One Britain, One Europe, One World: The Socialist Internationalism of Arthur Woodburn, Part Six

You can find Part One of this series on Arthur Woodburn here, Part Two here, Part Three here, Part Four here, and Part Five here.

One Britain, One Europe, One World: The Socialist Internationalism of Arthur Woodburn, 1960-1970

Part Six: Moving On, “Socialists of an Older School”

It should come as no surprise that Woodburn’s final speech in the House of Commons before his retirement in 1970 was a vigorous defense of the idea of European integration. He touched on many of his traditional talking points. He expressed his admiration for Winston Churchill’s role in fostering European unity after the Second World War, noting that it was Churchill who “went to the Hague Conference [in 1948] and gave them inspiration and enabled them to raise their eyes to the vision of a united Europe.”1 He described his experiences attending continental conferences on integration and their hunger to include Britain in the project because she was a “champion of democracy” and a “bulwark against dictatorship.”2 And he also made his usual forceful dismissals of concerns about the loss of sovereignty and identity.3 But he concluded his speech by calling on MPs to embrace the ideal, if not necessarily the manner, of European integration, and it is worth quoting in full.  He said:

It is a great ideal, this brotherhood of man in the world.  It is the ideal of organising the unity of Europe with a view to preventing further wars and dictatorships, a view not only of a Europe contributing to the well-being of the backward countries but of organising Europe economically and militarily.  I hope that all this will lead to the wonderful and colourful variety of the constituent parts of Europe contributing to the future culture of the world.  We all – Frenchmen, Germans, Irish, Welsh, Scots and English and the rest – have a wonderful colourful variety of experiences and gifts and it is that variety that makes Europe the wonder and marvel of the world.4

His brand of socialist internationalism, embellished by his pro-Europeanism, was a reflection of a different kind of labour politics in Scotland, one reminiscent of the socialist and radical tenets of the ILP, of which Woodburn was once a member.  He was, as his Times obituary in 1978 described him, “representative of many Socialists of an older school,” one which had retreated to the margins of Scottish political life, to be replaced by a sharper, more modern interpretation of the politics of nation and class.5

  1. Parliamentary Debates, Commons, Fifth Series, no. 796 (1969-1970), col. 1289.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., 1290.
  4. Ibid., 1294.
  5. The Times (London), 3 June 1978.

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