Monday 11 May 2009

No2EU Campaigning in Stoke

The No2EU campaign here in Stoke has taken on some flesh this last week. At Thursday night's branch meeting of Stoke Socialist Party, Brother C talked about his experience on the first No2EU stall that took place last weekend. He said the experience was very different from being on a normal SP stall. For starters people approaching the stall tended to be more politically engaged, though not always in the way we socialists would like! Given how the campaign's only recently come together it was unsurprising a bit of confusion greeted the name. He and Brother N spoke to some anti-EU people who were preparing to vote for UKIP or the BNP and found the best way of talking to them was to strongly contest anti-immigrant sentiment by putting forward straightforward class arguments. They also found it extremely useful to counterpose the present bosses' Europe with an alternative workers' Europe, which successfully forced the more nationalist-inclined voters to think a bit more deeply about the basis of right-wing euroscepticism. Brother C did warn we have to be sharp on this and not give reactionary opposition to the EU a free pass.

Then on Friday evening we had a No2EU public launch/campaign meeting. We were fortunate enough to have Jo Stevenson of the Young Communist League and Dave Nellist of Coventry SP come and address the meeting (yours truly did the chairing honours). Jo's speech opened with an attack on the BNP - she rightly pointed out the opportunities this election afforded them as well as the fakery of their left-sounding policies. She then moved on to some of the criticisms of No2EU, which aim to paint it as some sort of nationalist formation. She took hold of the 'little Englander' label and said the labour movement is - but only in the sense it along with its counterparts across Europe fight measures coming through the EU that attack our living standards and undermine national collective bargaining agreements. She then moved on to give Unite's March for Jobs in Birmingham next Saturday a mention as an example of concentrating our forces against attacks on our class, from wherever they come.

In his contribution Dave looked at how progressive disillusionment with the mainstream parties has fed into an increasing vote share in the European elections for parties with no Westminster representation, and these votes can go all sorts of ways. Where the BNP are concerned theirs is mostly a protest vote - hard core racists only form a small minority of their support. But there is a problem if they become the favoured repository of protest votes - it can become solidified (as we've found in parts of Stoke). Also we should not forget that wherever the BNP vote goes up, the number of racially motivated attacks does too. Therefore part of No2EU's objectives is disrupting this support. Dave also went on to talk about the lack of democracy at the heart of the EU, it being a creature grown incrementally out of a series of treaties and how in his 30+ years of political activity he hasn't seen any slate of candidates as solid as this one. The main problem he saw with No2EU is that it should have been up and running over a year ago.

During the discussion, Brother N came in on the soft left's love-in with the EU, seeing as the British government has avoided social democratic crumbs that have fallen from the commission's table. But this is not the core of what the EU is about. P replied there is an internationalism of sorts among the bosses, but it's an internationalism of convenience - what unites them is a desire to keep our class down, which is why it's keen on the free movement of labour. For us, our internationalism comes from below and is about uniting our class across borders. Brother C of the Communist Party added that to call the RMT leadership nationalist is utter rubbish given its role organising workers of many nationalities on the London underground. Brother F spoke of the difference between working in care for the public and private sectors, highlighting that the British government as well as the EU are still obsessed with privatisation.

It then came to sorting out activities, which included a stall and leaflet drops in throughout the week, and of course the No2EU intervention at next weekend's demo in Birmingham. Thus Saturday morning found a team of SP'ers, a CP comrade and an indie hitting Hanley high street. Our comrades did a mixture of SP and No2EU, while the others banged out No2EU leaflets like there was no tomorrow. We had a No2EU board up but managed to attract no negative comments - though I did speak to a "card carrying Tory" who refused to sign our petition. Another plus was the No2EU slogan appeared to really catch the eye - very few leaflets went into bags and pockets without a good look. Also I managed to win a Workers' Power supporter to voting for the coalition too, which was strangely gratifying.

But with less than a month to go there's still much to do. If you want to get involved drop me a line.


Anonymous said...

Hey Phil, I am one of those who think No2EU is not the right angle to stand on the Euro elections, but good luck anyway. But on the Westminster elections, do you think there is a case for standing a few SP people in the next Westminster elections using the MP's expenses scandal as a way in ? I mean, putting up Dave Nellist, say, against one of the worse Labour offenders and saying "socialist MP's take the average workers wage, sell-outs get their bathplugs on expenses" might be worth while. I think 70% of this scandal will play to the right, but this would be a way of ensuring that 30% plays to the left. I know you have your longer term CNWP plan, but if there ain't a NWP by 2010, is this a possibility ?

Solomon Hughes

Phil said...

Solomon, the SP does already have plans to stand in the general election. But yeah, I'm certainly not opposed in striking a populist note on this issue!