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Labour Party

Ernest Bevin

About twenty years ago, at a Trade Union conference, a delegate who is now a member of the S.P.G.B., rose to speak. The problems before the conference, he said, must be examined from the standpoint of the workers' interests and from no other. He argued that the interests of the workers were opposed to, and irreconcilable with, the interests of the employers: that to view any matter from the angle of national interest, or, the benefit of the industry, was to see it through the employers' eyes and that would not help to solve any working-class problem.

Mr. Ernest Bevin rose to speak. After a few mildly flattering remarks about the previous speaker he declared that he also, at one time, had held similar views. But, he added, with the accumulated wisdom of passing years, he had discarded such notions until now he regarded them as the immature ideas of his youth.

Rock Bottom

Red Wedge is a campaign by rock musicians aimed at conning young workers that voting Labour is in their interest. It is a cynical tactic employed by a party which, despite the idealistic intentions of some of its supporters, is in the business of forming a government to run the capitalist system of inequality, exploitation and insecurity.

How Much Has British Capitalism Changed?

Outwardly capitalism in Britain looks very different from what it was seventy years ago. No longer the centre of an Empire with a population of 400 millions, it is now a junior partner in Europe. Its navy, its trade and its currency no longer rule the world.

Equally great changes inside Britain reflect technical developments that have taken place in all the industrialized countries. Agriculture has shrunk from over 2 million farmers and workers to about 400,000, coal-mining from nearly a million to 300,000, textiles from 1½ million to less than half that number. The army of over two million domestic servants has largely disappeared, only to a relatively small extent replaced by the 730,000 employed in hotels and catering.

Opportunism Before Principle

It was only in 1918 that Labour officially adopted the word socialism to describe its aim. It is true that prior to that date Keir Hardie, the father of the Labour Party, had stated his aim to be that of working for a socialist society whose character we would not have argued against. But Hardie's views was one amongst many in an organisation primarily concerned with representing trade union interests in parliament. He also mistakenly believed that socialism could be offered up to workers after winning mass support for reform programmes.

So why did this party representing a vast mix of reformers and single-issue campaigners adopt the word socialism in 1918? It was a pragmatic decision to present Labour as a serious contender for power. The Conservatives had Toryism, the Liberals Liberalism, and Labour needed a label, something to wear on their lapel with which to court the newly enfranchised workers—the label was Socialism. As Samuel Beer wrote in Modern British Politics:

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