Any answers?
The Socialist Unity Network

People will want to know RESPECT's policies.

European elections on the 10th June Shouldn't we develop some answers?

Declan O'Neill, SA executive


Last Friday (26-3-04) the Irish Times led with the story “EU leaders break the stalemate in talks on new treaty”.    The deadline for completing talks on a new constitution for the enlarged EU is June 18, conveniently after the June elections to the European parliament.  As the Irish Times put it “governing parties fear compromising on key issues in advance of these elections would be exploited by the opposition for electoral gain”.

If you are still awake you are probably asking what this has to do with Socialist Unity, Respect or the real world.  After all the Euro elections will probably be ignored by at least 70% of the electorate in this country, and even those who do vote will be doing so on domestic issues such as  whether they trust Blair, not the irrelevant intricacies of European politics.

Yet this news should matter to all socialists and democrats.  Respect candidates, if they are not ignored completely by the mainstream media, will be expected to have a policy on these and a multitude of other issues.   The European “constitution” will be another step in the building of a “free market” fortress Europe, not a stepping stone to the sort of democratic social Europe we should be fighting for. At the very least Respect should be demanding that voters here have the same democratic rights as those in the Irish republic and other European states – the right to vote to accept or reject the proposed European Treaty.


Democracy in a hurry

This is just one example of the problems that have emerged by the rushed formation of the Respect Unity coalition.  For all its alleged faults the Socialist Alliance at least had a manifesto “People before Profit “which explained the principles on which the SA stood.   Now the Alliance has basically wound itself up to support an organisation which has a founding statement but little else.

Presumably the Respect executive is in the process of drawing up a European manifesto?   Given the timescale the membership can have little or no say in what goes into it.  There are a host of other issues where the position of Respect is unclear and where the process by which decisions are taken is even less open.  Is Respect standing in England - England and Wales?   The electoral commission website states that Respect is fielding candidates in England, Scotland and Wales, presumably a mistake.   Respect will be calling for a vote for the Scottish Socialist Party, but what about other Left candidates in England and Wales?   Indeed who would we urge socialists to vote for in Northern Ireland?  Wait a minute does Respect have a policy on Ireland? 

Perhaps all this is inevitable.   The organisation is only a few months old.  Its conference in the autumn will doubtless decide on policy on these and countless other issues.  Respect is after all the anti-war, anti-Blair party, and how effectively that message is put across will determine the success, or otherwise, of Respect in the June elections.   Yet if it looks like Respect has a chance of electoral success we can expect lots of awkward questions.   Respect needs to have some answers.


March 2004