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After the Labor Government’s Fall

New Nat’l Government

(September 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 24, 19 September 1931, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


Full details of the Labor government’s fall and of the formation of the National government will be, by now, in the hands of American militants: probably some points concerning the effect of this change, and of the threatened attack on the workers, upon the English proletariat, will be of interest to readers of the Militant.

One thing stands out most clearly – the immediate response of the working people. Not since the General Strike of 1926 have audiences been so easy to get and so attentive: socialist and Communist meetings are attracting large audiences and unemployed meetings and marches, in some cases spontaneous, are becoming daily occurrences in some districts. The English workers have awakened in a manner that reveals very clearly their fundamental soundness in class outlook. Even more ominous is the fact that the long silence over the General Strike is at last broken and the proletariat is discussing the events of 1926 because their relation to today has been strikingly revealed.

The working class, employed and unemployed, are united against the National government and its economy plans: only over the question of ways and means of meeting the attack are they divided and uncertain.

The Labor “Opposition”

Right up to the moment of the cabinet’s resignation, the chief leaders of the present Labor “Opposition” were prepared to accept “nine-tenths” of the bankers’ demands. The General Council of the Trades Union Congress were also prepared to reduce the workers’ wages but by the less open method of tariffs. Now, both groups, wisely silent over their previous attitude, are, together with the Independent Labor Party, grouped together against the whole program of the National government.

The three Labor ministers who have joined the National government – Snowden, MacDonald and Thomas – are undoubtedly the three most able men in the Labor party. Thomas is its most astute tactician; Snowden its financial expert and MacDonald the leading theorist of British gradualism. Their breach with the Labor party has a deeper meaning than merely a “sell-out”. It is not a “sell-out” in the commonly understood sense of the word: these men have seen quite clearly that the only alternative to acceptance of the employers’ demands is revolution – which, of course, is no alternative to reformists.

Because of this, the “Opposition” of Henderson, of Clynes, of Maxton, of the General Council, will be limited to words and to unreal parliamentary “opposition”, since any effective mobilization of the workers will raise revolutionary issues. Indeed can only be effective to the extent that it can challenge the whole basis of capitalist rule in Britain. This difference between a revolutionary leadership and a reformist one is not being emphasized here at all, and the Communist party is in danger of becoming either a mere “tail” of the “Left wing” or an isolated group understood by no one.

The Plight of the Party

The party has never before been seen to such disadvantage. Days elapsed before any lead was given to the party members or to the workers: locals meeting difficult and delicate questions in the localities were left to drift. Only under pressure from angry rank and filers did the party leadership eventually issue some kind of lead – a confused and uncertain call which left the locals even more muddled than before.

The slogans of the party – “Not a penny off the dole”; “Not one worker off benefit”; etc. – are in essence the slogans of the “Left” and nowhere is it being shown clearly that the party is a revolutionary party, different fundamentally from the I.L.P.

There has been, to date, no clear explanation in the Daily Worker of the crisis, no clear statement of how the fight is to be waged and with what end. To the numerous questions raised by the locals, there is no reply.

The workers are, justly as far as they are concerned, beginning to assume that the party and the Labor “Opposition” are, save for personal differences, working along the same lines. More especially so since the Labor leaders are endeavoring to divert the workers from immediate action by talking of the next General Election and the party urges that “now is the time to build up the party’s General Election Fund.” By its inability to use the recent events to show the lie of parliamentary democracy, by its cowardice, hesitancy and its stupidity, the party leadership is aiding the labor leaders to hoodwink the working class.

Criticism has already been levelled at these leaders and more will follow. In the events of the next few weeks, the workers may forge new weapons and find new leaders; in any case, they will demand a reckoning from these who have served them falsely.

American Bankers and the Crisis

Comments upon the revelations of the party played in the crisis by American bankers, are both amusing and instructive.

The Liberal press, whilst more or less admitting that the bankers demanded certain “guarantees” before agreeing to the loan, are regretting the event – not, however, the fact that the bankers should dictate to Parliament but that the dictation should be made public!

Sections of the Labor movement are playing the imperialist game by denouncing “foreign” bankers’ interference with English government, although the part played by the English bankers was precisely the same. In this way, the anti-American feeling is fostered amongst the workers here.

An American Communist, one of the party on their way to the Soviet Union a few weeks ago, was questioned about the attitude of the American workers to England and whether the American labor movement recognized the dangers of war through the development of Anglo-American rivalry.

A look of astonishment came over his face: war, he declared, between the two countries was undreamed of, and his expression showed that as far as he was concerned, he’d never heard of such a thing! Which shows how well the Molotovs and the Stalins have done their work.

Some Stalinist “Leninism”

An address delivered early this year by M. Gurevitch (Director of the Supreme Council of National Economy of the U.S.S.R.) to the “Society for Cultural Relations with Russia”, has just been published in pamphlet form. Some of the statements in it deserve to be classed with Litvinov’s latest utterances.

His concluding words were:

“We have so much work to do in our own country and so little help from abroad, that our only desire is to be left alone. Let us work for a few years. All of you here are not Communists. Nor am I here to convert you. We have only one wish. Here are two systems, one Communist (!) and the other capitalist. Let us have a fair struggle, and let us meet again in a few years time and then judge who has succeeded and who has failed ... after a few years let us compare results.” (Page 15).

M. Gurevitch is certainly a good pupil of Stalin: who would have thought it possible that such pitiful nonsense could be put forward on behalf of workers’ Russia. A remarkable tribute to the effectiveness of the struggle against “Trotskyism” in the Comintern!

London, September 2, 1931


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