Lab-Lib: A Rabble
There is an old saying that if you lie down with a dog you get up with fleas. No doubt it has dawned on the leaders of the Liberal Party that the idea of projecting themselves as an alternative government to the Labourites and Tories is a non-starter. With thirteen MPs and a discredited minority government, their only way to power is through the side door.
With no ideas to put to the working class, the only alternative to a future in the political wilderness and possible extinction was to do a deal. But, such are the fortunes of opportunism and reformism, they could be cutting their own throats either way. The price they will inevitably pay for “dealing” will be to forfeit the phoney image they have built up over twenty or thirty years that they had distinctive policies and independent ideas. For them to line up openly with one of the parties they have claimed to be so different from can only lose the support of those who had turned to them, having despaired of the other two.
In an effort to have his cake and eat it Mr. Steel, the Liberal leader, sought to pose as champion of the motorist and pledged himself to vote against Budget increases in petrol prices and road tax. He argued that these increases fell outside the arrangement, and as there had been no consultation on them the Liberals were free to vote against them. After the by-election massacre at Stetchford the motorist did not seem to matter so much. A more urgent need instantly asserted itself: avoiding a General Election, with the threat of annihilation. The great and courageous leader had to find a way out while still trying to sound plausible, at least to the gullible. So he discovered that the increases in motoring costs would not be voted on as a separate resolution in Parliament, but would be tied to other proposals; so it might be best to let the thirteen Liberals make up their own minds, and led from behind.
The Labour Government are like drowning men desperately clutching at anything in the agony of their disastrous attempt at running capitalism. Having repeatedly declared against coalition, they turned to the Liberals to survive. The one-time “firebrand” of the Left, Michael Foot, will solemnly sit down each week in consultation with the Liberals to keep his mob in power a little longer, unless the whole thing blows up in their faces. Then they will blame each other and fall back on any feeble excuse to try to save their political hides. There is no expediency too shabby for any of them.
The IMG, WRP, IS and the CP, who urged workers to vote Labour and now go round muttering demands for “socialist policies”, get the policies of the Labour Party which they voted for. The policies which these Lefties hold to be Socialist are in fact just as useless and reformist as those of the Labour Party.
When Mr. Steel claims that his deal with the Government will mean no more nationalization in this session of Parliament, is he really silly enough to believe he is saving capitalism? Is he unaware that his own Party, when in power, carried out Acts of nationalization? He only displays his ignorance if he thinks a Labour Government represents any threat to capitalism, or that nationalization has anything to do with Socialism. It is a shame that questions like these never occur to people like Robin Day during those boring mock-interviews on television, like the one on polling day for Stetchford. But of course they would not keep their cushy jobs for long if they did.
Mrs. Thatcher and her Tory tribesmen can get as indignant as they like, but under Heath in 1974 they were quite willing to talk coalition with the Liberals. The readiness of the Liberals to co-operate with either of the “major” Parties, shows how little there is of fundamental difference between any of them. In fact, Steel said it is his belief that people “will find the artificial Party battles irrelevant to the problems of the day” (Guardian, 24th March). It is the parties that are irrelevant, Mr. Steel. The problems arise out of capitalist society, and you are all dedicated to its preservation.
For the Tories Mrs. Thatcher said: “We believe in capitalism and democracy”. What about the other combinations, Mrs. Thatcher? Capitalism and war? Capitalism and poverty? Capitalism and crises? Capitalism and unemployment? Even Callaghan said in the same report: “I would not like to guarantee that the decline in unemployment will continue in the next few months”. None of them can guarantee anything. But while the system lasts the misery and political trading it has always produced will continue.
Enoch Powell pledged not to bring the Labour Government down and abstained on the crucial vote of confidence. Callaghan and Co. had been just as prepared to deal with the Ulster Unionists as they were with the, Liberals. Just to show that they all have the same priorities, seven Liberals voted against cuts in war potentials in the first vote after the deal.
The working class trust any of them at the expense of their own interests. Apart from war-time coalitions when Tories, Labourites and Liberals joined forces with “Communist” support to pull capitalism’s chestnuts out of the fire, there have been deals between the Labour Party and the Liberals from the very early days of the Labour Party. The 1924 Labour Government was voted into office on Liberal votes. As early as l9l0 there were electoral “arrangements” between these two reformist Parties.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain has one objective, Socialism. This can only be achieved when a majority of the working class reject the squalid expediencies of opportunist politics.