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International Socialism, Summer 1962


Notes of the Quarter



From International Socialism (1st series), No.9, Summer 1962, pp.1-2.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Each political victory of the Labour Party leadership increases the pressure for the Left to disintegrate. At each blow, some grow tired and drop off – whether into gardening, the cosy security of sectarianism or the brief hope of alternative minor political parties. CND is itself also subject to disintegratory pressure; it is a coalition of, normally, widely separated groups, ranging from religious groups, youth organizations to the political sects, and each tends to pull in a different direction as the struggle goes on. Yet provided unity does not compromise their other aims, all of these groups are united to face the major challenge of our times. It is because CND has not become a clearly defined political party, because it has concentrated on propaganda on a broad front including the existing political parties, that it is as successful as it is. If it dropped this role and tried to define specific political ends, with the concomitant of independent political action to achieve those aims, it would disintegrate in internal fights and stultify any chance of growth.

The Independent Nuclear Disarmament Election Committee is aware of some of this at least, which accounts for the ‘Independent’ in its title. Its aim is to rely on the recruiting function of CND, while allowing dissociation from CND. But is this reliance anything but illusory? Those CNDers at present fighting for CND in political parties (which means in effect the Labour Party) can only see in INDEC a disruptive force which will split opinion in the parties and provide the NEC of the Labour Party with a sitting duck on the Left. If it relies on CNDers not in political parties, on those who failed to carry out the unanimous decision of CND Annual Conference to join parties and therefore, those partly responsible for the failure of CND in the parties, INDEC will be building on a fragile base for political activity, and will be unlikely to capture support so far untapped. In any case, to make more difficult the fight inside the Labour Parties and to confuse the minor parties is too high a cost for so unpromising a return, apart from its effect in squandering the meagre resources of CND. Why not support the Fellowship Party or the ILP? If INDEC’s supporters did they would immediately face the unpalatable electoral experience of minor parties. The penalty is £150 per head.

INDEC is a product of a Right-wing victory within the Labour Party. It rests upon abandoning the Labour Party and trying the political do-it-yourself tactic; a Charge of the Light Brigade. It involves a complete misassessment of what has happened in the Party (cf. Laurie Kershaw writing in Peace News, 20 April, 1962, p 6). A paper decision was reversed – and at least partly because of the failure of CND to fight the issue in the Labour Party and trade unions. After Scarborough, it could easily have been foretold – it was indeed foretold in a Note in IS3 – that there would be a massive counter-attack (heavily backed by the National press), and that the minority of rank-and-file Party members would be defeated by further manipulation of the trade union vote unless CND led an open campaign to see the defence decision implemented. Furthermore, the CND leadership betrayed the same reliance on a few trade union leaders (instead of seeking to mobilize rank-and-file trade union support over the heads of the TU leadership) that characterized the Scarborough decision: that reliance combined with CND’s ‘compromise’ with the Crossman-Padley case (which merely modernized nuclear strategy, retaining NATO and tactical weapons) helped Gaitskell on his way. CND, which includes many INDEC supporters, failed to fight and failed to get support where ultimately it matters – at the bottom. Manipulation from the Left could not defeat manipulation from the Right except temporarily.

But in any case, even if with all this Scarborough had been reversed, the experience of fighting the campaign would have strengthened CND and dissipated some of the illusions. As it is, the broad mass of the Labour movement remained unim-plicated in the struggle. This is where the work has to be done – and only when it is done can we hope to make and sustain viable changes in the Labour Party. If is a long, tough and for the most part apparently unrewarding task. INDEC’S short-cut political adventurism can only be an obstacle in this job. A few individuals can take this way of leaving the struggle if they wish, but they have no right to endanger CND and the Labour Left in the process – which they certainly will do unless CND firmly repudiates INDEC’s initiative and shows that it has only irrelevant support from CND and Labour.

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