Since the last issue of
(May/June 1999), the people of Scotland and Wales have been to the polls to elect a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly respectively; there were also government elections in some areas; finally the elections to the European Parliament were held on 10 June. In Scotland the Socialist Labour Party polled 55,000 votes and in the three Welsh regions it contested, the SLP secured 10,720 votes. In Scotland, the SLP came within a whisker of winning one seat in the Scottish Parliament. Considering how new the SLP organisation in Scotland and Wales is, the results were heartening, for the results established it as a pole of attraction for working people who want a proletarian alternative to the usual run of bourgeois parties.
As for the European Parliamentary elections, the Party stood in all the nine English regions, as well as in Scotland. While the SLP did better during these elections than in the 1997 General Election, it did not do as well in comparison with its performance in the elections to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly only a month before, on 6 May. While an in-depth analysis of the election result must await further investigation and discussion, it can partly be explained by the lack of interest on the part of the British electorate in the European Union. At 23% of the electorate, the turnout for the European elections was dismal, showing a lack of interest on the part of the ordinary voter in the European project. Of the more than 40 million electorate in Britain, a mere 10 million voted during these elections. Although not as bad, voters’ lack of interest in these elections was repeated all over the EU. Of the 297 million voters in the EU, less than 50% voted in the elections for the European Parliament. Even the
which enthusiastically supports European integration and the single currency, was forced to comment that:
“the low turnout indicates that European integration remains an elitist
project that only excites politicians and others directly caught up in it. For many European citizens, Europe is a remote and incomprehensible phenomenon …
” (15 June 1999).
Other parties, too, suffered a collapse in their share of the vote – the Labour vote collapsed by 79.2%, that of the Liberal Democrats by 76.9% and that of the Greens fell from 15% in 1994 to 6.25%. Of the 10 million (23% of the electorate) who did bother to vote, while the Tories received 36%, Labour’s share was a mere 28%, which was
“as bad as any it has achieved in a nationwide election since the 1920s” (Financial Times,
15 June 1999). The
adds that in numerical terms, Labour’s share of the vote was “
as low as in Labour’s darkest post-war hour, the 1983 general election
And the reason for Labour’s dismal performance? The
correctly points out that
“Labour is failing to persuade the urban working class, its core support, to vote in elections.”
One may gauge the degeneration of the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and the New Communist Party (NCP) from the fact that at a time when the urban proletariat is deserting the imperialist Labour party, these ‘communist’ parties are advising the working class to vote for it. The
, which is the daily paper of the CPB, openly asked its readers to vote for Labour, although it had written some excellent articles against Labour’s imperialist war against Yugoslavia. Its reason for supporting Labour was that any other course would have the effect of causing the trade unions to withdraw their financial support of the
Such is the shameful extent to which they have brought into disrepute communism and Marxism. What, one may ask, is the point in being a communist if one is willing to sell oneself and render flunkey service to the nearest charlatan wielding a cheque book? As for the NCP, it did not even have the courage openly to call for a Labour vote, resorting instead to a private communication to its membership.
is glad to report that the membership of the CPB and the NCP ignored with utter contempt and disgust the instructions of the leadership, by either not voting at all or voting for the SLP.
The good thing, however, was that the SLP stood in every region and established itself as a national party. As a result of the election broadcasts, election addresses, public meetings and other campaigning, several hundred people have got in touch with the party headquarters and SLP constituencies with a view to joining the party and/or helping it.
Comrade Arthur Scargill explained that the SLP was opposed to the EU, not because of narrow nationalism, but because the EU had nothing to offer to the European working class or the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America. The entire EU enterprise, he explained in meeting after meeting, was aimed at creating an imperialist bloc of the European bourgeoisie for the joint suppression of socialism in Europe, the join oppression and exploitation of third world countries, and for confronting rival imperialist powers, namely, US and Japanese imperialism. The European Union, he said, costs the British taxpayer very dear and brings fabulous profits to the City – British finance capital. The level of contribution at these public meetings was exceptionally good. This goes not only for the contributions of the General Secretary and other experienced comrades, but also for a younger generation of comrades who are playing a full part in the development of the SLP. We print below extracts of the speech of one such comrade, delivered at the SLP election meeting in Conway Hall, central London.
Now that the elections are over, it is time for the entire SLP membership to put all its efforts into building the SLP as a properly functioning and vibrant organisation in every area, in every constituency. Provided that is done, the future of the SLP is very promising indeed, for it is well placed to secure the support of the urban proletariat which is increasingly turning its back on the Labour Party.
ii) European Election Speech
Vote Us In To Get Us Out!
If we are all for Internationalism and equality, why are we against the European Union?
We are against the European Union because it represents the opposite of true Internationalism. An Internationalist wishes for maximum unity between the peoples of the world, maximum co-operation based on free and voluntary union of states for the benefit of the people, in order to provide all the requirements of a decent life for everyone on an equal basis. The EU, on the other hand, creates the structure for an even more efficient super-state machinery for the better oppression of workers both within and without the Union. It is a union only of the capitalists for their mutual benefit, which will see wages and living standards cut to a common level – the lowest – in order that the bourgeoisie can take home the highest possible profit.
For example, imagine if the miner’s strike were to happen in a few years’ time. Not only would they find the forces of the British …lined up against them, they could very well find that police and armed forces from Italy or Germany were being brought in to deal with them too. As the capitalist crisis inevitably deepens, these are exactly the situations which are likely to become more and more commonplace when working people, even in the richest countries, find themselves forced to fight for their survival. And if that is true for conflicts inside the EU, imagine the plight of nations outside the EU who try to prevent in any way the exploitation of their people by European capital.
One has only to look at Yugoslavia and Iraq to see what happens to nations who put up even the smallest demur against the right of international capital to ravage them, and the EU’s combined military might will, in due course, be able to rival that of the US when it comes to bully-boy intimidation and the slaughter of innocents across the globe.
The current war against Yugoslavia is said to be being waged for humanitarian reasons, but in reality this war is a result and a continuation of Nato’s strategy of divide and rule in Yugoslavia: a policy which has to do with the control of pipelines and oil from the Middle East to the Caspian Sea. … We in the SLP recognise the right of the Yugoslav people to work out their own destiny without outside interference and condemn Nato’s war of aggression as illegal and immoral. It is Tony Blair and Bill Clinton who should be facing War Tribunals today.
The British press, that proud bastion of ‘free speech’ and ‘democracy’ has been unanimous in its support of the war and in perpetuating the lies put out by Nato and Downing Street concerning the reality of the issues involved… The footage of war devastation in Serbia in the SLP’s election broadcast was cut by the BBC, who gave the reason that it was ‘too distressing’ for people to see! And this from the most trusted brand in Britain today; this from the corporation that daily regales its audience with ghastly pictures of massacres allegedly committed by the Serbs in Kosovo.
If the US or Britain were at all concerned about basic human rights, why is it that they do not speak out about the atrocities of the Turkish regime in its fascistic oppression of the Kurdish people? Why are UN troops not called into Northern Ireland to put an end to the occupation of that territory? The answer is simple – the interest of the multinationals and their profits lies behind the aggressors. … British Imperialism is not merely silent about atrocities and ethnic cleansing in Turkey and Israel, it actively helps those governments to continue with such filthy work. The kidnap of the Kurdish leader Ocalan and his hand-over to Turkey by Nato intelligence is one example of this support. In return for which, Nato receives full backing from Turkey in its aggression against Iraq and Yugoslavia. It is worth noting also that in the case of Nazi Germany, British imperialism did not declare war in response to the butchering of Jews, Gypsies, Communists and other opponents of the fascist state, but only when its own colonies were threatened.
Many so-called supporters of the labour movement point to European legislation on Human Rights, etc., insisting that when we are all in Europe, the standard of living of all European workers will be raised to a level of minimum decency. In fact, the opposite is true. Before monetary unity can take place, governments across Europe have been told in no uncertain terms to cut out all ‘excess’ spending. Which means only one thing – get rid of the remnants of your welfare state programmes; remove all benefits and slash state spending on such fripperies as universal health and education. And that is exactly what the Labour government has been doing with an efficiency and ruthlessness that would have made Thatcher blush. The legislation about Human Rights and Welfare is like the legendary Clause 4 of the old Labour Party – a fig leaf to make it acceptable to liberals, not meant to be taken seriously or acted on, and certainly not part of what Europe is really about.
If we are against the EU, why are we standing for election and why on earth should anyone vote for us?
As Socialists, we harbour no illusions about the possibility of social change through purely peaceful, parliamentary means. There are several people who still have the gall to call themselves socialists sitting in Parliament even now, but who seem to have achieved nothing more than the furtherance of their own careers and a healthy bank balance. So what makes the SLP different?
In the SLP, we believe that the capitalist system needs to be torn down and replaced with something altogether different – a system where production is planned to meet the real needs of the people, rather than the anarchic, outmoded system of private production based on the drive for individual profit and accumulation, whereby the wealth and resources of the world are in the hands of an ever-dwindling clique of individuals.
Elections are an excellent opportunity to get out and bring our message to the people – by going door-to-door, by leafleting local High Streets, by holding meetings, through broadcasts, etc. In standing candidates in every constituency, the SLP earned the right to a 5-minute broadcast on every major TV channel. In the light of the current media blackout on our young party, this publicity has been invaluable. The SLP is growing exponentially, as more and more people discover that finally there is a viable alternative to the bourgeois party politics of corruption, greed and hypocrisy and the nauseating sycophancy that goes with such politics.
That does not mean to say that winning seats in any bourgeois parliament is the primary goal of the SLP. Parliamentary activity is just one facet of the struggle against imperialism and the SLP is and will be out there every day, organising and joining with all forms of struggle, from anti-racist struggles and Reclaim Our Rights to freedom for Ireland, pensioners’ and students’ rights and the daily fight for decent wages and living standards for all.
Some outfits calling themselves socialist have decided to stand in this election where previously they only acted as campaigners for the Labour Party. There is only one reason for this – the very serious threat that the SLP poses to Social Democracy (ie. those who profess to be socialists in words, but whose deeds prove them to be servants of imperialism). The Labour Party has been finally and irrevocably revealed as the stalwart bastion of imperialism it always was and the removal of Clause 4 has left many ‘left’ organisations searching frantically for reasons why we should still vote for them. The fact that such organisations now wish to contest the election does not reveal a change of heart on their behalf, rather a belated panic that their real support of imperialism will be all too clearly revealed if they continue to publicly support the Labour government.
As someone relatively young in the movement, I am very much aware that we are seeing a sea change in British politics. For the first time in my lifetime there is a party offering socialist policies and perspectives which has the strength to campaign nation-wide, to bring together the various struggles taking place across the country and make its voice heard. When you consider that that party is only 3 years old, the achievement is staggering. It is also a sign of the times. We are seeing a mass shift away from the illusory, divisive politics that dominate the bourgeois parties in favour of a truly working class alternative. …
A vote for the SLP is a vote against the politics whereby ordinary people are blamed for the ills of the capitalist system – from unemployment, misery, bad housing and poor social services to environmental pollution, destruction of the rainforests and the wasting of the earth’s resources. This election is only the beginning. Help us to keep fighting and growing as we have done.
For a Socialist alternative, the SLP is the only choice.