Our choice is a destructive system which served privileged interests and a sane society which served human needs was the important issue then. Tragically capitalism remains, to menace us all.
Millions remain unemployed. It is impossible to calculate the amount of useful wealth that could have been produced had not billions of workdays been lost because workers could not be employed for the profit of a few. What is certain is that in socialism all these workers in industry, transport, building and farming could have been co-operating to provide the things necessary for the well-being of the community: things like homes, hospitals, and useful goods of every kind. Instead, men and women are being forced by the profit system into idleness, living on the dole alongside millions of pensioners existing on their meagre state hand-outs. Many remain homeless and despairing.
These are the bitter conditions of life endured by those at the lowest end of the scale of poverty. For those with a job trying to provide for themselves and their families, the purchase of a home means mortgaging their lives for years to come. Not just the need for a home but every necessity is subject to the ability to pay. For the majority life remains dominated by the relentless grind of wage-working and paying the food, gas, electricity, water and clothing bills, and repaying debts to banks and financial companies. As ever for workers, the market is an economic tyranny which breeds insecurity. Whether it is the 'common market' of the EU or not, makes no difference.
Forty years after the Second World War, Europe is still an armed camp. Millions are producing the means of waging further war. In addition, the competitive industrial system pollutes the planet -threatening all life.
The EU was not set up to deal with the problems of poverty, insecurity and war. In 1979 we said that the Common Market was a "political and trading arrangement entered into by the various European States in order to further the interests of their capitalists". The ensuing years has only confirmed the truth of this. In 1984 we pointed out that, in the overall interests of profit, the so-called European Community was paying farmers to destroy cattle, tear up orchards, plough back vegetables, dump fruit and restrict milk, meat and cereal production. Alongside this destruction of food, millions have died throughout the world from disease related to starvation or poverty. In Europe itself, millions live below the official poverty line and would have benefitted from this food. They did not have the money to buy it, so it was destroyed. The prices of commodities and the sanctity of profit come before human needs.
PAID NOT TO GROW
It is intended by EU governments that these policies should continue. In June 1988 it was announced that a so-called "set aside" scheme would come into force for the 1988-89 crop production year. Under this scheme, annual payments of up to ￡200 per hectare are being offered to farmers who agree to take at least one fifth of their arable land out of production for the next five years. This imitates the policies of another major agricultural producer, the USA, which in 1983 took 82 million acres out of food production so as to protect the prices of food commodities.
The EU reached a new phase in 1992 when further trade barriers were removed to establish the single market. This heralded a new freedom for investment and marketing to move across traditional European boundaries aimed at the maximum and most efficient exploitation of workers. The EU can never achieve a genuine community of common interests. The basis of its operation is the class monopoly of the means of life by a privileged minority of capitalists. It may be a business community, but this leaves workers in the same exploited position where they must sell themselves for a wage or salary, when it is profitable for the capitalists to employ them, that is.
When we examine the policies of the Labour, Conservative and other reformist parties, we find the same old glib promises put out over the years. These parties are depressing and irrelevant. They take no account of experience and offer nothing but repeated failure. These parties stand for running capitalism and their differences are minor compared to their common aim of running the profit system. The Greens are right to denounce the degradation of the environment but in blaming this on "industrialism" and "bigness" they have yet to realise that this is inherent in capitalist competition.
At this time, the beginning of the 21st Century, when we look back on over 100 years of violence and misery in Europe, and when poised on the brink of further frightening dangers, it is obvious that a very different political approach must be taken. The time is long overdue for scrapping the entire system of capitalism. It is out of date. Its class interests and its priority of profits before human needs can no longer serve any useful purpose so far as the majority are concerned.
ABOLISH THE PROFIT SYSTEM
If we are to place the aim of European unity on a sound and practical basis then the idea that it can be realised under any system of Euro-capitalism must be abandoned. Nor can unity be established in Europe separate from the rest of the world. Unity can only stem from a common interest amongst all people to co-operate in the production and distribution of goods and services directly for need. This is only possible with the means of production owned and controlled by the whole world community.
There can be an important place for a European Assembly as one part of a system of world democratic administration. Socialism would need such bodies at local, regional and world levels and the task of adapting the European Parliament would be straightforward. However, democratic procedures mean nothing unless society has real powers to translate democratic decisions into action. In socialism, this would come from the abolition of the uncontrolled and anti-social forces of the market and the disappearance of the profit motive.
PRODUCE FOR NEED
Socialism will remove all economic constraints on social action and will involve the abolition of not just the "Common Market" but all buying and selling. One of the myths of capitalism is that nothing can happen without the use of money. Part of this myth is that productive resources consist of money capital, but in the real world of production money never produced anything. Goods and services are produced by the mental and physical energies of men and women and it is only because goods are bought and sold that money is needed. Money is used under capitalism as part of the system of exploitation where workers receive as wages or salaries only a portion of the total wealth they produce. In reality, capital investment limits social action to what is profitable: with the abolition of the market, the entire structure of production would be released to be used solely for the community's needs.
We must stress the urgency of promoting the growth of the socialist movement. This is the only practical activity which is being directed at the solution of social problems. Support for parties seeking to participate in the administration of capitalism through the European Union will prove futile. The constructive alternative is to help to build a world of common ownership, democratic control and production directly for human needs.
Adapted from a manifesto published in the Socialist Standard, June 1989