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International Socialism, Spring 1967


Editorial 2



From International Socialism (1st series), No.28, Spring 1967, pp.2-3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Wilson Government’s attempt to rationalise the uncompetitive structure of British capitalism – uncompetitive while defence expenditure and private capital exports remain at the present level – has inevitably led back to Europe. Indeed, the Government’s efforts over the past two years, including the wages freeze, strengthening management’s hand on the shop floor, investment incentives and ‘planning,’ can be seen as in part enabling British capitalism to pass a form of 11+ to enter Europe. It is there that the really serious challenges to the working class can be made in preparation for the anticipated ferocity of world competition in the 1970s.

Not that all this has been seriously debated. Rather have the Labour leaders slid quietly out of the garment of Gaitskellite rhetoric, and donned the tunic of 1961 Home-Heath-Maudling, without at any stage admitting any change. Yesterday’s black is today’s white, and only Harold Wilson (and perhaps Tribune’s Henry Collins) are consistent. In Brussels, the Prime Minister made it quite clear that he intended Britain to enter the Common Market, regardless of what the Labour Party, Parliamentary or otherwise, might think: not only the Party, but Parliament is irrelevant when Wilson makes history. Such differences as can be detected between the 1961 Tories and 1967 Labour show only that the Labour leaders are prepared to be even more ruthless with the backward countries of the Commonwealth and with minority interests like agriculture.

The urgency of the demand for entry is the urgency of British industry’s need to get into markets which will permit it to grow to a size and predominance where economies of scale will make it a shark, not a minnow, in the world market. In particular, the burden of intensified world competition will fall hardest on those industries – computers, electrical equipment, electronics, engineering, machine tools, motor vehicles – which most need the larger market to force concentration and monopolisation as the first step to competing with the giants of the United States and Russia. The Europeans have been pursuing the same end for some time, and have accelerated the pace most recently – steel and motors are only the best known examples. The lip-service formerly paid to anti-monopoly sentiments has now given way to a more realistic view of what the EEC is about.

There are considerable problems for the Europeans in accepting British entry, not least in that the major industrial interests involved are not complementary within the Market, although they could be outside the Market and against the US. The national loyalties and interests of the European bourgeoisie, certainly muddied by the cross-loyalties of international business, have still not yet given way to European ones, and Britain is suspect on more than one count – for five of the ECM, an Anglo-German tie up could make the Market its private estate. Britain is also suspected because of its insistence on maintaining the City’s financial structure, held by some Europeans to be the virus that breeds the ‘stop-go’ malady they have no wish to contract. More important, at least for the Gaullists in all of the Six, Britain is suspected quite rightly of being the Trojan Horse of US capital, trying to gain a secure foothold inside the Market. The charge has enough truth in it to prompt Wilson to mimic Gaullist phrases about European independence, a third force, keeping the US out, and so on, whatever Johnson’s grumbles. The performance hardly matches Wilson’s resolute defence of the world role of sterling, double-harnessed with the dollar, nor his foreign policy subordination to Washington. Shout as he may, Wilson has so far made few clear signs that when he comes off the fence, it will be unequivocally on the European side. He is still trying to have it both ways, since he cannot afford not to.

Some parts of the British labour movement have reacted in a characteristic manner as soon as they realised that Wilson was in earnest about the EEC. On the other hand, the phoney internationalist chorus of the Chamber of Commerce Right of the movement sees industrial concentration in modern capitalism in a positively religious light and constantly conceals the pursuit of profit within the world market as ‘the logic of modern industry.’ On the other, a section of the Left is sadly ready to defend chauvinism, ‘Britain’s place in the world,’ ‘An independent Britain giving the world a lead,’ and contrasts our noble if penurious nationalism with the ‘inward-looking’ nature of the Common Market. The Morning Star and some of those in Tribune thus present a common illusory British road to socialism, or, more accurately, the road to British State capitalism.

It is true that Wilson’s Common Market policy does involve a serious threat to working-class living standards, and it is designed to strengthen the hands of the employers in the fight against workers’ defence organisations in the struggles over speed-up, rate fixing, and working conditions. But inside or outside the Common Market, that particular battle is going to be fought – indeed, outside the battle is likely to be the more ferocious. More to the point, there can be no positive class or socialist response based upon the defence of ‘our’ State, ‘our’, right to plan or ‘our’ sovereignty – they are not ‘ours,’ and the mere experience of how little the Labour movement runs this country when a Labour Government sits in Whitehall is surely vivid enough a lesson in that respect. When Labour was in Opposition, there was an hypothetical chance of something different from Toryism; thin as that chance was, it has now completely dissipated.

In opposition to the Confederation of British Industries-Wilsonite picture of a Monopoly Capital Europe, socialists must argue for the United Socialist States of Europe. However, such a remote perspective cannot be an excuse for evading the very real immediate problem: how to develop links between socialists and militants in industry on a European basis on a common programme for workers’ power and united action.

Criticism of This Editorial by a Minority of the Editorial Board

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