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New International, July–August 1950



The BLP and the Schuman Plan


From New International, Vol. XVI No. 4, July–August 1950, pp. 197–199.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The first great flurry over the Schuman Plan for pooling the coal and steel production of Western Europe, announced initially as a Franco-German endeavor, has now subsided. One cannot blame the outbreak of war in Korea alone as the principal reason for the sudden quietus that has replaced the early fever. The fact of the matter is that when the French sponsors of the plan, in the person of M. Monnet, presented details, the representatives of the six nations participating in the conference to put the finishing touches on this new “miracle” of bourgeois political science, called a halt to the proceedings in order to consult their respective governments.

The plan as enunciated by M. Monnet called for the pooling of the two most basic industries of Western Europe under the direction of a “high authority” set up by the six-nation conference. This “high authority” would consist of from six to nine members chosen from lists of nominees of each nation. Next would come the common or parliamentary assembly, which would have the power to force the resignation of the high authority at the end of each year. This would require a two-thirds vote. To supervene in difficult and seemingly unbridgeable conflicts would be a third structure, the court of arbitration.

It became clear to the representatives of the governments of the other nations that this body would be an extra-governmental body beyond the reach of the existing parliaments. Here, then, arose the first major obstacle. There is no doubt that the smaller nations felt that they would be at the mercy of the Franco-German power in the proposed scheme. But they also saw in the proposal a series of conflicts that would inevitably ensue because the pool would in one way or another exercise inevitable pressure on the remaining economy in which their governments played an active and often determining role.

The plan itself, as M. Monnet explained to the delegates, was essentially political, to create a new relationship among the Western European states by establishing a “community of interests.” But precisely this “community of interests” came into conflict at once. It was not merely as a concession to the British Labor Party’s opposition to the whole business that the French modified their proposals so as not to invade the province of national sovereignty. This concession consisted in the readiness to subject the decisions of the “high authority” to parliamentary as well as judiciary review. This “national sovereignty” would remain inviolate. If any parliament decided that the decisions of the “high authority” violated their national interests, that would mean that the protesting nation would or could turn its back on these decisions.

The conference, which met at the end of June, reconvened on July 3 to hear what the representatives would bring back from their respective governments. Yet the plan is no further ahead than when first presented because these nations are still trying to determine the precise meaning of the plan as it affects the over-all economies of the participating nations, and the extent to which the member nations must surrender their independence in the fields of coal arid steel.

All of this, from the point of view of socialism, is, however, quite secondary. The most important thing that arose out of the Franco-German proposal was the reaction of the British Labor Party and the attacks which were launched against it, especially by the United States. The argumentation that the Schuman Plan was the first great step in the unification of Western Europe met a doubtful response. As a matter of fact the scheme is similar to the pre-war cartels, and in this instance the dominant economic weight of France and Germany would prevail.

No nationalization, it goes without saying, is contemplated. No real improvement of the conditions of the workers in these industries is under consideration. The problem of employment is likewise one not within the purview of the plan. And most important of all, there are no provisions whatever for the intervention, supervision or control, in any fashion, by the workers themselves or their unions. The very same financial and industrial owning groups who control the industries today would control tomorrow. The main aim? Well, there are several. One, to strengthen the structure of these industries and guarantee a continuous and high rate of profit, which undoubtedly can be achieved by the plan. Second, to coordinate production as part of a general scheme to fit in with U.S. aid and the future market; and finally, the preparations for a third world war.

For any one and all of these reasons, socialists could not sympathize with, endorse or support this product of Western capitalist “planning.” The way out is in another direction, which we shall indicate in a moment.

The most interesting aspect of the whole situation is the way in which the British Labor Party struck out against the whole proposal. Much has been said about the fact that there is a distinction to be found in the position of the government and the party itself. But the distinction is too fine. Actually, the government and the party agree on the basic question involved.

It is true that the opposition of the Labor Party is both imperialist and socialistic. This is unavoidable because the British Labor Party and its government are a unique thing. The Labor government pursues a dual course: socialistic on the domestic front, empire imperialistic in foreign policy. At home it has struck fundamental blows at capitalist society, producing a mixed economy in which large segments of industry have been nationalized. In this respect its policy is socialistic. At the same time in its efforts to preserve the empire and to direct the economy on the basis of the commonwealth and empire preference, it must pursue policies which are anti-socialist.

Thus, while it argues most cogently against the Franco-German scheme and shows that this scheme opposes socialism, and while it argues successfully that this is not really a “unification” proposal, it mixes good socialist arguments with rotten imperialist ones. For example, one of the sharpest criticisms it makes is that this unification proposal does not take into consideration the necessity for a permanent European alliance with the U.S. A large part of the Labor government’s foreign policy is predicated on such an alliance with the United States.

This was the occasion for a real exposition of what genuine Western union means. The Labor Party, were it internationalist and more socialist, rather than nationalist and less socialist, could have used this occasion for an immense appeal to the vast numbers of peoples in Western Europe, based upon the conception of creating a genuine third force in a world divided by two imperialist blocs. The argument made by the Laborites that they are alone and therefore cannot risk their nationalizations and their “socialism” overlooks the essential point that as long as they continue in their national socialist manner they will never help to bring about a real change in world relations.

Even so, it is still possible for it to retrieve this loss. It is still possible for it to become a champion of genuine Western union, not of the imperialist variety, organized for the purpose of waging war, but of internationalism and solidarity and for an end to war and imperialism.

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Last updated on 18 October 2018