Editorial: 9 Months of Labour Rule
Twenty years ago this month, Great Britain elected the first majority Labour government in its history.
July 1945 was a time of jubilation for the Labour Party; but it was also a time of reckoning. Their two previous administrations – in 1924 and 1931 – had been minority governments, and had been able to blame their failures onto their dependence on Liberal support in the House of Commons.
The Atlee government had no such excuse. They had a massive majority behind them and they were determined to carry out the programme they had cherished for so long. Many Labour M.P.s said – and perhaps some of them even believed – that the day of Socialism had dawned.
Reality was cruelly different, and it exposed Labour Party theories for what they were. The 1945 government were committed to running British capitalism, and they did this in basically the same way as the Tories would have done.
They fought the working class over wages. They used every weapon they could to break strikes in the docks and the coalfields. They launched the nuclear rearmament programme (which, says the Labour Party now, is based on a discredited nostalgia for outdated imperialism).
Some Labour ministers of those days became famous as political buffoons and failures. Others wore themselves into their graves. British capitalism stood undisturbed. And in the end the electors showed what they thought of Labour’s attempts to run the system, by turning them out of office.
By 1964 the memories of Labour government had grown dim enough for the workers to want to give it another try. The Labour Party cannot now excuse their failures of 1945/51, so they have simply ignored them. The Conservatives were at any rate ready in the last election to stand by their record in office, and offer it as an incentive to put them back in power. Labour’s record is so bad that they kept a shamefaced silence, and quietly forgot the Attlee government and their disasters.
Now once again we have a Labour government, and once again they are in the toils. British capitalism is providing them with many problems – financial, economic, international. They are disputing with the working class over wages. Many of their policies – on the Bomb, immigration, taxation – have been reversed.
And one again, like their predecessors in 1945, they are failing to solve the problems of capitalism. As this becomes more and more apparent, Labour Party support is declining, in spite of all their gimmicks and vote catching publicity.
Of course, the Labour government are looking for excuses. Mr. Ray Gunter, Minister of Labour, for example, thinks that all the troubles are due to a deficiency in our morals:
“It is only when the nation realises and understands that there are underlying moral standards to which we should be obedient, that the Labour movement is going to achieve everything it wants to achieve . . .” (Speech to the Co-operative Congress, Edinburgh, 2/6/65.)
Mr. Gunter is the man who said, on election night last October, that the Conservatives should be thoroughly ashamed of their victory in Smethwick. He is also the man reported (The Guardian 31/5/65) to be pressing now for “drastic measures” to further restrict the intake of immigrants into this country.
This is representative of the complete reverse of Labour policy on immigration. It would be interesting to know what Mr. Gunter thinks about the morals of a party which alters its line so cynically.
But however the Labour Party may twist and turn, its fate is sealed. Whether its policies are changed or not, whether they are applied or discarded, capitalism will continue. And with capitalism will also go its inescapable problems.
The only way to remove those problems is to abolish capitalism and replace it with Socialism. And that will happen only when the working class throughout the world have seen through the distortions and the failures of all the capitalist parties and have consciously and unitedly opted for Socialism.