Workers Hammer No. 207

Summer 2009


No vote to No2EU!

Down with the bosses' EU

For a Socialist United States of Europe!

On the ballot for the 4 June elections to the European Parliament is a new political formation called “No2EU – Yes to Democracy”. Backed by the RMT union and headed by its general secretary Bob Crow, No2EU is an alliance between the Socialist Party, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and other smaller groups, including Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity in Scotland and the Indian Workers Association (IWA). No2EU says it is standing in “opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, against the EU-led privatisation of our public services, for workers’ rights and in protest at the corrupt EU gravy train”, as well as “setting out a clear, socialist alternative to the poison and hatred of the BNP [British National Party]”. References to “workers’ rights” and “socialism” are there merely to provide camouflage for the reactionary agenda of No2EU which attacks the EU, not from the perspective of internationalist workers solidarity against the bosses but on the basis of protectionism and “little-England” nationalism.

The real content of No2EU’s campaign is chauvinist protectionism, as can be seen from this statement on its website:

“The economic term for undercutting wages by using cheap foreign labour is ‘social dumping’. This process was recently played out at the Lindsey oil refinery when unorganised Italian and Portuguese workers were brought in on lower rates of pay and local workers took illegal strike action in protest.

“The more bizarre elements of the ultraleft quickly attacked the strikers as ‘xenophobes’ while the TUC claimed that tweaking the EU posted workers directives would solve the problem. Both seem to be happy to ignore the events of the last 30 years where elected governments have been stripped of democratic powers to control the movement of capital, goods, services and labour.”

As a 22 May article on BBC News online put it: “NO2EU was born out of the ‘British jobs for British workers’ protests at the Lindsey oil refinery and its aim is to provide working class voters and trade union members with a left wing alternative to the British National Party”. No2EU boasts that its electoral list comprises candidates who played a leading role in those reactionary protests on construction sites and participation in the alliance is conditional on having supported them. This in itself is enough for Marxists to reject any support whatever to this outfit. We say: No vote to No2EU in the European elections!

According to Weekly Worker (19 March) a leaked internal memo from the CPB states: “Whilst this is a very broad campaign, SWP, AWL, Weekly Worker and other ultra-left groups have not been considered eligible, these having sharply criticised the Lindsey strike movement” (quoted in Weekly Worker, 19 March). In fact, the “ineligible” organisations all supported the Lindsey strike, albeit with criticisms. The reformist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) opposed the “British jobs for British workers” slogan but supported the Lindsey settlement anyway. The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) gave “critical support” to the Lindsey strikers and claimed: “SP comrades played a generally positive role in winning the Lindsey strikers to a progressive, internationalist set of demands, and in opposing the nationalist slogans spontaneously adopted by some, such as ‘British jobs for British workers’” (Weekly Worker, 26 March). For its part the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) hailed what they called a “substantial industrial victory” at Lindsey.

In May the Socialist Party once again proclaimed a “big victory” at Milford Haven in South Wales when another anti-immigrant strike resulted in some 40 Polish workers losing their jobs. According to the Guardian website (21 May) the strike was settled when “the Dutch-based employer, Hertel, agreed to withdraw 40 Poles and replace them with UK staff at the terminal owned by ExxonMobil and Total”. The Socialist Party admits that “Hertel faxed the media that the Polish workers [had] been removed from the site”, blithely adding “but this was never a demand of the union”. They go on to say that the striking British workers “were not opposed to laggers from Poland getting work on the site as long as local laggers were given the opportunity of the work first as under the union agreement” (Socialist, 28 May-3 June). Putting British workers first, is what these chauvinist strikes — and indeed the Socialist Party — are all about.

The Spartacist League opposed the chauvinist strikes against foreign workers and called for full union pay for all work and for the unions to defend immigrant workers. We noted that the outcome of the Lindsey strike “will reverberate against foreign and immigrant workers, not least on building sites such as the 2012 Olympic projects where over a third of the workers are immigrants and where in recent months some 200 Romanian workers were removed during a clampdown on ‘illegal’ foreign labour” (Workers Hammer no 206, Spring 2009). Sure enough, this was graphically confirmed at a 6 May protest at the 2012 Olympics construction site in Stratford, London, which was used as a platform to build support for the No2EU campaign. The demonstration was an orgy of nationalist protectionism. Many of the workers present had been bussed in from sites like Lindsey and Staythorpe where the protests against migrant workers had taken place. Signs demanding “Fairness for British workers” and “British jobs for British workers” were again in evidence. Speaker after speaker bemoaned the “discrimination” against “British” workers, while Bob Crow fulminated: “what they want to do is, say there’s a Chinese worker [who] wants to work for a bowl of rice, then you’ve got to cut your pay and conditions down to a bowl of rice as well”.

A Socialist Party leaflet for the rally called “to force the government to withdraw from or amend the EU directives and court rulings that legalise the bosses’ exploitation of cheap foreign non-union labour to the exclusion of local unionised workers”. “Local” here is a euphemism for “British”, a fact emphasised by the racist storm whipped up by the London Evening Standard against foreign-born workers who are registered as “local” working on the Olympics site. The Socialist Party has worked overtime to cover up the chauvinist character of the reactionary strike movement, dismissing as marginal or irrelevant the Union Jacks, the calls for “British jobs for British workers” and the presence of the BNP at the protests.

Protectionism benefits BNP!

The No2EU campaign claims to be fighting the BNP, but in reality this boils down to competing with the fascist scum on their own racist terrain in an attempt to win over would-be BNP voters. No2EU says “the BNP has no answers”. In fact fascists do have an “answer” to the crisis of capitalism — their programme is genocide of blacks, Asians and other minorities as well as the destruction of workers organisations.

Fascists are guard dogs of capitalism who are held on a leash during times of relative capitalist “stability”, to be let loose during periods of crisis when the capitalist order is threatened by workers revolution. Reformists like the SWP have persistently spread the lie that the way to “stop the BNP” is to vote Labour, or some other “democratic” alternative at election time. But, unlike Labourite reformists, fascists are not characterised by parliamentarism — the BNP’s electoral campaigns are designed to conceal the fact that fascists are paramilitary forces that seek to realise their programme in action on the streets. The fascists feed off the economic misery and mass unemployment wrought by decaying capitalism by scapegoating foreign workers for unemployment.

Fascist provocations must be stopped by trade union/minority mobilisations. However such a perspective is anathema to Labourite bureaucrats like Crow, who as leader of the RMT — a strategic union of white, black and Asian workers — sits on top of enormous potential social power that can hit the capitalists where it hurts. Instead, with the No2EU campaign, Crow is helping to put wind in the fascists’ sails by supporting strikes organised on the BNP’s central slogan of “British jobs for British workers”! Fascism is endemic to the capitalist system and the fascist danger can only ultimately be eliminated by socialist revolution.

Echoing the arguments of right-wing Tory “Eurosceptics” and the UK Independence Party (UKIP), No2EU directs all its fire at the European Union which it criticises as an “undemocratic superstate” while calling for “the repatriation of democratic powers to member states” — a touching appeal for restoring sovereignty to the Mother of Parliaments in Westminster. One thing is certain: neither the Socialist Party nor Bob Crow are prepared to wage a class-struggle fight against the capitalist ruling class at home or the Labour government. Yet such a struggle is precisely what’s needed as an answer to mass unemployment, the privatisation of public services and the ever-worsening economic conditions that have pauperised millions.

As Marxists we stand in implacable opposition to the European Union, an imperialist trade bloc and a vehicle for the European capitalists’ co-operation against the working class and against immigrants. Our opposition is based on proletarian internationalism which is counterposed to the nationalist protectionism pushed by trade union bureaucrats like Crow. In common with Lenin, we believe that it is impossible to cohere a stable European bourgeois “superstate” because capitalism is organised on the basis of nation-states. Originally established as an economic adjunct of NATO as the US sought to strengthen Western Europe against the Soviet Union, the EU is today a trade bloc dominated by Germany, the most powerful European imperialist country. The EU exists to facilitate competition with the rival US and Japanese imperialists. The capitalists’ drive for new markets and raw materials inevitably leads to attacks on the living standards and conditions of the working class as the capitalist ruling class of each nation seeks advantages against its rivals. With the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union and the deformed workers states of Eastern Europe, the permanent imperialist rivalries which were kept in check by shared anti-Sovietism have been sharpened greatly, posing the question of trade wars leading to shooting wars. Like Lenin’s Bolsheviks we insist that the only way out of the impasse is international workers revolution to expropriate the capitalist classes and lay the basis for socialism.