1920s >> 1928 >> no-287-july-1928

The Labour Party’s New Programme: A Bid for Liberal Support

A Committee appointed by the Labour Party to draft a new programme for the next General Election has made its report. The Committee was mostly composed of members of the I.L.P., and the draft programme drawn up by them had been carefully worded to appeal to all Liberals and supporters of Capitalism generally.

The main plank of the Programme is this :

“The land, the production and distribution of the coal and power which are the life-blood of modern industry, the network of communications and transport which form its veins and arteries—these fundamental necessities are too vital to the welfare of the nation to be organised and exploited merely for private profit. Without haste, but without rest, with careful preparation, with the use of the best technical knowledge and managerial skill, and with due compensation to the persons affected, the Labour Party will vest their ownership in the nation and their administration in authorities acting on the nation’s behalf.”

 How carefully guarded and appealing is the phrase “merely for private profit.” Private profit they want to keep in existence, but controlled by public bodies—that is the Capitalist State, with bondholders actually owning Government Securities floated to buy out the “public necessities.” “With due compensation to the persons affected” means that the owners will receive (with more security than competitive commerce affords) annual tribute from the unpaid labour of the working class. In other words, the Labour Party preserves the existence of an owning class living upon the non-owning class.

The Programme gives illustrations from modern State-owned services to show how similar are their proposals to the concerns run for profit to-day. One illustration they give us is the National Electricity Board established by the Conservative Government ! The policy of public or State-ownership of “public utilities” can be found in the Conservative programme, and it is one of the “advanced” objects advocated in the Liberal Industrial Report. No wonder the Manchester Guardian says of the new Labour Programme.

“The broad definition of objects will be found as acceptable, to most people outside the party as to those within it. Even when it comes to closer detail the draft contains very little which might not have been written by, say, the Liberal Industrial Committee.”

How thin is the veneer of Nationalisation in the Labour Programme can be seen from this clause :

“Even those industries which remain in the hands of private capitalists exist for the service of the community.

British industry, to-day, can secure the well-being for the mass of the population only if it consolidates its forces, eliminates waste, and calls in the resources of science and organisation.”

The State regulation of private industry is all that this means. And the reorganisation of industry along more efficient and less wasteful lines results, actually, in industry requiring less men to produce more wealth. A larger unemployed army is the magnificent result, and greater insecurity for those employed, who are continually being threatened by new machinery and “speeding up” methods. America, surely, is the ideal example of efficient industry—so efficient that, with greater output each year, fewer and fewer workers are required to run the machines, and a greater difficulty to sell the increasing output of rationalised industry.

Against this programme of private ownership and public control the Socialist advocates abolishing the cause of the slavery and poverty of the working class. The Socialist Party stands for abolishing State and private ownership, and replacing them by common ownership by the whole working community in the interest of the community of workers.

But that is not good election propaganda and vote-snaring material. Hence the Labour Party will have none of it ! They appeal to “all classes” with pills to suit all classes of reformers. Unlike the Communists, we do not offer an alternative programme of scores of reforms. Our Platform is simply Socialism—which makes all reforms of Capitalism fade into insignificance and uselessness.


(Socialist Standard, July 1928)

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