Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/571/7070

From The Socialist newspaper, 19 March 2009

Socialist Party statement

The European elections and working-class representation

Alex Gordon (speaking) and Brian Denny (second from left) from the RMT addressed the Socialist Party congress in an official capacity, photo Paul Mattsson

Alex Gordon (speaking) and Brian Denny (second from left) from the RMT addressed the Socialist Party congress in an official capacity, photo Paul Mattsson

IN AN important move, the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers' union (RMT) has announced its support for an electoral alliance to contest the forthcoming European elections in June.


Video links:

A 'political party' has been registered - as required under electoral law to contest elections - under the name No2EU-Yes to Democracy, with the RMT general secretary, Bob Crow, as the official leader. Its platform includes opposition to the European Union (EU) constitution (now re-packaged as the Lisbon treaty), the EU's pro-privatisation directives, and the anti-trade union and 'social dumping' rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The platform takes a necessary stand against the racist far-right British National Party (BNP), and in defence of international workers' solidarity.

At present funds are in place for No2EU-Yes to Democracy candidate lists to appear on the ballot paper in a minimum of six of Britain's eleven electoral 'regions', including Scotland and Wales, but more may well be contested.

This is an electoral coalition, with initial support from the RMT, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Britain (publishers of the Morning Star), Solidarity - Scotland's Socialist Movement, and a number of trades union councils. Respect is still considering its involvement; the Socialist Party, for its part, would favour the broadest participation of all left and working class organisations.

No2EU-Yes to Democracy is a temporary platform for the European elections only, with the RMT representatives at the inaugural meeting stressing, unfortunately, that they were not launching a new workers' party. But that does not negate its significance as the first electoral challenge to New Labour initiated by a national trade union, the RMT, the most militant industrial union in Britain.

Pent-up anger

Brian Denny, RMT journal editor, addressed the Socialist Party congress in an official capacity, photo Paul Mattsson

Brian Denny, RMT journal editor, addressed the Socialist Party congress in an official capacity, photo Paul Mattsson

The European elections might not loom large in workers' thinking, as the economic crisis intensifies. But the EU's neo-liberal directives and rulings, enthusiastically implemented by the New Labour government, are linked to the avalanche of job losses, wage cuts and continued privatisation.

Nowhere was this more clearly revealed than in the Lindsey oil refinery construction workers' dispute earlier this year. It was under the EU 'posted workers directive' and subsequent ECJ rulings that the Italian-registered company, IREM, was able to employ workers not covered by the union-enforced national construction industry agreements. The part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, the first step to its complete sell-off, is also linked to EU directives to introduce a deregulated postal services market.

The No2EU-Yes to Democracy campaign can expose the reality of the EU's neo-liberal agenda to millions of workers, while arguing the case for a workers' alternative to pro-market politicians - whether in Brussels or Westminster! And June's Euro-poll will be the first national electoral expression of the enormous anger accumulating at the devastating consequences of the capitalist crisis.

But where will that anger go? The 2004 European elections, in a completely different economic climate, still saw a big protest vote, which primarily went to UKIP, the UK Independence Party. (See the article on right.) Labour could well register an even worse result than its disastrous performance then, when it at least enjoyed opinion poll leads as the most 'economically competent' party.

UKIP, meanwhile, is likely to suffer a big loss of support. Promoting themselves as having been elected to 'take on the corrupt Eurocrats', two of its MEPs were soon implicated in benefit and EU fraud investigations, the egomaniacal Kilroy-Silk departed, and membership and donations have slumped. The Tories can expect to make big gains but there is a real threat that the far-right BNP could win seats in June.

This fear has also been a powerful impulse behind the RMT's move to organise an electoral challenge. As Bob Crow reported to the inaugural meeting, RMT members had already been contacting the union asking who the national officers thought they should vote for in June. The only alternative to backing a union-initiated electoral coalition would be to urge a vote, as anti-fascist groups like Searchlight advocate, for 'the mainstream parties' to stop the BNP.

Another factor behind the RMT's decision was the lessons of the Lindsey dispute. Firstly, it brought to wide attention in a way not done before in Britain, the role of the EU's anti-worker directives.

The RMT is currently balloting, or has taken strike action, in nine separate disputes over job losses and privatisation proposals. Is it so hard to imagine the RMT facing 'barges in the Thames' of sub-contracted EU 'posted rail workers' - as the IREM workers are being billeted in Grimsby docks - as the New Labour government, or an incoming Tory government, under the impulsion of the crisis, looks to confront one of the most powerfully organised sections of the working class?

Public meeting on lessons of the Lindsey oil refinery strike with Keith Gibson (speaking) and Jerry Hicks , photo Paul Mattsson

Public meeting on lessons of the Lindsey oil refinery strike with Keith Gibson (speaking) and Jerry Hicks , photo Paul Mattsson

Lindsey also highlighted another aspect of the situation now existing in Britain. As previous reports in The Socialist have shown, Lindsey was a victory for the working class. But it took the conscious intervention of the strike leadership, including Socialist Party members, to cut across any national or racial divisions that could have derailed the movement.

The same burning need for a clear lead is true on the political plane. That's why the RMT's electoral initiative, despite any weaknesses it may have, is so important.

In response to Labour's 2004 Euro-elections debacle the leaders of the Labour-affiliated trade unions issued another round of verbal broadsides and threats to withdraw funding.

At the Unison public sector workers' union 2004 conference, for example, the general secretary Dave Prentis promised not to "keep our heads down, gobs shut for Labour, if this government continues to put forward rightwing policies" (The Guardian, 23 June, 2004). And yet, of course, that is precisely what has happened - with the union leaders continuing to pour their members' money into Labour's coffers.

Political tasks

The RMT, on the other hand, has moved. There are, inevitably, potential difficulties. Because of the constitutional bar on union officials holding parliamentary seats, and its view that Brussels is 'a fake parliament', the RMT is insisting that victorious No2EU-Yes to Democracy candidates will not sit in the European parliament - although they would still campaign, alongside any other European workers' representatives who are elected in June, against EU attacks on the working class. And a convention of the forces involved in the campaign would be held to work out exactly how to proceed.

Most importantly, socialists could not participate in an electoral block or coalition which made concessions to racist or nationalist prejudices. But that is not the case with the proposals agreed so far around the RMT's electoral initiative which, while its programme is limited, is at bottom a pro-worker block.

There is no easy or straightforward path to re-build working class political representation. The German party, 'Election Alternative - Jobs and Social Justice' (WASG), the initial dynamic component of what is now the Left Party, was not formed, back in 2004, with a fully developed programme or democratic structures. But it broke the logjam.

And so, potentially, could the RMT's electoral initiative. The train is moving. The task of socialists, while not holding back from arguing for our ideas on the way out of the economic crisis, is to lend a helping hand.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 19 March 2009:

Fight tuition fees: fight for jobs: fight for a future!

Youth march for jobs


Unison witch-hunt

Stop the witch-hunt


International socialist news and analysis

Worldwide protests at killings of Tamils

Rosa Luxemburg - still relevant today

Ireland: Make the rich pay

Tibet: The 1959 uprising


Socialist Party campaigns

The miners were right!

End the 'benefits trap'

Liverpool University: Stop the cuts!

Tube strike ballot

Crisis in the legal aid system


Socialist Party congress

Socialist Party congress reports

Videos of Socialist Party Congress 2009

Perspectives for Britain and the world 2009


Socialist Party election campaign

The European elections and working-class representation

Lessons of the 2004 election

Campaign for a New Workers' Party

CNWP website


Socialist Party workplace news

Strike threat wins job back

Isle of Grain - Low-paying contractor exposed

2.5 bn profit, but BT still announces pay freeze

Rhyl: One-day teachers' strike

Rooftop protest wins apology from Royal Mail

Airwave Solutions: Striking against job cuts

Salford university


 

Home   |   The Socialist 19 March 2009   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Elections:

triangleGerman elections: rise of the far right and right-wing government will provoke resistance

triangleUsdaw elections announced - fight for a left leadership, vote for Amy Murphy

triangleHong Kong: mass demonstration against repression

triangleVenezuela: Capitalist offensive sharpens after assembly elections

triangleFrench elections: Macron's win

Working-class:

triangleHow Blairism sank its claws into the Labour Party

triangleSocialist Party Congress 2017 reports

Socialist Party:

triangleConference on state spies: who's watching who?

trianglePowerful picture of the Port Talbot steel workers' struggle

triangleHundreds turn out for rally aimed at removing west Wales Tory MP

Socialist:

triangleSocialist Students 'welcome' Hillary Clinton to Swansea

triangle'Dazzling' Bad Art show points to socialist future

RMT:

triangleRMT strikes against removal of train guards spreads

EU:

triangleTories torn - bin them now

Labour:

triangleSheffield Labour council threatens peaceful protesters with prison

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

19/10/17

Refugees

Hundreds of torture victims wrongly detained

18/10/17

Brexit

Tories torn - bin them now

18/10/17

What we saw

What we saw

18/10/17

Food

Obesity epidemic: end food market anarchy

18/10/17

NHS

Tories scrap the NHS pay cap: now fight for real-terms pay rises!

18/10/17

Debt

Young people being strangled by debts

13/10/17

Labour

The end of the Tories?

11/10/17

Tories

Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

11/10/17

Black history

The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity

11/10/17

Housing

Housing crisis: Corbyn's positive measures blanked by Labour's right

11/10/17

Universal Credit

Major attacks 'Universal Credit', half a million more face poverty

11/10/17

Them & Us

Them & Us

11/10/17

NHS

NHS meltdown - fight the Tory cuts

11/10/17

IMF

IMF helps cause inequality it slams

4/10/17

NHS

Tories wreck our NHS

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

More ...

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

triangle25 Oct Swansea Socialist Party: Mother Jones - A US labour pioneer

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2