Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/850/20413

From The Socialist newspaper, 1 April 2015

The axing of Clause IV

Making Labour safe for capitalism

The expulsion of the Militant editorial board began a widespread purge of socialists from Labour, photo Militant

The expulsion of the Militant editorial board began a widespread purge of socialists from Labour, photo Militant   (Click to enlarge)

Alison Hill

In April 1995 a special Labour Party conference dropped Clause IV, part 4 (the 'socialist clause') of its constitution. This decision cemented the ideas of profit and privatisation into the heart of the party.

The process of Labour becoming just another capitalist party began in earnest with the attacks on socialist ideas by Neil Kinnock, who was elected Labour leader after the party's heavy general election defeat of 1983 - which the right-wing Labour MPs falsely blamed on the party's 'left-wing' manifesto.

The swing to the right was extended by the next Labour leader John Smith and then reached its peak through chief privatiser and war-monger Tony Blair.

This process didn't occur in isolation of course. The economic boom of the 1980s and the collapse of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe dazzled many Labour leaders with the idea that capitalism had 'won' and that socialist ideas, or even the idea that there could be any alternative to capitalism, were old hat.

This shift to the right and the abandoning of reformist ideas, let alone socialism, was reinforced by the defeats of the trade union 'heavy battalions' - miners, print workers and others - in the 1980s.

These defeats weren't, however, because of a lack of willingness by workers to fight the bosses and the Tory Thatcher government, but were due to the conscious betrayal of the right-wing Labour and trade union leaders.

Consequently, no coherent opposition was mounted against Thatcher's vicious attacks on workers. It was left to trade union fighters, particularly the miners, and socialists, like Militant (forerunner of the Socialist Party) supporters in the leadership of Liverpool City Council, to show there was an alternative.

Even the army of non-payers who defeated the poll tax and brought Thatcher down, was attacked and leading Militant supporters expelled from the Labour Party. Opposition Party branches and the Militant-led Labour Party Young Socialists were closed down, and the party's democratic structures weakened.

So the dropping of Clause IV was simply the end of a lengthy process to prepare the Labour Party for a capitalist future, cosying up to the fat cats.

Tony Blair surfed into office in 1997 on a wave of revulsion against the Tories. He hit the ground running. Nothing Thatcher had privatised was renationalised. Instead, more and more of the public sector was lined up for privatisation. Local councils and other public bodies became less and less accountable to the people who had elected them.

The ability of the trade unions to have any role in policy making in the Labour Party was drastically curtailed, in spite of the still significant donations being made to the party from trade union members' subscriptions. In fact, any policy input from rank and file Labour Party members was ruthlessly snuffed out.

It was hardly any wonder that Labour lost the 2010 general election to the Con-Dem coalition. All that 'modernisation' hadn't guaranteed electoral victory at all. "They're all the same" sums up what thousands of workers make of the current establishment parties.

Today, Labour presents no alternative to the Tory attacks but the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), in which the Socialist Party plays a leading role, does. With modest votes at the last general election, TUSC made some small but important steps towards the founding of a genuine new, mass workers' party which can represent the 99%, rather than courting the millionaires.


Clause IV timeline

1918

A conference of the Labour Party adopted a socialist clause in its constitution - Clause IV, part 4:

"To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service."

This came during a period of intense class struggle and a bloody world war, culminating in the Russian revolution of 1917. It was watered down from the demands of many on the left who looked to the Russian soviets - councils of workers and soldiers - for inspiration as to how society could be run in the interests of workers. But it was an important public declaration of support for public ownership of the economy.

The same conference also voted for a minimum wage, a 48-hour week, the building of a million houses a year, a publicly owned integrated transport system, a wealth tax and an increase in public services.

1959

Labour Party leader Hugh Gaitskell concluded that Labour had lost the general election because of public opposition to nationalisation. He attempted to remove the reference to common ownership from Clause IV.

This backfired. After a furious campaign by Labour's rank and file, the clause was not only left untouched, it was agreed to print it on all future Labour Party membership cards.

1995

After a series of lurches to the right, during which New Labour was born, Clause IV was finally rubbed out of Labour's constitution.

The new clause, adopted in 1995, reads: "...We work for: a dynamic economy, serving the public interest, in which the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and co-operation to produce the wealth the nation needs and the opportunity for all to work and prosper, with a thriving public sector and high quality services, where those undertakings essential to the common good are either owned by the public or accountable to them."


The Rise of Militant: The First 30 Years

11.00 plus 2 p&p

Available from Left Books, PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD

020 8988 8789

www.leftbooks.co.uk

bookshop@socialistparty.org.uk

Please make cheques payable to Socialist Books

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 1 April 2015:


Socialist Party news and analysis

No cuts to welfare!

Save our schools

How to fight the anti-union laws

NHS funding crisis deepens

End punitive benefit sanctions now!

Them & Us


International socialist news and analysis

South Africa: campaigning for a working class party

Greece: negotiations continue

US: Seattle gets a raise!

Solidarity with Cypriot workers

Tunisia: thousands demonstrate


Elections 2015

Kick out rotten MPs and councillors

TUSC set for TV broadcast

School crossing campaigner stands for TUSC

Gloucester College hustings: Scrap all fees

Defend further education

Socialist Party general election appeal 2015


Socialist Party workplace news

Teachers need national action

Unison special conference votes for new pay claim

London bus companies forced into pay talks

Bolton Uni: reinstate Damien and Jenny Markey!

Leeds: Save our train guards

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party youth and students

Students occupy for free education


Socialist Party comments and reviews

Election 2015 Cameron and Miliband Live

Axing Clause IV: Making Labour safe for capitalism

Working in the NHS: Low pay, cuts and stress

The Great Money Trick: Another World is Possible

The new look Socialist - thumbs up from readers


 

Home   |   The Socialist 1 April 2015   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Labour Party:

triangleNo fudge with the right wing

triangleCarlisle debate - socialism or social democracy?

triangleCorbyn's left must seize the advantage in Labour's civil war

triangle100 years since women won the vote

triangleLabour NHS rally reveals horrors but offers no way forward

Labour:

triangleSave Salford nurseries!

triangleLabour councillors push through savage cuts in Kirklees budget

triangleBlairite mayor faces open election after democratic 'irregularities' - fight for a no-cuts mayor

triangleBuilding the campaign against clearances of the working class

Capitalism:

triangleCapitalism v cricket

triangleCapitalists fear for their system at Davos

triangleBirmingham South East Socialist Party: Football under capitalism

Socialist:

triangleAfter 80 strike days Mears workers achieve victory

triangleTower Hamlets Socialist Party: 120 years since the death of Eleanor Marx

Union:

triangleUnison national women's conference

Election:

triangleUsdaw victory - Socialist Party member Amy Murphy wins presidential election

Trade union:

triangleFor workplace trade union organisation against sexual harassment

Militant:

triangleThe Socialist Party is being evicted - we need you!

Tony Blair:

triangleLeft comic's take on politics will have you in tears

Historic events

Historic events

14/2/18

Stalinism

Czechoslovakia 1968: 'Prague Spring' challenges Stalinism

24/1/18

Vietnam war

Vietnam War: 50 years since the Tet Offensive

13/12/17

Chile

110 years ago: massacre at Santa Maria school in Chile - commemorate 21 December 1907

18/10/17

Russian revolution

Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

4/10/17

Che Guevara

Che Guevara 50 years on - revolutionary socialist and fighter

23/8/17

Review

Mutinies and strikes: when Bolshevism threatened British bosses

23/8/17

Anti-fascist

Lewisham 1977: When socialists and workers defeated the far-right National Front

9/8/17

Marx

Marx's Capital at 150: an unequalled analysis and critique of capitalism

26/7/17

Russian revolution

Russia 1917: how art helped make the revolution

12/7/17

Russian revolution

July Days 1917: battles with counterrevolution

6/7/17

LGBT

Lessons from the Russian revolution for LGBT+ struggle today

28/6/17

Liverpool

Liverpool's 1983-87 socialist council

21/6/17

Revolution

The Pentrich uprising: revolution and counter-revolution in 19th century Britain

31/5/17

Russian revolution

June 1917: when workers in Britain first tried to form soviets

26/4/17

May Day

The real origins of May Day

triangleMore Historic events articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0191 421 6230

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999