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Ernest Lund

The Socialist Viewpoint on

The Labor Party Victory

(6 August 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 32, 6 August 1945,p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Ever since the returns revealed that Churchill and the Tory government had been swept out of office by the avalanche of Labor votes, the capitalist, press in this country has concerned itself with the question of what meaning the Labor government has for the future of British capitalism and the Empire.

The great concern of American and world capitalism in this question stems from quite obvious reasons. They want to know what will happen to the banks and industries under a Labor government. They want to know how it will affect Britain’s role as a world power. They want to know what bearing it has upon the future of India, the Arab world, and other British imperial possessions. And last, but not least, they want to know, what repercussions socialistic measures in England will have upon the politics of other countries, not excluding, the United States.

However, these questions are no less important for the working class of this country. We, too, must be able to clearly understand what is taking place in England. While we share with our British fellow-workers in the exultation of their great victory, it is necessary that we also soberly analyze and comprehend the actual situation in England and attempt to foresee the most likely trend of events. Otherwise we may experience rude shocks and cruel disappointments as the British political events begin to unravel.

Meaning of L.P. Program

It would, for instance, be folly to assume that just because the Labor Party set forth its program on paper and just because it received a clear-cut majority to carry it out that the program is just as good as achieved. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because between the proclamation of the program and its final realization will occur tremendous battles, that will rock the British Isles, The success of the English working class in these battles will depend upon how rapidly it learns its lessons and adopts methods of struggle that will insure success.

The program of the British Labor Party called for the nationalization of the Bank of England, the railways, the electric power utilities, the coal mines, and the iron and steel industry, i.e., the nerve center and sinews of British capitalism. This program of nationalization was the foundation for Labor’s program of post-war employment and a vast housing program.

It was this program which found such a tremendous response among the workers and soldiers. It promised to solve the two problem sabout which they were most concerned – homes and jobs. As an R.A.F. guard corporal stationed at Potsdam said to a correspondent:

“Labor will build homes faster than the Conservatives, we believe. We also believe, Labor will find employment for returned soldiers quicker and won’t keep us hanging about doing one full day’s work in nine.”

But the same program of nationalization which produced the outpouring of Labor votes, has not gone unheeded by the British ruling class. Their fear of this program was at the bottom of Churchill’s frenzied attacks upon Labor during the campaign. Yet Labor’s victory has not produced any outward signs of panic among British capitalists. Their calm is not born of a disregard for the peril which Labor’s vote constitutes for them. It is rather born of a feeling of self-confidence based upon their century-old experience and wisdom as rulers of the Empire and in a realization that their basic strength remains untouched by Labor’s victory.

A Labor majority in Parliament and a Cabinet composed of those who but yesterday sat cheek by jowl with Churchill in a war dedicated to the defense of the Empire has not changed the basic class relations in England. Capitalists still own and workers still work. Capitalists still make profits and workers still work for wages. The capitalist class is still the ruling class and the working class is still the ruled class. Their overwhelming defeat in the elections has been a serious blow to the capitalist class, but they have only been defeated in a battle. The war still remains to be fought.

A Capitalist State Power

British capitalism can still marshall tremendous forces in its defense in this class war. Its first line of defense will be the capitalist press. For the single daily paper of the Labor Party there are hundreds of capitalist dailies to wage a war of propaganda, prejudice, and poison against the demands of Labor. Their role will be to lay down a smokescreen of misinformation and confusion. Directed by such able campaigners as Churchill, Beaverbrook, and Bracken, British capitalism will mobilize every channel of public information which it controls in defense of private property and the ancient privileges of the profit-bund.

Its next line of defense will be the apparatus of state. The election of a Labor Cabinet has not changed the character of the capitalist state in Britain, This remains in the vast and powerful state bureaucracy, the career statesmen, the civil servants, the officer castes of the Army, Navy, and R.A.F., the judiciary, the colonial administration, the Church of England hierarchy, the educational system, etc. Educated in its exclusive schools, steeped in its traditions, married to its daughters, the state bureaucracy is tied to the ruling class by a thousand and one ties of social position, education, money, and ingrained political sentiment. They, together with the Labor Ministers, are the real administrators of the state power, British government is cabinet government and British cabinet governments have enormous powers. They fuse with the permanent state bureaucracy to form the total state power. Ministers may come and go but this vast apparatus remains as the flesh and blood embodiment of capitalist class political authority. They are and remain the state power.

Nothing could be further from the truth than to picture the state apparatus as consisting of devoted governmental servants who are unconcerned with political policy and merely carry out orders, regardless of who sits in the Cabinet. This state machine is as much a capitalist institution as the Board of Directors of the Bank of England. It is designed to serve one basic purpose – the preservation of British capitalism at home and abroad.

Within the state apparatus the final backbone of capitalist defense consists of the officer castes of the armed services. These are composed of the most able sons of the British ruling class. Their political influence in behalf of reaction in critical periods will be tremendous. The British workers would do well to remember the lessons of Spain in 1936 in this connection. Nor should anyone delude himself with the thought that the alleged Anglo-Saxon spirit of democracy and fair play preclude such a “Spanish” solution on the part of the British ruling class.

The final bulwark of capitalist defense is, of course, their economic power. It is upon this, in the long run, that all their other power rests. Until all important capitalist industrial, financial, and commercial enterprises have been nationalized, the capitalist class will remain the ruling class. They will never rest until they have restored private ownership in the decisive branches which Labor proposes to nationalize.

What Labor Must Do

If Labor is to achieve its program, it will have to act boldly and decisively against capitalist obstruction and sabotage. This means in the first place to break up the old state machine and replace it with administrators elected by councils of workers. This means to free the colonies and withdraw the British troops. This means to break the hold of the reactionary officer castes over the armed forces and replace them with elected commanders chosen by soldiers’ councils. This means to use the great British Broadcasting Corporation for a widespread program of socialist education. This means to utilize the tremendous power of the British trade union movement to establish workers’ control of production and workers’ control of distribution and rationing. This means to round up Mosley and all other agents of fascist violence and keep them out of harm’s way.

The election of a Labor majority has only been the first blow to achieve Labor’s program. The struggle has only begun. Its further success depends upon Labor acting along the lines indicated above. But there is no likelihood that we will see the day when men like Attlee, Morrison, Bevin, et al., act in this manner. This smacks of social revolution, even if revolution by clear-cut majority vote, and Labor’s leadership fears nothing more. Like Green and Murray in this country, they have a long record of timidity and appeasement to capital. They will find a hundred and one excuses for not acting decisively to break capitalist obstruction and carry out the program of nationalization.

The Labor Party as a whole has been cradled in the theory of “the inevitability of gradualness.” Its rank and file will have to re-learn quickly if its present great victory is to avoid shipwreck. They will hardly tolerate what happened in the first two Labor governments (1923 and 1929). Then the Labor leadership had the excuse that they did not have a majority in Parliament. This does not hold today. Messrs. Attlee, Bevin, et al., will have behind them the terrific pressure of a working class that wants results, not excuses. The results will come when the ranks take organized steps to achieve them. It was they, not Attlee, who won the great election victory. It will be they, in the last analysis, who will have to provide the forces to achieve Labor’s program.

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