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International Socialism, Autumn 1963


Notes of the Quarter

1. Labour’s Party


From International Socialism, No.14, Autumn 1963, p.1.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Delegates have a clear choice at Scarborough this year. They can sit tight on their opinion polls and ‘leave it to Harold’; or they can try to sketch the guidelines for a future Labour Government – at some risk to themselves from both polls and party managers. The Resolutions suggest that they will choose the first. Perhaps. But it is as well to know at what cost.

There’s a lot of unfinished business left over from the last Labour Government, which the present leadership would like to get through. Then, they saw their prime task in adapting British capitalism to the decline of Empire. To do this they had to make good the loss of investment income from abroad by pushing exports from home – ‘export or die’ ran the Ministerial chorus. To get exports, industry had to be confirmed in the dominance over finance it had attained during the war – and this Labour helped by fostering mergers, takeovers and strong trade associations. Industry had further to be sustained with a substructure of cheap services – hence the nationalisation of coal, electricity, gas, and the rest. It was a fine legacy for British capital, but not the whole estate that was in Labour’s giving. The raised level of exports prevented utter collapse, but the Pound remained weak and invited balance of payments crises every second year or so. Concentration of capital was important, but it stopped short of full inducement planning on the French model and well short of any attempt to plan labour. As for nationalisation – it needs remodelling to catch up with industry’s changed orientation and structure. Given a second term, Labour promises to make good the lapses of its first.

Whether or not a Labour Government contributes to new international currency arrangements – as it says it will; or takes Britain into Europe – as it says it won’t but yet might; or does a Beeching not only on the railways but in mining, gas and one or two other industries – as it is pledged to oppose but in all probability will support – whether or not it does these is far less portentious for the labour movement than its obvious determination to plan wages and absorb our organisations into the new state planning apparatus.

Already Wilson has stumped union conferences seeking support for a wage freeze. The giant Transport and General has already given its bureaucratic word not to embarrass our Man at No.10; the Boilermakers were asked but kept their honour intact. At the same time, by advocating a minor inquiry into profits, the National Income Commission has made it easy for the Labour Party to abandon its uprightness and join in lacing working class demands into capitalist corsets.

If the present leadership get their way the next Labour Government will be well set to present capital with the greatest prize ever, sought for two hundred years or more, the voluntary abdication of their bargaining role by the organs of the labour movement. It is this above all which Conference has the opportunity to condemn.

The pressures against doing so will be immense. It is a pre-election rally, we’re already home and dry (or so it seems), the official Left has opted out of politics and into cheer-leading, has let unity take the place of unilateralism. But let it not be said that Social Democracy delivered itself bound and gagged to capital. Unlikely though it appear at this point of time in this country, there is an alternative to capitalist planning and wage freeze. It is democratic planning under workers’ control.

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