The bones of No2EU have been picked over by practically everyone on the far left (except for the Socialist Workers' Party, who've maintained a conspicuous silence about it). But what's going to happen next? Will the coalition be scattered to the four winds, leaving each of its components to sort out their own arrangements for the general election? Or, as was hoped, No2EU would result in a commitment to working together to produce something that can be a pole of attraction for all the left?
Thankfully, the news Dave Nellist brought from Monday's national steering committee meeting to the West Midlands gathering of No2EU on Tuesday night was very positive.
At the steering committee all the components of the coalition endorsed further action. The Communist Party said they were preparing to stand candidates as part of their Unity for Peace and Socialism alliance with members of other 'official' CPs domiciled in Britain but wanted to work with its No2EU partners and others.
In the immediate term the steering committee appointed a working group that will report back in September. Its remit is to come up with an alternative name and a basic programmatic document that can be added to later. In addition, another union besides the RMT will be present at the September meeting and committee members will be talking to the leaderships of a further four unions about their participation.
Dave finished his report by noting that our electoral challenge needs to be properly organised - we cannot afford to adopt a cavalier approach to these things. What is certain is millions of voters will be afloat thanks to the collapse of Labour's electoral support. If we are to claim some of that and start building a mass alternative we have to get out into communities with our socialist message now.
Unsurprisingly there was a good deal of discussion. Yours truly welcomed Dave's report after fearing the worst (I had heard mutterings the RMT were only going to be prepared to endorse certain candidates from the sidelines) and asked if the SWP had been approached or were in contact with No2EU. Pete McLaren of the rump Socialist Alliance felt enthused about the developments. He also called for the SWP to be involved because they are significant and said we should debate out the programme on the basis of a mutually acceptable platform. Its guiding method should be on the 80 per cent the far left agrees on and not let the 20 per cent or so we disagree about be a barrier to working together.
Dave Church of Walsall Democratic Labour Party argued we were in danger of going around in a circle if we just chase after elections. We need to be more consistent and seek roots in our communities. He also added that we need to be modest. We all know we'll be fighting to keep deposits rather than seats, but we need also be clear that regardless whether Labour or the Tories win the next election, the working class will lose.
Dave Griffiths of Coventry Socialist Party argued we need to be patient when we're working together. An open debate about the nature of the coalition and its programme is necessary and all left groups should be drawn into the process. But at this stage its de facto federal character should be preserved, so no one component can dominate. Dave was also cautious about the SWP - in light of what happened in the SA and Respect, he hoped to see some more signs of cooperative intent from them first.
Replying to Dave, Clive from Coventry SWP said the presence of himself and another member showed their serious intent. Because Labour is dying on its feet, there is a degree of urgency to all our unity proceedings. He thought there was a wind of change blowing through the trade union movement and what we need to do is give it an electoral expression that in turn can feed into workplace struggles. Alastair from Birmingham SWP said his party found the No2EU name problematic but that our enemies are a greater danger than we are to each other.
Summing up Dave Nellist said the SWP and No2EU had not spoken directly, but bilateral talks between them and the SP had started. On the question of programme, the CPB signaled that the People's Charter would be pushed by them as the core programme for the coalition (a programme few but only the most chemical pure "revolutionaries" would have problem with as the basis of a left alliance). Dave also said he would like to see the coalition sit down with localised defenders of public services who already have some representation - people like Wigan's Community Action Party and the Socialist Peoples Party in Barrow. But they're only going to come on board any sort of left formation if they feel they have a say in its development. For example, back in the (mark one) Socialist Alliance the SP took a maximum of 40% of its leading positions, despite having the numbers to run it as a straight front group. If we try to hector and dominate localised campaigns when they become part of the coalition, they'll be out the door in five minutes. Therefore we need to exercise self-denying ordinance.
In sum, it's certainly looking positive. There will be something concrete on the table by the end of the Summer, which will be open to debate and modification. There is a commitment to having a more open coalition. The RMT are still on board and at least one other union is interested.
No2EU may not have set the world of electoral politics alight. But as has been constantly pointed out on this blog from the beginning, regardless of its faults it was part of a process that was going to go beyond the European elections. What this meeting did was to offer a glimpse of the far left realignment to come. There have been better times to be a socialist, but the one we live in is going to get more interesting.