This article is written on certain assumptions. Explicitly these are that Labour comes to power in the latter half of 1964, and that it does not before the election add significantly to the sketch of its economic programme in Signposts for the Sixties and in recent speeches by Harold Wilson. The object of the article is to explain as realistically as possible what sort of an economy, and economic situation, Labour will inherit. Beyond that it attempts from the left, from a socialist position, to argue what the Labour government should be trying to achieve, what sort of measures and control techniques this would imply, and what problems would be likely to be encountered en route.
If reality turns out differently the writer will be disappointed but not surprised. If the Left disagrees with his approach, at least we can thereby start discussion of what exactly is involved in a serious attempt in current economic and political conditions to push towards a socialized economy.
The article in nlr 21, ‘The British Economy: Crisis and Structural Change’, was intended as a preparation for this present article. It set out the main features of the changes affecting the British economy in recent years; it is therefore not necessary to repeat the exposition here, but it is perhaps useful to reiterate the main themes. These were that a review of the economy as it has developed during and since the 1950’s showed:
1. A clearly marked cycle of production and demand operating with unusual features over approximately five year periods.
2. A persistent pressure for redistribution of income in favour of property, based not only on market exploitation but on the political dominance of property interest as well.
(These two headings are the key to understanding the marked price rises of the period.)
3. Long-term structural changes in Britain’s international trade, particularly those stemming from her erstwhile imperial position.