1990s >> 1991 >> no-1044-august-1991

Editorial: Europe and Mrs Thatcher

Edward Heath was perhaps being a little cruel in describing Thatcher’s mind as “minute”. But she asked for it. She has never displayed any sign of even wanting to escape from her narrow small-town shopkeeper background. Heath could have been an example for her. After all he used to be known as Grocer and now he describes Bush’s New World Order as the “new imperialism”. She, by contrast, has remained Alderman Roberts’ daughter – but this has not prevented a Foundation to perpetuate her stupid prejudices being set up.

It was largely because these prejudices were beginning to affect her management of the affairs of British capitalism that her own Tory colleagues got together to remove her from office. They knew, even if she didn’t, that the globalised nature of present-day capitalism obliged Britain to take a more positive attitude towards the Common Market.

The EEC is essentially a trading arrangement between a number of European capitalist states who have joined together to face their competitors on the world market. It was inevitable that this trading arrangement would have wider implications. A common trading policy would be made easier by a common economic policy; a common economic policy by a common currency; a common currency by a common central bank; a common central bank would imply common political control and, by this stage, Europe would be well on the way to the vision of a federal  United States of Europe that inspired many of those who set up the Treaty of Rome.

Mrs Thatcher’s vision, if vision it can be called, is rather narrower. She wants Britain to remain a fully independent sovereign state, with its own currency and with Westminster not Strasburg as the supreme law-making body. It is the narrow view of the nationalist, in this case of the British nationalist. It is a view shared by Tony Benn and some others in the Labour Party. It is not a view shared by the Socialist Party.

We are, of course, neither British nationalists nor European Federalists but World Socialists. But we can see the special fallacy of the nationalist argument. In the world as it is today, it is neither possible nor desirable for the people of one part to stand apart from the rest.

Satellites and other means of telecommunications mean that we are already living in a global village where what happens in one part of the world can be known almost instantaneously in the other parts. In terms of the production of wealth one world already exists. The goods we consume and the machines and materials used to produce them are all joint products of workers from many parts of the world – something for British nationalists to ponder over at breakfast as they munch their muesli, sprinkle their sugar and drink their tea.

There is nothing wrong with this. A growing consciousness that we are all inhabitants of a single world, that we share the globe in common despite our different languages and cultures, is something to be encouraged. Indeed it is essential if we are to tackle ecological problems such as global warming, the hole in the ozone layer and tropical deforestation.

The European Federalists, for all their faults, at least realise that the people living on this island off the north-west coast of the Eurasian land-mass need to be closely associated with those on the mainland. Where they go wrong is in imagining that this can be fruitful within the context of capitalism. A federation of European capitalist states will no more provide a framework for the resolution of working-class problems than the so-called independent so-called nation-state.

What is required is association with the other peoples of Europe, and beyond that with those of the rest of the world, on the basis of socialism. What is required is not a European Common Market, nor a single European currency, nor a European Super-State but World Socialism where the Earth’s resources will be owned in common and democratically controlled through various inter-linked administrative and decision-making bodies at world, regional and local levels.

We appreciate that this vision of a united world represents a nightmare scenario for Mrs Thatcher but that’s her problem not ours.

Leave a Reply