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Workers’ International News, October 1940


Cabinet Reshuffle


From Workers’ International News, Vol.3 No.10, October 1940, pp.8-9.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Chamberlain has gone! The diplomatic illness which is the official excuse will deceive nobody. His resignation, both as a member of the government and as Chairman of the Conservative Party, has more deep-rooted significance than mere bodily ailments.

The very fact that it was accompanied by the promotion of the anti-appeasement Viscount Cranbourne to the position of Dominions Secretary and the appointment of Labour leaders Bevin and Morrison, one to the War Cabinet, the other to the Home Office, reveals that it is no ordinary resignation.

Several considerations have driven Churchill and the ruling class along the road of purging the Government of its leading Munichers. On the one hand there has been the need of reassuring the workers that the French capitulation would not be repeated in this country. There has also been the necessity of giving the same guarantee to the American capitalists. And finally the Kremlin has had to be persuaded of the serious intentions of the British Government in seeking an Anglo-Soviet agreement.

Which consideration weighed most heavily it is difficult to say. With regard to the first two, the Government has been making concessions to both groups and it has become obvious that Churchill has been almost equally anxious to satisfy both the workers on this side of the Atlantic and the capitalists on the other.

The matter has been brought to a head by the Three Power Pact coupled by the nightly bombing raids on London and the complete failure of the Government to make adequate provision for shelter. The smell of Chamberlain’s burning flesh is designed to assure America that the destroyers and other material which it has handed over to this country and the preparations it is making to enter the war on Britain’s side will not be set at nought by a British agreement with Hitler and the handing over of the navy to Germany. The sight of Herbert Morrison at the Home Office is meant to be a guarantee to the British, and especially the London workers, that everything possible, is being prepared for their security and comfort, and furthermore the throwing overboard of the Munichers is designed to demonstrate to Stalin that if Russia enters the war on Britain’s side there will be no sudden appeasement of Germany by the Chamberlain clique and a turning eastward of the German military machine.

The entire situation in. Britain recently has been governed by three factors. The German successes on the continent and the loss of most of the equipment of the BEF, put British capitalism in a position in which only American imperialism could come to its rescue. Left alone, it could only look forward to defeat either at the hands of the German military machine or at the hands of the working class which had learned that the British imperialists were not fighting fascism, and that only the working class could do this.

But while the American industrial machine is being geared up to give the necessary help, the British workers must be pacified, kept contented, kept believing that the war is being fought for freedom and democracy. And who could do this better than the Labour leaders, the actual representatives of the workers.

Coupled with the gradual decline of the appeasers and the rise of the labour leaders have come other concessions to the workers. The “Cooper’s Snoopers” plan and the “Silent Column” were very readily dropped. A blind eye was turned to the “holiday” strike at de Havilland’s , in spite of the anti-strike legislation that has been passed. The soldiers have been granted an extra 6d a day. A hasty retreat was made with regard to the use of the London. Underground stations as air raid shelters. And another retreat was made in the matter of compensation to workers injured during air raids.

Truly the ruling class pays a heavy premium for the insurance which “democracy” affords it. The air and naval bases already granted in the West Indies, and those still to be granted at Singapore and elsewhere will never be surrendered again by the American imperialists. They will be so many American Gibraltars scattered throughout the world.

The cry “Chamberlain must go!” has gone up from several quarters in this country in the past. Notably it has come from the Communist Party, and no doubt King Street will be pondering with grave anxiety about their next “interim policy.”

While the Kremlin is negotiating with the Churchill government and there is no specific “line” the British Communist Party must find something in which to sink its teeth and pretend that it is conducting a fight against capitalism. At the moment it is saved by the agitation for deep shelters. And it has in reserve the fact that Halifax is still in the cabinet. But if those two are taken away, then Pollitt & Co will be hard pressed to keep up the pretence that they have a policy.

Now that Chamberlain has been kicked out of the Government, the bourgeois press and particularly its “left” wing will re-emphasise the “democratic” nature of the war. Churchill will be more widely boosted than ever before as the crusader in the cause of Democracy. Bevin and Morrison, performing an identical function to that of Blum and the Social Democratic ministers in the Government of the Popular Front of France, will be showered with bouquets and lauded as the guardians of the rights, of the working class in the government.

The oppressed classes, not conscious of their own interests and used to sacrifices, accept the policies put forward by the labour leaders at face value. The basic historic crime of these leaders consists in their fostering and strengthening their subservience to their rulers. In order to expose these fakirs in their true role, that is agents of the master class in the ranks of the toilers, we demand that they assume full power, and that they take the full responsibility for the inevitable disastrous outcome of the policies of betrayal which they are advocating.

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