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European elections: Why No2EU?
The Socialist Party is backing the RMT transport union-led No2EU-Yes to Democracy coalition in June's European elections. Clive Heemskerk explains why we need an alternative to the bosses' EU.
Youth Fight for Jobs and NO2EU on the 'Put People First' demo, photo Paul Mattsson
THE EUROPEAN elections won't be the first thing on people's minds as the economic crisis intensifies. But the European Union's (EU) free market directives and rulings, enthusiastically implemented by the New Labour government, are linked to the avalanche of job losses, wage cuts and continued privatisation that we face.
This was clearly shown in the Lindsey oil refinery construction workers' dispute earlier this year. It was the EU 'posted workers directive' and subsequent European Court rulings that enabled the Italian-registered company, IREM, to employ workers not covered by the union-enforced national construction industry agreements. Only determined action by workers at Lindsey and other construction sites was able to defend the jobs, rights and conditions of all workers, regardless of their national origin.
The part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, the first step to its complete sell-off, is also linked to EU directives to introduce a deregulated postal services market. The New Labour government, it is true, is implementing these directives ahead of the EU timetable - but that only shows the need for a workers' alternative to pro-market politicians in Westminster, as well as Brussels!
Big business parties
Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, at the No2EU - Yes to Democracy press launch, photo Suzanne Beishon
New Labour and the Tories don't need any encouragement to put bankers' bonuses ahead of our jobs, pensions and public services. But the EU makes sure they don't falter. The April summit of EU finance ministers, for example, gave Britain six months to come up with plans to cut £35 billion from public spending to meet the EU 'Stability and Growth Pact' finance rules.
The EU's public spending criteria had already given New Labour an excuse to privatise capital projects like new schools and hospitals, by means of private finance initiatives (PFI) and the disastrous PPP on London Underground - which increase the costs of public services and subsidise corporate profits.
The No2EU-Yes to Democracy campaign will also expose the undemocratic character of the EU. Voters in France, Netherlands and Ireland have already rejected the proposed new EU constitution, now re-packaged as the Lisbon Treaty. But the big business parties are pushing ahead with it, determined to implement the new wave of privatisation, public service cuts and attacks on workers' rights it will unleash. New Labour has dumped its 2005 manifesto pledge for a referendum on the constitution. But the No2EU-Yes to Democracy campaign, by giving workers a voice, can shake the establishment parties.
NO2EU Press conference as RMT launches Euro challenge in 2009, photo Suzanne Beishon
The European elections will be the first ballot-box expression of the enormous anger people feel at the devastating consequences of the economic crisis. But where will that anger go? There is a real threat that the far-right BNP could win European Parliamentary seats in June. No2EU-Yes to Democracy is an alternative for workers, who rightly disgusted with the mainstream capitalist parties, may otherwise cast a protest vote for the BNP.
The Socialist Party supports and is part of the No2EU-Yes to Democracy coalition. We recognise that many problems, from the economic crisis to planet-threatening global warming, can only be solved at an international level. If society remains organised as it is today, on a capitalist basis, divided into competing nations, the prospects for humanity will be bleak indeed.
Fundamental change is necessary, based on democratic public ownership of the major companies that dominate the globe. We need a socialist Europe, not a bosses' EU. Backing the trade union-initiated No2EU-Yes to Democracy campaign in June's election is the first step towards building a force that can unite with workers in Europe and across the world to fight for a better future.
In The Socialist 15 April 2009:
Stop the slaughter of Tamils
Socialist Party election campaign
Socialist Party workplace news
Youth fight for jobs
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis