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New Left Review I/28, November-December 1964

Tom Nairn

The Nature of the Labour Party (Part II)

The nature of the Labour Party—2

What is the main justification of Labourism, put forward by socialists at its birth and still advanced by its apologists? What is the cry that rings out at every Labour Party Conference, to repress all serious dissent and maintain the incredible system intact? That Labourism attains the unity of the working-class movement, in a definitive and final form from which any departure would be treason and defeat. This call touches the deepest chord in the entire historical experience of the working class—the dispossessed, fragmented into atoms by the alienating pressures of capitalist society, who found and asserted themselves wholly through uniting in collective action. It echoes everything most sacred in the secular struggle of trade-unionism, everything that renders it more than merely another facet of the bourgeois order, everything which connects it potentially to socialism and to the future beyond the bourgeois order. It suggests that an organization embracing trade unionism and socialism together, and summing up all the latent might of the working class, must be right in principle.

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Tom Nairn, ‘The Nature of the Labour Party (Part II)’, NLR I/28: £3

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