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50 Years Ago: Half a Million Unemployed

As the Ministry of Labour's doleful figures come out, let it not be forgotten that it is a Labour government which says that it has created half a million unemployed.

The Labour Party hold the theory that a government can produce, or abolish, unemployment at will. Whether this is true or not is beside the point, which is that Labour are saying they are responsible for the rise in unemployment, that it has come about as a result of their deliberate policy.

It is not convenient, now, for them to remember some of their promises. Like this one, by James Callaghan at their 1965 conference:

'... he had not joined the Labour Party to create unemployment. He was certain that the measures being taken, through regional planning, were the right ones to maintain full employment' (The Guardian, 1/10/65.)

It is not convenient, now, for Labour to remember that the wage freeze was always supposed to be the alternative to unemployment. This was Callaghan, again at the 1965 conference:

'This problem of getting increased productivity would be solved either by unemployment and substantial deflation, or by a prices and incomes policy: there is no other way.' (The Guardian, 1/10/65.)

As it turned out, the working class have got it all; a wage freeze, unemployment and what is called "deflation".

Presumably, if they were pressed on the matter, the Labour Party would still say that this is Socialism. For one thing, their policies seem to be holding the support of a majority of trade union leaders, although what these same leaders would say about the same policies if they came from a Conservative government hardly bears thinking about.

To some extent, then, Labour have had things their way. What it amounts to is that in 1964 there was a dirty job to be done for the British capitalist class and Labour have done it.

(from Review, Socialist Standard, October 1967)