Who should we vote for in the European elections on 22 May? It’s not the most crucial question workers face, but it needs an answer.
The first task is to campaign against a vote for the BNP and assorted other fascists, or for the racist Ukip. The run-up to the elections will be polluted by a vile competition to see which party can be most hostile to immigrants.
This could provide a stimulating jolt to the ailing BNP and enable one or more of its candidates to sneak a win. We have to make sure Nick Griffin loses in the north west of England and that no other Nazi is elected.
It’s not just the fascists who are a problem.
Ukip will prosper through its fake but carefully-cultivated image as the outsider that says “Sod the lot of them”, buttressed by a filthy anti-immigrant crusade to which all the main parties have conceded.
If Ukip continues to grow it will drag politics further rightwards and can clear the path for fascists. We have to confront its lies, take to the streets and expose Ukip as a divisive, boss-loving threat.
Through what appears a negative campaign of urging people not to vote for racists and fascists, socialists can achieve the immensely positive outcome of strengthening the unity of our class.
But then who are we going to vote for? Socialist Worker said at the 2010 general election “Vote left where you can, vote Labour where there is no real left candidate—and organise to fight whoever wins.”
That’s still a good approach, so what does it mean on 22 May?
It certainly isn’t easy to vote Labour. We recognise that for all its retreats, concessions, and attacks on trade unions and strikes that Labour is still not the same as the Tories.
It retains a link, however weakened, to the trade unions.
But nobody will feel great enthusiasm for the party that has implemented the cuts and the bedroom tax locally. Labour promises to follow Tory spending limits for years, voted for the benefit cap and reacted to the most recent anti-immigrant moves by saying that the Tories were playing “catch up”.
Labour’s failures and betrayals mean that many people would like to see a strong and united challenge from the left on 22 May.
We desperately need such an electoral formation, but no such grouping is standing in the European elections.
That means activists and socialists will vote for a range of different parties.
Some will back respected campaigners standing as part of the National Health Action Party (NHAP), or the Greens.
But the NHAP does not represent a reliable set of views on many areas apart from the NHS—such as workers’ rights or taxation. And although some Greens are good left wingers, the Greens are not building a class-based alternative rooted among workers.
We also know from Ireland, Germany and local councils that the Greens are quite capable of promoting cuts, austerity and imperialism.
The Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru also offer no real alternative.
What about No2EU–Yes to Workers’ Rights? There is much to agree with in its opposition to privatisation and the EU’s role as enforcer of austerity and capitalist policies. It includes some good candidates who the SWP is happy to work with.
But it’s not yet wholly clear what No2EU’s campaign will be like, or whether it will stand in every region. At present it makes unfortunate concessions on the issue of immigration. One article on its website says, “‘Free movement’ within the EU impoverishes workers in a race to the bottom”.
That inevitably leads to calls for less free movement, for more controls on workers.
This is a crucial issue at the election. Let’s hope No2EU confronts the racism of the main parties by defending the free movement of workers.
So we still say “Vote left where you can, vote Labour where there is no real left candidate—and organise to fight whoever wins”. And the whole analysis underlines that all of us on the left should redouble our efforts to present a genuine socialist electoral challenge for 2015.