From the January 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The cosy days are over”, our Labour Leader told us at the Blackpool Conference. You must have blinked, mustn’t you? Ever since the last war (and before that) a procession of capitalist leaders has told us to accept less financial return for greater productive effort in order to bring about that prosperous, contented state which can only result from such an arrangement. Harder work, wage restraints, wage freezes, social contracts — it’s never stopped — for as long as anyone can remember. One would have expected the long-promised good times to appear at any moment. But what in fact happens? Mr. Callaghan suddenly tells you they’ve been and gone!
You must have blinked! When and what were those cosy days he’s now referring to? Surely not the “You never had it so good” days MacMillan told us about? MacMillan was a Tory, and a self-styled “socialist” like Callaghan would surely advise you not to listen to such capitalist claptrap. So listen to Mr. Callaghan’s capitalist claptrap instead: “Because we are socialists we have to be practical!”
He went on to reveal that by being practical he meant that investments and profits must come first. “Practical” socialism to Callaghan, Healey and Co. means keeping British capitalism going at all costs. Ask these “socialists” why we are in such a state of need and deprivation (“we” meaning the workers — the Callaghans and Thatchers of this world enjoy all the luxuries of life whatever the social climate) and they will tell you: “You are not paying your way. You are not producing enough to foot the bill for the things you need.”
In fact, “not paying your way” consists of having worked yourselves out of a job. Hundreds of thousands of workers have been sacked because their bosses just can’t find profitable markets, and the same thing’s happened all over the world. But it doesn't bring the cosy days. You don't get to consume more, you don’t get longer holidays and shorter working hours: a million and a half get sacked and the rest are urged to work harder than ever! Just what have the workers to do to satisfy their “Red Flag”-singing champions? One heart-breaking aspect is that the world’s workers who produced the boom which produced the crisis don’t think of anything to beg for except more work! In Britain, they still accept the “socialist” announcement that cutting wages and public spending at the behest of the profit-makers is in their own interest — an assertion the Wilsons and Callaghans would have torn the Heaths and Thatchers to shreds over had the latter been in power. But “when you’re in you’re in — when you’re out you’re out.” When it is in “Labour” — backing profits against workers’ interests — doesn’t even say we must be “practical” despite being socialist; they have the gall to say it’s because they’re socialist!
And so our “egalitarian”, right-wing leftist leaders tell us to work even harder (if you can find a job) to save the situation; and accept less though prices of necessities inexorably rise. This, they’ll tell you, is your only salvation — for as long as you continue to listen.
Tragically, whilst they continue to support and promote the exploitation of the working class — they still receive the backing of the majority of that class. It is amazing that by the mere expedient of adopting the label “Labour” a capitalist party can still hoodwink those it has helped to exploit for seventy years.
It is less amazing, in view of the working-class support the professional politicians get, that the latter not only forget their prophecies and promises, but live with their consciences and do not even lose sleep over them.
No Government anywhere, Labour, Tory, Communist — you name it — has ever backed labour against capital. Not once has one said to the owners: “Give way to the workers’ claim.” The only thing to choose between such parties is that the Tories don’t sing “The Red Flag”. They all represent the ruling class Ask the British seamen. Did their Labour government support them in their struggle against their exploiters — or vice versa? And where did the TUC stand? Side by side with the pro-capitalist Government — four-square against the workers they claim to represent. Quote, Edward Heath, the Conservative Party Conference 1976: “Trade union leaders should take the credit for what they have done in income restraint.” And the government doesn’t even have to pay the union leaders to represent them against the workers — the workers do the paying for them. Remember the enormous signboards we saw after the second world war — “Hard work now means better living sooner”? Union funds went into those signboards. Then as now, workers contributed part of their wages in order to tell themselves to work harder!
So who have the workers to turn to in their fight against the class that live on them? Only themselves. They are in the vast majority and able at any time time to vote out the system that plagues us all. It may seem disheartening that they still won’t listen to the small voice of the SPGB and its companion parties who urge them to do so. But the voice will continue to be heard because it speaks historic fact and logic. In that cause there are no failures — only delayed success.
R. B. Gill