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Should Liberals Want A Coalition With Conservatives Or Labor?

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This is current events, and but post is about current events in Britain in 1920. Lenin comments on reports of a dispute between Lloyd George and H. H. Asquith, both leaders of the Liberal party: [In] the speech delivered by Prime Minister Lloyd George on March 18, 1920... Lloyd George entered into a polemic with Asquith (who had been especially invited to this meeting but declined to attend) and with those Liberals who want, not a coalition with the Conservatives, but closer relations with the Labour Party. (In the above-quoted letter, Comrade Gallacher also points to the fact that Liberals are joining the Independent Labour Party.) Lloyd George argued that a coalition — and a close coalition at that — between the Liberals and the Conservatives was essential, otherwise there might be a

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This is current events, and but post is about current events in Britain in 1920. Lenin comments on reports of a dispute between Lloyd George and H. H. Asquith, both leaders of the Liberal party:

[In] the speech delivered by Prime Minister Lloyd George on March 18, 1920... Lloyd George entered into a polemic with Asquith (who had been especially invited to this meeting but declined to attend) and with those Liberals who want, not a coalition with the Conservatives, but closer relations with the Labour Party. (In the above-quoted letter, Comrade Gallacher also points to the fact that Liberals are joining the Independent Labour Party.) Lloyd George argued that a coalition — and a close coalition at that — between the Liberals and the Conservatives was essential, otherwise there might be a victory for the Labour Party, which Lloyd George prefers to call "Socialist" and which is working for the "common ownership" of the means of production. "It is . . . known as communism in France," the leader of the British bourgeoisie said, putting it popularly for his audience, Liberal M.P.s who probably never knew it before. In Germany it was called socialism, and in Russia it is called Bolshevism, he went on to say. To Liberals this is unacceptable on principle, Lloyd George explained, because they stand in principle for private property. "Civilisation is in jeopardy," the speaker declared, and consequently Liberals and Conservatives must unite. . . . -- Lenin (1920).

We see here centrists justifying an alliance with the right by calling those to their left "socialists" and "communists". Lenin, of course, was to the left of the British Labour party and did not consider them communists or Bolsheviks. Rather, he grouped their leaders with those like Karl Kautsky, who could not be counted on to stand up for the workers when World War II started. Or maybe Lenin considered the British soft left as worse, for Kautsky, according to Lenin, had previous achievements, including in theoretical works.

The context of this argument was Lenin arguing with those to his left. I think he is talking about anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists. He was criticizing them for arguing that, as a matter of principle, communists should not participate in such compromised institutions as parliaments and labor unions. Lenin asserts that this rules out the tactical flexibility the Bolsheviks exhibited in Russia through the 1905, February 1917, and October 1917 revolutions and so on. Lenin thinks British communists should support Labour, although he does say this support should be like the noose supports the hanged man. He continues the Marxist view that anarchism is a petty bourgeois tendency.

Lenin always wanted to agitate everywhere and on everything, including in labor unions, in parliaments, on economic questions, on land redistribution, on non-economic issues. The working class, according to him, need an external vanguard to elevate their consciousness from just trying to get more under capitalism, instead of throwing over capitalism. This approach worked for Lenin. But perhaps his attempt to generalize from Russia to Western Europe exhibited the need for the development of Antonio Gramsci's ideas.

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