1950s >> 1959 >> no-656-april-1959

The General Election

From a window in Stockwell, and doubtless many other places, can be seen two huge propaganda posters. One is from the Labour Party, the other from the Conservatives, side by side. With the election fever hotting up, old lies and newer lies (but mostly the same old lies) are poured out frantically in the quest for working-class votes. The one really major issue in the election, whenever it comes, will be, whether in the light of all their past experiences, workers will still be kidded into voting for the continuation of Capitalism.

For although this system robs the workers of the fruits of their labour, condemns many of them to live in barracks or slums, periodically murders millions of them in wars, while in peace time they live in fear of dole queues and the problems of hire-purchase and overtime, the ruling-class politicians know that if this system is to stay, workers must vote for it.

Counting 1945, there have been four General Elections since the war. At each one of these the excuses have been varied, but the problems have been the same.

If the Labour Government from 1945-51 had solved anything for the working-class they might still be in power. Instead, having accepted responsibility for running Capitalism, although they said in 1945 they were the high-wage party, they froze wages and broke strikes. They also launched the present arms build up and prepared the Atom-bomb. They stood for Nationalisation, but now that this policy of State Capitalism has disillusioned many workers and is no longer a vote-catcher they are having second thoughts. The Socialist Party of Great Britain have always pointed out that Nationalisation would change nothing for the workers but would guarantee an unearned income to bond-holders. Labourites are, however, gluttons for punishment and still think that Capitalism can be made to work in the interest of those it exploits.

So, with a black and inglorious past, their present poster reads: “Safeguard the Future with Labour.” Since the future envisaged by the Labour Party means that the present system will remain, the best safeguard for the working-class would be to understand their real position and bring about Socialism.

The seven years which have passed since the Conservatives took power have been the same as any other period under Capitalism. In 1951 they had a huge poster saying: “It’s Time for a Change at Westminster.” so the workers changed the office boys, but nothing else changed. Still war preparations (in the name of peace, of course) still attacks on wages, still strikes, and slums, pensions, prices and fear of dole-queues. Now they have a poster urging us—”Forward in Freedom with the Conservatives.” That word “Freedom” has a highly emotional ring about it and it might be appropriate to add that the workers will be making their usual mistake if they expect it from the Conservatives.

Freedom, whilst a privileged few own the means of living and the majority must hire themselves on the Labour market for wages in order to live, is a hollow mockery. Whilst the profit motive dominates every social relationship, and access to the things of life is determined by money and not by need, freedom will remain in its infancy. It is alright to say, as people so often do. that we are “more free here than they are in Russia,” etc., but the fact that our fellow workers in Russia have not yet obtained the very limited elbow-room workers have here only indicates that Capitalism is older and more experienced here than in Russia. It is no excuse for workers here to accept their shabby lot simply because elsewhere it may be worse.

So far as this election is concerned none of the reformist Parties—Labour. Conservative, or so-called Communist — has anything to offer worth a single working- class vote.

 

None of them challenge the existence of Capitalism. They all ask for voles on programmes based on continued Capitalism. Therefore since all the problems facing workers arise from Capitalism none of them has any answer. The S.P.G.B. alone challenges the present system. Our one object and sole programme is its removal and replacement by a Socialist system.

 

That we are not very strong in numbers is the fault of workers who, despite repeated disappointments, continue supporting Capitalist Parties. We are, however, contesting the election in the Bethnal Green constituency. We wish very much that more workers were Socialists so that we could contest more seats.

 

Meanwhile to make the best of present circumstances we must have funds. We get no large donations from trade unions or big business, but we are confident that as workers begin to realize the need for a real change our funds will grow in proportion to the growth of Socialist understanding.

 

Both the Labour and Conservative posters have pictures of children to underline the emotional level of their appeals. No understanding is necessary; just vote and they will do the rest. By coincidence, the two propaganda posters appear on the same display site as a notice of a “Clean Air Exhibition” but, unfortunately, the political smog put out by the two major Capitalist parties is not on the list for dispersal.

 

As the election draws near the promises will roll out faster and faster. As in the past, each Party will be trying to apply a thicker layer of sugar-coating than the other. The sad aftermath of every election is that workers find their diet of promises not very fattening.

 

It must be seriously understood also that Capitalism is international, so Capitalist parties which cannot solve so-called national problems internally, certainly have no solution for world problems brought about by the system they uphold.

 

All parties of Capitalism accept the national set-up, and when elected, form governments for the purpose of maintaining the interests of their national propertied class. It is this which bring the various nations into diplomatic and military conflict. When one ruling class feels that its possessions, such as markets, oil resources, trade routes or vested interests is threatened by some rival group, they call upon the propertyless workers to fight and die for them.

 

Capitalism sets workers at one another’s throats both nationally and internationally. Only the S.P.G.B. and its companion Parties appeal to workers as a world-wide class with common interest. The common interest of all workers is to end Capitalism with its poverty, insecurity, war, crime, and exploitation. The world can be run on a basis of commonly-owned means of production without wages or profits. The workers can run the world as they do now, only they do it for the few who own. To run it for the benefit of everyone means that they must first understand Socialism. The promotion of this understanding is the only worthwhile issue of the coming election.

 

Harry Baldwin