with the Common Market, we have arrived at a real turning point in post-war history. It is always difficult to date such moments precisely, but it can now be clearly seen that the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, gathering up as it did the separate strands of post-war history, represents a water-shed. Such a development always precipitates very automatic and acceptable responses. We are attracted by the prospects of breaking free from our present stagnation, and Europe, with its modern face, its style, itsbrio exerts a remarkably strong force of attraction upon us. The country is really in desperate straits, whatever the Chancellor may say: Europe is the escape clause in the unwritten history of the Conservative experiment in Britain.
There are many complicated economic calculations which have to be made. These fall outside the scope of this article. They will be more fully developed, with alternatives posed, in the pamphlet which is at present in preparation by John Hughes and Michael Barratt Brown. This article is an attempt to retrace the historical steps by which this turning point was reached, to spell out the political calculations which we have to make before we stand and deliver.
It would be disastrous if this were taken to be simply another issue upon which the traditional right and left of the Labour Party choose up new sides and fight it out to the bitter end. Naturally, within whatever pattern emerges, the struggle between Left and Right will go on, and must go on for there are issues of principle, theory and politics which cannot be wished aside on the basis of a simple appeal for unity. This article, however, is written in the belief that the issues posed by the Common Market cannot be solved by an internal struggle on the Left. It is an issue before the British people as a whole, a great choice between Europe and the world which the British community has to make. One of the effects of this now urgent debate is that it may precipitate a more clear-cut statement of fundamental aims and objectives, particularly from the Left, than perhaps any single other issue. That kind of clarity should be welcomed in any mature political movement. It opens up for the socialist movement in this country the possibility of capturing the initiative, on a level and range which has eluded its grasp in recent years: and the debate must proceed with this, and its equally imminent alternative—the permanent rustication of the European left—constantly in mind.
The argument begins by restoring the Common Market to its historical and political context, part of an unfolding narrative in which there is a constant, sometimes muffled, sometimes proclaimed, inter-action b7etween four dominant elements of the post-war world: the rise to power of the Soviet Union, the response of the United States, the emergence of the underdeveloped countries and the evolution of “Europe”.
when Churchill evoked the image of a united Europe, in Zurich (September 1946), relations between East and West were already degenerating. Soviet power in Eastern Europe, the truculent use of the veto in the UN provoked a powerful military and economic response from the Western powers. Economically, Western Europe had little real alternative to Marshall Aid. Their economies were devasted, there were shortages in coal and food, the threat of rising prices, industrial unrest, the sapping effects of a resurgent black market.
The declared aim of Marshall Aid was to make “Western Europe independent of extraordinary outside assistance by July 1952”. In the period
Marshall Aid itself provided an impetus towards closer integration in Europe. The impact of Marshall Aid and the Cold War upon European politics was to be seen almost at once. The political temper of Europe immediately after the war was decisively left-wing. The union against Fascism, the legacy of the Resistance, the Russian Alliance, helped to create a climate favourable to social and economic reconstruction. Though often out of power, socialist parties and labour movements were strong, and governments sensitive to industrial pressure. From the shattered ruins of Europe there emerged a widespread resolve to build a new world order. It was on the crest of this wave that Labour had been voted into power in 1945. In the French elections of 1945, the CP won 158 seats, the Socialist 152. Between them, they mustered 50 per cent of the vote. The Communists were members of De Gaulle’s “threeparty” government, and Thorez was one of the General’s Vice-Premiers. In the Italian 1946 elections, the Socialist Popular Front gained 115 seats. In the first German elections of 1949, the Christian Democrats led the Social Democrats (vehemently opposed to German re-armament) by only eight seats (139/131), and the German Communist Party won 15.