Mr. Cousins Damp Squib

What Mr. Cousins is after will leave the workers just as they are, the wage slave victims of capitalist conditions and subject to the threat of terrible wars, with or without the H-Bomb.

The Labour Party is in a turmoil—and the General Election is near. Mr. Cousins of the Transport and General Workers Union has thrown a spanner into the works. He has been pmaking quite a stir in the news by his opposition to the official attitude of the Labour Party on the H-Bomb and nationalisation.

Mr. Bevan has now become quite respectable as an official spokesman. Mr. Cousins has replaced him as the Labour Party rebel—the “leftist.” It is only farce that is played out every now and then with only a change in the personnel. Is there really any fundamental difference between Mr. Cousins and the leaders of the Labour Party?

He objects to the H-Bomb but supports the Labour Party, which is pledged to a defence programme. Millions were killed in the last war without the H-Bomb being used, but he does not support the only policy that will end war. He believes Mr. Gaitskell is sincere but that his policy on the H-Bomb will not be effective.

At the Transport and General Workers Conference in the Isle of Man Mr. Cousins dropped his bombshell. He is also reported as follows: “I have never believed that the most important thing in our lives is to elect a Labour Government. The most important thing is to elect a Labour Government that is determined to carry out Socialist policies.” (Daily Express, 10th July, 1959.)

Now what does he mean by “to carry out Socialist policies”? To him it means nationalisation—state capitalism. He objects to the official line on nationalisation—buying shares instead of the state taking over the industries. But to him. just as to them, state ownership is equivalent to Socialism. In other words, in spite of the long experience of state capitalism, he blindly accepts it as the fundamental aim, despite the disillusion and unrest in state owned or state controlled concerns and the labour struggles in them for better conditions.

Thus what Mr. Cousins is after will leave the workers just as they are, the wage slave victims of capitalist conditions and subject to the threat of terrible wars, with or without the H-Bomb.

In striking back at Mr. Cousins Mr. Gaitskell made some very significant statements. He made it clear that a Labour Government was not bound by the decisions of the rank and file of the Labour Party and that he was first and foremost a patriot. Here are some extracts from his speech at Workington on the 11th July, 1959:

“A Labour Government will take into account the views of the Conference, but, as was clearly demonstrated in the correspondence between Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee in 1945, annual conference does not mandate a government.
Both a Labour Government and the Parliamentary Labour Party must be left free to settle in matters of detail how and when the principles and decisions are to be applied in practice. This has always been understood in the past, and it must be clearly understood again today.” (Observer 12th July, 1959.)

Earlier in his speech he was even more emphatically the leader who would disdain the decisions of the Labour movement he claimed to represent:

“To give such a pledge [not to resume nuclear tests] might conceivably be to jeopardise the future security of our country, and that I will not do under any circumstances. Those of us who have the responsibilities of political leadership have to remember always that we shall be expected to stand by our pledges.”

We will not bother to remind him of the pledges the “political leadership” have broken in the past, but we can remind him that no one is forcing him to take the “political leadership” job. If he doesn’t like what the people who appoint him want him to do he can always resign his job and not fly in the face of their decisions. But that would be the democratic way and leadership is the antithesis of democracy!

Time and again we have pointed out that what the Labour Party was mainly concerned with was not principles but votes. This futile controversy has spotlighted it once again. Labour M.P.’s are wrathful and shaking in their shoes at thought of the effect this blow-up may have on their votes in the next election. That is their main and all-consuming worry. Even Mr. Cousins expostulates that his proposals will not split the Labour Party, and anyhow, he will abide by conference decisions—in spite of the prospect of dire calamity unless the H-Bomb is abandoned.

While the Labour Party storm may have a bad influence on their election prospects it will have no influence upon the subject position of the worker. Only Socialism can remove that subjection—and this has no place in the Labour programme, nor in Mr. Cousins’ outlook.


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