741.00/6–1550: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Douglas ) to the Secretary of State

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3356. 1. This telegram on Labor Party Executive pamphlet “European Unity”1 is joint Embassy–ECA message. Every now and then [Page 1649] the British drop a brick and when they do it’s a classic. Furthermore timing of this pamphlet could hardly be worse. Part I this telegram is an account of origin and preparation of pamphlet, and is based on reliable confidential information. Part II represents what we think pamphlet means in terms of Party policy. Part III appraises possible significance for government policy.

Part I.

2. Pamphlet was originally planned last winter for domestic consumption as statement of Party’s attitude toward future development of Council of Europe. General Affairs Committee of Assembly is examining proposals for “the establishment of a European political authority with limited functions but real powers”. It was, therefore, felt necessary to prepare statement setting out party position on this particular question and the general subject of European political unity making clear that MacKay and other advocates of a supra-national organization do not speak for the party.

3. It was intended to issue pamphlet several months ago but preparation dragged and release at this time purely fortuitous.

4. Although the original intention was to limit pamphlet to European political unity and early drafts were confined to this, it was later decided to add sections on economic unity. After the Schuman Plan was announced, further additions were made. The pamphlet is thus somewhat of a patchwork job.

5. Those parts of pamphlet dealing with European political federation were not seen by Bevin nor were economic sections seen by Cripps, Gaitskell or Jay, or anyone, in fact, in government who speaks with authority on economic matters.

6. Pamphlet was prepared under auspices of Party Executive’s International Committee, headed by Dalton, and was largely his responsibility.

7. Pamphlet was circulated in draft form to Executive Committee but it is doubtful if more than a half dozen of the 27 members ever gave it more than cursory reading before it was approved.

Part II.

8. It should first of all be emphasized that this is a Party political document, prepared primarily as a general guide to members and for purposes of public discussion. While formally and officially approved, it would, we think, be a mistake to treat every sentence as a literal statement of Party policy. We know, in fact, that certain parts of this document are completely unacceptable to certain responsible members of the Government, while the ineptness of language in other parts has already caused grave disquiet in top government circles. The pamphlet is in fact so loosely written and there are so many inconsistencies that [Page 1650] any interpretation of detail would be meaningless. In short document should be read as a whole in the light of its original political objective re Council of Europe and its history. After, however, giving due weight to loose drafting, bluntness and ambiguities the pamphlet must stand on its own feet and it is bad.

9. When contradictory statements cancelled out, pamphlet still stands as a badly expressed reaffirmation of Party belief in cautious approach to political or economic European unity and opposition to supra-national authority. It also goes further than past statements in insistence on necessity for acceptance of socialist doctrine as basis of cooperation. Against background of extreme British caution in approach to European economic unity one cannot say that it completely fails to reflect government policy as it has developed since inception of OEEC.

10. In the section “Problem of Basic Industries” on pages 11 and 12 is the assertion that only through nationalization can integration be fully ensured. However, the additional paragraphs re the Schuman Plan hint that the Labor Party might support schemes provided the coal and steel industries were government-controlled even though privately owned. This might be a clue as to what the government itself may have in mind.

11. In two respects pamphlet represents considerable advance over previous official statements by Labor Party. First, idea of a united Europe as neutral force between USA and Russia is attacked with great vehemence. Second, pamphlet pays tribute to progressive domestic and foreign program of present US administration. This shows how far British socialist thought has shifted in past five years.

Part III.

12. One of the most disturbing aspects of this whole incident is the irresponsibility shown by Party and government leaders in permitting publication of a document of this character without adequate clearance with the responsible Ministers.

13. Publication of this pamphlet has without question acutely embarrassed Labor Government. Attlee has already made a brief statement in House of Commons on the subject (see Embtel 33312) and we anticipate that pamphlet will continue to plague the government for some time. However, it is safe to say that pamphlet per se will exert little if any influence on government policy.

14. Thus we conclude that, while pamphlet will cause embarrassment to administration in Washington because of US public reaction, [Page 1651] it will not fundamentally affect relationship between US and British Governments because it injects no new element into presently recognized differences of viewpoint between governments. As stated in earlier paragraph, cancellation of inconsistencies in pamphlet reveals statement of British reluctance to enter upon any international commitments which might conceivably restrict their ability to plan their internal economic life and to maintain full employment and fair shares at home.

15. We have previously reported on several occasions what appeared to us to be the fundamental contradiction in the regime of the present government—the contradiction between international cooperation in the economic and political spheres as we contemplate it and the internal policy of His Majesty’s Government. The problem of reconciling these two objectives, so difficult to reconcile, will remain with us no more prickly and thorny to resolve now, after the pamphlet has been published, than it was before.

Sent Department 3356, Paris 1037. Pass OSR. Pass ECA.

  1. Copies of the 15–page pamphlet were transmitted as enclosures to despatch 2964, from London, June 19, not printed (741.00/6–1950). Its publication had “raised storm of criticism in Congress and press” in the United States, and Douglas had been instructed that “Any Govt statement softening unfavorable impression of pamphlet wld help.” Telegram 2888, June 14, to London, not printed. (741.00/6–1450)
  2. Not printed.