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The New International, June 1941


The Editor’s Comments

Socialism in Britain


From New International, Vol. VII No. 5 (Whole No. 54), June 1941, pp. 101–2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


DOROTHY THOMPSON SET THE BALL a-rolling in a speech delivered last summer over the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It was a panegyric to Churchill.

“Yes, but in England there was a man.”

Yes, there it was, just like that. A direct quotation, not from True Confessions, but from a political address by this eminent representative of bourgeois journalism. After rapturous enumeration of Churchill’s personal habits, his tastes in food, in women, in recreation, Dorothy attacked Hitler for not’ being like Churchill. Reason? Because Hitler was not leading a socialist state.

“The plutocratic England you attack is today a socialist state – a socialist state created without class war, created out of love and led by an aristocrat for whom England builds no eagle’s nests ...” (Emphasis ours. – Ed.)

So far so good. We have had the new society in England and nobody it seems noticed it except Dorothy. But this same socialist state sent a sound old Tory to America as ambassador – Lord Halifax. Interviewed on landing, Halifax “conceded ... that the war was causing social revolution in England but he dismissed as fantastic predictions that post-war England would be a communist; socialist, or totalitarian state.” What then exactly was the nature of the social revolution? A social revolution is the most tremendous shattering dynamic occurrence in the life of society. Dorothy Thompson saw socialism in Britain without social revolution. Halifax sees social revolution without socialism. Listen now to the eminent economist, Geoffrey Crowther, who writes in the New York Times Magazine of March 24. It is common knowledge that many Wall Street magnates here are nervous of what is happening to the social structure of Britain. Crowther explains to them the nature of the British revolution.

“The same misunderstandings arise over the world ‘revolution.’ In 1934 George Soule wrote a book called The Coming American Revolution, a good part of which was taken up with explaining that by ‘revolution’ he did not mean anything like the popular meaning of the word. So when I say I believe there is going to be a revolution in England, I am using the word in the way Mr. Soule used it.” A perfectly respectable revolution, in other words. Crowther’s revolution, “the new order or ideal” that is growing up in England, is the welfare of the citizen, not the glory of the state. He says that the choice now is not between “Individual competitive enterprise and centralized organization by the state, it is between centralized control by the state and by private trust.” But that for him is not too important. The new order or “ideal” will be based on (now for some sounding vacuities) “the emancipation of the individual,” “consent after discussion,” “the application of the economic sphere of government of the people, by the people, for the people.” He ends with a coy disavowal of even the word revolution. “I think a better name for it would be democracy.” So the democracy the workers must fight for is the democracy to come.

Bourgeois journalist, bourgeois statesman, bourgeois economist, this is the bilge they offer to the public as constructive thought in the face of the greatest social crisis that has ever faced humanity.

But there is another necessary element in bourgeois society where bourgeois democracy still lingers. That is the labor leader, and the most eminent of labor leaders today is Ernest Bevin. What are his views? Ralph Ingersoll interviewed him on labor and the future of England. Bevin declared: “I can tell you this: That England will never again tolerate large numbers of unemployed ... and I can tell you this. That the profit motive cannot and will not try to solve the large problem of reconstruction in this country after the war. The old capitalism is dead.” Who killed Cock Robin? Bevin knows that the profit motive cannot and will not try to solve problems! Where has it gone? Never were social revolutions, socialism, new societies appearing, old societies disappearing with such bewildering speed and with such secrecy as in the minds of the bourgeois spokesmen.

Ingersoll asked him what he thought would take the place of the old capitalism. And here Bevin kept his mouth clear of social revolution and socialism. Workers listen to him and might take his words seriously. He hedged. “Well, now, look here. The first thing we’ve got to do is to win this war.” He wanted to see the great industries nationalized, he would give Ingersoll copies of some speeches he had made ... yes. Bevin knew what he wanted to say.

These people, Thompson, Halifax, Crowther, Bevin and their New Dealer and Liberal friends, are not even sounding brass. They are today merely tinkling cymbals. They have not even a vision of the future that they can express in words. Lies and nonsense are the substance of their ideas, froth and equivocation the form. And yet, even in their self-contradictory blabbefings, social reality forces itself. Socialism, social revolution, a new order, haunts them. For they too know that the old world is dead. And their wry-mouthed tongue-twistings about socialism and revolution show that they have a pretty sound idea as to where and with whom lies the future of society.

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