Neither euro nor pound!
By Martin Thomas
The Socialist Alliance will call a special conference, probably in the autumn, to discuss Europe and specifically to reconsider its views on the euro.
If Tony Blair calls a referendum on Britain entering the euro, what should the left say?
The TUC is in favour of Britain entering the euro, and the Tories will lead the campaign to "save the pound". Yet some leftish unions, like UNISON, are also anti-euro.
At its policy conference in March 2001, when British entry to the euro was a distant prospect which socialists could discuss on its merits, without anxieties about "tapping into the mood" around us, the Socialist Alliance voted for a position, put by Solidarity supporter Dion D'Silva. In a referendum, Dion argued, we would denounce the ballot-paper options as false choices: the issue for us is who gets the money, not what picture is on it, and how workers can unite across Europe to deal with capitalist cross-border coordination.
Now, however, some socialists are getting anxious that this clear, simple line may put them out of step with an anti-government "mood" in a referendum, and want to shift the Socialist Alliance to voting "no".
It is a repeat of the experience of the 1960s and 70s. When Britain first made moves towards joining the European Union, in the early 1960s, the whole of the Marxist left said flatly that workers should back neither Euro-oriented nor ex-Empire-oriented capitalism (as the options then were; today, the capitalist europhobes are more oriented to US than to ex-Empire links). As a Europhobe "mood" developed in the labour movement - driven, then, by the still-strong Communist Party - one Marxist group after another collapsed into that "mood". By the time of British entry into the European Union, in 1972-3, and the referendum on withdrawal, in 1975, Workers' Fight, a forerunner of Solidarity and Workers' Liberty, was almost alone in upholding the old Marxist line.
This time round, the issue is essentially the same, but we are not so isolated. A sizeable bloc can be built in the Socialist Alliance for a stand against both the unelected European Central Bank and the Queen's banknotes.
At a meeting on 19 May, activists of Solidarity and Workers' Liberty adopted the outline policy below, the first paragraph of which is the text from the Socialist Alliance decision of March 2001. We are approaching other people in the Socialist Alliance to form a common front. For us, all tactical details are open to discussion, given agreement on basic internationalist principle.
"We stand for workers' and socialist unity across Europe. For a democratic and federal Europe based on solidarity and cooperation. Against the Europe of the bosses, the unelected European Central Bank, and the creation of 'Fortress Europe' as a bastion of racism and exploitation. Against British nationalism and the re-raising of barriers between nations in Europe. No to the monetarist criteria for European Monetary Union - we neither advocate the euro nor defend the pound.
"We agitate in the workers' movement for a 'Workers' Europe Campaign' that would argue for a levelling up of wages and conditions across Europe, for freeing the European unions and immediately the British trade unions from repressive legislation, and for an active abstention in any referendum.
"In a referendum on the euro, we will advocate that voters spoil their ballot papers by writing on them some slogan like 'workers' Europe'.
"Although in general, broad terms a single currency for Europe is a measure of capitalist progress, that in no way obliges us to cast a 'yes' vote which would be an endorsement not only of the general idea of a single currency but also of the specific mechanics of this particular single currency, with the unelected European Central Bank running it on neo-liberal criteria.
"Nor do we have any obligation to side with that section of the British bourgeoisie which prioritises links with Europe against that section which prioritises links with the USA".
Neither euro nor pound!