No straightforward 'yes' or 'no' to open borders at Sheffield No2EU meeting, reports Mohsen Sabbagh
On Thursday May 28 members of the Socialist Party in England and Wales held a public meeting for No2EU’s European election campaign in Sheffield.
Heading the No2EU list for Yorkshire and Humberside is Keith Gibson, a GMB militant who was involved in the Lindsey oil refinery strike. However, instead of Keith or anyone else who is actually standing in the Yorkshire and Humberside region, the speaker was Alex Gordon, a member of the RMT executive, who tops the No2EU list in the South East.
Comrade Gordon gave an uninspiring speech (to about 30 people). He touched on the three main parties and the current expenses scandal, the Lisbon treaty, the BNP and the need for a workers’ party and ended his talk by asking who is to blame for the crisis. He managed to answer this without mentioning the word ‘capitalism’ (neither was there any reference to socialism in his speech).
Whilst some questions from the floor were politically naïve or even apolitical - one comrade asked why the leaflets for No2EU were completely monochrome - other contributions were far more pertinent. Communist Students comrades questioned comrade Gordon as to why No2EU was standing on a nationalist platform and implying that ‘Fortress Britain’ was somehow better than ‘Fortress Europe’. CS argued that the working class is a global class in the same way that capitalism in a global system, so we need to look to global solutions for our class as a whole. It is not the job of communists to prioritise national interests over international interests even if national interests are for the benefit of the working class. Gordon was directly asked if he supported the principle of open borders, the free movement of labour and thus true internationalism.
Instead of giving a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to this question, in true politician’s style he explained to the audience the EU idea of the free movement of capital and labour and concluded that what we need is “equal rights”. It was clear enough that for comrade Gordon free movement of labour leads to weakening the working class in Britain.
He was also asked about the content of the ‘Yes to democracy’ slogan. CS comrades asked if we would accept republican democracy - abolition of a second chamber and monarchy, annual elections, political representatives on the average skilled worker’s wage, and the right for the working class to bear arms and to organise in a disciplined workers militia. Anything less than this is a concession to the bourgeoisie, leaving power in their hands and ensuring that democracy remains undermined. These are not abstract ideas that we do not talk about until ‘the revolution’, but key principles and prerequisites for any truly democratic society.
Gordon dismissed all this in a sentence or two. He declined to talk about any aspect of republican democracy other than the right to bear arms, arguing that this demand is “not based on reality”. It is something we can look at in a revolutionary situation, but not before. That’s forward planning for you.