Britain

The end of the war brought about an entirely novel situation in Europe, presenting the Marxists with difficult and unforeseen theoretical problems. The revolutionary wave in Western Europe did indeed manifest itself in the election of left governments and the strident demands of the workers for concrete reforms and social change. But the full impact of the workers' movement was blunted by the Communist and Socialist Party leaderships, acting as a brake on developments. The precise characterisation of the post-war regimes in Western Europe and the perspectives for these countries were the subjects of intense debate within the Trotskyist movement.

This is the speech made by Ted Grant at Labour Party annual conference in 1983, appealing against his expulsion by the National Executive Committee in February of the same year. The NEC had begun an 'enquiry' into the newspaper Militant, on the urging of the capitalist press and Tory ministers, who goaded Michael Foot, the Labour leader, with having 'extremists' in his party.

Originally published in 1975, this article was an answer to Chrysler’s plans to sack thousands of workers in Britain. We are publishing it together with our article on workers' participation or workers' control as it posed clearly the demand for nationalisation under workers’ control and management.

Originally published in 1974 in a period when there was a discussion on the question of workers’ control and what it meant. The right-wing leaders in the British labour movement (and internationally) interpreted it as “workers’ participation”, which meant the workers would be consulted on minor questions, but real control remained in the hands of the bosses. Today, thirty years later, this article maintains all its validity, in explaining the real Marxist approach to this question.

"What was necessary in 1926 and is necessary today is a friendly but implacable criticism of the left leaders in the unions — and in the Labour Party. A skilful criticism of the woolliness, the vagueness and inconsistency of the Lefts and their failure to present the issues in sharp and clear class terms; not to wobble over the issue of the "nation" or "collaboration with the management", or even with the Tory government as suggested by Scanlon and Jones in recent weeks, but to pose the issue clearly of the "two nations" in Britain — workers and capitalists." (Ted Grant in 1973)

In 1971 in Britain the Tory government's the Industrial Relations Bill brought the country close to a general strike with many militants calling for concrete action. The Communist Party first called for such a strike and then light-mindedly dropped it without any explanation. Ted Grant pointed out that in the conditions of the time the call for a general strike had to go hand in hand with systematic preparation for power; otherwise it would be a frivolous and dangerous approach.

In this short article Ted Grant looked at the events unfolding in the Dutch Labour Party during the first months of 1970 and drew some conclusions for the British Marxists.

This article was originally published in the Militant under the title "Northern Ireland - For A United Workers' Defence Force" just after the British troops were sent into the North of Ireland in 1969. While most of the left capitulated and supported the sending in of troops the Marxists explained clearly that, "The call made for the entry of British troops will turn to vinegar in the mouths of some of the Civil Rights leaders. The troops have been sent in to impose a solution in the interest of British and Ulster Big Business."

In November 1967 the devaluation of the pound underlined the fact that the undergoing crisis of British capitalism had not been solved. The crisis highlighted the beginning of a polarisation between the left and right wing within the Labour Party. Recognising that this was the result of conflicting class pressures on the LP leadership, Ted Grant debunked the arguments of the “lefts” and outlined the strategy of the Marxist wing within the labour movement in an epoch of sharp class conflict that was impending, a strategy that was later to crystallise in the growth of the Militant Tendency in the 1970s.

A few weeks into the first Wilson government Ted Grant pointed out that, "Labour must either introduce drastic measures against the insurance giants, the big banks and the monopoly concerns that dominate the British economy, or the Labour leaders will become tools in their hands." He warned that if they chose the latter, this would lead to defeat of Labour, which eventually came in 1970.

The right-wing clique around Labour Party leader Gaitskell launched an ideological offensive at the beginning of 1960, after the LP had been defeated in the 1959 election. They argued that Labour had to abandon references to Socialism and links to the Trade Unions, and undergo a process of so-called modernisation, needed to face a new epoch of "good and plenty". Ted Grant answered their arguments and appealed to the labour ranks to defeat this manoeuvre of the right wing.

On the eve of the 1959 general elections, Ted Grant explained the reasons why workers needed to get rid of the Tories. Only the bosses had gained anything after eight years of Tory rule.

In 1959, the Transport and General Workers’ Union (T&GWU) and the General and Municipal Workers’ Union (G&MWU) gave voice to the growing mass opposition within the labour movement to atomic and nuclear arms. Labour Party leader Gaitskell declared that the pro-Nuclear party policy would not be changed. Ted Grant expressed the Marxists’ critical support for the trade unions’ stand and exposed the right-wing policy of the Labour leaders.

Rising unemployment provoked a parliamentary debate in March 1959. Ted Grant explained the reasons for the growing unemployment and the need to reject bourgeois policies. Unfortunately, Labour leaders were tail-ending the policies of the Tory government, which also explained why the Labour Party was finding it difficult to defeat the Tories, something which was confirmed later that year in the general election.

At the beginning of 1959 the National Coal Board decided to close 36 pits and throw 13,000 miners out of work in Wales and Scotland. Despite the wave of unrest amongst the miners, the reaction of the leaders of the Miners' Union was to "co-operate in minimising hardship caused by the closures". Ted Grant argued that the NUM should strike back and mobilise around the lines set out by the Miners' Charter and enforce workers' control on the Coal Board.

In the run-up to the 1959 General Election Ted Grant criticised the programme of the Labour Party highlighting that promises of reforms were just words, especially in the context of the economic slump, if the bosses' pockets had not to be touched. Unless the big 600 were taken over and production rationally organised according to a democratic plan, with the full participation of the workers and technicians themselves - Grant argued - the programme of reforms was unrealistic.

A few months before the 1959 General Election, after 7 years of Tory rule, their policies in favour of the rich had alienated the mass of the workers. Cracks appeared in Tory rule but the Labour Party under Gaitskell had no real alternative to offer to British workers. Unless a sharp change to the left in policies and leadership was forced by the Labour ranks, Labour would head for disaster, argued Ted Grant.

In 1958, after 7 years in power, Tory rule was shaken by recession. The class character of Tory policies was clear for all to see. At the same time the right-wing orientation of Labour under Gaitskell was frustrating the ranks of the labour movement. Growing criticism was revealed by a Gallup Poll. Ted Grant explained that workers were prepared to fight the Tories but the Labour leaders were not willing to give a lead. The most class-conscious elements should therefore organise in opposition to Gaitskell's policies.

In 1958 the economic recession in Britain undermined the stability of the then Tory government. The combination of rising unemployment and inflation and the Tory government's policies provoked a massive swing against them. Ted Grant urged that all forces of the trade union and labour movement be mobilised to force the Tories out.