NO2EU: desperate, useless and reactionary

April 12, 2009 at 3:00 pm (anonymous, capitalist crisis, Champagne Charlie, class, CPGB, elections, Europe, labour party, Socialist Party, stalinism)

With New Labour openly committed to the worst excesses of free market capitalism and closed to working class input,  it’s little wonder that the genuine left is looking round for an electoral alternative. The trouble is that recent attempts – the  Socialist Alliance, the Alliance for Green Socialism, the Campaign For A New Workers Party etc, etc – have all been unmitigated disasters. The horrible miscarriage called Respect, I do not recognise as being on the “left” at all. In this situation, you can’t really blame some comrades for becoming desperate and willing to clutch at any straw.

Even so, the two latest get-rich-quick schemes conjured up by sections of the British left, are franky abysmal. The Peoples’ Charter is a petition for general good intentions, unrelated to any concept of how to actually achieve its stated objectives. It’s an unobjectionable but ineffectual waste of time and effort.

But however desperate and demoralised we may be, there has to be a bottom line – a limit beyond which no self-respecting leftist should go, even in these dog days.

NO2EU is much nastier and more dangerous than the inoffensive Peoples’ Charter and should be actively opposed. Apart from being, in reality, the latest effort by the little-Englanders of the Stalinist Communist Party of Britain (CPB), to whip up and cash in upon inescapably reactionary anti-EU nationalism, it’s also a scandalous misuse of  the subs of RMT members, misappropriated without proper debate by Bob Crow and his posturing, Stalinist mates.

Robert Griffiths, the general secretary of the CPB, has denounced left critics of NO2EU as “ultra left”: so it’s “ultra left” is, it, Mr Griffiths, to object to the denunciation of “the so-called ‘free movement of labour'” in the EU and “the social dumping of foreign workers in Britain“?

This is not the same thing as the Lindsey oil refinery strike which, for all the stuff about “British Jobs For British Workers”, was a legitimate trade union action in defence of a national agreement. NO2EU is irredeemably tainted by its nationalism and  little-England isolationism: it’s a reactionary dead-end that should be opposed at every turn. RMT members should ask Crow what the hell he thinks he’s playing at, wasting their money like this. The fact that some good comrades (like the Socialist Party) are – with reservations – supporting this nonsense, is a sign of the desperation that prevails amongst even some of the better sections of the left these days.

27 Comments

  1. Martin Ohr said,

    There’s a fringe meeting at NUT tonight to promote the no2eu platform, sponsored by the socialist party. Dave Nellist and Rob Griffiths speaking.

    I’ve already upset Jim’s old friend Stuart Richardson of Socialist Outlook/Resitance/Respect etc by asking him why he’s supporting nationalism; it has to be said that the SP and others are pretty low key about the meeting tonight and the project as a whole. It’s hugely embarassing to them not only to have to defend the crap politics, the lack of democracy and the half-arsed approach of no2eu.

    Although it is unlikely that I will catch the chair’s eye and get to speak tonight. These are the points I would make:

    1) The politics are poor -even compared to the peoples charter: which the all the participants have signed up to. The focus on the EU is pathetic. Blaming the EU for privatisation, the economic crisis and lack of workers rights misses the point stubstantially.

    The language and tone of the publicity so far mirrors neatly UKIP and to some extents the BNP. In particular the bullet point to ‘repatriate democratic powers’ seems designed only to appeal to voters interested in other forms of repatriation.

    If we want to take on the BNP then we should tackle their arguments head-on. Blame for the economic crisis lies with capitalism -not the EU. The solutions are more workers organisation, greater freedom of movement, greater rights for workers all across the globe to organise. For nationalisation etc.

    2) The lack of democracy already in no2eu is striking. Delegates from the RMT were prevented from attending the meetings which drew up the platform unless they agreed in advance with the aims. There is no method for RMT members to effect the policies, never mind any normal members. SWP, AWL and CPGB have been specifically excluded from playing any part. While RESPECT -who are supporting rival candidates- were invited. It seems a healthy taint of stalinism is the key to getting involved.

    …more later if I get chance.

  2. A Very Public Sociologist said,

    Any truth to the rumour the AWL has undergone a further split, ostensibly over the Lindsey Oil Refinery strikes?

  3. Jim Denham said,

    A ” further” split? Tell me about the first one, please. And, AVPS, a disagreement amongst comrades in a democratic organisation, is not the same thing as a split.

  4. martin Ohr said,

    avps

    what is that rumour, it’s not one I’ve seen or heard any evidence of.

    happy to report that the meetings is very strange, so far everyone agrees with my points.

  5. Will said,

    AVP is a moron.

    anyone who engages with his shit is also a moron.

  6. voltairespriest said,

    Jim:

    Spot on. The left needs to be done and gone form this British Road To Socialism crap.

  7. martin Ohr said,

    except for rob griffiths and one of his toadies, everyone agreed with the points we made, theironport answer is ‘we have to wrok with what we’ve got, let’s run with the anti eu stuff and see where it takes us’

    Rob Griffiths for his part is a different beast. against the accusation of little england nationalism -directed at the cpb specifically he responded only to boast of Bob Crow’s internationalist credentials.

    responding to our complaints of lack of democracy griffiths said: “why should we let people into the meetings to argue with us, if you want different policies, fuck off and form your own coalition”

  8. A Very Public Sociologist said,

    I know it was a bit of a stretch to call The Commune split a split, but such is micro politics. I just heard on the grapevine that there had been a similar scale split – any truth to the rumour?

  9. martin ohr said,

    AVPS:

    What is the rumour? Who has split -no-one to my knowledge.

  10. a very public sociologist said,

    It was on leftist trainspotters and there was no evidence – just speculation. I’ll take your word as good coin.

  11. Witness said,

    Martin Ohr (7) writes:
    “except for rob griffiths and one of his toadies, everyone agreed with the points we made”.
    I was at that NUT fringe meeting, and saw the AWL members totally isolate themselves with their arrogant and sectarian lectures. “Everyone agreed with the points we made” – what is Ohr smoking?
    Ohr again: “responding to our complaints of lack of democracy griffiths said: “why should we let people into the meetings to argue with us, if you want different policies, fuck off and form your own coalition””
    Griffiths did not tell Ohr or anyone else to “fuck off”. Pure invention. He explained the circumstances in which the RMT excluded an AWL member from the No2EU steering committee. He also made a far more substantial internationalist case for the No2EU platform than the distorted rubbish being peddled by Ohr on this site.
    Is this the level on which the AWL conducts political debate – with such crude lies and distortions? Despicable.

  12. commune... said,

  13. martin ohr said,

    Witness. Your recollection of the meeting is different to mine, I was struck by what Griffiths said and wrote it down -maybe I misheard, but I don’t think so. I think my handwritten notes are probably more credible than some anonymous troll.

    After my intervention which was neither sectarian nor lecturing I sat down to a substantial round of applause. The paper sales and contacts we made after the meeting showed we were far from Isolated.

    For those who haven’t met Rob Griffiths, he’s everything you would expect an aged tankie to be. A tedious, hectoring, bully whose grip on the truth is somewhat flaky. He claimed a substantial group of support from workers organisations in Leeds and Bradford for the no2ue platform. They were mentioned in the same breath as Indian worker associations, but I do not think it is them. Whoever he has on board from round here doesn’t seem to be anyone we’ve ever come across before, but that remains to be seen.

    Similarly Griffiths claimed that the Alliance for Green Socialism have joined no2eu- I doubt that that is true. Those members I’ve spoken to know nothing about it; it is certainly against the policy passed when I was briefly a member: “The Alliance for Green Socialism is not in favour of withdrawal from the European Union.”

    I almost laughed out loud at Griffiths denouncing the european ‘gravy train’, it takes some chutzpah to do this having spent a lifetime as a paid servant of USSR propaganda, and to have clearly consumed a great deal of gravy himself.

  14. Witness said,

    My my, Martin, full of bile are you not?
    Rob Griffiths did not tell you to “fuck off”, nor did he use those words in any context whatsoever. You know it, I know it and the whole audience at that NUT fring meeting know it. For you now to compare yourself favourably to Griffiths in the truth stakes is just a little grotesque.
    The Alliance for Green Socialism are indeed supporting the No2EU platform, have affiliated to it, had a representative on the steering committee, and have candidates on the No2EU lists. Another case where Griffiths was telling the truth and you were, well, what shall we call it …
    I know Griffiths well enough to tell you that for most of his working life he has been a college tutor in labour history and a TUC tutor on shop stewards and trade union courses (including a school I attended with ASLEF). Not on any gravy train, in fact, Soviet or EU. But then, the truth does not seem to be your strong point, does it?
    I have never taken issue with the AWL publicly before. If you are typical of its representatives, then it can only be a thoroughly dishonest and unprincipled organisation. I hope that’s not the case, and that you’re not allowed out on your own too often.

  15. Janine said,

    So did this geezer – whoever he is – also explain the circumstances in which RMT members – including branch/regional Political Officers – were excluded from the No2EU meeting?!

    ‘Yes to Democracy’?! Not too convincing.

  16. Commis said,

    “clearly consumed a great deal of gravy himself”

    It’s not the gravy, it’s the yorkshire pudding that causes the problems. No2EU is a nationalist platform. Any group supporting it, “critically” or otherwise, is placing itself in the nationalist camp. No2EU is effectively doing the BNP’s work for them while retaining a faint patina of ‘respectability’ — they must be loving this.

  17. Trade Unionist said,

    Wow, whinging leftys in action. Debate is good but this moanin about who let who in at what meeting is well borin.

    I read 16 posts and I am none the wiser in terms of what you all think.

    I’ll tell you what I think. The EU is a charter for a neo liberal dictatorship and at last someone from the left has said no. Maybe it aint perfect but it’s out there. What are you lot doin’? Planning the revolution from your bedroom? Just listen to Tony Benn on the sites video – makes total sense to me. Calling for a democratic Europe in no way makes me a nationalist and calling me a moron for supporting it is plain silly.

    So to support a movement endorsed by Tony Benn and RMT, the most progressive trade union in Britain today, makes me a nationalist, stalinist, moron, that’s helping the BNP. Surely you have a better argument.

    The remaining left has split and split into ever smaller schisms that sit contemplating their navals. If we (a lose association) don’t get beyond the remaining left wing political groupings and make a case that people understand nothing will change.

    The BNP have posts on there web sites complaining that this party will split there vote – there are plenty of disilussioned working people who are not racist who would vote for No2EU.

    There is nothing wrong with connecting with working people when they believe a currupt centralised undemocratic organisation does not represent there interests. Because they are right!

    Or perhaps you support an indefensible centralised European dictatorship of capital.

    What do you support? And please please don’t give me a leftist platitude, I know them all.

  18. Jim Denham said,

    This is copied from a ‘Unite’ discussion website, without the express permission of the author, but I trust he won’t mind. I think it answers many, if not all, of “Trade Unionist”‘s points:

    The way to have a debate about neo liberalism is to debate neo liberalism.

    The hardest Manchester Liberals in the EU at this time are the British Government.

    What we clearly need is to mobilise the bits of the Labour Party that are still Labour, that includes the MEPs and the TUs among others on a platform that makes sense to our members.

    “Vote Labour and fight for a Social Europe” is a better and clearer slogan than “No to the EU”. The MEPs should not be tarred with the Blair Brown brush. They have after a fashion stayed with us and opposed the UK state’s Liberal push against workers’ rights.

    We should be pushing for the maximum effort on Unite’s key European issues during this election campaign and building the biggest possible coalition around them. An election campaign with MEPs on platforms and in the press committing themselves to fight for Union Rights in the EU and in the UK would have a bigger and better effect on national politics in this country than tailing UKIP on a get out of Europe campaign.

    You seem a bit put out by Jim’s mild attack on No2EU and, I suspect, of his linking it to the old AES campaign. Can we not have an understanding that political debate is about telling people they are wrong and why they are wrong. Pretending that we all agree on this is probably the most destructive and demoralising of all the options.

    I’ve never thought it a big problem to disagree with Jim or Rhys and tell them why they are wrong and it certainly has not caused any problems when we worked together on the things we do agree on. On this issue I think Jim is right, or at least a lot more correct than Rhys. On other issues eg state funding of hospital chaplains I suspect that Rhys, Jim and me would be in a tight alliance against people who support both sides of this argument. That is how healthy political debate works, we take decisions issue by issue and tell everybody why they are wrong and we are right.

    Diplomacy is a skill you use with your enemies. Frank and open debate is how you conduct yourself among comrades.From your contribution you seem to be saying that Jim is right on the issue but wrong to argue with those who are wrong on the issue.

    Tom

  19. martin ohr said,

    Witness -yes you are correct that AGS are supporting no2eu -pretty sheepishly admittedly, they haven’t announced it publicly, the vote at conference was only by either 1 or 2 votes, they have 2 candidates on the list for yorkshire. Presumably because the CPB don’t have any activists here, and the local RMT people could not be trusted to tow the nationalist line. Still waiting to see who else in yorkshire had signed up, perhaps one day the no2eu website will get updated.

    To go back to what Griffiths said. I wrote it down straight away, but it’s possible I misheard, Griffiths doesn’t speak all that clearly under normal circumstances and on that night to make it worse he had clearly consumed a reasonable amount of cider. He was fumbling for his words having just fluffed a joke -I don’t know how you get to be general secretary of anything -even the cpb- being such a pisspoor speaker, but I guess the ranks of stalinism are not exactly swelled with talent.

    Janine to answer your point: Rob Griffiths claimed that the RMT people who were excluded were all wreckers from “one tiny irrelevant ultra left sect”. (I notice that the cpgb claims that he meant them)

  20. Jim Denham said,

    From Stan, north of the border:

    The SSP website has an article on it by Alan McCoombes explaining what the attitude of socialists towards Europe should be.

    (It’s not clear whether it’s meant to be a statement on behalf of the SSP, or just Alan McCoombes writing as an individual – but I doubt very much if anyone else would be given the same access to the website to argue a different position.)

    The piece is at:

    http://www.scottishsocialistparty.org/new_stories/issues/little-britain-politics-and-the-left.html

    I had previously begun a thread on the SSP Discussion Forum seeking clarification of what SSP policy on Europe is. The answer I got from members was that the SSP is for withdrawal from the EU. And that certainly tallies with my recollection of SSP material from the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections.

    McCoombes’ piece, however, states that socialists do not advocate withdrawal from the EU.

    Unfortunately, this is combined with a number of political somersaults, principally:

    1) In 1975, when the left was stronger, it was correct to be in favour of withdrawal from the Common Market. But now that the left is weaker, it is wrong to advocate withdrawal:

    “At that time (1975), the left’s opposition to the creation of a European bloc was based on clear logic. The left in Britain was powerful: the trade unions had just brought down a Tory Government; the governing party was committed, at least in paper, to a fundamental and irreversible shift in the balance of wealth and power to working people and their families; Britain’s NHS and welfare state was the envy of the world, and the UK had a long tradition of parliamentary democracy which within living memory had survived the fascist conquest of most of Europe. The anti-Europeanism of much of the British left was forged under these conditions. But times have moved on, and the rationale for supporting British withdrawal no longer exists. For the past 20 years the UK has, along with the USA, led the worldwide crusade to privatise public services …”

    2) But if it’s wrong to advocate withdrawal from the EU, why is it correct to advocate Scottish withdrawal from the UK (i.e. independence)? The answer is:

    “The balance of class forces in Scotland is overwhelming tilted towards the working class – a process which will be accentuated in the years to come as a consequence of the collapse of the countries two major capitalist institutions, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland.”

    So: Scottish withdrawal from the UK would be a shift to the left (because of the strength of the Scottish working class), whereas Scottish withdrawal from the EU would be a shift to the right (because of the weakness of the same working class).

    Could this sudden shift in line perhaps be dictated by the need to be able to attack No2EU from the left?

  21. » European elections 2009: No2EU, yes to populism? Though Cowards Flinch: “We all know what happens to those who stand in the middle of the road — they get run down.” - Aneurin Bevan said,

    [...] issues of major importance, vote for them. Whilst I might share some of the sentiments expressed at Shiraz Socialist, I don’t think it’s right to oppose No2EU at every turn. Nor do I subscribe to the [...]

  22. Thomas said,

    You are really stupid. You idiotic Trotskyite GIVE ME INTERNATIONALISM NOW WHAAAAAAAAA always end up a stupid apology for NEOLIBERAL GENOCIDAL GLOBALISATION

    You who bitch about Stalinism have far more blood on your hands.

    Grow up.

  23. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Nurse!

  24. Ridley the Monkey Hanger said,

    @ Thom-arse

    Of course! The old fighting capitalism with racism trick.

    Thom-arse is obviously from a parallel continuum where Stalin was shot and killed during a bank robbery in 1906.

    • Thom said,

      The problem is you paranoid psychopaths who see racism, sexism, and homophobia under every bed to the point that you place that as your no. 1 and only litmus test with particularly expansive and ridiculous definitions (so that, for example, No2EU, which is explicitly against all those things, is still considered kind of racist because its rhetoric is protectionist). Therefore, behind your no. 1 political preference of immediate world revolution – all countries become socialist at once – Trotskyism and your no. 2 preference of immediate anarcho-communism (all countries become communist at once), no. 3 is anarcho-libertarian capitalism, since at least it is not racist or homophobic or religious. It does not really matter if this is the most murderous of all ideologies (while 1 and 2 just are not going to happen).

      It is not actually Stalin, for all his faults, who ever publicly spoke and wrote of “terror” as something positive. It was the ultra-Left faction in the KPSS which attacked churches (though some of you seem still openly okay with this), and I must say, this did a lot to reinforce anti-Semitic stereotypes (and Bolsheviks = satanic Jews = genocide of Christians) in interwar Europe. You certainly cannot blame Stalin for advocating Trotsky’s own economic policies (unless in the sense of being a slimy politician). Stalin caused a lot of problems. He didn’t start the fire. Okay?

  25. No2eu – yes to what? « cardiff radical socialist forum said,

    [...] Below are some of the blogs discussing no2eu: Boffy blog Shiraz Socialist [...]

  26. A note on No2EU « Left Luggage said,

    [...] Socialist claims that “NO2EU is irredeemably tainted by its nationalism and little-England isolationism: it’s a reactionary dead-end that should be [...]

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