the rmt’s “no2eu” initiative

by Dave Spencer

With only two and a half months to go to the June 4th 2009 European elections, the RMT leadership have come up with a new party “No2EU – Yes to democracy”. Without a hint of irony (remember “Yes to democracy”) we are told that this “party” is for election purposes only. There will be no membership, therefore no voting for the slate of candidates needed for the election and worse still there will be no continuation of the party after the election. Indeed the whole idea has been cobbled together by the RMT, CPB and SP leaderships and will be run by them – no democratic voting by the members.

Furthermore if any “No2EU” candidate wins the election as an MEP they will not take their seat in Brussels. The voice of the British working class will not be heard in Europe. There will be no speaking tours to make links with European workers in struggle, no greetings brought to mass demonstrations and strikes, no attempt to build a new European-wide workers’ movement. No, the “No2EU” MEPs will stay at home in Britain.

And who will pay for this last minute stunt? It costs £5,000 as a deposit for each slate in each constituency. Then you need to pay for at least a million leaflets in each constituency. Presumably the RMT members are paying for it with the CPB and SP jumping on board for the ride.

In an emergency situation you could possibly see the need for such an initiative. And indeed there is an emergency! At the recent G20 meeting the world leaders of capitalism were threshing about without a Plan B other than the continuation of market forces with a little neo-Keynesian tweaking. The future for the international working class is dire with increasing unemployment and poverty certain. The future of the earth’s ecosystem is bleak unless humanity changes the economic system. What is the answer of the British Left leaders? No2EU! It completely misses the point and is at best a diversion.

“The Left” has had five years to work out a strategy for this European election. Other parties like the Greens etc. have decided their slates of candidates over a year ago and have been collecting the finance necessary. Two months before an election is not serious. Furthermore what is going to happen in the General Election next year? The new party is not going to be continued after June 4th so are we going to have another half-hearted attempt two months before the General Election? And what will the slogans be? “No to the British capitalist state?” And the MPs won’t take their seats?

Over the past twelve years we have had the Socialist Labour Party, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Socialist Alliance, Respect, the CNWP all of which have failed to build an open, democratic mass movement of the working class. We have Gordon Brown and global capitalism on the ropes and no organisation ready to challenge them. The “No2EU party is exactly the opposite of what is needed – it is bureaucratic and nationalistic – where we want democracy and internationalism, nothing less.

Some comrades have called the politics of “No2EU” “left-wing nationalism”. Perhaps this is to keep the embarrassment within the Left family. Personally I cannot see how British nationalism in the context of global capitalism can be anything other than right wing and reactionary, pure and simple. All nation states and governments have lost some power within global capitalism and with the IMF dictating their domestic policies. The tentacles of international companies are everywhere. Take the car industry. In the 1950s in Britain it was popular to talk about the Big Six British car firms, down from the 120 car firms in the 1920s. The call for the nationalisation of the Big Six made some sense. Now in 2009 there is talk of the Big Six car firms in the world. In Britain there is no national car firm. Jaguar Land Rover is owned by the Indian billionaire Tata; Toyota and Honda are based in Japan; Nissan (Japan) is linked to Renault (France); Vauxhall is part of the European operation of General Motors (USA) together with Opel, Fiat etc.etc.. The factories making the parts for the cars, the petrol used to fuel them, the steel to make the cars are all part of global capitalism. Decisions are made in boardrooms all over the world usually without any reference to the British nation state. To call for the nationalisation of the car industry is not a straightforward matter anymore. The internationalisation of the industry would make more sense. International solidarity among workers, workers control of their workplaces and plans for how that workplace could make socially useful products would be a start.

When there is an economic recession, the first reaction is to find scapegoats, usually immigrants or foreigners. The No2EU leaflet complains about “social dumping” which refers to foreign workers coming to Britain for jobs. This is a disgraceful, reactionary statement. It is one thing to talk about defeating the BNP and UKIP in the European elections but surely not by stealing their political clothes! Workers of the world unite does not just mean British workers; it means the fight for equal wages, rights and conditions for all workers wherever they live – and not to be divided by the capitalists and played off one against the other.

The politics of the No2EU party are clearly driven by the CPB with its British Road to Socialism, Socialism in One Country and yearning for popular frontism. The Left Groups involved appear to be the Socialist Party, the ISG and Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity. The SWP and Respect seem to be reserving judgement. One can only speculate about the groups’ motives. Usually their main consideration is how many members they can make for their own organisation, and how to outmanoeuvre any rival groups. The clear need for an open democratic internationalist communist workers party opposed to New Labour is still there – preferably before the next General Election! In my opinion the RMT’s “No2EU” initiative and the Left Groups support for it, however lukewarm, are barriers to building that party.

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8 thoughts on “the rmt’s “no2eu” initiative

  1. This is a particularly disingenuous and ill-thought out article, even for a sectarian site such as this. RMT’s ‘No2EU – Yes to Democracy’ platform has many shortcomings – not enough time, money, or supporters for a start – but none of these are the fault of those who have taken the initiative, nor of those who are supporting it. On the contrary, attacks like Dave Spencer’s are an indication of the weakness of working class political forces some 30 years after Thatcher, 25 years after ‘New Realism’ brought social partnership into the trade union movement, 12 years after New Labour came to power and five years since some on the far left abandoned class politics in favour of unprincipled electoral lash-ups with Islamists.

    There is a legitimate debate desperately needed to be developed on the left about how socialists and the working class should respond to globalised capital in crisis. Unfortunately, this piece doesn’t help to do this one jot or iota. … “if any “No2EU” candidate wins the election as an MEP they will not take their seat in Brussels. The voice of the British working class will not be heard in Europe.” Are you serious, Dave? When did you last hear the voice of any working class electorate in either the Brussels or Strasbourg parliaments? The European parliament indeed is not a parliament worth the name. It can neither originate its own legislation, nor make any amendments unless they conform to existing EU Treaties. It exists like every other European institution in order to “adopt measures aimed at progressively establishing the internal market – an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provisions of this treaty.”

    “There will be no speaking tours to make links with European workers in struggle, no greetings brought to mass demonstrations and strikes, no attempt to build a new European-wide workers’ movement” says Dave. Oh really? Are you sure Dave? That prediction may be a tad premature.

    … “No2EU … complains about “social dumping” which refers to foreign workers coming to Britain for jobs. This is a disgraceful, reactionary statement. It is one thing to talk about defeating the BNP and UKIP in the European elections but surely not by stealing their political clothes!” says Dave, but he’s wrong. So-called ‘free movement’ of labour is part of the development of a deeply racist Fortress Europe which increasingly excludes (black and asian) workers from outside the EU and is used to undermine wages and working conditions of those within it by smashing up national collective bargaining agreements.

    The fact is that EU institutions are increasingly influential in framing legislation that directly affects the ability of member states to invest in manufacturing jobs (“illegal state aid”), keep public services accountable to those who use them, rather than to corporate interests (liberalisation of railways, postal services, energy and from next year health services) and be held responsible for the employment rights of workers on their territory (various ECJ cases). At the same time the EU reveals itself as one gigantic democratic deficit, which is transforming itself through the Lisbon Treaty into a state in its own right. It is about time that socialists and trade unionists pointed this out and called for an alternative.

    Dave, like disparate others from New Labour to elements on the far left, confuses internationalism with permitting global capital to go where it wants and do whatever it likes. No2EU will be seen in time as an important initiative from a trade union to reestablish socialist ideas as relevant to working people in this country after a long time when frankly the British left have been pissing their political inheritance up the wall.

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  2. “”The clear need for an open democratic internationalist communist workers party opposed to New Labour is still there – preferably before the next General Election! In my opinion the RMT’s “No2EU” initiative and the Left Groups support for it, however lukewarm, are barriers to building that party.””

    What a nightmare scenario; ‘open, democratic, internationalist, communist’; these words are all juxtaposed to each other mate. Thank God for the RMT if this is your vision for ME!!!!!!!

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  3. RMT’s ‘No2EU – Yes to Democracy’ platform has many shortcomings – not enough time, money, or supporters for a start – but none of these are the fault of those who have taken the initiative, nor of those who are supporting it

    Obviously it is the fault of those who have taken the initiative; a) because they could have done it earlier, and b) because if they weren’t standing on such an esoteric platform and at such short notice there would have been more time to gather supporters – or to cooperatively generate a platform that would deserve support.

    Nor was it the case that no other proposals were made earlier. The RMT exec had a mandate to set up local workers’ representation committees. Had they done so, I imagine we would have engaged with them. (In fact I think a supporter of the commune may have been one of those to write the original proposal on this.) As it is, the No2EU project is organised against the democratically expressed wishes of RMT members, and in favour of a last minute lash up with the CPB.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t agree with all that Dave says. For one, while I think ‘social dumping’ isn’t a great term, I do accept that it has come to have a certain meaning which isn’t necessarily reactionary – which I guess Dave accepts, since I believe, like most of us, he supported the Lindsey strikes.

    I wouldn’t desribe No2EU as right wing nationalism. I don’t think it’s any more nationalist than, I dunno, the Labour Party is, or even has been at any point in its history (which I guess you could describe as right-wing nationalism if you like, but most people wouldn’t). My main issue with the project, apart from the fact that it’s an attack on RMT democracy, is that it’s an incompetent, pointless, single-issue, bureaucratic lash up.

    Any electoral force needs to be based on consistency and long term planning. Being there not just for this election, but the next one, and the one after. And it needs to be based on grassroots democracy, not a trot/tanky/union top pact, inaccessible to active workers. And it needs to be based, not on a single issue, but on a broad political programme built democratically. I mean who on earth wakes up in the morning, and thinks, ‘damn I hate the EU’? Of course there are issues with it. But it’s hardly the main issue confronting the class now, is it?

    In other words, it needs to be more like the French NPA, and nothing at all like No2EU.

    I understand why the SP are supporting it. They’re trying to build credibility with Crow, in order to get him to support CNWP or related manouverin in hte future. Obvious, fair enough I guess, from their point of view. But I don’t see why anyone else should be expected to be enthusiastic about it.

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  4. ‘open, democratic, internationalist, communist’; these words are all juxtaposed to each other mate.

    No they’re not. Read the Communist Manifesto.

    EDIT, to add: We are not fans of ‘Uncle Joe’ either. We believe the USSR was not ‘communist’ at all; we have a different understanding, and the Communist Manifesto would be a good introduction to that. See also Gilles Dauve, The Eclipse and Reemergence of the Communist Movement. Hope that clears this up.

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  5. There is a case for not describing the No2EU platform as an RMT electoral challenge as it is has been established in complete contravention of RMT conference policy which states:
    “This union notes the disastrous results for the Labour Party in the May 1st elections. We believe that working class voters have deserted the Labour Party because it has abandoned working-class people through its policies of cuts, privatisation, war and lining the pockets of the rich at the expense of the poor and low paid.
    We are also appalled at the advances made by the fascist BNP in these elections.
    The union must respond to this by reasserting our socialist politics and by fighting for working-class political representation.
    To that end we resolve to:
    * Convene a national conference on the crisis in working class political representation similar to those organised previously
    * Encourage our regional councils to organise similar conferences on a regional basis
    * Initiate and support the setting-up of local Workers’ Representation Committees which can identify and promote candidates in elections who deserve workers’ support.”

    The conference was held at which the No2EU was never discussed, followed up by an invitation only secret meeting which deliberately exclued anyone who did not fit in with the politics of the organisers. Incuding those in the Labour Representation Committee who support a new initiative. The reason given that they did not want to offend Labourites.
    Even more appaling the No2EU initiative repeats the division between the industrial and political arms of the labour movement – RMT members money is being thrown after a CPB led initiative which bears no relationship whatsoever to the actual struggles underway by RMT members. Whose problems are not being caused by Brussells but by Westimnster and GLA County Hall!

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