Two Types of Socialism
By IAN GILMOUR , the second. The trouble with Socialism is that both are right.
If a reactionary is somebody who longs to return to a golden age which never existed, Mr. Jay is a reactionary, though rather a pale one. Mr. Jay's imaginary golden age is 1945-51, when the economy was thoroughly planned, Britain was always in tune with the UN, a 'social conscience' was rife in the country and a 'deep tide of British idealism' washed 'selfishness' away from these shores—perhaps to capitalist America, Which in its selfishness then produced the Mar- shall Plan that enabled Labour's deep tide of idealism to keep rolling along from one eco- nomic crisis to another. Mr. Jay now proposes to reproduce Good King Clem's golden days as Closely as possible in the 'New Society' of the Sixties. `The thick coating of snobbery and self- seeking smeared over the surface of life by the ten years of Tory government since 1951' must be scraped off and in its place will be put: a return to price control, rent control and food subsidies. And being a perfectionist, Mr. Jay has Rot forgotten that under the Labour 'Govern- ment there was a differentiated profits tax; so naturally, despite its condemnation by the Royal Commission, that must come back too.
There is only one snag. Two of the outstand- ing features of the years 1945-51 were a Labour Government and nationalisation. Now, since ' nationalisation is obviously unpopular with the voters, we can't have both it and a Labour Government in the Sixties; therefore nationalisa- tion has to be drop'ped. But since so much of it Was done in the idyll of 1945 to 1951, it must be good. Accordingly Mr. Jay argues in effect that nationalisation has been so successful that we must not have any more of it. (There appears to be some confusion in Mr. Jay's mind over the difference between success and failure., After Pointing out that Labour is handicapped by the i Tory press and its own Left wing, he says. 'None- theless, nothing is more remarkable in the last Isixteen years than the electoral success of the Labour Party . . .') The chief trouble with , nationalisation, he believes, has been that the , nationalised industries have been forced by 1 *PARLIAMENTARY SOCIALISM. By Ralph Miliband. „ (Allen and Unwin, 35s.) ' t SOCIALISM IN THE NEW SOCIETY, By Douglas ' \lay. (Longmans, 35s.) ,i political pressure to undercharge for their products. This will be news to the Steel Com- pany of Wales, which wanted to buy coal from America because it was cheaper.
The Labour Government could easily have won the leadership of Europe in 1945. But it was not interested. It preferred to concentrate upon building Socialism in one country. So in the Sixties the Common Market must be ignored or deplored. Mr. Jay is against the Common Market, though he does not say so in this book. He makes only two short references to it, in one of which he castigates the Liberals for their 'frivolity' in forsaking their free trade prin- ciples to advocate Britain joining the Market, Mr. Jay evidently thinks that in a book pur- porting to be about Socialism in the new, not the old, age it is more serious not to discuss the subject at all. The style of the book is ad- mirably clear and workmanlike. Only once does Mr. Jay become lyrical. 'As surely as there will always be an England,' he sings, 'there will always be direct taxation.'
'Only by the democratic Socialist solution,' Mr. Jay believes, can the world's 'anarchy and conflict be prevented from deepening into catastrophe.' But Russia does not appear to be very near Social Democracy, America does not possess a serious Socialist Party, and outside Scandinavia there are few ,Social Democrats in power anywhere. If Mr. Jay is right, therefore, it looks as if catastrophe is upon us; and if Mr. Jay fully believed what he, was saying, it is not at all clear why he bothered to write his book. He would have been better employed in build- ing his own fallout shelter. But Mr. Jay is writing not merely under the shadow of the bomb, but under the shadow of his Left Wing. Having given up so much of what used to be considered Socialism, he has to claim as Socialism a great deal of what plainly is not—even to the ab- surdity of suggesting that peace can only be preserved by Social Democracy.
Thus Mr. Jay has to give much space to a most able demolition of Labour's Left wing. It is perhaps an indication of creeping modernism in the Labour Party that while Mr. Strachey devoted almost a whole book to showing that Marx was wrong after all, and Mr. Crosland devoted a section of his book to a similar task, Mr. Jay brilliantly exposes Marx's errors in a couple of chapters. Yet be has to balance this performance by a critique of what seem to have been the views of Cobden and Bright and of classical laissez-faire.
'Socialists,' Mr. Jay tells us, 'have in fact won the victory in the last twenty-five years of argu- ment for a deliberate policy of controlling the flow of demand, and the general levels of pro- duction in a modern economy.' In fact the victory was won by Keynes, who was not a Socialist; but having retreated from so much Socialist ground on the Left, Mr. Jay has to infiltrate a little into the centre. Socialists in Mr. Jay's world, therefore, are people who be- lieve in planning the economy; everybody else in an unrepentant believer in laissez-faire. But of course, almost no government and indeed no- body else now believes in laissez-faire; what is in question is merely the degree of governmental control. If Mr. Jay admitted this, though, his Left flank would be further exposed; his claim to be a Socialist more derided by the far Left.
Mr. Jay is not only misleading about his opponents. One of his more persistent delusions is that under the Labour Government Britain had a planned economy. Admittedly in the days of extreme scarcity, at a time when industry had to be turned over from war to peace, the Labour Government did succeed in carrying out this relatively simple form of planning. But during the second half of the Labour Government we did not have a planned economy, only a con- trolled one. We had controls without planning, probably the worst known combination. Ration- ing was kept because Labour did not know how to get rid of it, and because the Government felt that rationing in some way demonstrated plan- ning. Even the 1947 balance of payments crisis was, as Mr. Miliband points out, 'to an appre- ciable extent the result of the Government's failure in effective planning and control.' In July, 1951, the Government estimated that 'the fourth quarter's results will not be so unfavour- able, though again I think it unlikely they will show a surplus.' In fact in that quarter the gold and dollar reserves fell by $934 million. 'This,' as Mr. Miliband comments, 'was democratic planning with a vengeance.'
The main plank in Mr. Jay's Socialist platform is equality. 'Equality is the specifically Socialist aim. But what does equality mean?' Funnily enough it does not mean literally 'equality.' Curiously Mr. Jay puts inverted commas round the word when it means literally equality, i.e., equality, instead of when it does not mean equality, but merely 'the minimum of inequality' that Mr. Jay thinks desirable. Not surprisingly, therefore, Mr. Jay prefers the phrase 'social justice,' since it expresses the true aim far more accurately than "equality" (which many people, strangely enough, interpret as actually meaning equality!).' What Mr. Miliband calls an 'ampli- tude of egalitarian rhetoric' is evidently the core of revisionism, and added to it, internationally, is a deference to the United Nations, which it is not necessary to agree with Lord Home to con- sider excessive. Mr. lay's ideas and policies, however dis- piriting, might conceivably add up to a pro- gramme for an alternative party, were it not for a large section of that party, some of whom perhaps are strange enough to interpret equality as actually meaning `equality.' Many members of the Labour Party lack Mr. Jay's ability to remain a doctrinaire even after the doctrine has been discarded. They prefer the old doctrine, and regard Mr. Jay's revisionism as revising Social- ism out of existence. They believe, rightly, that the Labour leadership has abandoned what they always thought Socialism meant, and, wrongly, that Socialism is possible either in the present age or through parliamentary means. The most successful parliamentary Socialist Party in the world, the Swedish, which has been in power for more than twenty years, has produced no more fundamentalist Socialism than exists in England. But just because of the presence of the extreme Left the revisionists feel that they have to make concessions to it, and for this purpose they have to use words and adopt atti- tudes which alienate the people to whom they must appeal if they are to win power. As a result the Labour Party has forfeited both Socialism and power.
Nevertheless to its infinite credit it has, ex- cept for some half-hearted flirtations by a minority during the Thirties, always remained faithful to the parliamentary game and to con- stitutional methods of change. It is this to which Mr. Miliband objects, and throughout his book he is contemptuous of Labour's concentration on parliamentary politics. What else he would have had it do is not absolutely clear, but it seems that the weapon he favours is the in- dustrial strike for political purposes. Mr. Mili- band sees clearly enough that Socialism cannot be produced by parliamentary means; he does not see that it cannot be produced by his means either. If Socialists refuse to play the parlia- .mentary game according to the rules and rely upon other methods, it is they and their sup- porters, not their opponents, who suffer. The refusal of the Socialists to participate in the government after the victory of the Left in the 1936 election was the most important immediate cause of the Spanish Civil War. Italian demo- cracy might have been saved if the Socialists had accepted Giolitti's invitation before the First World War to join his government. And Musso- lini was given his chance after the war by the Socialist policy of strikes and talk of violence.
The people who come to the top after political strikes and threats of revolution arc not the Miii- bands, far less the Jays. Mr. Miliband, who writes with a fine scorn and from an illuminat- ing if perverse point of view, should reflect that Mussolini began life as a Left-wing Socialist.
In England such a policy almost certainly would not have led to Fascism simply because the political strikes would have been so thinly supported. As Mr. Miliband notes, there was never much, if any, revolutionary sentiment in England between the wars. The Right would not have been sufficiently frightened to copy Socialist violence; it would have been content to reap the electoral dividends.
In the production of Socialism, then, the par- liamentary revisionists and the anti-parliamen- tarians are equally impotent. And they make each other more ineffective still. The wild men of the Left prevent the revisionists making them- selves fully acceptable to the uncommitted voters, and the revisionists blunt and deflect the Left's attack upon the social and economic struc- ture of the country. One can imagine Mr. Jay's frustration, after he has tried to convince people that Socialists now think the profit motive is up to a point all right after all, finding someone like Mr. Miliband talking about `the deep cco- nomic, social, and moral ills of a society sick with the impulse to private impropriation.' And one can understand Mr. Miliband's exasperation at Mr. Jay's masterly demonstration of the fallacies of traditional Socialist reasoning. He must feel, as an ILP pamphleteer felt about an earlier revisionist policy, that Mr. Jay has `re- duced the ■% hole Movement to acute ana:mitt or rabid melancholy.' An outsider can only agree with both of them.