[Book] Ted Grant Writings: Volume Two


Labour leaders fear conference

[Socialist Appeal, Vol. 5 No. 23, Mid-May 1944 - not signed]

The Labour leaders have announced the cancellation of this year’s Labour Party conference. The ostensible excuse for this is the warning of the Railway Executive Committee that it will be necessary to withdraw many more trains for military purposes.

But this excuse does not hold water, since many other organisations are holding their conferences as usual.

It is obvious that the leadership of the Labour Party has eagerly seized this pretext as a way out of a situation which even at best would be embarrassing and painful to them.

The opening of the second front would give added importance to a Conference of the representatives of the working class to discuss the issues whereby the fate of Europe is being decided. But the leaders are content to leave the fate of the workers in the hands of the capitalist class without giving the rank and file the opportunity to voice its opinions.

The real truth of the matter is that the leadership has seized the opportunity to avoid facing the rank and file delegates at this juncture. Throughout the country, in the unions and among the rank and file of the Labour Party, there is a tremendous revolt against the support by the Labour and trade union bureaucrats of the new anti-labour laws and a feeling of opposition to any measures of reprisal against the Labour “rebels.”

The leadership has followed this up by a demand for a statement from Aneurin Bevan that he will “in future loyally accept and abide by the orders of the Parliamentary Party.” In the event of a refusal the joint meeting of the NEC of the Labour Party and the Administrative Committee of the Parliamentary Labour Party has recommended that Bevan should be expelled. The stiffening of the attitude of the Labour leaders after the Parliamentary Labour Party had accepted a compromise, is obviously connected with the decision to cancel the Labour Party conference.

The leadership has realised the depth of feeling which these issues have aroused among the Labour rank and file. A reaction which has been completely unexpected by the leadership. A conference now would possibly reveal a sharp reaction against the whole compromising policy of capitulation to the ruling class by the policy of coalition. So the leadership prefers to wait for what they imagine would be a better atmosphere for the putting over their reactionary coalition policy – possibly after the second front has been opened.

This treacherous manoeuvre of the Transport House bosses shows how much they are really concerned with democracy in the party and seeking the opinions of the rank and file on the major crisis within the Labour Party.

The Labour rank and file workers should demand the speedy holding of the conference at a suitable date. The cancellation of the conference in conjunction with the whole record of the Labour and trade union bureaucrats in the coalition seriously poses before the Labour workers the necessity for a serious struggle to democratise and revitalise the Labour movement. Real democracy within the unions and the Labour Party can only be obtained by pushing the leadership on the road of a struggle for power against the capitalists.

Instead of directing their blows and reprisals against the left wing inside and outside the Labour Party within the working class movement, the leadership should be compelled to fight against the systematic attacks of the bosses on the standards of the workers. Either this or they should be driven out of the movement altogether. Either open MacDonaldism or the road of the crass struggle.

In the ending of the coalition with the capitalists, both industrially and politically lies the only means of reviving the Labour movement.