Editorial: “The State Sweatshop”
The Conservative Party issued during May a statement of policy called “The Industrial Charter,” and a keen discussion at once arose as to whether all or only some of it was lifted from the Labour Party’s programme. The Daily Herald called it “an unappetising rehash of Labour’s progressive policies” (May 12th, 1947). The Times, in an approving comment on the same day, said that a striking feature of the Charter “is the area of common ground with the Government.” The Express disliked it because it is “simply another version of the old planned economy of the Socialists,” and the Chronicle liked it for the same reason—“Many of the Conservative proposals are common ground with the Liberals or even Labour.”
Much of the interest centred round Nationalisation. As Socialists (but not Labourites) expected, the Conservatives are not going to undo the main work of the Labour Government of extending nationalisation or State capitalism. They do not intend, if returned to office, to denationalise the coal industry, the railways or the Bank of England. All they propose is to “examine and modify the methods” by which the coal industry is now being managed, and restore “a wide measure of freedom” to sections of the road transport industry. (Daily Telegraph, May 12th, 1947.) On the Bank of England the Report says, :-
“We would not repeal the whole of the Bank of England Act, but we should re-examine the powers of the Bank to give directions to the commercial banks.”
On the other hand, the Report does oppose the nationalisation of iron and steel, a question about which Labour Party opinion is also to some extent divided.
In short, as nationalisation does not touch the foundations of capitalism, and as the capitalists themselves accept the need in their own interests to control big monopolies, the Tory Party is letting it be known that they will continue the Labour Government’s main schemes of nationalisation. The vague talk about re-examining the methods is partly a serious intention to modify the machinery of control but is put in chiefly as a sop to the more stupid die-hards, who cannot see that changes in the direction of increased State control are necessary to capitalism itself.
These questions are capitalist questions, and it is fitting to conclude by referring to the interest of the working-class. While Tories and Labourites squabble about which of them has been responsible for introducing the largest amount of nationalisation, a bit of working-class realism comes on the scene, from Post Office workers who have had enough experience to know what it means to its wage-slaves. The Daily Worker (May 13th, 1947) reproduced extracts from a telegram sent to the Post Office Workers’ Conference by the East Central District Office No. 1 Branch. It appealed to Conference to “reform the State sweatshop and ease our present plight.” With an eye on the Government’s work harder posters the telegram said, ‘‘We work and want.”