To Hell with the EEC

[This article by Desmond Greaves was carried in the December 1972 issue of the “Irish Democrat” on the eve of Britain, Ireland and Denmark joining the European Economic Community/Common Market in January 1973. This enlarged the EEC from its original six Member States – France, Germany, Italy and Benelux – to nine.]

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, democracy in these islands comes to an official end.

You will from then on, when confronted by some highly unpleasant instruction, tax increase, price increase, assault on the environment, get one reply from those who administer it: “Nothing can be done. It is a Brussels Commission decision.”

In other words, the national sovereignty of the Parliament or the Dáil has come to an end. Brussels dictates. We have sold our birth-right. We must obey.

The abandonment of national sovereignty is the most important issue before the British and Irish working class. To abandon national sovereignty means that you cannot change the social system without permission from abroad. And the Treaty of Rome is a treaty not only to keep capitalism forever: it even lays down regulations as to how capitalism is to be conducted. You are not even allowed to tinker with it if your tinkering takes on too individual a character.

Not that anybody who looks dispassionately at the state of Europe could seriously expect the Common Market to last longer than its predecessor, Hitler’s “New Order in Europe”, which 20 million people were slaughtered to prevent.

The idea that in the mid-20th century a bunch of old fools can draw up in a single Treaty the means of preserving capitalism for all time is too laughable for words.

But one should not underestimate what can be done in the short term. Soon you’ll see the bribes go out. The sail-trimming and coat-turning will begin. The propaganda will ooze out of the Sociology and Politics departments of the lie- factories in this country called Universities. The schoolchildren will be indoctrinated every day. The radio, television and newspapers will popularise the themes thought up by the professors. And above all, the politicians will do things first and tell the people afterwards.

One thing is clear: the British Parliament has no mandate for extinguishing itself. And that is the thing which should be understood, for it is the vital thing. As for the Dáil, a referendum taking place in only part of the country, under conditions of national dependence imposed by Partition, is no referendum. Ireland’s choice was dictated by Britain’s, and British responsibility it is.

The Treaty of Rome has no provision for secession. But the British Parliament had no right to extinguish itself. This is the great antinomy of the next few years. Which is the law? The law of the EEC or the law of the National Communities?

We advise all readers of the “Irish Democrat” to come down fair and square on the one side. EEC law is no law at all. The law is the law of the national communities.

This means that if laws passed by the National Parliaments conflict with the Treaty of Rome, then so much the worse for the Treaty of Rome. To hell with it.

What does this attitude imply in practise?

According to a Tory weekly, the wage freeze has been introduced under advice from Brussels that Britain must have a stable exchange rate for the pound by January when she enters the EEC. So that is why we can’t get more money while prices continue to rise, because they are only partially and nominally pegged.

Under EEC law Britain must obey. The working man must fork out the cash. But a Government which claimed the supremacy of the national Parliaments would just take no notice. To hell with Brussels.

Mr Heath, in a moment of euphoria, described the eight-year process of fusing all Europe into one, thus completely extinguishing the powers of the national Parliaments. He would like to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Then the working classes of the different nations could be played off against each other inside the prison of a vast multi-national State.

But for the moment, the EEC has no teeth. Thanks to French intransigence, it has not been possible to make any progress towards a European army.1

In other words, though the principle of national sovereignty has been given up, the reality of it still remains. Mr Heath and his friends are busy using their abandonment of the principle to bludgeon people into accepting the progressive destruction of the reality.

Our reply to this should be to use the national Parliaments to fight against the provisions of the Treaty of Rome, so that we can ultimately smash up the EEC and replace it with a series of independent socialist states. In the nature of the case, these would of course wish to create some kind of co-ordination among themselves, but there is no reason why that should be confined to Europe.

To take another example: Value Added Tax is going to impose a savage burden on the people of England and Ireland. Who says we’ve got to have it? The Common Market. According to Mr Heath, Common Market law reigns supreme. But if England were to fail to introduce it, what could the Common Market do?

The actual power still remains in the national Parliaments, and every scrap of that sovereignty should be defended, tooth and nail.

If factories are to be closed down in Britain or Ireland, the peoples of these countries will not be content to accept unemployment or immigration with meek resignation. They will use their industrial and political strength to compel the national Parliaments, theoretically their servants, to protect working-class interests.

Thus under conditions he would scarcely have envisaged, we can imagine the coming into reality of the old dream of Karl Marx: the working class should constitute itself the nation.

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Editorial Note

1. Editorial Note on the development of the EEC/EC/EU: In 1949 the USA wanted a rearmed West Germany inside NATO on that military alliance’s foundation. This greatly alarmed France, which had been occupied by Germany just five years before. Jean Monnet, who was America’s man in the affair, came up with a solution. Monnet and other technocrats had been pushing schemes of federal-style supranationalism for Europe since the end of World War 1 in 1918. These had had no effect in preventing World War 2, but in the new situation post-1945, with the USA now supporting Euro-federalism as a bulwark against communism, Monnet and his colleagues saw their opportunity.

To assuage France’s fears of a rearmed Germany Monnet drafted the Schuman Declaration, named after France’s then Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman. This proposed putting the coal and steel industries of France, Germany and Benelux (Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg) under a supranational High Authority as “the first step in the federation of Europe”. The Schuman Declaration led to the European Coal and Steel Community Treaty of 1951.This was the first of the three foundational treaties of the supranational European Community, today the European Union, the others being the EEC and Euratom treaties. Thus the political aim of establishing a European State or quasi-superstate under Franco-German hegemony has been there from the start. This is the quintessential EU “project”.

Far from European integration being a “peace project”, therefore, the truth is that the first step towards supranationalism in Europe, the 1951 European Coal and Steel Community, was initiated and supported by the USA to facilitate German rearmament at the start of the Cold War and to reconcile France to that fact. The EU celebrates 9 May 1950, the date of the Schuman Declaration, as “Europe Day” each year.

Following the Coal and Steel Community Treaty and against the background of the 1950-51 Korean War, the French Government, again pushed by the Americans, produced an ambitious plan for a European Defence Community (EDC) in 1952. As Monnet put it in his Memoirs, “Now the federation of Europe would have to become an immediate objective. The army, its weapons and basic production, would all have to be placed simultaneously under joint sovereignty. We could no longer wait, as we had once planned, for political Europe to be the culminating point of a gradual process, since its joint defence was inconceivable without a joint political authority from the start.”

This proposed European Defence Community (EDC) was to have a European Army, a European Defence Minister, a Council of Ministers, a common budget and common arms procurement under the overall aegis of a European Political Community. The treaty establishing the EDC was ratified by the German Bundestag, but it caused a political storm on the Right and Left in France. Both Gaullists and Communists opposed it and in 1954 the French National Assembly narrowly rejected it.

Chastened by this setback, the Euro-federalists decided henceforth to play down their ultimate goal of European political integration and to stress economic integration as the supposed route to European prosperity. From 1954 onward “building Europe” and the European “project” was to be presented as essentially a matter of economic growth and jobs. Talk of political union, a United States of Europe and eventual supranational Federalism was to be muted over the following decades. This came to the fore again with the Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, which was rejected by French and Dutch voters in referendums in 2005. This was then 99% repackaged as the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008 – Ireland being the only country to be permitted to have a referendum on that. When Irish voters rejected what was effectively the EU Constitutional Treaty, they were made to vote again on exactly the same treaty the following year, 2009, to get a different result. This was how the EU Constitution came into force for all the EU Member States.

The 2009 EU Constitution/Treaty of Lisbon abolished the European Community, which had been the repository of supranational powers since 1957. It transferred the powers and functions of the European Community to the constitutionally new European Union that it formally established by giving this entity explicit legal personality for the first time. It effectively endowed the EU with a Federal Constitution and gave the citizens of all 28 Member dates of the EU an additional federal citizenship, so that everyone in the EU now has two citizenships, just as in all classical federations, with State sovereignty being divided between the federal and the national levels. One can only be a citizen of a State and all States consist of their citizens. The Lisbon Treaty brought all areas of government policy within the aegis or potential aegis of the post-Lisbon EU. It made provision for a common EU security force and army in time. It gave the EU a human rights jurisdiction for the first time also and explicitly laid down that the law of the post-Lisbon European Union has primacy over the law of its Member States in any case of conflict between the two.

For further information on the European Union see Basic Critical Notes on the EU under the tag “Cognate Articles” on this Greaves Archive web-site.