No turning back

‘All our proud traditions and customs are at risk.’ ‘Fight back now before we are crushed underneath the Euro juggernaut.’ ‘Was the battle of Agincourt or the Battle of Britain in vain?’

Turn on the radio or television and you are almost bound to be confronted by some angry Eurosceptic.

The EU countdown towards a single currency has, in some respects, begun for real. The Dublin conference last weekend once again raises the spectre of the euro-dollar. This is causing ‘Little Englanders’ of all descriptions to start to sweat, fearful that their precious pound sterling might be consigned to the history books.

Our valiant defenders of Albion have had a depressing few weeks. The bilateral summit two weeks ago in Nuremburg between France and Germany, the musclemen of the EU, was an ill omen. Helmut Kohl and Jacques Chirac announced that they would continue working towards the so-called “stability pact”.

This is aimed at firming up the euro, by placing very tight rules for membership of the Euro club - strict fines will be imposed on all wayward and ‘misbehaving’ members.

In a further provocation to the Eurosceptics, whether they be inside or outside the Tory Party, Kohl and Chirac promptly issued a 12-page letter, appealing for greater European integration.

No wonder Teresa Gorman assumed the role of a latter-day King Arthur and mounted a rebellion. She declared last week that she will introduce a bill in January to hold a referendum on “total” British withdrawal from the EU. If she has had the time yet to study the Dublin small print she will probably feel even more convinced by the justness of her cause.

The agreement reached at the weekend - and endorsed by the heads of government, not just ‘errant’ finance ministers - straps all member states into a strict economic discipline. Whether you are inside or ‘outside’ the euro/EMU, there can be no escaping the clutches of the European ‘superstate’.

The report from the economic and finance ministers - including Kenneth Clarke - makes this clear when it states:

“Member states outside [the ERM] and thus not having a central [exchange] rate will present policies so as to enable appropriate surveillance in the council, which can make, when necessary, non-binding recommendations. This surveillance will seek to ensure that their policies are orientated to stability and thus to avoid real exchange rate misalignments and excessive nominal exchange rate fluctuations.”

It is rapidly becoming crunch time for the British ruling class. This explains the semi-hysterical behaviour and outbursts we have seen recently, as it becomes impossible to put off decisions. The ‘loyal’ wing of the Tory Party and the media may praise John Major for being statesmanlike and ‘pragmatic’, but his “wait and see” position makes the King Canute of mythology seem positively clear-sighted.

Major may wait and see all he likes, but in the real world European capitalism has noalternative to a single currency and integration. British capitalism is not viable as an offshore island of the United States.

The EU member states are well aware of this, of course, and it is hardly surprising that they are ‘waiting for Blair’ - even if he does insist to Middle England that he is not going to be a “soft touch” for the EU, when it comes to making any major decisions in the future.

Nor, it should be emphasised strongly, can we entertain any notion of a ‘socialist’ Britain which decouples itself from the EU and survives on trade with far-flung and underdeveloped countries. Frankly, such an idea is wackyand would only create the conditions for increased hardship and poverty. An ‘independent’ Britain could only be a grotesque parody of socialism, not its apotheosis.

Unfortunately, this is the message from Arthur Scargill. He has toured the country ‘promising’ that the SLP will “get out of Europe, and into the world”. Such a utopian scenario envisages the crisis-ridden, ramshackle Cuban economy somehow coming to the rescue of Britain. Comrade Scargill’s position seems motivated more by desperation than Marxism.

Communists recognise the truth in the words of the European commissioner, Jacques Santer, when he said very recently that the “moment of truth” has come. Yes, do we go forwards to international socialism on the one hand, or see crisis-ridden capitalism take the world into further austerity? A retreat into the grim backwater of ‘national socialism’ is no alternative.

The EU’s blueprint for closer integration includes the scrapping of all border controls - ie, the free movement of people across national boundaries, unhindered by the necessity for passports.

For genuine communists this is an objectively progressive measure, regardless of the fact that it is EU capitalist technocrats proposing it. Logically, just to say ‘no to the EU’ can only mean that you favour national borders and immigration controls - something antithetical to socialism.

We must fight to make sure that the EU does not become a vast, free trade area - as the Little Englanders desire - but that it becomes a workers’ Europe which draws peoples closer together. At the moment opposition to Europe is taking a predominantly reactionary nationalist form. The SLP with its anti-Europe stance could be in a position to gain from this opposition.

However, the working class needs its own programme with an international vision. An increasingly globally integrated capitalist economy subordinates humanity to it. The working class must organise itself throughout Europe and the world to put the wealth generated by that economy at the disposal of the whole of society rather than the profits of a few.

Eddie Ford