For a democratic federal Europe

Both for the left and establishment politics the European Union represents a fundamental fault line.

Paradoxically the strongest, most vociferous opponents of ongoing integration in the EU are to be found on the hard reactionary right and the soft reformo-left. On the right Iain Duncan Smith's Conservative Party and Denmark's Folkeparti, the British National Party and in France the Front National, the United Kingdom Independence Party and Belgium's Vlaams Blok. On the left old Labour's Tony Benn and Denis Skinner and in Ireland Sinn Féin, Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party and Denmark's Red-Green Alliance, the Morning Star's Communist Party of Britain and in Sweden the Left Party.

What appears to be an unexpected, odd and uncomfortable political alignment in actual fact stems from a common source. The EU is a reactionary anticipation of the future. A paradox in itself. The EU is rightly viewed as a mortal threat to the nation-state held dear by the reactionary right and the reformo-left alike. That nation-state might be pseudo-historical - eg, the imagined community of blood invented in the 19th century as a social glue - and still cherished by xenophobes, racists and chauvinists. On the other hand there is the bureaucratic-utopian nation-state, the nation-state guarded and venerated in the feeble ideologies of reformists and 'official communists' as the vehicle of the future socialist transformation.

National exclusiveness and national roads to socialism have been fatally undermined or at the very least made to appear ridiculous by a capitalism which can only maintain itself and keep things as they are by ensuring that everything changes.

Capitalism and all its essential laws are in visible decay. Value, free competition, the reserve army of labour, etc. The system is ripe, perhaps overripe, for supersession by socialism-communism. Yet the subjective factor - the revolutionary working class - exists at this present moment as little more than an abstraction. Between them the anti-socialist socialisms of social democracy and 'official communism' saw to that during the last century. So capital survives - but only by trying to resolve its own contradictions. Driven on by morbid demons, capital defensively, negatively and timidly anticipates communism. Global regulation of production, welfarism, social capital, etc. Ironically through organising partial self-negation capital actually intensifies the process of its own degeneration and hence the necessity of a working class solution.

That partial self-negation is as true for capital as a global metabolism of exploitation as it is for the capitalist nation-state. Capital long ago came up against the nation-state as a barrier to expansion. Capital still needs the nation-state politically, militarily and economically, but must simultaneously transcend the nation-state. Consequently the 20th century - especially in Europe which is the decisive battleground of the world revolution - witnessed attempts to preserve the nation-state by partially negating the nation-state. Hence the return of the national question.

Throughout the 20th century objective circumstances cried out for European integration. The stupendous productive capabilities of capitalism had "outgrown" the narrow framework provided the nation-state. Germany in particular found itself constricted. As Trotsky argued, the historical point at issue was which class was going to "organise" a united Europe (L Trotsky The first five years of the Communist International London 1974, p341). Capital and its anti-democratic methods or labour through winning the battle for democracy?

Twice Germany sought to unite Europe using the methods of blood and iron. In 1918 kaiser-Germany suffered defeat by the superior power of Britain, France and the USA. World War I saw the collapse of the German and Austro-Hungarian autocracies and a still reverberating Russian Revolution. And under the terms of the 1920 Versailles peace treaty whole tracts of German-inhabited territory in Europe were torn away - Alsace-Lorraine, Posen in west Prussia, Danzig, Northern Schleswig, the Saar basin, Upper Silesia, etc. Crippling reparations were also exacted. Such a peace could only but be a prelude for another war.

Faced with the Balkanisation of Europe and the danger of a new European bloodbath, the Communist International adopted the slogan for a united socialist states of Europe in 1923. It was meant to be a transitional demand which in its fulfilment would lead to the eventual world socialist federation. And yet the working class was already on the retreat and one defeat followed another - not only under the jackboot of fascism, but also from within in the twin forms of social democracy and 'official communism'. Labour lacked the strength to unite Europe.

The conditions were laid for World War II and another attempt to bring about European unity through blood and iron. In March 1936 Adolf Hitler effectively tore up the Versailles Treaty. By 1940 he and his monstrous regime dominated Europe from the Pyrenees in the west to the Vistula in the east. Plans were afoot for Operation Sea Lion, the invasion of Britain. However, a Europe united by Nazi invasion, even though it was tacitly supported by high bourgeois, aristocratic and catholic quislings eager to deal with their own reds, could never be stable. Nor could it hold against word power. Germany was overwhelmed by a combination of British, Soviet and US military-economic might plus the national liberation movements triggered by Nazi conquest, terror and savagery - Poland, Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Denmark, France, etc.

Europe lay in ruins and was already again put on the dissecting table. Under the terms of the Yalta agreement half the continent was incorporated into the Soviet Union's sphere of influence and through bureaucratic revolution 'sovietised'. Like Hitler's Third Reich, Stalin's empire was a prison house of nations. Bureaucratic socialism was moreover only capable of organising and developing production by atomising the working class. Hence, when the Soviet Union collapsed as a social system, the overriding political form this took was national. Not only eastern Europe was swept by national - not class - revolutions, but the same phenomenon occurred within the Soviet Union too. The Soviet Union broke apart into its 15 constituent republics.

In western Europe things were different. Britain and the US encouraged not only economic recovery, but measures of unification; the idea was to both avoid another internecine disaster and create a bulwark against external bureaucratic socialism on the one hand and on the other an internal working class which led the anti-Nazi resistance movements and could not be returned to the squalid social relations that prevailed in the 1920s and 30s. Speaking in Zurich, Winston Churchill - as leader of the Tory opposition - urged Franco-German reconciliation and "a kind of United States of Europe" (quoted in R Broad and R Jarrett Community Europe - a short guide to the Common Market London 1967, p14).

But this was no Anglo-Saxon imposition. Germany and France having twice been devastated, were determined to establish a historic compromise on their own terms. Jean Monnet, the French technocrat, had been promoting this cause since before World War II. In January 1947 the United Europe Committee was established with Churchill's son-in-law, Duncan Sandys, as its chair. However, the Britain of Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin adopted an aloof attitude towards a united Europe. Behind their empty rhetoric of European cooperation and a British national socialism lay the British empire and commonwealth, the British bomb and the 'special relationship' with the US. Labourite Britain promoted Nato, Altanticism and the survival of Britain's god-given place in the sun.

France refused to be thwarted. The German 'problem' had to be solved. Germany would sooner or later recover from the destruction wrought by war and when it did its stupendous productive capabilities could only be safely harnessed in a supra-national framework. France resolved to take over the lead from a lacklustre Britain. General de Gaulle, the dominant figure in post-World War II French politics, grandly argued that "Europe will not be able to rebuild if it is not led by France" (quoted in Y Shishkov EEC ambitions versus reality Moscow 1987, p26).

In 1951 a coal and steel community was created by France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg. Churchill - once again prime minister - adopted the same half arrogant, half pathetic attitude as his Labourite predecessor. Undaunted, the six CSC countries pressed ahead with plans for further integration. In March 1957 they signed the Treaty of Rome on the Capitoline Hill. Its clauses were designed to facilitate the steadily reduction of tariffs between them and establish common external ones - in other words a common market in both industrial and agricultural commodities.

Of course, the founding European foreign ministers entertained much more lofty ambitions. They envisaged not merely a common market. Through economic integration a unified polity would emerge - "a kind of United States of Europe".

So from the start the plan was to establish an international economic and political body. Walter Hallstein, first president of the European Commission, insisted: "We are not just integrating economics; we are integrating politics. We are not just sharing our furniture; we are jointly building a new and bigger house" (W Hallstein United Europe Cambridge Massachusetts 1962, p66).

European integration has certainly advanced qualitatively since 1957. Having been vetoed twice by de Gaulle, Britain finally joined in 1973. It was followed by Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Sweden, Finland and Austria. The customs union - born of the cold war - has become a single market embracing 350 million people and 15 counties with free trade and movement of labour. Economically what is now the European Union is the world's biggest home market. It has a combined GDP of about $6 trillion - as compared with $5 trillion for the US and $3 trillion for Japan.

Politically, however, because it has been united from above, through bureaucratic not democratic methods, the EU resembles something like the creaking Austro-Hungarian empire that straddled middle Europe in the 19th century. The EU is an amalgam of unevenly developed state units with Germany, France and Britain uneasily trying to steer things in unison from the centre. Nevertheless the direction is clear. Wider, in the form of candidates like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Deeper, in the form of majority voting in political institutions and further economic integration. The EU already has the first elements of a Euro army - the rapid reaction force.

With the Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties the tempo of integration increased markedly. And in January 1999 11 EU countries subsumed their national currencies into the euro - overseen by a powerful central bank. Within a couple of weeks the euro itself will come into everyday circulation and begin cuckoo-like to replace other currencies as the means of exchange. Economic discipline in Euroland is enforced by a stability pact that limits government borrowing to three percent of GDP. A social chapter has also been put in place to facilitate convergence, along with provisions for common foreign and immigration policies.

There is another, important, factor at work behind European integration. Inter-imperialist rivalry. Europe has to compete with the US and Japan. They might have marginally smaller markets. Despite that, due to an historically constituted nationality and an economically centralised territory, they are blessed with a single working class and a single political and business elite. Like every other commodity, labour power can easily move, and therefore be bought and sold, anywhere in the US or Japan. Europe is not only divided by history, but culture.

Commodities freely circulate. Not the special commodity, labour power. Language is a material barrier except for those with higher education (worst paid labour being a partial exception). A multinational, and therefore fragmented, political and business elite constitutes a similar handicap.

To successfully compete the EU must as a minimum forge a federal superstate from where its transnationals can gorge themselves in every corner of the planet. Survival necessitates political integration and overcoming the historic division of Europe into antagonistic national capitals.

So the EU is a continental-wide superstate in the making. Old national and sectional identities, interests and symbols are therefore being destroyed or have declining use-value. Inevitably the idea of the sovereign nation-state is in profound crisis. Indeed the nation-states that emerged from the ruins of the sprawling empires of dynastic Europe - including Britain - are increasingly anachronistic.

There is, however, a gaping democratic deficit. National parliamentary democracy - never a gift from capital, but won almost entirely through revolutions in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and then crucially the power of the organised working class and against stiff bourgeois opposition - has not been superseded by European parliamentary democracy. The European parliament might have been directly elected since 1979, but as an institution it is largely a talking shop. It is the European central bank, the council of ministers and the commissioners which are visibly gaining more and more influence by the day over the lives of Europe's peoples. For the left the democratic deficit that exists within the EU should be a clarion call to action. We must demand far-reaching measures to massively extend democratic rights, powers and supervision.

In Britain the ongoing process of European integration has caused deep schisms. Ideologically the residues of empire arrogance clouded the brain. Barred from the Common Market in 1963 by de Gaulle's veto, the British ruling class tried to maintain a quasi-empire along with the 'special relationship' with the US and its own Europe through Efta. But neither the Commonwealth nor the conceit of being an independent world power added up to a viable strategy. As said above, Britain eventually entered the EEC in 1973 under Heath's Tory government (along with its Danish and Irish Efta satellites).

Apart from its extreme right wing around Roy Jenkins, the Labour Party was highly critical of the terms and conditions. Nonetheless in 1975 Harold Wilson's government successfully fought a referendum on the issue of continued membership. The main opposition came from a Tony Benn-Enoch Powell popular front. The Labour Party remained officially uneasy with European integration till the leadership of John Smith and then the government of Tony Blair. A parallel shift occurred in the TUC with the appointment of John Monks. New Labour and its coterie of middle class career politicians loyally and now openly serve the interests of the most competitive, most internationalised, sections of British capital. The subaltern working class pole of Labourism is today a marginalised appendage and is treated with barely concealed contempt.

It is the Tories who are organically split. While Iain Duncan Smith's leadership wing echoes Lady Thatcher's call for a "fundamental renegotiation" of Britain's relationship with the EU, the Clarke wing joins the Lab-Lib pact over the forthcoming referendum on the euro. These pro-big business traditionalists will operate within the Britain in Europe campaign under Tony Blair. As to the Tory front bench, it articulates the interests of the least competitive sections of capital and plays on little-England xenophobia. The Tory Party went into the June 2001 general election committed to not joining the euro for at least one parliamentary term so as to defend "British sovereignty". For five years! The Hague Tories constituted little more than the politics of fear.

If the British ruling class has been divided and parochial, the groups, factions and sects of the left have proved utterly incapable of providing anything like a serious working class alternative. This is something the Socialist Alliance must remedy. And, with a referendum expected by the next general election, there is no room for complacency. The Socialist Alliance's stance is still to be decided. Nevertheless our general election manifesto for June 2001 does contain the correct slogan, "Neither advocate the euro nor defend the pound" (People before profit p19). That is a position with which we communists wholeheartedly agree. However a fully rounded response is still needed and one that gives no quarter to reformism and national socialism.

In general, the reformist and national socialist left adhere to the most backward looking and chauvinist positions on the EU. They instinctively recognise that European integration makes a mockery of the British, Scottish, etc road to socialism. Yet in terms of rhetoric and immediate programme the Campaign Group rump in New Labour, the Socialist Labour Party Scargillites and the 'official communists' of the Morning Star's Communist Party of Britain are virtually indistinguishable from Thatcher, Duncan Smith and the UK Independence Party. Together they want to save the pound sterling and restore British sovereignty.

Naturally with the likes of Denis Skinner, Arthur Scargill, Robert Griffiths, etc it is all done in the name of socialism ... but this is the socialism of fools. The best these 'liberators' could achieve in reality is a British version of Stalinism, Kim Il Sungism or Pol Pottism: ie, state slavery, and that imposed onto a capitalistically advanced country fully integrated into the world economy. What cost the lives of millions elsewhere could only but be repeated at a still greater human cost. On all criteria civilisation would not be advanced an inch but thrown back miles.

Proletarian socialism - as the first stage or phase of communism - is international or it is nothing. There can be no socialism in one country because capital, as an exploitative social relationship, resides not within a single national state, but internationally in the realm of the global economy. Bureaucratic or national socialism just brings back all the old crap, albeit in demonic forms. That is why as long ago as 1845 Marx and Engels emphatically rejected all localist schemes and insisted on the contrary that, "Empirically, communism is only possible as the act of the dominant peoples 'all at once' and simultaneously" (K Marx, F Engels CW Vol 5, Moscow 1976, p49).

As aspiring leaders of the working class, Peter Taaffe and his lieutenant Lynn Walsh of the Committee for a Workers' International and the Socialist Party in England and Wales have proved themselves to be theoretically bankrupt over the EU. They staked their reputations as seers on the 'Marxist' prediction that European integration and the euro were impossible. Such a prediction says everything about them as bureaucratic charlatans and nothing about Marxism.

A more sophisticated 'Marxist' position within the Socialist Alliance has been taken up by the so-called Fourth International and its section in Britain, the International Socialist Group, aka Socialist Outlook. Unfortunately its demand for British withdrawal from the EU is a leftist echo of the national socialism of the Labour left, SLP and CPB. Yet precisely because it is done under the guise of internationalism, this national socialism is all the more insidious and dangerous.

Writing in Socialist Outlook's pamphlet Even more unemployment: the case against Emu, Alan Thornett admits he and his group of co-thinkers will be siding with the reformist left and the Tory right in voting 'no' in the euro referendum. Predictably comrade Thornett calls for a "progressive 'no' campaign". He does not want to share a platform with Duncan Smith, the UK Independence Party or the BNP.

Stripped of its pious internationalist declarations, Socialist Outlook has in actuality the same immediate nationalist programme as the reformist left (which logically leads it organisationally into the most revolting company). "We are for the dissolution of the EU or Britain's withdrawal from it. It is a capitalist club designed to organise the restructuring and concentration of capital to the advantage of the bosses. But our aim is not a capitalist Britain outside the capitalist EU. We want a socialist Britain in a socialist Europe" (ibid p11). Essentially the same wooden argument is repeated in John Lister's March 2001 pamphlet Building the alternative to Blair.

The brittleness of this kind of internationalism stands revealed if we apply the method to Britain itself. It too is surely a "capitalist club" designed to "organise the restructuring and concentration of capital to the advantage of the bosses". Should we call for the "dissolution" of Britain, as do Welsh and Scottish nationalists, or even a working class "withdrawal from it"? The suggestion is stupid (though it does not stop comrade Thornett and co from promoting the 'break-up' or Balkanisation of Britain).

Interestingly before the October Revolution of 1917 Lenin and the Bolsheviks confronted similar manifestations of national socialism. The tsarist empire imprisoned many nations and nationalities. Nevertheless, while they fought for the right of these nations to self-determination up to and including secession, the overriding, central, strategy was cementing the highest and most extensive workers' unity throughout the tsarist empire - in order to overthrow the tsarist empire. Separation was a national right fought for by the working class. Unity was though the fundamental proletarian principle.

Unwittingly comrade Thornett and co have placed themselves outside the international communist tradition. A tradition represented by their claimed mentors, Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. Unflattering though it is, comrade Thornett actually stands in the camp of Joseph Pilsudski and his Polish Socialist Party. Formed in 1892, it adopted a national socialist programme for the reconstitution of an independent Poland out of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires (which between them all but partitioned it out of existence at the 1815 Congress of Vienna). Rosa Luxemburg and Julian Marchleweski split with the PSP in 1893 over this perspective. Objective conditions, they rightly said, demanded the unity of workers - Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Georgians, Letts, etc - against the tsarist empire.

In defence of the past, in particular in defence of the welfare state and the post-World War II social democratic gains, comrades Thornett and Lister present a progressive-conservative programme that would at best weaken the EU. It would, however, also weaken the European working class movement if its strongest detachments forced upon their capitalists a policy of withdrawal - a road that would lead not to a national socialist paradise, but in all probability the hell of increased national exploitation and eventually counterrevolution.

The purpose of communist politics is not to look fondly upon an anti-working class past (including the welfare state). Our programme is about the future and emphasises the positive advantages of the workers being organised into the largest, most centralised, democratic states. All the better to overthrow them and begin the advance to communism. The working class can only but suffer one cruel defeat after another if it confines itself to the politics of defence. Communists therefore raise the perspective of the politics of the offensive. Hence we say: to the extent that the EU becomes a superstate, so must the advanced part of the working class organise itself into a single revolutionary party to fight for power within it.

The EU is undoubtedly a reactionary anti-working class institution which upholds the "rule of the wealthy minority over the vast majority" (J Lister Building the alternative to Blair London 2001, p60). Amongst consenting Marxists that hardly needs proving with statistics concerning spending limits and lurid details of the Nice treaty.

The real question is what attitude we adopt to it. The CPGB stands for consistent democracy under capitalism. Concretely that means fighting for the maximum democracy in the EU: eg, abolition of the council of ministers and the unelected commissioners, a constituent assembly of the peoples of Europe, an armed working class and substantive equality for all citizens.

Without such an approach talk of socialism in Britain or a socialist Europe is but empty economistic chatter. A democratic EU won by a powerful, working class-led movement from below creates the best conditions for an uninterrupted transition to the united socialist states of Europe advocated by Comintern in 1923 and then beyond that to world socialism. The realisation of an EU with a proletarian imprint is well within the capabilities of a combative European working class. In Germany, Italy, France our forces are strong in objective terms. What is needed for success is working class unity - beginning with the trade unions, but also quickly reaching the level of a single party, equipped with a common revolutionary programme.

Towards that end, when it comes to the euro versus the pound sterling referendum, we say the working class should refuse to take sides. Being for European unity does not commit us to support every measure that comes from the EU bureaucracy and the reactionary integrationists. Not at all.

Our Socialist Alliance 2001 general election manifesto is undoubtedly correct when it says we should "neither advocate the euro nor defend the pound" (People before profit p19). Essentially the 'yes' camp argues that workers will be better off if we are exploited by European capital; the 'no' campaign with equal cynicism pretends that workers will be better off if we are exploited by British capitalists. Revolutionary socialists and communists must constitute themselves as the third camp, the camp of independent working class politics.

It is therefore worrying to read the Socialist Workers Party's Alex Callinicos and his analysis of the Irish referendum on the Nice treaty. He argued that the referendum, along with the decision of the Danes in 2000 not to participate in the euro, "illustrate that there is a strong socialist and internationalist case against the EU" (Socialist Worker June 16).

That no doubt explains why the SWP's Irish comrades placed themselves in the 'no' camp alongside some very dubious and very reactionary partners. They included hard-line catholics who were fighting against what they saw as a threat to the "integrity" of Ireland's anti-abortion laws in the shape of the treaty's human rights provisions.

Anxious to establish the 'progressive' credentials of the 'no' campaign, comrade Callinicos mentioned only the left groups, Sinn Fin and the greens. Yet as Socialist Outlook acknowledged with a surprising degree of honesty: "By and large the working class were not to the fore of this campaign" (Socialist Outlook June). The left in Ireland was drowned in a cacophony of voices defending narrow Irish interests.

The Daily Telegraph, for its part, celebrated the 'no' vote in Ireland because it reflected "a rising level of anger against a powerful, rich, distant elite of bureaucrats and politicians who are seen to arrange the affairs of the continent for their own convenience" (The Daily Telegraph editorial June 25). There was indeed a distinctly parochial coloration to the 'no' campaign. Eg, Sinn Féin warned that the extension of majority voting would "relegate us to the second division of a two-tier Europe" (referendum manifesto).

A salutary lesson can be drawn from the recent general election in Denmark. At the time of the Danish referendum on the euro the 'no' vote was celebrated by the left as a triumph for the left. However, though the green and reformo-left in Denmark enthusiastically participated in the 'no' campaign, the other 'no' element came from the chauvinist right. Who proved to be the main beneficiary? The green and reformo-left or the right? After the November 20 2001 general election, for the first time since 1924, the social democrats find themselves no longer the biggest political party in the country. The Red Green Alliance, which by its own admission "became in a certain sense, part of the government parliamentary majority" of the social democrats, also lost votes and saw its small parliamentary fraction reduced from five to four MPs (Scottish Socialist Voice November 30). The central issue during the general election campaign was steming the influx of migrants, something that naturally flowed from the isolationist 'no' referendum campaign on the euro. The new Danish government is openly rightwing - a Liberal and Conservative coalition - and will receive the backing of the anti-immigration, anti-euro Peoples Party (Folkeparti).

Nevertheless the praise heaped upon the 'no' victories in Denmark and Ireland by comrade Callinicos points in all likelihood to the stance the SWP will adopt during the euro referendum in Britain. And since it is the largest element in the Socialist Alliance - enhanced by the departure of Peter Taaffe's SPEW - this is a matter of serious concern.

Scoring a victory against an incumbent government was obviously a major attraction for those on the left aligned with the 'no' camp in Denmark and Ireland. According to comrade Callinicos: "The establishment was united in favour of the Nice treaty" and almost by definition those opposing it must be conducting a progressive struggle that demands support from revolutionaries.

It is of course a huge exaggeration, even in Ireland, to claim that the ruling class is as one over European integration and a single currency, and comrade Callinicos concedes that this is certainly not the case in Britain. However, our primary goal in the Socialist Alliance must be establishing working class politics - not how we inflict embarrassment on EU governments and bureaucrats.

In that context let us note that the SWP - in the form of its antecedent, the International Socialists - once possessed a rather more sophisticated attitude towards European integration. In 1961, at the time of Britain's first application to join, the first editorial to tackle the issue was actually favourable to the development. Its was inevitable and could serve to intensify the class struggle. Furthermore a prediction was made: "cartel Europe will have laid ... the basis for a United States of Socialist Europe" (International Socialism autumn 1961). The majority line's foremost polemical gladiator on Europe at the time was a certain John Palmer (later of The Guardian, the EU and Red Pepper).

Only in 1971 - ie, the year of Britain's third and successful application - did the IS turn. Fronted by Chris Harman, the new line called for a 'no' vote against the Heath government's European strategy. Workers would be worse off and European integration could have no progressive content because capitalism no longer has any progressive content. Criticism duly came from Ian Burchall - yes, in those far off days public disagreement on important current issues was legitimate and not a violation of so-called 'democratic centralism'.

He questioned comrade Harman's appeal not to stand aside from working class opposition to European integration: "It is equally true," argued Burchall, "that, for example, hostility to foreign workers in Britain derives from class consciousness - concerns to defend employment and conditions ... We have to relate to these forms of distorted class consciousness; we certainly do not adapt to them" (International Socialism autumn 1971). Comrade Burchall appealed instead to a disembodied United Socialist States of Europe - he had no means of linking the struggle for working class rights and democracy today (minimum programme) with the socialist future (maximum programme).

We neither have to fall back on the 'yes' line of Palmer nor the lifeless socialism of Burchall. A useful pointer to what is the correct programmatic approach to the EU can be found in the writings of Marx and Engels on the titanic contest between free trade and protectionism that overshadowed the politics of their day.

In June 1847 Engels wrote in the Deutsche-Brüsseler-Zeitung that, whichever system "held sway", the "worker will receive no bigger wage for his labour than will suffice for his scantiest maintenance" .... nevertheless, in spite of the subjective intentions of the bourgeoisie, free trade tended to clear the way for the "last decisive battle" between the "propertied and the propertyless, between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat" (K Marx, F Engels CW Vol 6, Moscow 1976, p94).

Marx reasoned along exactly the same lines in the second half of September 1847 and for flavour added a touch of irony: "If they [the protectionists] speak consciously about the working class, then they summarise their philanthropy in the following words: it is better to be exploited by one's fellow-countrymen than by foreigners.

"I do not think the working class will for ever be satisfied with this solution, which, it must be confessed, is indeed very patriotic, but nonetheless a little too ascetic and spiritual for people whose only occupation consists in the production of riches, of material wealth.

"But the protectionists will say: 'So when all is said and done we at least preserve the present state of society. Good or bad, we guarantee the labourer work of his hands, and prevent his being thrown onto the street by foreign competition.' I shall not dispute this statement: I accept it. The preservation, the conservation of the present state of affairs is accordingly the best result the protectionists can achieve in the most favourable circumstances. Good, but the problem for the working class is not to preserve the present state of affairs, but to transform it into its opposite.

"The protectionists have one last refuge. They say that their system makes no claim to be a means of social reform, but that it is nonetheless necessary to begin with social reforms in one's own country, before one remarks on economic reforms internationally. After the protective system has first been reactionary, then conservative, it finally becomes conservative-progressive.

"It will suffice to point out the contradiction lurking in this theory, which at first sight appears to have something seductive, practical and rational to it. A strange contradiction! The system of protective tariffs places in the hands of capital of one country the weapons which enable it to defy the capital of other countries; it increases the strength of this capital in opposition to foreign capital and at the same time it deludes itself that the very same means will make that same capital small and weak in opposition to the working class. In the last analysis that would mean appealing to the philanthropy of capital, as though capital as such could be a philanthropist. In general, social reforms can never be brought about by the weakness of the strong; they must be brought about by the strength of the weak" (K Marx, F Engels CW Vol 6, Moscow 1976, pp280-81).

A short while later Marx received a request to address the free trade congress at Brussels. After paraphrasing the above argument in his (non-delivered) speech, he made the following telling point - as reported by The Northern Star's German correspondent (Engels) - "we are for free trade, because by free trade all economical laws, with their most astounding contradictions, will act upon a larger scale, upon a greater extent of territory, upon the territory of the whole earth; and because from the uniting of all these contradictions into a single group, where they stand face to face, will result the struggle which will itself eventuate the emancipation of the proletariats" (K Marx, F Engels CW Vol 6, Moscow 1976, p290).

The same message was propounded before the Brussels Democratic Association at a public meeting in January 1848. After attacking the hypocrisy of free traders in Britain - Bowring, Bright and co - Marx concluded with these words: "Do not imagine, gentlemen, that in criticising freedom of commerce we have the least intention of defending protection. One may be opposed to constitutionalism without being in favour of absolutism.

"Moreover, the protective system is nothing but a means of establishing manufacture upon a large scale in any given country - that is to say, of making it dependent upon the market of the world; and from the moment that dependence upon the market of the world is established, there is more or less dependence upon free trade too. Besides this, the protective system helps to develop free competition within a nation. Hence we see that in countries where the bourgeoisie is beginning to make itself felt as a class - in Germany, for example - it makes great efforts to obtain protective duties. They serve the bourgeoisie as weapons against feudalism and absolute monarchy, as a means for the concentration of its powers for the realisation of free trade within the country.

"But, generally speaking, the protective system in these days is conservative, while the free trade system works destructively. It breaks up old nationalities and carries antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the uttermost point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. In this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, I am in favour of free trade" (K Marx, F Engels CW Vol 6, Moscow 1976, p465).

Likewise we can conclude that European integration and the euro objectively unites the working class on a larger scale and across a huge territory and thus prepares the "struggle which will itself eventuate the emancipation of the proletariats". In this revolutionary sense alone, we in the Socialist Alliance should be in favour of the euro and the EU.

Jack Conrad