1940s >> 1947 >> no-511-march-1947

The Changing Temper of the Workers

The industrial attitude of the workers since the Labour Government came to power strongly suggests a solid advance in appreciation of their wage-slave position; the stubbornness with which they advance their claims for better conditions, in spite of the appeals to desist from the leaders they placed in office, is an indication of growing class consciousness.

Immediately after the first world war the workers were also refractory, expressing their dissatisfaction with the leaders they had appointed and paid to work for them, in movements such as the Rank and File Movement. At that time the leaders were also appealing for a work speed-up and a shelving of wage claims and the like. But at least at that time the leaders formed part of the Government Opposition and had not the backing of the majority of the workers for the schemes they claimed would remedy the evils of the time.

How different is the position now! Less than two years ago the Labour Party obtained power by a sweeping majority, with a wagon load of nonsensical promises, but a mandate only to carry out their pettifogging schemes. In power they set about governing in the time dishonoured way, by jettisoning their promises and beseeching their supporters to got to sleep, hungry and homeless, whilst they prepared their five-year, ten-year, and fifty-year plans to make Capitalism run with the minimum of creak in the machinery. The revolutionary firebrands, Shinwell, Strachey, and others were metamorphosed by the tenure of Cabinet posts into the humble and contrite supplicants for the abandonment of industrial strife and the campaign for more hard work; whining for time to accommodate the lion and the lamb in peaceful and comfortable proximity. But the lamb has acquired a pleasant rumbling voice, powerful limbs, and a threatening attitude that is disconcerting to the advocates of submission. How far the lamb will go with his roaring and rending remains to be seen, and although we know he will not go as far as he could and should, at least he is making promising progress.

We are assured that the Government is deeply concerned with the interest of the community, but we notice that the Coal Crisis, which has brought suffering to thousands of workers, did not prevent the waste of fuel and labour involved in the Royal journey to South Africa for the customary soothing syrup tour, and members of the Government were able to tear themselves from their vital labours in order to attend the send-off. Talk of old Nero fiddling while Rome was burning, the Government were bowing and scraping and wasting fuel while London was freezing! Everything was arranged just as well as any other capitalist government would have arranged it; ships wasting tons of fuel, sightseers wasting vital traffic, and representatives of “Labour” wasting their time, though the latter is really nothing to shed tears over as they waste it anyway.

Right from the commencement of the Labour Government the workers have shown a determination to resist the attack upon wages and conditions that is very heartening in these dull times. We are particularly impressed with the steadfastness with which they have pursued a strike policy, striking again and again, in spite of the privations their actions have brought upon their families and their fellows, and with a total disregard of the solemn warnings about the imminent collapse of this rotten capitalist world.

One thing further may be said. The workers are receiving a salutary lesson in the futility of Labour politics which should go far to weaken their faith in programmes to reform Capitalism and in the parties that support these programmes. Maybe the time is not far distant when the workers will realise that is the Capitalist basis of society from which alone spring the evils that afflict them. From that point it will be a short step to the knowledge that their only hope of salvation lies in the establishment of Socialism.