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50 Years Ago: 9 Months of Labour Rule

Twenty years ago this month, Great Britain elected the first majority Labour government in its history.

July 1945 was a time of jubilation for the Labour Party; but it was also a time of reckoning. Their two previous administrations―in 1924 and 1931―had been minority governments, and had been able to blame their failures onto their dependence on Liberal support in the House of Commons.

The Attlee government had no such excuse. They had a massive majority behind them and they were determined to carry out the programme they had cherished for so long. Many Labour M.P.s said―and perhaps some of them even believed―that the day of Socialism had dawned.

Reality was cruelly different, and it exposed Labour Party theories for what they were. The 1945 government were committed to running British capitalism, and they did this in basically the same way as the Tories would have done.

They fought the working class over wages. They used every weapon they could to break strikes in the docks and the coalfields. They launched the nuclear rearmament programme (which, says the Labour Party now, is based on a discredited nostalgia for outdated imperialism).

Some Labour ministers of those days became famous as political buffoons and failures. Others wore themselves into their graves. British capitalism stood undisturbed. And in the end the electors showed what they thought of Labour's attempts to run the system, by turning them out of office.

By 1964 the memories of Labour government had grown dim enough for the workers to want to give it another try. (...).

Now once again we have a Labour government, and once again they are in the toils. British capitalism is providing them with many problems―financial, economic, international. They are disputing with the working class over wages. Many of their policies―on the Bomb, immigration, taxation―have been reversed.

And one again, like their predecessors in 1945, they are failing to solve the problems of capitalism. As this becomes more and more apparent, Labour Party support is declining, in spite of all their gimmicks and vote catching publicity.

(from editorial, Socialist Standard, July 1965)