1960s >> 1961 >> no-687-november-1961

Editorial: Effective Democratic Control

Now that the last delegates have packed their bags, we may well ask what the whole palaver of the Labour and Conservative Conferences really amounted to?

They voted for and against many resolutions. The Labour Party reversed its support for unilateralism. The Conservatives surprised the pundits by heavily voting down a resolution in favour of whipping and the birch. They, all of them, passionately argued their points of view, and seemed to take themselves very seriously. But what did their votes add up to?

After their election defeat in 1959, the Labour Party debated how much say its Conference should have in deciding policy. They searched deep into their archives, digging up a lot of contradictory pronouncements on the question. At the end of it all, the Labour leadership stated bluntly that Annual Conference decisions did not necessarily commit the Parliamentary Labour Party. In effect a future Labour government would act as the needs of the day (i.e., British Capitalism) dictated. And if this meant—as in past Labour governments—breaking Conference decisions, it would be unfortunate but necessary.

Likewise with the Conservative Party (although they have never pretended that their Annual Conference should dictate policy). On the two main issues at Brighton—the Common Market and Penal Reform—there was a possibility that the Government’s policy would be defeated (as it turned out, it was upheld). The Party leaders made it clear, anyway, beforehand that they would not be deterred by any adverse decisions.

It seems reasonable enough to expect that majority decisions of political parties, as expressed at democratically convened conferences, should decide policy. But the Labour and Conservative Parties, both upholders of Capitalism, must take other considerations into account.

Capitalism can only be run in the interest of the Capitalist class. The majority of us—the working class—suffer the brunt of the system’s evils, which only Socialism will remove. Conservative and Labour Party delegates at their conferences, full with their pet reform measures, often take no account of the basic facts of Capitalism, which contradict the intention of their proposals. Inevitably, the Party leaders faced directly with the administering of Capitalism, will ignore their own followers’ wishes.

The leaders of the Labour and Conservative Parties arc concerned with the day to day running of British Capitalism. and their supporters are living in a dream world if they imagine that their grumbles and whims will radically change the direction of Government policy.

Further, it is not possible for Capitalism, with its commercial rivalries, its diplomatic intrigues, its “defence” secrets, etc., to be administered openly, for everyone to see. Socialism in contrast will be based on common ownership and democratic control. And democracy in this context will really be effective.