Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Stretch of Hard Labour (1964)

Editorial from the November 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

The noise and the ballyhoo are over for the time being, and another Labour government has scraped into power. The opinion pollsters can sit back with a sigh and claim vindication for their sampling methods, while Tory ex ministers can take the rest which, some of them have been unkindly hinting, their colleagues need so badly.

There is not much doubt that under Wilson's leadership the Labour Party has managed to paper over some of the cracks between its various factions and fight generally as a well planned and disciplined force. By comparison, the Conservative morale sank lower as the campaign went on and the foolish remarks of such political clowns as Quintin Hogg must have been like so many plums dropping right into the Labour leader's lap.

Just like their Tory and Liberal opponents, the Labour Party fought the election on a mass of promises; promises to solve the problems which they promised to solve when they last rose to power nearly twenty years ago. Housing and health, pensions and peace, education and unemployment, all those things which workers are so sensitive about, were given a merciless hammering by Labour spokesmen up and down the country. It was an astute campaign, and it just succeeded.

But now that the pendulum has swung a little, let us ask ourselves how much Wilson's promises are really worth. Does he really stand much chance of remedying the countless ills which so many politicians before him have failed to remedy? The Guardian of October 12th called him "a man with a heart full of indignation and humanity" but what will they call him when we get the multitude of excuses when his government fails to deliver the goods? We have had excuses from the Labour Party before. We had them in 1924 and again in 1931, when they blamed their failures on to the lack of a working majority. Will they try the same line this time, when their majority is so small? Let us prick that particular balloon before it leaves the ground. The Labour Party have taken power in the full knowledge of their standing in Parliament. They say that they intend to give "strong" government and to carry out their full programme. They are confident now. Let them remember this when the time comes for apologies and excuses.

In fact, the evils from which we suffer, and which political parties are always promising to cure, spring directly from the very social system of capitalism which statesmen seek to administer. In a world of minority ownership of the means of life and the production of goods for profit, it is inevitable that the non-owning majority will be the ones to suffer, in spite of all the politicians' promises.

The Labour Party does not want the abolition of this setup. However much Wilson may prattle about "government of the people, by the whole people, and for the whole people" the fact remains that his government will administer British capitalism in the only way open to them—in the interests of the British capitalist class. Take a look at the salient points in Labour's election programme. Up with production, increase exports, reduce imports, make British goods more competitive, work harder and keep wages in check. No capitalist would seriously quarrel with such a policy, and it does not differ in essentials from those of the other two parties.

Under the new Labour government, then, it will be very much business as usual for the ruling class—and for the man in the street as well. Workers will still have to struggle to make both ends meet amidst the increasing strains of a competitive world. They will have to put up with the inferior standards associated with working class existence, and when they come out on strike, they will be opposed just as much by Wilson as they have been by Home. That much we can gather from the Labour leader's words only two days before the poll, when he promised "much tougher action" from his government in dealing with such matters as the London Underground strike.

And just as surely the real issue—capitalism or Socialism—will still be as urgent as ever. The Socialist Party of Great Britain will continue to draw attention to it.