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New Left Review I/32, July-August 1965

Tom Nairn

Labour Imperialism

Unique among governments of the Left, the Labour Government has done more than fail its friends: it has even disappointed its enemies. Disillusion over its foreign policy is almost universal. The liberal opponents of socialism have been criticizing its inert conservatism for some time; now even the pillars of real Conservatism, like the Times or the Telegraph, clearly feel that the government’s foreign policies are too candidly reactionary, too nakedly subservient to Washington. On the domestic scene, everything is still dominated by the chronic ailment of British capitalism. Labour always made it plain that hope of real progress with reforms depended upon curing this ailment. But during its period of office, the crisis has not yielded, on the contrary in some respects it has become more dramatic. The government’s new instruments for dealing with it, the Incomes Policy and the National Plan, are still in process of formation. Nobody knows how they will work, or whether they will work. But faith in them is about as widespread as respect for Labour’s foreign policies, and this climate of scepticism is itself a major handicap to the programme. There is a general apprehension that the fog of uncertainty will finally roll away only to reveal the conclusive elements of disaster.

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Tom Nairn, ‘Labour Imperialism’, NLR I/32: £3

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