ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, Summer 1961


Notes of the Quarter

1. New Bombs for Labour


From International Socialism (1st series), No.5, Summer 1961, p.1.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


At the time of writing the gloom emanating from the decision of the shopworkers and engineers to reject unilateralism at their annual conferences is still very much with us. It now looks as if the Scarborough resolution will be reversed at the Labour Party’s annual conference this Autumn. For the moment it looks as if we must admit defeat.

But wait. It is not as if a world full of promise has been utterly smashed. The Scarborough decision was at best partial as we pointed out in a Note two issues ago. The arithmetic of bloc voting added false stature to the Left, making it appear the majority view where it was no more than a vocal, organized section of the Party. The unilateralist leadership was undecided as to the next move, sat tight and allowed the initiative to fall to the Right.

So it was with the defeat. The number of unilateralists has probably not declined. What has occurred is the result of the Right organizing around the issue and delving into the reserves of support it can always find in the apathetic and most backward sections of the Party and trade-union membership. If anything, the defeat shows the true relation of forces within the Party.

It also shows the weakness of the Left leadership. Where the Right gathered support by attacking the unstated implications of unilateralism – the withdrawal from NATO, the dissolution of the American alliance – the Left leadership shirked these issues. Cousins, Foot and the rest preferred to keep silent. Instead of uniting the greatest possible number on a clear anti-NATO program, complete with appeals to the workers of Europe and beyond, they sought a false unity in anti-Gaitskellism. They went as far as to support Wilson the natopolitician against Gaitskell the natopolitician in the Parliamentary Party elections. They gave the Crossman-Padley variant of Gaitskell’s ‘defence’ policy their blessing (Cousins by voting for it in committee; Foot in Tribune, 3 March, on the eve of CND’s annual conference). And as the personal struggle hotted up, so cooled their defiance towards the Bomb. In a word, they helped build the bridge to Gaitskell which the weaker elements in the Party have now crossed in the name of unity.

What of unity? An appeal to it is certain to stir very real emotions in the Party. Where the Left leadership could have attacked Gaitskell and Crossman and Wilson for flouting Party policy and breaking Conference decisions from positions in which they were supposed to represent the Party; where this Left leadership could, in the name of unity, have called for a wholesale attack on Labour-Tory bipartisanship in foreign policy and in the domestic policy from which it arises, they let the Right assume guardianship of the Party’s emotional heart.

We have seen with what result. But defeat this year is no more absolute than victory was last year. Then, the consistent Left had to damp down the flush of illusions; now our job is to combat demoralization, recoil and ‘what’s-the-use-ism’. We must use facts and cool appraisal to wash away the tears; strengthen the connexions with CND and Direct Action in order to fight the Right more effectively, remembering how they, in their turn, put heart into the Party Left; and finally, we must clarify the implications of unilateralism: the fight against the Bomb is a fight against the Boss.

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 17 February 2010