Courtesy Reuters

The Dilemma of British Labor

ALTHOUGH the British Labor Government went down to defeat in October last it still remained the strongest single party in the state. In terms of the popular vote, it led by more than 200,000 over its Conservative opponents, and was defeated in terms of seats by only the narrowest of margins, largely determined by Liberal Party supporters who had finally recognized the collapse of their own party. Now the defeat of an active reformist administration after more than six years in office is scarcely a matter of surprise. Disraeli's description of Gladstone's famous first reform administration two years before its demise in 1874 as "a range of exhausted volcanoes" comes at once to mind. When we consider further that the Labor Party held office during the years following the greatest physical and economic strain Britain has ever had to endure, in which the exhaustions of war were followed by the arduous and lean years of reconstruction, what is surprising is that the party should have succeeded in retaining so much popular support.

My purpose here is twofold--to explain the sources of such enduring loyalty as the Labor Party clearly commands in Britain, and to attempt an assessment of its future rôle, particularly in the light of the threatened schism within the Party, foreshadowed by the resignation of Mr. Aneurin Bevan and his supporters from the Labor Cabinet. This domestic rift in the lute, temporarily papered over perhaps, masks a fundamental crisis in the history of the Labor movement, on the outcome of which may well depend the destiny of Britain in the decades to come.

The Attlee Administration of 1945-1951 was by any standard a very remarkable one. It was not merely its professed intention to make unremitting war on what Sir William (now Lord) Beveridge happily termed the "five giants on the road of reconstruction," Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness; the Administration actually proceeded to implement its promises. Moreover, it waged this war without resorting to force. It succeeded no

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