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New Left Review I/42, March-April 1967


Robin Blackburn

Inequality and Exploitation

Britain remains a country where the concentration of wealth is still one of the highest in the world. This is a fact that has significance for all societies of the capitalist type. After all, Britain has had one of the strongest Labour movements of any advanced capitalist country. The fifth Labour Government now enjoys office, while the British trade unions, unlike their counterparts on the continent, are not divided on political or religious lines. The experience of two world wars provided particularly favourable contexts for reformist action as did the general advance to prosperity of the economy. Yet the relative positions of the major social classes have not changed in this century. Britain today is not a significantly more equal society than when the Labour Party was brought into existence by the unions over sixty years ago. In the intervening period the Labour movement has succeeded in maintaining but not improving the relative economic position of those it represents. In certain favourable conjunctures it has been able to win particular, notable advances, such as the Health Service, only to see them eroded in the subsequent period.

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