Source: Militant, special pamphlet, 1971 (1975 reprint)
Transcription: Francesco 2009
Proofread: Fred 2009
Markup: Niklas 2009
The discussion on the Common Market has become one of the main issues which face the working class and the British people at the present time. Heated arguments are taking place within the trade union and Labour movement. The active workers in the movement must understand the reasons why the ruling class is undertaking “entry into Europe”.
The decay of British capitalism has progressively advanced during the course of the last few decades. Although nominally a victor power, in reality British capitalism was defeated in the course of the two world wars. Diplomatically, economically, politically, the power of British capitalism has shrunk.
For three hundred years, the ruling class in Britain played the game of the balance of power in Europe. Uniting with one coalition of powers to balance against another coalition, the oligarchy in London was able to take the final decision. This policy was weakened by the effects of the First World War, and finally destroyed during the Second. There were only two victorious powers in the Second World War; they emerged out of the holocaust as super powers, mighty American imperialism and Stalinist Russia. The attempt by British capitalism to maintain itself as the third world super power has ended in ignominious recognition of her reduced role. The attempt to remain a major military power by the expenditure, in the early post war period, of as much as 10 percent of the national product on arms, failed in its purpose and merely added a crushing burden on the British economy and standards of living.
Thus reluctantly the ruling circles have recognised that Britain’s economic weight is no longer commensurate with its former world status, and that they have been reduced permanently to a second rank world power on a par with the other defeated European powers, West Germany, France and Italy. Looking to the future, they can only see a further attenuation of the power of British imperialism in comparison with its rivals and the possibility of being reduced to a third rate level.
On the basis of the status quo, in Europe and the World, the strategists of capital see Japan and Stalinist China as new super powers, in the coming decades. Thus to project themselves on a world scale the former great powers must band together. They have been reduced to size as comparatively small European powers by the common destruction of two world wars; and secondly the growth of the world economy.
The economic basis of this process is due to the world division of labour and the growth of productive forces. Two world wars, fascism and the slump were already an indication of the growth of [the] productive forces (that is the power of man over nature), factories, communications, technique and science beyond the framework of the nation state and private ownership of the means of production. From being a source of the development of society, capitalism and the nation state have become a terrible drag and impediment to the full and harmonious development of [the] productive forces. ICI alone could supply the world’s need of chemicals. While the working class through its political and trade union organisations has not solved or even recognised the problem, the capitalists are attempting on a capitalist basis to try and overcome the basic problems with which they are faced.
The British economy with a population of 55 million is too small a market for the giant industries and combines which were created in the last period. The basis of the power of Russia and America is the continental market of 205 and 250 million people. Consequently, the most modern industries, motor cars, chemicals, electronics, computers, plastics and sections of the engineering industry look towards a regional market of 250 to 300 million people. They wish to add one region of economic and political power to those previously mentioned.
However, even if successful, such a pool of power could only result in new contradictions on a world scale. It would be a partial solution which over a period would only exacerbate the tensions and conflicts on a world scale. The so-called underdeveloped world, the former colonies of Britain, France and other colonial areas are seen as satellites, as fields for exploitation jointly of the Common Market countries. They would have economic preponderance and therefore would have a dominant say in the industrial development and policies of these countries. It would be a new cover for colonialism. As the world economic upswing slows down crises and conflicts within and without the EEC will be inevitable, especially the conflict with the giant of American imperialism.
On the basis of the world economic upswing the EEC has held together and has had partial success. In all the countries of the EEC the growth of industry, the simultaneous propping up of agriculture with the common agricultural policy, keeping out cheaper food imports while at the same time undermining and whittling away the peasantry (a survival of pre-capitalist formations) has been the basis of the success of the Market. It is above all the big industrialists and the giant combines and the big farmers who in the main have benefited.
The Common Market as the name implies is a glorified customs union with the abolition of tariffs between the Common Market countries and a common tariff on a world scale which in its turn has stimulated and quickened world trade. It is the general lowering of these barriers on the basis of the world economic upswing which has heightened and stimulated the growth of industry in the EEC.
Inexorably, however, with the logic of capitalism, the formation of a new regional bloc, a trading bloc, will in its turn stifle and act as a brake on world trade. Very rapidly from a means of development it will become a source of new barriers and impediments to world trade. The shadow of new trade wars has already been cast by the threat of neo-protectionism in the American market, still the biggest in the world. Denis Healey has openly spoken of trade war between the blocs, in this context mainly the USA, Japan and the EEC. Reprisals will lead to counter reprisals and, on the basis of a slowing down of world trade in the long run, aggravated economic crises and slumps. The Common Market is a joint capitalist endeavour and not a mutual benefit society. This limitation, in the long term will be fatal for the Market. Under favourable conditions, despite strains and stresses, the Market has survived by the abolition of tariffs internally and the common customs barrier to the rest of the world. It remains a gathering together of separate countries, governments, armies and police forces which remain as completely separate entities. A fact sheet published by the government states:
“As this Community develops, it is expected that an increasing degree of political unity will evolve. But little progress has been made towards this and decisions concerning form and timing depend on the unanimous decision of the member countries.”
This was always a utopia. David Coombes, author of the recent book Politics and bureaucracy in the European Community writes sadly:
“The Commission, like the Community as a whole, has no powers in fields such as foreign affairs or defence and has no right to the use of force internally or externally. It has no power to approve Community legislation (as this rests with council of ministers) as far as the EEC is concerned… the Commission has, as yet, no power to raise revenue from an independent source of finance… On the other hand, its lack of power to make decisions on its own on all the most important questions and its lack of an independent source of revenue (in theory temporary but in practice persistent) limit the sense in which the term ‘supranational’ can be applied to the Commission.” (page 84-85)
He goes on to point out that “the main principle of the system seems to be that agreement with the governments must be obtained before any action is taken.”
The difference can be understood if Wales, Scotland and England are regarded as different countries. They have one government, one currency, one army, and police force which are overall under national control, an economy which is completely integrated as one economic and political whole. The Common Market, on the other hand, is a joint capitalist endeavour, where the countries have pooled their resources together as a customs union, and banded together against the powers outside the Common Market. While world trade has been growing, and world interdependence increased, tariff barriers through GATT have been lowered. But this period seems to be drawing to a close. A trade war between the regional blocks—particularly Japan, America and the EEC—may hold the disparate and conflicting interests of the Common Market countries together for a period, but in the long run the vested national interests of the capitalist class in particular of Germany, France and Italy will come to the fore. Even if the skin and bones remain, as a living and growing entity, the Common Market will be dead.
The United Kingdom has, not only one government, one state, one army, one area of customs, but, with insignificant differences in Scotland one law for economic and commercial purposes.
The Common Market, on the other hand, is not a federation of states or even a more vague confederation. Consequently the dominant vested interest in each section are those of the ruling class in that section. Dutch capital, French capital, German and Italian capital remain as separate rulers of “their” areas. Consequently there has been no mingling and merging into one ruling class in the Common Market, but capital in all of these countries remains separate, and distinct.
This makes the possibility, indeed the inevitability of conflict and contradiction between the interests of the different ruling classes. In the recent devaluation of the franc France did not consult her partners, despite the fact that such action is specifically forbidden in agreements between the Common Market partners. This had an immediate effect on the Common Agricultural Policy, forcing Germany and Holland to introduce taxes on the border, on farm products, as with the devaluation these would undercut their own peasants. Even more pointed was the allowing of the Deutschmark to float, again against all the rules of the Common Market. Here the roles were reversed, with the French capitalists protesting to the German ones against this violation of the rules of the Market.
Previous to the dollar crisis, caused by the flooding of fictitious capital in the shape of dollars onto the German money market, it has been the Germans who have been most insistent on moving rapidly towards fixed relations between the Common Market currencies and the “goal” of a single currency by 1980. Now they reversed this procedure at the first serious test, while the French government was screaming for maintaining a fixed relationship. The German government insisted on a common floating of the currency of all the Common Market countries against the dollar, which would have been for their benefit and convenience, and to the detriment of the French capitalists. When this was refused because of the interests of the other Common Market capitalists, unilaterally, the German government allowed the mark to float. This meant an upheaval in the market because the Common Market agricultural policy is based on fixed parities with the dollar, and changed parities meant that the German government and the Dutch government have to impose taxes on French agricultural produce coming into the country and give subsidies for the export of foodstuffs to France and other Common Market countries. The law of capitalism that in a crisis it is “each man for himself and the devil take the hindmost” manifested itself. Willie Brandt, the Chancellor of the German government—a social democratic Chancellor at that—declared “Germany comes first.” Thus the interests of German capitalism, as with the French devaluation in the interests of French capitalism, were paramount.
When it is a question of sharing out a growing market, capitalist gangsters can always reach a compromise. When it is a question of a declining market and who is to bear the burdens of such a decline, the thieves fall out over a division of a smaller booty. That is why the argument about “sovereignty” is so wide of the mark. With different currencies and differing interests, there can be no real integration.
The formation of the EEC was intended to be a political, diplomatic and economic counterweight to the crushing preponderance in all these fields of American imperialism. Even today, despite the combination of the EEC countries, crushing economic weight is in the hands of the American capitalists and economy. In 1965 for plants producing over 6 million metric tons of steel, only 7.6 percent of EEC production came from such giants, in comparison with 81 percent in the USA and 49 percent in Japan. The disparity has probably increased since then.
The size of plants in auto, chemicals, rubber, electrical goods, steel and petroleum (1963), in two thirds of cases in EEC plants, is only half of those of the USA. In the first four industries mentioned, the third enterprise in the USA was bigger than its first equivalent in the EEC. (West German firms within the EEC, in turn tended to be bigger than the French). In the vital field of scientific research and development in 1962 (and the situation is worse now) the USA spent four times as much as the entire community taken together.
The Conservative case as put forward in the White Paper and in the propaganda of Heath, Davies and other members of the Tory cabinet, as was to be expected, are arguments dictated by the needs and interests of big business and the CBI. It is a case of the flag following trade, a reversal of the procedures of the past. The direct domination of half of the world by British big business has collapsed. The attempt to build a counterweight to the EEC in EFTA has not had the desired effect. While trade has increased, it has been outdistanced by the trade results of the EEC.
The looting of colonial peoples in the empire, the super exploitation of the past, has resulted in the revolt of colonial peoples. No longer are they content to have the burden of British capitalism’s wars put on their shoulders.
In the change of front of the decisive sections of the Tories, we see the underlying realities of phrases about “empire”, “country”, “patriotism” and “idealism”. What they are really interested in is rent, interest and profit, and the necessary power, privileges and prestige to maximise these. Consequently, the “Commonwealth and empire” party is giving up these catchphrases, which are outworn means of disguising the naked interests of capital. In a gambler’s throw now the “European” card is to be played, in the Heathian phrase.
The reason is not far to seek. Apart from the loss of profit due to the collapse of direct domination of the Empire, which opened up these areas to penetration from American, Japanese and European capital, there is the loss of trade to those competitors in markets formerly dominated by Britain.
As late as 10 years ago, Commonwealth markets took 33 percent of British exports. This had been reduced to 20 percent in 1970. Japan has become Australia’s biggest market, with America now in second place. The USA is Canada’s largest market, taking 60 percent of her exports. The old “dominions” are looking more and more to the USA. Politically, diplomatically and economically, Britain has long been displaced as first for India’s trade. The former African colonies no longer look towards Britain as they did compulsorily with British military occupation in the past.
Despite a rapidly increasing trade, Britain’s share of the world market has swiftly declined. Britain’s exports to the Commonwealth were 37 percent of the total in 1958, and 21 percent of the total in 1970. On the other hand her exports to the EEC countries increased from 14 percent to 22 percent and in EFTA from 11 percent to 16 percent; in the whole of Western Europe, from 27 percent to 41 percent.
Half the total output of the United Kingdom as well as the EEC was industrial production. However, the gross national product increased twice as fast between 1958 and 1968 in the EEC as in Britain. The EEC doubled its GNP in the period. Britain only increased her production in the same period by 50 percent; despite the lessons of the past, the British government spent more proportionately on defence. In 1958 the EEC countries invested a greater proportion of GNP, 25 percent, in the EEC, while 20 percent was reinvested in Britain.
Vast sums must now be spent on science and technology, nuclear energy, space aviation and computers to be able to put industry on a competitive basis internationally. The bankruptcy of Rolls Royce was a warning in this respect. As professor Swann, in his book on the Common Market comments:
“It is increasingly beyond the resources of any single European country to support alone the research and development effort which its industry needs to be both efficient and able to compete with the industries of the USA, USSR and Japan.”
The CBI and the big business monopolies, the paymasters of the Tory Party, are the most intent and determined to push Britain into the EEC. It is their pressure which forced British capitalism to abandon its age old policies and attempt what would be for Britain, an adventurous path. In a letter from 10 company directors of the CBI to the Times on 12th July, they say:
“Inside the Community we shall have the opportunity to increase our economic growth rate nearer to the level long enjoyed on the continent. The full advantages of membership may not be shown in the first years, but we have no doubt that the outlook for national well-being will be substantially better inside the Community than outside it.” (Our emphasis).
What they really mean is that it will be substantially better for the monopolies and their owners. ICI, Fords, British Leyland, the City of London, electronics and computer industries, the most modern, many American owned, will gain a big advantage. The research and development in these industries is as high or higher than the level on the Continent. But for the old industries, particularly the luxury trades and those sheltering behind tariffs, it will be hard going. 10 percent of British manufacturing industry is American owned and the projected figure is that within ten years it will be 25 percent. These are the vital growth industries, computers, electronics, plastics and cars. American capitalism threatens to gain a stranglehold on the nerve centres of British capitalism and turn it into a satellite, in all but name the 51st state.
This adventure on the part of British capitalism is fraught with serious consequences for the weaker sections of its class. That grouping of the capitalists which is intimately linked with markets is the Commonwealth, and with the Daily Express as its spokesman, will suffer losses; the more dynamic and modern sections will make marginal gains in the European economy. But, for a power like Britain, whose international relations have been based on world trade, it is a step backwards towards regionalism. What they gain on the EEC roundabouts, they will lose on the world trade swings, thus balancing out the gains and losses. For such areas of old heavy industry, shipbuilding, coal, [such] as Scotland, Tyneside and Merseyside, the prospect will be bleak. But, as always, the dominant sections of industry are not concerned about their weaker brothers, let alone the suffering imposed on the working people. Heath’s consolation is that social security payments will leap up with the cost of living and in any case workers can take themselves off to the monstrous conurbations of London and the Midlands.
The agricultural deficiency payments will mean, on balance, losses for British capitalism. There are only 860,000 employed in agriculture in Britain, 3 percent of the working population.
The City of London, banking, insurance and shipping interests, which have a decisive say in British foreign policy, hope that it will still be able to maintain their interests in the so-called “underdeveloped world”. They expect to increase their investments in the Europe of the 10, and see London as the banking and insurance capital of the new Community. The role formerly played on a world stage, they see being maintained and extended in Europe. They see the prospects of big gains in revenue; enormous sums will flow to and from Europe and the bankers will get their commission. They are not concerned with their industrial brothers who will go to the wall. They see rich pickings ahead and that is their “interest”.
Against the background of declining power, the decay of empire and the worst record of economic growth of all the industrial countries. British capitalism is searching for a panacea. Powell, the prophet of raving racial reaction, amidst his right wing views, while searching for issues on which to gain support for his vicious brand of reaction, sometimes making penetrating points, while offering no real solution to the problems of British capitalism. His attack on the policy of entry into the EEC in a speech in Wolverhampton on 11th April did not receive wide publicity, naturally enough given the policy of the decisive section of the British ruling class. He said:
“Growth it is said, depends on a large home market, like that of America or the EEC. How is it then that the growth in America has resembled that of Britain rather than that of the Common Market countries? And how is it that European countries outside of the EEC have grown as fast as countries inside? And how is it that the Common Market countries grew as fast or faster before the Market was formed than since? It becomes clear all the time that a Britain which has been almost wholly industrialised would have to help forward the industrialisation of her continental neighbours, while subsidising for an indefinite period their relatively inefficient agriculture and renouncing the benefit of the food markets of the world. As for inflation, if that is what we are anxious about, inflation in recent years has been as rampant in the countries of the Common Market as in Britain… It is not a free trade area; it is intended to be an economic unit with a single currency and economy.”
The last section of his speech is just nationalistic myopia. It is the inevitable failure to become a single economic unit with a single currency which dooms the EEC on the basis of economic downswing to paralysis and even possibly break up. Most of the rest of the argument is fallacious, even in capitalist economics. The same fate which has overtaken Britain and America, is beginning to affect Japan and the EEC. Looming ahead in coming years is the shadow of capitalist crisis over the western world.
Ralf Dahrendorf in the journal of the EEC wrote recently about the growing friction between the EEC and the USA in relation to restrictions in trade.
“But is it an answer to take protective measures which ultimately damage everybody’s interests, including one’s own? A world power has little to gain, economically or politically, by attempting to shift its internal problems to the shoulders of others. Nobody abroad is responsible for America’s economic troubles. And the attempt to punish others, including the community, for these difficulties will eventually boomerang.”
The same considerations apply even more to Britain, in or out of the Market because of her dependence on world trade. For the last few decades British capitalism which formerly had the most ingenious and far sighted ruling class, has consistently “missed the bus”. EFTA has not been sufficient of a counterweight to the EEC either economically or politically. Hence the policy of entry to the EEC has mainly had political considerations in view. Had the British capitalists entered when the Community was formed, they would have gained both economically and politically. They have woken up to their weakness and decline too late. By the time that they enter the EEC their gains will be outweighed by their losses.
Above all, with the present mood in the working class, big struggles will open out as the effects of preparing for entry manifest themselves. Levies on world grain prices have already added 10 percent to the cost of living. This will further increase with value added tax an other measures. Already, in the business pages of The Times suggestions have been cynically made that a new devaluation of 10 percent within the next year will be necessary to prepare for entry into Europe. As they cheerfully suggest, this will cut real wages by the same amount!
The results of entry into Europe cannot serve the needs of the working people. Workers have only to ask themselves when the ruling class ever proposed measures in the interests of working people and not of themselves? The increase of rent, interest and profit decide their cold class calculations. Heath is the perfect embodiment of a “Dessicated Calculating Machine”, of which the computer has become disordered.
All the resources of mass publicity are now being used by the government, the CBI and Chambers of Commerce to bemuse people into accepting entry into the EEC. Heath has made it clear that despite the wishes of the majority of the population, British capitalism, through its Parliamentary machine in the Conservative Party, will drive through the “entry into Europe”.
It is significant that the overwhelming majority of the supporter of entry in the Parliamentary Labour Party and the unions belong to the right wing. They, in the main, supported incomes policy, the Keynesian nostrums on economic policy, the attack on the union by the Industrial Relations Bill of the Labour government and all the policies which led to that government’s downfall in 1970.
They represent in effect Conservative policies in the Labour movement. Most of them are lawyers, company directors or quasi-intellectuals. Their whole outlook is remote from the problem of the working class. Their attitude towards the workers is more that of the “Lady Bountifuls” and “Do-Gooders” of the gentry who did charitable work in the past, rather than that of socialism.
It is no surprise that, following the trend of the dominant section of the ruling class, they support entry into the EEC. In doing so they attempt to clothe this capitulation to the interests of big business with references to Europeanism and internationalism. In an advertisement in Tribune, Paul Rose MP writes:
“So the nightmare is of Europe expanding its economy at twice the rate of ours, with wages going up more than twice as fast, while we become at best an off shore island and at worst, a poor relation of Uncle Sam.
“Britain, in the year 2000 may resemble Spain after the loss of that great empire. Do you want to live in a primitive back-water still making motor cars in the age of linear induction motors and strides in technology that cannot even be imagined? Do we want to be an underdeveloped nation in the 21st century?
“A market of 300 million people will allow us to invest and expand…The advance of technology and the international company make it essential if we are to exercise any control over our destiny.
“Being an unrepentant European, if that means that I may have to defy a three line whip one day, then so be it.” (25th June 1971)
This is not the worst material turned out by the pro-marketeers. Britain’s entry now would not mean automatically an increase in real wages, if it depends on the capitalists and the government; it would mean a fall in wages. It is to be noticed that, while talking about internationalism, there is no mention of class, which is the only basis for internationalism which has any meaning. The assumption that capitalist ownership and control will continue indefinitely for Britain and Europe in the year 2000 and beyond is a give-away. Entry into Europe is capitalist politics, in the interest of capitalism. It will not lead to peace but new regional antagonisms and trade wars.
The idea that the class struggle has been abolished has been refuted in Britain and Europe in the last ten years. Gone is the mirage of the “affluent” society, which these former supporters of Gaitskell believed in. In Britain, the demonstrations and strikes against the open reaction of Heath and Conservatism is one symptom of the class struggle. On the part of the Tories, their onslaught against workers’ standards and the social services is not an individual whim of Heath, but is caused by the impasse of British capitalism, due to the falling rate of profit and even a fall in the amount of profit (See Militant and Militant International Review).
In Italy, the struggles of the working class against low standards and conditions has resulted in a series of general strikes. In France, despite the vaunted “high wages and good conditions”, we had the May days, the general strike and occupation of factories over a period of a month. In Germany, there have been a series of large scale strikes in the last months.
This hardly looks like the paradise pictured by Rose and the marketeers. As for “peace”, the increase in votes for the neo-fascist MSI in Italy in some recent local and regional elections is a warning. The continuance of capitalism in the main European countries and Britain, represents in the long run, a threat to democracy and peace. A destruction of the workers’ organisations, which a possible coming to power of fascism would mean, would inevitably prepare the way for a new war and the destruction of civilization, perhaps of mankind itself.
The assumption that the status quo in relations between classes and nations can be maintained, either internally or internationally is the dream of this section of the party. Their assumptions always begin by an acceptance of the present class relations within society. Their policies accept this as a geometric axiom. They are opposed to radical measures of nationalisation and therefore their ideas are always limited by the framework of capitalist society.
Their illusions of “managing capitalism” better than the capitalists received a rude shock with the experience of the Labour government of 1964-70. But they have learnt nothing from this and forgotten everything. They remain prisoners of their middle class outlook. They are quite prepared, on the basis of their prejudices, to prop up the Heath government by defying a three line whip in order to vote with the Tories. The support of ruling class ideology is more important to them than bringing the government down.
They do not conceive a Labour government as anything fundamentally different from a Tory one. In the next Labour government, they will be responsive to any pressures from the capitalists and their tools, the press and TV against radical policies. If they are prepared to save a Tory government now, they will be prepared to bring down a Labour government which tried to bring in drastic anti-capitalist measures.
For them it is capitalism and its needs which decide policy. They are for social reform when the country, i.e. the ruling class, can “afford it”. They are for counter-reforms, cutting social services and living standards, when the economy. i.e. the capitalist owners of the means of production, are in difficulties. Everything they do starts from the capitalist premise of the “nation” and the status quo in the relations between the classes.
The attitude of the left wing of the movement is more in tune with the deep felt hatred and misgivings of the workers towards the Tory government. The active rank and file of the Labour and TU movement especially feels a natural class mistrust of the government of big business.
They know that never in history have the Tories initiated measures in the interests of the working class, without immense pressure from the workers. Especially in the field of foreign policy, the needs and interests of the capitalists decide policy. Consequently, in a period of rising cost of living and growing unemployment and when the government is slashing the social services, they think that any measures of the Conservatives must be dictated by the needs of their backers, the millionaires and employing class. It is this which has brought the big majority to opposition to entry into Europe. They know that the Tories are not acting for the workers’ benefit but that of their paymasters. Consequently the hostility to the EEC policy of the Conservatives.
However, while reflecting the opposition of the working class to Conservative policies on Europe, the leaders of the left have no alternative to offer other than the Tories’ policies of yesterday: “the commonwealth”, “national sovereignty”, “the nation”—all myths of the capitalism of the past find echoes in their propaganda.
At the same time they make great play about “the terms”; as if it is not a fundamental class question and opposition to the strengthening of capitalism! The terms the ruling class are getting are the best they can get in their interests, given the weakness of British capitalism at the present time. There cannot be better terms! Yet Tribune (writing in its issue of June 25th in an article by Geoffery Sinclair):
“…It [resolution moved by Jack Jones in 1969] does not say that this country should not at any time, in any circumstances, join the EEC. But it does say that the interests of Britain and the British Labour movement must be protected by proper safeguards if we do…But they [Labour pro-marketeers] cannot deny what both Labour’s cabinet and Labour’s conference agreed upon. It was spelled out as: safeguards for British agriculture, our right to plan our own economy, the necessity to protect Commonwealth trade.”
What is the argument then? Not apparently against all ruling class measures in the interests of the capitalists. When was it possible to plan “our” economy? While the capitalist ownership of nine tenths of private industry remains intact and when 86 percent of the economy is in the hands of private ownership it will always be impossible to “plan” the economy, so Tribune is tilting at shadows.
The whole attitude of the left MPs is not fundamentally different from the approach of the right wing, merely saying “no” where they latterly said yes, without bringing out fundamentally socialist principles. For instance, Michael Foot writes in Tribune of July 2nd:
“Instead he [Heath] should say: Yes, before entry there will be a general election. But he won’t: he is too small, too obstinate, too stupid, too much infatuated with the power which he handles with such ungainly insensitivity.”
Heath is hell-bent for Europe because that is the decision of his master—the CBI and the bankers. If Heath were big, flexible, clever, uninterested in power, the decision would be the same. Without the class support of the capitalists Heath could decide nothing. In fact it is quite likely that “the Moor having done his duty”, if entry into the EEC is carried after a decent but short interval, the Tories will junk Heath as unnecessary ballast because of his personal unpopularity.
In a wearisome way the “lefts” repeat the errors of the past. John Mendelson MP, in Tribune of July 9th writes:
“The sharing of nuclear know-how between Britain and France, and the development of a joint nuclear force between these two countries would inevitably bring very near the danger of associating Western Germany with such a nuclear force…Moreover we are now hopefully moving into a period of East-West détentes and there is hope for an early agreement to call the first European Security Conference in Helsinki, at the invitation of the government of Finland.”
As if nuclear arms held by “democratic” German capitalist governments are any better or worse than nuclear arms in the hands of “democratic” British or French capitalist governments. Such an argument harks back to the racialist arguments of fascism. It has nothing in common with socialist ideas of class solidarity of the workers.
We cannot be accused of selective quotation. We will quote from Frank Judd MP in Tribune of 2nd July:
“The tragedy is that the price of so much time and effort being spent on this exercise in narrow regional integration is a failure to push as hard as we should be pushing for progress in more meaningful international forums such as OECD and GATT, UNCTAD (United Nations Committee for Trade and Development) of the multi-racial, inter-continental and realistically heterogeneous groupings of both the new Commonwealth and the United Nations itself.”
Again a completely utopian view of the world at the present time. It is precisely because GATT and UNCTAD cannot serve their needs, that the ruling class is looking for a “narrow regional” solution in a world where the lush days of the post-war period are drawing to a close. The “new Commonwealth” is drawing apart from British capitalism at great speed, as the figures for world trade demonstrate. It is precisely because it no longer serves the purpose of increasing their profit that the ruling class is preparing to cast it off like an old coat. The UN is merely a forum for all the capitalist powers, small, great and super powers, colonial and semi-colonial countries and the rulers of the Bonapartist states. It can settle only secondary conflicts, and at that only if they do not involve the super powers, but it is impotent to settle the great issues. Both Tribune left and former Gaitskellite right bow down before the image of the “(dis)-United Nations” as a guarantee of peace and freedom.
The attitude towards the EEC of the Labour movement must be governed by the same class principles as their attitude towards all the so-called “international” institutions.
The Tribune writes on 25th June:
“There is little doubt also when the Tory cabinet starts its great propaganda drive in favour of Market entry, it will be opposed by a Labour movement which rejects entry on Tory terms…It will use every propaganda means at its disposal to make their abject surrender look like some shining achievement, but they can be defeated.”
As if the ruling class will not get the best terms available for their class. They surrendered nothing. It was a bargain between gangsters, each striving for some advantage over the other, and banding together to gain advantage over even more powerful rivals. In class terms the working class has nothing to gain, whatever concessions the British ruling class gained from the ruling class of the Six. To pose the question as one of the nature of the terms is wrong from a socialist point of view. A “better agreement” would not alter the character of the EEC in any way. We must be opposed to the capitalist character of the group of Six and the foreshadowed group of Ten. It is not a question of minor or major changes in the agreement but the sinister character of all the capitalist participants. The group of Ten, even more than the group of Six, will accelerate trade war with America and Japan. It would rapidly cancel out any temporary advantages which Britain might gain by entry, even on better terms.
However, the anti-marketeers in the Labour movement have not explained what alternative policy they propose. Having frightened themselves about the gruesome reactionaries in the Community, they inconsistently stand and speak on the same platform as right wing Tory reactionaries, complementing right wingers who speak on the same platform as Tories and Liberal, thus abandoning the indispensable and independent class criterion on all major decisions. They make the issue seem “above party”, which is to make nonsense of the whole idea of socialism and the irreconcilability of interests between the oppressor and the oppressed.
As a capitalist power standing on her own, Britain is bankrupt. There is no solution inside the EEC, there is less of a solution outside. The left leaders have the right wing basking in the aura of a spurious “internationalism”, while they wear nationalist trappings. This cannot clarify the issue for the working class. As against the blind alley of negative pro or anti-Marketism, there must be placed the class internationalism of the working class. The workers of Britain have interests in common with the workers of the Common Market and of all countries. Their interests are opposed to the capitalist class of all countries including Britain.
The problems facing the working class can only be solved by socialist methods. The ousting of the 350 monopolies, banks and insurance firms who control 85 percent of the wealth of Britain. This is not “doctrinaire”—it is the real source of all difficulties facing the Labour movement. Skirting round the problem only prepares unmitigated disasters for the Labour movement and the working class. There is no magical way in which this issue can be avoided. It is central to the task of maintaining and improving living standards.
The working class in Britain can strike a real blow for internationalism by expropriating the ruling class. Workers everywhere respond to other workers engaged in struggle against the common enemy—capital. The British postal workers had the solidarity and refusal to blackleg against, of postal workers all over the world—and especially the European continent. The dockers and seamen had the same.
The French workers in May 1968 had the support and refusal to blackleg of all the workers in the surrounding countries. That was a real blow in the name of internationalism. That was the working class of different countries standing shoulder to shoulder in the struggle. That is real internationalism. Not the phony internationalism of supporting one’s own ruling class in any temporary arrangements they make with the ruling class in other countries.
In Russia and East Europe the bureaucrats who have made a mockery of the idea of socialism and democracy by their usurped privileges and totalitarian power could not maintain their rule for months, even days, in response to a clarion call of international socialism by the British workers.
To the programme of the ruling class of partial integration of the economies of the EEC must be posed a real alternative and a real plan of production for the whole of Europe. With the resources of the TUC and the LP a plan for a socialist Britain could be drawn up. A plan involving workers’ management of industry and the state by the trade unions.
This could be integrated with other plans in a genuine federation of a democratic socialist united states of Europe. A socialist Britain, in a socialist Europe would mean undreamed of plenty for the working class of Britain and Europe. It would mean inevitably the overthrow also of the ruling class of Latin America, Africa and Asia…A socialist Britain and a socialist Europe could render the peoples of these continents genuine support and aid financially and scientifically. The socialist idea would sweep the world preparing the way for peace and a world federation of democratic socialist states.
But a beginning has to be made. In the crisis of Britain against the capitalist idea of the Common Market must be posed the alternative of a socialist Britain as a step to the Socialist United States of Europe. The demand for a general election must be issued by Labour and the TUC. Let the people decide democratically whether they wish to enter the Community.
How much the ruling class cares for “democracy” is shown by the cynicism with which they refuse to consult the people on great issues such as this. They do not wish to have a general election on the question simply because it would mean defeat for the Tories.
If the Labour Party and TUC launched a campaign, mobilising the human resources of the trade unions, Labour Party, shop stewards’ committees and co-ops they could have an active campaigning force numbering millions. But to get these numbers enthusiastically mobilised would require a socialist programme, more than the hum-drum programme of reforms in a capitalist Britain, of which the active workers in the movement and the working class generally are sceptical. An overwhelming majority could be won for the programme of a socialist Britain in a Socialist United States of Europe as an alternative programme to the ruling class programme of entry into the European Economic Community.