No euro, please - we're Scottish

At the June 22 Scottish Socialist Party special conference, delegates voted by a four to one majority to commit the party to campaign for a 'no' vote in Blair's euro referendum. In so doing the comrades rejected the opportunity to mount an independent campaign in the interests of the British and European working class. Various arguments were put forward by delegates supporting the 'no' proposal. Entry into the common currency would worsen the conditions of the working class; control over interest rates would be lost; public spending and borrowing would be determined by unelected bankers from the European Central Bank; decisions concerning social services and welfare spending would be taken out of the hands of 'our' government. While the supporters of such an independent working class position - an active boycott of the referendum - had not coordinated their intervention before conference, there is little doubt that the 'no' vote would easily have carried the day in any case. In my view we - that is comrades from the CPGB, Workers Unity and Allan Armstrong's Republican Communist Network - won the argument, exposing the anti-working class agendas of both the 'yes' and 'no' positions. Nevertheless the combined forces of the International Socialist Movement, Socialist Worker platform and Committee for a Workers' International ensured we could not win the vote. There was, however, enough support for the boycott motion early in the debate to merit a very brief but effective plea from Alan McCombes, editor of Scottish Socialist Voice, for delegates to back the executive's position. Other leading ISM members were notably quiet - including our MSP, Tommy Sheridan. The most prominent member who spoke in support of the boycott was former MEP Hugh Kerr. Comrade Kerr had stated at the last full conference of the SSP that he would be calling for a 'yes' vote in the referendum campaign. Whether he was won over to the argument for a boycott or whether his conversion was a tactical manoeuvre is unclear, but he spoke well and was one of the few speakers to point out that there was a progressive side to the single currency. While comrade Kerr's perspective is undoubtedly a reformist one, revolutionaries too recognise the objectively positive aspect of capital - in this case as the euro - dissolving established international frontiers. Certainly the European Union is a "capitalist club" (like the United Kingdom state, of course), and European integration and the euro are seen as means to strengthen EU capital in relation to US capital. But the internationalisation of capital signals the internationalisation of the working class too. The merging of existing, nationally based states would also create the possibility for workers to unite. This aspect was largely absent from the boycott campaigners, who were mainly looking at the issue from an anti-euro perspective, but not wishing to line up with the Tories or the far right. However, it is a weak position to centre your entire argument on the need to avoid taking the same stance as reactionaries in a referendum - especially when we have no control over the question. We can be sure, though, of the options on offer. Either you can vote for the defence of backward British capital or prefer the newer, more dynamic sections of European capital. The working class must take no side in this non-choice. They are damned if they vote 'yes' and damned if they vote 'no'. Instead we must look to the best way of advancing our own interests. There were some bizarre arguments put forward by 'no' partisans. One of the more memorable was in reply to those who suggested that the working class should not support either of the two poles of capital. They countered by proposing that, in the event of only two choices - say, Tony Blair or Iain Duncan-Smith - and recognising that you were unable to support either side, the solution was clear: create a new party to fight for socialism, like the Scottish Socialist Party! Great cheers from the body of the kirk! Those who advocated 'no' seemed convinced that they were making common cause with workers in the rest of the EU, where, of course, the euro has been in circulation since January 1 and the mark, franc, lira, peseta, etc are now history. Should workers in those countries demand a reversion to the old currencies? Or do we expect them to unite with us on the basis that Britain (or Scotland) is a special case? That said, the SSP has now voted overwhelmingly to campaign for a 'no' vote. We must fight to highlight an internationalist, independent working class position within the campaign. We must also look to our comrades in the Socialist Alliance, which will debate its own position in October. If, as seems likely, the SA decides to campaign for a 'no' vote, then the SSP and SA must come together in a joint campaign. The ruling class will be campaigning on the basis of taking a common position for the UK as a whole. We must do the same in the interests of workers. Ronnie Mejka * SSP rules, okay? * Red stars and Mexican starfish