Over a year ago, I read Simon Hannah’s book, “A Party with Socialists in it, a history of the Labour Left.” I found it fascinating, informative, and well-paced. I read the 1st edition, which unlike the later edition is missing the final chapter on the 2019 election and the fall of Corbyn. I made some notes; this article is an effective if personal review and includes some comments from my memories and family diaries. It covers, post-war defence issues and Bevan, Wilson’s National Plan together with his fatal intra-party compromise on the first EU referendum, Bennism, his near mysticism and the Falklands War, the influence of Trotskyism, the continued factionalism and the weaponisation of party democracy, and the conflict between workers control of the factories (and offices) and a national plan.
War, Peace & Bevan
In the immediate closing stages and post war period, I am curious if there was a debate within the Labour Party over the UK intervention in Greece and whether Labour’s left stood with EAM. While Hannah speaks of the mutiny in Egypt over demobilisation, our family stories are of the RAF mutiny in India which was also about demobilisation and the Government’s desire to keep a strong [white] military in India to ensure that any political progress on Indian independence was “appropriately supervised”. I wonder also whether there was a debate on Indian independence with the Labour Party, either in Parliament or at Conference.
I was curious that it was a Labour Govt., that took eyes and teeth out of the NHS to fund the Korean War and that when Bevan, after a career as a socialist, and the architect of the NHS was moved to Shadow Foreign Secretary, he discovered an Atlanticism that no-one had noticed before. While disappointing we should remember that, while today the US influence in Europe is expressed through NATO and its recent “out of theatre operations”, in the 1950’s their sacrifice as allies, neighbours and funders of the Marshall plan was much more recent, obvious, and valued. It was much easier to be an Atlanticist. Times seem to have changed in that then they didn’t expel Bevan because of impending election, this current bunch of fools seem to think that being tough with the left will help.