5 NOVEMBER 1927, Page 26

Labour History

M#. G. D. H. COLE, who is known as an exponent of the doctrines of Labour's extreme Left Wing, is' not - fitted' by temperament to write the history of the Labour movement in recent years. His sketch of the rise of the Labour Party in the past generation is biassed - and uncriticalto a degree. `tat is hard," he says in his. preface, " not to lose one's temper otierla controversy fresh enough to arouse passions," and Mt. Coles own experiences, with the collapse of Guild Socialism and S1;) fOrth, must have been peculiarly irritating. We should have thought that so striking a development in British political hUtory as the rise of a new party, at the expense of the old Liberal ;Party, could be treated calmly and incielly. Mr. Cede :misses the opportunity because he is too- desperate a pr4iaitn.- He chronicles successive strikes during and since the Wai'.without diagnosing their true causes ;. repeats the idle legend about the employers' " eminter:Offensivel' to reduce wages after 1921, as if with the dechne in trade, it was not absolutely essential to reduce production ensts=whether by lower wages or by increased output. Mr. Cole is-of-course -course sarcastic at the expense of Mr..- MacDonald's 'GOVerliment,. which " ended in inglorious fiasco as the result of a series -4 middles,: the making of which is still wholly beyond under- standing." His account of the General Strike is -hardly recognizable ; but he does not spare the trade-union leaders, who were " afraid of the Government and afraid Of theinselves; afraid to lead and afraid to admit failure." It would be- interesting to know what evidence Mr. Cole has for the state-. ment that " the return to work was followed by an Orgy of victimization " ; so far as we know, the great majority of employers were prepared to let bygones be bygones. Mr. Cole deserves credit for his fairness in admitting, in a closing chapter, that " on the whole, despite the prolonged alump,the workers were not worse off in 1927 than in 1914 and may even have very slightly improved their economic position." That is, indeed, to understate 'the truth, but too many Labour advocates are in the habit of suggesting that thee. working classes are far worse' off _now than before the War, and Mr. Cole's statement to the contrary deserves notice.