1930s >> 1936 >> no-379-march-1936

Book Review: “Labour’s Way with the Commonwealth.”

Labour’s Way with the Commonwealth (Labour Shows the Way Series) Methuen, 2s. 6d. By George Lansbury
There are difficulties in criticising Mr. Lansbury’s writing. He writes in the first person and what he says could, in some instances, perhaps, be disclaimed by the official Labour Party.
The book under review, though it bears Mr. Lansbury’s name as author, has been written in collaboration with Raymond Postgate, Major Graham Pole and C. R. Buxton—the last-named alone wrote the chapter on the Colonies. The preface is characteristically Lansbury (so much so that the rest of the book appears to be mainly the work of the collaborators) and bristles with Biblical phraseology. He sees things “as in a vision the Kingdom of Heaven is within us ” . . . “ the rich young man went away sorrowful ’ . . . “ what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul.” Nice sentiments, of course, but very irritating to the reader looking for the facts and details of Labour Party policy.
Instead of details there are broad generalisations. The Labour Party believes in emigration, not pre-war emigration, but a new kind, the details and differences of which are left unstated. On Colonial policy there is similar vagueness and confusion of ideas. To quote from page 95: “What is it, then, that makes Labour policy distinctive? First of all, it is that Labour is alive to the historical fact of the part played by capitalist exploitation in the growth of the British Empire, and is determined to resist that capitalist exploitation to the utmost in the future . . .  A Labour Government will, therefore, make no compromise with policies which aim at accelerating the economic development of backward areas by methods which undermine the independence, the social institutions and the morale of their inhabitants, and which thus are injurious to both of them.”
Despite this the reader is told on page 93 that the Labour Party ”realises clearly that to go back on the past is impossible, that to disturb the structure unduly might cause far more harm than good to the people for whose welfare we are responsible,” There you have it both ways. The Labour Party are “determined to resist capitalist exploitation,” but the “structure” must not be “unduly disturbed.”
It looks as though the next Labour Government, like the last, will introduce a policy of “continuity.” Disappointment is in store for natives in the Crown Colonies and mandated territories who are expecting much from them.
Harry Waite

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