1960s >> 1968 >> no-769-september-1968

Another Lot of Insurrectionists

As the Labour Party and the so-called Communist Party become discredited and workers become more and more disillusioned with these parties in their futile efforts to run capitalism, it is vitally important to clearly present the socialist alternative. The emergence of self-styled leftwing groups is as dangerous to workers as that of their right-wing counterparts. If workers get bogged down with these organisations another generation could be wasted in the futile pursuit of petty issues and in swapping leaders.

One such organisation operates under the unwarranted title of “International Socialism”. Their errors are basically the same as those of the Bolsheviks fifty years ago.

During the general elections of 1964 and 1966 they were urging the return of the “biggest possible Labour majority”. For them this was a tactic because they knew that a Labour government would act “against the organised working class movement”, but they argued that out of the struggles against the attacks made by the Labour government “can and will come the development of a powerful force for socialism”. After four years of Labour government we are witnessing 17 per cent swings to the Tories in by-elections. Far from developing socialist ideas the confusion and despair resulting from Labour-run capitalism has helped to foster racist attitudes.

In 1966, even though they knew what the Labour Party’s policy was, they lamely suggested:

Every Labour candidate should be pressed to give commitments on at least the following four points:
1.    All out opposition to shackle the unions through new laws.
2.    Total opposition to the leadership’s support for the Americans in Vietnam.
3.    Opposition to the Immigration White Paper and its support for controls.
4.    Full support for workers fighting a coercive incomes policy in defence of their living standards.

They knew there would be laws to shackle unions. They knew that Labour supported the American government in Vietnam. They knew there would be race laws. They knew there would be a coercive incomes policy. Now we have all these things and IS are helped to give the Labour government its big majority to be able to enforce them.

How naive they were to ask Labour candidates to give “commitments”. Labour candidates are already committed to party policy and vetted by Transport House. If the working class are prepared to vote Labour they vote for official policy. Any undertaking outside this is worthless. IS admit that Labour candidates are controlled by Transport House as they give instances of two whom the party executive refused to endorse because they would give no “written undertakings to make no public criticism of any aspect of government policy until after the General Election”.

Referring to racist attitudes, they say:

If Enoch Powell has done one thing he has revealed just how little socialist consciousness exists today. We have to go back to square one and argue the ideas and theories of socialism to the people in the factories, the docks, the offices and on the vast council estates.

For socialists it did not take Powell to reveal the lack of socialist consciousness among workers. This has been evident all along and voting Labour has been one aspect of it. As to arguing socialist ideas this is just what IS consistently fails to do. Despite the admitted lack of socialist consciousness they claim, in the same issue of their journal, in a reference to France “revolution in the advanced countries is the order of the day”. But the first lesson to be learned at square one is that there can be no Socialism without Socialists.

During the last election in discussing war preparation they said

  The Defence Review follows the pattern of the whole Labour policy, complete subservience to the most reactionary capitalist interest. Despite the fact that one in six of the population of this country live in poverty, the government like its Tory predecessors has callously decided that defence should continue to be the largest single items of government expenditure, over 26 per cent.

Knowing this they still urged the suicidal folly of voting Labour. They also stated quite clearly, on the penal clauses of the Prices and Incomes Act, that these involved fines of up to £500 and possible imprisonment for trade unionists who threaten to strike while a pay claim is in the hands of the Prices and Incomes Board. And yet, confronted with this outrageous piece of anti-working class legislation, they still worked and voted for Labour’s return.

So far as IS are concerned, all this support of Labour candidates is just so much mockery and make-believe anyway as they have only contempt for political democracy and contempt, therefore, for the workers’ ability to understand Socialism. Socialist Worker, for June 1968, looking at the local council election results declared:

It is clear that working class voters who have probably never voted for a Tory in their lives before consciously crossed the party line last month. Socialists now have a major battle on their hands if they are to recapture these working people for Socialism—for a real socialism that goes beyond the ballot box and the empty ritual of parliamentary elections and poses the question of workers’ power in Britain.

What utter confusion! Workers who vote Tory were never socialists in the first place so cannot be “recaptured”. When they start to understand Socialism it will be for the first time. This is the aftermath of their “big Labour majority”. Now. it’s back to bloodshed on the street!

Like all who dismiss the idea of a socialist working class democratically organising for Socialism IS go along with the idea of leadership. Despite the experience of generations of leaders of all kinds, and their total inability to solve the problem confronting the working class, IS still maintain that out of the present struggle “a new political-industrial leadership has to be crystallised, a new labour movement created, and a new strategy for working class power forged”. Where this “new” leadership and strategy will differ from the old they do not say, and they are equally quiet about what they will be able to do do in a situation where the majority of workers are non-socialist and aspire as yet to nothing more than reforms and leaders.

As is to be expected it is when such people as IS try to apply their false assumptions that they really expose themselves. In the June Socialist Worker they show that they thought Socialism could emerge from what was happening in France. Although they had eye-witnesses on the spot they do not seem to have seen very clearly. They thought that even without a socialist majority revolution in the advanced countries was “the order of the day”. They said:

   factory occupation is a crucial feature of the situation in France. . . . When the plant is seized the means of production are recognised by the workers as social property, as theirs to have and hold.

We can but wonder where de Gaulle’s massive landslide came from if workers wanted “social property”. As IS sees it, “what is needed is a decisive thrust from the revolutionary left, providing the initiative to get the workers on the streets and expropriate the capitalists”. What dangerous nonsense this is! If workers followed this line capitalist governments would not only use their control of the state against the workers (as they did in France) but could use the chaos as a pretext for making inroads into the hard-won rights of demonstration, assembly, organisation and free speech.

For Socialists the task remains one of expounding Socialism. If one thing emerges clearly from the confusion of the “left”, it is that until a majority of the world’s workers understand and vote for Socialism we are stuck with capitalism and all it implies.

Harry Baldwin