1940s >> 1945 >> no-491-july-1945

Editorial: This Phoney Election

Voters who try to interpret the issues in the election by studying the more flamboyant utterances of the Party leaders may well wonder what it is all about. For five years the Labour leaders, endorsed by the overwhelming vote of their Party Conference, at the outset, have worked in the Government with the Tories in furtherance, as they claim, of the war for democracy. Then suddenly they part company and instantly Mr. Attlee finds that Churchill’s proposed referendum on the continuance of the National Government is “alien to all our traditions,” though it comes from the man who was claimed by the Labour Party to be the embodiment of the British tradition, and that it is a device “which has only too often been the instrument of Nazism and Fascism.”
Then in his first election broadcast Mr. Churchill retorts that “ Socialism)” by which he means the (State Capitalism of the. Labour Party, threatens us with a “Gestapo in Britain.” “Socialist policy” declared Mr. Churchill, “is abhorrent to the British ideas of freedom. It is inseparably interwoven with totalitarianism and the abject worship of the State.”—( Daily Express, June 5, 1945).
From which the innocent looker on may deduce that the “war against totalitarianism” has been conducted by Tories who are in favour of it and by Labourites who are in favour of it, and that whichever wins the election totalitarianism—ended in Germany—will be firmly established here.
Another equally phoney issue of the election is the alleged gulf of principle between the Labour Party, which seeks some form of State Capitalist ownership or control of certain industries, and the Conservatives and Liberals who are supposed to be opposed to it. Yet the nationalisation of the postal, telegraph and telephone services and the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board . . .  and similar monopolies by Act of Parliament were the work of Liberal and Tory Governments; and it was Mr. Churchill who in 1918 declared in a speech at Dundee that the policy of the Government of which he was a member was the nationalisation of railways.—(Times, December 5, 1918.)
Mr. Churchill declares that the election is a fight between individualism and Socialism and between his own Party and the “Socialist Party.” By individualism he means capitalism, which has, however, long since got past the stage of a competitive struggle between independent small capitalists and gone over increasingly to giant monopolies.
The Labour Party, equally anxious to misrepresent the situation, accepts Mr. Churchill’s “terminological inexactitude” that they are a socialist party and declares in its Election Declaration (“Let us Face the Future“), “The Labour Party is a Socialist Party and proud of it”—and then proceeds to give us a blue-print of the State Capitalism that they propose to retain and develop.
Lord Croft, Parliamentary Under Secretary for War, even more wildly inaccurate thau his leader, Mr. Churchill, discovered that the in fact always anti-Marxist Labour Party, “wish to impose upon the British people the crude ideas of the German Marx.”—(Evening Standard, 24th May, 1945) and reached a peak of falsification in the further remark that Marxism is “not so very different” from Nazism. He quoted a declaration by a prominent Hitlerite that Nazism was “Socialism” but forgot to add Hitler’s own repeated claim that it was based on the total rejection of Marxism. Lord Croft might more accurately have said that in respect of rigid controls Nazism has not been far different from the controls imposed in this country during the war by the Tories, Liberals and Labourites in the National Government.
The Liberal Manchester Guardian accurately appraises the smallness of the differences between the three largest parties. Criticising Mr. Churchill, the Guardian says:— 

   “Because it (the Labour Party) proposes a relatively modest programme of public ownership he leaps to extravagance about totalitarianism and the Gestapo. He would be more convincing if he got to grips with things: if, for instance, he showed why Major Lloyd George’s ‘Central authority’ for coal is likely to secure greater efficiency than Labour’s ‘National authority,’ why Mr. Hudson’s plans for regulated food imports are better than Mr. Bevin’s, why the Government’s national insurance scheme is better than the Beveridge plan, why Mr. Lyttleton’s ideas on the curbing of monopoly are sounder than Mr. Dalton’s. But that, as Mr. Churchill knows, would give the game away. Good rotund eloquence meaning nothing in particular is far safer.”—Manchester Guardian,” June 5th, 1945.)

The I.L.P. which in recent years has boasted that it had for ever shed its old illusion, was back again where it started, pleading to be allowed into the Labour Party—a plea that was rejected.
The Communists, having temporarily pigeonholed their year-long claim that the Labour Party is “the third capitalist party” is backing that Party in most constituencies though at Rhondda East, Pollitt, the Communist candidate, is running against a Labour Party nominee who is backed by the S. Wales Miners Federation the President of which, Arthur Horner, is himself a leading Communist.
No doubt the real reason for the election is simply that since an election had to come sometime the Conservative Party wanted to get in quickly before the workers had had time to taste the bitter fruits of victorious peace. As caretakers of capitalism they need re-election to handle the difficult capitalist problems during the adjustment from military war to trade war and they count on gaining a majority.
Reading between the lines it seems likely that a Conservative victory will be received with relief at Labour Party headquarters since if the Labour Party happened to win no one would be more embarrassed than themselves.
We confidently make one electoral prophecy. Whatever the result capitalism will be safe because the majority of the working class are not yet Socialists. Whether capitalism has a little less state control with the Tories or a little more with the Labour Party is not an issue that ought to concern the working class. When they know their own class interests they will make the issue Socialism versus Capitalism as the Socialist Party is doing in North Paddington. Our campaign in North Paddington is the beginning of the real electoral fight for the emancipation of tho working class.

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