Michael Kidron

“This Conference ...”

(June 1956)

From Socialist Review, Vol. 5 No. 9, June 1956, p. 6.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The Editors welcome Michael Kidron’s contribution and hopes that his example will be followed by other readers who have a word of advice for the Party and trade-union member. The Editors believe such discussion to be useful and necessary for the health of the movement.

The Labour Party Annual Conference is coming round again. This year we can expect it to be a little more alive than usual, a little more militant than usual and a little more important than usual. For the Tories have bared their fangs in a way that we cannot afford to ignore – redundancy, higher rents, higher prices inadequately reflected in a distorted cost of living index, sipping at school-children’s milk and eating into their meals. All of these will harden the delegates’ tone. Conference might once more reflect some of the more militant demands of the Labour Movement.

There is a second reason for Conference to be more than usually important. This year is rules revision year. It is a year which offers opportunities to crack the monolithic right-wing control over the official voice of the Movement. Conference can be expected to attack fiercely the block vote that supported German re-armament against rank and file opinion, that bulldozed Gaitskell into the Party Treasureship despite the obvious mass support for Bevan.

Take a Stand

But Conference must not only be “expected” to do this or that. Conference must also be shown how to do it. We must pass the right resolutions in our local organizations now. June is the month to do it in.

These resolutions must reflect the mass unrest that is developing under Tory rule. They must also be sufficiently unique to be sure of getting a hearing without being so watered down by compositing that they come to mean nothing. In other words we must present Conference with clear resolutions embodying clear-cut demands. The leadership must be forced to take a stand on concrete issues and not be allowed to escape into nebulous phrasemongering.

This Conference deplores the growing estrangement between its industrial and political wings and resolves to build Labour Party wards in the factories. In other words, Conference must realise that the politics of the Labour Movement is hammered out – or should be – at the factory bench and not in the seclusion of Parliament; that there can be no enthusiasm to turn out to the polls unless the voters feel and know from experience that in the industrial sphere the Labour Party comes down on the side of the workers just as regularly, just as normally, as the Tories come down on the side of the bosses. After all, who votes Labour if not the industrial working class? Who shows militancy today if not the industrial working class; and whose interests are most abused by the block vote if not that same industrial working class?

We must bring politics to the factory and the factory to politics by building Labour Party wards in the factory.

This Conference resolves to press for the forty-hour week without loss of present earnings, the forty-hour week to held guaranteed week with cither work or full maintenance.

Here we could tie in with the AEU campaign for a shorter work week while at the same time demanding the right to place ourselves as a first priority over and above the boss’s profits. Short-time working may be inevitable under Capitalism now and then, as the automotive workers have learned to their cost, but why should we carry the can?

New Index

This Conference resolves to press for a new cost of living index to be formulated and periodically reviewed by a committee, elected, from rank and file trade-unionists and working-class housewives. This resolution explains itself, especially when it is remembered that the new Tory index lists motor cars as an essential ingredients in working- class budgets while reducing the weighting given to food.

This Conference demands the freeing of the many trade-unionists and political prisoners – wherever they may be – in Russia and her satellites, in the British Empire or in the US sphere of influence. I don’t think there is any need to go into this. It is a resolution that should find many supporters.

This Conference demands the withdrawal of foreign troops and the ending of Imperialist occupation, whether it be British, American or Russian. Again, there is no need to enter into detail; the record of the Powers is a powerful indictment to which nothing need be added.


Finally, a word about tactics. Readers should use these suggestions – for which I take full personal responsibility – circumspectly. Not everywhere will support be gained for each of them. One is bound to have more appeal – according to local circumstances – than another. What matters is that one or more of them should reach the Conference floor. Conference this year must be made more than a paid holiday in a smoke-filled hall.

Last updated on 16 February 2017