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Rather, the main discussion at the party’s European conference was whether or not to boycott the euro referendum altogether, if there ever is one (the party voted not to boycott by a 2:1 majority). Wasn’t the euro just a way of “promoting one form of exploitation over another (the pound)”? demanded party member Mary Ward. “We are being sucked into a false debate.”
Most members will agree that it doesn’t matter whether you’re in or you’re out of the eurozone: of far greater urgency are the need to make the EU institutions more accountable and the question of how to defend public services. So the SSP, strengthened by its recent local achievements, has looked at the bigger picture – and has turned to its European counterparts to form a common solution. The party is a member of the recently formed European Anti-Capitalist Left (EACL), which will try to get a shared platform for next year’s European elections.
In the alliance, the euro debate takes a back seat – most member countries have been using the euro for some time already, whereas in Britain the issue is only just hotting up. Instead, the EACL plans to provide “a European anti-capitalist formation that would constitute a credible alternative to the social-liberal left in government” (a dig at the Social Democratic, Socialist and Labour Parties in Europe).
Along with the SSP, the EACL includes parties from 15 different countries, including such bigwigs as Italy’s Rifondazione party (PRC), the Red-Green Alliance (RGA) from Denmark, France’s Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) and Portugal’s Left Bloc (BdE).
With recent legislation that would almost certainly allow for – and fund – all European election campaigns, the EACL has agreed to work on a shared manifesto that centres on saving public services, opposing privatisation and deregulation in the workplace, and working against racism in solidarity with asylum seekers.
The EACL’s attraction is that it gives small parties a presence in a big group. The SSP needs to get 13 per cent of the vote to send just one elected rep to the European Parliament. “Some people will ask, ‘What’s the point of having one MEP from the SSP?'” admits Alan McCombes, who recently represented the SSP at the EACL conference in Athens last month. “But it’s different if MEPs across Europe link up.”
The EACL’s manifesto will be modelled on the SSP’s successful electoral strategy of having “core” pledges. Although not set in stone, some proposals include renationalising industries and allowing subsidies to continue, a just, publicly funded pension system, a 35-hour work week and an increase in the minimum wage. The alliance is also opposed to a European defence force, that is, in the words of McCombes, “an attempt to control US imperialism with European imperialism”. He argues instead that “we should be calling for demilitarisation”.
At the same time, the EACL promises future battles over the powers of the European Central Bank, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission. While there’s anticipation that the new constitution will call for more democratic structures and more power to the EU parliament – such as directly electing the head of the commission, most bodies remain unelected. They make most of the decisions, while the EU parliament only has the ability to comment and take a position on legislation – it cannot initiate legislation independently.
In the short and medium term the EACL, says McCombes, will try to get a strong, united left in the European institutions ‘to fight for every democratic advance that is possible to achieve, and to counter every attack launched on democracy or workers’ living standards”. EACL’s vision is to one day have a social, federalist Europe of nation states driven from the bottom-up, perhaps with integrated resources, which bears little resemblance to the EU we have now.
The idea of a socialist Europe seems far off, especially when there are important gaps in the alliance – no parties have joined from Sweden, nor from the central and eastern European countries that are not yet part of the EU (but may find themselves being exploited as an easy way in to the European market or as a source of cheap labour).
And the EACL acknowledges it still has a long way to go. “There are issues that really divide us,” says McCombes. “Some of the left parties in the South are more pro-Europe. They see the EU as a levelling up of public services. But parties in the North, such as the Danish Red-Greens, want to withdraw from the EU completely because they see it as a threat to their welfare state. For now, we’re just trying to raise agreement on a few key issues that we can put to the electorate, and to focus on changes at the local, regional, and national levels.”
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The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
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Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament