Editorial: The General Election
After five years of Labour Government the workers have shown what effect that experience has had on them by reducing almost to vanishing point the very large majority that the Labour Party had in the old Parliament. The Government may, for a period, continue a precarious existence, but it will do so representing a body of electors substantially smaller than the combined votes of Tories and Liberals.
The Labour Government is now in effect a minority government. In the past the professional politicians of the Liberal and Tory parties were used to the pendulum swing that put first one and then the other into office; but for the Labour Party the event is of vastly greater significance. For them it is the ominous writing on the wall, the visible proof of the sterility of their foundation policy. They believed that they could inspire more and more enthusiasm among the workers by the success with which they would—while retaining capitalism— tackle one by one the evils of the system. They believed that once they had become a majority government they would never look back. In their innocence they thought that Labour Governments live for ever. This election has proved the correctness of the S.P.G.B. case, that a Labour Government is powerless to make capitalism acceptable, let alone inspiring, to the workers. Labour reformism has done its utmost and has failed.
The second shock for the theorists of that Party has been the discovery that their other main plank, Nationalisation, has ceased to be a vote-catcher. It was the Tories who picked up workers’ votes by promising not to nationalise any more industries.
If the Labour reformists lost ground, the election has proved catastrophic for the Communist Party. In 1945 they ran 21 candidates (two of whom were elected), and polled a total of 102,710 votes. This time with 100 candidates in the field they lost the two seats and polled fewer votes, about 92,000 in all. Their average vote fell from nearly 5,000 to just over 900. If they had fought on the straight issue of Communism they could hardly have done much worse, but in fact they contested every seat on their own brand of reforms of capitalism, largely designed as an effort to outbid the reforms listed in the Labour Party programme.
The 1950 election also witnessed the elimination of the I.L.P. from Parliament, yet at one time that Party could boast that upwards of 200 of its members were in the House as Labour M.P.s. The I.L.P.’s chief contribution to politics was the belief that a Socialist objective could be combined with a reformist activity and the election of M.P.s who, backed by a non-Socialist electorate, would pave the way for Socialism. All their work of over half a century has served merely to put into office a Labour Government to which the almost dead I.L.P. is now in opposition.
There are many other aspects of the Election to which we shall return in later issues. All we need add now is to place on record that the working class have once more given their votes for the continuance of capitalism. They have yet to learn where their class interests really lie, and the coming years will show once again that capitalism offers no way out, not even any worth while alleviation, no matter what the complexion of the government by which it is administered.