Editorial from the July 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard
Enormous publicity has been given recently to the question of whether Britain should join those countries in the European union which have decided to accept one single currency – the euro. No less than eighteen volumes were produced by the Treasury, containing many hundreds of jargon-laden pages for the cabinet members to digest. But it is all pointless from the point of view of the working class. What we should be striving for is a moneyless society. It is immaterial whether the coinage is called sterling or European, pound or euro. You are never going to be allowed to have enough of it, whatever you call it. Money is simply a device to separate the workers from what they produce. The workers must aim to abolish it, not change its name.
There could finally be a referendum, so the voters can state their preference – pound or euro? But such a vote would be almost meaningless. It may be that some groups of workers would find their position slightly improved with currency union; some groups might think their position would be slightly worsened; but the over-riding fact is that, whether the money the workers are short of is called the pound or the euro, they will remain with no stake in the great wealth-producing agencies of what the papers call “their” country. A referendum would be like an assassin giving his victim the choice of being strangled or drowned.
All the media – the newspapers, television, radio, and so on – are getting intensely excited about the sterling/euro question. But like all the other political questions we are told to worry about, all this noise merely reflects disagreements among the owning class. It may be that larger companies think there will be more chances of profit with the euro, resulting from a closer engagement with the markets across Europe. It may be that smaller companies think that their lesser resources won't let them compete if the big conglomerations are cleaning up all the profits – if the bigger predators are doing better, perhaps they will do worse. And that would certainly explain why Tony Blair and his Labour government are getting friendlier towards the euro. Tony has always liked being on the side of the big battalions, at home or abroad.
In due course it will be obvious that all this ferment has nothing to do with the basic propertyless position of workers in society. Eighty years ago, after the First World War of 1914-18 had slaughtered millions of workers who were fighting for the interests of their masters, and had plunged many of the survivors not even into a dull job and a weekly pay-packet, but into unemployment, a Socialist Party speaker on a London street-corner was addressing a crowd of workers, many of them ragged and ill-shod. He explained the class-divided nature of society, and how only Socialism could offer them any future worth having. At the end of this clear and careful exposition, one of his audience raised his hand. All he had heard sounded very good, he admitted, but he wanted to hear more about the important day-to-day issues confronting the working class. What could the speaker say about the most urgent topic then before the public? “What is the position of the Socialist Party on the disestablishment of the Anglican Church in Wales?”
Most of the people reading this probably never knew there was an Anglican Church in Wales, established or disestablished. (For the record, after a tremendous public debate, equal to the present commotion over the euro, the Church in Wales was disestablished in 1919.) It makes you wonder if the questioner at that Socialist Party meeting ever realized that it made no difference to him.
All this furore, the endless discussions in press, pub and Parliament, will make no more difference to the mass of propertyless people than the disestablishment of the Welsh Church. If the workers could devote a tenth of the effort to their own interests that they spend debating the interests of the various sections of the master class, we would have Socialism in double-quick time.