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Labour Review, December 1958

G. Gale

Holding Labour back

Death on the Left, by John Connell (Pall Mall Press, 3s. 6d.)

From Labour Review, Volume 3, No. 5, December 1958, pages 156-157.
Transcribed & marked up by Ted Crawford & D. Walters for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL) in 2009.

Labour Party members are well aware of the ‘deadness’ in the party. Raffles are more important than policies. Jumble sales take precedence over industrial struggle. Hydrogen-bombs, unemployment, fascists, fade into insignificance beside the annual women’s effort.

Parts of this book strike home to the disgruntled party worker. Labour leaders are ‘timorous and cautious men who looked over their shoulders and were often scared by what they saw’. Union leaders are ‘separated by a deepening divide from the men they were said to represent, as middle class in their ideology as in their manners’. Local govern-ment ‘became a familiar experience for the young entry in local affairs to discover little nests of jobbery and nepotism, to encounter socialist councillors and aldermen who were as cosy, as comfort loving, as greedy of the little soul-destroying attributes of power as any capitalist reactionary’.

But what is the cause of all this? Here Connell is lost. As a Conservative, the things he admires most about the Labour Party are the cankers which are rotting it. The domin-ance of Fabianism, the checking of ‘authoritarianism’, the cordiality between Labour and Tory parliamentarians, and, above all, the fact that Labour ‘has advanced approximately at the same pace that its opponents have conceded to it’ — these are ‘the major moral victories of the British Labour Party’.

Can we, unlike Connell, find a cure? The overthrow of capitalism is essential for the working class. The Labour Party will not live if it cannot break with the policies—and the leaders—that are holding it back. As Connell says: ‘Widespread apathy is a practical as well as a symbolical rejection.’
G. Gale

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