Is the British nation state still needed, or is the case for it transcended? Debate about this crucial matter has at long last moved out of the shadows into the glare of media concern, which is positive. Yet this very development has generated the current phoney war to ‘renegotiate Britain’s position inside the European Union’, as a spoiling tactic to derail growing opposition and safely confine argument within an endless EU cul-de-sac.
Admittedly dwindling, the historical identity, cohesion and sovereignty of Britain still outweighs and threatens EU pretensions to incorporate us in a capitalist super-state, to reduce us to a mere collection of pliable, governed regions. Consider, above all, the weight of time: England, the essential core of Britain, has existed as a national entity for over a thousand years; the destinies of Wales and England have intertwined for 700 years, whilst Scotland merged its fate to Britain 400 years ago. These are seriously lengthy periods during which countless generations have combined to shape common and shared interests. Most important, the working class has organised as one class across Britain to further its interests and ambitions. These things are deeply rooted; by comparison, the EU has had a mere 41 years to erode British identity. The British people’s consistent opposition to joining the Euro has not emerged just because that disastrous currency would have had destructive economic consequences for us; it stems too from our deep reluctance to ditch completely all control over our national economy. Our past informs our present.
Once, centuries ago, capitalism broke down feudal barriers to make national economies. Now some capitalists (though not all) favour an EU super-state that promotes freedom of movement for capital and labour, strengthening employers and weakening workers. A centralising EU state functions for the benefit of the strongest, particularly German capitalism’s, interests. So for British workers, and for workers in the other nations of Europe, the potential of protection only resides within the national framework. We cannot afford to let our nation go.
In the distant future, there will undoubtedly come a time when, following successful socialist revolutions in many adjacent countries, there will be proper moves to fashion growing economic cooperation between states on the basis of mutual benefit, which no doubt will lead gradually to supranational agreements and higher forms of cooperation. That time is a long way away but even then care will still have to be taken to protect national interests of all the state partners.
For now, the working class needs the protective shield of the national state against the destructive incursions of the EU. Out of the EU – trade with the world. Rebuild Britain – reconstruct an industrial economy.