Brian Pearce

Constant Reader:

‘Tied to the capitalist wagon’

(November 1958)

From The Newsletter, 22 November 1958.
Transcribed by Christian Hogsbjerg.

Perhaps the ablest Marxist historian who still maintains allegiance to the British Communist Party is Eric Hobsbawm.

I recently reread his remarkable article in the Modern Quarterly for Autumn 1951 on The Taming of Parliamentary Democracy, and noted his reference to the bureaucrats of the British Labour movement.

It is worth quoting, especially now that Communist Party spokesmen are accusing The Newsletter of being caddish and provocative in our treatment of these worthies as a body.

‘The imperialist era,’ Hobsbawm wrote, ‘has seen the rise of a social group whose function it is to keep the rank and file firmly tied to the capitalist wagon: the body of Labour leaders and officials.

‘For these the mere creation of a State monopoly capitalism provided new functions, new status, new jobs. With every advance in the strength of the Labour movement, the politeness with which they as individuals are treated, grew.

‘Whatever the fortunes of the rank and file in the imperialist era, for them it has quite clearly brought an almost unqualified advance.’

Locking out and locking up

‘The power of the capitalists to lock out men from the means of life has very marked limitations; given actual working-class solidarity the locking-out would be done by the workers, and the locking up too if need be.’
– Tom Mann, August 1910

Last updated on 11.10.2011