"No2EU" campaign denounces free movement of labour

Submitted by martin on 30 March, 2009 - 11:23 Author: Martin Thomas

The expanded platform published on the website of the No2EU campaign for the 4 June Euro-elections denounces "the so-called ‘free movement’ of labour" in the EU and "the social dumping of exploited foreign workers in Britain".

More on this: www.workersliberty.org/no2eu and www.workersliberty.org/no2eu2.

How can this be read as anything other than a "left" version of the chauvinist cry: "Kick out the Poles and other migrant workers"?

As a macabre addition, the No2EU website has as its masthead, above all such policies: "It's a black and white issue". You have to assume that this is bungling tin-earedness rather than racism, but it is bungling tin-earedness of an exceptional order.

The other question that arises is: how, where, and by whom was this expanded platform decided?

Such questions meant that by the time he came to his summing-up speech at the Left Unity Liaison Committee meeting on 29 March, Socialist Party representative Neil Cafferky was on the defensive about the SP's support for the No2EU campaign.

He could offer no clear alternative interpretation of No2EU's denunciation of free movement of labour. He referred to the fact that Italian non-union workers at the Lindsey Oil Refinery website have been deliberately sealed off from union access, but that points to the demand for union access, not to rejection of the lowering of barriers within the EU which allows Italian (and Polish, French, etc.) workers to move freely to Britain and British workers to move freely to continental Europe.

Yes, Cafferky conceded, the SP had "reservations" about No2EU. Though he had mentioned no criticisms at all in his set-piece opening speech for the discussion on No2EU, which was the meeting's main business, the SP's support was "critical".

It had been a difficult decision. Though Cafferky is not a member of the SP's Executive Committee, from working at the SP office he could tell us that the SP EC meeting room door had remained closed, the day they discussed the No2EU campaign, longer than any other time he could remember.

The RMT, Cafferky said, had phoned the SP on 6 February, and the SP was faced with a like-it-or-lump-it proposition. (Who phoned on behalf of "the RMT" then, and with what authority? The RMT Exec did not decide to support the No2EU campaign until 4 March).

The No2EU campaign, Cafferky also conceded, came from a section of the trade union bureaucracy rather than "organically" from the working class. (The RMT Exec supported it as a "finished product": most RMT branches didn't even know about it, let alone have a chance to express an opinion about it). But, Cafferky said, as trade union bureaucracies go, the RMT's is the best in Britain, so the enterprise should be supported as a sort of (not his phrase, but one that captures the thought, I think) "deformed workers' campaign".

The Campaign for a New Workers' Party - a grouping set up by, and generally run by, the SP - was represented separately at the Left Unity Liaison meeting. For CNWP Terry Pearce argued that support could only be critical, and expressed concern about what he called "nationalistic elements" in the No2EU platform, i.e. the wording about free movement of labour and "social dumping".

Pearce also objected to the No2EU's slate's declaration that its candidates, if successful, will take up their MEP mandates only formally, not attending the European Parliament and not drawing their MEP wages and allowances.

AWL opposed support for the No2EU list for reasons outlined elsewhere on this site.

A representative of Green Left also opposed support. He referred to lack of democracy in constructing the No2EU lists, but his main argument was the simple one that No2EU might take votes away from leftish Green MEPs and candidates such as Jean Lambert and Pete Cranie.

As it stands, that argument is irrefutable. Some in the meeting tried to counter it by referring to the "cross-class" and non-socialist nature of the Green Party. That would be a sound argument against voting Green in preference to labour-movement or socialist candidates. But No2EU has less in the way of left-wing policies than the Green Party has, and fronts up as a campaign for British rights against the EU rather than workers' rights against capital.

Unfortunately, this Left Unity meeting did not have the representation that previous ones have had from the SWP's "Left Alternative" and from Respect, or indeed from Workers' Power, so SP, CNWP, AWL, and Green Left were the only groups there with stated, agreed positions on the No2EU enterprise.

The other groups at the meeting were - I think it can be said without insult to the individual members of those groups - small groups with very little in the way of collective public activity: the United Socialist Party and the Socialist Alliance. One tUSP member spoke for "critical support" for No2EU, another for no support; two SA members spoke for "critical support", and three for no support.

The Alliance for Green Socialism has, I'm told, decided (by a majority of one vote) on "critical support" for No2EU, but sent a letter to the Left Unity meeting saying that it would not be attending because it finds the meetings unproductive.

At the Left Unity meeting, I asked - quite apart from No2EU's other defects - whether No2EU could even be considered a serious campaign. It appeared from Neil Cafferky's opening presentation that it would do no more campaigning than holding public meetings, trying to get newspaper and TV coverage, and running a website - i.e. for the great majority of the 20-odd million voters in the six (out of 12) Euro-regions it will contest, the "campaign" will consist of nothing more than the words "No2EU, Yes to Democracy" on the 4 June ballot paper.

In his summing-up, Cafferky said that No2EU does in fact plan to use the Freepost facility (allowing all Euro-election lists a free mailing to all voters), if (which he admitted is doubtful) it can find enough people to address the 12-plus million envelopes required. I guess that must mean that No2EU has enough money (several hundred thousand pounds) to pay for 12-plus million leaflets and envelopes. Its known funds to date, £45,000 from the RMT, will pay for not much more than the candidates' deposits. Where is the money coming from?