Ted Grant

In 1962, there was an open confrontation between American big business and the Kennedy administration, which provoked chaos and panic in the US and European stock exchanges. Ted Grant pointed out that although Kennedy made it clear that his policies fundamentally sided with the capitalist class, the essence of the conflict was all about showing who was Boss. Ted pointed out that in this there was a warning for the British labour movement, because Kennedy’s so-called “people’s capitalism” was being presented as a model to follow by the Labour Party right-wing leaders in Britain.

A one-day massive strike of the railwaymen against announced sackings and closures on the part of the Railway Commission in October 1962 showed the potential strength of the workers when mobilised. The crisis was the result of privatisation policies, as Ted Grant pointed out, and therefore the working class should fight for a co-ordinated plan of all transport to be placed in public hands. But experience showed that nationalisation was not enough: the workers had to participate from top to bottom in control and management.

In 1961, economic crisis hit the British economy. Ted Grant pointed out that “the only remedy of the Tory witchdoctors is to bleed the victim in the new economic squeeze, for the benefit of their millionaire paymasters.” The attacks against workers’ living standards were a golden opportunity for Labour to expose the class nature of Tory policies and build an alternative, but the bankrupt policies of right-wing LP leaders were not offering the workers an alternative.

Labour Prime Minister Wilson inaugurated the year 1966 with a speech announcing austerity measures, wage freeze and further cuts in social spending. Ted Grant commented that Labour leaders were treating with contempt the modest demands of the workers while giving in to the pressure of big business. Any concession granted to the bosses would inevitably result in bigger claims.

For the first time in many years, a workers’ demonstration on January 15th for jobs was enthusiastically written up and supported by the Tory press” – Ted Grant ironically commented back in 1965, exposing the hypocrisy of the Tories. Ted Grant pointed out that the real problem facing the labour movement was the failure of Wilson’s Labour government to face the crisis of the aircraft industry and the Labour leaders’ subordination to the interests of big business.

British rule over Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was shaken in the early sixties by the rise of the African people against colonial rule. In order to preserve its interests British imperialism tried to start a transition towards so-called “partnership” between blacks and whites. In 1965 the white settlers’ government unilaterally declared its independence (U.D.I.) to keep racialist rule, threatening to unleash a conflict with the black majority. Ted Grant analysed the interests at stake and what the attitude of the labour movement should be.

In 1962 Gaitskell’s right wing clique was trying to consolidate and extend its grip on the Labour Party with all sorts of manoeuvres, expulsions, bans and tricks against the left wing. Ted Grant exposed those attempts and pointed out the need for the left to appeal to the ranks and fight back.

In 1962 bye-election results revealed the profound discontent of the middle class and workers with the policies of the then Tory government. Ted Grant underlined that the big swing to the Liberals was because they presented themselves as a radical alternative to the Tories. The Labour Party instead was bogged down by the right-wing policies of Gaitskell and his clique.

A wave of strikes, starting with the Asturian miners, challenged the dictatorship of Franco in Spain in the spring of 1962. Ted Grant argued that this heroic struggle represented the beginning of the end of the regime, but at the same time highlighted the limits of the positions put forward by the leaders of the Socialist and Communist parties and the need of building solidarity action with the Spanish workers by the international working class.

In October 1962 Ted Grant summed up the contradictions posed by the post-war arms race between the major powers and the proliferation of nuclear armaments. The working class should never trust international institutions like the UN to address this or any other fundamental problem but should mobilise its own forces around a socialist programme, the only means to put an end to all wars.

“The government has proclaimed a crisis, exhorted the workers to greater exertions and sacrifices, only for them to be faced with the same situation in the next 2 years.” Back in 1961 Ted Grant analysed how the British ruling class constantly attempted to throw the weight of British capitalism’s decline onto the shoulders of the working class.

In 1961, the sixth economic crisis in Britain since the end of the Second World War was used once again by the Tory government to justify a policy of cutting taxes for the rich and introducing indirect taxation which affected the standards of living of ordinary people. Ted Grant exposed the ruthless class nature of these policies and invited the trade union and Labour leaders to action.

In this 1971 article (produced as a special pamphlet) Ted Grant exposed the capitalist character of the Common Market and explained that the EEC was nothing more than a “glorified customs union” to protect the interests of the European capitalists against the USA and Japan. This Europe would not carry out policies in favour of the workers of any country. While taking sides clearly against the EEC, Ted Grant also exposed the nationalist character of the arguments put forward by the Labour “lefts” of the Tribune.

 

“The arguments of the anti-marketeers in the labour movement have had no more substance than those of the pro-marketeers themselves. They have adopted a narrow nationalistic outlook, appealing against the loss of British ‘sovereignty’… Neither nationalism nor pseudo-Europeanism is a solution in the interests of the working class… The solution to the problem lies in the unity of the workers of Europe and the world against the capitalists of Europe and the world. A socialist Britain, in a socialist united states of Europe.”

In 1966 the Labour leaders after opposing entry into the EEC (the old name of the EU) on a nationalist basis did an about turn seeking entry on a capitalist basis. The Marxists opposed entry into the EEC on a socialist, internationalist position, as Ted wrote, "for the working class neither entry nor non-entry would solve their problems or lead to an increased standard of living...There is no road to the union of Europe except on a socialist basis, with full national autonomy, the abolition of tariffs, national armies and government state machines."

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