Wednesday 15 April 2009

Britain: New left alliance for EU elections

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT (Transport Workers' Union) and leader of "No2EU - Yes to Democracy".

by Bob Crow from Spectrezine 24 March 2009 Last week saw the launch of the “No2EU - Yes to Democracy” electoral front, which is critical of the European Union and opposed to the Lisbon Treaty. The alliance is an initiative of Bob Crow, head of Britains’s biggest transport union, the RMT. Below, Crow explains why activists have taken the decision to challenge British Labour Party complaceny on this viciously anti-working class treaty. It's not every day I agree to head up a new left-wing EU-critical electoral alliance to stand in the European elections, but it wasn't a decision taken lightly. My union has been following developments in the European Union for many years and has debated the impact of EU treaties and various directives each year at its annual general meetings. Many RMT members have suffered as the result of EU diktats such as the one which led to the privatisation of our rail network. The EU drive to push market mechanisms into our public services has now appeared with the part-privatisation of postal services. The EU mania for imposing increasingly discredited neoliberal economics on more than 500 million Europeans is also enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, the renamed EU constitution rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005. The treaty forces governments to hand public services over to private corporations. That means handing fat cats control of railways, schools, postal services, energy and even social services across Europe. According to the EU constitution, "A European framework law shall establish measures to achieve the liberalisation of a specific service." That provision remains in the Lisbon Treaty. The current economic crisis was created by this right-wing economic dogma, yet, under the Lisbon Treaty, these policies become constitutional goals. EU rules demanding the "free movement of capital, goods, services and labour" within the EU have also encouraged widespread social dumping where vulnerable exploited workers from across the EU are being used to drive down wages in member states. Successive EU directives and European Court of Justice decisions have similarly been used to attack trade union collective bargaining, the right to strike and workers' pay and conditions. As a result, working people are feeling increasingly betrayed by a political elite that seems more interested in implementing neoliberal EU rules than representing those who elected them. This crisis of working-class representation, along with the growing economic crisis, has led to a deep disillusionment, cynicism and general mistrust of politicians. That is one of the reasons why Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty in June last year - because they too did not want an EU constitution that took away their hard-won democracy and effectively turned the EU into an undemocratic superstate. Yet the resounding "No'' by Irish voters was ignored by politicians across Europe who are clearly more wedded to EU institutions than their own electorates. That is why Gordon Brown's government reneged on Labour's 2005 manifesto promise to hold a referendum and instead forced the treaty through parliament with Liberal Democrats' and Tories' help. The Irish electorate has been told that it must vote for a second time on the Lisbon Treaty by October 2009, having voted to reject it in 2008. Why? Because EU and Irish politicians have decided that voters in Ireland must be overruled. To counter this assault on democracy, No2EU - Yes to Democracy is fielding candidates on June 4, 2009, to give a voice to voters who feel betrayed by the main parties. This crisis of democracy and the very serious economic situation is leading to a rise in support for far-right, fascist parties such as the British National Party. Yet the BNP has no answers. It peddles hate and seeks to undermine organisations that working people rely on to protect them such as trade unions. No2EU - Yes to Democracy is an electoral platform and not a party. Our candidates will not sit in the European Parliament in the event of winning any seats. Our candidates would nominally hold the title MEP but would not board the notorious EU gravy train. This is because the European Parliament is, in fact, not a parliament but a very expensive talking shop with no law-making powers. Those powers lie with the unelected European Commission. A recent report showed that MEPs can make over 1 million from a single five-year term by claiming various allowances and even for assistants for whom no record exists. British MEPs' pay will even rise by almost 50 per cent after June's election to over 120,000. While in the real world banks go under and hundreds of thousands of workers are losing their jobs, EU elites continue to enrich themselves at the taxpayers' expense. Lend us your vote on June 4 and we will continue to campaign against the EU privatisation drive and the widespread corruption that goes with it. It's clear that millions of people would reject the Lisbon Treaty if they were given the chance to and demand the repatriation of democratic powers to the member states.

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