Courtesy Reuters

Alternatives Before British Labor

IN 1929 when the British Labor Party was asked for the second time to form a government it had no majority in the House of Commons. It was the largest single party but it could govern only so long as it retained the support of a considerable number of Liberals. At an early stage in its governmental career Mr. Lloyd George stated, upon behalf of the Liberal Party, that they would not support any measure of socialism. It then became clear that the utmost that Labor could do was to proceed upon reformist lines, similar to, but perhaps rather more bold than, those which the Liberal Party could itself have adopted.

Unfortunately promises of a definitely socialist character had been held out to the supporters of the Party. These had been enshrined in a document which was afterwards often referred to, "Labor and the Nation." It was not so much a program as a collection of proposals of all kinds, varying greatly in importance and in character. Some of them were definitely socialist, others decidedly reformist, and no order of precedence either as to time or importance had been laid down. The supporters of the Party in the House of Commons included persons of all shades of opinion, from the liberal-minded on the one hand to revolutionary socialists of the Independent Labor Party on the other. As time went on it became abundantly clear that the tactic of the Government was not to ride for a fall by introducing definitely socialist measures, but to remain in power as long as possible, carrying through such reformist measures as were possible with Liberal support. Those who desired to see something effective done to meet the deepening crisis of capitalism became more and more discontented, until the Independent Labor Party members formed themselves into a definite attacking group with a view to forcing the pace.

This had little practical effect at the time, as any issue upon which this group were prepared to vote against

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