The Workers’ Party of Ireland
Lisbon Treaty Referendum 2008 Analysis
The Lisbon treaty has been defeated by the Irish people. This is a notable victory for democracy not only in Ireland but right across the 27 countries which constitute the present EU. It shows once again the clear divide that exists between the views, hopes and aspirations of the peoples of the EU and the plans of the tiny military, business and bureaucratic elite who dominate the structures and decision-making processes within the EU.
Preparing for the campaign: The Workers’ Party analysis was that the Lisbon Treaty was seriously dangerous in many aspects especially in the areas of democracy, workers’ rights, militarism, relations with the developing world, and the privatisation of essential public services. Our analysis also was that the treaty would have practically 100% support of the political establishment, the business establishment, and many of the mass organisations controlled by the social democrats. We also knew that for this treaty the parliamentary section of the Green Party (now in government for the first time ever) would opportunistically change sides and support Lisbon.
The political left is both weak and splintered in Ireland. At the same time it was important that there was as coherent and strong a left opposition to the treaty as possible. Therefore the Workers Party was one of the early affiliates to the Campaign Against the EU Treaty (CAEUC) campaign group and participated fully in all their activities. The strength of the CAEUC group lay in the fact that it did unite all the various left groups on a common platform, and because this common platform existed a lot of the bickering and divisiveness that had characterised previous campaigns did not surface in public.
The Campaign: The Workers’ Party produced two editions of our newspaper “Look Left”, thousands of posters, and more than 100,000 leaflets for mass distribution during the campaign. We concentrated on the working-class heartlands of all the major cities and towns as well as some events at shopping centres, sporting events and cultural events.
The Party organised many public meetings. In organising our meetings we made a very deliberate decision to engage in public debate within these meetings. Therefore at practically all our meetings we had speakers from other left organisations but we also brought people from the Yes camp, and specifically from the social democratic Labour Party. …. we believed, …. that there was a serious division between the views of grassroots Labour Party and trade union members and the positions of the leaders of the Labour party and some prominent people within the Trade Union leadership. The presence of official Labour Party representatives on our platforms allowed us to appeal directly to Labour Party members, supporters and voters and all the available evidence shows that we were successful in this strategy.
The Result: The referendum proposal was clearly defeated on a turnout of well over 50% of the electorate. It was defeated in all the regions and also in the vast bulk of the parliamentary constituencies.
A constituency analysis shows that areas of wealth and opulence supported the treaty while the working class / lower middle class, the farming, the fishing constituencies all defeated the referendum proposal. In many large working class areas the No vote had a 2:1 majority. Issues raised by Libertas –corporation tax and tax harmonisation – are issues in the high-income areas which all voted resoundingly yes. Their target audience rejected their message and the vast majority of business organisations publicly backed the yes side.
Conclusion: Politically we must hold to the position that the Lisbon treaty is now dead and cannot be resurrected in some revised form. This is exactly what happened after the French and Dutch rejection of the EU Constitution. The Lisbon Reform treaty was the EU constitution reheated. The danger now is that some sections of the Irish No campaign, specifically Sinn Fein, believe it is possible to get a better deal. The EU bureaucrats may well facilitate this position and offer some changes, such as the retention of the commissioners in order to make a second referendum acceptable. The problem with this approach is that it does nothing to challenge the fundamental problems with the EU - its anti democratic and unaccountable character, increasing militarisation, neo liberal economic agenda etc.
In short the EU is a capitalist and imperialist construct and no amount of tinkering around the edges will change that.
The Workers Party of Ireland, 20th June 2008
This was a summarised version of the party's response to the outcome of the Irish referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon - to download the full document click on the link below.