Why we will vote Labour and SSP in the Euro-elections

Submitted by martin on 13 May, 2009 - 11:27

How to vote in the Euro-elections? No-one with any democratic or socialist instincts will fail to vote, since abstentions automatically increase the fascist BNP's percentage of the vote and increase the BNP's chances of winning a seat. But we cannot be satisfied with the advice of many anti-fascist campaigners just to vote for any of the mainstream parties - Tories, Lib-Dem, Labour, Green, whatever.

In Scotland we will vote for the list of the Scottish Socialist Party, which is standing on a joint "European Anti-Capitalist Left" platform also supported by the NPA (Nouveau Parti Anti-capitaliste) in France and other parties.

Despite the SSP's continuing drift towards putting Scottish-nationalist concerns first, the SSP candidates will represent a socialistic, worker-based challenge.

Elsewhere in Britain, the high costs - around £100,000 for any sort of serious campaign just in one euro-region - have ruled out any slates from the activist left... until such time as we can win many more members and much larger funds.

So we will vote Labour, in the absence of working-class socialist candidates.

We want to see the unions back more genuinely worker-based lists than the Labour ones; but for the unions to see our socialist stance as one which amounts to letting the BNP or Tories make gains just because we are sitting on our hands will not help that cause of working-class representation.

The big unions are still attached to Labour. Over the last 15 years and more, the link has been weakened and blocked until today it amounts to little more than the unions giving Labour money. But the certainty that the current huge economic crisis will mean political convulsions means that we cannot rule out the possibility that developments will move sharply off the straight-line track of those 15 years. At some next turn in the road the big unions may be pushed into moving to regain at least something like the "old Labour" level of real voice in the Labour Party.

Voting Labour remains the "default" option for keeping out the BNP and the Tories, though we can understand and sympathise with those who vote Green in regions where the Green MEPs or candidates are left-wing.

We cannot recommend a vote for the "No2EU" lists. We do not agree with their message - we insist that capital, not the EU, is responsible for job cuts, privatisations, etc.; we positively support workers being able to move freely across EU borders - and the lists do not have an organic link with working-class organisation such as might make us vote for them out of solidarity despite disagreement with the message.

Comments

Submitted by edwardm on Tue, 19/05/2009 - 13:52

EMO, the operative word in what Trotsky wrote in that quote was "TODAY" - like everything he wrote, it was written as a comment on the world as it was at the time he was writing - not a timeless prescription. The quote that you give, and Trotsky's own actions at various times, imply that he didn't think "abstaining from parliament" was a timeless rule for all circumstances. So really, you can't just throw around out-of-context quotes from Trotsky as if every word he wrote is a divine commandment written in stone - you've got to argue based on the situation we're in right now, today.

Submitted by martin on Wed, 20/05/2009 - 17:14

Rhodri Evans' article 'Why we will vote Labour and SSP in the Euro-elections' contains so many flaws, non sequiturs and contradictions that it's easiest to go through them in order.

"No-one with any democratic or socialist instincts will fail to vote" implies that abstention is wrong in principle, despite what the AWL has argued in relation to both US elections and the French presidential run-off between Chirac and Le Pen.

"So we will vote Labour in the absence of working-class socialist candidates" recognises that none of the Labour candidates have any link with the working-class or socialism but is followed by "We want the unions to back more genuinely worker-based lists than the Labour ones" implying that they are candidates of some kind of workers' party rather than a now bourgeois one. If "sitting on our hands will not help the cause of working-class representation", neither will voting Labour.

"The big unions are still attached to Labour" by a link that "amounts to little more than the unions giving Labour money" perfectly describes the relationship between the US trade unions and the Democratic Party. The only distinction is that Labour is an ex-workers party. "At some next turn in the road the big unions may be pushed into moving to regain at least something like the 'old Labour' level of real voice in the Labour Party" is a mixture of pointless speculation and wishful thinking. The idea that the Labour Party might reforge itself as a trade union-based party is extremely unlikely and surely only possible if it is wiped out in the next General Election.

"Voting Labour remains the "default" option for keeping out the BNP and the Tories" is pure lesser evilism. No positive reason is given for voting Labour because none exists. It is also a shamefaced policy of voting Labour 'on the quiet': is anyone suggesting that people should go out and canvass for Labour in the European elections? What possible socialist argument could you make on the doorstep to workers and young people repelled by New Labour as to why they should nevertheless vote for them?

The reasons given for voting Labour in the European elections amount to an open-ended policy of a default vote for Labour. Now that the link between the trade unions and New Labour has gone, how long should we wait for its restoration before deciding it is an irreversibly bourgeois party? What line does New Labour have to cross before we withdraw our support for it in elections?

We should as Trotsky put it "face reality squarely" and admit that except for the SSP in Scotland there are no parties workers can vote for in these elections that either minimally or potentially represent their interests.

Submitted by martin on Wed, 20/05/2009 - 17:14

Matthew's core case is that the Labour Party is now a straightforward bourgeois party, no different in essentials from the Tories and Lib-Dems. He then contradicts it by saying that "the Labour Party might reforge itself as a trade union-based party... if it is wiped out in the next General Election".

No amount of election defeats could "forge" the Tories (or the US Democrats) into a union-based party.

And it looks very likely that Labour will indeed by "wiped out in the next General Election". To consider such likelihoods is not just "pointless speculation". If we are to try to think dialectically, rather than basing ourselves on mechanical assumptions that current trends will continue in a straight line, then we have to make some assessment of future possibilities. To then single out a particular (favourable) one of those possibilities, cling to it dogmatically, and make a "tactic" out of waiting for it to happen, would be wrong; but that is a different matter.

Our case for voting Labour has never depended on its candidates having a "link with socialism". It has depended on Labour as having a contradictory character: bourgeois politics, working-class base. In many conditions, voting Labour could help in the work of setting that working-class base against the bourgeois politics.

Even though policy input from the unions and local Labour Parties to the New Labour machine has been blocked (since the Bournmouth conference decision of 2007), Labour still has links with the unions. The unions have the power to amend Labour's constitution more or less at will (including to restore, or improve, their right to put political motions). They have 50% of the voting power at conference, and huge financial clout to back that up.

The unions (in fact, the union leaders) currently choose not to use that power. We should still point it out.

In this Euro-election, in particular, abstention, or admitting that we can say nothing, is a policy to be followed only if principle absolutely compelled it. What UAF and Hope Not Hate say is true: every abstention is a half-vote for the BNP. It has the effect of increasing their percentage of the score, and helping them win a Euro-MP.

There is no objection of principle to voting for a bourgeois workers' party, even one with the "workers'" element clogged up and blocked off. The idea of us voting Labour is not, of course, that the AWL will swing some huge chunk of the electorate which reliably follows our voting instructions behind Labour. If we had such sway, we would have our own Euro-candidates.

Rather, our "vote Labour" means more that we tell those people who, hating the BNP, disliking the New Labour leaders, but seeing something to identify with in the unions and what remains of the Labour left: yes, we are with you. Let us stop the BNP and go on to mobilise the unions to assert themselves in politics.

Submitted by Matthew on Thu, 21/05/2009 - 12:18

Just a few points in reply:

1. I deliberately wrote that the distinction between New Labour and the Tories and Lib Dems is that it is an ex-workers party (with the tradition and memory that implies). It could revert to that unlike other bourgeois parties but there is a big difference between accepting that as a theoretical possibilty and thinking it likely enough to call for a default Labour vote in elections. The wiping out I had in mind was the post-1931 rump Labour Party.

2. Of course I understand that calling for a Labour vote in the past did not depend on its candidates being socialists but on its working-class electoral and trade union base and the relative openess and life in local parties, none of which now exists. Again, I deliberately wrote "link with the working-class or socialism" rather than "link with socialism" to point that up. There is also a distinction between the European elections and a general election where I think it would be right to call for a vote for the small number of Labour MP's who are socialists.

3. You didn't answer my point about the Labour Euro slates not being any kind of "worker-based lists" or what New Labour has to do for us to withdraw electoral support for it.

4. I take the last paragraph as a reply to my "what would you say on the doorstep" question as to why people should vote Labour in this election. It seems to me both inadequate and beside the point as the people you describe don't exist: who out there among the electorate still sees "something to identify with in the unions and what remains of the Labour left" when voting?

I disagree with thegonzokid about voting Green but his point that voting New Labour perpetuates the policies that allow the fascists to grow is a valid one.

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