Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Not democratic (1970)

Book Review from the March 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Greek Tragedy, by Constantine Tsoucalas. Penguin. 6s.

THE Socialist Party of Great Britain has always argued that in places like Britain where there is a more or less democratic State — that is, where the state machine, including the armed forces, is under the control of a popularly-elected government — a Socialist majority can win power peacefully in an election.

Others (few of whom really share our view that there must be a Socialist majority before there can be Socialism) argue that the capitalists will never allow their rule to be overthrown by peaceful means.

The Greek Colonels’ coup in April 1967 seems, on the face of it, to give some validity to this argument. For here, a few days before the start of an election campaign which a radical democratic party was expected to win, the armed forces supported by the King and prominent businessmen imposed a military dictatorship.

However, a closer study of the facts shows that this coup does not disprove our proposition. Constantine Tsoucalas’ book clearly shows that Greece did not have a democratic State before 1967: there was a parliament though elections to it were often rigged, but even this had no control over the armed forces.

This was a legacy of British occupation after the war. By agreement with state-capitalist Russia. Greece (which had strategic importance for control over trade routes through the Eastern Mediterranean and over the oil fields of the Middle East) was assigned to British capitalism’s sphere of influence. The British government had been faced with a problem since the bulk of the armed men in the Greek resistance, who were set to take over when the German army left, were under “communist” leadership. Tsoucalas describes how the British government built up a rival military force out of the Royalists in the old Greek Army and even out of former collaborators. Their political puppets, on the other hand, were chosen from the pre-war liberals and republicans. Writes Tsocalas:
The double structure of power, democratic in the political facade but Royalist-fascist in the forces of coercion, which was gradually built up from 1943, was to be a crucial factor in the future. For the construction of the new Army as an autonomous entity, not subject of governmental authority, did not end with the termination of the civil war. Despite the fact that the right wing was in power between 1952 and 1963, the army remained ‘untouchable’. Under the nominal authority of the King, the special status of the armed forces which was planned by the British in 1944-6 became the dominating characteristic in the Greek political game.
The government’s rigging of the 1961 election was so blatant that it provoked a popular reaction which further strengthened the opposition Centre Union. This party, which had adopted a vague programme of democratic reform, won the 1963 elections and its leader, the ageing George Papandreou (a former British puppet), became prime minister. His government curtailed the activities of the secret police and put through some minor reforms of the State structure, but
despite changes in the senior personnel of the police, despite the atmosphere of freedom, despite the liberalisation of the trade unions, the most important weapon of the Right—the Army, stronghold and last resort of the system of vested interests—was not touched at all.
In 1965 Papandreou was ousted as prime minister in a sordid manoeuvre in which some of his parliamentary supporters were persuaded to abandon him by offers of Ministerial posts and perhaps also of money. The Centre Union, again in opposition despite popular support, moved towards a more radical position. The radicals’ leader, Papandreou’s son Andreas, made it clear that if elected his party would this time carry out a thoroughgoing democratic reform of the State: putting the King in his constitutional place; purging the Army and subjecting it to government control; ending the vested interests in government contracts of certain Greek tycoons by a policy of State enterprise. Faced with this prospect, which they could no longer ward off by rigging elections or corrupting politicians, the Army, the King and the tycoons resorted to a military coup and dictatorship.

The Colonels’ coup was thus not the overthrow of an already established democratic State, but a bid to prevent the establishment of such a modern capitalist political structure. A coup in an essentially undemocratic State faced with the election victory of a democratic reform party has no relevance to our proposition that a socialist majority can win control of an already established democratic State through elections.
Adam Buick

The Choice is Yours: More of the Same or an End to the Profit System? (1999)

From the May 1999 issue of the Socialist Standard

These European elections will be the last major elections of the twentieth century, the last chance this millennium for us, the working class, to vote for ourselves for a change.

So what are the choices?

Firstly, you could vote for more of the same. The same old leaders, with the same old lies, promising everything, delivering nothing. You could vote for more unemployment and poverty, more stress and anxiety for yourself and in future for your children. For the continued threat to the environment and the planet we live on, for continued global warming, the destruction of the ozone layer, and pollution on an unprecedented scale.

You could vote for permanent global economic uncertainty and the threat of economic crises, which are part and parcel of the way society is organised today. A society organised on the basis of profit above all else, profit for a few while the majority have to take their chances on capitalism's roulette wheel. A society that says to us: "No profit, no production", "Can't pay, then can't have".

In Europe alone 20 million people are unemployed, simply because no profit can be made from their labour. Europe, alone, stockpiles millions of tons of food, destroys just as much and also, obscenely, pays farmers not to produce food. While at the same time pensioners in Britain and elsewhere must choose between keeping warm or eating. In the wider world hundreds of millions die of hunger or hunger-related diseases. The rich continue to get richer while the poor steadily get poorer.

If that is what you want, then vote for one of the other parties. Because that is what you will get.

But we do have a choice

We can say "enough is enough!"

The alternative is simple. A society in which the things we need to live are produced directly for human use. Where the means and instruments for producing things are owned in common by us all, not as now by no more than 5% of the population.

What this means specifically is that, quite simply, food will be produced to eat, clothes to wear, and houses to live in, to name but three examples, not as at present for the profit of a few. That production will be on the basis of voluntary co-operation, not the anarchy of competition we have today. As we co-operate to produce the things we need to live, by using the commonly-owned means of production and distribution, so we then take freely of the products of our labour.

No more leaders. The new society will of necessity be a truly democratic society, with decisions which affect us being taken by us. No more national boundaries, but a world-wide society, to replace the outdated system of global capitalism we have at present where production for profit is a hindrance to the fulfilment of human need.

No more classes. A society without employers or employees, haves and have-nots, simply people co-operating on a free and equal basis to produce the things we all need to live. A society where human beings will be able to live in harmony with nature, not like present society where pollution carries on unabated because to deal with it eats into the profits of the few.

These then are the choices:
  • Carry on regardless with a society which has not, nor can, solve the problems we face today since they are part and parcel of it. Or we can elect to change things and bring about a society of co-operation not competition. A society of equality not inequality. A society of production to satisfy human need, not to satisfy the drive for profits for a few.
  • We in THE SOCIALIST PARTY cannot bring this society about for you, nor are we offering to. Only you can, by working together and acting for yourselves. If there is a majority of people who understand and want this change and work to bring it about then it will happen.

If you agree with us, you can show this by voting for the list presented in these elections by THE SOCIALIST PARTY.

Europe - or the World? (1994)

European Election Statement from the May 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Most people would agree that the results of elections make very little difference to the way we live. Our problems stay the same. Governments can't keep their promises because they are out to run a system which is not for our benefit. It is a system that puts profit and money before everything and it is run for the benefit of a few.

As producers we create the things we need but we don't own them. We have to buy them - we have to pay, pay and pay again. We are forever in debt - paying the mortgage or the rent, the council tax, the gas, water and electricity bills. We can't have food and clothing unless first we pay - so someone can get a profit.

We don't build the hospitals we need and we don't clean up the environment and always it's for the same reason - there isn't the money. In Europe there are 40 million unemployed because there is no profit in giving them jobs. Food is withheld in store whilst people go without. Building workers are idle whilst families are homeless. This is the system of economic oppression that controls our lives and makes us slaves to money and profit.

It's no use electing people to run this mad system - we have to get rid of it. This can only be done by a majority of people who want a world run solely for our needs and are prepared to work for it. It depends on our ability to cooperate with each other in our mutual interests. All of us have this ability so the urgent and vital work of building a sane world is the great challenge in front of us.

The aim is to take the land, factories, resources, energy and transport systems out of the hands of those who own and control them. We depend on these means of life, we produced them - and now we must take them back. They must be made freely available to the community as a whole and used solely for the benefit of everyone.

We can only achieve a world of unity by working in voluntary cooperation. Not working for wages, which is part of the present system of economic exploitation, but working together producing the things that each of us needs. This is the only way to live as a true community and we can do it.

With the entire productive system made freely available to the whole community and brought under its democratic control; with cooperation and production solely for needs, the economic burdens which cripple our lives will be immediately removed. For example, with housing, all rents, mortgage debts and council taxes will be abolished. Every person will have security of tenure in the place where they live and from this basis the building industry will be geared to providing every person with decent housing. Similarly, with the abolition of the market and its buying and selling, food, clothing and all other goods and services will become freely available.

• If you agree that everybody should have an equal say in the ways things are run;

•  If you agree that building hospitals, schools and amenities, and cleaning up the environment should be free from the constraints of the money profit system;

•  If you agree that stored up food should be distributed to those who need it, and that stockpiled building materials should be used for the construction of homes;

•  If you agree that we should run the world democratically and in each other's interests through voluntary cooperation, then you should not only vote for the Socialist Party candidate to express your agreement, you should contact us with a view to finding out more and to joining us help build a new sane society.

The four seats in which Socialists are standing in the June 9 elections to the European Parliament are:

BIRMINGHAM EAST (covering Edgbaston, Erdington, Hall Green, Hodge Hill, Northfield, Selly Oak, Small Heath, Sparkbrook and Yardley).
Candidate: Ron Cook.
Contact address: Ron Cook, 11 Dagger I.ane, West Bromwich B71 4BT (Tel: 021-533 1712).

GLASGOW (all Glasgow).
Candidate: Jim Fleming.
Contact address: Dick Donnellv, 112 Napiershall Street,
Glasgow G20 6HT (Tel: 041-333 0822).

LONDON CENTRAL (Camden, Islington, Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham).
Candidate: Clifford Shipper
Contact address: Gavin Sinclair, 78 Park Avenue South, N8
8LS (Tel: 071-278 6676).

LOTHIANS (Edinburgh, Linlithgow, Livingston, Bathgate and Dalkeith).
Candidate: John McGregor.
Contact address: Derek Devine, 1 Lochrin Place, Tollcross,
Edinburgh IT 13 8QX (Tel: 031-228 1347).

If you want to help, or want more information about the campaign in your area, write to or phone the contact above, or write to 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 7UN.

European Election Manifesto (1989)

From the June 1989 issue of the Socialist Standard

Following the elections of 1979 and 1984, this June sees the third direct election of the European Parliament. For those elections the Socialist Party issued statements under the title "Eurocapitalism or World Socialism?" The choice between a destructive system which served privileged interests and a sane society which served human needs was the important issue then. Tragically capitalism remains, to menace us all.

Millions remain unemployed. It is impossible to calculate the amount of useful wealth that could have been produced had not billions of workdays been lost because workers could not be employed for the profit of a few. What is certain is that in socialism all these workers in industry, transport, building and farming could have been co-operating to provide the things necessary for the wellbeing of the community: things like homes, hospitals, and useful goods of every kind. Instead men and women are being forced by the profit system into idleness, living on the dole alongside millions of pensioners existing on their meagre state hand-outs. Many remain homeless and despairing.

These are the bitter conditions of life endured by those at the lowest end of the scale of poverty. For those with a job trying to provide for themselves and their families, the purchase of a home means mortgaging their lives for years to come. Not just the need for a home but every necessity is subject to the ability to pay. For the majority life remains dominated by the relentless grind of wage-working and paying the food, gas, electricity, water and clothing bills, and repaying debts to banks and financial companies. As ever for workers, the market is an economic tyranny which breeds insecurity. Whether it is the 'common market' or not makes no difference.

Forty years after the second World War, Europe is still an armed camp. Millions are producing the means of waging further war. In addition the competitive industrial system pollutes the Earth threatening all life.

The EEC was not set up to deal with the problems of poverty, insecurity and war. In 1979 we said that the Common Market was a "political and trading arrangement entered into by the various European States in order to further the interests of their capitalists". The last ten years has only confirmed the truth of this. In 1984 we pointed out that, in the overall interests of profit, the so-called European Community was paying farmers to destroy cattle, tear up orchards, plough back vegetables, dump fruit and restrict milk, meat and cereal production. Alongside this destruction of food, millions have died throughout the world from disease related to starvation or poverty. In Europe itself millions live below the official poverty line and would have benefited from this food. They did not have the money to buy it, so it was destroyed. The prices of commodities and the sanctity of profit come before human needs.

It is now intended by EEC governments that these policies should continue. In June 1988 it was announced that a so-called "set aside" scheme would come into force for the 1988-89 crop production year. Under this scheme annual payments of up to £200 per hectare are being offered to farmers who agree to take at least one fifth of their arable land out of production for the next five years. This imitates the policies of another major agricultural producer, the USA, which in 1983 took 82 million acres out of food production so as to protect the prices of food commodities.

The EEC will reach a new phase in 1992 when further trade barriers will be removed to establish the single market. This heralds a new freedom for investment and marketing to move across traditional European boundaries aimed at the maximum and most efficient exploitation of workers. The EEC can never achieve a genuine community of common interests. The basis of its operation is the class monopoly of the means of life by a privileged minority of capitalists. It may be a business community, but this leaves workers in the same exploited position where they must sell themselves for a wage or salary, when it is profitable for the capitalists to employ them, that is.

When we examine the policies of the Labour, Conservative and other reformist parties, we find the same old glib promises put out over the years. These parties are depressing and irrelevant. They take no account of experience and offer nothing but repeated failure. These parties stand for running capitalism and their differences are minor compared to their common aim of running the profit system. Nor have the Communist Parties anything to offer except the state capitalism which even the Russian rulers now admit has failed. The Greens are right to denounce the degradation of the environment but in blaming this on "industrialism" and "bigness" they have yet to realise that this is inherent in capitalist competition.

At this time, towards the end of the 20th Century, when we look back on over 100 years of violence and misery in Europe, and when poised on the brink of further frightening dangers, it is obvious that a very different political approach must be taken. The time is long overdue for scrapping the entire system of capitalism. It is out of date. Its class interests and its priority of profits before human needs can no longer serve any useful purpose so far as the majority are concerned.

If we are to place the aim of European unity on a sound and practical basis then the idea that it can be realised under any system of Euro-capitalism must be abandoned. Nor can unity be established in Europe separate from the rest of the world. Unity can only stem from a common interest amongst all people to co-operate in the production and distribution of goods and services directly for need. This is only possible with the means of production owned and controlled by the whole world community.

There can be an important place for a European Assembly as one part of a system of world democratic administration. Socialism would need such bodies at local, regional and world levels and the task of adapting the European Parliament would be straightforward. However, democratic procedures mean nothing unless society has real powers to translate democratic decisions into action. In socialism this would come from the abolition of the uncontrolled and anti-social forces of the market and the disappearance of the profit motive.

Socialism will remove all economic constraints on social action and will involve the abolition of not just the "Common Market" but all buying and selling. One of the myths of capitalism is that nothing can happen without the use of money. Part of this myth is that productive resources consist of money capital, but in the real world of production money never produced anything. Goods and services are produced by the mental and physical energies of men and women and it is only because goods are bought and sold that money is needed. Money is used under capitalism as part of the system of exploitation where workers receive as wages or salaries only a portion of the total wealth they produce. In reality, capital investment limits social action to what is profitable: with the abolition of the market the entire structure of production would be released to be used solely for the community's needs.

We must stress the urgency of promoting the growth of the socialist movement. This is the only practical activity which is being directed at the solution of social problems. Support for parties seeking to participate in the administration of capitalism through the European Parliament will prove as futile now as it did in 1979 and 1984. The constructive alternative is to help to build a world of common ownership, democratic control and production directly for human needs.

For the first time the Socialist Party will be putting forward a candidate for election to the European Parliament, in the Tyne and Wear constituency. Those in that area who want Socialism will be able to register this by voting for the Socialist Party candidate. Elsewhere they can do so by writing the words "World Socialism" across their ballot paper.

The Executive Committee
The Socialist Party of Great Britain
London, May 1989

Common Market: A Bore or an Opportunity? (1984)

From the May 1984 issue of the Socialist Standard
If the Common Market seems such a bore to so many people that's because, quite simply, it really is. As its name suggests, it is about tariffs, quotas, customs duties and other such matters of vital interest to capitalist firms but of no importance whatsoever to the great majority of us who have to work for a wage or a salary for a living. It's a businessmen's club whose main concern is buying and selling. All the same, if we want to understand why our capitalist rulers and their political servants are getting agitated over this matter we are forced to consider the world of free trade areas, customs unions and other trading arrangements.
Not even a Common Market
The Treaty of Rome, which set up the Common Market, was signed in 1957 by six European states (France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries) with the aim of creating a single vast market in Europe for industrial goods and agricultural products to be called, pompously, the "European Economic Community" (EEC). In 1973 the Six were joined, after protracted negotiations, by Britain, Ireland and Denmark and in 1981 by Greece. Spain and Portugal are waiting on the doorstep with 1 January 1986 provisionally fixed as the date for their entry.
The establishment of a European "common market" is an ambitious project in that it involves creating the same sort of trading conditions throughout Europe as now exist singly in each of the member states. In other words, not simply the abolition of customs duties but the establishment of uniform tax and monetary conditions too. Ultimately it implies, if not a single European state, at least a single European currency and a single European economic policy.
As anyone crossing a European frontier knows, this is far from being the case at the moment. VAT rates, not to mention other taxes, differ from country to country. The rates of exchange of European currencies fluctuate and have to be periodically adjusted. Europe is far from being a genuine common market, as Geoffrey Howe complained (on behalf of the "business community" who alone are really concerned) at a meeting of the Common Market Council of Ministers last September:
“The principle of the free circulation of goods and people and the free offer of services within the European Community is one of the foundation stones of the Treaty of Rome. Twenty-five years after signature however, it is still not a reality. The Community has got little further than the abolition of tariffs. This falls well short of our business community's expectations. What they experience day by day is a range of non tariff barriers and administrative measures which impede a true common market for both goods and services, which seriously add to the cost of trading across frontiers, and which indeed are in danger of growing, despite recent efforts to make progress in this area” (paper presented to Special EEC Council of Ministers meeting, 20/21 September 1983).
At the moment the Common Market is essentially only a customs or tariff union.
An EEC document explains:
“In international law, a customs union consists of an economic area comprising members who undertake contractually: (i) to refrain from applying to one another any customs duties, charges having equivalent effect, or quantitative restrictions; (ii) to apply a common external customs tariff to countries not within the union. ("The Customs Union", European Documentation, No 6/1983.)
So, in the EEC, there are no customs duties on trade between its member states while goods entering into the area are subject to a uniform tariff no matter which country imports them. This latter means that the EEC enters the world market as a single trading bloc; the biggest in the world in fact.
“The Community's common external tariff means that it is seen as a single trading partner by other world trading powers. By volume of trade, it is well ahead of its partners. Averaging imports and exports, the Community has 19% of world trade, compared to 14% for the United States and 8% for Japan” ("The External Trade of the European Community", European File, December 1983).
As a matter of fact, the main economic conflict in the world today is not, as might be imagined from listening to Reagan, between America and Russia but between America, Japan and the EEC as these three trading groups jostle each other for markets, investment outlets and sources of raw materials. Even some of the political and military conflicts are not what they seem. For instance, the conflict in Central America is not so much between America and Russia as between America and the EEC, with America trying to prevent the EEC countries from entering its traditional hunting-ground.
The British ruling class made the choice to join the European trading bloc in the late 1960s. It wasn't a unanimous decision since it meant sacrificing the commercial interests of certain sections of the capitalist class: those who imported from outside Europe, especially the Commonwealth, and who would now face tariff barriers where none existed before.
The Labour Party made itself completely ridiculous over the Common Market, supporting it when in office and opposing it when out of office, but opposing it on the most inward-looking, nationalist grounds. Since the Labour Party accepts
capitalism, to make its opposition to the Common Market seem less ridiculous, it had to come up with suggested alternative markets for Britain's capitalists; these ranged from Britain's internal market protected by tariffs to the underdeveloped countries and the state capitalist bloc. Needless to say, the capitalist class wasn't convinced and even began to write off the Labour Party as the alternative government of capitalism to the Tories that it has traditionally been, creating and grooming the SDP to take over this role.
In opposing the Common Market the Labour Party in effect chose to identify itself with the interests of the more backward-looking sections of the capitalist class rather than with those which stood to benefit from the creation of a vast customs-free trade area in Western Europe.
The agricultural anomaly
Since the aim of the Common Market is essentially to create the conditions for freer trade and since trade in Europe is mainly trade in industrial goods, why has the Common Market adopted a "Common Agricultural Policy"? Or rather, why did it adopt one so early in its evolution (since the long-term aim of a true common market would indeed have to involve agricultural products too)?
The Common Market could have chosen to allow its member states to pursue their own agricultural policies, subsidising and protecting their farmers in the ways their national governments thought fit, while pressing ahead with progress towards complete free trade in industrial goods. This was the option taken by the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), set up as a sort of rival to the Common Market around Britain in 1959 and which still survives but is now dominated by Sweden and Switzerland (in fact free trade in industrial goods exists between EFTA and the Common Market so the whole of Western Europe is already a vast industrial free trade area). There is free trade among the EFTA countries in industrial goods but each country is left to pursue its own agricultural policy. Thus, although farmers in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal are subsidised like farmers in the rest of Europe, this is done by the national governments concerned, not by an inter-governmental organisation.
The answer to "the Common Market having an agricultural policy lies in the conditions under which the Treaty of Rome was signed:
“It is important to appreciate that the Rome Treaty was a delicate balance of the national interests of the contracting parties. Let us consider West Germany and France in terms of trade outlets. In the case of West Germany the prospect of free trade in industrial goods, and free access to the French market in particular, was extremely inviting. In the case of France the relative efficiency of her agriculture (particularly her grain producers) as compared with West Germany held out the prospect that in a free Community agricultural market she would make substantial inroads into the West German market. This was obviously likely to result if the common price level of grain, for example, was set well below the West German level but at or above the French level. Agriculture had therefore to be included (D. Swann, The Economics of the Common Market, 1970, p.78).
Or, as a more recent Common Market propaganda document puts it, "Community countries most dependent on agriculture inevitably made free trade in farm produce a fundamental condition of their willingness to open their markets to the industrial goods of their neighbours" (European File, March 1984, p.12). In other words, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was the price industrial Germany had to pay to have a European-wide market for its industrial goods. De Gaulle kept the British capitalist class waiting on the doorstep until it too agreed to pay this price.
What the adoption of the CAP meant was that farm prices and farm subsidies are fixed annually by Common Market Agriculture Ministers meeting in Brussels. In view of the large number of lobbies and vested interests involved it is not surprising that these sessions have often lasted all night before coming up with a compromise agreement. So, with the CAP, European farmers are subsidised, feather-bedded as the Americans say, from European funds rather than directly from national funds. Up to 70 per cent in fact of the Common Market's total budget is devoted to agriculture. Since it is the industrial countries, Germany and Britain, which contribute proportionately more to the Common Market budget, they are at the same time paying proportionately more towards subsidising European farmers. This is what the famous "budget issue" is all about, with Britain complaining loudly and Germany more discreetly.
The fact that agricultural policy is decided at European level has meant that decisions to stockpile or destroy agricultural so-called "surpluses" (butter mountains, wine lakes, bulldozing of tomatoes, pouring diesel oil on peaches) are made in Brussels, not in the national capitals. This has given rise to the illusion that it is the Common Market that is responsible for these actions, thus allowing anti-Marketeers to turn people's legitimate indignation at this destruction of food and productive capacity against the Common Market. But this is to mistake the real cause. It is capitalism, not the Common Market, that is responsible. Milk, for instance, was being poured down disused mineshafts before Britain joined the Common Market and this would happen again from time to time even if Britain withdrew. All the Common Market has done in this respect is to centralise the process by which these decisions are made, but it is the logic of capitalism that imposes such decisions whether they are made at European or national level.
The British capitalist class's campaign against its "unfair" contribution to the Common Market budget has involved trying to drum up mass support through such exhibitions of mindless nationalism as the Sun's anti-French campaigns. But this issue does not concern wage and salary earners. It is not "our money" that is going to subsidise French, or for that matter British, farmers. The only money that is ours is what we are paid as wages and salaries plus any state hand-outs to which we may be entitled. What we produce over and above this belongs to the capitalists to use as they think fit. We have no control over what they do with the wealth they take from us and certainly no interest in taking sides when they fall out over how to use it.
If Heath and his Tory government negotiated a bad deal for the British capitalist class in 1972 (as it now seems) that's too bad for them, but we have no interest in allowing ourselves to be stirred up by them as a means of trying to renegotiate a better deal today.
A single crumb
Since the Common Market represents to a certain extent a normal stage of development of capitalism ― towards bigger trading units and bigger markets ― it would be surprising if it didn't bring a few marginal improvements for workers. We've scraped the bottom of the barrel and have only been able to come up with one relatively insignificant change which could be seen as an improvement compared with what happened before; namely, the free movement of labour. But we hasten to add, this change does not warrant abandoning a position of complete indifference to the Common Market. We merely note it as a consequence of an inevitable trend under capitalism to break down national frontiers and national differences.
We appreciate too that the free movement of labour is only a corollary of free trade in other commodities since what we are talking about here is free trade throughout the Common Market in the commodity labour-power. All the same, this has meant that workers have been able to travel freely over a larger area than previously (even if this is only a return to a situation which existed in Europe before 1914) and this is a real, if marginal, improvement.
The first thing to notice about the European Parliament is that it is not really a Parliament. Real decision-making power in the Common Market lies with the Council of Ministers from the various member states who come to decisions on the basis of proposals from the European Commission in Brussels. The so-called Parliament is merely a sort of advisory committee that is consulted in the course of this decision-making process.
When elections to the European Parliament take place workers in countries with a total population of 270 million (320 million if and when Spain and Portugal join) are being given the opportunity to express their views at the same time. At the moment they misuse this opportunity by confining their support for capitalism but, when the socialist movement has reached a more developed stage this will provide an occasion for socialists to demonstrate their strength across frontiers, to turn these at the moment meaningless elections into a Europe-wide referendum on the issue of "socialism or capitalism"?
Elections to the European Parliament are taking place next month, on 14 June. Socialists will be able to express their support for world socialism by writing "WORLD SOCIALISM" "SOCIALISME MONDIALE", "WELTSOZIALISMUS", "SOCIALISMO MONDIALO" across their ballot paper.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain will not now be contesting the forthcoming European Election in Central London. We will, however, be mounting an intensive propaganda campaign, during which your help will still be needed. Please contact the Parliamentary Committee at Head Office for details.

Eurocapitalism or World Socialism? (1979)

From the May 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard

The European Parliament which you, together with workers in 8 other countries, are being called upon to elect for the first time directly by universal suffrage is not really a parliament in the traditional sense. In view of its very limited powers it would more properly be called a "consultative committee". Real parliamentary powers - to make laws and to fix the budget - are exercised in the Common Market by meetings of Ministers from the nine Member-States. Nevertheless, since if a political institution is to exist it is better that it be elected rather than appointed, the Socialist Party of Great Britain and its sympathisers in other European countries are taking part in this election campaign.

We are using this occasion when people will not be thinking exclusively in national terms to put forward the socialist proposition that the only solution of today's social problems is the establishment of a world community without frontiers based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production and distribution, with production solely for use not sale or profit. On this basis the world-wide productive apparatus could turn out the abundance that it is technically capable of but which it is prevented from doing today by the restrictions of capitalism and its rule of "no profit, no production". This would permit society to implement the long-standing socialist principle of "from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs". In other words, free access for every man, woman and child to what they need to live and enjoy life. This, we say, is technically possible; but first the means for producing wealth must become the common heritage of all mankind, the only basis on which the purpose of production can be changed from profit making to satisfying human needs.

Socialism cannot be established in one country. The very existence of the Common Market shows that even under capitalism the Nation-State has become too small a framework for the productive apparatus. Capitalism is already, and has been for many years, a world system; it exists in state capitalist Russia and China as well as in the West, and functions through the world market as a single economic system. This is why the new, higher social development. Socialism, which will replace it must be a world system too.

There are those who see the constant internationalisation of production and life, including the Common Market itself, as a threat to "national sovereignty". This reactionary position has been officially adopted by most of the Communist parties of Europe, thus showing that they have no right whatsoever to call themselves "socialist" or "communists". Socialism, as we have explained, can only be a world-wide system and socialists do not defend capitalist national independence. On the contrary, one of our criticisms of capitalism is precisely that it has divided the world into competing and armed "Nation-States" whose conflicts mean that war is always going on in some part of the world. What we want is not national independence but a socialist world without frontiers.

As to the Common Market itself, or to use the somewhat grandiose title it has given itself, "the European Community", it is a political and trading arrangement entered into by various European States in order to further the interests of their capitalists. Though an expression of the growing internationalisation of the world, it is not a step in the direction of world unity, nor was it meant to be. If anything, it is a step towards the creation of a new super-power to rival Russia and the United States, opening up the terrifying prospect that the wars of he future will be between continents rather than Nation-States. Already a three-sided trade war is building up between Europe, Japan and the United States.

This does not mean, however, that we are to be lumped with opponents of the Common Market. It merely means that we regard the whole arrangement, and arguments about it, as quite irrelevant from a working class point of view. What trading alliances a particular country makes concern only its capitalists not its workers.

The basis of capitalist society is the monopoly by a minority class of the means for producing and distributing wealth and the consequent division of society into two antagonistic classes: those who own and control the means of production and those who, excluded from such ownership and control, are obliged to sell their mental and physical energies for a wage or salary in order to gain a living. Under capitalism there is therefore no common social interest but a conflict of interest between these two classes over wages and working conditions, and ultimately over the ownership and control of the means of wealth production and distribution.

The interest of the working class lies in the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by socialism. Capitalism is a class society based on the exploitation and restricted consumption of the working class which can only work in one way: as a profit-making system in the interest of those who live off profits drawn from their ownership and control of the means of production. Despite repeated futile attempts, by Labour, Social Democratic and other governments in all countries, capitalism cannot be reformed so as to function in the interest of the majority. It is not the reform of capitalism that should be sought but is abolition.

The choice between capitalism or socialism is the issue that the Socialist Party of Great Britain and its sympathisers in other countries are raising in this election. Those who want and understand socialism can show this by writing "SOZIALISMUS", "SOCIALISMO", "SOCIALISME", as the case may be, across their ballot paper.

The workers have no country

Workers of the world unite.

Executive Committee
The Socialist Party of Great Britain