Let Us Face the Future: The Labour Party 1945 Manifesto At the very end of World War 2, the British people is craving for a change in the economic and social policies of their country.
In fact, the Great Depression and pre-war Conservative governments were very disappointing : Chamberlain’s (from 1937 to 1940) and Churchill’s (from 1940 to 1945) governments were practically only based on foreign policy (because of the war and the progressive degradation of the British Empire), and were considered responsible for not enough preparing Britain to war ; moreover, the Great Depression’s various governments (Labour as well as Tories) were blamed because they did not assure the people’s, and particularly the working-class’ financial safety during the late 20’s – early 30’s.
In 1945, Britain really needs a drastic change in its national policy while a time of post-war reconstruction has come. The Labour Party of 1945, and its leader Clement Attlee, claims that it embodies this change : its manifesto of 1945, from which this text is an extract, demands great social, economic and industrial reforms, hoping to erase the past defeat of the Party during the Depression.
Between the promises for a National health care plan and economic reforms that benefits the lower-middle and working-class, lies a programme of Public ownership, or nationalization of every industry (that is to say that these industries will be run by the State), which reinforces the Labour’s self-declaration as a Socialist government. This designation is even more appealing to the British people, that sees in this new socialist Labour party an even greater sign of future changes to come for their country.
But this extract, which can firstly be seen as a normal Manifesto for a new socialist government, suggests as a watermark a vivid criticism of the pre-war Conservative government, and more generally of Capitalism and privatization of the industries ; moreover, if one goes deeper into the text, it can also be considered as a sort of propaganda for this new socialist party. One can also add to these points a reflection on how this Manifesto can be appealing to the British people at the time. Therefore, the first part of this study will wonder how this new party can be considered ocialist, including some details about the history of the party as well as the very basis of its programme for 1945 ; the second part will deal with the criticism of the Conservative party’s values, that is to say capitalism and privatization, and how at this time it is appealing for the British people.
Finally, a last part will be devoted to the propaganda-like aspect of this programme, and which (mostly stylistic) devices the Labour uses to get people to like it. One of the first goal of this text is the definition of The Labour party by itself and in particular the definition of what would be their programme. the Labour Party is a Socialist Party, and proud of it”(line 17), this sentence reveals the way they see themselves and the fact they’re proud of it is interesting because before the war they were reluctant to call themselves socialist since it would have frightened most of the voters. The programme they present in the text is obviously socialist since it presents an industrial programme that is, according to them, towards the interests of the nation. Indeed, Public ownership or nationalisation is the basis of their programme and is associated with efficiency.
They want to get rid of the private monopolies that have been prejudicing the British economy by keeping prices high. Public ownership would bring the unification that the British industry needs in order to achieve the modernization of many industries and to help rebuilding the country after the war. They also insist on the fact that it would be in favour of the workers, since it would increase safety at work. Because even if public ownership is the basis of their programme they claim to do it only for the British people and especially the workers.
In these tough post war times, they appear to be a reassuring government in the service of the nation. “the Labour Party will put the community first and the sectional interests of private business after. ” (line 12-13). They also want to restore many liberties that were damaged by the war. In order to build a new society , the Labour chooses to put the accent on industrial and social reforms, which are the basis of the welfare state, and therefore defines the Labour party as a socialist party.
With this definition the Labour party places itself at odds with the other parties, and especially the Conservative Party, which is associated with capitalism and privatization. In this extract, the Labour Party, and Attlee, do not only detail a programme for the oncoming elections – they also hugely criticize the Conservative Party and their faith in capitalism and privatization of the industries. They defend the lower classes by saying that the Tories have installed in the UK “a restrictive anti-social monopoly or cartel agreements – caring for their own capital structures and profits at the cost of lower standard of living for all. (l. 28-29). That is to say that the Conservative Party only wanted to make profit by installing a capitalist society to the expense of the lower classes, which were poorer than ever during the Great Depression, and that this type of society only profited the richer classes and the elite. Indeed, capitalism is a type of society whose bases are above all the private property of industries and companies, in order to make profit and to accumulate capital (that is to say, money).
According to the Labour Party however, this system only uses the workers as a means to achieve this aim, and therefore, the profit of the work only goes to the owner of the company, and not to the entire community, which is why they want a public ownership of these industries, so that it can be at the disposal of the totality of the British people, and therefore profit them. That is also why the Labour party depicts this system of privatization as a social failure : “For a quarter of a century the coal industry […] has been floundering chaotically under the ownership of many hundreds independent companies” (l. 2 to 34) ; “Private monopoly has maintained high prices and kept inefficient high-cost plants in existence” (l. 42-43) . As the leaders of these companies only wanted to earn more and more money during the Depression and after, they made their workers work more and more ; but the prices grew bigger and bigger too, so in the end the lower classes did not have enough money to live “full, happy, healthy lives”, while the upper classes and the elite grew richer and richer.
This widened the gap between those extremes, and as the two Conservative governments established at wartime wanted to focus on foreign policies, they totally let their own people down and did not pass new social and economic acts, which made the British people feel betrayed. But the Labour party also reproaches the opposition for not being representative of the British population, and not being close enough to them. They say that the Conservative party and the elite “put themselves and their wishes above those of the whole nation. ” (l. 6) From a neutral point of view, this could be explained by what has been explained just before : Chamberlain and Churchill wanted to focus on foreign policy to prevent their people from enduring too much human and material damage during the war ; but according to the Labour party, as the elite saw it was earning more and more money, it did not worry about the economic safety of the lower classes and therefore did not do anything to change the financial situation of the poorer. That made the working-class feel rejected and increased their hatred for the richer classes.
One can then clearly understand why the programme of the Labour party, with its endless promises of social and financial reforms, can appear appealing to them : they will finally feel like someone cares about them. But with this (perhaps too) vivid criticism of the previous Conservative governments and their national economic policies, the Labour party gives one the impression that it wants to stand out among the other parties, and to promote their reforms to get elected, even if it means that it has to emphasize some of its points…
Moreover, the emblematic sentence “All parties say so – the Labour Party means it” seems more like a slogan than anything else. Therefore, could it be that this manifesto also is a sort of propaganda ? For example, as the Labour clearly disparage the opposition, they also take advantage of it and praise the moral qualities of their own party. The most flagrant example is when they claim to be the impersonation of Freedom : “The Labour Party stands for freedom” (l. 1).
Then, the Labour quotes a list of social and democratic freedoms (of speech, of worship, of the Press), and brings down the Conservative party by assimilating them to non-democratic freedoms, that they mention as “so-called freedoms”. Actually, those “so-called freedoms” are the economic freedoms the Conservative party tends to defend and that are part of the capitalist system ; but they alter their neutral meaning (freedoms given by privatization, freedom of trade, etc. ) to make them seem anti-social (“freedom to exploit other people”, etc. and therefore to put themselves as the great defenders of the British people, and above all of the lower-classes. Therefore, this strategy where they seem to embody social freedom could easily be seen as another common strategy to make the people vote for them, and is perhaps not as committed as it seems to be. Another strategy that we can find in this text, is the accentuation on the closeness with the British people, which can be considered as a manipulation to be elected. The members of the Labour Party, like the British people, are practical-minded men and women. ” (line 22) It emphasizes the fact that the members of the party are members of the people, therefore they know what is better for them, again they oppose themselves with the superior attitude of the Tories. This strategy makes people believe that they will vote for people of their own kind, people that they can trust.
Moreover the fact that they are in favour of the return of trade union’s freedom can be self interested since as a part of the trade union movement the Labour party benefited from their expansion. The Trade disputes and Trade Unions act, that was passed in 1927 by the Conservative government as a result of the 1926 General strike,made general strikes illegal but also forced union members to pay a tax to a political party. It made the Labour party lost a third of their subscriptions.
The suppression of this act would allow the Labour party to regain its high amount of members. To conclude, in this text the Labour party presents an industrial and social programme, but what is really at stake is his will of differentiation from the other parties, especially the Tories, and his definition as a socialist party who really cares about the interest of the nation since they are close to it. All this is part of a strategy to be elected, and it worked since the Labours won the general election of may 1945.
It is interesting to see if they really kept their promises, and actually, they effectively brought the welfare state in Britain with a series of reforms on education and health, however the nationalisation process was a disappointment with only 20 per cent of the British industry nationalised. Moreover nationalisation did not solve the issues in the industries which were concerned. Even though the welfare state improved people lives, people began to object about its huge cost. However after many periods of difficulties, the Labour party is still one of the most important party in Britain nowadays.