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New Left Review I/28, November-December 1964

NLR Editorials

Divide and Conquer

For three years, Britain lived in the shadow of one dominant fact: the bankruptcy of Conservatism. This was more than a political fact. It was social, cultural, personal: the end of a way of life, a distinctive conception of the world, the end of the peculiar type of hegemony through which the bourgeoisie had ruled for centuries. One disaster followed another: economic crisis, the fiasco of the Common Market negotiations, picturesque scandals, belated colonial wars, the failure of a Conservative ‘incomes policy’, a lurid struggle for power within the Conservative Party ending in the election of the most hopeless of candidates, the perfect image of an era already dead on its feet. Finally, another economic crisis. The meaning was evident, and conceded even by the most impenitent right-wing mouth-pieces: Conservatism, the traditional organ of the ruling class, was no longer capable of serving that class effectively. Old remedies were no longer good for the needs of ‘the nation’. Trying to adapt itself to the new exigencies of capitalism, the Conservative Party merely became ridiculous.

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