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Conservatives Press Attack on Labor

Consequences of the Elections in Great Britain
and Prospects for the Communists

(October 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 32, 21 November 1931, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Two days ago the General Election, described by the liberal Manchester Guardian as the “shortest, strangest and most fraudulent of our time”, ended. Out of the confusion and the turmoil of the last few weeks has come the strongest reactionary Government this country has had since the war.

Most Militant readers will be familiar with the results of the Election before this letter appears in print. Some comment is however justified and necessary, for the effects of the Election are likely to be far-reaching. The clearer we are as to why the National Government was elected in this way, the nearer we shall be to establishing a correct policy for the English revolutionary movement.

First let it be said that the recent Election was the most vicious of modern times. The Conservatives set out to “smash Socialism” and its supposed advocates, the Labour Party (rather puzzling this to our comrades who say that Labour is the same as the Conservatives and who call the Labour Party “Social-Fascist”!); to establish protection, to lower the workers’ wages and to drive thousands off of unemployment benefit. Their petty-bourgeois servants, the Labour Party, were too weak, too vacillating to carry the program through effectively: so, as in 1924 when the first Labour Government was swept aside to give place to the Baldwin Government, the Labour Party had to go in order to make room for more ruthless Government.

The Conservative Attack On Labour

To this end a sweeping attack was carried through upon the Labour Party, an attack waged by newspapers, the wireless, the platform and the cinema. The reply of the Labour Party was timid, cowardly and confused. More and more they were driven into a position where their only effective reply could be a class reply, a Socialist reply. But how could they reply in this way? How could they who decry class war rally the working class against their masters? How could men who had previously agreed to “economies” protest effectively against “economies”? With a shameful record as a Government, with the whole basis for their reformist policy swept away, with the knowledge, behind their semi-apologetic protests, that if returned they could do nothing, how could they rally the workers against the employers?

Against the fierce attack of the ruling class, the Labour Party could pit only weak words and pledges that rang false. By their timidity, by the confusion they spread, by the policy they had pursued when the “economy cuts” were made, Labour helped to weaken and discourage the working class and to expose the whole movement to the attack which, now begun, will be carried ruthlessly through to the bitter end.

Seldom has the mailed fist of capitalist rule been so clearly visible through the velvet glove of democracy. “Dare to demonstrate”, said the National Ministers, “and we will have you batoned down.” “Dare to return a Labour Government,” said the financiers, “and we will pull down the pound sterling.” “Dare to vote Labour”, said the employer, “and I shall have to close down my factory.” A lesson, this election, in the realities of capitalist democracy, a lesson soon to be expounded more clearly by the Employers National Government.

In such circumstances it is not to be wondered at that the Conservatives were able to pull over the petit-bourgeoisie almost en bloc and even to Influence the waverers in the ranks of the workers. Decisiveness, power, confidence and a bold working class program could have won Labour tremendous support; but these things cannot, in a crisis, come from the representatives of the petit-bourgeoisie ; they can only come from the workers’ revolutionary Party. So the strength of the Conservative’s campaign enabled them to march the middle-classes, with drums beating and flags flying, to the Poll. The six and a half-million votes cast for Labour were working class votes, but they were votes cast without hope and with the minimum enthusiasm.

The weakness of Labour, together with the peculiarities of the electoral system, account for the weakness of the Labour Party in the new House of Commons. Here are the principle figures.






For the Government (Tories, National-
liberals & National-labour



The Labour Opposition



Communist Party



It would naturally seem to follow that the Communist Party would rally considerable support around its candidates.

In a previous letter, the weakness of the Party’s line in the Election has been dealt with: the results certainly show that there was much wrong. For the Election weakened, as we predicted, the mass movement against the cuts and also brought very few votes to the Party candidates.

The Results for the Communists Of the total Communist poll of 72,024 votes, 43,892 were cast in four constituencies out of twenty-six. In the 1929 election the party polled 50,000 votes with twenty-five candidates contesting: in some constituencies this election saw an increase; in some, notably Greenock, Battersea and Ogmore there was a decrease. Insofar as votes indicate the amount of support existing for the Party, the results show how very weak the Party is in England and how effectively its recent campaign against the “economies” has been.


It is clear that during this winter the employers will attempt to reduce wages heavily and that the application, by the National Government, of the “means test” to thousands of unemployed will worsen the conditions of large numbers of unemployed and employed workers. A correct policy, a clear fighting call, and a sensible approach to the workers will bring tremendous support to the Party. Without this the Party cannot grow and cannot fulfill its duty to the international working class.

But unfortunately we know that our leaders are incapable of achieving real and lasting results for the Party, and are incapable of playing a decisive role in the big struggles ahead. We have already seen, time after time, that the failure or treachery of Labour does not automatically bring increased support to the Party. Only if the Party membership can force a full unfettered discussion and from that discussion select a Bolshevik leadership; only providing that the power of the Stalinist machine can be broken and new life and vigor brought to the Party, Can we hope to play a decisive part in the struggles of the next few months. To this end the activities of the Opposition comrades in England must be directed.

London, October 29, 1931


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