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International Socialism, Spring 1962


Notes of the Quarter

3. Labour and the Common Market


From International Socialism (1st series), No.8, Spring 1962, p.3.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Progress towards a multi-national European Common Market moves relentlessly on. The agreement between the Governments of the present six members of the European Economic Community on agricultural tariffs heralds the second phase of the development of the Market. Furthermore, these negotiations, along with the current British ones, have served to throw into clearer light the political and economic pattern envisaged. In the opening negotiations, Britain pledged to guarantee the interests of the other members of the Economic Free Trade Area – interests now conveniently forgotten as the deeper implications of the Market become clearer. Firstly, it is firmly committed to strengthen NATO, and the applications for membership from neutrals, Sweden and Switzerland, cannot be accepted. Secondly, it is a union of heavily industrialised countries whose only interest in primary producers is that they will cluster at the periphery ready to be exploited without receiving the benefits of membership of the Market – the application of Eire to join cannot be allowed. Finally, because it is a union of heavily industrialised producers, cartelisation is considered the appropriate response.

British business hastens to merge, to cut costs and render itself as competitive internationally as possible. The rate of ‘takeover-merger’ increases, as does the relative scale involved – sufficient to establish monopolistic corporations spanning several industries. The struggle between the largest giant of them all, ICI, and Courtaulds has illuminated both the pattern and the intentions of current changes. Unlike earlier concentrations, where merely financial reorganisation more often than not was at stake, economic rationalisation will have to take place – which means redundant workers.

Alongside the concentration of capital, direct links are being established between employers’ organisations on both sides of the channels – the possibility of coordinated action against a European section of workers becomes increasingly more realistic.

Where does the Labour Movement stand in all this? Clearly, fighting our own pay pause industry by industry can only lead to defeat. Similarly, dismissing the present trend of British industry towards concentration as ‘inevitable’ will contribute nothing to an understanding of the class nature of the Common Market, nor to politicising the growing shop-floor militancy in industry.

Only a sustained campaign carried out throughout the Labour Movement by Socialists will increase consciousness sufficiently for the initiative to be taken in exposing ‘Europeanist’ capitalism, in establishing direct links with European workers for coordinated action and in building a Socialist Europe.

What business is doing now, the leaders of the Labour Movement should be doing for the European working-class. We need to know in much greater detail how the Labour Movements of the ‘Six’ view the future, both at the level of trade union bureaucrat and rank-and-file, both within the socialist trade unions and the religious ones. To mobilise the full power of labour we cannot allow any political or religious discrimination to interfere with the basic task.

This is a task which is urgent if it is to be ensured that the, levelling of conditions, wages and social services is not to the lowest prevailing standards. The struggles which lie ahead for the European Labour Movement demand the maximum cooperation and coordination between the different national sections – the price is defeat and further depoliticisation.

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