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After the General Strike the working class accepted that the material conditions of production had changed and that they could not gain concessions from employers (i.e. that the employers were not withholding them because of private greed). Up to World War II, there were few strikes because the working class could see no point to striking. This was not a loss of spirit, but common sense. However, the real wage level of those employed members of the class did not fall. The employers did not attempt to arbitrarily reduce the level of subsistence. They accepted that level already gained in the economic struggle and did not attempt a retrial of strength on the issue. They did not use the 1927 Act nor did they try judge-made law against the Trade Unions. The bourgeoisie as a class had learned to take account of the working class as a conscious class equipped with political weapons. 

The demand that the unemployed should also not experience a reduction in their level of subsistence had been put forward by the working class since the 1890s. In the interwar period it was a central issue in the class struggle. That demand was not met because no one knew how to meet it. Keynes's solution was not only common knowledge to the ruling class by the mid 20s, it was a public issue in the 1929 General Election campaign for which Keynes wrote the "Yellow Book" for Lloyd George. Oswald Mosley's break with the Labour Party came when the Labour Cabinet refused to take Keynes's solution seriously as an alternative to present economic policies.

There is no doubt that a Keynesian solution (essentially deficit financing by Government) in the interwar period would have caused much unrest amongst traditionalists in the Treasury, the Bank of England and the City. But it is equally true that this unrest could have been quelled with pressure from the working class. Lloyd George had used the "Yellow Book" to try and resuscitate the Liberals, knowing that they must win the working class and that the working class demands required Keynesianism.

The Labour Party's reaction to Keynesianism was incomprehension. The Free Trade principles which the Labour leaders had learned from the Liberal Party proved an insurmountable obstacle to common sense; and the party insisted in seeing the issues as Free Trade vs. Protection. The Left*s response was typified in George Lansbury when he told the 1930 Conference that he was too old a socialist to believe that capitalism could cure unemployment (from 1929-31 Mosley made this a main question for the Labour Party). No member of the Labour Party, including Ramsay MacDonald and Ernest Bevin, could challenge Philip Snowden's highly orthodox liberalism which assumed capitalism as a natural law only replaceable by a moral apocalypse.

The Labour Party was forced to develop its plans for socialism into an electoral programme which it could put to the working class and defend on the hustings. It changed from being merely a representative of the trade unions' interest in Parliament to a political party capable of governing. It was a change determined by the increasing working class support for the Labour Party and its ideas, and the use by the British bourgeoisie of its own weapons, i.e. giving Labour a chance to prove what it was capable of.


In 1924 the Labour Party took office as the governing party. The second General Election in twelve months had made the Labour Party the second largest party in Parliament while the Tories were the largest, but short of an absolute majority (Tories, 258; Liberals, 158; Labour 191). The two bourgeois parties' decision not to govern meant that they took the Labour Party seriously and expected it to continue as a serious political force. The inescapable logic of this conclusion was that the Labour Party must learn how to govern.

"Party Government in England is the least promising of all methods yet adopted for a reasonable management of human affairs. In form it is a disguised civil war, and a civil war which can never end, because the strength of the antagonists is periodically recruited at the enchanted fountain of a general election. [...] No nation could endure such a system if it was uncontrolled by modifying influences. The rule [...] has been to suspend the antagonism in matters of Imperial moment, and to abstain from factious resistance when resistance cannot be effectual in the transaction of ordinary business. [...] That both sides still take their turn at the helm is essential if the system is to continue [...] The art of administration can be learnt only by practice; young Tories as well as young Whigs must have their chance of acquiring their lessons [...] Thus the functions of an Opposition chief are at once delicate and difficult [...] As a member of a short-lived administration once bluntly expressed to me, 'you must blood the noses of your hounds', but you must not for a party advantage embarrass a Government to the general injury of the Empire." (Froude, pp.l53-4) 

If the working class were strong enough to wield political power in their own right (as the Labour Party's growing support showed the two bourgeois parties) then the Labour Party must gain the knowledge of how to use the political forms. This knowledge could only be acquired through experience of governing in a country which has no abstract law or order of things. The only other choice open to the two bourgeois parties was to alter the Parliamentary form of government so as to prevent the Labour Party from governing when it had the clear strength gained by election to do so. That the 2 bourgeois parties did not destroy Parliamentary democracy, but rather chose to accept Labour's power as a fact well before they were forced to by an absolute Labour majority, shows that they took Parliamentarism very seriously indeed and were reckoning on having to accept Labour Government as a normal course of events.