Source: Socialist Appeal, Mid-October 1948
Transcription: Francesco 2008
Markup: Manuel 2008
The Tory Conference showed once again that despite embellishments, the Party remains the foremost representative of big business. The programme, if such it can be called, is made up of vague generalities and promises.
Foremost, in their demands, is further rearmament and strengthening of the armed forces. In this, there is no criticism of the present enormous expenditure on arms which absorbs a huge proportion of taxation, on the contrary, they would like to see arms expenditure extended.
At the same time, the Tories attacked the Labour Government for high taxation, both direct and indirect. This can only be directed at the Social Services, though they pretend that the Social Services which they criticised in Parliament as being too extensive, would be retained by a Tory Government. Churchill referred to the high cost of the Health Scheme.
Speaking to a resolution attacking high taxation, Lord Hinchingbrooke said:
“…It is no use voting against high taxation unless they demanded drastic reductions in Government expenditure. We must be prepared to spend more on food and other commodities, because at the end we got freedom of choice to spend our money as we wished and not as a doctrinaire Government wished. Their policy should be a diversified life of high quality for all, paid for privately in the way people wanted it, and not publicly.”
When he said “we” must spend more on food and commodities, he meant, of course, the working class. The subsidising of food by the Labour Government has resulted in the absolute necessities of life being maintained at a reasonable price. What Hinchingbrooke and the Tories would like to see is that this money is diverted into the pockets of the capitalist class.
A resolution was unanimously passed opposing the Parliament Bill and demanding that the powers of the Lords be safeguarded against the common herd. As direct representatives of property and privilege, the Lords must possess the power of veto. Democracy for them means the right of the Lords to decide what is and is not good for the people. They need the veto to sabotage any such measures as the nationalisation of steel. By such delaying powers, they will be given time to mobilise reaction against any further reforms contemplated by the Labour Government.
To gain a basis among the upper strata of the workers and the middle class, the Tories have proposed what they term a “property-owning democracy” in which everyone will own his own house. They have set up a Committee to study the question. The record of the Tories after World War I gives the answer to this. Apart from its utopian character, this is merely a means of disguising the real policy of the Tories. They object even to the modest building programme of the Labour Government in building council houses for the poor, instead of allowing “free enterprise” to the private builder which would mean houses for those who could pay.
Because the nationalization of the public utilities, coal, gas, electricity, transport and also the Bank of England, serves the interests of capitalist industry as a whole, the Tories are not proposing to denationalise. However, the steel monopoly, which is very profitable, is a different matter. Apart from the loss of huge profits, they fear that this may lead to further encroachments on private enterprise.
There was the usual fervent oratory about the glory of the British Empire. But as the Observer ironically remarked:
“And yet this Conference performed the incredible feat of discussing imperial affairs for an hour without once referring to any of the realities. Not a word about Dr. Malan and his native and Indian policy. Not a word about Southern Ireland. Not a word about India.”
Despite their bankrupt programme, Labour workers must take heed of the support the Tories have succeeded in rallying, particularly among the middle class. They claim an increase in membership from 911,000 at the end of 1946 to 2,249,000 in England and Wales by June of this year. In addition, the Tory Youth now number 149,000 in 2,129 branches. The Tory youth are far more active than the Labour League of Youth which numbers 10,000 according to the official figure.
The Tories look to the possibility of victory in the next general election in spite of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the population of these islands are working people.
The only way to counteract the danger of a Tory revival is by an all out policy of expropriation of the capitalist class. This with democratic control in the hands of the workers, technicians and middle class would give full scope to the creative energies and initiative of the working class and the middle class as well.