Archive for October, 2015


forthcoming book: “Radiant Illusion”, ed. Nicholas Deakin

“Radiant Illusion: Middle-class recruits to Communism in the 1930s”, edited by Nicholas Deakin, with contributions from Geoff Andrews, Jane Bernal, Norma Cohen, Philip Cohen, Elizabeth Dolan, Roderick Floud, Hamish MacGibbon and Kevin Morgan, is published on 20 October by Eve Editions. Further details are available on





The Legacy of 1945 and its Lessons for Today

The Legacy of 1945 and its Lessons for Today
Stan Newens, SHS President and former Labour MP, delivered an inspiring talk to the society on 19 September when he spoke about the record of the 1945 Labour government headed by Clement Attlee.
Combining factual description and analysis with personal memories and anecdotes, Stan convincingly argued that the proud record of the post-war Labour government was a victory for socialist advance and a tremendous gain for working people. The victory was a political earthquake and its legacy improved people’s lives enormously for generations to come.
Tony Blair titled his autobiography, A Journey. Blair took the party far away from the fine ideals that guided the reforming Labour government of Clement Attlee which was swept to power on a wave of enthusiasm for social change in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of Nazi Germany.
As Stan recalled people were determined not to repeat the mistake of the previous war when Lloyd George’s promise of “Homes Fit for Heroes” went unfulfilled.
The journey taken by Attlee and his colleagues was to take the country in a completely different destination to the cruel neo-liberalism that drives Blair and the Blairites today.
Stan totally repudiated the Blairite insistence that the 1945 manifesto had been a “moderate programme”, by which they sought to reinterpret Attlee’s inspirational victory as support for a “realistic” pro-business agenda.
He vividly described exactly how radical the ‘45 administration actually was and pointed out that it fulfilled many of its promises to the people in terms of housing, education, social welfare and better healthcare.
The party had defied predictions to defeat war hero Winston Churchill, who had badly misjudged the popular mood by alleging during the election that Labour was intent upon establishing a “gestapo” in Britain; an utterly ludicrous suggestion given the reputation of the mild-mannered Attlee.
The principle of state intervention in the economy, shown to be successful during wartime, was essential in the period of post-war reconstruction. It was not a gestapo tactic but common sense.
Stan’s criticisms of Labour’s record concerned its controversial foreign policy which was increasingly dictated by cold war anti-Soviet ideology and embodied in the figure of the pugnacious Ernest Bevin. His cold war rhetoric was never very popular and Stan recalled attending a debate in 1948 during which backbench Labour MP Konni Zilliacus demolished Bevin’s attack on the USSR.
The mood of the public had been well ahead of the views of many Labour leaders who remained cautious of their possible victory right up to the last moment. Herbert Morrison, for instance, believed that Labour would lose the election if it was too radical.
But the policies that Labour was to implement were not at all “moderate” in modern Blairite terms. Stan listed the range of ambitious achievements such as the extensive nationalisation, the creation of a national investment bank, repeal of the Trades Disputes Act, the new towns, the NHS, education reform and granting freedom to India. The welfare state and full employment led to a real rise in the standard of living of ordinary people. Many of those who moved into new council housing experienced running water for very first time. Previously they had outside toilets, drawing water from a pump and tin baths in front of the fireplace. Labour had created an entirely different world and it was a significant step on the way towards building a socialist future.
Stan compared the excitement of Labour’s victory 70 years ago to the enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to become Labour leader in September 2015. The Tories had lost 181 seats and it was a fantastic feeling, Stan recalled. He remembered how church bells were rung in celebration at the first news of Labour’s triumph.
In conclusion, Stan insisted that the 1945 Attlee government initiated the greatest social transformation of the 20th century and its record needed to be studied and lessons needed to be learned from it. The achievements could still inspire people today to aspire for a better future‎.
David Morgan

October 2015