Socialist Equality Party (UK)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Britain)

Britain’s wartime government of “National Unity”

41. Until August 1939, a significant section of the British bourgeoisie had been sympathetic to Nazism. Regarding it as a bulwark against Bolshevism, they had hoped that the target of German rearmament would be the Soviet Union. It was this that lay behind the policy of “appeasement”. In the end, however, Hitler’s global ambitions meant that war was inevitable.

42. The outbreak of hostilities saw the incorporation of the Labour and trade union bureaucracy into the state apparatus. With a large section of the bourgeoisie compromised by its accommodation with Hitler, Winston Churchill depended on the Labour Party and the trade unions to form his wartime government. Labour leader Clement Atlee, Transport and General Workers Union leader Ernest Bevin and the doyen of the left, Stafford Cripps, were among five Labour members of the Cabinet. The Labour Party was effectively shut down for the duration of the war, and the trade unions policed the banning of strikes under the Essential Work Order, which allowed for the military direction of labour.

43. This “patriotic front” was reinforced by the CPGB. Following the collapse of the Stalin-Hitler pact, the Soviet bureaucracy swung behind the policy of alliance with the “democratic” powers. It closed down the Communist International in 1943 as a pledge to its imperialist allies that it was not in the business of organizing socialist revolution. The CPGB became the strongest advocate of suppressing industrial action and, by the war’s end, would even argue for the continuation of the national government under Churchill to “organize the peace”.

44. An example of CPGB propaganda was the pamphlet Clear out Hitler’s agents! It began by declaring, “There is a group of people in Britain masquerading as socialists in order to cover up their fascist activities… They are called Trotskyists.” It accused the Trotskyists of doing “everything they can to dampen down the peoples’ enthusiasm, resolution and will to win, by their lies about the aims for which this war is being fought… All they want to do is to stop everyone pulling together in the fight against fascism. They want to disrupt the unity of the British people. They want the workers to fight Churchill instead of Hitler… They know that to defeat Hitler, every section of the people, Conservative, Liberal, Labour and Communist workers, middle-class and capitalist class, must fight as Allies in a united struggle against their common enemy.”[1] The pamphlet urged, “They should be treated as you would treat a Nazi… Remember that the Trotskyists are no longer part of the working-class movement.”