ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, Winter 1961


John Fairhead


The Common Market


From International Socialism (1st series), No.7, Winter 1961, p.28.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Controversy over the Conservative Government’s move to enter the Common Market established by the European “six” as a preliminary to their complete political, economic and military fusion has riven every political grouping in Britain. The editorial board of this paper has not escaped the The editorial board of this paper has not escaped the general confusion, as is made clear in the position of the majority (stated in the editorial note, Britain and Europe, appearing in the last issue). For us, however, the terms of reference are different. Discussion among Marxists is concerned only with the means most effectively to forge unity of the international working class in the struggle against capitalism.

The statement that the imperial basis of European capitalist economies is being undermined is speedily dismissed by simple statistics, which show that the rich (i.e., imperialist) nations are growing steadily richer and the “under-developed” (to speak plainly, the colonial and semi-colonial) countries steadily poorer: confirming, one may remark in parenthesis, the validity of the Marxist law of increasing impoverishment on a world scale.

Undoubtedly the industrialization of these countries poses difficulties for British imperialism, which since the second world war has seen its rivals (primarily the USA, but also “defeated” Japan and West Germany) conquer more and more of its markets. To be sure, this is a powerful factor urging one faction within the British capitalist class to sign the Rome treaty on the well-established maxim: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. Exactly here we have a very cogent reason for British workers to resist to the last the projects for joint exploitation of the colonies by a combined European imperialism.

The majority statement recognizes the economic basis of the Six as the untramelled power of the giant monopolies. It proceeds to the statement that “takeovers and the concentration of capital in this country have encouraged combine-wide organization of workers”. True enough. But when, in the whole history of socialist thought, has this been adduced as a reason for socialists to support or welcome such takeovers or such concentration, which so clearly strengthen capitalism and weaken the workers? Why have not the authors of the majority statement the courage of their convictions? Having said A, why not say B? Why not lend support (“critical”, no doubt) to imperialism, which smashes feudal barbarism and transforms backward peasants into workers often more advanced politically than their metropolitan confrères?

Of course Marxists press for the fullest utilization of the channels of increased contact between workers whose bosses combine, nationally or internationally. But they do so on the basis of total opposition to such combination. This opposition is not lessened, but redoubled, where capitalist state intervention is concerned—and it is strange indeed to

hear from the upholders of the majority statement, who elsewhere have written at length on the increasing statification of the economies west as well as east of the iron curtain, the argument that that intervention is on the wane and that state reformism is due to give way to a “diffusion of militant reformism (sic) amongst the working class”. If this phrase means anything, its meaning may best be summarized in the old working-class adage of “advancement of the workers, one by one”! And is it for this prospect that socialists are asked to be “the first to clasp hands across La Manche”?

As the majority states, however, the most telling argument against support (critical, equivocal, qualified or otherwise) of the Common Market lies in the nature of its political superstructure. The majority ask us to dismiss as unlikely the unilateral victory in Britain of a revolutionary socialist party. The opinion is noted, with the observation that, while Marxists are agreed that socialism cannot be built in isolation (least of all in economically vulnerable Britain), that is by no means to say that power, to be held, must be seized simultaneously in all European countries. Let us, however, envisage a more immediate probability: namely, the election of a Labour Government—classically rather than militantly reformist!

What finer excuse could the leaders of such a government have against measures of socialization than membership of a non-socialist (indeed, classical and militant capitalist) West European federation? This is an argument which, not accidentally, is seldom deployed by centrist and Stalinist opponents of the Common Market, imprisoned in the same parliamentary cretinism as the Right. It remains true that not merely socialist, but even “welfare state” legislation would meet obstacles superable only by consent of the most obstinate European bourbons.

It is necessary to say sharply that, if the struggle against the European Common Market is waged only by Tribune and the Communist Party within the working-class movement, the most backward chauvinist trends will receive encouragement and, indeed, pass unchallenged except by the phoney, monopolist-sponsored “internationalism” of the Right. One must state with equal frankness that the stance adopted by the majority is in the tradition of the “ultra-imperialism” posed as a serious possibility by Hilferding and Kautsky, and “welcomed” by them with much the same arguments as those used by the majority in their editorial. The Leninist tradition is different. It is one of opposition to every move on the part of international capitalism to stiffen its sinews, whatever incidental “advantages” may acrue (and, indeed, dialectically must accrue) to the working class in the process. Marxist-Leninists in this situation raise anew their battle cry: for a united socialist states of Europe (which means eastern as well as western Europe) as a means of dealing the death blow to world capitalism! Strengthen and politicize all links with the European and colonial workers in struggle against united, cartelized, capitalist Europe! Side by side we must join battle with our common enemy, and side by side we shall advance to storm and victory.

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 24 February 2010