Catholic trade unionists and voters missed a chance
By DOUGLAS HYDE
THE victory of the "Bevanites," who this week won every seat they stood for on the Labour Party's national executive, is both a warning and a challenge to all those who aim at acceptance of Christian policies by Britain's political parties.
The success of Mr. Aneurin Bevan and his followers at Morecambe will immeasurably strengthen the Left Wing influence throughout the Labour and trade union movement.
It will, even though the Bevanites remain a minority on the executive, increase their ability to push any further Labour Government in the direction of more class war and more
Arid, assuming that their increased strength on the executive will ensure a greater Bevanite representation in a Labour Cabinet, it may tend towards such a Labour Government finding its allies in the foreign field among all the most anticlerical forces this side of the Iron Curtain.
That is the prospect in the Labour movement unless those who are for moderate policies, and who wish to see the party's "new thinking" bring it nearer to Catholic social teaching, begin to make their weight felt in the constituency parties and in the unions.
The vote announced last Tuesday was not the result of Mr. Bevan's persuasive oratory on the previous day. It cannot be explained away by saying the delegates were under the spell of his forceful personality. For the votes were cast before conference began.
In short, it reflects a Leftward trend in the local and divisional Labour parties, which means on the part of those who do most of the work at election time.
These are the men and women who determine the colour of the local Labour movement, the activists and the "readers" among the millions of Labour voters.
And these people, it is now revealed, are today following Mr. Bevan, whose political philosophy as outlined in his book In Place of Fear (which obviously played a considerable part in the Leftward swing) owes little or nothing to Christian inspiration and everything to Marx.
Had the votes been cast at the end of the week's debates it might be possible to explain the present conflict within the Labour Party as no more than one of personalities.
Mrs. Barbara Castle, one of the successful Bevanites, is reported as having said when the result was announced that she regarded it as "a vote on policy rather than on personalities."
It is that and more; it is a vote on conflicting philosophies, too, as Mr. Bevan would himself almost certainly agree, for the differences in the Labour movement go deep.
It is not a question of personalities, for supporting the "moderates" are men who have no connection with any sort of religion, and supporting the Left are practising Christians. That is typical of British politics, but one must look beyond the individuals concerned to the ideas they stand for and the logical end of the policies they support.
The real issue turns on what is meant by Socialism today and where the two opposing trends are really leading.
Posing as the champions of the old, vigorous Socialism of the pioneers, the Bevanitcs oppose those who say that the experience of Labour in power, and the present state of the world, make it necessary to look for new, less drastic, solutions.
They oppose those who say that the class war ought not to be fought in the old vicious way and that new social and industrial policies, such as more joint consultation in industry, co-partnership and mutualisation (as advocated by some Catholic social thinkers) should be examined.
Among the defeated are Mr.
Herbert Morrison and Mr. Gaitskell, both of whom were known to he sympathetic to the "new thinking."
But the point that Catholic Labour voters need to note is that this Bevanite victory was obtained at the constituency level. where members' meetings are normally attended by an audience which totals very much less than the number of votes cast for Labour by Catholic electors in the area.