Editorial: The lull before the election
Now that the Prime Minister has given some indication of when the General Election will be held, perhaps we shall see something of a falling off in the hectic political activity which has been going on for the past few months. It would be difficult for any party to keep up the pace, the expense, and the interest of an electorate who, although they have everything to gain by taking an intelligent interest in politics, are generally apathetic to such matters.
If there is a lull, it will mean that the big parties will have to revise their strategy. The Labour Party’s costly “Let’s Go” campaign appears to have been timed for the maximum impact during a Summer election; on the evening of Home’s announcement, Labour secretary, Mr. Williams, ruefully speculated upon the expense which the later poll will cause his party.
Perhaps that was one of the effects which the Tories were hoping for. Or perhaps they are simply counting on something turning up between now and the Autumn to save them from what at present seems certain defeat. And perhaps it will. The history of elections does not encourage anyone to hope that the working class are proof against stunts or against being taken in by some issue in which they really have no interest.
It is typical of the modern Tories that they should put off the election until the last possible moment. Macmillan set the fashion for doing the politically dangerous thing and then blandly ignoring the consequent uproar. He did it over the spy trials, over the resignations of his Ministers, over the appointment of Lord Home (as he then was) as Foreign Secretary. And his party carried this on when they chose Home as their leader and delayed the opening of Parliament to give him a chance to become an M.P.
This not only shows the contempt in which the Conservatives hold the voters; it also shows their empirical determination to govern British capitalism, as it needs, day by day, to be governed. The Conservatives have always made a point of eschewing any political theories on the way to run capitalism and this has been much to British capitalism’s liking. It has also been much to the liking of the British working class, who have shown their gratitude for the contempt, for the Suez invasion, for the wage pause, for the housing situation and the rest, by faithfully returning Tory governments with ever increasing majorities.
Now, it seems, they are on the verge of electing a government of another party. Presumably, if the working class decide in the Autumn that the Labour Party should take over, they will do so in the belief that this will improve their conditions, or at any rate help to solve some of their problems.
There is nothing in the history of previous Labour governments to support this belief. Nor is there anything in.the programme upon which the Labour Party is preparing to fight the next election to support it.
The next Labour government—if there is one—will be as much the subject of dissatisfaction as were its predecessors. Workers will grumble about the cost of living, about their housing difficulties and other similar problems. There will be strikes over wages and working conditions, in spite of government appeals not to rock the boat. Pensioners will have a thin time of it. The fact that such problems as these—and many others—continue under a Labour government will probably depress and bewilder many of the people who so hopefully voted for it.
But the explanation is quite simple.
The Labour Party is an organisation which stands for capitalism. When it gets power it runs capitalism in basically the same way as the Conservatives or any other party. The problems of capitalism—war, poverty, insecurity—are therefore bound to continue under a Labour government.
The root of it all is the intentions and the desires of the voters. If the working class want to abolish war, if they want to get rid of the poverty which degrades and distorts their lives, they can do so.
All they have to do is to accumulate some knowledge of capitalism and of how Socialism, by abolishing the basis of capitalism, will also abolish its problems.
When they have got that knowledge the working class will reject all the political parties which stand for the continuance of capitalism. They will opt for Socialism—a world of abundance in which man, for the first time, will be free.