If one believes, as I do, that it makes a difference whether the Tories or the Laborites govern Britain, the outcome of the Labor Party’s 1960 Conference at Scarborough has implications of historical tragedy. Indeed, I feel that Gaitskell’s defeat was a calamity not just for British socialism, but for democratic socialists everywhere. By endorsing unilateral nuclear disarmament, and forcing the Parliamentary leadership to challenge this absurd substitute for a defense policy a motley coalition has in the span of a few short days jeopardized the Party’s accomplishments over a period of sixty years. The impossibilist compulsion, which is latent in all socialist movements, has—at least temporarily—triumphed over the integrating forces of solidarity and common sense. The internal consequences are likely to be disintegration and schism; the external consequence is probably a long period of undisturbed Toryism.
In effect, the Labor party has lost its pragmatic coherence. As the cracked drum of unilateralism beat out the death march, the hard-shell primitives and their odd congeries of allies overpowered the humanistic empiricists who have been attempting to adapt the Party to life in the 1960’s. If they can consolidate their hold by successfully dominating the Parliamentary Labor party, the British Labor party will be destroyed as an effective political instrument. Life in the wilderness may be morally fortifying for the desert fathers of unil...
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