‘Not Reformed Capitalism, But… Democratic Socialism’: The Ideology of the Labour Leadership, 1945–1951

  • Martin Francis
Part of the Contemporary History in Context Series book series (CHIC)

Abstract

The Labour Party’s leadership in the 1940s, in contrast to its successors in the 1980s and 1990s, never felt self-conscious or embarrassed about seeing the label ‘socialist’ applied to their policies. Indeed, the 1945 Labour manifesto, Let Us Face the Future, explicitly informed the electorate that the Party’s ultimate purpose was ‘the establishment of a Socialist Commonwealth of Great Britain — free, democratic, efficient, progressive, public-spirited, its material resources organised in the service of the British people.’2 But did such statements reflect a wholehearted desire by the Labour government of 1945–51 to transform British society along fundamentally socialist lines? Or were they merely a rhetorical ornament, intended to hide the leadership’s essential opportunism from a much more radically inclined rank and file? Paul Smith once argued that Disraeli’s political ideas ‘were not the motive force of his performance, but rather the costume which he wore in deference to the susceptibilities of his audience’.3 Many authorities would conclude that a similar characterisation should be applied to the Attlee government which, they argue (especially after the crises of 1947) eagerly embraced a cross-party consensus constructed along lines dictated by Beveridge and Keynes.4

Keywords

Sugar Income Omic Concession Monopoly 

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Notes

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Francis

There are no affiliations available

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