From the October 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard
Mr. Khrushchev, in Prague in mid-July, made some sneering remarks about the British Labour leaders. A month earlier one of the Labour M.P.s, Mr. John Strachey, had been writing derisively about the Russian Communist leaders in the American Saturday Review. It appears that when a British Labour delegation passed through Moscow in 1954 one of the members, Mr. Sam Watson, had protested to Khrushchev about the abuse the Russians directed against the British Labour leaders.
Khrushchev recalled this in a speech he made in Prague on 11th July, 1957, and went on to say that he refused to withdraw:—
“I do not deny that I myself call you lackeys of capitalists. I consider that this is correct because you are not against capitalists.” (Daily Mail, 12/7/1957.)
He added nastily (a little brazenly, in view of his own reputation for gutting and guzzling) that the visiting delegation “ate and drank a lot.”
Across the Atlantic the Saturday Review (8/6/57) had published an article “Communism and Socialism,” in which Mr. John Strachey. Labour M-P. for Dundee West, a former Minister of Food and Secretary of State for War, dealt with the present beliefs of the Communists and Labourites in comparison with what they used to believe.
This is what Mr. Strachey had to say about how the Communist Party has betrayed Communism:—
“We ought, of course, at the same time to notice, that . . . the word Communism has been made to stand for something which is almost opposite to the original meaning of the word. The word Communism, traditionally, means a state of society in which the element of coercion has been eliminated instead of vastly increased. To More, as to Marx, it meant the vision of a society which was stateless as well as classless: in which all associations of citizens both for productive purposes and for all other purposes were purely voluntary, and in which equalitarianitm had been taken to the point where the distribution of the national income could be based upon the principle of' from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs ’."
Then Mr. Strachey told the readers of the Saturday Review what the British Labour Party now believes. It was a masterpiece of vagueness. The Labour Party, according to Mr. Strachey, seeks “the extension of the public ownership, in one form or another, to many large-scale industrial and productive enterprises within the community; but no one knows . .. how far it will prove useful and beneficial to push that process.” There is to be change in the direction of moving nearer to equality of income, but “not, of course, equalization of earned income.”
He excuses the vagueness by saying that “most democratic Socialists would, I think, attach less importance to particular objectives than to the principle of making the economy and the policy of their countries conform to what turned out to be the real desires of the majority of the electorate . . ."
It is not at all easy to gather from Strachey what the British Labour Party actually does now stand for. One thing only is certain that nothing in his article could justify his claim that the Labour Party’s aim is Socialism.
The Pot and the Kettle both justified
As Socialists ourselves we can heartily endorse the abuse Khrushchev and Strachey level at their respective parties. Of course, Strachey and Co. are hacks for “managed capitalism,” and, of course, Strachey is right when he says that what nowadays is popularly (and ignorantly) labelled Communism is the direct opposite of what Communism meant to Marx and still means to the S.P.G.B.
But what about Strachey’s own betrayal? He himself once subscribed to the Marxist aim of a Communist system of society (as, long before, did Keir Hardie, one of the founders of the Labour Party). Strachey could, of course, say that be has changed his mind, but at least he might be expected to give reasons why he supports Labour Party tinkering with capitalism and finds it more deserving of support than the movement to establish Socialism. And what has happened to the former fervid equalitarianism of Attlee and other Labour leaders ?
And what about Khrushchev? Why doesn’t he include himself in the capitalist hacks? He and his clique who rule Russia are fond of abusing British Labour leaders, but it would seem to be from them that the Russians have learned their own political trickery. Starting off with the proclaimed intention of establishing Socialism (or Communism) they quickly borrowed the old double-talk of the British Labour Party and give the name Socialism to the Russian State capitalism. It is indeed a case of one group of apologists for capitalism quarreling with another, and only the Socialist, looking on can see the real nature of the confidence trick both groups are playing on the working class.