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Raymond Challinor

Challinor’s Choice

(19 April 1969)

From Socialist Worker, No. 118, 19 April 1969, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, a debate has smouldered on about the prospects of Labour winning the next general election. Those who have thought this a possibility have argued that, in the immediate pre-election period, Wilson would reflate the economy, an air of affluence would be created – and Labour would be able to float back to power on it.

I have never subscribed to this theory. The sickness of British capitalism makes it unlikely, in my opinion, that economic recovery could be sustained for sufficiently long to have an impact on the electorate’s attitudes. Moreover, the frail state of the economy makes it accident-prone, easily knocked off course, and therefore delicate campaign calculations can easily go awry.

Another factor is the demoralisation of Labour’s rank and file. Most constituency party meetings resemble the geriatric ward at Ely Hospital. Although CLPs are certainly less crowded than Ely, attendance at them involves a similar experience. It seems highly unlikely that Transport House will be able to repair the ravages that the last five years have done to the organisation. The leaders’ only hope of arousing enthusiasm in the ranks would be to devise a scheme that provided free burials for old party stalwarts.

If anything, Labour’s position is worse financially than organisationally. Have you ever stopped to think what is the most unpopular thing you can ever do? The answer is to ask people to subscribe to Labour Party funds.

Yet this has got to be done – and done successfully – if there is to be the least prospect of winning at the hustings.

As party treasurer, Jim Callaghan must have had intimate, first-hand experience of attempting to get trade unionists, whose wage increases have been blocked under the incomes policy, to contribute to Labour coffers. The hopelessness of his task may well have been partly responsible for his vacillations over Barbara Castle’s anti-working class legislation.


IT IS NOT MERELY Jesus Christ who was resurrected. Many old comrades are now coming back from the dead. For years they had ceased to exist – been ‘unpersons’ – who, because of alleged deviations, could never be mentioned by a communist historian in any history he wrote.

But times are a-changing. It is good to see James Klugmann, in his history of the Communist Party of Great Britain, acknowledging that in 1921 ‘John MacLean and Harry’ McShane were leading the unemployed into action.’ Likewise he mentions that I.P. Hughes was appointed CP Merseyside District organiser in December 1922, the fourth full-time organiser the party had.

Today, of course, Harry McShane is still active. His Glasgow Marxist-Humanist group recently published a pamphlet on Czechoslovakia, in which it attributes the crisis to Russia’s imperialist policy. Similarly, I.P. Hughes is still active. A member of Merseyside IS, he is very valuable because of his vast fund of experience.

Just good friends

IN HIS PLAY Man and Superman, Bernard Shaw has a scene in which a millionaire called Tanner is held up on a remote mountain path by an armed bandit. The thief introduces himself: ‘I am a robber. I live by robbing the rich.’ Tanner replies: ‘I am a capitalist. I live by robbing the poor.’ The two men shake hands affectionately.

Elsewhere Bernard Shaw elaborates on the kinship of capitalism and crime:

‘The thief who is in prison is not necessarily more dishonest than his fellows at large, but only one who, through ignorance or stupidity, steals in a way that is not customary. He snatches a loaf from the baker’s counter and is promptly run into jail. Another man snatches bread from the tables of hundreds of widows and orphans and simple credulous souls who do not know the ways of company promoters; and, as likely as not, he is run into parliament.’

For simple souls, it’s extremely difficult to tell the difference between the capitalist and the criminal. The Grampian Chemicals Company, for example, wants £22m of public money for its refinery; the mail train robbers only wanted £2m of public money.

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Last updated: 15 January 2021