1960s >> 1962 >> no-698-october-1962

Editorial: Labour’s Prospects

Now that it is Conference time for the Labour Party once more, one question will occupy the minds of its members. What are their prospects of returning to power? For some of them, we hope, another question will be even more important. What will a Labour government be worth, to the working class of this country and of the world?

Mr. Gaitskell seems to think that he has an election winner in the Common Market. Judging that the government will find it difficult to put over the idea of abandoning the Commonwealth preference system to join Europe, the Labour leader is demanding that a general election be held before Great Britain commits itself either way. This attitude is justified with some blatantly jingoistic arguments. Some Labour leaders now talk of the British Commonwealth as affectionately as does Lord Beaverbrook. Gone are the days when the Labour old timers scorned the British Empire as a great exploit of capitalist imperialism.

This brings us to our second, and more important, question. Would a Labour government benefit the working class? Some pioneers of the Labour Party used to think that it stood for peace, security and prosperity. That was their dream. What is the reality?

Peace? One of the first jobs of the Attlee government was to represent the British ruling class at the Potsdam conference. Here the leaders of the victorious Allies drew afresh the frontiers of Europe, carving up Germany and dividing Berlin. We all know that these are now among capitalism’s sorest spots. If they should erupt into World War III the Labour Party will stand foursquare behind the war effort of British capitalism.

Security? It was the Attlee government, again, which condoned the A-bomb attacks upon the two Japanese cities, which started the programme to make a British H:bomb and a fleet of missiles to deliver it.

Prosperity? The sternest government restrictions on wages since the war were those imposed in the Cripps wage freeze. And when the freeze was not as successful as they had hoped, the Labour government indirectly cut wages by devaluing the pound. Since then, Labour leaders have often boasted that, because they have such strong connections with the trade union movement, they would be better able to control wages than a Conservative government would. Mr. James Callaghan, who is the Labour Party’s shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, touched on this last August when he spoke to the Yorkshire miners’ summer school. According to The Guardian of 28th August. 1962 he “. . . hinted yesterday that a Labour Government would limit the freedom of wage-fixing together with the freedom to fix prices, dividends and rents.”

A future Labour government, then, would he as keen to protect the interests of the British capitalist class by holding wages in check as is the Tory government we have at present.

There are other reasons for deciding that no worker should waste his time by voting for a Labour government. The Labour Party did none of these things because they lacked knowledge, or had the wrong leaders or for any of the other excuses which are offered to explain away the melancholy records of capitalist governments. They acted as they did because they are a capitalist party, which aims for power to run British capitalism. And no party has yet succeeded in doing that to the benefit of the great majority of the people.

Workers everywhere—who are the majority-should see through the false propaganda of the Labour Party and of the other organisations which stand for capitalism. There is an alternative to them all. Socialism will bring us a world of peace and plenty That is a world worth working for, because it is a world worth living for.