LETTER : Identifying the original authors

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Identifying the original authors of Clause IV

From Mr G. Chowdharay-Best

Sir: Gareth Stedman Jones's essay on Clause IV ignores an awful lot of history ("Labour can learn from Victorian values", 24 April). He seems to be arguing that the wording of the clause was entirely due to Sidney Webb; and he goes on to state that, until 1914, "unions were generally suspicious of the extension of state activity" and that "socialism belonged less to the sphere of polities than to that of ethics".

This roseate view will not stand up to close examination. In 1893 Ramsay MacDonald persuaded the TUC's 26th Congress to accept the principle that parliamentary candidates seeking financial assistance must pledge themselves to support the principle of "collective ownership and control of all the means of production and distribution" and, in 1894, Congress passed a resolution to the effect that

it is essential to the maintenance of British industries to nationalise the land and the whole of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and that the Parliamentary Committee be instructed to promote and support legislation with the above object.

The words "the whole of the means of production, distribution and exchange" were moved as an amendment by Keir Hardie (Official Conference Report, pp 53-55). It is true that, in the following year, a resolution of this type was rejected by a just-introduced card or "block" vote, but this did not stop the infant Labour Party, in 1905, passing a similar resolution.

It is often forgotten, too, that the 1918 "Clause IV" was not only not called that, but omitted the word "exchange" (implying nationalisation of the banks), which was not reinstated until 1929, when the clause was numbered in its present form.

Yours faithfully,


London, SW3

24 April