1920s >> 1928 >> no-285-may-1928

Labour Party Warmongers.

During recent years the extraordinary progress of aviation has brought increasingly to the fore the question of the use of aeroplanes to defend the interests of the ruling class of this and other countries in their conflicts with each other.

In the month of March of this year the question came up again for discussion and decision in the House of Commons, and according to the East Ham South Citizen (April issue), a local paper issued by the London Co-operative Society, Ltd., their President, Mr. Alfred Barnes, M.P. for East Ham South, delivered a “courageous” and “eloquent” speech for the abolition of aerial warfare.

Mr. Barnes, in moving an amendment calling for aerial disarmament, and speaking on behalf of the Labour Party, said in the course of his speech—

“We on these benches take up no equivocal position at all. We say without hesitation and without qualification, that the whole energy of this Government should be used not for perfecting the Air Force of the country, but how to abolish the Air Force in consultation and in agreement with other countries.”

It is sometimes convenient for these Labour M.P.s to forget what their own party did when they formed the Government in 1924. Mr. Leach (Under-Secretary of State for Air in the Labour Government), in reply to Sir S. Hoare, then said—

“The right hon. and gallant Gentleman wants me to define the attitude of the Government towards national defence. He asks in plain, explicit terms, are we going on with the expansion scheme? I am going to tell him in plain and explicit terms that there is no change in the policy of the Government for the time being on this matter.” (Parliamentary Reports, 19/3/24, Col. 1670.)

Later in the same speech, in reply to Commander Burney, he said—

“We are vitally interested in seeing that the lighter-than-air ships shall be explored, encouraged and fostered in every proper way that is open to us.”

Many keen supporters of the Labour Party are loud in their denunciation of the Tory Government when the latter vote further credits for the maintenance and improvement of the armed forces, and we are repeatedly told that the Tories are insincere in their proposals for disarmament and their attempts to prevent another war.

During the same speech by Mr. Barnes he expresses the opinion of the Labour Party of the insincerity of the Tory Government :

“We believe the Government are not sincere in their proposals for disarmament. I should be sorry, on an occasion like this, to judge the sincerity of any person or group of persons or party, but I do think that in human affairs we must judge the sincerity of people by their deeds, and I do not think that anyone who looks back on the post-war period and considers the approach to universal peace can be proud of the record of the present Government during its three years of office.”

This sentimental slobbering is patently dishonest. He cannot be ignorant of the action of the Labour Party when in office in 1924. Let us turn to the Parliamentary Reports for 19/2/24. During the course of the debate on air defence, a Liberal, Captain Wedgwood Benn, observed—

“In the first place, I understand the Government to accept this Resolution. It surprises me, although I applaud it, that they are prepared to go on with the programme which the right hon. Gentleman initiated. That was stated in terms by the Under-Secretary. I think they are right, although I am surprised, because the Labour Party only six months ago pledged themselves in the Conference to oppose it.” (Col. 1680.)

A most unpleasant way, to be sure, to remind the Labour Government of their deliberate decision to continue the programme laid down by the previous Conservative Government. Mr. Thurtle (Labour M.P. for Shoreditch) confessed to a certain amount of misgiving at the decision of the Labour Government towards the Air Force. He said—

“I did think we might expect from the Labour Government that, in whatever other things they might compromise, there would be a certain firmness of principle in regard to this matter of disarmament. We are told they are to stand by the programme which has been laid down by the past Government. There is, in my opinion, no justification whatever for a Labour Government, pledged as the present Treasury Bench is pledged to the principle of disarmament, taking up an attitude of that kind. As I look at the Treasury Bench I imagine there must be a number of uneasy consciences on it.” (Parliamentary Reports 19/2/24, Col. 1698.)

The Labour M.P.s, just like the Liberal and Tory, are fearful of the consequences should another war be declared. They dread the uprising of the working class, dread the possibilities of revolution, a movement for the overthrow of Capitalism. Says Mr. Barnes—

“Aerial warfare will inevitably lead to widespread revolution, such as we have not hitherto experienced, and that, indeed, should such a war occur, civilisation must come down in chaos before any military conclusion has been reached.” (Same paper.)

A gentleman, a recent addition to the ranks of the Labour Party—Commander Kenworthy—also had misgivings. He delivered himself during his oration of the following gem :—

“If the peoples of Europe are again to experience the horrors of modern, scientific aerial warfare in an intensified form, I am convinced they will rise in sheer desperation and overthrow the existing order of society.” (Parliamentary Reports, 19/2/24, Col. 1693.)

On this question of air armaments, as on all other questions vital to the interests of private property, the Labour Party, like the other two parties, continue to support the armed forces which are necessary for the maintenance of Capitalist interests.

C. F. C.

(Socialist Standard, May 1928)

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