Archive for the ‘Paul Flewers’ Category

The Lure of the Plan: The Impact of the Five-Year Plans in Britain

September 6, 2010 2 comments

P. Flewers, ‘The Lure of the Plan: The Impact of the Five-Year Plans in Britain’, Critique, Vol. 36, No. 3, December 2008, pp. 343-361

This article investigates the impact of the initial Soviet Five- Year Plans upon political discourse in Britain, and in particular its impact upon the left. It shows that a broad swathe of political opinion in Britain was encouraged by the impact of the crash of 1929 to accept the need for the state to intervene in economic affairs, and that the growth of the Soviet economy under the initial Five- Year Plans played a catalytic role in accentuating this opinion. Many commentators who rejected the political norms of the Soviet regime nonetheless considered that valuable lessons could be drawn in respect of economic policy in Britain. The article then looks at the attitudes held on the left towards planning, and concludes that the idea that socialist planning must involve democratic decision-making on the part of producers and consumers was submerged beneath a technocratic concept of e1ite economic management, and that the rise of this idea of planning during the 19305 was a component of the defeat of the wave of working-class radicalism that had erupted at the end of the First World War.

Soviet assembly-line worker works on the axle of a Moskvich car, made by AZLK.

Apart from a small if vociferous group of free marketeers, economic planning became a watchword in Britain for broad swathes of economists, social scientists, politicians and commentators during the interwar period, a time which encompassed the crash of 1929 and the ensuing slump, which saw production in the capitalist world drop by over a third, and the initial Soviet Five-Year Plans, which permitted the transformation of the Soviet Union into a vast industrial power. How far did the dramatic events in the Soviet Union influence the debate around planning?

Various authorities have stated that the economic changes in the Soviet Union strongly inspired the British left in the 1930s.[1] Others, including observers at the time, felt that the impact of the Five-Year Plans went much further, and, as the economist Michael’ Polanyi put it, was ‘largely responsible for the popularity of planning in the Western countries’.[2] Writing in 1946, E.H. Carr stated: ‘The economic impact of the Soviet Union on the rest of the world may be summed up in the single word “planning”.’ He added that many countries had imitated the Soviet idea of set period economic plans, and concluded: ‘Certainly, if “we are all planners now”, this is largely the result, conscious or unconscious, of the impact of Soviet practice and Soviet achievement.'[3] Yet Carr was not always so convinced of the centrality of Soviet planning to Western economic discourse. In September 1939, he stated that it was ‘not any belief in the success of Soviet economics, or any desire to emulate it’, that was ‘causing such extensive inroads’ into the system of private enterprise, as economic developments in all countries were taking a similar path,[4] and in 1951 he emphasised that processes at work in the capitalist world, predating the slump of 1929, had made ‘the conception of a national economy’ and ‘by the same token some kind of planning authority’ an acceptable part of Western political and economic theory and practice.[5] Carr’s drastic shifts of opinion indicate that the question of the influence of the Soviet Union upon economic debate in Britain in the 1930s is by no means clear-cut.

The Lure of the Plan

It is a common misconception to view the discussion of the Soviet Union during the 1930s merely as an exchange between an uncritical pro-Soviet lobby on the one side, and a mirror-image anti-communist bloc on the other. There was a broad swathe of opinion between these two poles, incorporating moderate conservatives, pro-planning liberals and moderate social democrats, that praised various social and economic measures being implemented by the Soviet regime, and who saw the Soviet Union as at least a potentially beneficial factor in international affairs, whilst maintaining a firm opposition to its authoritarian political norms.

The rise of this centre ground was spurred on by one of the factors that lay behind the rise of the pro-Soviet lobby, namely, the contrast between the crisis in the West following the Wall Street crash and the tremendous expansion of the Soviet economy under the First Five-Year Plan. Nevertheless, this broad appreciation of certain Soviet policies would not have occurred had there not existed in Britain and other Western countries a growing intellectual trend favouring state intervention into the economy and social life. Sections of the reformist left had long recommended the nationalisation of major industries, particularly coal-mining and the railways, under some form or another of state administration. Even in Britain, the concepts of laissez-faire had \ never been fully put into practice, and the much-vaunted ‘night-watchman’ state, playing a very limited social role, was never a total reality. By the mid-19th century, calls were being made in Britain by some capitalist spokesmen for the state regulation of certain infrastructural industries, most notably the railways, on the basis that the limiting of untrammelled competition amongst them served the interests of capitalism in general. A combination of popular concern and the recognition of the overall needs of capital had led to rudimentary welfare measures being introduced in Britain by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

The mobilisation by the British state of the national economy during the First World War represented a major turning point. The sheer magnitude of the war effort forced the government to intervene deeply in the economic life of the country, and in a process which one historian later called ‘a strange lesson in state socialism’,[6] shipping was requisitioned, railways were put under state control, and by 1917 essential industries were also being controlled by the state. Although during the war and for a while afterwards, laissez-faire remained the ideological norm, as state intervention was seen largely as a short-term or emergency matter, rather than a longterm or permanent policy, and most of the wartime measures were dismantled soon after hostilities ceased, a crucial step had been taken. As Trevor Smith puts it, government initiatives during the war had been an ‘object lesson’ in showing how the state could intervene into the economy, and a ‘mortal blow’ had been struck against the concepts of a ‘night-watchman’ state and laissez-faire economics.[7] The experience of wartime measures of state intervention started to have some impact, and Jose Harris’ assertion that there was ‘no corresponding change in ideas about state legitimacy’ has to be treated with caution.[8] Although interwar governments were rather wary about implementing state interventionist measures, various welfare reforms were put into practice, and certain important state concerns were established both before and after the crash of 1929.[9]

More important, however, was the substantial shift in opinion on the issue of state intervention that took place in Britain between the two world wars. A leading advocate of managed capitalism, John Maynard Keynes, found a growing audience and a champion in David Lloyd George, whose accession as the leader of the Liberal Party in 1926 signified the replacement of laissez-faire by state intervention as a leading Liberal ethos. Similar if more limited moves started within the Conservative Party, as such young Turks as Harold Macmillan and Robert Boothby started to call for state intervention and an economic ‘general staff’. If at first the idea of the necessity of state intervention was very much the property of a minority trend within British political and economic circles, it became more generally accepted through ‘the necessary psychological snap'[10] of the great crash of 1929 and the ensuing slump. This was the point at which the call for planning started to be heard at practically all points across the political spectrum.[11] And if the acceptance of such ideas was uneven-for instance, Oswald Mosley’s call in 1930 for a thoroughgoing programme of state intervention under a committee of experts was rejected by the Labour Party[12]-within a short time various ginger groups, including the Socialist League, the New Fabian Research Bureau and the Society for Socialist Inquiry and Propaganda, appeared within the Labour PartY, all calling for a wide range of interventionist policies. By the mid-1930s, Labour’s official manifestos called for economic planning, thus taking in some of these groups’ ideas, and, ironically, elements of Mosley’s programme, although by now he was busy advocating a fascist brand of collectivism. Other pro-planning groups appeared during the early 1930s, including the Industrial Reorganisation League, formed by various industrialists, and the Next Five Years Group, which incorporated Macmillan and other prominent thinkers, and Political and Economic Planning, which published an extensive series of monographs on the subject.

At a time when sober commentators were saying that capitalism had ‘nearly ceased to function as an efficiently working machine’,[13] planning was regarded as the means of saving it;[14] indeed, John Stevenson considers that ‘the most significant feature of the interwar years was the acceptance by “middle opinion” of the need for planning without the destruction of the capitalist system,.[15] It can thus be easily understood, when the efficacy of laissez-faire was being widely questioned even by supporters of economic individualism,[16] how many people whose commitment to liberal democracy led them forthrightly to reject the Soviet political system, nonetheless considered that there were important lessons that Western governments could learn from studying the economic and social policies of the Soviet regime, even if they may not have fully endorsed the New Statesman‘s plaintive cry of ‘When shall we have a Five- Years Plan for Great Britain?’ [17] The conditional nature of this endorsement must be emphasised. In recognising that state intervention was here to stay and to oppose it was ‘folly’, the Spectator warned against the lure of Stalinist and fascist brands of collectivism, and posed its programme of ‘ordered progress’ as ‘the only effective defence against the far more revolutionary proposals of extreme right and extreme left alike’,[18] a view that was heartily endorsed by the Economist and Macmillan.[19]

Assessing the Five-Year Plans

The genesis and history of the Five-Year Plans need not be relayed in detail here; suffice to say that the originally fairly modest proposals for economic development were abandoned in favour of a programme of ambitious growth targets that commenced in October 1928, and which was itself vastly accelerated from March 1929.[20]

The vast transformations that took place under the First Five-Year Plan could not be ignored in the outside world. Needless to say, the pro-Soviet lobby was impressed; even in its earliest days, there could be no doubt of the success of the plan. In late 1929, Rajani Palme Dutt, the main theoretician of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), compared the ‘pitiful’ reforms of Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government, ‘a medley of minor and unrelated oddments’, to ‘the gigantic purposeful offensive in every field of the Five-Years Plan in the Soviet Republic’,[21] whilst one of his lieutenants had already explained that the plan was ‘an object lesson to the world’ of how socialism could beat capitalism.[22] Maurice Dobb provided an optimistic assessment. He declared that through ‘conscious organisation and planning from the centre’, and with the ‘initiative and active cooperation’ of the masses, including the voluntary collectivisation of the peasants, the Soviet regime was completing Russia’s industrial revolution ‘at a quite unprecedented speed’. Indeed, the Five-Year Plan was doing so well in showing the superiority of planning that it was now to be completed in just four years.[23]

Although, on account of their gargantuan tome Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation, we have customarily and justifiably viewed Sidney and Beatrice Webb as gross apologists for Stalinism, they were initially very hostile to Bolshevism, seeing the Soviet republic as ‘the “servile state” in being … a servile state run by fanatics’ who had no respect for ‘the “bourgeois fetish” of personal freedom’.[24] What almost certainly pushed the Webbs into eventually dropping most of their qualms and qualifications about the Soviet Union was the great economic crash in the USA in 1929, its after-effects around the world and the feeble efforts of the Labour government to deal with them in Britain, and the contrast posed by the great advances the Soviet Union was making under the First Five-Year Plan. As the plan swung into action, Beatrice Webb recognised that only in the Soviet Union was there a government which understood that a state could not ‘guarantee livelihood except under the conditions of a managed population’. [25] She was dividing the Soviet population between leaders and led, or, more accurately, managers and managed, with the implication that the former had the right to ‘manage’ the latter, and there is something sinister in her emphasis of the word ‘managed’ in view of her acknowledgement as late as February 1931 of the brutal way in which Stalin’s regime ‘managed’ its population.[26] Their huge book, which to this day symbolises the ‘Red Decade: praises the Five-Year Plans for enabling the Soviet Union to end vested interest, to ensure that a greater proportion of the nation’s resources, both material and human, could be put into operation and used more efficiently, and to overcome the wasteful competition, unemployment and boom-and-slump cycle of capitalism. Moreover, as the overthrow of capitalism ended the exploitation of the working class and thus removed the basis for class struggle, there were no reasons for workers to go on strike. They were certain that the growth of inequalities would not lead to the emergence of new classes, and they assured their readers that the existence of differing social strata (as opposed to ‘distinct social classes’, which had disappeared) merely showed a functional difference amongst the ‘intellectual leaders’, lesser post-holders and workers, and were of little importance.[27]

Many observers who were critical of aspects of the Soviet political system nonetheless applauded the tremendous changes that had taken place. Herbert Morrison, a leading member of the Labour Party and a stern opponent of Bolshevism, enthused over the results of the plan:

The efforts of Soviet Russia … to evolve a plan of economy on a collectivist basis is one of the most interesting and important contributions to the practical handling of modern industrial problems. The Soviet government, in applying the principles of public ownership and management to the extent it considers to be practicable, is conducting the greatest economic experiment of our time over a vast territory inhabited by a huge population.[28]

Morrison’s colleague Hugh Dalton called it ‘a most astonishing Industrial Revolution’ that had been implemented with an eagerness, faith and drive that put the West to shame.[29] The Fabian economist Barbara Wootton stated that the progress made so far had given the Soviet regime the opportunity of establishing ‘an efficient economic system in the setting of a just and humane social order’.30 Many other leftwingers who rejected Stalinism nonetheless considered that the development of the Soviet economy in the 1930s demonstrated the superiority of economic planning, and that despite its generally negative features, the Soviet bureaucracy was playing a positive role in this field.[31]

One can easily understand why a broad range of left-wingers would endorse the principle of planning, and, despite their misgivings about the Soviet political regime, recognise the wider significance of its plan. A sign of the times was that a similar viewpoint was expressed by the liberals Bernard Pares and Vernon Bartlett,[32] and Britain’s leading business magazine, The Economist, at first thought that the plan was ‘of incalculable value to economists and administrators all over the world’,[33] although its opinion, as we shall see, was by no means always so unequivocal.

Supporters of free enterprise were sometimes rather reserved when debating the relevance of the plan. The awkward words of the Spectator betrayed its disquiet about the contrast between the booming Soviet Union and the slump-ridden system at home:

But the conviction has grown that communism in Russia has come to stay, and along with that conviction a sporting, or~hould we say?-philosophic desire to see the best that the Russians can make out of the system they have adopted-a desire to keep the ring and give her the opportunity to tryout her big experiment and show the world how it works. We have not made so big a success of our own affairs that we can afford to ignore what is being done in a different way elsewhere; and a country which has dared to take the dangerous chance may surely have stumbled upon some discoveries which might be applicable even to our own so different system.[34]

On the other hand, critics of Soviet planning could be found, including amongst those who were in principle in favour of economic planning. Notwithstanding its endorsement of the idea of economic planning, and in contrast to its earlier tentative approval, The Economist began to downplay somewhat the significance of the Soviet experiment. After three years of the first Five-Year Plan, it expressed its disappointment that Soviet planning differed ‘only in scale from the machinery used by any large company with a centralised organisation in planning its yearly output’, and that the government had no way of dealing with discrepancies between plan targets and actual performance.[35] Two years on, it claimed that economic planning was now commonplace in the world at large, and emphasised that a state-controlled economy substituted its own problems for those peculiar to free enterprise. An authoritarian state able to control labour and resources could ‘achieve remarkable results in certain fields of industrial construction and development’, but could not provide consistent increases in living standards, nor ‘banish the elements of crisis and maladjustment from the national economic life’.[36]

Some commentators felt that the Soviet economic experience was of no relevance to the modern capitalist world. Perhaps surprisingly, considering his pioneering of economic regulation, Keynes brusquely wrote off Moscow’s economic policies as ‘an insult to our intelligence’.[37] Similarly, H.G. Wells’ enthusiastic advocating of collectivism did not cause him to praise the Soviet leaders. He had no time for their ‘fundamental blunderings’, contemptuously declaring: ‘They still believe … that they can teach our Western world everything that is necessary for the salvation of mankind.'[38] William Beveridge felt that the developed Western countries had little to learn from the Five-Year Plans, but added, almost certainly with places such as India in mind, that it would be worth sending administrators and sociologists to the Soviet Union to study the process of modernisation ‘to enquire how soon and by what methods’ it was possible ‘to change the aptitudes and ways of thought and living of a population, to turn peasants by masses into craftsmen or machine men’.[39]

Other criticisms of the Five-Year Plans were made. Mark Patrick, a Conservative MP who had served in the diplomatic service in Moscow, stated that the First FiveYear Plan paid ‘no regard whatever to any necessity for a carefully considered limitation, distribution and balance of the productive forces’, and merely constituted a scheme to industrialise at any cost an agrarian country.[40] Lancelot Lawton, a staunch conservative critic of socialism, did not deny that there had been a great expansion since 1929, but was adamant that the Russian economy would have grown under any economic system. He added that planning merely led to chaos, as there were too many unknown or variable factors in the production process for planners to be able to ascertain production costs, and without that knowledge the planning process would lose all touch with reality. His conclusion was clear: ‘In Russia, in fact, everything foretold by the opponents of socialism has come to pass’.[41] The liberal J.A Spender considered that in the absence of an economic mechanism which could ascertain consumer requirements, minor errors in the planning departments could lead directly to catastrophic blunders being made in production and distribution processes.[42]

Outright detractors, however, were relatively few. More common amongst critics was a feeling that Soviet planning was nothing particularly noteworthy. Margaret Miller, one of the first experts on the Soviet economy, considered that Soviet planning should be recognised not so much as a new economic system than as ‘a mobilising and coordinating force’, a means to direct ‘national energies’ towards the fulfilment of an ambitious construction programme,[43] and added that the plan was ‘a brief step in a lengthy historical process’ of development in Russia that had been continuing since the turn of the century, albeit under differing economic and political conditions.[44] Leonard Hubbard, another British authority on the Soviet economy, weighed up the advantages and disadvantages of an etatised economic system. He stated that without the need to heed public opinion and with centralised control and the ability to use coercion, the Soviet regime could make long-term and large-scale investments that would be impossible under a democratic market system. On the other hand, he considered that the incompetence of workers and management had ensured that the great increase in the use of machinery had ‘resulted in a very meagre expansion of production in comparison with the amount of capital invested’. Planning was immune from some of the defects of capitalism, but it had its own problems, particularly in respect of shortfalls in one sector leading directly to dislocations in others. Hubbard was not alone in insisting that there were many problems that had to be solved before the Soviet system could justifiably claim supremacy over capitalism.[45]

A few commentators denied that the Soviet economy was planned. The economist Michael Polanyi considered that Soviet planning was little more than ‘a series of loosely connected tasks’ centred on increasing production, rather than a systematic and coordinated plan. Moreover, the prioritisation of sheer output, exemplified by the emphasis upon storming forward and the delight when targets were exceeded, ensured that coordination amongst the different branches of production was severely hindered.[46] Hubbard declared that the Soviet economy was run on ‘a compromise between theoretical planning and expediency’, the latter being ‘old and proved capitalist principles’ to which the regime had been forced to resort, but as deviations between plan and practice were never admitted by Soviet officials, they could only be ascertained through ‘occasional hints and chance peeps behind the scene’.[47]

The idea of state intervention into the economy and economic planning did not start in Britain as a result of watching Stalin in 1929. The crash of 1929 and the ensuing slump had a great effect upon political and economic thinking in Britain. On the left, socialists had long felt that capitalism was a crisis-ridden system, ahd the slump merely confirmed their expectations. Whatever qualms many of them had about the methods of the Soviet regime, the vast majority of soc:ialisrs considered that it had started to implement economic planning and social welfare measures, and was thereby laying the foundations of a socialist society. It appeared as though the Soviet Union had taken definite steps towards socialism precisely at the point when capitalism had demonstrated its bankruptcy. Amongst non-socialists. and particularly within Britain’s ruling circles, the crisis forced politicians and economists to recognise that the market in and of itself was incapable of solving the problems facing their system, and that the state was obliged to step in and alter the spontaneous running of the market mechanism. The experience of the First World \\-ar had demonstrated the necessity for governments to intervene in economic and social aifairs. and the idea that such intervention could benefit capitalism was gaining ground prior to the crash. Had the Bolsheviks failed in 1917, or had the Soviet republic foundered in the Civil War, there can be little doubt that pro-interventionist sentimenrs would have emerged in the capitalist world, and would have become intensified and popularised in any period of economic crisis. Conversely, had capitalism been booming in 1929, the First Five-Year Plan would not have gone unnoticed, but its impact in the West would have been considerably reduced. Nonetheless, despite there being no causal connection between the two events, the launch of the Five-Year Plans coincided with the great crash, and the vivid contrast between capitalist crisis and Smiet growth could not have failed to have had an impact in the West Howe”\-er. the influence of the plans in bourgeois circles should not be overestimated. ~luch of the debate in Britain around planning, irrespective of the political views of those inyolved, was concerned primarily with indigenous events and, to a lesser extent, \\ith those of the capitalist world as a whole. References to the Soviet Union were not particularly common even in left-wing books and articles on planning, and eYen then were often little more than passing remarks.

The Five-Year Plans served as a backdrop to the already existing discussion in Britain around the issues that were raised by the general problems facing the economy and which were brought to a head by the crash of 1929. The Soviet plans acted as a catalyst, spurring on this debate, a series of innovations which could be profitably studied, and a lurking reminder that the market was not an infallible guarantee of prosperity, rather than a course of action to be imitated. Pro-planning consen’atives and liberals defined their interventionist plans in opposition to a fully collectivised economy, and posited them within a defence of parliamentary democracy against the ‘totalitarian’ regimes of Italy, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Their attitude was paralleled by that of the right-wing social democrats, who, despite their calls for the replacement of capitalism with socialism and their feeling that the Soviet Union was some sort of socialist society or contained certain socialist features, did not really intend to go beyond a capitalist economy with sufficient state intervention in the economic and social fields to overcome poverty and overt inequality. The critical but not unfriendly welcome to the Five-Year Plans on the part of a wide range of British commentators was not based upon any identification with official communism, but was because the Soviet regime was implementing economic and social schemes from which they thought Western governments could draw important lessons, just as various writers-in desperation, one suspects-subsequently implored the wartime British government to ‘pay tribute to the Nazis’ amazing organising abilities in the economic and industrial organisation of Germany’, as one of them put it.[48]

However, whilst praise for the Five-Year Plans was an important reason for the relatively benign attitude that existed towards the Soviet Union outwith the usual pro-Soviet circles during this period, more important in this respect was the manner in which Moscow was now often regarded as a stabilising factor in world affairs, and as a potential ally of Britain in an increasingly threatening international situation. This stance could only last so long as Moscow acted in what appeared to be a positive manner on the international scene, and so long as planning and welfare measures remained rudimentary in capitalist countries. After 1945, with the acceptance of the welfare state and state intervention in mainstream British politics and the domination of the East-West schism in international relations, a strong anti-communist consensus became the driving force on the British political scene, and the Soviet brand of planning tended to be seen as another part of the ‘totalitarian’ society.

Planning, Democracy and the Left

The fear of a new Leviathan goes back a long way, and was given a new lease of life by .the rise of the idea of economic planning. Long before the October Revolution, let alone the rise of Stalinism, not only had right-wingers been warning that socialism ‘would drill and brigade us into a kind of barrack-yard existence’, ‘an intolerable official despotism’, with the population becoming ‘mere automata moved by the allabsorbing and all-directing power of the state’,[49] but similar fears had also been expressed within the socialist movement itself. In late Victorian Britain, the Fabians’ vision of socialism, most explicitly expressed by their leading theoreticians Sidney and Beatrice Webb, of a combination of a parliamentary democracy and an etatised society under the benevolent rule of an enlightened administrative elite, struck fear in the hearts of many socialists. The Webbs combined an incurable elitism with ultimate technocratism. Their idea of socialism was the precise ordering of society, with everything planned out in advance, and everyone working to that plan. Society was to be a well-oiled machine, run by disinterested experts standing above the political melee. This top-down conception of socialism meant that democracy would be strictly circumscribed, and certainly would not mean the masses running their own affairs, except in respect of the most mundane issues. Leadership would remain with what Beatrice Webb called ‘an elite of unassuming experts’.[50] It is no surprise that many socialists considered that the Webbs’ concept of socialism would merely lead to a bureaucratic nightmare, with the replacement of the capitalist class by a new class of officials.[51]

The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was divided between those who favoured the Fabians’ programme and those who felt that their etatism and circumscribed view of democracy had sinister overtones. This latter outlook was shared by the ostensibly Marxist Social Democratic Federation, but this organisation’s favouring of a centralised state under socialism was seen by some socialists as smacking of authoritarianism. The early years of the 20th century saw the rise of syndicalism and guild socialism, which also viewed etatism and centralisation with great suspicion, and which championed the need for workirlg-class control of the work process.[52] However, although an exhaustive study of this subject fairly concludes that strong democratic ideas were ‘of major importance’ in the British labour movement prior to the Russian Revolution,[53] there remained much ambiguity on this subject within the international socialist movement as a whole, not least on the question of how power would be exercised in a socialist society. [54]

Let us now consider the impact in Britain of the Smiet experience on the relationship between socialism and democracy. One important consequence of the October Revolution in Britain was the formation of the CPGB in 1920. Britain’s communists hailed the October Revolution on the grounds that the Bolsheyiks were leading the way to a genuinely free society. Although the liberatory image of Bolshevism was no illusion, by the time the CPGB was formed, objective and subjective factors-the appalling conditions in Russia and the inability of the Bolsheviks fully to transcend paternalistic forms of socialism-had led to the Soviet leadership restricting soviet democracy, and substituting itself for the working class,ruling in its name. This process continued through the 1920s, and the establishment of a gigantic etatised economic structure under the First Five-Year Plan finally gave the Soviet party-state apparatus the solid social foundation which it previously lacked, and thus allowed it to become a fully fledged ruling elite. It is an irony of history that the CPGB was formed by a large proportion of Britain’s leading revolutionaries, including many from a syndicalist background, on the grounds that the Soviet republic meant precisely that-a society based upon workers’ councils-at a time when soviet democracy was being submerged under the rising party-state apparatus. The anti-bureaucratic forces within the British labour movement that identified with the October Revolution thus only adopted an organisational identification with that revolution after the process of bureaucratisation had taken off, and, like other communist parties, the CPGB could not avoid being contaminated by this process as it consolidated itself as the 1920s drew by. By the end of the decade, when the infatuation with all things Soviet was becoming the vogue, the Soviet bureaucracy was mutating into a self-conscious ruling elite, conscious of the fact that its interests were opposed to those of the masses, and therefore conscious of its need to oppose and to prevent communism at the same time as it promoted an albeit bastardised form of Marxism. It is a sign of the immaturity of the British revolutionary left that for all its tradition of opposition to bureaucratism and the state, the CPGB had within a decade of its foundation become notorious for its servility to the Soviet bureaucratic state, and those who took an anti-Stalinist course remained a marginal political force.

The Soviet experience did not have a particularly edifying impact upon the relationship between socialism and democracy. For some, democracy within the Soviet Union was an act of faith or self-deception, often accompanied by strange rationalisations and sleights of hands that indicated that they recognised that Moscow suffered from a definite democratic deficit. Some who accepted the undemocratic nature of Stalinism felt that it suited the rough Slav (and, by implication, not the sophisticated Westerner), whilst others openly deprecated democratic notions and were, such as George Bernard Shaw and Sidney and Beatrice Webb, overt elitists. Indeed, the Webbs repeatedly condemned the concept of workers’ control as parochialism, and, with barely disguised glee, they noted no less than four times in their huge book how the Soviet government wound up the practice of workers’ control in the factories. [55] The CPGB maintained the illusion of the democratic nature of the Soviet regime for many decades, yet it soon dropped any commitment to workers’ control at home. For Soviet Britain, a manifesto published in 1935, expounded at length on the central role of workers’ councils in the fight for and in the running of a socialist Britain, and explained how they would enable the working class, the majority of the population, to run the nation’s affairs in a far more democratic manner than under liberal democracy.[56] Nonetheless, this manifesto, stirring stuff if one ignores the assertion that this was how the Soviet Union was governed, had rapidly to be put aside once the party started to court Liberals, Tories, vicars and other non-proletarian elements during the Popular Front.[57] Such sentiments were never to return. One looks in vain for any mention of workers’ democracy in the party’s overtly reformist programmatic statement at the end of the Second World War,[58] and even as the party turned to the left in 1947 with the formation of the Cominform, its proposals for an economic plan for Britain scrupulously avoided any reference to the idea of workers’ contro1.[59]

People on the left of the Labour Party often steered gingerly around the question of workers’ democracy under socialism. In his lengthy fictitious account of the first term of a socialist government in Britain, G.R. Mitchison, a prominent member of the Socialist League, devoted but a few pages to the subject of workers’ control, and mainly defined it as an advisory adjunct to government appointees who actually managed industry.[6o] Having effectively abandoned guild socialism, and accepted the overarching control of the Soviet leadership over its society,[61] G.D.H. Cole was now seemingly oblivious to a grave danger when he discussed the mechanics of transferring the control of industry from the capitalist class to a socialist administration. He called for the ‘rapid devolution of a large measure of actual control over working conditions, including the actual direction of industry, upon the workers actually engaged in industry’, but added that this could not be done ‘for the first few months, or even the first year or two, of socialist administration’, as one could not afford ‘to risk failure and confusion by trying to be too “democratic” at the very start,.[62] And yet to forbid workers’ control, even temporarily, would raise the real possibility that the capitalist class would be supplanted by a bureaucratic state apparatus. Cole’s recommendation would therefore result in the replacement of one barrier to socialism with another. He seemed oblivious to the dangers that etatisation posed, even as a temporary measure, and its far from temporary nature in the Soviet Union should have been clear to him, seeing that by the 1930s the Soviet elite was not going to permit workers to start exercising any control over their work process, or anything else for that matter.

Fears were expressed by various left-wingers that, in the words of the moderate socialist Tosco Fyvel, a planned society, whatever its benefits, could ‘give a small group of men undreamed-of power and control’.[63] George Orwell continued the argument:

It is quite easy to imagine a world society, economically collectivist-that is, with the profit principle eliminated-but with all political, military and educational power in the hands of a small caste of rulers and their bravos … And that, of course, is the slave state, or rather the slave world …. It is against this beastly possibility that we have got to combine.[64]

Moderate socialists presented their concerns about the dangers of unlimited state power by declaring against dictatorships of any persuasion, whilst those on the far left insisted upon the need for socialist democracy.[65] The experience of Stalinism and the huge rise in state intervention in wartime Britain caused the ILP to declare that the choice was not ‘control versus no control’, but ‘control by whom and control for what’-by and for an elite, or by and for the mass of the population. The Soviet model as it currently stood was ‘no solution’ to Europe’s problems; there had to be democratic control of a socialised economy: ‘Selfgovernment in industry must be based on workers’ and technicians’ councils possessing real power at every level of industry, local, regional and national.'[66]

Moderate social democrats opposed Bolshevism in the name of parliamentary democracy, and they often upbraided the Soviet regime for not basing itself upon such tenets, whilst demonstrating an elitist attitude towards their own working class.67 The Bolsheviks failed in their attempt to break from paternalistic socialism, but at least they made the effort to do so; for the right-wing social democrats, the idea of socialism being the self-emancipation of the working class through its own independent political activity was utterly alien. The Labour Party and trade union leaders were always very hostile to anything that smacked even slightly of workers’ control, and recommended no more than minimal degrees of labour movement participation in industrial management, such as union officials sitting on the boards of nationalised concerns,[68] a fact that was noted with satisfaction by conservative observers.[69] Moderate social democratic politicians and thinkers viewed planning in a technocratic manner[70] and were insistent that the business of planning belonged solely to the experts. To cite the Fabian economist Barbara Wootton:

The satisfactory course surely is to recognise once and for all that economic administration is a job for experts, and to hand it over to them. Detailed democratic control of economic affairs is at best a hopeless morass, and at worst (and more commonly) a hypocritical pretence. It has nowhere been effectively exercised in the past, and nobody has suggested any passable scheme by which it might be realised hereafter.[71]

Wootton graciously conceded that the public could through their elected representatives ‘express general opinions about the kind of results which it would like those plans to achieve’, and suggested that the ideal arrangement would be the Soviet planning mechanism combined with a parliamentary political system. But the very idea of workers’ control, or even of any input from the workers beyond advice from those directly involved in a particular work process, was anathema; it was simply impracticable ‘to conduct modern business after the fashion of a public meeting’, and, she was relieved to say, most workers—excluding a ‘temperamentally interfering minority’ ~were not interested in getting involved in managerial functions.[72] This attitude informed the practice of Attlee’s postwar Labour government, best summed up by that former firebrand Sir Stafford Cripps, who asserted in October 1946: ‘I think it would be almost impossible to have worker-controlled industry in Britain, even if it were on the whole desirable.’?[73]

Across almost the entire left, planning was thus seen as a matter for experts, with any participation by the actual producers and consumers being restricted to no more than the suggestion boxes that any sensible factory owner or shopkeeper fixes to the wall in which his workers or customers can deposit ideas for improvements in the production process or changes in products. The ideas put forward by guild socialists and syndicalists that posited workers’ control as a necessary central feature of socialism were either never countenanced or became forgotten in the excitement surrounding the Five-Year Plans. By the 1930s, and certainly by the 1940s, the call for workers’ control of industry as an essential feature of socialist democracy was largely confined to the marginalised far left.[74]

The most profound effect of the Soviet experience upon the left in Britain during the period under discussion was the marginalisation of the idea of socialism as a democratic transformational process, that the replacement of the market by a planned economy must be accompanied by the replacement of parliamentary democracy with a system of councils, an order based on a much higher level of democracy that ensures popular control over society as a whole.

Although the Russian Revolution was carried out under the slogan of Sovietcouncil-power, and for a while the Bolsheviks enjoyed a fruitful relationship with the Russian working class through these institutions, by the 1930s the Soviet Union had mutated into a command economy ruthlessly managed by a monolithic ruling elite.

Moderate social democrats, with their political programme of the reform of capitalism through the working class exercising its social strength via parliamentary procedures, and through a social democratic government gradually introducing social and economic measures benefiting the working class through state administration, never accepted Bolshevism, and, although they felt that lessons could be learned from the Five-Year Plans, the continued reliance of Stalin’s regime upon extremely repressive and authoritarian methods strengthened both their commitment to liberal democracy, with all its limitations, and their belief that the revolutionary road to socialism could only end in tears.

Left-wing social democrats varied in their appraisal of Bolshevism and subsequently Stalinism. Whilst many were drawn into the Stalinist orbit, particularly during the late 1930s, they variously adapted to or recoiled from the regime on all manner of subjects, sometimes cautiously, sometimes precipitately, sometimes naively, often changing their opinions; and in their wavering they tended to lose sight of the centrality of workers’ democracy to socialism, as they tended to see the Soviet Union as a socialist state in spite of its negative feature. The adherents of the official communist movement, of whom not a few had once fought for a democratic transformational form of socialism, and the fellow-travellers were convinced that the Soviet Union represented the new civilisation, where the problems that faced humanity were being solved and any hardships or unpleasant features were merely birth-pangs of a bright new world. Although Stalinist rule was dressed up in democratic or revolutionary clothing which the pro-Soviet lobby took as genuine, the course of history was marked by a continual stripping away of this fayade, so that ‘the new civilisation’ often became ‘the god that failed’. Such was the ferocity of this process of disillusionment that for the majority of those who accepted the Stalinist myth, either in toto or in part, it did not lead to the discovery of a democratic transformational form of socialism, but a retreat into social democratic reformism, that is, the amelioration of the excesses of capitalism, or a rejection of socialism altogether.

Finally, the sections of the left that adhered to the concept of socialism as a democratic transformational process were a marginal force during the period under discussion. Divided amongst divers small currents, each of which was itself divided into argumentative little groups, they disagreed over when and how Bolshevism degenerated into the nationalist elitism of Stalinism, how many (if any) features of socialism still existed in the Soviet Union-which itself raises the important question of how features of a socialist society could exist in any meaningful form in the absence of workers’ democracy-and over what the path to a genuine new civilisation would be.

Technocratic Planning and Working-Class Defeat

A communist society must by its very essence be planned, as the distribution of labour and other resources through the market can only be genuinely replaced by their distribution through a process of economic planning. And that process must necessarily be democratic, with the involvement of the producers and consumers alongside the planners in the determination of the plans. We haye seen through the experience of Stalinism that capitalism can be replaced by a non-democratic form of economic administration, but that should be sufficient to impress upon us that, on the grounds of the general condition of humanity and basic economic efficiency, this has nothing to do with communism.

The marginalisation during the ‘Red Decade’ of the idea of socialism as a democratic transformational process was at first glance paradoxical, but those years constituted simultaneously one of considerable political radicalisation in many countries, and one of tremendous defeats for the working class around the world. The period of the October Revolution-the closing year or so of the First World War and its immediate aftermath-was one of those rare moments when capitalist society was challenged by a wave of working-class militancy. Only in Russia was this challenge successful, and there the first concerted drive towards communism was carried out in very unpropitious conditions. It was obvious that the communist forces there would not be able to survive for long if they were isolated in a bacl”ward, war-ravaged country, although the manner in which they would be defeated was not dear. The rise of Stalinism represented the defeat of the communist forces in the face of insurmountable problems. It also meant that the political agenda in the Soviet Union was now being set by another social force; not a revived capitalist class, but a nascent elite which was emerging from within the Soviet party-state apparatus. The defeat of the revolutionary wave after the First World War was represented in the capitalist countries by the reassertion of the rule of the capitalist class, whether under parliamentary democracy, or under authoritarian or fascist regimes, and by the mutation of the official communist movement into an agency of the new Soviet elite.

One key aspect of this political defeat was that for the large majority of people the idea of socialism-for good or evil-became associated with the management of society by a ruling bureaucracy through the state. As it emerged during the period of the initial Soviet Five-Year Plans, the broadly recognised concept of economic planning was not to be a matter of producers, consumers and planners deciding by means of democratic procedures what was to be produced and how production and distribution were to be implemented, but one of governments, experts and managers making all the decisions on behalf of the population. And so whether planning was intended as a means by which capitalism could be maintained and reformed or by which a new form of non-market society could be managed, it is clear that the concept of planning that was discussed during the period under review was a mechanism by which the working class would be firmly excluded from obtaining power, either through the continuation of the rule of the capitalist class, or through the emergence of a new ruling elite. The rise during the 1930s of the idea of an essentially technocratic form of economic planning was one manifestation of the decline of the concept of socialism as a democratic transformative process, and the political forces that benefited from this concept of planning were those who had a vital interest in the continued subordination of the working class.


1) E. Eldon Barry, Nationalisation in British Politics: The Historical Background (London: Jonathan Cape, 1965), p.314; Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century (London: I.B. Tauris, 1996), p.64; Jonathan Stevenson, British society 1914-15 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), p.326; A.J.P. Taylor, English history 1914-1945 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), p.431; Richard Toye, The Labour Party and the Planned Economy (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2003), pp. 20ff

2) Michael Polanyi, The Contempt of Freedom: The Russian Experiment and After (London: Watts, 1940), p.29. Also see John Brown, I Saw For Myself (London: Selwyn and Blount, n.d), p.268; Lord Strabolgi (formerly the Labour MP J.M. Kenworthy), ‘The Political Scene’, Nineteenth Century and After, October 1935, p.469

3) E.H. Carr, The Soviet Impact on the Western World (London: Macmillan, 1947), p.20

4) E.H. Carr, ‘Politics and Economics in Russia’, Spectator, 1 September 1939, p.334

5) E.H. Carr, The New Society (London: Macmillan, 1951), pp. 26-35

6) Elie Halevy, ‘Socialism and the Problem of Democratic Parliamentarianism’, International Affairs, 13:4 (July 1934), p.491

7) Trevor Smith, The Politics of the Corporate Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), p.6

8) Jose Harris, ‘Political Ideas and the Debate on State Welfare, 1940-45’, in H.L. Smith (ed.), War and Social Change: British Society in the Second World War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986), p.236

9) These included the Central Electricity Board and the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1926, and the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933

10) Arthur Marwick, The Explosion of British Society 1914-62 (London: Pan, 1963), p.75

11) Advocates of planning later noted with pleasure its all-class appeal. See Lord Eton, ‘The Decay of Opposition’, Fortnightly, January 1938, p.3; W. Horsfall-Carter, ‘Reconnaissance on the Home Front’, Fortnightly, July 1938, p.20

12) Sassoon states that the Liberal Party was quicker than the Labour Party to adopt Kenyesian ideas. Sassoon, op. cit., p.61

13) G.R. Stirling Taylor, ‘The New National Planning’, Fortnightly Review, August 1933, p.132

14) See L.F. Easterbrook, ‘Pigs and Planning’, Nineteenth Century and After, December 1932, p.711; Harold Macmillan, Reconstruction: A Plea for a National Policy (London: Macmillan, 1934)

15) John Stevenson, British Society 1914-45 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), p.326

16) Hence Sir Andrew McFadyean could state: ‘The system under which we have lived seems to be breaking down; if private initiative has led us into a morass, perhaps public effort can dig us out’. A. McFadyean, ‘The State and Economic Life’, International Affairs, 11:1 (January 1932), pp. 2-6

17) ‘Comment’, New Statesman, 13 June 1931, p.566

18) ‘Democracy and Liberty’, Spectator, 5 October 1934, p.472

19) ‘Russia’s Planned Economy’, The Economist, 15 September 1934, pp. 489-80; Macmillan, op. cit., pp. 126ff.

Hence the largely favourable response amongst British commentators, economists and politicians to the New Deal in the USA, see Neal Wood, Communism and British Intellectuals (London: Gollancz, 1959), pp. 72-73

20) For a detailed account, see Alec Nove, An Economic History of the USSR 1917-1991 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1992)

21) Ranjani Palme Dutt, ‘Notes of the Month’, Labour Monthly, December 1929, pp. 709-710

22) Andrew Rothstein, ‘Preparing War on Soviet Russia’, Labour Monthly, September 1929, p.533

23) Maurice Dobb, Russia Today and Tomorrow (London: Labour Research Department, 1930), pp. 19-20, 25, 30, 33

24) N. and J. Mackenzie (eds), The Diary of Beatrice Webb, Volume 3 (London: Viagro/LSE, 1984), p.361

25) Ibid, p.219

26) Ibid, p.239

27) Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation (London: Gollancz, 1937_, pp. 169-73, 630ff, 703, 719, 796

28) Herbert Morrison, ‘Preface’, in W.P. and Z.K. Coates, The Second Five-Year Plan of Development of the USSR (London: Methuen, 1934), p. v.

29) Hugh Dalton, ‘Financial Institutions and Transition’, in Where Socialism Stands Today? (London: Rich and Cowan, 1933), p.61

30) Barbara Wootton, Plan or No Plan (London: Gollancz, 1934), p. 256

31) ‘Comment’, New Statesman, 13 June 1931, p.566; Arthur Woodburn, ‘Russia and British Backwardness’, Plebs, September 1932, p.212; G.D.H. Cole, ‘Economic Prospects: 1938 and After’ Fact, February 1938, p.85; Independent Labour Party, Social Police for 1938 (London: ILP, 1938), p.13

32) Bernard Pares, ‘Russia: Old and the New’, in The New Russia (London: Faber and Faber, 1931), p.44; Vernon Bartlett, ‘Turning Ideas into Facts’, Listener, 1 June 1932, p.782. At this point strongly anti-communist in his outlook, Pares subsequently became an apologist for the Soviet regime following his visit to the Soviet Union in 1935.

33) ‘Bolshevism Examined’, The Economist, 27 April 1929, p.928

34) ‘Britain and Russia-A New Start’, Spectator, 23 February 1934, p.261

35) ‘Russian Impressions’, The Economist, 15 October 1932, p.676

36) ‘Russia’s Planned Economy’, The Economist, 8 and 15 September 1934, pp. 434-35, 478-80

37) John Maynard Keynes, contribution to Stalin-Well Talk: The Verbatim Record and a Discussion (London: New Statesman, 1934), p. 35. Also see G. Ellis, ‘The Planning of Industry’, The Nineteenth Century and After, January 1935, p.57; C. Headlam, ‘Planned National Economy’, Quarterly Review, April 1939, p.283

38) H.G. Wells, After Democracy: Address and Papers on the Present World Situation (London: Watts, 1932), p.179

39) William Beveridge, ‘Soviet Communism’, Political Quarterly, 7:3 (July 1936), p.348

40) Mark Patrick, Hammer and Sickle (London: Elkin, Mathews and Carrot, 1933), p.99

41) Lancelot Lawton, ‘Russian Economic Realities’, Fortnightly Review, August 1934, pp. 171-173. A leading British military analyst stated that the power of Russia did not depend upon its political system, but upon ‘the possesion of vast undeveloped rescources, which would make any country formidable under and system’. Thomas Montgomery Cunninghame, ‘Disarmament’, The Nineteenth Century and After, january 1932, p.55

42) J.A. Spender, These Times (London: Cassell, 1943), p.16

43) Margaret Miller, ‘Planning System in Soviet Russia’, Slavonic and East European Review, 9:26 (december 1930), p.456

44) Margaret Miller, ‘The Five-Year Plan’, in The New Russia, op. cit., pp. 64-65. Also see Laurance Lyon, ‘The Riddle of Russia’, The Nineteenth Century and After, December 1930, p.737

45) Leonard Hubbard, Soviet Money and Finance (London: Macmillan, 1936), p.262; Leonard Hubbard, Soviet Trade and Distribution (London: Macmillan, 1938), pp. 313, 318, 326, 328, 343; Lord Strabogli, ‘The Political Scene’, Nineteenth Century and After, October 1935, p. 469. Hubbard felt that the Soviet claim to have abolished unemployment could only be verified once the period of construction had ended, and if overproduction could be avoided. Hubbard, Soviet Money and Finance, op. cit., pp. 277-278

46) Michael Polanyi, USSR Economics: Fundamental Data, System and Spirit (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1936), p.15

47) Hubbard, Soviet Trade and Distribution, op. cit., p. v; Soviet Money and Finanace, op. cit., p. vii

48) F.L. Kerran, ‘The Nazi Plan-What Is Ours?, Plebs, June 1940, p.143. Also see C.W. Guillebaud, The Social Policy of Nazi Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1941), passim; R.A Scott-James, ‘The Planning of War’, Spectator, 21 June 1940, pp. 831-832; Barbara Wootton, ‘Who Shall Pay for the War?’, Political Quarterly, 11:2 (April 1940), p. 154

49) ‘Nemo’, Labour and Luxury: A Reply to ‘Merrie England’ (London: Walter Scott, 1895), p.107. Also see Herbert Spencer, ‘The Coming Slavery’, Contemporary Review, April 1884, pp. 480-481

50) M. Cole and B. Drake (eds), Our Partnership by Beatrice Webb (London: Macmillan, 1948), p.97

51) See Logie Barrow and Ian Bullock, Democratic Ideas and the British Labour Movement, 1880-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

52) A considerable chunk of a book published in 1917 by the syndicalist-inspired Socialist Labour Party was a heartfelt warning against the extension of state power over society in the name of ‘state socialism’. William Paul, The State: Its Origin and Function (Glasgow: Socialist Labour Press, n.d.), pp. 169ff

53) Barrow and Bullock, op. cit., p.303

54) See Sassoon, op. cit., p.20

55) Webb, op. cit., 166-167, 301-303, 607-608, 701-703

56) Communist Party of Great Britain, For Soviet Britain (London: CPGB, 1935), pp. 23ff

57) Harry Pollit, ‘Economic Security, Peace and Democracy’, in Communist Party of Great Britain, For Peace and Plenty (London: CPGB, 1938), pp. 55-57

58) Harry Pollitt, How to Win the Peace (London: CPGB, 1945)

59) Communist Party of Great Britain, Britain’s Plan for Prosperity (London: CPGB, 1947). There was a distinctively authoritarian feel to Stalinist calls for planning. Erno Goldfinger, the architect close to the Communist Party, stated that the technical means and knowledge existed to satisfy human needs: ‘The will to plan must be aroused. There is no obstacle, but ignorance and wickedness. Planning means freedom’. Erno Goldfinger, ‘Living in Cities’, Horizon, June 1941, endpaper. This sounds all very well, but it begs the questions: who will be elaborating the plans, and unpon whose behalf will the plans be drawn up? The manner in which various concrete monstrosities, some of which were designed by Goldfinger himself, in which Britain’s workers were supposed to live and work, were foisted upon us gives a clear indication of the authoritarian essence of certain types of planning.

60) G.R. Mitchinson, The First Workers’ Government (London: Gollancz, 1934), pp. 145-147

61) G.D.H. Cole, The Intelligent Man’s Guide Through World Chaos (London: Gollancz, 1932), p.601

62) G.D.H. Cole, ‘Socialist Control of Industry’, in Problems of a Socialist Government (London: Gollancz, 1933), pp. 180-182

63) T.R. Fyvel, The Malady and the Vision: An Analysis of Political Faith (London: Secker and Warburg, 1940), p.108. See also Patrick Gordon Walker, ‘Is Stalinism Socialism?’ Plebs, November 1940, p.237

64) George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (London: Gollancz, 1937), pp. 247-248

65) Orwell was never able to solve the dilemma of democracy and collectivism, hence the pessimism of much of his writings. See Paul Flewers, “I Know How, But I don’t Know Why”: George Orwell’s Conception of Totalitarianism’, in Paul Flewers (ed.), George Orwell: Enigmatic Socialist (London: Socialist Platform, 2005)

66) Independent Labour Party, Socialist Plan for Peace and Britain (London: ILP, n.d.), pp. 5, 12

67) This was illustrated by Ethel Snowden, a right-winger in the Labour Party who visited the Soviet republic in 1920. About the only occasion she sympathised with the Soviet authorities was when she endorsed Yakov Sverdlov’s ‘impatience’ with ‘soviet’-in the sense of local-‘interference in industry’. Mrs Philip [Ethel] Snowden, Through Bolshevist Russia (London: Cassell, 1920), p.125

68) Barry, op. cit., pp. 317ff. See also R.A. Dahl. ‘Worker’s Control of Industry and the British Labor [sic] Party’, American Political Science Review, 41:5 (October 1947), pp. 875-900

69) Macmillan, op. cit., p.177. And by Fabians too, see R.C.K. Ensor, ‘A Crippsian Utopia’, Spectator, 28 September 1934, p. 446

70) Hugh Dalton, Practical Socialism for Britain (London: Routledge, 1935)

71) Wootton, Plan or No Plan, op. cit., p.311. Wootton’s outlook was subsequently echoed by her Fabian colleague W. Arthur Lewis; see his The Principles of Economic Planning (London: Dobson, 1949)

72) Ibid, pp. 311, 345-346. Of course , the idea that workers’ control means running ‘modern business after the fashion of a public meeting’ is a crude parody.

73) Stafford Cripps, ‘Dockets for Textiles’, The Times, 28 October 1946, p.2. A decade earlier, Clement Attlee discounted the concerns of administrators and industrialists about workers intervening in the organising of the work process: ‘The workers understand very well the function of management, and are not the least likely to interfere unduly’. Clement Attlee, The Labour Party in Perspective (London” Gollancz, 1937), p.191

74) Such an absence in mainstream circles did not go unnoticed. One aggrieved railwayman asked: ‘What has become of that plank of socialist propaganda-workers’ control of industry?’ H.F. Turner, ‘These Are Your Pages’, Tribune, 10 January 1941, p.22. For the decline in the call for workers’ control, see Geoffrey Ostergaard, The Tradition of Workers’ Control (London: Freedom Press, 1997). It should be noted that the tentative but incisive outlines made by Lenin in 1917, which proved impossible to implement in the conditions facing his regime-the combination of workers’ control on a local level with centralised planning under a socialist democracy-were available at the time. English translations of Lenin’s State and Revolution had already been published in 1919 and 1925. This work, plus his articles that raised the question of workers’ control, including ‘The Threatening Catastrophe and How to Fight It’ and Will the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?’, were available in the series of Lenin’s Collected Works, Volume 21, parts 1 and 2 (London: Martin Lawrence, n.d), that were published by the CPGB’s publishing house sometime in the early 1930s.