Editorial: The Coming Election
It would be a very dull person indeed who did not notice a certain something in the political air; a flurry of optimistic statements from members of the government, a series of sober suggestions which are supposed to help improve the world from the opposition. The two great political parties resemble nothing so much as a couple of shopkeepers who, anxious to attract the larger share of a spending spree, are frantically decorating their windows with every tawdry piece of tinsel they can find in their lumber rooms.
Mr. Harold Wilson, for example, recently made some proposals about disarmament. Speaking at Belper on 9th January last, he suggested, among other things; an international freeze on defence spending, restrictions upon the supply of nuclear weapons to the two Germanys, an agreement to ban all bomb tests. Now it is immediately obvious that there is absolutely nothing new about these suggestions. It is also obvious that they could equally well have come from any of the other capitalist parties and that in any case, because they take no account of the basic cause of modern war, they are quite impractical.
In the same way Sir Alec Douglas-Home, because he is the man in charge, must walk around with a perpetual sunny smile, as if the future were golden with hope. His New Year message held out the prospect of better schools, roads, houses, hospitals; exciting progress, splendid opportunity, and a great victory. The condition, upon which these hopes are based is, of course, the necessity for the electorate to show their gratitude for twelve years of Tory government, for the wage pause, for the housing difficulties, for the international crises, by sending a Conservative majority back to Westminster. The Tories will do all they can, by way of promises, to ensure that that is the result of the election. Lord Blakenham’s foreword to their last annual report pledged that the party’s policy committees “will strive, in the years ahead, to make whatever adjustments of policies may be needed so as to optimise their electoral attractiveness.”
The reason, we need hardly say, for all this frantic activity is that this is general election year—indeed, by the time this issue of the SOCIALIST STANDARD is in our readers’ hands it may well be that the date of the election has been announced and the battle has commenced.
There is no point in our trying to predict who will win—even if that were possible. But we can confidently forecast what will follow the election, whichever party forms the next government.
The working class will continue to struggle over their wages and other working conditions; in other words there will be more strikes and similar disputes. The government will attempt to hold wages in check and to persuade the working class that any rise they may have should be only a small one, and one related to a more intensive productive effort. There will be more tension on the international field—more clashes at places like Berlin, Cyprus, Borneo. There will be more conferences on how to ease these tensions and how to disarm capitalism. None of them will come to anything.
The working class, afflicted by the usual struggle to live, will become dissatisfied with their new government and may express this dissatisfaction by defeating government candidates in by-elections and replacing them with those of another party pledged to carry on the capitalist social system. This dissatisfaction is an inevitable part of capitalism because the problems which give rise to unrest are also part of the private property system.
The only solution to this calamitous muddle is the establishment of Socialism. It is simply not possible for any leader to make glamorous promises about that because the key to Socialism is the knowledge of the people who will set it up. In the election campaigns of the capitalist parties, knowledge is an alien word. How many people, among the mass who are hypnotised by the tinsel, will stand out by knowing and understanding and voting for Socialism?