The Scottish Socialist Party, the European Anti-Capitalist Left and the euro

In the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), the debate is not about whether or not to have the euro - the party is markedly against (and so follows the fear of ending up in bed with the reactionary and xenophobic Sun and Daily Mail campaigns, or subconsciously adopting the little Englander mentality). Sure, you'll see campaigning against the euro in the SSP - it's the official party line. You'll even find the odd pro-euro platform - perhaps a knee-jerk reaction to the anti-European right-wing rhetoric, or more likely in the hope that it will unite workers across Europe, act as a rival to the US, and be open enough to expose corruption.

July 1, 2003
4 min read

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.”


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving

Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'

The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion

The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism

What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry