Allan Armstrong has prepared the following paper for the meeting to be  held on October 15th, in Edinburgh, to set up a Campaign for a European Republican Socialist Party. This meeting is being organised to implement the decision of the RSA meeting held in Wakefield on June 23rd (





Many, particularly amongst the British Left, seem to have forgotten that before the First World War, European Socialists had seen the creation of a United States of Europe as their goal (1). They have developed their current perspective in the context of the past defeats of this prospect.

One very real difficulty, in making a reality out of a United States of Europe in 1914, was the limited material basis for doing so. Yes, there was the external framework of an already existing global market, but most economic production and political organisation was on a national basis. This ensured that, as capitalist competition increased in the run-up to 1914, it became expressed in the form of inter-imperialist rivalry and mounting national chauvinism.

This sentiment penetrated the Second International, either openly or shame-facedly. Neither the pious anti-war declarations, nor the large Sunday anti-war demonstrations, could effectively challenge this retreat. Most of the leaders of the Second International were tacitly aware of this, which is why many collapsed so ignominiously when the First World War was declared. It was only a small number of revolutionary social democrats (later to become communists) who upheld the vision of a United States of Europe.

However, there had been one group in Europe, before the First World War, who could be considered as forming the social core of a potential new European union. These were those Jewish people who lived across Europe. They maintained their own international links across national boundaries, and contributed both greatly and disproportionally to a vibrant international culture, including the science and the arts. Most Jewish people considered themselves to be either fully assimilated, or at least relatively well integrated, into the nations in which they lived (whilst many often moved around the various European states having relatives in two or more countries). Looking back to their considerably less favourable situation in Europe a hundred years previously, they hoped that progress was now hardwired into the European set-up, even if it required some pushing. To do this many Jewish people joined the liberal, socialist and anarchist organisations found in the states where they lived.

Yet the pre-1914 order of imperial states proved not to be a framework within which Jewish people could provide the precocious social basis of a new United States of Europe. This was true whether they lived in dynastic empires like Austro-Hungary, Tsarist Russia, Prussian-Germany, the British UK and Belgium, or in the imperial republic of France. That possibility was shattered by the outbreak of the First World War.

This situation was hardly improved by the new European set-up, particularly after the failure of the 1916-21/3 International Revolutionary Wave. This failure led to the emergence of several new nation-states, in which ethnic nationalist politics dominated. Jewish people endured a two decades ‘carnival of reaction’ in Europe. During this period the vibrant cosmopolitan Ashkenazi Jewish communities, with their Yiddish-speaking and radical Jewish traditions, were under constant attack. This process culminated in the barbarism of the organised genocide of Jews by the Nazis and their allies in the territories they occupied.

From a socialist perspective today, the contemporary equivalent of those pre-1914 cosmopolitan Jewish communities in Europe, are the much larger, but as yet, less socially and politically connected, migrant communities. There are at least 2.6 million non-UK EU residents living in the UK at the moment, and there are larger EU migrant communities, either in absolute or proportional terms, in other EU counties, particularly Germany and Sweden. There are 2.2 million UK migrants living elsewhere in the EU. These are in addition to the longer settled immigrant communities in states like the UK, France, the Netherlands and Denmark, who have come from the territories of these states’ former colonies (e.g. Ireland, the Indian sub-continent, British West Indies, Algeria, and other states in French colonial Africa and the formerly Dutch Indonesia and Surinam) or the still active colonies (e.g. Martinique, Curacao, Greenland). here are also the most recent migrants trying to escape the horrors of imperial wars and corporate plunder.

Many of these migrant communities have developed a wider visible cultural profile, particularly in food retailing, restaurants/cafes provision and in the cultural arena of arts and clubs. Socialists should be to the forefront of building upon this – culturally, socially and politically. This means trying to rebuild the sort of unity found in the anti-racist campaigns in the 1970s UK, but on a new basis. Black struggles then united a very wide array of Asians, West Indians and Africans. Socialists in the ‘host’ communities provided solidarity. This was before the top-down UK state-promoted ‘multicultural’ counter-offensive, started in the 1980s, to neutralise a growing ‘multi-culturalism from below’. This new state strategy headed off those political challenges to the existing UK order. These were diverted into the promotion of competition between different ethnic groups through seeking state recognition for certain community leaders, mainly by state funding.

Today though, there is also a much stronger material basis upon which to promote a United States of Europe. As well as the significant numbers of EU migrants living here, there has been the widespread transnational economic integration of major non-UK based corporations operating in the UK, e.g. Volkswagen, Adams Opel, Santander, and INEOS, and of UK-based corporations operating in the rest of the EU, e.g. Astra Zeneca, Vodafone, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Prudential Financial and HSBC. We are getting more and more used to seeing the consumer end of the transnational capitalist chain, with non-UK firms, like Lidl, Aldi, IKEA, Nokia, and H&M, being very visible in shopping centres and streets.

The capitalist EU has provided the economic (and to a certain degree, the social) underpinning for the current European Democratic Revolution. This has occurred in an analogous manner to which the capitalists’ Industrial Revolution provided the underpinning of the 1848 Democratic Revolutions. The EU contributed greatly to the economic modernisation of new member states (e.g. Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece), and to the continuation of earlier regional development schemes, particularly in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Welsh-speaking Wales, which had been largely abandoned under Thatcher.

Building on this EU socio-economic ‘revolution from above’, the 2012-14 Scottish independence referendum campaign, the demands for a Catalan independence referendum and the Greek people’s angry and defiant ‘Oxi’ vote must be seen as the first harbingers of this new European Democratic ‘revolution from below’.

The EU bureaucrats, conservative British EU supporters (Eurosceptics) and the national chauvinist Brexiters (Europhobes) have all seen this potential threat and acted accordingly. We saw the EU bureaucrats in action against the Greek people. The British ruling class also sought EU bureaucrats’ aid during the Scottish independence referendum. Together, they can also see the reality of the growing economic and social integration and the increased scope for a European-wide working class challenge, beginning with EU migrants.

Cameron’s Eurosceptics united with the Tory Right and UKIP Europhobes to ensure that, in contrast to the Scottish independence referendum, EU residents (along with 16-18 year olds) were excluded from the EU referendum franchise. They then became a prime target (along with asylum seekers) particularly of the Brexit campaign. This highlighted the main concern of British capital – the management and control of the wider working class brought about by the operation of the EU. However, there were divisions between the Eurosceptics and the Europhobes about how far this could be taken in the current political situation.

In the deal, which Eurosceptic Cameron negotiated with Tusk and the EU bureaucracy, his ongoing attacks on domestic welfare provision were linked with the exclusion of new EU migrants from benefits for 4 years (even whilst they paid taxes). However, the Europhobic hard Brexiters want to add the 2.6 million EU migrants currently living in the UK to those already subjected to the all the UK immigration laws. This would include the draconian new 2016 Immigration Act, which amongst other things virtually denies migrants any welfare provision.

Brexit would greatly augment numbers of people in the second tier of the UK workforce – its tolerated members. They would lose their existing officially recognised status, which stems from the UK being an EU member state. This would also have the potential to increase considerably the number in the third tier of the UK workforce – the undocumented ‘illegals’. As well as giving the employers the opportunity to cut everyone’s pay and conditions, their Brexit proposals would make trade union and social organisation across these groups much more difficult. One of the features of the 2016 Immigration Act is that the active ‘policing’ of migrants has been extended to a much greater range of UK residents, e.g. landlords. This considerably increases the scope for ethnic/racial scapegoating, both by the state and hard Right.

Lexiters, though, largely ignored the post-Brexit anti-migrant intentions of the two main ‘Leave’ campaigns. They have based much of their politics instead on the obvious fact that the EU leadership is no longer able to promote policies, which, even if indirectly, brought some benefits to workers and small farmers. British Labour and Conservatives post-Second World War commitment to Butskellism in the UK lasted from 1945 until the later 1970s. Hence that Left nostalgia – the ‘Spirit of 45’ – and the desire to get back on to that old British road. In the EEC, the Social Democrats’ and Christian Democrats’ similarly shared economic and social policies began in the 1950s. They were still being advanced as late as Maastricht in 1991, albeit now as a sugar coating for a more corporate capitalist model.

The 2008 Crash brought the UK and EU leaders closer together in a key respect. Both agree on their need to offload the costs of the economic crisis on to the backs of the working class (and small farmers). But this has also accelerated the economic, social and political class divisions within the EU on national and more populist lines and now, after the Brexit vote, this is also happening within the UK.

Socialists should be responding to the EU capitalist leaders’ abandonment of any meaningful European unity, other than around saving their own skins, by grabbing that European unity baton with both hands. To do this, we need to see the latent reality of a European Democratic Revolution.

The recent experience from the Scottish component of this European Democratic Revolution is instructive. The Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) raised the slogans, ”Another Scotland is Possible’, ‘Another Europe Is Possible’, and ‘Another World is Possible’ in 2012. Now that the focus is on the EU/Europe (two different things), we need to put forward a clearer idea about what ‘Another Europe’ should be like – i.e. a federated, secular and social European Republic. This was an important reason for the Statement from the Republican Socialist Alliance (2), which will be discussed at the meeting on October 15th.


Allan Armstrong, 20.9.16


This article is a section from the article Allan wrote in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum –

(1)       Steve Freeman, Referendum The Future of Europe, part 4                  



This article is a section from the article Allan wrote in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum –