The Labour Party and Clause Four 1918-1995

Martin Daunton argues that Labour's commitment to public ownership owed little to socialism and more to circumstances at the end of the First World War.

In 1918, Clause IV of the Labour party's new constitution pledged its members, somewhat vaguely, 'to secure to the workers by hand and brain the full fruits of their labour through the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and. exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service'. By 1995, Clause IV was a policy which dare not speak its name, an electoral liability which embarrassed the modernisers in the Labour party and threatened the adherence of middle-class voters who had succumbed to the lures of shares in privatised utilities and the attractions of the world had been in 1945, when the first majority Labour government came to power on a manifesto pledged to nationalisation. By the time Attlee left office in 1951, industries employing 10 per cent of the workforce and controlling 20 per cent of all capital expenditure had been nationalised. Not surprisingly, Joseph Schumpeter, one of the leading economists of' the day, predicted an unstoppable 'march into socialism' as workers by hand and brain advanced to secure the full fruits of their labour.

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