Party Politics

There is a well-known series of advertisements which advise any young man who has his eye on a girl looking like a model from Vogue that his chances are much improved by wearing a suit from a certain mass production tailor. When the competition is stiff, we are told, appearance counts. Political parties learned this lesson long ago; with a general election expected during the next few months they are all busily straightening their ties, smoothing their hair and adjusting their buttonholes.

Take-Over Bid
The Labour Party has been trying to make something over the recent spate of take-over bids, which forced up some share prices and yielded a nice profit to those shareholders who sold at the right time. In the House of Commons on 29th June, Mr. Harold Wilson moved a Labour motion which described takeover bids and excessive speculation as undesirable. He attacked the “golden handshake” which displaced directors receive and contrasted this with the compensation which a redundant miner or mule spinner could expect. A simple soul would conclude that the Labour Party really opposed the privileged access to wealth which is part and parcel of capitalism. Yet what effect did their last period of rule have on this problem? At a meeting in Leeds on 3rd May, 1953—two years after the fall of the Labour Government—Mr. Hugh Gaitskell stated that there were 9 million people with an annual income of less than £500—and two thousand who were getting at least £20,000 a year.

The H-Bomb
The Labour Party is also in something of a fix over the hydrogen bomb. Several large trade unions have decided in favour of Great Britain abandoning nuclear weapons and it seems safe to say that a lot of Labour Party members think likewise. But there are two big snags. Firstly, the Labour leaders probably feel that, if the unilateral and unconditional renunciation of the bomb were adopted into their programme, they would certainly lose the election.

Secondly, if they did decide to abandon the bomb and then won the election, the diplomatic emergencies of British capitalism could force them to break their promise. Mr. Bevan, who fancies himself as a Labour Foreign Secretary, has summed it up, by pleading that he did not want to be sent naked into the international conferences.

To overcome these problems, the Labour Party have revised an idea which they rejected some seven months ago; they will try to get an agreement with countries which have no bomb, or are about to test one, not to test, manufacture or possess nuclear weapons. Nothing in the history of disarmament conferences encourages us to think that this scheme would solve the problem of nuclear warfare. Indeed, the Labour Party recognise that France and China want a bomb of their own and “we can hardly deny these nations the right to follow our example.” Apart from this, Russia and America would keep their nuclear weapons and American bases—presumably armed with hydrogen bombs and missiles—would still be allowed in this country. In straightforward, human terms the problem of the hydrogen bomb is simple—to destroy ourselves or to live. But organisations like the Labour Party, which have the responsibility of running British capitalism, cannot judge things in human terms. That is why their statement ends with “. . . we realise the importance of not tying the hands of a future Labour Government or committing them to any precise or detailed diplomatic plan.” If British capitalism needs it, Mr. Bevan will have his nuclear clothing, even if a lot of human beings lose their skin as a result.

Lest we forget, the Tories have also been putting on the style. Apart from having their laugh at the Labour Party’s difficulties, they have been throwing some meaty blows of their own. Replying to Mr. Wilson on 29th June, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the numbers of registered unemployed had fallen to 413,000. This was harsh medicine to the Labour Party, for they once gave a lot of heavy warnings about the Tories deliberately provoking unemployment. But most workers, whatever other problems capitalism may dump on them, are happy in their work; the decrease probably meant a lot to them. The Chancellor did not mention that 413,000 unemployed is still about 150,000 more than when the Tories took over; to have done so would have been out of keeping with the joy of the occasion. And the Tories are joyful; even confident, as the days go by and the statistics come in and Labour squabbles with itself and Mr. Macmillan seems more and more in control of things, more and more elegant and, but for the grey hairs, almost like the young man who gets the girl in the tailor’s advertisement.

At the next election, the working class will decide which party’s appearance is the most appealing and we shall have a Labour or a Conservative government and capitalism will stay with us. Some voters think that only certain politicians make a mess of things; in fact, the whole of the capitalist system is a mess. It is working class ignorance and apathy which keeps that mess there; and, ironically, it is the working class who are left to pick the bones out of it.


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