The long weekend

WORDS OF THE WEEK: The great and good of New Labour and the old Left paid pounds 50 a head to attend a party at a fashionable London hotel to celebrate 60 years of the Labour newspaper 'Tribune'. This is the statement of intent by first editor, William Mellor, published in 1937
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We are part of a world system, the working of which is no longer compatible with either democracy or peace. If we want them, we must change the world system. We must change it swiftly, for if we wait, the initiative will be in the hands of those to whom neither democracy nor peace is an ideal charged with meaning.

The world system that is destroying hope in the world is capitalism. That it means the destruction of democracy, Italy and Germany are there to show. That it means war, Manchuria and Abyssinia and Spain are there to bear their tragic witness.

It is capitalism that has caused world depression. It is capitalism that has created the distressed areas. It is capitalism that is piling up vast armaments now for the war whose shadow bestrides our lives. It is capitalism that divides our people into the two nations of rich and poor. Either we must defeat capitalism or we shall be defeated by it.

The defeat of capitalism depends upon the unity of the working class. If its forces are divided, as in Italy and Germany, it is defeated in detail. A united working class can take the offensive. It has the massed power out of which courage and hope are born. It is able to take the initiative from its opponents' hands. It is able to give direction to its effort. A united working class can go forward to a defined goal. It can move on central positions. It has none of the doubts which, through hesitation and compromise, lead straight to defeat.

The Labour movement of this country has sought again and again, since 1919, to find terms of compromise with its opponents, and thus accepted the "inevitability of gradualness". It has insisted that there are no lessons for ourselves in the experience of continental peoples. It has declared that "it can't happen here". It has tried to purchase peace by agreement. It has even tried the policy of partial surrender.

Once at every point it has given up the initiative, capitalism has ruthlessly beaten down its standard of life in the interest of private profit. We do not blame capitalism for this; it is the inherent logic of its system.

But we must draw from our experience the lesson that, without the initiative in our hands, we shall be beaten as the Italian and German working classes have been beaten. And there can be no working-class initiative without working-class unity.

A so-called National Government has taken advantage of these divisions to move in the direction of Fascism. As the crisis deepens, it will take further advantage of them.

As it has been in domestic policies, so it has been also in the international field. The League of Nations is dead, killed by the National Government. They are now doing a cynical deal with the Fascist conquerors of Abyssinia. Their policy of non-intervention has made of Spain a shambles in which the Spanish working class are the victims ...

All is built upon the same iron necessity - capitalism must find markets in which profit can be made. And since national states are the pawns in the capitalist game, their citizens must be killed, on the battlefield and in air raids, that the owners of the instruments of production may make the profit.

It is this which has made the Labour movement socialist. It is this that has led it to insist that we can no longer patch up the capitalist system. We know now that there need be no want, no poverty, no means test, no devastated areas. They exist because capitalism exists; they are the price we pay for its continuance.

And the longer it continues, the more intense it will become. Its contradictions now can be resolved only by abandoning all the gains the working class has made this 100 years. They have gone in Italy and Germany. They are threatened in Spain. In France they have been checked only by the union of working-class forces.

Here, they are threatened too. British capitalism is on the dole. It sucks the life blood of the state for its maintenance ...

If we will the end of capitalism, we must will the means to socialism. The first step to that end is a united working-class movement, active in challenge and attack. Fighting for immediate objectives, fighting against reaction and Fascism. It must mobilise the workers now for day-to-day struggle against the means test, for higher wages, for the 40-hour week, for work in the most distressed areas.

It must work to bring into power a working-class government pledged to put into operation a workers' programme, swiftly, decisively, drastically.

That means immediate nationalisation of the banks. It means nationalisation of coal and power, land and the means of transport. It means the immediate nationalisation of the arms industry. It means the abolition of the means test. It means a great housing programme. It means the withdrawal of the aged from industry with pensions, adequate to a decent life at 60. It means raising the school leaving age to 16 with full maintenance allowances. It means a drastic upward revision of the scales of the unemployed until, by socialist planning, they are reabsorbed into work.

On the international front, it means real collective security. We must give the republican government of Spain its legal right to arms. We must tell the Fascist powers that the limit of their aggression has been reached.

We must join with France and the Soviet Union to resist their piecemeal threat to the remaining democracies of the world. As they are prepared to disarm. But as they threaten peace, so we shall defend it. For a workers' government.

Either we go forward now to socialism or there will be widespread retrogression to that Fascist barbarism into which the larger part of Europe has been plunged. For the Hitlers and Mussolinis cannot afford to wait; their grim gamble demands conquest or disaster.

Our Baldwins and Edens cannot shuffle and evade the issues they pose. The Labour movement must choose. It has now come to the turning-point of its history.