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After the British Elections

Preparing the Road for Sharpened Future Struggles

(November 1931)

From The Militant, Vol. IV No. 30 (Whole No. 89), 7 November 1931, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“On the day when the English proletariat frees itself from the mental baseness of Fabianism, humanity, particularly in Europe, will increase in stature by at least a head.” (Trotsky – Whither England, page 91)

Unquestionably the most outstanding among the generally extraordinary results recorded by the British elections of Oct. 27 is the crushing blow dealt to fabian reformism. In the immediate sense and by way of parliamentary representation, reaction gained overwhelmingly. But in its more fundamental aspect, these elections have compressed into one expression the fact that the British workers are becoming disillusioned with this insidious corrupting influence of reformism, but have not yet learned the revolutionary way out. In this respect the elections record one serious obstacle diminished.

The conservatives increased their vote from the 1929 elections by more than three millions; it gained more than 200 mandates now having 472 seats in the House of Commons out of a total of 615. In the same comparison, that is, with 1929, the Labor party lost over one and one half million votes. In the apportionment of seats in parliament they are now minus 214, having been reduced to a mere fraction of 50 members in the house. The Communist party polled a total of 74,824 votes, compared to its 50,000 votes in 25 electoral districts in 1929 and 53,000 votes in the 1924 elections.

The Labor Party Prepared for Present Situation

Undoubtedly the two years reign of the labor government succeeded admirably in laying the foundation for what is happening now. It would be entirely inadequate to speak only of its treasonable role. In fact it performed the historical function of reformism which inevitably followed the road from a progressive position to that of reaction.

With the accelerating decline of British imperialism, altered also the position of the Labor party reformism. Thus, when the capitalist masters, in an effort to save the sinking pound, made their categoric demands for further drastic reductions in the working class standard, these people were faced with either complete submission or the revolutionary alternative. The latter, of course, his majesty’s ministers would never accept, so MacDonald, Snowden and Jimmie Thomas went with the national government to “victory”. The others attempted to stick to their fabian reformism and were pretty well wiped out of parliament. This vote of Oct. 27, happening in a country with a decisive proletarian majority, represents first of all the despair caused by the miserable role of the Labor party. Only in that light can also be explained the small vote of the Communist Party. It failed to indicate the revolutionary way out.

Does MacDonald See His Finish?

In his statement, thanking the voters for their “confidence”, MacDonald says: “The very emphasis of the response is embarrassing, but I appeal for forbearance as well as confidence ...” Perhaps he sees in this response already the forebodings of his being thrown away as a useless tool now that he can no more affectively serve to keep the workers under illusions. At any rate the conservatives will not be slow in taking full charge of affairs without being much hampered in parliament. Even the Lloyd George section of the liberals should hot cause much more worry to its leader as it has been reduced to an extent of being pretty safe from any further splits.

One of the first issues which the conservatives can be expected to ride through rough shod will undoubtedly be their much cherished protective tariff. As a solution to a decadent industrial system operating in a country which has now become the classic example of imperialist decline, protective tariffs can, at best, have a very questionable value. But it will be certain to add its part in the sharpening of imperialist antagonisms in the world market and especially so with the United States, Great Britain’s main competitor. However, the conservatives majority can be expected to more than repeat its infamous record of the former tenure in office, of which the trades union act became the outstanding example.

New Relations and Labors’ New Road

British capitalism finds itself today already reduced to a smaller ration in world economy. That it will fight more desperately for its diminshing ration is already indicated, but the most immediate front it will seek at home. The slashes in the working class standard which nave so far taken place, can be considered only the preliminary skirmishes and a prelude to what is coming. For that the way has been well prepared by the two years reign of the “labor” government. The workers at this moment, perhaps more disorganized than ever, are undoubtedly looked upon as easy victims by the conservatives who will now continue the task of their predecessors and consider the election victory a license to go to the extreme limit.

While these elections merely reflect the; deep going changes now taking place in the general structure of British imperialism, in its relations to other powers on the world market, and particularly in its internal class relations, they will also undoubtedly in more than one respect mark a serious turning point. The furious conflicts for the world economic rations and for division of the world can be expected to develop at an accelerated pace. But above all, the sharpened class relations within will compel a new constellation of forces. On a whole it can easily be assumed that what now looks like a body-blow to British labor may rather prove its rebirth on a higher plane. The role of the official parliamentary labor opposition can become only a very limited one. In reality it will register a body blow to the miserable fabian reformism, which although

not dead, in this new situation of sharper class relations will be compelled to give place to a new and a revolutionary outlook. In this respect the elections can become a milestone on the road forward for British labor. To the degree to which it has become freed from the mental baseness of fabianism, to that degree it will be able to commence its solution on the revolutionary path.

For the Communist party the future possibilities are that much more enhanced. If it can solve the very serious problems of correct policy, it has the opportunity of reviving the splendid traditions of the Chartist movement and a revival on a higher plane – on the plane of the world proletarian revolution.

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