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Paul G. Stevens

Events on the International Scene

(7 June 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 23, 7 June 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The British Labor Conference

At the Labor party’s annual conference in Scarborough last week, the leaders of the British “Socialist” government encountered the greatest pressure from the ranks since they took power three years ago. from scattered reports, in the press the following picture emerges:

An attempt, spearheaded by cabinet ministers Sir Stafford Cripps and Herbert Morrison, to scuttle the party’s program of continuing nationalization – particularly the steel industry – was beaten back. Premier Attlee himself was constrained to make a “solemn pledge” that the steel industry would be nationalized before the next elections in 1950.

The leaders found it necessary to counter-weigh their expulsion of the pro-Stalinist Member of Parliament, Platt-Mills – as part of their “anti-Communist” campaign – with the expulsion of A. Edwards, a Right Wing M.P. who openly agitated against the party’s nationalization program for the steel industry.

On foreign policy, the leadership had to swallow a resolution which “urges the Labor party to cooperate with European socialist parties in taking practical steps to achieve the United Socialist States of Europe in complete military and political independence of the USA and the USSR.” But, of course, they indicated through cabinet minister Hugh Dalton that they merely intended to give lip-service to this idea. Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin had to give repeated assurances that Marshall Plan aid was being accepted “without any political strings attached.” A resolution condemning the government’s atrocities in Greece was tempered by the party leaders to include condemnation of “reprisals” by the guerillas.

The Scarborough conference was preceded by agitated meetings in local organizations of the Labor party. In Herbert Morrison’s own constituency, the leadership had to mobilize national spokesmen to obtain withdrawal by a small voting margin of a resolution previously adopted, which called for the government to accept the discipline and carry out the decisions of the annual party conference. (Among others, the government had failed to carry out a resolution demanding the immediate institution of equal pay for women in government employ – passed at last year’s conference over the unanimous opposition of the leadership.)

No less than 15 resolutions were placed before the conference calling for workers control of nationalized industry, the most interesting of these coming from the Salford organization and reading:

“This conference calls upon the Labor government to place on the statute books, during this session, an Act for the Nationalization of the Iron and Steel industry, without compensation, an Act which shall have as its foundation a complete scheme of control by the workers engaged in the industry. In every steel and iron plant, there shall be elected a Committee of Control. The Committee shall include the Management and Technicians’ representatives, but only the elected workers shall have voting powers. This Committee shall have power to examine all aspects of the companies’ activities, financial and technical and to have access to all books past and present relating to the business of the firm. The principle of Workers Control shall be applied to all industries nationalized past and present.”

RDR and the Shachtmanites

Swinging freely with epithets characteristic of the hysteria which is their style, the Shachtmanites in Labor Action make unfounded accusations against this column for throwing light on their unprincipledness in connection with some French ex-Trotskyists who joined the centrist swamp known as the “Revolutionary Democratic Rally” (RDR.)

They say that in our column of April 12, we described the RDR as a “pro-Stalinist movement.” This is, of course, a bare-faced invention, as any reader can verify for himself. On the contrary, we stressed its “neo-reformist character.”

We did call unprincipled the Shachtmanites’ embrace of Demazieres, the ex-Trotskyist who for years headed “a right wing group which sought to water down the revolutionary program of the PCI and pursued a line of adaptation to the Stalinist policy dominant in the French mass movement.” At the time of writing, however, we were not aware of Demaziere’s 180-degree turn from pro-Stalinism to pro-Marshall Plan. Demazieres had never before given an indication of a change in attitude toward Stalinism, any more than did Rousset, one of the present leaders of the RDR. Under the pen-name of Leblanc, the latter wrote a brazen defense of Stalinism recently, which Shachtman tried to palm off as the “logical consequence” of SWP policy on this subject. It turned out instead, that their “logic” leads both into the same centrist swamp.

In their embrace of the RDR and Demazieres, the Shachtmanites did not breathe a word about the record of the latter or of Rousset-Leblanc. Only our exposure forced them to say a few words on the subject. Neither did we know then that the Shachtmanites are appeasing Marshall Plan supporters in their own ranks. The French petty bourgeois radicals make a 180-degree turn from pro-Stalinism; their counterparts in the Shachtmanite ranks make just as sudden a turn toward the: Marshall Plan. This provides the “principled” basis, no doubt, for an open alliance between them, which previously was kept well-hidden. If that is principled politics, excuse us!

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