Labour Party’s finest hour
Attlee butchered workers’ hopes
TONY BLAIR’S project of transforming the Labour Party into a more ‘mainstream’ social democratic/liberal party took another step forwards last week.
In a speech to the Fabian Society on the 50th anniversary of the election of the 1945 Labour government, Blair called for an end to “tribal opposition” towards the Liberal Democrats and made an appeal for the Labour Party to “welcome the radical left-of-centre tradition outside of our own party”.
He then dealt the death blow to all ‘official communists’ everywhere, when he observed that Keynes and Beveridge formed the intellectual cornerstones of the 1945 Labour government’s reforms, not Karl Marx and Lenin, as some would have us believe.
I would heartily endorse Blair’s call to learn the lessons of the 1945 election and the Labour government it spawned. It is impossible to deny that Blair has indeed learnt those lessons well. He correctly pointed out that, “The reality is that the Labour government’s agenda grew out of the coalition government of the war”, adding that, “The truth that we must take seriously is that 1945 was the exception and not the rule.”
Labour’s 1945 agenda was indeed identical to that of the coalition government’s - explicitly pro-imperialist and anti-working class to the core. This will be heresy to legions of left reformists and ‘official communists’ who continue to worship at its ‘socialist’ shrine.
Under the post-war Labour government colonial repression continued without mercy. The anti-fascist resistance fighters in Greece soon discovered that the British troops sent by the ‘socialist’ Labour government were just as much their enemy as the Nazis. The resistance movement was brutally suppressed. Twenty thousand of its leaders were kept in prisoner of war cages and subjected to torture. In addition, a napalm prototype - supplied by the US - was employed by the British forces against the last pockets of leftwing resistance.
The Attlee government was quite happy to partition India, which led to sectarian and communal slaughter on a hideous scale. The ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Palestinian Arabs in 1947-48 and the eventual creation of the monstrous Zionist state of Israel, was yet another glorious achievement.
Horrifically, the Attlee government devoted millions to the creation of an atomic arsenal, thus threatening all of humanity with instant extinction. Labour’s finest hour? Yes, it was, if you judge it by the imperialist yardstick.
Socialist Worker too thinks that the Attlee government was deserving of praise: “Unlike almost every British government before or since, Labour in 1945 carried out most of its election promises”, which naturally introduced “real and important changes which benefited the mass of ordinary people” (July 8).
Any changes it made were a result of working class demands - a fighting working class trained by the British army and determined that life after the war would be better. They owed nothing to the compassion of the butcher Attlee. The SWP, which bases its whole existence on condemnation of ‘state capitalism’ in the USSR, appears to approve of the state capitalist measures of nationalisation which were favoured by all the bosses’ parties to rescue the British economy after the war.
Unfortunately, “by 1948 the Labour government’s reform zeal vanished” and tragically put “the bosses’ system before workers’ interests”. Socialist Worker could not be more wrong. The Attlee government vigorously defended the bosses’ system from day one.
We must take Blair’s pronouncements seriously. When he says that he wants Labour to “recreate the strong political consensus of 1945”, we must be aware what he means. It means uniting the widest possible spectrum of rightwing prejudice behind the incoming Labour government and then launching it against the entire working class, all under the guise of shaping a “national purpose”.
Hard on the heels of his Fabian speech, it was announced that he was off to Murdoch’s (the well known viciously anti-working class union basher) News Corporation conference on July 17 - building his consensus, no doubt. This consensus is clearly a bosses’, not a working class one, as he further underlined at the Transport and General Workers Union conference. As he cuddles up to union bashers, he further distances Labour from the trade unions.
We must be ready for him and not let history repeat itself. In 1945 all manner of ‘communists’ and ‘revolutionary socialists’ gave a hand of support to Attlee and his cohorts. This time we must show Labour the revolutionary noose.