"No2EU" is a snare

Submitted by AWL on 26 January, 2014 - 4:49

In his New Year's message to members, RMT rail union general secretary Bob Crow declared: "On the political landscape RMT will be backing a slate of No2EU, yes to workers' rights candidates in May offering a positive alternative to the bankers-led EU and the narrow, right wing opportunism of UKIP. We will offer the working class a real political alternative".

"The only rational course", says Crow, "is to leave the EU and rebuild Britain with socialist policies".

When No2EU was first launched in 2009, we argued that it was a bad move. Crow and his associates do want to defend workers' rights. But the idea that workers' rights will be improved by campaigning to get Britain out of the EU and re-raise barriers between Britain and continental Europe is a nationalist illusion.

The Tory right-wingers who dominate and shape "No to EU" campaigning have a more realistic assessment, and moreover they have the power to put it into practice if they can force withdrawal. They want a Britain operating as a low-social-overheads offshore site - a Britain set off from the EU by the abolition of all the small safeguards, TUPE, Agency Workers' Directive, Working Time Directive, and so on, which derive from the EU. And they want to foster poisonous hostility between migrant workers from Europe and longer-settled British workers.

The tone of No2EU campaigning is illustrated by its revamped website. The lead article, unsigned, screams: "Germany backs fascist uprising in Ukraine".

It dismisses the Ukrainians who prefer an opening to the west to Ukraine continuing under the domination of Russia (as during Stalinism, and under the Tsars) as "an unholy alliance of conservatives, fascists and revanchist groups promoting a cult around former nazi collaborators".

The broad spectrum of the Ukrainian opposition protests does indeed include a minority of far rightists, but it also includes the majority of the population in the west of Ukraine, and a preponderance of democratic-minded people.

The Morning Star (associated with the Communist Party of Britain) has been publicising No2EU. The Socialist Party, which backed No2EU in 2009 but was visibly uncomfortable with its nationalism, has signalled that it will back No2EU again, by advertising at least one No2EU launch meeting with an SP speaker on the platform, but has carried (as far as we can find) no public political statement about it.

The SP wants to keep RMT support for another electoral alliance, TUSC, and looks as if it has reached a tacit deal with Bob Crow whereby at the 22 May polls RMT union HQ will focus on No2EU Euro-candidates and the SP will focus on candidatures in council elections, with formal statements of mutual support but, in practice, separate activities.

The SP wants TUSC to contest 624 or more of the 4,156 seats being contested across 160 councils on 22 May, so that it can get TV coverage during the campaign. Even if many of the 624 are "paper candidates" - a workable option in council elections, where candidates do not have to forfeit a deposit - that is a big effort.

The Left Unity group launched by Andrew Burgin and Kate Hudson, which constituted itself as a "party" at a conference in November 2013, also plans to contest some council elections. It has taken no formal decision not to contest the Euro-elections; but candidatures seem unlikely, since the costs in deposits and even a minimal coverage through publicity of the huge Euro-constituencies are so great.

Oddly, the last Left Unity council, on 11 January, rejected a proposal from Pete McLaren for LU to concert efforts with TUSC. If LU sees itself primarily as an electoral enterprise, which it does, accepting that proposal would have been only the simplest common sense.

What LU will say about Europe, or about council finances, in the run-up to 22 May, remains to be decided.

On all the indications, serious working-class activists will have no option on 22 May but to vote Labour and redouble efforts for the labour movement to force further concessions from the Labour leadership as we have already done on the bedroom tax and the Health and Social Care Act.

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