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(en) Britain, RESISTANCE BULLETIN #159 - The Myth of '45 - “We must give them reforms or they will give us revolution” - Quintin Hogg, Tory politician in 1943

Date Mon, 8 Feb 2016 11:20:37 +0200

A whole raft of personalities from Tony Benn and Ed Miliband to Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Loach (in his film The Spirit of ’45) have praised the 1945 Labour Government. ---- They offer a list of leftwing reasons; the nationalisation of the railways, electricity, gas, mines, Bank of England, and British Airways, and most famously, the birth of the National Health Service. ---- Labour were swept to power in 1945 with a majority of 145. After years of war, many did not want to put up with a class ridden society of inequality, poverty and shortages for the working class. However the nationalisation that was carried out, was seen by the ruling class not as a way of bringing about more democratic control of industry, but simply as a necessity to rebuild the country. In France the right wing nationalists led by General De Gaulle had nationalised far more of the economy, and they certainly weren’t doing it in the name of socialist ideals.

Meanwhile Labours program of social insurance (welfare)
was based on a report by the liberal economist William
Beveridge in 1942. Even Churchill's Conservatives were
prepared to implement 'cradle to grave' social insurance
had they not lost the election. While the creation of a
National Health Service took pride of place in the
manifestos of all three main parties.

The reforms brought in were geared to firstly helping
Britain reconstruct after the War and secondly head off any
revolutionary movement by offering a package of reforms
to placate the masses. The ruling class was fearful of
another round of revolutions after World War Two after it
had witnessed a similar scenario after World War One.
By 1948 Labour were introducing an austerity package
because of an economic crisis that had started the previous
year. It including cuts to NHS provision and a wage freeze.
Labour even banned sport during the week because they
believed that it encouraged absenteeism. Unemployment
shot up from 400,000 to 1.5 million.

Labours attacks on the working class hadn't waited until
1948. Within 6 days of coming to power Labour sent troops
into the Surrey Docks in London to break a strike. Three
months later Labour again sent troops in to break a
national docks strike, and did this again in 1948. In 1950
Labour used the Navy to break a gas workers strike and
had some strikers arrested and charged. Labour also used
the courts against striking miners in 1947.In fact
throughout its term of office Labour repeatedly acted
against workers with the key target of keeping wages
In foreign policy Labour strove to preserve the British
Empire and indeed other Empires, helping the Dutch in
Indonesia for example. They intervened militarily in Egypt
in 1951, threatened Iran in 1951 over oil interests (sound
familiar?) shot down demonstrators and used napalm in
Greece. They went back on their commitment to the end of
military conscription, eagerly keeping it in place.
Labour re-established relations with the Franco
dictatorship in 1951, bombed Indian villages in 1946, and
applied vicious repressive measures in Kenya and Malaya.
The 1945-51 Labour Government was not a Golden Age.
Far from it. The reforms that were passed, and that indeed
made working people’s lives a little easier, would have
been given just as readily by the Tories or Liberals. They
were given because Britain needed to be rebuilt after the
War and to head off unrest and rebellion. To this day
however, there are still those who continue to push the
idea of a Labour government acting as a pioneering
socialist administration.

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