November 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard
The same gale that paralyzed the Trade Union Congress in the Isle of Man in September struck the Labour Party at Scarborough a month later.
The delegates went through the usual form of pledging their unity and fraternity at the end of thr proceedings but it never had a more hollow ring. And the end is not yet. In the months to come the factions will wrangle bitterly about the leadership, the victors at Scarborough will try to press home their advantage and the defeated will fight back and try to reverse this conference's decisions.
Seen in perspective the British Labour Party, and like-minded parties in many parts of the world, had three main claims to working class support; the home policy of social reforms and full employment to lessen the evils of capitalism, the policy of wholesale nationalisation of industry, and the policy of seeking international harmony, avoiding war and promoting disarmament. In the course of years and during three periods of Labour Government first one and then the other of these aims has run into disaster. In 1931 it was the "economic blizzard" and record unemployment that ended MacDonald's Labour Government and split the party. In two world conflagrations they found themselves helping Tories and Liberals to impose conscription and wage war, and in 1951 it was the Labour Government that launched the great cold-war rearmament programme. Even in 1924 the Labour Government ran into trouble, at the time over its armament building directed against France. On the home front nationlisation has turned into an election loser and the Tories have shown themselves adept at taking over social reforms from the Opposition—the latest example being the new pension scheme, invented and popularised by the Labour Party before being enacted by the present government. And the Tory government, luckier than Labour was in 1929-1931, has had years of low years of low unemployment and thus robbed its opponents of a useful weapon.
What distinguishes the Labour Party's present troubles from earlier ones is that ever since 1951 they have been under attack and internally divided over home and foreign policy together.
But what was it that hit them ? What has happened to bring so many good intentions to such an impasse? The answer given by Socialists when the Labour Party was founded is still true and should by now be glaringly evident. World wide capitalism is a social system of class division, owning class and working class, and the exploitation of the latter by the former. Internationally it is a ceaseless struggle of the national ruling group for dominance of resources, trade routes, strategic ports and markets. Everywhere the driving force is profit and everywhere strife and violence are the marks of the system. Labour Party policies of trying to secure smooth running and harmony at home, through reforms and nationalisation, are as irrelevant to the real task of creating a new classless social system as are its hopes of international peace through United Nations.
It is the violent impact of capitalism impact of capitalism, not abstract theorising about policies, that is shattering the Labour Party.
The Labour Party's near disintegration is nit the failure of the movement for Socialism. Their extremity should be our opportunity. The tide of disillusionment that threatens to overwhelm millions of Labour supporters gives Socialists a greater chance of gaining support for our affirmation that only by the overthrow of world capitalism and its replacement by Socialism can there be a happy future for human society.
We cannot refrain from pointing out to Labour supporters who are now discovering that their Party has been on the wrong lines all these years that the S.P.G.B. said at the beginning that it could not happen otherwise. It was foredoomed from the start.