C.L.R. James

Baldwin’s Next Move

(3 January 1936)

Source: New Leader, 3 January 1936.
Transcribed: Christian Høgsbjerg.
Marked up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Parliament has become a nuisance to the ruling class

Look out for fascist developments!

In this article, C.L.R. James, the Negro socialist author, develops the interesting view that the ruling class of Britain and France, represented by Stanley Baldwin and M. Laval, will meet Parliamentary opposition to its designs by resorting to fascism.


As if specially to confirm the critical political stage which ‘bourgeois’ democratic Parliaments have reached, comes the significant speech of Laval in the recent debate in France – significant not only in its relation to parliamentary democracy in France but directly related to its position in Britain.

Laval’s speech shows that Parliament, there, as here, has more than ever become a danger to the Capitalist class. It is not only that he scraped through by twenty votes. It is the admissions that he has had to make. First, ‘I offer to consult the Chamber on the application of oil sanctions when the time comes’. And second, ‘It is not only for or against the Government that you will vote. The hour is exceedingly grave. It is the orientation of the foreign policy in France which is at stake. You are the representatives of the people. It is up to you to choose.’

Laval-Baldwin Problem

Now Laval, the representative of the French ruling class, like Hoare, Baldwin, Eden and Co., the representatives of the British ruling class, has no wish to impose oil sanctions, or worse, to run the risk of any war with Italian imperialism, either for Abyssinia or Collective Security. French Imperialism had hoped to use collective security against Germany, and is now cursing the fate that has made the League the issue in a matter which does not directly concern itself.

For a few weeks – in September and October – the British thought they might need to use collective security. Honest Stanley (having poured scorn on collective security for years) suddenly took it up, but as soon as he had come to terms with Mussolini and won the election, he returned to the exact position which Laval has always held. Both want to get rid of the monster they have conjured up. The obstacle is the pro-League feeling of the masses and the pressure of their representatives in parliament.

The ruling classes, broadly speaking, are pro-Fascist. The masses are anti-Fascist. In the acute crisis of world Capitalism today, and the resulting high political tension of all classes, the class struggle stands naked, not only at home but in foreign policy.

Honest Stanley is biding his time. He is the perfect master of sleight-of-hand, and uses his patter about freedom (but ‘ordered’ freedom), democracy, etc., while he slyly goes his reactionary way. But the small ruling clique that Baldwin represents have their foreign policy. The French bourgeoisie have theirs. This is a matter of life and death for them. And under no circumstances are they going to let public opinion and democracy and Parliament deflect them from their Imperialist manoeuvres and military alliances abroad.

In the present dispute both Baldwin and Laval have a strong card to play. They can challenge the Parliamentary opposition to take the steps which might lead to war with Italy. And they know well enough that the noisy sanctionists in the Chamber, faced with the necessity of taking the decisive action themselves, would sing in a very different key.

Tension is growing

That is the position at present. But the tension in Europe is growing. Hitler is watching and waiting. Far more than Italian Capitalism, the highly developed industrial structure of German Capitalism needs expansion. German Fascism must have it or perish. But Hitler and Mussolini, with their workers cowed, can go into the League or leave it, or, if they wish, impose a sanction or refuse at will.

Laval and Baldwin have to go about their similar business constantly bothered and, as we see today, seriously impeded by Parliament. Worse still, Parliament has been the means whereby they and their class have been exposed at home and abroad as the political hypocrites that they are. This has seriously threatened their domination of Parliament. For them that is a danger signal.

The Workers’ Remedy

Rule they must, by fraud through Parliament and the Press, or when that fails then force through Fascism. And if, as is quite likely, their attempts to escape their League commitments discredit them completely, then the ruling class will turn to their bands of organised hooligans and unemployed middle-class.

Those are the developments to look for during the next few months. And at the first signs of them we must apply the only remedy – organised bands of workers who will drive the Fascists off the streets as they appear there.

Last updated on 29 June 2020