The Point
Last updated: 19 June 2017.

...red sky thinking for an open and diverse left

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The European Elections - The Progressive Dilemma?

The European elections present a tricky dilemma for socialists and progressives regarding the question of who do we vote for? On Thursday we know what it is we are against. That one’s easy. It’s UKIP and their odious brand of vile and racist politics. We start this editorial by congratulating our friends and comrades in the Radical Independence Campaign who turned out in force to protest at Nigel Farage’s recent visit to Scotland. Everywhere this man goes he should be reminded of the simple fact that he is the leader of a racist party.

But who, and more importantly what type of Europe should we be voting for on Thursday?

Narrative and tone are important here. The Point seldom gets into the messy business of preaching to people who they should vote for. Indeed, even within our small editorial group there is not unanimity over who we will be casting our ballot for, but we sometimes offer advice and on Thursday our advice is this – in the year of Scotland’s historic referendum socialists and progressives should support those parties and candidates that are anti-racist and stand for Scottish independence.

Every vote for pro-independence parties helps the general case for Scottish independence and undermines the No Campaign.

Furthermore, the pro-independence parties contesting these elections have struck both the right narrative and correct tone on both the EU and the fundamental rights of people to move freely within the EU.

Scotland’s pro-independence parties are converging on a common position in regards to Europe – that is we support in principle the idea of a European Union. This is why the Yes Campaign has been correct to dismiss the scare mongering of those who say that an independent Scotland would not be in the EU.

Of course we must also remind ourselves that not everything about the EU is positive. It requires fundamental reform. We know that the parliament is bereft of any real power and that the Commission and Council of Ministers, who are appointed and not elected by citizens, have too much power, especially when it comes to blocking legislation. We also know that the EU is being used to implement austerity from above.

But the fight we need to fight is not against the EU per se but a fight against neo-liberalism. And that means linking arms with other socialist and progressive voices from across the EU.

We should also remember that the potential break up of Britain on September 18th is a dent in the armoury of both global neo-liberalism and variant on offer via the EU which has been promoted by the British state at every turn.

An independent Scotland has the potential to be a leader in Europe advocating a new type of politics based on co-operation and mutual respect. We also want to be clear that many of the anti-EU sentiments we here in the media, or on the streets, are also codes for anti-immigration.

It is worth remembering what we wrote in an editorial in the DGS (the forerunner to The Point) at the last round of European elections:

The EU is more than just a ‘bosses club’; it is also an alliance of twenty seven nation states and home to almost five hundred million people. We also need to point out that not everything about the EU is bad. Its development has been uneven and contradictory (‘dialectical’ as Marxists might say). And whilst this uneven development has encouraged neo-liberal directives the EU has also pursued policies that are progressive (which Britain normally tries to opt out of).

We then argued:

The creation of a single market has allowed freedom of movement within the EU bloc something that anyone who calls themselves an internationalist should welcome. Any attempt by capitalism to use the age old tactic of using one group of workers to undercut the wages and conditions of another needs to be challenged on a socialist basis – but that should not mean reducing the question to participation or non-participation in the European political process.

This is still our position. We welcome immigrants to Scotland and The Point is pleased that the general tone of political discourse, especially around the independence debate is inclusive. That does not mean to say that every shade of opinion in Scotland is progressive. It is not. Whether we like it or not anti-immigrant sentiment exists in Scotland as it does elsewhere on these islands. A recent You Gov poll, conducted across Britain, revealed that more than 70% of respondents were opposed to immigrants receiving benefits. These views are dangerous and reveal the extent to which the narrative of anti-immigration and anti-welfare has been successful, especially in a British context.

But in Scotland it’s important that such views do not find political representation. This is why we should vote on Thursday in order to prevent UKIP sneaking an MEP in through the back door.

The Point would have preferred a Red-Green Alliance. This time around that was not to be. However, at some point, the left must engage in a serious discussion about unity. In the meantime, we should use our votes on Thursday to vote for pro-independence parties. Whilst we don’t suspend our critical facilities regarding the SNP, we should remind ourselves that the party behind the White Paper, Scotland’s Future, is on the right side of the immigration debate. Below is a brief sample from the White Paper on immigration.

One of the major gains from independence for Scotland will be responsibility for our own immigration policy. Currently immigration is a reserved matter…Westminster has adopted an aggressive approach to immigration, asylum seekers and refugees….Healthy population growth is important for Scotland’s economy. One of the main contributors to Scotland’s population growth is migrants who choose to make Scotland their home…We welcome people who want to come to work and live in Scotland.

This is a message we share. Of course there are areas where we disagree with the SNP but on the fundamental issue of welcoming fellow EU citizens their message is a sound one. We should not forget the role The Greens have played in building both the Yes movement and the Radical Independence Campaign, the latter of which has breathed new life into a Scottish left, which until very recently was in danger of becoming irrelevant. No2EU – Yes to Workers Rights are unlikely to register very highly in the polls but their Scottish Regional List contains pro-Independence socialists and trade-unionists committed to arguing for socialist policies and against UKIP’s scapegoating of immigrants.

So, the advice to our readers is this: take part in the elections on Thursday. Keep UKIP out and vote for pro-independence candidates.

External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left

Greenpeace

The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Laurie Penny

New Left Project

Newsnet Scotland

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Socialist Unity

UK Uncut

Viridis Lumen

Wings Over Scotland

Word Power Books