ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, Spring 1963


Notes of the Quarter



From International Socialism, No.12, Spring 1963, pp.3-4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


This journal can rightly be accused of proneness to Anglo-centrism in its treatment of the Common Market. We thought, wrongly it transpires, that the combination of British capital’s economic needs and the United State’s political pressures were enough to ensure entry. We reckoned without de Gaulle’s ‘vision’ and obduracy, without the retreat from politics in France which makes of these a material force: we underestimated political factors; and ignored much of the world beyond.

Yet de Gaulle’s ‘non’ has altered none of the fundamental economic drives that brought British capital to the threshold of Europe. It is as true now as it was before that big industry needs increasingly a big, rich market like Europe, that big, expensive investments in new branches of the economy – atomics, aircraft, parts of electronics and chemicals – require the capital resources of a continent; and that the cost of a modern armoury, atrocious but necessary for capitalism, is well beyond the capacity of a middling power like Britain. At the same time nothing has changed in the world economy to make the narrow markets, exiguous capital resources and puny defences of Commonwealth and EFTA countries more attractive to British capital. For its own wellbeing it must join Europe. Ultimately it will.

Meanwhile, the Tories have received a shock. Faced with bleak economic prospects at home (see Note 1 above), denuded of their nuclear respectability at Nassau and stung heavily for the Polaris fig-leaf that remains, they are excluded from a Europe on which they had pinned their hopes for economic, military and electoral regeneration.

The drive to Europe with its talk of rationalization, pruning of work forces and so on was cause for anxiety for the British Labour movement; the retreat, far from being the primrose path of the soggy Left’s imagination (as of the so-called hard, principled opposition to joining) should cause even greater anxiety. The Tories have now little to lose in calling for – and imposing – sacrifices in the name of the ‘national emergency’; capital will feel the need for a more implacable anti-labour stance than before; the economic exigencies that made Europe seem so ideal a solution to British capitalism’s ills will need – as John Palmer shows in his article, written before de Gaulle slammed the door – to work themselves out within the smaller compass of our own economy.

Witness The Times (31 January):

‘If it is found that the railways and the coal industry can work more efficiently with fewer workers, this should be accepted ... If traditional industries ... have surplus capacity, it is no use trying to shore them up needlessly ... The proportion of direct to indirect taxation is probably too high... a broadly based turnover or sales tax ... might be preferable to the narrowly based purchase tax ... Other changes ... getting rid of restrictive practices, improving the mobility of labour ...’

The signals are up for the squeeze on labour. Let those socialists who fought, oh so valiantly but oh so irrelevantly, against joining Nato-Europe, look to their role in Nato-Britain. What we have said about entry applies equally to non-entry: our job is to ensure that ‘workers neither pay for the preparations nor suffer the consequences in employment, wages or prices’.

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 31.10.2006