1950s >> 1952 >> no-573-may-1952

Workers Beware—Or the Withered Labour Party

As was to be expected the Labour Party in opposition is looking around for means and ways to regain power. Having put their programme into practise and been thrown out of office after six years they must find something new, or at least something that looks new. When in opposition there is no time to lose, preparations must begin at once for further wool pulling and political scheming in order to get back, and who should be first to see the necessity of this than that worthy journal with “Forward with the People ” as its slogan—the Daily Mirror. A month or so ago this paper drew attention to the fact that the Labour Party’s aims had been put into operation and they now needed a new plan to meet the challenge of the times. On Monday, 25th of February, a series of articles entitled “Whither Labour” began in the Daily Mirror. These were written by ex-ministers of the late Labour Government and Mr. Sam Watson, a member of the National Executive of the Labour Party. We will review these articles here to show how empty they really are and how unworthy of working class support First let us stress that the very need for a new programme shows the futility of the first one. But if nationalisation and all the other past reforms, designed to bring better times and upheld as the cure for all ills by the Labour Party, have proven fruitless, what indication is there that they can dream up something new to solve workers problems?

Mr. Morrison and “Social Justice.”
The first contributor was Mr. Herbert Morrison who made a great deal of play with “social justice” but skilfully avoided telling us what it is. He said social justice is as much part of our defence as “planes, warships and guns” so perhaps he had in mind the prosecution of the dockers last year by Sir Hartley Shawcross under order 1305 or the banishment of Seretse Kahma or may be he thinks the record-breaking profits under Labour rule alongside the wage freeze policy was socially justified. Mr. Morrison goes on to gloat about “publicly owned industries, the great health and social services,” but fails to mention that despite these things the mass of the workers still live in poverty. Unemployment is creeping back and wars are still going on in which Britain is involved. He then says something quite funny which he should know is not true:—“What we were doing was new” as if Britain was the first capitalist country to go in for nationalisation, in fact all of these things had been done years before in Germany or Denmark, Australia or New Zealand, Russia or Italy and in many other countries sometimes by avowedly capitalist governments but in not one instance did they alter the lot of the masses. Just like the Tories he stresses the need to export and “rearm to protect the freedom we have won over the centuries.” One might almost think Mr. Churchill had written this. The freedom such as it is has not been won by re-arming or going to war but by bitter battles between workers and capitalists here at home. The right to strike or even form trade unions, the right of free assembly, even the vote, were not obtained by bloody wars in other countries but in the class war in this one. The big “if” on which Mr. Morrison pins the Labour Party future is whether they can kid the workers to sink their differences with the capitalists and think of the nation “as a whole” a “socially inspired community,” the workers working as usual and the capitalists, state and private, playing their important rolls by hogging 90 per cent. of the accumulated wealth.

Then Mr. Gaitskell
Mr. Gaitskell wrote the second article which appeared the next day. He right away declared himself to be in favour of increased efficiency. Workers must scrap “all restrictive methods and practices” if we are to achieve “a peaceful world, a steady job, a decent house and rising living standards:” these are “the things that really count.” Weird indeed is the fact that six years of Labour government have not removed the need for these things. Who says the Labour Party was once really anti-war? Mr. Gaitskell declares he “supported rearmament in the 30’s” and he maintains that arms are the way to lasting peace.

This Labour leader also urges us “to work together for the common good.” At the end of his article he shows that he knows the Labour Party is sunk “unless we first win over a million doubtful voters:” he might well explain what made them doubtful in the first place.

Bevan the “Rebel”
The third writer was that bloodcurdling rebel Mr. Aneurin Bevan. From him, the “leftest of left,” many workers may have looked for something different, but no it was the same old song being sung, only off-key. Political parties must be ready with the right “kind of action required in the national interests at any time.”

He engages in the usual mock battles with the Tories and private enterprise, though Mr. Gaitskell had said the day before “smaller businesses will need help in finding capital,” so perhaps they should have got together to see which it is to be.

Mr. Bevan makes an observation made by the S.P.G.B. years ago that we are “faced with the prospects of semi-starvation, if not actual hunger, at a time when the physical sciences dazzle us with their achievements.”

He stated that “the pursuit of profit failed to ensure the provision of essentials first and secondary things afterwards,” but how empty all this vote-catching becomes when we read on—“ If the community is to survive, then investment must be compelled to follow the discipline of long-term planning.”

Capital must be controlled, for capitalists when on the loose compete and in time of crisis this does harm to “national interests,” so they must be collectively looked after.

The Labour Party only left office in October last after six years of power, yet Mr. Bevan tells us “Private enterprise has failed to make sure that our manufacturing capacity is matched by a flow of the necessary raw materials. Thus unemployment and short time working are once more showing themselves in our midst, and this has been aggravated by a rearmament programme of impracticable proportions and unrealisable speed.”

He forgot that he was a member of the Government which brought in the arms programme, but then he only objects to its “proportions” and “speed,” not to its existence. The rest of the article shows his deep concern for the welfare of British capitalism. He challenges the Americans’ right to world leadership on the ground that Britain is looked to to provide those counsels “for which she is fitted by her experiences and her sacrifices.”

Labour Supporters are not Socialists.
The miners’ secretary in Durham, Mr. Sam Watson, came next and although this gentleman is also a member of the Labour Party National Executive, we must bear in mind when reading what he says the fact that trade unions came into existence to fight the capitalist class in the economic field. Like those who wrote the previous articles, Mr. Watson starts with the Nation and ignores class divisions, but what he says further on must come as a shock for all who expected or expect great things of the Labour Party. It drives home full-swing the accuracy of the Socialist Party’s claim that there can be no Socialism without mass-understanding. After forty-five years of the Labour Party in and out of office he says, “It is wishful thinking to believe that there are millions of people in the country, especially in the trade union movement, who are ‘raring’ to go forward for the kind of society Labour wants, and are held back like dogs on a leash only by right-wing leaders in the union or in the Labour Party.” And again: “We deceive ourselves if we refuse to face up to the fact that hundreds of thousands of people in the Labour movement have either no knowledge, or only limited knowledge, of the causes of the present grave situation.” Surely Mr. Watson can understand their ignorance, for when has the Labour Party ever made any effort to teach them?

He is typical of the people who sneer at the S.P.G.B. because it is small and insists on understanding. Perhaps this is a good lesson in where mass membership without understanding leads to. Socialists have always said that votes cast for something other than Socialism cannot bring it about. Mr. Watson, just coming to, says, “We had the largest vote in the history of the party in 1951, but it was not secured on a basis of fundamentally changing our economy, but in the belief that if the Tories won they would immediately proceed in principle to cut down the standard of living and might even increase the danger of war.” Votes cast out of fear and ignorance will never solve anything, yet throughout the election this is exactly the kind of vote the Labour Party sought. It is now an established fact also that the late Labour Government made preparations for atom bombs here in this country. How they must blush when they call the Tories “warmongers”! Like those who wrote earlier Mr. Watson hopes for the sinking of class differences, greater efficiency and cheaper production to keep or capture “the markets of the world.” “Fair shares for all” is still to be Labour’s call and those words echo down the corridors of time as Labour Governments come and go without effecting any change in the distribution of wealth.

The “Daily Mirror’s” Contribution.
Having heard from the brains of the Labour Party on Friday, 29.2.52, the Daily Mirror made its own contribution for our enlightenment. Their writers notice that the number of skilled workers is “going down,” which they say is a “disastrous trend.” They first claim credit for having “supported the Labour Party in its struggle to achieve certain declared aims— fair play and fair shares for everybody,” and then they have the nerve to ask “why at the last election the people of Britain rejected a Labour Government”! The answer is simple: they didn’t bring home the bacon. The Daily Mirror can talk about a greater say in industry for the workers and advocate a greater sharing of the wealth produced, but while Capitalism remains, profit making is the motive for production, and the more workers get the less there is for the capitalists, and this would never do. If all the old men in responsible positions in the Labour Party were replaced by younger men the capitalist class would still own the means of living and workers would still be subjected to this as wage slaves, for, high wages or low, the people who pay wages still live on profits sweated for by those who receive wages.

By facing storms the Daily Mirror thinks that “Labour can become a really great NATIONAL party.”

We already have one National Party, but if what this newspaper is getting at is the fact that there is nothing to choose from, we agree. The history of Capitalism has been one of crises, yet the Labour Party have not learnt to do otherwise than to try and patch it up.

A little later on (March 11th) an article entitled “Short Time” appeared in the same paper. Remembering all the social reforms and the “benefits” of six years’ Labour rule this article tells us of the 8,000 workers on short time in Oldham where a family of six exists on £5 13s. a week and have only 18s. 9d. to spend on “milk, meat, fish, gas, electricity, fares and clothing.” They are on short time, says the writer, Claud Morris. After being used to working overtime they work for three days a week at £3 10s., and make it up with unemployment money and family allowances if they have children.

The mill went on short time “because of lack of orders.” All the “industrial efficiency” and “economic planning ” in the world cannot abolish the problems of Capitalism. While politicians here are cooking up schemes to extend trade and capture markets, the politicians of Japan, China, Russia, America and the rest of the world are doing the same. In the final throw, trade routes like the Suez Canal, raw materials such as Malayan rubber, and Persian oil, and the markets of the world have to be retained or obtained by force. The wars of Capitalism, past, present and future, are not in the interest of the working class because they own neither the raw materials, the trade routes, nor the markets.

During the same week that saw publication of the articles, Mr. Attlee, Prime Minister of the late Labour Government, was writing a series of articles in Labour’s own, the Daily Herald. These were on the same lines as the others mentioned, and equally empty.

“The positive remedy is to increase our exports.” We have already seen where this leads. “We must cut down our imports, especially from dollar countries. This means going without some things, but we shall have to put up with this.” We don’t have to re-elect Labour to be told this; the Tories are already doing it. To draw any loose ends together it might be as well to bring to our reader’s attention that the whole lot of articles in both newspapers never once mentioned the phrases “working class,” “capitalist class,” “Socialism,” “fellow workers,” or “workers of the world, unite.” They are concerned with running Capitalism and all their ideas, old and “new,” are in line with that basic fact. One final stunning blow to Labour leaders who brag of their achievements while in office and who are trying hard to trick their way back, is their contribution to the housing problem, the building of the Festival of Britain. As a party which alleges concern over workers’ problems and affects to blame shortages of materials for their failings, they stand indicted.

Nobody can say we are being wise after the event, for we state that their future programmes will fail and we know why. There is no way of running Capitalism beneficially to the masses and without war, slumps and crises. To abolish Capitalism is the only way to peace, plenty, happiness and security. Socialism is the solution, common ownership of the means of life and production for use the world over. Socialism is the solution and the urgency for its establishment is now. So don’t be fooled, fellow workers. It’s your votes they are after. Socialism requires your understanding. It may be a long road, that depends on you, but until you bring about Socialism you have nothing to look forward to save a fate worse than death and lots and lots of promises.

H.B.

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