely to. As a consequence, the SNP has been forced back to its one-time Tory support of small businessmen – particularly in the fishing industry which has been gutted by the EU Common Fisheries Policy. As a consequence, anti-EU sentiment is once more on the rise in the SNP too. This is reinforced by political competition from the Tories (and even UKIP) as they bid to regain this Scottish small business vote. So, despite Alan’s blindspot, Euroscepticism, doesn’t just come dressed in the British red, white and blue; it can come in Scottish blue and white colours too.

It is within the Scottish nationalist wing of Euro-scepticism that the SSP is trying to raise its own banner. The pre-Euro election issue of the SSV (178), gave the most prominent place, not to our opposition to the war, but to ‘A community that still believes in cod’. Now there is certainly nothing wrong with having an article which highlights the devastating impact of government policy on a particular area – 20 years after the Great Strike, the plight of former mining communities springs to mind. Yet, some of the emphases in the article seem a little strange – the boat owner’s need for a handy £3.5 million– the cost of a white fish vessel; or he used to employ thirty people; he’s down to eight. It’s difficult to imagine that Keith Baldassara meets people with these kind of problems in his council surgeries in Pollok!

Yes, it is a strength of SSP policy that it covers areas not previously considered by socialists, showing we are serious about mounting a national challenge. But would a little more emphasis on employees, rather than employers, not be appropriate? Is the real political significance of the pre-election prominence given to this issue not more to do with establishing the SSP’s euro-sceptic credentials?

Retreats in the EACL in the face of rising liberal imperialism

However, it must be admitted that it wasn’t only the SSP which put the common EACL manifesto on the back burner. It would appear that all the major signatories retreated into running essentially national campaigns, with internationalism left at the level of rhetoric. This weakness showed itself even over the issue which should have been the EACL’s strength – opposition to the war in Iraq.

Everybody remembers the magnificent millions-strong international anti-war demonstrations held on February 15th 2003 (2/15). Yet, there was a decided paucity of international initiatives in 2004. The EACL could have called for coordinated demonstrations against the continued occupation and proposed ‘handover of power’ on the weekend before the June 10th Euro-election. Certainly these wouldn’t have been as big as the pre-war marches, but they could have captured the imagination of many who had been involved. Instead there was a myriad of small, locally organised demonstrations held over several days at the end of June.

EACL speakers at any European-wide coordinated rallies could also have highlighted the international list of MEP candidates being put forward by the various sponsoring organisations. Inviting speakers from other countries could have underlined this point. The supporters of the anti-war movement could have been offered the attractive prospect of a solid block of consistently anti-war MEPs. Furthermore, since socialists are in competition with the Greens for the radical youth vote, speeches and leaflets could have pointed out the Greens’ somewhat less than glorious ‘antiwar’ record where they have held office, particularly in Germany. If each national component of the EACL only contests its own particular Green adversary, then it is harder to highlight their shallow internationalism.

So the SSP’s retreat into a more narrowly nationalist euro-sceptic stance can be seen as part of an overall retreat by the Left in Europe since the heady days of 2/15. There can be little doubt that, despite its failure to prevent the war in Iraq, the international Left has put a decided dent in the Bush/ Blair neo-conservative imperial offensive. However, the long established imperial order has more than one string to its bow. Bush’s gung-ho, go-it-alone, you’re either with us or against us imperialism isn’t the only option. Imperialism can also adopt a liberal multilateral face, with a ‘humanitarian’ UN fronting the interests of the big players.

The spectacular ousting of Bush’s ally in Spain, Aznar’s Popular Party-led coalition, by the anti-war, centre PSOE, in the Spanish parliamentary elections held on March 14th, could spell the end of the neo-conservative ‘Coalition of the Willing’. PSOE leader, Zapatero, has honoured his promise to remove Spanish troops from Iraq, but has not ruled out the possibility of their returning as part of a UN controlled taskforce. Indeed Zapatero has considerably increased the Spanish forces in Afghanistan, whilst also sending civil guards to Haiti after the overthrow of Aristide.

On June 10th Berlusconi’s Forza Italia vote trailed behind the centre anti-war Olive Branch coalition in Italy, possibly putting the skids under this particularly corrupt media big businessman and politician. His close friend Tony Blair (holiday villa supplied) stumbles from crisis to crisis, unable to shake off New Labour’s unpopular pro-war stance.

Kennedy’s Liberal-Democrats have picked up votes from the ‘soft’ wing of the anti-war movement. The Liberal Democrats expressed no concern over the misery brought about by UN sanctions in Iraq before the war and were quick to give support to ‘our boys’ once the war started. And of course, US Democrat, Kerry’s Presidential challenge to Bush is gaining strength – fuelled by the growing resentment in the USA at being duped by the Republican neo-cons, highlighted by Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Kerry, who voted for the Iraq war, however, would use the multilateral links he advocates to step-up the antiterrorist offensive and would continue to support Sharon’s Israel!

Therefore imperial designs aren’t merely confined to the rapacious neo-con company executives backing Bush such as those of the omnipresent Halliburton Corporation. George Soros, multi-billionaire currency speculator, advocates an imperialism ‘with a human face’ in his latest book, The Bubble of American Supremacy – Correcting the Misuse of American Power. Precisely because of the huge impact of the anti-war movement, there has been growing support for the liberal imperialist strategy offered by various think-tanks. These compete with their neo-con counterparts for the ear of both politicians and company executives. The global corporations are showing growing signs of re-groupment around the liberal alternative to neutralise the impact of the anti-war and anti-globalisation movements.

The negative role of the old official Communist tradition

Perhaps the most significant indicator of this new liberal imperialist pressure on the Left in Europe was the decision made by the Italian RC not to join the EACL for the Euro-election campaign. RC was originally founded as a splinter from the old CPI, mainly as a result of the CPI’s disastrous support for the Blairite Olive Tree Coalition government which attacked workers in the 1990s. The pre-1989 CPI was heavily compromised too. Along with the old Spanish CP, its leadership was prominent in repositioning the Party in the camp of social democracy under the banner of Eurocommunism.

However, the forces of communism in Italy extended much further than the reformist Eurocommunist leadership. In Italy official Communism has a tradition which included armed partisan units during the Second World War. It was heavily influenced by the large revolutionary groups which grew outside its ranks in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Indeed many of their members were later drawn into the CPI’s ranks. Thus, having formally broken from the official Communist tradition, RC recently moved to the Left, pushed by the anti-war and anti-globalisation movements. Many were pleasantly surprised when RC adopted a new direction at its 5th Congress held in April 2002. The agreed perspectives, Opening and Innovation – Changing ourselves to transform society began with a stirring call.

It may just be that the world is now moving towards a situation in which a new beginning can be made in the revolutionary process, for a conscious commitment to the highest task imaginable for politics: the overcoming of the existing order, of capitalist society itself.

But then again, with the re-groupment of imperialists under a liberal banner, it may just not be that the world is immediately moving towards such new beginnings. Therefore, earlier this year, the RC leadership, without any consultation with the members, suddenly announced its support for a rapprochment with the forces of the Olive Tree Coalition, with the intent of removing Berlusconi’s neo-conservative Forza Italia-led government coalition in the 2006 parliamentary elections. Furthermore, the leadership declared its willingness to provide ministers in a government led by the centre-left! This government would most likely be led by Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

The SSP should note where the pressure for this dramatic U-turn came from in RC. RC had retained the support of some of the old CPI led trade unions and their leaders. These unions remained largely unreformed with leaders retaining extensive privileges. Their leaders are a major conservative force in the RC. At the first faltering signs of the anti-war offensive, they quickly reasserted their influence, effectively reversing the gains of RC’s 1992 Conference and sidelining the new younger antiwar, anti-globalisation activists. Therefore we in the SSP should see that breaking the trade union link with New Labour is not enough. The unions themselves need democratised and put under rank and file control; whilst their leaders should earn the average wage of the members they represent, if they are to join the SSP.

Perhaps not surprisingly then, with prospect of ‘ministerial opportunities’ in the air, the RC leadership didn’t sign the EACL manifesto (despite having attended earlier Conferences). It opted instead to form a new PEL, mainly around MEPs from the existing Euro-parliamentary bloc, the European United Left (GUE/NGL). This consists for the most part of representatives from the old official Communist Parties.

PEL also includes the CPE-dominated alliance, IU. Some of its Platforms have attended EACL Conferences. However, these represent minorities. Unlike the CPI, the old CPE long bore the scars of its defeat in the Spanish Civil War. Whilst it certainly played an important part in the subsequent anti-Franco resistance, this was along with others, who could justifiably claim just as prominent a role, not least the armed forces of ETA in Euskadi (the Basque Country). The leadership of the old CPE and newer IU often competed/s with the Right to be seen as the most avid supporter of ‘one Spain indivisible’. When the Madrid bombings occurred on March 11th, IU leader, Llamazares, supported Aznar’s attempt to blame ETA! Furthermore, like the CPI, the IU leadership had in the past given its support to anti-working class policies; only this time of the Gonzales-led PSOE government in the 1980s.

More influential still in PEL is the French Communist Party, with its own history of joining the antiworking class Mitterand-led Socialist Party government in the 1980’s. PEL also includes the German PDS, the made-over heir to the German Communist Party which ruled East Germany until 1989!

Quite clearly, the majority of the component parts of PEL see their current role as giving critical support to liberal imperialist politicians (hoping to push any newly elected centre-Left governments further Left with the presence of their own ministers!). This is how they intend to take up the fight against the neo-conservative imperialists. PEL has taken no distinctive position on the Euro-bosses’ proposed European Constitution for the EU. This leaves the door open for ‘critical support’ and joint work with its architects, particularly Romano Prodi! When IU invoked the slogan ‘Another Europe is possible’ for its Euro-election campaign its possible connotations were decidedly ambiguous.

The contraditions within the EACL and the need for a positive ‘internationalism from below’

However, if PEL is stumbling towards a policy of ‘critical support’ for the proposed EU Constitution then the EACL needs to go beyond its strident ‘No to the new European Constitution’ if it wishes to escape the embrace of the eurosceptic Right. The dangers are shown up most clearly in Denmark, where EACL affiliate, the Red-Green Alliance, failed to put up an independent candidate in the Euro-election, but joined the Popular Movement Against the EU, Folkebevgaelson, with same demand as the xenophobic right populist, Danish Peoples Party – ‘withdrawal from the EU’.

Ironically, the RGA’s standing MEP remained a member of the former official Communist Party bloc, GUE/NGL, in the Euro-parliament. In the guise of the new PEL, this now appears to be moving towards a greater acceptance of the EU. Meantime Denmark’s other eurosceptic alliance, the June Movement, Junibevaegelsen, previously led by the former Communist, left social democratic Socialist Peoples Party, has moved in the other direction. In the previous European Parliamant, Junibevaegelsen’s MEP, sat with UKIP in the parliamentary EED! But in the Euroelection they adopted the softer ‘Yes to Europe, No to the EU state’ stance and are moving towards support for a reformed EU, more green and peaceful, but nevertheless with a strong military arm for ‘peacekeeping’ and ‘humanitarian’ interventions!

The contradictory pressures on the Left can be seen quite clearly – towards accommodation with the pro-EU social democratic Left, or with the populist camp of opposition and withdrawal. The EACL needs to sharpen up its criticism of imperialism in both its contemporary forms – neo-conservative and liberal. This means adopting a critical attitude towards all those involved in the retreat towards the liberal imperialist camp, whether they be former Communists, left social democrats or Greens. However, the EACL, including the SSP, also has to be aware of the dangers of populism, particularly, but not solely, in the smaller nations of the EU. We must ensure that opposition to the designs of the Euro-bosses doesn’t lead us into the embrace of the anti-European Right populists.

The top-down, bureaucratically imposed, Bosses’ Europe offered in the proposed new EU Constitution has succeeded in pushing many voters into deep apathy, and others into the arms of racist and chauvinist nationalism. In contrast, the Liberal Democrats’ internationalism is designed to make things easier for the middle class vacationers in Tuscany or the Dordogne – hence their support for the euro. This isn’t the concern of the majority of workers. The Greens invoke their own woolly notion of internationalism – the ‘global village’. Yet most workers are acutely aware of the marked differences between the ‘desirable’ and ‘less desirable’ parts of every single city, town and even many villages we live in.

Our internationalism has to be real, grounded in the experience of a working class, increasingly employed directly or indirectly by global corporations, transported by private transport companies, housed in private estates, shopping in corporate retail parks and taking part in corporate-dominated leisure activities. Therefore, as well as attempting to build EU-wide campaigns and demonstrations in defence of workers’ immediate interests in the face of the continued employers’ offensive; as well as opposing the permanent imperialist war drive under whatever guise, the EACL needs to project its alternative vision for Europe. As a minimum, this means calling for a European Constituent Assembly linked to other democratic, economic, social, environmental and cultural demands. We can then have a tactical debate over whether to vote ‘No’ or mount an abstentionist campaign in any country holding a referendum on the proposed constitution.

We shouldn’t be euro-sceptic, we should be genuinely pro-Europe. However, we don’t accept the bosses’ EU. We believe another Europe is possible. That Europe is socialist. The SSP needs to play a more active part in ensuring this dream becomes a reality. We need to pursue an active strategy of ‘internationalism from below’. Yes, this means we will need to take on all those advocates of bureaucratic internationalism, even within the EACL and amongst the British socialist sects. However, a go-it-alone, separatist strategy will only store up problems for the future. Any serious moves to enhance workers control of society in Scotland will be met with strong opposition from the British, EU and US ruling class. We need all the allies we can get in the here and now.

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Mar 02 2004

The Declaration of the Anti-Capitalist Left

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 07RCN @ 3:15 pm

The Republican Communist Network will be putting a motion to the SSP conference calling for the Anti-Capitalist Left to make a united challenge in the forthcoming Euro-elections. The Declaration of the Anti-Capitalist Left, printed below, was agreed in Paris, on November 10-11th, 2003.

Europe: A different Europe is possible! A different European Left is necessary!

For the first time in 20 years, a counter-offensive has been launched to stop the disasters that are threatening us: war, neo-liberal policies, and ecological catastrophe.

Millions of workers, men and women, young and old, organised in a multitude of grass-roots movements, trade unions and parties or simply unorganised people, have, by the hundreds of thousands or even millions, occupied the streets and launched massive strikes, sometimes paralysing the state machinery. In the space of three years, the atmosphere has changed. A different world is possible.

In Genoa in July 2001, they tried to crush our movement with fierce repression; but the movement survived and bounced back. In November 2002 60,000 young and not-so-young people from the whole of Europe converged on Florence to lay the foundation stones of a new European social movement. The next day a million demonstrators launched a warning to our rulers: no war! Hands off our rights! Three months later, on February 15, 2003, there were tens of millions of us around the world fighting to stop the barbarism of war. Last year in Florence and this year in Paris/St.Denis, the European Social Forum is providing an organised form, social cohesion and a political direction to this extraordinary explosion of energy and creativity. This planetary uprising for universal peace took on the character in Europe of a continent wide plebiscite: facing the EU, people voted for a different Europe, from below, founded on a revolt of the exploited and oppressed in all the member countries. European big capital has made no mistake about it: its attacks have redoubled in all the member countries and on every front, despite this strong, increasingly coherent opposition.

No to the multinationals’ constitution! Yes to a different Europe – a peoples’ Europe, democratic, social and peaceful!

Fifteen governments are about to impose a constitution from behind closed doors on 450 million people! The so-called Convention – a select club operating behind closed doors – has taken the place of a constituent process, based on a mandate coming out of the sovereignty of the peoples of Europe. This is a break with the entire parliamentary tradition that had grown up since the democratic revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries!

Instead of the Social Europe they promised us, they are imposing a European Power on us, founded on wars (the 1991 war on Iraq, the Balkan wars throughout the 1990s, the new US war) and economic conquest (the fall of the USSR and then Eastern Europe).

We say no to this EU constitution and no to this neo-liberal EU. This constitution is dangerous.

First, it consecrates the absolute primacy of the market; it legally forbids any infringement of private property or market relations. It refuses to give legal status to social gains that have been won on the national level through a century and a half of workers’ struggles: basic social rights, laws on working conditions, labour contracts, trade-union presence and intervention within workplaces, the right to strike, freedom of association…. While it centrally supports and institutionalises the functioning of capital, it leaves labour standards decentralized on the national level and makes them obsolete at the European level! This will lead to systematic, no-holds-barred competition among the wage earners of the different member countries and within each country.

Second, budgetary constraints (institutionalised in the Maastricht criteria) will drastically reduce social benefits and hamstring public economic policy. With this as the starting point, systematic privatization of public services and social security will become inevitable, because public services will be unaffordable. Industrial and financial capital will thus gain a vast, very lucrative playing field. The super-rich will get richer. Working people – workers, youth, the unemployed and casualised, women, immigrants, etc. – will pay the price. In the past 50 years, social inequality has never been as great as now.

Third, the constitution confirms the EU’s semi-despotic, undemocratic character. The real political power remains in the hands of the governments (the European Council) and to a lesser extent the Commission. The European Central Bank is totally independent, functions in total opacity, and is accountable to no one. The European Parliament is not comparable to national parliaments: it doesn’t legislate, adopt the budget, or choose the executive. The constitution doesn’t recognise the multinational character of the member states that deny the right to self-determination of the nations without states, in the name of the territorial integrity principle. Admittedly, the EU is a complex structure. But one thing is clear: power in the EU does not emanate from the citizens or peoples, but from governments! That’s the world upside down! Fourth, the constitution does not recognise citizenship rights, including the right to vote, for citizens of a third country residing in a member state.

Finally, the constitution legally obliges the EU and its member countries from now on to reinforce their military capabilities and act in close cooperation with NATO. This legal obligation will be a bonanza for the military-industrial complex. This is the road to European-style militarism. The European defence that France, Britain and Germany are pushing for confirms their political will and shows the space they want to occupy: inside the imperialist system, alongside the USA.

We say no to this Europe; we struggle for a different Europe: social and democratic, ecological and feminist, peaceful and in solidarity.

Nobody and no organisation that claims to be on the left can agree with the contents of this constitution. Yet European social democracy and the Green parties have already taken sides: their response will be yes. True, they say, it’s all far from perfect, but it’s the lesser evil and we can improve it.

The responsibility of the European social democratic Parties

They put forward three justifications to make us swallow this bitter pill: the EU is an advance over the past, so therefore undermining it means falling into nationalism, European wars, etc.; the EU and particularly the European Commission are defending the communitarian dimension of Europe, therefore they’re helping the European trade-union movement; and the EU must become an economic and political and therefore military force in the world so as to provide a counterweight to the United States. This lesser evil is eating away at politics like a cancer.

In its name, the social democratic parties have swallowed the European bosses’ neo-liberal programme and the EU’s steady backwards march. Applying this program on the governmental level has led to the deep demoralisation of the world of labour and the trade union movement. The social democratic parties are profoundly discredited because of the loss of the popular layers in society. This leads us to reject entry into a government with social democracy on the basis of their neo-liberal program.

The social democratic parties have not even tried to stop this infernal machine, prevent the neo-liberal counter-reform and block this undemocratic European apparatus. They have not even tried to achieve unity in action with the ETUC and mobilise on a European scale. It would have been easy for them, especially since at the decisive moment for the EU in the late 1990s social-democratic parties were running 12 out of the 15 governments and dominated the main EU institutions (the Commission and Council). Today, in opposition, the social democratic parties are trying to erase their recent balance sheet. But the world of labour, women, young people, immigrants and the rest of us haven’t forgotten the pain that the social democrats have inflicted on us. Blair and Schröder, still in power today, are around to remind us what their true social democratic policies are. The largest Green parties have chosen that road. Joschka Fischer, German Minister of Foreign Affairs and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a key player in the European Parliament, struggle to align all the Green parties behind the neoliberal constitution and the European superpower.

Rebirth of social and labour movements

The global justice movement has broken this 20-year-old impasse, creating a left alternative and a perspective for liberation. A new political generation is mounting the barricades. In the last few years in countries including Italy, France, Britain, Greece and Spain, millions of workers and young people have marched shoulder to shoulder in antiwar mobilizations and workers’ struggles. This movement, international from the beginning, has quickly become a reference point in society and a rallying point for a multitude of social forces and organizations. It has given birth to a worldwide antiwar movement on a scale never seen before. At the same time, in Florence, it laid the foundations of a new European social movement. Today the ESF is on the threshold of a convergence with the world of labour in the rich countries by taking up two fundamental social issues: the exploitation of labour and the oppression of women.

Compared with the EU, bosses and ruling classes, most of the leadership of the traditional trade union movement is lagging worryingly behind, in particular the European Trade Union Confederation. Where are the European gatherings, the European responses, the European action programmes, the European actions and strikes and the European strategy that we need to resist the transnational, internationally organised bosses? Why was there no European strike against the war when all the peoples of Europe were taking to the streets of London, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Amsterdam and Madrid on February 15? How can we fight to win this different Europe?

We will need a new mass social movement, a profound renewal of the trade-union movement and a new citizens’ movement to fight the key upcoming battles.

The 2004 European elections

The EU constitution is an issue concerning us all. But the EU is doing everything to avoid the only true test: letting the peoples of Europe decide about Europe! Some governments are even too scared to hold a referendum!

In reality the EU is staking everything on the June 2004 European elections so as to smuggle its project through. We say: what petty grafters!

We will transform the June 2004 European elections into a huge mobilizing campaign against the EU’s reactionary and regressive constitution and for a different Europe; against neo-liberal policies and for an anti-capitalist programme; against imperialist war and European militarism and for peace and general disarmament, starting out in our own countries. Country by country, we aim to provide a strong anti-capitalist alternative which is broad and pluralistic, in order to fight for the European social movement’s demands and perspectives.

Yes, we can have a different Europe – if all the social forces that have mobilised these last four years fight for their demands and programmes in the streets and at the ballot box, through mobilisations and elections.

For the first time in 25 years a huge oppositional, internationalist, anti-capitalist milieu is emerging on a world scale, to different extents in different countries. Nobody and no political party is capable of co-opting or manipulating this proud, conscious force. Yet the fear of being co-opted and manipulated is there. The best way to ward off the danger is to seize political space, and make a collective intervention in the battle during these elections based on the social movement’s central demands, which have already been brought to life in the European Social Forum. Otherwise we risk an absurd outcome: while the social movement fights on the ground, the traditional parties of the neo-liberal left walk off with the political conclusion.

We need a different European Left! We need a new political force: anti-capitalist and European

Faced with the traditional Right, which is increasingly aggressive and reactionary, faced with a far Right that is racist and a threat to democratic freedoms, and faced with a social-liberal Left that is totally devoted to the policies of the ruling classes, we need a political alternative that takes up the aspirations of the social, anti-capitalist left. It’s up to the tens of thousands of men and women, young people and old, workers and citizens engaged in the movement and mobilizations to build this new anti-capitalist force for the radical transformation of society. Nobody else can do it in their place. Giving up on the job out of inertia, suspicion, hesitance or incomprehension would mean giving a green light to endless reruns of social-liberalism – which would be a disaster. We have to work together on a radical, unitary and pluralist basis.

The European Anti-Capitalist Left wants, without arrogance, to make a contribution to this project. We are not something different from the social left; we are an integral part of the social left. We have been in the social movement and global justice movement from the start, building it and strengthening it.

Our project reflects the different motivating forces inspiring the social movement: anti-capitalist and ecologist, anti-imperialist and antiwar, feminist and grass-roots, anti-racist and internationalist. As an alternative to capitalism, we seek a socialist, democratic society, self-managed from below, without exploitation at work or oppression of women, founded on sustainable development as opposed to a growth model that threatens the planet. As a strategy, we have a social orientation, very concerned with working people’s daily lives: we demand a stable, full-time job, a living wage, a liveable social benefit in case of unemployment, sickness, disabling conditions or retirement, the right to housing, education and professional training and quality health care, for everyone. This requires undoing neo-liberal policies and breaking with capitalism: (re)developing public services, recasting government budgets and redistributing wealth from capital to labour. In short, in order to reach our social objectives we propose to take all necessary anti-capitalist measures, including replacing private property with social property.

Only a new political and social force on a massive scale across the European continent will be able to impose our social demands and realise our hopes for a better world.

A different Europe is possible, but a different European Left is necessary.

The following organisations signed this Declaration in Paris, on November 10-11, 2003:

  • Scottish Socialist Party (SSP, Scotland)
  • Red Green Alliance (RGA, Denmark)
  • Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire (LCR, France)
  • Left Bloc (BdE, Portugal)
  • Socialist Alliance (SA, England)
  • Socialist Workers Party (SWP, England)
  • Socialist Party (SP, Ireland)
  • Socialist Party (SP, England)
  • The Left (LG/DL, Luxemburg)
  • Alternative Space (EA, Spain)
  • Zutik (Basque Country)
  • United and Alternative Left (EUiA, Catalonia)
  • Solidarities (S-S, Switzerland)
  • Party of Liberty and Solidarity (ÖDP, Turkey)

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Aug 05 2002

You are the weakest link! The SSP Special Conference, the Left & the No to the Euro Campaign

Category: Emancipation & Liberation,Issue 03RCN @ 12:50 pm

Allan Armstrong (RCN), mover of the active boycott motion assesses the SSP Special Conference

How the debate was handled

The SSP SC on June 22nd, voted by a 4-1 margin to campaign for a no vote when Tony Blair finally decides to set the date for the Euro referendum. An extended morning session was given over to the debate. After some worrying moments, when it looked as if the Chair was going to rig the order of speakers; it became clear that she had made a genuine mistake and the debate was then handled very fairly. Equal time was given to those advocating a ‘no’ position and those wanting an active boycott campaign.

Active boycott motions came from independent Nick Rodgers of the Maryhill branch and from ourselves, the Republican Communist Network, through the Edinburgh South branch. Both were minority motions. The wider support for these motions came from independents. The only other organisations which gave support were the marginal CPGB and AWL, neither of which are directly affiliated SSP Platforms. They primarily intervene through the Workers Unity Platform, which appears to have a semi-detached relationship towards the SSP without regular meetings.

How the no camp presented their case

How was such an obviously sound proposal as an active boycott campaign well defeated at the Conference? The delegate numbers were both smaller and the composition was much more weighted to Platform members compared to the earlier SSP conference in Dundee. By far the greatest number of delegates came from the combined ISM, SWP and CWI Platforms, who all supported a no position. They could also count on the prominent support of Gordon Morgan of the ISG (which hasn’t registered as a Platform) and probably any delegates from an old orthodox CPGB or left Labourist trade union background.

The case coming from the no camp was very routine, and with the exception of the attempt to misrepresent and rubbish the very notion of an active boycott, hardly made any reference to the arguments advanced by ourselves. It was rather as if the no speakers from their various Platforms were repeating the particular arguments advanced in their own prior meetings. Here they wouldn’t have heard or had to deal with opposing positions.

As the debate progressed, Alan McCombes, SSV editor, shrewdly observed the growing problem for the leadership, the ISM and the no coalition. The no speakers had failed to deal with the arguments proposed by active boycott side. Independents were drifting our way. Therefore Alan joined the debate with his own clever manoeuvre. He pointed to a division in the active boycott camp, highlighted by former Labour MEP, Hugh Kerr’s intervention on our side.

Now certainly, until then, we had thought that Hugh, along with Allan Green, were supporters of a yes to the euro position. And it is indeed a rare occasion when Hugh is found voting for RCN proposals! We don’t know whether Hugh, who spoke to, or Allan, who voted for the active boycott, made a purely tactical decision, due to the almost complete absence of support for a yes vote within the SSP ranks. Maybe they were genuinely convinced by our arguments on this issue. Hugh didn’t use his intervention on our side to inveigle a yes position into the debate, so we genuinely welcomed his support. However, Alan McCombes hinted that Hugh was being more Machiavellian. Therefore the active boycott position was really a stalking horse for a yes campaign. And of course, Hugh, who is such a useful left Labour icon to the ISM, when it comes to presenting the SSP as the new old Labour Party to the wider public; is also a useful Aunt Sally for the ISM and others, when they need to brush up their re-re-revolutionary credentials for internal debates!

Divisions in the no camp

It was actually the no camp which was publicly split on the day. The motion from the Dumfries branch wanted to confine the no campaign to the shortest possible period. Now, John Dennis, leading Dumfries activist, has always preferred fighting on economic issues and is suspicious of politicking. Yet, you could sense John’s political fear that the SSP‘s no campaign wouldn’t be the only no show in town. If we campaigned too publicly or too long, we would be associated with some very nasty people. So, quickly in with a special issue of the SSV, a press statement, a few public meetings for sympathisers and then, quickly out before the Tories (or worse) showed up!

Yet it was another motion which got passed on the day which is likely to open up further divisions in the no camp. This was the motion which pledged the SSP to join with others in the fight against the euro. Gordon Morgan, the proposer of the main no motion was obviously worried about the charge the RCN had made in the pre-conference debate against the no camp. This was that any Left no campaign would get subsumed in a much larger Right no campaign and have the effect, as in Denmark, of increasing their – not our political strength.

Gordon emphasised that his proposed anti-euro alliance would only include anti-racist and internationalist groups. At this stage it wasn’t clear which particular no campaign was being proposed. However, in the pre-SC SSV, John Foster advocated a no vote on behalf of the Scottish Democracy Against the Euro campaign. Interestingly, this campaign didn’t officially come into existence until after our SC! It was launched at a press conference held in Glasgow’s City Halls on June 26th. Speakers here included Labour MP, Ian Davidson, Labour MSP, John McAllion, Labour former MEP, Alex Smith, Jane Carolan from the UNISON Executive and Arthur West from Kilmarnock Trades Council. The only political organisation which had affiliated was the Scottish Green Party. However, the SSP National Council, held in Glasgow on August 25th, voted to join.

Now this new affiliation wasn’t reported in the next issue of the SSV, so we have no public statement of the distinctive political position which the SSP leadership wants to put across, nor even of the proposed united front platform which will keep the campaign untarnished by the Right. But to give Gordon (and the SSP leadership) the benefit of the doubt, we can look to the Scottish Green Party news release which declared its own affiliation to Scottish Democracy Against the Euro.

It is important to stress that we Greens are pro-European, but anti- Euro. You don’t have to be a little englander to oppose the single currency – indeed its important for those campaigning for world-wide social justice to stand up to the Euro. We oppose this single currency, not because we want to save the pound, but because we believe the economic logic of the monetary union rides roughshod over our key social and economic concerns.

I don’t it think it would be misrepresenting Gordon to state that he could endorse this statement. Indeed the statement is principled. However, it is also politically naive. If the Scottish Democracy Against the Euro campaign also involves the political forces represented by John Foster, then such internationalism can not be taken for granted. John Foster is a member of the CPB. Along with its sister party, the Communist Party of Scotland, which operates out of the same Glasgow office block, the CPB has long been a supporter of the Scottish Campaign Against Euro-Federalism and its predecessors.

Linking up with the Right

These latter-day, stalinist-initiated campaigns have a long history of working with the Tory Right and other Right populists. When it became clear that the incoming New Labour government of 1997 was likely to push for greater integration with the EU, and for the euro in particular, a Congress for Democracy was organised on the 18th December in 1998. As well as long-standing Labour anti-EU Rightists, Austin Mitchell  MP and Lord Peter Shore, such staunch advocates of democracy as the Tories Michael Portillo, Bill Cash and David Heathcote-Amory, Business for Sterling, the Campaign for an Independent Britain, Sovereign Britain, the UK Independence Party and the Campaign for an Independent Guernsey (!) joined in opposition to the euro with representatives from the Morning Star, the Socialist Campaign Group (Labour Party), Scottish Democracy and the Green Party (it appears that the Scottish Greens’ southern partners aren’t quite so careful in the company they keep!)

That many of these organisations are openly hostile to workers’ aspirations is a mild understatement. That many of these organisations are union jackwaving, pro-imperialist, pro-monarchist, chauvinist nationalists is also well known. The only far right organisations specifically excluded were the fascist BNP and National Front. However, the links between the Tory Right, the populist Right and the fascists are well documented. These were recently highlighted by the BNP leader, Nick Griffin’s Tory father affair! So, although the Tory and populist Right diplomatically went along with the fascist Right’s exclusion from the Congress for Democracy, they are very unlikely to feel so constrained, when the much larger Right-initiated no umbrella organisations start up – particularly now that the BNP can offer significant votes in certain parts of England. The BNP is consciously trying to distance itself from German Nazism, preferring to emphasise its union jackwaving, British nationalism to make rapprochement with the Tory hard Right still more likely.

The flawed record of official and orthodox Communism

When the Labour Government held a referendum in 1975 over membership of the EEC, the then official Communists (still united in the Moscow-franchised CPGB) took a leading part in Britain in trying to organise the Left and trade unionists to vote no. Originally Gordon claimed that, since this political stance coincided with a period of great working class militancy across Europe, then clearly such a campaign didn’t undermine or split the working class. Nothing could be further from the truth and it is rather surprising that Gordon resorted to such an argument. If he were to look at the arguments then used by his own orthodox Trotskyist tradition, he would see the emphasis quite rightly placed on official Communism’s role in massively demobilising the major working class offensive of the time.

Furthermore, the promotion of chauvinist division within the working class and of nationalist unity with the Right was very much part of this. Many of the no to the EEC public meetings were held in CP-controlled Trades Councils. They were often adorned with union jacks and included Tories as platform speakers. This coincided with the period when the new Labour government was trying to promote wage restraint under a Social Contract with the trade union bureaucracy. The complicity of such prominent anti-EEC trade union leaders as the AEU‘s Hugh Scanlon in the demobilisation of workers’ action was justified by the need to defend a Labour government in the national interest. This was also the period when the Labour government, aided and abetted by anti-EEC Labour Party figures, was brutally suppressing resistance in Northern Ireland and upholding the Union, once more under the union jack. When Gordon downplays these dangers is he telling us that he will turn a diplomatic blind eye to our new Scottish Democracy Against the Euro allies’ anti-European, pro- British and sometimes pro-Scottish nationalist politics?

Right and Left linked

Therefore, despite Gordon’s undoubtedly sincere plea for an independent workers’ campaign, the reality is that there will be a linked continuum right across the political spectrum. The SSP joins Scottish Democracy Against the Euro, which includes members of the Scottish Campaign Against a Federal Europe, which promotes links to the Congress for Democracy, which has representatives from the most likely contender for the official No campaign – Business for Sterling’s Europe Yes, Euro No, which the Euro-sceptic right-wing Freedom Association wishes to join and which is not averse to working with the BNP. Which of the interconnected cogs will determine the direction of this political movement? Quite clearly you need to know the balance of forces involved.

In Scotland the lack of an immediate political threat from far Right populists and fascists can lead to a wrong assessment of the balance of class and political power within the UK state – and it is worth emphasising any euro referendum will be conducted throughout the UK. However, if you look to England, it is quite obvious that the Left there (which includes the anti-Euro ISM, Socialist Party and the ISG) is weaker than both the populist and fascist Right (the Tory hard Right, the UK Independence Party, the BNP and NF). Even if the political battle for the leadership of any proposed no campaign was to be confined to these Left and Right forces, the most likely victor would be the Right. This is exactly what happened to the Danish Green-Red Alliance when it lost out heavily to the Right populist Peoples Party, when it campaigned against the euro.

However, the situation is much more dangerous in the UK because significant sections of pro-imperialist, US-orientated big business, represented by the Tory mainstream, are also opposed to the euro being extended to the UK. Unlike the Tory hard Right they aren’t necessarily anti-EU (even Thatcher approved the Maastricht Treaty), or even anti the euro for the rest of the EU, since The City currently makes massive profits acting as an offshore bank handling the euro currency, just as the Isle of Man (and Guernsey?!) does for the UK sterling. This will be the principal force behind Business for Sterling’s Europe yes. Euro no campaign.

And all the indications are that the business-led Business for Sterling is the central cog which will determine the direction of the others. The Eurosceptic, left initiated, Congress for Democracy and the Eurosceptic right wing Freedom Alliance, have both declared they will water down their anti-EU stance to concentrate on the euro. This doesn’t mean there wont be a well-financed, ultra-chauvinist, openly anti-EU campaign. Multi-millionaire Paul Sykes intends to spend £5M on this. Whilst some no campaigners will no doubt be happy to see clear blue water between the two main campaigns, there will still be blue land on either shore – with Tories on both no sides.

The notion that the SSP‘s distinctive politics will stand out clearly against the media barrage from all these Right forces is very unlikely. If the media bother to report us at all, they will add us as the last line in reports of the large Right controlled campaigns. To make any impact we need to be saying something distinctive. Even in Scotland, mainstream Tories still represent a larger political force than the SSP. Although they don’t make much impression in Scottish or Westminster parliamentary politics, precisely because of this weakness, many ordinary members now resort to independent populist campaigns – such as the homophobic Keep The Clause (Section 28/Clause 2A) and the Countryside Alliance. At the UK level the Tories remain her majesty’s loyal opposition, still a significant, if ailing, political force. They will also be able to call on major sections of the press, particularly Rupert Murdoch, to support them.

Those SSP SC delegates who argued for a no position made no attempt to deal with the political nature of the wider opposition to the euro. Nor did they even consider the likely balance of forces involved. Yet, reality tends to assert itself even if unconsciously. It is quite clear that nobody in the no camp believes that Scottish Democracy Against the Euro can win control of the wider no movement. For neither in the motion, nor in the arguments put forward, was the only logical political aim advanced if such a winning scenario is envisaged. If the SSP and wider Left are to take the political spoils on the morning after a majority no vote in the referendum, then they must be ready to form a workers’ government and nationalise the banks! Otherwise, the morning after, it will still be Sir Eddie George, governor of the Bank of England, appointed by Chancellor Gordon Brown, in full charge. He is no more accountable to the people of these islands than the head of the European Central Bank. He answers to The City (and Wall Street). George and his full-time officials have already declared their neutrality in any referendum debate, a considerable weakness for Blair’s Britain in Europe yes campaign.

The situation elsewhere in these islands

Furthermore, despite Gordon’s advocacy of an internationalist campaign, he doesn’t appear to have considered the even stronger position of the Right in England and Northern Ireland. If Gordon’s ISG comrades in England also have their heads in the sand, how about their comrades in Socialist Democracy in Ireland? The overwhelming political support for anti-euro politics in Northern Ireland comes from the forces of reaction – both wings of the Ulster Unionist Party, the Democratic Unionist Party and the loyalist PUP (and if they give it a political thought between their ongoing pogroms, the paramilitaries in the UVF, UDA and LVF too). Now of course, the nationalist Sinn Fein is also opposed to the EU – on paper. In practice, Sinn Fein knows that the EU is popular amongst the wider nationalist constituency and therefore confines its opposition to particular issues – such as the Nice Treaty (this threatens Irish neutrality – and also the large EU subsidies to Irish farmers!) Sinn Fein, however, was remarkably quiet when the euro replaced the Irish punt last January. Indeed, during the first few days of the euro’s introduction to Ireland, the nationalist response on the ground in Belfast seemed to be to get the Irish-faced euro coins circulating as quickly as possible as an alternative to British coins!

Socialist Democracy’s response to the result of the Irish Nice Treaty referendum was much cooler than the politics of their mainland ISG colleagues would suggest. This was despite an embarrassing political defeat for Fianna Fail government and a considerable increase in Sinn Fein’s electoral credibility. This is because Socialist Democracy comrades have been through a major internal debate to overcome their one-time overly uncritical attitude to the politics of the Republican Movement. They inherited this initial attitude from the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, which has always tended to tailend left nationalist forces – a tendency known as Pabloism to aficionados of internal Trotskyist politics. Pabloism like its Stalinist competitors dresses up left nationalism in socialist colours. Now, if Gordon thinks through the logic of his politics he should be calling for Socialist Democracy to approach Sinn Fein for a united no campaign against the euro. Remember the need to maximise the no vote across the UK! Yet what happens if the CWI‘s Socialist Party (6 Counties) invites the PUP to any proposed no campaign? Maybe the joint no campaign could hold meetings under the union jack and the tricolour – but don’t ask for any delegates from east Belfast’s Short Strand!

The changed political situation in Scotland

Despite Gordon’s still tentative support for Scottish nationalism, he doesn’t appear to have considered the important political shifts on the issue of Europe since 1975. Then the SNP joined with the largely Labour Left in supporting withdrawal from the EEC in 1975. This helped to contribute to the significantly larger no vote in Scotland, 42% compared with 33% in the UK as a whole. Nowadays the SNP is almost as pro-EU as the Liberal Democrats. One consequence of the SNP‘s pro-EU stance today, is that there may now be greater support for the euro here than in the wider UK. Now, if Gordon thinks that Scotland showed its lefter credentials in 1975 by voting no to the EEC in greater proportion, then what would a proportionally smaller no to the euro vote in Scotland next year represent politically?!

This political change in Scotland is one reason why Allan Green and Hugh Kerr would prefer to link up with Alex Neill on the SNP left in a more pro-European campaign. Alex Neill has also been an ally of Tommy Sheridan in the Scottish parliament. Interestingly, Tommy has remained very quiet over the Euro!

The problem the nationalist Left has, is highlighted by the SSP‘s SRSM. Do they support the no campaign advocated by the Independent Socialist Scotland ISM leadership, despite their justified fear of union jacks being given a new lease of life; or do they follow the SNP into the yes camp, where blue saltires are likely to be found in greater number, but still overshadowed by Britain in Europe’s union jacks! The SRSM have not been able to solve this great conundrum, since their delegates abstained at the Glasgow special conference. Yet Gordon could still find an anti-EU Scottish nationalist wing, although not a very reassuring one. It is ideologically dominated by the self-declared, ultra-nationalist, ethnicist, militarist Siol nan Gaidheal (Seed of the Gael), with its black saltires.

An internationalism without substance

Yet there was a further weakness at the Special Conference. Gordon’s pre-SC paper advocated a campaign that could call local meetings and regional and national rallies with labour movement speakers from Scotland, England, Wales, from other European countries and from Africa, Asia and South America. This seems to highlight the internationalist connections needed by any genuine socialist campaign. Yet, on the day of the SC (in contrast to the earlier conference) there were no official representatives from any of these places – not our European socialist allies, nor even the Socialist Alliance in England.

There was no shortage of internationalist rhetoric from the SWM at the SC . Speakers punctuated their contributions with regular references to the brilliant anti-capitalist movement, the brilliant demonstrations in Genoa and Barcelona, and of course, the brilliant Globalise Resistance. Yet, they too failed to use their national influence in the SSP to push for international speakers on the day. One possible reason for the failure to invite international speakers, is that many other European socialists don’t support the Brit Left’s anti-euro stance – seeing it as an accommodation to reactionary British nationalism. Whilst SSP,  ISM and SWP delegates now regularly attend various European socialist forums it just doesn’t seem to have occurred to them to seek political support for their anti-euro stance. Is this because they know they may face a political challenge from bigger political forces? – better leave the no campaign as a purely British or Scottish affair!

Blair’s real political game

Speaker after speaker for the no position argued that Blair was pushing the euro so that he could impose the Maastricht Treaty convergence criteria in the UK in order to cut public spending and open up the way for further privatisation. This reveals a completely wrong understanding of the reason behind Blair’s pro-euro stance. The UK, under Thatcher, Major and Blair, has gone further with and met the convergence criteria earlier than any other EU member country. Blair wants to join the euro, to put himself at the centre of a political alliance with Berlusconi and Aznar, the better to roll back the more advanced social provision existing in the EU. This provision is codified in the Social Chapter, but in reality only implemented where workers are well organised – particularly in Italy and France. The idea that there still remain better working conditions to defend over here is a bad joke.

Therefore the starting point of any genuine internationalist campaign is solidarity support for those millions of Italian workers who struck earlier this year to protect workers’ rights in smaller workplaces; and those workers in Spain who struck against pension cuts. The European Socialist left needs to draw up its own wider Workers’ and Social Charter and organise a series of massive international demonstrations against Blair/Berlusconi/Aznar and the Eurobosses in each of their capital cities. If the SSP throws its weight behind a no to the euro campaign this not only isolates us from our class’s main fighting forces in Europe. It also makes it harder to distinguish us from all the Right populist and fascist forces in Europe who oppose the euro.

The political preconditions for a successful campaign, which will emphasise the rights of workers and the oppressed, is a refusal to take sides with either wing of capitalism represented in the yes and no camps. This means an active boycott campaign. This was the one idea which many nos tried to pour scorn on. There were two main responses. The first was to deliberately misrepresent an active boycott campaign as passive abstention. The second was to pretend there could be no such political animal as an active boycott campaign.

The reality of active boycott campaigns

However, just the month before, 1,738,000 voters in France had spoiled their ballot papers, rather than vote for Chirac or Le Pen. This represented 4.4% of the electorate, despite the LCR advocating a vote for Chirac, and despite LO being slow to promote such an approach, and refusing to conduct a political campaign directed at the LCR‘s youth base, which was prepared to defy the LCR leadership over the issue.

Perhaps Gordon wanted to direct attention away from ISG‘s sister organisation, the LCR. By recommending a vote for Chirac in the French presidential election they have caused controversy inside the ISG. Fellow ISG and SSP member, Campbell MacGregor, was given space in Socialist Outlook no 56 to oppose the LCR‘s support for Chirac. Gordon is in alliance with the ISM leadership over the no to the euro position. The USFI is making overtures towards the ISM and he will be aware of the LCR apologetic article in their Frontline 7 – Political earthquake in France. However, it was Nick Clarke of the RCN who punctured some SSP delegates’ mocking non recognition of an active boycott campaign. He reminded the delegates that the SSP had organised its own active boycott in the face of Brian Souter’s ‘Keep the Clause’ referendum in 2002 and that this campaign had involved direct action and not a mere binning of the ballot paper.

So, where do we go from here? The debate was conducted fairly, even if we didn’t like the result, so the RCN will not be attempting to organise an independent campaign outside the SSP. Instead, as the contradictions of the no position become more apparent, we will highlight these, hoping to make other comrades see the folly of providing voting fodder for The City and the Right. In the meantime we must take the argument into England, Wales and Northern Ireland, where socialists still haven’t decided on the issue.

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Mar 24 2002

Boycott Any Euro Referendum

Category: Issue 01RCN @ 8:23 pm

Matthew Jones on an independent working class response to the bosses’ referendum

Neither the European ruling classes, which have created the Euro nor the British capitalist supporters of the pound sterling are friends of the working class. Both are our sworn enemies. The choice being offered to us in this referendum is – a yes vote in support of the Euro or a no vote in support of the pound – not as some would put it Yes in support of Blair and New Labour or No against them.

The nature of money

To understand the class forces at work and where the working class should stand on the Euro it is first necessary to look at the nature of money. Originally precious metals – particularly gold – served as money. Karl Marx pointed out that the high value of gold relative to other commodities was due to the large quantity of labour time taken to produce gold. Historically the value of gold in the modern world market has changed slowly, falling only with the development of new extraction techniques or the discovery of major new deposits with easier workings.

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