1970s >> 1970 >> no-793-september-1970

Editorial: Labour Party Hypocrites

The Labour Party, now in opposition, has the opportunity to try and rebuild its severely damaged image of being the party with ideals. Their publicity men tried their best with posters and hoardings during the election, but the reality of Labour’s record in office was just too much for them to whitewash.

“Arms for South Africa” is an issue which the opportunists in the Labour Party are determined to hang on to and develop this purpose, but their hypocrisy in doing so should be obvious to anyone who has followed the Labour government’s foreign policy. It was Denis Healey, Minister of “Defence”, who in 1968 proclaimed. “Her Majesty’s government and the South African government share the responsibility for maritime security in the South African area”. It seems now that he expected them to carry out this function with arms supplied by countries other than Britain. Throughout Labour’s period of office the Simonstown Agreement was honoured and joint naval manoeuvres continued. Healey and his colleagues by accepting a ban on arms shipments to South Africa were attempting to gain the best of both worlds: defence of the Cape trade route and continued trade with and investment in South and South-West Africa and, at the same time, expanding trade and influence in the rest of Africa.

The Tories, on the other hand, are considering whether there is not too much at stake in South Africa for this dual policy to continue. They may have been influenced in this choice by the companies with subsidiaries in South Africa who supply some of their political funds, but whatever the reasons for and against, these have nothing to do with the suppression of the South African population by a racist dictatorship, but solely with the interests and fortunes of the British capitalist class.

Douglas-Home in defence of the Tories’ proposals pointed to the inconsistencies of Labour’s position. Their opposition, he claimed, could only be credible if they accepted total boycott; the Tories were in favour of contacts and convincing by example. Contacts it appears means supplying arms to South African government and setting an example means passing racist Immigration Acts. The Labour Party of course has contributed its fair share by passing the “Kenya Asians” Bill, with support from well-known Tory racists.

The best way workers outside South Africa can help hasten change is by building a principled opposition to all forms of racism, and by developing a strong revolutionary. Socialist movement on an international scale that will strike at the very roots of imperialism in South Africa and elsewhere and at world capitalism.