Euro: which union lefts should we ally with?

Submitted by martin on 14 October, 2002 - 7:33

From Solidarity 3/14, 11 October 2002
"We support in principle the single European currency. We are Europeans and internationalists", says Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS civil service union and the most prominent trade-unionist in the Socialist Alliance.
"However, our support for the Euro is entirely dependent on clear and unambiguous assurances on public spending and public services.
"We will not stand with the little Englanders. We stand with the workers of Europe. Yes to the single currency but only after assurances on public services.
"In the 12 countries where 301 million Europeans already use the Euro, workers doing the same job can, for the first time, instantly compare wages and conditions. This enables new opportunities to defend and advance the livelihoods of trade unionists. It opens the way for far greater co-operation and joint working with our colleagues across Europe".
Neither the European Commission, nor the European Central Bank, nor Blair, will give any assurances on public services. As with all major steps in capitalist development, the bosses are introducing the single currency in their own way, shaping the process according to their own interests. They have written a programme of cuts and privatisation into solemn treaties (Maastricht) and the charter of the European Central Bank.
"No to the euro" is a useless response to that cuts-and-privatisation drive. Keeping the Queen's head on our banknotes will not save public services! Maastricht only make a general, formal European guideline out of what all the individual European governments were doing anyway, for class reasons. The anti-euro faction in British politics (the Tories, Murdoch) would pursue the same cuts-and-privatisation drive even more harshly.
The proper answer to the cuts-and-privatisation drive is a class answer - unite workers across Europe to defend and "level up" conditions and services - not a nationalist one ("no to Europe").
At the Socialist Alliance's special conference on the euro, on Saturday 12 October, that class response will be advocated in a composite supported by a range of groupings within the Alliance - Solidarity and Workers' Liberty, Workers' Power, CPGB/Weekly Worker, RDG - and many unaffiliated Alliance members, including the Alliance's most prominent trade-unionist after Mark Serwotka, former National Union of Teachers president Christine Blower. We will argue for an "active boycott" in a referendum on the euro, and a positive campaign for a Workers' Europe, against both the bosses' Europe and the bosses' Britain, both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England.
Ironically, the "no"-voters inside the Alliance (the Socialist Workers' Party and its close allies) make it one of their main arguments that the Alliance must vote "no to the euro" in order to keep in with the left in the trade unions.
By doing so, they would align the Alliance with those elements of the trade-union left who most reflect the continuing residual political influence of the old Stalinistic Communist Party tradition - people like Bob Crow in the RMT and Mick Rix in ASLEF - spurning the Alliance's own prominent trade unionists and the newer, more forward-looking elements of the trade union left.
When it comes to the referendum, there will be many thousands of workers and youth sickened by the ballyhoo of both Blair on the one side, and the Tories and Murdoch on the other. The Alliance should offer them a positive, working-class, internationalist alternative.
* Socialist Alliance euro-conference: registration 10am-11am at South Camden Community School, Charrington St, London NW1. More: www.socialistalliance.net.

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