Ask anyone on the far-left about their anti-EU stance, suggest that they are little more than a left version of rightist isolationism and you will be told that on the contrary, the Britleft are in favour of a real European unity – the unity of the working class and the left.
But recently when various self-proclaimed marxist, communist and assorted left groups announced the formation of a new Party of the European Left, which would stand candidates in this summer’s European parliamentry elections, there was no sign of any of the British far left groups.
The most active initiators of the new party were, besides the German PDS, Italy’s Party of the Communist Refoundation, represented by its leader, Fausto Bertinotti, and Nicos Houndis of the Greek Coalition of Left, Political Movements and Ecology (SYNASPISMOS). Also joining from the start are the Communist Parties of France, Austria, Slovakia and the left parties of Luxembourg and Spain.
Among those present but not immediately joining were the AKEL of Cyprus, the Socialist Party of the Netherlands, whose leader Tiny Kox, a Senator in the Netherlands, thought they should wait until they were stronger. Until then he was satisfied with the caucus of the United Left in the European Parliament as it now stands. Delegates from the Norwegian Socialist Left Party and the Finnish Left Alliance expressed their desire to cooperate but also decided to keep for now the status of observer. Also undecided or waiting were the Greek Communist Party, the Czech Communist Party and two Catalonian leftwing parties.
What was the reaction of the Communist Party of Britain?
The CPB Executive noted that the new party was established under the terms of the EU Regulation issued under Article of 191 of the European Treaty. This specifies that EU-funded parties should be a ‘factor of integration’, endorse common all-EU programmes and vote as a unified block in the EU parliament.
CPB General Secretary Robert Griffiths, commented: ‘The danger represented by this regulation is that it serves to further undermine the democratic institutions and sovereignty of members states. In particular, for parties of the Left, it represents a major obstacle to their ability to campaign in the conditions of each country for the development of popular sovereignty and to ensure that our existing democratic institutions are preserved and used in each country to fight against the dominance of imperialism and monopoly capital.
The real task of the Left in Europe is to expose the anti-democratic character of the EU and the immediate threat it poses to democracy. It is for this reason that the CPB, along with many other Communist and workers parties, has not endorsed this move.’
Leaving aside for the moment the delicious spectacle of people, who in the past had no problem following the orders of Stalin’s Comintern in Moscow, denouncing the EU as ‘anti-democratic’, the essence of the CPB’s objection to left unity is that the Europeans are too pro-European for the Great British Communists.
Not even the Scottish Socialist Party, which is a functioning party with a chance of winning seats in June, has made any statement on the new European initiative despite previously showing interest in the revenue they might gain from such a venture.
None of this is really surprising. Talk to people on the radical left in Europe and the idea of withdrawing from the union, supported by so much of the Brit far left, simply doesn’t feature on the agenda of any of the groups other than the most dogmatic Stalinist and orthodox Trotskyists.
It could be of course that the Italian, German and other European leftists have had enough experience of the SWP and co in Social Forum events that they have decided not to bother with the sectarians in London. Having listened to some Italian communists despairing at the stunts of the SWP in the anti-globalisation movement that wouldn’t surprise me at all.
The claim that the British far left’s opposition to the EU is based on some alternative principle of Europe wide left solidarity is exposed as a sham. When their comrades organise a common list they are nowhere to be seen.
Rather it is based on isolationism, nationalist arrogance and the need to avoid engaging with the complexity of the EU and the opportunities, as well as dangers, that it presents for the democratic left.
Its the same basic rejectionist position they took over the war in Iraq, when despite all the leftist rhetoric their politics amounted to little more than “Iraq – nothing to do with us mate” . The slogan “End the Occupation Now” could easily be changed to “Britain out of Iraq”.
Can anyone now seriously doubt that if we ever have a referendum on a common currency, these people will be on the same side as the Eurosceptics of the Tory party and the cranks even further to the right?
But by the time we get to any referendum I think we will have got used to the idea of Socialist Worker and The Spectator standing shoulder to shoulder.
Read their coverage of Hutton over the past fortnight if you want an early taste.