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C. Charles

British Labor Party Leaders Betray
Masses of Both India and England

Support Tories’ War Aims and Labor Policies

(7 March 1942)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 10, 7 March 1942, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In their manifesto giving the official statement of their views on the war and the post-war aims, issued on Feb. 27, tire executive committee of the reformist British Labor Party once more comes to the support of the British, capitalist class.

The prestige of the capitalist class of Great Britain is clearly at the lowest point in decades.

The workers are seething with discontent over the conduct of the war which has resulted in a series of military defeats. On the production front the workers are beginning to oppose the profits-first policies of the capitalists.

The reshuffling of the British cabinet was a desperate attempt to allay this mass discontent by the ancient device of providing scapegoats.

Now when there is a great opportunity to raise the banner of socialism in the British Isles, to advance the ‘idea of a workers’ struggle against fascism, to drive the Tories out. of office, the leadership of the British Labor Party issues a sell-out statement.

This statement will be analyzed at greater length in coming issues of The Militant. Now we will mention only a few points.

In the most nationalistic way this party, the largest section of the Second International declares that the “peoples of Germany, Italy and Japan must be brought to realize the power which peace-loving nations can mobilize against aggression is overwhelming in its strength and absolute in its assurance of success.”

Helps Axis Rulers

Is there any hotter way of doing the work of Hitler, Hirohito and Mussolini than lumping the masses of Japan, Italy and Germany, who did not want the war and who have nothing to gain from the war, together with their capitalist rulers, who want and hope to profit by the war?

The leaders of the Labor Party solidarize themselves with the super-Versailles war aims of Churchill and Roosevelt, glossing over the capitalist nature of these war aims with fine words about the “four freedoms.”

Thus the Axis rulers are able to keep their toilers in line by the masses’ fear of another Versailles peace of victors and vanquished. Hitler, Mussolini and the rulers of Japan point at the Labor Party and say to their masses: “You are sure to get another Versailles treaty unless we win. Even the Labor Party stands for such a peace.”

The result of the Labor Party manifesto, therefore, is not only to strengthen the position of British and American capitalism, but the position of the Axis rulers as well.

Masses Stirring

The final word will be said, however, not by the heads of the Labor Party, but by the British masses. There are many signs that the policies of the Labor Party leaders are opposed by the great masses of Britain.

At the time of the outbreak of the present war, the Labor Party made an agreement with the Conservative Party (Tories) not to place any candidates up against the other in the event of an election. If a seat in Parliament were to be vacated for any reason and if this seat were previously held by the Conservative Party, the Labor Party would not place any candidate up against that of the Conservative Party. The Conservative Party, in turn, agreed not to launch a candidate in opposition to that of the Labor Party.

The relationship of forces as it existed at the time of the outbreak of the war was frozen. The Labor Party delivered itself up bound hand and foot to the British ruling class and their party which was in control of Parliament.

The masses within the Labor Party are now beginning to stir in opposition to the policy of the leadership. This was manifested most sharply last December at the time of the vote on conscription of all men and women in England for war or work.

Division Among the Deputies

In this discussion, the leader of the so-called left wing, Mr. Shinwell, stated in debate with his own party leaders:

“The male labor of the country and to a large extent the female labor of the country is conscripted. In effect, everything is conscripted with the sole exception of’ the vested interests. Labor did not enter the government for this. Has the Labor Party not always declared that if Labor was conscripted there must be a quid pro quo (this for that)? Did they not abandon that principle when they went in?”

Shinwell of course does not represent the real interests of the masses. He fights shy of giving a concrete socialist answer to the problem. He ambitiously hopes to capitalize on the growing opposition of the masses to the sellout policy of the Labor Party officials.

But the important thing is that the masses are in increasing opposition to the policies of the leaders of the Labor Party. This opposition showed itself, in nowhere near its real strength, by the vote of 30 members of the Labor Party in Parliament against the official policy of the Labor Party on the question of “conscription of wealth.”

Another sign of the veering away of the masses from the official Labor Party is the increase in votes of the centrist Independent Labor Party in the recent bye-elections when they polled from 15% to 29% of the total vote. This vote was recorded in spite of the fact that the Communist Party ardently supported the Tories in the elections.

The British Socialist Appeal, organ of the Workers International League, a Trotskyist group, demands that the Labor Party end’ the coalition with the Tories and strive for power upon a program of socialist demands.

Strikes Increase

Just as the Labor Party agreed to a coalition with the Tories on the political field so did the trade union leaders agree with the employers to a “truce” on the economic field. Without consulting the masses, they adopted a no-strike compulsory arbitration policy that cripples the workers’ efforts to better their conditions.

The standards of living of the workers are constantly falling as the effects of goods shortages and higher prices are being felt ever more sharply.

The workers’ resentment is increased because at the same time, the bosses’ profits are not being curtailed but are even rising. The British Economist points out that 2017 companies which had reported by Jan. 1, 1942, showed a total profit of 389 million pounds for 1941 over 375 million pounds for 1940.

As a result of these factors, and in spite of the official policy of the trade union leaders, workers have struck in numerous cases. For example:

The aircraft workers in the Napiers Plant in Liverpool struck: a “token” walkout of a half-hour took place in all the shipyards on the Clyde; 5,000 men walked out in the Rolls Royce plant; several thousand Kentish coal miners struck and succeeded in raising their pay from 6 shillings, 9 pence a day to 15 shillings, 2½ pence a day.

(More on Great Britain next week)

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