Editorial from the November 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Conservative Party’s new declaration of policy is a misnomer. There is nothing really new about it and perhaps that is why it sputtered like a damp squib, instead of bursting like a bombshell over the political scene as we had been led to expect. It was to have been the alternative to the Labour Government, but having read its text, you are inclined to wonder just what all the hurry and fuss was for.
In launching the statement on October 6th, Tory leader Edward Heath was anxious to wipe the slate clean as far as the past record of his party was concerned—as The Guardian put it: “to waste no time in explaining differences between the new statement and (their) party’s manifesto at the last election.” Indeed, this was to be an exciting break with yesterday and a forward look to a really different future.
The statement certainly makes plenty of promises, even though Mr. Heath admits that work on parts of it is still not complete, and in this of course, it does not differ from any of the other capitalist parties. Promises are the one thing we get plenty of—precious little else. But the policy itself bears close resemblance to that of the present Labour Government and this need cause us no surprise, since the needs of capitalism are the same, whichever party is in power. For all the window dressing the differences between them are of detail only and not fundamental. Rent control, land, payroll and corporation taxes, curbing of the trade unions, are just a part of the total area of agreement which the Tories have with their Labour opponents.
Assuming that the future Tory election manifesto runs along the lines of this statement, it will make no worthwhile difference to the lives of working men and women, yet it is they who will be voting for it in their millions when the time comes; which illustrates the tragic irony of working class acceptance of capitalism. Tragic because of the misery it brings them every day of their lives; ironic because the vote for which they fought so bitterly in the past they are using to keep the shackles of wage slavery firmly about their ankles.
By means of the vote, workers have it in their power to capture Parliament with a Socialist majority, and end once and for all the system which subjects and degrades them. Parliament is the place where power resides, where the state machine and its coercive forces are controlled, and the laws passed which are aimed at the smooth running of capitalism’s everyday affairs. Although there may be a lot of hot air there at times, Parliament is no mere gas house. It is a power station, the more so because those who go there are sent by the majority of the population—the working class. Is it any wonder then, that the parties of capitalism are so full of promises? They at least know how important the vote is to their interests; what a pity the same cannot be said of the workers.
In their ignorance and confusion about the world in which they live, they switch their support from one party to the other, in the pathetic belief that they are fundamentally different from each other and that one will succeed in solving their problems where its predecessor has failed. And this is no mere trial and error process, but the persistent mental floundering of the working class, persistent that is, until they learn about Socialism. That is why, despite the black record of the parties in Parliament today, the political swings from one side to the other, and whoever is out, capitalism is always in.
The vote is a very powerful weapon. Used for the correct purposes, it could gain political power for a majority of class conscious workers to establish a world of common ownership and democratic control. But that would be an action based on mass knowledge and understanding of Socialist principles, and unfortunately it looks as if the workers have a lot to learn before that happy day. The very existence of the Labour and Tory parties is proof of it.