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

The 1945 Labour government

63. The Labour Party played the central role in rescuing British capitalism from the consequences of its eclipse by the US. To this end, Labour was forced to make the most radical appeal in its history to the socialist aspirations of the working class. In the 1945 election, it pledged to implement universal free health care, state-funded education, national insurance and social housing that would protect workers “from the cradle to the grave”. In addition to fulfilling these pledges, the Labour government nationalised one fifth of the country’s productive capacity—including major industries essential to the general interests of British capitalism and post-war reconstruction. This was proclaimed as only the first step towards the realisation of Labour’s goal of common ownership.

64. The wartime role of the trade unions was extended to running the nationalised industries, which combined representatives of the government, management and the unions to regulate production, wage rates and working conditions. Such corporatist measures provided the basis for the trade unions to become the direct administrative agents of capital in disciplining the working class.

65. The Attlee government was forced to relinquish direct rule of the Indian subcontinent by a mass anti-imperialist movement, accompanied by an army rebellion. Independence was proclaimed in August 1947, but the subcontinent was divided along communal lines into India and Pakistan. Partition, the result of the betrayal of the national independence struggle by the Indian bourgeoisie, unleashed a bloodbath. Labour oversaw the brutal repression of insurgent movements in Britain’s dominions and “protectorates”, while joining with US imperialism in suppressing resistance in Greece and Korea. With the advent of the Cold War, Labour could boast that its own efforts to preserve British interests were responsible for the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), under the leadership of the US.

66. The combined impact of the post-war reforms was to consolidate the broad mass of the working class behind the Labour Party.[1] This was reinforced by the CPGB. In 1951 it adopted The British Road to Socialism, which declared, “Britain will reach socialism by her own road. The people of Britain can transform capitalist democracy into a real People’s Democracy, transforming parliament, the product of Britain’s historic struggle for democracy, in to the will of the vast majority of her people.”


The illusions sown in reformism were directed by the bureaucracy against revolutionary Marxism. In his In Place of Fear, for example, the leading Labour left, Aneurin Bevan, asserted: “Quite early in my studies it seemed to me that classic Marxism consistently understated the role of a political democracy with a fully developed franchise. This is the case, both subjectively, as it affects the attitude of the worker to his political responsibilities, and objectively, as it affects the possibilities of his attaining power by using the franchise and parliamentary methods.”