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Mr. Oppenheim : I have given way to the hon. Gentleman already. I am sure that he will have an opportunity to make his point later. With respect, I will make progress because other hon. Members want to speak.
What has gone wrong with Socialism? I believe that there is much in the well-known saying, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Most Conservative Members accept that most genuine Socialists are well meaning and well intentioned although somewhat misguided individuals. That is why Socialism always leads to disaster. That is why the well-intentioned hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) tied himself in knots earlier trying to claim that Socialism has never been tried.
Socialism has been tried in a variety of forms in both democratic and totalitarian countries, and it has failed. It is the ultimate in hiding one's head in the sand not to accept that there have been many experiments with Socialism. It is nonsense to consider the rubble of regimes in the east or the complete failure of Socialism to deliver in western democracies and then claim that Socialism has not been tried.
The well-known American writer, Mencken, wrote :
"For every complex problem, there is a solution which is neat, plausible and wrong."
Socialism is such a solution. It is neat, superficially attractive, plausible and it appeals to idealists, but it is completely and utterly wrong and misguided.
The problem with which Marx could not come to terms was that of surplus labour value. He could not accept the fact that someone might make a profit from someone else's labour. He forgot that the capitalist might make a profit
Column 1324from someone else's labour, but he also provides capital to make that labour more productive, so everyone benefits as a result. Marx claimed that he was a scientific Socialist. In fact, he was a hopeless 19th century romantic, struggling to find a simple solution to the imperfectibility of mankind. That is why the result of Socialism in the many countries in which it has been tried is that effort is not put into wealth creation as it is in capitalist countries to the benefit of everyone. Efforts in Socialist countries are expended in climbing the party ladder. Keen, intelligent young people in Communist regimes often expend huge amounts of energy trying to grease their way up the party machine in an unproductive way while the same people in capitalist countries are creating wealth--for themselves of course, but much of it goes to the economy at large to benefit everyone.
In Socialist countries there is not less privilege but more. Similarly, there is more inequality and less wealth than in the west. That is the great irony. That supposedly egalitarian system creates more privilege and inequality and less wealth than capitalist systems. The crowning irony of Socialism is that if we really want to go somewhere where the dollar is king, we should go to a Socialist or Communist country. If we have a few dollares in our pockets in Poland, the Soviet Union or China, we are kings and can buy almost anything. That is the crowning irony and crowning failure of Socialism. In the early 20th century, the Soviet Union was the growing economy in Europe. However, it now produces less food per head of the population than it did in 1915 when Russia was embroiled in the great war. Eastern Europe has sunk into a degraded state of poverty and pollution. China is an environmental disaster in which forests are devasted and rare and endangered animals are killed cruelly and needlessly.
I have seen pandas--the Chinese national animal--in China, kept in tiny concrete cages while Socialist youths threw cigarette butts at them. We hear much from Opposition Members about the fate of blacks in South Africa. That may be a worthy cause, but we rarely hear from Opposition Members about the vicious oppression of minorities in Communist countries such as China. Some Opposition Members need their eyes opening. If they spent less time going on about South Africa--no matter how worthy a cause it might be- -and saw what happened to the Tibetans or perhaps went to Xin Jiang and saw what happened to the indigenous Turkish people there, their eyes might be opened and their views might be a little more balanced.
Hon. Members may have gathered that this is a tough time for aficionados of the old school of Socialism. Those who like old-style Stalinist Socialism are finding the scope of their travels greatly reduced. We have heard a little about North Korea. I refer also to Albania, Romania, and China, but there are not many more. Not many regimes now cling to the old certainties. Regimes in the West attempted to impose Socialism through social democratic means, but New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Spain and France have almost wholly rejected that philosophy and are turning to policies not so different from the policies which Opposition Members criticised as Thatcherism.
If hon. Members conclude from my comments and from those of my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) that Socialism is dead, they are wrong.
Column 1325Socialism is alive and well, and in some of the oddest places. I shall enlarge on that seemingly unprofitable theme.
There is a large Ministry called Gosplan in the Soviet Union, nobody knows how many bureaucrats Gosplan has, but the number is probably well in excess of 100,000. Gosplan was set up by Leon Trotsky, who said that markets cannot deliver what the people need in a sophisticated modern economy. Gosplan was designed to control an economy centrally, to ensure that it delivered what people wanted. The great irony is that, as Gosplan is slowly being dismantled in the Soviet Union, we are hearing American capitalists echo Leon Trotsky's words. They are now telling us that markets cannot be allowed to determine the fate of strategic industries in which they have a financial interest. They are telling the United States Government that they need state support and protection from the Japanese, who have committed the ultimate sin of out-competing them in the marketplace. If the Americans listen to the siren voices of industrial special pleading, and move to more state control, they will ultimately realise that they are making the same mistakes as have been made in Socialist countries over the past few decades. Disguised Socialism is not limited to the United States. The European Community spends vast sums on subsidising industry. Day by day, the Community sets up trade barriers against Japanese goods on the spurious ground that the Japanese have unfairly competed. That is a form of Socialism. Bureaucrats in the EEC are saying, "We must protect our industrial interests. We must control the economy. We must not allow consumers and markets to decide whether we will buy Japanese goods." That is why at this very moment there is a European Commission proposal that the Community, rather than the consumer and the marketplace, should control the price and flow of Japanese microchips into Europe. That is nothing more nor less than Socialism in disguise. I sincerely hope that my comments will be taken on board and that such pernicious policies will be rejected by the Government in the Council of Europe.
Having listened to the highly amusing speech of my fellow Derbyshire Member, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), I can well understand the view that was expressed by two of his former colleagues. One of them, Hugh Gaitskell, referred to the right hon. Gentleman as a clever fool. The former Prime Minister, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, opined that he had immatured with age. I shall enlarge on why those comments are particularly apposite.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield, a doughty defender of Derbyshire county council and all its Socialist pretensions, claimed that people in Poland and Estonia do not want privatisation and free markets. What nonsense. It is exactly what they want. That is why people in Poland and Hungary are just beginning to embark on a massive round of privatisation. They realise that state ownership, central control and nationalisation do not work. That is exactly why they are taking measures to free their markets and to introduce market mechanisms. The right hon. Gentleman smiles, but he should go to those countries and listen to what the people say. They will tell him that Socialism has failed them. The right hon. Gentleman looks rather well-fed and well-dressed. He has benefited from capitalism all his life. Those people have not benefited
Column 1326from capitalism. They have suffered from Socialism. It is a shame that the right hon. Gentleman begrudges their chance to benefit from a freer market.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield bitterly criticised the policies of the former Labour Government in which he served. He said that they should not have run to the International Monetary Fund in 1976. He said that, on several other counts, he disagreed with their policies. If he disagreed with such major policies, why did he not have the guts to resign and stick up for Socialism as he saw it?
Mr. Oppenheim : I thank my hon. Friend for his support. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield criticises the Government's handling of the ambulance men's dispute. I shall gladly give way to any Opposition Member who wishes to tell me when the Labour Government paid ambulance men better than this Government have and whether the Labour Government provided arbitration for any group of National Health Service workers. The deafening silence is the judge and jury.
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield bitterly criticised the Government's arms spending and spending on nuclear weapons. Again, when he was in power, he did not resign because the Labour Government spent a vast sum on nuclear weapons and wanted to update the old Polaris system in an expensive way to produce the Chevaline system. Once again, we see the right hon. Gentleman's double standards. The right hon. Gentleman may sit securely on the Opposition Benches and criticise the Government for their arms spending. No one likes spending money on arms. We all know that, in an ideal world, we could spend that money on other things. However, in an insecure world, it is essential to spend money on arms. Thankfully, the world is more secure and there may be opportunities in the future to spend less money on weapons. If we had not spent that money on defence in earlier ages, we would probably not be in the happy position of looking forward to the growth of democracy, freedom and markets in the East. People in the GDR, Hungary, Poland and the Soviet Union are extremely glad that previous Governments, both Labour and Conservative, took difficult decisions to spend money on weapons to ensure that the West, democracy, liberalism and the free market were kept alive during the difficult days after the war so that people in the East can now benefit from the things from which we have benefited for so long.
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : Some speeches have not dealt seriously with the issue that has been raised by the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton). The issue is the future of Socialism. I have been attacked because, on many occasions, I have said that Socialism has never been tried in the Soviet Union or in Western Europe. Of course Socialist Governments have brought in welfare systems and changed matters slightly to the direction in which they should go, but they have not tried Socialism. Except perhaps for a short period in the early days, Socialism has never been introduced in the Soviet Union. I do not apologise for making that statement again.
I think of Communism as being the same, ultimately, as Socialism. That was clearly expressed by Keir Hardie in an
Column 1327excellent pamphlet many years ago. The idea of Socialism and Communism is by no means dead, for the simple reason that, as long as the capitalist system exists, as long as there is class power and privilege, as long as there are establishments that use oppressive measures against the people they control, as long as there is international struggle for markets, as long as there is war, and as long as people live in poverty, there will always be the demand and the fight for Socialism.
In the same way, there will always be the fight for Christianity. People may say that Socialism is dead, but many of my friends believe that Christianity is dead. Christianity has to renew itself from time to time. That is why many people go back to their roots and establish religious orders on the basis of common ownership of everything in that order. They believe in the old ideas of Christ and want to change society and make it a better place in which to live. Socialism has to renew itself from time to time. I do not for a moment suggest that everything has been wonderful ; my whole point is that it has not. We went wrong at certain stages. There are two basic concepts in the Socialist movement. The first is that Socialism is established from above with matters being determined from above ; the second is that Socialism is created from below. It took me a long time to grasp the concepts of the Fabians and the Webbs. When I was a young boy I read a book called "Soviet Communism" written by the Webbs. They had been there, they returned and I thought that it must be pretty good in the Soviet Union because they said that it was wonderful. They were two Right- wing, moderate members of the Labour party. They were not revolutionaries and did not want to overthrow society, yet they argued for Soviet Communism. They began with a question mark, but then that was eliminated. I was much influenced by the book.
It took me a long time to work things out. The Webbs actually believed that ideas should be imposed from an elitist position on the working class, whether or not the working class liked it. I am reminded of the old story about the Socialist orator at Hyde park who said, "When we get Socialism you will all have motor cars." The little chap at the back said, "But I don't want a motor car." "You will have a motor car whether you like it or not", said the orator. In essence, that is what the Webbs were saying. The Bolsheviks, or at least the Stalinists, were very much attracted by that. It was the sort of society that they wanted.
It took me a long time to work it out--right through my period in the Communist party. I learned by bitter experience and I was expelled because finally I did not accept that view. I then began to study what was really happening in the Socialist movement, and it was a great thing at last to understand. Following the October Bolshevik revolution, Socialists throughout the world adhered to it. Other than the Paris commune, which was the first workers' revolution and was successful for a short time, the October revolution was the first time that the workers established a state of their own, where they would come into their own, and get the fruits of their labours, where oppression would be eliminated, where there would be freedom and democracy, and so on.
Column 1328However, although Socialist workers throughout the world adhered to the October revolution, there were voices, equally Socialist, which were beginning to say that the concept of the Bolshevik leaders would lead to the reverse of democratic Socialism. As I said in our debate two weeks ago, one of the greatest voices was that of a wonderful woman, who was ultimately murdered by Right-wing military forces with the blessing of some of the Right-wing Socialists of the time. I am referring to Rosa Luxembourg. It is worth quoting a little of what she said because it expresses what Socialism is all about : "Freedom only for the supporters of the Government, only for the members of one party--however numerous they may be--is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of justice but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on that essential characteristic ; and its effectiveness vanishes when freedom becomes a special privilege." That is the essence of what democratic Socialism is all about. Why have I, from the day that I entered this House, been a critic not just of the Tory party but very often of my own party--some say, far too often? It is because I believe in the concept of democratic Socialism. If something is wrong, or if we simply think that something is wrong--and it may be we who are wrong--we must stand up, be counted and fight for what we believe in. If we do not do that, we are not worthy to be tribunes of the people who put us here. They put us here precisely to do that.
Over the years, my people in Walton have finally--although it was probably from the word go--come to like the idea of having a Member of Parliament who is prepared to do that. They believe in the concept of democratic Socialism, and they have proved it time and again with their votes. What was installed in the Soviet Union was not democratic Socialism, but bureaucratic authoritarian rule by people who, unfortunately, usurped the Socialist idea to a large extent. I turned to the Concise Oxford Dictionary for a definition of Socialism. Its definition is wrong, so I understand why people misunderstand the true meaning of Socialism. That dictionary states that it is a
"political and economic theory of social organization"
which advocates state ownership and control of
"the means of production, distribution and exchange."
We never said that Socialism is a matter of state ownership. Public ownership is one thing but state ownership is another. There can be state ownership without Socialism. In Europe and in many other parts of the world where Socialists are not in power, there are many state-owned industries. Nationalisation in itself is a way of running industry that could, in certain circumstances, make the conditions of the workers worse. We have explained that so many times, but unfortunately Conservative Members never listen.
We agree that some industries may need to be nationalised as a form of public ownership. My own view is that nationalisation should be kept to a minimum, that there should be varying forms of public ownership instead, and that white collar and blue collar workers should control those industries through real forms of democratic management.
Column 1329hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) will read his grandfather's works, he will find the answer. It is a pity that he has not done so.
Varying forms of public ownership are needed. Why should industry be taken out of the hands of individual private owners or groups of private owners, or away from the institutions? That must be done because we want to transform society. If we want to rid ourselves of class rule, of advantages for the minority at the expense of the majority, and of poverty, and if we want to ensure that everyone has a decent home, good educational opportunities and access to a free National Health Service, industry must be brought under a form of public ownership.
Why do public schools exist?
Mr. Heffer : Let us try to keep the debate at a serious level. I am trying to argue a serious case for Socialism, and I refuse to respond to silly jokes and statements. The debate is far too important for that.
I refer to the words of James Connolly--who was shot by the British because of his participation in the 1916 uprising.
Mr. Heffer : The hon. Member for Pembroke knows nothing about the Socialist movement. Connolly was killed before Trotsky was even heard of. In James Connolly's booklet, "Socialism Made Easy", he wrote : "The local and national Government, or rather, administrative bodies, of Socialism will approach every question with impartial minds, armed with the fullest expert knowledge born of experience ; the governing bodies of capitalist society have to call in an expensive professional expert to instruct them on every technical question, and know that the impartiality of such an expert varies with, and depends upon, the size of his fee."
Connolly went on to say :
"It will be seen that this conception of Socialism destroys at one blow all the fears of a bureaucratic State, ruling and ordering the lives of every individual from above".
We do not want a state apparatus controlling the whole of society like a vast octopus.
The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) is not even listening. He equates state ownership and state control with Socialism ; let me tell him that in Fascist Italy there was a great deal of state control, but there was no Socialism. There was capitalism, though. What was in operation was a method of supporting and maintaining the capitalist system. Similarly, there was no Socialism in Nazi Germany--
There was no Socialism in Franco's Spain. Instead, there was dictatorship, centralisation and administration from above. [ Hon. Members :-- "That is Socialism."] It is
Column 1330not Socialism, but an extreme form of capitalism, which uses oppression to maintain private ownership. That is what it was then, and what it is now. If Conservative Members do not understand that, they really do not know the ABC of politics. It is about time that they began to learn that dictatorship can be established under forms of capitalism, as it was unfortunately established on a socialised industrial basis in the Soviet Union.
I am interested in the question of the allocation of capital resources under the kind of economic system that he describes. When public ownership operates without state control, how can capital be allocated to one enterprise rather than another, and how can investment priorities be decided? I cannot for the life of me see how an economic system can operate at all under such a system, as there seems to be no one to make the decisions.
Mr. Heffer : At present no such societies exist, although Sweden has gone part of the way towards establishing one. We need not have a Gosplan-- a five-year plan that is worked out in detail but is never put into practice, so that the plan itself becomes everything. The people must be involved in democratic decisions : democracy is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question.
Mr. Heffer : How do we work out democracy? Democracy, provided that it is genuine, will in time work itself out in its own way. We are here today only because of a fight for democracy that took place in this country. Had there been no such struggle--had the workers not created the Chartist movement and fought for the vote--I would certainly not be here today, and nor would the hon. Member for Tatton.
No doubt the monarch had objected very strongly ; no doubt the reaction was, "We cannot have this business of democracy--everything must be left to me." That is the whole point : Socialism is the democratic process, and our criticism is that there has been no democratic process in the countries of eastern Europe.
I am sorry that I have been going on a bit, Madam Deputy Speaker. I had better bring my remarks to a conclusion--with some regret, because I had quite a lot to say. Let me make one more point, however. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield has said that the idea of Socialism was not created by the Russians, and of course it was not. It was created long before that. Moreover, it was not created by Marx. He picked up ideas from other people. He was a highly intelligent person and wrote brilliant material in the British museum. Keir Hardie came later. He said :
"Socialism implies the inherent equality of human beings. It does not assume that all are alike, but only that all are equal. Holding this to be true of individuals, the Socialist applies it also to races."
In some countries where Socialist Governments have been elected, advances have been made. Let us consider what happened in this country between 1945 and 1950. Conservative Members say that this country gained nothing from Socialist Governments, but a Socialist Government introduced the National Health Service. When I came out of the forces after the war, that was one
Column 1331of the first things I wanted, so we set up the NHS.
[Interruption.] Of course there were White Papers beforehand. Conservative Members must be stupid. A Socialist Government established the NHS, but the Tory party voted against the Bill on Second Reading. Some of us know what went on.
A Socialist Government also introduced the welfare state. Working people, such as my mother, were always terrified that when they reached old age they would have to go into the workhouse. My mother said to me, "Don't let me go into the workhouse, lad. Whatever happens, try and save me from it." Many people could not save their parents from going into the workhouse ; they were so poor that they could do nothing about it. However, a Labour Government introduced a welfare system that meant that people did not have to go into workhouses. They transformed the whole scene by building a massive number of houses. Large numbers of houses had been destroyed during the war, so there was a great housing need. A Labour Government met that need.
That was not Socialism, of course. The Labour Government left the class system and power and privilege in the hands of the capitalist class. If they had destroyed that, it would have been the first stage towards real Socialism. Despite their failure, they introduced many beneficial measures- -Socialist oases in a capitalist surrounding. The Government are reversing all the positive measures that Labour Governments introduced. People are again fearful. The old are very worried ; unemployment creates fear. People are again finding that they are homeless. They sleep in cardboard boxes at night. Thousands of other people do not sleep in cardboard boxes at night ; instead they are crowded into their parents' homes. They live in conditions that create problems and interminable rows. I know ; I lived in rooms for nearly 12 years at the end of the second world war because we were unable to get a place of our own.
Labour Governments have made a great contribution to the welfare of people in Britain. My criticism of the leadership of my party is that we do not need to give up our Socialist aspirations and accept the mores of the Conservative Government in order to win power. We can win power on the basis of our Socialist concepts. That is the only point where I part company with those on the Opposition Front Bench, although it is a pretty important difference of opinion. I do not deny the fundamental difference of our approach to these matters. I conclude with a further quote from Keir Hardie :
"To the Socialist, the community represents a huge family organisation in which the strong should employ their gifts in promoting the wealth of all, instead of using their strength for their own personal aggrandisement."
Unfortunately, nowadays in Britain, the strong are using their power against the weak, particularly in the anti-trade union legislation. I want to see a Socialist society which, as I said before, I equate with my Christian upbringing and Christian concepts. I do not see any great difference between the two ; to me they represent the same transformation of society and the building of something entirely new. That is why I welcome what is happening now in the Soviet Union. Perhaps now at last they can get back to creating what some of them really wanted in the first place, having exposed the nature of Stalinism.
Column 1332We in Britain, particularly as Socialists, have to learn that we must not follow that path ever and we must always stand up against such degeneration. But neither must we follow the path we are being offered today by the Conservative Government. That is no answer to the problems of Britain or the world. We have to go out there and fight for God's kingdom here, which I believe is a Socialist one. 12.5 pm
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Kenneth Baker) : The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has won the respect of the House, not only today but often before, because he represents the tradition of Christian Socialism, about which he has just spoken very movingly.
Before making my own contribution to the debate, I shall start by commenting upon the death of Dr. Sakharov. I am sure I speak for all the House in saying that Dr. Sakharov stood out against the tyranny, the cruelty and the repression of the old regime in Russia. He made a very brave personal stand against that for human rights, knowing full well what the penalties would be--arrest, exile, imprisonment and the victimisation of his family. He carried with him all the hopes of oppressed people in Soviet Russia and throughout eastern Europe. We should pay tribute to his bravery and his personal courage, because he showed the unbreakable spirit of man. He was a symbol of liberty ; he was the conscience of his country. Ultimately he found his allies, and reform is his legacy. He is truly a hero of the Soviet Union. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) first on his luck in the ballot and secondly on having the inspiration to introduce the motion. It is very rare that we have a chance to debate foreign and domestic policy together, and almost unknown that we discuss the philosophy of politics. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) made that point, having been in the House for nearly 40 years now. Is it really as long as that? Mr. Benn indicated assent.
I have always believed that Socialist thought was distinguished by two very clear concepts--first, the conviction that Socialists had that they had possession of the truth, and, secondly, their belief that history was on their side. Listening to today's debate and reading the debate on 1 December, I have discovered another element of Socialism--that Socialism has never been tried anywhere in the world. It has not been tried in Russia since 1917 or in eastern Europe since 1945. No country has ever tried it. Everyone is trying to walk away and dissociate themselves at a rate of knots from what has happened in the past 70 or 80 years in the Socialist republic of Russia. It reminds me of the old music hall song about the drunk and the pig lying in the gutter. The refrain is :
"You can tell a man who boozes by the company he chooses ; At which the pig got up and walked away."
That seems to characterise the views of those who are trying to get up and walk away. Reference has already
Column 1333been made to Karl Marx and Marxism but in 1848, in the opening sentence of the "Communist Manifesto" Marx said :
"A spectre is haunting Europe--the spectre of Communism." His philosophy developed the belief that revolution would bring the end of capitalism, just as capitalism had brought the end of feudalism. In England at the turn of the century--as the hon. Member for Walton mentioned--that idea was given a new twist by Sidney and Beatrice Webb who invented the phrase, "the inevitability of gradualness." That was the essence of Fabian Socialism. It was believed that it was only a question of time before collectivism and the corporate state took over.
Also in the 1930s, the Webbs wrote a book to which the hon. Member for Walton referred. It was published in 1935 and called "Soviet Communism--A New Civilisation?". However, when that book came to its second edition in 1937, the question mark after the subtitle had been dropped. It was just an assertion--they had seen the future, it was working and it was marvellous. They had seen the promised land and thought that it was wonderful. At that time, the Labour party was not trying to dissociate itself from that--it had seen it and liked it. After the creation of the welfare state in the 1940s, and after the Attlee Government took into possession vast numbers of industrial companies, Socialists confidently predicted that the ratchet effect was working and that it was inevitable that the corporate power of the state would increase, because more and more of economic and social life would come under the sway of the state.
The Conservative party has always known that truth is not to be found on the side of Socialism. We have never believed that either the success or the defeat of Socialism was inevitable. On the whole,. Tories do not believe in historical inevitability. We still remember vividly those instances--in this country and abroad--where Socialism has "triumphed".
I am aware that there are differences between the Socialism advocated on the Opposition Front Bench and that practised in eastern Europe. There are considerable differences between eastern Europe Socialists and many-- although not all--in the Labour party. Undoubtedly Egon Krenz cuts a more decisive and convincing figure as the leader of East Germany's Communists than the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) does as leader of the British Labour party. In eastern Europe, only a selected few can join the official party, whereas in Britain any old Trotskyist can join the Labour party. In eastern Europe, only a small minority of party hacks can elect the leadership, whereas in the Labour party all members can vote in elections, which are rendered meaningless by the trade union block vote. [Interruption.] We believe in the principle of one man, one vote, which we have recently exercised.
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross Cromarty and Skye) : I apologise for missing the first few minutes of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Far be it from me to defend Socialism or whatever brand or variety of it within the Labour party the right hon. Gentleman is talking about. However, I noticed that Big Ben has stopped. Does that mean that just as time has run out for Socialism, the clock has stopped on the conservatism of the Government?
Column 1334intervention to explain his political philosophy. Where will he stand in the great divide? When the great divide comes, he may not have a seat left in which to stand. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was on the Left in British politics, but now he is moving further and further--
I want to be fair to the Labour party. It is not fair to say that it is automatically the same as the Socialist parties of eastern Europe. The hon. Member for Walton made that clear.
Mr. Baker : It might be decent for the hon. Gentleman, but there are other members of his party who stand well to the Left of him, and they are better represented in the Chamber today than those who favour his brand of Socialism.
European Communism has never been mixed, unlike English Liberalism, and it has never given minimum respect for human freedom and human individuality. At the same time, there is no tradition of compromise or settlement of dispute by debate in eastern Europe. Instead, there is diktat. There is, however, a common denominator. All members of the Labour party, from whichever wing, share a basic assumption. Indeed, it is one that is common to all Socialists. They all believe that the state knows best.
Mr. Benn indicated dissent .
All Socialists believe that it is not enough for the Government to set the rules of the game and to let other parties and society generally observe those rules. They all believe--the career of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield is testament to this--that the state and the Government should take a leading role in the game and in the economic life of a civil society.
Mr. Benn : I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman is being serious for a moment, but if he reads history he will find that the use of state power by the forces of capitalism in Britain has been ruthless. He will find, to take more recent examples, that all campaigns for trade union rights and local government rights and the fight for a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should be in the Common Market came from the Left. It was the Conservative party which took us into Europe without consulting anyone. That which the right hon. Gentleman suggests has never been my view. I have tried throughout my life to push decisions down the line. I have never sought to centralise decision-making. I hope that he will not want to leave an injustice on the record.
Mr. Baker : The right hon. Gentleman may have had that personal desire, but it was not reflected in his performance as a Minister and a member of the Labour Cabinet. He spoke most eloquently of planning as a member of a Cabinet that believed in planning. That Cabinet planned this country into bankruptcy, high inflation and huge cuts in public expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman cannot shake off his past. He cannot disregard it.
Column 1335The common thread that binds all Socialists is their belief that the state and the Government have a crucial role in determining policies and economics in society. Like it or not, that is the presupposition of all Socialist programmes, whether they be Communist or Fabian, British or Romanian. The core of Socialist thought--the right hon. Member for Chesterfield made this clear--is that market forces do not work.
Mr. Benn indicated assent.
Mr. Baker : I note that the right hon. Gentleman is nodding. Socialists believe that it is not possible to rely on the individual choice and that the state or the Government, whichever body one likes, has to introduce corrections to the inefficiencies and inequalities that emerge. They do not trust the market and they do not trust market forces. Instead, they believe in a command economy. I do not think that there is anything inevitable about the defeat of Socialism. As I have said, Conservatives do not believe in historical inevitability. There has been nothing inevitable about the retreat of Socialism in the 1980s. In my view, there was nothing inevitable about the collapse of Stalinism in eastern Europe. Equally, there was nothing inevitable about the accession of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. In 1985, the ruling group in the Kremlin had a choice between the reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev and the old-style hardliner, Grigoriy Romanov. It chose Mikhail Gorbachev because he represented a break with the policies that had failed, and had failed badly. Those policies had led to a bloody and humiliating stalemate in Afghanistan, to the deployment of cruise missiles in the West and to the stagnation and collapse of the Soviet economy. Mr. Gorbachev came to power because Socialism had failed in the Soviet Union. It failed because we in the West showed that we had the will to match it and because we out-performed it economically. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton said, thanks largely to the courage of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, we deployed cruise missiles in 1981, 1982 and 1983 against a massive and unprecedented Soviet propaganda offensive, in which Labour Members and their CND allies were the shock troops. Once the Soviet Union knew that it could not break NATO or the will of its peoples, it knew that it could never win the battle of military spending and that its economy would break under the strain before the economies of the West. Mikhail Gorbachev walked through the door of realisation that opened at that moment.
Never let it be fogotten--this is the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton made--that, if Labour had had its way in 1983, there would have been no cruise deployment, no intermediate nuclear forces deal, no recognition that the old regime had failed, no recognition that a reform movement was needed in Russia, and probably no Mr. Gorbachev.
The events of the past few weeks have marked the end of an age. Future generations will look back and regard 1989 as one of the most remarkable years since the war. It will stand alongside the other great years of European history--1815, 1848, the year of the revolutions, 1918 and