Campaign for a workers' Europe

Submitted by AWL on 13 September, 2002 - 9:59

By Michaela Collins
The publicity round the euro referendum gives us the opportunity to spell out our positive policies for European workers' unity.

Both the official Yes and the official No campaign are set up to promote one faction or other of the bosses' interests. They include representatives of the labour and trade union movement, but their politics are dictated by big business: on the one hand, Blair and Euro-centred big business; on the other, Rupert Murdoch, the Tories and those seeking a closer alignment with US capital. Neither of these in any way represents workers' interests.

We are for a united Europe but one based on workers' solidarity and levelling up the gains from European workers' struggles. We are opposed to the plans of the European Central Bank, not because we love the pound or want little-England economic isolationism, but because the ECB is the tool of a hostile class.

How we vote in the euro referendum is dictated by our fight for European workers' unity and an extension of workers' right. The campaign is part of that struggle, not the other way round. It follows from this that we are opposed to any attempt to tie the labour movement, politically, financially, organisationally, to cross-class (in effect business-dominated) campaigns, either for a yes or a no vote.

Both campaigns write out the role of the class struggle in determining wage levels, unemployment, and privatisation. From whatever direction they assume the ECB, for example, is unchallengeable. This makes sense from the point of view of trade union bureaucrats, who always want to play within the rules, but it makes no sense for workers.

What determines wage levels, etc. both locally and on a Europe-wide (or global for that matter) scale is the level of workers' organisation and preparedness to fight. Those in the labour movement who argue for allying to one or other of the bosses' campaigns are arguing from a position of defeat, accepting that the working class is not strong enough to fight for itself, but must rely on other forces.

But we're witnessing the revival of working class action, and it is precisely in the (ex-) public services that workers are asserting themselves. It is action that will defeat or reverse privatisation and win a living wage. And organising across Europe will immeasurably strengthen that fight. Already 40% of privatised water companies are European-owned. European firms are the main bidders in PFI. Similarly in transport. The way to fight this is not to insist that these undertakings should stay British, but to organise a European-wide workers movement in defence of jobs and public services.

This argument is not just about organisation, but about politics. We need to organise round demands that can unite European workers (the majority of whom are already in the euro-zone):

  • A European minimum wage and 35-hour week. Equal pensions and benefits at least equivalent to a living wage
  • Prioritise rebuilding public services (health, education, housing, transport and communications). Against privatisation
  • Workers' rights. A legal right to strike and take solidarity action. Employment rights, health and safety, and job security.
  • Democratic control of credit and monetary policy. Against VAT, for public services financed from direct taxation.
  • For workers' unity without borders. Against Fortress Europe. An open door for asylum seekers. Free access to "Third World" imports. The right to vote for all residents of EU countries.
  • For Europe-wide organisation. Build Europe-wide shop stewards committees and combines in the multinationals and major industries.
  • For a democratic United States of Europe. Replace the unelected bureaucracies with a sovereign elected European parliament with full control.
  • Defend civil liberties. Against arbitrary detention. The right to a fair trial and due process.

Pass this model resolution!

This [branch, union] recognises that the forthcoming euro referendum gives the opportunity to raise the question of the organisation and rights of workers across Europe. Employers are increasingly organised across national boundaries. Many privatised previously public enterprises are in the hands of European capital, and they are aiming for a larger share, through PFI bids. [insert details of your industry]
This [branch, union] believes:
1) That the answer is not to keep these services "British" but to keep them public and to fight for the return of privatised services to the public sector;
2) In private industry, workers need to, as the bosses do in their multinationals, organise across national boundaries
3) Both the official Yes and No campaigns are run and directed in the interests of big business, though they seek to bring the labour movement on board;
4) Workers' money and organisation should be used to forward workers' interests

Therefore, we resolve:
1) To Campaign for a Workers' Europe on the following basis:

  • A European minimum wage and 35-hour week. Equal pensions and benefits at least equivalent to a living wage
  • Prioritise rebuilding public services (health, education, housing, transport and communications). Against privatisation
  • Workers' rights. A legal right to strike and take solidarity action. Employment rights, health and safety, and job security.
  • Democratic control of credit and monetary policy. Against VAT, for public services financed from direct taxation.
  • For workers' unity without borders. Against Fortress Europe. An open door for asylum seekers. Free access to 'Third World' imports. The right to vote for all residents of EU countries.
  • For Europe-wide organisation. Build Europe-wide shop stewards committees and combines in the multinationals and major industries.
  • For a democratic United States of Europe. Replace the unelected bureaucracies with a sovereign elected European parliament with full control.
  • Defend civil liberties. Against arbitrary detention. The right to a fair trial and due process.

2) To work towards building links at all levels with workers in the rest of Europe, in order to resist the attacks of British and Euro capital.
3) That union funds and organisation be directed towards campaigning for workers' rights on the above basis.
4) No support for either the official Yes or No campaigns.
5) To decide on support for any other campaigns round the euro on the basis of whether it forwards workers' rights on the above basis (Campaign for a Workers' Europe)

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