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Maurice Spector

British Tories Sweep Election as
Best “Sanctions” Party to Protect Empire

(23 November 1935)

From New Militant, Vol. 1 No. 48, 23 November 1935, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Baldwin government was returned to power by a majority that exceeded every Tory expectation. The distribution by parties in the new House of Commons is:

If one considers the entire national and international background of this election, the British working class, under the leadership of the class-collaborationist, pro-“sanctions,” Labor Party, has sustained a severe defeat. The increased Labor representation from the low-water mark of 52 in the elections of 1931, may be Thanksgiving fodder for the New Leader of this city, but it will be no occasion for mad revelry in the ranks even of the British Labor bureaucracy.

The Conservative strategists themselves, who learned their “cricket” on the playing fields of Eton, did not expect a government majority of 250. In the face of such a majority the return of the lone Stalinist Gallacher will hardly send any tremor through the Empire, particularly as the Stalinists stood for “sanctions” and the “League” as staunchly as Sir Samuel Hoare. Besides which British Communist Party representatives have a way either of deserting to the Tories like Colonel Malone, to the Labor Party like Walton Newbold and Ellen Wilkinson or feebly subsiding at the first supercilious Tory’s push like the unfortunate Parsee Saklatvala.

Labor Party Prepares Own Defeat

For the past four years the Labor Party has assiduously prepared its own defeat. When you estimate the results, remember that the Labor Party has already formed two Labor governments. We are not dealing with an election victory of our own cherished C.P. who proclaim a one hundred percent increase when (probably with the aid of a little colonization) they add another vote to the solitary vote in Oshkosh! The British Labor Party is the party of the majority of the organized British working class.

In these past four years, the army of nearly two million unemployed has not appreciably declined. Wages and the social services have been reduced. Conditions in the ‘distressed areas” have become a bye-word of destitution. As in the case of the miners now threatening a great strike, longer hours were imposed by legislation of the National Government in 1932. In the field of foreign affairs, the disarmament conferences have dismally collapsed. Hitler rearmed with the complicity of the government and the Bank Of England. But the elections nevertheless give the party of National Reaction five more years of a free hand at home and abroad.

Supports and “Deplores’’

And the principal reason? At this crucial juncture of the postwar epoch the policy of the British Labor Party is in every practical essential a capitulation to the interests of British imperialism. The outstanding? fact is that there is virtually nothing but a feeble protestation to distinguish the pro-“League Covenant,” pro-collective security, pro-sanctions position of the Laborites from the Tories. Both the Labor Party and the Trades Congress went on record urging not only economic but military sanctions. They gave the Tories just the right ammunition for the imperialist plans to increase the air and naval forces on a gigantic scale in preparation for war.

The Labor Party manifesto declared that it “deplored this attempt to exploit for partisan ends a situation of grave international anxiety.” But they have deplored before! The Labor Party “deplored” Lloyd George’s Khaki election but they had ardently helped Lloyd George prosecute the war. They “deplored” the fake Zinoviev letter sensation which won another election for the Tories, but the Labor government had been prosecuting Communists. They “deplored” the financial panic stratagem by which the Tories turned out the second Labor government in 1931; but with what right when they had themselves been preparing to cut wages and social services in the interests of economy? MacDonald was merely following out the extreme logic of his position as the leader of the Labor Party, when he entered the coalition. MacDonald’s policy was always based on “continuity” instead of class struggle and “community” as against “class-consciousness.” Those who believe in “continuity” and socialism by parliamentary procedure must accept the consequences. MacDonald is not the only “undone old man” in the ranks of the present and former heroes of the Second International.

Right Party for Right Job

The point cannot be too strongly stressed. If what is wanted is a party that will maintain the imperial establishment, support the present distribution of world markets, called “collective security,” and enforce military sanctions, then a single-minded, strong-willed, forthright imperialist party like the Tories will get the support over the “arf-and-arf,” milk-and-water, “Socialistic dilution” of these objectives by the Labor Party. The twelve million who participated in the straw vote for the League of Nations prefer to put their trust in additions to the fleet and the air force rather than in more professors of international law.

Role of Independent Labor Party

That there are prospects for a revolutionary party in Great Britain is indicated by the fact that the Independent Labor Party which has vacillated so badly for so long was yet able to return four members. The I.L.P. must make up its mind which route to travel or be dissipated by the C.P. For a considerable time, Maxton and Brockway have balanced themselves on a tight-rope. The stand of the I.L.P. In opposition to sanctions and its approximation to the revolutionary anti-war policy should clear the air if followed up with a clear-cut orientation on the problem of the International. Precious time has been frittered away in the attempt to establish the united front with the Stalinists. The result was demoralization of the I.L.P. The British C.P. is sterile and the problem was to engage in united front activities with the Labor Party for fruitful contacts with the masses, but the leaders of the I.L.P. adamantly insisted that they wanted a “revolutionary” united front. For a while they even utilized the “third period” concepts of the C.P. The social-patriotic rightward swing of the Comintern seems to have had a sobering effect on some leading elements of the I.L.P.

But the I.L.P. is still bound up with the London-Amsterdam Bureau of “Socialist Revolutionary Unity.” That means ‘that they are still pursuing “organic unity” of the Second and Third Internationals. If any country provides an illustration of the futility of mere unity on the basis of a program of social reformism, bourgeois democracy and social-chauvinism, surely it is Britain with its Labor Party, already overwhelmingly in fact the party of “organic unity.” To imagine that the addition of the British Labor Party to the German Social Democracy to the Stalinist bureaucracy (Comintern) will somehow engender the social revolution is mysticism, not Marxism. The unity of the working class movement can only be progressive if it embarks on a program of class struggle, if it breaks with bourgeois democracy, if it is a revolutionary unity. The I.L.P. has recently been rid of the Gaster-Lovestoneite (R.P.C.) clique that was striving to liquidate the I.L.P. into the C.P. The revolutionary left of the I.L.P., the Marxist Group, clearly indicates the road the party must travel – the road of the Fourth International.

Years Ahead

We have said that the next years will be crucial, confronting the revolutionists with gigantic problems and decisions. Consider that in the half decade of the National government just gone, history inscribed on its rolls the Spanish revolution, the victory of Hitler, the Viennese insurrection, the seizure of Manchuria, the Italo-Ethiopian war. Ahead of us lie the prospects of yet greater upheavals. Japanese imperialism is systematically carving up China. The United States is carefully preparing for the great struggle In the Pacific. German rearmament proceeds apace. The Egyptian demonstrations indicate the challenge to imperialism generally contained in the colonial ferment. The capitalist world is a powder keg. The British Labor Party has given every evidence of its impotence, in the tests of office and of opposition. The LL.P., if it takes the road of revolutionary Marxism, can become the party of socialist power.

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