WHERI~ DID IT all go wrong? The anguished question punctuates history and ends all the great political dramas. It was asked by Alexander *.he Great’s bewildered Hellenes as his Empire sank back into the sand on which it was erected. It was asked by weary veterans of the French Revolution as they straggled back from Waterloo and by Old Bolsheviks as they waited for the executioner to end their nightmares. So terminate all heroic political enterprises. Mud is constant, it seems, and shall endure; and the stars are for ever out of reach. But something has gone wrong with the cause which appealed to so many refugees from Sturm und Drang just because it was so un-heroic. Democratic Socialism, as we disillusioned revolutionaries saw it, was a creed that was realistically based on the attainable hopes of men as they are, not men as they might forcibly be remoulded. It was cool. It was sane. It was about equality. It was about freedom. Its organisation, moreover, was intelligently constructed because
nobody consciously constructed it. The intelligentsia provided an accelerator, the trade unions a brake, and millions of ordinary democrats the fuel. Democratic Socialism could be built and required no ruins on which it had to be built. What was best in the old order would be incorporated in the new. Slow growth from planned growth points was the thing. It might
RAYI~IOND FIA~TeHI~R has been the Labour Member o] Parliament ]or llkeston in Derbyshire since 1964. He was born in 1921 and educated at University College, Nottingham. He is a ]ormer chief leader- and featurewriter on the le#-wing weekly Tribune and is now a regular columnist ]or The Guardian. He published a study entitled Sixty Pounds a Second on Defence in 1963.
strain the patience but would never torment the COD science. Yet even now there is hardly enough electoral steam left in Democratic Socialism to keep Harold Wilson in the House of Commons, let alone put him back into Downing Street. There
is more than the evidence of the pollsters to support this depressing conclusion. Every Labour M.P. knows what many are reluctant to admit–that his weekly surgeries are a surer guide to public feeling than his party management committee; and that the verdict of the surgeries is a thumbs-down to most of our cherished beliefs. The Labour Party may win the next election in much the same way, and for the same reasons, as the Democrats almost got their man back into the White House last November. But it will be no victory for Socialism, no matter how many bright young thinkers re-define the term and no matter how much meaning they drain from it in the process. LA~OUX M.P.s will hold their seats because they are identified with a union vote that has nowhere else to go, because they personify an ancestral hatred of “Them,” because industrial workers do not like Quintin Hogg, because Edward Heath seems unlikely to set the Thames on fire and because the economy may be going up and taxes coming down. In no constituency will a Labour M.P. win because the government nationalised steel, increased family allowances, built a good many schools and hospitals and presided over the restructuring of a lot of industry. Labour, I remind myself, won the ~966 election in spite of its plans, not because of them. The Prices and Incomes policy had not begun to bite. The high cost of giving the highest priority to the Balance of Payments had not appeared in four years’ tax
demands. What the voters wanted was business.
by Raymond Fletcher