Dances, Jumble Sales, Table Tennis
Why do young workers join the Conservative Party?
Of those we interviewed, most admitted that it was the social life organised by the Young Conservatives which attracted them. Reasons given for joining varied from “I was at a loose end in the evenings” to “I fancied this girl in our local branch”. This impression is backed up by a passage in a recent issue of their news magazine, Impact:
‘But I’m not interested in these events,’ came the comment from someone looking at a local programme for the Young Conservatives.
‘What are you interested in then?’ asked a Young Conservative.
‘What most people of my age are interested in, going out, cars, fashions, pop music, we like to enjoy ourselves.’ The speakers was now chairman of the teenage Tories group formed in a town to satisfy the demand for these lively interests involving his own age group.
All this should be borne in mind when discussing this movement. The vast majority of their members are almost completely apolitical. Dances, jumble sales, parties and table-tennis from the horizons of the average Young Conservative’s mind. Not that we sneer at these pursuits, or at the idea of enjoying oneself. After all, many of our young members are also interested in fashion and respond to pop music. But the young workers in the Socialist Party of Great Britain joined because they saw through the rottenness of the capitalist system and recognised socialism as the only alternative for the working class. On the other hand, political conviction of any kind is about the last thing the Young Conservatives could claim to have.
One unpleasant feature which any contact with young Tories brings out is that, as with all the capitalist parties, there is a large number of careerists in the organisation. This is hardly surprising because the Conservative party is a powerful, national force and, when you take a look at some of its leaders, you realise that one does not need very much in the way of intelligence or personality to shine in it. Nonetheless, coming from a party where there are no such time-servers, it was a nasty business listening to a few of these greasy characters.
To the Socialist, the most striking feature about the Young Conservatives is the complete absence of even the faintest glimmerings of class-consciousness. Discussions with the, always revolved around “our industry”, “our profits”, “our balance of payments” and so on. None of them seemed to have asked themselves the basic questions of what stake they have in Britain’s industry, or of what profit they are ever likely to realise as wage-earners. A group in one branch was asked whether they thought anyone was exploited in Britain today. Their general opinion was that the workers are—and it was also felt by them that this was only right and proper. It was uncanny listening to these young people, workers like the rest of us, identifying themselves so wholeheartedly with the capitalist class and its system.
A majority of Young Conservatives, like the population as a whole, think of themselves as “middle class”. Exactly how they differentiated between one class and another was impossible to say. Most, however, were convinced that there was some identifiable distinction which separated them from the common mass of working men and women. The suggestion that anyone who sells his mental and physical energies for a wage or salary is a worker and hence has common interests with his fellow workers, which clash with those of the capitalist class—was, in most cases, greeted by blank amazement. A minority denied the existence of any classes in Britain today.
One reason for this lack of even an embryonic class-consciousness would seem to be that relatively few are trade unions. Of those who are not, most feel that the unions are too powerful and need to have their strength sapped, “in the public interest.” The average young Tory also seems to be a rather blood-thirsty individual, for a large majority supported the American government’s policy in Vietnam. War was gaily accepted as one of the facts of life, to be played in much the same spirit as their hockey and tennis matches.
Although the number of Young Conservatives seems to have declined since their peak in the early nineteen fifties, they are still about 100,000 strong—spread over 1,400 branches throughout the country. Bearing these sort of resources in mind, it is perhaps surprising that so much of their propaganda is of a very low calibre—even judged by the standards of capitalist parties in general. Their written material particularly is spiced with wet remarks—e.g. “Ernest Marples has been our greatest road builder since the Romans.”
As much as any other movement, the Young Conservatives are evidence of the old socialist saying that the only workers who are opposed to Socialism are those who do not understand it. Objections were mainly on the grounds that it means nationalisation and state control. This is especially galling because the Conservative party—like all the capitalist parties—has supported nationalisation measures, whereas the Socialist Party is the only organisation which fights not just for an end to state domination but for the abolitions of the very system which produces class divisions and the consequent state machinery wielded by the ruling class.
To the Young Conservatives who read this, we Socialists have this to say. The problems which confront you are the same as those which harry us. You are worried about meagre wages and inadequate housing, about the threat of a terrifying nuclear war, in the same way as we are. Socialism offers both of us a way out. But as long as you bind yourself to the Conservative party capitalism, with all its misery and frustrations for working men and women, will grind on. The Conservative party’s successes are the measures of your own failure, as a member of the working class, to get up off your knees.