Andrew Mullen: The British Left's 'Great Debate' on Europe.

Author:Strange, Gerry
Position:Book review
 
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Andrew Mullen

The British Left's 'Great Debate' on Europe

Continuum, 2007, xv + 352pp.

ISBN: 978-0-8264-9366-8 (hbk) 70 [pounds sterling]

This book provides a comprehensive survey of the British left and Europe in the post-Second World War period. Its main purpose is to explain what the author, Andrew Mullen, identifies as three fundamental or 'tectonic' shifts in the British left's approach to and evaluation of 'Europe' in relation to Britain and the socialist project since 1945. The study comes with a ringing endorsement from Tony Benn. While the book's thrust is historical and empirical, it is nevertheless driven by an underlying set of partial political judgements, or an underpinning perspective on the left and Europe. This is that while, in principle, a socialist project for Europe can be envisaged (as indeed it was on the left during the 1940s and 1950s), the history of real European integration has been driven by overarching US capitalist interests, often pursued covertly and with force. Such has been the dominance of the US project for Europe--conceived as an open-door 'grand area'--that it is unrealistic to suppose that European integration in its current from could conceivably provide a basis for the advance of socialism. Furthermore, EU integration has, by design, actively and fundamentally weakened British sovereignty--a process that will need to be reversed if a nation-state socialist alternative is ever to be successfully pursued in Britain. Britain must disconnect from many of the processes of integration in which it has become enmeshed during the postwar period if socialism is ever to be resurrected here or in Europe.

This study's greatest strength is undoubtedly its effective marshalling of empirical evidence over an extended time period (19450-2007). This evidence is drawn from a variety of sources, including left party and trade union official documents and reports, interviews with key political actors and official government documentation. In presenting the central empirical evidence, many of the thirteen chapters in the core Part z of the book ('The British left and European integration') follow a standard format by which the evidence, drawn from four main sources--the Labour Party, the TUC, the big trade unions and the wider British left--is presented. In many ways, these sections of the book, while extremely useful for reference purposes, stand alone from the rest of the text as straightforward reportage of formal...

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