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50 Years Ago: Austerity for how long, Sir Stafford?

The opening words of "Let Us Face the Future," the Labour Party's declaration on which the 1945 General Election was fought, were "Victory in War must be followed by a Prosperous Peace." There was no must about it and the cessation of American lease-lend soon brought the Government face to face with the fact that capitalism has its own way of disposing of election hopes and promises. Since 1945 we have had to make the best of a series of "crises" all of which have been announced by the Government with an air of surprise as if they could not have been foreseen. The workers have been asked to put up with austerity and "work harder" campaigns on the plea that after all they would not last for ever. Now Sir Stafford Cripps has let the cat out of the bag. Speaking at a Press Conference in London on 11th November, he said:

"We are now and shall be henceforth for as long as we can see into the future, engaged in a competition in overseas markets which demands for our success every economy that efficiency and high productivity can give us. We shall not be able to relapse from this endeavour any more than our competitors in the world markets will. We require a universal and sustained effort . . ." (Italics ours) (Times, 12/11/48.)

So it is as Socialists have always said it must be, an indefinite sentence. For the workers the capitalist treadmill will last for as long as the working class chooses to put up with capitalism.

(From "Notes By The Way", Socialist Standard, December 1948)