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50 Years Ago: Labour's lost illusions

Right from the formation of the Labour Party the S.PG.B. opposed it, holding that its doctrine of changing class relationships through social reforms and its hope of abolishing war through international expressions of goodwill were founded in error about the nature of capitalism and socialism.

The S.P.G.B still opposes the Labour Party for the same reasons but in the meantime the Labour Party has undergone a profound change, one that would have surprised and dismayed its pioneers. At its birth it had a genuine belief in its principles; now the fire and inspiration have died and what is left are the vote-catching manoeuvres of a caucus of disillusioned political managers, hardly distinguishable from those who control the Tory Party machine.

Two early themes of the Labour Party propaganda were nationalisation and the search for peace. The words are still in use but the content has changed almost out of recognition. At first, as in Keir Hardie's “From Serfdom to Socialism,” nationalisation was urged (mistakenly but with apparent sincerity), as a stepping stone to Socialism. Then came a later state when nationalisation became an end in itself; and a third stage when “Public Boards” were discovered to be better than nationalisation.

Lastly came the discovery, openly voiced Mr. Herbert Morrison and others during the recent Labour Government's six years of administering capitalism, that the Labour ideal is a co-called “mixed economy,” a partnership between the Government and private capitalism.

(From editorial, Socialist Standard, February 1953)