Paul Foot (changing imperialisms)

Michael Keaney michael.keaney at
Thu Feb 13 05:10:55 MST 2003

Firstly, thanks to Martin Spellman for keeping a cool head and patiently
picking way at what I have written. Martin writes in response to an earlier

> The fact is, as I have tried to explain here before, that we are
> not likely to experience any such thing as a Euro superstate
> hegemony. That's a fantasy cooked up by a bizarre coalition of
> punk Thatcherite British nationalists

Hardly Thatcherite, punk or otherwise. She is remembered for being hostile
to 'Europe' and was a supporter of British imperialism, supporting and
supported by the US.


Of course that is correct. But she was pro-Europe for as long as it was
understood that "Europe" was in fact first and foremost an anti-communist
bulwark against Soviet "expansionism". Once Europe started developing its
own dynamic in a manner sufficiently quasi-autonomous from the US she
changed her tune. And my original point was that the *fantasy* of an EU
superstate is used by punk Thatcherites to scare the nationalist
right/empire loyalist brigade of supposedly lingering German expansionism
(relic of the 1930s!) and French efforts aimed at constraining "British"
independence. As such it is quite racist (as expressed in tabloid headlines
from "Up yours, Delors!" to "Achtung, surrender!"), appealing to "Little
Englander" chauvinism, and completely oblivious to the *facts* of utter
subjugation of "Britain" to the diktats of the US following the IMF
intervention in 1976. It's also why anti-Europe propaganda has a markedly
lesser effect on the non-English constituents of "Britain".

During the Cold War the US, via the CIA and other agencies, vigorously
promoted UK membership of the EEC (as then was) in order to buttress its
anti-Soviet policy, and as part of a strategy to contain, and ultimately
defeat, the British labour movement. This it did, in alliance with sections
of British capital headed up by the empire loyalist brigade of Airey Neave,
Peter Wright, the McWhirter brothers and other assorted loonies whose
activities produced the figurehead of Thatcher. Thatcher's primary task was
to destroy the labour movement (hence the Ridley plan concerning the NUM),
but her backers were also concerned to place Britain under more direct
control from Washington. While Neave, Wright and co. fantasised about reds
under the bed and Harold Wilson heading up a communist cell at No. 10, the
US and various City of London interests were very concerned that Britain
should not re-orient towards Europe in the manner advocated by the Tories
Harold Macmillan and Edward Heath, who were in fact, along with Harold
Wilson, modernisers of British capitalism with an interest in strengthening
the manufacturing sector. The disadvantage of their modernisation strategy
was that it would thereby strengthen the labour movement at a time when that
same movement was flexing its muscles politically in such a way as to
destabilise the status quo, viz 1974. Therefore the US strategy was twofold:
defeat the British labour movement whilst inserting a newly created client
into the EEC, whose growing material prosperity courtesy of ever greater
market liberalisation would demonstrate to those nasty reds the superiority
of US-led capitalism.

The collapse of the Soviet bloc merely accelerated the emergence of the
inevitable point at which Europe would become as much a rival to US
interests as a partner. But for much of the 1990s the Clinton administration
was content to play by the rules of the Cold War with respect to its Europe
policy. This was in fact greatly enhanced by the election of Blair, the most
pro-EU prime minister since Heath, and certainly admiring of Clinton's
achievements with the Democratic Party in the US. Hence the love-in,
consummated during the Kosovo debacle. But even under Clinton's watch it was
increasingly clear that Europe was emerging as a competitor to the US,
albeit in a very junior capacity, given the lack of a common defence policy
and sufficient armaments to back it up. That remains the case today.

You continue:

> and, on the left, national
> Keynesians of the Wynne Godley variety and ultra-leftists still
> obsessing about a "British road to socialism" whilst content to
> retain Northern Ireland, for example.

Straw men methinks.


In terms of actual political clout, probably they are indeed straw men.
However, the national Keynesian view still holds sway among significant
sections of the left trade unions, and, as I've documented elsewhere, is
being exploited by US sepoy David Owen in his "New Europe" anti-eurozone
campaigning outfit, in which he is being advised by the likes of Bob
Rowthorn, Larry Elliott and Brian Burkitt -- all supposedly left, all
advocating the sort of policies advocated first by Wynne Godley and Nicholas
Kaldor in the 1970s, and all completely oblivious to the utterly changed
circumstances of the last 25 years. It is their reasoning that is informing
Bill Morris's decision, for example, that the TGWU should support the
anti-eurozone campaign. Similar sentiments can be found among Bob Crow of
the RMT, Derek Simpson of Amicus and Andy Gilchrist of the FBU, among others
formally identified as "left wing troublemakers" or even "Scargillites", to
use Blair's insult du jour.

That these largely well-meaning individuals still, after all these years,
subscribe to such views acts as a tremendous block against the dissemination
of much clearer analysis of the reality of the current "British" position.
They are hindrances to political clarity, and that in itself is a valuable
service to the interests of US hegemony.

In that vein, you continue:

 I have in fact advocated here the
> speedy demise of the British state, a key pillar of any would-be
> future Euro-imperialist superstate.

An interesting prospect. I'll have to look back over your arguments but it
is not something I'm reckoning on seeing in my lifetime.


Well, if you are 80 years old then you could be right. But if you're below
65 then I wouldn't be so sure. Ed George's earlier postings here regarding
developments in Wales chime very well with parallel events in Scotland, for
which I might recommend Tom Nairn's "After Britain" (Granta, 2000) as a much
better explanation than what I could offer via this medium right now.
Suffice to say the artifice of "Britain" is laid bare in that book.
Meanwhile, as Phil Ferguson has posted here before, Ireland is on its way to
bourgeois-sponsored reunification, largely because the British state does
not need it any more -- it has bigger fish to fry. It must accomplish this,
however, under a cloak of bourgeois legitimacy, hence the tortured
withdrawal of the British state and indulgence of the declining unionists.

Scotland and Wales present a very different challenge to "Britain", however,
because their increasing restiveness threatens the very foundation of the
unitary state which, for all Blair's "modernisation", remains in part
comprising institutions designed to function in an earlier era of
imperialism and British "greatness". As I've said here before, the best
thing the British left could do is to assist in this process of decline and
to join as English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish within a Europe-wide struggle,
for that is the terrain on which our collective (European) future is being
fought right now. Dismantling "Britain" would simultaneously set back any
feared development of EU superstate status based on military capabilities
which, for the foreseeable future, would be based on British and French
capacity. More importantly, "Britain", whether as part of an imaginary EU
superstate, or stand-alone transatlantic bridge, or utterly subservient US
client, needs to feed its military in order to survive as "Britain". For
that reason alone it's time the "British" left started work on ending this
pathetic relic of an earlier imperialism.

Michael Keaney

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