The European Elections and the No2EU Campaign (PART TWO)
Why therefore did the "disillusioned"
working class labour voters not turn to the No2EU platform? The Socialist Party
believes that its relative lack of success was because, “In the short time of
its existence however, especially given the media blackout it suffered, No2EU
was only able to make a very limited impact on the political consciousness of
the mass of workers. No2EU has had more coverage in the capitalist media since
election day than it had in the whole campaign!” So the low vote for the
campaign was due to a lack of media coverage before the election! Workers did
not know what the electoral platform stood for so they did not vote for it, we are told. How
many workers knew in detail what Labour stood for? They knew in general that it
presided over sleaze and corruption and pro-banker policies and many supporters
abstained, yet the Labour Party still picked up 2,381,760 votes compared to the No2EU’s
Perhaps there is another reason. The SP
offers one. “Of course, no new left formation will be able to instantly gain
the confidence of workers, even once it has gained visibility or ‘recognition’,
workers will still rightly want to test it out in action over a period of
time.” Workers therefore will want to test a “left formation” out over a period
of time before they give it their support. Is this not recognition that gaining
the trust of workers requires patient work over a long period of time where
workers will want to test out their organisations in practice before they decide
where their interests lie? Is this not exactly what workers think in relation
to the Labour Party? We disagree with what you stand for and we are dubious
about your policies, but we won’t vote against you. We will stay at home and
let you in the Labour Party ponder how you are going to re-engage us.
What the No2Eu campaign failed to realise
is that the working class does not move according to the wishes and desires of
sincere and dedicated socialist/communist candidates, but according to its own
view of what is happening in the real world and its relationship to the
organisations, both political and industrial, that it has created through
decades of struggle. In Britain,
despite the thoroughly bourgeois nature of its leadership, the Labour party
cannot be ignored. How many times does
it have to be said and shown by history that workers will test and retest their
own organisations in struggle and when, and only when, they see that these
organisations no longer serve their interests will they move to form new ones. That
is why disillusioned Labour voters vote with their feet and stay at home at
elections, rather than go out and seek an alternative to Labour.
for the No2EU candidates and supporters, it is not sincerity that will solve
the problems of working class people but a programme of demands that will
confront capitalism. And anyone reading the material of the No2EU campaign
could not fail to see that the demands fell far short of a socialist answer to
the crisis despite the claims of its supporters. Even worse, some of the
demands would not have been out of place in a UKIP programme.
The No2EU Programme.
What did the No2EU
campaign offer working class people? On the plus side it had some excellent
demands. It believed that “public services should be democratically controlled
and publicly owned in order to meet environmental, economic and social
objectives”. It therefore calls for a vote to “defend public services,
renationalise our railways (whose railways? –DC), cut greenhouse gases and
develop sustainable industries”. No socialist could object to these aims. The fundamental
question however was how these aims were going to be achieved.
said, “defend and develop sustainable manufacturing, agricultural and fishing
industries in Britain”.
A number of questions arise. Is it only sustainable industries that are to be
defended and developed? How do you defend and develop these industries? Is it
through protectionist measures against the EU? Is it by subsidising these
industries at the expense of subsidising the banks? If this is the case, then
what is being demanded is that privately-owned, capitalist industries should be
defended and developed. Will this happen with public money? How can we control
and plan what we don’t own? Is nationalisation with democratic planning
involved or implied? Are we talking about a step on the road to a socialist
transformation of society preceded by a healthy capitalism defended by the
state? Is this a rehash of the old Communist Party theory of the two stage
revolution? Firstly, you establish a healthy capitalist society and then you
proceed to gradually introduce socialism. The demands are so vague that they
could mean anything to anybody.
What is the EU?
The programme also
states, “Repatriate democratic powers to EU member states”. We know that the EU
is undemocratic in the sense that the elected EU parliament has limited powers
to propose and decide upon legislation. It could not be otherwise because the
EU is a capitalist club that guarantees the free movement of capital, goods and
labour in that order. The purpose of the EU is to create a large market
unfettered by national boundaries where giant corporations can maximise
production, enjoy economies of scale and make super profits in a protected market
through the exploitation of European workers. All socialists know this. Rather
than therefore calling for the unity of socialist and communist parties across
Europe to fight for the state ownership of the means of production under
democratic workers’ control and management, the No2EU programme calls for
democratic powers to be restored to EU member states.
this can only mean that “democratic powers” are taken out of the hands of the
EU bureaucracy and put into the hands of the Houses of Parliament in the UK. Both Marx
and Engels both commented about the nature of “democracy” in Britain where
Parliament can discuss and decide all it wants so long as real decisions are
left in the hands of those in the board rooms of the capitalist industry. Who
in their right mind would prefer the gang of shysters and corrupt politicians
in the UK Parliament over EU institutions? Perhaps one is less bad than the
other, “far from perfect”, “not where we would like to be, the “best of a bad
job”. The task of socialists is to fight for real workers’ democracy under a socialist society, not to
give credence to one form of bosses ‘democracy’ over another.
Another demand is
to, “Replace unequal EU trade deals with fair trade that benefits developing
nations”. This is a laudable aim. It is a call to the multinationals operating
in Europe to consider the needs of developing
nations and to treat them fairly. It is asking the lion to lie down with the
lamb and not devour it. It is a pipe dream under capitalism. Direct colonialism
in the sense of military occupation and domination, with the exceptions of the
idiotic even-from-a-capitalist-point-of-view adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, no longer takes place.
It has been replaced by economic domination through multinational corporations
under the guise in the past period of globalisation, in other words imperialist
economic domination. The purpose of this is to use developing countries as
sources of raw materials, cheap labour and ready markets for commodities
produced by the multinational corporations in the pursuit of maximum profit.
The No2EU demand is a plea to the capitalists to stop being capitalists and is
as effective as King Canute forbidding the tide to come in! We can only put an
end to the exploitation of developing countries by socialising production and
distribution and establishing mutually beneficial trade and barter systems that
do not exploit the peoples of the world. That can only be done by putting an
end to capitalism.
Nationalism and No2EU.
The final demand
of the No2EU campaign is; “Keep Britain
out of the eurozone”. This equates to the old nationalist slogan of “Defend the
Pound” and would not look out of place in a UKIP programme. Whilst it is true
that those countries in the Euro Zone are theoretically constrained in terms of
how much the value of their currencies can rise or fall in relation to other
European currencies so that no one country can gain a competitive advantage
over another through variations in currency values, the reality is that
national policies, especially at a time of a crisis of capitalism, will
predominate as each country seeks to protect its own interests. The reality of
the No2EU demand is that it creates the illusion that by keeping the pound the UK can somehow
have a greater control over its domestic economic policy than by being in the
Euro zone. The reality is, and how many times does it have to be said, that
economic policy is decided by and in the interests of capitalism whether we are
in the Euro zone or out of it.
Unite and Divide
Given that it was a loose electoral platform, space
was allowed on the election leaflets for each voting area, such as the West Midlands with Dave Nellist at the lead candidate, to
put forward its own demands. So workers were being asked to vote for a
“socialist” coalition that included Greens and Liberal Democrats where the
demands advocated by the coalition depended upon the political composition of
the candidates on the regional lists. Is this not a case of we all come
together to go our separate ways?
And remember that
one of the aims of the campaign was to establish the first step towards the
creation of a "new" workers’ party, where after the elections a conference would
be called, a programme decided upon and – hey, presto! – a new workers’ party formed. The only
problem is that those participating in such a conference (the latest of many we might add) will have so many
widely differing political agendas that it will be like the election campaign –
we all come together to go our separate ways. Needless to say, the mass of organised labour will largely ignore all this as will the millions of working class voters. Even had the No2EU – the very name reflected a desire to pander -not stood on an opportunist platform, but rather a clear socialist one, they would still not have been able to cut accross the support of the proletariat for the mass organisations of the class, hence the still sizeable vote for Labour despite Labour’s record in government, the expenses scandal etc. and despite the fact if you were going to use your vote to make a protest then – given the fact that no-one really cares about the Euro elections – this was the election to do it. The task remains for socialists to organise and challenge the ideas of capitalism inside the organisations of our class – the unions and the Labour Party – and win them over to a socialist programme which will meet the requirements of ordinary people under attack from big business and their pals in parliament. This is a task which cannot be avoided.