The General Election

After weeks of speculation and anticipation by newspaper political writers, Mr. Attlee announced the date for the general election, October 25th. It has been suggested that he might wait to make the announcement at the Labour Party Conference and thus stimulate some electioneering enthusiasm amongst the delegates, or that he might wail till after the Conservative Party Conference and so keep his political opponents guessing. All the time it was recognised that the Prime Minister would select a date for the election that would be as favourable to his party as possible.

One may well ask, “How can one date be more favourable than another?” There are many who give loyal and steadfast allegiance to one or the other of the main political parties and who can be relied upon to vote accordingly. There are many, many others who have no political tie-up and who will vote at the election according to the state of their liver, the personality of a candidate or the latest international scare. This is known as the floating vote and it is courted by all vote-catching parties.

To capture this floating vole strategy is employed. If through some action or some event, the stock of the political party that is in power rises and it is in favour with a large section of the community, then the time is favourable to invite re-election. Similarly, if for some reason the parties in opposition are temporarily in disgrace, the time is propitious to spring an election on them. If the opposing parties can be caught unawares or at a time when they are ill-prepared for an election campaign, so much the better for the Government party’s chances at the polls.

One thing is obvious from this, the whole business of an election, from the standpoint of the capitalist political parties, is a vote-catching affair. Policies are moulded to attract votes, candidates are selected with an eye on their vote-drawing abilities, and any manoeuvre that will entice or stampede working class voters to give support to one party or another, is considered legitimate.

In the past the Conservatives have scared votes away from the Labour Party by such devices as the “Zinovieff Letter incident” and the cry “They will take your savings.” At the last election the main tenor of the Labour Party’s campaign was a vague threat of the terrible things that the Conservatives would do if they were to get back into power. “Keep the Tories out,” was the cry.

Working class votes can only be juggled around in this manner whilst the workers themselves are ignorant of the manner in which they can use the political machine to serve their own interests. Whilst they can see no alternative to capitalism they will allow their votes to be shunted backwards and forwards at each general election. Many will treat the election just as they treat the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, taking sides according to their fancy, and others, hoping to gain something from the process, will support the party that makes the fairest promises.

Whether Mr. Attlee, by his selection of a date for this general election, has rung the changes on the Conservatives, we are not aware. One thing is certain though, he has outmanoeuvred his own party critics, Mr. Bevan and his supporters. Mr. Bevan, who has claimed that the Labour Party would do well to be out of office for a while, will now have to pull his weight to make the election campaign a success, unless he is prepared to retire from the contest. He has been rocking the Labour Party boat for a month or so past, now he will have to take a turn at the oars. If the Labour Party is defeated at the polls, then Mr. Bevan’s eloquent criticism will be diverted from his own party and he will thunder his condemnations from the opposition benches—at the Conservatives. From all angles he will be brought to heel.

This general election will be a contest between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. Nobody seriously considers a victory for smaller parties. The two giants have much in common. They are both parties of capitalism. They both adhere to the wages system, capital and property institutions. Faced with the problems born of capitalism, they work out a series of futile solutions and present them as a policy programme. In a world where masses of wealth are in the hands of a few, whilst the many have only just enough to live on, both parties are prompted to seek a remedy. They both claim to be in favour of some slight redistribution of property and oppose one another bitterly over their respective schemes. But see them join hands and bare their teeth when socialists suggest that it is not this slight redistribution of property that is required, but common ownership of the means of production and distribution.

The Conservative proposal is for what is termed a “Property owning democracy.” This boils down to a vague plan for helping more workers to buy their own houses. The implications are wider.

“A true property-owning democracy must be based upon the wide distribution of private property not upon its absorption into the State machine.” (“This is the Road” p. 14, Conservative Party, 1950.)

The Conservatives think that if everybody owns a little private property, if everyone has a stake in the property institution, then it is more likely that nearly everyone will continue to support a system based upon property ownership. Those who own the millions will feel that their system is safe if those who own the ha’pennies and pennies can be kidded that they are property owners too, and have a stake in the system.

The Labour Party would preserve the system of property by different means. Property would to some extent be taken out of the hands of private individuals and placed under the control of the State. The main difference being that the State manipulates the property on behalf of the private owners. The idea that this makes for a more equitable distribution of property arises from the mistaken notion that the State is an institution which represents society as a whole, whereas, in fact, it is an institution that has grown out of property society to serve the interests of the property owners and to maintain “law and order” in a society of class antagonisms. All property that is taken out of the hands of private capitalists and vested in the State is really placed in the hands of the capitalist class as a whole.

Even the Liberal Party, or what is left of it, although nobody is likely to take it seriously, has its solution to the “property problem.” Co-partnership in industry is the plan. Every worker has his little tiny bit of property and. of course, becomes a staunch defender of the private property system to the delight of those who own enough property to make it worth owning.

None of these schemes solves the workers’ problems. The process of development in capitalist society is for property to concentrate into fewer hands. Any crumbs that may be thrown to the workers will be to save them from getting so hungry that they threaten to take over the feast for themselves, and to encourage them to produce more of the good things for their masters.

The process of bringing certain industries under State control is not an original Labour Party idea. Governments composed of Conservatives, Liberals and Communists have instituted State control. Certain industries are essential to the operation of all others. All industries must use transport, must have coal, gas or electricity, need telephone and telegraph systems and a postal system. To have varying rates of charges in any one of these basic industries and to have the wastefulness and chaos of capitalists’ competition in them, is detrimental to all other industry. Centralised State control can eliminate most of the troubles. Conservatives will use it as well as Labourites, just as the Labour Party will adopt the Conservative “property-owning democracy” idea, under a different name, if it is considered a good vote catching stunt.

Now, as in 1950, you are asked to vote for one or the other of these parties. The details of their respective programmes differ but little from the programmes that they presented two years ago, and they differ but little from each other. The question of property is fundamental to all their other proposals and promises. Only those with no property are bothered by the housing shortage. Only those with no means of living except by finding employment are worried about unemployment. Only the wives of the propertyless are harassed by rapidly rising prices. Those with property do not fret over health services, sick pay and pensions. The problems of capitalist society are the worries of the propertyless workers. War, that outstanding problem of this century, arises directly from the property basis of present society. Wars are the result of the continuous struggle between groups of capitalists in their endeavours to accumulate more and more property.

At this election time the workers have nothing to gain by supporting either of the two main parties. They should oppose them both. All the items that fill the pages of their election pamphlets, housing, high prices, industrial disputes, food shortages, pensions, armaments, health service cuts, foreign policies, etc., all these have a common solution—the ending of the system that gives rise to them. Socialism is the only political creed worthy of working-class interest.

Property means ownership. Individuals, companies, cartels, trusts and-states own the means of producing the needs and comforts of life and dispose of these means to suit their own interests. They make them into capital, they invest them with a view to making profit and in the profit-making process the workers go to the wall, are kept poor and are called upon every so often to sacrifice life or limb in a war to make the property of one group of capitalists safe from the grasp of its rivals. Election time is the opportunity for the workers to show that they have had enough of their propertyless status and that they are determined to take the property away from its present owners, the capitalist class, and to transfer it to society as a whole.

With the means of production in the hands of society it can be used to produce the necessities, comforts and luxuries of life for all to enjoy, not for a privileged few. Wealth can then be produced for use and not for profit. That will put an end to all the pettyfogging vote-catching schemes of political parties because the problems they promise to cure will no longer exist. There will be no poverty, hence no housing problem, no unemployment, no overwork, no prices, high or low, no strikes. There will be people working to produce things and having the use of them when produced. There will be no wars as there will be no private property to fight over.

To the workers at this election we say. Do not be bamboozled into voting for the Conservatives because you think that with a Conservative Government the Labour Party will be more militant and that Trade Union officials will work better on your behalf. Do not be tricked into voting for the Labour Party because you think that it will be the lesser of two evils. Both parties support Capitalism and that is the evil. Do not think that Socialism is unattainable at present and so you are bound to vote for one of these capitalist parties. Socialism is only unattainable whilst you think that way. Pay attention to the Socialist Party of Great Britain which does not ask for your vote but for your understanding.

Capitalism will last just as long as you support it. The sooner you manifest your opposition to it the sooner will it be abolished.

We cannot hope to tell you enough about Socialism in this limited space but we will do everything in our power to help you to an understanding of your position in capitalist society and how to achieve a new society in which you can lead a secure and pleasurable life.

Capitalist politicians of all shades have been telling you for generations how their “practical” policies will solve your problems. You know whether they are solved or not. They will go on soliciting your votes at election after election with further “practical” policies. They will make you think that you are a most important person for a week or two before election day and promptly move the troops in on your job the day after if you strike for a little “practical” increase in your pay. That goes for Labour and Conservative, not to mention Liberal and Communist. The fact is that their policies are most unpractical as far as solving your problems js concerned. Time has shown that. The only practical solution is in the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. To that end we say, Do not vote for capitalist parties on October 25th but work with us for the overthrow of this system and the building of a new one that will be in keeping with our interest. As there is no socialist candidate in the field, abstain from voting. If you fear that your voting paper may be mis-used or if you want to give some expression to your zeal for Socialism, go to the poll and write “ Socialism ” across your ballot paper. It will at least indicate to our opponents that there is a rising tide of revolutionary feeling which will in time sweep away their rotten system with all its parasites and hangers-on. What have you to lose? Go to it.


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