Monday, 20 May 2013

Europhobia to the left and the right

IN the Morning Star earlier this month, Robert Griffiths, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Britain wrote an article calling for 'A people's policy for Europe':  in it he argued that '(the basic treaties and structures of the EU (European Union) cannot be reformed as part of a strategy for a progressive or socialist Europe - and it is fundamentally deluded or dishonest to pretend otherwise.'  In it he dismissed the 'Tories, Ukip, the EU, the US and Nato', and argued that the 'British, Scottish and Welsh governments should take back powers to intervene in the economy in the interests of working people.'

This policy would seem to be the latest version of what used to be called 'The British Road to Socialism'.  Mr. Griffiths is concern that the labour movement is adopting an aloofness and allowing the Tories and Ukip to dominate the Europe debate:  'the Labour Party continues to flounder on the touchline, too timid to don its own jersey and join the fray.'  A similar approach against Europe is taken by the Socialist Party, Bob Crow and the TUSC (Trade Union Socialist Coalition), a party that rarely gets many votes when it fields candidates.

Writing his essay 'Toward European Unity' in the July-August edition of Partisan Review, George Orwell wrote:  'A socialist today is in the position of a doctor treating an all but hopeless case.'  Judging by the situation that presents itself today the prospects are no better, and may be worse, for democratic socialism than they were in 1947. 

In 1947, Orwell wrote: 
'Only in those countries (such as those in western Europe) are there still large numbers of people to whom the word "Socialism" has some appeal and for whom it is bound up with liberty, equality, and internationalism.' 

'Elsewhere,' Orwell argued, 'it either has no foothold or it means something different' and 'in North America the masses are content with capitalism... in the U.S.S.R. there prevails a sort of oligarchical collectivism which could only develop into democratic Socialism against the will of the ruling minority... the Asiatic nationalist movements are either Fascist in character, or look towards Moscow, or manage to combine both attitudes:  at present all movements among the coloured peoples (sic) are tinged by racial mysticism... in most of South America the position is essentially similar...'

Curiously, Robert Griffiths, the Communist Party of Britain, Bob Crow, the Trade Union Socialist Coalition, and much of the British left beyond the Labour Party, are essentially psychologically similar to Ukip and the Euro-sceptic wing of the Conservative Party:  that is they are basically little-Englanders with archaic attitudes that hark back to a time in the 20th century when either the Soviet Union or the Empire was alive and kicking. 

Moreover Orwell, in his essay on 'Toward European Unity', wrote:
'Of course, Socialism cannot properly be said to be established until it is world-wide, but the process must begin somewhere, and I cannot imagine it beginning except through the federation of the western European states, transformed into Socialist republics without colonial dependencies... a Socialist United States of Europe seems to me the only worth-while political objective today... such a federation would contain about 250 million people, including perhaps half the skilled industrial workers of the world.'

Dealing with the difficulties of bring this European ideal about Orwell wrote:
'The greatest difficulty of all is the apathy and conservatism of people everywhere, their unawareness of danger, their inability to imagine anything new - in general, as Bertrand Russell put it recently, the unwillingness of the human race to acquiesce in its own survival.' 

Quite what Mr. Griffiths, and the Communist Party of Britain, hope to achieve is not clear; to be fair he urges the labour movement to campaign for the policies in the People's Charter but not many people in this country would know what that was all about:  more public ownership or what used to be called nationalisation no doubt.  The fact is that outside of Europe this country would very likely become even more dependent on the USA and its economic ideas.  Historically of course the old Communist Party was hostile to Europe because they wanted as Orwell put it to get the peoples of Europe to 'continue to believe in the Russian myth'.  Orwell, for his part, insisted that 'Britain can only get free of America by dropping the attempt to be an extra-European power.' 

At the moment many people in this country blame immigrants and Europe for all their present difficulties, in the same way in the 1930s German families may have blamed the jews.  To sustain a realistic radical tradition of progressive politics that is at the same time part of a liberal culture, it seems to me now, as it did to Orwell in the 1940s, that the best bet is to stick with Europe.


David B said...

Orwell was a McCarthyite spy who handing in details of suspected communists to MI5. No wonder you support the capitalist EU.

bammy said...

I sometimes wonder if folk who talk like this can have read a word of what Orwell has written.