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Mr. Enigma

Once again he's in the news. Once again his name is plastered across the front pages of the national newspapers. Once again he is accused by his Labour colleagues of splitting the party ranks. Once again he has given his opponents scope to make political capital out of his manoeuvres. His supporters applaud, his enemies jeer, he is at the same time a political opportunist, a public-spirited citizen, a Russian agent, and a man of principle. Mr. Aneurin Bevan, the enigma of British politics, has returned to the arena.

The first shot was fired in the House of Commons on Tuesday, 15th April. In the debate which followed Mr. Eden's announcement "that he and Mr. Dulles were ready to examine the possibilities of a defence pact in South-East Asia" (News Chronicle, 14/4/54), "Mr. Bevan has brusquely forced his way to the dispatch box to announce stringent criticism of a proposal which Mr. Attlee had, to a large degree, accepted" (News Chronicle, 15/4/54).

The following day Mr. Bevan resigned from the Labour Party Shadow Cabinet, and the rift in the Labour ranks, opened on the previous evening, was complete.

Explaining the reasons for his resignation, Mr. Bevan said, "I was deeply shocked at the failure of the Parliamentary leadership to immediately repudiate Mr. Eden's acceptance of the American initiative, which is tantamount to the diplomatic and military encirclement of Republican China. This in my opinion prejudices, if it does not entirely frustrate, the possibility of a negotiated settlement at Geneva of the Indo-Chinese war. If the Conservative Government is prepared to follow the American lead in this matter, in my view the British Labour Party should stand steadfastly against it" (News Chronicle, 15/4/54).

Mr. Bevan's first major disagreement with the official party line occurred in 1950 when he resigned from the Cabinet after differences in opinion on the sum to be spent of defence. Here it is interesting to note that Mr. Bevan was not objecting to the principle of defence expenditure, but only on the amount to be spent. In a similar manner people agitate to have the use of atomic weapons prohibited, whilst at the same time turning a blind eye to war in other forms.

Subsequently Mr. Bevan's differences with "the right wing" of the Labour Party became subordinate to the need for greater unity within the movement. Now, however, Mr. Bevan has erupted once again.

It is not for this writer, nor indeed the S.P.G.B., to criticise Mr. Bevan's actions. We are not concerned with discussing the merits of the proposed plan for South-East Asia. These problems may be resolved, but in their very solution they will breed new problems. Capitalism by its very nature periodically produces booms, slumps, wars and unemployment, and all the other social ills of this day and age. Mr. Bevan and his fellow Parliamentarians may be credited with the best intentions in the world, but from time to time they find themselves in the unenviable position of having to run Capitalism from the Government benches. It is then that personalities and party politics count for little, Capitalism sweeps them all along leaving a trail of misery and devastation in its wake.

When the working class understand the nature of society; when they appreciate that society is run not in their interests, but in the interests of the owners of the means of production and distribution for the purpose of producing commodities for sale at a profit; when realisation of this one fact opens the way to a conscious understanding of the position of the working class in society; when the moment of truth transpires: the working class will not turn to the Bevans, Attlees, Churchills or Edens of the world. They will elect representatives to Parliament to end this viperous system Capitalism, and establish Socialism.

Michael D. Gill