Many years ago when I was young and innocent I supported the campaign to keep Britain out of the European Economic Community, or as we on the left called it the European Employers Confederation.
I should have realised right from the start that the anti-Common Market group in Northampton was a weird bunch right from the outset, as well as those of us from the left of the Labour party and the Communist Party (well both of them really) there was a smattering of small business people,a few strange patriotic nationalist/royalist types and some people who were really just lonely and wanted company-small group mentality I suppose.
Way back in 1975 it did appear to me that the EEC was really only another way to market monopoly capitalism, to dress up the greed and avarice of the ruling class in a more presentable manifestation-"Look you dumb workers' we're in te business of keeping peace in Europe-hooray for us"
Just as a passing thought, if you consider the events over Europe in the last 40-50 years, that great vision ain't been a resounding success,well I suppose Germany and France haven;t torn great chunks out of each other-but the fate of former Yugoslavia has been nothing to write home about.
And of course the thought that somehow the resurgence of fascism would never happen again
has on a daily basis proved to be a hollow aspiration.
However on balance I voted in last years referendum to remain. I voted on the grounds that it was the least bad option and as the leave campaign was based on nothing more than racism,bigotry,phoney patriotism and peopled by the sort of people I'd cross the road to avoid voting remain was a no-brainer.
But I have to admit I voted reluctantly with no great enthusiasm,and I still find it hard to have any sympathy for the 'European project' especially after the brutal treatment meted out the people of Greece-after the European banks had assisted the Greek banks to collapse their economy.
But we are where we are.We have over the last decades suffered from the retreat from socialism by the Labour Party leadership and the feebleness of the Trade Union movement.
The Labour Party effectively capitulated to the SDP.It may be argued that the SDP failed, it took few MP's with it, won very little electoral success and collapsed into the Liberal Party.But it's influence within the higher levels of the Labour Party remained and indeed strengthened under Blair.
Blairism was all about managing capitalism,and of course that is at the heart of Europe,even today the core of Blairite thinking is how far can we compromise with those who Mandelson was so relaxed about-'the filthy rich'
Look how close the Blair cabal were close to the founders of the SDP, and indeed how many former SDP apparatchiks crawled into positions within New Labour !
But in a way all that was to be expected,the hollowing out of socialism within the Labour party was no surprise, what however has proved to be a far bigger crisis has been the acquiescence of the Trade Unions.When people talk about the good things the EU has brought us they tend to talk about improvements in workers rights,benefits,improved standards of equality and so on.
That may be all true, but I was brought up to believe that bosses never willingly give better conditions to workers,they have to be fought for and won.We know only too well that New Labour made no effort to repeal Thatchers' anti-trade union legislation and we know too that timidity by the TU leaders has been a result of the hollowing out of trade union strength and the regular failure to demonstrate practical solidarity with workers in struggle because of the failure to repeal anti-trade union laws by New Labour and the reluctance by many union leaders to fight for change in case their members became too militant.!
Back in 1975 our romantic vision was for a United Socialist Europe-that would have been something,but perhaps better than that would have been a Trade Union movement that was Europe wide.Just as capital knows no national boundaries and capital can be switched from one place to another at the click of a switch-a factory goes here,a plant is closed there...
Just imagine how things could be,teachers in Italy are fired,and teachers all over Europe strike or lorry drivers in Malta are victimised and the roads across Europe are empty !
The slogan used to be Workers of the World Unite- right now I'd settle for Workers of Europe Unite !