FRFI 164 December 2001 / January 2002

Part 4: The end of the post-war consensus

This is the fourth part of an extended version of the talk given by DAVID YAFFE on the Labour aristocracy and imperialism to the Free University of Turkey in Zurich in May 2001.1

The end of the post-war boom
During the period of the post-war boom the organisations of the Labour aristocracy – the Labour Party and trade unions – consolidated their hold over the working class movement with little opposition. Nothing would significantly change until the mid-1970s when the economic crisis deepened sufficiently to challenge the social democratic consensus of the post-war years. As the rate of profit on capital began to fall at the end of the 1960s, unemployment started to rise, reaching 950,000 in 1972 and passing one million in 1975. Inflation accelerated with average annual price increases of 8.6% a year between 1970 and 1973, 16% in 1973-4 and 24.1% in

The 1964-70 Labour government 2 had already provoked working class hostility as it tried to restructure capital and increase profitability by promoting ‘productivity deals’ and ‘speed-ups’ throughout industry, while attempting to hold wage levels down to reduce inflation. The number of days lost in strikes rose by nearly five times between 1964 and 1970, from 2.3 million to 11 million.3 In 1969 a White Paper, In Place of Strife, containing legislation to control unofficial strikes, had to be withdrawn due to overwhelming opposition from trade unionists. At the same time, opposition to the Labour government’s support for the US war against Vietnam was growing rapidly, and a serious conflict was emerging closer to home with the Civil Rights campaign in the North of Ireland. As nationalist opposition grew into rebellion, Labour sent troops into the North of Ireland to prevent a full-scale nationalist insurrection developing against the sectarian statelet. In doing so it had, not unexpectedly, the backing of the organised labour movement but also, a measure of their backwardness, of nearly all the main organisations of the British left – the CPGB, Militant and the International Socialists (SWP).4 The CPGB actually demanded decisive intervention from London – it called on British imperialism to reform the loyalist police state. Militant warned of a bloodbath if the troops did not intervene. The International Socialists were more circumspect but urged the nationalist population to accept the troops all the same: ‘Because the troops do not have the same ingrained hatreds of the RUC and Specials, they will not behave with the same viciousness…’ They were needed, Socialist Worker argued, to offer a short but vital breathing space to prevent a pogrom before the ‘men behind the barricades can defend themselves’. They were not ‘the immediate enemy’.5

Labour lost power to a Heath-led Tory government in June 1970. Its economic policies had antagonised the trade unions and had failed to restructure industry and restore the rate of profit. The Tories adopted a new confrontational strategy – a so-called ‘lame-ducks’ policy of closing down inefficient sections of industry. It forced the unions to take action and turned out to be a disaster. The Tories’ Industrial Relations Act 1971 met militant opposition. A long occupation and ‘work-in’ at Upper Clyde Shipyards significantly undermined the ‘lame-duck’ policy.

January and February 1972 saw the first national miners’ strike since 1926, when ‘flying pickets’, moving from one industrial site to another, prevented the movement of coal around many parts of the country. The miners won wage increases of 17-20%, three times what the National Coal Board had offered. In July 1972 spontaneous strike action by 30,000 dockers forced the TUC to threaten a general strike after five dockers, the Pentonville Five, were imprisoned for defying the Industrial Relations Act. The government quickly released the dockers. During the winter of 1973-1974, as miners and the engineering power unions banned overtime and worked to rule in support of pay claims, another crisis broke out, resulting in the imposition of a three-day week in January 1974 to save energy supplies. This was followed in February by another miners’ strike.

The government responded by calling a snap general election for the end of February on the issue of ‘who rules the country?’ – Parliament or the trade unions. The government lost. A change of government was essential if militant working class action was to be curbed and the political crisis contained. Labour won the most seats but without an overall majority. It formed a minority government with the support of the Liberals. A further election in October 1974 eventually gave it an overall majority but only of three seats.

In Ireland the nationalist rebellion had turned into a revolutionary war led by the Provisional IRA to drive British imperialism out of Ireland. Internment without trial in August 1971, the murder of 14 unarmed civilians by British soldiers on a civil rights march on Bloody Sunday in January 1972, the introduction of direct rule from Britain with the fall of Stormont in March 1972, and the bringing down of the power-sharing Executive by the Ulster Workers Council strike in May 1974 intensified the political crisis facing the British state. It fell to the incoming Labour government to implement a policy of outright repression to counter the threat to British imperialism’s interests in Ireland – a task it took on with enthusiasm and great determination.

For the election campaign Labour adopted the ‘most radical programme for forty years’, promising to attack inequalities of wealth, to nationalise some industries with workers’ participation, to use a National Enterprise Board to extend state planning in the economy and renegotiate the terms of entry to the European Economic Community (Heath had taken Britain into Europe in 1973). The ‘left’ MP, and later Labour leader, Michael Foot called it ‘the finest socialist programme I have seen in my lifetime’. In practice the 1974-79 Labour governments under Wilson and Callaghan turned out to be ‘unashamedly reactionary’ – racist, imperialist and anti-working class – in both domestic and foreign policies.6

The economic situation was rapidly deteriorating. In the last years of the post-war boom Britain had the highest inflation of the main imperialist countries. It steadily got worse, peaking at 26.9% in August 1975. Over this period the world economy moved into recession, precipitated by a four-fold increase in oil prices after the 1973 Middle East war. Britain faced large balance of payments deficits and the inevitable run on the pound.

The government introduced a deflationary budget in 1975 to slash government borrowing. It negotiated a ‘social contract’ with the TUC to cut wages. The first stage of the contract limited wage increases to £6 a week, around 10% of average earnings and well below the rate of inflation. By this time unemployment had grown to over a million. The second stage agreement from August 1976 represented an even bigger cut in wages with increases limited to 4.5%. The result was a 7% fall in real wages in 1976, ‘the biggest recorded fall in the average Briton’s real disposable income for over a hundred years: worse than anything that happened in the 1930s’.7 The trade union movement that had brought down a Tory government for its attacks on workers’ living standards, now negotiated a ‘social contract’ with the incoming Labour government to cut those living standards so the government could survive. This demonstrates the necessarily limited horizons of united and militant trade union action in an imperialist country. Since that period, with unemployment and poverty growing and divisions in the working class widening, the British trade union movement has failed to act in such a united and cohesive way again.

During 1976 the government was forced to negotiate a loan with the IMF to support the pound. In return it had to agree to further cuts in public spending and curbs on wages. The post-war consensus was in reality at an end. Callaghan made this brutally clear in his speech to the Labour Party conference in September 1976:
‘We used to think that you could just spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting government spending. I tell you in all candour that that no longer exists, and that in so far as it ever did exist, it worked on each occasion since the war by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step.’8

The Callaghan government opened the way to Thatcherism by complying with the conditions of an IMF loan to defend the pound. It set monetary targets and cut public spending and wages. Public spending fell from 49.25% of GDP in 1975-6 to 43.25% in 1977-8 before rising slightly again to 44% in 1978-9. It fell in real terms from £195.3bn in 1975-6 to £181.1bn in 1977-8, increasing only to £190.1bn in 1978-9 – something 13 years of Tory governments never managed to achieve. Labour also cut public capital expenditure (on the infrastructure of the country such as buildings, new schools, roads etc) by 40% in volume terms from 1974-9. The Tories were to cut it by a further 40% in 1980-83. The long-term effect of all this has been a serious deterioration in the basic infrastructure of the country.9

After December 1978 the government faced large claims backed by strike action from many sections of the working class as it tried to impose a rigid 5% pay increase – the fourth stage of its wage policy – on millions of workers who had already seen their standard of living fall. This resulted in the so-called ‘Winter of Discontent’. The most notable response was from workers in the public sector where Labour’s pay curbs had been most effectively imposed. In December, low-paid local council manual workers demanded a 40% pay rise. On 22 January 1979 1.5 million started a series of 24-hour strikes. Water workers, ambulance drivers, sewerage workers, grave diggers and refuse workers all came out and took on the government. The government pay policy was being totally ignored. Inevitably problems mounted as many crucial public services began to deteriorate. It was this development more than any other that frightened the higher paid skilled workers and the middle classes and drove them into the arms of the Tories when the general election was called in May 1979. The split in the working class was soon to widen again dramatically. It was no longer possible to guarantee the relatively privileged conditions of higher paid workers and the middle classes, while sustaining adequate living standards for the mass of the working class. That is why the social consensus had to break down.

A racist and imperialist government

Although many sections of the working class, especially the poor and low-paid, suffered increasing hardship under the 1974-9 Labour government, black workers faced even greater oppression. Labour, having mouthed opposition to the Tories’ 1971 Immigration Act, implemented it. This Act designated black Commonwealth citizens ‘non-patrials’ and denied them entry except on work permits. It greatly extended powers of deportation so that the number of immigrant workers in gaol awaiting deportation averaged 220 a day. Disgusting ‘virginity’ tests were carried out on Asian women immigrants at Heathrow airport. In 1977 a probationary period was put on the marriages of immigrant husbands after press publicity about alleged ‘marriages of convenience’. Labour used hundreds of police in raids on factories and restaurants in searches for illegal immigrants.

This was only the start of Labour’s attacks on the black working class. In 1976 Labour used a quarter of the Metropolitan Police to defeat the Grunwick’s strike led by Asian women workers. In the same year it sanctioned a massive police attack on black people at the Notting Hill Carnival. Labour tolerated the ever-extending use by the police of the ‘sus’ law (the 1824 Vagrancy Act) to constantly harass black youth. In 1979 during the election campaign it agreed to the use of 5,000 police, including its brutal Special Patrol Group units, to defend a racist National Front election rally in a predominantly black area of Southall. 800 people were arrested, 1,000 were injured and Blair Peach was killed after police launched a massive attack on protestors.

Labour’s role in Ireland was, if anything, far worse than the Tories’. In December 1974 it introduced the racist, anti-Irish Prevention of Terrorism Act. From 1974-6 it laid the basis for a regime of terror through British imperialism’s ‘Ulsterisation’ policy. In 1976-9 Labour administered a regime of terror. It withdrew Special Category Status from Irish political prisoners and built and opened the H-Blocks. It implemented a ruthless regime of torture of republican suspects, first in police cells and later in the H-Blocks. It used SAS shoot-to-kill tactics to murder 11 people, including unarmed civilians, between late 1977 and 1978. Finally in 1978-9 the Labour government agreed to give extra seats in Parliament to the Loyalists so Labour could hold on to power.

The 1974-9 Labour government defended British imperialism’s interests, as zealously as other Labour governments had done in every part of the world. Britain accounted for over 50% of total foreign investments in apartheid South Africa in late 1976 (£10.95bn), and British parent companies controlled its two largest banks, Barclays National and Standard Bank. In 1976 the Labour government vetoed a motion calling for a mandatory arms embargo against South Africa at the United Nations. By 1977 the Labour government had used its UN Security Council veto four times – each time in favour of South Africa. In January 1977 it approved an IMF loan to the apartheid state. Labour refused to discourage investment into South Africa or to force recognition of black trade unions by companies where the government had a substantial stake – British Leyland, ITC, and British Steel. In 1973 Labour had promised to terminate the atomic energy contract negotiated by the Minister of Technology, Tony Benn, with Rio Tinto Zinc in 1968 for uranium from Namibia. Despite a United Nations decree banning the mining and removal of Namibia’s natural resources, the Labour government held to the contract.

In July 1975 the British ambassador to Indonesia informed the Foreign Office that ‘the people of Portuguese Timor are in no condition to exercise the right to self-determination’ and he argued for its integration into Indonesia. After Indonesia’s illegal annexation and invasion of East Timor in December 1975 over 200,000 East Timoreans – around a third of the population – were killed. In April 1978 British Aerospace announced an export order to Indonesia of eight Hawk jet trainer aircraft Rolls Royce engines, spares and training of pilots and engineers. The British government refused to give assurances that they would not be used in a combat role and, in November 1978, when the massacres of East Timoreans were at their height, Labour’s Foreign Secretary David Owen said ‘…we believe that such fighting as still continues is on a very small scale’. Little wonder that in 1979, this same Labour Foreign Secretary continued to support the Shah of Iran as he faced a popular uprising against his tyrannical regime. Labour in government has always put Britain’s imperialist interests first, ignoring the appalling social, economic and human costs.10

It was well and truly fitting that the 1974-79 Labour government fell as an immediate result of its war of terror against the Irish people, when two Irish MPs refused to support Labour in a motion of confidence on 28 March 1979.

Imperialism and the oppressed nations

The post-war boom was the result of a unique set of circumstances and when it finally ended in the mid-1970s the more parasitic features of British imperialism re-emerged. The fall in the rate of profit on industrial capital in the major imperialist countries led to a rapid rise in the export of capital and an enormously strengthened role for banking capital. The City of London became the leading centre for the offshore Eurodollar and Eurobond market that emerged in the 1970s as well as a principal channel for the growing global financial operations of multinational companies and banks. In 1979 British banks were the most profitable in the world. Imperialism’s stranglehold over the oppressed nations grew immeasurably as a result of these developments and British imperialism, second only to the USA, was, with the aid of its banking system, the imperialist power gaining a commanding position in this process.

The international banks directed a great deal of their business to the oppressed nations in the 1970s, as the Eurocurrency market rapidly became a central source of loan capital throughout the world. Between 1972 and 1979, Eurocurrency bank credits rose nearly 12 times from $7bn to $83bn, with those going to the oppressed nations rising from $2.5bn to $48bn or from 36.4% to 57.9% of total credits. Even if we include the international bond market used mainly by borrowers in the imperialist countries, 41.3% of total international borrowing went to the oppressed nations. 34% of these transactions went through the London market. Over this period the external debt of the largest 20 oppressed nations rose from 19% to 25% of their GNP. By 1980, the debt had reached around $450bn with more than half owed to the private sector, mainly the banks. Debt repayments were about $88bn in that year. The foundation of the oppressed nations’ debt crisis was laid in this period.

At the end of March 1979, British bank assets outside the main industrial capitalist countries were in the region of $90bn, including $14.7bn in the then socialist bloc. British banks had large investments at the time in countries such as Brazil, South Africa and South Korea, where workers defending their jobs and wages were shot down by troops acting in the interests of imperialism.

In the 1970s a rising proportion of foreign direct investment went to the oppressed nations. In 1975-6 the oppressed nations accounted for 36% of foreign direct investment from the major imperialist nations as against 30% in 1969-70. More than three-quarters of this investment between 1974-6 came from four major imperialist nations: the USA, Britain, West Germany and Japan. It is very profitable. For example, between 1972-7, the rate of profit of British direct investments in the oppressed nations averaged 18-20%, compared with 3.6-4.2% for domestic industry. The share of foreign direct investment going to the oppressed nations has in fact varied generally over the economic cycle, and has been highest during periods of low growth or recession in the main imperialist countries. The super-profits squeezed out of the working class and peasantry of these countries are critical for the overall profitability of imperialist companies and banks; for shoring up the imperialist economies in periods of growing economic crisis; and for isolating the middle class and the more privileged sections of the working class – the labour aristocracy – from the unemployment and falling living standards threatening growing sections of the working class.11 No-one can doubt the crucial importance of this – unfortunately, there are those on the British left who do!

Imperialism, the Labour Party and the British left
Given the appalling record of the 1974-9 Labour government, how could the British left justify its call for a vote for the Labour Party in the 1979 general election? How could it justify its alliances with social democrats who serve the interests of British imperialism? It could do so only by denying what the Labour Party represents, that is, by denying the existence of British imperialism. And sure enough, the SWP took on the job. The SWP, in an article called ‘Modern Imperialism’ in Socialist Worker, denied not only the export of capital to the ‘Third World’ but also the existence of a labour aristocracy based on the super-profits from those exports.

The SWP tells us:

‘In fact neither the export of capital nor the "superprofits" of imperialism play the role they once did…It is arguable that there has been no net capital at all (to the Third World) for long periods in the recent past.…Export of capital plays a vital role in modern capitalism but it is overwhelmingly export from one developed country to another. Its economic significance is entirely different…It cannot account for the "corruption" of "labour aristocracies"…by the crumbs of superprofits.’12

Not only did the SWP choose to ignore easily accessible facts but the very essence of imperialism is denied. It is no accident that this was done in the very issue of the paper where they called for support for the Labour Party. To do otherwise would have required them to recognise the existence of the labour aristocracy and its alliance with British imperialism in the British Labour Party.

This denial was also very useful to an organisation that, at the time, had built a political alliance with Labour MPs in the Anti-Nazi League (ANL). The ANL allowed the SWP to divert attention from the racism of the British state and the Labour Party by urging all to unite with Labour politicians and trade union leaders to crush the National Front.13

On 24 September 1978 the real nature of the ANL was exposed when the SWP refused to call on those at an ANL carnival to defend black people confronting a National Front march at Brick Lane in London’s East End on the same day. The National Front march had been known about for two weeks, and the Hackney and Tower Hamlets Defence Committee had made repeated requests to the ANL to divert its carnival to the East End in order to defend the area. The ANL refused to do so. A week later, in attempting to justify this position, Tony Cliff, leader of the SWP, wrote that the SWP could have mobilised 40,000 for Brick Lane but:

‘The result would have been 1) The disintegration of the ANL 2) The realisation that even such a movement on the empty streets of the City of London facing 8,000 police might not have broken through and beaten the Nazi marchers.’14

While the National Front marched under massive police protection through the East End of London, the ANL mobilised 80,000 people on the other side of London to listen to speeches by, among others, Labour MPs.

This denial of the essence of imperialism still remains useful to the SWP. It steadfastly holds on to its political alliance with the Labour Party, even today, through the ever-dwindling band of so-called ‘left’ Labour MPs, whose ‘principles’ or ‘sacrifice’ will not extend, it appears, to them leaving this warmongering, imperialist party.

Ex-Labour cabinet minister Tony Benn was one of numerous Labour MPs given a platform in the ANL by the SWP. He has appeared on SWP platforms ever since, despite his role as a Cabinet Minister in the most reactionary Labour governments. He too denies Britain is an imperialist nation. In a remarkable article in the Communist Party’s Morning Star he is reported to have told delegates at a union conference that:

‘Britain has moved from Empire to Colony status. It is a colony in which the IMF decides our monetary policy, the international and multinational companies decided our industrial policy and the EEC decided our legislative and taxation policies.’15

The Communist Party did not comment on this reactionary nonsense because it shared the same opinion and had already complained in the British Road to Socialism (1978) that Britain’s entry to the EEC ‘imposed serious limitations on Britain’s sovereignty’. Britain, which bulldozed its way through most of the oppressed nations of the world, which was ruthlessly brutalising the people of its oldest colony Ireland, which was the main backer of the racist South African state and whose banks at the time were the most profitable in the world, was called a colony!

Finally, if imperialism is denied, if capital exports to the oppressed nations are no longer necessary, if the imperialist nations are no longer squeezing out super-profits from them, then there is no longer a need for national liberation movements to take an overtly anti-imperialist form. This then allows the SWP and other organisations of the British left to dismiss liberation movements as petit-bourgeois nationalist and refuse them support. All the British left organisations which called for a vote for Labour in the 1979 election consistently attacked what they called the petit-bourgeois character of the Provisional Republican Movement in Ireland, accusing it of concentrating on the armed struggle to the exclusion of mass working class political action. This refusal to support the organisation leading the fight against British imperialism in Ireland has to be contrasted with the left’s support for the imperialist Labour Party which was actually directing the attack against the most oppressed layers of the Irish people – the working class in the nationalist areas.

The unwavering support for the Labour Party from the British left needs to be put against a background of important developments emerging within the working class. The low paid workers in the state sector, many of them black and Irish, had ignored the pleas of the Labour and trade union leadership not to undermine the election prospects of the Labour Party and had continued with their strikes and pickets in the winter months of 1978-9. These workers shouted down the ‘platform’ of trade union leaders after their massive demonstration in January 1979 because they felt betrayed. The May 1979 National Conference of the National Union of Public Employees had motions on the agenda calling for the union to disaffiliate from the Labour Party.

Black people were organising against racism: Asian Youth Movements had appeared and many ad hoc committees had been set up to defend victims of racism and police oppression. A few months after the general election on 25 November 1979, 20,000 people marched against the British state’s racist immigration laws on a demonstration called by the Campaign Against Racist Laws (CARL). The great majority of people on the march were black people mobilised by Asian organisations. The left, despite being on the steering committee of CARL, made little effort to mobilise. The SWP, for example, had declared before the demonstration that it would not make it a national SWP mobilisation. Its priority was a demonstration against the cuts three days later. The trade union turnout was pathetically small.

As usual, ‘left’ Labour MPs appeared on the platform, including Tony Benn. His speech, particularly his support for a ‘non-racist’ nationality law, was greeted with jeers and heckles by sections of the crowd, particular the black youth. They remembered only too well what they had suffered at the hands of the last Labour government in which he had served as a Cabinet Minister. A speaker from the Bradford Asian Youth Movement, having denounced all immigration controls as racist, went on to attack the record of the previous Labour government in implementing the 1971 Immigration Act. He delivered a clear warning about the Labour Party by saying ‘Beware false friends’. This was greeted with great support from sections of the crowd. A speaker from Southall, having described the massive attack on a Southall demonstration under a Labour government, first on the streets and then in the courts, went on to ask where were Tony Benn’s and the Labour Party’s statements on Southall? There were none. His remarks received great support from large sections of the crowd much to the embarrassment of Labour representatives and their supporters on the British left. These were developments for communists to build on. The British left went against them.16

It had become increasingly clear, once again, that a new socialist movement would only be built on an anti-racist and anti-imperialist basis. The greatest threat to British imperialism would be a movement which united the struggle of the working class in Britain with the struggle against national oppression both at home and abroad. Black and Irish workers, with their everyday experience of national oppression, were taking important steps towards building it. They had started, by their actions, to break away from the control of the labour aristocracy and its organisational structures. These developments should have been supported and encouraged. To do this the first and crucial task of any new movement would have been to break once and for all with the imperialist Labour Party and the section of the organised working class movement which supported it.

However, the reactionary and backward stance of the British left movement and its refusal to break with the imperialist Labour Party, made it impossible to seize these opportunities in this period and later as the crisis of capitalism deepened during the 18-year period of Tory governments. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the British left continued to argue that radical social change could only be achieved by working through, and putting pressure on the organised working class movement, by which it meant the Labour Party and the official trade union movement. All the political alliances and movements built by the organised British left over the next two decades were restricted to what was acceptable to that movement, or at best its ‘left-wing’.

In 1979 the RCG argued that the deepening crisis of imperialism shows us the open enemies of the working class; it is the false friends who have to be exposed and fought:

‘As the crisis of imperialism deepens those that cover up for the Labour Party, who call for its re-election on a more democratic and socialist basis, today are a greater danger to the working class than the Callaghans and the Healeys who have already been exposed. Those who claim to "fight" racism through the ANL and so cover up for the racism of the Labour Party and the British state are more dangerous to the working class than the Powells and the Bidwells. Those who refuse to give unconditional support to those fighting imperialism in Ireland or South Africa are more dangerous to the working class than the Roy Masons and the David Owens.’17

The principal actors may have changed, but what we said then is just as true today.

Substantial numbers from the poorer sections of the working class, including thousands of black and Irish workers, did not vote in the 1979 general election,18 but the principal reason for the Tory victory was the defection of sections of the more privileged working class, especially in the southeast. Thatcher and the Tories embraced the new constituency of higher paid skilled workers and the middle classes from mid-1979 onwards. The professional middle classes, well-off council house tenants and homeowners, all benefited from tax cuts, easy access to credit and the privatisation programme. Subsidies and bribes for better-off workers and the middle classes were a constant feature throughout four Tory governments in the form of mortgage tax relief, privatisations shares, tax free equity plans and savings accounts (PEPs and Tessas).

The privileges of this newly emerging labour aristocracy, were increasingly market driven, as in the pre-1914 period, and wage differentials grew rapidly. But there was a price to pay for this. The price was growing inequality as state welfare was cut, trade union rights and employment protection were dismantled and millions of working class people were driven into poverty to pay for Thatcher’s programme. A new labour aristocracy was being formed whose privileges could only be preserved at the expense of ever-increasing numbers of impoverished working class people.


1 The other three parts of this article appeared in Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) 161, 162 and 163, June/July, August/September and October/November 2001. They can be found on our website in the FRFI section.

2 There were in fact two elections which Labour won in this period in 1964 and 1966.

3 For these and earlier statistics see Eric Hopkins The Rise and Decline of the English Working Classes 1918-1990Labour: a party fit for imperialism Larkin Publications 1992 p162.

4 For a discussion of this and further developments see David Reed Ireland: the key to the British revolution Larkin Publications 1984, chapters 7, 8, 9.

5 Morning Star 4 August and 15 August 1969, Militant September 1969, and Socialist Worker 21 August 1969, 11 September 1969, 18 September 1969.

6 See James Hinton Labour and Socialism Wheatsheaf Books Ltd 1983 p196, John Callaghan Socialism in BritainThe age of insecurity Verso 1998 p52-3. While it could be said that the Labour administrations became increasingly reactionary over the period 1974-1979, the description clearly is applicable throughout. Callaghan simply continued where Wilson left off.

7 The Economist 3 September 1977 p10.

8 Cited in Tony Cliff and Donny Gluckstein The Labour Party – a Marxist History Bookmarks 1988 p322-323. Far from being a Marxist history, this book is an attempt to justify the opportunism of the SWP towards the Labour Party throughout the SWP’s history. For a critique of a crucial section of this book see R Clough op cit footnote 40 pp33-35.

9 Statistics taken from the editorial 'Private affluence – Public squalor' in FRFI 104 December 1991/January 1992.

10 The information for this section has come from many sources including articles in FRFI, the Revolutionary Road to Communism in Britain Larkin Publications 1984 p119-121 (RCG manifesto in the About RCG section of our website), and RCG leaflets put out before general elections. Other material on Ireland comes from David Reed op cit chapters 11-15, on South Africa from David Yaffe ‘Imperialism, National Oppression and the New Petit Bourgeoisie’ in Revolutionary Communist 9 RCG Publications Ltd, June 1979 and on East Timor from Mark Curtis The Ambiguities of Power: British Foreign Policy since 1945 Zed Books 1995 pp219-221.

11 This material has been gathered together from numerous publications of the RCG. See David Reed ‘British banks lead imperialist offensive’ in FRFI 6 September/October 1980, The Revolutionary Road to Communism in Britain op cit pp51-60, David Yaffe ‘Imperialism, National Oppression…’ op cit pp2-4. The argument has been developed further in numerous articles in FRFI, in R Clough Labour: a party fit for imperialism op cit and, most recently, in David Yaffe ‘Globalisation, parasitic and decaying capitalism’ in FRFI 158 December 2000/January 2001.

12 Socialist Worker 28 April 1979.

13 At the time the RCG argued that it was also opposed to the National Front but no effective defence against the National Front was possible without confronting the racism of the British state and the British Labour Party. See The Anti-Nazi League and the Struggle Against Racism RCG pamphlet 1979.

14 Socialist Worker 30 September 1978. Interestingly, the decline of the Communist Party in the 1930s was reflected in its leadership’s attempt to limit the fight of thousands of workers on the streets against the fascists in the East End at that time, in order to cement its relations with the Labour Party and trade union movement. See Joe Jacobs Out of the Ghetto Phoenix Press 1991.

15 Morning Star 23 May 1979.

16 Information taken from a report of the demonstration by Maxine Williams, ‘Beware false friends’ in FRFI 2 January/February 1980. The RCG mobilised nationally for the march.

17 See ‘Imperialism, National Oppession…’ op cit p7. Denis Healey was Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1974-9 Labour governments, Sid Bidwell was a Labour MP who supported tighter immigration controls and who sponsored the ANL, Roy Mason, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 1976-9, oversaw the regime of institutionalised torture against Republican suspects.

18 In the period leading up to the election the RCG conducted a Boycott Labour campaign under the banner of Hands off Ireland! We made Ireland an election issue. This development was to be fundamental to the rightward shift in British politics over the next two decades. Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1991 pp128, 132, 134 and R Clough Basil Blackwell 1990 p216. ‘Unashamedly reactionary’ was the description of the Callaghan government 1976-1979 in Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson’s