Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oops they did it again - Left Disunity?

This appeared in my inbox tonight - no doubt some one causing trouble internally in the No2EU pact in Scotland - the Socialist Party's sister organisation (CWI) in Scotland seem to be in a tizzy about tactics and strategy, anyway don't know who the author is but I think it comes from the Socialist Party grouping in Scotland. Some good points and analysis however is fundamentally flawed by focussing primarly on the No 2 candidate. Its a bit like Waldorf and Stanley from the Muppets, always complaining but still suppotting their folly.

"Statement about No2EU

As comrades will be aware the No2EU list for Scotland has been decided with John Foster of the Communist Party of Britain top Tommy second and Leah Ganley third. There was a concerted campaign to keep Tommy off the list altogether by the CPB in the main. However, a combination of the Socialist Party, Solidarity, Bob Crow and a few others at the National Steering Committee of No2EU ensured he was on the list - albeit second. Since then some Solidarity members have intensified their opposition to Solidarity’s involvement in No2EU.. Some comrades feel this is justified by the opposition to Tommy by the CPB and the general hostility by the CPB to Solidarity. Other comrades have insisted that the idea of No2EU MEP’s not attending the European parliament if elected be a line in the sand. There is likely to be resolutions to Solidarity’s NSC that 1. Propose that Solidarity withdraw from No2EU and/or 2.That Solidarity should come out and make clear our intention of taking part in the parliament if elected which would have the effect of publicly splitting the No2EU and throwing it into a crisis, at least in Scotland.

Some comrades are clearly unhappy about No2EU because they have political disagreements with No2EU in the first place – which of course is their right. Others are understandably angry about the way Tommy and Solidarity is being treated by one part of the coalition namely the CPB – who were defeated in their attempts to keep Tommy off the list. The comrades who fall into the first category are not bringing out their primary political objections and are instead concentrating on important but secondary issues mainly around the tactics over taking seats and the methods of the CPB in general.

It is important that in taking part in these debates we emphasise first and foremost the historic step taken by the RMT in fronting a left list that is essentially a pro worker, pro trade union bloc that represents an important potential step forward in the struggle to build working class representation, albeit with limitations on its name, structures and programme. The fact that those standing for No2EU across Britain includes Visteon workers, leaders of the Lindsay Oil struggle, leading Unison members, NUT members and CWU members as well as Bob Crow and four other RMT EC members means that it has the potential to be a pole of attraction for workers facing cuts and job losses and those looking for an anti-capitalist alternative. There is no other electoral alternative for the Euro elections that comes anywhere close to this type of broad working class representation. Particularly as it involves workers who have taken part in real life struggles including those in Visteon and Lindsey Oil.

We have never hidden our opposition to the boycott tactic being proposed by the RMT leaders which Solidarity correctly believes will weaken the appeal of No2EU. The current position is for a convention of No2EU to discuss what happens after the elections in the event of anyone being elected which would give Solidarity and the Socialist Party, among others, the opportunity to argue for limited participation in the European parliament and for MEP’s to live on workers wage as the best answer to the EU gravy train. We will oppose any attempts to water down the commitment to a convention. However, even if a refusal to attend the parliament continued to be the position of No2EU it would be wrong to turn our back on No2EU, because it wants to boycott the EU parliament. This would leave Solidarity with a policy of effective abstentionism for the June elections. This is doubly the case as it would leave the field open to parties like the BNP to go unchallenged by a genuine left alternative.

What overrides the disagreements over the proposal to boycott the parliament is the urgent need for a pro working class anti neo liberal alternative in these elections. Moreover, the political importance of a national left union launching an electoral challenge to the left of Labour for the first time in 100 years, given the crisis of political representation, can have huge repercussions for the next period which will see an acceleration in moves towards new workers organisations and parties. For any socialist organisation to turn its back on such an important development, warts and all, under these circumstances would leave us open to the criticisms of being incapable of facing up to the political challenges of this period and showing itself to be irrelevant to the needs of the working class. Our attitude to this development has certain analogies with the Lindsay Oil strike. Lindsay was not a chemically pure struggle. There were even reactionary and backward ideas present, especially at the start of the strike.

The use of “British Jobs for British Workers” posters by a minority was enough for some sections of the left to attack this movement as reactionary. However the Socialist Party (CWI) did participate putting forward a fighting programme which, because SP members were propelled into the leadership, helped cut across the dangers of nationalism and xenophobia. It also led to an important victory for workers rights and against the race to the bottom by the European bosses.

Now clearly No2EU is a left initiative from the start and does not, even in its limited programme, make concessions to xenophobic ideas. It is anti privatisation, pro workers rights and calls for international solidarity of the European working class. There are weaknesses and problems which we all recognise. However to stand aside and condemn this initiative not for its strengths and potential but only for its problems and limitations would be a major error. An error that would damage Solidarity’s reputation particularly among those workers who are looking for a left alternative against the impact of the capitalist crisis. This is especially the case if we turned our back on this on the basis of the secondary issue of whether any possible elected No2EU MEP would sit in the Brussels or Strasbourg parliament.

They would still be MEP’s and would still fight to defend working class communities in whatever region or country they were elected from. Perhaps it is the case that some members of Solidarity oppose No2EU because frankly they believe that the EU plays a certain progressive role and do not fully accept the vicious pro capitalist and anti working class character of the bosses European project. If so that should be discussed openly in a comradely way. But to call for Solidarity to turn its back because we oppose the tactic of not attending the parliament or because of the actions of the CPB is wrong headed in the extreme. It is a case of cutting of our nose to spite our face and ironically would leave the CPB laughing up their sleeves while representing a kick in the teeth to those comrades like Bob Crow, the Socialist Party and others who fought to ensure that Tommy and Solidarity were fully included in the No2EU Scottish list.

Solidarity can gain significantly through its participation in this platform and strengthen its position as the main left party in Scotland in the process. Despite the fact the Tommy is at number 2 on the list it is already clear that the press and media will be more inclined to go to him for quotes and copy during the campaign. He can very quickly become the main point of reference for the No2EU campaign in Scotland - if we approach it in a determined and energetic way. Even if there are problems with the CPB in Scotland in attempting to cut Solidarity out from the campaign, which some comrades may fear, we can and should ensure that Solidarity press statements and material focuses on calling for support for No2EU and the main issues of the economic crisis, the jobs slaughter, workers rights etc. We can run a campaign around Tommy to build support for No2EU and ensure he is seen as a key figurehead for the campaign. At the same time we will participate fully in the No2EU steering committee and aim to get agreement on the best and most effective way of running the campaign in Scotland.

The fact that Tommy and Leah are 2nd and 3rd on the list will make it very difficult for anyone who is politically hostile to exclude them from the No2EU rallies, meetings and press events during the campaign. And while building support for this temporary platform we can also help to strengthen the profile of Solidarity as well. No2EU despite all of its weaknesses is a living embodiment of the process of “left unity” in action. It is of course a process but it can potentially represent the breaking of the logjam that has existed in the urgent task of building real political representation for the working class in Scotland and across Britain. Solidarity should participate fully in the forthcoming No2EU election campaign while continuing to argue our opposition to the boycott of the Euro parliament. You only have to pose the question does the No2EU coalition represent a step forward from what we have at present to find the answer. And that answer is yes, despite its limitations. Solidarity should grasp this opportunity with both hands."