The 50 Years Ago column from the June 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard
It was no surprise when Harold Wilson described the British application to join the Common Market as a “great turning point in history.” Politicians, especially politicians like Wilson, are fond of such phrases; they know that while the working class have their attention focussed on the horizons of history they are not likely to be worrying so much about their immediate problems like frozen wages.
Of course Wilson is not interested in fundamental changes in history; a turning point from capitalism to Socialism would be altogether too great for him.
His business is to manage the affairs of the British capitalist class as a whole, and it necessary to sacrifice some industries in the interests of others.
This will probably be one result, if Britain joins Europe. Wilson expects British agriculture to suffer; “Undoubtedly,” he said, “the community’s policy will create problems for some of our smaller farmers.” But he also hopes for an “. . . enormous and growing market for our own more sophisticated and technological products . . .”
This rosy picture of Europe as an ever-expanding market takes no account of the fact that the countries already in the EEC are by no means free of economic troubles.
West Germany, for example, has just come through a sombre winter in which, although it was not as bad as many observers were expecting a few months back, unemployment rose from 216,000 in November last to 673,600 in February this year, falling to 501,303 in April.
The Common Market cannot solve capitalism’s built-in contradictions. Neither can it ease the problems of the working class. Whether it causes a rise in the cost of living, whether it is Wilson’s great occasion or Michael Foot’s disaster, the workers in this country will not need long to discover what their counterparts on the Continent have had to face. It will make no difference to them at all.
[from “Review”, Socialist Standard, June 1967]