LORD PAKENHAM reviews a new book of ideas on the party's home and foreign policy
NEW Fabian Essays* should be read by anyone interested in the trend of thinking within the Labour Party.
They are a long way from indicating an official party attitude, let alone a programme, as Mr. Attlee makes clear in his friendly but guarded preface. Nor can the authors be said to be fully representative of Labour intellectuals as a whole. The balance would, one supposes. have been very different if Mr. Gaitskell. Mr. Noel-Baker, Mr. Gordon Walker, Mr. Stokes and Mr. Jay had contributed. But nearly all the ideas for future policy which are discussed when Socialists meet together are canvassed with much ability once more often in the book.
Each essay has merits of its own. Mr. Attlee justly singles out the essays by Mr. Albu on The Organisation of I ndusity." and Mr. Mikardo on "Trade Unions in a Full Employment Economs .as specially in:cresting. It would he hard to imagine 30 more stimulating pages than those in which Mr. Crossman makes a lightning progress "towards a philosopy of Socialism." Mr. Crossland and Mr. Jenkins skilfully disentangle the
issues and provide most valuable material for the countless seriousminded Socialists who are trying to make up their minds what real Socialism would involve in terms of economics and social justice compared with what we have got. Mrs. Cole reveals a passionate interest in almost every kind of education, except, alas, religious education.
Mr. Healey, in an immensely able but rather disjointed essay tries to bring home to the members of his party the neglected influence of power in Foreign Affairs. By power he seems to mean material power giving effect to selfish interests.
Mr. Strachey alone among the writers appears to treasure some Marxist relics in hie mental portfolio, e.g., "Those frightful collisions between the major industrial metropolises which we know as the First and Second World Wars." To my mind he remains over obsessed with the economic contradictions of capitalism. But no one can mistake the integrity of the reasoning by which he reaches his highly individual, and of course completely democratic conclusions, Herin's critic
"THE authors make no claim to I consistency with one another. Mr. Healey's essay has already been reviewed by a member of the larger group from whose discussions New Fabian Essays sprang. This reviewer described it as a "penetrating and hard-headed defence of Bevinism." Mr. CroSsman was, and appears to remain unrepentantly. Mr. Bevin's leading critic. Perhaps for that reason nothing that can be called a new point of view a bout Foreign Policy emerges.
.Mr. Healey wavers repeatedly between (I) a view of international affairs in which "the urge to brotherhood is no less real a political fact than the will to power," and (2) one in which "Nation States are political entities, not moral entities; with interests and desires, not rights and duties" (my italics). On the latter showing there would be no room for international morality at all, which is not. I think, Mr. 1-lealey's meaning, though a lot of his practical applicatione appear to assume that it is.
' Littera ti re force' ikA R. GROSSMAN faces us with 1-VI some wonderful dilemmas in our dealings with "Colonial peoples.' "The Socialist," he concludes, "must accept both intellectually and emotionally the fact that Communism outside Europe is still a liherative force." One particular Socialist accepts nothing of the kind if his "fiberative force" is supposed to be something that leads you in the right direction. But Mr. Crossman fails throughout to see in Communism an intrinsically evil thing. He places it on a moral par with the American system.
"We cannot cut loose so long as the Cold War continues, to which we are committed not by ideology, but by facts of geography, strategy and economics. If freedom is to survive it is essential that neither the U.S.A. nor the Soviet Union should win." The East Germans, Poles and other peoples suffering under the Russian yoke are apparently forgotten.
Mr. Crossman's reference to his dislike of a victory for either the Soviet Union or the Americans is surely ambiguous. Few of us would think a victory by America worth a war, but many British Socialists, 1 majority I should fancy, would be delighted if Soviet Communism collapsed without a war. Mr. Grossman is so shrewd and sincere a champion of freedom in other parts of his essay that I do not despair of a rather different tone towards Communism when the second edition comes along.
Socialism at home TT is, however, to the passages con-teemed with internal Socialism that it will be most interesting to look back five, 10 or even 20 years hence. Here a common doctrine does emerge. All are agreed that a certain definite stage has been reached: "The Government has fulfilled its historic mission."
We have moved a long way forward from pro-War capitalism, but what we've got is certainly not Socialism (Mr. Crossland calls it "statism"). Socialism will be different not merely in degree but in kind.
Socialism will involve not only a further re-distribution of income, but a sharp re-distribution of capital; true educational equality, presumably by levelling up with a rather reluctant provision by Mrs. Cole for religious minorities; more effective central planning, though Mr. Crossland recognises that this can be achieved under "statism"; above all a new way of life for those engaged in industry, a new search for a means of giving them freedom.
It is the interplay between these two ideals of equality and freedom which gives the book its special significance.
"The Socialist." says Mr. Crossman, "measures the progress of social morality by the degree of equality and respect for individual personality within a State. This standard indeed is what we mean by the Socialist ideal."
Now this ideal can be challenged, and in my opinion successfully defended, on economic grounds. It can be, and as think. must he, qualified in deference to the institution of the family. of which there is. curiously enough. no serious mention in these essays. But surely the real objection by many discerning Christians who understand that it is equality which forms the real issue between the parties is the fear that Mr. Crossman's double ideal is in fact unobtainable. Socialism is equated with State tyranny, and (I) Equality and (2) Respect for individual personality are regarded as directly in conflict.
I do not think that Mr. Crossmen arid his colleagues are sufficient It aware of the element of truth behind this anxiety. They want more equality, as I do. They realise that more equality means more State activity; but what they do not. think, allow for is the increased centralisation that in the first instance. and unless corrected, is the inevitable con
sequence of increased activity by the State.
In the Labour Party we claim to have increased the liberty of the many at the expense, perhaps, of diminishing it for a few. But the increased liberties we are so proud of conferring flow to a great extent from increased security, not from any fuller or more democratic participation in the work men and women are doing.
DE that as it may, Mr. Cnussman klisays something about freedom so important that its implications should he kept in mind by every policy group of the Labour Party for years to come.
"Today," he says, "the enemy of human freedom is the managerial society. And the central coercive power that goes with it." And again: "The task of Socialism is to prevent managerial responsibility degenerating into privilege. This can only he achieved by increasing, even at the cost of efficiency, the citizen's right to participate in the control of Government and industry."
"Frven at the cost of efficiency, which means, of course, even at the expense of the British standard of life. Indeed. he makes the same point quite explicitly: "1be test o f Socialism is the extent to which it shapes the people's institutions to the moral standards of freedom, even at the cost of a lower standard of living."
Can all this be given practical shape? I do not doubt it can but I believe that none of us in any party have today more than the glimmerings of the answer. The great thing is that the party whose conception of social justice has carried them so far in the direction of increasing the responsibilities of the State are beginning to concentrate on the duty of "distributing responsibility so as to enlarge freedom of choice'
I myself regard the dual objective of equality and respect for individual personality as full of innumerable obscurities and pitfalls It is one thing to proclaim it, quite another to come anywhere near achieving it.
But in so far as we do make any headway towards it, we are surely complying to the best of our feeble capacity with the wishes of our Divine Father, to Whom each one of us is equally and infinitely dear. 4. By mime' authors. (Turnstile Press and Fabian Bookshop; 15a.)