From International Socialism (1st series), No.10, Autumn 1962, pp.21-31.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
Tirril Harris, 22 years old, has studied Philosophy, Politics, Economics at Oxford, and Psychology at London; is currently engaged in research in social psychology. She is active in the Young Socialists, YCND, and the Labour Party.
Jim Kincaid, 26 years old, is a research worker at Aberdeen University, having studied English and Economics at Glasgow and Sociology at the London School of Economics. Was International Secretary of the National Association of Labour Students (1960-61), is currently active in the Young Socialists and Labour Party. Is a reviewer for International Socialism, has contributed to New Left Review (cf. Spring 1962 – Slum Clearance) and is currently preparing a book on Government housing policy.
Ross Pritchard, 24 years old, is a lithographer from Glasgow, and active in the YS (Springburn and Hornsey) and YCND.
Noel Tracy, 22 years old, is an accountant, is Chairman of Holborn and St Pancras CND, active in YCND, the YS, and the Committee of 100.
We are concerned here to sketch out something of the history of the Labour Party, defence and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament – the aim is modest and the conclusions similarly provisional.
The main forces within the Labour Party working for a change in foreign policy have traditionally been more heavily middle-class than on other issues  except on those occasions where foreign policy has been intimately related with crucial domestic policy issues or has been part of a general wave of radicalism. Thus, for example, foreign policy and particularly defence was a crucial domestic issue in the period 1949-51 insofar as meeting the cost of defence entailed a conscious Government policy of lowering the standard of living and cutting back social service expenditure.  It would not be surprising therefore to find that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a group dedicated solely to a foreign policy’ issue and firmly resistant to adopting a general programme, should have been in its inception heavily middle-class. This point is confirmed both from contemporary press accounts and from a small survey done of the 1959 Aldermaston March.  Such a movement is likely then to be heavily ideological (as opposed to reacting sharply to material issues, viz. the wages pause, redundancy, a rising cost of living, housing etc.) and more closely related to relatively remote happenings (e.g. talks in Geneva) than ordinary domestic political activities. It is not inappropriate therefore to sketch out something of international history up to 1957 as a preliminary and attempting to gauge its impact on domestic politics for the development of a nuclear disarmament movement.
It should be said at the outset that if CND were a direct function of international tension and the danger of the use of the Bomb, it should have been formed much earlier than it was for by 1958 (the year the Campaign was set up), the Cold War in its classical phase was already well over. This heyday began seriously in 1948 with the conjunction of the coup d’etat by the Communists in Czechoslovakia and the Berlin air-lift. Churchill’s Fulton speech in 1946 announced the creation of the iron curtain, 1949 saw the consolidation of a Communist regime in China and the announcement that Russia possessed the Atomic Bomb. A year later, events in Korea brought matters to a climax which threatened to obliterate the distinction between Cold and hot war – the US general, MacArthur, considered bombing installations in Manchuria and thus precipitating a world war, and later there was talk of invading China proper with nuclear weapons. Attlee flew in haste to remonstrate with Truman (30 November, 1950), and, whatever the reason, Truman climbed down – MacArthur was ordered home and forcibly retired into Remington Rand, not, however, without seven and a half million people giving him the most tumultuous ticker-tape reception in New York, suggesting something of the degree of popular support in America for tough Cold War policies. Although Korea was stabilized in unhappy stalemate, the damping of one flash point seemed only to increase the pressure elsewhere. We can here only pinpoint a few of those pressures – the war in Malaya (beginning in 1948, and culminating in the murder of the British Governor in the early fifties); in Indo-China, where early in 1954, Dulles said his policy of ‘massive retaliation’ would be executed ‘instantly, by means and at places of our own choosing’ – emphasizing the helplessness of Britain and all other countries in preventing America embarking on all-out war. Dulles studiously avoided all talk of negotiation – ‘appeasement’ was the only apparent alternative to ‘brinkmanship’ – and funnelled increasing American military aid to the French in Indo-China.
Beginning in 1953. tension began to ease off – one of the reasons being that, as from August, Russia possessed the H-Bomb [3a], so equalizing and stabilizing the balance of forces. The first Formosan crisis of early 1955 demonstrated that maximum tension was over – Dulles might threaten to invade China and Eisenhower consider using tactical nuclear weapons, but American policy was entirely directed to preventing the outbreak of conflict rather than mobilizing one side for an all-out solution – friction must be contained not intensified. By now it was accepted as it had not been in 1948 and in Korea that the frontier between East and West was stable – relative spheres of influence achieved de facto recognition from the other side, both as a negative gesture of weariness at the continued instability, and as recognition that each side had armed itself to such an extent and sufficiently widely throughout the globe that any small friction anywhere could evoke all-out conflict. As a result, the crude realpolitik of earlier years gave way to a propaganda war to win the now apparent uncommitted ‘third force’ of no man’s land. This ‘force’, the poorest and weakest sector of the world but the only remaining area for either side to expand into, had been developing continuously since the war – its power could only develop in an ideological conflict as ideology was all it had to offer. Furthermore, as both sides were at pains to court it, its role seemed vastly superior to the negligible military forces at its disposal. India, independent in 1948, studiously refrained from alignment. In 1949, Yugoslavia broke away from the Soviet Empire, and posed a similar problem. Later Egypt demonstrated a revolution without immediate alignment to the East. Later as African states attained independence, their voices were added to the chorus of those who were united only by their common antipathy – the Cold War was to their advantage insofar as both sides existed and could be played off against each other. For despairing Western radicals, the ghost of an alternative to East and West was a temptation not to be resisted – third forcism, the promise Social Democracy as an alternative to both Communism and Capitalism never fulfilled, achieved a new incarnation at the hands of the nuclear disarmers.
Internal changes within the Soviet Union seemed to help the general thaw (and in some peoples eyes, caused it) – the death of Stalin in 1953 (as, it was alleged, the death of Dulles later) permitted more flexible Russian policies: the Soviet Union could favour international stability rather than Russian expansion. The evidence seemed to bear out the thesis – by 1955, the Russians had signed a peace treaty with Austria (a long outstanding bone of contention) and made a settlement with Finland that involved substantial concessions. On the other hand, although to many the West seemed reluctant to accept the ‘thaw’, substantial changes of direction did occur – Churchill called as early as March, 1953, for summit talks; by 1954, McCarthyism, the most extreme expression of Cold Warism, was politically dead. By 1955. both British parties were pledged to seeking summit negotiation as the universal panacea. Indeed, Eden’s 1955 election campaign in foreign affairs leaned heavily on his claim to have badgered the Americans into considering a meeting with the Russians.  The Geneva Talks which followed were amiable but fruitless, and the Disarmament Talks, a ‘stately dance’, seemed to suggest that the problems were deeper than merely ‘bad communication’ between both sides. However, good fellowship persisted – Khruschev and Bulganin were invited to visit Britain and accepted. Before we look into the concrete impact of these events, what can be said of the likely effects? Firstly, one of the chief British fears in the early fifties, for obvious reasons on the present account, was that Britain would be implicated in a crisis of American making. This became associated with the increasing knowledge that Britain, being the forward defence line of an almost invulnerable American continent, was not only one of the most inviting and necessary first targets of an Russian attack, but was also the most indefensible. Later, the evidence of rising radioactivity and its relationship to leukaemia (contingent upon the information deriving from Hiroshima, the experience of the ‘Lucky Dragon’ and the new world-circling fall-out clouds that resulting from the size of American tests) emphasized fear with terror. What solutions to these problems lay open to the articulate middle-class? The absence of a firm opposition to the status quo in all its aspects, Communist or Labour, and furnishing of the labour movement alter the period of Labour Government, of trade union apathy and bureaucracy, threw critics of foreign policy back upon their own resources and upon the tradition of Liberal protest – mobilizing ‘public opinion’. However, in the early fifties, it was possible, empirically, to rely on two possible autonomous solutions evolving out of the actual logic of events – thus, the death of Stalin could prompt many to rely on the mere evolution of a ‘more liberal’ Russian attitude to solve international problems. When this failed (for many, the solution still persists – cf. the writings of Isaac Deutscher), reliance could be placed on summit talks, a concept with a hoary Liberal history that dates from the Concert of Europe through the League of Nations, the summit meetings of the twenties (cf. Lloyd George’s desire to meet Lenin at Rapallo, 1923), Chamberlain’s attitude to Hitler, the Big Three during the War and so on, and Disarmament Talks. The apparent failure of both these solutions, of course, did not destroy a belief in them – hope continues to spring eternal. But they did cast doubt upon the processes of political selection which allowed men to be nominated as world leaders who, it seemed, were neither sensible (‘responsible’) nor saw the problem of world agreement as urgent enough. From here, it could be suggested, the way forward lay through the formation of a pressure group to compel leaders to be sensible or to attempt penetration of political organizations in order to influence leaders (although this was a much longer shot). If this also seemed to fail, one can see an easy transition to an ‘anti-political’ climate of opinion that seeks through one means (terrorism, minority illegal protest) or another (revolution) to overthrow not only the existing leaders who negotiate but also the structure on which they stand.
What formal reaction to world events can be discerned up to 1957? The subject falls into two separate streams – that within and that without the Labour Party. Outside the Labour Party there was minimal activity – although the petition of the British Peace Committee in 1950 (as part of the Stockholm peace petition campaign) collected one and a half million signatures demanding a multilateral end to the manufacture and testing of the A Bomb. Too much emphasis should not be placed upon this. Petitions are of their nature passive and pious, and this one to a certain extent demonstrated an aftermath of wartime sympathy
[part of the text is missing here in the original]
munist-front paper Peace organizations (cf. the proscribed list of the Labour Party). More interestingly, in 1951 the Peace Pledge Union’s ‘Non-Violence Commission’ (formed in 1954) which united a small following of Quakers and pacifists, held its first sit-down outside a South Wales army-camp – some seventy took part for a few hours. The following year saw three PPU demonstrations under a campaign known as ‘Operation Gandhi’ – outside the War Office (January 11) when thirteen were arrested; on a march from Aldermaston village to the nearby building site of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (February) in which some twenty-five participated in leafleting workmen (the posters read: ‘Atom Bombs disgrace Democracy’ and ‘No More War’); and at Mildenhall US Bomber Base (June 28th) where two sat down and fifteen organized a poster parade. In 1953 the PPU held a small demonstration outside the Germ Warfare Research Establishment at Porton on Salisbury Plain. Thereafter, apart from a lobby on the German rearmament question organized by the British Peace Committee (they claimed that some 17,000 participated), 1954 and 1955 saw little non-Labour Party activity. Within the Labour Party itself, the defence issue received consideration primarily through the marginal question of the detail of NATO organization in Europe and German rearmament. In March 1952, 57 of the 295 Labour members in the Commons defied the Whip to vote against a Government motion approving the rearmament program. The following Autumn at the Party Conference, USDAW called for ‘a re-examination and reduction of the rearmament programme’ and was only narrowly defeated (3,644,000 to 2,228,000). The narrowness of the defeat justified the leadership’s reimposition of Standing Orders in preparation for the Party’s opposition to German rearmament. At the 1953 conference, a resolution urging that ‘there should be no German rearmament before further efforts have been made to secure the peaceful reunification of Germany’. By February 1954, however, both the NEC arid the PLP had given their support to German rearmament, the Berlin Conference presumably constituting the ‘further efforts’ – Bevan, the earlier leader of the rearmament revolt, who resigned from the Shadow Cabinet over the question of SEATO early in the year, was notably silent at the Party Conference. However, without him the defence opposition waged its largest campaign – and would have carried the day but for the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers who, despite their mandate, switched from opposition to support of the platform at the last minute – the leadership won by a very narrow majority (3,270,000 to 3,022,000). Furthermore, it has been assessed recently  that the anti-leadership vote at this Conference has never been equalled since – 900,000 Constituency votes were cast against the platform, with 280,000 for, and 125,000 abstentions; compare this with the 1960 Conference when 260,000 were against Gaitskell, 521,000 for, and 289,000 abstentions. However, to outside opinion, non-partisan foreign policy seemed to rule the day; as Gaitskell said: ‘I doubt if foreign policy will play a big part in the next election – not because it is not important, but because Mr Eden has in fact mostly carried on our policy as developed by Ernest Bevin, in some cases against the views of the rank-and-file Tories’. The impression did not stop some 62 Labour MPs defying the Whip in the debate on the 1955 Defence White Paper which committed Britain to the development of the H-Bomb, but it did prompt, in an election year, the expulsion of Bevan from the Parliamentary Party (by 142 votes to 112). The current US H test series added urgency to the scene, and evoked from Bertrand Russell a statement, signed by Einstein, denouncing testing, which was placed before the British Parliamentary Group for World Government and led on ultimately to the Pugwash Conferences (July, 1957). The loss of the 1955 election ought to have started off the revolt proper, but, it can be suggested, the leadership was in a powerful position plausibly to blame the Bevanites for their defeat. In addition, the leadership question was decisively settled once and for all in 1955 by the election of Gaitskell (Gaitskell: 157; Bevan: 70; Morrison: 40) – which in its turn impelled Bevan to seek a modus vivendi with the new and strong Labour establishment – he was elected Treasurer of the Party, and shortly afterwards made Shadow Foreign Secretary. Henceforth, he became not the Left winger seeking to shift the leadership left, but the leader seeking to shift the Left right. Earlier in 1956, incidentally, Cousins became the General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union.
Activity, then, up until this tune had, apart from the struggle within the Labour Party been small – and within the Party, the attack had been a complex attack directed against the long right-ward drift on all aspects of policy since 1949. That attack had been voluble but powerless in the face of the block trade union vote that supported the leadership. The middle fifties changed the entire tone of preceding political discussion and induced the first instability, still very small, in the traditional political scene. Thus with 1955 the long Tory boom ended and balance of payments crises with domestic stagnation and inflation replaced it. The most striking first effect of this can be seen in the ‘Middle-Class revolt’ of the middle fifties – witness the vociferous demands of Conservative Party Conferences for relief for the middle classes, the formation of right-wing ginger groups (The Middle Class Alliance, The People’s League, The League of Empire Loyalists), the upsurge in right-wing activity (cf. the publication of Crossbow in late 1957 which, to the surprise of its Editors, sold more than 8,000 of its first issue) and the course of the Liberal vote as a threat to the Government in by-elections (culminating at Rochdale and Torrington).
More specifically, however, in late 1956 the largest single catalyst occurred – the British invasion of the Suez Canal. This produced the largest single upsurge of political activity (on both sides) in foreign affairs since the War. For a short time, also, the Labour Party was able to marshal this opposition behind itself. However, this was relatively shortlived, especially as the Parliamentary Party’s opposition ended abruptly with the cessation of military operations. The National Council of Labour’s campaign against Suez, ‘Law – Not War’, in November, 1956, took care to emphasize the limited nature of Labour’s protest – people were invited ‘to bring effective pressure onto the Government through the normal constitutional parliamentary methods’, and were warned ‘to refrain from taking industrial action as a means of influencing national policy in the present crisis’.. However, these minutiae did not affect the main issue – indeed for new rebels they only tended to emphasize the bankruptcy of the Labour Movement as an instrument of revolt. It is certain that Suez should have led to a considerable increase in the strength of the Communist Party and its allies had it not been for the fortunate coincidence, at exactly the same time, of the Hungarian revolution. The natural end of dissatisfaction with the Labour Party was denied – indeed, the Hungarian revolution impelled out of the Communist Party a considerable body of support, culminating the drift from the Party begun by the Twentieth Congress in February of the same year. Thus for the first time, there was created between the traditional parties and the Communists a voluble force which ultimately coalesced in the New Left and CND. Paradoxically, it is worth noting that the conjunction of Suez and Hungary demonstrated the stability of the broad frontiers of the world – neither side strove directly to intervene in the ‘domestic’ troubles of the other: the preservation of the status quo as basic doctrine to both sides and as summed up in that most conservative phrase, ‘peaceful co-existence’, was exhibited as a fact rather than aspiration. Correlatively, the end of external terror allowed the luxury of internal protest. Early in the following year (1957) the National Council for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons was formed, and began holding meetings and marches (a Women’s protest march was held on 12 May – it emphasized that the protest be ‘silent and dignified’). The PPU despatched two to the test area of the first British H Bomb series in August (they arrived too late), and in September set up the Direct Action Committee. The publication of the now notorious Sandys’ White Paper in the Autumn more clearly than anything earlier emphasized the precise logic of defence policy – Britain was no longer to be defended, it was to rely totally on retaliatory force to deter invaders which, in its turn implied, that Britain was prepared to use its Bomb first without prior attack. Shortly afterwards the launching of the first Russian sputnik demonstrated a technological lag in the US – a lag that confirmed impressions produced by the miscalculations of the Spring test series that America could no longer be relied upon to be able and willing to defend Britain. This series also, incidentally, emphasized the heavy dangers involved in the release of radio active material by testing.
Meanwhile, within the Labour Movement the same general trends could be observed as outside. At the TUC Congress in September, the General Council was instructed to negotiate a new defence policy with the Labour Party (which duly appeared in March of the following year) and a resolution condemning tests was passed with the approval of the platform. Rereading the debates, one is impressed with the spontaneous opposition to the Bomb and the whole complex of Western strategy that existed, but a complete lack of any suggestions as to what should be done. In October, the Labour Party conference was significant both for a similar exhibition of doubts and for the end of Bevanism. Bevan presented the official foreign policy, and intervened decisively in the defence debate to swing the Conference against Lambeth and Norwood’s unilateralist resolution (defeated by 5,836,000 to 781,000). Bevan’s main argument against the resolution was that it entailed leaving ‘a variety of treaties and alliances, most of which he did not like’  – it was a point the Left failed to answer and consistently down played, thus leaving themselves open to defeat by the Right. Bevan also said that if Conference resolved against continuing tests, this entailed suspending production : implying that the only tactic required of unilateralists was to achieve a resolution pledging a Labour Government to end testing. Left-wingers took up the same point in the 1958 and 1959 Conferences (cf. also Cousin’s resolution to the 1959 TUC Congress) to the weakening of their own
case. The shock of Sevan’s conversion helped unilateralists to disentangle themselves from the leadership issue within the Labour Party – it was sufficiently traumatic for Cousins to ask the 1957 Conference to postpone voting until after lunch so that, the Economist suggests (17 September, I960), he could seek to swing the T&GW EC against the platform. The British H Test series along with the Sandys’ White Paper prompted considerable protests in the Press – Russell broadcast a demand for unilateral British action against the Bomb, and a series of articles under his name and that of J.B. Priestley appeared in the New Statesman attacking nuclearoiogy. A protest meeting called by A.J.P. Taylor at St Pancras Town Hall proved a considerable success. At the turn of the year, the ‘H Bomb Committee’, an offshoot of Victory for Socialism, and confined to Labour Party members, was resuscitated, at the same time as the National Council for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons was reorganized to broaden its program (so that it included in its aims unilateral abolition of the manufacture of nuclear weapons) and membership (Russell, Norman Mackenzie, Priestley and some scientists joined; Universities and Left Review and The New Reasoner were asked to participate). Peggy Duff, one-time business manager of Tribune was brought in as organizer. Finally, early in the new year, a select gathering at Canon Collins’ house (Collins, Russell, Priestley, Acland, Michael Foot, Kingsley Martin, Professors Rotblat and Waddington, King-Hall and two representatives of the National Council) designed a new campaign against the Bomb. It is clear from this that a majority of initial participants were drawn from the Labour Party, and especially from the formal Left. However, when the Campaign was actually formed, there were relatively few prominent Labour people on the Executive Committee, and the Campaign resisted all attempts to become associated with the Party. In February, after a successful lobby of the House of Commons, the inaugural meeting of the new Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was held at Central Hall. Its two immediate actions were, through its Oxford members, the holding of a referendum among University students, and its decision to support the small symbolic march of Direct Action to Aldermaston over Easter – it is estimated that some 10,000 gathered to send the march off, and some 5,000 marched. [6a] As will be seen from the preceding account, this qualitative change in the scale of activities had taken place with astonishing rapidity.
We have already tried to point out some of the reasons why CND should have developed when it did. The sharp change in political climate, both Right and Left, amongst the middle class after 1955-56 cannot be over-emphasized in this context – as witnessed by the appearance of Universities and Left Review in the Spring of 1957 which sold some 8,000 copies of its first issue (having expected to sell 2,000). The nature of this broad political change, however, should not be misconstrued – it did not fit neatly into the tradition of the Labour Movement. On the contrary,as volubly as it was Left, the change was almost as much a rejection of that tradition and the beginning of a move towards some alternative.  The discredit achieved by the Cold War was shared equally between Communist and Labour Parties – the record of the Labour Government and Party since the War, Deakinism and bureaucratic politics in the Unions (confirmed by events in the ETU in the late fifties) on the one hand, Stalinism and the regimes of Eastern Europe on the other, along with an unprecedented level of working-class prosperity (which on the one hand induced despair in many socialists and on the other jealousy in many professional groups), broke many of the orthodox links between middle class radical politics and working-class militancy. In the 1930s, both trends were incorporated through the two political parties of the Left within a broad movement – the plight of the unemployed was welded to the fight against Fascism – a Labour Movement was an aspiration worth striving for. By the middle fifties when propaganda (against strikes and selfish Unions) had done its worst without commensurate reply, and when inflation even further exacerbated relations between classes, even the aspiration had gone: the Unions were relegated to merely industrial welfare organizations. This fragmentation of the Labour Movement itself, sections striving alone for particular ends, helped free the middle class radicals – and their form of revolt bore the marks of traditional middle-class ethos : an emphasis on the morality and irrationality of international affairs, an attention to the detail of foreign relations, a commitment to keeping the question of the Bomb quite separate from all other issues (both domestic and foreign), an exaggeration of the role of individual responsibility and sacrifice, and, its counterpart, a minimization of the crude problems of power and the necessity of mass action if a genuine revolution was to be effected. Some of these attitudes were later to coalesce into forms of anarchism, a certain irresponsibility as well as a disregard for the very pertinent criticisms of unilateralism (cf. our earlier reference to the relationship of testing to production at Labour Party Conferences, or the failure to reply by the Left on the question of NATO) – almost all strands of opinion were dominated by some form of elitism. Of course, insofar as these attitudes were dominant, is was impossible for CND to spread much beyond the middle-class. Furthermore, initial political attitudes were often very ambigous. Thus, for example, one of the concerns of Universities and Left Review was the plight of the ‘scholarship boy’ as portrayed in Look Back in Anger and later discussed in The Uses of Literacy, the plight of the working-class boy disappointed by middle-class life after a University career and longing for a return to a romanticized ‘working-class community’. Of course, this may be a problem, but it is only remotely related to serious socialism and is hardly a political question. This point also touches upon another concern of the late fifties – ‘Youth’. Although an intolerable volume of nonsense is pronounced upon this subject, it could with some plausibility be suggested that between 1955 and 1958, the first purely post-war educated generation was reaching maturity, a generation on whom the conflicts of the thirties were lost, and who were prepared to begin again, building a radical movement. Certainly, it can be said that many, regardless of age, felt themselves to be new in a sense other than young.
Once formed and having achieved national publicity quickly (with the 1958 Aldermaston March), CND helped only ideologically to clarify the forces of opposition to the leadership within the Labour Party. It served as a sort of Popular Front for the Left, and for the first time for a long time, different sections of the Left (with the notable exception of the Communist Party at this stage ) were able to unite under its umbrella with religious and pacifist groups as well as a whole variety of newcomers to politics. More than this, CND was able to give the forces that fought on German Rearmament a new target and new arguments. In March of 1958, the new Labour Defence Statement was published, enshrined in two documents: Disarmament and Nuclear War and, in April, Disengagement in Europe. Combined they pledged the Party to seek summit talks, the suspension of British tests, negotiation for the end of all tests, general disarmament, a ban on all new bases in Britain until an attempt had been made to negotiate with Russia and an immediate end to H-Bomb carrying patrols in Britain. The second statement specifically welcomed the Rapacki Plan and flirted with an innocent form of Third Forcism. The NEC recommended that the statements be given the widest possible distribution, especially among trade unionists, and be used as the basis for ‘an educational campaign consisting in the first instance in regional conferences within the Labour Movement’, which suggested, as Miliband  points out that the NEC were more concerned to persuade their own followers than either the Government or the electorate. The concern was accurately directed as was shown later in the year at the Railwaymens’ Conference where, although a unilateralist resolution was defeated (39 to 11), a resolution condemning nuclear bases and stockpiling was carried (46 to 31). In September, at the TUC Congress, the Firemen moved a unilateralist resolution, seconded by the Tailors and Garment Workers (who, significantly, emphasized their reservations on unilateralism but seconded the resolution because it condemned German rearmament) and supported by the Tobacco Workers, Vehicle Builders, Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen, Foundry Workers and ASSET. Explicitly, the General Council asked Congress to reject the resolution as it was pledged both against unilateralism and for German rearmament – the delegates were obedient. At Scarborough, the Labour Party Conference, although the Agenda showed that 102 of the 428 resolutions were unilateralist, the Fire Brigades unilateralist resolution was firmly rejected (5,611,000 to 890,000) as was a resolution against bases, which, significantly fetched out a large number of previous abstentions (5,349,000 to 1,926,000). Another resolution from Kingston-upon-Hull demanded that the NEC prepare an economic plan to ease the readjustments of ‘total disarmament’ and ensure that ‘economic necessity should not be used as an argument in support of the maintenance of the fighting services and arms industries’; this seemingly innocent wish was dubbed unilateralist by Gaitskell and accordingly Conference rejected it, 5,705,000 to 840,000.  The lessons of the Conferences were fairly clear : the peripheral aspects of defence (bases, patrols, testing) evoked considerably more support than a head on attack on principles of nuclear defence. That support was direct successor to that which had opposed German rearmament. In addition, there was no question in 1958 of CND manipulating the Unions – the spontaneous feeling was far more powerful.
Meanwhile in CND itself, events had already changed. The alliance between CND and Direct Action was broken in August when Direct Action pledged itself to ‘civil disobedience’. Earlier activity by the DAC at Stevenage had resulted in an hour long strike by 1,000 building workers. However, only some fifty attended the meeting during the strike and so far as can be seen the strike left no real political mark on Stevenage. DAC also carried out a traditional PPU demonstration at Swaffham Rocket Base – 40 demonstrators were maltreated in a brawl, and when they returned to continue their demonstration a fortnight later, were all arrested and imprisoned for 14 days. DAC was more realistic than CND in seeing quickly the necessity for industrial action, but it approached the question in a very similar way – the strike was a gesture by a minority. However, on the CND side, at their Conference early in 1959, a resolution was passed explicitly condemning US bases, and thus beginning the move out of morals into politics – the question of NATO being the almost inevitable next question mark.
1959 was for the Labour Movement, more importantly than any other political issue, Election year – this both delayed and concealed the development of unilateralist feeling (the Blackpool Conference of that year was an Election postmortem not a normal policy-making one), and, after the loss of the Election, increased the general opposition to the leadership. Most important, anti-Gaitskellism became hopelessly muddled with the unilateralist issue as did the Clause Four controversy, newly revived by Jay’s Forward articles – and it was on the leadership issue rather than the specific policy ones that the decisive centre of the Party began to shift away from the official line, gratuitously helping the unilateralists in the process. However, this is to jump the story. Although the Transport and General were not yet pledged to unilateralism, Cousins moved a moderately unilateralist resolution for the first tune at the TUC Congress in September, This, incidentally, contained in one of its clauses a reiteration of Bevan’s 1957 point that a suspension of testing means a suspension of production (cf. p.9). It was defeated but not drastically (5,214,000 to 2,690,000). Another resolution pledging the TUC to oppose US missile bases in Britain, was, however, passed against the recommendation of the platform (4,040,000 to 3,865,000). More surprisingly, earlier in the year (June), the Municipal and General Workers had pledged themselves to unilateralism (150 to 126 with 75 abstentions) and were only shifted from this position by the titanic efforts of Sir Tom Williamson who called a Recall Conference in August, refused to allow delegates to be mandated, and duly reversed the shaming decision (194 to 139). The recall was engineered ostensibly to consider a new policy statement published by the Party after the NUMGW Conference. This statement posed the way forward for Labour as lying through a ‘Non-Nuclear Club’. As Miliband has noted, once the NUGMW vote had been reversed, the non-nuclear club expired, its task complete.
1960 saw, it hardly needs to be said, the solitary political victory for unilateralism – the achievement was only marginally related to the existence of CND, and was, as suggested here, a far greater victory than would have been suggested by a survey of the relative balance of forces before the General Election in 1959. However, on the CND side the rising arc of activity, participation and clarification of policy continued. At CND Annual Conference, the issue of NATO was clearly faced although the actual resolution carried, in its wording, seemed to allow evasion : ‘the aims of CND, the unilateral renunciation of the H Bomb by Great Britain, cannot be achieved so long as this country remains a member of a NATO which is committed to a reliance on nuclear weapons in the so-called ‘defence of the free world’. Meanwhile, Direct Action had carried out its first substantial action at Harrington Rocket Base – six leading Committee members were arrested prior to the demonstration, and some 100 were arrested at the base. This success, no doubt, along with the failure of the Summer Summit (following the U2 incident), prompted Russell to challenge what he thought was the relative inertia and drift of CND (even though the Easter Aldermaston was an even more successful demonstration than previously) – accordingly a Committee of 100 was formed to gather the more militant elements of CND together and absorb Direct Action for an ambitious program of civil disobedience. The news of the new campaign was leaked to the press while the Labour Party Conference was in session at Scarborough. It was clear, well in advance of this Conference, that it was likely to be decisively unilateral – The Economist began a campaign in April to persuade Gaitskell to ‘fight again’. Given the Co-op Party’s Conference decision, the Transport and General, later the AEU resolution (in face of fierce opposition from the chief officials of the union) and the commitment of USDAW (shopworkers), the issue seemed clear. Furthermore, in this year, the Communist Party belatedly swung behind CND (May) which tended to increase the pressure within the Labour Movement towards unilateralism – especially when it is remembered that in previous years the Communist Trade Union leaders had often cooperated with the Right-wing to defeat the Left on defence.  However, before the Scarborough Conference, the AEU (engineers) was publicly embarrassed at the TUC Congress (Douglas, Isle of Man) in September – by voting both for unilateralism and for official Labour Party policy, with the result that the TUC was pledged to both incompatibles. Cousins moved the unilateral resolution and it was carried 4,356,000 to 3,213,000 – the most explicit opposition coming, interestingly enough, from the white collar unions (TSSA, CSCA, IRSA and the Clerical Workers Union). The Joint Labour Party-TUC Defence Statement  was then debated, and passed (4,150,000 to 3,460,000). The road to Scarborough lay open – the Party Conference Agenda of 435 resolutions showed 161 of these on nuclear disarmament, three-quarters of them unilateralist. At the Conference proper, the first unilateralist resolution (moved by the AEU) was passed by 3,303,000 to 2,896,000 – the narrowness of the majority suggests the delicacy of the balance; in addition, the number of abstentions (cf. the third vote below) suggests that a number of votes which were cast directly against the leadership were withheld from supporting unilateralism proper. The second resolution, from the Transport and General, for unilateralism, a stronger UN and the admission of Red China to the UN (seconded by the Fire Brigades) was passed 3,282,000 to 3,239,000 (an anti-Cousins vote?). The irrepressibly loyal Woodworkers (cf. above) moved a resolution reaffirming loyalty to NATO (although urging its internal reform) and welcoming the official Policy statement – and were defeated, 2,999,000 to 3,331,000. Finally, the NEC statement was rejected 3,339,000 to 3,042,000. The victory had been sustained all along the line, even if with puzzling variations in the votes. As mentioned earlier, the anti-leadership feeling was high although (cf. p.6) not as high amongst the constituency, parties as in 1954 (The Economist had expected at least 750,000 Constituency votes to be cast against Gaitskell in April). The victory had really been created by the thaw in the unions, created, that is, by a relatively small group of Trade Union officials – most notably the Transport and General, USDAW (shopworkers), AEU (engineers) and NUR (railwaymen): this was Deakinism in reverse gear allied to the post-election antipathy towards Gaitskell. The New Statesman provides an excellent case study of how unilateralism was smudged into anti-Gaitskellism (of a most virulent, personal and unpleasant kind) and even this modest revolt lost out later on. To a certain extent the personnel represented the same shift – from the unilateralist Kingsley Martin to the centrist John Freeman.
With this unlooked for triumph, it might have been thought that CND would henceforth have bent its efforts to holding the breach in the Labour Movement and achieving a Labour Government as fast as possible. However, in retrospect, 1961 is the year of the Committee of 100, the year of activity most remote from the traditional political field. Within the Labour Movement the Left, almost dumbstruck by its accidental good fortune, took the achievement of its victory as won (neglecting precisely the accidental nature of that victory) and henceforth waged a battle in the obscure marshes of constitutionalism – whether Conference decisions were or were not binding upon the Parliamentary Party. The key political debate was left open. And while it was open, the small handful of trade union officials who had swung the vote one way, proceeded to swing it the other as the Election faded into retrospect, as the prospect of an alternative leadership to that of Gaitskell faded (with the defeat of, incidentally, the non-unilateralist, Harold Wilson, at the Autumn PLP elections) and as the organized pressure of the leadership both on ideological and unity grounds began to make itself felt.
The actual course of events can be recounted relatively briefly. In February, the Crossman-Padley compromise statement was duly produced and published. The pure muddle of the unilateralists (or their eagerness to achieve a flimsy unity within the Party) was demonstrated when Cousins voted for the statement in committee and Michael Foot gave it his support (Tribune, 3 March, 1961). The statement was clearly intended to fudge the NATO issue – the switching of the USDAW and AEU votes in April-May to supporting the statement was adequate testimony to its effectiveness. By June, the Foundrymen and the Vehicle-Builders (some of the earliest protagonists of moderate unilateralism) had swung over to supporting Gaitskell. Padley overtly acknowledged the role of his statement later by dropping it and so leaving the union leadership with a free unmandated hand (compare the Williamson and NUGMW tactics in 1959). At the same time, a new organization within the Constituency parties was working towards recementing the Party – The Economist (June 17th) was already congratulating the Campaign for Democratic Socialism on its success so far, with the claim that ‘there are now said to be 250 Gaitskellite whips in the CLPs’. By 22 July it was known that only 100 of the 419 resolutions to Party Conference dealt with unilateralism – The Economist confidently predicted that Gaitskell would probably not even have to worry about dissension over Polaris bases. The official policy statement was clear and tough (issued in February): ‘Britain cannot oppose on principle the establishment of allied bases on her territory. She must remain free to decide according to the circumstances of the case whether or not a particular project should be accepted’. However, Policy for Peace, the statement, did seek to clarify its position on various points which might have seemed like concessions to the unwary – technically, it was no longer useful for Britain to remain an independent nuclear power (suggested by George Brown and the Defence Minister in a Defence Debate, April 1960, but rejected by Gaitskell at the time), the non-nuclear club required a stronger supra-national authority (pace ‘World Government’).
Meanwhile, in the unilateralist campaign proper, key changes had taken place. As we have seen, the relationship between the three elements, th Labour Party, CND and Direct Action-Committee of 100, was uneasy but consistent – with the Committee of 100 as the advance guard seeking to make CND more militant and dedicated against orthodox pressure group politics, attempting to eliminate hangers on and make all unilateralists militants; with CND as a large and amorphous amateur group with ill-defined borders and, if anything, an antipathy towards party politics or specific alignments, riding ahead of the Labour Party seeking to illuminate the ideological terrain rather than exercise direct intervention, and demanding minimal participation by its . membership (wearing the badge, attending a few meetings, marching from Aldermaston); and the Labour Party, in which unilateralism was one among many key issues, but the one selected by the Left to wage its perennial onslaught upon the leadership. 1961 is significant in that, as the fight within the Labour Party was lost and the real balance of long term forces became apparent, the Committee of 100 stole the limelight from CND. The March from Aldermaston of this year suggested that the Campaign while bigger had not maintained its momentum of advance. But the civil disobedience campaign showed that what had been lost in numbers had to some extent been made up by a rise in militancy among a minority of the Campaign.
On February 18th, some 4,000 sat down outside the Defence Ministry. On April 29th, 2,000 sat down along Whitehall (826 were arrested). In June, a very successful demonstration against Polaris was held at Holy Loch in Scotland. Finally, in the Autumn, what proved in retrospect to be the climax of the campaign occurred in Trafalgar Square. Against a back-cloth of the Berlin crisis, before the demonstration, Russell and some 33 members of the Committee were arrested. In addition, stringent police warnings against demonstrations helped to stimulate a demonstration of, it is estimated, some 15,000 (of which 1,300 were arrested). Henceforth, activity could only be an anti-climax – in December, a much more ambitious attempt to organize simultaneous demonstrations throughout the country (Wethersfield, South Ruislip, Brize Norton, Bristol, York, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow) achieved disappointing support – the State remained unmoved. To a certain extent, the Committee sought some change of tactics in setting up an Industrial Committee of 100 to start work on achieving industrial action for unilateralism. The Labour Party Conference of this year, as we have shown, was already clear in its possible outcome before it took place. In the event, the official policy was ratified by a decisive majority: 4,526,000 to 1,756,000. The Transport and General resolution was similarly defeated, 4,309,000 to 1,891,000. Resolution 297 which, for the first time, pulled out the key political issue, and demanded British non-alignment with either of the two blocks (a reflection of the Belgrade Conference earlier this year?) was overwhelmingly defeated, 5,476,000 to 846,000 – a clear indication that the Transport and General vote had been cast against the resolution. However, the marginal effects of defence policy continued to attract support and Polaris was condemned, 3,611,000 to 2,739,000, and the merely anti-German resolution condemning the training of German troops in Wales was carried – 3,519,000 to 2,733,000.
It is obviously far too early here to evaluate the present period in very concrete terms (the September demonstration of the Committee of 100 which will have occurred after this article has gone to press, will exhibit the trends far more clearly than we can here). However, it certainly seems at the moment that the unilateralist campaign has subsided somewhat since the peak period of 1960-61. Although the March from Aldermaston was again larger, the momentum of its increasing size is declining. In addition, as an index of support, it is of doubtful reliability since Easter walking tours need not demand a great deal of its participants. More reliably, the demonstrations of the Committee of 100 have attracted declining support (so far) – thus the demonstrations against the resumption of tests by the Americans and the Russians, the Holy Loch and Greenham Common action were all relatively poorly supported. In addition, the industrial activities of the Committee seem to have had very little impact – indeed, on some accounts, such activity has consistently declined until now the Industrial Subcommittee consists mainly of a small group of dedicated political militants without influence in the industrial field, even where formerly it was claimed to possess such influence (most notably on the docks and amongst some engineering factories).
In addition, the Campaign itself suggests some retreat from its earlier radicalism, not to mention that within the Labour Movement unilateralism has subsided as an issue (it is significant that the Transport and General Workers have not put forward their usual resolution to the 1962 Labour Party Conference). In 1960, as we have, seen, CND went on record as opposing NATO; in addition, in 1961, CND Conference welcomed CND movements abroad, including such movements in America and the Soviet Union – although, it has been suggested, the National Council in fact did nothing about this resolution. However, in 1962, CND Conference rejected any question of supporting anti-Bomb movements in the US and USSR. On the other hand, the Conference recorded its support for industrial action against the Bomb, although the National Council studiously refrained from any action on this score – indeed, Canon Collins in July explicitly rejected any idea of industrial action on behalf of the National Council (which prompted the resignation from the Council of Pat Arrowsmith, who was working in Liverpool to achieve industrial action, and the Rev. Michael Scott).
Firstly, it can be said that CND was a by-product of the Labour Movement – indeed it expressed the frustration of many within the Labour Party at the failure to make headway there, and incorporated within itself the opposition to German rearmament. To this can be added the new force of the New Left as precipitated specifically out of the Hungarian and Suez events, plus the old time pacifists. This combined force recruited more generally as a result of the political upsurge of the middle fifties which we have discussed. The formal impact of this new movement upon the Labour Party, we have suggested, was very small. What influence has passed between the two has been through militants who belonged to both organizations and through the medium of the national press. In the Unions, where so far as the 1960 decision was concerned, the decisive vote for unilateralism was engineered, the impact of CND was even less since the dual membership militants are a much smaller number. The vote of the unions was much more the survival of the German rearmament campaign, increased by the general industrial unrest of the late fifties, and rendered victorious by the 1959 General Election defeat and the ineptitude of Gaitskell in exacerbating Party relations so soon after that defeat (cf. the Clause 4 debate). However, this temporary result was righted as soon as the balance of forces within the Party reasserted itself – the block vote which, manipulated by either side, is equally unreal, but in support of the leadership does express the combined force of the centre and right of the Party. The impact of CND on the country at large has been much more considerable, and was probably at its peak in terms of general discussion during the struggle within the Labour Party. In the Spring of this year, a UN survey found some 21.2% of the adult population favoured ‘unilateral British action’ and a more independent foreign policy. In addition, this growth of general support has helped increase the working-class support (although, as a proportion of possible support this is minimal) and give a viability to the organization which, for example, the New Left alone did not attain and disappeared as a consequence (although many New Left people bear the brunt of present operations around the Committee of 100 and Peace News). This breadth should not be exaggerated, however: CND is still primarily a middle class organization that is also a broad political coalition. Attempts to clarify its ends seem necessary, but such clarification can also destroy its present strength. However, the failure to make any impact upon industrial workers by unilateralists in general makes the movement very limited in power and points up more general criticisms of both the Campaign and the Committee of 100-As we have seen, the Stevenage strike involved politically very few workers, and the activities of Pat Arrowsmith in Liverpool do not at present suggest greater success. As a publicity venture. Stevenage could be argued for; as a means of political involvement, it was more akin to a gratuitous hour-long holiday than a symbolic gesture. The Committee of 100 itself has not helped to clarify its intentions on this score – if its demonstrations are means of achieving publicity they are successful and the poorness of response recently, while disappointing, is not disastrous (although the setting of formal targets does make ‘failure’ the only alternative to ‘complete success’ which is unfortunate). If the aim is symbolic gesturing, there are means to make such gestures without the destruction of its own supporters. If, however, the aim is to challenge the State seriously, the entire operation is not only wrong, but dangerous: i.e. not only can the State not be defeated until a majority segment of the country firmly opposes it (as, for example, in a General Strike), but also to mislead its supporters on the assumption that the State can be so defeated is to lead them to rapid disillusionment and alienation from the general (and less demanding) struggle. Thus, for example, to demonstrate outside a base (the disobedient aspect of such demonstrations is not in question here) is one thing; to seek to immobilize a base in the hope that this in any way deflects the State from its purpose is merely foolish. The State is only ‘immobilized’ immediately before a revolutionary attempt, and although some small and temporary inconvenience to particular servicemen may be achieved by Base demonstrations, there can be no question of defence policy being affected. Indeed, it has been the moderation of the State in responding to such demonstrations that has allowed even the small inconvenience that has occurred to be felt (but, see also the South Ruislip demonstration on a Saturday afternoon when even this inconvenience was minimal as the Base was closed for the weekend). Industrially, this lack of clarification of aims is disastrous – strikes are the end of political activity (and rarely, at that), not the beginning. Furthermore, effective industrial action must not discriminate between the jobs of the workers involved – indeed workers on bases should not be asked to pay (literally) for the lack of activity of other workers.
There is no particular merit in armaments workers per se striking. Not only is it only effective, but also more desirable on other grounds that general workers should be asked to strike. But asking people to strike is not something that can be done by a few outside militants temporarily visiting a factory – it can only be achieved if there is genuine (which means durable) political commitment by the workers themselves – even if this means no more than the minimum demand, viz. marching from Aldermaston at Easter. It has been said that there is a strike a day in Fords – and those strikes occur because workers are intimately implicated in the continuing controversy concerned, and know that their action can achieve some change. In the case of unilateralism neither of these conditions exist. Moreover, to fulfil the second condition, sectional strike activity is pointless – neither dock workers blacking armament materials not Stevenage builders knocking off for an hour can rid Britain of the Bomb – only the combined attempt of all sections of workers can exercise requisite power to achieve this.  Which brings us back to the question which faces not just the Committee of 100, but the entire unilateralist movement – how to implicate the working-class. It was suggested at the beginning of this article, and there is good evidence to support it , that there is a broad division between the militants on immediate material issues (wages, unemployment) and the broad ideological ones (e.g. foreign policy). It was also suggested that the division was at a minimum in the thirties when both strands were cemented together within the broad Labour Movement – the fight against Nazism was the fight against unemployment. That is to say, only a broad radical programme can cover all sections and aims, and unite all elements in the struggle towards what was called in those days, socialism. The discrimination of one element in a necessarily revolutionary program means that only a minority are likely to be implicated – indeed, not only has CND concentrated merely on one issue, it has expressly refused to pursue the implications of that issue which lead to a revolutionary position (viz the abandonment of NATO) and necessitates a total change in society, which in its turn necessitates a broad radical program. Such a stance leaves the Campaign wide open to the charge of sloppy idealism and muddle from the Right-wing, who have certainly been eager to spell out the implications of unilateralism that the Left was too frightened of (cf. Bevan in 1957, p.24, here) as well as allowing the possibility of such a failure as occurred over the Padley-Crossman compromise (here, p 28). More seriously, without a broad program, the Campaign fails to appeal on all issues to working-class support, and fails to pose what has been an unconscious end of this process, an alternative to the Labour Movement. Thus, for example, the militancy generated in the St. Pancras rent riots of 1960 or the spontaneous opposition to the wages pause did not accrue to the benefit of CND as a radical organization, but merely served to emphasize the fragmentation within the Labour Movement. Furthermore, moral affirmation is thin gruel as propaganda; to accuse the powers that be of irrationality is no substitute for a tough-minded analysis of the cost of defence, the burden of taxation, the deficiencies of our society alongside defence expenditure, the role of defence in the economy, the interests that are vested in defence, the relationship of the wage pause and the application to join the Common Market to defence expenditure – to sum up: the relationship of the fight against the Boss to the fight against the Bomb.
As it is, left to itself, the Campaign becomes the Committee and is prey to some of the silliest attitudes of isolated emotionalism – elitism, the martyr’s complex, anarchism and minority egotism. This is perhaps a little hard, but it is time that we, as both members of CND and supporters of the Committee of 100, sought a little more clearly for the way forward. CND has been the most impressive political movement since the War and has implicated more new people on the Left than any other; the Committee of 100, in being prepared to break the law, has injected into British politics a revolutionary element that is fertile and necessary for any genuine mass movement, even though this is at the moment more an individual purgative than a prelude to a revolutionary movement. Furthermore, at some stage CND has to define its relationship to the Labour Movement – those that have sought in the past to become alternatives have, sadly, all been destroyed. Although this says nothing of the future, certainly at the moment the lesson is fairly clear – those who seek ultimate revolutionary power can do so only through the existing structure of the Labour Movement, through uniting their aims in a general program of radicalism, through relating the new demands to the continuing tradition – if no more, this safeguards against easy defeat on one issue. But more, it makes for a spreading of aims over a much wider audience. On the other hand, the existence of CND has provided a recruiting platform for socialism as well as meaning that people expelled from the Labour Party are not thereby at the same time expelled from the political struggle. This should not encourage adventurism by the Left in the Labour Party, but it is some safeguard against immediate political deaths. The viability of CND in the long-term unless it can break out of its middle class shell has been here doubted – but whether it can or not, to some extent rests upon those who are already in the Left of Labour Party.
1. Backbench Opinion in the House of Commons, S.E. Finer, H.B. Harrington and D.J. Bartholomew, Pergamon, 1961.
2. The Economic Survey for 1949 and 1950 and the Budget speech of 1949.
3. Perspective, Journal of the London Schools Left Club, Summer 1959.
3a. The end of the US nuclear monopoly certainly influenced at least some people into opposing the Bomb – for example, Russell and Priestley were in favour of nuclear deterrence up to this point.
4. The Cold War, D.H. Fleming, Vol. II. p.737 – Fleming estimates that American willingness to negotiate was directly related to the ‘necessity of winning an election for the British Conservatives’.
5. K. Hindell and P. Williams, Political Quarterly, Summer 1962.
6. p.165, Labour Party Conference Report, 1957.
6a. The Universities and Left Review played a considerable part in the first Aldermarch; the London organization for the march was run from the (still unfinished) Partisan coffee bar; and the organized Left was pretty noticeable, especially on the wet stretch from Slough when only about 400 marched-
7. The Middle Class Vote, J. Bonham – ‘The Middle Class do not admit that socialism should be exclusively motivated by the interest of the manual wage class. Welfare should be a moral obligation, not the spoils of a victory by one class over another’ (p.193).
8. Zigzag: The Communist Party and the Bomb, by Raymond Challinor, International Socialism 3, winter 1960.
9. p.341, Parliamentary Socialism by Ralph Miliband, Allen and Unwin, 1961.
10. Although on June 23rd, 1962, at Watford, Gaitskell announced that plans for the transfer of economic resources from defence to civilian purposes were necessary to increase foreign confidence in Britain and promote multilateralism.
11. The Trade Unions and the Labour Party by Martin Harrison. 1960.
12. The attempts of successive policy statements to take some of the wind from unilateralist sails were usually fairly half-hearted. Thus, see the 1959 statement (The Next Step) which, in trying to concede, repudiated the possibility of democratic Conference control explicitly: ‘The next Labour Government must be free, in view of facts which are not available to a party in opposition, either to modify or reject altogether the nuclear strategy and the defence priorities which it will inherit when it comes to power’. The 1960 statement (Foreign Policy and Defence), perhaps on the advice of The Economist, was less concerned to concede even this possibility. The failure of the Blue Streak missile that spring was used as additional argument for a NATO ‘non-nuclear club’, and Thor missiles were rejected on purely technical grounds of relative vulnerability. The statement piously stated that the West must never be the first to use nuclear weapons, and that the NATO Council of Foreign Ministers ought to have more control over its generals. Grossman had earlier sought to produce a compromise to avoid the Scarborough debacle (published in the News Chronicle in May) but this involved an increase in conscription and the new Defence Statement refused to be drawn.
13. The affair of the Jolly George after the Russian Revolution is often cited as precedent here – it is important to note that had the dockers been alone in their opposition, the Government could with relative ease have despatched materials to Russia by using blacklegs or troops. It was because the Government feared the opposition of the entire Labour Movement that the action of the dockers was effective.
14. Finer, Berrington and Bartholomew, op cit.
Last updated: 11 March 2010