Prospective Labour Candidate for Sutton and Cheam
UNLESS there is a General Election in the autumn the three main parties are going to tell us at their conferences just why it is they deserve our support.
It is, however, becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between the policies of the parties—the differences between moderate Socialists and moderate Conservatives often seem very much less than the differences within each party.
Most of those who vote Labour to keep the Tories out know exactly what they mean by Toryism. Those who vote Conservative to keep the socialists out know just what they mean by socialism. But both parties are less clear about their own aims and their promises are often startlingly similar.
Eighty years ago the differences between the parties were clearer. Three-quarters of the private property in the country was concentrated in the hands of one per cent of the population and Conservatives regarded this as part of the natural order of things.
Any talk of a fairer distribution of property, or a nation-wide property owning democracy, would have been regarded as rank socialism.
Indeed, Chambers Dictionary at the turn of the century defined socialism as "any one of various schemes for regenerating society by a more equal distribution of property".
While many Conservatives regarded any kind of co-operation between employers and workers as an intolerable interference with the rights of property, many Liberals were dedicated to completely free competition and regarded any kind of state intervention in industry or interference with the free interplay of economic forces as morally wrong.
And at the same time most socialists regarded any kind of cooperation with employers as a betrayal of the class struggle which could only delay the achievement of socialism. and socialism was identified with the nationalisation of all the means of production.
Then in 1891 came Rerun; Novarum with its attack on both capitalism and socialism. and its call for a fairer distribution of property and for co-operation between workers and employers. It was followed in 1931 by Quadragesimo A nno which called for the "modification of the wage contract by a contract of partnership" and
just ust distribution of the fruits of production; and in 1961 by Mater et MaRistra which further developed the same themes.
On the continent the Papal Encyclicals coloured the programmes of the post-war Christian Democrat parties; but even in Britain they seem to have had some effect. All three parties now talk about partnership in industry and the distribution of property and the problem is to make up one's mind which of them really means it.
The Liberals have been talking about the need for Co-Ownership in industry since the Liberal Yellow