Source: Socialist Fight, vol. 1 no. 5 (May 1958)
Transcription: Francesco 2009
Proofread: Fred 2009
Markup: Manuel 2009
Following on the by-elections comes the defeat of the Tories at the County Council polls. It is clear that the big majority of the people want the Tories out. The workers, and sections of the professional people and middle class, have given a firm vote of no confidence in the policies of the Conservatives. Seven years of Tory government have brought in their train a worsening of the conditions of the workers, small business people and middle class.
The Rent Act, the credit squeeze, taxation of the poor to lighten the burden on the rich, represent a deliberate policy on the part of the Tory Government in favour of Big Business.
The Budget has been the last straw, coming as it does on top of attacks on the social services. The general economic slump has brought the beginning of mass unemployment, especially in some of the former distressed areas. The increase in the cost of living has forced one union after another to table wage demands, which the Government is preparing to resist with all the force it dare use. The myth that “Conservative freedom works” has been shattered by the bitter realities of the situation in Britain today.
In this crisis, what is needed is a fighting lead from the Labour Movement to mobilise the working people against the Tories; above all, the working class must be given a lead. Harold Wilson, in his speech at Glasgow on April 27th dealing with Government foreign policy, said that there ought to be a General Election.
It is not enough merely to call for a General Election, merely to “give the Tories notice to quit.” They must be forced to quit. An uninspired campaign on the part of the leadership has meant that the Labour vote has not risen as it should have done in the by-elections. Suez showed what the Labour Movement can do if it is really mobilised around a clear issue.
The entire resources of the Labour Movement must be mobilised for a campaign on the stark issues facing the working people now. From slump to slump and war to war—that is the programme of capitalism nationally and internationally. A campaign on fundamental issues, on a positive programme of socialism nationally and internatiohally, would sweep the country.
Every worker in the country is in fear of losing his job. Every small man has the fear of bankruptcy looming ahead. Technicians and professional people also regard the future with dread. All can be drawn behind the organised Labour Movement if an inspiring lead is given.
Gaitskell’s watering down of the Labour Party programme ostensibly to make it more “respectable” in the eyes of Liberals and middle-class voters has been a total fiasco.
The way to win workers who vote Tory and Liberal, and to win the middle class and small business people, is to tell them the truth, the plain unvarnished facts. The continued existence of capitalism will bring unemployment, wage cuts, poverty and insecurity to the mass of the people.
Once again the paradox of poverty amid abundance faces us. The productive capacity of the country, which could produce an abundant standard of living for all, is not being utilised. Industry is being run not for use, but for the private profit of the big banks, insurance tycoons, monopolies and big landowners. It is this that is the cause of the swiftly developing crisis, which threatens to tear society apart.
A programme must be worked out by the National Council of Labour and directed to every trade union and Labour Party organisation in the country, so as to mobilise the people for a campaign to drive out the Tories now. Such a socialist appeal would draw into action every section of the movement, from top to bottom—a campaign of meetings, demonstrations, strikes, would force the Government to resign.
Every militant in the Labour Movement must ask: what is the leadership doing on this question? What is the programme to face the developing slump?
Nationalise the land, banks, factories, insurance companies and all private concerns employing more than 20 workers, with minimum compensation to shareholders on the basis of need!
Prepare a plan for production with the full participation and control of the workers, through their shop stewards and trade union organisations!
Link the struggle of the workers in Britain with that of the European workers and the colonial peoples!
A programme on these lines, pushed systematically and in campaign fashion, could not fail to gain a majority in the General Election which would be forced.