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Two examples of "socialist schemes" should be cited here. The first is the nationalist [sic. - PB. Presumably 'nationalised'] industries. The working class in 1946 saw the nationalisation of the mines and railways as being the expropriation of the bourgeoisie. In this they were correct; that this was expropriation had been explained by socialists in 1890-1914. The class did not see that there was another process to be undertaken after legal expropriation. That was the making managers redundant and also of replacing the market as the means by which society called the products of those nationalised industries into use. Consequently, nothing further happened. 

Thus, when the Conservative Government in the early 60s appointed a Parliamentary Committee to examine precisely what nationalised industries were, the committee did nothing but register the actual situation when it reported that they were industries like any other (run on a profit and loss basis for a market and with managers, just happening to be publicly owned for the public good). Second is the Labour Government's attempts to implement regulation of wages (begun in 1945). This has been rejected by the working class every time it is tried because the Labour Government gives the class no other reason than it is the loyal support of their own party by the working class. It has not explained why regulation of wages was necessary in an economy where production was regulated to the extent of ensuring full employment, i.e. why the advance in the relations of production of capitalism made it necessary and how the working class could force this capitalist regulation into socialist regulation. (To be able to explain how necessarily involves facing the reality before our eyes, analysing it and then being able to know what to do. Otherwise how remains at the purely abstract level of "capitalism is capitalism". It means being able to see that there is a way for the working class to wield its power.) 

The working class has refused to accept a wages freeze because it means a change in the economic struggle and the class has not been told how it can defend its interests when that economic struggle has become more advanced, more conscious. Its refusal is a conservative one because it has not seen the necessity for change. Barbara Castle was the only member of the Labour Party who showed in practice that she understood this need to explain what was happening to the working class. She was following political instincts without reflecting that the result of those British parliamentary instincts would be great flux and debate and discussion within the working class. She was pulled up short by trade union conservatism and then instinctively stood up for her ideas, was not frightened into retreat and set about doing battle with TU leaders and the working class. The result has been her meteoric fall from popularity in the Parliamentary Labour Party and shelving to the backbenches. Her mistake was taking the working class seriously as a politically conscious class whose objections had to be answered with reason. Though her attack on the present collective bargaining in the economic struggle was Fabian, it was at least an attack and as such could hold out the prospect of some development of consciousness.

As a politically conscious class, the working class has understood the need for its own political party, independent of the political expressions of the bourgeoisie. The disillusion which has set in amongst the most conscious members of the working class who believed that socialism was possible and that a socialist political party was a precondition for that has not resulted in anything more than a loss of heart. There has not been a retreat into religion; rather the socialism in which this section of the working class believed has become an ideal to be upheld in rhetoric and not something that can be done by the working class. 

At present the only function of the Labour Party is to defend the interests of the Trade Unions in Parliament. That is the only use the working class can see in the Labour Party now because its other purpose, that of enacting socialism, has never been taken seriously by the party. Thus, the fact that the Labour Party is sometimes the governing party is purely accidental as far as the working class is concerned. It is purely accidental because the working class has learned from its historical experience that bourgeois parties and Parliament will bend to the working class's will exerted consciously (with a definite object) and with force. The only reason for Labour winning an election is on the wave of a defensive demand of the working class (which has arisen out of the trade unions) or, when the bourgeoisie have not acted against the working class's interest, blind and obedient and loyal party feeling. 

Now, the demands of British parliamentarism mean that this state of affairs is highly demoralising for the Labour MPs and the Labour Party. Because Parliament is not just a talking shop, the Labour MPs have suffered a great loss of dignity and sense of purpose because they have nothing to say! Thus the task of defending the working class has become a "holy war" for these MPs with nothing else to do. It is easy to see that in this situation the bourgeoisie are literally forced to advance capitalism because the "progressive" force in Parliament, the political representatives of the working class, will not begin enacting socialism. The working class still believes in socialism in principle, the inability of the Labour right wing to change the Labour programme to remove socialism as a principle and the continuing existence of a strong Labour "left" reflect this fact. What is lacking is the understanding of what socialism requires in the working class. Once the working class understands that socialism is achieved only when as a class the proletariat force change in society, then its leaders will have to use the political forms to produce that change or give way to other leaders who will.

In bringing this understanding to the working class, there will undoubtedly be discussion and debate. The British working class is a conscious class and for too long the conservative elements in its consciousness have gone unchallenged. To change, it must be given reasons for change; it cannot be coerced into change by "left" manoeuvring or accusations of selling out to the bourgeoisie. It does not believe it has sold its birthright simply because it is piously told so in righteous tones. The conservative elements in the working class's consciousness will resist change as much as the bourgeoisie. And in the present situation where the bourgeoisie are determined in their political behaviour by having only the weapons of practicality and "stability and order" to defend themselves, the conservative elements in the working class's consciousness are a more real obstacle to the dictatorship of the proletariat than the bourgeoisie.

Discussion and debate within the working class is unlikely to produce a political reaction under bourgeois leadership (the old ploy of the "left" when "awkward questions" are raised is that the questioners are attempting to divide the unity hard won of the working class). The need for class solidarity and the distrust of the bourgeoisie are not things which I would expect the working class to unlearn. The bourgeoisie will certainly present an obstacle. But it will be an obstacle which coincides with their place in society, as the organisers of production and the regulators of production. It is an obstacle which the working class will only overcome by a development of its own ability to do these things - not by an increase in its class solidarity, wariness of the bourgeoisie or ability to defend itself.