50 Years Ago – Labour Government: The Worst of Illusions

In The Observer on 3rd March, under the heading “Myths of the Election”, a Professor King proposed and praised the syllogism “I am working class, Labour is for the working class, therefore I am Labour”. The logic is fine; the premise is false. Certainly the Labour Party was built on the blind hope of working men and women that something better than the capitalist system offers could be obtained from the capitalist system. But for those who are not blind, it has done untold harm to the working class. First, by simply administering capitalism (whenever it gets the chance) determinedly to show it can do the same as the Tories. Second and more important, by its debasement of the word Socialism to a hucksters’ slogan — turning the true answer to working-class problems into a synonym for worthless reform and compromise.

The Labour Party is anti-working-class, but let the position be clearly understood. Intentions good or bad do not come into it: indeed, they are determined by capitalism. Some Labour politicians know what they are doing, others do not. Some begin with ideals, others with the desire for a parliamentary career. The forming factor, however, is that Labour sets out to be a governing party — that is, to take on running the capitalist system. Given that, all the failures and “regrettable necessities” follow. Because there is no way capitalism will run except its own way, and whoever tries to direct it is directed by it instead.

Nevertheless, it is impossible not to be appalled by the sheer charlatanism of the Labour Party, the mixture of cunning and stupidity which all its life has characterized it. (…)

There is a literary phrase: “the willing suspension of disbelief”. That seems to be the condition for supporting Labour. Granted, they could do no better if the utmost probity were their rule — the capitalist system is intractable. But, on the evidence, there must be a willing suspension of disgust too. This is the party no Socialist would join or vote for.

(from Socialist Standard, April 1974)

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