1940s >> 1947 >> no-520-december-1947

In the Sweet Bye and Bye

When the workers first won the franchise many of them voted for their masters out of a sort of feudal loyalty, and others were cheaply woo’d with flattery and petty bribes: only a few then saw that they had in their grasp the instrument to gain their emancipation. Then began a slow growth to political maturity. In the first stage workers went to the Liberal and Tory candidates seeking pledges of support for this or that measure, offering in return to give their vote to the candidate who promised most. Only slowly did the workers learn that a government that wishes to do so can discover numerous ways of evading an election pledge without having to make the candid admission that it was given merely to catch votes; and even when pledges were honoured the results were singularly below the expectation. Becoming more wary, the electors eventually ceased to believe in quick, easy remedies, and came to expect from the parties long, detailed and ponderous programmes promising painful reconstruction operations extending over several years, to be followed, some day, by a very nice time for all. Politically it might be called the Bog of the Sweet Bye and Bye, and we are up to our necks in it now. Behind it all is the way the world organises the production and distribution of wealth – the social system called capitalism.

Capitalism never did give security and prosperity to the workers and never did run smoothly; but now, when powers of production (and destruction) have so enormously increased capitalism is in ceaseless difficulties. Let any man or woman old enough to remember 1914 ask whether he or she ever knew as much as one three-year spell which did not include one or other of a major war, a post-war “work harder and eat less” crisis, or an “overproduction” crisis with millions unemployed. We are still in the bog of capitalism and shall be so until a majority can be won over from Labourism and Toryism to Socialism.

In 1945 millions of workers thought a Labour-Government would find the way out. The number who think so is much smaller now as was shown by the heavy swingover of votes from Labour to Tory in the recent local council elections. At the General Election in 1915 the Labour Party statement “Let us Face the Future,” said:

“The Labour Party makes no baseless promises. The future will not be easy. But this time the peace must be won. The Labour Party offers the nation a plan which will win the Peace for the People.”

That was two-and-a-half years ago. How fare the people now? Working harder, eating less, getting day by day shabbier, they face cheerless austerity with nothing more inspiring than still more plans to replace those already scrapped, more promises about the good time coming, and more nauseating sermons from Sir Stafford Cripps about the beauty of spiritual things.

What has caused the crisis, the disillusionment, the decline of the Government’s popularity? There is no difficulty about finding the answer. This is always and everywhere the fate of Labour Governments, with their well-meant but futile policy of trying to make capitalism work. The loss of Labour votes at the council elections in Britain coincided with the smashing defeat of the Labour Government in the State of Victoria, Australia. There the issue which reduced their seats from 32 to 16 and turned them out of office was the plan of the Federal Labour Government to nationalise the commercial banks. Having at first thought that nationalisation is a better way of running-capitalism, some years, of trying it convinced them – as it will convince voters in Britain – that nationalisation makes no difference; so they voted against more nationalisation. There are no “better ways” of running capitalism.

Trying to run capitalism, forces a Labour Government to do all sorts of obnoxious things that they condemned Tory Governments for doing. The Labour Government retains military conscription in peacetime, reintroduces industrial conscription in the form of direction of workers to essential industries, lets the price of necessities rise while opposing wage increases, demands harder work and more austerity, uses troops in strikes, keeps an army of occupation in Germany and stores up hatred by keeping German prisoners of war here as slave labour. Opposition to all of these evils is now left to Tories, Liberals and a handful of rebel Labour M.P.s. As the Salvation Army used to say about Church hymns, the Labour Party evangelist now has the mortification of hearing all the best tunes sung by the Tory devil.

In a recent speech Mr. Arthur Horner, Communist General Secretary of the Miners’ Union, looking at the present muddle, said he could not help thinking that perhaps Mr. Churchill at the General Election deliberately spoiled the Tory campaign so that the Labour Party would have to handle the post-war troubles and earn all the odium and loss of prestige inseparable from being the Government in power. If Churchill backed that horse he was on a sure thing. The S.P.G.B. could and did foretell that outcome long before the election. It is not difficult to foresee, once the nature of capitalism is understood; and after understanding the nature of capitalism follows, the determination to abolish it and introduce Socialism.

Before leaving Mr. Homer’s speculation about Mr. Churchill’s supposed plot a certain obvious comparison leaps to the eye. If Mr. Churchill did indeed plot a Labour triumph as the sure way to disruption of a Labour Party caught in the toils of capitalism, it provides an intriguing comparison with the well-known but now never admitted “fifth column” tactic hidden behind Mr. Homer’s own party’s professed friendship for the Labour Party. Socialists do not treacherously profess friendship but openly oppose the Labour Party, because the only way out for the working class is to establish Socialism. To reject Labourism in favour of setting up totalitarian State Capitalism on the Russian model would indeed be to jump from the frying pan into the fire.

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